It was the summer of 1986, and Kimberly Fillar was spending a week at Science World, a summer camp for all things scientific on the banks of a small lake in the north woods of Wisconsin.
"I was a teenage science geek," admitted Kimberly, one of the many readers who responded to my call for summer camp recollections.
One of the last days at Science World was known as "Water Day," when campers did various experiments involving different bodies of water. They measured pH levels and collected insects from a bog and spent the afternoon taking turns mapping the depths of the lake with nothing more than a rowboat, a fish locator, some walkie-talkies and simple surveying equipment.
But what Kimberly remembers best is a summer crush named Bryan. "He was the reason I volunteered to stand in that cold, cold river," she said.
Bryan had come to camp with a broken finger -- a broken middle finger, to be exact -- and he spent the week telling one wild story after another to explain how this critical digit had been fractured. "The best one involved a burly biker and a certain impolitic hand gesture," Kimberly said.
"That day, in the bog," she said, "over litmus paper and a lovely selection of bugs, he confessed to me alone that it was nothing more than an unfortunate encounter with a car door. I took that confession as a sign of his regard. Ah, young geeks in love."
Meredith Trimble's parents met at a summer camp in Pennsylvania. She still has a photo of them as skinny teenagers receiving paper crowns after being voted Camp King and Queen, 1967.
"Of course I went to camp as soon as I was old enough," said Meredith, of Alexandria. When she was 13, she struck up a summer romance with a fellow camper named Ryan. "I remember begging my counselor to play volleyball, because the boys were going to be playing," she said.
"Years later, I sat in a large circle of new counselors for the first day of staff training at camp. Directly across the circle from me was -- you guessed it -- Ryan."
The couple just celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary. Asked Meredith: "If we have children in the future, can you guess where they will be headed during the summers?"
Katie McLaughlin Phalen has memories of Laytonsville's Camp Waredaca. She was there in August of 1974 and, like a true child of Washington, was gripped by the biggest news story around: Watergate.
A bunch of other campers had boarded an old farm truck to go on an overnight trip. "I had stayed at Waredaca this time," remembered Katie, "and our whole cabin had listened faithfully to the radio news. It was a blistering hot day there in Bunker Hill, our cabin. Around rest period, just after lunch, the tired and grubby overnighters rode up over Chapel Hill past our cabin. 'Nixon resigned!' they shrieked in unison.
" 'We know!' we yelled back, as the ancient truck clattered down the other side."
Somehow I can't imagine kids from Wisconsin or Pennsylvania being quite so pumped.
Barbara Brannon's family didn't have enough money for camp, but as a Campfire Girl she sold enough mints to earn a trip to a camp in Northern California.
"The morning I was to board the bus for Camp Seabow, I noticed one red bump on my abdomen. My sister had the chicken pox. I was afraid that if I told my mom about the spot, I wouldn't be able to go."
So Barbara kept quiet, but by the third day she was pretty spotty and very itchy.
"I went to the camp nurse and told her I had the chicken pox, fully expecting to spend the rest of the week in the infirmary. She said 'Honey, those aren't chicken pox -- I think you have a flea in your sleeping bag.' "
Barbara said camp taught her some things that were useful -- hard work is rewarded, you have to take some risks, grown-ups don't know everything -- and some things that weren't.
"Never made another leather change purse," she admitted.
John Moore of Fort Worth bears a physical reminder of his time at a Boy Scout camp in Texas. One night while absent-mindedly walking around eating a piece of fried chicken he smacked into the corner of a picnic table.
"Upon looking down, I was shocked to see a long gash on my knee that resulted in my having to be rushed to a nearby ER for stitches."
It was one of the proudest moments of his life.
"I wore those stitches like a badge of honor for the remainder of camp," John said, "and even to this day, when I look down at that scar on my knee, I have to chuckle at how such a seemingly traumatic experience pleased that 12-year-old boy that I was so many years ago."
Help Make Memories
Today's 12-year-old boys and girls are tomorrow's adults, and the summer memories they make now will last a lifetime. Whether those memories are bad ones or good ones could depend on how successful we are with our annual Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Momentum is building but we still need to raise $512,911.12 by July 23 to meet our $750,000 goal and send nearly 1,000 area at-risk kids to Camp Moss Hollow.
Here's how you can contribute: Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to: Attention, Lockbox, Department 0500, Washington, D.C. 20073-0500.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/camp. Click on the icon that says, "Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation."
To contribute by phone with Visa or MasterCard, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in KIDS, or 5437.