LAST­ING IM­PRES­SION

A lonely cot­tage, mys­te­ri­ous lights and five very ac­tive imag­i­na­tions.

Reminisce - - Contents - BY EDITH SA­MUELS • CINCIN­NATI, OH Make an im­pres­sion. Tell us a last­ing mem­ory: REM­I­NISCE.COM/SUB­MIT-A-STORY

Chas­ing spies at sum­mer camp.

When I was 10, I spent eight weeks at Camp Wah­conah, a sum­mer camp for girls near Pitts­field, Mas­sachusetts. I didn’t like it very much. It was too reg­i­mented, too com­pet­i­tive and too fo­cused on ath­let­ics. But I did like the four girls with whom I shared a bunk and an un­ex­pected ad­ven­ture.

Our sleep­ing area was at the rear of the camp. Be­hind us were woods, and be­yond the trees, an iso­lated sum­mer cot­tage.

At night I watched the house from my bunk and no­ticed lights re­peat­edly go­ing on, then off, briefly il­lu­mi­nat­ing each win­dow. I also saw what looked like a flash­light be­ing clicked on and off in sus­pi­cious pat­terns.

I should add, this was 1943 and we were at war. There were ru­mors about Ger­man spies liv­ing in New York City and U-boats off the coast of Cape Cod. My young head was full of fears of evil­do­ers and es­pi­onage.

One night, I told my bunk­mates of my wor­ries. They quickly agreed the si­t­u­a­tion needed our care­ful at­ten­tion. Ap­point­ing our­selves ju­nior FBI agents, we’d slip out dur­ing rest hours and, us­ing tree trunks for cover, spy on the “house of spies,” as we started call­ing it. We were con­vinced the light pat­terns were coded mes­sages. We tried to de­ci­pher them but the code was too com­plex.

Each time we ven­tured into the woods, we moved closer to the house. “We need a bet­ter look at the spies so we’ll be able to iden­tify them on wanted lists,” I said. We even hatched a plan for two of us to knock on the door and claim to be lost, but we were too scared to carry it out.

One day in late Au­gust, we got caught in a down­pour while main­tain­ing our vigil. We de­cided to build a cov­er­ing to pro­tect us from the weather. We found a flat area free of tree roots, dug a large trench, stuck some branches into the ground and cov­ered them with a piece of dis­carded linoleum.

The next time we ar­rived at the lean-to to watch our Nazis—for that’s how we thought of them— we sniffed some­thing foul. We had ac­ci­den­tally dug into a cesspool. That put a smelly end to our sur­veil­lance.

Soon af­ter, it was time to go home. We never told any­one about the Nancy Drew Spy­catch­ers So­ci­ety of Bunk 12. But to this day I look back on it with as­ton­ish­ment and fond­ness. We’d turned an oth­er­wise or­di­nary sum­mer into some­thing in­tox­i­cat­ing, ex­cit­ing and to­tally ours.

I won­der if the in­no­cent va­ca­tion­ers stay­ing in that house ever knew that they’d given us such a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence?

We were con­vinced the light pat­terns were coded mes­sages.

AT 10, Edith had a grand smile and a yen for in­trigue.

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