February 07, 2006

Memories of the Past.

When I was growing up, my parents used to take the family to a local campground, The Oaks in Clinton, WI. My grandparents had a permanent sight and we’d pull in with the old 1977 Mobile Traveler RV my parents owned. Sometimes I’d just go to the campground with my grandparents and spend the weekend there. When I was older, I’d go alone and tent camp.

This was not like most of the campgrounds you see today. No, there was no running water at the sites, no electricity and no pavement. A main shelter house had plumbing and electric. Unless you had a site near the Shelter House (as it was called) you had to use the out houses that where all over. These where the old-fashioned outhouses, a big hole in the ground covered by a wooden box you’d go in to do your business. If they filled up, they would just fill it in, dig a new hole and move the box. Later on, about the time I was High School, they started running electric to the various sites, and when I was in college, they ran water. However, you still had to use the out houses or the Shelter House to go to the bathroom. They never ran plumbing to each site.

There was no concession stand or video games originally. Nope, if you didn’t have anything you had to run into town. You amused yourself the old-fashioned way, hiking, swimming, and fishing. It was probably around 1983 when the first pop machine arrived. This was a big deal. Kids would bug their parents for money to buy a pop out of the machine. Even if the parents had the exact same pop in a cooler, all the kids wanted it out of the machine; it just tasted better. When I was in High School they brought out video games, other vending machines and in college, they built a small office convenience store.

The campground had a small man made lake, which was fed by two small creeks. By the shelter house, they had a beach for swimming and a raft for diving off. When I say raft, think of The Raft from Creepshow 2, it looked just like that. The lake was filled with bullheads, bluegill and some bass. Occasionally someone would pull a carp out of there. The other aquatic creature they had where snapping turtles. As a kid, I loved catching snapping turtles. I probably caught a good couple dozen over the years. My grandmother would clean and cook them up for my friends and me.

I’d spend hours in the woods making forts, or exploring. I’d play in the creeks, damming them up so the water would back up making a small pond. That’s how I caught my first snapping turtle. As I got older, I would take my younger cousins out with me and show them all the things I had found, like the hollow tree you could hide in and the secret place that had the wild black berry bushes.

I would always invite friends to come with when I went. While my parents would sleep in the RV, we would be in a tent. Sometimes even on our own site. My parents finally bought a permanent spot and replaced the RV with a good-sized camper. My friends and I would spend entire weekends up there horsing around, fishing, drinking (in the later years) and building fires that would rival the sun.

The first crush I ever had was for a girl whose parents camped there. I still remember watching her swimming and marveling at the female form in a bikini. My first sexual experience was also at this campground; unfortunately, it didn’t involve my crush. It wasn’t anything scandalous, just your normal pre-teen kid stuff.

Over the years we camped there, it went through six different owners. For two of the owners my grandparents managed the campground on the weekends. About 4 years ago, the campground closed. The last owner had some big plan in mind. The rumor was that he was going to turn it into a KOA style campground to help cater to the Casino that was supposed to come to Beloit, Wisconsin. I don’t know if that is true or not, because that casino never came. I helped my parents clean up their site, take apart all the decking they had built and remove the shed. That last day still lingers clear in my memory.

Some of you may be wondering why I’m telling you this. Over the weekend, I heard from my blogless buddy Jay that what remained of the campground had been tore down. Some developer had bought the property. When he told me that, a flood of memories came back to me. My entire childhood and part of my adulthood was intertwined with that campground. I even took Ktreva and Boopie camping there. Clone wasn’t born by the time they closed it or he would have gone too.

Part of me always hoped someone would buy it and reopen it. I guess that is never going to happen. For some reason I feel much older today.

Posted by Contagion in Stories about me. at February 7, 2006 12:51 PM | TrackBack

The Oaks... RIP...

That royally sucks man.

I have some kick ass memories of camping there with you. The Bear Chest trips, the insane consupmtion of alcohol, the perforation of the campsite with a three foot red-hot steel bar...

Good times... good times...

Posted by: Graumagus at February 7, 2006 01:48 PM

Sorry for your loss C.
But at least you have the fond memories.

Posted by: spurs at February 7, 2006 04:27 PM

You are old *runs away*

Posted by: oddybobo at February 7, 2006 04:35 PM

I remember us talking about getting our own campsite there when we could afford it....guess that's out. This sucks!

Posted by: ktreva at February 7, 2006 08:01 PM

All I have to say about this is....Ding Do Wah!, and thanks for the memories.

Posted by: littlejoe at February 7, 2006 08:16 PM