Friday, June 29, 2007

Camp Pine Ridge

At the age of eight in 1968 I attended a Christian summer camp called Camp Pine Ridge in Rumney, New Hampshire. I happened to be thinking about it and found that they now have a Web site, and a place for alumni to send greetings and memories. Here's the friendly message I sent:

Let's take a walk down memory lane shall we? I was a camper at Camp Pine Ridge nearly forty years ago. Besides spending most of my time unsupervised and nearly drowning in the pool, my most vivid memories are of being physically abused by the counselors.

They called it "The Stairs". A minor infraction (name calling in my case) earned you some number of runs up and down the long set of log stairs outside, next to the chapel I think it was.

I was to run as fast as I could up and down the stairs thirty times (in my case). Assisting me were two brutes at the top and bottom with broom sticks and a few evenly spaced fellows along the stairs with ping pong paddles. I think you can guess what their task was - no, not just to yell encouragement for me to run faster – my bottom was black and blue for weeks. I was crying and exhausted. And terrified, I was pleading apologies for my sin; I was sure this was a precursor to an eternity in Hell. I was eight years old.

But I got off relatively easy. Another poor boy got fifty stairs and I witnessed him falling half way down the stairs. I clearly recall his bloody knees and elbows, and pine needles sticking into his lips. Drooling, coughing, and crying, his callow eyes begged for leniency. Yet he continued to receive enthusiastic encouragement from the merciless counselors.

It was this same hapless fellow, perhaps nine years old, who I saw being publicly berated in chapel by the minister for wearing shorts on Sunday - he'd apparently run out of clean clothes. The unfortunate boy must have been staying there for multiple weeks. I thankfully got out in one.

The day before going home the alpha counselor informed us that the parents of all those who had received punishment (The Stairs) were going to be told of our transgressions. I was panic stricken and prayed vigorously for forgiveness and protection.

Of course they didn't follow through. In retrospect this was obviously a transparent attempt at inciting fear and promoting silence to conceal their actions. It was successful; I was greatly relieved that my parents didn't know, and I never told them.

What a silly, sadistic, and hateful religion you practice. Like all religion, it is man made and morally bankrupt. You understand this better than you might admit – for you are an atheist relative to all the other religions of the world – I just go one religion further.

You should be ashamed of yourselves. Though you still support the indoctrination of religion into children, they who lack the cognitive abilities to rationally evaluate the ideas you preach (a revolting practice, indeed a form of child abuse), I trust these physical abuses wouldn't fly now. But I hope you do feel an obligation to contemplate this and to seek out more information on your disgraceful history and heritage.

3 Comments:

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Rachael-Dawn said...

Wow. Good for you for writing this. Poignant and powerfully written -- I can't help wondering if they'll write you back, or even finish reading the email.

You inspired me to look up my childhood summer camp: they do have a website, as does the fundamentalist church I attended.

There's no physical abuse in my church history but there's no doubt that the psychological abuse made for some of those shenanigans that I still have to deal with today.

I've always wanted to do something about that. There's no invitation for alumni, but maybe I'll try writing anyway.

 
At 5:21 AM, Blogger James said...

Hi there,

I am acting on behalf of Sylvester Stein: an 87-year old master athlete still competing. I always enjoy reading your blog, even if you're a fair bit younger than Sylvester, who I usually work with! I was wondering if you'd mind linking back to our blog, "Born on Christmas Day" (http://www.pponline.co.uk/blog). He’s quite new to all this online running community, but would like to feel more involved!

Sylvester also founded the PeakPeformance (pponline.co.uk) website, which has a strong tie with your own fitness and sport interests. Do get back to me.

Best,

James

 
At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow ! I am now 61 years old . When I was 7 - 13 yrs I also was sent to Camp Pine Ridge. My parents had a summer place just the other side of the mountain from the camp. My father was abusive in a mental way and this was his way of making sure I didn't interupt his summer at his cabin. Sure, I remember that freezing cold pool and I remember being marched down to that outdoor bible church every Sunday morning. I also remember the trips to Baker River and the mud slinging games we would play. I think most of all I remember how the older counselers at the camp scared me. Spit on me , pushed me down , made me there joke. Terrible memories for year in and year out at that place. I tried to run away when I was 12 so I hiked over the mountain and found my parents cabin. My father was so angry and promptly took me back to camp. It seems like you were not the only one tortured at Camp Pine Ridge. Bad memnories haunt me even today from that place. I had the opportunity to revisit the camp about 10 years ago . It is nothing but a ghost camp with old rusty metal spring beds and mattress's piled high in the old cottages we slept in as youth. i was glad it was no longer functioning .

 

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