It’s the beginning of the annual season of Mormon girls camp. I enjoyed camp as a girl and I didn’t mind it too much as an adult leader when I got enough sleep.

The best part of going to girls camp was learning the camp songs. They weren’t any printed copies of the songs. The older girls who led the evening campfire programs taught them to us by singing them and we newbies followed clumsily along.

One camp song stuck out for me for a couple of reasons. First, it was fun (like all the songs were) and secondly, my third year at girls camp, it was banned from camp forever. Which meant of course, I burned it into my memory so I could someday pass it on surreptitiously to future generations.

My third year of camp, the year I became a junior camp leader and got to start bossing around the youngest campers, one of the priesthood brethren assigned to oversee girls camp, listened to our song and was highly offended. The song struck him as particularly inappropriate for daughters of Heavenly Father to be singing around a campfire.

Because of this one song, all girls camp songs underwent scrutiny at the highest levels of our stake. Church leaders officially expunged all songs with possibly questionable lyrics.

The next year, and all years to follow forever and ever, an official camp song handbook was developed that looked suspiciously like a church hymnal. The stapled together booklet of camp songs was decidedly heavy on spirituality and light on fun.

That was the beginning of the tidal wave of Camp Reformation. When I was a 12 year-old camp first-timer, girls camp was about making new friends with other girls from the stake, learning camping survival skills and maybe 20% of camp programming was spiritually related.

We had daily devotionals, prayers before meals and designated rest/scripture study time, but that was not the focus. We were at camp, man! Camp is fun! Camp is cool! Let’s go take a 5 mile hike and then wade in the creek! We didn’t sit around making posters about our someday temple wedding day. That came a couple of years into the the reformation, when the percentage of spirituality went up by at least 60% and outdoor survival skills became a minor player in the point of girls camp.

I haven’t been to girls camp in several years now. My girls aged out of it, and so did my moral obligation to chaperone it, thank goodness. I had a hard time the last couple of years. The programming for camp was so not-camp like, that as an adult I hated it. The girls had no idea what they were missing. The icing on the cake for me was the year the adult leaders were supposed to dress up like famous pioneer church leaders and for the whole week wear long sleeve dresses (in a place known for sweltering high temperatures and killer humidty) and cook over a campfire, all while being “in character” so the girls could gain an appreciation for the awesomeness of early female church leaders.

It would have been super fun, except it was ridiculous and no one was happier than me that we ended up moving that summer and I narrowly escaped that ring of girls camp hell. I heard afterwards from my girlfriends who went that it was a disaster.

I hope by now the pendulum has swung back to the center and that the programming for girls camp is more evenly divided between the desire for every girl to have a spiritual experience and the goal of actually learning how to camp.

Meanwhile, without further ado, here are the lyrics to the girls camp song that had been sung for generations of campers and their leaders, until the summer of 1983.

Hot Dog Man

I know a hot dog man
He owns a hot dog stand
He sells most everything
From hot dogs on down

Someday I´ll change his life
I’ll be his weenie wife
Hot dog! I love that weenie man.

(sung faster and faster until everyone is tongue-tied and laughing hysterically.)

And you are very, very welcome.