Memories from River Camp, Camp Neibel, and Tomahawk: 1950 – 1959
By Dave Franks
As a teenager, I went to Tomahawk knowing only that I was going on an adventure with people I admired and enjoyed being with. I believe that the first I heard of this new camp was sometime in 1952. Ron Frazer, Bob Seabloom and I camped on a field just north of what is now the main entrance during the winter.
The next time I went to Tomahawk was in April of 1953. Bill Seabloom, Bob’s brother, Don McShonnock, and a Scout from their troop 3 and I stayed in the Fischer Cabin between Elizabeth (Lake Nielsen today) and Long Lakes. It was April, snow and ice were everywhere. Spring was struggling to make an appearance. The pump was in the cabin making it easier to prime and secure fresh water so that we didn’t have to melt snow. I took home a souvenir rock that weekend. It was an egg shaped softball size stone. I printed our names, the date and the words “Long Lake” on it and used it as a paper weight for more than fifty years. I returned the stone to camp during the 50th Anniversary Celebration. I placed it on the rock wall that surrounds the new flag pole by the administration bldg. I didn’t expect the names or dates to last long and felt that returning the stone was important.
When I think about my first camp experience at what was to become TSR, we arrived late in the evening. It was very dark and cold. I remember that the road to the Fischer Cabin had been used primarily for logging. We parked the car at the end of the road somewhere just to the west from what became the swimming beach on Elizabeth. The next day we hiked along the shoreline and through woods and marshes. Whether it was on this trip or memories from summer hikes at Tomahawk, I clearly remember very large stumps with spiral like towers rising from the side where the large trees broke off when they were cut. Many of these stumps appeared to have been through one or more fires.
This was only the first of what would be many winter or early spring trips to Long Lake. Jim King introduced us to squirrel meat on a March weekend spent with Tom Campbell, Ray Chun, and Mike Miler at the TSR. We stayed that weekend in the basement of the new administration building. Hiking from the building west on the snow covered lake and through the frozen marshes to Family Island and the Point we engaged a porcupine. It was out on a long branch of a pine tree eating bark. With carefully thrown caps and scarves we were able to secure several quills.
My introduction to what would become for me TSR started as a camper and CIT at the St. Croix River Camp in 1950.
St. Croix River Camp and Camp Neibel
The St. Croix River Camp or the Fred C. Anderson Scout Camp has always had a very special place in my memories. While I went to both summer and winter camp there in the early 50’s, it was of course the place where I met and worked with so many of you, very important people in my life and shared so many experiences through the Order of the Arrow.
On some nights after hectic days when I can’t sleep, I often focus on mind pictures of places that are special to me. Quite places, peaceful memories associated with dark nights, black tree lines silhouetted against starless gray skies from the upstairs windows of Good Medicine or the Staff Cabin replace tension and make it possible for me to sleep.
My first memory of St. Croix River Camp is from the time that my grandfather took me to camp. It was a Sunday in late June or early July, 1950. As we turned off the black top highway outside of Stillwater onto a dirt road leading to the camp we came up on a tall, lanky, well tanned young man with dark crew cut hair wearing a camp tee shirt, scout shorts and moccasins walking back to the camp. We stopped and offered him a ride. I later learned this was Bill Seabloom, Assistant Waterfront Director. It should be noted this is the same Seabloom who introduced me to Tomahawk in 1953. Bill would play an important role in my development over the next few years.
Not too far from where we picked him up was what I remembered as a long and steep road winding down to the camp. This road was to become for me a gateway to adventure and many enriching experiences. One Sunday during the winter, I helped push Bob Plante’s wood sided Ford station wagon up the final turn in the road because we had a fresh snow overnight that made a difficult road treacherous.
Just off the parking lot was a building filled with packs, cooking gear, canvas tents, army cots, and what I remember to be the smell of “trail packs”. We slept on the floor the night I was inducted into O.A. because of heavy rain. This building housed a small store where we registered and could purchase camp tee shirts, moccasin kits, plastic like lanyard materials, merit badge books, candy bars and an occasional cold bottle of soda. A trail led both north and south on the shelf like land separated by cliffs to both the east and the west.
Oh there is so much that I remember from this first week of camp. Good Medicine Lodge, songs after meals, processions from the dinning hall based on how ready campers at the tables were to leave, and the voices of Scouts singing “Prepared, prepared the motto of the Boy Scouts” as they were dismissed and walked back to their camp sites. Memories of the faces of staff like Brad Castle, Bill Seablom and Muff Clark, Art Kingsbury, a retired railroader who was the camp’s Indian lore expert and probably its naturalist; Ed Sitzer, a practicing mechanical drawing teacher from Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul who served as the program director; Carl Edstrom, who later died in a plane crash during training to become a Navy pilot during the Korean conflict, and Milt Knoll, District Executive for the East Side and Camp Director have come back to me. I can not forget Don Cole, Camp Ranger, a person who I only came to know and admire from a distance, but who like all of the others I mentioned was a person who I admired. I remember his woodsmen mid calf leather boots, wool plaid shirts and a red Paul Bunyan cap. While I never had a pair of those boots, I later acquired a red wool shirt and a red Paul Bunyan logger’s cap. The cap remains one of my cherished possessions to this day.
Whether it was at St. Croix, Neibel, or Tomahawk, Indian lore, O.A. ceremonies and campfires were threads that tied so much together. Ceremony, costume and dance were a big part of these summer camp experiences. Art Kingsbury, a very big man with a large nose and fingers like bananas, recruited and engaged me and some of my fellow campers in Indian lore activities in 1950. Little did I know that this hobby was going to provide me with opportunities that would take me to Camps Neibel, Tomahawk, and Parsons on Puget Sound (1952) We learned the toe-heel, the canoe step, the buffalo paw, the joy step and dances like the eagle, hunting, and hoop dances. We made costumes in the back room of Randall, practiced dancing at the council fire ring under the branches of a great oak, and prepared the council fire. In addition to building a large fire we raked the dusty ground smooth, filled soup cans with burlap and kerosene, and used lime to paint the ground to honor the wind, water, fire and air. I am certain that many of my values were influenced by these experiences.
One night each week just as it was getting dark, staff and some campers would begin to gather in Randall. As darkness surrounded us, we changed from our camp clothes to Indian costumes. This included various combinations of war shirts, head dresses, breech cloths, leggings, vest, bells, head bands, rattles, wands and bustles. Large tubes of what was called grease paint, theatrical make up, was used to add an additional touch of color and authenticity. Art Kingsbury, theatrical director, reminded us about the time. We would quietly line up on the trail that leads from Randall down behind Cochrane to the Council Fire Ring. The trail was very narrow and winding. It was worn bare and occasional roots crossed the path and served as traps for the unwary traveler. Every thing would become quite, torches would be lit, flickering light, dark smoke, smell of burning burlap and kerosene, and long shadows of figures from the past began to move in a single line towards the council fire ring. A slow rhythmic beat on a large drum made from a tree trunk and the sounds of bells jingling with each step added to the drama. Often times the waterfront director served as the central figure in the pageant (Brad Castle, St. Croix; Dave Fihn, Neibel and Tomahawk; Steve Albrecht, Tomahawk). I can still picture Ben Flood and Shorty Sitzer, walking around the council ring to “tap out” O.A. inductees at River Camp. Both the cast and the play would change overtime but respect for the meaning of the ceremony always remained the same.
At St. Croix we washed up every morning at the pump located just to the south of the parade ground. The knot yard was located on exposed sandstone, separated from Good Medicine by a gultch cut out of the sandstone by a small stream. All of this was located not far from the council fire ring. One morning we cut plates from the end of a log, whittled knifes and forks, and ate pancakes cooked on a griddle over an open fire. I remember after dinner walks from Good Medicine, past Cochran and the hospital to the store passing the trail to the temple, passed three of the Adironacks, an outdoor toilet (that we occasionally washed down with Pine Sol and liberally covered with lime), and the Chapel. The store was a place where we could use the “chits” that we earned as apprentices. I believe that this amounted to $1.00 a week. These trips to the store usually included two or more of us and always involved songs (I will give you one ho, One for the….). Cold bottles of root beer, orange, grape, and cream soda were always in the small cooler behind the double doors that one used to enter the store.
I remember my fear of speaking in front of a group. After lunch one day, Art Kingsbury picked me up and put me on a bench to lead “B-I, B-I, B-I, Ingo” in Good Medicine. This would be just one of the many unplanned secondary experiences that would be important to me. Going with Art on hikes that originated by the switch back behind Good Medicine, along the base of the cliff past the Temple, and ending at the water falls on the north end of the camp were weekly experiences. On one such hike, Art introduced us to Indian potatoes which as I remember where very hot to the taste. On still another trip he walked us through nettles and then showed us how to find another weed that according to him always grew near to by. The juice from the broken stem healed the stinging sensation caused by the nettles.
One of my vivid memories has to do with earning my cooking merit badge. A friend of mine and I decided to prepare a baked bean dish that would be cooked in a number 10 can that was buried in hot coals. We started preparation in mid-morning and ate well after the sun went down. I believe that Tom Green, my cousin, and Bill Seabloom, and other members of the camp staff, were some of whom I believe were very hungry guests. In reality they probably had eaten dinner in Good Medicine some 4-5 hours earlier.
On the 4th of July we participated in a water carnival that included swimming and canoe races, canoe jousting, swimming races and greased watermelon fights. We sat on the sandstone steps leading down a trail to the waterfront to wait for our events to be called. We swam in what I remember as the reddish waters of the St. Croix. On occasion we covered our bodies with tannic acid before canoe trips north to the high Soo Line Railroad bridge that crossed the river.
We learned that River Camp would no longer be used for summer camping and all summer camp activities would be re-located to a camp on the east end of Balsam Lake where summer camping had occurred for many years. My first experience at Camp Neibel was in the summer of 1953. I worked there again in 1954. Gene Peterson, East Side District Scout Executive was the Camp Director; The Program Director was Lloyd “Knute” Knutson, I believe that the Camp Business Manager was Bill McMillen. In addition to their responsibilities for the camp, Gene, “Knute” and Bill served as district executives. Gene served the Great East Side, formerly known as District II and “Knute” the North Star Districts.
At Neibel I served as the store keeper. The store was a small building that housed the store, storage area, a screened porch used to store pop, a small program office, and a sleeping room used by the store keeper. The program office was staffed by Tom Campbell. I always wore a black hat that I adorned with a red and white beaded head band and what I believe was a small eagle feather. Every day, Gene would give me a small amount of cash to use as change and every night he would patiently wait for me to close out the register for the day and try to match the cash register receipts with the days earnings and the amount I started with that morning. I remember to this day how mortified I was when it didn’t balance to the penny.
There is so much that I remember about Neibel. The waterfront cabin was probably the best living accommodations for members of the staff. Dave Fihn, Waterfront Director; Ron Johnson, Assistant Waterfront Director; and Johnny Carlson, Waterfront Apprentice shared the cabin with Richard “Rocky” Rothmond. “Rocky” was talented and charismatic to say the least. I believe that “Rocky” was a mainstay of program activities at the camp.
“Rocky” was multi-talented, a great song leader, able to harmonize with R
oger Lothson in songs like “I’d walk a mile just for a smile from my mama and daddy, cause I loved them and want them to know.” Roger who worked with Paul Lurhing, were in charge of the kitchen and dinning room. Roger played a great accordion and Paul an equally great trumpet. On moon-lit nights, with the light steaming across the parade field, it was not unusual to hear the two of them making music from the dining hall late into the night.
On occasion our camp cook, who I believe was from New Prague, MN, would bake Kolachies (spelling ?). As I remember, Kolachies were small pastries filled with apricots or prunes and sprinkled lightly with sugar. As the smell wafted through the camp, staff would find their way to the kitchen to sample one or two before lunch. They were a real treat. To this day I look for Kolachies wherever I go. There is a sign on highway 53 near Haugen which reads “Kolachie Capital of the World.”
Speaking of treats, I fondly remember gathering on the parade ground just before dinner to take down the flag. The words from the song “Tennessee Waltz”, popular that year, came from a radio in a nearby staff tent. Gene Peterson would be there. I recall his smile and gravely voice. Soon after the provisional troops arrived, Tom Campbell, Doug Avery and Ralph Underhill would “march” onto the parade grounds near the flag pole. Tom’s dress as I recall was always a long sleeved green Explorer shirt rolled up to his elbows, white neckerchief, blue jeans, black leather belt and “real” tennis shoes. Ralph played the bugle, while Tom and Doug lowered and folded the flag. Following this we would walk by the “war canoe” under the screened porch as we passed single file into the dinning hall.
There was always something going on. Johnny Carlson was being chased by “Knute” one day and Johnny was having a foot face with “Rocky” the next. A favorite practice of some staff and campers was to remove the cap from small sample Brill Cream tubes, aim them at someone, and jump on them. Then of course there was “Ship-a-Hoy” and the occasional free candy or ice cream bar you got from an unsuspecting camper who wasn’t very careful and dropped his wrapper on the ground. Staff swims, campfires, OA ceremonies, water carnivals and Gold Rush Derby's highlighted each week.
I remember transporting a fellow staff member back from the Scout Island on Balsam Lake because he had seriously cut into his ankle with an axe. We had on occasion’s reason to stop at Paradise Lodge on the mainland across from Scout Island. On Saturday night we would usually go to Amery for a movie. The movie theatre is still there and main street looks much like it did in the 50’s.
Sailing was a new and exciting sport for many of us. We would occasionally miss “turning about” in a timely manner and hit the pier. One morning before lunch, the sky turned black, the rain came down in sheets and the wind blew. Camp activities came to a stand still. A number of us put on life jackets and went for a sail. The wind was strong. One of us had either tied down the mainsail or failed to get the word from Ray who was on the tiller to let out the sail as we capsized. To this day it is like slow motion in my mind. Most of us just crawled or walked over the side and didn’t even get wet above our knees. I believe that both of the old White Bear Lake Johnson X-Boats where sailing together that fateful morning. Whether it was that morning or another, I distinctly remember hearing a tearing sound, later to see the half submerged fiber glass haul floating several yards behind us. Fortunately no one was hurt. I assume that Dave and Ron were less than happy with us because they had put a great deal of work into fiber glassing the hulls.
In 1954 we closed camp knowing that we wouldn’t be back. I remember going up to the tool shed or craft shop after many members of the staff had left and finding a dirty and torn provisional Neibel Troop flag in some rubble. I took it home, my grandmother washed it and it was stored for 50 years. I brought it back to Tomahawk for the 50th anniversary. To my delight Gene Peterson was there and he presented it to the TSR Camp Director as part of the dedication of the new TSR flag pole.
A New Scout Camp
We had all heard about a pioneer woodsman called Fish. His was known as a skilled wood carver, expert paddler and fisherman. He was “the Tomahawk summer camp staff in "53" and "54". Bruce “Fish” Foster was for us a legend in his own time.
In 1955 we were exited to join “Fish” at the new camp. We were met by a freshly bulldozed, rough and dusty road leading from the gate on the east end of the lake to the west and south ends of the camp. Thirteen camp sites had been roughed out of the forest. The Ranger and Camp Director homes, hospital, pole storage shed (this may have been built later), and a building at the West end of the camp housing the store, kitchen, dinning room and program planning room were awaiting us. As Gene Peterson said “everything wasn’t ready for the campers who would be coming in a week or so”. The staff helped finish some of the construction before the camp opened. This even required that Gene and Dave Fihn go back to Neibel to reacquisition an old hot water heater for the new camp.
I remember very dusty roads which were occasionally watered down with a wood by-product; a main beach cut out the western shoreline; a soft ball field scrounged from a recently bulldozed field behind the dinning hall, camp sites surrounded by up-turned tree roots that were downed by recent storms (homes for field mice), a new ceremonial ground and a fresh new OA tapping out ceremony. Big projects like putting in the pier would be handled by everybody; smaller projects (e.g., building the guard tower and repairing oars) were delegated to smaller groups or individuals. We were ready when the Scouts began to arrive.
A day at camp usually started when we heard the sound of the first breakfast bell. Some times we would have to be reminded that eating breakfast with the campers was a part of the job. The day would start with a song or two after breakfast prior to dismissal. About 9:00 troops would begin to make their way to the axe yard, knot yard, archery and rifle ranges and the beaches for rowing and canoeing lessons. Later in the morning swimming lessons would take precedence. Lunch would bring a break in activities. Songs would follow lunch and activities would begin again. Life saving merit badge instruction, followed by troop just for “fun” swims were interspersed with the same activity options from the morning. Chapel services often took place before dinner. Often times staff was asked to select a Bible reading and reflect on its meaning. Staff and campers were expected to participate in the flag ceremony. We were expected to dress for dinner (shorts, tee shirts, neckerchiefs). Dinner followed. Songs before dismissal were included. The store attached to the dinning hall on the west end of camp would open twice a day. After dinner store hours were particularly busy. After dinner on evenings that we didn’t have the chicken barbeque and the OA ceremony, campers participated in boating and canoeing activities. It was not unusual to find the staff involved in a vigorous game of softball behind the dinning hall. We would play until dark. Campfires, songs, and skits followed and were the order of the evening before the day ended.
My first position at the TSR was store manager. This was the same position I had at Neibel. Balances at the end of the day were equally important. While “Bubble Up and Sky Blue Popsicle’s” were big with the campers at Neibel; Slushy Coke and frozen Snickers were big at Tomahawk. I have to laugh about how we froze the Coke in “55”, while a similar practice raised such a commotion between Coke-a-Cola and Hardees this past spring. Coke fired one of its executives because they couldn’t get it right. Our experimentations were ahead of their times.
A year or two later I served on the TSR program staff. My responsibilities involved coordinating schedules for the troops that used sites 1-4. Sundays were big. Meet, greet, and get them to physicals, swim checks and through the weekly planning process that often lasted late into the night. Getting the best times for swimming, archery, and the rifle range was competitive. Working quickly to get each troop leader started, securing what you believed where the best times for swimming and boating, and the scheduling of the archery and rifle range, axe yard and knot yard were necessary. I learned and acquired many skills during those planning sessions that I use to this day.
I do not think that I have ever enjoyed myself more than the summers at TSR. There was always something that had to be done. Expectations for showing up for breakfast, coming in uniform to lunch and dinner, songs after meals (e.g., Bingo Farm, We’re Sorry Your Going Away), daily chapel, campfires (i.e., skits and verses from songs with phrases like “dip, dip and swing them back"), taking motor boats to distant beaches and the Island, teaching knot tying, axemanship, swimming, lifesaving, rowing and canoeing, were some of the activities in which we all enthusiastically participated. Hearing the sounds of the St. Paul Scout Drum and Bugle Corp playing “Somewhere over the rainbow” on a warm summer day while watching swimmers was hard to beat. I am taken back to the sights and sounds of that very afternoon every time I hear that Judy Garland song.
“Knute” was the Program Director. He was a skill wood carver and axe man. I remember “Knute’s” tan lines and Scandinavian borough. “Knute” had a penchant for authentic split rail fences. I believe that Dave Benson and Terry Pratt were some of the staff who split the logs and helped build the fences by the archery and rifle ranges. Lloyd Knutson was the bearer of stories about the Osprey nest some where on the north end of the property. He was and continues to be one of the best teachers and curriculum authorities I have ever worked with. He opened staff meetings each week with the words “This is not a bitch session.” My last contact with Lloyd was while he served as Director of Camping for the Gamehaven Council, Rochester, MN. Later he went on to the National Philmont Scout Camp in Cimmeron, New Mexico.
Unlike Camp Neibel most scouts came with their own leadership. I do not remember any provisional camping during my years at Tomahawk. (This statement is in error. Dick Fihn reminded me that TSR had provisional camping, in a site near the Ad Building. Dick Whitmore was the first Scoutmaster and lived several summers in his tepee). We were fortunate to work with the likes of Dick Luben, Troop 3; Bob Plante, Bob Smith, Sven Bang, Troop 274; and Dave Nachtshiem, Troop 86., to mention just a few of the many volunteers who brought their troops to camp. Some of these men were the reasons that we had opportunities to be on the staff. They became part of the fabric of the camp and established relationships with us that lasted long after we were no longer members of the staff.
As I write this, I remember the feeling of loss that I felt when Gene Peterson left the Indianhead Council and went to Minneapolis to assume responsibilities for Camp Many Point.
Walking the road from Family Island on dark nights guided only by the gray space that marked the path between the pitch black forest walls was a challenge. While always on guard, senses maxed, the occasional sound of something in the woods or the black on black silhouettes of an animal much bigger in your mind then it probably was caused you to pick up the pace while walking even more carefully. Getting the 4 x 4 Army truck stuck in a swamp on the south end of camp; Transporting food to camp sites on the mainland and the island in the early hours of the morning; Running a pickup truck off the recently oiled road are just some of my memories. I believe that Charlie Olson, the camp truck driver, may have been at the wheel one afternoon when a small group of us were trying to navigate a new route on the south end of the camp. Staff taking the pontoon boat to visit the Girl Scout camp on the east end of the lake, hearing the sound of a racing motor when in their excitement too many of them moved to the bow of the pontoon boat, sending the bow and them into knee deep water and lifting the racing motor clear out of the water; Riding with Dave Fihn and Ray Chun in Dave’s racing skiff around the south point on a beautiful Sunday morning when the boat tipped over and sent us all into the lake. Dave reminded me that Ray located his lost billfold in the clear water of Long Lake while boating to “13” to run waterfront activities. While second hand, hearing about the burning of garbage with white gas on a rainy day is also stored in my memory. I would sing “Killy, killy, killy, Watch, watch, watch, Kay u kin cum kow a" while paddling in from the lake as part of the OA pageant. I recall helping with cooking over hot barbecue pits and eating cold left over snacks, sacks of pinto beans in the back of the truck, an occasional large pinto bean plant growing on the side of the road some where between the Administration Building and the dinning hall, pinto beans soaking in large pots in the kitchen. One morning the kitchen staff was panicked because they couldn’t find any of the pitchers. Walking from our cabin to the Service Lodge we noticed that all of the water pitchers were hanging from the top of the make shift flag pole behind the staff quarters that were attached to the building. Dave Fihn started campfires by blowing kerosene over a small torch. The Kingston Trio and the Everly Brothers were very popular. I have a memory of trying to harmonize to the “Yellow Rose of Texas” with Pat McCardle. Pat would hunch over, snap his fingers, and swivel a foot on the ground. Saturday nights included trips to the Rice Lake “El Ago” Theater. Movies like “Blackboard Jungle (Sidney Poitier), Tammy (Debbie Reynolds), and DI (Jack Webb) were some of the featured films. The A&W on the south end of main street, the Dairy Queen on the north end, the drug store, and the bar with the Worlds Largest Muskie were part of our Saturday nights. The wood octagon shaped dance/roller skating park just north of the Frosty Freeze across from the County Fair Grounds stands out to me. Listening to the Milwaukee Braves games the year they won the World Series (Warren Spahn, a great left-handed pitcher) added color to all of this.
My memories also include canoeing with Tom Campbell from the dam on the south end of Long Lake, down the Brill, to Rice Lake. This canoe trip involved going under barbwire, stepping out and pulling the canoe in shallow areas, outwitting an occasional cow and portaging short distances around a small number of culverts and roads. Many nights, after a long and busy day, when we should have been in bed, we often piled into Ray Chun’s maroon Mercury and drove over to Haugen’s “Little Holland” for a great hamburger, fries and malt.
While there where many skilled camp wood carvers: Dave Fihn’s, chain link and ball neckerchief slides; and Lloyd Knutson and Fish Foster, Indian chiefs. Tom Campbell stood out to me as an artist in wood. To this day, I prize three slides Tom carved (Tomahawk Camp Gate; a Tomahawk; and an African Mask).
When boats and canoes had to be moved from the dinning hall where they were stored in the off season, Dave Fihn, waterfront director would pick up a row boat and portage it from one place to another all by him self. His uniform of the day was a bathing suit, whistle and lanyard, and no shoes. Of course the entire camp experience in “57” was enriched by the welcome presence of Shirley and Mary, the camp nurses. They seemed to bring the best out in all of us. The guitar playing troubadour, Don Kelsey brought his inseparable companion guitar to add to all of our campfire activities. Bob Bryant, retired engineer, was highly skilled, who served as the Camp Ranger (i.e., chief builder and fixer).
My last years at Tomahawk were spent working on the waterfronts with Steve Albrecht, Tom Cambell, Ray Chun, Dick Molby III., the Gwin Twins (John and Hugh), and Jim Hanson. The Gwins and Hanson were all from Hudson WI. These were very special summers. The waterfront staff made trips by boat to the "13" beach and family island 2-3 times a day. Staff swims, vigorous games of corner tag, putting in the pier, teaching swimming, live saving, rowing, and canoeing were all a part of our day. Occasionally we had to get everyone out of the water to conduct searches because a swimmer failed to remove his buddy tag when he left the beach.
Nature was all around. I remember standing one morning on the wooden pier at “13” watching swimmers when I became aware of a shadow of a large bird flying over me. I looked up and found out that I was the target of a defecating crane. Eds. Note – Life can be bittersweet.
The OA ceremonies always stand out to me. This is probably because they were such a large part of our experiences at St. Croix, Neibel, Tomahawk and our Fall Conclave and Christmas Convention experiences. We all participated in the ceremony and the OA activities that followed. During my last years at TSR, Steve Albrecht played the role of the tribal chief in the ceremonies. I recall playing the role of the “stranger” that brought a message of “peace” every Wednesday night during the calling out pageant. Later in the evening I would instruct the inductees “… to pick up their blankets and the guides prepare to follow.”
Gordon, “Gordy”, Lothson was the creative drive behind the writing of the new TSR OA ceremony during the mid to late 50s. I vividly remember the very serious way he approached writing the pageant. Gordy was also known for setting up “over the top” ceremonies on the parade field and in the temple at St. Croix. He prepared hundreds of fire pots to line the trails and illuminated the temple for all of the ceremonies. Pat McCardle reminded me at the 50th reunion how the film DI affected Gordy’s persona. After seeing DI (Jack Web), Gordy dressed, walked and talked like a drill sergeant.
Who could forget Chuck Olsen, Dick Fihn and Tom Campbell trucking food from the central administration building to the dining hall? Jeans, tee shirts, and at least for Tom a sailor hat were the uniform of the day. At least one of them used to take pride in telling us that rather then washing their jeans they just turned them inside out. As I recall the menu was dictated in a way by the type of government surplus food that that was available. Main dishes and disserts used to be alternated to provide variety. One day, the main dish and the dessert were both rice based (Spanish rice and cinnamon rice). Fortunately this didn’t happen very often. Kenny Berglund, who was the business manager in the late 50’s used to bang on the staff quarter doors and sing loudly and off key “ Beautiful morning glory, kissed and caressed by the dew, Beautiful morning glory, Good morning glory to you” to get things started in the morning. One event that has taken on epic proportions in my memory occurred one Saturday night. An idea emerged from talk in the small staff cabin that served as home for six of the waterfront staff (Dick Molby III, the Gwin Twins, Tom Cambell, Ray Chun, and me). We decided that Dick, son of Camp Director, would be the driver of the old Air Force fire truck for an escapade that involved taking the truck down to the south end of camp, waiting in the dark for a half dozen of the senior staff to return from a night out across the lake and greeting them on their return with a barrage of water from fire truck hoses. We waited in the dark. We could hear them coming far across the lake. We heard them lift the motor and run the boat up on shore and make their way up the dark but familiar trail to their cabin. When they got in range we blinded them with the fire truck spot light and a steam of water from the pumps that could remove bark from trees at 50 feet. A chase ensued that eventually led to some of us running back to the cabin on foot. The truck was abandoned on the road. As I remember it, Tom Campbell didn’t get back until the early morning hours. While he has blocked it from his memory, as I remember it he had commandeered a canoe from the Elizabeth Beach to get back. As we lay, out of breath, in bed we watched the lights of cars going up and down the camp road looking for the culprits. The very next day, Dick Molby Jr. a rightfully distressed Camp Director, asked the entire staff to meet by the fire truck after dinner. He talked about what the fire truck was to be used for. He asked the culprits to stay after everyone was dismissed. Everyone left except for his son Dick III and the rest of us who hatched and carried out the plan. Fortunately, no one was injured and the equipment was not damaged. Like many pranks that we do when we are young, they are often remembered as bigger and more exciting events than they probably were.
I also cherish the memories of people like Bill Hannah and John Hanson. Bill had been retired many years. The summer or summers that he was at TSR he managed the archery range. He often led beeline hikes through underbrush that I do not believe that deer could pass through. All I can remember is the difficulty of keep up with Bill who I am certain was in his 70s or 80’s at the time. One evening during a Fall Conclave while we were sitting in the Chapel at St. Croix, Bill anticipating that I would become a minister, asked me to pray for him on occasion after he died. To this day, I often think of Bill and Carl Edstrom during times of prayer. John Hanson was a skilled and charismatic protestant Chaplin one summer. He was the quarterback for the highly successful Concordia College, Moorhead “Cobbers”. He ran and practiced passing all summer with Ralph Underhill. He built a lectern out of birch bark logs that was used for a number of years in the program planning room of the old dinning hall. I looked for it. It wasn’t there. Neither was the program planning room. The wall that separated it from the dinning hall had been removed to make more room for dinning.
I do remember leaving camp in 1959. Ray and I went down to what was his 16’ x 16’ tent platform before we left. Jimmy Rogers was singing “Honey Comb, won’t you be my baby” on Ray’s car radio. Probably like many summers in the past, we drove out past the large entrance sign and drove down towards the dam and around the south end of the lake without saying a word. I clearly remember thinking that this could be the end of my TSR summer camp staff experiences. The next two years I worked with “Knute” and “Fish” at Camp Hok-Si-La on Lake Pepin. These were also wonderful experiences and ended my summer camp staff experiences. The experiences, the camaraderie, and the mentoring, associated with TSR were all very important to me. I will always be grateful for the opportunities afforded me through Scouting.
August 50th TSR Anniversary - 2003
To see and briefly visit with Gene Peterson, Shirley and Dave Fihn, Dick Fihn, Ben Pomeroy, Don Kelsey, Tom Campbell, Dave Benson, Steve and Dave Albrecht, Bobby Albright, Pat McCardle and Jim King was everything and more than I anticipated. To revisit the road leading to the infamous garbage pit and our decision to climb to the top of the fire tower in the evening, before we parted company, reminded me that we still posses a spirit of adventure.
I was saddened to hear that Dick Molby Jr. and Gordy Lothson have passed away and confirm that John Hanson had also died. I knew of Bill Hanna's death many years ago.
Announcement of Dick Molby’s appointment as Director of Camping – St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press
All those I had a chance to visit with in August were just who I remembered them to be. Physical characteristics, including speech patterns, smiles, laughs, humor and gestures seemed to be unchanged. I have wonderful memories from our shared experiences.
My position in Eau Claire, WI makes it possible for me to revisit Long Lake on occasion. I have stopped on the road West of Lake and listened to the familiar sound of boys’ voices, whistles signaling “buddy up” on summer days or just stopped to admire the quite beauty of the snow covered lake on a sunny cold day. These brief visits are always special.
October 75th Fred C. Anderson Anniversary
My visit to Fred C. Anderson in October was enriching, I found that several of the buildings that I associated with my memories had long since been torn down. While this is to be expected, it was disconcerting to me. It was comforting to find that Good Medicine stills stands much like I remembered it. I was disappointed to find that small staff cabin I referred to as the place I visit in my mind when I am stressed no longer exists. It, like the great oak tree that sheltered the council fire ring was gone. The last remains of the great oak were lying on the ground waiting to be cut into firewood.
My cousin, Tom Green and I attended the 75th Anniversary. We retraced hiking trails and familiar places that we frequented years ago at St. Croix River Camp, I overheard two young campers talking about there favorite places at “Fred C.” I inferred from their conversation that they already had acquired a love for this very special place. While some things change, thank goodness other things don’t.
This fall I received a thank you note from the organization that is sponsoring the St. Paul Area Scouting Museum. To my surprise they listed the egg shaped softball size stone that I had returned to Long Lake and placed on the stone wall near the new flag pole, Some one had apparently found it soon there after and put it with the items that I had contributed During our 50th Anniversary get together.
Please forgive the rambling. I hope that some of these ideas can be used to tell the story of our shared experience. I am looking forward to reading the stories of my associates. Three cheers to Jim Frost and Jim King for making the 50th get together possible. Thanks also to Dick Fihn and Bob Albright for following up and pulling all of the names, addresses photos and reflections together for the June 2004 get together.
Each summer after we closed TSR several of us over the years would move from Long Lake to join Ed Sitzer at the Minnesota State Fair and work with Scouts from all around the State to manage parking lots. The following photo features the staff from 1960.
Left to Right: Dean Anderson, Mike Miler, Ray Chun, Don Kelsey, Ed Sitzer, Ken Berglund, Part McCardle, Dave Franks. Photo was taken by Shorty or David Sitzer and processed by Ed. This was a meeting of a State Fair Staff.