Mom to Dad: 'Think Jimmy's doing O.K. at camp?'
Before the Internet, a camp counselor coordinated 'high-tech' communication from campers to parents.
A recent article in The Boston Globe tells how letters home from summer camp have changed in a digital age. Nowadays, Mom and Dad insist on sending Junior e-mail, and camps frequently post camper photos online. But before the invention of broadband, I pioneered "high-tech" summer-camp communications.
At Camp Elektor, each girl and boy had to write a weekly letter home. It was a ticket to supper on Sunday night. Junior campers (ages 6 and 7) almost always wrote the same message. Slowly shaping each letter, it took about an hour to print, "DEAR MOM AND DAD, I AM HAVING FUN. LOVE, JIMMY." This got Jimmy supper on Sunday, and Mom and Dad knew he was still alive, but most parents wished for more.
In 1963, I was counselor of the junior cabin and brought my portable typewriter to camp. Once a week, I'd invite each little boy to sit on a chair and pretend to be "the boss." He'd dictate what he wanted to tell his folks, and I, as secretary, would type it. With very little prompting, long sentences poured out, and parents received a full-page letter in their son's own words.
Mom and Dad were deeply grateful, as their tips showed when they came for Junior at summer's end. Counselors weren't supposed to accept tips, but I did that year – to replenish my typewriter ribbon and white-out.
• Contribute to this column by telling us about a humorous, touching, or surprising incident that you observed or participated in. E-mail email@example.com. Please include your name, location, and contact information.