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ADD Lake Chemo & songs about camping

Charlie Baum 21 Nov 22 - 02:31 AM
Joe Offer 21 Nov 22 - 04:00 AM
cnd 22 Nov 22 - 09:39 AM
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Subject: Lake Chemo & songs about camping
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 21 Nov 22 - 02:31 AM

Lake Chemo:

Sung by Lisa Null on her CD set Legacies (CD1, song 6)

I left old Lake Chemo a long way behind me
With many a sad tear to Old Town I came
And if I but live one year from next August
I’ll pack up my traps for old Chemo again.

There’s pickerel a-plenty and perch in abundance
The whiskey and new milk they both flow like rain
And if I but live one year from next August
I’ll pack up my traps for old Chemo again.

How pleasant to think of the shed tent we slept in
The walls were thin cloth and the roof was a pole
How familiar the chirp of the birds in the morning
And the doctor a-digging the beans from the hole.

I think of fish chowder, red hot from the oven
The pork that we frizzled so nice on the fire
Big, roaring Crawford raising the devil
Till three in the morning before he’d retire.

The sun was rising in most royal splendor
The birds were singing on every tree
One of our number was seen without clothing
Promenading the beach and enjoying the breeze

The name of this poor, unfortunate fellow
Is kept from the public just merely to show
The respect that we have for each one of our party
The names of the others are given below:
[NO Chorus]

Rowe, Cushman and Baker, Douglas, and Skinner
With wives and sweethearts full many a score
Last but not least, Miss Scott and Miss Nichols
Two gushing young damsels from over the shore.

Now all you old fogeys who want recreation
Just come to Lake Chemo where you’ll have some fun
You’ll find all our names engraved on a shingle
Outshining in brilliance the rays of the sun!

The words to “Lake Chemo” were written in 1871 by James Wilson Rowe of Great Works, Old Town, Maine, a few miles to the north of Bangor. Lake Chemo (or Chemo Pond) is about a dozen miles east of Bangor. Found in Fanny Eckstorm’s Minstrelsy of Maine (1927). The words are a loose parody of an older song, “Norah McShane,” composed by W.J. Wetmore for words by the English Chartist poet, Eliza Cook (1837), who also authored “The Old Arm Chair.” “Norah McShane” has appeared in Irish folk tradition.

I've been doing research on songs about camping--I'm looking at the origins of camping as a leisure activity, which I think develops from the transcendentalists of the 1830s and 1840s (Thoreau, Emerson, etc.) through some artists' salons camping trips in the Adirondacks in the late 1850s (e.g., William James Stillman), and then traces through a few folks in Connecticut who combine camping with partying (Frederick William Gunn, Orville Platt [later a Senator], and Rev. William H.H. Murray) through the 1860s until Rev. Murray (then in Boston) publishes his book Adventures in the Wilderness; or, Camp-Life in the Adirondacks in 1869 and sets off the "camping craze." I’m developing a carefully constructed thesis, although the completion of the project will have to wait a few months until certain museums or archives open up again after the winter and/or hire a replacement archivist, so I can examine the correspondences of these men in greater detail.

The writing of the Lake Chemo song in 1871 puts it very close to the dawn of camping as a leisure activity in 1869. I am searching for other songs of similar vintage that celebrate camping as a leisure activity, and I would welcome them being added, referred to, and/or discussed in this thread. I'm looking for early songs about camping as a social activity (as opposed to camp meetings, military bivouacs, emigrating West on the Oregon Trail or other routes, or commercial enterprises such as fur trapping, lumbering, or ranching). I’m also searching for evidence of how the change in attitude toward camping affected the content of paintings and other artwork, but here on Mudcat, I hope to find folks who can help me find evidence of how the new ideas of camping reflected themselves in popular song. Thanks for whatever evidence you can steer me toward.

—Charlie Baum

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Subject: RE: ADD Lake Chemo & songs about camping
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Nov 22 - 04:00 AM

Recording by Lisa Null:

Sam Hinton recording:

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Subject: RE: ADD Lake Chemo & songs about camping
From: cnd
Date: 22 Nov 22 - 09:39 AM

Most everything I've found has been war related, or religious camp-meetings. See:
- Tenting on the Old Camp Ground (1864)
- Coming Home From The Old Camp Ground (1865)
- The Old Camp Kettle That Hung on the Pole (1883)
- Around the Camp-Fire's Glow (1899)

(There are dozens more examples, too numerous to list)

I think it may take some clever searching. I can't think of any older songs that involve camping and aren't on either of the two aforementioned subjects, or hunting.

However, here are some newer ones about camping:
- Hello! Summer! (1911) **this is more related to outdoor activities, not camping per se, but I think it's close enough**
- Let Me Spend My Vacation With You (1911) **same as above**
- By the Campfire (1919)

Several copies of music from Levy's collection are restricted from digital viewing for copyright reasons, but if you have the time, a few good starting points are looking under their tags for recreation and tents

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