I got shoes, you got shoes,
All God's children got shoes.
When I get to Heaven gonna put on my shoes,
Gonna walk all over God's Heaven, Heaven, Heaven
Everybody talkin' about Heaven ain't a going there,
Heaven, Heaven, Heaven.
Gonna shout all over God's Heaven.
(Old Negro Spiritual)
Well, I sure do look forward to Heaven...not quite yet, but when the time comes. I think I have already been there twice anyway so I have a pretty good idea of what it will be like. When I was twelve and thirteen years old I was blessed to go to a scout camp run by the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Actually it was a Boy Scout Reservation called Owasippe located near Twin Lake, Michigan. The first year I spent two glorious weeks at Camp Dan Beard and the next year another wonderful two week period at Camp Blackhawk. We went to camp on a train from Chicago, hundreds of us at a time, and we got off the train in a big field near the camps. Each camp had a series of smaller camps around it where we slept in tents that were erected over wooden floors and during the day we could roll up the sides of the tents. We ate at a big mess hall and we swam in a lake. We learned all about paddling a canoe and shooting a bow and arrow and building a campfire and singing songs and there was never a dull moment. I never wanted to leave. For me those times at camp were some of the happiest times of my life. I wish that all children could have that opportunity.
I think we were very lucky boys to have a good Boy Scout organization with good leaders and helpers and sponsors. There were plenty of Moms and Dads involved and we gained much from the experience that they acquired in the Armed Forces during World War II and the Korean War. There was a lot of camaraderie and very little of the bickering and scandals and political correctness issues that you hear about today. My old scout troop was number one twenty three, the best company that ever came out of the land of the free. Our troop rallying cry was:
"Stand on your head, stand on your feet,
Troop one twenty three can't be beat.
We don't smoke and we don't chew
And we don't go with the gals that do!"
Well, what happened to scout camp? It's still there...sort of. Owasippe is only a shadow of its former self. It is the oldest scout camp in the United States and goes back to 1912. At one time it covered over 11,000 acres and hosted 10,000 Scouts each summer. It has now shrunk by two thirds and is likely to fade away entirely. I don't have to tell you why. You already know the story, lack of funds, indifference, apathy, insurance claims, child molesters, etcetera and so forth. When I went there it was a different time and for us lucky ones for a little while it was a different world. I just wish that all kids could have a glimpse of Heaven like I did before they have to lean into the harness. There are so many memories. We used to drink Kool-Aid served from two quart aluminum pitchers except we used to call it "bug juice". I remember when I got home and our family was at the dinner table and I said "Please pass the bug juice". I thought my Ma was going to faint and my Pa was going to swat me. I know that you are all going to think I am nuts but I still remember the camp songs and when I think about them I get all misty eyed. Camp Dan Beard's song went like this:
"Give a cheer for dear old Beard,
Shout 'til the rafters ring.
Stand and give a cheer once again,
Let every loyal Beard man sing, Hail Dan Beard!
Cheer for all the happy hours, cheer for the carefree days,
Cheer for every TROOP to camp
At the camp that took their hearts awaaaaayyyy."
Camp Blackhawk's song went like this:
"Qui qua guaddy, guaddy, guaddy, guaddy goshnick, oompah qui, oompah quo
Qui qua guaddy, guaddy, guaddy, guaddy goshnick, oompah qui, oompah quo
Oh dear old Blackhawk, how much we love you,
Oh dear old Blackhawk, how much we love you, love you, love you (fade away)."
Okay, I am better now. I just had to get this out.
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