Thoughts on summer camps

Ah, summertime and the living is easy!

It means summer camps are here with plenty to choose from around Central Alberta so junior can take a weeklong break from mom and dad.

There is nothing like packing up the child and sending him or her to be in the care of strangers for seven days and seeing how much they have matured as little people over that time.

My only camp experience came when I was 10 years old and I was transported across the border into the United States to attend the Royal Canadian Legion football camp at the International Peace Gardens.

I couldn’t believe my parents were willing to put me in what very much resembled an army barracks with about 80 other football players ranging in age from 10 to 17.

All I had to do was eat, sleep and play football for seven straight days! Score!

Of course this wasn’t some rainbows and ponies type of camp. This was two-a-day sessions with a game to wrap things up and you were getting pasted by kids three years older than you on a regular basis. Survival was the name of the game and there were many who left early.

The coaches were grizzled veterans of the gridiron wars and they had little time for any young football player who had tears welling up in his eyes because he was homesick.

One of those coaches was Marshall Quelch who had on his resume an appearance in the Olympics wearing the Maple Leaf in the judo competition. He also was a guide in the wilderness of Manitoba where he took people bear hunting with a bow and arrow. Not exactly the warm, fuzzy type you could pour your heart out to and get a sympathetic response.

As it turned out, we met again years later and had several chuckles over the camp experience, including how he viewed the snot-nosed little kids that invaded his world during that week. I think the word bear-bait was used once or twice.

Another memorable person from my camp experience was a huge kid named Paul Seymour who at age 17 stood over six feet and weighed in around 250 pounds. From my point of view he was the biggest kid I had ever seen and I was petrified to stand anywhere within his massive wingspan.

As it turned out, he actually liked my company and while I can’t say we became great friends I can safely say he did look out for me in some of the drills we did and managed to sneak me some extra food at lunch and supper.

He went on to a nice career as an offensive lineman with the Buffalo Bills and I always viewed him as my favourite hoggie.

Ah, summertime!