Thursday, June 30, 2016

I kissed a girl at Camp Lubogi

The Lutheran Church's Walther League managed a summer camp called Camp Lubogi, located in Fremont, Nebraska, which was about 70 miles northeast from Seward. The name "Lubogi" was an acronym formed from the expression "Lutheran Boys and Girls". The camp hosted children from fifth through eighth grades from Nebraska and its surrounding states.

An article about Camp Lubogi in
The Lincoln Evening Journal,
dated July 27, 1958 
Until the Walther League was disbanded in 1977, it was a large organization that organized social events for Lutheran young people. The ultimate intention was that Lutheran young people would meet, fall in love, get married, and give birth to and raise more Lutheran children.

Walther League events brought my parents together -- and also my aunt Alice and uncle Abbie -- and my godmother Marion and her husband Hal. Probably a large portion of my Sylwester and Maier relatives of that generation met at Walther League events.

Fremont is located along Nebraska's Platte River, at  the Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area (also known as "the State Lakes"). That area includes 20 man-made tree-lined lakes which cover nearly 700 acres. At one lake, the Walther League owned or rented the Camp Lubogi site, which included several dormitories, a kitchen-dining hall, and an activity building.

Camp Lubogi could accommodate at least 70 children, plus a staff of counselors, cooks, secretaries and administrators. In my memory, there were about a half-dozen dormitories, which were one-story, wooden buildings, and a kitchen-dining hall and an activities building.

An article about Camp Lubogi in
The Lincoln Star, dated July 21, 1951
Each summer, Camp Lubogi hosted two sessions, each of which lasted two weeks. I found one old newspaper article reporting that Camp Lubogi began its first session on July 21. I found another article reporting that the last session ended about August 13. So, the camp had one session during about the last two weeks of July and a second session during about the first two weeks of August.

An article mentioning Camp Lubog in
The Belleville Telescope, dated August 13, 1953
I attended Camp Lubogi in the summer between the seventh and eighth grades -- in the summer of 1965. I was considered to be in eighth grade in relation to the statement that Camp Lubogi was "for children from fifth to eighth grades."

I was able to attend Camp Lubogi for free, because I had scored highest in my class on a standardized test. Without that award, I would have attended only the "Sylwester Summer Camp", which meant playing at our home.

Also attending for free was the our class's highest scoring girl, Sue Curtis.

Susan Curtis in eighth grade
Several of our classmates were able to attend because their families paid the camp's fees. Remarkably, Sue and I attended one of the summer sessions, and all the other classmates attended the other session. I think that Sue and I each decided independently that we preferred to attend without our other classmates.

My reason for choosing to attend the session that most of my classmates did not attend was that I intended to try to get a girlfriend there. If a lot of my St. John classmates were present, I would act just my normal, class-clown self  and be too inhibited by girls. My fantasy -- "get a girlfriend" -- was merely to experience a puppy-love romance, perhaps consummated by a kiss on the last evening.

As it turned out, I did fall in love with a girl and did kiss her on my last evening at Camp Lubogi. Neither my love nor my kiss were reciprocated by the girl, but I enjoyed my experience. Now I will tell the story.

When I was informed that Sue Curtis would attend my session at Camp Lubogi, I considered the possibility that she might be the girlfriend whom I might get there. Sue was my second crush at St. John.

My first crush was Jeanette Tonniges.

Jeanette Tonniges in eighth grade
I vividly remember one day, in seventh grade, when Jeanette was standing in front of our class and reading a book report that she had written. Suddenly for the first time in my life, I felt the attraction of female beauty. At that moment when some puberty hormone began seeping into my brain, I happened to be looking at Jeannette. My crush did not last more than a couple weeks, however, because Jeanette was much taller than me.

Soon, still in the seventh grade, I moved on to my second crush, Sue Curtis. A primary reason why I liked her was that she had dark skin, like me. Every fall when school began, she and I had the darkest tans in our class. I figured that if she and I ever married and had children, they they all would be very dark-skinned.

Another reason why I liked Sue was that I appreciated her poetry talents. Whenever our class was assigned to write poems, I would long poems that tried to be funny. My poems were doggerel. When Sue her own poems to the class, however, I recognized that she was quite talented. Her poems had real rhythm and rhyme and expressed intelligent thoughts. She was a very smart girl.

Sue's father, Paul Curtis, offered to give me a ride to Camp Lubogi, so I found myself sitting in a car with Sue for a more than an hour during the drive there. Mr. Curtis talked with me a lot -- he was a jolly conversationalist -- but Sue said little. As soon as we reached the camp, she immediately went off to become acquainted with the other girls there. She and I did not talk at all during the two weeks.

Ignored by Sue, I would have to get some other girlfriend at Camp Lubogi.

Camp Lubogi was for children in fifth through eighth grades I was considered to be an eighth-grader, because I had graduated from seventh grade. The older two grades predominated in numbers. If, say, 70 children were there, then more than 40 of them were seventh- and eighth-graders -- and half of them were potential girlfriends for me.

The camp's activities caused a lot of interaction. We played volleyball, went on hikes, swam in the lake, roasted marshmallows and told ghost stories at a bonfire, and so forth. We participated also in religious activities -- devotional services, Bible discussions, hymn singing, etc. -- every day. I enjoyed my two weeks there.

Within the first couple of days, I began focusing on a seventh-grade girl. She was a little shorter than me, was pretty and had black hair and squinty eyes. I have forgotten her real name, but we boys nicknamed her "Tex" because of her squinty eyes. Probably it was I who thought up that nickname, because I thought she looked like a Texas cowgirl. The nickname caught on among the boys, who assigned nicknames to many of the girls.

Tex actually lived in York, Nebraska, which had a Lutheran elementary school. My flirting with her was limited to calling her Tex frequently and asking her questions about Texas. She figured out that I paid special attention to her, and she felt just annoyed by me.

One remarkable thing about Tex was her swim suit, which I saw her wear at the camp's lake. I loved to swim and dive, and I spent a couple of hours there every day. Whenever Tex was there, I would show off by doing back-flips and other tricky dives. Tex wore a black one-piece swim suit that looked like a bikini, because the top and bottom were joined by a mesh midriff. That was a daring swimsuit for a Nebraska girl to wear in 1965. We boys agreed that it was the sexiest swimsuit at Camp Lubogi. The swimsuit looked something like this -- maybe even with such a the middle band. In those days, female swimsuits usually had a short skirt around the hips, to cover the crotch.

If the model were younger and had blacker hair and squinty eyes, then she would look something like Tex.

Eventually we Lubogi kids reached our last evening at Camp Lubogi. Strange as it might seem, this Lutheran camp had a tradition that the older boys and girls would play spin-the-bottle during our final party. The youth counselors carried on this tradition from summer to summer. I suppose that this tradition had begun at Walther League summer camps for college-age Lutherans and somehow had descended to seventh- and eighth-graders at Camp Lubogi.

The final party featured a series of party games that culminated in spin-the-bottle. The younger kids were sent to bed, and we older kids remained and sat in a circle. Everyone in the circle took one turn spinning the bottle. If the bottle ultimately pointed toward an opposite-sex person, then the spinner kissed that person on the cheek. When everyone in the circle had taken one turn, the game ended.

A miracle occurred. When I took my turn, I spun the bottle hard enough that it spun around many times. When the bottle stopped spinning, it pointed toward Tex. The people who had figured out that I had a crush on Tex howled with laughter -- with one exception. Tex herself stood up and screamed as loud and she could, and she kept screaming while I walked across the circle to kiss her cheek. After I kissed her cheek, she kept screaming for quite a while.

I felt humiliated by her screaming, but I still enjoyed kissing her cheek. I felt very happy. This experience at Camp Lubogi confirmed my Lutheran belief that there is a loving God who sometimes performs miracles for sincere believers who pray to Him.

During the following autumn, the York High School football team came to Seward to play against our Seward High School football team. As a Concordia kid, I never went to our town's public-school games, but I did go alone to this game, hoping to see Tex. I expected that she would not be there, because she attended York's Lutheran school, but I was willing to spend the time for any chance at all.

Another miracle occurred. Tex had come to watch the game, and I saw her there. I admired how pretty she still looked. In fact, she had grown even prettier. I watched her until she had separated herself from her group of fellow fans, and then I walked up to her and greeted her by the name "Tex". I asked why she had come to the game in Seward. She answered that she came with friends and that she intended to attend the public high school in York after she graduated from eighth grade. Our conversation lasted about 15 seconds, and then she turned around and re-joined her York friends. She obviously did not want to talk with me any more, so I left the game and went home. I was disappointed, but I was glad that I saw her again.

No comments:

Post a Comment