It was 1963. A time before cell phones, personal computers and video games. My father would come home on a Friday, hook up the trailer that my mother had loaded to the gills with food, rain gear and camping essentials, and head off with the family to the monthly weekend get-togethers of the Weekend Wanderers Camping Club.
Weekend Wanderers relaxing at an Illinois campground circa 1970.
A couple of the member families served as Wagon Masters who planned and directed the themed weekend activities.
Each family parked their trailer around the central meeting area, sort of like how the pioneers circled their wagons a hundred and fifty years ago. The parking arrangement made it easier to host the scheduled potlucks, impromptu coffee klatches, and nightly campfires.
Everyone brought their flimsy aluminum chairs with the colorful webbed straps.
The Weekend Wanderers gather in the summer of 1970.
As the night went on and the parents sent the kids to bed, the blaze of the fire dwindled to the glow of coals. Adults chatted in the darkness without the distractions of iPhones, texting, voice mails or Facebook.
While I can’t recall all of the families who met up through the Weekend Wanderers, a few come to mind: the Lostumos, Billings, Malmquists, Uhereks, Hewitts, Julians and Letterers.
We set up camp at Katchewan Lake Resort in Streator, Timber Lake Park in Antioch, Viking Campground in Norway (Illinois), Valley View Acres, Starved Rock, Whistling Wings in Yorkville, Candy Stripe in Valparaiso, Shabhona in Morris and many more places.
Some of the families were childhood friends and some of us were just familiar faces, but each time we met at a campground we greeted each other as if returning from a long voyage at sea. There were kids everywhere, lots of noise and always that familiar fragrant smell of the campfire.
No fashion police patrolled the campsites, so no one cared what we wore for clothing – plaids went with stripes and flannel outranked silk.
Sunday morning eventually came and we all packed up our belongings and headed back to our respective hometowns.
Even today, when I smell a campfire or hear the name of a familiar campground I think of my Weekend Wanderers Family. Were you there?
As Bob Hope would always say, “Thanks for the memories“.