As a counselor at Saginaw Off Days were brief respites twice a summer that allowed us some down time away from the hectic camp schedule and the kids. These were collaborative soirees with other counselors from both sides of the camp, often a chance for a getaway with your summer squeeze. Atlantic City, Philadelphia, or New York City were often the destinations.
In the 1950’s and 60’s it was from after morning mess to midnight curfew so if you were leaving camp for the day it had to be close proximity and, of course, you needed a car. Some supes from the 1970’s seem to remember that they were allowed to stay out overnight-maybe after dinner mess to midnight the next night. I guess Herbie got soft or the OSHA Requirements changed during the Nixon-Agnew-Ford Administrations.
This was generally looked forward to by the campers since, at least back in the early years, it was a tradition for the vagrant counselor to bring back some goodies for his bunk. I remember getting those chocolate covered caramel taffy paddles or lots of salt water taffy. Occasionally they got extravagant and brought each kid in the bunk a fly-back paddle or a yo-yo.
Atlantic City was far and away the most favorite destination. Just two hours away with sand, water, junk food a plenty, and boardwalk amusements. Check out these memories from a 1962 Off Day in AC.
Barry Greene says that one time he had a crew that got to NYC to see Sound of Music, eat at Mama Leones, and make it back for curfew.
But sometimes it could be a frenetic experience. Bobbi Newman and two of her friends went to Atlantic City for the day and had checked their clothes into a bath house on the boardwalk that closed at 6 p.m. Just after 5 p.m. on their watch, which they forgot was on Camp Time, they were chagrined to get to the bath house and find it had closed and turned into a salt water taffy stand.
May I digress. For those who remember, and I was not one of them, Saginaw functioned on Camp Time-one hour earlier than Eastern Standard Time. This was an ingenious little mechanism implemented by the directors to make sure it got dark an hour earlier and allowed the kids to bed down at 9 p.m. with a better chance to fall asleep.
Anyway, after some serious negotiation, they must have run out of taffy to sell, it turned it back into a bath house for the ladies to change. In there haste to get back to camp on time Bobbi was flying back up Route 40 and passed a slower car on the two-lane road. But a brain freeze left her in the oncoming lane a bit too long and it was only her amazing death-defying turn of the wheel that avoided a head-on collision. Needless to say by the time they got back to camp the relaxing Off Day had lost it’s effect.
When we polled folks about their favorite Off Day incidents my favorite response from one person was, “Have all the statutes of limitations passed?”