Saturday, February 28, 2015

Country Swamps

Camp Staff, 1980...I think!
Lately some chats with old friends, some long lost old pictures and some Facebook love for a group photo we shared from 1983 have made me more nostalgic than usual for Quaker Lake Camp. So today, like it or not, you get another QLC flashback. And what better way to celebrate camp than by remembering Country Swamps...

Quaker Lake was always an interesting place to be in the late 70's and early 80's. Camp was a very rustic setting- if by rustic you mean old and often broken down! The lake itself, once the center of camp life, had been replaced by a pool and was no longer fit to swim in (unless, of course, you were fully dressed and going against in your will!). Not only that, the algae was so thick that in the heat of summer the lake could actually appear to be RED. There was no air conditioning anywhere; when it rained hard, the hill in front of the lodge turned into a mudslide; and one summer the sewage system backed up and the smell was often overwhelming. Plus, out behind the winter cabins on the way to the boys side of the lake the "leakage" often made the ground squishy and nasty. All of this, along with crazed campers, long hours and a lack of caffeine often made the summer staff a bit loopy. And yet, we LOVED the place because the people made it so special. From those feelings a song was born. I often get credit for writing it, but the fact is I had nothing to do with it. I just performed it a 1000 times later on, so it is associated with me. It was written by a class full of campers led by Martha Ratledge Farlow and Alan Brown, with one of the campers being the legendary Jay Wilkins. Most of the references are self-explanatory, but I will tell you that Climax is the name of the tiny little town where QLC is located (go ahead and snicker, we always did!),"Red-Eye Dick" was a ghost story about camp we used to tell (before we got them banned!) and that the doors of the old cabins slammed with a volume you just can't imagine! So here are the lyrics to Country Swamps, the only song from the infamous Project Myrtle to ever actually make it onto an official camp song sheet! It is sung to the tune of Take Me Home, Country Roads by the late John Denver (a song that would later become a favorite sing-a-long with groups I took skiing in West Virginia some 20 years after this). Everybody sing!

Almost heaven, Climax suburbs
Blue Ridge swampland
Summer camp at Quaker Lake
The staff is old there
older than the trees
Aged by all those campers no higher
than their knees

Country Swamps, let me go
I’ve had enough as you should know, wo-wo-wo
Climax suburbs, outside of the Food Rite (original lyrics- the Bi-Rite)
Country Swamps, let me go

All my memories of all those mudslides
and Red-Eye Dick still lingers in my mind
Going to the bath house
at 3 o’clock in the morn
Stepping on a black snake
wishing I wasn’t born


I hear the bell in the morning
as it rings so loud
Shuttin’ off my alarm clock
saying "let’s go back to bed"
When suddenly I hear the noise
Of little footsteps running all around the floor
And slamming the door...


Now, don't you feel better? I know I do! Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!

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