After catching a screening of Ivan Reitman’s Canadian summer camp classic Meatballs today, I had a particularly vivid flashback to another camp memory from my childhood – this time one that emanated from the small screen.
Camp Cariboo was a Canadian children’s variety show from the late eighties, shot on-location in Kitchener, Ontario. Personally, Camp Cariboo will always remind me of plain, buttered toast. No, I’m not making some vague metaphor in reference to the quality of the show – but rather to what I’d eat while watching it. My earliest memories of Camp Cariboo came from sick days – when I’d be carted off to my Grandmother’s apartment before my mother and father went to their respective full-time jobs. It was there that my Grandma would feed me plain, lightly buttered toast – as not to upset my already touchy stomach – and prop me in front of early-morning YTV programming.
Every episode of Camp Cariboo began with the theme song and text-crawl – accompanied by delightfully Canadian looking nature footage that immediately brings to my mind “Hinterland’s Who’s Who” – before settling into a pseudo-variety show format. Hosted by “Tom & Mark” – who I suppose were the official camp counselors of Camp Cariboo – the show also featured segments such as the Mail Room, Sing-Alongs, and general nature-themed segments containing a fair share of educational content – such as camping or canoe tips. Tom & Mark popped up throughout the show as different characters, from “The Keeners” – a pair of high-pitched campers who were keen on returning year-after-year – and Old Uncle Wes (who was just Tom dressed up in some old man garb).
The original run lasted from 1986 to 1989, before being re-aired in the early nineties on the aforementioned YTV channel – where it was introduced to a younger generation of viewers, myself included. The series never made it to DVD, so all we have in terms of viewable content is a few sparse webpages and some YouTube clips. I won’t be holding my breath for an official release any time soon – and perhaps it’s a show better off left to our childhood memories – but you can bet that for now my Cariboo headgear will be off, on, and locked!