Last night it was Dinner-on-a-Stick at the Stevens’ house — more properly called Pork Kebabs, no doubt.  Nyel had cut up a thick, boneless pork chop in the morning and had it marinating all day in some exotic concoction of white wine, orange juice, garlic powder, cumin, oregano and probably other stuff.  Also soaking (but in plain water) were eight 10-inch wooden skewers, pointed at one end.  They came from a large package labeled “made in China” which, like all such packages these days, gave me a moment’s pause — but only a moment, for we’ve had them for several years.  Definitely pre-Covid.

When I was a little girl, “Dinner-on-a-Stick was what we called our bonfire dinners at Camp Willapa.  They, of course, took the place of dinner in the KP Tent when we were off on an overnight to Beard’s Hollow or Long Island or up the Naselle River.  Those meals always involved hot dogs which, for those “in the know,” were threaded lenthwise onto a roasting stick.  Newbies sometimes stuck them on their sticks horizontally — a sure invitation to disaster.  The other part of stick dinners was usually s’mores, the marshmallows carefully toasted to perfection before being added to the Graham Cracker/Hershey Bar sandwich.  It was the perfect dinner!  (I have no recollection of fruit or vegetables but there must have been… At least carrot and celery sticks or maybe apple slices.)

Cookout on the Beach

The experienced campers took great pride in their roasting sticks.  I remember making mine with the help of one of the older boys from Sherwood Forest, the boys’ camp just across the road from the girls’ camp and with whom we often had bonfires and sing-alongs.  I was probably seven — my second year as a camper.  I know I already had my own pocket knife and my “teacher” showed me how to peel the bark from my stick for about a foot from the small end, and then carefully sharpen it to perfection.  I remember that choosing the “stick” from the right tree was the important first step, but I’m not sure now if it was from a spruce or a crabapple or… what?

Rowing on the Bay

Toward the top of the stick (which I think was about three feet long) I carved my initials in the bark.  There was plenty of room left for the notches that would  commemorate each award I would get for the next seven years at camp — milestones in swimming, boating, horseback riding, and archery as I remember. The more summers you had been a camper, the more precious your stick became and I remember being very proud of mine and the “record” it kept of my accomplishments.

At the end of summer, when my parents came up to Oysterville for a week or two and then we all went back to California for the school year, the stick stayed in the closet of my room at my grandparents’ house.  Except for one year when I took it home with me.  It must have been after the war when we had a car.  I don’t think I could have managed the logistics of taking it home on the train which was our usual mode of transport from Portland to Oakland and vice-versa.  But, I do remember having it in Alameda one year and showing it proudly to my neighborhood friends, Jackie and Joyce.  I remember that they weren’t nearly as impressed as I thought they should be.  My first lesson in “you had to be there.”

Little Red Riding Storybook Doll c. 1940

I have no idea what happened to that roasting stick.  Or to my pocket knife, for that matter.  They must be with my storybook dolls and ice skates and all those photos of Hollywood stars, signed by the stars, themselves.  Maybe even with my dog Zipper who “went to a farm out in the country” one summer when I was away at camp.  There are some things that happen when you are growing up that you just don’t get over…

One Response to “Dinner-on-a-Stick”

  1. Jane says:

    I had that same storybook doll! And many others. I often wonder what happened to them all. I have several dolls from my childhood, Ginny, Saucy Walker, Tiny Tears, but my story book dolls seem to be long gone.

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