Even though campfires are banned across the very dry province this summer, that doesn’t mean the tradition of singing campfire songs has to go up in flames.
Especially songs passed down through generations by the kids and families of Camp Koolaree.
For those who may have forgotten their favourite campfire songs, no worries, there’s a thoughtful resource to spark those memories.
With the help of an unearthed camp song book from Koolaree circa 1982 — and the gift of sound tracks recorded years ago by a local singer and avid Koolaree camper — Bruce More has you covered.
Having lived his formative years in Trail, More has fond memories of growing up in the region, including spending hot summer days on the remote shore of Kootenay Lake, at Camp Koolaree.
He warmly recalls camping at Koolaree with his family between 1949 and 1953. More’s father was Reverend Daniel Wilcox More, minister at East Trail United, notable because the camp fell under the auspices of the United Church of Canada.
His brother Art More was also a regular Koolaree attendee and had a lot of friends from his camps.
“It’s a subject dear to my heart,” More shares.
“If you’ve been to Koolaree, then you have an affinity for it.”
Fast forward to the early 2000’s when More, now an internationally acclaimed choral conductor from Victoria, had a summer trailer in Castlegar where he and his wife would camp for a month.
“We reconnected with a lot of people, and during a discussion, somebody mentioned the name of the guy who had collected all the camp songs, he and his wife had done all this work on it, so I got hold of him.”
More was referring to Ken Dimock and his wife Gill, both now deceased.
“Ken gave me the tapes of him singing each of the songs,” More recalled. “They also had a camp song book with words so I put all those together to make the website.”
When Koolaree leaders held a reunion several years ago, More made the trek to Kootenay Lake to revisit the campground. He shared his website and cataloged recordings of Ken Dimock with the camp, so links are posted on the Koolaree website.
“They are all the Koolaree songs that he (Ken) encountered but they are also songs historically sung from camps all over North America, I’m sure.”
As far as his personal favourite, More said, “Oh no, they are all an experience we just wouldn’t find today.”
He did share a humorous story from a visit to Koolaree a few years ago.
That night, More offered to lead one of the songs at the campfire, so he got up and started singing. He just stood there and everyone politely sang along.
“The funny story there is the tradition — the lore of presenting these songs with physical gestures — that was something I had completely forgotten.”
It wasn’t until the next person got up to lead a song, and started wildly acting out the lyrics, that More remembered that traditional camp songs are more than simply words.
“I thought ‘whoa,’” he laughed. “It struck me as very funny. My field is choral singing, I am a conductor, and it was strange to see this guy moving around and gesturing — more than I ever did!”
Bruce More is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria School of Music.
Turn to page 8 to read his heartwarming memories about his childhood in Trail.
To read the words and listen to the Koolaree songs visit: https://brucemore.ca/campsongs.
Read more about Camp Koolaree at: https://campkoolaree.ca.