Sunday, April 30, 2017
 

TOMAHAWK MEMORIES AND RECOLLECTIONS
Jim King


1955 - CIT
1956/57/58 - Commissary and Service Lodge Dining Hall
1962 - Provisional Scoutmaster
1966/67 - Sioux Camp Director
1969/70 - Reservation Director

My T’hawk history started at Camp Neibel in 1954. I was in the JLT course with Lloyd “Knute” Knutson as Scoutmaster and met many of the people who I would work with at T’hawk in later years, many who are friends to this day.

As a CIT I scrubbed pots and pans for a few weeks, did other kitchen work (enjoyed all) but left partway through the season to attend the World Jamboree. As Commissary/Dining Hall staff in the following years had the opportunity to:

* Spend part of a summer in a 16’x16’ framed squad tent that smelled of WW2 or Korean War waterproofing, kept most of the mosquitoes out but not the mice and chipmunks, tried to keep my stuff off the floor. Ray Chun, Loren Albert and Dick Anderson are the tent partners I remember.

* Every week we did the Chicken BBQ for Family Night / OA Pageant. Started the fire in early afternoon, washed hundreds of chicken 1/4’s, cooked, basted, flipped, served, cleaned up, dump run, etc. all to be done before OA started, served 4-500 people on many occasions. Could not eat BBQ chicken again until I was about 35 years old. I still look to see if it is at all pink on the inside.

* Helped nameless others plant a snapping turtle in “Animal” Peterson’s room on staff row and watch the antics of a guy who was scared to death of reptiles...FUN.

* Daily garbage runs to the camp pit, watching for skunks, raccoons and the occasional bear, burning the pit, (using copious amounts of petroleum derivatives) saving food waste for “Willie the pig man”, and scrubbing the garbage cans behind the loading dock.

* My roommate, Dale Martin, putting a wooden box with two bull snakes under my bunk in staff row to keep them cool. Waking up in the middle of the night to hear them slithering and doing what snakes do... never have liked snakes.

* Cutting sod at a nearby farm in the spring to sod the Service Lodge Dining area...hard work. Watching Post and Troop 1 (Indianhead Council Drum and Bugle Corps) march on it immediately after a rainstorm and beat it to a muddy pulp. Threaten the Corps leader (Bill Arnold) with “a poor choice of words”, according to Ed Sitzer or Ed Dery, for ruining our hard work. Bill and I compared notes on this incident about 40 years later...he was still wrong.

* Camp Closing...Cleaning the dining hall, stacking the tables and benches, filling the room with boats and canoes and other stuff, everyone trying to get done ASAP after a busy summer.

Off Season Recollections:
* Getting together with the same group of staffers, only now to plan OA functions. Ski trips to Hardscrabble, Trollhaugen and Rib Mountain. The “lunch bunch” at the U. of M. in the Rover’s Office. “Hootenannies with Don Kelsey, Bob Ellison and Neil Christianson and other musicians and singers. Finally found my place in the music world...audience.

* Stringing the phone lines from the Ad Bldg to the Service Lodge in the winter of 1955-56. Lloyd “Knute” Knutson marking the way and a bunch of us pulling the wires through the snow, over swamps, etc.

* For two winters my brother Steve and I worked for the Camp/Council refinishing and repairing wooden boats and canoes. Think we were paid $25.00 per canoe. Stripped canvas, repaired breaks and covered with fiber glass. Now, that I restore antique canoes as a hobby I shudder to think of the Old Town, Thompson and Shell Lake canoes we butchered.

As Provisional Scoutmaster:
* During Staff Training Week in’62 Bob Bryant (Camp Ranger) came down about 4 am to wake me, told me my Betty was in labor at St. Mary’s in Mpls., and to get my butt on the road. Hopped in my ‘52 Desoto Firedome 6 with the Tip-Toe-Matic transmission and headed to Mpls., maybe even over the speed limit. When I came back to camp I was a father, and a few days later my parents brought Betty and Meg (5 days old) to camp. We lived in one of the cabins between Bryants and the Health Lodge. The staff rounded up every rocking chair in camp and brought them over to Betty to try...we selected one from the old Fisher Cabin, and we have it to this day. It has been refinished, rebuilt, loaned to Meg for her children, and we still have it at our daughter Caela’s house. Meg had colic, was up all night, and luckily for us Marge and Duane Tooley lived in the next cabin, and were of much help to us as new parents. We never had a lack of baby sitters, and several of the staff members were always on hand to help. I spent every other night in the campsite so I could get some sleep and we got through the summer.

As Director:
* Learned early on that being a Director is not as much fun as seasonal staff (the now politically correct term for Camp Staff) but it pays better. Hopefully my years on staff gave me an insight as to what was going on...but not always the case. Heard noise on the road one night, walked up from my cabin without a flashlight and found...staffers pushing their car up the hill. Trying to get out of camp without making any noise. I asked if I could help them...As I had experience from the past...!

* Eddie Webster and his innate ability to shut down the plumbing system.

* Every so often I would get a call, on my outside line, from the management of one of Long Lake’s recreation centers...Lincolnwood, Frank and Joan’s, Reel Em Inn, Elmer’s Oakroom, Bobby Schmidt’s, Gus and Edna’s V&M etc. asking about apparently underage customers. In more than one instance I asked them to hang up. I would then call back and ask to speak to_____, when they got on the phone and found out it was me they wondered “how did he know?” But each generation has their own angles and it was good to see some ingenuity, even though we were dealing with some potential problems. Behavior that was acceptable in the 50’s was not tolerated in the 70’s, and that tolerated in the 70’s is forbidden now and so it goes.

* Staff morale was always the key to a great season and a Director needs to spend as much time on it as on budgeting, safety, feeding, and program. In 1970 we had the “Dump Party” with all the participants costumed in trash bags with duct tape accents etc. Catered BBQ at the site. A real highlight was a timed piano smashing contest, to see how long it would take to demolish the old Ad Bldg piano to where it could be passed through a 12” diameter hole in a piece of plywood. Have you ever tried to break a piano frame?? We have the pictures.

* International Staff - We were fortunate to have participants from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, England, Jamaica, Bermuda, Canada, Mexico and Malaysia. All added skills and friendships.

THE BEST PART.....
We have been privileged to work with some of the best people on the planet in our years at Tomahawk. Friendships forged almost 50 years ago are still strong today and it is great to meet an old camp acquaintance from time to time. My boyhood heroes were pro Scouters...I often thought they were paid to have fun. For the most part I was right, having recently retired after 38 years on local Council and National staffs. I have had the opportunity / responsibility to manage, direct, build, sell, close, accredit and live in camps for about 50 years and still hold Tomahawk as one of the premier camps of the BSA. Our family has been enriched by the experience...our daughters learned the 12 points of the Scout Law and the Scout Oath by reading the road signs at Tomahawk. Most of our friends came to us through Scouting in 11 different career assignments in MN, IA, ND, MT, KS, IL and back to MN.

As Bruce Foster says so well---

“WE DID SOME OF OUR FINEST WORK BACK THEN...
IT WAS A MAGICAL TIME WITH ENDURING RESULTS”
 

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