Since it’s April and we start off the month with a day of pranks and tricks, it seemed a good time to remember some camp pranks. Short-sheeting beds. Breakfast in bed (putting cereal between the sheets). Running underwear or swim suits up the flag pole.
Did you ever put someone’s hand in warm water while they were asleep, thinking it would make them wet their pants? (It didn’t.) What about filling an envelope with shaving cream, sliding the open end underneath a closed door, and stomping on the envelope?
One year, the guy counselors managed to catch a rather large bullfrog that was missing one hind leg. They hid it in the dresser drawer of one of the girl counselors. That resulted in the scream heard ’round the camp.
My friend and fellow writer, Terri Wangard shared this story from her camp experiences:
You do not want to be caught in possession of the red gizmo at suppertime. That’s for sure. The red gizmo steals your dignity in front of a dining room full of laughing campers. And they’re all laughing at you.
I didn’t want to go to swim team camp. My parents made me. Give it a try, they said. I might enjoy it if I let myself. I was too much a loner. I needed to socialize.
So there I was at Camp U-Na-Li-A. A dozen girls to a cabin. Of course I knew the girls I bunked with. We were members of one of the strongest YMCA swim teams in the state. We shared the joy of winning and the agony of defeat.
I just didn’t want to live with them 24/7. Privacy was a forgotten word in the dingy cabin. Knotholes allowed the boys to spy on us while we changed clothes. I muddled through the days.
And then there was the gizmo. A small plastic do-dad, its only purpose was to humiliate. Whoever had it must pass it off to someone else without their knowing it. At the end of supper, the call went out. “Red gizmo, red gizmo, who’s got the red gizmo?”
Gleeful campers pointed out who they’d passed it off on. The last unlucky victim must go up to the stage and provide entertainment. Singing might be required, a cappella of course. Or maybe kissing the moose head watching over the room. Something awful.
Toward the end of the week, I noticed several campers looking my way at supper, laughing. A hot flush swept over me. I slipped my hand into my pocket. The gizmo. How dare they! No time was left for me to pass it along. Or could I?
Desperation calls for desperate action. I liked Cathy, my friend sitting beside me. Really I did. But she wore a hooded sweatshirt. Nervousness made my attempt at being stealthy misfire. She felt my hand brush her as I dropped the gizmo into her hood.
Thinking fast, I pointed beyond her. “There’s my sister.”
Cathy took the bait and looked, probably thinking, “So?”
The call arose for the red gizmo. Still shaky, I wished to vanish as the group of laughing campers pointed to me. But I didn’t have it anymore. And I had to tell Cathy, “It’s in your hood.”
I don’t remember what embarrassing task she had to perform. All I remember is she did it commendably. I likely would have fainted dead away, scarred for life as the biggest fool who ever lived.
Cathy didn’t hold my perfidy against me. Maybe she even found humor in the act. My only consolation that evening was knowing I could go home in two days and forget about red gizmos.
I wrote my first novel in the early 2000s. A publisher had the manuscript for a year before saying, “No thanks.” Not until I read Debbie Macomber’s Twenty Wishes in 2008 did I decide to write again. My full-time job is with my family business, publishing Classic Boating magazine since 1984. In my early teen years, I was a member of the Green Bay YMCA swim team.