“It sure was a treasure,” remembered Peggy Fisher, former Camp Fire member and current resident of St Paul, Minn., as she shared her memories of Camp Fire’s 1966 “Horizon Club Conference Afloat.”
The one-time event embarked from New York City with a cruise ship full of 15- to 18-year-old Camp Fire members from around the U.S. eager to experience Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Columbia. “Every day was filled with adventure,” said Peggy. “On board, we studied the countries we were scheduled to visit, had leadership seminars, and met new friends. We even had a press room for filing news reports back to our home towns.”
Onshore, the Camp Fire members met with local youth organizations. Since each girl was invited to homestay with a local family, the Camp Fire youth were able to experience firsthand a culture much different from her own. Peggy reflected that one unexpected outcome of the trip was learning that not everyone lived the same middle-class life the Camp Fire youth left behind when they set forth for a week of Caribbean exploration. “Though the trip was full of fun, songs, and friendship building,” Peggy continued, “it was also a life-altering, social justice eye-opener.”
“In many ways, that trip was what motivated me to apply to become an exchange student, spending my senior year in Argentina. I went on to study Spanish in college, pursue social work as a career, and eventually lived ten years in Latin America,” said Peggy. “All the little experiences that were part of the cruise built upon each other—making new friends in new places, exposure to completely different lifestyles, learning about cultures different than mine. The trip was an opportunity to learn an appreciation for the many differences between us and cultivate a more positive expectation of how different cultures can live together. In fact, I think I’m much more open to and understanding of the many immigrant groups we have in Minneapolis, in many ways because of that trip I was a part of back in 1966.”
Recently Peggy was exploring media archives on the Internet and found a number of the articles that had been posted from the ship. Her research has sparked interest in reaching out to others who were on the same Conference Afloat. She recently sent out an email to other travelers she knows in the area, encouraging everyone to put the word out about staying in touch. She has already received responses and expects more over the weeks ahead.
Camp Fire has committed to helping as much as possible, sending an email to each known attendee, encouraging a reunion (if only virtual). If you or anyone you know has information to share, please send it to Eileen Bobowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.