Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Share the Fizzies

by Nancy Martin

I went to Girl Scout camp every summer. Not just because I sold the requisite number of cookies or because I desperately wanted to learn how to shoot an arrow through a straw-stuffed target. By age eight, I already knew how to do that. My parents were very outdoorsy, and we spent every weekend--even in blizzards--in the fresh air learning one marginally useful skill after another. Want me to start a fire? Gimme a minute with a flint and some dry pine needles. I can snow shoe, throw a spiral football pass, lash a pack to a pony, and I used to be a pretty good shot with a BB gun.

No, I went to summer camp because my grandparents donated land to the Girl Scouts and helped the organization build a summer facility where girls (my grandparents raised five during the Depression) could learn by living in an Adirondack for two weeks in the summer. My mother felt it was important that the family support the camp by attending, too, and since my sister and I were the only female grandchildren who lived within 1000 miles of the camp, we dutifully packed our footlockers every June.

Because the camp was located in the mountains of Pennsylvania, we spent a lot of time learning how to entertain ourselves when it rained. We braided lanyards. (At the time, I found limited use for the lanyard, but that was before everybody had to prove they're not terrorists by wearing ID in their school, workplace and to sporting events.) We learned to string macaroni necklaces. We learned to harmonize as we sang endless camp songs. (One is Silver and the Other Gold, anyone?)

Sure, I excelled at the outdoorsy stuff. Canoeing, archery, fancy diving, too. I could consume many a rainy hour by reading, of course. But what I really learned at camp were things bigger than lanyards and how to dip a canoe paddle without making a splash.

The polar bear swim still bugs me. See, every morning, those girls who wanted to earn their polar bear badge had to get up half an hour before everyone else, run shivering down to the water through the dewy grass and plunge in for a pre-breakfast swim. If you managed to rouse yourself every morning for two weeks, you became an official polar bear.

A good girl, I got up every morning for thirteen days. On the fourteenth, I heard the early bugle and thought, "Eh, I think I'll sleep. Who needs another dopey patch that's just going to sit in a drawer" So I rolled over for another half hour of sleep.

I am still annoyed with myself. I gave up. One lousy day early, and for the sake of a mere thirty minutes of sleep, I quit.

What a loser.

Why does the polar bear failure bother me so much? Here it is, forty years later and I'm still thinking about it! Still ashamed of myself. I have a hard time giving up on things because I know how it's going to feel if I do---lousy.

The other really big thing I learned at summer camp was to share the Fizzies.

The water from the camp's well tasted terrible. It was hard to brush your teeth with such disgusting stuff, and forget about drinking it. All the girls were slowly dehydrating themselves because of the taste of the water. Here's the part where my grandparents come in.

My grandparents were invited to the camp every summer to be honored at a dinner. (Believe me, the hot dogs were no great culinary prize, but that wasn't the point. There was a big ceremony for them.) It was embarrassing, yet kinda cool to be summoned to the stage to stand beside them while all the scouts sang the camp songs to us and gave my grandmother of a bouquet of flowers. It was my first brush with being singled out for something that I perceived as big. After the dinner, our grandparents sneaked my sister and me out to their car and opened the trunk, which was full of goodies. A plate of homemade cookies for my sister and me, plus the biggest box of Fizzies I had ever seen. Fizzies were little Alka-Seltzer-like tables with fruit flavorings. You dropped the Fizzy into a glass of yucky water and presto--! You had carbonated Kool Aid. The box was too big for me to carry alone. My sister had to help me wrestle it out of the car's trunk.

My grandmother said, "You know what to do with these, right?"

She didn't have to tell us to share our booty with the rest of the campers. (Well, no way my sister and I could consume all that carbonation and survive.) We were the lucky ones who got to stand up front while the other campers sang to us. So we gave the Fizzies away like mad for the rest of the week.

If you're lucky, it's your responsibility to give back.

Lessons from camp. They've stuck with me. That, and the memory of Stephanie Dershack getting mad and hitting me in the head with a softball, but maybe that explains a few other things, too.


Annette said...

OMG! Fizzies! I havent' heard of those things in YEARS! I used to LOVE Fizzies.

As for the polar bear thing...I'd have given up on that one long before 13 days. Like on day 2. And the fact that I can't swim would have had little to do with it.

Joyce said...

"If you're lucky, it's your responsibility to give back."

If everyone lived by that rule, the world would be a much better place!

Tory said...

I couldn't hack the girlscout camp when I was in 4th grade. Cleaning out the latrines, ugh! I quit girlscouts after that and the cookie sales.

I think it was fourth or fifth grade I was sent to "music" camp. I later went to other music camps which were much more musical, but that one didn't include much playing. But the Detroit riots broke out while we were there (I was living in far suburbs of Detroit at the time) and I remember my Elementary School understanding of racial politics. I was so glad to be in the country!

What I mostly remember about 6th grade school camp was, "conversation X." And I missed the church school camp where they played the REAL truth or dare. I had the stomach flu!

Nancy said...

Tory, they made you clan out latrins?? Are you sure you didn't go to BOOT CAMP??

I wonder what was so terrible about Fizzies that they were discontinued? It must have been something pretty bad, because they were so cool.

Nancy said...

Gad. Sorry about the typos. It's still early, I guess.

Lee Lofland said...

Nancy, you have brought forth a ton of memories this morning.

First of all, I loved the root beer flavored Fizzies, and like Annette, I'd forgotten all about them. They were great!

Next, I worked as a camp counselor/archery instructor at a boy scout camp for a few years during my youth. I was also the camp bugler, which meant I had to get up much earlier than everyone else. I was the camp's human alarm clock.

Those were some of the best times of my childhood. As staff members we were required to stay at the camp for the entire summer camping season. What fun we had.

There was also a girl scout camp situated directly across the lake from us. Hmmm...what fun we could have had if...

Annette said...

Oooooo! Root beer Fizzies!! Let's start a media campaign to bring back Fizzies! They can't be any more awful than some of the other stuff they're selling to kids these days.

Nancy said...

Lee, we girl scouts had fantasies about our unseen bugler. We probably fantasized you to a "T." What a disappointment to finally discover our camp bugler was actually a little old lady who played in her chenille bathrobe!

My bet is that even root beer Fizzies were loaded with red dye.

mike said...

Annette, I thought you were too young for fizzies! What memories, Nancy. Thanks. And a moral to your story too...food (or fizzies) for thought. Speaking of outdoor and kids, today's New York Times online features an article about what some observers fear is the first true "in-door" generation: kids who have little to no exposure to the outdoors, even their own backyards. Scary.

Lee Lofland said...

I normally wore a plaid flannel robe and Bugs Bunny slippers (with the long fuzzy ears and plastic teeth) for morning reveille.

That outfit went well with my Looney Toons boxer shorts.

You can see how easy it was to make the transition to cop from this point in my life. It was a natural move. I guess this explains my "bad boy" Mickey Mouse tattoo, too.

Cathy said...

But you see, Nancy, you won in that polar bear swim. At the last minute, you pulled it off--you threw off that good girl routine. After all, you can't be a good girl and be you, too.

Words from a reformed good girl.

Nancy said...

Cathy, I guess I've earned a bad Mickey tattoo.

Tell us where yours is, Lee. I'm having a hard time imagining. ;-)

Lee Lofland said...

Oh, I couldn't let that information leak out. Let's just say that Mickey doesn't get out very often, especially since my weight training days are nearly a thing of the past.

Anonymous said...

I bring good news -- fizzies are back!


You have to order them by the case, but they do still have root beer.

Kathy Haines

Joyce said...

Hey Mike, I guess we can't use treasury money to buy a case of fizzies, can we?

Lee Lofland said...

Good news for you Pennsylvania folks. You can purchase all 7 flavors of Fizzies from:

Sweets From Heaven
182 South Hills Village Mall
Pittsburgh, PA 15241

Joyce said...

And for us North Hills people, there's a Sweets From Heaven in Ross Park Mall, too!

Nancy said...

I'm thinking Fizzies could be a great party theme!

Tory said...

Oh no! They're DIET Fizzies. Ugh.

Regarding cleaning out the latrines, Nancy, I think the idea was just to make sure there was enough clean TP on the roll but not on the ground, but nobody TOLD US that. They wanted us to be tough.

Annette said...

Mike, have I told you lately that I love you? Too young for fizzies? Hahahahahahahaha!

I'm heading to South Hills Village to buy a case.

Annette said...

Following up on Mike's in-door generation comment, I have new neighbors who have two young girls and for the first couple of weeks that they lived there, we never saw them. Ray asked me if the neighbors had kids. Yeah, but they don't play outside. Big yard, too. What a waste.