Friday, July 7, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Camping with the Terrible Five

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

The gentleman in this week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt reminds me of so many men and boys captured on the film in my grandaunt Helen Killeen’s little box camera. Aunt Helen rarely labeled her photos with names, opting instead for funny little captions like 

“Oh Boy”
Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919

Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919

“Royal 4” 
Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919

and “Terrible Five”
Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919

Recently that silly caption “Terrible Five” has taken on a whole new meaning. I was going through some photos, letters, and other memorabilia belonging to Aunt Helen and her sisters when I unfolded a typed poem glued to a heavier piece of paper, maybe a folder or large mailer. As I read it, I recognized scenes recorded in photos of a camping trip which was the focus of an earlier Sepia Saturday post.

Poem about a camping trip Northwest, VA July 4, 1920 Helen Killeen Parker

** A triangle of paper is missing.  Words in brackets represent a logical guess based on the syntax of the sentence. If no logical guess could be made with any certainty, I inserted dashes inside the brackets.

The Memorable Camping Trip

The third of July dawned bright and clear
We all left home with merry good cheer.
Going away on a camping trip
To have a good time, sure you can bet.
Lots of dancing, and things to eat
Nice place to swim, good place to sleep.
Nothing to worry about in the care of the “Terrible Five,”
Now we are lucky to be alive.

Landed at Northwest, Va., about eleven o’clock
Tired, sore and hungry, it sure was a shock.
The roads were something awful, bump, bump, bump all the way
Gee, it’s a wonder our hair didn’t turn gray.
We went in bathing to rest our poor bones
But the water [was] full of snakes, mud and stones.
About that [time] someone called,
“Dinner is [ready], come one and all.”
Everyone [ - - ] for they were starved it seemed
But what [did they] get to eat, but beans, beans, beans.

Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920

The [ - - ] under two big trees
Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920 https://jollettetc.blogspot.comAnd [ - - ] down and ate what they pleased.
After dinner we loafed around awhile, and went out in the canoe
For there really wasn’t anything else that we could do.

Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920

Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920
Helen and Victrola

Then someone started the Victrola,
So we started to dance, and as we danced,
Someone said the country people were in a trance.
And if we did not stop, they would have us put in jail
And we would have to get someone to go [sic] our bail.

So we decided at last, to go to bed
But soon discovered there was no place to lay our weary heads.
So we stretched out on the ground under a tent
Then the wild animals their weird sounds sent.
They screeched and howelled and cooed
And scared us so bad we couldn’t move.
Somehow the night passed over
And Sunday came and went.

Camping trip to Northwest VA July 4, 1920

And we welcomed Monday, as some great event.
We left Northwest about half past two
And got bump after bump, until we nearly turned blue.
Arrived home about seven or that way
Only to discover that red bugs had come home with us to stay.

So I tell you dear friends, if you want to die
Just go on a Camping trip, with the “Terrible Five.”

The moniker “Terrible Five” must have been part of a running joke among the friends who seemed to enjoy getting together often whether at the beach or at a riverside camp. Perhaps the poem was written – AND preserved for presentation – to be read at some other gathering of “The Gang.”
Beach friends of Helen Killeen Parker about 1919
"The Gang"
Ocean View - Norfolk, Virginia about 1919

Jump in – the water is fine at Sepia Saturday, and so are the photos and stories.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. How fun to find the poem to go with the photos! Having just returned from a camping trip, I can relate to some of it, but am grateful we didn't swim among the snakes.

  2. Oh my heavens, what a trip that must have been! Lordy. But at least it didn't rain! The trip home would likely, in that case, have been slip-slide-squish instead of bump bump bump, but perhaps they might have welcomed the change? :))

  3. I am so happy I wasn't part of that camping trip. Yikes!

  4. What a great poem! Sounds like an adventure was had by all on that camping trip. The group was probably happy to arrive home after their bumpy ride back.

  5. Your photo collection is really incredible, and that poem is such a wonderful find!

  6. Great poem. Aunt Helen must have had a very quirky sense of humour. Did you know her at all?

  7. How wonderful to match that poetry to the photos - the words and the pictures just captured the moments all these years later.

  8. And look at that Victrola!!! What a great carry one along for campside dancing. Hats off to Helen and her Victrola!

  9. Fantastic photos that tell a story of grand times. And the poem to narrate---wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing these.

  10. Super story and snaps! That ballad really makes all the photos come alive with the noise and exuberance of youth.

    I have the remains of an old 1920's wind-up record player that belonged to my grandmother. It played 78s which were very heavy and easily broken. The few that survive are badly scratched as I'm sure only the favorites were taken on outings like Helen's camping trip. They must have played music over and over again just to keep the mosquitoes away.

  11. You have such a wonderful source of stories and photographs, and here is no exception. A great fun post, and I was especially taken by those swimming costumes - men and women.

  12. Oh what fun to show the photos and the ballad...poem. A good event which is memorialized two ways. Could become a book.

  13. How great that you found this poem to go along with the photos!

  14. I love Aunt Helen. What a sense of humour.
    The first two photos appear to have been taken on the same day and it's clear they were just having fun together.

  15. The is the best blog post I have ever read! I loved the poem and the photos matched perfectly. Reading the poem, I was almost there with them. Thanks so much for sharing.

  16. I have some similar photos of my grandmother camping - cracks me up to see their camping attire back then. I just wish I had a cool poem to go with my photos.