The summer I was 17, 1978, I was the staff cook at Camp Thunderbird, a Boy Scout camp.

The One True Camp Thunderbird Patch

Camp Thunderbird was a little different than most Boy Scout camps of the day, in that Scout Troops that spent the week there cooked for themselves. There was no “mess hall”.

That means that the camp staff, had their own mess hall, the “staff lodge”, and their own cook, which was me during the summer of 1978. It was a risky proposition to hire me as cook. I had no experience cooking beyond what my mom had taught me. Mr Quick, the adult Camp Director in charge of it all, said he’d give me a try, and if anyone complained, they got to cook the next week.

I could order some special food items, but I was expected to use the same raw ingredients that the scout troops at camp for the week got. This wasn’t too bad for breakfast, but lunches and dinners could be repetitious, since there was a weekly rotation for the whole 7 or 8 week schedule.

The Camp Thunderbird commissary got USDA surplus food, because of non-profit status, I suppose. I think the canned tuna was USDA surplus. We also got 5 pound blocks of decent, mild cheese, No. 10 tin cans of some of the best salted peanuts I’ve ever had, and best (worst!) of all, No. 10 tin cans of “chipped beef”.

canned beef

The trick is to open the cans from the bottom, because all the tallow floats to the top of the can during the canning process. You can then extract a cylinder of chipped beef without much fat at all.

One of the weekday lunches was tuna salad sandwiches.

After the first lunch where I served tuna salad sandwiches, I got a few complaints. Complaints were pretty common, but a few of them gave me pause. Like “You put too much onion in it”.

This time it was: “That tuna salad was too fishy. Did you drain it?”

Of course I drained it. I don’t like that weird fish oil any better than the next guy. Next week, not only did I drain the tuna, I rinsed it.

“Are you sure you drained that tuna? It was fishy tasting.” Philistines, all of them.

The third week, I made some tuna salad, and some “tuna” salad with chipped beef. I put the serving bowl of “tuna” salad on the table where the fishy tasters sat, and metaphorically held my breath.

Nobody noticed that it wasn’t tuna. One of the guys who had previously complained complimented me on finally having remembered to drain the tuna first.

1978 Camp Thunderbird Staff, end of season

Above, the 1978 Camp Thunderbird Staff, just after the end-of-season banquet, in Moberly, Missouri. I’m 100% positive this is 1978, because Bob Huff is in the photo, and Tony Brown is not.

Here’s who I can name. Forgive me for not remembering every person in this photo as well as they deserve. If you know the name of anyone in this photo, let me know!

Back row, left-to-right:
Jane Quick, Clyde Quick, Mr Zimm, Bob Huff, Marshall Rhodes, Dean Blakeley, ?, Mike Dimond, John Andrews (garrison cap), Mike Lee, John Settlage (corn hat), Bruce Ediger (cowboy hat), ?.

Front row, left-to-right:
Dan Bassnet, Dan O’Keefe, Craig Pepmiller, Scott Quick, Bob Sights, Ken Neff, Bob Moore, Bob Blauer, ?

Seated in front: Parish Pelly

Whose shadow is that?