From the Archives, November 22, 2017

Camp Anecdotes: A Gift of Firewood, 1985
by Kerry Parker

There was some int’resting stories about [my Ford F-6] Old Blue.  One is the story that… we started doing these pranks.  So, Camp Stahlman had had trouble with their campfires; a couple of times hadn’t lit.  Oh we just thought that the greatest thing there ever was that Stahlman had troubles with their campfires.

So, low and behold, I got this idea that what we oughtta do was, and I was the instigator of it I guess, we ought give them some firewood.  Also in 1985, the year before, they’d put up these curtains in  Stahlman Dining Hall.  They’ve taken down now I believe.  But you couldn’t see out.  It was to keep the heat out of the dining hall and everything.  So we got this idea.  And the Waterfront and the staff all got together and they loaded Old Blue up to the top, I mean with this wet driftwood that was off the waterfront.  They’d piled it up there at the beginning of camp and then we piled on that truck.  And one day at lunch, there was four of us that went to the dining hall, and I can’t remember who all was in there, but we went over there on Old Blue… I drove the truck and there was three others.  The plan was we’d backed Old Blue up, I had it in gear, ready to go, motor running, and ready to dump this load of firewood right about where the flag pole was.   They went inside.  The other three went inside.  And two of ’em stayed over at the windows next to the flag pole, so they could  open the curtains back and the other one went up and told the Program Director he wanted to make a presentation to Camp Stahlman.

He went up and when he started the presentation, the guys started pulling the curtains back and the bed of the truck started to raise.  As they raised the curtain back and the bed started to raise and that stuff started to come off and then they [Stahlman staff] came running out of the dining hall about that time the wood hit the ground right there, jumped in the truck and on the running boards.  And I never see so many staff members come out of dining hall in my life!  Man, they were going to kill me! And Web Webster, big guy, helping us with the reunion this year [1999], he came out of that dining hall and he got on that running board and I mean, he was beating me through that window.  I mean, he was mad.  He was red faced and he was going to kill me if he could.  And all the others…

Realizing a good Program Director, Ernie Ragsdale, realizing, you know, that it was a prank, you know, that it wasn’t actually an invasion of Stahlman, and it was a prank and a good prank, he came out of the dining hall and he was yelling at ’em to get back up there, get back up there.  The other guys were getting in the cab of the truck, getting on the truck, trying to get out of there – those three guys.  And it was one of the best pranks.  Matter of fact, I would say it was the best prank that I ever pulled on anybody.  And we left it sitting over there.

And of course, as things go, why Ernie… ‘course Tom [Willhite] got involved with it a little bit and Jerry [Barnett], Tom wanted to know why was doing that.  He was all bristled up, you know. He didn’t actually say too much to me or anything like that.  But he told Jerry, “Jerry those boys are going to have to cut them pranks out, you know.  We don’t want to have that out here, you know.” So, to be the good people that we were, we let it sit there for, I don’t know how long it was, it was certainly all day that day and I’m not sure when, but we went back over, as good neighbors, as good Parnell neighbors, and picked it up and carried it off properly.  Ernie held his staff off of us while we picked it up.  They didn’t offer to pick up any of it either, by the way, but it was a good thing.

From the Archives November 19, 2017

Narrows of the Harpeth, 1938

Seen here is none other than the Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell. This is an aerial photo taken in 1938 by the Tennessee Department of Conservation.

Named for the “narrow” space formed from the five mile long loop seen near the bottom of the photo, the Narrows of the Harpeth was the location of Boxwell from 1930-1948. If you look just aboe the Narrows you will will a cleared area running perpendicular to the river, almost connecting it. This is the camp itself.

The Wa-Hi-Nasa Lodge of the OA was founded this year. In the cleared space just below the Narrows–right in the middle of the loop in the river–is the site of OA Ordeal.

Photo from Tennessee State Library and Archives
Dept. of Conservation Photograph Collection
Negative: CV591
Accession No.: RG 82
File Location: Box 73, File 13

Narrows, aerial

Aerial photo of the Narrows of the Harpeth, Tennessee Department of Conservation, 1938

From the Archives, November 15, 2017

Camp Anecdotes: Trash Run
by Terry Rodgers, December 2000

The trash run on Saturday mornings continues to be a vivid memory even after
it being some 37 years ago. Usually the trash pick-up crew consisted of the
junior staff members and we knew we wouldn’t be going home for the weekend
until the job was complete. Each campsite had at least 2 55-gallon drums
that had accumulated trash all week. The thing was that after the Friday
night campfire, Stahlman furnished each site with all the watermelon they
could eat. So, by the time we got around to picking up the trash the next
day, they were brim full of watermelon rinds. I can remember Kerry [Parker]
and Skull [Jerry Barnett] both piloting the tractor that pulled a trailer
full of young staff members to each campsite. Each staff member bailed out
of the trailer like Navy SEALS from a PT boat to “rescue” the trash can.
That seem to be the most popular game to make this rather arduous task as
short and fun as possible. After picking up the drums, it was off to the
dump behind the compound to empty each of the drums individually.
Invariably, one was lost and the youngest member piled off into the dump to
retrieve it. Better not let the ranger find one in the dump (55 gallon drum
that is). Ferrying the empty drums back to the campsite was a sight to see.
I can’t say that we spent a lot of time setting the drum upright in the
correct spot. If I remember rightly I think Parker drove us by the entrance
where we flung the drum as far as we could and placed bets on whether it
would land upright or not.

After this ordeal was over, our parents were there to pick us up for a nice
relaxing weekend away from camp. You know, we never really had a chance to
clean up after the trash haul which could explain why we had to sit in the
back seat with the windows rolled down.

From the Archives, November 12, 2017

Hidden Places: Woodbadge Chapel

The Reservation is full of hidden places. Of course, some hidden places are really hidden, but are right in plain sight. Often, people just don’t look.

Many are not aware of it, but Boxwell actually has two chapel. Don Stanford Chapel in Camp Craig is the one most are familiar with. But there is a second, much more primitive chapel in Boxwell.

In Camp Beany Elam, nestled in a small grove of trees, is Woodbadge Chapel. There is no sign or fanfare for the site, but it has been there for decades. To find it, go to the Gilwell Field flagpoles and look to your left. You’ll find one of the most peaceful–and almost holy–places on the Reservation.

Woodbadge Chapel

The little open air chapel hidden in plain sight in Camp Beany Elam

Your Camp Anecdotes

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been running a series called “Camp Anecdotes,” little short stories from staff members about their lives at camp. We have more of these and will continue to share them.

However, we’d also like to hear YOUR stories.  Take a few minutes and write down your two or three favorite camp staff stories.  Keep it clean, but tell the story in as much detail as you would like. Send it on to and we’ll make your story part of “the archive.”

And, hopefully, we’ll post it here in the near future!