Words by : Nolan Warner-Sullivan
They call us “Lost Boys.” On our paychecks they label us “maintenance” but everybody seems to enjoy with the nickname coined long before my first winter at Camp Woodward. We’re the guys that do the dirty work during the winter; we fix stuff, we clean stuff, we tear stuff down, and then we put it up again. Some have referred to us as the “pond scum” of camp, some try not to refer to us at all. At our most we are about a dozen dudes doing the thankless work for camp.
It’s a labor of love and this job has been a dream of mine for a long time. I started coming to camp during the summer of 2010, at the age of twelve. Since that first week here I’ve done a lot. I’ve had my workplace be the inside of the dish-room and the inside of a cabin, I’ve been lucky enough to teach skateboarding and counsel kids, and I’ve been unlucky enough to drop a bowl of oatmeal on my feet. Through all the highs and lows of my six summers here I have always loved camp. I live here now, in a little grey house on the outskirts of the camp’s grounds. I live with skateboarders and BMX riders, I live the sober and the not so sober, I live at a summer camp in the winter.
Mentally, it can be difficult. Camp Woodward is positioned in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. The nearest real town is forty-five minutes away, and most of our neighbors are Amish. I talk to the same twelve people every day and I do just about the same thing every day with only small variations in my routine: I go to work, I eat, I ride my skateboard, and I sleep. To an outsider the job sounds like a nightmare, but being a lost boy is an extremely exclusive gig and I don’t think any one of my co-workers takes it for granted. We’re never asked for our rent, we never have to worry about the heat getting shut off, our commute is a seven minute walk to the front office, and we have some of the biggest and best indoor skateparks waiting for us all week long; void, for the most part, of the annoying scooter rider who keeps snaking you, or the kid who talks incessantly, or the old guy continually preaching about “the good ol’ days.”
I will remember this year for the rest of my life. I will remember these faces and these stories for as long as my battered brain can hold memories. It takes a special kind of person to subject themselves to this lowly level of living, to willingly become “pond scum,” and to love every minute of it. It takes somebody with drive and passion and thick skin; it takes quite the character. I am convinced that the twelve guys I interact with on a regular basis are some of the most interesting people I will ever meet. As a crew we’ve created inside jokes and specific jargon that only we understand. The Lost Boys are like an exclusive club within a subculture.
The work is shitty, the hours can be long, and the bathroom gets disgusting pretty routinely; the microwave broke about a month-and- a-half ago and still isn’t fixed and there are always dishes in the sink. But, in many ways, writing this feels like writing a love letter. This is a love letter to the dirt and grime, a love letter to the dust and sweat, to the long days and sore hands; this is a love letter to The Lost Boys, a love letter to never growing up, a love letter to a summer camp in the winter time.