In June 1944 Tommye Jo , Colleen, Jo Ann Darnell , and I spent a week at Camp Silver Pines in Roaring Gap, North Carolina. The camp visit was sponsored by the Gilvin Roth Y.M.C.A. of Elkin. The week-long camp stay cost ten dollars if you were a member of the Y.M.C.A. which only cost one dollar. Ten dollars doesn’t seem like much today, but it was a lot in the forties. It was not easy for my parents to come up with the money.
The camp was located in the Blue Ridge Mountains about twenty miles from home. When you arrived at Roaring Gap; which consisted of a store, a service station, and a post office; you made a right turn, then immediately made a left turn into a wooded, secluded area. There was another camp close by which could be reached by going straight after making the right turn at Roaring Gap. This was an all-girl camp named Camp Shirley Rogers and was located near the fish hatchery.
Silver Pines was built alongside a beautiful, shimmering lake which added to its appeal. There were two piers that jutted out into the water. An area for swimming was roped off between the two piers. There were several rustic cabins on the grounds and a lodge with a kitchen and dining-recreation room combination.
The occupants of each cabin were supervised by a senior counselor and a junior counselor. They had a closed off area that gave them a bit of privacy. Tommye Jo and I were in the same cabin; we slept on bunk beds. She slept on the top bunk, and I slept on the bottom. One night after we went to bed she was applying lotion to her face and hands, and I asked her if I could use the lotion when she finished. She said, “Sure,” then dropped the lotion down to me, and it landed right on my nose. The pain was excruciating; I still have a crook in my nose as a result.
Mr. T. C. Mcknight, an Elkin resident, was in charge. His daughter Julia Anne was a senior counselor. Mr. McKnight was an enthusiastic and fun-loving person. His laugh was infectious. When he laughed, he laughed all over, throwing out his arms and legs with delight. All we campers loved him.
Most of us felt right at home when we settled in at Camp Silver Pines. That is, everyone except Anna Katharine Dobson. Anna Katharine was a classmate of ours with a mind-boggling intellect; she was straight-A all the way. She always seemed so dignified and totally in charge, but she had a debilitating case of homesickness and had to head back down the mountain.
There were lots of activities to keep us occupied. Many of these centered around the lake. The counselors gave us swimming lessons. We had to swim between the two piers and back before we were officially declared swimmers. This was within the roped off area and was a distance of about fifty yards. Passing this swimming test was one of the main objectives of our camp stay. Tommye Jo, Jo Ann, Colleen, and I all became official swimmers before the week was over. We were elated! I can still remember how my friends and other campers cheered and jumped up and down on the shore as I finished the last few yards of my struggle. I, in turn, cheered the others and was happy for them when they were successful.
Before you officially became a swimmer, you had to do all of your water activities inside the roped off area. Two campers at a time were allowed to use rowboats in this part of the lake. After passing the swimming test, two at a time were allowed to paddle canoes outside the roped off section. On our side of the lake there was a sandy beach from which you could look over and see the homes of Roaring Gap residents on the other side.
There were other fun-filled activities that we enjoyed at Camp Silver Pines. We did a lot of singing; many of our song episodes were held around a campfire at night. One of the counselors usually led the singing. A song that we sang over and over because it was one of our favorites was “ You’re Always Behind Just Like an Old Cow’s Tail.” Sometimes we sang in the daytime around the lodge. Often Mr. McKnight led the singing . Jo Barnette remembers Mr. McKnight singing this song:
“Under the spreading chestnut tree,
There’s where I held her on my knee.
We were as ha, ha,(happy) as could be,
Under the spreading chestnut tree.”
One of the songs that we sang that always touched me was “Taps.”
“Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake, from the sky.
All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.”
It was a somber but comforting song as we sang it at twilight surrounded by the beauty of the mountains. One night we had a talent show and Tommye Jo, Jo Ann, and I sang a hymn. I don’t remember the name of the hymn.
We played softball, did art projects, and took nature walks. One day all of us, accompanied by counselors, walked up to the store at Roaring Gap and bought some candy. We stocked up on Bit-of-Honey candy bars.
There was a mail call every week, and we eagerly looked forward to hearing from our parents. Along with their letters they also sent money and candy.
We had delightful meals and ravenous appetites at Camp Silver Pines. A counselor and a junior counselor sat at each table. Also one person each day had KP duty. This person was responsible for bringing the food, which was served family style, from the kitchen to the table. The KP person was required to clean up the table after we finished eating. My most vivid memory of the entire camp experience was the delicious apple butter that was served at every meal. It was scrumptious!
The war was winding down in Europe; we were returning home to our families, refreshed and happy with our accomplishments at camp; all was right with the world.