Contrary to current popular belief, teacher salaries have always been rather modest, requiring adjustments of lifestyle not required of billionaires. Camping was an affordable and enjoyable vacation for the whole family. Many other teachers and their families camped in Acadia. In one case, we even met a superintendent of schools, who offered me an administrative position in his school district. I didn’t take him up on it because I couldn’t even think about leaving the New York Metropolitan area. New York was the only city in the country where I could pick up a chess game, day or night, the center of the chess world in the United States. Leaving it was unthinkable. But it is pleasant to remember that the offer was made while we were camping across the road from one another in the “A” loop of Seawall Campground. However, there was more to tenting than the money considerations.
I loved the tenting because it was a complete change from our lives at home. Not that our lives at home were unpleasant. On the contrary. The time we spent camping led to a new appreciation of what we did have back home, while at the same time providing us with experiences simply unavailable back home, or in a rented cottage. For one thing, there were the stars. A starry sky in its full splendor is something that has disappeared from the East Coast of the United States, sucked up, destroyed by ambient light. But in Maine in those days, when you looked up, at night, you could almost hear the music of the spheres. It was an incredible show, and it was available to us almost every evening as we left our campfire to take a short walk to the beach, where we could see the dark, shimmering ocean, and listen to its restless waves as they struck the everlasting rocks under that vast, starry sky and its comforting constellations.
I’ve already alluded to some of the discomforts of camping. Walking to the bathrooms in the middle of the night, particularly when it was raining, was not exactly fun. The mattresses of various types that we tried but that wouldn’t remain inflated also led to some discomfort, while coin operated showers are not to everyone’s taste, but we enjoyed almost every moment of camping. On second thought, having to find things to do with the kids when it was rainy and cold, wasn’t all that pleasant, but the local libraries provided pleasant shelter, as did some of the rather weird museums. Come to think of it, shopping in some of the discount stores on rainy days was also fun.
During the day, when the weather was beautiful, we hiked. One of those early hikes is still known as the March to Pretoria. Linda (my wife) was our planner. She planned a beautiful hike around Eagle Lake, which today is used mostly by bikers, but at the time there were fewer bikes. It was supposed to be a short walk, one or two miles, because our youngest was only about four at the time. Somehow, we hiked around that damn lake for hours. It turned out that a small boo-boo had been made. The walk was really six miles long. Two of the kids were extremely grumpy and unhappy. Linda and I were exhausted. After all, we were city people! The only one who had a good time was our four-year old, Melissa. Later in her life, for one summer, she became a park ranger on Peddocks Island in Boston Harbor.