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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Memories from Bible Club Camp

I have three posts on this topic. I expect I'll do them all this week- right in a row unless something special turns up. Today will be intro, and then I have two stories to tell.

What brought on this rash of nostalgia is a story I've wanted to tell for quite a while, but I had begun to doubt the "wow factor" myself. However, last night I went hunting online for pictures of the campground and struck pay dirt. Not only is it still operating, they had current and historical pictures. I can verify the "wow," but will save that story for last.

With a few from my own scrapbook, I take you back in time to LeTourneau Christian Camp on Canandaigua Lake (New York). The Camp was founded in 1933 as Tabernacle on the Lake. In 1938, R.G. LeTourneau provided funds and the current Tabernacle building was built. Here's a picture from the 1940's from their web site. The Tabernacle is on the left and the camp store is the smaller building behind the cars. You can see the lake in the background.

LeTourneau Christian Camp
I first went to overnight camps in 1958, the summer I was 10. It was also the first year I owned a camera, a Brownie Holiday. If I can draw conclusions based on my childhood photo albums, the first roll of film I ever shot was at Bible Club Camp. Here's one of the pictures from that roll.

LeTourneau Christian Camp
I have no idea who the two girls to the left are, but the one on the right is my friend, Clara. She had blazing red hair, and we went to the same church (Sadly, she died a number of years ago.) You can see the Tabernacle building down the hill behind us.

We kids never understood this kind of thing, but the campground was run (as most of them are) by one organization, and rented for use by different groups for specified periods of time, in this case "Bible Club," for one week. I have no idea what the official name of that organization was. Thus, Bible Club Camp was held at LeTourneau Christian Camp.

I attended for four years. Here are some of the teachers from 1959.

LeTourneau Christian Camp
I have their names... sort of. My album says "Uncle Gordie, Miss Vincent, Miss Jordan, Uncle Eddie and Uncle George." I think Uncle Gordie was the director. Miss Jordan was the Bible teacher. They came every year. Miss Vincent was special to me. She was a missionary to Tanganyika, and concentrated most on the importance of giving our lives completely to God rather than just telling stories from Africa. I really respected her, and wrote her letters for several years. She actually answered them!

Unfortunately, the letters were burned up by mistake about 30 years ago. However, I still think it's remarkable that she took time to write real letters to a kid from summer camp. I'm sure these people spent their entire summers traveling from campground to campground, dealing with over a hundred kids every single week.

Behind these people on the right, you can see a row of cabins going up the hill. These were the girls' cabins. Camping was few frills! In each cabin there were four metal bunk beds, and maybe two dressers. No drywall, no plumbing, bare light bulbs. One lower bunk was reserved for the counselor. The bathroom buildings were across the road. The boys' cabins were across two roads in a similar line. The girls' cabins were closer to the Tabernacle and the boys' closer to the Dining Hall. Is there a message there?

Moving along to 1960, the campground was trying to add horseback riding as an option. However, they didn't feel the horses were trained enough to allow campers to ride. One boy and I gravitated to the stable. I had taken riding lessons over the winter. I can't remember what his qualifications were, but his name was John. Anyway, we were allowed to ride two of the horses over all the trails each afternoon to acclimate them to the routes. Afternoons were for scheduled recreation, but we could choose among several options, and John and I were apparently exempted from at least one of those events. I suspect I gave up team sports and kept my swimming slot. Yes, that's me on a horse named Barney.

LeTourneau Christian Camp
Mornings included a "quiet time" for devotions, two Bible classes, and then crafts right before lunch. We had to rest after lunch. Then there were two sports slots, and then I think we had an hour of genuine free time before supper. In the evenings there were meetings in the Tabernacle with music, special stuff and speakers. More on that tomorrow.

Lots of bare facts here today. But these four weeks of my life had a hugely disproportionate influence on me. They grounded me in my faith- there were classes with more depth than Sunday School at home. (I think we even got to choose what classes to attend the final two years I was there.) I learned dozens of songs that still comfort and inspire me. I was challenged to push my own limits, rather than to be content with academic success. Although I didn't learn how to be a friend until college, it was at Bible Club Camp that someone (Miss Jordan) actually took time to tell me, with kindness, that the reason I didn't have hardly any friends was because I wasn't friendly myself.

And, I can still sing the hymn "Jesus Saves" in Swahili!

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vanilla said...

This piques the interest. Looking forward to the next instalment!

Miss Jordan's counsel evoked the sound of my dad's voice in my head saying, as he often did, "If you would have friends you must show yourself friendly."

Secondary Roads said...

Miss Vincent was a wise investor. Those letters obviously helped clear your pathway just as you have helped clear the pathway for hikers who have followed you down the trail. Reminds me of my youth camp experiences. I'm looking forward to more.

Anonymous said...

I never got to go to any kind of summer camp when I was a kid. It's fun hearing about your time there

Sharkbytes said...

vanilla- the exact verse Miss Jordan used. So true, but not a skill I had or knew how to get until much later.

Chuck- I know you will relate to much of this.

Anonymous- Sorry you didn't have a camp experience. They can be life-changing for many kids.

Karen and Gerard said...

That was neat you got to help break in their horses! I enjoyed your camp story--reminded me of my camping years at Beulah Beach. We had cabins too, but those were for adults who lived there during the summer. The girls stayed in a "hotel" and the boys in "Bethany Hall."

I enjoyed being a counselor more though and wrote to my campers. I even started making videos of camp for them and four of my Jr. High campers made a video for me!

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