Camp Osoha, R.I.P.

Camp Osoha, R.I.P.

I got the saddest news this weekend — Camp Osoha, the place that saved my life, is closing it’s doors after 89 years.

I went to Osoha for five years, during which, I moved twice and switched custodial parents. To say that Camp was the only stable point in my life for many years is an understatement. And Linda Porter, the camp director, has been a touchstone throughout all these decades — someone I could go back to years later for advice.

Maybe it’s a western thing, but as an adult I don’t meet very many people who went to these kinds of all-summer sleepaway camps. Osoha, and my brother’s camp, Red Arrow, had seven week sessions, and we all came back year after year. You tell people that and they look at you like you like it was child abuse. Seven weeks? Who would send their kid away all summer?

All I can say is thank goodness my parents managed to scrape it together each summer to send us back to camp. Camp was where I learned how to get along with other people, how to be a team, and how to work really hard to achieve a goal. And it was always the same. For me, who had one of those childhoods where nothing was ever the same, the fact that I could come back year after year and nothing changed, the kids in my cabin were the same, the counselors were the same, the songs and activities and rituals were the same. It’s where I learned that things really could be okay.

It’s very sad. The end of an era and I can understand why Linda is giving up the struggle to keep camp open and going. She took over Camp Osoha in 1975, and I suppose there just isn’t anyone to hand it off to. I think the perfect solution is to make it a B&B, where all of us geezers can come back, sleep in our old bunks, go canoeing, and maybe play a little tennis. We can have a council fire and sing all the goofy old songs … the bunch of old ladies that we are now …

12 thoughts on “Camp Osoha, R.I.P.

  1. Thanks — I think I’m going to try to pitch an article about it … camp was so important to all of us, and it’s such an anachronism … Will pull up the TAL episode. Also, apparently Michael Eisner wrote a book called “Camp” …

  2. It’s a grief, isn’t it? Reminds me of an essay in Snyder’s “The Practice of the Wild” when he references a friend’s grief when the place of his childhood has been bulldozed into suburbia.

  3. Hello fellow Osohan! My husband was looking up the meaning of \Osoha\ today to give me some solace during my period of grief. He stumbled along your blog and I right away loved what you wrote. Osoha is a magical place and Linda Porter is an amazing woman. I feel blessed to be a part of this place. I hope you find yourself \by the land by the sky blue water\ again one summer …Cheers!

  4. Hi Charlotte,

    I hope you’re not giving up on Camp yet… the announcement was not at all explanatory, to say the least.

    Camp Osoha is too much of a treasure for too many people to be dismissed so easily. I am hoping that Linda will be open to considering some options to keep Camp open in some capacity. Or let someone else take up the mantle.

    It’s too soon to say “die” yet!

    1. I didn’t go to Camp Osoha, but always wished I had…my dearest friends Linda, Robin and Ruth are the most wonderful women I know and I feel so blessed that they are my friends. The camp was magical and the evenings by the fire upon the first chill discussing their season and their campers were priceless.
      All you campers, young and old, cherish your memories and know that each of you were valued by these dedicated, bright, and thoughtful women…

  5. I would honestly LOVE to take over the camp… And I’d do it without reward. That place though me so much more then I ever learned in school, or from any job I’ve ever had. Tought me how strong I am and to truely love myself as well as others. I found my inner soul there, it’s because we lived so simple just as the indians did, God just as he intended. We need to pass this kind of knowlege onto our future generations because we been living in a generation without love for too long. That place honestly saved my life because I became homeless after my last summer there due to my mother becoming a victom of a drug addtiction. I would sing the songs I learned there and thing about “wateepie” and it would remind me that I God loves me and that I was going to be okay. I don’t think I would have made it without all the love and knowlege I gained from such a special place…. I can’t help but cry as I write this because I children that i see today are so helpless and spoiled… they can’t grasp what life is really about. I was foutunate that I was given a Grant to attend the next summer…I don’t know who sponcered me that, but I would love to thank Linda Porter for being such a strong, loving, caring women and teaching me to be the same

  6. My sisters and I all went to Osoha for many years – for me, it was 7 years as a camper and 3 as a counselor. . .the three of us went to visit late one summer after camp was over, and in spite of our age differences, we shared so many memories and songs. Just walking around took us all back to that special feeling we got during our wonderful summers there. It was a deeply bonding experience for us. I’m raising a great-granddaughter who is almost 6 – she would LOVE to spend her summers at Osoha – I would LOVE to spend mine there too – again!

  7. I went to Osoha for 5 summers from 1967 to 1971, I would love to correspond with anyone who went during the same time period!

  8. Loved finding this,,,,,,,not the fact that Linda, who was a fellow camper, I believe,, when I was there, is ceasing to be the Osoha forever camper,,,,,,,,,,,,,,googled a few yrs ago and found that it was still going and hoped that the many traditions,colors, Mailbox,were still the same. I remember my friends, orange canoes, WAR CANOES, loons. Osoha Moons,,,,,,way back to Chief and Nawahnee,,,,,,,,,,think it was about ’52 ,’53,,,,,,,not good with numbers,,,,,,,,,,,but would like to hear of anyone who was there then,,,,,,esp Carol Donovan,Terri Nellis, Jane Stanley. Sad that it is over,,,,,,,but so many memories of the North Woods

  9. I know this is very out of time but finding this made me think of all the amazing things I learned at camp. I went to osoha in 2008 and 2009 (the last summer) and honestly it was the best time of our life. Everyday i was at home i dreamt of comming back. When I got the email from Linda who is one of the nicest, sweetest and strongest women i know, I couldn’t help but cry. All the memories and friends were crumbling appart. Besides, I’m not even from the US so when was I supposed to see all my friends?
    I read some comments asking why had it closed down. Well Linda didn’t really explain but the most logical reason is this:
    On 2008 there was a big accident. I dont know if you heard but a girl lost her arm while skiing. It was awful. There was an ambulance, and the police was everywhere. We were very scared since we saw all this comming back from a trip.
    But the girl’s dad sued the camp
    so she closed it because if camp went on they would take it away from her. And we all know Linda loves osoha so much. She would be devastated if she lost it.
    I just wanted to explain even though its late.. I didn’t want to leave you clueless. I was a camper in Clan and Blue Herons the last two years of camp.

  10. Just an editorial note about that last comment that came in — I am uncomfortable spreading rumors about why Camp might have closed, but I also don’t like to moderate comments if I don’t have to. My opinion on the matter has always been that although we all loved Osoha, both the business and the property belonged to Linda, and if she decided, for whatever reason, to close it, that’s her business. We all have our happy memories, and were lucky enough to have had such formative experiences there.

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