It all started when comedian Allan Sherman received letters of complaint from his son Robert while the boy was attending Camp Champlain, a summer camp in Westport, New York.
Did Daddy rescue his poor child? Or did he tell the little chap to man up and pipe down? Good old Wikipedia is silent about all of that, alas, though it does tell me that Allan and Lou Busch turned Robert’s ordeal into a song which went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 list for three weeks beginning on August 24, 1963. The song is a parody that complains about the fictional “Camp Granada” and is set to the tune of Amilcare Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours. It became an international hit and seems to have struck a particular chord in Scandinavia with versions in Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish.
The Finnish version is included in the Finnish Boy Scouts’ songbook so must have been quite respectable. But the Swedish version notably doesn’t revolve around the camper hating the camp but is about the kids running roughshod over it and chasing away all the counsellors, one of whom has committed suicide after they let a snake into the mess hall. The organizer of the camp is arrested by police after the kids start a forest fire. The song begins with the boy writing the letter to ask his parents for more cash, because he has lost all his pocket-money playing dice with the other campers. It ends with the boy having to wrap up his letter as he is about to join the others in burning down the neighbouring camp lodge.
But you know what? I reckon you can’t beat the original, with Allan capturing to perfection what it’s like to be a kid away from home. Try to watch this without smiling. You’d stand a better chance of eating a sugary doughnut without licking your lips …