The battles on Mt. Battie

By Dwight Collins | Feb 25, 2016

Camden — I am not a conspiracy kind of guy, however I have been training for an attack on Camden by enemy forces since I was a kid.

Growing up in Camden there was a lot to do if you had some imagination. One of the things that Millville kids and I used to do is go play War on Mt. Battie. All you needed was a stick and the ability to yell out “pew pew” or “ratta tat tat” to enjoy hours (sometimes days) of pretending we were defending our home from whoever was the enemy of the day.

It didn't take long to learn the lay of the land, all the little caves and crevasses, and we would set up outposts, lay traps and create forward observation positions to make sure the “bad guys” didn't get the drop on us.

One day I had to become Capt. Hawkeye Pierce because a friend fell on a rock and cut his knee. I asked him if he wanted to go back down the mountain and he laughed and said, “No way doc, we got a war to win.” We had spent hours on Mt. Battie that day, packing food and extra clothes, because in our minds we were not coming home anytime soon, and despite his injury, he was going to hold me to it.

Many times we would be up there running around screaming like a bunch of banshees and every once in a while we would come across a civilian who would get caught in the line of fire, so to speak. What we saw as collateral damage was seen by them as a bunch of punk kids wrecking their peaceful stroll up Camden's iconic mountain, so they were dealt collaborators.

I'm not going to go into what kinds of things we did to “collaborators," mostly because I don't know what the statute of limitations are for them and I would not want to be convicted of crimes against humanity some 35 years later. On another note, are water balloons considered a deadly weapon?

Keep in mind, this was way before the movie “Red Dawn," but the plot is the same: parents (adults) fall victim to enemy forces and it was our job to protect the town, a job we took as seriously as 10-year-olds could.

I lived the farthest away, so as I walked down Washington Street from Matthew John Avenue I would collect my friends and by the time we got to Mt. Battie we had a force as strong as tin foil, ready to encounter the evils of the world. At the end of the day, as we walked back, we all filed back to our houses, back to reality, but we knew another battle was just a day away.

I think about those times and they seem very fresh in my mind, maybe because I long for the way Camden used to be. It truly was a town where kids were free to take advantage of things that allowed us to use our imagination. A time when we could run all over town with no fear of offending anybody because we were just good kids. A time when we played outside from sunrise to sunset and a town that sounded a horn to let the kids know it was time to go home. Camden had a curfew and if you were under 14 years old and you heard the fire horn, you had 15 minutes to get home.

We may have been playing War on the mountain, but what I got out of it was memories — memories of a time when it was OK to be a kid and not rush to become an adult. Although war is a very adult subject, battles are fought by every age, shape, size and color.

So if there is ever an attack on Camden, I have a plan, one that was run through over and over again. I will be up on Mt. Battie, so come get some.

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