Summer Camp, Now and Then

I’m off to genealogy camp – as my family calls it – again this week! I’ll be in Washington, DC, for five days, learning about records held by the National Archives, and taking field trips to the DAR Library and the Library of Congress. I’ve been e…

I’m off to genealogy camp – as my family calls it – again this week!  I’ll be in Washington, DC,  for five days, learning about records held by the National Archives, and taking field trips to the DAR Library and the Library of Congress.  I’ve been exploring those repositories on my own since last summer, but I welcome the instruction and camaraderie offered by the National Institute of Genealogical Research (NIGR) (now the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records).

Coincidentally, I ran across some mementos yesterday of childhood camp experiences.  It seems I didn’t love every minute…

I went to Camp Rim  Rock for four summers in the mid 1960s.  Campers were divided into four “tribes”, of which the Shawnees were the youngest.   Here’s  the daily schedule (1):


The NIGR schedule looks remarkably similar.  But, as far as I know, no Cabin Duties (good thing) and no Siesta (bad thing). I still have my Beginner’s Bear patch, representing the first rungs on the totem pole, and while it might be appropriate to wear it this week at NARA, I don’t want to throw the security guards for a loop. (2)


I was just eight years old my first year at camp and enrolled for three weeks, which partially explains the roller coaster correspondence to my parents  (check out the camp letterhead; forerunner of the ubiquitous mini-van stickers) (3):


“Dear Mommy and Daddy, the lady who is in charge of Riding, said that you should send me my hush puppies because the others will hurt my feet.  I learned to play tether ball. Having lots and lots and lots of fun.  See you soon. Love, Lizard P.S. That’s what the girls call me.”



“Dear Mommy and Daddy, Last night we took turns on the tire swing.  Today I’m the inspector for my cabin.  I got my teashirt today. We’re going swimmg. We’re having a swimmg test.  For our punishment we sit on a bunk for a few hours.  We’re going riding tomorrow. I love it here. Love, Malissa”




“Dear Mommy, Would you please send me my hush puppies. I got two pictures, one of the shawni (sorry I can’t spell it) and one of the sioux since I am beginning to know so many girls.  Tell Daddy I want to stay 4 weeks.  I would like you to come see me. Love, Malissa”


“Dear Mommy and Daddy, I think I need more money in my trading post account. I want three pictures…I like it very much here. Love, Malissa”

“Dear Mommy and Daddy, We went on an overnight and it rained.  We had to come back.  Love, Malissa”

and this gem:


My mother nearly had to be physically restrained from rushing to pick me up – or so she claimed later.  She could have used a referral to the official Homesickness page.

I did return the following summer, and the next one, too, eventually making my way as a  Cherokee, before I hung up my totem pole.  (But I never stayed for four weeks.)  I was even pictured in a camp brochure demonstrating the buddy “swimmg” system.  This was probably the last summer I was seen in a two-piece bathing suit – at least I hope so. (6)



Camp Rim Rock seems a much more colorful place these days and there are at least four more tribes.  Campers swim in pools instead of the icy Cacapon River, where every swim session started with 50 bobs to ensure that our blood was still circulating.  But one thing has stayed the same — the riding shoes better be right.

“The shoes should be designed for horseback riding and can either be boots or tie shoes with a defined heel.  The heel should be no higher than one inch.  Sneakers and hiking boots are not acceptable for riding. ” (7)

My advice?  Take the hush puppies.




(1) Camp Rim Rock for Girls. Brochure. (Winchester, VA:  Camp Rim Rock, circa 1966), unpaginated, schedule appears on ninth leaf.

(2) Camp Rim Rock Beginner Bear patch; privately held by Malissa Ruffner, [address for private use,] Baltimore, Maryland.

(3) All letters: Malissa Ruffner, Shawnee Camper, Camp Rim Rock, Yellow Spring , West Virginia, to Mr. and Mrs. James S. Ruffner, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania; Personal Correspondence, Summer 1964;  Malissa Ruffner Baby Book; privately held by Ruffner, [address for private use], Baltimore, Maryland.

(4) Camp Rim Rock for Girls, unpaginated, picture of “Shawnees” appears on seventh leaf.

(5) Malissa Ruffner photograph, 1964, privately held by Malissa Ruffner, [address for private use,] Baltimore, Maryland.

(6) Camp Rim Rock for Girls, unpaginated, picture of “Buddies” appears on sixth leaf.

(7) Camp Rim Rock for Girls Packing List,  ( : accessed 10 July 2010), “Riding Attire.”

7 thoughts on “Summer Camp, Now and Then”

  1. I’m glad I could help jump start at Rim Rock reunion of sorts. I don’t know how the Posterous notification system works either. So I’d love to hear if you two are getting emails letting you know if there are further posts. Either way, my email is

  2. Thats so cool! I have been going to Camp Rim Rock for five summers, and I am going again this summer! It’s so cool to see camp back then. I don’t think that we have the patches anymore, but the totem pole is still in place. The tribes (in order from youngest to oldest) are Shawnee, Chippewa, Catawba, Cherokee, Seneca, Sioux, and Choctaw. The horseback riding is the best!

    1. So glad you found the post, Maddy! Sometimes I wish I had kept going to camp there but even with just the four years, I have lots of happy memories. You are part of a great tradition.

  3. Great article! I, too, attended Rim Rock in the mid- to late-1960s. I went for 4 or 5 years — including Sioux for the final 2 years and stayed for 4 or 6 weeks each time. Among my experiences was the time a group of us were knocked out by a lightning strike while atop a mountain. It made the local news! And I remember the giant salt shakers that held the salt we used to shrivel up the leeches after our river swims. But the beauty of early morning horseback riding through the clear water of Cacapon River will never be forgotten.

  4. I went two years to Rim Rock back in the 1980’s. Both years a Seneca! Home sickness yep! My parents sent my sister and me to camp for four weeks each time. Mom really didn’t want us mopping around her house all summer. Rim Rock was a ridiculously generous solution to that problem. I met so many terrific girls from all over the world there. Life genuinely was simpler before cell phones and internet in our lives. Now Rim Rock looks so different without Jim Matheson or eccentric Grace. The new camp seems less genuine for such dear prices.

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