Memories Of Horseplay And Camaraderie At Camp As a kid, Weekend Edition host Scott Simon spent many of his summers with the same group of guys at Camp Indianola in Wisconsin. At a time when 12-year-old boys were wondering how to be men, camp counselor Neil Cohen of Centralia, Ill., gave them the best possible example.
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Memories Of Horseplay And Camaraderie At Camp

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Memories Of Horseplay And Camaraderie At Camp

Memories Of Horseplay And Camaraderie At Camp

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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Shea, thanks very much for being with us.

SHEA SHACKELFORD: Okay, thanks for having me.

SIMON: And give us a kind of sneak preview of what we can expect.

SHACKELFORD: We've designed this project as a place where people can share their memories about the places that were once important to them. So we'll be running the series over the summer on the radio. And in tandem with that will be a Web site, aplaceinmemory.com, where, well, basically you'll a map. And if you've got places in mind that you're remembering that were once important to you that aren't there anymore, you can stick a pin in the map and essentially put a placeholder for that spot, tell us a little bit about the place and start adding your own stories, your own photos, your own videos or pictures or whatever you've got.

SIMON: You've had a fair amount of responses so far, haven't you?

SHACKELFORD: We have.

SIMON: Anything you can share?

SHACKELFORD: Sure. Well, actually, this was the first message that that we got, which I thought was an auspices beginning. You want to hear it?

SIMON: Yeah, please.

SHACKELFORD: Great.

LESLIE MANDY: And we would gallop our horses, and you could see their breath coming out, and you hear the rhythm of the breathing, and going, heh, heh, heh, heh. That's the heh sound of a horse galloping successfully.

SIMON: What an extraordinary recollection. Shea, we look forward to hearing these stories in the coming months. Thanks for being with us.

SHACKELFORD: Thank you.

SIMON: You know, Shea, I've got my own place...

SHACKELFORD: Oh, really?

SIMON: Camp Indianola, Madison, Wisconsin. Hundreds of boys, scores of cabins and counselors spending eight weeks of summer along the shores of dulcet Lake Mendota swimming, splashing. Cue the crickets here.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRICKETS)

SIMON: Making lanyards, playing baseball, singing camp songs, and telling some of the crudest, most appalling jokes you've ever heard. Bring those crickets up full.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRICKETS)

SIMON: Thanks very much for being with us.

NEIL COHEN: What a pleasure it is. And I'm glad you finally have gotten my name correct. Captain Neil is correct.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Stuey?

STUART COHN: Yes, Scott?

SIMON: All of the activities that were there at Camp Indianola, do you remember them nearly as much as you remember just nonsense in the cabin?

COHN: I really remember the camaraderie most. There were very few amenities. I'm appalled to think that row toilets without dividers didn't bother me at that stage in my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COHN: And I would say this if Captain Neil were not on the line here. But these camps, I've had involvement with summer camps with our children over the years in Indianola, all of these camps - is you can have a great physical plant, nice group of kids, great program, but if you don't have a really dynamite staff, you don't have much of a camp. And that's really what made it a great time of life for us, was just the quality of the staff was the heart and soul of the camp for me in my memories.

SIMON: Yeah. Captain Neil, were we a bunch of schmucks?

COHEN: No. No. No. No. You were, you were...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COHEN: ...good kids, smart kids, not a bunch of schmucks at all. I remember one camper in particular, his name was Scott Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Yeah.

COHEN: At the age of 12, and your listeners may be interested in this, had written a political novel, and was working on it that very summer. And I had read part of it and it was phenomenally good for a 12-year-older.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Well thank you. Nice of you to say that. Like on Sunday nights, there'd some kind of counsel fire, right?

COHN: Yes, there would be. Yeah.

SIMON: We sang and people told stories. That sort of thing.

COHN: Yeah.

SIMON: I mean I'm trying to remember some of those. There was something about the, was it the Russian song - I'm Lenin, you're Trotsky, the Russian diplomatski?

COHN: (Singing) We have overthrown away the czar.

SIMON: (Singing) Now we are the conqueror.

COHN: (Singing) Ohaio, haio, haio. I'm Lenin, you're Trots, we're the Russian diplomat.

SIMON: (Singing) Now we are the conqueror, ohaio, haio, haio. I'm Lenin, you are Trots, we're the Russian diplomat.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Captain Neil, I would find this conversation incomplete if I didn't tell you how important you were to us.

COHEN: You know, thank you.

SIMON: You meant a lot to us. I think for people like me and Stuey, you came along at just the right time for us. And I must say, the choices we've made in life or the courses we've taken, you know, they're not immaterial to the example that you provided us. Did we do anything for you?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COHEN: Not much. You sort of interfered with my social life.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COHEN: Your help provided me with a wonderful summer, and indeed several years later I came back to Indianola and had another lovely experience but not the same quality or kind that I did with the you and Stu in that cabin.

SIMON: Oh, Stu, I guess, what, we'd been thrown out at that point when Neil came back?

COHN: I think we were persona non grata. I also - Scott, you may have left out one line on Captain Neil's resume which made the deepest impression on me. As I recall, you had a pro-bowl contract as a catcher.

SIMON: That's right.

COHEN: There was a time when I could squat and throw.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COHN: Very Impressive.

SIMON: Well, gentleman, it's been wonderful getting together with both of you. Thanks so much.

COHN: Great. Thank you very much.

COHEN: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Stu, do you think we can muster of one chorus of "Camp Indianola"?

COHN: Oh, absolutely.

SIMON: All right. If you want to join in, Captain Neil, it's fine with us.

COHEN: Well, thank you.

COHN: (Singing) (Unintelligible) Camp Indianola (unintelligible) skies of blue, as the years pass we'll all remember, our days here are too few, and as night shades fall we'll hear the beagles call, and we'll give all to be with you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Saved by the band. Place and Memory part of this summer's Maker's Quest series on NPR. It's a project of the Association of Independence in Radio. To add your stories to Place and Memory, to see pictures of me at Camp Indianola - oh, that's an incentive - come to npr.org/quest.

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