Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Memories of Monkeytown

I not sure I can do justice to the sea swell of memories that crash about in my head after I simply say the name of the summer camp I attended from 1975 through 1982.

Eight years.

Eight years every summer for four weeks at Camp Quinebarge in New Hampshire.

Eight years of begging my parents to Please, OH PLEASE let me stay for the full eight-week session. Eight years of Friday Dinner: a letter home was your ticket to eat. Sunday visits when the parents were Required to take me and my friend-of-the-moment to Hart's Turkey Farm for turkey croquettes and gravy. (Damn. Just visited the website--They SELL the Carrot Relish in the gift shop. How do I explain this sudden need for pickled carrots to Dear Butcher?)

Eight years of mosquitoes, archery, cabins, more mosquitoes, bonfires, songs, rivalries, horses, boats, pine trees, swimming, cold cereal, cabin plaques, cold, wet bathing suits at 8am, Skins vs. Shirts, Phineas T. Moneygrubber and Monkeytown.

I hoarded Monkeytown Money under the bed all year long, carefully sorted and wrapped in multiple rubber bands. One year I returned to camp with an entire overnight bag stuffed with Monkeytown Money I had scored off the dimwitted first-year campers from the season before. Monkeytown Mayoral elections. Monkeytown Mayoral platforms based on the trade-in value of last year's Monkeytown Money. (Oh, and that year I just raked it in. Pounds of Thousand Dollar Bills. Ten very rare Fifteen Hundred Dollar Bills. Ha!) And sightings of Phineas T. Moneygrubber. The year he "kidnapped" Tom Ritchie and demanded ransom. The year he missed the Mayoral debates because he had been locked in the Ice Cream freezer at the concession stand at the base of Mt. Washington. (IS there an ice cream stand at the base of Mt. Washington? I'm thinking not.)

Monkeytown. What a concept.

But wait, more memories: The older campers roaring "JU! JU! BEE! JU! JU! BEE!" at the end of every meal as Bill Dold stood up to announce evening activity. (JuJuBee was an all-camp Capture-The-Flag-meets-Rugby game so violent it had been banned, but we still insisted that it was The Best Game Ever, pounding the tables, hollering its name, demanding that it be brought back. Surely this terrified the younger campers, but hey, we were the Old Guard, and we had to prove that we knew the secret rituals of our camp. What are some torn shirts between friends?)

Mr. Zimmerman leading us all in a rousing rendition of "The Titanic" with plenty of verve and arm pumping. "It was sad. (So! Sad!) It was sad. (So! Sad!) It was sad when the Great Ship went down, to the bottom of the Sea, sea, sea (Uncles and Aunts! Little Children lost their pants!) It was sad when the Great Ship went down." (What were we thinking? We LOVED that song!)

I heard a great radio essay a few years ago about the mystique of summer camp, that in some way the whole season is an exercise in convincing you to love the camp so much that you'll come back the next year. By the end of your first season, you've realized that it's loads better if you return: you'll know all the songs, know the codes, be in the crowd who knows not to take swim lessons first thing in the morning, and you'll fantasize about it all winter. When you're counting your Monkeytown Money, for example.

But I guess I should explain Monkeytown. And Phineas.

Quinebarge...{"Here's to our Quinebarge, we sing to thee. Fairest of all the camps, give her a one, two, three. (Four! Five! Six!) Ever we praise thee, love and adore. Here's to our Quinebarge for ever more.....ra ra ra. 1,2,3,4. We want some Mooore, of that Q!U!I!N!E!B!A!R!G!E!" OK, no more camp songs, or at least I'll not type them out anymore. Instead I'll just stop for a minute, sing them out at the computer (which causes the dog a very slight distress) and get back to typing without interruption. Maybe I'll just list them all at the end. Now, where was I? Oh yes. Ahem.}

Quinebarge was originally a boy's camp, started in the mid-thirties. It was on about seventy acres of mostly wooded land right on the shores of Kanasatka, part of the Lake Winnipesaukee system in New Hampshire. There had been a sister camp too, but it closed in the early 70's.* The first year I attended, the few girls stayed in two smaller boys cabins. Over time, girls' cabins were built (all named after Indian tribes, as were the boys'), eventually a rec hall was added, and the whole place was upgraded. But there were still flourishes of the older 1930's ambiance here and there.**

The dining hall walls sported all the cabin plaques ever made, from the first year of Quinebarge. And the carved wooden turtle over the fireplace with the red K for Kanasatka on its back. Every cabin, every year, made a cabin plaque--it not only listed the names of the campers, but in some way was supposed to represent the campers' experiences of that year. The older ones were shaped like tennis racquets, some like canoes, one in particular which fascinated me, the baseball scoreboard, all were carved from wood, and on some you could see the faint images of young boys wearing white shorts and V-necked sweaters. Young boys who are now older than my children's grandparents.***

If you walked past Wood Shop, down the path past the Nature Hut, where Balboa the constrictor lived, you'd end up on a winding wooded path towards Monkeytown.

Monkeytown was a collection of treehouses, huge treehouses, which had been built over the years. There were two storey tree-houses, three story tree-houses, tree-houses with rope swings, tree-houses with fireman poles to slide down. (Ouch, splinters) One tree-house was set back from the others and you had to cross a little wooden bridge to get to it. The floors were made from rough lumber, but all the railings, the steps and flourishes, all those were made from sap-laden pine branches. Sap oozed from every nail head, encrusting your knuckles and clothes, marking your shorts with life-long proof that you had climbed up into Monkeytown.

We were not allowed to play in Monkeytown; it was considered too dangerous. Maybe the winter winds had loosened the nails or a tree had died. But we could walk through it and plan for the Monkeytown Carnival, where the Monkeytown Mayor would preside, tossing Monkeytown Money into the air for us to scramble over.

I wish I still had Monkeytown Money. Rumor was that Tom Ritchie, the red-haired college kid who always hung around and did odd jobs in the years he wasn't a counselor, had designed it. Whoever did, it was a great job of teenaged obsessive attention to detail. Denominations started at Fifty Monkeytown Dollars and progressed in rapid succession up to Fifteen Hundred Dollars. The most common bill was the One Hundred Dollar.

Each bill looked generally like currency, ovals and swoops and a portrait in the center. Each bill had a theme, with little jokes and asides hidden in the swirls. The bills were mimeographed every year onto a new color paper. My favorite years were the pink years. So festive, purple ink on bright pink bills. White bills weren't so fun, but they were easier to collect at the close of the season from unsuspecting first-year campers, because they didn't Feel as if they were worth so much. (Monkeytown Mayors were able to propose the trade-in value for previous year's colors. Usually one current dollar for one thousand older dollars. But if you came back with enough, you could start the year rich as Croesus.) Monkeytown Money was gifted as a prize for having the cleanest cabin, for wining the kayak race, for winning Capture the Flag (approved version), for passing a swim test.

At the close of the season, each cabin took part in the Monkeytown auction, to bid on concessions to sell during the Monkeytown Carnival. Each cabin was assigned a Monkeytown Treehouse, which we spent Saturday afternoons renovating, and each cabin had to develop a game (Wheel of Fortune, Chicken Run) as well as sell a concession (Bid High for Bug Juice. Don't bother bidding on the popcorn, no one buys it). We prepared for Monkeytown for weeks. Build the game, practice the game, collect money for the auction, campaign for a mayor, dream about Monkeytown, plan some more, teach the littlest girl in the cabin to tread water so she can pass her swim test and bring the cabin pot more money, raid the neighbor cabin and steal their Monkeytown Money. Monkeytown, Monkeytown, Monkeytown.

Phineas T. Moneygrubber, whose elegant profile, complete with high collar and monocle, graced the center of the Five Hundred Dollar bill, was the Counselor's Candidate. His appearance at camp events was always eagerly anticipated, but bad weather or a broken-down limousine invariably prevented his arrival. The counselors would read statements from Phineas every so often, explaining his political platform. If he were made Monkeytown Mayor, he would ensure that the campers had All-Bran every morning for breakfast. After which, they would feed counselors breakfast in bed, ham and eggs, toast and coffee. He promised that campers would be chained to their beds every evening, and instead of archery, crafts, ceramics, or wood shop, the campers would, under Phineas' rule, partake of dredging the leech-infested slime from the lake bed during the day. I think Phineas may have been Count Olaf's cousin. He was deliciously nasty.

Nine years is a long time to spend anywhere, and I have a bunch of bad memories of Quinebarge too. Or maybe they're just those awkward adolescent gaffes which happen anywhere, regardless of summer camp. Towards the end there, it was getting pretty run down, or maybe the glow was dimming under too much familiarity. It's now under new ownership, a former counselor, actually, and apparently still going strong.

I think about Monkeytown every summer, every summer when I start looking for a camp for my kids. They don't make summer camps like this anymore. Certainly in California, there's almost no longterm overnight camps. Mostly it's a week here, a week there. And the camps are themed: soccer camp, drama camp, computer camp, band camp. But if it hadn't been for the open ended schedule of summer camp at Quinebarge, I never would have known that I enjoy woodcarving, or basketweaving, or that I'm a pretty good archer. Or at least, I was. The only swim lessons I ever had were in that lake. The lake with the leeches. Ew.

I never progressed very far in swimming, just to Intermediate Swimmer, which allowed me to take the Blue Jay sailboat out on the lake by myself. (Although I remember quite clearly NOT wanting to become an Intermediate Swimmer, because I enjoyed sailing with Mr. Zimmerman, who had to accompany those campers who hadn't passed their swim test.) When are my kids ever going to sit around a bonfire at Piney Point, watching silly cabin skits**** and singing mournful songs over a still lake? When will they have the opportunity to learn how to sail a boat, kayak, tell ghost stories, raid cabins, or steal kisses from another Junior Counselor under a pine tree while the sap glues your hair to the back of your neck as evidence of your moral crimes?

I miss summer camp. Pass the Bug Juice.

* Summer, we're all together,/ Here at camp, and later on./ Quinebarge we will remember/ throughout the years to come./ In the forest below the stars/ moments of magic have been ours./ Our fears have been forgotten,/ we sleep in peace./ Quinebarge, our home./ Forever young, Forever old./ Our dreams have been (da da da)/ we (da da da).

** Bo Bo Ski Watten Dattle! Waad Atten Shoo! OO!
Bo Bo Ski Watten Dattle! Waad Atten Shoo! OO!
Itten Bitten Fowten Hattle!
Itny Bitny De'Howten Taddle!
Bo Bo Ski Watten Dattle! Waad Atten Shoo!

***Children go where I send thee.
How shall I send Thee?
Well I'm gonna send thee ten by ten,
Ten for the saints who went back again
Nine for the nine who dressed so fine
Eight for the eight who stood at the gate
Seven for the se'en who ne'er got to hev'n
Six for six who never got fixed
Five for the five who stayed alive
Four for the four who stood at the door
Three for the (clap) Hebrew Children
Two for (clap) Paul and Silas
One for the Itty Bitty Baby
Who was Born, Born, Born in Bethlehem
(I still have no real idea what any of this means...)

****"What a nice dress!"
"I got it from Jordan Marsh!" (A Boston Department store)
"What nice shoes!"
"I got it from Jordan Marsh!"
Et Cetera
(Girl runs past wearing a towel.)
"What Happened?!"


EvilAuntiePeril said...

Monkeytown! How cool would that have been at eight? (errmmm... or even a tad older?)

Thank you so much Suisan. Even the sadly non-monkey paragraphs were really enjoyable. Made me feel all summery, and I've never even been to camp.

Suisan said...

It was cool.

I really should make sure my kids get do go to a REAL camp soon.

Thanks for nagging me to write it. Even though it came out as being waaaaay too long.

Anonymous said...

I am a grown man, a financial professional, and I have had to close my office door as first shivers and then sobs coursed through my body. A simple search for "camp songs," and then, heck, input my old camp -- Quinebarge -- yes, the same as yours. With Mr. Zimmerman (now dead), Bill Dold (now dead), and any number of Brunelles.

My years were, what? 1979-1982?

How much has a "mere" summer camp influenced my life? How many songs do I *still* sing, and sing to my children? How odd and...unbelieveable that we were released from our parents for four glorious weeks--alone, together, unsupervised, unmonitored, unhelicoptered by our parents (is summer camp even *legal* these days?).

Thank you for remembering, reminding, and sharing...

Anonymous said...

We're all together
Holding hands
We're bound as one;
Sharing dreams of joy and sorrow
Until the day
Is done.

Is everlasting
Here at camp
And later on;
Quinebarge, we will remember
Throughout the years
To come.

In the forest below the stars,
Moments of magic have been ours
Our fears have been forgotten
We sleep in peace.

Quinebarge, our home,
Forever young and forever old,
Your flame we'll ne'er relinquish
Your past (sounds like "enshone")

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lakes
From the hills
From the sky
All is well
Safely rest
God is nigh

"G'night everybody!"

Suisan said...


Thank you so much for writing. I wish I knew who you were...I'd love to share memories, because I'm sure we overlapped.

And I'd like to post you my email address so that we can talk, but am uncomfortable doing that on this blog.

Thank you for the complete lyrics to the end of day song--it always made me cry when I had to sing it for the last time at the end of the season.

I miss the Brunelles very much. Suzy and I started off together as the youngest two campers in Apache cabin before they converted it to Mr. Dold's cabin.

What cabins were you?

Suisan said...

OK, anonymous. If you'd like to chat more, I set up this yahoo account.


Love to get in touch if you're still lurking around....

Name: Theresa said...

Thank you so much for writing this. Bill Dold was my uncle, and I spent many Memorial Day weekends (in addition to a summer as a camper) at Quinebarge. It's just not the same without Uncle Biff and the annual visits to the camp. Glad to know so many other people have such amazing memories of their summers at Quinebarge.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and informative web site. I used information from that site its great. » »

Anonymous said...

Eek! Was re-watching the original M.A.S.H. movie from 1970. Near the end, in the football game scene, the cheerleaders are in the background. And what are they screaming?

Bo Bo Ski Whatendaddle!

coqui said...

I just found this blog, also a fellow Quinebarger also same years (Navajo, Chippewa, Ckerokee and many others), also remember Tom Ritche WOW! You have no idea how Camp Q shaped my life! and I travelled all the way from Mexico for 11 summers starting at age 11! We are obviously the same age Suzie Brunelle was just 1 year younger than me. One of our Monkeytown mayors was David Lane remember him. I had a MAJOR crush. Could we write???

Anonymous said...

Testing 1,2,3. I found this site surfing around. Does anyone linger here any longer? I was at Camp Q from 77-ish thru 83-ish. We need a Camp Q website to catch up with old friends!.... my name is Andy Dousa

Tom said...

I was at Camp Quinebarge from 1963 to 1969. I believe that I was in the last (legal) ju ju bee game that ended when a camper lost two front teeth. I'd love to have contacts with other campers from that era. Throughout the years I was a Mohawk, Crow, Pawnee, Blackfoot, and then a tenter in the new tent city set up past the wash house. My current love of hiking started here. Also learned to shoot a rifle, archery, and how to swim at camp Q. Needless to say those 7 summers were huge in my growing up. Tom Whin

Anonymous said...

"Your past"

What was that word!

Griff said...

I was a camper at Quinnebarge for the summers of 90, 91, and 92 (Pawnee, Blackfoot, Iroquois). So many amazing memories of those times. Hilarious how, reading this blog post and the responses, Ju Ju Bee inevitably comes up. I'm sure that was one of everyone's favorite Quinebarge experiences. Right above me, Tom says he took part in "the last (legal) game of ju ju bee." Well, I was playing it 20 years later. I imagine it probably had something like a two or three year cycle of getting played and then banned (I seem to remember each of the games I played in ending when somebody got semi-seriously hurt, and then getting the subsequent lecture from some counselor). Anyway, great times that I will never forget. Love to hear these few stories of others who felt the same. Bobo skee watten daddle.


Anonymous said...

I was at Camp from 1977 to 1980 in the girls' part. I miss those years and Mr. Z. I am thinking of sending my daughter this summer.

Eric said...

I loved your post. And knew Andy Dousa, who commented earlier. I went to Quinebarge from 80-87, so we would have overlapped.

My daughter is actually there now and camp looks great, really great. Numbers are weaker than when we were there but it looks the same.

Arnold Wooten, the trip director while you were there, is still there as the caretaker.

I have such wonderful memories of Quinebarge, I love going back and seeing the whole atmosphere, and the plaques mean so much more now than they did at the time. Something about being memorialized is special.

I actually found your blog because I needed the words to the song that goes "Friendship is everlasting...". That song has been lost and I want my daughter to help bring it back.

I hope you are well and thanks for the help. I strongly recommend anyone reading this to visit Quinebarge and consider it for your child.

- Eric Carlson

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have visited Quinebarge twice in the past decade or so when we took vacations to New England during foliage season. (We live in AZ now.) The first time we met Bill Dold and we got to walk around the whole camp which I hadn't done in over 30 years. Most recently we met Tom Hannaford and Arnie there and again enjoyed reliving the past. It was so neat seeing my name on several plaques in the mess hall that each cabin made in the 1960s. I'll never tire of visiting that beautiful piece of property. Tom Whin

Anonymous said...

Eric Carlson, if you are out there, email me. andrewdousa@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I went to camp Creepybarge for 1 summer in the 80s. Creepy counselors, creepy owner, strange children of the corn campers - all from NYC and Mexico City. "Field trips" to nowhere, non existent spelunking trips, and an underground economy of fake valueless dollars. However, IIRC, there was an African American chef who everyone rightly loved for his grub.

Never went back and attended a different camp for the remaining summers. A scary scary place.

Anonymous said...

"Non-existent spelunking trip."

Hey, I was ON that trip! (BTW: This is anonymous from 2006). Are you referring to the time we got lost in the caves? I still tell that story: we had to get down in the bone-chilling water to get through a low arch. Got to wear those carbide lamps! Woo hoo! That trip was awesome (despite some folks breaking down into tears).

Yeah, Mexico City & NY city streets were well represented that year... (was it... Pearlman? The kid who made the tennis-ball-can cannon and got kicked out? He introduced me to the grafitti bubble-font...).

And, yes, some of the counselors that year were sketchy (mine used to drive his big ole '70s car at high speeds on those dirt roads: I finally figured out the he was beeping the horn to warn oncoming traffic over the next hill). Let's see, I think that was the summer we did a field tip to a real Boy Scout camp, i.e., tents & crappers... I did like the insta-potatoes though!

I still keep in touch with a couple of guys (and went to college with one) from camp.

Elizabeth Schwartzer said...

Hi Susan,

My name is Liz Schwartzer, step daughter to Gary Brunelle and current director at Quinebarge. I'd love to talk to you and hear more about what camp was like when you were there! Please feel free to email me at fun@campquinebarge.com

WGEwald said...

I went to Quinebarge in late 50's when Tom and Ruth Kenly had it. Bud Divel was head counselor, a very urbane fellow (barber in Philly, I believe.)

Red Hill Tribe, Chief Paugus, "turtle blood", Cloutshoots, canoe trips, mountain climbing, dances with girls' camps close by. And a million other cool things. The Creekmobile. A darkroom in the shop where I learned film developing from David "Moo" Moore. I actually used that in my job at an EM lab years later.

Glad to see this page.

Bill Ewald


Anonymous said...

Mein Gott I love Google...

Bobo Skee Watten Totten anyone? Check it:

and in video (Austrian? Adding "American Cheese" at the end???):

And I *still* don't know whether it's "enshone" (Summer, we're all together...)

Elizabeth Schwartzer said...

Hi Anonymous! (5/27/15) Director Liz here - lyrics for our Friendship Circle song are below.

If you, or anyone on this thread, wants to be in touch or visit, email fun@campquinebarge.com or call us at 603-253-6029. We'd love to hear from you!

We're all together
Holding hands
We're bound as one;
Sharing dreams of joy and sorrow
Until the day
Is done.

Is everlasting
Here at camp
And later on;
Quinebarge, we will remember
Throughout the years
To come.

In the forest below the stars,
Moments of magic have been ours
Our fears have been forgotten
We sleep in peace.

Quinebarge, our home,
Forever young and forever old,
Your flame we'll ne'er relinquish
Your path’s been shown

Anonymous said...

I clearly know a few of you here. "Pearlman? The kid who made the tennis-ball-can cannon and got kicked out? He introduced me to the grafitti bubble-font...)" I was in the cabin with this dude that summer. I remember that tennis ball can cannon getting set off with bug spray ignited as a propellant which sent the tennis ball hundreds of feet into the air with a huge bang. I remember a Billy. Same cabin. Cheap Trick's Surrender was playing that summer so it was probably 78.