Camp Woodland

Camp Woodland

Constantia, New York
Hiawatha Seaway Council
1929 – Present

George Morton was the Scout Executive in 1930. Leo Sandefur followed in 1933 and served for 9 years. Ernest Blanchard began his meritorious tenure in October 1942 and served with distinction until his retirement in 1958. Perry Jackson, Jim Earley and Al Smith followed in that order. Marion Harcourt was the good right arm for all these Executives until her retirement in October 1967.

The years of 1930 to 1939 have been aptly called the era of the “great depression”. Scouting had its difficulties along with other enterprises but such stalwarts as “Daddy” (Fred) Lee and Ray King never lost faith and through their efforts and that of others, the program for boys kept moving forward. “Daddy” Lee served as Commissioner for many years and Camp Lee near Kibbe Lake is named in his honor. Ray King was President of the Council and later served as Commissioner after Lee’s retirement. Other members of the Executive Board who contributed so much of their talents and material resources were Crandall Melvin, Collin Armstrong, Dr. Walter Rooks, Cecil Crego, Jim Stimson, Eric Will, to name just a few.

But it is camping at Woodland that remains most vividly in my memory- Woodland, a 900 acre plot, was purchased from the Will Estate in 1929, the Council assuming a mortgage of $30,000. During the depression years it was most difficult to pay the interest on this obligation. The first Camp operation was attempted in 1930. Previous to that a Camp at Tully Lake had been used (Camp Loyalty).

Because of the heavy mortgage and the tightness of money in those early years, no effort was made to construct necessary buildings for more adequate Scout facilities. The “stucco” house at the entrance to the camp was used for a “hospital”, where an intern spent his summer to serve the boys. The barn was used for an indoor theater, trading post and craft lodge. Across the road was the Nature Lodge. The building across the bridge was used as a meeting place for the Camp Staff. The Caretaker occupied a log structure which evidently had served as a hunting lodge, and later became known as Beaver Lodge. On many a rainy night, the Scout leaders would congregate there after “Taps”, and avail themselves of the reading material which the caretaker had assembled.

Summer Headquarters were housed in a tent in the pine grove. The kitchen was always where it is now, but there were no permanent dining facilities. A large fly which blew down with every strong gust of wind caused untold difficulties for the Staff. Many an evening meal had plenty of rain drops added to the soup to give it a more “natural” flavor.

In the early 30′s, camping was entirely provisional. Scout Leaders were encouraged to come to Camp but the paid Staff was really in command. Troop sites were called “Villages”, and consisted of Onondaga, Sherwood Forest, Algonquin, Seneca, Tuscarora and Cayuga. All the waterfront facilities were located at Kibbe Lake.

Some of the young Leaders at that time who made a deep impression on me because of their natural talents, were Bill Lawrence who became a professional Scouter and went with National, Ed Hixson at Sherwood Forest, Dave Jaquith at Kibbe Lake, Stu (Stewart) Darrow as activities director, Fritz Crego as provisional leader and later Camp Director. All have gone on to distinguished careers in their chosen fields.

The routine at Camp was much different from today’s activities. Scouts spent much of their time in specialized activities. Those interested in archery went to Sherwood Forest, where a barbecued supper was served each evening. Some were nature “bugs” and helped the expert in Nature Lodge collect all sorts of specimens found around camp. Others devoted much of their time at Waterfront. There was even a drama club which produced one or two plays during the two weeks they were at camp.

Mr. Clifford Carpenter, the first Caretaker, was a most unusual and talented person. An Engineering graduate from Cornell, he was attached to the Signal Corps in France during World War 1. There he became a victim of the gas warfare and his health necessitated his location in such a spot as Woodland. His knowledge of the natural sciences attracted many Scouts to his Lodge. He was exceptionally well read and a superb cook. I recommended his serving the Executive Board a full course dinner in the Lodge which was talked about for a long time.

During those early years the Camp Director was chosen from among the previous year’s Staff who had made a good record for himself. As so often happens in such arrangements, jealousies developed and opposing factions were formed among the Staff. Many a time I walked the Camp Director out the Sugar Bush Trail, up the Salt Road and around the Camp boundary, just to relieve his tensions and allow him to “blow off steam”. After some years of this kind of arrangement, volunteer Leaders who came to Camp with their Scouts, proposed that a member of the professional Staff should be the Director. This proved to be a sound proposal and became a fixed policy of the Council.

Troop Camping was inaugurated in Onondaga Council by Troop 80 in 1934. The next year the Gyro Club built the first wooden structure suitable for Troop Camping, and was occupied by Troop 81. The Clifford Parmelee family was actively involved in the Troop for many years. Troop 72 from Solvay, with John McAnaney as Scoutmaster and Walter Wevant as a member of the Committee, occupied the Beaver site that same year. The Lodge had burned the preceding winter. Art Hossbe from Kirkville was also an active Leader with his Troop at this time.

Waterfront

During these early years the Onondaga Council operated Camp Syracuse on the Brown Tract near Racquette Lake. This Camp provided a rigorous six-week program for Senior Scouts who wished for a more primitive setting. Each Patrol did its own cooking and Troop Camping for Onondaga Council may have originated there. They boasted that people visiting them at any time of day could find no evidence of litter. The white sand was always immaculately clean.

Ernest Blanchard came to the Council in 1942. In 1944 he wisely chose Bill Wadsworth to serve as Camp Director. In 1944 Bill assumed that position and a completely new philosophy was developed. Camping became a meaningful experience with the idea that the lessons learned there, could be taken back home and applied to year-round, outdoor programs. Winter Camping became a natural part of a Scout’s experiences. Camp Syracuse was replaced, first by canoe trips from Woodland each period, and then by Camp Askenonta on Moose Island in Lake Placid.

Some of the Volunteers who devoted a great deal of time in the improvement of Camping at this time included Cy Perkins (Mr. “Tin Can”), Don Patrick, Paul Keene, Tom Dyer, Ken Richardson, Dean Illick, Joe Owens, Jim Stimson, Ray King, Eric Will, the Parmelee family, Tom Corcoran and others.

I always marveled at the ability of Bill to select young Scouts with potential leadership ability. During that 1944 Camping season, World War II was in full progress and everyone over 18 years of age was serving his Country. Bill chose 16 year olds such as Dick Tarr, Don Sill and Dave Bauer as provisional Leaders. They proved to be outstanding. In years following he chose such Scouts as Dave Joor, Tony Kreuzer, Steve Buechner, Bob Smith, Al and Mark Forssall, Steve Hughes, Bob Richardson, Bernie King, Bill Ullman, and many others who have all distinguished themselves in private life.

Bill’s innovations included tin can cookery, the cook-out, the outpost, the tab tent, the canoe trips, the rifle range, winter camping, the adventure trail, the demonstration area, just to name a few.

Many a young man today thanks Bill Wadsworth for the training which he received, and which served him so well to prepare for future life.

– Ted Durgee
(This account of Camp Woodland was written around 1980)