With apologies to Allan Sherman’s 1963 parody that complains about the terrible conditions at a fictional Camp Grenada, the following upbeat letters sent home by our contributor’s younger self recall his joyful stay at Camp Lenape, a Boy Scout camp.
Mosquitoes, merit badges, a menu of bug juice and burgers, plus a canoe trip along the Wading River from Chatsworth to Chip’s Folly had the makings of an unforgettable week-long wilderness adventure in 1956 at the camp once in the Pinelands of Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey.
What may sound like indentured servitude to us today was one 13-year-old boy’s relentless pursuit of merit badges to advance rank in scouting.
Some excerpts, as written:
July 29, 1956
Dear Mom, Dad, and John
We came back from the Wading River canoe trip at 3:45… there were three to a canoe and three canoes… We paddled on until about 6:30 pm and just as we got out of the canoe it began to rain like all heck, with lightning and thunder…
…finally we succeeded in getting the tent up… we were soaked to the skin.
At this point it was pitch dark and the rain ceased. The we ate supper, hamburgers, salad, bug juice, and oranges.
We hardly slept a wink because of the singing of the mosquitos.
…today we packed all our duffle, ate breakfast, and had a small morning worship service… breakfast was Rice Krispies, orange juice, bacon, coco and scrambled eggs.
We paddled on until 11:30 am and stopped for a small swim and at lunch… For lunch we had jelly sandwiches, bug juice, cookies and watermelon…
…we made it. We had canoed for close to 9-1/2 hours.
…Only about 40 boys in camp this week… Richard and me are going to try and get as many merit badges as possible.
July 31, 1956
Just got back from washing dishes for cooking merit badge… For our supper tonight we had chocolate pudding, coco, veal cutlet, diced carrots, homemade bread, and broth… For Cooking merit badge I have already made a fireplace and cook meals and build fire.
For Pioneering merit badge I have been working on [a] 100 foot bridge across Great Earth Dam… learn how to splice, lash, etc.
For Wildlife management merit badge we have to fill one side of the dams at the waterfront with fertilizer so… roots will take hold… and prevent erosion. Also we have to answer a couple of questions, write a report… not[e} ten animals we have seen…
…for First Aid we have to know some questions and demonstrate… Well, see you Saturday and I sure hope I’m Star…
Such was a scout’s summer adventure before housing development in the late 1980s swallowed up Medford’s 419-acre Camp Lenape, which once served thousands of Burlington County Boy Scouts.