The Greatest Experience of Your Life

Fames? Riches? Sex? Nope. Camp.

“I knew I couldn’t be a Pi Phi. I went to the wrong camp,” the sophisticated Houston coed explained as we walked out of the Junior Ball Room of the University of Texas Student Union with respectable sorority bids in hand. The 1962 rush week “pig squealing” was over. For me, a smalltown girl, it had been a week of unconscious blunders, naive assumptions, unwarranted overconfidence, and too much punch. I was forewarned that I would need a jingly (preferably gold) charm bracelet to wear to the Pi Beta Phi rush parties in order to participate in the sisterly singing of “Ring Ching, Pi Beta Phi.” The bracelet’s symbols of high school accomplishments momentarily buoyed flagging small talk throughout the week; but there were status symbols that had not made their way to my rural province in East Texas. I had never been particularly concerned with Sakowitz and Neiman-Marcus labels or Villager oxford cloth blouses. Pappagalio dress shoes held no majority in my closet. How was I to know about camp?

Certainly no one had asked me about the two weeks I had spent at Girl Scout Camp High Point in Mena, Arkansas, a healthy preadolescent experience that bore no resemblance to the camp stories I would hear about during my four years at The University of Texas. I gradually became aware that the camp one went to made a remarkable difference in all sorts of social endeavors, both in college and in the years that followed it.

My first visit to the Texas Hill Country around Kerrville convinced me that it is a camper’s paradise. The cool, clear waters of the Guadalupe River are irresistible, and I waded in before reaching the first camp on my tour. The hills themselves are part of camp life, since they provide a natural setting for secret “tribal” meetings. After you’ve heard the echoes bounce off Joy Bluff at Camp Stewart, you don’t wonder that a Great Spirit could light the bonfire. With my feet in the Guadalupe, I lost a good bit of my

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