In July of the year 2023, as I sit across the gravel road at my house, 308 boys are singing at the top of their lungs in an open air gym. There are no smart phones anywhere. The only device in sight is an old overhead projector displaying lyrics on a large screen, slightly dirty and almost in focus. They are singing “little river, here we come” and “won’t you stay on the mountain for the summer . . .”, not a care in the world what anyone might think about them if it was posted on social media. A host of college students, counselors, 19 and 20 year olds, are leading on guitars, banjos, a cajon box drum. They are cool. And talented. And play with abandon. 70 of these guys will represent Alpine to your boys for the next 25 days.
Thank you for dropping your sons off at camp today. Welcome to Second Term, our 64th welcome for this term, high atop Lookout Mountain. I’m Glenn Breazeale. My wife, Carter, and I are 2nd generation camp directors. I’m a 2nd generation camper, having followed my dad who camped here in the early 60’s. Today, included among the 308 campers, was my nephew, a 3rd generation in my family. We have quite a few 3rd generation campers this term. Then again, we have a large number who set foot on this ground for the first time, and the first in their family. Boys are here from 14 different states, the District of Columbia, and 3 foreign countries.
At noon today, after check-in and unpacking completed, we met in the gym as a camp. Carter and I welcomed the boys. We reminded them that no matter how long they’ve been here or where they are from, they are now part of the Alpine family. We like for them to hear from us what Alpine is all about. So we talk about camp being a safe place to be yourself. And that it’s not a place that condones boys picking on each other or bullying. We do acknowledge that it can be hard to live in close quarters with 8 or 10 guys for 25 days. That’s where the counselors come in and we encourage campers to seek help and input from their counselors. In fact, I emphasize that we want campers to speak up to an adult if anything is bothering them - we want to help make this a great experience for them. And we talk about a few healthy habits for community living to keep them out in camp having fun instead of in the Infirmary.
I also mentioned that it’s perfectly normal if they are feeling a bit homesick these first few days. We all will in different ways. It means there is something back home to miss. The best “medicine” is to tell someone and talk about it. I also introduced my dogs, Camper and Scout, who camp running on cue when they heard their name. They are the other secret medicine for homesickness!
Lunch arrived just in the nick of time. Opening Day lunch at Alpine has been a tradition for as long as I’ve been here, the late 80’s as a camper. Homemade chicken and dumplings serve as the centerpiece. The made from scratch silver dollar biscuits are a close second. Mrs. Gail, our longtime kitchen head, told me afterwards that we ate every single bit of chicken and biscuits. Green peas and corn off the cob round it out, along with a green salad and diced tomatoes. We sit at assigned tables, 10 campers of the same age, and 2 counselors. We eat family style served ably by our high school kitchen boys.
Rain held off all afternoon even though we were threatened a few times with typical afternoon thunder showers around us. The good news is that we got plenty of rain in June to boost Little River to near perfect swimming conditions for the next few weeks.
This afternoon boys signed up for activities by age group, led by our Program Director, Roderick Russ. Roderick has been doing this a long time. He’s a teacher at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, husband to Tricia, and father to 5 wonderful kids (all 3 of his boys having camped at Alpine). Roderick oversees our activities and generally plans the program for the term. We have some fun new ideas in store for this term that I look forward to reporting. Over the winter all of our program directors and full time staff meet for a weekend of brainstorming about how to make camp better. We dream up all kinds of fun and crazy ideas and we try out the most solid in the summer.
Tomorrow we dive in to our first 5 activities of the term. If there’s one thing we know about boys it’s this - the sooner we can get them active and the sooner we can get them on a routine schedule, the better. Activity and routine facilitate friendships, lessen homesickness, and are way more fun than listening to Roderick and me talk.
Thanks for reading and good night for now, Glenn