Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

"Welcome to Camp Grandpa!"

This camping program gives new meaning to “family togetherness”

The rules are simple: 1. Obey Grandma and Grandpa. 2. Follow the schedule. 3. Always stay with the group. 4. Laugh at Grandpa’s jokes!
Camp Grandpa 2002 will be held August 1-8 at the St. Paul, Minnesota home of Fred and Sandy Hall. Annemarie (age 12), Elias (age 11), and Matthias (age 10) will fly in from Georgia.
Andrew (age 11) and Rebecca (age 10) will arrive from California, and Joshua (age 10) and Caleb (age 9) will come from their home in St. Paul. New to the scene this year will be 8-year-old Eva. That’s eight grandchildren for seven days!
“I hope I’m up to it,” said Fred Hall, father of three married sons and a total of fifteen grandchildren. “This will be our third annual camp.”
Younger siblings beg to be allowed to attend Camp Grandpa, but camp rules hold admission to those eight years and older. “If they were any younger than eight, there’d be a big worry about their safety,” Grandma said.
“We created Camp Grandpa because we wanted to get better acquainted with the grandchildren. We also wanted them to have come cousin-fun. They don’t get to see each other very often,” said Grandma Sandy.
And what is cousin-fun? It might be having bike races around the block, playing in the chess tournament on the porch, or digging in the costume box to dress up for a skit.
“On Eagle Wings” was the first theme back in August 2000, and each child was given a T-shirt with the camp logo and an eagle in flight. One of the highlights that year was a field trip to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center via the city bus.
In 2001, “The Stars Tell His Glory” was the designated theme and their T-shirts boasted bright yellow stars. The kids visited the Minneapolis Planetarium among other local attractions.
This year’s theme is “Jesus Stills Our Storms.” Topics will cover a whole range of themes, from aspects of Minnesota weather to storms that are mentioned in the Bible to the storms of life such as times of trouble or disappointment. Videos from Newton’s Science Workshop and the Moody Science series will be used as resources.
Each evening, Bible verses, stories, and an educational video pertaining to the theme is discussed during Topic Time. Days are packed with chores and activities, beginning with Bible Before Breakfast. Kids are assigned in rotation to help Grandma with meal preparation and clean-up.
“It would be easy to become these kids’ servant,” Grandma Sandy said, “so I have a rule that helpers can’t leave the kitchen until Grandma does.”
“There were only two of us girls last year,” said Annemarie, “and one day we were trying to make chocolate chip cookies — but the boys kept sneaking in to eat the dough when we weren’t looking. This year we need a rule that says, ‘No eating chocolate chip cookie dough (unless you’re one of the bakers, of course).’”
Tradition dictates that they worship together on Sunday at Grandma and Grandpa’s church, Calvary Lutheran (AALC) on Hamline Avenue in St. Paul. The kids recite Bible verses and sing a song for the congregation. Then it’s off to a Twins Game or some other activity in the afternoon.
“I knew we wouldn’t have room for all the kids in our car,” Grandma Sandy said, “so I bought garage sale bikes ahead of time. Fred had to do a few repairs, of course, but that made it possible for us to take long bike rides to various locations.”
Each year they’ve biked single-file along the Mississippi River to the Science Museum in downtown St. Paul. Mickey’s Diner makes a nice respite along the way.
Here’s the drill: Grandpa leads and the cousins follow while Grandma rides and watches from the rear. If anyone gets out of the line or does anything that’s unsafe, they’re automatically sent to the back of the line to ride by Grandma.
Throughout the week, if an item of clothing or something similar is found out of place, it’s put into The Dreaded Purple Bag. The kids never know when the bag will be opened, but if something of theirs is in it, they’ll have to do whatever the group dictates.
Penalties are hilarious and range from having to tell a joke, doing the elephant walk, or keeping a straight face for one full minute. Imagine their glee when The Dreaded Purple Bag was opened and there were Grandma’s pajamas!
The Halls schedule a workday for one of the mornings. The kids get to volunteer for chores as they’re read off the list: mow the lawn, sweep the front porch, vacuum, dust the living room, trim the hedges.
“One year, poor Joshua didn’t volunteer for anything,” said Grandma Sandy, “and he ended up with the only chore left: cleaning the toilets.”
Each year the campers ride their bikes to nearby Lake Hiawatha. They swim, go on a canoe ride, and build sand castles. They’ve also ridden the city bus to the Mall of America and spent time at Camp Snoopy and Underwater World.
And why is it called “Camp Grandpa” at the obvious exclusion of Grandma, who does most of the planning and preparation? “Because ‘he be the man!’” said Grandma Sandy, chuckling. “With three sons in our family, we’ve always been male-oriented. Besides, the children respect their Grandpa very much, and that understanding goes a long way in making things easy to control.”
Fred Hall had his own perspective. “That’s only half the story. ‘If Grandma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!’ The two roles go together.”
When all the dust has settled and the good times are just a memory, Grandma gives a photo album detailing his or her week to each attendee.
“Look at this! – Remember when we did this?” the delighted kids remark.
“There need be no rigid generation gap between grandparent and grandchild,” said Grandma Sandy. There sure isn’t one at Camp Grandpa!”