Jeanie Runey ~ Teens On the Lake

Father Godfrey droned on in yet another stuffy summer sermon that my friends and I had to suffer through, though we weren’t the least bit bored. We had another purpose, a higher calling if you will, for attending the 10:15 Mass every Sunday at Our Lady of the Lake Church.

In those days, there was an alcove to the right of the altar, where you would find the campers from Camp Ousamequin, the YMCA camp across the lake. Long before it was a detention center for youthful offenders, it was a summer camp for boys. Although we weren’t interested in Father Godfrey’s sermon, we were very interested in the counselors who chaperoned the campers.

There was a long history of girls from our side of the lake fraternizing with the counselors. My older sister once swiped a home-made frozen blueberry pie from our freezer. She hid it under her jacket to bring to the counselor she was dating. My mother couldn’t understand why Carol was wearing a coat to go boating on such a hot day.

Now that we were coming of age, we were eager to get to know those handsome, sun-tanned counselors. Although we gazed longingly at them throughout the Mass, there wasn’t much chance to actually meet them. As soon as Mass ended, they hustled the campers onto the bus for the trip back across the lake. So we concocted a plan.

I had a 12-foot wooden boat with a 3 1/2 h.p. outboard motor. Instead of a separate gas tank that larger motors had, the gas tank was in the top of the motor. There was a switch to open and close the gas line, similar to what is on today’s gas grills. It was dangerous to leave gas in the line, so I had to shut off the gas switch and let the engine sputter out when I wanted to stop. We nicknamed my boat the Putt Putt because of the loud sputtering noises it made when the engine shut off. I became very adept at figuring out when to flip the switch so the motor would stop when I got close to the beach.

One bright summer Sunday afternoon, we motored over by the camp. We knew all of the counselors and campers would be out enjoying summer sports, including swimming, diving—and this is key—skiing off the back of their Boston Whaler.

We were wearing our best summer shorts and tops, enough mascara and blush to attend a Maybelline convention, and ready smiles. At just the right moment, I shut off the gas line. My Putt Putt sputtered out to a very ceremonious stop, right in front of the docks as planned. I tried (pretended to try?) repeatedly to start it. I kept pulling the cord, but no gas meant no go, rendering us damsels in distress.

Sure enough, a couple of counselors hopped in the Boston Whaler and headed out to help. Before they got to us, I flipped the gas switch back on. One of them boarded the boat, pulled the cord on the motor, and it started immediately. They got to be the heroes, saving us from being marooned. And it gave us enough time to start a conversation about their days off and how we could meet.

That night at dinner I coyly asked my mother, “Can we bake some blueberry pies tomorrow?”