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Summer Camp for Kids
Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake, Michigan
If you've never been to summer camp, this little tour of sorts will give you a feel for it. If you have experienced summer camp, this should bring back some your own memories.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s in Michigan, I spent part of my summers at Camp Westminster, a classic summer camp on Higgins Lake. Run by Westminster Presbyterian Church in Detroit, the camp was, and still is, a haven for city kids, a place to live a very different kind of life for a week or two. Not much has changed in the last 50 years or so. The beautiful old buildings are still there, the songs are still being sung and all the traditions I remember are still in place, plus a few more.
Journey back with me as I take you on a Camp Westminster "way-back" ride with tons of photos.
The Director's Office: a Little Log Cabin - My connection to Camp Westminster
My father was Westminster's Camp Director in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Every day he took up residence at his desk to run the daily affairs in this miniature cabin in the middle of camp. I loved to stop for a visit with him in that musty, old space, but sometimes liked to pretend I was a regular camper with my parents far away back at home, even writing letters to be "delivered" to mom and dad at the Director's house down a narrow path at the far end of camp.
Official Camp Westminster Info
Camp Westminster is run by the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Detroit Michigan. Visit the camp's website to find all you need to know about what is offered now at Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake. Go to the church website to learn about the Detroit church which has for years been offering this exceptional summer camping experience for young people and for families.
The Main Lodge and Dining Hall - Where many a camp song has been sung in unison
The heart of Camp Westminster is the big Dining Hall. Three times a day, the big red bell next to the hall signals that it is time to gather together to eat, visit and celebrate with song. The meals begin with a group song or prayer and they end with song after song after song, all put to memory from years of camp attendance and joyfully executed en masse.
The Camp Bell - My sisters and I were thrilled to be able to ring the bell outside the dining hall to announce the start of meals.
We were three very little girls and it took the strength of our whole bodies to pull that bell's rope hard enough to make it ring long and loud enough.
Higgins Lake on YouTube - This is a Beautiful Lake--sandy and clear
Higgins Lake had been designated as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world by National Geographic. This will highlight some of the videos on YouTube featuring Higgins Lake. Some will be real estate promotions, but there are others, as well. Plus who wouldn't want to own a cabin on Higgins Lake, anyway?!
Center Grounds of Camp - All the Little Green Wakeyas (camper cabins) in a Row
Every day one of us campers had the duty of raking the grounds in the center of camp. I remember very well the feeling of pleasure as I dragged the rake across the dusty, gravely soil underfoot.
The Lakefront Face of a Wakeya
All the camper cabins, called Wakeyas, face out onto Higgins Lake. They are almost right on top of the beautiful shoreline. Each Wakeya has 4 sets of built-in bunkbeds and a small, walled-off area for the cabin counselor.
Inside a Wakeya on a Windy Day - Newly Painted! Goodbye to years of signatures and messages left behind.
At night after our evening program or campfire, we would each cuddle into our sleeping bags in the wooden bunks and try to be quiet. Names of campers who been coming to camp for years before us were engraved into the surrounding walls and bunk boards. We made sure to each look for the names of friends from previous years and to add our names to the record. That record of so many campers has now been whited out in a painting session that took place several years ago and the cabins look fresh and clean.
Among Other Things, You'll Need a Sleeping Bag for Camp - Check these out.
For most sleep-over camps, you will need a sleeping bag. Even now, when I think about it, I can remember crawling into a soft, flannel-lined bag in my bunk and feeling cozy and safe. It doesn't have to be a fancy bag or one made for super low temperatures. It is for summer, after all. These are perfect: not too cheap, not to fancy...just right.
The Cook's Cabin: A Sacred Place - Don't mess with the cook!
The beloved camp cook during the 1950s and 60's was "Mama Wilson". Mama was perfect for her role. She ruled that kitchen--see didn't just run it, she RULED it. As soon as one meal was cleaned up it was time to start on the next. What a huge job she had. And, really, you knew that you weren't to mess with Mama Wilson. She was too important.
What's the Best Thing You've Ever Eaten at Camp?
S'Mores, of course!
And, who knew there could be a whole cookbook based on S'mores?
What's Camp Without S'mores?! - Graham Crackers, Chocolate and Marshmallows... yum
Just hearing the word S'mores triggers an intense flavor memory. I can see the marshmallows browning over the flames and the chocolate melting against the graham crackers. I can feel myself squishing it all together into a sandwich and watching the sweetness ooze over the edges.
Here's something you can use to help you make a S'more right now at home.
Make Some More S'Mores at Home
Modern technology does S'mores.
A Stable of Camp Canoes Lies Waiting
I learned to steer a canoe at Camp Westminster. I still use that skill today and I'm grateful to know how to paddle a canoe, either with a partner or by myself. It's a very satisfying feeling to quietly slide through the water in a canoe.
Summer Camp Items on eBay - Who knows, you may find some items on eBay that came from your favorite summer camp.
Items change constantly in this special feed from eBay.
Papoose Lodge - Where the youngset ones stay
An extra-special nurturing environment, the Papoose Lodge has several counselors, it's own fireplace and beach and special activities for the youngest campers.
Consider Keeping a Diary at Camp - Later in life, you'll be glad you did
Why not keep a journal of camp experiences? Include drawings, notes and contact information from new friends, favorite menu items, personal achievements, etc.. It will be great for you to have to jog your memory as you look back years later at your time spent at summer camp.
Take an Empty Journal to Camp and Fill it WIth Memories
My Favorite Place to Hang Out at Camp - And, look at that beautiful vintage lettering!
One year I was actually awarded a much-coveted "W" patch at the end of camp for my interest in and participation at the nature cabin. I seem to remember that the "nature boy", or director for the Nature Cabin, that year was a quiet, cute, blond college boy named Gordie. That wasn't really my main motivation, though. I really loved learning about nature (and still do) and, anyway, he was much too old for me.
Tiny Puffballs on the Back Trail - Behind the Nature Cabin
During a very quiet visit to an almost empty Camp Westminster in the early fall in 2010, I took the trail behind the Nature Cabin to find a community of tiny, whimsical puffballs spreading out over the path and down the hill.
Gwen Frostic - Northern Michigan Nature Artist
Gwen Frostic's delightful, delicate and lovely nature poems and block prints are well-known in Michigan. Here are some of her works to try for on eBay. These are all printed on her presses in northern Michigan on high quality paper in beautiful colors.
The Lakeside Porch off the Dining Hall - A lovely place to spend your time on a rainy day
I remember many days spent playing, or trying to play, Ping Pong on this screened porch off of the Dining Hall. The long, wide porch is a great place to hang out on a cold or rainy day or evening. It looks so inviting now with all those rockers lined up waiting for a sitter.
Advice on Sending Your Children to Summer Camp
- Overnight Summer Camp - Why Send Your Child Or Teen To Sleepaway Camp?
Why should you send your child or teen to sleepaway camp? Summer Camps & Trip Resources explores the benefits your child receives when they go to overnight camp.
- Picking the Right Summer Camp for Your Kids
From Fatherhood.org, this is a very helpful article on choosing a summer camp. It's laid out simply and well and offers excellent suggestions.
- 10 Reasons to Send Your Child to Camp | Metro Parent
Parents and camp leaders let parents know why camp is worth the money. "Great article! Diana did a great job of sharing a variety of perspectives. Our 80 year-old alums who keep on visiting us and send their great-grandchildren to camp are all proof
Left by a Group of Campers in 1961
It Just Isn't Camp Without Plenty of Camp Songs
Path to the Outdoor Chapel
Down a long shaded path at one end of camp lies the Outdoor Chapel overlooking Higgins Lake through the trees. On Sundays, all of camp dresses up in white and walks the path to gather for a worship service under a canopy of trees. Handmade wooden benches serve as furniture and a handmade cross of tree branches serves as a focal point and a reminder of a commonly-held set of beliefs.
Don't Be Scared
You'll need a flashlight for those dark walks to and from the bathroom and campfire gatherings. Here is one that is inexpensive and floatable.
This Way to Camp!
Attendance at Summer Camp
Did you or did you not attend summer camp as a child? If not, did you wish you could have? If so, did you like it?
Have you been to summer camp?
View Out the Doors of the Screened Porch
As you look out of the double doors leading off of the Dining Hall's screened porch, this calming view of Higgins Lake will greet you and say, "'Till we meet again."
Homesickness at Sleep-over Summer Camp
Everybody gets at least a little bit homesick the first time they attend camp, but some kids have more significant trouble with it--20%, according to the American Camp Association. Learn how to avoid or lessen homesickness.
- Summer Camp Homesickness from PBS Kids GO! & "It's My Life "
Here's a great list of suggestions for you regarding homesickness at summer camp. It offers ideas for what to do to prevent it as well as how to address it once it comes up at camp.
- The Importance of Prevention of Homesickness From the American Camp Association
Here you will find suggestions for how to best avoid homesickness based on research which was sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health. New Thinking Needed on Helping Kids Avoid or Cope with Homesickness "For over 100