They tell me the very first time I was camping I was only 3 months old. I can picture it now; my parents, my two brothers and I, all crammed into a little five by five tent… ’tis a wonder I ever survived it all.
My first memories of camping were later, when we had one of the newer style pop up campers. Three or four families would spend the week making plans, then come the weekend we would gear up and head off to the great outdoors .
On board the loaded down cars you would find everything from dishpans, guitars, board games, bicycles, and probably even a swalley or two. They would take clothes for every weather; from bathing suits (wishful thinking) to winter jackets. Or at least enough layers to keep a small country warm…you just never knew what to expect.
My family took it a step further and spent weeks at a time camping. At the time Dad worked at the Refinery in Holyrood, which just happened to be down the road from Butter Pot Park. Dad would get up in the mornings and go to work, often taking advantage of the refinery’s shower wash off the previous nights campfire.
While Dad worked, we ran the roads of the park like a tribe of berry brown wildlings. The moms were content with nothing but small transistor radios that played quietly at the camp sites to keep them company. That, and every now and then a bit of peace and quiet.
Times were much simpler then. Parents didn’t have the same worries as today, so we were safe to roam, swim and pillage the park, like it was our very own back yard. We knew the parks like the back of our hand and knew most of the other campers as well. We were rough and tumble hardy campers, who were unbothered by sun burns or mosquitoes. Knees were often scabbed over from falling off our bikes and dirty from playing in the woods, but we were happy.
As we ran through the park, we heard snippets of radio talk shows coming from the campsites. “Is dat you, Bas?”, Bob Lewis’ News Cavalcade and “details are scanty…” from Mike Critch, were the sounds we heard. These were mixed with the sultry sounds of Charlie Pride, Tammy Wynette and Red Sovine, who were singing songs like ‘Stand by your man’,’ Harper Valley PTA’, ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘King of the Road’.
We knew these songs word for word , as our parents played them on eight track tape players while we were on the road. We sang them in the car like a band of druken wee people, howling out the lyrics as our merry caravan rolled on.
Dad would come home at the end of the day to a happy wife, an awesome meal and a worn out bunch of youngsters. After supper and a quick campfire, the kids would be sent off to bed and then a wicked game of cards would break out.
As we kids tried to sleep, the adults whooped and hollered into the wee hours and slammed down the cards while playing ‘One -Twenties’ or ‘Scat’!! These were perfect times.
My last camping trip, saw my parents, my fiance (at the time) and I, at Smallwood Park down around Gambo. We planned on a game of cards, a swalley and a few hours of broken sleep on the rocky ground. Once again we were in tents, but this time it was as two couples.
At check-in, the ranger wished us well with a “Hope ye don’t freeze ta det out der!!” (‘I hope you don’t freeze to death out there’ for non NL’ers) Permit in hand, we headed off to one last great adventure.
This weekend, the 24th of May will see many couples venturing out for their first camping trips in tents and campers. Young families will take their young uns out to the cabin for their first wiener roast and the old fellers will head off to the ponds to have a flick and hopefully catch a fish or two.
Where ever this May 24 brings you, please drive responsibly!! I hope you all have a happy and safe weekend and most of all, I Hope ye don’t freeze ta Det!!
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Do you enjoy camping? What are your camping memories? Did this blog post help you to remember?