Camp was wonderful. Of course, I had no idea of the training I would get through 4-H during the next decade that would serve me well for the rest of my life.
I remember two things about that camp. First, as soon as we arrived, there was a race to the cabins to see who would get the top bunks. Although I did not know what the race was about, I ran, too. Naturally, I lost.
Next was seeing the ocean for the first time. Compared to the rock quarry near Sparta where we would go swimming, it was gigantic and very frightening. I had been cautioned about the undertow and how it could take me so far into the water that I could not get back.
It was comforting when I learned the adults would go out into the ocean water and form a line standing side by side. Campers were not to go past them when we were swimming.
I am not sure how many 4-H Club camps I attended. Camp Fulton near Atlanta was wonderful. That was the first time I went to the Cyclorama and the Atlanta Zoo.
But there was something more special than that during that week of camp. When we went to the state Capitol, the governor — probably one of the Talmadges — was not there.
However, his secretary had been given permission for each of us to go into his office and sit in his chair. For kids from rural Georgia like me, being in the governor’s office and sitting behind his desk was huge.
After my school years, 4-H Club was behind me until a few years ago when I began thinking about, as my mama had done, volunteering to go to 4-H Club Camp.
When I talked with Cherokee County Extension Agent Trudy Christopher about it, she told me what I would need to do. First was volunteer training. I passed.
Next was a security screening — a background check including references. Again, I passed.
Soon afterward, I packed my bags for the trip to Rock Eagle for 4-H Club Camp for the first time in 50-plus years. Soon, I was with about 1,000 fifth- and sixth-graders around the clock. This year, over 100 of them were Cherokee County’s kids.
Today’s 4-H Club Camp and campers are amazing. While and between zip lining, canoeing, sailing, swimming, dancing, archery, classes on healthy living, preservation of wildlife and other natural resources, campers hone their skills in keeping safe and showing respect for themselves and others.
Every camper has a daily assignment in keeping their cabin clean. Most parents would find it hard to believe how well their children can use a broom, make their bed and clean a bathroom.
Campers also learn they can happily go an entire week without talking on a telephone, playing computer games or watching television.
They are busy from dusk until after dark. However, there is some free time when they can go to the canteen for a fabulous icee and camp souvenirs. Let me add that there are no complaints about the food in the dining hall. It is child friendly, tasty and nutritious with big servings.
Like Trudy Christopher, 4-H Club program director Ashley Wilcher is a real trooper. Long, long term volunteers Janie Ray and Hal Jones are, too. Like me, they remember the impact 4-H Club had on their lives and they want other children to have the same experiences.
Additionally, there are dozens of high school and college students who work at Rock Eagle.
Someone told how to measure the success of 4-H Club Camp.
First, you bring back all the campers you took with you. We did.
Second, when they get back to Canton, they get off the buses telling their parents they want to go back next year. Many did just that.
As for me, I got back with all my body parts in the right places and I have already volunteered for next summer.
Now, lest you have been misled, let me assure you that I did not climb the rock wall, attempt the ropes course, get on the zip line or anything like that. Though some may disagree, I have not totally lost my mind.
Here it is and I have just about recovered from camping last week.
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.