Mountain Musings with Uncle Mott – Summer Camp

Aug 12, 2023 | Uncle Mott


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Back in the summer of ’59 I spent several weeks at Mill Creek Boys Ranch, high in the hills above Big Bear Lake. It all started when Mom and Dad drove me to Perris Hill Park in San Bernardino, where we were met by a camp counselor who loaded about 20 or more boys onto the back of his flatbed stake truck for transport up to Big Bear by way of Highway 330.

You should have seen the look of joy on my parents’ faces as they high-fived each other, knowing they wouldn’t have little Douglas to kick around for the next four weeks. The feeling was mutual since I wouldn’t have to listen to Dad’s angry barking at me and Mom.

I must say the trip up the winding road to Big Bear, then up Mill Creek Road, a bumpy, windy dirt road, was akin to an E-ticket ride at Disneyland. That was followed by four weeks of hiking, horseback riding, arts and crafts, fishing, target practice with homemade bows and arrows and other outdoor activities. It was like a Spin and Marty adventure from Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club, despite an occasional late afternoon thunderstorm.

After the first week at camp, we were instructed to write a letter to send home to our parents. My letter focused on how much I missed being home (an obvious lie). It read something like this:

Hello Muddah, hello Faddah, here I am at Camp Grenada, camp is very entertaining, and they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.” (“Hello Mudduh, Hello Faddah” – Allan Sherman – 1963)

If we were good, we got to go into town on Saturday to hang out at the Village Arcade or watch the latest Jerry Lewis flick. One time, we were trucked down to Big Bear Lake to go wakeboarding and another time we went swimming at a small beach (now Burnt Mill Beach Club) at Lake Arrowhead. We also went on an overnight hike to climb Mount San Gorgonio.

I went hiking with Joe Spivey, he developed poison ivy. You remember Leonard Skinner; he got Ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner.

We were fed three meals each day: breakfast, which consisted of Cheerios or Frosted Flakes and bacon, eggs and toast. Then there was lunch, which was usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Kool Aid. For dinner, we often got beef stew, spaghetti or fried chicken. My group of campers slept in one of three bunk houses, where the counselor read to us each evening.

All the counselors hate the waiters, and the lake has alligators, and the head coach wants no sissies, so he reads to us from something called Ulysses.

I have to admit that, by the third week, I was beginning to get homesick and was yearning to go home. Then I wrote another letter.

Wait a minute, it’s stopped hailing, guys are swimming, guys are sailing, playing baseball, gee that’s bettah. Muddah, Faddah kindly disregard this letter.

Keep it flyin,’

Uncle Mott



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