Sunday, July 1, 2007

When Kids Are Cruel

Saying No to Bullies
By Carol Bogart

Her name was Gina and she was deaf. She was also the prettiest girl at church camp. Camp Premauca (Presbytery of Maumee camp) in Michigan was a popular camp for Presbyterian adolescents from Michigan and Ohio.

My parents started sending me when I was 12. By 14, I could hardly wait for the two weeks spent with peers at this camp for boys and girls. The boys were particularly of interest.

There was the usual jockeying for the attention of the cutest boys, but the summer Gina showed up for camp, none of us other girls had a chance with any of them. All the boys were united in their desire to win points with this petite raven-haired girl with friendly dark brown eyes.

Two sisters from Dayton, both with perfect hair and nails and purses, were especially peeved. They were accustomed to being the center of attention.

The year before, I'd had a rough start with them myself. The older sister cut in on me during a square dance, shoving a broom at me to replace my partner.

By the end of camp, though, they'd decided I was okay and welcomed me into their mean-spirited circle.

I was an insecure farm kid and the antithesis of "cool". I sang in the church choir, was secretary of youth fellowship, and occasionally was called upon to do readings in church because I had a good voice that carried. Later, after being the only student at our rural school to compete in the state speech tournament, I would be named outstanding senior speaker. This indirectly led to my 12 year career as a major market TV news reporter/anchor.

But at 14, I was boy-chested, gawky and easily influenced by two girls who were so much more "with it" than I was.

So when they commenced to torture Gina with grapes in her bed and shortsheeting her sheets and applying Vaseline and saran wrap on and under a toilet seat when they saw her headed for the lavatory – while the three of us occupied the only other stalls – I went along, but felt bad for Gina.

Gina talked funny because she was deaf. Her parents, though, understood her perfectly when, two days into camp, she called, in tears, begging them to come and get her.

One of the counselors confronted the three of us. The Dayton sisters shrugged, tossed their hair and stifled giggles. I said, "Where is Gina?"

When the counselor took me to her, Gina's big brown eyes welled up with tears. Quietly, I sat down beside her. Sad and guarded, she lifted her quivering chin to meet my gaze. "Gina," I said, "don't go home. We've been being mean because we're jealous. You're so pretty. All the boys like you. You didn't deserve it and I'm so sorry. Please stay."

A small smile played across her face and Gina nodded.

For the remainder of the two weeks, I had nothing more to do with the Dayton sisters. I hoped maybe one of the boys at camp would like me, but if not, I was happy to see Gina get so much attention. Eventually, she struck up a romance with the cutest boy at camp, much to the oldest sister's consternation.

It seemed as though the rest of the campers, too, no longer thought the Dayton duo was especially cool. Just mean. They were avoided at the mess hall, at the pool, at what we disparagingly called "Leech Lake" (because it was so full of leeches). A camp full of teenagers collectively decided that these were two girls needed to pay attention to the lessons learned at evening vespers.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer. Read her columns at and her articles at Contact her at


autorotation said...

I went to camp premauca as a kid and would like to go back to visit, but I can not find any info on the camp. Do you have any info that you could pass along. An address and/or phone number would be great. If not, oh well. I just keep looking.


Becky said...

I went to camp Premauca as a kid and also as a teen. This was back in the 60's. Is the camp still there? What kind of camp is it now? I would love any info you may have.

Sally Gerber said...

I have many 'coming of age' stories about my time spent at Camp Premauca in the summers. And those songs I used to listen to on my transistor radio - CSNY Heart of Gold and more - back in the Conestego wagons...I miss it all - the crappy food in the mess hall, Leech Lake, Mable the nurse, and Chilly Willy the penguin painted on the pool house.