Thursday, April 29, 2010

GUNS AND MATCHES

Camp Homewood is situated on Quadra Island just to the east of Campbell River on Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia. Campbell River is the salmon fishing capital of the world and in the summer tourists flock there by the thousands to fish and take in the incredible sightseeing. The view from the deck of Rivendell Lodge out over Gowlland Harbor and on to the mountains in the distance is a breathtaking sight. I have been privileged to travel a fair amount and I have to say this is one of the most stunning locations in the world. I have always thought it would make the ideal artist retreat and recording studio.

I first learned of Camp Homewood when I was a fairly young child. Many students and staff at the school had either attended as campers or worked on the staff. Every conference a representative from the camp would come out to the school and hold an informational seminar. They would distribute literature, show slides or a film and recruit for the summer.

Sometime during my grade nine year, Dan Krestinski, who was the high school boys dean at the time, approached my parents and suggested that maybe I should attend Camp Homewood that summer. They ran a two week Counselor in Training ( CIT ) program and then a select group were chosen to stay for the remaining six weeks of the summer. Dan must have instinctively known that I could benefit from this program and so I was chosen to spend the entire eight weeks at the camp. He waived the camp policy of requiring you to be sixteen, as I had just turned fifteen. I count this summer as one of those defining moments in my life and am forever grateful to Dan for taking me under his wing at that juncture.

I had obtained a fancy green ladies hat from the Tilly shop and by completely dismantling it down to the felt I was able to shape it to look like a Robin Hood hat. This was to become my trademark hat for the next couple of months. The night before we were to leave I was goofing off in the gym and my glasses fell to the concrete floor smashing one lens. My summer started with having to wear my taped glasses with only one lens until another pair was ordered and arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later.

Beginning with the six hundred mile bus ride out to the coast, to the ferry ride to Vancouver Island, the summer was full of many memories. Highlights included attending the stock car races in nearby Black Creek and early morning salmon fishing trips with Les Foder in the jet boat. The three chords I still know on guitar, I learned that summer. I learned to sail and repel. For a kid from the prairies the ocean opened up endless possibilities for adventure. On our days off we would wander around the big wharfs in Campbell River where luxury yachts of every make and description were docked. Among others I remember the Boeing corporate yacht and the boat belonging to the owner of the Seattle Sea Hawk's. Olivia Newton John's yacht was anchored out in the harbor just some distance from the camp and many a camp meeting was spent hoping for a glimpse of the superstar with no success. We did have a chance to visit with some of her crew and we all thought it would be a pretty good gig.

Alf Bayne, the founder of the camp, had a large motorized, converted fishing boat called the Goforth. Alf would take the CIT's out on trips in the boat and we were able to see whales, seals and sea otters. The phosphor in the water at night was beautiful. Alf was a very good cinematographer and was working on a promotional movie for Reimer Express trucking company that summer. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with him about the film-making process.

One memorable canoe trip we as CIT's took, was through a series of fresh water lakes out to the ocean. We spent several days camping along the coast. One day we collected as many aerosol cans as we could find washed up on the shore. That evening we built a raft out of drift wood, built a fire on it, loaded it up with the cans and launched it out into the ocean. We had our own fireworks display as one by one the cans would explode, shooting fireballs into the dark night sky.

Every day was an adventure as we performed crazy stunts like sleeping on the steep cabin roof, safely tied to the chimney. We would cook up all manner of practical jokes to torment our poor leaders, some of them with disastrous results. David Dunn was one of our leaders who enjoyed a good time and had a little more affinity for our youthful energy. Many a late night was spent around a table with Dave and a bunch of other CIT's, playing Rook which we referred to as "preacher's cards". At the more remote woodsman camp, some of the guys placed slugs inside the girl's sleeping bags to be met later that night with screams and lots of commotion in the girl's tents.

Contrary to the prevailing public opinion, I did pay some attention in school. In chemistry class I had learned that phosphorus and gelatin under pressure and heat makes for a nice explosion. There was an ample supply of stick matches in the camp storeroom. We procured about a dozen or so of these boxes and proceeded to cut the head off of every stick. We spent a good part of our study time that day getting our materials prepared. We divided up the match heads into groups and carefully placed them into tinfoil packets that we fashioned. Once the pouch was full of match heads, the top was folded over and sealed. We secretly ventured out to the rifle range during lunch time and set up the paper targets on the the heavy wooden structure designed for that purpose. We then took thumb tacks and fastened the pouches in behind each individual target so that it could not be seen from the front.

Rushing back to the dining hall we joined the group that would be going to the riflery range that afternoon. We arrived at the range with our instructor who was very surprised and delighted to see that the targets were already in place and we could begin shooting right away. Being the gentlemen we were we insisted that the girls should go first. The girls, shocked at this new found chivalry, agreed, took their places on the shooting platform and loaded their guns. The call was given . . . ready . . . aim . . . fire! The bullets made there way to their intended destination and as they hit the tin foil packs the entire set up exploded into flames . . . targets and all! The girls freaked out. Needless to say our instructor was not the least bit impressed. We learned that day that it pays to listen in school and that guns and matches don't mix!

To learn more about Camp Homewood and see some of the majestic pictures go to:

www.homewood.bc.ca

www.prairieboy.com

© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

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