Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Apollo 13

Apollo 13
first seen in Pittsfield, MA

Writing about summer camp last week made me think a little more about it and I thought I'd go into a bit more detail this week. In the summers of 1995 and 1996, I was a counselor at a little sleepaway camp called Shire Village (which, despite the name, has nothing to do with Lord of the Rings). 

It's located in a tiny western Massachusetts town called Cummington. To get there I had to take the Greyhound to Northampton, where someone from the camp would greet us staff members coming up from New York and drive us the rest of the way. The camp ground is a converted farm, complete with a central courtyard, sleeping cabins, a dining area, and a few surrounding buildings, such as A-frames.

Shire was unique for several reasons. For one thing, the campers would pick their own activities. We counselors would arrange things like arts and crafts, woodworking, theater, sports, etc., and four times a day, the kids would pick what they wanted to do. Some activities would naturally get more participants than other, but that was to be expected. 

If no one came to your activity, then you'd just hook up with someone else's, but most of the time that wasn't a problem.  I usually varied between a sport of some kind (always an easy way to attract campers) and something arts-and-crafts-related, though I took part in others as well.

What also made Shire so unique was its politically-correct policy. It was something that they stressed to us staff during an orientation week before the kids arrived. Competitive attitudes were considered verboten, and not just sporting activities. Equality and inclusiveness was an absolute must. Kids who had been coming to Shire for years would joke about it, saying one had to act "Shire-ly." Personally, I found few problems with this philosophy, though some days it was easier to implement than others - but that's for another post.

The staff would usually spend their off days off the camp grounds. Often we'd go into Northampton, a college town with lots of cool stuff to do. Sometimes we'd head into the smaller South Hadley to see movies (I saw Independence Day there, in a theater that was part of a mall.)

Pittsfield was a town to the west of Cummington that, to be honest, had much less to recommend it. However, it did have baseball! Both summers I worked at Shire, I arranged trips out to Pittsfield to see the minor league team play there. It so happens that the ballfield there, Wahconah Park, is one of the oldest inprofessional baseball. For more about the place, I highly recommend reading the book Foul Ball by former big-league pitcher Jim Bouton, who led a movement to preserve Wahconah Park and keep it from the wrecking ball.

In the summer of 1995, a bunch of us counselors went into Pittsfield one evening to see Apollo 13 at the local mall.I don't remember where exactly in Pittsfield the mall was, nor do I remember much about the theater. There were about 8-10 of us, more or less, all piled into a van. I think it was a Saturday night. The mall was definitely packed. I think some of us also wanted to see Babe, which also came out that summer, but I definitely opted for Apollo 13, which I loved.

As much as I enjoyed my two summers at Shire Village, I don't believe I would wanna return there. Too old. Plus, as I mentioned last week, now that cell phones and iPads are everywhere, who knows how it would affect dealing with the kids? Bad enough that they fought over Magic: The Gathering cards...


  1. Really glad I am now following this wonderful blog, enjoyed this post. I would love it if you considered checking out my blog and perhaps followed back? :)

  2. This is one of those movies that I've never seen and have always meant to. Thanks for reminding me it was out there, Rich. Oh, I'm doing Singing in the Rain at my local Cinemark next week, too.

  3. Actually, I may not be able to make it to the 'Rain' re-release after all, but if you write about it, I'll definitely read it. It's a terrific movie.


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