Leading lady Lauren Bacall gained self-confidence at camp

Long before becoming Humphrey Bogart’s leading lady both on and off screen, model and actress Lauren Bacall, who died on Tuesday at age 89, spent summers gaining confidence at Highland Nature Camp in Lake Sebago near Portland, Maine.

While she was at the camp, which today is known as Camp Mataponi, Bacall recalled carefree summer days, performing in plays, playing sports and more in her 2006 autobiography By Myself And Then Some.

I loved sports – played volleyball, basketball, baseball and I loved to swim. There was a rule that in order to swim from the dock out to the raft one had to pass a test. I can see the test morning now. A group of small girls waiting their turns. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but after two years of swimming near the dock I was ready to move on. The girl before me was taking her test. She had a lovely stroke and there was no question that she would pass. I watched her very carefully to see when she breathed – how she turned her head – kicked her feet. I was next. I went down the ladder and proceeded to do exactly what she had done. Miraculously, it worked – I had won and it was the raft from then on. One step away from childhood. And there were weekly dramatic programs – sometimes plays, sometimes musical recitals, dances. I clearly remember doing a scarf dance my last year at Highland Nature. I felt as though I were really performing – I was so grown-up. Had the stage all to myself. I really felt good – the music was romantic, and I loved to dance. And I was in plays – in one I pulled my long hair back in a bum to look like Ann Harding. There were campfires – roasting marshmallows – overnight canoe trips – sleeping under the stars – skinny-dips before breakfast in the cold, clean lake. I suppose those years were as close to carefree as I had known or ever would again.

Bacall also reportedly attended Camp Lokanda in the Catskills, but details of her time there are limited.

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Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in Dark Passage

Bacall was known for appearing opposite Humphrey Bogart, who she married in 1945, in the film noir movies To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage and Key Largo. She also appeared with Marilyn Monroe in How To Marry a Millionaire and Designing Women with Gregory Peck and earned a Tony Award for her work on the Broadway stage in Applause in 1970 and Women of the Year in 1981. She ranked 20th out of the 25 actresses on AFI’s 100 Years….100 Stars list in 1999.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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