Saturday, January 23, 2016

Free Summer Day Camps

One of my experiences spending summers in Trenton, New Jersey as a kid that will always stay with me was the summer camp system they had set up for neighbourhood kids. I don't know if this was a national thing, state-wide, or just something that happened in Trenton.

Every summer in the early to mid 1970s, select playgrounds at schools throughout Trenton hosted free, all-day summer camps during the work week. The school closest to me was the Grace A. Dunn Middle School (pictured). Any kid from the neighbourhood was welcome. I went too, even though I was just a foreign visitor. They didn't care. The camp was run by (I'm guessing) paid local teenagers. There were lots of crafts, games and of course all of the usual things you'd have in a playground of that era. Every day, at noon, a refrigerated truck would arrive and drop off more than enough boxed lunches for all the kids to enjoy. No cost. Needless to say, my parents loved that this was available, as I'm sure all local parents did.

Even better, several times per month, a bus would show up at the playground, and take us to a new destination each time. I got to visit the Benjamin Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Zoo, Fort Dix, the Philadelphia Naval Yards, where I boarded both a mothballed battleship and a submarine. The boxed lunches even came along on these trips. The cost for these trips? Lunches? The camps themselves? Nothing. All paid for by the government. Until the program was cancelled by the Reagan administration.

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