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This is Part One of a Four Part Story!
My chance to go to overnight camp finally arrived when the Hebrew School principal notified my parents that my grades had earned me free tuition to attend a ten-week overnight camp in the Pocono Mountains. Ten weeks? I was terrified on one hand, but excited on the other. Terrified, because Camp Ramah required all campers to speak only Hebrew by the end of the summer. I did pretty well reading Hebrew in school. But speaking it as a first language was a bit daunting. Excited, though, because this would be my first experience going to an overnight camp.
I boarded the chartered bus at 6 o’clock in the morning with all the other students for the trip. I had a large duffel bag for my clothes. And my trumpet, only because my Dad told me I might need it. I was the youngest camper on the bus, but the high school girls watched over me like mother hens. That sure wasn’t too much to handle! Late in the day, we arrived at a large, crystal-clear lake in the mountains, surrounded on three sides by a pine-tree forest. The front side had floating docks for canoeing, and roped-off areas for swimming.
Up a steep hillside sat dozens of wooden bunk houses. At the top of the hill was the dining hall, and next to it a large theatre, much like you’d find in any big city. Checking into our bunk houses, we met our counselors. Two sides of cot beds for about 30 campers, and a large communal bathroom with showers at one end. Dinner in the dining hall that first evening was pretty exciting. There must have been 500 campers, seated fifteen-to-a-table. The waitresses, waiters, and dishwashers were senior campers earning a few extra bucks by serving us younger ones.
After dinner, we were welcomed by the camp’s founder and administrator, who explained the history and philosophy of Camp Ramah. Before concluding the festivities, he told us that there would soon be a camp talent show to be held in the theatre, inviting all interested musicians, singers, and dancers to audition for the few cherished parts to be offered campers. The majority of parts were reserved for the college-age counselors. Suddenly, I felt very glad that my father had convinced me to bring my trumpet along.
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