Stories of friendship and personal and professional development, vivid memories of distant summers in the Sixties when the Alpine Summer Camp hosted thousands of children from the families of employees at the Wool Mill and other firms in the Unione Industriale Biellese (Biella employers’ association).
To understand the point of the view of the “educators”, as we call them now, we interviewed Giuseppina, who told us about her experience as an “assistant”.
Giuseppina, when did you work as an assistant at Trivero’s Alpine Summer Camp?
I started in 1965, when the head was Laura Foglia and I was 23 and working as a primary school teacher. I went back in July 1966 and 1967, when the Salesians took over. I remember Father Franco and Father Mario very well: they used to tell the kids stories about Don Bosco.
What do you remember about the camp?
I remember the atmosphere was very “family”, which enabled me to get on very well with my colleagues and the older kids. The first year I still didn’t have much experience of smaller children though and those three weeks at the camp gave me insight into their behavior out of school, which helped me a lot as a teacher. The best memories I have of the camp are of the comradeship that grew between colleagues, all intent on making the kids’ stay a pleasant one. My friendship with Daniela, Alida and Nicoletta, who were still students at the time, and nurse Lucia, went on for years: I still have the letters and greeting cards we sent one another over the years.
What was a typical day like?
The day started with the wake-up bell accompanied by music, then breakfast in the refectory (caffelatte in tin mugs), after which came prayers, with the kids all lined up, in uniform, in religious silence. The morning continued with a nice walk, to places like Stavello, San Bernardo, Margosio… We came back for lunch, in the refectory, and then various games in the afternoon. On rainy days it wasn’t easy keeping the kids entertained: we used to use the refectory but managing 300 kids isn’t kids’ stuff! We didn’t get much sleep at night as we had to be on hand for the kids… The Unione Industriale Biellese were very careful about their health: a doctor dropped by everyday and there was always a nurse on the premises.
Any anecdotes you remember in particular?
I remember the beautiful color and fragrance of the cyclamens that always adorned the chapel. One day we prepared a lovely basket of cyclamens and took it to Countess Virginia, Ermenegildo Zegna’s wife.
Were you strict with the kids?
We assistants had to be a bit strict, to see that the rules were abided by, but above all we tried to ensure they had fun, and comfort when needed: besides, they were on holiday, not a at school! Some kids were very lively and sociable, others were a bit tearful because they missed their parents and would often write letters home. Phoning home wasn’t as easy as it is now! Even though we could hardly replace their mums, we tried to make the smaller ones feel “at home”: for example, if a child’s tooth fell out, we’d put it under the pillow and make sure they found a chocolate there as a surprise. I remember that 1966 was a World Cup year and we took the kids to watch Italy’s games, though they weren’t very lucky that year. The tenderest memory is of a little boy, one of the liveliest, who gave me a little gift at the end of his holiday at the camp.
What was your biggest satisfaction?
Apart from the synergy that grew between us colleagues and with the kids, one of the most satisfying moments was when the head of the Unione Industriale asked me to be head of the Summer Camp. I didn’t accept because I was planning to get married at the end of the year. And when I had my first baby, I dedicated the summers that followed to my own family.
Having taught in primary schools for many years, you’ll maybe notice differences between kids back then and those we see today?
Society has changed, as has parents’ approach to school and teachers, but the children are still the same!
The “Good mountain air: from alpine summer camps to Zegna Camps” exhibition can be visited every Sunday, from 14.00 to 18.00, till 30 October.
Don’t miss the next workshop, on Sunday 23 October at 15.30: “MODULAR ARCHITECTURES FOR SUMMER CAMPS”, for kids from 7 to 12 years.
Casa Zegna Via Marconi 23, Trivero
Tel. 015 7591463