Ah, good old Camp Multisyllabic. Days of home runs. Nights of bug spray. A time when mail call meant a loving letter from Mom, not a nasty reminder from Master Charge
But that was just the trouble. Summer camp was a child's paradise. "Color war" wouldn't do for anyone cultivating a career, or a family, or a bald spot.
Until last month. On the afternoon of july 8, a new chant bounced around the mountains near here. It Was: "The oranges hate the yellows!"
Color war had come to the Berkshires. Camp Carefree, "the adult summer camp, " as it calls itself, had been born.
Twenty-four campers turner up for each of Camp Carefree's first two weeks. They paid $300 per person and $550 per couple per week to roam the rented 360-acre campus of a school for disturbed children. What they each got -- beside some are-you-kidding looks from the children -- was seven days of total immersion in total reversion.
All the campers were adults (at least tey were people who inhabited mature bodies). Most wer singles who hadn't known each other previously. Most said they had come because camp was the most fun they had ever had as kids, and they wanted some more.
Indeed, if they ever redesign the Camp Carefree T-shirt, it should simply read "Enjoy!" from collarbone to navel. As Shari Kharasch, the 40-year-old founder, put it, "That's the idea. To be a kid again. To have fun again."
Carefree campers hardly lacked for ways to relieve those childhood years. The campers painted, sculpted, took photos, did yoga, paddled canoes, hit softballs, acted scenes, spiked volleyball and crafted macrame.
And all that was just in the designated activity periods. During free play, or the few minutes before meals, it was nothing to seem Ron Dressler, of Goldens Bridge, N.Y., trying to master the unicycle, or Natalie Kasday and Carol Trachtenberg, of New York City, playing pattycake.
Not to mention the zaniness of color war, a week-long team competition in which campers tossed raw eggs at each other until shirts were covered with yolks, and broke balloons by sitting on them.
"It is amazing," said Dave Miller of Arlington, Va., 'How easy it is to get into being 12 again."
It seemed especially easy for the Washingtonians at Carefree.
For example, Adam Maier, 29 a D.C. City Council staffer for three years until he quit lst month, said the was at Carefree "to recover from politics."
Still, Maier picked a rather political wy to prolong his convalescence. Having enrolled for a week as a Carefree camper, Maier loved it so much that he lobbied Kharasch into hiring him for a second week as a lifeguard. "I just neded a place as far removed from Washington reality as possible," Maier explained.
Shari Kharasch knows all about Washington reaility. She was head of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics during last fall's mayoral election. It went about as disastrously as it could have. Ballots got lost. Counting machines didn't work. It was a month of bad jokes before the results were official.
Kharasch finally resigned in an atmosphere of bitterness and cunicism. She had been quoted in 1976 as saying she would "rather go to jail than administer another election that didn't work." After the 1978 voting, instead of jail, she visited an old friend, Sharon Abramson. During a chat, the two women hit on the idea that became Camp Carefree.
"The main thing is that there wasn't this kind of camp," said Kharasch. "If there had been, I would have gone to it."
To get Carefree going, Kharasch went into partnership with her 19-year-old daughter, Stacie Teele, a New York actress. While Kharasch incorporated the camp and began placing ads up and down the East Coast, Teele recruited most of the counselors from the New York arts community.
Kharasch and her daughter will offer only three one-week sessions this frist summer (the next, and last, sesions is set for Aug. 12-18). Next year, they hooe to expand both the number of campers and the numbers of weeks.
"But maybe we won't mused Kharasch, as she sat crosslegged on the back steps of the camp mansion. "Maybe 20 or 25 is the right number of people. It's something we'll have to think about."
Lazing near the archery range one afternoon, Dave Miller of Arlington was thinking about only one thing: how soon he could come back to Carefree.
"Look at this hand," said the 35-yearold businessman. "This is the longest my fingernails have been in the six years I've lived in Washington. . .
"Hey, up here, I found I could sculpt clay. It blew me away, man!"
Camping Carefree has not, of course, been for everybody. One camper, admittedly in love with convenience, left within hours, or as soon as she found out the lake was half a mile's walk north.
Others evidently came with more in mind than a suntan.
A woman in the second week's group took one look at her fellow campers, sniffed out loud that there "aren't enough men," and got back on the bus.
The previous week, two Washingtonians, one of each sex, looked at each other across a tennis net, and something happened. How they are back home, where by all recent reports, a whole bunch of things are happening.
Cupid is decidedly not the guest of honor at Camp Carefree, however, Kharasch insists.
"This is a serious approach to a fun idea," she says. "We really want people to enjoy themselves around sports and classes, and we've organized everything so that that can happen."
In Carefree's formative stages, Kharash said, she and her daughter "knew we had to cut had clever idea. We just weren't sure it would attract people." For the camp to turn a profit. But waving her hand in the general direction of Philadelphia, Shari Kharasch said: "I know there are enough fun people out there that it can." CAPTION: Picture, Adults at Camp Carefree enjoy pleasures of summer camp. By Richard Green for The Washington Post