Saturday, September 20, 2008

One More Try--Comments Requested

Camping at Crossville

 “You’re not going to take that with us, are you?” Jessie asked.

“Well, of course I am,” I replied.

 This conversation was repeated about three times each year some twenty five to thirty years ago as we prepared to go to the campground at Crossville, Tennessee.  And each time I would load the massive redwood chaise lounge on top of our Camel popup tent trailer complete with its mattress-like seat insert.  I suppose we did look a little like the Beverly Hillbillies (or Okies in “Grapes of Wrath”) with the little trailer loaded with the lounge and three bicycles on top.  But once we got to the campground everybody wanted to lie in it because it was so comfortable.

 Crossville is at an elevation of about 1900 feet and is usually five to ten degrees cooler than our home near Hillsboro.  The Methodist church owned a campground to which several of my coworkers and I, along with some other friends, would go each Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.

 All of us were young with growing families.  We would spend the long weekend associated with the holidays at the campground.  Each family had from two to four children and, with the usual attendance of ten to fifteen families, we had a herd of kids numbering close to forty.  Ages of the children ranged from infants in arms to about ten or so.  For the mothers it was a little bit of heaven as the kids ranged across the campground freely.  Everyone took responsibility for the children in the vicinity of his camp, no matter to which family they belonged.

 Facilities at the campground consisted of a central toilet, a bathhouse, a swimming pool, and lots of tree shaded space.  The toilet was unisex in that it had a sign on the door.  On one side it said “Women” and on the other “Men”.  Whoever entered simply turned the sign to the proper side. Of course, there were times when a bunch of women (or men) would essentially take over the toilet by entering before the previous users vacated.

 The swimming pool had a leak so fresh water from a well was added to the pool continuously.  This resulted in a very cold pool.  I delighted in coming to the pool shortly after daylight, having finished my two mile run, and diving in.  The shock of the cold water really started the day off right.

 The pool was also the scene of the regular belly flop contest among the men.  We gave up being judged on points for style and arrived at a simple scoring system.  (Remember, almost all the men were engineers.)  Half the score was derived from the distance reached by the outstretched arms of the flopper.  The other half came from the distance over the edge of the pool the wave made by the flop reached toward the bathhouse.  Each man had three tries and kept his best score.

 Early morning was dominated by breakfast.  What will we have?  When will we have it?  Nothing else can taste as good as a fresh cooked breakfast of pancakes made over a camp stove.  Biscuits were cooked on the same stove in a sort of Dutch oven made up of large and deep pans.  Eggs and bacon or sausage filled out the rest of the menu.  Immediately after breakfast thoughts turned to lunch.  What will we have?  When will we have it?  And, of course, this was repeated as dinner time neared.  You can see that we were pretty well focused on food.  Dinner would be steaks or pork chops accompanied by fresh fruit and the marvelous desserts we had brought from home.

 After dinner we would gather at a central location and play games and sing.  One by one we would drift off to our tents or trailers to sleep.  The last ones to leave would usually save their serious conversations to the very end.

 On Saturdays we would go as a group to the Cumberland Playhouse for a matinee performance of a musical.  The local company was comprised of a core of professionals and a cadre of volunteers who both acted and served as stagehands.  Probably the most enjoyable time I had at one of these was for a performance of Carousel.  The leading lady was no Shirley Jones but she was very, very good.  The same can be said of all the other cast members.  To this day I get teary-eyed whenever I hear “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

 On Sunday morning we had a church service with campers providing everything from the preaching to the music. 

 It was a wonderful time.  Once the children grew up and began going away to university we tried to have similar camping experiences but they were never the same.  It was a time that was truly only to be enjoyed once.





At September 21, 2008 at 6:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good story, Glen. I never was much of a camper. As they say, my idea of "roughing it" was turning down the AC at the Holiday Inn. - Jim Patterson

At September 21, 2008 at 8:54 PM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

As I have gotten older my desire for camping has diminished. But it was great fun back then.

At September 23, 2008 at 11:33 PM , Blogger John Inman said...

Cynthia and I plan to take our RV after she retires (next May) to California and up the west coast. Maybe some day in the future we'll come thru Tennessee. We plan to be on the road 4-5 months, as long as it takes.

At September 25, 2008 at 2:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to read about those black snakes in your attic. They would have owned the house the first time I saw any sign of a snake anywhere in my house!


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