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7/30/08

The Ma-Ho-Ge Summer

So when I was a kid my brother and me ( I!) went to sleepaway camp. The first camp we went to was called Camp Ma-Ho-Ge. On the surface it seemed like a nice camp. It had a long history or whatever. I remember the Camp Director guy came to our house to sell my parents on sending us to this place. And they signed us up. And that summer off we went! On a bus! To Camp! For eight weeks! Yay!!

The first thing I remember is walking into my bunk and seeing fly paper hanging everywhere. I had never really seen fly paper before. And it was already covered in flies. But as a kid, the grossness factor never really clicked in. It was just the way things were. There were flies everywhere. Done. And biting flies. And mosquitoes. And gnats. Accepted.

Although my memories of this camp are hazy because I was a little kid (maybe nine?) I remember the camp being very loose. The bulk of my memories involve me wandering around with friends doing whatever we wanted whenever. Sometimes shirtless all day. Yeah, there was some sort of loose schedule but it was never like you had to go to anything.

Like, I remember one day just walking up to the archery range and picking up bows and arrows all willy nilly. No counselor around. When we got bored of shooting targets we shot arrows over the net on purpose. If they really got good distance they'd go over the trees and land near soccer field! (Ha ha?) Another day we just walked off in the woods with bows and arrows and played 'Indians'.

Another time, I headed down to the lake with a friend and we took out kayaks with no life jackets or anything. We just got in and paddled off to the middle of the lake. Eventually we got whistled and waved into the shore but we didn't get in trouble or anything. We were in the middle of the lake! In kayaks! With no vests!

Anyway, by the middle of the summer I had enough of Ma-Ho-Ge. So did my brother. We had enough of the flies and the insane level of freedom. (Plus one counselor burned me with a cigarette 'by accident'). So on 'Visiting Day', my brother and I planned to tell my parents we were ready to come home. That we didn't like it anymore.

Of course, the camp really cleaned up its act to make everything look all nice nice for the parents. Not only did we have to wear shirts (all of a sudden so formal?) but we had to wear our official Ma-Ho-Ge 'greens'. And the bunks had to be cleaned up! We had to make our beds! The fly paper needed to be changed! (So fancy!) There were schedules! It transformed itself into a different camp.

My parents arrived and we immediately told them we wanted go home. We didn't really give specifics other than we hated it there. But to my parents, it looked like a very nice camp. And they figured we were just homesick kids being babies. I assume if I had told them about the cigarette burn or the shooting arrows onto the soccer field they might have thought twice then. But that was just the way camp was. I didn't realize it was altogether wrong. I didn't realize I needed to present a case to come home.

So we all went through perceived charade of Visiting Day activities. There were no counselors smoking around kids. No playing 'Indians' in the woods with bows and arrows. Life guards were on duty. We all wore shirts. It was all a complete fraud. And the whole time we kept telling my parents that we had to get back to pack! That we were ready to go home!

We didn't realize our parents had no intention on taking us home. Ruin their summer by having us back? Just cause we were being babies? Giving in to these two brats who can't appreciate a perfectly fine camp!? F that! They sort of ignored the 'go home' thing all day.

At the end of the day they finally told us we had to stay. We couldn't believe it. Betrayed! We ran and locked ourselves in the family car. We refused to go back! Refused to go back to Camp Ma-Ho-Terrible! The head camp guy actually had to come help my parents get us out of the car and drag us back to our bunks. Like prisoners who just got turned down for parole.

Back to the flies. Back to the danger. Back to the cigarettes. For four more weeks!

The camp closed down the next summer (or was condemned or whatever). It was obviously on its last legs. Ma-Ho-Ge was done. And the next few summers we went to a new coolio camp that was actually safe and organized. A great camp. Thanks ma and pah!

But to this day, whenever my brother and me want to throw a guilt trip on my parents we bust out the Ma-Ho-Ge experience-- and how they wouldn't let us come home. How they didn't take us seriously then. How they ditched us in an unsupervised swamp for eight weeks. And how they didn't take our word.

Yeah, I guess we're still bratty that way...

ok bye!
tOdd

PS. In the comments section someone pointed out that there's still some activity with the Camp. Apologies to anyone who has fond memories. I'm sure there were many, many good summers there... the last one however... it's safe to say-- wasn't one of the best.

PPS. My mom has already emailed to me to apologize yet again...

38 Comments:

Blogger Cameron said...

I'm still laughing! Seriously one of your best posts ever.

7/30/2008 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

ROFL! LURRVVED this post!

7/30/2008 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was the wacky thing about growing up then to now, there were no rules!
Now if you want to ride a bike you have to have a helmet. If you are in a boat you have to have a vest to save your life.

7/30/2008 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Adamant said...

True! Kids are so wimpy now with all the padding and protection and helicopter parents. It is why America is weak everyone is scared.

7/30/2008 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Sue said...

Ma-ho-ge!

http://www.mahoge.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Ma-Ho-Ge

http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=ma-ho-ge&w=63026621%40N00

7/30/2008 1:50 PM  
Anonymous sarinator said...

http://www.mahoge.com/

Still around! I say you and your brother take your parents there and drop them off for the rest of summer

7/30/2008 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Liz said...

i think this was definitely one of your best posts ever, too. i felt like i was there by the way you described it! glad you didn't have to go back the next summer!

7/30/2008 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sound like a spoiled asshole! I would have loved to get out of my house in the summer! Even to a place that was terrible! You deserved to stay there for a year

7/30/2008 2:29 PM  
Anonymous Carol W said...

Todd, we love you so don't be so apologetic about things. If the camp was bad then it was bad. Don't worry about it so much.

7/30/2008 3:18 PM  
Blogger Tee said...

You are so lucky to have this kind of ammunition against your 'rents. I wish! Very funny.

I bet the camp was nice in its day, its not unusual for things to get run down and crappy after awhile, anyone bothered by your funny, funny post should seriously chill.

7/30/2008 3:43 PM  
Anonymous feenixgrrl said...

Poor todd! It builds character, lol.

I'm a helicopter parent but i think anyone who uses that term as a pejorative, isn't a parent. CHALLENGE!

7/30/2008 3:55 PM  
Anonymous weeze said...

whats a perjortive?

7/30/2008 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Annegret said...

Well, Feenixgrrl, if you want your kids to be unable to trust themselves in making their own decisions, go right ahead and hover over their every move.

7/30/2008 4:21 PM  
Anonymous K-Bot 5 said...

Nicely done, tOdd

7/30/2008 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Al Cee said...

My camp was MUCH worse. Crawling bugs everywhere, no working toilets and the lake had biting fish.

7/30/2008 5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like everyone that went to camp lives back east. I feel like I missed out on that whole experience. I grew up in Denver and none of my friends or I ever went to camp like this. I'm definitely considering sending my kids to something in upstate NY. Maybe it will be like Meatballs or something and they'll have a lifetime of crazy memories.

7/30/2008 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Can you or someone else post the Camp Camp story I realy dont want to buy the book

7/30/2008 6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, that camp looks pretty run-down right NOW from the website. As I watched the video of the 2007 camp reunion, I couldn't help but scan the happy crowd looking for your face; but alas, no Todd on site for the big celebration.

This is your BEST post; second best would be the post about eating at a restaurant with a crowd of jerks. Now that one was RICH!

7/30/2008 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG I just went to their website. they have a fucking Totem Pole!! in New York!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA dont those dumb shites know that is only the Pacific NW Natives that had those!

anyway, I loved the post, pure tOdd. cant wait to read more.

my camp was Camp Orkila in the San Juan Islands. talk about remote. you couldnt even walk home. we were damb near in Canada!

7/30/2008 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LMAO, aww, your Mom emailed you to apologize again? Don't rub it in so much, Todd! I'm sure if you'd told them about the serious stuff that went down they would have taken you out, but they probably just thought you were acting like brats.

Great story though!

7/30/2008 9:51 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Parents nowadays are so damn over protective of their kids!

At my camp we used to have an "initiation" night which included very minor hazing and they canceled that because of lame parents. It was tradition! Also we have this awesome river trip where we got to jump off a bridge (maybe 25 feet, not that high, totally safe) and they canceled that too! WTF?!? Parents of the 90's were so damn uptight, they ruined all of the fun for their kids.

7/31/2008 12:50 AM  
Anonymous Pogo said...

Dear Parents: Please Relax, It’s Just Camp
By TINA KELLEY

HONESDALE, Pa. — A dozen 9-year-old girls in jelly-bean-colored bathing suits were learning the crawl at Lake Bryn Mawr Camp one recent morning as older girls in yellow and green camp uniforms practiced soccer, fused glass in the art studio or tried out the climbing wall.

Their parents, meanwhile, were bombarding the camp with calls: one wanted help arranging private guitar lessons for her daughter, another did not like the sound of her child’s voice during a recent conversation, and a third needed to know — preferably today — which of her daughter’s four varieties of vitamins had run out. All before lunch.

Answering these and other urgent queries was Karin Miller, 43, a stay-at-home mother during the school year with a doctorate in psychology, who is redefining the role of camp counselor. She counsels parents, spending her days from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. printing out reams of e-mail messages to deliver to Bryn Mawr’s 372 female campers and leaving voice mail messages for their parents that always begin, “Nothing’s wrong, I’m just returning your call.”

Jill Tipograph, a camp consultant, said most high-end sleep-away camps in the Northeast now employ full-time parent liaisons like Ms. Miller, who earns $6,000 plus a waiver of the camp’s $10,000 tuition for each of her two daughters. Ms. Tipograph describes the job as “almost like a hotel concierge listening to a client’s needs.”

The liaisons are emblematic of what sleep-away camp experts say is an increasing emphasis on catering to increasingly high-maintenance parents, including those who make unsolicited bunk placement requests, flagrantly flout a camp’s ban on cellphones and junk food, and consider summer an ideal time to give their offspring a secret vacation from Ritalin.

One camp psychologist said she used to spend half her time on parental issues; now it’s 80 percent. Dan Kagan, co-director of Bryn Mawr, has started visiting every new family’s home in the spring and calling those parents on the first or second day of camp to reassure them.

And while the camp schedule once was sacrosanct, parents are now pulling kids out to act in commercials, compete in gymnastics meets or fill choice seats at baseball’s All-Star Game.

Accommodating parents makes sense, since without happy parents, there would be no campers at all, happy or otherwise. But, treading carefully, some in the camping industry privately worry that meddlesome mothers and fathers seem to have forgotten that one main point of overnight camp is to give children a chance to solve problems without parental assistance.

Starting about seven years ago, camps tried to satiate parents’ need to know by uploading pictures of kids at play daily to password-protected Web sites, a one-way communication tool that seemed to respect the sleep-away tradition of maintaining distance. But such real-time glimpses often aggravate the problem, as the obsessed become obsessed with what they are seeing — or not seeing.

“I have parents calling and saying they saw their child in the background of a picture of other children and he didn’t look happy, or his face looked red, has he been putting on enough suntan lotion, or I haven’t seen my child and I have seen a lot of other children, is my child so depressed he doesn’t want to be in a picture,” said Jay Jacobs, who has run Timber Lake Camp in Shandaken, N.Y., since 1980.

“In previous years, parents would understand that we were out in the field with children, and we’d get back to you after dinner when we had freer time,” said Mr. Jacobs, who has fielded inquiries from parents about what day the water trampoline would be fixed and whether a particular child still loved his mother after a promised package failed to arrive. “Now a parent calling at 11 will be off the charts if they don’t have a response by 1 or 1:30.”

Norman E. Friedman, a consultant who conducts training at 44 camps, said parents also take up valuable camp resources by breaking the rules they have tacitly agreed to.

“They’ll give their child two cellphones, so if they get caught with the first one, ‘Just give it up and you’ll have the second one to talk to me,’ “ he said. “That’s widespread, not isolated. I call it fading parental morality. What they’re doing is entering into delinquent behaviors with their children. And what kind of statement is that to a child?”

He and others said parents also frequently send children away without packing their prescribed medication for attention deficits or psychological problems — and without letting camp staff know.

“They keep it as a secret, that the kid was on those medications, so the kid comes to camp and starts acting out in ways directors don’t understand,” Mr. Friedman explained. “Oftentimes they get very aberrant behaviors, and have to hospitalize children.” Only then does the parent mention the underlying issues and unused medication, he said.

Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist in Massachusetts who consults with residential camps, said they can be among the best places for children to develop social skills and resilience — if only parents allow it.

“If your child doesn’t get the bunk they want or you’re worried that he didn’t get the right camp counselor, if you convey that kind of response — ‘Oh my God, that’s awful, let me call them, it’s so unfair’ — that’s the worst possible response a parent could have,” she said. “But more of that is happening.”

Marla Coleman, a past president of the American Camp Association who has served as a parent liaison at Camp Echo, a sleep-away camp in the Catskills, pointed out that with the proper amount of hand-holding, camp can be as much a declaration of independence for parents as it is for children. “Nobody goes to school for how to send your child away from you,” she said. “We help the parents become independent. And especially post-9/11 in today’s society, that’s definitely a heightened need.”

In explaining parental yearning for frequent contact with their children and reassurances about their safety, Ms. Coleman, whose family owns a day camp where she now works as a parent liaison, quotes Mary Pipher, an anthropologist and the author of “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” (1994). Ms. Pipher once told her, “It used to be the job of parents to expose their children to the outside world; today, it is their job to protect their children from the outside world.”

Ms. Coleman describes the role of parent liaison as part coach, part advocate, part partner and part medium, channeling a child’s sometimes shaky emotional state to parents.

“When a parent knows there’s a responsible adult who represents all the other adults there, they can relax more and help us do our job more,” she said. “Almost always there’s a huge thank you and learning experience from the parent. They’ve experienced this along with the child, and they’ve grown too. They’ve learned how to separate a little bit better.”

Lake Bryn Mawr Camp has added a second visiting day, designed for children with divorced or divorcing parents, or families with children in more than one camp. To prepare, Ms. Miller sent parents combinations of different letters: one for girls with a bunkmate who has a peanut allergy, one for first-time campers and some that included permission slips for those who wanted to take their daughters off campus.

Stationed at the gate, she would greet each family, have campers paged over the public-address system, then preside over the often-tearful reunions. “Sometimes the kids don’t know which parents are coming,” Ms. Miller said of the second visiting day.

Becky and Drew Picon, who live in Livingston, N.J., spent the day playing basketball and visiting the stables with their 15-year-old daughter, Jaime, who is in her seventh summer at Bryn Mawr.

The Picons acknowledged that they are “demanding parents,” having called camp staff over the years to request a special cereal for Jaime, who rarely ate breakfast before this year; to ask for extra phone calls when she was in the infirmary; to take her off campus one visiting day when they had a scheduling conflict; and to seek advice about problems their son was having at another camp.

And there they were on the phone last week with an 11th-hour plea to come on Sunday, instead of Saturday, when they would be visiting the aforementioned son (they each thought the other had already called).

Mr. Picon, who owns several auto dealerships, remembered calling Mr. Kagan, the Bryn Mawr director, on Jaime’s very first day of camp back in 2001.

“I called the camp at 7 a.m. and Dan answered the phone,” Mr. Picon said. “He said, ‘Jaime’s fine. And are you going to call me every morning?’ “

Anticipating a lecture, Mr. Picon said, “I think I am.”

To which Mr. Kagan, himself the father of three daughters, warmly replied: “Well, do it at this time of day, it’s when I have some free time.”

7/31/2008 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd,
How old are you? There is no way that would or could have happened when I went to MA-Ho-Ge. They had activities all day long and you had to go to them. Counselors were not allowed to smoke in front of campers and the only people who didn't like it there were the ones who didn't fit it.

7/31/2008 10:26 AM  
Anonymous CJ said...

Todd went the last year the camp was open I have to assume it closed for a reason

7/31/2008 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Alex X said...

I felt bad for the people who liked the camp I'd hate to think that this is the last thing that ever gets posted about that place

7/31/2008 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Racist!

7/31/2008 12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'd have KILLED to go to that camp. i went instead to bible camp. every second of every day was planned out for you, and it was strongly suggested that during your afternoon "break" of 3 hours, you spend it doing "devotions." in other words, reading the bible. now i'm not saying there's anything wrong with religion, but i'm not a huge fan of it. if you are, good for you. i just don't believe what everyone else at that camp believed. and yet there i was, year after year, because my grandparents thought it was best (my step-dad's parents are VERY religious). i can't remember how many times i went, probably about 6 or so, and the ONLY good memory i have, to this day, is one of the later years a counselor who was not much older than me had a crush on me. i got attention from a boy and that is all i took away from bible camp.

7/31/2008 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like the type of camp your parents maybe sorta hoped you woldn't come back from all alive and stuff. Could've been worse. Coulda had the memory of waking up in a ditch, your bottom hurting and the aftertaste of bug spray.

7/31/2008 2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great post Todd. You could seriously sping this short story in to an awesome script for a movie or TV show.

7/31/2008 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My older sister was sent to camp. She hated it and frequently told me what a horrible experience it had been. I believe the camp name was Camp Iron Rail, which to me sounded wildly severe, like Camp Buchenwald (what do you expect from a kid who grew up watching the TV shows "Victory at Sea" and "The World at War"?). Seriously, though--is that the friendliest most child-welcoming name they could come up with? I wouldn't have been surprised to find that Nurse Ratched was the camp nurse in a place with a name like that.

Needless to say, when there was discussion of sending me to camp at 12, I went right out and got a job cleaning hotel rooms. Camp? Can't go, got a job!

7/31/2008 7:14 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I have mixed memories of summer camp. On the one hand, I did get to get away from my insane mother for a few weeks. I remember finding a field full of beautiful, tiny, wild strawberries and going back every day during free time to pick them and eat them. Later there were blackberries. I got to go horseback riding, camp out in a tent and do neat-o arts and crafts projects, things I never got to do at home. Then I went to a different camp at age 12 and ended up with a lake full of leeches and a cabin full of hateful girls. There is nothing more evil than a 12yr old girl who decides the route to popularity is to humiliate you publicly. I wrote a letter home saying, "If you've ever loved me, you will come and get me Right Now." Of course they didn't come. I still have a deathly fear of leeches and another thing to add to the list entitled, "Reasons Why I Hate My Mother". Having said all that, I still think I'll send my daughters to summer camp if they want to go. Sometimes pain is character building, and sometimes it's nice to go somewhere where they don't already know you. Everyone should get to reinvent themselves at least once before the end of High School.

7/31/2008 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol, Great post. Sounds like that old simpsons episode where they go to Camp Krusty.

And that anonymous post calling u a spoiled a-hole was probably from your mom. Jk.

7/31/2008 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you in any of these pics, Todd??
http://www.mahoge.com/html/636.html

8/01/2008 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Tiger Wills said...

Is it me or are all kids more stupider than ever?

8/01/2008 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No moreso than people who say "more stupider" I imagine.

8/03/2008 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Kay said...

You should write a book I would read it.

8/04/2008 7:26 AM  
Anonymous Rich Klein said...

Todd...you sound like a whiny kid who can't appreciate what the camp experience is supposed to be about. Many of us are proud to say that after 30 and 40+ years, some of our best friends in life came from Ma-Ho-Ge. That includes a few people who met at Ma-Ho-Ge and later married. Whether you like it or not, Todd, Ma-Ho-Ge's spirit and our collective memories -- online and off -- will long outlast your cheap shot at a great camp.

8/23/2008 3:51 PM  
Anonymous worthy said...

I attended Camp Ma-Ho-Ge for four weeks in, hold on Sonny, 1956. Yet, just yesterday I was retelling my 7-year old son about my one-mile swim back and forth across Silver Lake. (Looking now at the Lake, I think that was a generous measurement!) I have only good memories of my time there. Except for all the mosquitoes--before DEET. It's too bad the camp didn't agree with you.

10/29/2008 7:36 PM  

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