Town Square

On Deadline: Summer camp can be unforgettable, even if you want to

Original post made by Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus, on Jul 26, 2011

The Weekly's cover story on summer camps last Friday (July 22) evoked some powerful camp memories of my own, dating back to the mid-1950s -- a measure of the power of the experience. (An invitation: Share your camp experiences under comments below.)

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Posted by Jeri Arbuckle
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jul 28, 2011 at 8:25 am

Thanks for the memories, Jay! I grew up in Palo Alto, across the creek and less than a mile up Arastradero Road from your camp - on Old Trace Road. I never got the chance to go to camp (although I'm sending my niece to 5 different camps this summer!). Who needed camp?! In early years, the kids from around the hills would spend the days fighting wars with dirt clods and playing HORSE at the basketball hoop in the neighbor's driveway. Later, I would spend my days taking swimming and Jr. Life Saving classes at the Terman pool, riding my bike through the hills and down to All American Market on El Camino for a candy bar with my best bud Lisa - and taking twilight rides in the magical evening light on my horse, Honey.

Those amazing rides are still my definition of freedom. I'd throw a bridle on Honey, climb up the stump and jump on, and we were off on an adventure. We were in perfect harmony with the world - golden hills, golden palomino mare, golden red hair and bronze skin, gracefully loping up the hills, enshrouded in glistening golden light. My large meadow was just a over the hill, Clark's Field, donated by the wonderfully generous Dr. Esther Clark as a forever public open space. We would set up apricot crates from a nearby orchard into makeshift jumps and test our mustard. Then we'd saunter around and graze on apricots and plums ripening at the tops of the trees. Making our own fun, breathing deeply, living fully. Heaven.

To get to Clark's field, I rode right next to Miss Eaton's house, the Spanish land grant Briones adobe house on the hill. Sadly, I see that this amazing landmark and historic treasure has been dismantled and sold in pieces. This is a travesty and a tremendous loss to Palo Alto. I feel very fortunate to have many treasured memories of this unique house and its eccentric inhabitants. To this day, I smell wisteria and it transports me there, to the parties celebrating the blooming of the ancient wisteria that wound around the place in a complicated embrace.