Camp Staff Alumni Spotlight
Camp Director - 1955
Gene Peterson was the camp director at Tomahawk during its inaugural year. In 1991, Gene and his wife June retired after 41 years of professional service with the BSA. They reside in Prescott, Wisconsin.
Q. What year were you on Tomahawk staff?
Q. What was your position?
A. Camp Director
Q. What was happening at Tomahawk during your tenure? What was new?
A. The camp was being built. We were operating one sub-camp next to Lake Nielsen. We had one building – the Service Lodge (now called the Chippewa Dining Hall). The plan was that there would be at least two sub-camps plus a family camp. An administration building and service building would be built near the ranger’s home, fairly close to the reservation entrance. The administration building would contain the main camp kitchen and prepared meals would be delivered to the sub camp service lodges where it would be served to the campers. However, when camp started, we only had the service lodge with a temporary kitchen.
Q. What was your most memorable experience?
A. The biggest challenge was hot water. The new water heater had not arrived so at the last minute some of us went back to Camp Neibel on Balsam Lake, tore the old water heater out of the dining hall and brought it to Tomahawk. The plumbers finished installing it on Saturday. The campers arrived on the next day, and we were off and running. In spite of these facility problems and a bad storm or two, we had a great summer. That was a tribute to a great staff that went the extra mile everyday and a wonderful camping committee of volunteers that supported us.
Q. How did your experience at Tomahawk affect your life?
A. The experience of 1955 was a great learning experience for me. I learned a great deal about the need to be flexible in handling situations and managing people that served me well for my entire career with the BSA and all other parts of my life.
Q. What was your favorite place in camp?
A. My favorite place in camp was on Lake Nielsen, although we had little time to spend there.
Q. Do you have any advice for the current staff?
A. My advice to the current staff would be to never lose sight of the principles of the BSA in your work and to be creative in that work. Camping is the reason kids join the Scouts. Good and exciting camp programs keep them in Scouting. Character is developed over time. If this is true, then summer camp is one of the most important elements in achieving the mission of Scouting because it keeps boys in the program. You have one of the finest facilities in America to work in and one of the very best Boy Scout Councils in America providing it.
Q. When was your last visit to Tomahawk? What was different?
A. My wife and I have been back to Tomahawk many times since 1955. Each time we are amazed at the continued development. New buildings, new areas, new program opportunities and especially the up keep of the camp and the outstanding young people working there. The last time we were there was the summer of 2000 with the camp inspection visit.
Q. What is your current occupation / affiliation with Scouting, etc?
A. Currently I am retired after 41 years with the Boy Scouts of America. After the 1955 summer at Tomahawk I accepted a position on the Viking Council staff in Minneapolis. In 1957-59, I was Director of Services at Many Point Scout Reservation. During my tenure on the Viking staff I was a District Executive, Field Director, Assistant Scout Executive and Director of Field Service. In 1975 I became the Scout Executive of the Central Minnesota Council in St. Cloud. In 1983, I became an Area Director for the North Central Region working with the nine councils in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. I retired in January 1991. My only affiliation with Scouting today is as an Honorary Life member of the Indianhead Council.
Q. What former staff members do you keep in touch with?
A. The only 1955 camp staff members that I still keep in touch with are Dave Fihn from Detroit Lakes, MN and Bruce Foster who lives in River Falls, WI.
Interview compiled by Jim King, TSR Alumni Association.