Happy Campers II (Part 1)

[This is the first of a two-part post.]

Steve brought his electric guitar and amp to church camp.

While far from standard protocol for attending a Christian summer camp in the mid-1970s, the registration info didn’t specifically say, “Please leave your devil-worshipping howlingly loud electric guitars at home.” And it’s likely that had we asked permission, it wouldn’t have been granted anyway. So we just went with it. Our mission: Play music to woo lovely young women in a serene, bucolic environment.

Surely Jesus wouldn’t mind.

Steve’s mother drove us to the bus leaving from Crystal Free Church to Camp Shamineau around 2:00 p.m., Sunday, July 24, 1977. We’d been out with Jeff and Greg the night before, watching Skeeze’s new band, Tank, play a show at the Unicorn Bar in Navarre. Some guy bought us beers. Later we helped the band breakdown after the show.

On the ride north, we sat behind two girls, Denise and a friend of hers. After arriving at Shamineau, we rushed up to Ottawa cabin where I reunited with Joey and Biya, and met our new gang in Chippewa cabin, where Steve and I stayed the week. Along with Joey and Biya were Doug, Kurt, Mike, Steve and Tom Miller (brothers), Eric, and a kid who bunked in the rafters, Tim Bird—we called him: “T-bird.”

And there, down by the camp office and canteen—“more beautiful than I remembered”—was Lisa Tepley. That evening she watched as I played piano in the dining hall basement.

“Thank God I’m here!” I later wrote in the diary.


Monday and Tuesday, July 25 and 26, were glorious summer days at camp. Our cabin played Lisa’s cabin, Onedaga, along with her friends Cindy and Mary, in water polo. Lisa seemed strangely distant after Sunday night. Later that Monday afternoon I talked to my bus companion, Denise (with her camp sweetheart Matt, in photo at left), “heart-to-heart in the Chapel, about Lisa and ‘the games people play.’” Seems I suspected all was not well.

By Tuesday, Tom Miller was walking around screeching, “Blow it out your donkey!” and laughing hysterically, while the rest of us attended springboard or skin diving classes. There was a dusty and rowdy dodgeball game after evening chapel, and the kids would mingle and laugh by the canteen until it closed at 10 p.m. At cabin call, Chester, Jim and Terhark succeeded at throwing one of the camp directors, Bill, into the lake.

The annual camp banquet was scheduled for Thursday night, and just like the previous year, when Lisa and I attended it together, I was hoping we’d go as a couple again. I was nervous to ask her, but confessed to the diary, “she is very pretty, mature and intelligent (plus witty!).”  I had to work up enough courage by Wednesday to ask her.

Wednesday dawned gray and dripping with rain. No one felt like going to their skills classes, so after the 11 a.m. chapel, kids just sacked out in their cabins. After the skies cleared in the afternoon, our cabin played Onedaga in Polish softball. Steve paired up with Lisa, Joey with Cindy, and me with Mary. That’s when I asked Mary about Lisa and my plan to ask her to the banquet.  Mary confessed that Lisa had a boyfriend at home, but I was determined to forge on. After evening chapel and during canteen hour, I asked Lisa to the banquet.

She smiled, the diary states, and said, “I’ll have to give you an answer in the morning.”

~ by completelyinthedark on April 28, 2012.

One Response to “Happy Campers II (Part 1)”

  1. …that church is so 70’s it reminds me of some Jim Jones enclave!


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