Camp, NOFX and Fire
I was a first time camp counselor at Camp Latieze the summer before I turned 15.
Camp Latieze was a nature camp outside of Manton, CA owned by the Shasta County Department of Education. I spent a week there as a camper from the time I was 6 until I was 11.
My first cabin as a counselor consisted of six 6–7 year old boys. I was paid $100 per week which seemed like an ungodly amount of money until the first time I tried to make them all take showers.
My mom loves to tell the story of when I was 6 and went to camp for the first time. They came to pick me up and I was wearing the same clothes they had dropped me off in. Someone had made a token effort to clean off my arms and face but the rest of my body was black with dirt. My luggage had never been opened. All of my clean clothes sat inside, untouched.
When it was my turn to be in charge, I decided that my campers would bathe regularly. By the end of the first shower-run, I’d stopped trying to get them into the showers and settled for blocking the door to keep them from running naked into the woods.
I grew fond of the little buggers, despite the chaos. We camped outside the cabin every night we could. It got cold in the meadow or up on the helicopter pad and I’d wake up in the morning with a half dozen tiny sleeping bags pressed up against me.
Counselors got a 1 hour break each day. There was a small mobile home down the hill from the cafeteria where only staff were allowed. It had a couple of couches, a tape deck, and a non-functioning TV. It also had a private bathroom with a shower and that was where most of the counselors bathed.
I preferred going to the showers in the main bathroom. Everyone else was off fishing or doing arts and crafts during the day and it was one of the few places to get 10 minutes worth of peace and quiet.
Then it was off to the trailer to hang out with whoever else was on break at the same time. We’d talk about how horrible our kids were, things we did back home, music, movies, whatever.
My friend Beau introduced me to NOFX in this trailer. I hadn’t heard any real punk music before and listening to White Trash, 2 Heebs and a Bean completely blew my mind. We’d listen to Liza and Louise over and over, just for the shock value. It was a running joke to get to be around when someone heard the line “Now I want you to fist me” for the first time.
The camp burned to the ground in the Ponderosa Fire of 2012. The Record Searchlight published before and after pictures of the camp and I teared up when I saw the remains. It was a little like seeing the ashes of my childhood.