May 9, 2018

Boys Hugging in Tuxedo, North Carolina

Tuxedo, North Carolina is in the far southwest of the state, where it borders South Carolina.  It has nothing to do with the formal costume; it was named after Tuxedo, New York (which did give its name to the formal costume).

I doubt that anyone actually wears a Tuxedo there.  It's so rustic that you can't even tell that you're in a town.  There are no amenities but a Baptist Church and a restaurant called Mike's Chuckwagon.  The nearest grocery store is 8 miles away. The nearest drug store is 10.

But Tuxedo does have one unique feature: summer camps.  Parents from all over North Carolina, and indeed all over the Southeast, have been sending their kids to Tuxedo every summer since the 1920s.  Within a five mile radius there are two camps for boys, two for girls, and three for both.

Camp Mondamin, founded in1922 by "Chief" Andrew Bell, teaches 200 boys aged 6 to 17 "self esteem and community."  It offers activities never heard of in the Nazarene camps of my youth, like performing arts, rock climbing, and kayaking.

Camp Wayfarer, for 60 boys and girls, is a "close knit family" for kids in 1st through 10th grade, based on nondenominational Bible study.  It offers the usual sports plus some sort of canoe battle.  Not ACA-accredited.

Blue Star Camp is a co-ed  Jewish "sleepaway camp" for over 600 kids aged 6 to 16.  It offers a "living Judaism" program with a service learning component.

Camp Tekoa is a Methodist camp for boys and girls.

The most interesting of the camps is Falling Creek, founded in 1969 by a Christian businessman who wanted to steer boys away from the path of long hair, rock music, tv, drugs, sex, and rebellion. He wanted to introduce "traditional values," such as those espoused in Psalm 133:1: "How good it is for brothers to dwell together in unity."

In many ways Falling Creek is like the Nazarene camps I grew up with: college boys as counselors, daily church services, special musical numbers, a lot of sports.  Of course, there are activities we could never have imagined, everything from blacksmithing to lacrosse, plus "warrior ball," a jacked-up form of dodgeball; and rules that we could have never imagined ("campers  may not post anything negative about the camp on social media").

The website still features prominently an article in Time magazine from 2007 that praises the camp as "a trip to boy heaven."  Sounds like a gay boy's dream.

And the promotional materials show lots of boys hugging.

Of course, it expects the boys hugging to be heterosexual bros.  I'm quite sure that the directors at all of these camps would be horrified at the suggestion that any of the campers might gay.

But a hug is a hug.  When you are erased, told over and over again that you do not exist, you find meaning anywhere you can.


  1. Well, one time, at band camp...

    I actually never went to summer camp. Generational difference, with "camp" being defined so loosely to lose all meaning in the 90s. Plus, my generation had Baby Boomers for parents. I mean, no offense, but Baby Boomer parents in general were very naïve, in a sort of "tilting at windmills" way. (Camp counselors are all pedophiles! Drug dealers hang around schools! D&D will lead to your kids summoning Satan! Disney is turning kids gay!)

  2. My parents said all of those things, except for Disney turning kids gay, back when I was a kid in the late 1960s and 1970s.

    1. Mine weren't that naïve, but every person I know with Boomer parents had a story. But camp just was uncool, and we had been exposed to what I call the Camp Gulag trope. You know the type: Camp is never-ending misery. Like gym class, but for a couple weeks instead of an hour. If they're really bad, camp will be an actual gulag, like Kamp Krusty.


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