Reflecting on 50 Years

by Evelyn Lerman on December 14, 2020

It’s time for Camp to end. The day after tomorrow four large overland busses will arrive at 7:00 a.m. The boys will gobble their last breakfast at this year’s camp—the traditional waffles and ice cream—grab their carryon bags and scramble to say goodbye to their friends.

Some will head for the Bangor airport, some will go to Logan in Boston, where they will board airplanes for New York, Mexico, other airports all over the United States; still others will fly to Europe, South America, and other parts of the world.

As the busses head out, down the camp road, it becomes very quiet. A skeleton crew of staff will remain, plus the camp family, and the few boys whose parents will pick them up, all of us waving goodbye until long after the busses are out of sight. Raccoons, muskrats, and other four-legged creatures will peek out of the woods, sniffing to determine if it’s safe to come out. The two hundred acres of this peninsula feel bigger as the number of people gets smaller.

Can it really be fifty years ago that we watched our first group of campers leave? Were we really 41 and 42? Did we have any idea that one day we’d be saying goodbye to the children of our first campers, as they boarded the busses?

I think not. It’s much harder to look ahead than it is to look back. Now we see our children transitioning into retirement as our grandchildren take over, having lived their whole lives here at camp. We smile at each other, satisfied with another highly successful summer.

Bill and Martha took over our small model, saved the basics, added new and wonderful facilities, and turned Caribou into a thriving, sought-after camp. The boys love it, tell us they can’t wait for the winter to end so camp will start. They love to tease Martha about her mantra, “It’s cool to be nice at Caribou”, but they abide by it, always trying to be gracious and kind, whether winning or losing in competitive sports.

I watched Bill leading a group of swimmers, doing the “Lake Swim” which opens the gates to the advanced swimmers area. He urges them on. “We can do it!” they yell between breaths. “Of course you can,” he agrees. “We dig down and then we dig down deeper,” yells Bill. “We’re with you!” they agree. And they swim on.

I watched Martha run the camp road with twenty or so boys beside her or behind her. When some slow down, Martha drops back, urging the stragglers on. “You can do it!” she calls out. “Of course we can,” they agree. And they run on.

Visitors arrive, almost daily. Some come for grandson Bobby’s tour. He shows them the camp, beaming as the campers come up to the golf cart to say hello to the prospective campers. “Welcome to Caribou,” they say.

And then we see Caribou through the eyes of our alumni. Old campers and staff, come back to recall their summers here. They jump right into the schedule, joining the boys in their activities, telling them stories of their years at Caribou. They admire the new gym, the hockey rink, the expanded lodge, the new Arts and Crafts/Woodworking building, the new docks, the new boats. They comment on the clarity of the lake, still clear, due to many years of the Caribou-backed lake dwellers’ commitment to keeping the lake clean.

But mostly they admire the feeling. “It’s different physically, but it has the same feeling,” they say. “The boys are the same—friendly, excited, spirited, happy at camp. And the staff is the same—no one yells, they just explain and role model.”

The visitors who remember us from way back come to the A-Frame to visit and reminisce. “Do we still have a Last Campfire?” they ask. Of course we do. How about trips? The Banquet? Intercamp? Socials? Mt. Katahdin? Yes, yes, yes. Lots of memories to share.

Assured that, in spite of the new facilities, all the traditions are in place, our Caribou alumni smile and say goodbye. Caribou lives on. All’s right with the world.