Summer Camp 1973

When I saw Mighty Girl’s post on Rosie’s Girls summer camp, “a trades exploration day camp for school girls” where girls can learn welding, carpentry, auto repair, etc., I was moved to comment (on Facebook) that I wish this had been an option for me instead of figure skating camp. I thought I’d expound.

Yes, figure skating camp. But first, I got to spend a summer attending the Flint Hill Day Camp, where (IIRC) we spent up to six hours each day making plastic lanyards. I’m confident that there must have been other activities, but that’s the only one I recall. I loved it just as much as you would expect a nerdy introvert to love engaging in six hours a day of non-book-oriented activities with random unfamiliar kids.

By the time I was 12, I was launched on my figure skating career, which was ultimately as successful as you would expect for a klutzy nerdy introvert, but did provide good money-making opportunities in college, teaching private lessons to local kids. But back to skating camp. In 1973, there was no year-round ice rink in the DC area, and the Skating Club of Wilmington ran a summer program for skaters of a wide range of abilities, from Olympic trainees to klutzy kids from locations without year-round rinks.  So off I went.

Image:  The side of a building, painted white, with large letters spelling out "Skating Club of Wilmington."

Activities consisted of skating, hanging around the skating rink, and hanging around the dorm. When I think of the sort of enrichment and structure that my friends expect from their kids’ camps these days, I don’t think they envision the sort of enrichment and structure the Wilmington summer skating program dorm provided:

Image:  young white woman in a white halter top shirt is sitting on the top bunk of a bunk bed with a white man, 20-30 years old, wearing a Budweiser t-shirt and jeans, and drinking from a can of Budweiser beer.Image:  white man, 20-30 years old, wearing a Budweiser t-shirt and jeans, and holding a can of Budweiser beer shares a chair with a young white woman in a white halter top shirt.

The back of the photo reads, “Laurie and Dr. John.”  So, yes, one of my dorm-mates — already much older than me — had a much older, beer-drinking boyfriend who had dubbed himself “Dr. John.”

What’s amazing is that — at 12 — I wasn’t even the youngest kid living parentless in this enriching environment.

Image:  white woman in white halter top sitting on the floor of a dorm room eating watermelon and sharing it with four young white girls, apparently ranging in age from around 7 to perhaps 12.

More of my hall-mates.

Image:  group photo in a dorm hallway, including 7 white girls ranging in age from 12 to 20, a 20-30 year old man (Dr. John), and a black teen-ager.

The back of that photo reads, “Laurie, Jill Cosgrove, Carrie Applegate, Amy Keilly, Bruno, Patti Downst.”  Through the miracle of Google, I learn that Jill Cosgrove went on to have a successful career as a figure skater and choreographer.   Couldn’t find the others.

Since I was the photographer, there are — sadly — no photos of me.  Wait, what?  No.  That’s not me.  No way.  Seriously?

Image:  two approximtely 12-year-old white girls in pyjamas in a dorm room, one sitting on a bed, the other standing by a desk with a toothbrush.

I also found this one, of me with my coach, Uschi Keszler, whom I totally idolized and who turns out — who knew?* — to be minorly famous herself, complete with Wikipedia page.

Image:  white woman with short, frosted white-blond hair, perhaps 30 years old, wearing a tourquoise polyester suit jacket with a young white girl with brown hair holding a stuffed lobster plush toy.

Yes, I’m holding a toy lobster.  Deal with it.

I tend not to have very fond memories of the whole skating camp experience.  It was my choice — my parents were not stage parents, though God knows the skating world had plenty of those — but in retrospect I’ve come to believe that neither the program nor figure skating in general was a very healthy experience.   It was a world that encouraged kid vs. kid (generally girl vs. girl) competition, with no sense of teamwork.  We heard rumors of kids ruining each other’s skates or program tapes before big competitions.  And, at bottom, I just sucked at it.  So wish there had been a Photography and Reading for Introverted Klutzes camp.  My peeps!

But going back through the photos made me remember a couple of other cool things (besides the early introduction to wardrobe-coordinated beer drinking).  Wilmington, in 1973, had a number of blind skaters.  One, Stash Serafin, shown here in my 1973 photo,

Image:  Young white man in patterned shirt and red warm-up jacket poses in front of a sign-board listing dances by name ("waltz, tango, blues").

 

has (thanks again, Google!) gone on to have a successful skating career.

 

 

And finally, in 1973, you could get an entire basket of fries for 35 cents!

Image:  snack bar with white woman in apron behind the counter.  Sign reads French Fries 35 cents.

 

********

*Well, I suppose many Germans whom she represented in the Olympics knew, but I was stunningly unaware of who she was.  In retrospect, I can only imagine her thinking — watching me skate — “I left my homeland for THIS?”

 

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