By the time I was 12-years old I was already an unabashed, slogan-chanting Irish rebel.
I knew all of the stories of the atrocities Oliver Cromwell had committed in Ireland, knew the tales of how the English had robbed Ireland of its food during the height of the devastating potato famine, and could sing all of the anti-English rebel songs.
So – when it was announced that Queen Elizabeth was coming to Sarnia with Prince Philip in the summer of 1959, I had no interest in seeing her. That summer the Queen had been on her throne only six years and was 32-years-old. But it didn’t matter to me because I had other plans. I was going to Camp Kenny.
Camp Kenny was a summer camp near Camlachie on the Lake Huron shoreline and later became known as Camp Lamrecton.
The site was originally owned by W.H. Kenny, a Sarnia grocer, who donated the land to the YMCA. Each summer in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Camp Kenny was rented out weekly to one group or another by the “Y.”
During the week of the Queen’s visit, it was rented by the Boy Scouts on what would be my final summer at the camp.
We lived in tents, slept in sleeping bags and ate our meals in a large mess hall. We drank “rock water” from a well. Our leaders were a couple of young hellions who tested the envelope of the tenets of good Scout leadership.
One night, having heard I was a sound sleeper, they carried me down the long flight of stairs to the Lake Huron beach, leaving me to awaken at dawn on the lonely shore.
Another night, they decided to share their cigars with me. I became so sick that, for the next 24 hours, they waited on me hand and foot and let me sleep in one of the cabins for fear I would rat them out.
Still, it was great good fun and didn’t even put me off the occasional cigar. Later that summer, on a trip to Hamilton, my two younger brothers and I stayed for a few days with my cigar-smoking eccentric Aunt Adrienne in Hamilton.
She shared her stogies with us and taught us how to play poker; winning all of the allowance money we’d been given for our Hamilton trip in the process.