Getting Back to Basics

Tonight two junior cabins embarked on their very own Junior Overnight. This special trip is reserved just for our youngest campers, and the girls get to venture a short distance into the woods with their counselors, make s’mores, sing campfire songs, and hear stories. For some of our youngest girls, the Junior Overnight is their only opportunity to leave camp and sleep outside, and it’s a major highlight of the session for them.

The announcement was made during dinner: “Junior One and Five cabins, what’re your plans for tonight?!” The two groups looked puzzled being asked this question in front of the entire camp, completely unprompted. “We don’t know… ,” said one girl in the back. “YOU’RE GOING ON YOUR JUNIOR OVERNIGHT TONIGHT!!!” As soon as I declared the news, the girls squealed with excitement. Their time had finally come!

Junior girls camping

The girls wiggled into their pajamas and packed after dinner, running up to their cabins as they remembered water bottles, bug spray, or a critical stuffed animal before we left. Once we made it out to the outpost, I immediately started making the fire. One curious camper asked me to explain each step, which I was thrilled to do. Afterwards, the campers inhaled some s’mores and learned some new songs, including my personal favorite, the Cider Song.

For bedtime, after some discussion of sleeping arrangements and keeping spiders away, I read the girls a story about a girl who snuck cookies to her pet cow and another about a girl who dreamt of going to the moon. Most of the campers fell asleep before I was asked to tell “a Chelsea original,” which featured a little redbird who traveled the world helping others. 

vintage camping ladies

Full disclosure, I love this trip. My most treasured camp memories involve sleeping outside, eating something by a fire, hearing a funny story from a Director or counselor, and overcoming a little nervousness about a bug potentially crawling on me during bedtime. It was those particular experiences that brought me back as a counselor years later.

The Junior Overnight entails what summer camp is meant to be in its simplest form—quality time with friends in nature, away from modern conveniences. In my opinion, for these reasons, the simple little trip also celebrates the very reasons Rockbrook was founded.

Truly Meaningful

Camp Uniform Girls
Spirit Fire Candle Lighting
Spirit Camp Fire Line UP

As we romp through our days here at Rockbrook, dressing up, singing zany songs, laughing and smiling more than not, it’s easy to forget that a big part of what fuels this exuberance is something quiet and deeply emotional. There are feelings at work here, feelings of kindness, caring and generosity that have defined our camp community, and it’s these positive feelings for each other, deep down, that make what we do so much fun. How much we all love camp deepens as this “Rockbrook Spirit” grows, drawing us all-the-closer each day.

Tonight during our closing “Spirit Fire,” we witnessed just how powerful these feelings are for your girls. How they sat (arm and arm, as closely as possible), what they said (about the friendships and personal confidence they’ve discovered at camp), and how many of them were moved to tears during the campfire —made it clear how truly meaningful this session of camp has been. Since 1921, Rockbrook girls have closed their sessions in this way, paying tribute, essentially, to each other, recalling that the personal strides they’ve experienced, while derived from inner courage, were largely made possible by the support they felt from their friends.

It was beautiful to see, girls of all ages expressing their gratitude, gathered around a fire, with stars and tall trees all around. The evening closed with Sarah lighting a candle from the campfire, and everyone then lighting their own small white candle. Guided by only candlelight, all the campers and their counselors then formed a line around the lake, facing inward. With crickets and frogs punctuating their soft singing, and golden candlelight reflecting off the lake, the whole scene was just gorgeous. There’s just no better way to affirm what camp means to us, and to mark the great session we just shared.

A Christmas Perm

Snowy Dining Hall

A Rockbrook Girl’s Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all round the world,

Were the coolest of cool, those great Rockbrook girls.

Their trunks were still packed in the corners of their rooms,

And they offered camp-colors to wintery gloom.

The world was a snow globe, all twinkling and white,

And the houses and halls were all decked in their lights.

Their tummies were warmed by hot chocolates and ciders,

And the girls never worried ‘bout snakes or wolf spiders.

The holiday season brought so much to love:

With ice skating, skiing, warm mittens and gloves,

With Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali,

With New Year’s, and Christmas with boughs of bright holly.

But while sugarplums danced in the heads of their friends,

And their brothers’ discussions of gifts would not end,

The campers they dreamed of a different time,

When the weather was warm and the company was fine.

They dreamed of the days spent beneath the hot sun,

Of laughter and joy and unstoppable fun.

They dreamed of old cabins of weathered brown wood,

Of the Dining Hall songs and the dinners so good.

For these girls have a place of which only they know,

A place that still calls them through sleet and through snow.

A queendom of summer, all wreathed in tall trees,

Governed by girls with dirty faces and knees.

A place of the Midget Man, Killroy, and Nancy,

A place where the costumes make everyone fancy.

A place where the coolest is she who sings loudest,

A place where the silliest is always the proudest.

There may be no presents, no Santas or stockings,

There may be no carolers on front doors knocking,

There may be no snowmen at that time of year,

But there’s no other time with more pep or more cheer.

It’s a time that’s for rollicking, frolicking joys,

A time just for girls, with no smelly old boys.

It’s a time that’s for hiking, for swimming, for climbing,

A time that’s for Honosorarius rhyming.

It’s a time when directors can be seen walking,

And always with counselors and campers are talking.

A time when sweet Sarah stands up at the mic,

And says to the list’ners in a voice kind and bright,

“Now campers! Now counselors! Now barn staff and nurses!

On paddlers! On crafters! On singers of verses!

To the top of the Tower and to Rockbrook Falls,

Now hike away, climb away, dance away all!

For this is your time, on this midsummer’s day,

And it shall be spent in your favorite way.

It’s a time that we treasure in all of our hearts,

A time full of many incredible parts.”

So campers, though you are now spread far and wide,

Though you may have grown older, left camp days behind,

Just think of dear Rockbrook, in days cold and dark,

And its spirit will bring summer’s warmth to your heart.

And the day will come soon, for you or your daughter,

When you both stand once more beside cold running water,

And listen to red birds sing high in the pine,

And hear sounds of Rockbrook down each merry line.

But for now, let me tell you, with heart full of joy,

That I wish you best wishes for you to enjoy.

May your holiday season be happy and bright,

Merry Christmas from Rockbrook; to all a goodnight!

For The Fun Of It

Searching for Tadpoles

“Non-competitive” is a word that gets a lot of use here at camp. It serves as a reminder to campers and staff alike to pursue camp activities for the joy of it—for the thrill of acquiring new skills, and embarking on new adventures—not for the sake of victory.

Rafters in the Mist

We do our best to bring this non-competitive flavor to every facet of camp life.  Every cabin gets their own unique “award” for their skits during Evening Program (“Best Break-Dancing Statue of Liberty,” and “Best Impression of a Watermelon” were some recent favorites of mine), every cabin gets a prize at the end of Counselor Hunt, and every girl even gets their own birthday cake on Birthday Night, so the fall-, winter-, and spring-babies aren’t left out.

It isn’t that we think competition is bad. On the contrary, competition can be exciting, enriching, and even wholesome in the right setting. What we do try to promote at camp, though, that might be different from the messages of schools and sports teams, is replacing the drive to win with the drive to accomplish.

Teamwork in the Lake

We encourage our campers to accomplish as much as possible in their time at camp. We offer reams of friendship-bracelet designs of increasing complexity for them to try their hands at. We coax tentative swimmers into swimming class, so they can work on their strokes with the lifeguards. We stand patiently at the bottom of the Alpine Tower, to talk nervous climbers all the way to the top. That heady sense of awe and disbelief when a camper achieves something she didn’t think she would be capable of is one of the greatest parts of the camp experience, and usually occurs in each girl at least once when she’s here.

While we encourage accomplishments like these whenever we can, we also do our best to take away the push and pressure to achieve them. We let girls work at their own pace, for example, and allow them to drop activities that don’t interest them after just three days, rather than forcing them to continue, as might happen in a school. We help them to enjoy the process as much as the result, to gain more from the experience than from the prizes at the end.

Dancing to "Grease"
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

More importantly, we also try to strip away the urge to “get there first” that can be so prevalent in the outside world. That is, we take away that need to get to the top before anyone else, and to win at the expense of everyone else, that can so dampen the fun of any activity.

A perfect demonstration of this came in our Miss RBC pageant Sunday afternoon. Each cabin spent last week crafting their very own cabin “talent” for the show, which could have been a dance, a song, a skit, or anything else they could think of. All last week, I saw cabins working during their free times, planning during meals, and scavenging costume bins around camp, all to create the perfect talent for Miss RBC.

Every camper participated, and gave their all, making it a truly spectacular show. There were elaborately choreographed dances to songs from “Mamma Mia,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” original songs about checking for lice and the joys of camp, and one wonderful skit put on by our youngest campers, acting out one of our favorite camp songs, “I’m a Little Coconut.”

Skipping

The most remarkable thing about the show, though, was the genuine enthusiasm with which each cabin cheered for all the others. Each cabin seemed thrilled simply to be able to put on their own talent for the rest of the camp, and derived just as much enjoyment from watching all the others’. There was no uneasiness when campers saw a cabin that did particularly well, and no jealousy or resentment displayed toward the cabin that ultimately won the pageant. Indeed, that cabin found themselves surrounded by well-wishers as soon as the show was finished. The winning cabin was proud, of course, that they had won, but I heard more of them complimenting the other cabins on their talents than touting their own accomplishment.

Camp, of course, is a unique environment, but I always hope that this is a lesson that our campers take with them into the outside world. That something should be created, a task achieved, or a goal accomplished, simply for the satisfaction of accomplishing it, rather than for the attendant recognition and glory.

Such a Beautiful Sight

We begin our Sundays at Rockbrook differently than other days of the week by, at least for the morning, slowing down our ordinary zany pace. First of all, we sleep in a little, enjoying extra rest, and then shuffle to breakfast before doing cabin chores and even before getting dressed… Pjs with a fleece pulled over, and robes being typical. Just rolling out of bed feels good once in a while! For breakfast we have a special “real world” treat waiting— freshly delivered Krispy Kreme doughnuts to supplement our regular cereal, fruit and yogurt bar, and today toasted English Muffins and warm scrambled eggs.

Sunday Morning Camp
Camp Chapel Presentation
Chapel Girl sitting
Girls camp outdoor assembly

After breakfast, the campers return to their cabins to change into their camp uniforms (white polo shirt, white shorts, and a red tie) and around 10am assemble on the camp hill for a flag raising ceremony conducted by the Hi-Up campers. Like Rockbrook girls have for decades, everyone forms a line around the flag pole, recites the Pledge of Allegiance, and sings “America the Beautiful.” Today under sunny, deep blue skies, surrounded by the full green of the woods around us, and with the breath-taking view of the mountains in the distance, all these girls in their red and white made such a beautiful sight.

Following this brief ceremony, the girls walk along the “path of silence” to the Chapel area of camp, which is a small clearing in the woods with benches arranged like a theater. Today the Senior campers and counselors presented their program on the theme of “Community.” Instead of a religious ceremony, these gatherings are for us a brief time during our week to pause and appreciate one another, and to contemplate the fundamental values and feelings we all share, no matter what our religious upbringing at home. We want all girls, irrespective of their religious beliefs, to feel comfortable and included at Rockbrook, so we strive to make our Chapel programs reflect that priority. Today Samantha played the guitar as her cabin mates sang a song they wrote. Several other girls spoke about how Rockbrook feels like a family to them, with each person bringing different gifts to the group. Everyone sang “Lean on Me” (the classic song by Bill Withers), and Sarah spoke at the end after reading the children’s book Anansi the Spider. Based on a West African trickster tale, it tells the story of how the moon came to hang in the sky for all to enjoy. These are sweet moments where your girls prove how sensitive and caring they really are.

Before heading into lunch, everyone gathered again for a more lively assembly on the hill. Here the Line Heads awarded the “Mops” (highly decorated mops… this session as 3 different “minions” from the movie Despicable Me) to the cabins with the best record of cabin inspections. The Hi-Ups performed a skit/song about their duties in the dining hall.  Three counselors competed in an exciting “minute to win it” style challenge of apple stacking to see which cabin would be “dressed” the next day by their counselor. With a few announcements from the directors, and a few rousing hand-clapping versions of the Line songs, everyone was pumped up.

Our afternoon activity put a twist on a favorite classic, the “Counselor Hunt.” Today we found ourselves on an alien planet where all kinds of crazy, friendly though shy, aliens (our counselors dressed up) were hiding. Each cabin took on the mission to scour the planet (all over the main part of camp) to find aliens and return them to our spaceship (the dining hall). There, we would discover that each alien had a mysterious gift or prize to convey to the cabin who found her… Special snacks, having rest hour by the lake, or picking out the night’s movie, for example. Be sure to check out the photo gallery to see all the colorful aliens the girls discovered.

Alien costume counselor
Game of counselors dressed as aliens

A Team Effort

Miss RBC Contestants


This Sunday, the girls of Rockbrook gathered in a peaceful little corner of camp for chapel, a non-religious service that gives our campers and counselors quiet time to reflect on the week, and discuss some of the most important values that we promote here at camp. This week the theme of chapel was “Creativity,” so girls of the Junior and Middler lines stood before their peers to express the importance of creativity in camp life.

Camp girls outdoor ceremony

There was talk of our crafts classes, of course—of the toothbrush-holders made in pottery, the baskets woven in Curosty, the bracelets beaded in jewelry making. There was mention of the play, of the dedication that it takes to create something special for everyone to enjoy. And several girls brought up the nightly creative endeavor, Evening Program, in which every cabin works together to put on a skit.

It was this last sort of creativity, in which the girls work together to create something new, that came to the forefront later that day in the Miss RBC pageant, after the crisp white uniforms of the morning had been replaced with the colorful—if slightly dirty—play clothes of the afternoon.

Far removed from the beauty pageants you might see on TV, the Miss RBC pageant calls for one member of each cabin to dress up in the craziest, most over-the-top costume they can come up with and answer a silly question, such as “What’s your favorite jelly bean flavor, and why?” While it’s always fun to see the costumes that the pageant contestants and their cabin-mates put together (my particular favorite was the senior with toilet paper wrapped over her clothes, and her ponytail threaded through a plastic cup), the real highlight of the show is the talent portion.

Group dance move

All week, each cabin worked together to plan a skit, dance, song, or puppet show to impress the judges. The ideas that they came up with were truly impressive. From juniors adapting a Rockbrook song into a moving (and hilarious) saga about a mermaid and a shark, to Middlers singing their own arrangement of songs a capella, to seniors choreographing elaborate dance routines, the show had it all, and proved to be immensely entertaining for everyone involved.

More exciting still were the looks of pride and accomplishment worn by the campers of each and every cabin as they trooped off stage after performing for the camp. Especially those campers who had been nervous to step onstage beforehand looked thrilled to have accomplished the feat, and to have done it all with their friends and cabin-mates standing right beside them.

RBC contest winning

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!

Safari Banquet

Welcome to the Safari Banquet! After weeks of planning and plenty of hard work preparing, tonight the senior line CA campers and their counselors presented the second session banquet. On the very first day of camp they debated and selected a surprise theme for the banquet, and finally it was time reveal it to the whole camp. They chose to make the entire experience a safari, a rich jungle of animals, exotic birds, wild plants, trees and vines. Using paint, paper and a few props, the whole dining hall was transformed so that in every direction you’d see safari animals— lions, zebras, baboons, giraffes —and scenery. The green tables and chairs of the Rockbrook dining hall fit right in. Just guessing, there were probably sixty or so different painted panels lining the walls. The centerpiece was a wrecked jeep, complete with real tires and working headlights (flashlights). No wonder it takes all session to prepare for this night!

Safari Camp Banquet
Campers enjoy camp banquet
Banquet camper dressed in monkey costume
 Camp Banquet Girls
Lion costume girl at camp banquet
Dancing at camp safari banquet

The CAs really designed some amazing, creative costumes as well. Their goal was to create a magical experience for the other campers, making elaborate costumes and characters a big deal. There were monkeys, a couple of lions, birds, a zebra, elephant, a lemur, hippo and gazelle. During the meal, the CAs also presented a series of skits, a multi-act play really, that included music and dances. It told the story of a family on a safari, and how after being split up, the animals and a native group help them reunite. This was a very large group of CAs, so there were plenty of parts of play.

For the menu, they served “Slippery Snake Mozzarella Sticks,” Serengeti Salad,” “Lion’s Mane Spaghetti,” and “Jungle Dirt Bucket.” Of course, there was more than enough candy scattered around on the tables, and in each camper’s souvenir cup too. It was probably hard to eat the spaghetti while chewing a tootsie roll or sucking on a lollipop, but I’m sure no one was hungry by the end!

The evening begins with the CAs in the dining hall, dressed in costume and surrounded by the fruits of their incredible hard work, and all the rest of the campers outside, dressed in their Rockbrook T-shirts. When it was time to let the first cabin of girls enter, the CAs literally erupted with excitement. It had been building for so long, finally they could cheer and jump up and down with each other. Then, with music blasting, the campers crawled through a “starry night” tunnel to emerge into the jungle (dining hall) with all its colorful animals. Here too, it was one big cheer with smiles and surprised amazement from everyone.

Toward the end of the banquet, the oldest cabin groups (the CAs and Hi-Ups) presented songs and toasts to their counselors, and vice versa, the counselors to their campers. This became quite emotional as the songs expressed the friendship and feelings the girls now share after this great session.  It’s tradition for the whole camp to sing a few camp songs (e.g., “Rockbrook Camp Forever”) at the close of the banquet as well.

This was simply a terrific night, one I’m sure you’ll hear more about from your daughter.