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The smell of the campfire, the roar of the girls

I had long ago despaired of the survival of the camp song outside of camp itself. Although one of the most delightful parts of the summer camp experience, camp songs were also the most difficult to duplicate in an urban setting. Once back in the neighborhood with the concrete and the jungle gyms, campers found the songs lost their luster. No one wanted to sing ``Daisy on My Toe'' or ``I've Got Twopence'' with me when they could watch ``The Flintstones'' instead, nor did they especially favor reminiscing with me about the friends I had left there -- probably because they had never met them. One year, anticipating the stark song wasteland ahead, a friend and I tried to sing ``Flea -- Flea Fly'' on the way back home in the station wagon, but our two voices and the enclosed car did not come close to the mob of voices that had contributed at camp. Once I tried to teach ``Swiss Boy Went Yodeling'' to my kid sister, in hopes of reviving in our home the camaraderie of our summer camp, thinking that even she would enjoy the frantic gesticulations. It was a lost cause, however -- she was much too interested in Strawberry Shortcake at the time.

The songs themselves weren't much. ``I Met a Bear'' had all the finesse and subtlety of a soft drink commercial. Absurd lyrics, as in ``Little Bunny Foo-Foo,'' with mandatory top-of-the-lungs performance and tickling torture, were as much a part of camp as screen cabins and tables for 12. (Of course, none of us girls were ever half so obnoxious as the boys.) But each camp activity had its required singing. Just as the trail ride had to have ``Three Wheels on My Wagon,'' the Hawaiian luau had to have ``King Kamehameha.'' Where else would ``I'm a Little Pile of Tin'' be sung with such abandon but in the camp van?

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Sometimes, in a crazy mood, I rattle off a few to my husband. ``Laughing Place'' will burst out over soapy dishes, ``The Birdie Song'' in the early morning (`` `Good Morning, Good Morning!' the little birds say. Chirp! Chirp!''). ``The Nonsense Song,'' a personal favorite, has its place in our home as well (``We feed the baby garlic so we'll find him in the dark . . .''). But I never hoped to hear them unless I taught them, or to relive their spontaneity until I had a bunch of kids of my own.

So you'll be glad to hear about the Kentucky Fried Chicken. We stopped at one just outside New York City in Fort Lee, near the Pacific Palisades exit. Our table was right next to a happy Asian family conversing in their native tongue. The children laughed and prattled on, about chicken and school and friends, I imagine. Suddenly, behind me, rose the unmistakable lyrics of ``The Boom-de-a-da Song.'' I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills, I love the flowers, And the daffodils, I love the fireside, When all the lights are low! Boom-de-a-da Boom-de-a-da Boom-de-a-da Boom-de-a-da -- from the chickeny mouth of a seven-year-old, raven-haired little boy. By the time he hit the Boom-de-a-da's, I was singing along and tapping my feet, albeit privately, with my husband patiently humoring me. I even remembered our camp version of the hand movements, and did them there at the table. For an instant I was back at the girls' campfire near the creek, with the smell of the fire, and the twilight closing round.

I no longer despair. Camp songs are represented far and wide. Courage, fellow campers.

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