From the Archives, April 29, 2018

Boxwell Music, Part IV

We continue our look at Boxwell musicians, continuing to move forward with Old Hickory Lake. With a history of almost 60 years at this one location, there are undoubtedly quite a few musical acts. However, after the Hooten-nannies, we have no documentation for anyone throughout the next two decades! We’re sure they exist, but we have no photos of them to share.

So, the next musical entourage we do have evidence for comes in 1997. That summer was the first for Ron Turpin as Reservation Director and we wanted regular joint campfires, not just a joint campfire at July 4th as had become the custom. Thus, every week, there was a Sunday night campfire in camp and a Friday night campfire at the Amphitheatre. It was this joint campfire we see this week’s musicians.

There are four people on the stage here. Three of them are from Parnell, one is from the reservation staff. Left to Right are Ben Houser (guitar, front), Jason Bradford (guitar, front), Bo Collier (drum, back), and Red Kirby (harmonica, front). The four played two songs at the joint campfire that summer: the Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” and a mash-up of “Amazing Grace” with the Eagle’s “Peaceful, Easy Feeling.” The group existed this one summer and were no more.

As for the image, it is still from a short film Jason Bradford created, entitled “Boxwell Reservation.” It has never (and probably wont’) seen the warm glow of a general audience, but it captures life at Boxwell from a Parnell staff member’s perspective in the mid-1990s.


Left to Right: Ben Houser (guitar), Jason Bradford (guitar), Bo Collier (drum), and Red Kirby (harmonica).

From the Archives, April 22, 2018

Boxwell Music, Part III

We continue our look at Boxwell musicians, this week arriving at Old Hickory Lake. There have been plenty of musicians at the current Boxwell location. So many in fact, it is unlikely we will cover them all if for no other reason than we just don’t know them! (You can help out here by soliciting some suggestions in the comments!) For this week, we’ll focus on the earliest act we know of: The Parnell Hooten-nannies.

The Parnell Hooten-nannies started in 1963 with Phil Roe and Pat Bray on guitar and Mark McWhorter on banjo, but as the years went by, the group evolved. Other players included John Bryant, Wes Frye, Jerome Terrell, John Hudson, David Farrar, and James Henry. The various incarnations kept the Hooten-nannies part of the Boxwell program through 1970. They played Parnell campfires, often a meal in the dining hall, and were even known to go on “tour” to Camp Murrey to perform at the family camp.

The name apparently came from Program Director Jimmy Joe Jackson, though the origin there is a little fuzzy. What isn’t fuzzy is that Jackson seriously promoted the group and some of the song choices were directly influenced by Jackson’s likes. When Jackson left camp in 1970, the Hooten-nannies left as well.

In terms of style, the group performed primarily folk songs, but there were some patriotic and camp songs in the mix as well. Among the tunes performed by the group include “This Land Is Your Land,” “The New Frontier,” “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” “Salty Dog Rag,” “My Girl,” and the Beverly Hillbillies theme. And of course, there was the occassional song with lyrics just about camp.

Seen here are two photos of the Hooten-nannies. One is from a Parnell Friday Night campfire in 1970. From left to right are John Hudson, David Farrar, and James Henry. The other is from the 2014 Staff Reunion. From left to right are Patrick Bray, Jerome Terrell, Phil Roe, Wes Frye,and James Henry.


The last incarnation of the Hooten-nannies at a Friday Night campfire in 1970. L-R: John Hudson, David Farrar, and James Henry.


A Parnell Hooten-nannies reunion at the 2014 Staff Reunion. L-R: Patrick Bray, Jerome Terrell, Phil Roe, Wes Frye,and James Henry.

From the Archives, April 15, 2018

Boxwell Music, Part II

We continue our look at Boxwell musicians, this week looking at Rock Island. The only musical act we know of from the Rock Island years (1949-1959) were the Poison Ivy Leaguers, shown here.

The Poison Ivy Leaguers were led by Terrence Cooksey, who was joined by Cliff Briley (son of Beverly Briley), Bob Alley, John Oliver, Richard McWhorter, Wolf Goethart, and Brownie Dean Grissom. The group only performed at campfires and only for a year or two, mostly like 1956 and/or 1957.

According to Bob Alley, “Two songs I remember were “In the Still of the Night”, originally recorded by The Five Satins in 1956; and “Rock Island Line”, originally recorded by Lead Belly, Golden gate Quartet, 1939, but heard by us by The Big Chris Barber Band, 1955. We sang the original lyrics in their recorded style for “In the Still of the Night”, and re-wrote the lyrics to suit Camp Boxwell for “The Rock Island Line”. It was about a “secret” late night line for staff members from their tents to the kitchen, to take possession of cookies and milk to compensate them for their meager pay. All the staff and leadership knew about the line, but not the campers.”

The other item to note in this photo is that it was taken at Rock Island’s Friday Night Campfire Area. Note the wall in the background as well as a small stage. A very different set up from what exists at the modern Boxwell!

Poison Ivy Leaguers

Rock Island’s “Poison Ivy Leaguers” included a ukulele and drums. The members were (L-R):From the photo, left to right: Terrence Cooksey, Cliff Briley, Bob Alley, John Oliver, Richard McWhorter, and Wolf Goethert, and, Brownie Dean Grissom.

From the Archives, April 8, 2018

Boxwell Music, Part I

We thought it might be fun to spend this month focusing on one of the favorite aspects of camp: camp music. By camp music, we don’t mean Music merit badge or even camp songs, though we know how well you can all sing! We want to look at those musicians who graced Boxwell’s campfires and camp life.

The earliest musician we know of is none other than camp cook Walter Whittaker from the Linton and Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwells. It is hard to know how musically inclined Whittaker actually was, simply because the reports tend to report him as singing “Negro spirituals.” The reviews were always positive, but it is hard to not see this phrasing as the racial stereotyping common in the period.

Nevertheless, Whittaker sang regularly at Sunday morning services (camp ran Monday to Monday) and often at campfires. While we don’t have a photo of Whittaker singing, we do know several of his songs. His repertoire included “Hallelujah, Little David,” “Steal Away,” and the incredibly uncomfortably titled song, “Some Folks Say That a Nigger Won’t Steal.” On the upside, Whittaker also sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” tying modern Boxwell to the Boxwells of the past through music…


Camp cook Walter Whittaker at the Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell, about 1940

From the Archives, April 1, 2018

The Big Four

Over the last several weeks, we’ve posted something on each of the Boxwells. We walked through something special for each of the first three Camp Boxwells. It seemed appropriate this week to end on the “new” Boxwell.

The “new” Boxwell was not just new because it was new facilty at a new location, though both of these points were true. It was also new because no longer was it “Camp Boxwell,” but Boxwell Reservation. The entire enterprise had increased increased by orders of magnitude. Where the Linton Boxwell had 80 Scouts at week for six weeks, Boxwell Reservation had hundreds of Scouts a week in not one, but two resident camps and ran for eight weeks!

Seen here are the men who made it happen and the namesakes of the new camps in the reservation. From left to right, E. B. Stahlman, E. E. Murrey, Ward E. Akers, and R. L. Parnell. All the details point to this photo being from 1960–the first year of the new Boxwell Reservation.

Read more about the Capital Campaign leading to the new Boxwell. 

[Updated and corrected on From the Archives, March 1, 2020]

Big Four

Dedication, 1960. Stahlman, Murrey, Akers, and Parnell together