Friday, July 17, 2009

Memories of Camp Koinonia in the 1970's

Last July, I wrote a series of three posts on my experiences working at a summer camp on Max Lake near Boissevain, Manitoba. ( Part one, part two, part three ) I loved spending time at Camp Koinonia. It was a peaceful place to spend time with Mother Nature and get to know interesting new people.

Most of the work that I did there was as an assistant cook. There was no air conditioning, so it could get rather hot in that kitchen from time to time. We tried to plan our menus with the weather in mind, but it didn't always work in our favour. We were lucky, though that a lot of our food prep could be done in the early morning - before it started to get too hot. The kitchen staff was usually able to take a couple of hours off in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.

One of the things that I remember about the cooking is that we had a HUGE cauldron like pot that we could cook with over an outdoor fire pit. We used it at least a couple of times a week for popping corn for a campfire snack or to cook a one pot meal. I recall taking turns stirring chili, sloppy jo's or something called "Koinonia Special".

"Koinonia Special" was similar to a chili, with ground beef, onions and spices, but instead of beans and tomato sauce, it had canned vegetable soup, canned spaghetti and beans of some kind - kidney I think. I know it sounds a little weird and even a bit disgusting, but it actually tasted pretty good once it had simmered for awhile and all the spices were added! I don't recall the whole recipe and it has been about 25 years since I even made a small batch let alone enough to feed 60 - 70 people! I'm not really sure how the recipe even came to be, but my guess is that someone had to get creative when they were running low on supplies. You improvise and do the best you can with what you have. Sometimes it works out really well and becomes a favourite! I know the campers always enjoyed it and there was never any left overs!

Going out in a canoe was something I always enjoyed as long as the water wasn't too rough. There is something very tranquil about dipping your paddle silently through a glass like surface of water. Singing was often a part of the fun on the water. It was a wonderful way to hear the harmonies of a few voices echo off the water. One of the songs that I remember singing was called "The Sweetest Song" When we sang this on the lake, we would switch the word mountain to water. It was really beautiful in three part harmony! I don't know who wrote this song, but here are the words as I had them written from long, long ago!


The sweetest song we ever sang
Out across the mountains rang
Peace on Earth, good will to man
The sweetest song of all

Love is a mighty thing,
Yet it's such a very simple thing
The joy and happiness it brings
For you and me and all

Peace is a rainbow thing
Hallelujahs let us sing
All the colours join and bring
The white dove on the wing

Help dry a child's tears
And calm a frightened strangers fears
Make this my purpose through the years
To love my brother's all
In the second post that I wrote last year, I talked about the time that we had our campfire on the water. Here is what I said:

"My all time favourite camp fire happened the summer of '77. Some of the staff rigged up a tin metal platform on a pontoon. They attached wire handles to the sides and then hooked long ropes on the handles. On top of it they built up a large amount of wood for the campfire. Just before sunset, all the staff and campers gathered at the canoe dock. We all put on life jackets and I think there were about two staff and two campers/canoe. About 14 or 15 canoes in total if I recall. We paddled out onto the lake and then proceeded to rope all the canoes end to end in a large circle. The log laden pontoon was positioned in the middle and the long ropes reached back to the canoes so we could constantly adjust it's position in the middle of the lake. Before the last boat tied in to the circle, they paddled in to light the campfire.

We sang for over an hour that night as we all oowed and awed at the spectacular effects of the fire on water! The sounds of our harmonious voices were also reflected off the crystal calm water. It really was one of the most memorable nights of my life."

I found an old photo of that night and here is what it looked like from the canoe that I was in:
Oh what memories! Sometimes I wish I was that young again - or at least that I had the opportunities to go out and enjoy nature the way I used to. I miss the peacefulness of the early morning, the quiet contemplation of a walk through the trees, the gentle lapping of the water along the dock or against the canoe.

Most of all I miss the late night singing and companionship by a campfire. Somehow it was easier to let yourself go and be really honest as the burning logs crackle, the flames flicker and dance in the dark, then gradually become glowing embers. No matter how you had spent the day, you just felt relaxed and at peace with everything in your little corner of the world.

"Fire’s burning fire’s burning
draw nearer draw nearer
in the glowing in the glowing
come sing and be merry."


1 comment:

Chawezi Nyirenda said...

This is the only place on the internet that I've found the words to this song "the sweetest song of all"
I couldn't remember who sang it, and I could only remember the chorus.
My dad had it on one of his old vinyl records, and I'd love to find a recording of it (record since destroyed)
Many blessings!