You Know You Went To Summer Camp In The '80s If You Did This

by Jenny Isenman
Originally Published: 
A group of actors in front of a red house acting for the TV series Wet Hot American Summer: First Da...

Summer’s here and kids are heading off to camp. Or not. Maybe we’re just reminiscing about the days when we were in summer camp. Here are a few signs you went to summer camp in the ’80s:

1. Shaving your legs was a group activity.

I’m talkin’ on the steps or porch of your bunk with a bucket of cold water (it didn’t stay hot long), a can of shaving cream and four or five other girls you — gasp and gag! — shared said bucket with.

2. You can finish most of these songs: Oh I went to a doughnut shop to get

Everywhere we go-oh people wanna know-oh… John Jacob Jingle… Hello Muddah, hello…

3. You understand the utter and complete joy of receiving a care package.

I mean, equal to winning the lottery kinda joy. And they always contained hoped-for booty like Easy Cheese, Pop Rocks, Ring Pops, Dweebs (Nerds’ cousins), Whistle Pops, Wax Bottles, Dots, and — the mother lode — dry packets of Kool-Aid, Jell-O, or Fun Dip.

4. You went to bed freaked out by some guy named Cropsy or whoever haunted Cabin 13 or something that lives in the lake and steals little kids

… Which a grown-up told you about around a campfire (with the sole purpose of scaring the crap out of you).

5. Most of your summer jewelry was made of plastic lacings or lanyard.

Gorgeous, right?

6. You truly comprehend the value of Canteen Credit.


7. You know the other meaning of canteen, and you actually had one.

And not some BPA-free suction-release Camelback: I mean a hard rounded metal container with a cap and a strap.

8. You blew out fuses every Saturday night before socials drying your hair with your Conair Yellow Bird…

…or using your trusty diffuser for your perm, or awesome Windmere crimping iron that only singed your hair a tiny bit, so it was worth it.

9. You can’t recall the smell of the singed hair, but would recognize the aroma of your go-to hair spray.

Or feather-finisher, perm-scruncher or bang-freezer. In other words, things like Aussie Sprunch Spray, Paul Mitchell Freeze & Shine or Sebastian Shpritz Forte … or good ol’ Aqua-Net.

10. You have a clear understanding of the four food groups: Cereal, popsicles, bug juice and s’mores.

S’mores for the win, BYT.

11. You ever watched underwear run up a flagpole and prayed they weren’t yours.

Kids can be jerks.

12. You know the tune and words to Reveille and Taps, yet you were never in the service.

13. To this day, the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane” makes you cry.

Excuse me while I grab a tissue.

14. You were initiated into some cult-like group around a fire with chanting and maybe fake names.

Jepson Willowbrook, Queen of Westerlake.

15. People asked what you wanted to be when you grew up and you didn’t say president, you said “color war captain.”

Because that kid ruled all.

16. Your mom had tons of those tiny woven pot holders that were too small (and frankly too hole-y) to ever actually hold a pot.

But at least they were neon.

17. You tried to never touch the bottom of the lake because you were pretty certain there were things down there that could eat you.

The bonfire stories and your recent Jaws viewing did not help.

18. You traveled with a hard-sided trunk that could fit a body.

And you knew this because you had to see if you could fit in it before you let your mom pack your stuff.

19. Said “stuff” you packed included:

Flip-up collar Izods/polo shirts, pleated shorts, striped rugbys, overalls, denim skirts/shorts that were acid washed, stone washed, or shredded and jeans that had to be pegged and tapered to sit atop your scrunchie EG socks and awesome velcro high tops.

20. Picking out stationery to take to camp was an actual event.

I’m lookin’ at you, Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Precious Moments…

21. All your letters on said awesome stationery ended with K.I.T. and they were S.W.A.K.

And they didn’t involve a single LOL, TTYL or LMAO.

22. You mastered the two-minute cold shower with your Caboodles caddy in tow.

Sometimes 90 seconds.

23. Your camp mixes trumped any “Best Of” album.

And they had at least one song from these artists: The Bangles, Depeche Mode, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Foreigner, James Taylor …

24. You felt your rendition of “Like a Virgin” and Madonna’s were identical except for the lion.

Also, your version went “Like a Bass Weejun, worn for the very first time,” and you were flat-chested with braces. But they were close.

25. You cried for days upon re-entry to society as if you could not function without someone addressing you each morning at a flagpole.

Ah, summer camp…

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