From the Archives, January 13, 2019

New Years’ Resolution

Camp stories are at the heart of the Boxwell experience. And, as you know, we’ve collected a few over the years! So, even though we know it requires a bit of reading (gasp!), we have a New Year’s Resolution: share more camp stories. At least once a month, we hope to provide you with some camp anecdotes. But like weight loss promises made on the first of January, we’ll see how long this lasts!

The stories this week are from Bill Murphy. Bill was a Parnell staff member from 1968 to 1972. He worked in the Parnell AY and then became part of the Commissioner system when it was implemented in 1971. The stories we share this week are a result of last year’s “Anecdotes Project.”

Some of Bill’s Favorite camp stories follow…

“In 1968 there was a staff tradition that anyone who overslept had pitchers of ice water thrown on him in his bunk after breakfast was over. I made the mistake of over sleeping and held the record of 38 pitchers of ice water being thrown on me. That record stood at long as I was on staff, I don’t know how many years it was the record. The worst part of over sleeping was not the ice water but reporting to Coach Jackson for your punishment, a week of breakfast duty in the mess hall in addition to all your other duties at camp. Needless to say I only over slept that one time.

“Each summer a few staff members stayed around to help close up camp for the winter. We pulled the floatable docks around to the Parnell cove and up on shore. There were tents left up that had to come down and be stored at the Compound. I stayed a couple of weeks after all the campers had left to help in 1971. Bobby Parker and I stayed in the two bedrooms upstairs at the OA Lodge. We also bailed hay and worked tobacco. Working tobacco is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. (If you want a sure way to stop smoking, go work tobacco one summer and get the ‘green’ tobacco juice in your nose, mouth, and all over every exposed part of your body.) Ranger Bobby Smith is the only man I’ve ever known that worked tobacco shirtless as that green sap was so sticky. We not only worked the Boy Scout tobacco base but we helped Farmer Bush at the end of one of the work days. The evening we were to cut Farmer Bush’s tobacco, Mrs. Bush cooked us a HUGE lunch. There was more food than 20 people could have eaten and there was only about 8 of us at the table.

“Farmer Bush was a character!! Farmer Bush stories were at a minimum R rated and most were X rated. One of the running jokes during mess hall announcements was “Public Speaking merit badge was going to taught at the Compound by Farmer Bush.” He was always armed and was constantly dealing in pocket knives. Farmer never confirmed he made moonshine but here is the story. A moonshine still blew up about a 100 yards behind Farmer Bush’s home but it was unclear who owned the land where the still sat. The sheriff came and talked to Farmer but no one was ever charged.

“Pumpkin Green was a skilled/experienced man. He had worked so many years at farming there was little, if anything, he didn’t know about farming. He also had acquired skills in handling the farm equipment. Backing a hay trailer is a fine art, as it doesn’t work like a boat trailer. It actually works opposite to how a backing a boat or 2 wheel trailer. I tried backing one of the hay trailers with a tractor many many times over the 5 summers I worked at Boxwell and never came close to being good at it. Pumpkin could not only back one hay trailer and put it anywhere it needed to go but he could do tandem trailers without batting an eye. He could also fell a tree with uncanny accuracy using a chainsaw. When we were clearing Camp Beanie Elam I saw his mastery at work. I always enjoyed working around Pumpkin as I felt there was so much to learn from him.

“The following happened every year I was at Boxwell and probably could continue today. When thunder storms come from the west you get to see an amazing lightning show (better than any laser show) by sitting out at the front of the Chapel. It could take hours for the storms to roll across the lake from Nashville. We would move a bench from inside the Chapel and place it against the westward facing wall. There we could sit with our backs against the rock wall and watch a heavenly light show. When the storm got close enough we would return the bench and try to beat the storm back to our tents.”

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

See you all again in 2019.


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

From the Archives, November 25, 2018

Supervising Camp Craig

For those who aren’t aware, Camp Craig Dining Hall is undergoing some major renovations currently. We’ll showcase those as soon as the work is over. While this work is being supervised by Ron Turpin and Jason Flannery, the original construction of Craig Dining hall was overseen by someone else: Ed Human.

When Human became Reservation Director in 1970, he’d already been a professional in Middle Tennessee for a number of years, starting life as a District Executive for the Cherokee District in the early 1960s. Human had not been Reservation Director long before talk about a capital campaign began as Ward Akers worked to complete his dream at Boxwell. The 1972 Capital Campaign was a huge success, leading to the creation of Camp Craig. In 1973, construction began.

There is some debate over this photo of Human (right). The back of the photo is dated as 1970, but Lisa and Cindy Human–two of Ed’s three daughters–claim the photo was Ed at Camp Craig overseeing the construction. For our purposes, just know that the man on the right is Ed Human in a hard hat and this is the man who supervised the original construction of Camp Craig dining hall in 1973.

Ed Human hard hat

An unknown with Ed Human, possibly at Camp Craig, early 1970s

From the Archives, November 18, 2018

First Day on Camp Staff

Some camp staff experiences are surprisingly universal. Regardless of which camp you worked at or which year you worked, that first day of the first summer seems to be a remarkably similar experience for most.  Read the brief story below from John Cyril Stewart; does this sound familiar?

1st Day on Camp Staff – June 1965

I first attended Boxwell Reservation Boy Scout Camp when I was 11.  That week, and the next year were exciting times.  I got to be with my best friend Brad and, although I didn’t realize it then, I was in awe of the older boys who rapidly became my mentors.

During a scout troop meeting our District Executive, Earl Tatum, told me that I should apply for camp staff.  I told him that I had looked into that and the minimum age was 14 and that I would only be 13.  He said I should apply anyway.  At several times in my life people have given me words of encouragement that radically changed my life.  This was one of those times.  Our conversation was probably only two or three minutes but it has had a lifelong impact on me.

The Scout Office was on 23rd Avenue North, in an old house that later became a downtown home for Loretta Lynn.  I still remember timidly and fearfully walking up the broken front step and sitting for my interview.  I don’t remember many of the questions but I do remember them asking why I wanted to serve on staff.  Among the other reasons I gave, I told them that I wasn’t sure that I could pass the swimming and lifesaving merit badges required for Eagle without extended time at Boxwell.

They hired me and I was to report to Camp Stahlman, where I had never been before.  “Staff Row” was a double line of tents along a rocky road below the dining hall.  I’ll never forget the Sunday afternoon when my mother and father dropped me off, setting my footlocker on the rocky road, and drove away.  I remember the most extreme, immediate level of homesickness, standing there, watching them drive away, tears streaming down my face.  I didn’t know anyone there and didn’t know what to do.

By dinner I had found a tent, new friends and a home at Boxwell.  Over the next seven summers I would have adventures and experiences that would stay with me for the rest of my life.

My Mother and Daddy never talked about that time but I have to think they were probably as moved by my leaving for the summer as I was.  Life was never the same.

Story submitted to Boxwell Staff Anecdotes Project, March 2018

From the Archives, October 28, 2018

Akers Lake Fish

We thought we’d go for something light-hearted this week. Back in 2001, Kerry Parker was trying securing an interview with the first ranger Coleman Wright. He was never able to get Wright to commit to a recording, but some phone conversations led to a couple of interesting stories, which Parker did record for posterity. This week, an interesting story about Akers Lake… and fish. Story by Kerry Parker, September 2, 2001. Edited for clarity.

Round about the time camp opened, when the Wrights first came to camp or some time at least in the early 60s, [Old Hickory Lake] had backed into Akers Lake. And somebody came up with the idea that they were going to stock Akers Lake with a particular kind of fish. I think bass and catfish is what the plan was. And, so they went down and took a chemical which removes oxygen from the water. Now he told me what that chemical was, but unfortunately I can’t remember the name [of] it.

And they went down, and if I understood it right, there was drums of this chemical. Of course Akers Lake is a big lake. And so they dumped this chemical into the water. Tom Parker was involved with this scheme to cleanse the lake of all the fish that were in it presently. And so they dump this chemical into the water, thinking that they would go down and pick these fish up. When they suffocated they’ll float to the top of the water of course.

Well, this got to be quite a debacle. They dumped the chemical into the lake. Fish started to die and come to the top. More and more and more of the fish died and came to the top. The last one to come up if I understood it right was a catfish…

And then he said it got so bad you could smell it all the way out to Highway 109. But of course as time went on, they deteriorated and the smell went away. I’m not sure exactly how long it took to do that. And, but he said there was dump truck loads of fish. I’m not sure how many of them they got out and tried to dispose of, but there was way more than they could handle.

And then they restocked the lake. And they restocked that lake with bass and catfish. And, so that’s an interesting little story.

Akers Lake

Akers Lake from Percy Dempsey Camporee Area, December 2015