Markham Hill Moment of History                                                       2020-3-23

A Word Picture of Hilltop Camps

by Joy Pratt Markham (1938) - Part 2 of 4

All of the water on the hilltop is pure for drinking. The water in each spring and well is tested before camp begins each summer. There are three shallow (dug) wells, and two deep (drilled) wells on the campgrounds in addition to the four springs. The two deep wells are by the large pool and supply water for the showers there. One well is by the stables to furnish water for the horses, and another is by the Play House, for showers and for the kitchen which is for the girls’ use there. The well near the Big House is the one from which we draw the drinking water for our meals and which supplies the Big House water system. The spring at the camp dining room supplies water for the kitchen and for the cooks’ showers there.

Water in the swimming pool is chlorinated according to specifications (the amount of chlorine used is slight, since our volume of water is large in proportion to the number of campers) and is tested for purity each week. A complete soap bath is required of each bather before entering the pool, and a leader stands by to inspect or assist with the bath of each younger camper. The water in the large pool, flowing in and out continually, replaces itself on an average of between four and ten days, according to the wetness or dryness of our season.

At the boys’ tent field, in addition to the tents in which the boys sleep, there are three frame buildings, in one of which there is a ping pong table and place for indoor archery and horse shoe throw; in another there are the mats for wrestling and boxing; and in the third the boys keep their collected books and may go for quiet reading. A leader is in charge here on rainy days and during the free period after the noon meal each day. The boys keep their nature collections and their finished work from the craft or work shops here.

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Hilltop Camp Brocure (click to enlarge)

Each boy who wishes it may have a tent bedroom of his own. The boys are encouraged to take the individual tents, for in camp where their social needs are so beautifully met, there is the need also to be alone. The tents are spaced at friendly but uncrowded intervals. There are many clear nights when cots are pulled out in front of the tents and their owners sleep on them under the stars. Because of the almost complete absence of fog and the freedom from mosquitoes or any troublesome insects, outdoor sleeping is at its best at Hilltop. Boys may group together at times with a leader for outdoor sleeping, to study the stars and constellations and hear stories about them before going to sleep. The same is true at the girls’ camp. No screens are needed on the sleeping quarters.

In the two camps, boys and girls from seven to ten, eleven to thirteen, and fourteen to sixteen are grouped together. If a younger boy is timid about taking a tent by himself, he is placed in a larger tent with a leader. A leader’s tent is always nearby. For the younger boys and girls there is a leader for every three or four campers, and the older campers, a leader for every six. Campers over sixteen, acting as apprentice leaders, live in close association with their leaders, observing their work, receiving their instruction, and helping them in the ways in which they are able.

The camp program is adapted to the needs of the various ages and temperaments of the boy and girl campers. Younger campers (those eight and younger) are required to take their naps in the afternoons, sleeping an hour or more after the noon meal. All campers, with their leaders, take a rest before the noon meal. All are required to lie flat on their cots with a sheet pulled up over them for the first twenty minutes of this period, and during this time may not read or talk. The majority soon form the habit of dropping off into a sound sleep. In camp, where the habit of giving one’s best in every endeavor is formed, the ability to relax quickly and completely is also soon acquired. The more vigorous campers are the ones who fall most readily into this program. The midday rest period follows the general swim and an active morning. Before the evening meal there is a shorter rest period during which campers are not required to lie down. Our campers come to their meals refreshed and with better appetites, although they eat more quietly and slowly, than we believe they would do if they came direct from play. If a swim with its accompanying showers before and after has not preceded, to step through the showers is the last thing to be done before coming to the noon or evening meal.

After the noon meal there is a free period of seventy-five minutes during which campers sleep, read, write, mend, or play under the trees (or perhaps in a tree house), each in their own camp fields. After the evening meal both camps remain together, first, for a time of visiting, and then for such activities as tennis, archery, group games, and afterwards, campfires, parties, or for star study around the telescope.

Campers are weighed every morning. At first thought this may sound foolish, but it is a way of establishing to the satisfaction of the camper as well as the director that more rest is needed. Camp life is usually considerably more vigorous than the life lived by the boy or girl at home, and it is necessary that it not be entered upon, with the unbounded enthusiasm that the camper brings with him (or her), too abruptly. It is generally the rule that a camper will lose in weight during the first two weeks of camp. The scales will tell us if weight is being lost too rapidly. If this happens, the camper is given more rest than is ordinary, and the condition is corrected before signs of irritability have chance to appear. This, together with the fact that our program is not based competitively, we believe is largely responsible for the constancy of the concord and good feeling that has existed among our campers throughout the seasons. Season after season we have had no hard feelings or fights among the boys. People have asked us how we discipline our boys, but boys, as well as girls, placed where conditions are right, require no imposed discipline. Or so it has been through the summers. The work, play, and outdoor living make their demands and rules which the boy or girl must obey in order to go on with this kind of living. If unpleasantness ever occurs, and added rest is given, it is given not as a punishment, but in response to a need. Camp is a place where inner control and lasting friendships are won.