How West Warwick Kids ‘Did’ Summer:

 

camp ayoho now a campgroundCrompton ‘Free’ Library…Camp Ayoho…Vacation Bible School

She’d been really sweet—the reader, that is. Telling me I ‘made her smile,’ with my accounts appearing here, each Saturday

She said I stoked her own memories.

We chatted back and forth on one of West Warwick’s Facebook pages where I post these articles and she mentioned the Crompton Free Library (libraries are never ‘free’ to me; I always owe money for late books.)crompton library

But I digress.

Donnalee Garofalo is a woman who grew up in the same time period and part of town as I. That makes us kindred spirits.  And when she told me how she used to sit in a corner of the old library in Crompton (did it really have only 2 small rooms?), reading Nancy Drew Mysteries, she transported me back in time.

I was probably in another corner reading “Little Women” or “Five Little Peppers.”

I remember the pleasant smell of books in that library.

Now, psychologists say smell is the one sense of five that stays with us longest. A sudden whiff of a flower, perfume, or after-shave can blip us back to a familiar scene/person from long ago. How do I know? The men’s cologne, English Leather, transports me back to a Paul Newman look-alike guy I dated but never married, when I was in my 20’s (don’t tell my husband.)

Pungent day lilies remind me of too many funerals in my younger years.

Donna’s memory of the library prompted other recollections.

For instance, we kids all gathered, on summer mornings, in the small field outside the library, awaiting the bus to Camp Ayoho, in Coventry.

My two older brothers and I walked the mile from home to that field, to get the bus.

When we arrived at camp, girls and boys separated and went to two big tents where we stashed our towels, lunches, and changed into bathing suits.

Periodically, a few boys bent on mischief would sneak over to the girls’ tent, and lift up the canvas flaps, in hopes of catching us, unaware…and naked.

We’d howl our protests, until an adult intervened.

Recovering shattered dignity, we went down to the water where lifeguards taught us to swim. I learned wrong and continued to contort my neck from side to side, while swimming, all through life.  I hated burying my face in the water.

On rainy days, we sat on the floor of the big recreation hall and watched movies.

Or we girls went to the crafts tent where we made countless gimp bracelets (do kids still do this?) or scores of multi-colored pot-holders.

I don’t recall my brothers making any crafts while they were at camp.  Maybe crafts was considered a less-than-masculine activity in the day.

We kids brought bagged lunches and bought candy or ice cream on rare occasions Mom gave us spending money.

When Camp Ayoho wasn’t our destination, my sister and I went to St. Mary’s Vacation Bible School which was run by my church, supervised by parish nuns, and held where the old Crompton Elementary School used to be, before it was demolished and built anew as an apartment building.

At these two-hour morning sessions, the nuns gave us tear-out’s of “Moses and the Bullrushes,” “Joseph and His Many-Colored Cloak,” or “Noah and the Arc,” to name a few, from coloring books, and we happily colored them in (today, adult coloring books are considered a serious de-stressor.)

Then we discussed the morals of each story.

Whenever I see Vacation Bible School on church marquees, today, I smile, for it evokes fond memories.

Except for the day an older driver almost killed my younger sister. She alighted from the bus at our stop, following the day’s session, and raced across the road to our driveway, without looking. He was coming from the opposite direction, did not stop for the bus (as the law requires,) and ran over my sister’s foot.

I followed her up the driveway, screaming to all:  “Sharon’s been hit.”

I considered her survival a true miracle, most probably owing to our being in a state of grace…

After all, we’d just come from Vacation Bible School.

Now, what are your childhood memories of summers in West Warwick? Did you go to Vacation Bible School…Camp Ayoho? Another Camp? Or fashion your own recreation?

Post answers on the Kent County Daily Times website or to the several West Warwick sites aligned with Facebook or right under my column here.

West Warwick native, Colleen Kelly Mellor (ckmellor@cox.net), is a motivational speaker, freelance writer, and author to children’s books “Grandpa and the Truck” (grandpaandthetruck.com). She is also a regular commentator in the Providence Journal,  Wall St. Journal, etc. 

P.S. Today, Camp Ayoho on Johnson’s Pond, in Coventry, is a campground for RV’s; Crompton Free Library is Pawtuxet Valley Preservation and Historical Society museum.