From the Archives, October 18, 2017

CAMP ANECDOTES
Recollections from Terry Rodgers

We use to chase cows out around Akers lake on the front bumper of my old ’55 Chevy. If I remember correctly, Kerry [Parker] was on the right bumper and Charlie Ray Smith was on the left bumper of my old ’55 Chevy. We would drive out into the field in the dead of night and “herd” cattle with guys on the front doing the bulldogging. Not a real safe thing to do but when you’re “unsupervised” camp staff members your sense of judgment becomes a bit warped. This was in 1968 and the old car was pretty ragged but it got us where we wanted to go. We would make the run into Lebanon or Gallatin in those days on the sly because staff was only allowed to go to town on Wednesday nights. I can remember having seven or eight staff members in this car coming back from Gallatin on 109 and being stopped by the police because we were speeding but only down hill. My speedometer had broken years ago and I told the THP that I really didn’t think this old bucket of bolts could go that fast. He saw that we were camp staff members and let us off with a warning.

In those early ’60’s they would load us up on to take us in to Lebanon to the movies in a flatbed stake truck that had carried cows earlier. We were really smelling good when we hit the streets of Lebanon.

One year while I was teaching Pioneering merit badge, the Georgia Boot
Company came to camp to get us to build a raft so that they could take
pictures for a commercial. We built it out at Duck Head and had to stick Styrofoam underneath it to keep the kid’s boots dry. They got to keep the boots, we (the staff) got a hardy handshake.

Back in those days we had the typical Parnell and Stahlman rivalry with
campfire stacks in jeopardy each week. I can remember cutting up a black walnut tree with a 12″ diameter center of the prettiest walnut you ever say to make the base logs for a Friday night campfire.

From the Archives, October 11, 2017

The Boxwell News Field Report
July 2, 2001

MANY years ago now, before there was VirtualBoxwell.org, there was a small newsletter I put out called “The Boxwell News.”  It served much the same purpose as these posts, but was an e-mail newsletter.  When summer 2001 rolled around, I tried to get “field reports” from people who were there that summer.  Aaron Patten participated and former staff member George Beaver did as well.  So too, did Bill Vest.  Vest, who was Craig’s Waterfront Director, had crowned himself “Camp Light Program Director” that summer and below is his report on his camp.  Remember, in 2001, Camp Light had COPE and the shotgun range and nothing else…

IN THE FIELD: CAMP LIGHT
By Bill Vest, Camp Light Program Director

Week three was a great week for Camp Light. Sunday check-in went very smoothly, since most campers had reservations secured through quality travel agents. However there was some problem with O’Charley’s delivery of Sunday supper so they were promptly fired, and arrangements were made with Calhoun’s for the rest of the summer’s meals. I will be glad when Ruth’s Chris Steak House finishes construction of our new dining hall.

Sunday campfire was a great success. The Rolling Stones put on a terrific show and even let Will Pedigo, our Shooting Sports director, play drums on several tunes. He had to leave early to go ride in the Camp Light Limo to the airport to pick up this week’s guest rifle instructor, Charlton Heston, who has several interesting demonstrations planned for the week. I again want to apologize to everyone for the excess noise coming from the 12″ guns on the Rifle Range last week, but that is what Norman Swartzkopf wanted during his week of guest instruction.

We had a big uproar on Wednesday when the Secret Service swooped down on the camp preparing for a visit by the Bush girls. There was a lot of excitement from the staff about meeting these two fine Americans. Unfortunately, the girls tried to talk some of our boys into drinking with them and, since drinking is illegal on the reservation, our Camp Director Ben Houser promptly escorted them out of camp. (My apologies to W.).

Our Activity yard led by Danny Robinson finished construction of the rope bridge that they have been working on for the last two weeks. It spans the entire width of Old Hickory Lake and should be great for program.

Our Con Yard led by Bo Collier introduced several new animals to the Camp Light area including a heard of Giraffe, 4 pair of Hippos, a pride of lion, and several 20+ feet Boa Constrictors. Should make for an interesting Critter Crawl this week.

Our Waterfront continued to excel by being ranked as one of Travel magazines’ “Top Ten Beaches in the World.” John Paul Hancock was also promoted from Cabana boy to dock boy. Thank goodness we do not have any docks.

From the Archives, October 4, 2017

CAMP ANECDOTES: THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN STAFF MEMBER
by Greg Tucker

I’m not absolutely sure, but I believe in 1967 was when we had our first black staff member and he was put in Parnell. There may have been one over in Stahlman, but I seem to recall that Parnell was picked as the camp. And I guess we were flattered (at least it was presented that way). As you can imagine, we were prepared extensively and told that nothing was going to happen and there wasn’t going to be any problems.

I can remember our first work day when we got together. The boy was part of the group and we were doing the usual unloading beds, mattresses up on the back of a big cattle truck, loaded up like we don’t do today. Our rules were different back then. We were hanging all over this truck. And he was working with us. We might also have had the back of an open wagon behind one of the tractors. We were doing the usual thing around the campsite. Very hot, early June, very bright, sunny.

We loaded up in the truck and were waiting, perhaps while whoever was driving [took] a break or something. And someone pulled out a thing of suntan lotion and started squirting it on and rubbing it on them. Remember our objective then was not to avoid the sun, but to make sure the sun turned us brown. We would rub on the cocoa butter or basting cream or whatever it was. And someone said, “Give me some of that.” And there was some general small talk about how you, during the first of the summer, are always getting burned, so it was getting passed around. The black fellow hadn’t said a word, and we had all appreciated that he was certainly working up to any standard we might have. He hadn’t said a word and I don’t think anyone had a said a word to him up to that point. And he looked up and said, “Hey, give me some of that stuff. I need some of that stuff. I’m afraid this sun’s going to make me too dark,” or something to that effect. And we all laughed, threw him the bottle and he made a big deal out of rubbing that on and asking the guy next to him if he’d gotten it everywhere. He sure didn’t want to get any darker.

And that broke the ice. The rest of that day we were cutting up and playing and teasing him and him responding. He was very much a part of the group.

 

From the Archives, September 27, 2017

CAMP ANECDOTES
The Origins of “Q-Ball” by Q-Ball Pearce

Well the funny thing… is where this name “Q-ball” come in. We had a fellow on the Waterfront who was a long tall guy. So we had a regional man come out there. They always did that. Come round visit the camp one time. And I can’t recall his name. Little fella. Anyway, the camp put on a skit you see, got everything a goin’. In Kia Kima, there right in the middle of the camp, they had rock houses in a big circle, all the way around. In the middle of that they had the campfire circle. They had rock seats all through there. So, this fellow come over there and the skits, everybody had something you know. And this old boy from the waterfront was up giving his speech, his talk you know. And I’s sit down. I had on long pants. I sits down on this rock seat and I didn’t know all that, they didn’t tell ya about it. I was sitting and something got to crawling up my leg. And I slapped it. It stung me. It was a wasp. There was a doggone wasp nest in that rock seat and it got on my pants. Well, I got outta there and I come outta my pants, and I don’t mean maybe! And it got this old boy hot. He thought I was clownin’ and makin’ fun ah him. And he gave me a good talkin’ to and ‘that cue ball, bald headed so and so’ come in and them boys picked it up and its stuck ever since. And that’s the way I got it.

q-ball

The legendary Floyd “Q-ball” Pearce, 1970s

From the Archives, September 20, 2017

Remembering James “Foxy” Johnson
by Wes Frye (part I), Patrick Bray (part II) & John Bryant (part III)

[Editor’s Note: James “Foxy” Johnson was the first Reservation Director at the Old Hickory Boxwell.  He passed away in December 2000. Here are remembrances from Parnell staff members Wes Frye, Pat Bray, and John Bryant]

Part I

Here’s a few thoughts I have on [‘Foxy”].

It was not the easiest thing in the world to meet with him prior to Summer Camp and “negotiate” a pay raise. If you got $5 more a week ($30 to $35) you felt like you had really accomplished something.

Foxy was notorious for parking his car along the Camp Light road and hiding in the bushes to observe the goings-on at the Parnell Waterfront…enough said!

One summer prior to camp starting, 3 or 4 of us were working in the Compound and it was HOT. There were stacks of cold drinks but they were HOT also. Skip Dow said he’d heard you could cool things by bubbling air through gasoline. Since there was a compressor and cans of gasoline available, we decided to give it a try. We took turns holding the air line in the bucket of gasoline filled with cold drinks and it wasn’t long before someone said, “Foxy’s coming!” We cut off the compressor & proceeded to look busy as Foxy walked up. He took one look at the bucket of drinks in gasoline, looked at us, and said, “Looks like somebody’s trying to cool down some drinks”. He then turned around & walked away. Once again, we were unable to out-fox Foxy.

My last summer there, 1967, I went early and spent the days on the small John Deere running a bush-hog. At that time, the pine trees across from the Crippled Crab were about 7-8 feet tall but you couldn’t see the back row from the road. Foxy told me to cut around the trees but I’d better not hit any of them. Sure enough, as I was cutting at a point farthest from the road, I knocked down a tree, I was relieved when I realized you couldn’t see the tree from the road. That evening at the Dining Hall, Foxy came up to me and merely said, “I see you cut down one of the trees”. How he knew that still amazes me but his stare and that comment were all the discipline I needed and once again I realized, you couldn’t out-fox Foxy!

During 1966 or 67, I was the Secretary for Wa Hi Nasa & published a newsletter, Foxy lived in Donelson (as I did) and I spent many evenings going over the newsletter with him at his home and came to find out how gentle and considerate James Johnson was. His guidance and direction, not only during that time, but the whole time I knew him and
worked for him no doubt had an impact on my life and I’m sure he affected countless others.

It’s unfortunate that one’s passing causes us to reflect on the impact that person had
on our lives after they’re gone.

Part II

Wes Frye did a great job of recalling the Foxy Johnson I knew for 5 years. I would just add a few observations.

His nickname stuck because it was so right. Of course, we all addressed him as Mr. Johnson but otherwise it was just “Foxy.” Until I saw his first name recently, I could not have recalled it with any certainty. And like Wes, I include myself as one who was greatly influenced by him.

First, there was his obvious physical resemblance to a fox, i.e., the bald head except for the flowing red hair on the side, the pointy nose, and the eyes that were alert to everything. Beyond that was his mind, especially his memory, which was phenomenal. Foxy was the complete opposite of the boss who can’t remember your name. Whatever you told Foxy about yourself (and once was quite enough) he would surely remember it and bring it up with unfailing accuracy.

I was in my late teenage and early adulthood years when I knew Foxy, and so I view him from that perspective. As the father now of two teenage boys, I know that age group doesn’t award respect easily. There was no disrespect intended in Foxy Johnson’s nickname. In my view, it was more an affirmation of his leadership.

Part III

Wes and Pat have done a good job describing Foxy Johnson, and I will add a few of my recollections.

I first met Mr. Johnson in early 1963 when he interviewed me for a job on the camp staff. The interview occurred in the old house on 25th Avenue North that was then being used as the Council Office. He was very nice, but very business-like and to the point. I left the interview with a great sense of accomplishment, having landed a job AND negotiated a princely salary of $25 per week.

As Wes and Pat have reported, Foxy was notorious for walking out of the bushes at the
most inopportune times. He always seemed uncannily to walk up just as the dust was beginning to settle from any disaster or misadventure. Afterward we always reflected that he must have had the reservation wired with optical and sound sensors that summoned him immediately to the scene of our criminal activity.

His management style with the staff was never what I would call “warm and fuzzy.” He was friendly enough and very fair, but never attempted to become a “buddy” of staff members. He made it clear that although work on the camp staff should be fun, we all had a very serious job to do: see to it that every Scout who came to camp had the very best Scouting experience we could provide. Anything less to him was a disappointment. The old mimeographed staff manual that was distributed each summer bore this legend in bold print on the first page: “REMEMBER, THIS IS NO VACATION FOR YOU!” (I still have an old copy.) Although we jokingly recited this slogan to each other on especially appropriate occasions over the years, I think it is illustrative of the high expectations that Foxy had for his camp staff. From the very first day, he made it clear that every single person on the staff was hand-picked, that each person had a very important role to play, and that he would be satisfied only with our very best. He modeled that spirit. I seldom saw him lounging around camp in a relaxed pose. Almost all of my memories of Foxy in camp have him walking at a brisk pace toward his immediate objective, as if on a mission. He exuded energy and alertness that, along with his thinning red hair, cemented his nickname: “Foxy.”

Foxy Johnson was not alone among staff members who shaped the collective personality and character of the Boxwell staff during his tenure, but he as much as anyone set the high standard to which we (usually) aspired. He deserves much of the credit for the success of the Council’s camping program during those years, and he, directly and indirectly, influenced many lives for good.

He will be missed.