Sunday Madness

Sunday Madness

Camp Ondessonk Gate Spring Sunday Madness

By Pati Egan

A long line of hot cars lined up from Camp’s inner gate to Ozark…parents arriving at 7:00 am to make sure their child was first in line…this was all a Sunday ritual until 1988. In 1988, Camp started letting campers pick his/her unit ahead of time on the registration form. This was not done in the past because it was felt that the school’s students visited first had a huge advantage if units were picked on the registration form.

A long wait in the hot sun. Camp Director Gene Canavan welcoming the campers.

Campers were given a sticker with a number on it that they had to wear. This sticker indicated when they could register. Almost all of the registration took place in the (Original) Administration Building. It started at 11:00 am with a welcome from the director.

The Unit Leader would introduce him/herself from the porch and “sell” the unit to potential campers. A lot of camper recruitment happened during this short introduction.

The campers did not pay for anything except the registration deposit ahead of time. For some reason, the fee would end in a 9.

Campers could sign up for one or two weeks, but unit selection was not offered.

So, the hot, sweaty campers, clutching their money, slowly advanced from outside the Administration Building to the inside—this is where the real action began.

The Administration Building

Inside the Administration Building, there were tables where campers paid their fee – no computers back then – just a single-spaced, alphabetical-order list of all 500 campers. They could also pay for insurance (if they wanted it) and their unit shirt. Next stop – buy your credit cards at one of the inside tables. The campers would then pick their unit and head to the Trading Post.

If this all got to be a bit much, and your number was 300+, a really good smorgasbord was available in the (Original) Dining Hall. It featured lots of salads, vegetables, roast beef, ham, fried chicken, fresh fruits, and desserts all prepared by five or six cooks.

The smorgasbord was very popular with the staff and two-week campers.

Off to the Trading Post to get your unit shirt. You may get one that fit or you may not. Camp ordered seconds from companies and some shirts were very odd. Some were very cool, though. The striped shirts were a big hit!

Sunday Madness Camp Ondessonk Vintage Unit Shirts

Next stop – up the hill to the Infirmary (Health Center), where the camper turned in their health form.

Now you headed to your unit – if Mom or Dad drove the camper down, they would help the camper take all of their luggage – no luggage haul in those days! The bus campers had no one to help! Most Chicago campers were coming for two weeks – that was a lot of luggage to carry to Raganeau!

Finally, the campers met their Unit Leader and moved into a cabin. They quickly changed into their swimsuits and headed for the lake to take their swim test. No time to change! Head next to the stables to get a little horse intro from the stable crew.

Once all of these tasks were completed, campers would head back to their unit and finish moving in.

The two-week campers had a parade through the main area on Sunday. This kept them occupied while the new one-week campers registered. Two-week campers also earned money being “guides and luggage carriers” for the campers coming in.

Sunday Madness - Camp Ondessonk Campers during inspection vintage

The efficiency of today’s registration process is a great help to the camper and the parent. It has been tweaked throughout the years to be the least stressful event of the Summer.

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