It is our hope, that very soon, Camp Gray will launch a campaign to raise money to build a new gymnasium. Camp’s current gym is old and dying, but before we say goodbye, the walls of that old building have a few things to share…

The clock is ticking, friends.

I’ve never had a scoreboard, so perhaps this expression isn’t fitting.

Regardless, I will soon be but a memory, hopefully remembered fondly, perhaps forgotten all together. Like the rectangle swimming pool, the chicken coop office, the Joe, the cottage, and staff cabins 1, 2, & 3 before me, the time is near to knock me over in order to make way for the future.

It’s okay, though. You needn’t feel sorry for me. For what I was built to be, I’ve had an exceptional life. We buildings don’t last forever, certainly those of us that were built for a mere $2,400.

I know what you're thinking; "Gym, you don't look a day over 45..."

I know what you’re thinking; “Gym, you don’t look a day over 45…”

I will soon be razed in order to make room to build a new modern kitchen and dining hall. Let’s be honest, I’m not in great shape, but Helen Hall – Camp’s current dining hall – whew! she’s hurtin’. Did you know that Helen Hall, which is 7 years older than me, was built as an open-air pavilion, similar to the pavilion that now sits to her east? They later slapped some walls on her and threw a heater in there to take the chill out in the winters, but goodness, the fact that’s she’s still being used all these years later is a miracle. 

This is a story about me though, so I guess I should talk about me – where I’ve come from, what I’ve seen, and what will replace me. I’ve just never been very good at talking about myself.

I was born back in 1965, four years before man landed on the moon. 1965 was a good year. Camp had grown by leaps and bounds since its birth in 1953, and if memory serves me correctly, Summer Camp had upwards of 500 campers that year. Programming that summer was drastically different compared to now. There was a rifle range for the campers, they went to two movies per week, and every Friday evening the nearby Ho-Chunk Indians would come to Camp to perform their ceremonial pow-wow. Oh, and girls weren’t allowed. They wouldn’t be allowed here for another 15 or 16 years. Well, no girls except for Helen. She was around for many years, helping in the office, helping in the kitchen, and helping in the health center. She helped so much that they put her name on the very hall from which she helped prepare and serve the food.

Please forgive me. I’m doing it again. This is a story about me, so perhaps I should talk about me.

I’m a 90’ x 45’ hall, as no-frills as the “Gymnasium” sign that adorns my front. Hold the phone though, because while I am called, “The Gym” (or “St. James” for those among us that are theologically inclined…) I’m more than just a gymnasium. At different points in my existence, the adjacent rooms and closets have served as the Canteen Store, additional office space, the maintenance shop, a game room, the bike shed, and a myriad of other random things.

However, I’m certainly most known for the quaint and inconspicuous room that houses the two basketball hoops and a trashcan filled with dodgeballs.

Sure, I’m no Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, KS, with its tradition and beauty so palpable you can smell it. The only thing palpable enough to smell in my gym is a strong, musty odor of aged sweat.

Sure, I’m no Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, OK, with its original 75-year old maple court. No, my court is a decrepit slab of smoothed concrete that, after a few games of sweaty dodgeball, could double as an ice-skating rink.

Sure, I’m no Kohl Center in Madison, WI, a gym with a name of a wealthy donor.

I’m simply “Gymnasium.” I’m a building that lacks decent ventilation, lacks bathrooms, lacks spectator-seating, lacks a proper heater to warm in the winter, lacks walls that were built with winter use in mind, and lacks a ceiling tall enough to shoot 3-pointers.

I know I'm not much to look at, but I'd like to think that since 1965, I've served Camp Gray well.

I know I’m not much to look at, but I’d like to think that since 1965, I’ve served Camp Gray well.

I lack much. However, regardless of what I lack, and regardless of what I’ve looked or smelled like in my past, I’m a place where thousands upon thousands of smiling campers have come to play games and sports. No, I’m not any of the aforementioned arenas, and for this I’m thankful. No, I don’t play host to top-notch college basketball. Instead I play host to the transformation of the life of a child. For 48 years I’ve done this, and it’s time to hang up my whistle.

For those getting teary-eyed: don’t fret. This isn’t my final goodbye. I’ve got at least one last good year in me. You see, Camp Gray couldn’t be without a gymnasium. Before I’m knocked down – the sound of my collapsing walls loudly echoing one last time, screaming of dodgeball memories of yesteryear – a new modern gym will be built on the site of the old tennis court. They’re making plans for a gymnasium that will remedy many of the things that I lack. They’re making plans for a gymnasium that will beautifully take my reins, serving as an excellent place to gather and form youth both during Summer Camp and during Camp’s countless school-year retreats and events.

No friends, this isn’t goodbye, but the end is near.  Before I go, could you please pass along your favorite memories of time spent within my walls?  I’m not good at talking about myself.  Could you do the talking for me? 

Thanks for reading!