Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Peter Pan was a primitive-style camp, a complex of one large, pinewood building and two smaller ones, an outhouse, and a hand pump on a small concrete slab that provided clear, cold water when we pumped it hard enough to produce a hearty stream. My Grandfather Paul had wired the camp for the first radio in Washington parish in the early 1900’s, but the radio was off-limits to the Friday crowd and played only for Girl Scout camp sessions.

On these Fridays of respite from hot weather, we usually met at a small stone building called “The Waverly House,” departing exactly at 8 a.m. for Peter Pan. Once we reached camp, someone was recruited to run up the flag (it was usually one of the delinquents who spent a lot of time in the local pool hall who volunteered for this job), and we had “Colors” which consisted of recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, Bible readings, and meditations from Mrs. Love’s “Expression Book.” Her “Expression Book” was a composition book with marbled black and white cover that contained poems, quotations, and excerpts from literary classics. The “Expression Book” was one of many composition books Mrs. Love used to teach “Expression,” a class that focused on elocution, poetry recitations, and bible verse memorizations. Mrs. Love turned out many lawyers and several judges who graduated from her Expression classes, and later, as an adult, I discovered that the classes had been her only means of making a living.

“Colors” at Peter Pan was followed by swimming in two icy creeks, one for waders called “Peter Pan” near the camp buildings; the other creek, “Blue Hole,” ran through an area further into the piney woods, and its water was deep enough for real swimmers, including water moccasins which often threatened us. After swimming, we lunched on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fresh milk, or Coca Cola, then observed a quiet hour. This time out was inviolate and gave us an hour for Bible study, or for memorizing a poem that Mother Love had written out in her fine handwriting on a slip of paper from the composition book to recite at “Colors” …or we just lay down on a bed of pine needles and chatted with our buddies. At 2 p.m. we swam again, and at 4 p.m., Mrs. Love blew her whistle to call us to Evening Colors. We took down the flag, climbed into the back of the truck, and, reluctantly, left our haven in the outdoors and the company of “Mother Love.”
Mrs. Love provided this day, free of charge, for at least thirty children who weren’t always “regulars” (Tin had to make two trips to town to get the second batch of young people) without any volunteer helpers, without any safety-wise volumes at her side, without CPR or First Aid training, and none of us ever came near drowning, fell out of a tree, broke a limb, challenged a snake, or had any major altercations that called for adult intervention. We respected this woman who gave us so many hours of love, an appreciation for nature and the outdoors, lessons in patriotism, instruction in speaking, and inspiration to take care of one another. Her theology could be summarized in a song we often sang at “Morning Colors:”

“Father we thank you for the night,
and for the pleasant morning light,
forest and food and loving care,
and all that makes the world so fair;
Help us to do the things we should,
to be to others kind and good,
in all we do in work and play,
to grow more loving every day.”

Hallie C. Love probably didn’t realize that she influenced many lives so profoundly with her love and service. In fact, few of us ever actually see the successes of our efforts to change the world, nor are we usually publicly acknowledged for our lifelong commitments, but I believe that Hallie Love should be among those who’re acknowledged for “ubuntu,” a South African word that translates: “A person is a person because of other people.” Many times we’re brought into “presence” by the seeing and serving of some other person who loves us and lives out that love…as Hallie C. Love did with her band of young people growing up in one of America’s small southern towns during the mid 20th century.
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