Joseph William Perry Life Story

Chapter Five

I just concluded chapter four by saying I graduated in Herndon, Virginia. Well, we actually lived in a neighboring town that was smaller then, but is much bigger now. It was the "new town" of Reston. The name came from the initials of the chief architect/dreamer Robert E. Simon. Dad got a good deal on a town house. Although we had previously always lived in detached houses we got used to it. Reston was designed to be a modern self-contained city. The architecture, at least of the initial phases, was modern. There was a "city center" within walking distance of our house. There were pretty paved walkways weaving their ways through the landscaping between the blocks of townhouses and apartment highrises. (There was only the one high rise at that time and it wasn't full yet.) I think the population of Reston was about two thousand then but there were plans for more housing and commercial/industrial development. Today Reston has 48,000 people and is the corporate headquarters of such a giant as America On Line.

Believe it or not, I only remember the names of two young people from that community and from my school. Pam Doolin lived in Reston; she and I attempted to play some folk music together. [Note: Pam, your Reston friend Diana is trying to contact you. Contact me for her email.] And Lynn Woodard was a classmate and a fledgling scientist with whom I used to discuss philosophy and such. Other than those I remember my church friends: Joe Smith and his sister Peggy; the Miller kids; the Morgans and the Koesslers.

That fall after graduating I went back to Camp Hunt—this time as a counselor. We were paid ten dollars a week, not a wage really but enough for expenses: soap, shaving lotion, Cokes, postcards. My director was Fred Phillips, whose family I had known for many years. I was happy to be "home again". And this was my first taste of the challenge of real responsibility. We had a week of setup and training and then the kids came. I had a group of mid-aged boys, that is, not the youngest and not the oldest. My boys were a challenge. If I was too palsey-walsey with them then they took advantage of me and became rowdy. If I was too strict with them then I felt sorry and false about it. I'm afraid the I tended toward the palsey side and so often I was frustrated by their rowdiness and horseplay. My group rarely, if ever, got first place in inspection standings. They were hard to quiet down for devotional time. But my group had a lot of heart.

Really I liked the girls better than the boys; maybe that's why I my heart wasn't fully with the boys. There were some little girls in "cabin one" who liked to adopt us boy David Stowell, my brother Charlie, Kevin Potter, me. Picture credit: Renee Lahcen.counselors as big brothers and protectors. I remember the Duffy girls from Connecticut. They were cute and sweet. But they could be rascally at times. It seems I remember Susan, at about nine years old, sitting at my feet at campfire time being so nice—until, all of a sudden, she would decide to start pulling my leghairs . . . Youch! I guess that is what you call "negative transferrence". But I enjoyed having "pretend" little sisters and look back fondly upon that time. I still like to "adopt" people I love (sisters and brother, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers), with whom I have an affinity.

Another relationship is worth mentioning. Before the summer was over I had formed a crush on a girl who, as it turned out, was a self-mutilator. I didn't know it at first; she was cute and was interested in me. She seemed very innocent and naive. Soon it became apparent, when bandages began appearing on her legs and then once in a while a bandage would come loose and reveal the cuttings beneath it. I know some of the girl counselors and the camp nurse were trying to help her, but nothing was ever discussed in counselors' meeting about it, so I was left with no choice but to puzzle it out and try to figure out on my own what kind of a relationship I should have with her. The shock of someone's initials scarred into her skin let me know for sure that she needed something more than I could give, but still I tried to let her know that I liked her and wanted her to find the best of the Christian life for herself. Mind you, I never let on to her that I noticed the cutting. I wouldn't have known what to say about it anyway. Let me go on to say that just a few weeks ago (in November, 2001) I found a packet of old letters from that era. There were a couple of letters from her, after camp was over, saying that I was her only friend and that she found it hard to stop hoping for some response from me. It was very hard for me, as it surely must have been for her.

I think the fallout from that experience was quite great in my life. It was the first time that, as a young man still adjusting to puberty, romantic feelings and agape love bumped into each other at the same place and time. Those are very powerful dynamics and I didn't know how to deal with it. That happens to every church kid and it is confusing, more or less, every time. I remember, months after I started college, having a dream that I had married her and she was pregnant. But by that time, I had begun to realize that no matter how strong a sense of duty I felt about trying to help her, that I had better just try to forget. I was powerless to travel to where she was anyway, and good thing I was (powerless, that is). So, for better or worse, I did forget about her. Maybe I forgot too well and probably I should bring it up in a therapy group one of these days.

Other things we did as camp counselors were supervising activities of all kinds, leading devotional services, washing clothes. But one of the best things was day off. Usually we would co-op and ride into town for donuts at the donut shop and other fun things. And the thing about it was that one boy counselor and one girl counselor would be off at a time, so it could be like a non-date date. Very handy and comfortable. I remember going all the way to Schenectady for the morning with my friend Jane Stowell on our day off. Another time I went with Sharon Porter; she was a very nice girl. She later went with and married Alan Phillips. I missed my chance, didn't I?

After camp it was back to Reston and then a ride with mom and dad to Nashville and the start of another era.

I had been interested in two colleges: Harding College, in Arkansas; and David Lipscomb, in Nashville. Both were church schools. My cousin Judy was already at Harding, her sister Mary Jane was to come there also. But David Lipscomb was in Nashville and Nashville was the home of country music. I wasn't actually interested in doing country music but I guess I thought some of the virtue of the big time might rub off on me so I went to Lipscomb. Besides, my dad had gone there and was a loyal supporter. I remember seeing evidence of alumni loyalty in the checks he mailed to the college.

It was a long trip to Nashville from the D.C. area. There were long stretches of lonely highway—Western Virginia and East Tennessee. In those days you had to drive on the old U.S. highway 11W to get to Knoxville from Bristol; 11W was "the bloodiest highway in the lower 48", or something to that effect. I was wide-eyed and wondering what life would be like in Tennessee. Actually that means I was wondering if I might find a girl-friend in Tennessee. I didn't think the girls I saw along the wayside of 11W were very pretty or very personable-looking. If I had been familiar with the phrase "a progeny of the union of double first cousins" I might have used it in describing the people I saw along that historic road, but I didn't know that phrase and, well, maybe I wouldn't have used it anyway. I don't talk that way today, or maybe I do—I just wrote it, didn't I? Well, so much for that. I hoped for the best.

As it turned out the girls at David Lipscomb College were not too low-class or hillbilly for me, but rather turned out to be too high-class and uppity for me. At any rate, most of them seemed to be unconnectable, unreachable, untouchable. Most of them dressed to the nines most all the time. In the cafeteria at breakfast they sat in groups cutting their bacon with knives and forks. I felt like a barbarian.

1For more about Camp Hunt visit my Camp Hunt Memories Web Site.

2For more about David Lipscomb University Alumni go to their Alumni Page.

Go on to Chapter Six

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Photo of Josephus Aloysius (alias Joseph Perry) by John Randall Moody
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