Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you out there from all of us here at VirtualBoxwell!  Have a wonderful and safe holiday!

And, in what is now an official holiday tradition here, we give you this photo of DE Buff Groth (Camp Director at Parnell in 1980) sitting on the lap of Tom Willhite (Santa; Reservation Director, 1976-1994).

See you all again in 2020, the Centennial of the Middle Tennessee Council.  We have a few things planned…


Tom Willhite as Santa Claus as a Council Christmas party; 1980 Parnell Camp Director Buff Groth on his lap

From the Archives, December 22, 2019

Brownsea 1993

Every now and then, usually at the end of the year, I’ll throw out something that is a bit more personal to my experience at Boxwell. That will be the case this week, as this will be the last “From the Archives” post for the year. So, no grand history on Brownsea, just my experience.

1993 was the only summer I worked Brownsea staff. The Scoutmaster that summer was Lance Ussery–also of Boxwell staff fame–and Lance had recruited myself, Jason Bradford, and several other camp staff members that summer. Mike Venable, Bryan Doersam, Steve Wolverton, Mike Cloyd, John Neal, Nathan Saunders, and Jeremiah Cooper–all in the photo here–were all part of the 1993 staff. Josh Sain and Ben Whitehouse (opposite ends of the back row, respectively) would join the following summer.

Brownsea was held in the Craig Athletic Field after the last week of camp. I had come up early that summer, so by Brownsea, I was working on my seventh or eighth week at Boxwell. I had never been through Brownsea as a Scout, so this was a crash course in a totally new Scouting leadership program for me. I would recognize many of the elements in the fall when I participated in Woodbadge, but that summer was a matter of just staying a step or so ahead of the Scouts. I’m sure no one has ever had that experience before.

You can find me in the front row, third from the left. I was 18 years old and freshly graduated from high school. And while I didn’t know it at the time, I was halfway through my time on camp staff.

Brownsea Staff

The 1993 Brownsea staff, or at least most of it. Photo from Bryan Doersam.

From the Archives, December 15, 2019

Camp Shape

A variety of groups have used Boxwell over the summer, often after the regular summer camp has ended. Latter Day Saints (LDS) weekends were popular for many years and both reform boys and youth from Nashville orphanages have all had time at one of the Boxwell’s over the last century. In 1972, a new group joined the list: a group of mentally disabled youth.

For a week, 114 mentally disabled youth from across the state moved into Stahlman, which was renamed “Camp Shape.” The idea was part of a federally funded program (“Project Shape”) “to coordinate services for mentally retarded people in Tennessee.” Don Endsley from Tullahoma spearheaded the activity as a way to get these kids out of the institution into the world. The staff for the event was mixed, with some provided by Endsley while others were hand-picked volunteers from the summer camp staff.

Russ Parham remembered this week well. In particular he remembers because a specific detail for the event was lacking on the front end: the remaining staff were told the youth would disabled, just not mentally disabled. It was a type of special needs many were not prepared for. Still, both the Tennessean article that is attached and Parham’s own recollection both ultimately reflect a favor experience. For Parham’s part, he recalled the following: “Q-Ball was there and there was a little girl that spent time with Erin, her favorite song was, “You Are My Sunshine.” She sang it over and over again.”

The event was apparently something of a success. For several summers in the 1970s, a variant of Camp Shape with youth from the Clover Bottom Development Center (now closed) came to camp every year for their own special week.

Camp Shape

Photo by John R. Mott III of _the Tennessean_ staff. Pink goo was apparently quite the mesmerizing event at Camp Shape.

John R. Mott III, “Camp Offers Retarded Week of Fun,” The Tennessean, August 7, 1972, pg. 13;
John R. Mott III, “Goo Makes for Excitement,” The Tennessean, August 7, 1972, pg. 13;
Russ Parham (retired Boxwell Business Manager), interviewed by Grady Eades, July 29, 2017, Hendersonville, TN.

From the Archives, December 8, 2019

Getting Hired, 1965

Camp Staff interviews were held this weekend at Boxwell Reservation, specifically at the John Parish High Adventure Center. In honor of this event, we thought we’d share a story about getting WAY back in the day to show how the process has changed. This following is from a recording Kerry Parker made in November 1998 about getting hired in 1965. Kerry was 18 years old.

I went down and the Scout Office at that time was at 207 24th avenue north. That out off West End there and, right before you get to Centennial Park. It was in a two story brick house. And, it was about, well the first house on the street there. There was a filling station there next to it. And, this parking lot, it’d been made in the back. You walked in the front door and when you walked in, you walked into the Scout Shop basically, which was a little foyer about 8×12 or 10×12 or something like that… But anyway, on past that was a set of steps that went up to the left and I went up, they directed me up those steps and I went up. And they told Mr. Johnson I was there.

When you got up to the top of the stairs there you entered into a room. And to the best of my memory, there was a desk to the right and a desk to the left and on straight forward was Mr. Akers’ office. Way back in the back to the left at the top of the stairs, two or three desks back, kinda on a porch that had been built on to the house was this desk where Mr. Johnson was [the Reservation Director].

Well, somebody directed me back there and set me down in a little chair beside the desk and Mr. Johnson came back. He started talking to me. And he asked me how old I was. I told him. What rank I was. I told him. Talked to him and talked to him. But didn’t talk to me very long. Matter of fact, it was a fairly short interview. And, he said, “Well, can you swim?” And I said, “Yes, I can.” And told him what all merit badges I had and everything like that. And he says, “Well, yeah, we can use you this summer. We can probably use you on the Waterfront this summer. If you are on the Waterfront, you’ll have to go to National Camp School.” Because at that time, everybody that worked on the waterfront went to National Camp School. But also National Camp School was at Boxwell – years and years it was at Boxwell.

So, I [said] yes, I’d like to do it. And he said, basically, well, you’re hired. We’ll let ya know. So, I left. You know, felt real good. He didn’t make a lot out of it, just said you’re hired, you know, we’ll let you know.

So, I left, went home, told mom, dad. “Yeah, I am going to work out there.” I gotta make arrangements with [my boss in town] to take off another week to go to this camp school. So, I went and talked to him and he said, “Yes, you can do that Kerry. That’s not a problem.” So, there I was.

I waited about a month and no word. Got out about two weeks, about a month from camp. Maybe three weeks from camp, hadn’t heard a word. And so, we was sittin’ at the kitchen table one night and I told ‘em “Well, I hadn’t heard anything. Its right here time for camp to start. “ I says, “I guess, maybe, maybe I didn’t make the grade on that.” My dad says, “Well… they’ve changed some changes down there. I’m gonna be down at a meeting at” and he was involved in Scouts at that time, says “I’ll ask ‘em, you know, if you’re still supposed to come to camp, or something, but that you haven’t received anything.”

So, he went to the meeting. I guess it was a district meeting or something. He came back that night and it seems that Mr. Johnson had left and Bruce Atkins, who came to be a real mentor of mine… had taken over. He told my dad, he says, “Yes! You have him come out there on a certain date.” So, dad came home and told me about it and I was excited about it, you know.

Sure enough, a day or two a letter wrote that I needed to report there and I needed to have this gear and that gear and I’d be there for camp school, for so many weeks, and so forth and so on. I also at the first meeting, they had told me, I think they had told me I’d be making $25 at the first meeting, at the interview meeting… which was unheard of this time. It used to be, you’d start the first year, ‘course most people were younger, you didn’t get anything. But to start on the waterfront, to start at $25 a week would be like starting for $100 a week now.
“Getting Hired” by Kerry Parker
Recorded self-interview, November 5, 1998

From the Archives, December 1, 2019

Hook Pens

If you were at Boxwell in the late 1980s or early 1990s, the item featured here will likely seem familiar to you. Sold at the Trading Post for a dollar, these “hook pens” were to fulfill a simple purpose: have a pen that couldn’t be easily lost.

Honestly, there isn’t a truly a harrowing story behind the pens. Russ Parham, the Business manager at the time, was often on the look out for new items. As he explained, “I often liked to visit the showrooms of several souvenir or novelty shops in Nashville and I found this item at Golderner and Associates. They came in 5 to 6 different colors and were a good seller for about 6 years. The idea is that you could hook this pen on your belt loop and minimize loosing it from your pocket, your sock or just dropping it while in camp.”

Branded with the message “I’m Hooked on the Great Camping at Boxwell Reservation,” the pens were popular… for a time. They were sold for about six years, but at one dollar, the writing utensils were (perhaps not surprisingly) cheap on the quality. Numerous refunds were given for pens that couldn’t even last the week.

Nevertheless, they are wonderful curio of that particular period. If you were at Boxwell in this period, you probably had one (if not several) of these pens.

Hook Pen

A Boxwell “hook” pen, ca. 1995