The summer between kindergarten and first grade, I went to Adventure Hill Day camp. My kindergarten teacher, Miss Hankins, had grown up on a farm on the south side of Richmond, halfway between Richmond and Amelia. In the summer she ran a day camp with lots of outdoor activities, arts and crafts, swimming and my favorite – horseback riding.
Adventure Hill Day camp is where I experienced my first smell that still, to this day, triggers a pleasant memory. The smell was vegetable soup. It often wafted through the pine trees that summer of 1962, a sure sign that it was almost time for lunch. I don’t recall that I was particularly fond of vegetable soup but I have very fond memories of summer camp. Interestingly, it is not the smell of vegetable soup today that triggers my memories of camp. But let me take a hike in the woods on a hot and humid summer day and on very rare occasions (perhaps because of a particular plant nearby) I’ll get a hint of that “camp vegetable soup smell” and I’m 6 years old again on my way from the arts and crafts cabin to the mess hall.
I continued taking riding lessons in the fall of 1962, probably on Saturdays. My favorite horse was solid black with a white streak on her nose. Her name was Beauty. I remember that I won a blue ribbon in a horse show that fall – a REAL blue ribbon – not the kind from summer camp that was made from the top of an ice cream cup with construction paper glued on for the ribbon.
In addition to riding lessons, I took ballet lessons, swim lessons (at an indoor pool at the YWCA) and joined a Brownie troop. I have a hazy recollection of standing in a circle of other girls all wearing our little brown uniforms and holding up our three middle fingers – “on my honor I will try . . .”
I think my mother wanted to make sure that I got opportunities she never had. That has been true for my whole life and I’m thankful for that. When my mother joined the Navy in 1952, she did not know how to swim. At the end of boot camp she had to jump off a tower (maybe 20 to 30 feet above the water), tread water for ten minutes and make a float out of her pants. My mother, who rarely admits to being afraid of anything, was terrified. Although I don’t think she envisioned a Navy career for me, she was going to make sure that I knew how to swim!
Unfortunately, all these activities were on the other side of town from where we lived and Nana didn’t drive so I’m not sure how I got to all these places unless they were after my mother got off work or on the weekends. Apparently, I got sick A LOT and Mom and Nana decided that it was because I went outside in the winter after swim lessons with wet hair. So that was the end of swim lessons. Brownies and ballet also fell by the wayside before too long.
I remember crossing the Nickel Bridge (built in 1925 to connect the Westover Hills area in South Richmond to the Boulevard on the north side of the river) and driving along the Boulevard past Byrd Park with its fountain that changed colors at night.
The Nickel Bridge got its name because of the toll booth on the north side of the bridge just before you got to Maymont Park and the Carillon. The toll probably went up to a quarter before I left Richmond in 1974 but it is still called the Nickel Bridge.
That’s all I remember about the year that I was in first grade, which is actually quite a lot. I was BUSY – my adjective for my seventh year.