Former Camper Concludes: ‘Father Made the Right Choice’

BY STEVE DINNEN

As a 12-year-old boy I set my sights on Lake Champlain for summer camp. My father thought a little soldiering sounded good, and so I found myself in Indiana, bivouacking alongside Lake Maxinkuckee at Culver Military Academy.

Camp seemed primitive to this city boy. We had canvas walk-in tents with planked floors, handling four campers each. Our nearby drinking fountain was well water, with a definite taste of iron.

Over three summers I acquired many skills, some of which were lifelong. I fired a rifle, shot an arrow mostly true and straight, sailed small boats, uprighted those boats once capsized, paddled a canoe. I dabbled with boxing.

I learned about flora and fauna. I learned not to mess with snapping turtles. This being a military school, I learned how to march, stand at parade rest, and make a bed with tight, hospital-cornered sheets. I sometimes bugled taps.

I competed for promotion. (I outranked both of my brothers, who also attended Culver.) I met my first Jew. My first Canadian. My first Venezuelan — Culver was popular with South Americans.

I knew loneliness. It was tough being away from friends and family for so long, while so young. But that, too, became a life experience, part of growing up. And decades later I think my father made the right choice.
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