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Today in My History

2000:  Stranded
2001:  At the Mercy of the Elements
2002:  Pissy Moods
2003:  I Think I can't, I think I can't
2004:  Rejected Again
2005:  The Google Game
2007: Sometimes I Feel Like a Sad Song
2008:  Munchkin Land

2009:  Come Rain or Come Shine

All Shook Up

Books Read in 2010
Updated: 5/2
The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal"

Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
(updated 3/17/10)

And Then I Ate


Itsy's Adventure from Bev Sykes on Vimeo.

On YouTube

Look at these Videos

Spirit of '43
Ned's Video for Bri's 2nd birthday
No You Can't (John Boehner)
Jim Brochu closes NASDAQ
Stupid, Callous, Homophobic, Hateful Legislation

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Easter 2010

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3 May 2010

It's just amazing how you stumble into things that turn out to be just fabulous experiences.  If it weren't for the upcoming Lamplighter History, I never would have known about Camp Beaverbrook.

When we had our last meeting, Alison and I told Kathryn Fox Ma, who started this whole project, that we still have the tapes from all of our interviews for the previous two books, including some key people who, sadly, are no longer with us (like Gilbert).  Kathryn immediately asked if Matt Callahan knew about the tapes, because she said that Matt was working on a documentary about the Lamplighters.

Well, I came home and immediately sent Matt an e-mail letting him know about the existence of the tapes.  He wrote back almost by return mail saying that he had put the Lamplighter documentary on hold and instead had made another film and, in fact, he was having a showing of the film this weekend and asked if I wanted to come.  I'm sure he never thought we would come down to see his film.   And I probably wouldn't have been interested, but it was being showin in the new Walt Disney theater in the old Presidio, which is part of the new Walt Disney Family Museum which had just opened and I wanted to see the museum and thought this might be an opportunity (it wasn't--but that's not part of the story).

So today we took a busman's holiday -- after seeing three shows in a row this weekend for "work," I was taking my day off...to go see a show (except this was a movie and I didn't have to write a review of it--though that is essentially what I am doing here anyway!),

FrenchMartini.jpg (37641 bytes)We got to the Presidio early and were both hungry.  I remembered that there had been, at one time, a fast food (McDonald's?) nearby which Gilbert always said had "the best view in the city" and I suggested we try there.  Signage showed that it was no longer a fast food joint, but we thought we could grab a quick bite anyway.  When we walked in and saw tables covered with cloth tablecloths and the woman asked if we had a reservation, we figured we were in for a pretty pricy "bite to eat."  We opted for something small which we could order from the bar, but things were moving so terribly slowly that we were afraid that we would miss the movie, so we just had a drink and left (my French martini and Walt's glass of wine cost us $22).

Then we went to the theatre, meeting our friend Will Connolly en route. He was also headed to the big premiere.  He asked what the name of the movie was and I didn't know.  I didn't know the movie title, I didn't have a clue what it was about.  All I wanted to do was see the Walt Disney museum.

Well, let me tell you, folks, this is one wonderful film.   It's not finished yet, but oh so all but.  I laughed (a lot), I cried (a little) and I thought back to my own childhood, to the experience I always wanted to have and never did.  It's a slice of life, a piece of American history that you can't find now--and never will again, the way that our lives have changed.

It's just simply the story of a summer camp.  Not one of those big fancy summer camps.  It wasn't music camp or computer camp or some other specialty camp.  It wasn't even a particularly NICE camp.  It was rough and it was hot and it was dirty and the kids loved it.

Combining home movies from the 1960s and 70s, family snapshots, and interviews of campers and camp counselors today, Matt has woven this wonderful picture of 2 weeks at a camp that changed his (and many other kids' lives) where kids could come and get dirty, and swim, and ride horses, and do crafts, and make friends and it didn't matter if they were rich or poor or from good homes or from bad homes.  They were just all kids there for summer fun.  They slept out under the stars, they swam in a mud hole, they learned to shoot guns, they did all the things that would horrify parents today.  Horseback riding without a helmet?  Danger of rattle snakes? Questionable sanitary conditions for food?  Today's bubble-wrapped kid would never be permitted to set foot in the camp and the first time he scratched his little pinky, a team of lawyers would show up.

In one scene there was a brochure about the camp showing a list of items campers were expected to bring.  It reminded me of the years when I would pick up such brochures, hoping that somehow I could go to summer camp.  But even in those days it wasn't cheap.  The brochure in the movie showed something like $435 for two weeks, which was way out of my parents' financial range, especially since there were two of us to pay for.  We did day camp at the local playground (much like "Rainbow Summer" where some of our kids worked here in Davis, over several summers), where we did arts and crafts.  But you went home each night after day camp.  It wasn't like what I saw in the movie.

It's not a perfect movie, and that was the purpose of the screening--to get feedback.  There are some spots that go on too long and some things that might be cut.  But the basic stuff is all there and I sincerely hope that it gets picked up by some PBS affiliate and/or that it goes to DVD eventually, because I will buy a copy.

I know that Brianna lives in a safer world.  She will wear a helmet to ride her bike and she has the safest car seat she can have and she has a nanny who introduces her to all sorts of fun things.  But it makes me sad to think that she will never have the opportunity of a camp like Camp Beaverbrook.  She may go to music camp or dance camp or some other camp, but she will probably always be clean and organized and safe and swim in a swimming pool instead of a mud hole and no camp counselor will save her from a rattlesnake because there won't be any there.  And she will miss a bit of the magic that I saw these kids experiencing in this movie.

Sometimes progress isn't always the very best thing in the world. 

Remember the name "Camp Beaverbrook" and if you should see it coming to a screen near you, whether a TV screen or a movie screen, go see it--you definitely won't be sorry you did!




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