From the Archives, March 10, 2019

Camp Cats

Are you still keeping up with your New Year’s Resolution? We are! Here it is: month three of our vow to post a monthly camp anecdote.

This week’s story is quick one. It comes Rick Ehler. When asked what his favorite Camp story was, Rick had approximately 16 years of Boxwell experience to choose from. This was his favorite story.

“When the boat harbor reopened in 1995 we lived in tents down at the harbor. We would adopt stray cats to stay with us to help with the raccoon problem.

“Every night one of the cats that ha[d] become extremely fond of me would jump on my bed and sleep next to me. One evening I felt the cat, jump on the bed around one or two o’clock in the morning. After shifting in my sleeping bag I realized that what had jumped on my bed was not a cat but a raccoon. I quickly grabbed my flashlight and a tennis shoe and scared the raccoon off.”

And there you have it. A classic “the-cat-on-my-sleeping-bag-is-actually-a-raccoon” story!

Camp Anecdotes
Collection of Rick Ehler
From VirtualBoxwell’s Boxwell Staff Anecdotes Project, March 2018

From the Archives, February 17, 2019

Boxwell Greats: Pearl Schleicher

While we have posted about Mrs. Schleicher before, we have never given her a proper vetting. It is time to change that oversight. Pearl Schleicher is absolutely worthy of the title, “Boxwell Great.”

In her regular life, Pearl was a dietitian with Metro Schools. Her school principal recommended her for work at Boxwell, where she began working in 1962. Schleicher continued as the Reservation’s head cook until 1994. Along the way she brought her husband, John, and her sister, Estelle Langford. Because “Schleicher” proved so difficult pronounce, the trio were usually referred to as “Mrs. Pearl,” “Mr. John,” and “Ms. Bea.”

Physically a small woman, Pearl Schleicher was a big personality. There were strong kitchen directors at Stahlman under her tutelage–Jerry Barnett, Tommy Roussin–but the kitchen was hers. And she ran a tight ship, not tolerating shenanigans. Still, shenanigans happened.

Perhaps what is most important to remember is that Pearl and her crew cooked virtually everything themselves. There were some exceptions, but most everything was made from scratch. Scrambled eggs in the morning for Camps Stahlman, Parnell, and Murrey? That’s upward of 2000 eggs, all cracked by hand. Sheet cake with frosting for Friday night dinner? All mixed, baked, and created from scratch. Those amazing buttery rolls? Hand made by Estelle.

And, for better or worse, the Schleichers kept a fairly stable menu. Every summer you could expect roughly the same meals. Sunday night was ham, green beans, and a roll. Eggs were most mornings except Thursday. Thursday morning, at least in later years, was Krispy Kreme doughnuts and canteloupe, just to give everyone a break. Other meals included bologna sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, and ravioli (one of the few pre-packaged meals). And, in the years when being Catholic meant no meat on Friday, the Schleichers cooked fish. And when Ward Akers wanted chicken for the Scoutmaster’s Supper, Pearl and her group cooked that too.

Pearl and staff were up at 5:30am every morning (Saturdays too) preparing to feed the reservation. Unlike many of the cooks today, Pearl lived on site. The cooks’ cabins were in fact the cooks’ cabins. The Schleichers moved in and stayed all summer. During Bull Crew weeks, they acted more as short order cooks, preparing smaller, more specific meals. When camp was over, Pearl and John went back to their schools in the Metro system.

Pearl (and John and Estelle) retired from her real job almost 20 years before she retired from camp, which happened in 1994, Tom Willhite’s last summer. For Pearl, she had been on Boxwell’s staff for 32 years, the longest serving staff member EVER on Boxwell’s staff. She lived for another 10 years before passing away on November 11, 2004 at the age of 95.

Pearl Schleicher was a Boxwell institution. She lived through three Council Executives, four Reservation directors, at least twelve Stahlman Program Directors, and upwards of 20 Stahlman kitchen directors. For over 30 years, no one said “Boxwell” like Pearl Schleicher.

Schleicher

Pearl Schleicher, ca. 1975. Pearl’s run on camp staff ran from 1962 to 1994, making her the longest serving staff member, period.

From the Archives, February 10, 2019

Narrows of the Harpeth “Emergency”

As promised back in January, our New Years’ Resolution at VirtualBoxwell.org was to post more anecdotes this year. As with all New Years’ Resolutions, we may soon abandon this plan; interaction with story posts tend to be much lower than posts with photos. Still, we see value in these… at least for the time being.

This week’s story is true rarity as it comes from the Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell. O. E. Brandon was a staff member in the late 1930s, working in what would today be considered the Activity Yard, though there was no such thing then. The paragraph below comes from Brandon’s unpublished memoirs, titled “Recollections.” He covers not only Boxwell, but his time in Scouting. For our purposes this paragraph gives us an interesting snap shot of summer camp life a long time ago.

From O. E. Brandon’s “Recollections,” pgs. 19 and 20. Dates are unknown. Brandon was a staff member in 1938 and 1939.

“Time spent at Camp Boxwell was fun and a lot of scouting tall tales and fond memories run rampant in my thoughts. There are too many to cover, but a few stand out. The scout camp was scheduled for an inspection by representatives of the national council on a Monday following one of cleanup weekends. We Jr. Leaders were told very emphatically that we must do a good job with cleanup and the digging and properly preparing a new pit latrine. Just before James Gribble, the Camp Director, left camp we discovered that there was not enough lime to spread over the new latrine. Lime is a white caustic powder that helped keep down bacteria and odor in an open pit latrine and was a must for good sanitation. Gribble assured us that he would be back Sunday afternoon with the lime so that it could be put out for the Monday morning national council inspection. We dug the new latrine and went about the other cleanup and restocking chores. Groceries, ice, and other needed supplies were delivered and stored on Saturday as scheduled. Sunday night was approaching and no James Gribble with the lime. We had no way of knowing that his old car had broken down, and there were no telephones within miles for him to call us. All we knew that there had to be lime on the latrines for Monday morning. What we did have was plenty of baking flour that looked just like lime. We rationalized that this was an emergency and that we would not be violating the first Scout Law, “A Scout is Trustworthy” if we spread lime over the flour when we got some, so we spread a generous coating of baking flour over the latrine Sunday night. The National Council inspectors were complimentary over the good sanitary appearance of the latrine.”

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.

Santa

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