GILB museum 034       I was thinking about my days up at Uni-Camp in the San Bernardino mountains back when I was eighteen . I was recruited by Anna Horne, my orientation counselor ,  during the UCLA orientation session . The university  ran the camp for underprivileged inner city kids , and diabetic kids, and blind kids . I hadn’t even started my freshman classes yet , but the camp idea sounded good , and so I signed up as a volunteer counselor .

The camp ran two-week sessions , one after another , all summer long . At the beginning of the summer all the counselors who could  , all volunteers , showed up for a week of camp cleaning called Opening . We would all rake fire breaks , open the A-frames and chase out the spiders and mice , wash tables and count cots , etc. Sure . It’ll be fun .man on steamshovel

I went over to Sears to buy an inexpensive pair of gloves . But , when I got up to Opening and we went out in work crews , no one else had gloves . I kept mine in my pack , a little embarrassed to be the only one who needed gloves .  I know , I know , kind of a stupid decision . I’m not claiming to be particularly wise, or sensible , especially  at eighteen .

I noticed a cute girl , though , working along side all of us . She had soft hands .   I offered her my gloves . ” No , no,” she said . I negotiated , somewhat insistent .  Eventually she accepted one glove if I would keep one . Close enough . I accepted the  compromise . Had I impressed her with what a nice guy I was ?

That’s when and  where it went all wrong . Within hours I was getting dirty looks from various people . Seemed like I was , anyway .  Was I or was I not ? Seemed like it . Glares and whispers . Really ?  One fellow volunteer would shun me and the  two standing behind would whisper conspiratorially . About me ?   Was I  imagining it all ? Evil eyes and hostile looks . Weird .


It seems one of the maintenance guys , another eighteen year old , had lost a pair of gloves a day or so before I pulled out my gloves . Remember I hadn’t pulled mine  out until  a few days  after I’d arrived . He , somewhat  logically , had assumed that I had stolen his gloves .pirate caricature

I don’t remember if I confronted him or if he confronted me . Nowadays I would confront him ; but in those days probably he would have confronted me . I remember a face-to-face  conversation . It was civil .  Firm diplomacy : cards on the table time .

” Those are my gloves . ”

” No , those are my gloves . ”

” Mine were from Sears .”

” Mine too . ”

I offered to give him my gloves . He would be up there in the mountains all summer , after all , because he was a  maintenance guy . I didn’t need the gloves  . I’d be gone in a few days ; up again later that summer for two weeks as a counselor .

I suppose that this offer of the gloves made me seem more guilty .  Why else would I give up the gloves so easily ? He wanted an admission , however , a blanket contrition . He was polite about it , under the circumstances , but righteously firm .  He wouldn’t take the gloves without my unconditional surrender , my complete capitulation .  I had to admit that I’d stolen his gloves .

Word had spread around the camp meanwhile that  I was not only a gloves thief , but that I also wouldn’t admit to it when caught red-handed . What kind of an  amoral freak was I ?  It takes all kinds , doesn’t it ! Let’s avoid that guy .  Can you believe it ?  And all of us up here just trying to do something good .  My soft-skinned girlie gave me back the glove .   ” Here’s the stolen glove , oooh !  ” she might have said , but didn’t quite . Maybe she had been the snitch who had initially turned me in , raised the alarm , rallied the forces of righteousness.

I don’t remember now if I had notions of going home , then , in defeat and resignation  . Maybe I did ; maybe I didn’t . I don’t think so ; but , who knows ?

Then the maintenance guy found his gloves . His gloves . They were indeed very similar to mine . He came over to me to apologize . He was very sorry . It had been his mistake . I wasn’t , after all , a lousy sneaking lying gloves thief . He was ashamed of himself for jumping to conclusions .  He was sincerely sorry for having accused me . He had been  respectful throughout the process , I remember , and  I always have appreciated that .  We were  friends afterward .

I suppose there are still people , however , who , telling stories as I am now of those Uni-Camp days long ago , tell the tale of the gloves thief up there that  year at Opening . Can you believe  the stunts some people pull ? What a sleazeball . It takes all kinds , don’t it ! I wonder what happened to that guy .caricature man seated

























I was thinking about my days volunteering at Uni-Camp up in the San Bernardino mountains .   Uni-Camp was UCLA’s camp for underprivileged kids from the inner city , and diabetic kids , and blind kids .   I was recruited by my orientation counselor , Anna Horne .

I was eighteen . ” Everyone goes up for Opening , ” Anna said . Sure.  Every counselor who can shows up for a week to clean up the camp , rake fire breaks , open the A-frames and chase out the spiders and mice . ” It’ll be fun , ” she said .











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4 responses to “thief

  1. For a minute I thought this was going to be one of those wonderful sweet how-I-met-my-wife stories. Ha!

  2. We can’t always change how people feel about us. I guess when it comes down to it, if we know in our hearts that we were right and honest, that’s the most important thing. But dang it, it sure hurts your feelings. That was kinda sad.

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