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Camp Earl Anna

Many of long timers in Tehachapi will remember Camp Earl Anna, nestled up in the mountains, south of the valley. It was active for many years.

Many in the community helped support that wonderful facility, which was built to give young people a chance to come together and live life in a rustic environment. Much has been written and shared about its history, but I would like to take this opportunity to share my personal reflects and a few tails as a former camper. I eventually became a counselor in training (CIT) before life sent me in other directions.

It was the 1960s and I was a part of the YMCA Indian Guides. We took part in many YMCA programs. Being from the Antelope Valley, Camp Earl Anna was the best fit to get my feet wet learning about living in the great outdoors.

Early on, the tradition of selling toffee-covered peanuts to raise money had me camped out all over town selling to folks going in and out of business on the weekends. Back then it was pretty easy selling stuff like that because everybody was so youth oriented and happy to support kids looking to expand their horizons.

When summer began and the departure date arrived, many of us were beyond excited as we all gathered around Big Blue. Big Blue was a big Chevy truck that had been converted to what I can best describe as a covered wagon with bleachers in the back. Everything was loaded up and we kids waved to our parents as we were off to whatever the Tehachapi's had waiting for us.

Along the way we stopped at City Park in the middle of town and had lunch before making our way to the camp. Once at the camp, it was into the mess hall where other community YMCA campers were gathered, and we were assigned counselors and assigned a barracks. This was pretty cool as the cabins were open to one side and gave us the feeling of sleeping outdoors.

Our days were structured with activities and left us little time to get into mischief, as kids are prone to do. But with arts, crafts, hiking and nature discovery, along with three square meals a day, time flew by pretty fast.

Being a YMCA program, there was a spiritual aspect to our programs and many of us formed our early years of spiritualism through the many campfire gatherings at the end of the day, or in the early morning hours at that hillside church that overlooked the forest and the valley.

Fun memories of camp came from many simple things, like how our cherished flashlights became nighttime lasers and we played war with other cabins, driving the counselors crazy with our antics.

Another funny thing was how city dwellers and town folk campers had a lack of understanding about living out in nature. We often spent our small amount of money on candy at the camp store. Even though we were told to not put our candy in our sleeping bags, many campers could not resist the temptation and the camp was rewarded at night with the screams and ruckus as forest wildlife attempted to liberate those goodies in the middle of the night.

Chow hall activities were more than just eating food, it was also a time to have fun making fun of the other campers and counselors. Every time an unsuspecting victim forgot their manners and put their elbows on the table, a recurring song was sung as the victim made rounds around the chow hall.

Hiking and horseback riding was always an adventure and tested the limits of our young legs. We were always raring to go but those return trips many times looked like a death march as tired and hungry campers made their way back. I remember that one night was always set aside for a camp out somewhere around the valley. We slept on the dirt and cooked some pretty basic food over a campfire.

We also had a great time in the pool and always looked forward to our turn splashing around in it, hoping the bugs and critters would ignore us. That never really happened and we spent more time underwater than on top.

The camp was co-ed and I remember the creek that split the camp was the boundary. Back then, kids were more concerned with getting cooties then chasing each other, but crushes did happen, and that creek was very well guarded to keep the campers sticking to their side of the valley.

One funny incident I will always remember was one of our counselors was such a deep sleeper that early one morning a bunch of other counselors managed to carry him in his bunk all the way over to the girls' side of the camp for him to wake up to the laughter of the campers. His reaction was pretty funny as he rolled on his side and just went back to sleep unphased.

I have so many other memories of camp including sitting around a campfire at the end of a very long day. Singing "Kumbaya" gave me a peace in my soul. The sound of campers singing in unison in the glow of a campfire can still be heard and seen today in my memories.

What a gift it was all those years ago being a part of something that brings value to my life today.

I'm sure if any of you have had the Camp Earl Anna experience you can relate and have just as many memories and stories as I do, tucked away so you can tap into them on occasion when you're in need of a smile.

Till next time!