The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

December 7, 2013

Dave Woods: 'Camp Calamity' spurs autograph pursuit

JOPLIN, Mo. — I didn't expect to make a Branson trip last Saturday.

I usually plan trips weeks in advance if I'm headed over for work or play. This past weekend was special -- it wasn't a "work trip," although, technically, writing this column makes it a "work trip."

A little elf -- Bob Wolfe from Bob's Always Buying Books -- uncovered a treasure few but me would love. He discovered a rag-tag copy of "Janet Lennon at Camp Calamity" at his store.

The campy 1962 novel is 212 pages and documents Janet Lennon's fictional summer at Camp Calamity. I wanted to get it signed by Janet and was on a mission. I grabbed Jeremy Knight, my oft-time travel partner, and headed east.

I've been a longtime fan of the Lennon Sisters and got to meet them -- the three sisters who still perform, Kathy, Janet and Mimi -- last season during their Christmas show at Moon River Theatre. I had my grandmother and niece in tow on that trip, and the Lennons treated them like royalty backstage after the show.

They were gracious, and they gifted me with a moment I will never forget.

I blame my Lennon obsession on Ruth Oliver, my maternal great grandmother. She introduced me to the Lennons during our weekly viewings of The Lawrence Welk Show. That was 40 years ago. Now 49, I still find myself inviting the Lennons, Bobby and Sissie, and Mr. Welk into my home when a PBS special hits my local TV lineup.

I still love "champagne music." Why not? Its bouncy dance routines and Mr. Welk's magical control over his happy crew intrigued me and millions of other viewers each week. Welk was king of his bubbly realm. That is until Andy Williams and his musical variety show came along.

So, I had the 50-plus-year-old copy of Janet Lennon's crazy -- and kind of scary -- account of a summer at Camp Calamity, a summer camp prone to curious happenings. Did I read the book? Not at first. Have I now? Yes. It's "Hardy Boys" meets "Nancy Drew" with a twist of American sweetheart. It would make a good teen flick, even today.

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