Human Interest


Between the ages of 12 and 18 years, I went to summer camp seven times. In part one of this blog, I wrote about the two times I went to church camp and the one-and-a-half times I went to Boy Scout camp. Those experiences occurred during the summers I was 13 and 14 years old. I skipped the summer I was 15 because I had dropped out of scouts and church. My next camp experiences came during the summers I was 16 and 17. These camps were different because to attend, I had to be chosen. I had to meet qualifying criteria and then be selected. 

The summer I was 16, I attended high school journalism institute at Indiana University. It was a week-long “institute” sponsored by the IU School of Journalism, and was for students who were members of their high school yearbook staff. In the spring semester of my sophomore year, I was chosen to be co-sports editor of our yearbook so I was eligible to attend the institute. For that week, I lived in a 2-man dormitory room in Wright Quadrangle. I felt like big stuff! Here I was, a high school Junior, staying in a college dorm. What an experience! We had numerous classes, lectures, and workshops all for the purpose of producing a yearbook students could be proud of. 

It was a busy week, during which I had little free time, and became very familiar with the ins and outs of designing and organizing a yearbook. We spent a lot of time learning how to write and edit copy, write headlines and captions, and how to select and crop pictures for the sports section. We were taught by IU Journalism faculty and even the Chairman of the Department, Dr. John Stempel, was involved. Most of our sessions were in Ernie Pyle Hall, home of the IU Journalism School. I felt much more like a college student than a high school junior, and there was no hint of homesickness.

The next summer I was 17. That fall, I would be a senior in high school. That year I was chosen to spend a week at each of two camps. The first “camp” was Hoosier Boys State, a week-long educational seminar sponsored by the American Legion. Local chapters of the American Legion were able to choose two male students from each public high school and sponsor them to attend Boys State. I was fortunate to be one of the two boys chosen from my school. It was held on the campus of Indiana University, and once again we stayed in Wright Quad dorm rooms. The purpose of the “camp” was to learn about the organization of state and local governments. Everyone ran for a state office and conducted their own campaign. We learned the responsibilities of each of these elected officials, had primary elections, a nominating convention, and voted in a general election. We learned about politics and organizing and running a political campaign. After the election, we functioned in the role to which we had been elected. I ran for county clerk and lost, so I was an observer after the election.

The major election at Boys State was for governor. Mike Dugan, my high school classmate and the other representative from Howe, ran for governor on one ticket. He lost the general election to Tom Cooper from Sullivan high school. Dugan went on the get a law degree and became the presiding judge in the Tony Kiritsis trial in 1977. My life in government and politics went no farther than the week at Boys State. A huge emphasis of the week was patriotism and discipline. We had rally after rally and motivational speech after motivational speech, and came away with a true sense of love for country and better knowledge of state and local government and politics. The American Legion is an organization for U.S. war veterans. I was appreciative of the opportunity the “Legion” afforded me.

Boys State was in July. In August, I returned to IU and Wright Quad for another week of journalism institute. This was essentially a refresher course on what I had learned the previous summer. It was mostly review, but having a year’s experience as sports editor, I learned ways we could refine our yearbook. The second year at journalism institute was much more fun than the first. By now I felt very comfortable in the dorm and on the IU campus. Although Wright Quad was an older dorm, it was still in decent condition. The food in the cafeteria was good, too. Good food always makes dorm living a lot more pleasant. One of the best things about journalism institute was the close, daily interaction with the faculty. They stayed in our dorms, ate meals in the same cafeteria, and eagerly sat at students tables during meals. Student-faculty interaction made learning that much more fun. 

I don’t remember any of my roommates, but at journalism institute both years, my dorm chaperone/counselor was a teacher from Manual HS named Carl Wright. At Manual he taught English, but my senior year, he transferred to Howe as the school newspaper faculty advisor. He was a crusty, middle-aged bachelor, who was a stern disciplinarian while also being very helpful and knowledgeable. It was he who awakened us in the dorm every morning. His routine was to knock on the door to get us stirring, open the door, and tell us to get up. He started at one end of the hall and worked his way to the other end. Then he turned back, checking who was and wasn’t awake, and to see if you were up. If you weren’t, he pulled the covers off your feet, grabbed your big toe, squeezed it, and twisted it until it hurt. That definitely woke me up every time. He was quite a character and groups of us liked to sit with him and pick his brain. 

Attending journalism institute at IU was a big help to me as a member of our yearbook staff. I was the only member who went to the IU institute. The co-editors-in-chief went to Michigan State University’s program for two weeks. We all were well-prepared for the project ahead and produced a really good yearbook.

My summer camp experience was varied, indeed—church camp, scout camp, and journalism institute each twice, and Hoosier Boys State, once. All of them had an influence on my life in a  variety of ways. Even the two days at the first scout camp, when I got homesick and went home, was a maturing and learning experience. It’s like I needed that experience to learn how to be away from home and family. I figured it out. 

Do I have a favorite camp experience? Yes, it’s the second time I went to Boy Scout Camp at Belzer. The sense of accomplishment, earning five merit badges and advancing in rank from First Class to Star, was memorable. And adjusting to living under austere circumstances was a maturing influence.  Even though I didn’t follow through and earn Eagle Scout, I felt the difficulty of earning both swimming and life saving merit badges, in a tough environment, was a very worthwhile accomplishment. All of the camps I attended were great experiences and influential in my life as I grew into a man. These types of experiences shape us into what we become and supplement the values we learn from our parents. I’m glad I had the opportunity.

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  1. Carl Wright must have been moonlighting at Howe, as he continued at Manual, mainly in charge of the auditorium. He was in charge of all the stage settings and had a large number of students over the years. His crowning achievement was installing the pipe organ in the auditorium. He worked at Manual even after retirement.

    The best part of attending Boys State was meeting you. Friends for 63 years and still counting !!

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