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Music to Roast Marshmallows By

Photograph courtesy of Forest Lake Camp

Right now at summer camps across the Adirondacks, kids are having new sensory memories stamped onto their impressionable brains: the scent of balsam fir, the muscle aches of paddling a canoe, the crunch of pine needles underfoot. In a few decades, some of them might even send Adirondack Life sentimental essays about those carefree days at Camp Such-and-Such. (We get a lot of those.)

One activity they’re not likely to forget is the campfire sing-along. Camp tunes have to be catchy and simple enough for everyone to remember and join in. Which is why, 30-some years after attending girl scout camp, I find the lyrics and accompanying hand gestures of “A Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe” still within easy mental reach, when so many other things of more consequence, like the PIN for my ATM card, often escape me:

Some camps even have their own songs, usually with lyrics that wouldn’t cause Bernie Taupin concern for his job but which inspire warm, fuzzy feelings of camaraderie among campers. Forest Lake Camp for boys and girls, in Chestertown, sent along the words to their custom ditty:

 

In the Adirondack Mountains not so far from old Lake George

there’s a spot that is dear to me

where every year a merry band lives happily and free

in the midst of the wild country

in the midst of the wild country

the spirit of true fellowship pervades our happy camp

and guides us while at work or play

and when the day is sunny or when the day is damp

we will laugh and sing and pass our cares away

 

Fond memories of summer days

deep blue lakes among the pines and skies a-blue

within our hearts we’ll always hold

old Forest Lake our love for you

 

The most famous camp song of all—or camp-related song, anyway—also has an Adirondack connection. The 1963 novelty hit “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp),” by Allan Sherman, was inspired by his own son’s letters home from Camp Champlain, in Westport (the site is now the Normandie Beach Resort). The humorous lyrics are written from the point of view of a homesick boy who, in an attempt to be allowed to go home, claims that everything from ptomaine poisoning to alligator-infested waters has afflicted his campmates. By the end he has changed his tune, writing, “Muddah Fadduh kindly disregard this letter.”

You can read more about the camp and the song’s backstory, which is actually kind of sad, in an essay written by the nephew of the former owner of Camp Champlain for the Los Angeles Times.

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