This dining hall at Lutherdale Bible Camp used to be filled with wooden picnic tables, four rows across and seven to ten deep. It was a noisy place when 250-300 campers filled it. Every meal started with a prayer, and no one was dismissed until after the announcements and a prayer of thanksgiving at the end.
Manners were important, especially keeping one’s elbows off the table. Anyone daring to ignore the rule soon heard this rousing chorus:
“Get your elbows off the table, (insert name). Get your elbows off the table (name). We have seen you do it twice and it isn’t very nice. Get your elbows off the table (name).
“Round the mess hall you must go, you must go, you must go….”
And the song kept going until the camper made a lap around the dining hall. Many a youngster learned the hard way about keeping their elbows off the table.
As if that wasn’t enough embarrassment, camp tradition also required that any who camper received three or more letters in one day could not collect their mail until they sang a song in front of the whole assembly. This of course happened at lunch or dinner, depending on how early the mail arrived. It was all meant to be good natured fun and it added some excitement to mealtimes.
Many hands worked to prepare the food for those hungry campers. Hands that peeled pounds of potatoes and carrots, cut up hundreds of carrot and celery sticks, filled individual dessert dishes. Cooking meals for a camp is a ministry in itself–feeding the body as well as the soul.
What camp traditions do you recall that centered around mealtimes? I’d love to read about them if you’d like to join the conversation and leave a comment.