My Back Pages: Perfume in “Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood”

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From the ages of ten to thirteen, I was fanatical about Ellen Conford’s fiction. Throughout junior high school, I read and re-read every book that she had written for young adults, reveling in her writing style as much as her stories about the everyday ups and downs of teen life.

Some of my favorites in the Conford oeuvre were Seven Days to a Brand New Me and We Interrupt This Semester for an Important Bulletin—I even presented an oral book report on the latter title to my sixth-grade language arts class. One Conford novel that has been on my mind over the past few weeks, as I’ve watched the local children and pre-teens return from summer camp, is Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood (1978).

The heroine of Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood is Melanie Kessler, a pleasantly average and slightly shy girl, an only child who is attending sleep-away summer camp for the first time. She’s thirteen years old. When I was thirteen, I was already wearing perfumes: Avon Sweet Honesty, Gloria Vanderbilt’s Vanderbilt, and Le Jardin de Max Factor. Melanie, I was happy to read, also wears perfume.

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On more than one occasion in Camp Timberwood, Melanie dabs on some “Green Apple cologne.” She wears it to a dance where the Senior Girls from her bunk mingle with the Senior Boys, and to camp-wide movie nights.

I’m guessing that Ellen Conford was thinking of Max Factor’s Green Apple, a drugstore cologne that was advertised in the 1970s with the tagline “Wear Green Apple. He’ll Bite.”

At one point in the novel, a fellow Senior Girl compliments Melanie on her fragrance:

“That smells nice,” sniffed Lou appreciatively. “Very fresh and youthful.”

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Lou Clarke is a returning camper, perhaps slightly older than Melanie: she’s worldly-wise (in Melanie’s eyes, at least) and a bit boy-crazy. Melanie offers Lou some Green Apple. Lou politely declines:

“No thanks. I have my own.” Lou waved a black bottle with gold lettering on it. “My Sin.”

Lou wasn’t going to smell youthful, that was for sure.

I certainly wasn’t ready for Lanvin’s My Sin when I was a teenager. I’m ready for it now; alas, it went out of production years ago. Someday I’ll scout out a vintage sample and give it a try. I’m sure it will be as sultry and mature as I imagined when I was thirteen.

Images: Cover of Ellen Conford’s Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood (Archway Paperback edition, 1980); 1974 ad for Max Factor Green Apple; 1972 ad for Lanvin My Sin, with actress-model Jennifer O’Neill.

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3 thoughts on “My Back Pages: Perfume in “Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood”

  1. Hi Jessica, I have a huge-ass bottle of vintage Eau My Sin. I’d be happy to decant you some to try, if you want. Email me at somerss at gmail dot com. It smells in great condition to me, but I’m not sure how old the bottle is or how Eau My Sin might differ from just plain My Sin.

    I never read these books, but they sound super-fun.

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