Growing up with Drew and her very religious family, we spent a considerable amount of time in churchy settings. None of the churchy settings were quite so memorable as the United Holiness Camp in Milan, Indiana.
Milan, Indiana is so small, and so remote, it doesn’t even get its own exit. The town is famous to Hoosiers, because, well, the movie Hoosiers is based on their basketball team.
My experience with Milan has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with deprivation.
You see, Drew’s grandfather, a former minister himself, held a position with the United Holiness Camp. In order to spend time with her grandfather, she needed to spend time at his camp in Milan. She
begged invited me to go, so that she wouldn’t end up spending the entire week surrounded only by elderly people.
Holy Elderly People. Only Holy Elderly People. In the middle of nowhere. Without televisions, or radios. Without a water feature, or so much as a seesaw.
Having absolutely no idea what level of deprivation I was about to enter, and always up for an adventure, I packed my bags for quality time with my BFF.
Drew and I might have been in middle school, maybe early high school..I’m not too sure. We were young, impressionable, virginal girls then. We didn’t drive or smoke or have political opinions yet. At that time, our greatest offenses against the church were our love for wearing pants and listening to the evil rock music.
At the United Holiness Camp in Milan, we were forbidden to have either of those luxuries. Culottes, which were acceptable at Nazarene Teen Camp, were not permitted at Holiness Camp. We had to wear long sleeves, long skirts, and stockings every single day while we were in Milan. It was summer in Indiana, and it was steamy to say the least.
I remember Drew couldn’t take her favorite vampire book..I think we may have read John Jakes or Anne of Green Gables or something like that, instead.
We weren’t allowed to leave the camp, so walking through the woods was a short trip. Playing cards was forbidden. There was nothing to do.
Our quarters seemed to be an abandoned dormitory. There was no internal lighting upstairs, so we carried flashlights as we trod between the bathroom downstairs and the room we slept in upstairs. Hallways replete with peeling paint and exposed lathe opened up to rooms with centuries-old wrought iron beds and mattresses.
Church was three times a day, every day. The memories of church services there have long since fuzzed-over with time, but I do think it was some sorta revival, as it seemed longer and longer each time we went. I do recall thinking it was all very strange, but I no longer remember the specific reasons why.
The most memorable aspect of our week in Milan involved the evenings, when the sun had gone down, and the Holy Elderly people were fast asleep, we would turn the clock radio dial to the only station available, which was that forbidden rock n’ roll.
It was darker in Milan than city nights ever are. It was a creepy-eerie-sorta-scary sleeping in that room. No one slept in the other upstairs rooms at all.
Our old double mattress sloped inward, and we inevitably ended up rolling into one another, which was bad, because we were super hot, sweaty and sticky, but it was also good because it was far less frightening than sleeping in separate beds.
At night, while Drew and I curled into one another, softly singing ourselves to sleep, we realized the same songs played every night.
When there’s absolutely nothing else to focus on, you really start paying attention to the words…
…and you realize, after a few days of Holiness Camp…this song is lame. And really, really immoral.