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, November 11, 2018

From the Archives, November 11, 2018
Remembering Tom Willhite

Tom Willhite was Reservation Director from 1976 to 1994. When he retired as Director of Supprot Services in 1994, there was, not surprisingly, a retirement party for him. A host of individuals attended and honored Tom’s service. After all, he had been part of the Middle Tennessee Council since 1964.

All retirement parties try to find unique ways of honoring the retiree. This party was no different. Attendees were encouraged to complete a “My Fondest Memory of Tom Willhite” sheet with whatever memory or story of Tom they liked best. While he might not have seemed like it, Tom was sentimental enough to keep these pages.

In September 2016, three years after his passing, Russ Parham and Kerry Parker visited Tom’s wife Marie and documented many of the artifacts left behind, including these sheets. Shown here is a page by former staff member and then District Executive Shane Gladden. Shane’s brief description encapsulates perfectly the image so many staff members have of Tom Willhite.

Fondest Tom

Shane Gladden’s “Fondest Memory” of Tom Willhite from Tom’s retirement party in 1994

From the Archives, November 4, 2018

The Original Pirate Ship

Once upon a time, there was a pirate ship. It was a pirate ship that floated. And the first place that Pirate Ship floated was Parnell Bay.

In the summer of 1995, former staff member John Cooper and his team began work on what would be CubWorld’s pirate ship. The 1994 Capital Development Campaign was complete and the transformation of Camp Murrey was proceeding. Throughout the summer, construction continued and eventually the ship was launched in Parnell Bay. It eventually was floated to what was Murrey’s Swimming area and what is today Pirate’s Cove.

It is easy to forget, but originally, the pirate ship did in fact float. After the 2010 floods, the ship was damaged so badly that the entire Pirate Cove idea was re-thought. But more on that another time. Here is the Lancaster Pirate Ship in all its emerging glory on the shores of the Camp Light waterfront in 1995.

Pirate Ship 1995

Construction of the Lancaster Pirate Ship, 1995, at Camp Light waterfront

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

From the Archives, October 21, 2018

Rock Island History

Obviously, as individuals interested in the history of Boxwell, we are interested in, odd as this sounds, the history of Boxwell. Since at least the 1950s, Boxwell has presented a history of itself in its Leaders’ Guides. This history has changed as the camp has changed.

This week we look at Rock Island’s history. There a couple of things to note here. First, note that even though this is the third Boxwell, there is no mention of the other two. The first 30 years of Boxwell might as well not have happened.

Second, note the efforts to create its own history. There are several items here: a buried Confederate treasure, a lodge that Andrew Jackson visited, a battle between white Tennesseans and Native Americans, part of the Trail of Tears, and a hanged horse theif. Some of this can be easily dismissed (the Trail of Tears was MILES from this site), but others are less clear. The Fielding Yost material is true.

Nevertheless, we see Boxwell trying to write a history for itself. It is a tradition that continues to this day…

Rock Island Legends

History of Boxwell, or, more specifically, legends of Rock Island!