Before the brown metal “State Park” style “Boxwell Boy Scout Camp” signs that now appear on the highway (or did before the widening project), there was another sign the announced the imminent approach of Boxwell. It was a half circle sign on a cedar post. It was on Highway 109, heading north, and it announced that Boxwell was ahead on the left.
The best part though was the small metal flap. It spent most of the year up and secured. In the summer, it was opend to reveal the critical message to drivers: “Caution Camp Open.”
We know very little about the details of the sign. This photo was taken in 1975 and it remained in the location approximately 20 more years. We don’t know when exactly it was posted or where it has gone since the mid-1990s, but for a period of years, it was the first signal that camp was just ahead.
In the background, you can see a small ridge to the left of the sign. This was the entrance to Boxwell. Top the hill and you’ll the kudzu planted by Tom Parker, the staff, and generations of Scouts. And then you’d see the hanging sign. Entering Boxwell was clearly a slow burn of anticipation!
On this day–Monday, March 27, 2002–John Schleicher, long time cook at Boxwell, died. Schleicher’s wife, Pearl, and sister-in-law, Estelle Lankford (known as Mrs. B). were the heart and soul of the Boxwell kitchen from 1962 to 1994. John often joined in the summer, but became a regular fixture in later year. John was 90 years old when he died, preceding Pearl by two and a half years. John worked for Metro schools for 34 years and was a member of both the Masonic Lodge and the Hermitage Church of Christ. He was a gregarious figure at Boxwell and had he uncomfortable habit of pinching youth staff. Pictured here is Pearl and John in the early 1970s.
On this day–Sunday, March 24, 1946— the Tennessean reported that in addition to Camp Boxwell, the Nashville Council would run two other summer camp programs. The first camp was a new site in Sparta that came to be known as Camp Arrowhead. Arrowhead only ran for a few summers, but was an attempt to serve the Scouts in the eastern part of the Council who too far away from the Narrows of the Harpeth to enjoy Boxwell. These were the days before interstates. The second camp would be a new camp on land purchased off Couchville Pike. This would be Camp Burton and would be the Nashville Council’s Camp for African American Scouts. Our best estimate put this camp today within the boundaries of Long Hunter State Park.
At modern Boxwell, inflatables are no big deal. In fact, large floating inflatable objects at the waterfronts have been going on for almost twenty years now. Whether it’s a blob or an iceberg or something that resembles a planet, inflatables have become a staple of free swim at the waterfronts.
But the first inflatable was not the Blob in 2003, it was a rubber raft at Rock Island in the 1950s. The inflatable sat anchored between the two floating “cribs” in the swimmer’s area. And just like modern inflatables, Scouts would climb up and jump off. The rubber raft was only for swimmer’s though. Non-swimmers could not join in. And, in case there was in question, the raft was not used for instruction. It was only for play.
Shown here are Scouts playing on the rubber raft at Rock Island, the first Boxwell inflatable.
One of the really unique names in Boxwell history is the name of Parish. If it sounds vaguely familiar, it should. The Council has benefitted from the efforts and involvement of the Parish family since the arrival of Ward Akes in the late 1940s.
Charles Parish was born in Grinnell, Iowa in 1908. In 1930, he began working for Lannom Manufacturing Company in Tullahoma. Lannom Manufacturing began its life as a tannery, making leather collars and harnesses for animal farming. By the 1920s, the company shifted to producing leather athletic equipment, namely footballs, helmets, and basketballs, and softballs. This new manufacturing line was called “Worth, Inc.” By the time Parish became involved, the company was focused on baseballs and softballs. The company expanded throughout the 1940s with factories in Iowa, Puerto Rico, and Ontario. By the early 1950s, Parish gradually took over leadership of the company and Worth moved into the production of bats, pioneering the alumnimum bat.
Parish had been involved with Scouting of his life, first as a boy in Iowa and then on the district level as an adult in Tullahoma. In 1940, he joined the Executive Board. Known as a man who got things done, he and Ward Akers hit it off immediately and Akers leaned heavily on Parish to help him build his vision. Indeed, it was Parish who was president of the Council in 1957 when the development of the Old Hickory Boxwell began. Parish was involved in the development committee and the steering committee on finance to make the reservation happen. And according to his public statements that the new Boxwell “will greatly aid Boy Scouting in general,” it is not too much of stretch to say that Parish believed in the project perhaps more than anyone other person beside Ward Akers himself!
Parish continued to serve in various capacities in the Council until his death in 1975. As part of the 1972 Capital Campaign, Rock Island was renamed the Charles E. Parish Wilderness Reservation in his honor.
John Parish is Charles’ son and he too was involved in Scouting as a youth, though in Tullahoma, not Iowa. As an adult, he too became involved in Worth, Inc. and was the person responsible for pushing the aluminum bats. The company not only held the majority of the US aluminum bat market, but under John Parish’s leadership, the company embraced more science based technology and research. This led to new developments in the production and performance of the company’s softballs, baseballs, batting gloves, and bats.
John attended Rock Island Boxwell its first summer as a camper. He joined the staff the following summer as Junior Staff and stayed on for several years. As with most staff, he grew up at camp and then moved on to colleges, but he continued his involvement in Scouting. He has served on the Executive Board of the Middle Tennessee Council, serving on multiple committees and as Vice President. He has served on the National Council as well. Indeed, Parish’s service has sometimes put him in awkward positions. He chaired one of the sub-committees that investigated Ward Akers in 1975. According to John, Akers, who had been like a second father to him, blew up on him after the report came out and never spoke to him again. Nevertheless, John continued his involvement in the program and was the major contributor the High Adventure Building as part of the millennium Campaign in 1999-2000. It bears his name today.
Shown here are Charles Parish (left) in his Council President portrait and John Parish (right) from the interview we conducted with him in April 2018. Both men are giants on the Boxwell landscape.