Remembering the Staff

The Other Boxwells, 1924-1954

As we do every year, when summer camp begins, we take a moment out each week to remember former camp staffs–the ones who make the program possible. Without the summer camp staff, there would be no summer camp program.

In 1924, Camp Boxwell opened for its fourth summer, still at the small 4 acre farm in Linton, TN. William Anderson, the Council Executive, served as Camp Director. To the best of our research, it was approximately this year that Anderson instituted his “Training School” approach to summer camp, utilizing a scout-led council, where the scouts made the rules to govern camp.  Camp opened on June 16th. Raymond Hurt was the Swimming and Activities Director and of course Walter Whittaker was the head cook. All other staff were adult volunteers. There were no staff photos.

In 1934, Camp Boxwell was in its 5th year at the Narrows of the Harpeth location. Camp was back up to about six weeks this summer, running from June 18 to July 27. Anderson was again out at camp and Talmadge Miller served as the waterfront director. Walter Whittaker was, of course, the head cook and other volunteer adults ran the rest of “Scout School.” Rev. A. C. Adamz was among these adults. Future Camp Director James Gribble was among the eight Eagle Scouts who helped run the camp.

10 years later, in 1944, the United States was in its third full year of World War II. Anderson was out at camp, as always. James Gribble were involved in the war effort and Miller, now Assistant Council Executive, was not at camp.  Walter Whittaker was now completing his 23rd summer as camp cook. Camp ran from Monday, June 19 to Monday, August 28.

By 1954, Ward E. Akers was Council Executive and Boxwell had moved to Rock Island. The Council had already purchased property near what would be Old Hickory Lake. By July of 1954, the Corps of Engineers produced a map of where Old Hickory Lake would rise to, allowing planning for a new camp to begin in earnest.  At Rock Island,  Professional Scouters Gene Tolley and Richard Parker were Camp Directors and the camp was run primarily by youth staff. Among the familiar names working the 1954 staff were John Parish, Barry Goad, and Bob Alley.

The only staff photo we have is of the 1954 Rock Island Staff, collection of Bob Alley.

Rock Island Staff, 1954

The Rock Island Boxwell Staff, 1954. Collection of Bob Alley

From the Archives, May 26, 2024

Boxwell Greats: Lallie Richter

Camp Boxwell at Linton had its fair share of fascinating characters, including Coach William Anderson and Walter Whittaker. But no conversation about the first Boxwell would be complete without looking at the staff’s local basketball star, Lallie Richter.

Richter was on on the Linton staff most summers from 1922 to 1930 as one of the few paid staff. He served as Waterfront Director, Assistant Waterfront Director, and even Athletic Director. He was visible presence at camp. He refereed boxing matches between the boys. He pitched horseshoes with Coach Anderson. He organized tournaments between baseball teams of Scouts and often local boys. He taught non-swimmers how to swim. Indeed, as the _Banner_ reported on Juy 18, 1927, “Every member of the swimming class last week under the direction of Lallie Richter has learned to swim. This is the second week that every member of the class was able to swim at the end of the week.”

Born in 1904, Lallie and his younger brother Boos (yes, that was his actual name: Winston Boos Richter) left a German community in Illinois for Nashville during World War I. The boys found the tutelage of C. W. Abele (first Camp Director at Linton in 1921) at YMCA and it was here they seemed to have been introduced to basketball. Lallie attended Hume-Fogg high school and played on championship teams in 1921, 1922, and 1923. He would continue to referee high school basketball from 1924 through to the mid-1940s. He also managed the Burk & Co. baseball team. Burk & Co was a department store and Richter worked in the sporting goods department from 1925 to the mid-1940s, when he switched over to Genesco and worked with the company’s Gallatin office until his death in 1964.

Richter was probably best known as a player-coach for the Burk Terrors. After attending Vanderbilt briefly after high school (where he undoubtedly made the acquaintance of one William J. Anderson), Richter began playing for the newly formed Terrors in 1926. By 1931, he was coaching the team. He continued to do so until about 1946. This was a private company team and was the form “professional” basketball took in the days before the NBA was formed. Thus, coaching a team like the Terrors made Richter something of a local celebrity!

As for Boxwell, Richter was clearly a force to be reckoned with. In addition to the details above, Richter brought the buddy system to the Boxwell waterfront in 1928. He and his brother Boos also utilized a “spanking machine” for scouts exiting the waterfront: a gauntlet of sorts for scouts to “spank” late swimmers exiting the water. (Boos, as a sidenote, would go on to become the superintendent of the Tennessee Orphan Home in Spring Hill.)

Lallie Richter married Martha Elizabeth Smith in 1930 at the age of 24. This marriage and the move to the Narrows explained why Richter did not continue as Boxwell’s waterfront director beyond the 1930 season. The couple had two sons and a daughter. Richter died in 1964 at age 60 of cancer. But Richter’s time at Boxwell makes him one of the great staff members of the past 100 years. Richter is shown here in 1931, just after he finished his run at Camp Boxwell.

Photo from _Nashville Banner_, January 1, 1931, pg. 21.

Lallie Richter

Lallie Richter from the _Nashville Banner_, January 1, 1931 pg 21.

From the Archives, May 19, 2024

A Face-Lift

Back in March of this year, a problem was discovered: a collapse of the front facade of the OA Lodge was imminent.  Not the side with the porch. That end of the building had a major renovation in 2012.  This front facade is the side facing the parking lot and in the course of just a few days, it was removed and replaced.

Shown here is the OA Lodge with that front facade completely removed before the new one facade was put on.  It’s a gem of a photo and not something you’re likely to see again!

Collection of Jason Flannery

The OA lodge without the front facade

The OA Lodge without the front facade, March 22, 2024

From the Archives, May 12, 2024

From the Archives, May 12, 2024

Johnny Roe Remembrance by Pat Bray

The following is a remembrance by Pat Bray (Parnell 1963-1968) of his friend, fellow Parnell staff member Johnny Roe, who recently passed. The photo here by Jerome Terrell is of the group mentioned below. the photo was taken at Latimer Reservation in 2018. The story on Johnny Roe was given by Pat Bray at the 2024 Eagle Recognition night.

Johnny as Fire Builder and Fire God Medicine Man

The 1960s were the Golden Age of Boy Scouting in Middle Tennessee. A significant number of teenage boys participated in scouting back then. In 1960 Boxwell Reservation moved to the banks of Old Hickory Lake. This “new” Boxwell was a vast improvement over the old camp in every respect: size, facilities, programming, and staff.

Staff selection was especially rigorous. There was no place for a well-connected teenager hoping to lounge about all summer with his buddies and get paid. The new camp director, Mr. Johnson, aka “Foxy” behind his back, was a stern leader who didn’t tolerate laziness or poor performance.  His often-repeated message to the staff was, This is no vacation for you!” Of course, we mocked that (again behind his back), but we knew for sure that he was dead serious.

Because the staff was hired based on demonstrable scouting skills, Johnny rose to the top. The core competencies necessary for hiking and camping were taught in the Activity Yard where Johnny soon became the director. In the mid-1960s the Activity Yard staff consisted of Johnny, John Bryant, Jerome Terrell, Wes Frye, Bobby Fike, Mike Ingram, and yours truly. These guys plus other Boxwell staff including Greg Tucker, Phil Roe, and Mike Rice would remain Johnny’s friends for 60 years! Johnny would become the prime mover for our annual reunions in recent years.

As expected, Johnny was given responsibilities beyond his day job at camp. The content of the Sunday night and Friday night campfires was expanded to become more fun and purposeful. Johnny was given a starring role in the Sunday night production.

But first there was the essential task of building the campfires. The fires had to be large enough, bright enough, and last long enough to accommodate the lengthy programs at two different locations. Johnny oversaw the building of both the Sunday night and Friday night campfires.

His trusty crew over time included me, John B., Jerome, and Wes. Wood had to cut and lugged to the two different locations. Power tools were not allowed. Each campfire was built on a limestone pedestal about three feet high. The firewood was then stacked another three feet in the shape of a pyramid.

Here was the engineering challenge: under no circumstances was the fire ever to roll off the stone pedestal. Rumor was that should that ever happen, then the fire builders—Johnny et al—would be fired. But Johnny’s fires never rolled; his record was perfect!

Perhaps others could have done this, but Johnny’s contributions were not limited to behind the scenes. He took center stage as the opening act on Sunday nights. At twilight the scouts would silently take their seats on railroad ties in the campfire area. At this point the campfire was not lit. Without introduction Johnny would emerge from the woods in complete Native American regalia including a full-length feathered headdress. The entire costume was the 1960s Hollywood ideal of what an Indian chief should resemble. Looking back, I suppose it was a rather clumsy form of culture appropriation. His elaborate attire was that of a Plains Indian and was not remotely authentic to what the Native Americans of Middle Tennessee wore!

But the boys bought into it and so did we (what did we know?). The willing suspension of disbelief was in full swing as these theatrics were quite convincing. At first Johnny would face in three directions away from the audience and shout some mumbo jumbo to the Rain God who gives us rain and the Earth God who…and so on. Finally, he would face the crowd and in his loudest and deepest voice exclaim, “Hail to the Fire God who gives us fire!”

And then suddenly from high above his right shoulder a ball of fire the size of a softball would come streaking down at a 45-degree angle and strike the firewood which would immediately burst into flames! This dramatic effect never failed to get a bunch of oohs and aahs from the boys and their Scoutmasters!

Despite having seen this spectacle countless times we on the staff were always impressed even though we all knew the trick. I am tempted to not reveal it and let you, gentle reader, go ahead and just believe in Johnny’s magic. But here goes: High up in a tree was a staff member disguised in dark clothes holding a kerosine-soaked roll of toilet paper. When Johhny gave the exhortation, the roll was lit and sent down a wire to the kerosine-soaked firewood which instantaneously became a huge fireball. QED!

Back then Johnny was full-scale Baptist, so we had to tease him about being such a natural for this pagan ritual. Of course, he was very good-natured about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if right about now the Good Lord might be enjoying one of Johnny’s command performances. I know for this reason and many others I will always smile whenever I remember Johnny, my dear friend.


1965 Parnell Group

Top row L to R: John Roe, Mike Rice, Congressman Phil Roe, Bob Fyke, Judge John Bryant, Dr. Pat Bray
Bottom row L to R: Wes Frye, Greg Tucker, Skip Dow, Jerome Terrell

Round Tuit for May

If you are regular Round Tuit participant, be aware that May 2024’s Round Tuit has moved! Instead of the regular 3rd weekend, Round Tuit will meet on the 2nd weekend. That means Round Tuit will meet this Saturday, May 11.

As always, meet at Crab to get started. The day will run from 9am to 3pm. If it is your first visit, you get a red hat like the one seen here.

Round Tuit Hat