Dear ol' Sooner Youth Camp
I'll remember you!
When life's evening shadows
Hides life's morning dew.
True to your tradition
Every pure and fine.
Dear ol' Sooner Youth Camp
Glad that you are mine!
When life's evening shadows
Hides life's morning dew
Dear ol' Sooner Youth Camp,
I'll remember you!
There it is. That is our alma mater. Seriously though. We sing that everyday at camp. Not just once, but THREE times! Yep three. Once at the flagpole in the mornings, once before lunch and again before dinner. Oh man. I could literally talk for days about SYC. So be careful. Once you start reading. You might not be able to stop. My only hesitation in writing this blog is that I don't have any pictures to share with you. Not because I don't have pictures of Sooner, but because that was before the days that I had a digital camera (yes I did not have a digital camera until September of 2005...which happens to be only a couple months after I had a cell phone. All I'm saying here is that my children will never be allowed to complain about not having what everybody has ha!). Back to camp. So because I don't have pictures, you will have to imagine it all in your head.
Let's start with location. Ardmore, Oklahoma. About 70 miles north of the Texas/Oklahoma border. Sooner has two sessions, but I attended "Week 1". Now, sure I am biased, but I can tell you that week 1 is better. Have I been to week 2? No. But I've heard all about it and it is nothing like week 1. Haha. But seriously. Week 1 session takes place during the second week of July. Yep, that's right. The 2nd week of July in Ardmore Oklahoma. "Is it hot?" you ask...
It is so hot that all you do is sweat. No matter where you are. Inside, outside, in the lake,on your cot...you are sweating. Here is where a fun, or not so fun (you decide), fact comes in. At Sooner there are 4 window units...and that is it. Well other than the nurses station, but you don't ever enjoy those (unless the heat makes you pass out of course). The 4 window units are in the dining hall. This isn't a small dining hall. Let me assure you. I bet it holds...200 people. There is basically a window unit in each corner. If you aren't by one of the window units...that is sad. So yes that does mean that when we go back to our cabins...there are no air conditioners or window units. Well one time Cabin 7 (the oldest boys cabin) brought a window unit, but the girls (we call ourselves the Secret Circus, I'll explain later), well we stole it. Just for the night though, they got it back. And now if you look at the SYC website, window units are banned. You can thank us for that one. Ok, now that I have the hot straight, I think I can begin will all the other details one by one:
In each cabin there are 6 cots. These cabins are actual wood cabins, with screens on the windows and screen doors. There are wood floors, and one wooden closet deal (that nobody uses because SO many spiders and other creatures live in them). As stated earlier there are not any window units or A/C's in these cabins. SO each camper brings a box fan. Then in some way you find the best place for that box fan to hit you ALL NIGHT LONG! Just because the sun goes down in Ardmore OK does not mean that the heat is gone with it. By my junior year we finally figured out how to rig the fan in such a way that it did just that. You get some rope and you rope it up onto one of the wooden beams on the ceiling. It was perfect. Of course you have to figure out how to get the rope around the beam, and then you tie it through the fan, but then you have to tie it the end of your cot so that the fan has the right angle...it was just a chore, let me tell you. Well once you get your fan up, then you help everybody else. A quick tip, the better placement of the fans, the happier a cabin you have. Because I don't care what anybody says, heat puts people in a bad mood ha. Each girl camper has brought about two suitcases FULL so those stay under the cots until it is a time to change clothes, which we will get into soon. As most camps are, the girls cabins are on one side of the campsite, and the boys on the other. The boys cabins are closer to the bathrooms, the dining hall, just closer to where everything takes place basically, except the river!
Each morning the counselors (who are just older women, not the young aged ones you think of when you think of camp...I mean there were a couple, but not many), walk around and wake us all up. This is fun. We all get up and get dressed for the day. This usually means athletic shorts, t-shirt and ponytail for all. We grad our toothbrushes and head to the flag pole. We all stand around the flag pole and calisthenics. We then say the pledge (yes we do this and I am proud), then we sing Dear ol' Sooner Youth Camp, then have a prayer of blessing over our breakfast and then head to the dining hall! Ok I have to pause here to tell you about the
There are about 4 moms and one dad that work in the kitchen so all of our food is VERY homemade. Every breakfast, every lunch and every dinner. And boy is it some good food! I wish I could go back right now just to eat that food! The best breakfast we have are their homemade cinnamon rolls! Everybody looks forward to those. The cooks wake up at like 4 am and start working on them. I mean they have a lot to make. I wish you could taste them. Mmmm. Back to the morning though!
We all go in and eat breakfast! This is where another pause/break will occur, I have to tell you about our dining hall and ALL the traditions!
So as you can imagine our dining hall is a wood cabin also, just bigger. So there are about 20-25 wooden picnic tables...except bigger and nicer than ones you see in a park. Each table is numbered. Now there are 4 "talking tables" as we call them. Now that doesn't mean all the other tables can't talk, it just means they can't the way those 4 tables talk.
Table 1 - Oldest boys (cool guys)
Table 3 - Second oldest boys (nerdy guys)
Table 5 - Oldest girls (cool girls)
Table 6 - Second oldest girls (fat girls)
Now obviously the labels out the side of those aren't true about the tables, well the ages are, but the labels in () are not. They are just what those tables are known for...well not that either. They are just what those tables are teased about. So back to the talking element. When I say they are allowed to talk, they are allowed to do the following:
The hit their fits on the table in a buuum buuuum buuuuuum fashion (makes much more sense if you hear it). This is to get everybody's attention that they are about to make a statement.
Then they say something in unison for all the dining hall to hear. Some examples:
If we were having hamburgers for dinner, Table 5 might say, "Table 6, you put the HAM in our hamburger". I know it sounds mean, but it really is just for fun/tradition. Well then Table 3 would come to the rescue of Table 6 and say, "Table 6, you put the hot in our hot sauce" (if we were having hot sauce. Etc. Another fun thing that happens ALL the time is the very popular...
"Get your elbows off the table Paige Marie, Get your elbows off the table Paige Marie, we won't shut up, till you get up, get your elbows off the table Paige Marie"
THEN they make you do some embarrassing act for all the dining hall to see. One that happened to me for example was:
"Kiss Marcus for us, Paige Marie, kiss Marcus for us Paige Marie. We wont' shut up, til you get up, kiss Marcus for us Paige Marie"
AND THEY AREN'T KIDDING! They don't shut up until you do it! It really is all fun and all meal you find yourself trying to catch elbows and watching for your own all at the same time!
Something else that is fun about meal time is that each table has a runner. No not a decorative runner, a person called the runner. This person is changed out each meal and they sit on the end of the table on the side closest to the kitchen. Anytime the food or drink runs out, the runner goes into the kitchen to refill the food/drink. See at Sooner we eat in a family style. With large bowls of the food on the table already for us to pass around and fill up our plates. Sweet tea and lemonade are some staples for our cups! Ok! That's that!
After breakfast we go back to our cabins and clean them up...well as clean as they are going to get. The purpose of cleaning them is because like most camps they grade your cabin. The prize for the girls? They rank the cabins from cleanest to not so clean. If you cabin is the cleanest you get to leave the lake first for the showers, and then you head to showers in that order! So, we clean. After cleaning our cabin we have morning devotional. This is with our age group. This is fun, because you have the same teacher all week. It is a good time with people your age, learning about God and just sitting outside in nature. The other good part is that this is in the morning so you aren't sweating TOO terribly bad quite yet. After morning devotional, we have our singing time! We all go into the dining hall and separate into 4 groups: sopranos, altos, tenors and bass. Because this camp is church of Christ based, we sing Acapella, and this is just gorgeous in the dining hall. We sing fun songs, kid songs, serious songs, all kinds of songs. After lunch we have "gender time". Which actually is just when the boys go down to the lake and the girls all sit in the dining hall and play cards. Seriously. That is where I learned to play Speed, ERS, and many others I am sure. After gender time we have lunch! We say grace, sing our song and then eat! This is when we eat the most! Everybody is just so hungry from the long morning so far! After lunch is one of the best parts of the day:
Now nap time doesn't look too terribly long. Really depending on how long you stay at the dining hall, you can get 30 minutes to an hour of sleep. And you sleep! After nap time is
One of my favorite things about afternoon are our team names. Every year there a theme with team names and on Monday we all patiently await to see the teams that we are on and what our team name will be. One year they were brands of cars, another year they were sicknesses, another year they were bugs. The other great part about the sports are the actual sports we play:
Ping Pong, Horseshoes, Three-ball, Volleyball, & Ultimate Frisbee!
I always looked forward to ping pong and horseshoe day because that didn't involve a lot of sweating ha. BUT I did enjoy the other sports too! I am a little competitive. Just ask anybody who knows me, or has played something against me...or even been on my team. Yes I know you know somebody like me and you are thinking to yourself...oh geez. Sorry! Back to where we were
After sports, its gender time again. Aka girls turn to go to the lake. We actually have heard that the boys play sports while we are at the lake, unless like us who sit in the AC...but who knows if that's true. Down at the lake is a whole other experience! There are a ton of girls laying on the sand (there is sand if you can believe it) a ton jumping off things into the water and then there are me and my friends who just wade in the water and talk. Well right before it is time to go up to the showers we do something that is going to make you cringe. BUT if you were there, you would do it too and you would understand. Ready? I don't think you are.
We wash our hair in the lake. Yes I said it. That is what we do. But you will understand further down why we do. So we wash our hair, condition it and then get ready to run for the showers. It is a good mile up to the showers, but we run in our flip flops anyway just to guarantee a shower. As you get to the showers you remember there are only 4 showers for about 100 girls. This is why you wash you hair in the lake and this is why you shower in your bathing suit for a week. Because about 5-7 girls cram into a shower (WITH SWIMSUITS ON) and try to wash out their hair and wash their faces/bodies and then hurry off to the cabins. Because by this time you have about 30 minutes to get ready for the evening. Why do we feel that we need to get ready for the evening you ask, here is why:
As we hurry up and get ready, we blow dry and straighten our hair. Yes in the heat, yes with 6 box fans going on high and yes all the while praying we don't blow another fuse that somebody has to go switch back on. We then put on our make-up with the box fan blowing our eyes dry and then put on dresses and skirts for the evening. Why? Because at Sooner you get dressed for church every night. Yep, that is what we do. Why do we do it? It's tradition. I wish I had pictures on my computer to show you. We really did wear skirts and dresses each night with our hair done and make-up on. The guys kind of dressed up too. Mainly jeans and button-ups/polos, so they were sweating a lot too. You just expected everybody to look a beautiful sweaty mess. As soon as you are ready for the evening you head up to the dining hall for dinner. This is another meal when we eat a lot. We are all tired from sports and swimming. So we say grace, sing our song and eat. After dinner is just some mingling time until worship & service. Then off to worship and service. It is outside and we all sit in the same spot every night. You bring your chair from home if you want to make sure you get your seat each night. The longer you've been at camp, the closer to the front you sit. Literally. Nobody says it has to be this way, its just how it is every year. So you sit down, have worship and then a lesson which is awesome. Then we have canteen/snack. One drink and one candy. Every night. Then we mingle some more, then one of my favorite parts about camp:
If you are thinking this is a talent show, you are RIGHT! We have a talent show every night! How fun is that? There are always at least 10 acts. From singing, to playing an instrument, to skits, to random hidden talents, it is just awesome. And every night a girls cabin and a boys cabin have to do a skit together. This is always funny too! At the end of social hour we always haev a serious skit to bring the mood to the right spot again. After the serious skit we have what is my all time favorite part about Sooner Youth Camp:
Grady (the director) plays a song in the background and we are dismissed from the inner circle out. I want you to imagine this in your head. We are at a campsite in the middle of nowhere. This means the only lights out there are the ones we turn on, and for this, we turn them all off. The only lights you see are the flashlights that guide you out into the field. You walk out into this field holding the hands of the two people on either side of you. There is a circle of people in front of you and more behind you. (depending on the length of time you've been coming to camp). The most inner circle are those who this is their last year, 7 years (you start going when you are 13 and you can go until the summer after your freshman year in college). The next circle, 5-6 years, and so on if you can imagine. So we are out there in 4-5 circles around each other. The only light now are the stars and they are gorgeous. And we are sining to our God. We sing so many songs. Each night they are different, but we always end with the song: My God & I. When we begin to sing this song we stop holding hands and put our arms around each other, enclosing the circle more. We sing all three verses, because we all know it by heart, and then we hum it for the 4th verse. As these 200 people are humming the song, one guy in the inner most circle recites a poem that was written at Sooner years ago. With the last notes being hummed we all bow our heads and pray.
We are then dismissed, boys go to their side, and girls to theirs. We go to our cabins, have cabin devo, talk about our day and go to sleep around 11:00-11:30 depending on how much talking we do. Then we wake up at 7:00 the next morning, and do it all again for 5 days. We leave Saturday morning and look forward to the next year when we get to come back and sweat, bathe in the lake, and sing in the circle.
There are many more traditions at Sooner, but I think that is enough for one post. I hope you have enjoyed Sooner Youth Camp! Tell me about your summer camps! Or just your favorite part about yours! I would love to hear!!!