From the Archives, February 9, 2020

National Camp School

Some staff positions require special training. Camp and Program Directors, Aquatics Directors, and Shooting Sports directors are all required to go to National Camp School. Camp Schools are held at various camps around the country before that year’s summer camp begins. In 1960s, National Camp School was regularly held at Boxwell Reservation.

National Camp School (NCS) can be an intense experience. Aquatics school was a particularly intense experience. Until the 1990s, every Aquatics staff member–with the exception of the occasional dock boy–was eighteen years old. As Kerry Parker remembered, everyone of these 18 year olds went to camp school in the 1960s, not just the director. A participant went through every merit badge the Waterfront taught. It was hard. There was some “book learning,” but it was primarily a hands on experience. After all, the way you learn to teach rowing is to row yourself!

When NCS was at Boxwell, it was normally held the week before staff week, which meant it would be two weeks before the start of summer camp. As a result, it was not uncommon for those who were going to be kitchen staff at Stahlman to come up a week before the rest of the staff and get on the ground training during the NCS week!

Seen here is the Aquatics National Camp School in Camp Stahlman Dining Hall in 1966. There are some familiar faces here. On the start of the bottom row, far left, seated, is Stahlman’s Aquatics Director Charlie Ray Smith. Fourth from the left on the bottom (three from Smith) was Ed Human, who was a big Aquatics guy in those days before he became Reservation Director. In the second row, seated in chairs, fifth from the left is first year staff member Kerry Parker.

Aquatics school

The Aquatics school at National Camp School, held at Camp Stahlman, 1966

Council Centennial, February 5, 2020

The Nashville Council Forms

For those who don’t know, this year is the centennial of the Middle Tennessee Council. Technically, the current Middle Tennessee Council is the second council to bear this name (the other collapsed in 1930) and wasn’t organized until 1948, but let’s not quibble. Today’s Middle Tennessee Council is a direct outgrowth of the Nashville Council, which was formed in March of 1920.

While the Council has its own Centennial celebrations planned (which you can view here: https://www.mtcbsa.org/anniversary), we felt like we needed to do something as well. So, over the next several months we’ll be adding an additional regular post. Sundays will still be our “From the Archives” post on Boxwell, but Wednesdays will be a special “Council Centennial” post dealing with the Council’s history. Our goal is to walk you through highlights of the Council’s history by decade. We’ll pause these postings when summer camp is going on for our “Remembering the Staffs” series, but the rest of the year will be include these specialized posts. We’ll focus on both events and individuals.

So, the logical place to begin is with the formation of the Nashville council in Nashville Council. Seen here is an advertisement from Sunday, March 7, 1920 in the Nashville Tennessean. The Nashville Rotary Club was launching a campaign to raise $15,000 to start a council. The money would be used for several things, specifically “to employ a high-class man who will give his whole time to [the council’s] direction; enable us to establish a summer camp; maintain local headquarters; train volunteers leaders; and other essentials to a properly supervised Scout program, which should enroll 1,500 to 2,000 Scouts and influence 2,000 other boys.” And, should you question why such a program was necessary, remember, “The Boy Scout whom you meet on the street, or who lives next door, is being trained in patriotism and citizenship. He will never become a Bolshevist.”

Major E. B. Stahlman, grandfather of the camp namesake, had this to say about Scouting: “I believe in the Boy Scout Movement. The purpose of this organization, as I understand it, is to direct the energies of our boys along useful lines and thereby save them from evil and criminal tendencies. The Boy Scout is trained along religious and moral lines, is taught the duties of citizenship and to lend a helping hand to those needing assistance. He is also trained physically and mentally and kept as far as possible under good influences. Such a movement cannot but have a good effect upon the boys of any community.”

Among those involved at this stage were Edgar M. Foster of Foster & Creighton, Leslie G. Boxwell, William J. Anderson, And Dan E. McGugin. More on some of these individuals as we move forward.

“$15,000 for Nashville Boys”
Nashville Tennessean, Sunday, March 7, 1920, page 4

Nashville Council

“$15,000 for Nashville Boys,” Nashville Tennessean, Sunday, March 7, 1920, page 4

From the Archives, February 2, 2020

Rock Island Commissary

Though it was the third camp, the Rock Island Boxwell was the first version the camp to have a commissary. Scouts at Linton had walked to a nearby general store for goodies while Scouts at the Narrows mainly benefited from treats being brought in from the outside or made by Walter Whittaker. At Rock Island, a new model emerged.

The Rock Island commissary was located just up the road from the the “dining hall” (the three big tents that made up the eating area). The facility was pretty simple, just a tent and some wooden slats. The tent had electricity to power its ice cream and cola coolers. You could also buy candy here. Indeed, there were no t-shirts or teaching materials sold here, just snacks and treats.

James Akers, one of Ward Akers’ sons, remembers that the Commissary was open all day and the staff–just two or three people–slept in the back of the tent. In fact, as Akers humorously explained, “I worked in the Commissary that was almost NEVER closed. I was in there 7 days a week. It was the only place to get something to eat that was “fun” and bad for you. It was there that I got addicted to Dr. Pepper. I still drink it. (Diet now, of course.)”

Of course…

Commissary

The Commissary at the Rock Island Boxwell. It was just up the road from the dining hall, just below the family site.

From the Archives, January 27, 2020

The Lotta Fun Lodge

As difficult as it may be to believe, by most measurable standards, Camp Boxwell at the Narrows of the Harpeth had better facilities than the Rock Island Boxwell that followed it. Seen here is the craft lodge–known as the “Lotta Fun Lodge”–at the Narrows of the Harpeth, sometime after 1941. If you think this is building is really large for a craft shop, you’re right. It used to be the dining hall.

O. E. Brandon, a staff member at the Narrows from 1938 to 1940, described the original dining hall this way: “The dining hall was about 40 feet by 80 feet with a first floor covered with saw dust, but was strongly constructed from rough-sawed lumber. The kitchen was built on to the dining hall, and I believe also had a dirt floor. In the portion of the building used as a kitchen there was a large storage closet and a large walk-in ice box. The stove was mainly heated by coal… The outside of the dining hall was covered with boards flat on one side and back on the other up to about five feet from the ground. The area above the wood was screen, but could not be closed.”

In 1940, the Council launched what could best be described as its first capital campaign. One of the results of this drive was a new dining hall with a concrete floor. The original dining hall became the craft lodge, which was the function the building was serving when this picture was taken in the 1940s.

Narrows, Lotta Fun

The Lotta Fun Lodge at the Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell. This craft shop was originally the camp’s first dining hall.

From the Archives, January 19, 2020

Preparing for Inspection

Campsite inspections go way back in Boxwell’s history… basically back to the beginning. We can find inspections at the Linton Boxwell back in the 1920s. Not surprisingly, inspections then were a little different that the modern versions!

First of all, Linton only had 8-10 tents. These were large tents, with eight boys each, but that still meant that inspecting the “entire camp” was a much smaller task. Next, the rewards were a little different as well. If your tent won inspection for the day, you got a flag–a pennant really–to hang on your tent. Basically, there was some visible reward on a daily basis before the weekly award at the end of the camp period.

Most importantly, “A Scout Is Clean” had a higher bar. Not only did the tent have to be respectable, which mean sweeping the dirt around your tent with a branch of some kind, but so too did the tent’s occupants. At inspection after breakfast every morning, the inspection was done by Coach Anderson (or whoever was standing in as Camp Director that day) and the camp medic. The medic inspected the boys… all the way down to their fingernails!

The photo here shows not only the tents used as Linton, but MOST of the “camp” area. The Scouts have lined up outside their tent, preparing for the morning inspection.

Linton inspection

Scouts at Camp Boxwell at Linton preparing for their daily inspection.