I had never been away from home for a month. And this summer I was going to. I had been accepted to attend the Waterfront In Training Program at the Provincial summer camp of Doe Lake for Girl Guides of Ontario. I still remember the day I got my letter.
It was a cooler day in April when I got my letter from Doe. I was so excited! Mum was not home yet from work and I phoned her to share the news. “Mum! I got my letter from Doe! I got into WIT’s for the month of August!”
“That’s great Aime! What all do you need to bring?” Mum said back to me.
“Lots of stuff, as we are doing a canoe trip, as well as lots of swimming, and other waterfront activities.” I replied.
Finally, the day had come. I was on my way to camp for a month! I had packed clothes, swim suites and towels. The trees were all full of their green leaves, and the grass was thick under my feet. The dirt pathways and road ways were hot from the glowing sun. When I arrived, I was given a red baseball cap. The WIT’s were identified as wearing red hats, the Waterfront staff had yellow hats. The girls training there in the Guider/Leadership training program were in purple ball caps, and the Guiders were in green ball caps. And the Camp director and other program staff were in multi coloured hats that were green, red, yellow, and purple.
The WIT’s gathered and were told that we had to use the embroidery thread and put our names on it with the sewing needle. That was fun. Luckily, I remembered my sewing skills, and put my name on the hat. I also put on the side of the hat WIT ’92.
“Good evening girls, I’m Beth, I’m going to be your director for the month. I am not going to be staying with you on this site. You will be responsible for getting yourselves up in the mornings and to the beach for our morning workout session. Your meals will be in the building near the beach with all the other waterfront staff and program staff.”
The first 2 weeks of camp we were staying on a site with just tents and outhouses. We had to wake and get to the beach for 7:30am. “Good morning girls. Hope you all slept well. We’ll do some land exercises first and then get in the water. One of the components to passing the WIT program is completing your Bronze Cross time swim.”
We looked at each other, many of us were on our school’s swim team. A lot of us thought this would be easy, however doing our Bronze Cross time swim in a lake with no wall to really push off from, was going to be tricky.
In a month, I also learned to wind surf, and sail, on top of the lifeguarding drills and practices we did every day. We also went on a canoe trip for 4 days. It was so fun, and at the same time so much work!
“Oh my god! Someone sing something…fast! This canoe is heavy!” One of the girls was struggling to carry the canoe, we all had to take turns portaging the canoes in pairs. As well as our hiking back packs carrying the food, tents, supplies, our sleeping bags, and clothes we needed. Cooking all our meals on the fire was fun. Took a bit of patience to cook too. We amused ourselves by singing, talking, and sometimes jumping in the lake too that we had just canoed across. The first thing always though once we got to our camp site each evening was to go and search for the treasure chest (as one girl called it).
“I found it! Who has the toilet paper! I need to go!” I called out one night when we got to our camp site. Running back to the cook area I found the toilet paper. Yes, canoe tripping was exhausting at times. I loved it though. Being out in the tree’s in nature by the lakes had me in a good mood. Even if my food was burnt at times, or I was tired and sore from the portage’s. I was having fun. And at this time, we didn’t do our Bronze Cross swims in the morning, so double bonus.
Almost every week I would get a letter or two from home. Sometimes the letters were in a spiral, with different paper, and one time it was in a small box. I opened the card, and looked at the box. The box was a puzzle. I do not like puzzles. The letter read “Hi Aime, your letter is on the back of the puzzle. Put it together and you can the read the letter.” After about 30min of attempting to put the puzzle together that night I called one of the girls.
“Can you put this together for me please?” I asked.
“Sure! I love puzzles!” She smiled.
“Thank you so much!” I sighed with relief. “My Mum wrote a letter on the back of the puzzle and the only way to read it is to put to together first!”
Back at camp though we started again our morning routine of exercises and our swims. I was getting worried as it was getting closer to the end of camp and I hadn’t gotten my time yet. It was cold one of the mornings and kind of rainy. The skies were grey and silver, big puffy clouds were all we could see. Psyching myself up for this swim, I jumped in the water. The day before I was so close, like 10 seconds away from getting my time.
“Just keep going, move those arms, kick your feet.” I could hear Beth yelling at us all. Even if girls completed the time swims we did it every morning. I swam and kicked my heart out. I was counting in my head too my lengths. I hit the yellow painted wooden dock and yelled “Finished! Beth!!”
“Yes Aime! You did it this morning! Congrats! Fantastic!”
“Woo Hoo! I did it!” I hollered and raised my fist in the air. I was so happy to get my time in as camp was ending in a few days.
That night it was an all camp camp fire at the long house. We went and it was a lot of fun. The WIT’s all sit at the back with the Waterfront staff. As we were heading to leave to go back to the long cabin to sleep the Waterfront were all waiting for us. We waved at them and thought nothing of it. Until one of the Waterfront staff grabbed at one of the girls red hats.
“Grab them!” One of the Waterfront staff yelled!
“Run!!” A fellow WIT and I ran down the road and cut into a camp site.
We were chased and finally caught. A Waterfront staff grabbed me around the waist and reached for my hat. I didn’t want to give it to her. “Aime give me your hat!” she demanded.
“No!” clamping down on my head to stop her from grabbing it.
Eventually she did get a hold of it. The other WIT and I walked back to our long cabin.
The next morning Beth greeted us at the beach. “Where are your hats girls?” Beth was looking at us confused. However, she was also smiling at us all so she knew what happened.
“The Waterfront Staff took them, well stole them from us at the camp fire last night.” One of the WIT’s answered.
“I see, start running! Let’s go!” Beth answered.
After supper, there was a knock on the door of the long cabin one of the girls went to get it.
“A message from the Waterfront Staff for the WIT’s”. Said one of the program leaders.
“Hey everyone! Get over here! The Waterfront left us a clue to find our hats!” One of the girls called us over.
After hunting for about 1hr on camp grounds we finally found a big black garbage bag. It had our hats in it. They were all frozen solid in left over tomato vegetable noodle soup.
“Oh!!! Gross!!!” We chopped the block of ice of soup that had our hats in it. Using warm water, we separated the hats. They smelled gross, and were all slimy, wet and cold.
I was able to dry and clean mine and somehow, I wore it the next couple of days till we left camp.
“Aime time for your evaluation.” Beth had me join her on steps at the cabin at the beach.
“How did you think you did?” Beth smiled at me.
“Well, I learned a lot. Learned how to sail and wind surf this month.” I smiled back.
“Yes, you did. And you got your time swim in! Thank god! I’m not able to pass you though through the program of WIT’s. It was the sailing that held you back. I do want you though and will strongly recommend you forward to be hired when you are 17 to work here at Doe.” Beth smiled at me yet had a look of sadness in her eyes too.
Looking out to the beach and docks, I had a couple of tears fall down my cheeks. My skin was hot where the tears fell.
“Aime you have an amazing heart, spirit, and passion to work here though, I can see that in you. Think of all the things you did in a month. This was also your first canoe trip was it not? You’ll do great things I am sure. Keep your chin up okay?” She had a tear in her eye too.
We all said our good byes at the parking lot where our families were picking us up. It was a crazy summer. I had lots of fun, and made great friends.