Katrina Stonoff

Camping on Memory Lane

This week, I dug out some old family photos to share with a newly discovered cousin and ran across a small glycine envelope with four slides in it. While I was scanning the old pics, I remembered that my new scanner (bought in 2019 because the movers packed the cord to my old scanner god-knows-where!) can supposedly scan slides and even negatives.

Did someone say “squirrel?” I immediately dropped what I had planned to do (revise my dystopian novel) and went looking for the instructions and plastic trays that came with the scanner. Of course it wasn’t that simple, but after watching several YouTube videos, I eventually figured it out.

And oh, my dears!! I struck gold.


I have never seen this photo before, but this represents the best of my childhood.

No, not the #10 cans! The peanut butter was OK, but the strawberry jam from those things is nasty! To this day, I cannot eat any strawberry jam other than freezer jam (which tastes like real strawberries and not like that horrible processed #10 can jam).

The best of my childhood was in that camper. Dad built the camper himself, just big enough to fill the bed of his 1962 three-quarter-ton Chevy pickup. Our family of six lived in it for the entire summer most years (Dad taught school, and we left town the day school ended most years).

Mom and Dad slept on the lower bunk, right behind me in this pic. The upper bunk pulled out about halfway, and I shared it with my three sisters. At first, we were short enough to sleep parallel to the truck bed, then three of us slept crosswise, with one sister at our feet (usually complaining that we were kicking her). Eventually our oldest sister switched to sleeping in the cab of the truck.

katrina and lenore

See plates on the truck? I zoomed in to check the year: 1969. I was eight years old. We were headed to Alaska to spend the summer on Brushkana Creek, where Dad would work with a local guide (and hopefully bag a moose before we left).

There were few stores nearby, so Mom had to bring most of our groceries from home. We filled the camper with canned goods: lots of peanut butter, as you can see! The space under the bed had room for a layer of cans, plus there was covered storage below that would fit another layer.

Mom had a series of dinners she could make on a three-burner stove (no oven in the camper). The only two I remember are campfire stew (a pound of hamburger mixed with a family-size can of Campbell’s vegetable stew-–surprisingly good!) and delicious chicken and dumplings made from canned chicken: one whole, uncut chicken in a can.

Us kids loved those summers, not the least because we were allowed to drink pop all summer, rather than tea or water, to save dirtying glasses. But also because we were allowed to roam the wilderness without supervision from dawn to dusk (and dusk is late in Alaska!).

Parents probably couldn’t do that now without getting into trouble with CPS. In my memory, we ran free as young as five. A few years ago I told Mom that’s how I remembered it, expecting her to correct me. She was very quiet for a long moment, then said, “It was a different time.”

But none of us got hurt (at least, not too badly), and it was a great way to grow up. You can see how happy we were, packing the camper for our adventure.


Yep. That’s one very happy girl.