A very special postcard delivered to us sixty-five years after being written
Photo: Chronica Domus
Summer in the United States, for those that have school-aged children, usually involves some type of summer camp activity. Summer camp, for the benefit of my international readers, is a supervised recreational or athletic program designed for young children and teenagers. It provides structured activities for the duration of the long summer break when children are not attending school. There is a myriad of summer camps available to choose from if you decide to send your children to such things.
Summer camp is a distinctly American tradition and is not one I grew up with in England. Our summer holiday breaks from school were usually filled with visits to the park with the other neighborhood children, playing in our garden, or whizzing about on our bicycles. We also spent a lot of time rambling in the large woodland across the road from our home in Kent. The highlight of the summer was our month long family holiday which had us traveling by boat and car around the continent visiting such gloriously hot places as Greece and the Aegean islands. With no set itinerary, we enjoyed whatever adventures presented themselves along the way, and there were certainly many I can recall. With six weeks off school, we children had our plates full. American students have twice as much time off during the summer as their British counterparts, which feels like an eternity for both parents and offspring alike.
My own daughter has this year decided she would rather spend her time at home, playing with her friends, reading, and working on a variety of art projects, rather than attend any of the summer camps we offered to sign her up for.
So, with all of this talk of summer camp around our home lately, it was with much pleasure and serendipity that we received a very special package last week, addressed to my husband and sent by his cousin, Rowena. The package contained a note explaining that Rowena was feeling nostalgic and decided to look through some old boxes of family photographs that had belonged to her late father, Robert. She came across an envelope labeled "Things for Rowena" and within it found a remarkable postcard. Rowena wrote "I had never seen the envelope before so you can imagine my excitement wondering what he had set aside for me. In it were some photographs, birth certificates from his grandpa and grandma, a few papers, and the little gem I'm sending you".
The "little gem" turned out to be a postcard written by my husband's late father Richard, when he was a mere lad of ten, sixty-five years ago. It was mailed on August 13, 1949 from Fort Bragg, California, and it was addressed to his mother, my husband's grandmother, in San Francisco. Interestingly, the price of postage was a mere penny.
Oh dear, not a happy camper!
Photo: Chronica Domus
It seems that young Richard had been sent to a summer retreat run by the San Francisco Boys' Club at Fort Bragg, a town located along the northern California coast. Back then, the camp was known as Camp Marwedel and has since had a name change to Camp Mendocino.
It appears the camp was not a hit with master Richard. Here is what he wrote:
I don't like the camp and I'm homesick. I went fishing for today.
These scribbles, written by an unhappy ten year old city boy, had us roaring and in fits of giggles. This is because at such a tender age, his youthful thoughts had already revealed so much of Richard's disdain for venturing into the great outdoors as an adult.
According to my husband, his father absolutely loathed outdoor living and would not join his wife and four children on the family's regular camping and fishing trips. The only time he did, he lasted until nightfall, at which point he got in his car and drove himself home. This from a man that loved to sit by a blazing fireplace, even during the summer months, but never a camp fire.
The young Richard (left), his brother Robert, and sister Nadine in happier times
Photo: Chronica Domus
Rowena continued in her letter "It's funny how after losing people that are so close to you, these items feel like gold". And, how right she is. Thank you Rowena for your kind and thoughtful gift. We feel so fortunate to have been the recipients of this very small piece of family history that might have otherwise remained in a box for a future generation to have found, one that would not have known who this young boy was. Our daughter enjoyed reading the postcard, which provided her with a small insight into her grandfather, even though she never had the privilege of meeting him. She has enjoyed such camps, living among the trees and participating in riparian activities, and cannot fathom her grandfather's dislike of the great outdoors.
Have you ever been given a treasure from the past that belonged to your family, and what of summer camps, did you enjoy them and do you send your own children off to such camps? What will you be doing this summer?