From the Archives, September 24, 2017

Sain Gateway Drawing

We like to explore the “might have beens” over here. Most of the time we look at early plans for how the reservation was supposed to turn out, but didn’t quite materialize. Today we’ll look at something on the reservation that didn’t quite materialize.

The Josh Sain High Adventure Area Gateway was added in 2005. Sain had been a staff member in the 1990s, but was killed in a car accident. An early attempt to memorialize him was a group of three trees planted at the Cripple Crab. Of the three, only one has survived.

Thus, a second attempt was made and this second attempt became the Josh Sain Memorial Gateway. Seen here is an early sketch of the gateway with items that represented Sain’s life and achievements. Obviously, the Gateway didn’t quite end up this way, but most of the central elements survived.

Sain gateway

Early design of Josh Sain Memorial Gateway

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.

From the Archives, September 17, 2017

Waiting for the Phone

We’ve covered communication at camp several times (see below), but we haven’t ever discussed the very common and well-known method: the pay phone. While a novelty almost everywhere today, from at least the early 1970s to the early 2000s the Cripple Crab had pay phones.

Except for a brief period when there was an actual phone booth at the top of the hill, the pay phones were hung and connected on two boards between the short upright posts. For those not familiar with pay phones, a call was only a few cents (about a nickel at first and about fifty cents by the end) but this was for a limited time (a few minutes) and only for local calls. If you wanted to talk for longer or make a long distance call, you had to pay more.

Nevertheless, the pay phones were popular. While relatively during the day, after dinner and until taps, the Cripple Crab was a busy place. Scouts would walk (yes, WALK) from whichever camp they were staying and wait in line to place their call. Staff members wanting to call family or significant others had to wait in line just like every one else. After all, on a good day, there were only three working phones at the top of the hill. And not every day was a good day!

Other communication posts:
The Switchboard
More Postcards

Pay phones

Here a staff member uses one of the pay phones at the Crab.

From the Archives, September 13, 2017

“The Year of the Rain” as recounted by Eric Cole

This one was actually before you [Grady Eades] came, my first year, 1989 – The Year, well, let’s see, how do you want to call it? It was the Year of the Mulch. It was the Year of the Rain. It was the Year of the Mud. ‘Course they were all related. I called it the Year of the Mulch because its all I saw – mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch. So, I’m sure if you get responses from people that were there that time, sure you’ll get a lot of stories about rain and mulch and things like that.

I’ll tell ya, it was just another night. I don’t even know why I came back, geez. Thinking about it, I don’t even know why I went back to camp after that. Gosh, what did we do for four weeks, probably? At least. It just rained every single day. Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. I mean, you couldn’t teach your normal classes. That’s when I did Orienteering and Wilderness Survival and all those classes. And our Wilderness Survival class, I think the first three weeks, they were not able to stay out there. They would go out, build their little things and we’d always have to go get them ’cause there’d always be a huge, awesome storm that would come in that we couldn’t leave ’em out there. Ah, anyway…

It was that year. I was in the [Parnell] AY of course – the AY staff site down there across the little cross-tie bridge. And, so, we’re sitting in there and it’s dark and it’s raining again. Of course, I’m like a freshman to camp ’cause its my first year. So, I’m sitting around the table. There aren’t a lot of us down there. I don’t know everybody else was, but I was kind of homebody. Sittin’ around the table, rainin’ and thunderin’, and we’ve got a lantern on. And you know when you’ve got a lantern on, you can’t really see everything, outside the circle of the lantern.

Well, we starting seeing this movement, comin’, you know, through the field up there to the showerhouse down toward the path. It was the wierdest thing because there were these two white lights and then a red smaller light, like down at the bottom. SO the three lights were making a triangle. Two white lights on top and then down the bottom in the middle, was a little red light. It was just bobbin’ up and down and that’s all you could see. These three lights, about head level or so, just comin’ through the darkness toward us.

We’re all kind of like, I think everybody there at the time was, were all newbies so we’re all kind of like “What in the world is this?” We’re kind of like, you know, kind of concerned. So, it gets up to right outside the edge of the tent and the tarps and all that junk. You still can’t see anything with the lights and we’re hearing this noise, this rustlin’ noise and stuff, the gravel, you know. There’s something on the gravel walkin’ our way.

And all the sudden BOOM! Come bustin’ in. Pow. pow. pow. Tarps flyin’, and everything and its like big, big rain poncho. Flips the hood back and it’s Jerry Barnett. It was the weirdest, funniest lookin’ thing.

I don’t know if you ever saw these or ever heard about ’em, but somebody had given him a pair of glasses to wear that had two lights, like flashlights on the sides of the lenses, so that he could walk on the trails at night with the light. And the lower red light was his ever present cigarette. So, it was like this ghost thing flying through the woods. It was all you could see was these three lights and all the sudden he busts up in there. Pow. He was like some creature off Star Wars or something. That was really funny, ’cause you know, we didn’t expect it. He was Jerry Barnett, the big man, you know, we didn’t know him yet. That was pretty funny.

From the Archives, September 10, 2017

Post-Rock Island

When is a Scout Camp no longer a Scout camp? When a Boxwell is no longer a Boxwell, what happens to it?

In the case of Linton, the Council simply stopped using the property. The Linton Boxwell went back to being what it was: someone’s private property.

For the Narrows, the Council held on to the property for some time. From 1947 to 1978, the Narrows of the Harpeth property was no longer Boxwell, but it was Middle Tennessee Council property. Given its location, canoeing and overnight camping was still quite popular.

For Rock Island, the property is still owned by the Council, but not surprisingly, the camp has had difficulty defining itself. The property wasn’t as developed as the new Boxwell, but still had developed components. It didn’t have the excitement of the Narrows, but was still on a river.

The photo here from the mid-1970s shows a camp trying to find its place. Note the baseball cage to the left and to the right looks like the remnants of the Trading Post. The Parish Reservation holding Camp Tubbs was still used, but clearly, it was a Scout camp trying to find its identity…

Rock Island

The Rock Island Activity Area long after Rock Island Boxwell was no longer Boxwell