Richard Hemenway's Camp Herrick Page
Camp Herrick Boy Scout Camp
As Troop 2 Passed Through in the Nineteen Fifties
Time Frame is Mid-1950s
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Richard's Personal CH Story
My Greatest Camp Herrick Adventure
This will not be a story about mile swims, or softball games, or Snipe Hunts, or trips to Alton Bay. It will not involve long hikes, or campfires, or boat trips on the lake. It will not even contain first-hand accounts of mountain climbs, or spectacular vistas seen from lofty peaks, for my greatest Camp Herrick adventure was one I never knew I had until many years later when my parents told me the story.
My adventure began when I was two years old. I was born at 5:00 AM, on Sunday, October 1, 1944. While WWII would go on for almost another year and soldiers were still dying in Europe, I came into the world at Beverly Hospital. My parents took me home to be spoiled by my paternal grandmother and from all accounts, I was a normal happy baby. But it was still the common medical practice, even two years later in 1946, to remove tonsils from young children almost on an assembly line basis. Whole families of children would be brought to the hospital to have the operation and to be given generous amounts of ice cream afterwards.
So it was that when I was two years old, my parents took me back to the hospital to have my tonsils out. These were still the days of ether and ether masks for anesthesia; intravenous delivery would still be many years off. These were also the days when men were men, women were mothers and homemakers, and children did not need, or receive, preparation for operations such as they receive today. They were just taken from their mother's arms and brought, often kicking and screaming into the alien and terrifying arena of the operating room, with its bright light, hard sterile surfaces, frightening smells and cruel restraints.
Now I have been told that a clear memory from the age of two is unusual, but to this day I can easily bring to mind an image of faceless, white-clad beings, clamping some cold, choking, deadly, metal and fabric cover over my face while I screamed and screamed and screamed.
For years afterwards, I would have, usually at times of some stress or unhappiness, horrible nightmares that were always exactly the same: some large, amorphous object, from which I could not escape, would begin to grow larger and larger, until it was crushing me into oblivion. But though my mind was trapped, but body sought a way out.
So my mother would sometimes find me, in the middle of the night, walking down the hall, the stairs, or even out the front door, asleep, but walking purposefully away from something. She would gently guide me back to bed where I would stay the rest of the night. Thankfully, these episodes were not frequent, but were always upsetting for my mother.
Now follow me a few years later on when I was old enough to join the Scouts, and became a Cub Scout in Troop II at the Dane Street Church. Cub Scouts were allowed to go to Camp Herrick, the church camp, on weekends in the summer with a parent. So I went with my father for my first camp adventure. I had a wonderful time as I remember, after all, my father was there, but an old nemesis had followed me to the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee.
I was probably the first night of our stay, just past midnight, when one of the fathers, I believe that it was Mr. Stanley, walked down the dirt entrance road, following the call of nature, to the latrine, an outhouse some distance down the road. He was making his way back up the road when he saw a small figure walking slowly down the road toward him. He supposed that I too was going to the latrine, but soon realized that I was fast asleep as I did not respond to his soft greetings. I understand that he gently turned me around and led me back to my bunk.
Now I have heard that it is dangerous to wake a sleepwalker, and wisely, Mr. Stanley did not wake me. For that I will always owe him a debt of gratitude.
I scarcely wish to contemplate what would have happened if Mr. Stanley did not find me before I woke up. To be suddenly awake on a dark, dirt road, in the unfamiliar woods, with no light and with no knowledge of how or why I was there, would have certainly been beyond terror for a shy boy of nine or ten. Such incidents can result in permanent emotional damage.
I got up with reveille in the morning, unaware of, and unharmed by, my midnight adventure. Still, it is one I will never forget.
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