From the Archives, February 24, 2019

Ernie Ragsdale Carvings

Usually when someone mentions the name “Ernie Ragsdale,” we think of the Stahlman Program Director. This is reasonable. Ragsdale was Program Director at Stahlman from (basically) 1980 to 1989. He trained a generation of Stahlman staff members.

But as any one of those staff members will tell you, Ragsdale was more than a Program Director. He was a mentor, he was a teacher, he was a vet, he was a role model. He was a bit of a prankster. He was a carver. When we think of great Handicraft folks, men skilled in carving, we might think of Floyd “Q-ball” Pearce or Claus “Dutch” Mann, and rightly so. Often overlooked is Ernie Ragsdale.

Ragsdale was constantly carving and whittling. Ask anyone who knew him and this will eventually come up. Ragsdale whittled as if it was a nervous habit; he needed something to do with his hands. He often started at the start of the summer on items for his staff, such as neckchief slides or the like.

He often carved more personal items as well. Featured here are two such gifts. One to Jim Barr and one to Russell Parham. The Jim Barr gift was, well, a “horse’s ass.” The gift to Parham was a set of Praying Hands. Both demonstrate an incredible level of skill and artistry, suggesting Ragdale could have been a great Handicraft director… if he weren’t already such a good Program Director.

Ragsdale carving

Ernie Ragsdale’s “A Horse’s Ass”

Praying Hands

Ernie Ragsdale’s Praying Hands

From the Archives, February 17, 2019

Boxwell Greats: Pearl Schleicher

While we have posted about Mrs. Schleicher before, we have never given her a proper vetting. It is time to change that oversight. Pearl Schleicher is absolutely worthy of the title, “Boxwell Great.”

In her regular life, Pearl was a dietitian with Metro Schools. Her school principal recommended her for work at Boxwell, where she began working in 1962. Schleicher continued as the Reservation’s head cook until 1994. Along the way she brought her husband, John, and her sister, Estelle Langford. Because “Schleicher” proved so difficult pronounce, the trio were usually referred to as “Mrs. Pearl,” “Mr. John,” and “Ms. Bea.”

Physically a small woman, Pearl Schleicher was a big personality. There were strong kitchen directors at Stahlman under her tutelage–Jerry Barnett, Tommy Roussin–but the kitchen was hers. And she ran a tight ship, not tolerating shenanigans. Still, shenanigans happened.

Perhaps what is most important to remember is that Pearl and her crew cooked virtually everything themselves. There were some exceptions, but most everything was made from scratch. Scrambled eggs in the morning for Camps Stahlman, Parnell, and Murrey? That’s upward of 2000 eggs, all cracked by hand. Sheet cake with frosting for Friday night dinner? All mixed, baked, and created from scratch. Those amazing buttery rolls? Hand made by Estelle.

And, for better or worse, the Schleichers kept a fairly stable menu. Every summer you could expect roughly the same meals. Sunday night was ham, green beans, and a roll. Eggs were most mornings except Thursday. Thursday morning, at least in later years, was Krispy Kreme doughnuts and canteloupe, just to give everyone a break. Other meals included bologna sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, and ravioli (one of the few pre-packaged meals). And, in the years when being Catholic meant no meat on Friday, the Schleichers cooked fish. And when Ward Akers wanted chicken for the Scoutmaster’s Supper, Pearl and her group cooked that too.

Pearl and staff were up at 5:30am every morning (Saturdays too) preparing to feed the reservation. Unlike many of the cooks today, Pearl lived on site. The cooks’ cabins were in fact the cooks’ cabins. The Schleichers moved in and stayed all summer. During Bull Crew weeks, they acted more as short order cooks, preparing smaller, more specific meals. When camp was over, Pearl and John went back to their schools in the Metro system.

Pearl (and John and Estelle) retired from her real job almost 20 years before she retired from camp, which happened in 1994, Tom Willhite’s last summer. For Pearl, she had been on Boxwell’s staff for 32 years, the longest serving staff member EVER on Boxwell’s staff. She lived for another 10 years before passing away on November 11, 2004 at the age of 95.

Pearl Schleicher was a Boxwell institution. She lived through three Council Executives, four Reservation directors, at least twelve Stahlman Program Directors, and upwards of 20 Stahlman kitchen directors. For over 30 years, no one said “Boxwell” like Pearl Schleicher.


Pearl Schleicher, ca. 1975. Pearl’s run on camp staff ran from 1962 to 1994, making her the longest serving staff member, period.

From the Archives, February 10, 2019

Narrows of the Harpeth “Emergency”

As promised back in January, our New Years’ Resolution at was to post more anecdotes this year. As with all New Years’ Resolutions, we may soon abandon this plan; interaction with story posts tend to be much lower than posts with photos. Still, we see value in these… at least for the time being.

This week’s story is true rarity as it comes from the Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell. O. E. Brandon was a staff member in the late 1930s, working in what would today be considered the Activity Yard, though there was no such thing then. The paragraph below comes from Brandon’s unpublished memoirs, titled “Recollections.” He covers not only Boxwell, but his time in Scouting. For our purposes this paragraph gives us an interesting snap shot of summer camp life a long time ago.

From O. E. Brandon’s “Recollections,” pgs. 19 and 20. Dates are unknown. Brandon was a staff member in 1938 and 1939.

“Time spent at Camp Boxwell was fun and a lot of scouting tall tales and fond memories run rampant in my thoughts. There are too many to cover, but a few stand out. The scout camp was scheduled for an inspection by representatives of the national council on a Monday following one of cleanup weekends. We Jr. Leaders were told very emphatically that we must do a good job with cleanup and the digging and properly preparing a new pit latrine. Just before James Gribble, the Camp Director, left camp we discovered that there was not enough lime to spread over the new latrine. Lime is a white caustic powder that helped keep down bacteria and odor in an open pit latrine and was a must for good sanitation. Gribble assured us that he would be back Sunday afternoon with the lime so that it could be put out for the Monday morning national council inspection. We dug the new latrine and went about the other cleanup and restocking chores. Groceries, ice, and other needed supplies were delivered and stored on Saturday as scheduled. Sunday night was approaching and no James Gribble with the lime. We had no way of knowing that his old car had broken down, and there were no telephones within miles for him to call us. All we knew that there had to be lime on the latrines for Monday morning. What we did have was plenty of baking flour that looked just like lime. We rationalized that this was an emergency and that we would not be violating the first Scout Law, “A Scout is Trustworthy” if we spread lime over the flour when we got some, so we spread a generous coating of baking flour over the latrine Sunday night. The National Council inspectors were complimentary over the good sanitary appearance of the latrine.”

From the Archives, February 3, 2019

Revisiting Craig Construction

Earlier this week, the Council released some photos of the progress being made at Camp Craig. The dining hall has been under renovation for several months now, with major structural updates to the roof, ceiling, and windows and some cosmetic updates to the bathrooms. There are other, less visible, updates as well, all sorely needed. The last time any major changes were done to the dining hall was 1998 when the front uprights were put on concrete pylons and Trading Post/Handicraft areas were renovated.

Thus, with that in mind, we thought it might be a good time to revisit a series of REALLY OLD posts–all the way back in 2013 and 2014 in fact. In 2013 we ran a series on construction of the camp itself.  In 2014, Camp Craig was celebrating its 40th anniversary and we ran a month long series on Craig’s dedication. We thought it might be worth pointing you that way again! Once the current work is officially completed, we’ll post some photos about the process. In the meantime…

First, take a look at our write up about Edwin W. Craig under “People and Positions” on our Primer page.

Then, check out these posts on Camp Craig’s construction and dedication, now 45 years ago.

Construction of Camp Craig:

Construction of Camp Craig:

Construction of Craig Dining Hall:

Construction of Craig Dining Hall:

Construction of Craig Dining Hall:

Construction of Craig Dining Hall:

Construction of Craig Dining Hall:

Construction of Craig Dining Hall:

Construction of Craig Dining Hall:

Construction of Craig Dining Hall:

Craig’s 40th Anniversary, Part I:

Craig’s 40th Anniversary, Part II:

Craig’s 40th Anniversary, Part III:

Craig’s 40th Anniversary, Part IV: