“This Boys’ Camp Business” (E53)

  • Originally printed: Detroit Athletic Club News, January 1927
  • First reprinted in:  The Early Worm (1927)
  • Original Byline:  Robert C. Benchley [with drawings by Rea Irvin]



Concerned that the youth of America are in danger of maturing into a squadron of toothsome, early rising goons, Benchley aims to dissuade this cohort’s fading fathers and mothers from succumbing to the summer camp magazine ads in the slicks. The author propounds a bleary-eyed anti-vision of masculine independence with the strength of character to resist the bugle call of back-slapping, raft-capsizing bonhomie. Admitting that his resistance to the trend owes at least a little to his own loss of prestige on family swimming parties since a filial exile to the great outdoors came home leagues beyond the old man in the nautical arts, RB makes his slouching stand based primarily on principle. Benchley raises the alarm (the only alarm his idealized snoozer will accept) against the coming Hobbesian orgy of citizens pushing each other off rafts and into an abyss of mirthless, muscle-toned laughter.         

Favourite Moment:

In the first place, when your boy comes home from camp he is what is known in the circular as ‘manly and independent’. This means that when you go swimming with him he pushes you off the raft and jumps on your shoulders, holding you under water until you are as good as drowned – better, in fact.

Reprint Notes:

  • Reprinted in full, with the Irvin drawings replaced by two new Gluyas Williams illustrations.

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