Friday August 6 – Sunday August 8
The feeling starts when you see the green sign pointing to the way from the highway. The Kennaway/East Bay Road winds and curves in a still – familiar path through the woods. Always a new hole in the asphalt or in the woods to the left or right, but it’s still that same old road: the one that brings busloads of kids back and forth on Saturdays. The one that winds just a little more when it brings staffers back from town after a night at the Molou. The one that winds more still for the unfortunate identity thieves who are returning from Parade Night at the “curling rink”.
The big log gates aren’t there anymore to welcome us to “luxury in the wilderness”, but we feel welcome just the same. The parking lot is still packed with cars, the M.O.K.s pickup is still scooting past with garbage and a couple of really messy kids in the bed, and the distant yet pervasive sound of a 9.9 on a lake run still provides the soundtrack.
This is the weekend that many former staff look forward to the most – the chance to go back to where we learned so much, met so many friends and spent what are very likely to remain the best summers of our lives. The crown jewel of HSR Staff Alumni Association events, the annual Alumni Weekend gives us the opportunity to recapture that magic, even if it is in a sort of “Who – Live at Casino Rama” kind of way.
We arrive with just enough light left to throw up a tent, and just enough time to head down to Smokey Hollow for the campfire (or at least a camplightbulb in drier years). There we are treated to modern interpretations of the Japanese Submarine and Big Jerk skits and songs that beg the questions of what one’s best option is for dealing with Drunken Sailors, and what precisely was wrong with Father Abraham’s Seven Sons.
This sets the tone for an always-too-short weekend where former staff members join the current ones to enjoy a few meals, swap some stories, go for a swim and play a little Cricket at the Second Happiest Place on Earth (we all know the truth, but why risk lawsuits…).
Forecast for Twister Point: 13oC and drizzle.
During this past winter, your HSR Alumni Association Executive began planning a different sort of weekend, recognizing that many things have changed over the years, and hoping to interact a little more with today’s staff members while allowing them to conduct the business of the camp smoothly. Initial suggestions of re-enactments of the classic naval Battles of Mud Bay were quickly voted down, as gasoline prices were at an all-time high, and there was no guarantee that the kitchen would be left unattended long enough to stockpile the necessary ordnance (potatoes, stale bread and fruit).
Instead, in order to stay out of the way during the hectic Saturday changeover, the Alumni gathered at Twister Point for a gigantic fire (to which Twister Point is no stranger) and a few burgers and dogs (ibid.). Some generous soul also provided a 3-litre bottle of Faygo, not realizing that this is a beverage not to be experimented with. Ever. The Alumni in attendance got a little reminder of what it was like to be on one of HSR’s campsites, preparing a meal on an unnecessarily cold and damp Saturday afternoon. We felt kinship with the poor kids who decided to do some camping during this, the Worst Summer Ever.
The Hub and Cub
There was a time when the alumni could retire to the guest sites, build a fire and pull frosty adults-only soda pops out of coolers, sing Cat Stevens songs and reminisce about RCBs and Wozzles that may or may not have involved some degree of actual criminal activity. Those days are gone, and maybe it’s just as well.
Having spent a couple of Alumni Weekend Saturdays at the Wilberforce Legion, your Alumni Executive determined that leaving camp in search of two-dollar beers was not really the intent of the weekend. We wanted a little more quality time with the staff, in a social atmosphere that would be a little out of the ordinary for those doing longer sentences at HSR. It was therefore decided to set up a “pub” that would welcome everyone, with plenty of family – oriented beverages and pub-style snacks that might not be on the regular menu. A stage was also set up by Alumni hepcat Warner Clarke, who brought his gear and bass-playing wife Beth for some sweet open-mc jams.
Serving mocktails with HSR-appropriate names like Gough Syrup and Buck Island Iced Tea, the Hub and Cub also featured traditional pub fare such as chicken wings, potato skins, deep fried cheese – all of the things that keep cardiac surgeons up to date on their yacht payments. Musical alumni and staff members kept a packed house entertained well into the wee hours with skilful renditions of classics by the Eagles, Pink Floyd and Neil Young, as well as some newfangled stuff that the kids are listening to these days.
A good time was had by all at the Hub and Cub. Perhaps smoke and alcohol free pubs have a future after all…
Brunch at the Snack Shack
There is something to be said for waking up the morning after a fine pub night without the taste of a mouth full of wool soaked in tree sap and the sensation of a drill bit lodged in the brain. Recalling the past folly of volunteering in such condition to make Sunday breakfast for the staff, we also resolved to do our own brunch when we were damn good and ready. This would keep us out of the way and allow us to plan our strategy for the afternoon Cricket match. The sun shone brightly and warmly on us and our pancakes, more than making up for a typically terrible HSR Saturday.
It was there that we heard the news that a Scouter who arrived with his troop the previous day had passed away on site during the night. There was a great deal of reflection as we had our meal, many of us agreeing that if our time was up, HSR would be a more than acceptable last stop before moving on. Later, we learned of the respectful and dignified manner with which our young friends on staff responded to this sad event – a response we doubt any of them were prepared for, despite the old motto. We were certainly downhearted for the Scouter’s family and for the troop that could not have expected such a tragic start to their week, but also extremely proud to be associated with the HSR staff who upheld the Promise and the Law so brilliantly that day.
Showing our age? Comments like that ain’t cricket!
With a team made up almost exclusively of Daves (including the legendary Taylor, who has participated in every HSR Cricket match since its inception in 1983), the Alumni hoped to win the 2004 space on the trophy. Expectations were low, as the roster was not finalized until two minutes before the coin toss, and, as Shirley Whitwell (the Dave Taylor of the HSR kitchen) pointed out, many of us were “beginning to show our age”.
Anchored by the Googly Yorkers of bowler of Mark Burns, a surprising performance by young rookie Lori Anne “Dave” Donald and the defence of Kevin “Dave” Bell and Dave “Dave” Taylor, the Alumni quickly all-outed a staff team that featured Donald’s brother Shaun – a fine All Rounder – in their first innings.
In a long Alumni at-bat, monstrous numbers were posted, as the staff defence was quite powerless against the onslaught of wood shots, clever running tactics and distractions provided by Bell’s running re-enactment of Simpsons episodes. In the end, the staff team had to concede the game, as they knew there was not enough daylight to catch the mighty 2004 Alumni team. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number, Shirley!
The final score: Alumni: A Lot, Staff: Not So Much.
High Tea and High Tailin’
As always, the joy of winning the match was tempered by the melancholy of knowing that we had to leave again for another year. Before we did, we were treated to the traditional and always delicious high tea back at the Hub. Crudites, little crustless sandwiches, and scones with whipped cream and jam washed down with the finest Earl Grey were laid out to ensure that our long journey back to real life would at least be made on a full stomach.
As the sun went down, we climbed into our cars and set out on the long and winding dirt road as we replayed the weekend in our heads with freshened memories of our own time there. We would like to thank all of the Alumni for coming up and helping out, and the staff for being so welcoming, and for reminding us of why it is that we are already looking forward to the same time next year.