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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Saturday Morning: Camp Candy

Have any of you ever been to summer camp before?  Maybe it was a day-camp where you got to do arts and crafts each day?  Or perhaps a sleepaway camp where you roasted marshmallows over a campfire as you talked about canoeing on the lake?

I never had the good fortune to take part in the actual summer camping experience.  I never did the tent pitching under the stars, or sleeping in a log cabin with other campers.  Never roasted weenies or canoed on a lake, or shot arrows at plastic decoys. 

I wasn't completely deprived of the summer camp experience though.

From the age of six to eleven, I took part in a summer playground program that was run by the Parks and Recreation committee in my small town.  Six playgrounds (usually at elementary schools all over the city) were chosen to host each of these camps, and at each camp were three or four counselors (usually juniors and seniors from the three high schools in town).  Each camp had about forty kids.

What sorts of activities did we take part in?

We did all sorts of things.  Although we only went on Mondays to Fridays from 9-4pm from early July to late August, those days were jam-packed with lots of fun.

We'd play lots of games, like Hot Potato, Hide and Seek, Red Light Green Light, and my personal favourite, Drip Drip Drop (think of it like Duck Duck Goose only with a jug of water that we poured over someone's head when we wanted them to be the goose).

Sometimes, we had people come in to talk 'Nature Lore' with us.  They'd bring in plant samples, and occasionally the odd animal for us to look at, and learn about summer ecosystems.  And yes, it was more fun than I let on...believe me!

We didn't just stay at the school playground all summer long though.  We got to go to places in town, and out of town as well.  Every Wednesday, for example, we would take a trip down to the Youth Arena, and that afternoon was spent doing arts and crafts.  All six playgrounds would gather in the upstairs rooms, and it was one of the few times where we could meet kids from other areas.  I was at the Commonwealth playground five of the six years (except that one summer we were at John Knox, as they were doing renovations the summer of '91), but it was neat to see the Bramshot, St. John Bosco, and Westminister kids.

Thursday afternoons were swimming trips, and like most kids did back in the late eighties and early nineties, we'd head down to St. Lawrence Park and take a dip in the river.  I remember having lots of fun times at that park.

We would even have a couple of field trips along the way.  In July, we'd go down to Crazy Horse park and play mini golf and go down the water slide, while in August, we'd go down to Kingston and play at a sports arena called Studio 801 (which later became Celebrity Sportsworld, which I believe closed down, sadly).

Really, there couldn't have been a better way to spend the summer.  I actually grew sad when I got too old to take part in the program.  What's even more tragic is that the summer playground program was shut down around 1995 because the cost to keep it running grew too high.  It's a real shame, because I think the kids in this community need something like that more than ever.

I just thought that my experiences in the playground program were so filled with happiness, and the days were carefree and exciting that I wish I could go back in time to experience that again.

I can think of another camp that I wish I could go back in time to revisit.  The only difference was that this camp would be one that I could only visit on Saturday mornings on the station known as NBC.  Even so, it was a fantastic camp.

Camp Candy.  One of the coolest summer camps I can remember watching, and one camp that I would have loved to have been a part of.

Well...that is...if I were a two-dimensional cartoon character that is.

Camp Candy was first broadcast in September 1989, and the basic premise is that the camp was run by a cartoon version of comedian and actor John Candy.  Mind you, the camp wasn't exactly your normal camp.

For starters, the campers at the camp certainly had their own distinct personalities, and those personalities could either clash or fit together, depending on the situation the campers found themselves in.

Although the camp seemed to have dozens of campers in each of the bunks and around the campfire, the show seemed to only focus on six kids.  You'll see five of them up above (for some reason, Robin is cut out of this picture, but you can see her in the group shot).  They are...

Alex (red haired girl with pigtails), who was a tomboy at heart and loved competing in sports.
Binky (boy in blue cap), who was an adventurer and loved going on explorations.
Iggy (boy in glasses), Binky's brother, who was a hypochondriac and was afraid of almost everything.
Rick (boy in green and pink shorts), who was a practical joker, and often displayed an arrogant attitude.
Robin (girl with pink bows and black curls) who was a nature-lover and who could mimic animal sounds.
Vanessa (girl with jewelry), a spoiled girl who put fashion ahead of everything else.

You can see these kids in action in this Camp Candy episode, entitled Christmas In July, which coincidentally first aired on December 16, 1989.

Okay, so maybe some things were filled with inaccuracies.  I'm pretty sure that you can't freeze the surface of a swimming pool with an air conditioner, but Vanessa said, it's the thought that counts, right?

The truth is that I really enjoyed this show a lot, and while it's one that not a lot of people may remember, it brought me a lot of happiness watching it on television. 

I mean, if it was popular enough for Marvel comics to publish a comic book about the show (even if it only lasted a little while), surely it must have had SOME impact, right?

That's why it's still sad to know that there won't be a chance to see new episodes of the series ever again, because of John Candy's sudden death in 1994 at the age of 43.

It is nice to know that he made this cartoon.  He certainly made a lot of kids very happy, in addition to many adults across North America and the world.  I'm glad that this cartoon made it on my list of favourite Saturday morning cartoons, and would gladly watch the show again if ever it came back on in reruns.

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