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Yesteryear with Marcia Daab

Every fall for the past dozen or so years, Marcia “Crickett” Daab gathers for a weekend with a group of her camp friends from generations ago. They call themselves “senior campers.”

On Friday night, they build a sizable campfire out behind St. Noel and assemble foil burgers. 

“We throw them on the fire and sit there and jabber and sing until they’re done,” she said. 

On Saturday, they hike the classics, like Pakentuck and little split rock. When they get back, they have “a few quick cold ones,” enjoy each other’s company, and sing some more.

“The more the merrier, and the more off-key we could get, probably the funnier,” Daab said.

She’s 74 now and living in the St. Louis area.

Through the decades since she was a camper and counselor, she’s seen plenty of change, including the addition of Lake Echon and some new units.

“Physically it changed, but I don’t think the spirit ever changed, nor did the beauty of it,” she said.

Daab was born and raised in Dupo, Illinois. She learned about camp in junior high; after two years as a camper, she set her eyes on being a counselor.

She interviewed, and they hired her on as the boating instructor. 

“Did I know how to boat? No.” she joked. But she quickly learned. 

Daab spent her first summer as a counselor at Lalande, and her job included running up to the office and turning on the bugle tape. 

The next few summers after that, she was promoted to a unit leader and called Brebeuf home through the late 60s.

Her summers at camp ended as she went to college. Though she hadn’t necessarily planned on it, she ended up pursuing a career in education. Daab figures camp, with its “nature-based” teaching, had some influence on that. She’s now retired from Washington University in St, Louis, where she taught following a career as a grade, middle and high school teacher.

As a career educator, Marcia Daab looks back now on being in charge of a unit in the middle of the woods as a teenager.

While Daab said she always felt safe at camp, she also recognizes the considerable load of being a counselor. Most experiences were fun, but there were also difficult moments. 

Sometimes it was a camper who was miserably homesick, for example. 

“You had to dig deep, and go back in and say, well, if I was homesick like that, what would I be,” she said. “So it was all those decisions that just sort of made you grow up.” 

“We grew up there, you know, we made our mistakes and were stupid and young, but we had these mutual experiences and we had responsibility thrust on us.” 

Some campers were away from home for the first time. Others had troubles at home. Some were just there to have a great time. Whatever the case, camp allowed them to be themselves and to grow in that space.

“I’m just so happy that kids have a place to go that is like this,” she said. “Once you’re at camp, you know how and why it’s a special place.”

As for her nickname, “Crickett,” much like responsibility, it was thrust upon Daab her first summer on staff, after she imitated a cricket noise in the staff lounge. Decades later, she still answers to it.

By Anna Spoerre

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