Last week while visiting family in Wisconsin, my sister and I took a trip down memory lane. We returned to the camp where our dad served as director for twenty years while we were growing up. This wasn’t the first time we’ve visited since our family left Lutherdale almost 40 years ago (yikes!), but it’s always fun to see what changes have occurred and remember how things used to be.
Like this bell tower, for instance. Dad was always up bright and early to ring the bell and awaken the campers at 7 am. An hour later, the bell would ring to call everyone to breakfast, and at 9:00, it drew campers to the chapel for morning devotions. Lunch, supper, evening chapel–they were all signaled by the ringing of that bell. Even on Sunday mornings, Dad rang the bell, letting anyone within earshot know that Sunday worship was about to begin. Often, neighbors around the lake attended the late Sunday morning services, arriving by boat, tying up at the dock and climbing the hill to the chapel.
As youngsters, my siblings and I considered it a treat when Dad allowed us to pull the thick rope that rang the bell. The harder we pulled, the louder the bell would ring, or so we thought. So we’d jump into the air and use our body weight to pull the rope toward the ground. But Dad would warn us not to pull too hard or we’d flip the bell over. Or maybe it would get stuck if it went too far. I can’t remember exactly, but it took some of the fun out of ringing that bell.
The clanging of that bell was a familiar sound during my first twenty years. Nowadays, it’s been moved to a slightly different location and given a much more elaborate housing than the simple wood frame it had in my youth. I don’t know if the new tower is shorter, or if the old frame just seemed bigger because I was smaller, but the whole thing looks less imposing than I recall. The old bell no longer calls campers to worship or meals or a new day. It stands silent most of the time. But as soon as an emergency arises, the bell’s familiar clanging sounds the alarm and calls for help.
I wanted to write the bell into my story, Hear No Evil, but decided it was anachronistic. It belongs to a time before digital watches and cell phones and other electronic devices that tell us when to wake up, when to be somewhere.
Who knows? Maybe, just maybe I’ll find a way to write it into one of the next books in the Rustic Knolls Bible Camp series. Watch and see!