Hodge: Revisiting summer camp brings back childhood memories

To older brother, Vic. Hi Vic. Well, here I am again, back at camp Owaissi, for another summer camp.

Yup, another summer spent with really good friends, under the stars, on Okanagan Lake.

The only thing really missing here aside from you, Vic, is the camp caretaker Old Steve.

How blessed were we as brothers to share that man’s life? Wow, he truly was another pathfinder sent our way.

The old Anglican Church Camp, (known by us and thousands of other youngsters as Camp Owaissi) hasn’t changed a whole lot from the last time you were here.

There are a few new cabins, alright, and actually a really big, circular, covered stage near the water.

Some kind benefactor with a heart to match his talk actually funded it and it sure is neat.

Even Old Steve would have loved it. He probably would have referred to it as a “gal darn, knock-kneed, bull-headed, pigeon-toed stupid kind of idea” and suggested it was a waste of natural space, however from a design and basic construction perspective he would have loved it.

Plus it is great for the camp kids—and Old Steve loved kids.

Robert, or ‘Old Steve’ (as we knew him), would also like the new shelter because it is made from recycled wood.

Having spent time in an orphanage as a youngster and skid row as an adult, Old Steve learned to hate anything wasted—food, materials or lives.

Actually the new camp Owaissi caretaker, Keith “Poppa” Thom and Old Steve (who ran things when we were here last), are a lot alike, and yet a whole bunch not.


Keith is one really cool guy who sure knows how to run a camp and work with people. He is much more diplomatic

and people-centered as camp director and caretaker than Old Steve was.


Keith loves kids as well, and frowns upon waste. They both have great big kind hearts even though they sometimes try and pretend different, and they are strong caring Christians despite the perceptions that others may have or had.

Both Steve and Keith are true survivors. Both have committed much of their lives to helping others find their way back. Both are straight shooters and hard workers. Their handshake is gold and so are their hearts.

The differences are stark. Old Steve wasted 13 years as an alcoholic, rode the rails as a hobo, and once cut off another man’s ear for a bottle of wine.

Keith plays guitar and writes wonderful songs. I guess they both understand hunger.

There are a few other changes at camp Owaissi—one of which Teresa and I just helped with.

We assisted Keith’s’ brother-in-law Larry to build a new wharf (with recycled wood of course).

I reminded myself twice the other day while constructing the dock why I prefer using a computer to a hammer.

My left thumb is now very purple and about half the size of my foot.

Life is still calm and peaceful at Camp Owaissi, though the water has been too choppy to fish or canoe much.

Tomorrow I hope to try and hike up to where the old large cross is above the camp. (Yes it’s still there).

It sure is neat to be back here at the same camp where both you and I spent so many summers.

Between Anglican Church camps and Cub Scout camps, we spent a lot of our youth on the shoreline of this camp, or in the cabins. It’s kind of like a homecoming.

I think of Mom, who was Akela with the Sixth Kelowna Cub Pack for several years, and dedicated so much time with us and other cubs having a wonderful summer life here at Owaissi.

It’s hard to believe that it has been 50 years this month since I first set foot on this campground, nestled on the water not far from Okanagan Resort.

I was eight years of age the first time Mom and Dad sent me here for a week at the Church Camp and then three weeks later for a Cub camping trip. (Who really had the holiday?)

You had been here a couple years before me, Vic, and met Old Steve the summer before I did.

We had no idea at the time how much both Old Steve and Camp Owaissi would impact our lives.

I guess it was a camp when I was 10 that we encountered the skunk on the trail to the cross and it sprayed me.

That ruined my camp and I was sent home to “defume.”

The last few nights Keith and Larry have joined Tez and me at our campsite for some songs and yarns.

It’s allowed me to really see what a wonderful person and singer/songwriter he is.

Keith just played an original song titled Invisible. It is a humbling song, like this whole beautiful campsite—a reminder that we are all just part of something so much bigger than ourselves.

It’s one of those rare songs that when first listening to it smacks of being in the presence of brilliance.

It is rare someone writes such a song without being a true conduit type connection.

Keith truly lives his convictions. He walks in a unique league in my world, along with sorts such as Curtis Tulman, Teunis Westbrook and Howie Meeker—people with more talent than you can shake a stick at and yet so humble.

Perhaps it is this peaceful place that helps produce such kindness and graciousness.

Overall, Vic, summer camp has been a whole lot of fun again and I’m really glad I came back.

Well, I’ve got to go to bed now. Tez has already crashed, knocked cold by the fresh air and the sound of Keith’s magic on the guitar.

I’ve sat here for another hour tapping away on this column while the moon dances across the water but now my eyes are closing.

I am going to sleep now, listening to the water lap up on the shore just like we always did as kids.

And just like it did 50 years ago, it still sounds peaceful, calming and somehow very soothing. It feels real good here at summer camp.

It’s reassuring  to know that some things never change— things like Camp OAC.

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