Joy Oakey

childhood memories of summers in Vermont



We were always the last family to arrive.

The others would have been there for weeks, maybe months before us. By the time we arrived, the goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace were in full bloom along the sides of the dirt roads – their fragrance giving off a faint musty smell that tickled my nose. Perhaps I shared some of Granny’s allergies to the wildflowers.

The trip to Vermont from Moorestown seemed unbearably long in the back of the Mercury station wagon, especially the part along the New Jersey Turnpike. However, once I spied the sign for the Motel on the Mountain, somewhere on the New York Thruway, my heart sped up a notch. For me, the essence of Vermont has always been her gentle-looking mountains. Seeing their New York brethren made me feel closer to them.

Dinner at Luigi’s restaurant in Albany, often with the Dickenson family, was the highlight of the trip. I think Bobby Darin’s rendition of “Mack the Knife” was playing every time we stopped there. Was that because Dad put a quarter in the jukebox?

I usually fell asleep in the car after dinner. But the crunching of the car tires up the stony dirt road to Camp Kenjockety wakened me. There were few outdoor lights to guide us when we arrived. Ann and I would grab flashlights to pick out a cabin in the dark.

The thin mattresses that lay on the squeaky, rusted cots smelled of mildew, but I loved everything about those old cabins. With the adults safely ensconced in the main bungalow, we owned the outdoors.

Randy was our leader. Always full of imagination and stories, she led us on adventures up the Pompy. In canoes, we paddled up that “mighty” river. Then we hopped on stepping stones, heading to Varney’s General Store, where we purchased penny candy. In the midst of those trips, we pretended to be lost on a deserted island or that we were explorers in a new territory. Most summers, Randy also had access to a spotted pony and took us riding double-bareback through the long, grassy fields. Those rides fostered my own love of horses.

Adults were not part of our escapades. They were the providers of food, medical care and other responsibilities – but not part of the structure of our days. We luxuriated in that lack of adult-imposed structure, our minds and bodies roaming free, creating our own adventures. Our personal universes expanded at our own pace as we learned to trust our instincts.

We spent hours swimming in the Pompy at the dock. Frogs and dragonflies shared the water and plant life with us. Peanut butter, as well as tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches magically appeared at lunch time. Adults must have brought them. They must have watched us swimming. I just don’t remember them being there.

Muddy, Aunt Francis’ mother, stayed in the small cottage called the Infirmary. A warm woman, who did a lot of knitting, she must have enjoyed having a space away from all the hubbub in the large house.

Dinners took place in that main bungalow. I think we ate a lot of spaghetti. The kitchen was large, with a huge metal sink. Was there an original ice box that required a block of ice to keep food cold? It seems to me there were often mechanical failures in that kitchen. Certainly the camp and all its buildings and equipment were in steady state of decline during the years we spent there.

After dinner, we put on skits, played cards and board games and sang. “There is a Tavern in the Town” was one of my favorite songs.

The only things left of Camp Kenjockety today are the driveway leading past the Dickenson’s house and the boulders that once lay next to the main bungalow and the cabins.

Sometimes, I take off my shoes and walk, somewhat painfully, up the stony road to the camp’s former location. Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace still decorate the sides of the driveway. A red newt may crawl back into hiding as I pass. I retain clear images of the main house and cabins. Every time I walk there, I believe I will see them. Surely they are there – they’re just out of view.


All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Joy Oakey.
Published on on 06/21/2017.


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