First Storer Memories

 

I was the youngest of four boys (sorry Mom) and also was the youngest of my cousins. As such, I was too young for camp when my cousins from New York City came to visit for the summer, and with my brothers, made their annual pilgrimage to Camp Storer. So I was a lone wolf from anywhere from two to five weeks as my parents dropped off six kids, usually at once!

 

Oh, the 70s: Geoff, Andy, Gavin, Dustin

I remember what seemed to be a long car ride in our Chevy Malibu Classic station wagon. The thought of going to another state made it seem even longer. The fact that the car was a buzz about all the things waiting for them at camp probably didn’t help me either. Although I knew I would be the center of attention in a very quiet house, I knew I was definately missing out on some grand adventure.

I knew we were close to camp when we saw more and more black cherry stands on the side of the road. As a child, I equated cherries with Michigan. It was not until I married a former Traverse City Cherry Princess did I learn that black cherries are not usually the cherries people speak of in Michigan!  But the sweet black cherries sold on the side of the road made an impression on me nonetheless. So after what seemed like forever, we progressively took smaller and smaller roads. Slowing as we went through main streets of a few small towns.

Then finally I knew we were near as my dad had this little tradition of acting lost and would ask the car which way we should at the split between North Stoney Lake and South Stony Lake roads.  Right for Girls, left for boys??? Of course he knew what side of the lake he was going to hit first (majority rules-boys side!), but this was always part of the trip. Taking S. Stony, we would pull into a horse pasture and park the car. In those days you didn’t drive into what was the main entrance for camp registration. From this horse pasture cum staging lot, we unloaded the luggage, placed it in the appropriate pile for the maintenance crew and volunteers to distribute accordingly. I’m unsure if this staging area was behind the stockade or not. But I do remember having to walk a good distance to a winding line where the front office staff would be busy collecting registration and health forms, taking trading post and photo deposits.

Monkey Bars next to South Dining Hall…Dropping off older siblings…Im in plaid outfit <groovy>

The typical Smith M.O. was not to fill in such forms until we arrived. I mean, in the line, where it seemed everyone else had his or her forms dutifully filled out. That was also usually the time my dad would renew the Y membership to get the discount. [These days, he says he does not remember this account, but does not doubt its veracity!] At this point, the kids are antsy, a tad nervous, but just want get a buddy # go to the cabins and down to the dock.

 

Kathryn Stam with Uncle Art Smith checks in for Girl’s Camp 1977

 

After dropping off all the boys, meeting the counselors and watching everyone cycle through their swim tests, we would drop off my cousin Kathryn Stam for her stay on the North Center. At this time, it was the ‘Girls’ side and I remember sticking close to the car as not to disrupt said girls. In fact I came across some photos of me being occupied with a petting zoo they set up.

 

Dustin Smith ’77 waits at petting station while older cousin checks into Girl’s Camp

 

 

Dustin got stuck at petting station while cousin checks into Girls Camp (no Boys!)

 

Art Smith with niece Kathryn Stam Check in 77

 

 

Kathryn Stam, Art Smith, Dustin Smith ’77 Girl’s side…Malibu station wagon

 

Kathryn poses for obligatory cabin and counselor pic.

 

Then the flurry was over.  It was time to return to a very hot car and leave.  I was bummed.  The lake and the horses, all left behind.  Boo!  However, things looked up pretty quick as my final memory of those trips is stopping in Brooklyn. This part of the trip was notable on two fronts: My Aunt and Uncle would speak of the ‘real’ Brooklyn and perhaps more importantly to a kid, I got to enjoy a swirl cone at what I’m guessing is the present day Swiss Swirl.  The cone was a small victory and a diversion.  It wasn’t until I went as a regular camper did I realize camp was more fun than being the center of attention at home all summer.

 

 

By the time I started in the Indian Village in 1979 (the first year of co-ed camping at Storer) I knew the drill and was looking forward to my own Camp Storer adventures. I stayed in either the Miami or Crane, but do remember being enamored with the artesian well and the fact that the pony barn was relatively nearby. By year two I was hooked and was already asking to extend my stay. As I’ve noted before, camp was low on numbers one summer, so they said if you signed up for an extra week, you could ride horses for free. Camp lost money on my extension, since I would take as many trail rides offered each day.  They had NO idea I was so determined to mount up, everyday!

 

These days, when driving back to camp many of these and other memories crop up. As staff, it was usually the game of pulling in on two wheels because I was always running late.  Of course, this was even worse on Michigan International Speedway race days!  This was a nail-biting way to start a new session.  Sprint to the chapel, act calm, cool and collected.  You did NOT want to be late or you would be ‘volunteered’ to do several extra things on opening day.

 

This past May on the way to camp, my best friend whom I met t camp was joining me.  As I pulled into town, right at the cemetary, there he was stopping by Doc’s grave, so I pulled in.  What a great place to start off our mini camp reunion!  Based on that trip, mind your speed on Stoney Lake Road as parts of it are pretty rough and there are some potholes that could ruin your day.  But the drive is so worth it as the road leads to something truly special.  In this case, it’s all about the destination.

 

So, what memories do you have of the drive? What is your first memory of camp? What was your first cabin? Feel free to share!

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    Jun 16, 2018

    ❤️ in my day it was Dairy Queen that we stopped at – and I remember that Michigan air smelled like manure.

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