Sends us your email and ideas

We have more than 300 emails for camp alumni, but over the last couple of years some of you have moved or changed your email accounts.

Please send your new email and emails of other alumni to campstephenslumni@gmail.com so that we can update our list as we prepare to mark the 125th anniversary of the Camp Stephens in 2016.

The same goes if you have an idea for a blog entry or wish to contribute other material like letters, recipes, diary entries, trip maps. . .

If any links are broken, please tell me.

And don't be bashful. It's OK to comment. Really. It's OK.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Old-time camp craft

Anyone know what this is?


Or what it's supposed to be?

It comes from Punch Jackson, and it maybe the only surviving one.

All the pieces are here. Someone with a bit of know-how, and patience, might be able to finally put it together for the 125th anniversary of Camp Stephens in the summer of 2016.

We hope to have a date and a preliminary outline of events soon, so please stay tuned.

If you want to help in the planning, please send an email to campstephensalumni@gmail.com


Sadly, it didn't come with instructions.

Monday, February 10, 2014

UPDATED: Mystery camp blankets



We're trying to trace the origins of these two blankets.

They were each were hand made by the Mother's Y Club in 1934 in Winnipeg and somehow made their way out to Camp Stephens a number of years ago.

We think Davey, the old cook, brought them out. Maybe.

We think they may have been given to him as thanks for the work he did during the winter at the downtown Y. Maybe.

Grants Platts brought them back from camp several years ago. They are stored in his basement.

There's one name on one of the quilts that may look familiar. Mrs. Tallin. Yup. Same family.

I'll update and correct this post when I get more information.

UPDATE:

From: Bill Owen 

When I was a member of the Boys’ Dept. in Winnipeg I recall a group of Y mothers who were quite visible and I do recall their hosting several father and son bean dinners at the 'Y' as well as giving leadership to the Saturday morning hot dog services.

I vaguely recall the blanket in question being created in a sort of sewing bee and eventually presented to Davey, who they were close to, and, when I was a “cookie” and later assistant chef to Davey I recall seeing that blanket in question on his bed in the cabin which he occupied all the years next to the “cookies” cabin.

After Davey's departure believe Al Wilde may have inherited it—quite a history. I am amazed that it has resurfaced after so many years.

As an 8 year old I always looked forward to seeing Davey doing his caretaker/janitor work in the Boys’ dept. and observing the rapport between Davey and the “Y” Mothers.

                                                               
- Bruce
Cathy Jackson and Grant Platts
Cathy Jackson and Grant Platts














Saturday, January 18, 2014

The History of Toilets….and other disposal processes


By Hal Studholme




A history of YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens can be told from many different perspectives: people, structures, changes in programming, even in the types of boats that served it over the years, But the most profound history has to be the one that describes TOILETS. 

When you have a camp on a relatively small island, human waste eventually becomes a problem--it’s a problem for the human race in general, but it becomes a concentrated concern on 24 acres. In the early days with a few adults visiting for a short three to four month summer season, outdoor “biffies” were more than adequate. You dig a hole, build a crude hut over it, fashion a seat with a bum-sized opening, provide an Eaton’s catalogue, and the place is open for “business”! 



The only other consideration at the outset is location, preferably downwind about 50 paces. But as the years go by, two things happen. First you begin to be concerned about just how many places there are left for another biffy. People, for some strange reason, get fussy about having one too close to the place where you live, sleep, eat  etc. 

Second, as modern conveniences begin to be developed elsewhere, and at home in particular, you logically want to have the same amenities at camp, or something that approximates these comforts. A better biffy is the first step. At Camp Stephens, a communal community exclusively for boys and men, a larger, better appointed, deeper biffy was created…the “Eight Holer”

This was a definite movement in the right direction. The facility centralized the function of disposal in a 15 by 20-foot room with a raised, concrete bench along three walls with eight evenly spaced holes, each with a comfortable toilet seat, paper roles conveniently placed, vents to provide for the exchange of “airs” and screening to keep pests to a minimum. Luxury and more. This was a gathering place where friends, cabin mates, fellow staff could commune and pass the time of day, amongst other things.

With nearly 200 souls on the 24-acre island at peak camp population, human waste had two other components, effluent from kitchen operations and the disposal of various other items such as hundreds of tin cans and bottles which were emptied of their contents over the camping season, and paper and general food waste.

Over the years these had been cleverly managed by three efficient but environmentally disastrous methods. First, kitchen drains: they were simply emptied into a four-inch pipe which ran directly out onto the lake for about 30 feet where lake currents swiftly dispersed the effluent. That is except when the wind and lake currents were flowing towards the front bay, at which times the effluent tended to form a greasy scum on the sand beaches of, at that time, the beginner swim area. 

The second problem was tin cans and bottles. These were collected in garbage cans behind the kitchen and twice or more a week the “Chore Boy” would load them into the small utility boat with the 15-horse power outboard and ferry them to the vicinity of what was called “bird shit island” a pile of rocks liberally coated with seagull guano some 300 yards off shore where he would methodically sink them to the lake bottom some 30 or so feet below. 

Decades after the practice had been abandoned, divers from the ‘Y’ scuba club explored the site and found a mound more than 50 feet in diameter and 20 feet high with many treasures of bygone eras including valuable rare glass and stoneware bottles. The final problem, other kitchen wastes, was solved by simply burning them in a concrete fire pit back of the dining hall. 

Sometimes the process had to be assisted with liberal applications of kerosene and white gasoline. But the system worked well, unless you happened to be down wind at times such as in the ‘Y’s Men cabin at the start of Junior camp. But they were eight year olds and didn’t mind, so it was thought.

Back to toilets. Someone eventually got the idea that a biffy, even one with eight holes and the benefit of collegiality, was just not the kind of thing the modern camper deserved, coming from a home with flush toilets, a handy sink, proper lighting and other amenities. 

The 7 Come 11 now emerges as the newest system of creative waste management on Copeland Island. Perched upon the second highest part of the island once dubbed “Pulpit Rock” (No one remembers why the name) it stood tall and stately for all to see and was everything one could ask for in a modern public toilet facility, double sided so that ladies had their own facility with seven toilets and three sinks, and a men’s side with four toilets, three urinals and two sinks. 

It was perfection, except for one small problem. In order to properly flush a toilet the system required water pressure that was found in a large municipal water service, usually about 60 to 80 pounds per square inch.

The camp pump at the best of times, could only manage 40, and often was struggling to get 30 up to furnish the mechanisms. One flush it could manage, two it might with great effort, three or more, forget it. The valves in the passageway between the two sides stayed open, the pump ran continuously, no other toilets would flush and so remained with contents intact, and the whole process failed miserably. 

The solution was a constant process of someone, often the camp director, turning off the main water supply, and hitting each stuck valve with a hammer to cause it to close and return the system to “normal” Normal it never was. The other part of the system that completed the joy was the septic tank and field that was to “handle” the effluent from the toilets and sinks. 



It appears no one thought to inform camp staff that this element required regular maintenance which included opening the tank for inspection and if necessary, stirring the contents to assure proper settling and drainage to the field (which was not properly constructed in the first place, the seepage from which causing considerable consternation as it leaked out into the waters at the back of the island and stained the rocks a rich brown hue).

But what made the whole thing really ridiculous was the fact that there were only two women on the island on a regular basis at the time, the camp operating on the monastic model of that era.(The camp nurse and the wife of the cook used a small, clean, comfortable outhouse near the hospital) The “Ladies” side of the 7 Come11 was never used, even in emergencies such as the occasional need for extra facilities when a bout of diarrhea inflicted a number of the residents at the same time. It was the “Ladies” washroom and only used on four Sundays of the summer during visitor’s days or during Girl’s camp in late August, or, if operated, at family camp. Given the effectiveness of the system, however, it’s probably just as well!

This “modern convenience” was finally abandoned in the mid 1970s when it became clear that it was never going to meet the needs of the camp population and also because it was a definite health hazard. The “solution” was to revert to biffies again. But what biffies! The new design was much grander than the old one or two holer. Even grander than the storied Eight Holer of fame. 

The “High Rise” was a small house, divided into two rooms (camp Leadership having at last realized that there are two sexes on the earth and girls might like to go to camp too), each furnished with three “straight drop” toilets, a couple of sinks, and a shower stall on each side. All of these emptied directly into the rectangular concrete block-walled box upon which the structure was perched. They were called “High Rises” for this fact, as the base structure was about six feet high. Three of these “luxuries” graced the camp and provided relief for the residents as they slowly filled with their noxious contents. 

High Rise #1

Oh yes, the contents. Camp maintenance staff discovered that the only way to “manage” these services was the draw lots and the ”winner” donned hip waders and entered the “lower room” in order to spread the piles. It goes without saying that there was less than enthusiastic acceptance of this role. It also began to dawn on camp administration that eventually these receptacles would fill and not only would the High Rises become unusable but the contents would have to be disposed of somehow, somewhere. Already some ominous brown stains were developing in the mortar of the lower courses of blocks. There were still only 24 acres on the island. What to do? Back to the individual, two hole biffies scattered along the cabin line for an indefinite term while brilliant minds studied the problem.

The camp board finally tackled the problem seriously in the early 1980s. A high-tech solution was proposed that seemed to have all the earmarks of permanence. One of the new board members worked for a firm which manufactured sewage disposal systems. What he proposed was masterful, a machine that treated the effluent of a flush system with bacteria!  The new system comprised a huge metal talk about eight feet in diameter and 20 or so feet long.

In the tank were several great disks which churned the sewage that entered at one end and exposed it to the action of bacteria to cause it to break down. Effluent would be filtered and emptied into a large septic field to be constructed near the tank. The whole “plant” and field would be situated in an ‘unused’ wooded area below the popular Raspberry Rock. It was promoted as environmentally sound, economical within reason, and it would preserve the beloved flush toilet system that city dwellers were fixed upon as necessary for a modern camp. (Larger, higher capacity pumps would solve the water supply problems of the past system) Who could ask for anything more? But there was a catch….SLUDGE.

What the promoters of the system failed to mention in their first glowing description of this marvelous machine was that at the end of each season somewhere in the neighbourhood of a dozen 45-gallon drums of thick, brown, foul sludge would have to be drained from the tanks and disposed of. This fact was only discovered when a young, bright member of the summer camp staff, named Burton Tutt (later Boryen) attended a meeting and had the temerity to ask a question about sludge production and disposal. The nerve! He had been reading up on the machine! 

After much bluster and stalling, the fact of the sludge was admitted. But it was quickly dispensed with by suggesting a barge operator could easily remove the drums and ferry them to the Kenora sewage plant for disposal. The young man interrupted again by indicating that the camp had no way of moving the drums to a location on the island where they could be loaded to a barge, at least not without the expense of purchasing major equipment to carry out the task. He then made the most damning disclosure as far as the machine’s promoters were concerned; not only was there no operator on the lake who would do the barging of the barrels he pointed out that Kenora sewage plant had no capacity to accept such gifts as the Camp Stephens annual sludge production. The dream of our own sewage treatment plant was gone.

But the enterprising Mr. Tutt was not finished. He proceeded to make a masterful presentation complete with drawings, photos, cost estimated and time lines for a system he had researched a year previously on a trip to Sweden. The Clivus Multrim system featured large tanks which composted human and kitchen waste, producing rich compost after a year or two that could be used for the camp tree nursery. The plan included a small treatment system for kitchen grey water effluent that had been developed by a professor at University of Manitoba and successfully installed in several locations in the province.

Don Cochrane assembling a Clivus


Clivus #1

To the everlasting credit of the board, they saw the wisdom of this alternate, environmentally sound plan. To top it off, a grant appeared to be assured from the federal government for the bulk of the cost of the project. The board and threw their whole support into the venture. 

The development and installation of the two systems, however, were not without problems. One of the most formidable came from the Northwest Ontario Health Department, or rather, the chief inspector. In his wisdom, he refused to believe that a composting process worked, and certainly not on the scale envisioned by Camp Stephens. Moreover, he had given his approval for the previous (and proven flawed) treatment plant. 

His obstructions nearly stopped the process for good many times. Ultimately it went ahead and still functioned satisfactorily more than 20 years later. The health inspector?  Well, he made annual visits every fall until his retirement searching for the contents of the Clivus tanks in the firm belief that we buried same contents somewhere on the island and composting didn’t work and never would!

Epilogue….in the end (2007) The Clivus maintenance process, which required systematic attention, turned out to be beyond the abilities of camp staff as the years went by and fell into disarray, the tanks filled and the old inspector won his point at last. The Clivus’s were dismantled, their contents buried (as with other past waste collections) and Camp went back to a flush system.

Here we go again!  Story to be continued.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

"To My Successor"

Staff pic from the early 70s.

"For the casual reader this document would appear comprehensive but for the new Director of Camping it is but a momentary orientation or covering sketch to the work and concerns ahead."

- outgoing Camp Stephens Camp Director Doug McEwen 1970

Doug McEwen put together this 54-page document that outlined the role of the camp director for incoming director Punch Jackson. It not only instructed Punch what he should know about filling Doug's shoes, but explains the overall philosophy of camp and its programs.

More important, Doug put on paper what a new director needs to know about the people working under him or her.

Doug McEwen
Much has obviously changed about Copeland Island in the past 43 years since this was written, but much of it is still recognizable today.

What Doug wrote so many years ago also offers a unique history of the island and camp.

And, of course, insight into some of the people who made it all happen.

Punch gave this to me at the 50th trail anniversary and I now share it with you. Download have a have a peek.

Merry Christmas, Bruce


Sunday, November 17, 2013

When you're 17. . .

Doug Abra introduces Punch Jackson at the 50th trail anniversary banquet at Camp Stephens on Aug. 31.

Grant Platts presents paintings by Susan Mitchell to Punch and Lynda MacIntosh. 

Video by Don Thompson. Unfortunately, Don's camera ran out of memory, which explains the abrupt ending.

If anyone else took video that weekend, please contact me.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Refinished floor in lodge - No shoes!


A few days after the 50th trail reunion last Labour Day weekend the floor in Lount Lodge was sanded and refinished.

Camp Director Steve Allen shares these photos to show what it looked like before camp closed for the winter.

Steve says a large number of diseased Balsam Firs were taken down on the island as well. These pines trees have a nasty habit of essentially rotting in the inside and can come down in a wind.

Steve adds there's a plan to begin to reforest the island much like what was done over two summers in the late 1970s when we planted the Red Pines along the cabin line and in front of Sussex Hill. 

Plans are also in to the works to redo the foundation of the depot/workshop building and getting a start of replacing aging equipment in the dining hall kitchen.





Friday, October 4, 2013

Passages: Gord May


Gordon George May passed away September 30, 2013 with his loving family at his side. 


Gordon was born in Winnipeg on September 12, 1951 to the late George Oliver and Margaret Laura May. Gordon is survived by sisters Peggy Rislahti of Winnipeg, Shirley Curtis and husband Terry of Victoria B.C., and brother Ross May and wife Barbara of Cobble Hill B.C.

Gordon was an extra special Uncle to David Curtis and wife Tricia and children Callum and Nolan, Alan Curtis and wife Mia and children Rebecca and Nora, Colin Curtis and wife Kimberley and children Hannah and Dylan, Ainsley Pahl and husband Kevin and son Owen, and Kate Rislahti. 

Also surviving Gordon is his Uncle John and Aunt Laurel Fosness and cousins Patty Fosness, Nancy and Connell Gallagher, and Joan Bjornson. 

Gordon attended school in Winnipeg and then the University of Alberta, graduating in 1979 with a Degree in Recreation Administration. 

Gordon worked for the Government of Alberta in Edmonton for many years and then the Coaches Association of B.C. as Executive Director in Vancouver. 


Gord May and Neil Robinson at 50th Trail Reunion


In 2012 Gordon moved to Victoria to be closer to family. 

Gordon received the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2012 for his commitment to the community. He had volunteered with the Special Olympics for many years. 

His other interests included travelling, woodworking, acting, and, most recently, painting. 

Gordon loved the outdoors having spent almost every summer at the cottage at Falcon Lake MB and, as a teenager, at the Y's Camp Stephens on Lake of the Woods. 

He enjoyed golfing, sailing, skiing, rugby and hiking. Gordon valued his many friends and always made an effort to keep in touch with people he met throughout his life. 

He in turn was loved and respected by many life-long friends including Chuck and Gabbie Morgan, Margot Ross Graham and Punch Jackson. 

The family would like to thank Dr. Savage and Cathy Paul at the B.C. Cancer Trial Drug Program in Vancouver for giving Gordon two extra years of life to enjoy. Also thanks to the compassionate nurses and doctors at Victoria's Royal Jubilee Hospital on 4 South. 

A Memorial Service will be held on Monday, October 7 at 1 p.m. at McCall's Downtown, Johnson and Vancouver Streets, in Victoria B.C. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the B.C. Cancer Agency or to the YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. 

Condolences may be offered to the family at www.mccallbros.com

Published in The Times Colonist

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Birch Bark Canoe Part II

Punch Jackson and Jim King ponder the canoe

During the recent 50th Trail reunion at Camp Stephens, Jim King asked me what I knew about the birch bark canoe hanging in Lount Lodge.

I told him what I thought I knew, and what Punch Jackson had told me a couple of years ago.

You can see my original post about the history of the canoe here.

King furrowed his brows. He's a man of few words even when he's talking, and said he wasn't so sure about what I had told him.

Little did I know.

A while later King cornered Jackson and said he wanted to talk about the canoe hanging in Lount Lodge.




He also wanted to see it. Up close. Les Robinson volunteered to get a ladder.

It took a few minutes, and King soon scampered up the ladder armed with my iPhone.




Here's the story.

In the late 1960s Jackson and Kirk Wipper (again, read the original blog) made a deal that the original birch bark canoe would find a home in the then fledgling Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterbrough, Ont.

In exchange, Camp Stephens would get another birch bark canoe and templates to make kayaks.

Enter Jim King. This was just before he took out the first six-week trip in 1969. More on that here.

King was dispatched to Ottawa to fetch the new canoe to bring back to Camp Stephens. He tied it to the roof of his parent's old car--he had inherited it--and drove back to Kenora.

It would eventually be hung in the dining hall when it stayed until it moved over to the lodge.

I always was thought the canoe was more of a decoration and was never meant to touch water.

Wrong. King says it was made to paddle.

A few people at camp even took it around the bay before it found its home in the dining hall.

King says the canoe he brought back from Ottawa had a special webbing that would allow it to be safely paddled. 

To be sure the canoe in the lodge was that same canoe, King went up the ladder to see if it indeed had that webbing.

As you can see from the pictures he took, it does.





It's the same canoe.

While it's in relatively good shape for a hand-made canoe pushing 50, King says there's evidence insects have gotten inside of it. The canoe will need some type of protection so that it sees another 50 years.

King also says he remembered paying $150 to bring the canoe to camp.

What he couldn't remember is whether he submitted a receipt to the Y for reimbursement.

Camp never did get the kayak templates.

-Bruce






Friday, September 6, 2013

Camp Stephens 50th Trail Anniversary 2013



Don Thompson shares these photos and words on the trail reunion at Camp Stephens on the Labour Day Weekend.

Just click the link below to watch his slideshow: 

http://photoshare.shaw.ca/view/12759428870-1378404976-79046/127594/


To download photos, click on "Browse Photos".


Don Thompson and Kate Paterson

Memories of Camp Stephens 50th Wilderness Trail Reunion August 29 – September 01, 2013

Although I never went out as a Trail member post 1963, I was on the Trail with Punch prior to that in 61-62. I started as a camper at Stephens in 1957 – or thereabouts as best as I can recall….where is Abes when you need him????

I was one of those old guys sitting on the chairs in the back of chapel Sunday morning (the floor is easy to get to – it’s just gotten harder to get up from over the years…..)

As we all enjoyed the discussions about legacy, I realized that although over the years the words of our experiences have changed, the common human experience that bonds us is still the same.

In my/our day, way back when, we were taught/shared the Emblem Rock trilogy of Spirit, Mind,  Body. We believed in the motto “I’m Third”, which means God is first, the other fellow is second, and I’m third. I think the current motto of Respect, Caring and Responsibility means the same.

What I saw, heard and felt is that all folks who “ventured down the trail” through the years gained and share the same common human experience. We all came to camp because we wanted to – or perhaps our parents wanted us to – for various reasons – but we all had fun, made friends, gained some self -confidence, enjoyed nature – and most of us wanted to come back again.

Those of us who came back and hit the trail enjoyed the added advantage of experiencing a closer connection with nature, a sense of survival and pioneering. We learned to trust one another (sometimes with life and death situations) as a special family unit that survived through thick and thin (and wind and water)…… we had to grow up a little on each trail trip. We gained in self-confidence. We grew stronger physically, mentally and emotionally (well most of us did..) we achieved a “right of passage” of sorts, that I still cannot adequately describe -  a wonderful sense of satisfaction and of belonging – maybe for me it was that I realized I am a meaningful part of society and the universe (wow this is getting scary and too heady for me…….. fun actually).

I was particularly impressed with the number of women at this great weekend event. I had not realized over the years how large and meaningful this program has become for the young women in our community. I commend, admire and respect you all – Tuck – you are a legacy unto yourself! Congratulations and Thanks for a job well done!

I noticed some similarities and changes with Punch and I too…….. we have both put on a few pounds and a little grey hair (changes). When we were on the trail Punch was always steering and I was in the bow. This weekend Punch was driving the car and I was riding shot gun – I was still listening and he was still doing all the talking…………(similarities). He is a great layer of seeds for the mind and food for thought.

Punch – my great friend for many decades – You too are a legacy. Thank you for your passion, dedication and love of camping and The Trail. What you have created will out- ive all of us. 

We will never see all the great good that will come to this world from what was …..simply your 17 year old dream. I am proud to know you and to enjoy our friendship – thank you for all you continue to do!


Don Thompson

Monday, September 2, 2013

So here's to you. . .

Ted Spear


So here's to you my ramblin' boy

May all your rambling bring you joy

So here's to you my ramblin' boy

May all your rambling bring you joy.

-- A Tom Paxton song sung by Ted Spear


This was just one of many special moments for me this past weekend at camp. 

There were others. Learning the truth about the canoe that hangs in Lount Lodge. A walk with an old friend to Chief's Point. The   rekindled memories. Watching people reconnect. Seeing all the little kids and their parents chasing after them. Garrett's video at banquet. The camp song after brunch the next day. Polar Bear. My list goes on.

Most of all I enjoyed the mix of young and old. Age and the years between didn't separate us. Nor should it.

Thanks for coming. Thanks for being there. 

Thanks to Camp Stephens for being such wonderful hosts. You nailed it guys.

Thanks to Tuck and Punch.

And Susan for her paintings.

Thanks to everyone who showed up at meetings over the past couple of years at the ANAF and the legislative building's boardroom. You guys nailed it, too.

Thanks to Grant, the glue that holds it all together.

The next event we can participate in happens Oct. 6 at the West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg.

Of everything, it's the most important, and the reason we started this thing in the first place. See you soon.

-- Bruce