It is said that one never forgets a first kiss. I guess that’s right. Here I am fifty years later and I can still remember that summer night. I’ll meander a little in my tale and give you some non-sequential bits of the entire story of East Bay Bible Camp.
The summer before eighth grade I attended Bible Camp for the first time. By this time my asthma was much more under control and I could venture further away from my home.
I had already turned thirteen and would be entering eighth grade when school started again. Bible Camp was only about forty miles from home, but the way I felt, it could have been a thousand miles from there, I was liberated for an entire week.
The cabins shown in the picture above were all the same for boys and girls. The larger cabin in the back of the pavilion picture was for the staff. That cabin and the pavilion divided the girls’ cabins from the boys. Woe to any child who ventured into the wrong area.
I did not go there with any other friends although there was one other girl there from my church and school. We were assigned different cabins at the opposite ends of the row. Neither of us knew the other would be there so we did not ask to be bunk mates. I didn’t know anyone in my cabin, and, as seems to be a pattern in my life, every one of them was already paired up with someone else from their own hometowns in that cabin, so once again I was on the outside.
Back then though, there was no such thing as being all spruced up with red and white paint. Our cabins were still the raw, weathered wood. Each cabin held twelve bunks. Four bunks were built into the sides of the walls and permanently attached. Two bunks were free standing in the middle. We kept our clothes in small open spaces between the bunks or in our suitcases which we stored underneath. The cement floor had to be swept every morning and the cabins had to pass inspections that the Marines would be proud of. The head counselor for the girls was an old 40 year old by the name of Cora. No one wanted to get on the bad side of her. She could always find extra duties to perform. There were daily announcements of the best kept cabins.
This time being by myself didn’t seem to be so bad. Not having a girlfriend there meant I was open to making new friends. We arrived there Sunday afternoon. The schedule of the camp was pretty routine. The first night we had an opening ceremony. Afterwards, we all kind of migrated en masse to the snack bar. Supposedly they mixed us up as much as possible so that we could meet and become friends with kids from other churches from around central Illinois and Chicago. As usual, though, the kids may have slept in different cabins, but during the day they all kind of congregated with others from their home churches.
Lodge with the snack bar in the back
The very first night after the opening ceremony, I caught a cute guy looking at me while we were at the snack bar. He was in the middle of a group of guys, I was in the middle of a group of girls. I did nothing more than smile, but my heart was racing. Back home there was not a single boy who paid any attention to me whatsoever. That was OK because there was not a single guy in our class who interested me. There were only a couple of couples in the whole eighth grade class. Back home I was my usual introverted self.
This was freedom! I don’t remember exactly how it came to be that we started talking with each other, but we did by the next day. That progressed to meeting each other to sit together at meal times, which progressed to sitting together during bible study in the pavilion, which continued on to walking everywhere holding hands.
When one is thirteen, the days seem long and the weeks seem longer. I think I learned something about the Bible that week, but my mind was elsewhere. After all, King James was not exactly easy to understand on a warm summer day while sitting next to a hunk, even if he was kind of skinny. I looked forward to the evening’s entertainment every night and the snack bar after that, and finally the walk back to the cabin area.
The weather was perfect that week. It was warm during the day, warm enough to swim in the lake, but just the right degree of coolness at night. There was constantly a breeze. When we walked at night, we were able to look up in the sky and see Sputnik 3 in orbit. It was the dawn of the Space Age and the beginning a new awareness of boys.
Every night the moon grew a little fuller so we could walk the paths without our flashlights. By Thursday we took off on our own, leaving the other campers to their own affairs. We were far from the only couple who had met that week. The camp seemed to be teeming with young love. I remember the boy with the biggest reputation was, you guessed it, a PK. (preacher’s kid). It was well known if you wanted to have fun, they (PKs) were the ones to hang with.
Of course in 1959 things were much less intense and much more casual than they are now. It was an age of innocence still.
My boyfriend’s name was Duane. Duane was about four inches taller than I was already. I often wondered through the years how much taller he grew. I was already at my full height. It was nice that he was taller. Back home there were only three other girls who were anywhere near my height. When I look back, I realize Duane was still very young, but at the time I thought we were both very mature.
Duane had a friend who palled around with us as often as he could when we couldn’t get away fast enough. His name was Ken. Ken was a nice guy but not appealing like Duane was. Even at that age, I knew how to pick the potentially bad boys.
I knew “THE KISS” was on my mind since about Wednesday. I have no idea what was on Duane’s mind but like any normal thirteen year old boy, I can imagine his mind was running in the same direction.
Thursday night we managed to get away from Ken and take a walk. By that time the moon was full. My cabin was the end one in the row. There was a path leading from the cabin area to a bridge. Across the bridge was the mess hall and beyond the mess hall was the lodge where the snack bar was located. The camp was spread out enough by the lake that there was plenty of room for seclusion.
The Lake through the trees
We ran out of small talk about half way back to the cabin area. We stopped. I turned so I faced Duane. He looked down at me. I looked up at him. He looked down at me. I looked up at him. I stood on my tip toes. He bent his head down. Then we both burst out laughing. Neither of us had a clue as to how to kiss. I never had anyone tell me what to do. I had no idea what to do with my nose, or how I would breathe. That was in the days when television for the most part eliminated any kissing from the screen. It was not like today when kids as young as six can observe couples massaging each other’s tonsils.
We resumed walking again. Duane said good night and I returned to the cabin.
Friday night was a repeat. I had not gotten counsel from anyone but evidently he had. This time when I stood on my tip toes with the wind gently blowing my hair and the moon shining full off the beaten path, we connected for a very sweet, gentle first time kiss, and another, and a third before again reaching the cabin area.
The next day was time to go home. Duane was nowhere to be found. Ken, of course, seized upon the opportunity of Duane’s absence. He asked for my address and I gave it to him, figuring he would never use it. He was the one who told me Duane had a girlfriend back home. I figured out I must have just been practice. I ended up leaving camp without having the opportunity to say good bye. Surprisingly, I wasn’t all that disappointed. It wasn’t like the time was long enough to fall in love. In a way, through the mists of time, I think I can remember feeling relieved.
Ken wrote me several times and sent me his picture. He was three years older than I was and entered college the year I was a sophomore in high school. By coincidence he met my cousin who attended the same college and he tried to renew a friendship with me. I was never much interested in him. You see, Ken was the nice guy.