That’s right, today we were totally off of our camp schedule. Instead, we had a day full of tournaments, leagues, super cleaning, free play, and free swim! Sometimes a break from the ordinary is just what is needed for a refresh, and today’s activities did just that.
One of the other exceptions to the norm of today was that we had afternoon canteen. Normally, canteen switches between boys’ camp and girls’ camp every other day, but today EVERYONE got a chance to visit!
What is the canteen, you may ask? It just may be one of the most special places in camp. The building itself hosts a counselor lounge and a camper lounge space where we often host birthday pizza parties. Every afternoon, the canteen is home to our afternoon snack, where campers get a midday snack to recharge after a multitude of activities.
But in the evening, right after dinner and during free play – that’s where the magic happens. When it is your canteen night, you get to select one snack and one beverage of your choice. The canteen is stocked up with all sorts of popular candies, chips, sodas, and novelty ice cream. The best and most popular features are the soft-serve machine and the slushie machine, two desirable treats on hot summer days.
For the campers, the canteen is a true treat. It’s where they get to choose whatever sounds good in the moment, whether it’s an old favorite or trying something new. When canteen is announced in the dining hall after dinner, there is an uproar from either the girls or the boys (whoever’s night it is to indulge) and the sound of fists pounding on tables in celebration can be heard from the White House down the hill.
For us grown ups, the canteen is a chance to engage with every single camper (well, the boys or the girls) every night. It’s an opportunity to see what they like, encourage them to make their own choices, and even to comment on when their regular order changes (a real conversation starter!)
You get to see the twinkles in their eyes when you hand over a bowl of vanilla ice cream with green and white sprinkles, or when someone cheekily asks for a “mystery” slushie, which means dealer’s choice of whomever is working the slushie machine that night.
And then, at 10:00, the canteen reopens for counselors on their off nights and Greeks (15/16yr olds) who may need an extra snack or a place to hang out. Aunt Bonnie (queen of the canteen) usually makes something warm and comforting like mac and cheese balls, mozzarella sticks, or soft pretzels. The atmosphere at night is much more casual than high-volume, and more conducive to personal conversations.
In short, the canteen is a pretty special place to be, and it says a lot that many of the upper staff choose to work in the canteen in the evenings rather than anywhere else. And that’s not just for the extra ice cream.