Holly Williams jumps into this interview with a familiar tone: “Anyone else out there get good-natured eye rolls when you start talking Camp?”
How many summers did you spend in the Canyon, Holly?
This is the story the way I remember it… It has been a few years, so all of my camp buddies out there help me with the facts!
I was a third session camper and I spent 10 summers in the Canyon. (Much love to all my third session peeps!) My first year was at Linnets’ wings when I was 8. When I was 11, I moved over to Echo Valley, Cabin J, rather than going to Singing Hills “with the little kids”. I missed one summer at LLYC, when I went off to another camp. I remember Bill Cody came and spoke at that other camp which made me miss LLYC even more. He gave me one of his big bear hugs and told me I was always welcome. I never missed another summer in the Canyon. I was a camper until I was 16; then I was on work crew at Echo. That may have been my very favorite year. Ross Stephenson and I decided to lobby Frog for “paying” summer jobs the next year, so he declared us “Assistant Work Crew Bosses”. We made about $45 a session, I believe. My last year at Camp was 1980. I was a counselor in training back in Cabin J (it was still the youngest girls’ cabin). Now, my husband Harvey and I try to attend a retreat at Laity Lodge each summer while our daughter Weatherly is at Camp. One year we stayed at the Quiet House; it felt like being at camp between sessions. It doesn’t feel like summer to us unless we get to spend at least a little time in the Canyon.
What are you up to these days?
We’re busy raising our wonderful daughter Weatherly! She’s a brand new middle-schooler, but a seasoned LLYC camper (she got her 5 year t-shirt this year). I am a psychologist and the director of the Department of Research and Evaluation for the Austin Independent School District. Next year will be my 20th year in the district. I plan to take some time away from work to spend more time with Weatherly during her middle and high school years, before she heads off to college (sniff, sniff).
Do you have a favorite camp memory?
There are so many…some just plain fun like having the best food fights ever and then jumping in the river to wash all the muck off after the Ranch House was sparkling again, throwing Frog into the pits, getting caught skinny dipping by Bush Patrol, playing Blow Ball at the Sugar Shack, or getting woken up in the middle of the night for dances, but having curlers in our hair because we heard it was coming (right Debra Law McKeown and Clair Talley-Ammonett?). Some memories still make me laugh out loud: once, when I was on work crew, some of us tried to walk on water down by the diving board (Leslie Keeble, Sloan Gunter, and I think). We were so sure that we would be successful that we were wearing our clothes (not that that really mattered, we swam in our clothes all the time after the aforementioned food fights). We were very surprised when we got wet!
Also, does anyone remember the “Great Flood of 1978”? We had generators but could not drive in the river and some parents from S.A. came to pick up their kids in a helicopter. The kids did not want to leave because we were having so much fun. We played mudball every day!
One memory especially dear to me is my brother Tem getting up at the awards ceremony during my last summer at Camp and talking about a good friend of his who would be going off to college in the Fall and how he would miss “her” then singing my favorite Shake Russell song, Two Silver Hearts, for me. So sweet!
Some memories are a bit surreal to me now like having communion up above Battleship. We hiked up at sunset and did not have a table so two big counselors got on their hands and knees; we had communion together in the dark.
What do you miss most about your summers at camp?
Summers at camp seemed to stretch out forever. (Clearly I never went to Jam Session; plus, Barry Floyd and I were remembering that we always stayed for at least a month. We would go into Leakey with the counselors and wash our clothes at the Laundromat.) I miss the daily rhythm of waking up to the fabulous tunes and morning antics (House at Pooh Corner, anyone?), praying and having our delicious Mickey prepared meals together, going to favorite activities (remember creative sunbathing anyone? Of course we know better now!), swimming in the river, laying out on the dock, being in our cabins in the quiet afternoons and reading books or writing letters in our bunks; singing together at round up, Frog’s talks, Crosstalks and Say Sos. I also miss hiking over to Blue Hole, drinking from the spring and jumping off the cliff; dances and movies on the tennis courts; raiding the freezer in the middle of the night when we were on work crew, and I already mentioned the FOOD FIGHTS! Mainly I miss getting to spend the summers in the Canyon with my camp people. I love all of you guys sooo much!
How does LLYC still impact your life today?
Camp shaped my faith. I learned what it means to be a Christ follower and began my relationship with Him there. Although I grew up Methodist, it was my camp experience of my counselors and the other staff just loving God, loving each other, loving us, and telling us over and over how much God loves us that really drew me in! I remember being at Linnets Wings for the first time and having the best two weeks of my life and realizing that being a Christian was the coolest thing ever! Of course it was the 70’s and most of those kids were the cool kids from Corpus, after all. I met some of my lifelong friends at Camp.
Plus, Weatherly goes to camp. She goes third session with a bunch of alumni kiddos like Mary Roe, Mary Claire Brown, and Arden Floyd. We started taking them to Family Camp when they were little, so just like us, they feel like Camp is THEIRS. Love the legacy! BTW how fun is it to see all of those alums at the drop off each year? I just love that our kiddos are experiencing camp like we did. OK, maybe not just like we did. I do love that there is a place where our sweet Weatherly feels completely free to be her lovely herself, where her faith will be nurtured, she will be loved, she will develop lifelong friendships, build resiliency for when she is out in the world, and have in ingrained in her how much God loves her and where every summer she will have the best two weeks of her life. So many lives, including all of ours, have been enriched over the years by LLYC and all of the other Foundations for Laity Renewal Programs; I am so grateful to the Butt and Rogers family for their vision and ongoing mission of Laity.