Stranded at the Drive-In

Final banquet girls friends

Ask any of the older campers at Rockbrook if they remember their first banquet, and they’re bound to answer with a wholehearted “yes!” A Rockbrook “banquet” is an all-camp party held at the end of each session. It always has a surprise theme selected by our CA (9th grade) campers, who also design, plan and implement the details of the party.  The banquet is a huge celebration that combines amazing decorations, special fun foods, performers in costumes (the CA girls and their counselors), skits, music and dancing— all revolving around the theme.  Usually, there are about 20 CA campers working on this over the course of the session, so you can imagine how elaborate it can all become.

That’s why banquets are so memorable.  There’s the element of surprise, and the sheer amazement arising when the girls finally enter the dining hall to see how it has been transformed according to the theme. It’s a transformation that changes almost every interior surface: painted posters covering all four walls, tablecloths and table decorations, lights, streamers and balloons on the ceiling, and even posters decorating the floor at times! With characters dressing in full costumes dancing about, the music combines with the decorations to create a whole new environment. It can be almost mind-blowing for young children when they first see it. Then, between skits and choreographed dances performed by the CAs, it’s a loud, excited dance party for everyone. Soon, we’re all hot and sweaty, thrilled to be having this kind of high energy party with all of our camp friends.

campers dressed to perform at banquet

Tonight’s banquet, our first session 2018 banquet, was entitled “Stranded at the Drive-in.” Essentially a movie theme, the girls selected favorite movies and dressed as specific characters as they presented music and dances from particular films. We saw characters from Grease, Clueless, Shrek, Mean Girls, Monsters, Inc., Annie, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Incredibles. Take a look at the photo below to see all the CAs in their costumes. They were so well done! The tables had red movie ticket stubs scattered about. The wall posters were colorful detailed representations of other films like Moana, Up, Tangled, Cars, Inside Out, Wonder Woman, Finding Nemo and Gone with the Wind. …films that most of the other campers would know. With the theme, the girls decided to serve movie popcorn, along with chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, corn dogs, and fresh fruit on the side… ice cream and brownies for dessert.

What a great banquet! Dancing and singing together at the top of our lungs, I’m sure every single person had a complete blast.  It will probably take some work to wash all the glitter out of our hair, but I suspect this banquet will be unforgettable.

CA group for drive in banquet

This Extraordinary Effect

Happy Camp Kids

This morning we opened a new session of camp and welcomed 134 girls and their parents to Rockbrook. For both the girls returning to camp after one or more previous summers, and the girls attending Rockbrook for the very first time, the day began with an unusual feeling of both excitement and nervousness. Like waiting in line for the most thrilling roller coaster imaginable, there was both eager anticipation of what is sure to be fun, but also some anxiety about how it will turn out. Even the counselors felt this to an extent today, this odd combination of enthusiasm and trepidation, because like the girls, this is when they meet their campers for the first time and imagine the cabin life ahead. Let’s add the parents too; they also are delighted for the many opportunities camp will surely provide their daughters, and at the same time, perhaps a little hesitant to step back and allow the experience to unfold without their oversight or orchestration.

This feeling is most intense the last few minutes in the car before arriving. It can last into the check in process (which thankfully was nice and quick this morning) and even bubble up as the girls are saying goodbye to their parents. It didn’t take long, however, for the jitters to fade. In fact, by the time we assembled on the hill before lunch to sing a few songs, I saw more cheering and enthusiasm than anything else. The collective energy of camp had already carried the mood, and the girls were relaxing and chatting with each other like easy friends. Simply getting together in this beautiful setting, in this case on the hill overlooking the mountains, has this extraordinary effect of calming everyone’s initial nervousness while ramping up their excitement. The assembly already proved this is going to be a great session.

Cheering Camp Kids

Rick’s famous homemade mac-n-cheese recharged everyone for lunch. There was a gluten free version and a separate vegan version for those campers and staff who preferred them. Of course, our super stocked salad bars and bowls of mixed fruit balanced out the plates. Around here, the dining hall is more than just a place to eat and chat; it’s also a place to sing! And even during this first meal, the girls didn’t hold back. They were belting out the songs as if they’d been waiting all this time to experience the roar of “An Austrian Went Yodeling” and the “Coconut Song.” In this session, 85% of the campers are returners, so most everyone in the dining hall knew the words to sing along. Incredible! Eating together, signing together, laughing and talking together helped further pave the way for the girls to settle into camp.

Camp Counselor Skit

After lunch, each cabin group was off and running— walking tours of the camp and all the activity areas, cabin meetings on the lines, and a stop at the lake for an introduction to the waterfront, the swim tag system, and a swimming demonstration. Ordinarily, our mountain stream-fed lake feels surprisingly chilly. That may have been true today too, but the hot afternoon sun made it more refreshing. After demonstrating their swimming ability, every camper earned a “swim necklace,” color coded based on her ability.  The different necklaces alert our lifeguards where in our lake (the shallow vs. the deep end, for example) campers can safely swim.  Spending time at the lake is very popular, so it’s important for everyone at camp to have a chance to cool off there.

The last bit of orientation came in a series of hilarious skits performed by the different activity instructors. Using the stage at the gym, each group of counselors assigned to an activity presented something to describe what they do and to entice the campers to select that activity later tonight when everyone’s first rotation is chosen. For example, the three drama teachers performed a silly improvised song, the climbers demonstrated their belaying, and the weavers presented example projects that the girls can make in Curosty (the fiber arts cabin). There are always more activities and trip options available each day than there is time to do them all, so the girls have to makes choices about what they’d like to do at camp, and these skits help them decide.

Kayak Camp Girls French Broad Section Nine

Kayak Camp update! This weekend we also began our second specialty session devoted entirely to whitewater kayaking, the “Rockbrook Rapids.” We added these intensive trip sessions in response to a growing interest in Kayaking at Rockbrook. Over the years our lead kayaking instructor, Leland Davis, and his staff have really inspired the girls at camp, and now we have some amazing paddlers eager for more action on the river. The girls arrived on Friday, and after a short roll clinic in the lake and getting their gear organized, they were off to run their first river, the Tuckasegee. The next day, they paddled the Nantahala, and then today, section IX of the French Broad all the way down to Frank Bell’s Rapid, a famous class IV drop. Three rivers in three days! Leland reports that, “the level of paddling going on out there is off the charts with these girls!” We’re posting plenty of photos in the online gallery, so you can follow along.

Happy camp, everyone!  We’re nothing but excited now!

Smiling Camp Kids

This is My Family

By Naomi Penner

I live in a mighty cabin on the Senior Line that sits up on a hill amidst the trees. A glorified tree house, if you will. Living with me are two co-counselors and 12, 13-14 year old girls. They are a spirited group of Rockbrook gals with nothing but wit, grit, pep, and cheer who always make me laugh. They are the girls of Penthouse and they are my family.

Camp Nature Girls

There’s no doubt that all of us here at RBC are one big family. We live together in the wooded mountains for a few weeks during the summer, so we’re bound to be close. We see each other during meals and activities, Assembly on the Hill, and Rockbrook Surprises, like a shaving cream fight or girl power themed carnival.

Yet, it’s the family within your cabin that shares a different kind of bond. Your cabin is your home away from home. Not only are all your belongings living in it, but so are the people you spend the most time with at camp. Your cabin mates are the first people you see when you wake up and the last you see before you go to bed. You sit together at every meal. You cheer for each other the loudest. You are proud of everything they do. You take care and look out for one another. And most importantly, you love each other no matter what. It’s your cabin mates who turn that cabin into a home.

Two Camp Friends

The fun thing about each cabin here at Rockbrook is that, just as every family, each one has a set of customs and traditions unique to just them. From mealtime to bedtime and everything in between. For me, it’s never a Penthouse meal without standing up to sing along to a Rockbrook song at the top of our lungs, or a Penthouse day without hearing “What the Buddha?!” Every night before bed, we do “Rose, Bud, Thorn.” It’s a nice way to share our day. “Rose” is something you enjoyed about the day, “Bud” is something you look forward to at camp, and “Thorn” is something that just wasn’t to your liking. A weekly tradition we do in Penthouse is “Secret Buddy.” Every Wednesday, we draw names out of a hat to see who our Secret Buddy is for that week. Gifts include sweet notes tucked away in a book, or homemade gifts made during an activity that magically appear on your bed. My favorite Penthouse practice is our nightly Mad Lib. Whoever has “Mad Lib It Up” on the chore wheel that day gets to pick the Mad Lib and go around asking for a noun, adjective, verb, etc. Laughter is critical in Penthouse and we do it ‘til lights out.

Even more special to a cabin are the memories created within and around it. I have so many to draw from with my girls. Like the time we all gathered on Side C, singing and grooving to the High School Musical soundtrack, audible from down the line. Fourth of July spent on the hill talking about our childhoods as the fireworks boomed and glimmered in the background. Or when we went stargazing together on the hill and found a running man and dolphin in the lingering clouds.

As the session nears the end, I’m savoring these final days with my Penthouse, and Rockbrook, family. Looking around the breakfast table this morning, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the time had with this amazing group of Rockbrook girls. Luckily, the wonderful thing about family is that even when you’re far away from each other, whether it be from Tennessee all the way to Poland, the love you have for one another remains.

Nie mówię po polsku! PentHOUSE!

Happy Tennis Campers

A Source of True Fascination

Camp girl find tadpole

This lovely photo was taken as Karen, our head photographer, followed a group of Junior campers down to the lake for their “Nature” activity period. Each armed with fine mesh nets, Hannah their counselor/instructor, soon had the girls skimming the lake water to “see what they could find.” Finding living things in nature is, in fact, something we do a lot around here. It might be a black snake climbing a low branch, a spider crawling innocently along the top of the shower door, or a shiny snail leaving its glistening trail up a rhododendron leaf. Each is, or at least can be with a little encouragement and sincere enthusiasm, a source of true fascination. Instead of squealing at bugs, have you noticed the fine segments of their legs? Instead of avoiding tadpoles in the lake, how cool is it to see them swim? These are little natural miracles ripe with fresh detail and ready to capture the curiosity of a child. That’s what’s going on here at camp. In this brief time, these girls can pour themselves into the experience of nature, in this case, of catching a tadpole, giggling as it wiggles in a little cup, and clapping a little cheer as it swims safely back into the lake afterwards. With so many moments like this at camp, we hope they sink in a bit and your girls are just as curious and engaged throughout the coming year.

Rifle Marksman girl at camp

A rather different experience awaits the girls who elect to take riflery while at camp. Instead of marveling at the wonderful details of the natural world, riflery follows a more measured path. Shooting accurately and precisely requires consistency, a steady, practiced set of actions. The girls learn quickly that riflery rewards a gentle, yet confident hand, and it shows in their improvement. Bullets in the black… I’m sure you’ll see a souvenir target to prove it!

Tonight the CA (9th grade) campers revealed their secret banquet theme and opened a “Big Top Circus” for everyone by transforming the dining hall with wall decorations, streamers, and brightly colored tablecloths. The girls each dressed in a a different circus costume too with mimes, a contortionist, dancers, a fortuneteller, lion tamer, and ringmaster all playing a role. For the menu, the girls chose to serve hot dogs, soft pretzels, popcorn, corn on the cob, cotton candy, and soda.

Circus decorations banquet
Camp circus girls posing

As everyone enjoyed different courses from the menu and listened to classic circus music (like “Entrance of the Gladiators”), the girls performed skits showcasing their talents… Juggling and even riding a unicycle. They presented choreographed group dances, amazed everyone with several mimes, a life-sized puppet show, and even made a “Photo Booth” for the campers complete with silly props. Overall it was a fun, interactive party. We all danced and sang, laughed and posed for photos, all charged up on plenty of sweet candy treats. Thank you CAs for an awesome night!

First session 2013 camp CA girls

The History of the Parlez-Vous Song

Singing is a huge part of camp life and one of the funniest song traditions at Rockbrook is the Parlez-Vous Song.   A Parlez-Vous is a song made up by a cabin or group of campers and then performed spontaneously in the dining hall.  After asking several Alumna if they remember singing Parlez- Vous at camp, it seems that they have been part of the Rockbrook lore since the 1930’s.  Here is an example of a Rockbrook Parlez- Vous:

Parlez-Vous

We had so much fun at the camp out last night, parlez- vous

We had so much fun at the camp out last night, parlez-vous

We had so much fun at the camp out last night

The S’mores and stories were out of sight

Inky Dinky parlez- vous

These spontaneous songs are often very humorous and creative and always bring a laugh and a smile to everyone as we enjoy our meals together.

So, what in the world is the history of the Parlez- Vous and how did it come to be part of Rockbrook’s history?

After a little digging it appears that the origins of the Parlez- Vous come from a World War I song called Mademoiselle from Armentières.  This song was adapted from a British Indian Army song called Skiboo.  It was a rhyming song, whose lyrics changed quite regularly.  During World War I it was often referred to as the Hinky Dinky Parlez Vous Song and would be adapted and sung by soldiers.  Some versions were a bit risque but we were able to find a great version.  Listen below and be sure to wait for the chorus!

Isn’t it fascinating how songs at camp are passed along from generation to generation?   If you remember any funny Parlez-Vous from your days at camp, please send them in!  We would love to hear them.

The Rockbrook Songbook

singing songs at night
Singing along at Spirit Fire, 2012

Singing is a HUGE part of life at Rockbrook and is something that every camp generation can share.  We hear fabulous stories from our alumnae of camp songs being sung at weddings, college events, in the middle of a restaurant, or even when you run into a friend at the grocery store.  The songs are in a way a history of camp. What is it about those fun camp songs that sticks with you forever?

Because singing is such a big part of camp life at Rockbrook, we are in the process of updating our famous camp songbook.  Over the years some songs drifted out of popularity, while new ones “came into fashion”.  Songs like “Liberty” and “When the Moon Plays Peek A Boo” were very popular in the 60’s while songs like “The Coconut Song” and “Yogi Bear” are a few current hits.  With our new songbook we hope to include ALL of the camp songs from the Rockbrook repertoire.  That is where you come in!  We do not have a songbook from the 20’s-40’s.  If anyone has an old songbook or can send us any information about the songs from the early years of Rockbrook we would SO appreciate your help.

camp songbook
The Rockbrook Songbook, 1970

Now that camp songs are running through your mind, visit this page to hear some recordings of some popular Rockbrook songs!

A Campfire of Songs and Stories

Camp girl throwing pot on ceramics wheel

Ceramics has always been a popular craft activity at Rockbrook, and this session is so far no exception. Poke your head in the “Upper Clay” studio, which is an open-air work space next to the dining hall, or the “Lower Clay” studio, which is a narrow stone building in the woods down along the path leading to the stables, and you’ll see lots of muddy hands. That’s because seated around the work tables, there are campers rolling clay into coils, pinching it into small cups, and flattening it into slabs. Joining these parts together, interesting sculptures are emerging. Perhaps most amazing is what the girls are doing on the electric pottery wheels. Katie and Will, our two lead ceramics teachers, have been teaching wheel-throwing techniques, giving the campers tips and individual instruction as they practice centering the clay and pulling it up into a bowl or cup, for example. Learning to throw a pot on the wheel is an advanced ceramics technique, but these girls are handling it easily. It will be great to see how their pieces turn out once they are glazed and fired.

Camp girl shooting a rifle

The rifle range is another place in camp that sees constant action, with campers signing up and filling every class period it’s offered. Perhaps it’s the thrill of shooting the gun, hearing that distinctive “pop!” when you pull the trigger, and smelling the gunpowder, but I think the girls also like riflery for the satisfaction it provides after scoring on the target (“hitting the black”). It’s also an activity so different from what’s available at home, and something in which the girls can experience real improvement and success- even scoring a bullseye now and then. Later in the session we will be challenging Camp Carolina for Boys and hold a riflery tournament to see who has the best team of marksmen (or -women!). Cliff DeMeritt, who has joined our staff after retiring from being a law enforcement sharpshooting instructor, has been working with the girls to improve their technique, so we’re hoping to see a great showing at the tournament.

Camp horse barn
Wrapping up an afternoon of summer horseback riding
Campfire Story Teller Gary Green

Tonight’s evening activity brought our friend Gary Greene back for a campfire and program of story telling, skits and songs for the Junior and Middler campers. With a crackling campfire set, Gary played his guitar and led the girls in several songs. One favorite was “Little Cabin in the Woods,” a funny song with hand motions that’s sung repeatedly (and fast) while words are dropped leaving just the song’s hand motions in the end. Gary had the girls singing, laughing and smiling in no time, yet also on the edge of their seats, wrapped into his telling of a Norwegian folktale. A few counselors also led a favorite camp song or two- “An Austrian Went Yodeling” with more hand motions -rounding out the evening. A classic camp night, and the girls enjoyed it thoroughly.

Twilight with Elsa and Jo

Super alumnae Elsa Claverie and Jo Littleton visited us at camp tonight and brought their ukulele and banjo. They held a special “twilight” activity for campers and counselors who wanted to learn a few traditional songs, and just enjoy singing together. It was a wonderful hour of song, laughter and smiles. Here’s a short video of a round we sang. Enjoy!

Generations of Rockbrook girls singing together… “quite merrily…”