NEW YORK (AP) — When the school year ends a few weeks from now, millions of kids will head off to sleepaway camp for a summer filled with color wars, kayaking and bunk life. Most will have a great time, some will make friends for life, and many will look back on the experience fondly.
But amid these happy campers is another group of veterans who recall sleepaway camp quite differently. These were the kids who cried every day and sent letters home begging to be picked up. They were lonesome, miserable, bullied; hated the bugs, hated the pool. Many refused to ever go back, and decades later, they can recall their suffering in visceral detail — from poison ivy to wretched food.
"Oh did I hate overnight camp," recalled Lauren Russ, 43, who lives in Chicago. "I cried every day and wrote two letters home a day asking my parents to come get me."
Russ' mom and dad saved those notes and even read some of them aloud at her wedding shower 10 years ago. "I got another letter from you," reads one of the heart-wrenching lines in Russ' schoolgirl's script. "Every time I get a letter I cry and become very homesick."
What was so bad about camp? Let Russ count the ways: "I'll never forget the first night I had to sleep in a tent. I hated the public showers, I hated sharing a room with several other girls, I hated the anxiety of packing and saying goodbye."
For Kelsey Tomascheski, 48, of Santa Clara, Calif., camp memories center on bad food. "I will admit that I was a picky eater, but the problem was more on quality," said Tomascheski. "I could only handle so many bland spaghetti feeds, too-salty chicken strips, and soggy fries. Usually halfway through the week I gave up and only ate PB&J at all three meals."