Eleven female warriors marched through the narrow path in the woods of Scotland, Md., on their way to wage the battle of Sawdust Hill. Leading the column and setting the pace was Toni Kelly, clad in green Army fatigue hat and black military shoes. Kelly and fellow counselor Theresa Snead maintained command over nine camper recruits.
Finally, the group reached a small clearing where a giant sawdust pile lay. The crew formed a circle around Kelly, who issued her order.
"When I say go, go crazy. Only one ground-rule: No sawdust in anybody's face."
Within moments the wooded silence was pierced with howls as first one, and then another combatant fell victim to the pack to be showered, massaged, and finally buried in the powdery stuff. Within 10 minutes, the battle was over and an unsoiled garment was not to be found.
"It's fun," said Deirdre Coffey, 12, of 219 Upshur St. NW, smiling beneath her sawdust mustache. "You get dirty and you get others dirty. You can get 'em back if they mess with you."
While the exuberance exhibited in the visits to Sawdust Hill was unmatched, many of the D.C. residents, aged 9 to 13, who visited Camp Scotland this summer said their favorite activity was crabbing.
Many of the campers had never seen a live crab before visiting the 217-acre D.C. Department of Recreation facility which is located 88 miles from Washington on the Potomac River in Southern Maryland, seven miles from Point Lookout and the Chesapeake Bay.
The camp recently completed 10 one-week sessions - the first five for boys and the second five for girls.
"We do things - a lot of things. We go crabbing, to Sawdust Hill, in the woods, hiking, flagpole, exercises . . . and sometimes we go places," said 8-year-old Shannone Connell of 4400 Hunt Pl. NE. "Crabbing is best because you catch a lot of crabs. At Sawdust Hill, you throw sawdust into people's hair . . . I don't want to go home. I want to stay here."
"It's fun because you can play games. I'd be sitting around the house doing nothing," said 9-year-old Jannie Scott of 1312 13th St. NW. "I like my tent and the people that are in it. I made six crew friends (in the tent). They like to play a lot of games. It ain't gonna be fun when I have to leave."
"I like it cause it's fun," said Melissa Scott, 9, of 1737 Montana Ave. NE. "Crabbing, the beach, and arts and crafts. I'd be staying home and crying if I couldn't go to camp."
While camp offers a one-week escape from the city for the campers, counselors got a five-week furlough from their regular routines.
"I had a job in the city working in the media center at Washington Tech," said the 21-year-old Kelly of 2208 1st St. NW, One of the camp's 17 counselors. "It's like a vacation here, plus I enjoy working with kids. I get away from all the noise in the city, all the pollution."
Also reaping the benefits of rural Maryland for the entire 10 weeks were eight Youth Conservation Corps members, who put in eight-hour days at or just above the minimum wage for manual labor around the camp.
Camp sessions started on Monday mornings when the prospective campers were picked up at 10 o'clock at Randall Junior High SchooL, 1st and 1 Sts. SW. There was no charge to campers, though they were required to take a city-provided physical at least 10 days before the beginning of the camp session. Each child was limited to one week at camp per summer. The campers returned home on Saturday.
Activities include sports, swimming, hiking, arts and crafts, song fests and movies.
"We try to provide a wholesome and enriching experience for the kids of the inner city . . . kids who cannot afford to go to camp. But we don't turn anybody away," said girls' coordinator Katherine Johnson. "Most of them like crabbing because they get to eat the crabs (prepared by local cooks). That's one thing. They get good food and plenty of it."
The campsite was once part of the adjacent Metropolitan Police Boys Camp, and it was operated as a camp for blacks. But when integration was ordered in the mid-1950's, the MPBC confined itself to its present site, and in 1969 the District bought the tract.
The city has allocated $2.3 million to build a permanent campsite, including a swimming pool and athletic fields, said Ernie Bell, camp director and boys coordinator since 1972. When this work is completed, Bell estimated the capacity of the camp would increase from the present 150 to 300.
Bell said the camp operates on an $80,000 yearly budget.
Not everybody, however, was happy at Camp Scotland. "I don't like this camp," said 7-year-old Ponji Green of 1293 Brentwood Rd. NE. "They make the sun come out and get in people's eyes. I'd rather go to the beach or something."