MEMORIES OF BEING on the TOMAHAWK STAFF in the 1950’S
By Bob Albright
Because my wife, Sandy, and I are genealogists we feel it is important to keep a journal for our grandchildren and descendants. That way even though they may not have known us they will have knowledge of our existence and can read a little about who we were and what we valued. The biggest part of my journal is about my life as a Boy Scout.
So you read this with the feeling I am trying to convey, I will give you a summation to begin with. Scouting saved me from a wayward life that I would rather not think about, and working at Tomahawk gave me direction in my life
I grew up behind the Minnesota State Capital in an area that wasn’t a very good environment for learning to be responsible for your actions and for getting a good education so you could become a contributing citizen.
As an adult I have talked to some of the boys that I joined Boy Scouts with, when we were 11 years old. Not one of us can remember whose idea it was or why we made that choice. But I am thankful that we did. We joined Troop 189 at Christ Lutheran Church just across University Ave. from the State Capital. Our first Scoutmaster was Fred Peterson. Fred had only one arm. The arm, from birth, extended only a little beyond the elbow with no hand or fingers. From him I learned you deal with what you are given. He swam, canoed, golfed and “did whatever he wanted to do”. I remember Fred teaching first aid and using me to demonstrate how to apply a sprained ankle bandage. I did't watch how the bandage was applied, but was enthralled by how he accomplished it.
Our second Scoutmaster was a retired Marine DI. Bill Connahan who only lasted 7 months. I alluded at the beginning that this was a tough neighborhood and I guess he just couldn’t handle it. Not really, but....maybe?
The third Scoutmaster, Tom Krueger, is the person to whom I owe the most for any success I have achieved in this life. My father worked shifts 6 days a week and his day off rotated, so while growing up I didn’t get to see him much. I didn’t really get to know my Dad until after I was married. However, my Mom and Dad always encouraged and supported my Scouting efforts.
RIVER CAMP (The Fred C. Anderson Camp of today):
Tom took us camping at River Camp because he wanted us to have the same Experiences he did at River Camp when he was a Boy Scout in Troop 189. Tom had camped here when there wasn’t a road down to the main camp. So we would have the same experience he did he would park on the cliff behind Good Medicine Lodge and we would throw our gear over and climb down after it. When we left we packed our gear on a toboggan, climbed up the cliff and with a long rope pulled the toboggan up after us. Our favorite was the Randall cabin. Even though the old Randall cabin isn’t there anymore it lives vividly in my memory. The old potbelly stove that glowed red at night when the lights were off, the snapping of the wood as it burned, and the back kitchen that remained cold when we weren’t cooking on the wood stove. An additional memory is the smell of wet clothes drying by the potbelly stove after a winter hike or other outdoor activity.
Being there were no fences back then it is mind-boggling to think of the number of times we climbed the cliffs and scaled the frozen water falls in the winter without a mishap. Just as vivid in my memory are the OA conclaves and other OA events at River Camp. At any time I can bring to mind a picture of the ceremonies at the Chapel (Friendship Rock Today). It is very easy for me to picture Bruce “Fish” Foster in his buffalo medicine man headdress along with Dave Franks, Ray Chun and Tom Jensen in their war bonnets and the sight and smell of kerosene burning in cans that lined both sides of the trail to the Chapel.
One year several of us arrived early to set up for a conclave. Bob Ellison was driving the camp jeep with me and another person in the back. He was going too fast and because of the bumps in the field he lost control and was heading for the river cliff, so the two of us in the back bailed out. Thankfully Bob finally gained control and veered in time. In my mind he came very close, but time does strange things to a person’s memory. But I like the way I remember it.
At the 1957, or maybe the 1958, Christmas Convention I was called out for the Vigil Honor. Dave Franks and Ray Chun took us to River Camp for our vigil. They took me to the far south end of camp and as I recall it was - 40 degrees or at least close to that. <grin> Well anyway it was cold. Little did I know that I was testing this site for the future Van Krevelen Shelter that was later built on the same site. I never made Eagle Scout but I have always valued making Vigil Honor at 17 years old just as much.
Like Tom Krueger, as a Scoutmaster, I brought my scouts to River Camp, not because it was a council camp and conveniently located but because I wanted the boys to enjoy the atmosphere that this camp has to offer. Besides, I wanted to go there for me.
Now I have grandsons in the Cub Scouting program and spend weekends with them at the Fred C. Anderson Camp. The name and some other things have changed but over all it is the same camp I remember as a youth. Now I am helping them build special memories for this beautiful camp that I have enjoyed for the past 50 years.
While working at 3M our department manager arranged for us to take a class in relieving stress. One technique presented was to relax with both feet on the floor and your hands in your lap and think of a place you would like to be at right then. Picture it in your mind and smell the aroma, etc. Immediately, without a second thought, in my mind, I went to River Camp.
As an adult I have visited the camp from time to time just to feel its spirit. Once I had some thinking to do so I visited River Camp to be alone. I climbed the cliffs on the east and sat on an outcropping of rock for 3 hours contemplating, while watching the eagles soar over the river and watching the chipmunks running around. River Camp has a peaceful, serene spirit and has provided me with memories that money cannot buy and memories I would never consider selling, at any price.
No surprise I would choose River Camp for the relaxation technique mentioned above.
My first summer camp was at Camp Neibel in 1953, with Tom Krueger and Troop 189. This was the only year I camped at Neibel. I have only one memory that has stayed with me. There was an event called “Gold Rush Days”. Patrols would go from skill station to skill station in an attempt to earn “gold” nuggets- stones painted gold. The better your patrol performed the skills, the bigger the “gold” nugget your patrol was awarded. After the events were over each patrol would go to the Trading Post and cash in your “gold”. The "gold nuggets" were weighed and you could buy candy with the proceeds. At the time I didn’t know I would be working at Tomahawk with the two staff members behind the counter. Dave Franks and Ray Chun were the two and gave us a little good spirited hard time.
TOMAHAHAWK SCOUT RESERVATION:
My second summer camp was in 1954, at T.S.R. Tomahawk wasn’t open that year as the councils summer camp but was open for “wilderness camping “. Tom Krueger thought it was the place for us to get the “roughing it experience". Knowing now that Bruce “Fish” Foster was the only staff member I must have met him but, sorry Bruce, I don’t remember that.
We camped on Beaver Point. Not much to tell about. We cooked, washed dishes, hiked, cooked, washed dishes, swam, cooked, washed dishes, sat around the campfire and then went to bed. The next days schedule was the same. It was really much more exciting than that because we pictured ourselves as real pioneers, trappers or French Voyagers. Our imaginations made up for the lack of “prepared facilities” for activities.
I do remember Tom and his Asst. Scoutmaster Skip Hoffman telling about their tours of duty in the Army. They had us boys believing that if a war came to the United States, and they really, really needed more soldiers they would call on the Boy Scouts.
Tom was very perceptive. He saw I lacked confidence in many areas, so with my parent’s permission in 1955 he signed me up to serve as an apprentice at Tomahawk. Thus started my years on staff that would last until my last year in 1959.
My years on staff all meld into one so I am not even going to try to figure out what years these events happened, but they will mostly be in chronological order.
In 1955 I was an apprentice to Dennis Tooley for the first month of the camping season. Paul Burson was in our Squad Tent with his apprentice Jerry Bomgart, who I didn’t know at the time would become a classmate of mine at North St. Paul High School. At this time apprentices served for a month. We didn’t get paid but then we didn’t have to pay for the opportunity of being on staff. Just before I was to go home I was asked to stay for the summer and actually get paid for it. I jumped at the opportunity and was transferred to the Nature Area serving as an apprentice to Louie Sudheimer.
Louie gave me several quick nature tours with lessons on plant identification and how to take a troop on a nature hike. Louie was gone most of the time clearing nature trails in the camp. He worked so hard that once he suffered heat stroke. While he was gone I conducted the nature hikes, which helped me to learn to schedule and be responsible for carrying out the schedule and to help establish the nature program at Tomahawk. I also learned which plants can be eaten and which to stay away from.
Because of this experience I am still an avid bird watcher and have 16 blue bird houses and a martin house around our home along with several bird feeders. In the spring I get up early and sit on our deck with my breakfast and binoculars to watch the birds come in for their breakfast. Many evenings I sit on the deck and watch the martins and tree swallows soaring thru the air catching insects.
During one of my first years several of us went up to the Administration Building for a visit. While visiting a Catholic Brother, serving as a chaplain, decided to show us some wrestling moves and chose me to demonstrate the helicopter maneuver. He got dizzy and dropped me on the concrete floor breaking my collar bone. This was during the last week of camp so I got out of the final camp clean up.
One year four of us, I don’t remember the others, canoed across the lake to a “girl’s camp” or so we thought. Isn't it strange that there is always a girls camp across the lake from Boy Scout camps? It may have been a resort where many girls were there that week. We asked the girls if they wanted to take a canoe ride. They accepted, without telling their chaperons, and without thinking we went too far to get back before dark. As we canoed within sight of their cabins we saw flashlights searching the lake. When we landed I got out, intending to apologize, and as I stepped up on the bank a lady hit me over the head with her flashlight. She didn't have to say anything I got the message. We then canoed back to camp and again saw flashlights. We knew then and there we were had. Dick Molby, Camp Director, and Dave Fihn, Waterfront Director, were waiting for us. Dave beached us for two weeks. I didn’t know what the problem was - we had our buddy tags on the board! Maybe the reason was that we had four in a canoe! Beats me. <grin>
In 1958 I ran the Camp Grocery Store while Bill Ellison ran the Trading Post, both of which occupied the same area in the Admin. Bldg. Running the grocery store meant waiting on the families from Family Island. Met a few girls that I would talk with after hours on Family Island. Packing food for troop cookouts was one of my duties. One delivery of hamburger was spoiled. I didn’t catch that and the troops complained to everyone. I don’t blame them. I thought I was going to lose my job and be sent home thankfully that didn’t happen and I was much better at my job and paid more attention to details after that incident.
The Administrative staff roomed in the Admin. Bldg. There were rooms in the south wing of the building, don’t remember how many, and the Medical Clinic on the far end. I roomed with Steve Jensen and next to us lived Dick Fihn and Keith Johansen. Dick worked in the kitchen, with Mary “Ma" Kleven and Fern Martinson, for every year I remember. Keith was the Admin. Bldg. Manager. I cannot remember who lived on the other side of us but Bill Ellison and Doug Ubel were in these rooms also.
In 1959 after graduating from high school I wasn’t going to sign up for the camp staff. My Dad convinced me that I should by saying “This will be your last chance to do something you want to do. From now on you will be in the real world”. That year I worked with Rollie Bowler and Dana Marshall as an Assistant Scoutmaster in one of the Provisional sites. Roger Shirley, John Winters, and Tom Fredeen were in the other site. This was not my best summer at camp but I’m still glad I went. The provisional sites tie a staff member down more than I liked. Very little interaction with other staffers. An interesting happenstance here is I met a scout who’s name was also Robert Albright. Later I would meet him again when we both worked at 3M, which led to me getting his e-mails and he getting mine.
The Chicken BBQ and the OA ceremonies on Wednesdays were a highlight of the week for me because it brought the whole Tomahawk staff together. Tables were set up out doors. I have pictures of the BBQ’s and I am still amazed at the amount of cases of milk that were put out. Dick Molby Jr. did the BBQ’ing usually assisted by one of the chaplains. The chicken was cooked over a pit of coals surrounded by concrete blocks. “Bed springs” with handles welded on were used for grates. The pit was large enough to hold five of these at a time. One extra “bedspring” was used for turning the chicken. By laying it on top of one bed springs that was cooking chicken and then carefully and with great dexterity turn the whole thing, then the top spring was placed on the next and so on.
Only once do I remember chicken landing in the pit of coals. The families on Family Island were always invited.
Toward dusk campers would gather at the OA ceremonial ring and wait for the “Indians” to appear. Number 10 cans filled with burlap and kerosene were placed in a circle around the OA ring. During the first three years Bob Ellison and I would dance and light the cans using road flares. Bob and I also caught bull snakes and would take turns or together perform the snake dance. I put a piece of leather in my mouth before putting the snake in. Bob didn’t until he put a garter snake in his mouth. I learned from Bob that they not only smell foul they taste bad too.
The highlight of the event was when Dave Fihn would light the camp fire by blowing kerosene through a flaming torch which ignited the camp fire. I wasn’t there but Dave Fihn told me he stopped wearing a war bonnet when after lighting a campfire Dave Franks informed him his headdress was on fire. But he did tell me “the main thing you have to remember is not to inhale and to blow down wind”. Can you imagine what would happen if campfires were started this way today?
Memories - Staff parties at the Admin. Bldg. with Dick Molby Jr. and Dick Molby III doing “Casey at the Bat” and the whole staff singing camp songs and songs of the day. Mostly folk songs. And “O the staff went out in the middle of the night...” sung to the tune of Harry Belafonte’s “The Fox Went Out in the Middle of the Night”. I still have a copy of the words to the staff song version. During the first years singing was a big part of the staff parties.
Memories - Wanting to be called out to join the OA. How we looked forward to being whacked on the shoulder three times, taken down a dark trail, shoved down and told to sleep there and you dared not move an inch, working the next day, not talking for the day and eating only bread and water! Many of these things are now considered abuse, but we couldn’t wait.
Then you couldn’t wait a whole year to have your thumb poked to become a Brotherhood member. Knowing not many make Vigil Honor you only hoped you would be lucky enough to be selected to serve a vigil, even knowing that it was usually in the winter.
I can’t remember when or how I started Indian Dancing but suspect it was though George Dege. Later George and I did some traveling in the Mid West sponsored by the Mason’s who took us to their conventions. Once they accepted an invitation at a civic event and as we drove to the appointment I learned it was being held in my high school auditorium. Turned out good, no one knew me and I didn’t know anyone. However the apprehension of someone recognizing me was immense.
Regardless of how I started dancing, I joined the OA Agaming Lodge’s Muh Quah dancers.
One Saturday we practiced on the front lawn of the old Scout Office, a mansion located at 266 Summit Ave. The council informed us this was unacceptable in this neighborhood and to never do that again. Our planning meetings were held in the OA room, which I believe was the chauffeur’s quarters above the garage in back. Most of the practices were held in a National Guard building off Lafayette Rd.
We danced at the Scout-O-Ramas and at the Scout Shows held at the State Fair Grounds Hippodrome.
When John Winters brought his hand made Eagle Dance costume it inspired many of us to build better costumes. That is when I started doing my own beading. My first beading project was a belt that I later sold to Jim King, who returned it to me at the 2004 staff reunion. Then I made a hair roach that I later sold to Dick Fihn, who still has it.
I bought a full set of blue and white dance bustles including a feather roach from Bob Ellison. I then beaded a headband, another belt and beaded a breech clout with a floral design. Later I sold the whole works to a Scoutmaster for $35. Too cheap. I now wish I had kept it.
Thanks to Mark Kempenich, at that time the council’s photographer, I have many pictures, although black and white, of my costume. Staged pictures but still memorable. After returning from the service I attended an event at River Camp but can’t remember what the event was. There I met another OA member who remembered me. His name was Bruce but the last name is forgotten. He had with him some OA memorabilia, among which was an OA pamphlet with my picture on the front. Had no idea my picture was used for this. Inside were two pictures. One was Of Dave Franks and Bruce Foster at an OA induction ceremony. The other was a group picture taken at the Tomahawk OA ring. On this picture are several Boy Scouts along with Ken Berglund, Ed Dery, Steve Wilke and John Curren.
When Agaming Lodge attended the OA Conference in Lawrence, KS it was the farthest I had ever been from home. The bus trip to and from was grueling for me. I still don’t like sitting that long at one time. But the conference was exciting. Patch trading, neckerchief trading, and thinking back it was mostly a trading conference. During the trip down we stayed one night in a barracks at Offutt AFB. While there we attended a showing of “The Night Heaven Fell”, starring Bridget Bardot. This movie made history - Bridget Bardot exposed her upper torso for all to see. When this scene appeared on the screen Mike Miler stood up with a large gasp, that sent the airmen into hysteria. Someone in our group took pictures of the airplanes on the runway. This was not permitted but no one was arrested. After returning home Dana Marshall stayed at my house until he could be picked up the next day.
In and out canoe races, gunnel pumping, Toten-Chips, the greased watermelon contests, knot yards, rope toss, sitting with the campers at meals but wanting to sit with fellow staff members, waiting for a night that you could go to Little Holland, in Haugen, for a hamburger, how the paths were longer at night than during the day, how dark it got in the woods, batteries failing when you needed them the most, rounding up boats after a storm, especially the storm in 1957 (I believe that was the year} and more?
You’re supposed to gripe about camp food but I don’t remember if the food was good, bad or neither one.
WHAT SCOUTING HAS GIVEN ME:
What I have received from Scouting is worth more than I could ever afford. Tom Krueger and Scouting gave me a respectable life as a contributing citizen of our society. Without Scouting I’m not sure this would have been the case. While working on the staff at Tomahawk I developed a work ethic, learned to work as an individual and as part of a team and to accept responsibility and following through.
Working as a nature counselor I became aware that we have to take care of this planet we live on. While working at 3M I helped start the first chemical recycling program and received the Chairman’s Environmental Award for doing so. Presently another retired 3M’r and I started our Township’s Groundwater Advisory Committee authorized by our town board and charged with the responsibility to protect our aquifer.
My participation in OA has led to a life long hobby of reading about the American Indian and the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade. I have a large library of books on these subjects. All are historical records and first hand journals of the immigrants and trappers that first ventured west of the Mississippi. I still do beading from time to time and make dream catchers for family and friends.
I admit to being a hero worshipper and topping my list is Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce. A humanitarian that chose to stay behind with the old and infirm, after the majority of his people stole away in the night and made it safely to Canada. His only request in his “I will fight no more forever” speech to Colonel Miles was, “It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and no blankets, no food, no one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead”. After being removed to Oklahoma he traveled many times to Washington to plead with the U.S. Government to return his people to their land in the Walla-walla Valley on the Washington - Oregon border. He was ultimately successful. All his people were returned to their beloved land, all that is except Joseph. The government said they didn’t trust him. On his death certificate the doctor stated the cause of death as, “died of a broken heart”. I can only hope to be such a person.
I had an extremely enjoyable youth because of the Boy Scouts of America program. I hope my boys will be able to look back and enjoy reminiscing on their Scouting experiences as much as I have and that my grandsons are making cherished memories as they participate in their Scouting activities.