School bells are ringing, bringing an official end to summer. Or at least an end to summer vacation; we all know triple digits are lurking and it’s likely we will be dealing with them on and off all this month.
Summers in upstate New York feature a mix of weather conditions, it can be hot and humid in the morning, then a thunderstorm rolls through and cools everything off for the afternoon. The annual county fair, which is held each August, runs Aug. 6 through 11 this year and is known as ‘The Sunshine Fair’ – which just means that at least a few of the days will feature plenty of rain. Opening day forecast, 82 degrees and, yep, rain with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms.
Thinking back to summers of the past, a couple do stand out. One was the summer I got to ‘work’ as a counselor-in-training at a summer camp run in conjunction with the county. It wasn’t a paying job but the junior counselors had the best of both worlds, we were a little older so we were able to have some supervisory responsibilities for the ‘kids’ but we also got to take part in a number of the events that were fun and part of the camp day, from the craft projects to the nature hikes to going off the ‘big’ diving board at the pool in the aquatic center of the state university where part of the camp was held.
My sister Sue and one of her best friends, Doris, were full-fledged counselors since they were a little older than me but all three of us had fun. That was the year we developed our own language so we could talk to each other at camp (and often at home) without anybody understanding what we were saying. The days were full and it was definitely a memorable summer, the camp ran for several weeks and there was never a dull moment.
Another summer to remember was when I worked (at a paying job, low pay, but paying) with the Youth Conservation Corps, part of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. That was an experience that put me in a house in the Catskills with more than a dozen other teens from around the state, along with several counselor-chaperones who were also our work crew leaders. We were sent out on work assignments all over the Catskill Mountains. We cleared snowmobile trails, cleaned up campsites, assisted with putting signage on hiking trails, a variety of jobs to make the nature experience nicer and easier for those visiting the Catskills.
Crews rotated so one work day out of the week you were on ‘food and house duty’ which meant you and your crew stayed at the house and did a thorough cleaning along with preparing breakfast and dinner and packing lunches for your fellow ‘YCC’ers who were going out to work that day. My co-workers liked it best when the crew I was part of had house and food duty because we always found time to bake cookies during the day and they knew they would get a home-baked treat after dinner that night.
On one occasion we were able to assist with the mop up of a small fire that burned some acreage on one peak in the Catskills; we had a crash course in using Indian tanks and hauled the water up the mountain on our backs, extinguishing some smoldering spots along the way.
We probably made minimum wage, if that, since our food and board were provided but, at least for me, it was really more about the overall experience and establishing friendships than making money. Weekends were set aside for special trips, such as touring historic places within fairly easy driving distance of our YCC house on Peekamoose Mountain, such as West Point Military Academy, Woodstock and some mansions and museums.
Summers typically are great for making memories of all kinds; hope you had the chance to make some new ones with your family and friends that you can treasure in the years to come.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.