What I'm drinking: Diet Pepsi, "Nectar of the Gods"
What I'm Listening to today: Indigo Girls (ever listen to them? Sublime! Check them out!)
This is sooo exciting! I get to share my love for Camp Wandawega! Ever heard of it? This slice of Americana and childhood all wrapped up in wooded land in Elkhorn, WI? I hadn't either. Funny how a jug thermos kind of lead me to all things Wandawega. I think I've mentioned this thermos before.
My then-fiancee and I went to Micanopy, Fl. A quaint, sleepy little town with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. This town of around 600 people is "area famous" for being a great weekend getaway to browse through antique shops, get ice cream or eat in quaint little restaurants. It's also known for the filming of the Michael J. Fox movie, "Doc Hollywood", mentioned in the Tom Petty song, "A Mind With a Heart of its Own", the James Taylor cover song "Seminole Wind" and River Phoenix had lived there and his ashes were scattered there. (The More You Know!) That's a lot for a small town!
Ahem, anyhow, this jug thermos was $2 and it was kind of awesome! It was made in my hometown which was the real reason we bought it. And this was the start of all things camp. Thank God I started way back when! I mean, you can still find good deals, but back then it was like fishing with dynamite! Cheap and everywhere!
This thermos was the gateway. Soon it was vintage picnic baskets and picnic sets. Which morphed into coolers, thermos bottles, suitcases, croquet sets, and cameras. This was during the Florida chapter of my life. Thrift stores are a dime a dozen down there and it's flea markets and antique shows year round!!
When we moved to New Hampshire, well, shit got real! Now we had a "mountain home" and a "beach home"! I set out to make my mountain home look like a cabin. Ski equipment, minnow buckets, paint-by-number autumn scapes and wooden chests. With all the open-air markets, antique shops and auctions, I bought so much I had to leave some stuff behind. (You have no idea how bad that sucked!)
Back to Florida for a brief time, we hit up the extravaganza at Renninger's. Now I was all about Hudson Bay, Polar Star, and plaid wool blankets. Annnd, lunch boxes, camp stools, and pennants. Not to mention the year-long hunt for an oar! (who knew that they'd be so elusive?) I eventually found the perfect one!
Now back in Ohio, (I got around, didn't I?) I got reintroduced to the local flea market. As in, memories from the past that take you back in a way that's hard to find when you live elsewhere. Plus, I could buy 5 times the crap for a lot less money!
I was in high gear now! I was buying a house and needed to fill it (I already had 2000 square foot of stuff). Not too sure what size house I thought I was going to buy, but please know I bought another 2000 square foot house. It was then that a saw an article in Midwest Living called "We Bought A Camp!" by Tereasa Surratt. She and her husband David actually bought a camp! And not just any camp, but the very camp where her husband spent summers during his childhood! Can you even imagine?
Camp Wandawega, this idyllic place, went through many transformations that add to the lore of the place. From speakeasy to organized crime. A brothel to cabins. A lake resort to Latvian church camp. All this serves as a backdrop to the history as the camp owners reinvent it yet again!
The pictures of the camp are a symphony of childhood and camp life, styled in the most amazing way! With all the treasures unearthed on site, it appears as if they dusted off the locks, opened the doors and 1950 just slapped you in the face. Tereasa is pure styling genius with every nook and cranny just begging you to relax or shoot a bow and arrow. The epitome of perfectly imperfect!
Around the same time, I read an article in Country Living about this woman who paid $500 for this roadside cabin that was close to her grandmas' home. This wilted beauty was part of a cabin court. Popular back in the 1920's when Americas' love affair with the auto grew and they hit the road driving. These little slices of Americana fell by the wayside, thanks to the Interstate Highways, the evolution of the motel and, yes, J. Edgar Hoover.
I bought the book, "A Very Modest Cottage" at the 2014 Country Living Fair and read it cover to cover, yet I didn't realize put the pieces together. It was after the magazine article, after the modest cottage book and after I bought the book, "Found, Free, and Flea", that I finally connected the dots. Tereasa Surratt was A Very Modest Cottage, Found, Free and Flea and Camp Wandawega!
These books are all things camp! They grab your childhood off the shelf, dust it off and put it front and center. Rope swings and fishing in the summer. Lazy, aimless days that stretch out before you and time slows to a crawl. When the night is pushed back and friends and cold beer take the place of lightning bugs and flashlight tag.
Pumpkins and kicking leaves in the fall. Cozying up with cider by a bonfire seems like the perfect end when red leaves against blue skies give way to a crisp night.
Winter comes with ice skating, trekking through the snow and a ruthless snowball fight. Dust off, grab a plaid blanket, some cocoa and tuck it by a fire to play vintage Tripoley with friends. When I see what Tereasa and her husband David have done with Camp Wandawega, I get fully immersed in a simpler time. When childhood meant fearless and fun.
Yes, it's been my dream to live that life. (and I can! J.P. Morgans' 120 yr old historic Camp Unca is for sale for a cool 2.7 million!!) It's reflected in my home. As I've said before, the inside looks like it could be by a mountain lake. Picnic-ready.
Reading (stalking) up on Camp Wandawega I imagine there's no pretense. No ceremony. Just wrapping up in a quilt kind of cozy. And that's how your home should feel too. Right?
I mean, kitchens should feel warm. Like you can almost smell an apple pie baking just by the way it looks. Family rooms filled with quirky personal treasures that reveal who you are. Cocoon-like bedrooms that are geared for rest. Bathrooms, well I guess they can look cute, but the function of shit, shower and shave should be the priority. I don't really want an "experience" when I'm in the Loo. (and I heard that on House Hunters. It sounds frightening!!)
A room can be warmed with what's personal and dear...to you! It's the personal style that you infuse into your home that makes people want to linger. A cabinet that I bought is chipped green and white perfection, to me. But it's really not about the object itself, but the life you breathe into it. Surrounding yourself with things that make you feel so grounded, that the hours melt away and there's no place you'd rather be.
And in that way, I feel like I've kind of paralleled Tereasa without knowing it. (and without the benefit of an actual camp) Then, I started looking for all the Camp Wandawega pins, articles and so on until I came across the Camp Wandawega collection at Land of Nod! Seriously? And of course, I was late to the dance! The camp blanket was already sold out but I did manage to buy a few items.
If you have the chance, better yet, make the time to get familiar with Camp Wandawega. Buy her books! Having reminders of childhood is a great feeling! So when adulting bitch slaps you in the face, grab a wool blanket, a lantern and make a fort! Put down your phone, and, for a little while, go back to the purest pleasure of being a kid! Maybe book a stay at Camp Wandawega? It's definitely at the top of my bucket list! Thanks for stopping by and, as always, let me know your thoughts!
A FEW THINGS TO CHECK OUT!
- The Lincoln Highway by Brian Butko
- American Getaway, 100 years of saints and Sinners at Camp Wandawega, Elkhorn, WI
- The Gas, Food and Lodging Trilogy by John A. Jakle, Keith A. Sculle, Jefferson S. Rogers
- A Very Modest Cottage by Tereasa Surratt
- Found, Free and Flea by Tereasa Surratt
- maineidyll.com (just to check out a motor court that is still in operation!)
- Pinterest has some great motor court pins!
***Credit where credit is due***
The brief history mentioned in this post was from the article and books listed in the body of the post.