In the Summer of 1980, I wanted to go to a sleep-away camp. Even though I had everything I needed at home to have a great Summer: a big pool with a 9′ deep end that we’d jump into off the garage roof, a stay-at-home Mom to cater to nearly all our becks and calls, an air-conditioned house, a large color Zenith console TV with ATARI hooked up, and plenty of freeloading friends who showed up every hot, sweaty, 90+ degree day; I still wanted to go away to a sleep-away camp just like the one I watched on the PBS series HIGH FEATHER. It looked like “FUN!”.
Well, I didn’t get to go… ever. Instead I went to camp vicariously by watching Stan, Leo, Tom, Domingo, Leslie, Ann, Cathy and Suzanne at Camp….uh,… Camp….you know what, they never did mention the camp’s name!
Back in 1978-79, the Bureau of Mass Communications of the New York State Education Department apparently was flush with funds and shelled out the bucks to produce an educational teen series dealing with various teen-oriented social issues of the time. HIGH FEATHER was a “New Learning” project that was never intended to run more than the ten episodes produced during the Summer of 1979. Each episode didn’t deal with just a single topic but rather a multi-storyline of preteen and teenage topics ranging from peer pressure to good nutrition to self-image. Also covered were specific, heady things like drug use, juvenile diabetes, and anorexia -which in 1980 was a new concept to some of us suburban kids (throw up, on purpose?). And where else could this cast of various, ethnically diverse characters be allowed to stumble and fall on their own with just the bare minimum of adult supervision in what could be a near LORD OF THE FLIES scenario? At a sleep away Summer camp of course!
Here’s the intro to HIGH FEATHER. See if it sparks a memory:
I think the most appealing aspect of HIGH FEATHER was that it was shot at a real, working Summer camp. For me and my sister, the show gave us a peek at the real world of going to Summer camp that way. Also, the clumsy, first-time acting performances of the cast gave us something to snicker over and mockingly mimic all Summer long. It was a show that wasn’t putting on airs or glossing the camp experience. If anything it was a glorified homemovie shot at camp with decent drama added (that’s right, “homemovie”, not video- they shot on film back then).
Debuting during the Spring of 1980 (I think the first episode aired in April), HIGH FEATHER was seen by me on my local PBS station, WNET-TV Channel 13. It might’ve aired on other PBS stations as well but WNET was the only VHF PBS station that tuned in (yes, that’s right! This is all before cable TV was available in my neck of the woods). You could pick up other PBS stations on that strange, Outer Limits world of UHF channels -channels that were always riddled with static or other visual distortions. In fact, at one point my sister and I realized that the lineup of programming on Channel 13 was mimicked exactly on another UHF PBS station but at an hour later. So that meant we could watch the latest episode of HIGH FEATHER and then watch it again on the other, fuzzy channel -sort of like watching a ghost transmission bounced off the Moon. This was amazing to us because -that’s right! This was also before VCRs were commonplace in households.
Now, thanks to the internet and especially Youtube, you can watch HIGH FEATHER practically anytime you want and practically anywhere. I think the fanciest way I ever got to watch TV wherever I wanted was when I brought our small, SEARS color 13″ TV set out on the pool’s deck, placing it barely a couple of feet away from the water’s edge.
Hey I just realized something after over thirty years!
“…allowed to stumble and fall” and “…bare minimum adult supervision”
I guess I was sort of at Summer camp after all, just like in HIGH FEATHER!
Below is a Youtube playlist of the first three episodes of HIGH FEATHER.
Watch it embedded here or goto the playlist on Youtube directly (your choice!).
To read an excellent rundown of all ten episodes of HIGH FEATHER and of other background/production information on the series go to: