Whether or not you’ve ever been to summer camp, Salute Your Shorts, should be of some nostalgic value to you. The Nickelodeon series was based on the book, Salute Your Shorts: Life at Summer Camp by Steve Slavkin; it lasted two seasons from 1991-92. And it was pure magic. I sometimes question the state of mind these campers were supposed to be in – case in point – the Camp Anawanna song intro. They’re praising potato chips, Dina is petting pine trees, Donkeylips breaks a fishing pole. And clumsy head counselor Ug, with suntan lotion on his nose, is quite skilled on the piano. But, of all the show’s mysteries, perhaps the greatest question is: who is the elusive Dr. Khan?
While I loved the guys in this show, I was ashamed of how one-dimensional and lame the girls were. Dina broke nails and cried about it. Z.Z. wore earth globe earrings. Telly was probably the most tolerable, because she actually knew how to use her brain. Now, Donkeylips was the kind of guy you could picture in your school cafeteria snorting milk from his nose. He had this soft bitterness towards everyone. And if anyone crossed him, they were “roasted, toasted, and burnt to a crisp.” Then there was Robert “Bobby” Budnick, Camp Anawanna’s resident bad ass. He had a red mullet, wore cut off tees, and instigated pranks on the daily. Sponge was the token computer geek, but his level of genius often got the group out of trouble, or aided them in some fantastical idea. There were two other guys who came and went: Michael and Ronnie. Clearly, they weren’t as cool; they lacked the necessary nickname factor.
Quite frankly, everything you need to know about this show, can be summed up in episode 102. Budnick tells everyone about this disfigured janitor named Zeke, the plumber. Apparently, Zeke had his nose bitten off by a parrot in the Philippines. He died at Anawanna when he was digging a hole and couldn’t smell a gas leak. All that remained after the explosion was his trustee plunger, now said to hold a curse. Anyone who touches the plunger, Budnick warns, will have dreams about Zeke, whom still haunts the camp. Michael and Telly are so pissed off at Budnick for this, that they dare him to go into the woods at the spot where Zeke died. Budnick obliges, because he’s not one to turn down a dare, and sets up traps around his site. Meanwhile, Donkeylips is wandering around with a pumpkin on his head, for reasons I can’t recall, and Ug is dressed up as Zeke to try to scare Budnick. The plan is foiled when Ug gets swept up in Budnick’s net trap. Budnick is cackling with satisfaction, until he walks through a spider web, and we find out the boy who loves Metallica is arachnophobic.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The golden age of afternoon television has long passed. The shows we once treasured were ripped from us, without so much as a warning. But loyalty remains. We salute that segment of the ’90s we admittedly took for granted at the time. And you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our [filled with resentment towards Nickelodeon] hearts.