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August 10: Take Me Home, Oh Muddah, Faddah

August 10, 2013

Z0048361Allan Sherman released “Letter from Camp” (aka “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”) on this date in 1963, a “novelty” record that would climb to #2 on the charts and win a Grammy Award in 1964. Sherman’s song (coauthored by Lou Busch) was set to Amilcare Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours,” which had been widely popularized in Disney’s animated film, Fantasia. The appeal of the song was based on the growth of summer camps in the first half of the 20th century, including Jewish camps that “strengthened the Jewish child’s sense of self,” writes Nancy Mykoff at the Jewish Women’s Archive, “by providing an ethnic interpretation of American life . . . through the activities and programs that structured camp life.” Tens of thousands of Jewish children attended Jewish summer camps each year (as more than 60,000 do today, according to the Forward). Originally, the goal was acculturation/Americanization and the encouragement of physical fitness; in the 1940s, synagogue denominations founded camps to cultivate Jewish, as opposed to American, identity; today, much emphasis is placed on the cultivation of future Jewish leaders through intensive camping experiences. For a Jewish Currents by Barnett Zumoff essay about progressive secular Jewish camping, click here.

“Now I don’t want this should scare ya
But my bunkmate has malaria
You remember Jeffrey Hardy
They’re about to organize a searching party.” —Allan Sherman