The Canteen Tales

As far as central meeting places at Saginaw the most prominent one was The Canteen.  It’s location a stones throw from the Mess Hall, Milk Bar, Main Office, and the Infirmary meant you passed by it and through it almost every day.

The Canteen contained memorabilia like Color War Scoreboards and other colorful art
The Canteen contained camp memorabilia and other colorful art
including scoreboards from across the years that decorate the walls

The Canteen was the source of delightful over-the-counter treats like Herr’s Potato Chips (B-B-Que, Sour Cream and Onion, or Plain), M&M’s (plain and peanut), licorice, fudgsicles, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, nutty buddies, Hershey bars, Mr. Goodbar, and JujuBees.

They also could supply you with some vital hygienic items like toothpaste, soap, and other unmentionables.   And later a Wi-Fi connection.

White board for announcements and Wi-Fi password…

In the 1960’s there was even an old school soft drink vending machine where you put in your money and a cup dropped down to be filled with some ice and a scientifically apportioned balance of syrup and seltzer.  It had a fireplace but I can never ever remember them burning a log in it.

In later years with a more updated soda machine and adorned with lots of Color War scoreboards
In later years with a more updated soda machine and adorned with lots of Color War scoreboards

The food was accessible to the lower camp through an old school distribution arrangement.  A couple of days a week each bunk would submit a list of stuff each camper wanted to buy based on available funds in their parent-funded canteen account (a precursor to BitCoin).  It would arrive in a brown paper grocery bag at the bunk after dinner in time for maybe a movie at the night activity.

On rainy days The Canteen was one of the indoor venues for an array of activities to break the boredom of bunko.  We played canball, dodgeball, steal-the-bacon, and many other elusive games.  Birthday parties were celebrated there, and it was often the venue for evening mixed activities record hops or themed socials.

For the Seniors and staff The Canteen was available during late nights where they collected for fraternizing and high jinks from 9 p.m. until curfew.   Other than stuffing their faces with junk food the main avocation of Senior boys and girls was trying to sneak out beyond the counselors on duty.  It was amazing how many times guys and girls needed to go out to get a drink at the water fountain and never returned.

The Sharon and Jack Pagoda...whom you had to answer to if you were found to have been there
The Sharon and Jack Pagoda…whom you had to answer to if you were found to have been there

Often the destination of such vagrant campers were the Dell Pagodas for some hormonal calisthenics.  Open air so you could be seen but closed enough to not be totally seen.

There are many sorted Canteen stories out there but here is one related by Marc Rosen, Hill counselor and Canteen purveyor in 1972.

“My most significant contribution was the “Hill Bill.”  This was not legislation, but a rule of practice:  “Any Hill counselor ate for free at the canteen, period.”  We survived audit at year end based upon the little known fact that ice cream was free if you had the key to the Mess Hall.  It covered the losses associated with the bill.

One particular evening the Hill counselors went into the Mess Hall as a group to verify that the ice cream was in fact there and for the taking.  Once there we discovered massive quantities of sandwich material and we decided to have a pre-midnight banquet when, without warning, Herb appeared.

He threw a fit, asserting that we had no right to be there, that he wanted us to understand that this was unacceptable, etc …. asking, as a point of emphasis, whether anyone had any questions.   The silence was broken by Brian, who raised his hand with the following:  “Herb … would you pass the mustard?”   It worked.  We moved the feast to the Hill Pagoda and were joined by Herb.  He shared in our takings.”

There are many other stories about stuff that happened in or around The Canteen that I imagine others can share.





One thought on “The Canteen Tales

  1. Before that soda machine, there was an ancient Wright Brothers model machine where the glass bottles were suspended by their necks on metal slats. You would put in your money ( a dime. Yes, ten cents), and slide your preferred soda out. To me the nectar of the gods was cream soda. It occurred to us that if we went by the canteen after dark with a bottle opener and straws, we could open the bottles without removing them from the machine, bend over in a kind of yoga position and drink the sodas through the straw. Of course doing this would make you nauseous for about a week, but you saved an entire ten cents, even more if you drank two or three, so it was definitely worth it.

    Jim Korman


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