Camp memories: The oldest living Tawongan

I am the oldest living Tawongan camper who still believes he is Tent Captain of Tent 21, Band “A.”

Oh, I can remember that day in July 1932 that our old yellow bus went down the hill and into my dream world of Camp Tawonga. I was 8 years old. That was 79 years ago and seems like yesterday.

It was the start of my attending camp for 10 years and the beginning of a lifelong affiliation. First, I have to explain that the word “camp” was the expression that meant Camp Tawonga to hundreds of young Jewish boys and girls in the Bay Area, just as it still does.

Camp was not just a place for a four-week experience. It was not the spirit or the outdoors in the beautiful Sierras that defines this word.

Camp became a way of life, a basis for young kids to grow into fine young people in our community. We were all there on a level field — with the opportunity to live with people, become individuals in an atmosphere of fair rules, mountains to climb, icy river water for swimming, a cow pasture for our world series baseball games, a couple of bandanas to play capture the flag, Shabbat services, a motzi before every meal.

We had about 18 dollars worth of equipment in camp, but the most important ingredient was the campers. We were a tough bunch of kids with gentle and warm hearts who knew the true meaning of Tawonga, an old Indian word for “I can,” and we did!

When the season was over, we brought that same warm friendship back home and continued a lifetime of friends with a warm handshake, a wink of an eye or a few minutes of agreeing that we belonged to a time in our life that will never be as good as our days at camp!

Ken Colvin, an Army medic in World War II, served as a Camp Tawonga board member and president and held leadership positions on boards of many other Jewish organizations. He lives in San Mateo.