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 so that we can update our list as we prepare to mark the 125th anniversary of the Camp Stephens in 2016.

The 125th celebration is July 30 - 31, 2016, which is the Saturday and Sunday of the August long weekend.

If you have an idea for a blog entry or wish to contribute other material like letters, recipes, diary entries, trip maps. . .send them my way.

If any links are broken, please tell me.

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Camp boats: Old and new

The good thing about Camp Stephens is that it's on an island.

The bad thing about Camp Stephens is that it's on an island.

In other words, it's its own little world, but you've got to get there. Plus you've got to haul in all that food and lumber and mattresses and paddles whatever else camp needs when it's in session.

Perhaps the most versatile camp boat was the historic Argyle II - a privately-owned tour boat hired by the Y at the beginning and end of each session until the mid-1970s, when the boat was sold to private interests and converted into a cottage.

Over the years it deteriorated and was to be scuttled in September 2007. There are local plans to rebuild it.

Argyle II pulling away from the swim dock in the mid to late 1970s.

Click here to see a full album of camp boats over the generations.

Campers and staff could all get on the Argyle II to get to and from camp. The seven-mile one-way trip took about one hour. Camp's faster boats were outboards mostly used to haul garbage into Kenora or to zip around during sailing to help campers find the wind.

(We used to used to take the Johnson 40 to go water skiing at Scotty's, but that was a long time ago and that would never happen now with camp's fleet of swanky Mercury outboards. Ever, ever, ever.)

There was also the old I/O which served its purpose well as a maintenance boat until it caught fire in Kenora harbour.

The point is, the boats used over the past 124 years are as much a part of camp history than anything else. It's always been a challenge getting to the island, and it's always been a challenge maintaining the boats that camp owned.

The challenge is even greater now. The engines the camp boats use need a lot of specialized care. There are also restrictions on how many campers each boat can carry to and from camp. That means they burn a lot of fuel running back and forth from Kenora.

Why do I know this?

Because Burton Tutt (Boryen) told me over breakfast one day.

Burton has contributed a lot to Camp Stephens over the past 35 years or so, like Lount Lodge and the bathroom and shower facilities to name just two.

Now he has a new assignment, which, typically, he assigned himself.

With the Y's blessing, Burton is exploring the possibility of Camp Stephens "acquiring" a new camp boat, one that he believes would be more fitting to the ethos or character of camp than its flotilla of bare-bone Boston whalers. 

For Burton, camp begins when you get off the bus and get on to the boat, and it ends when you get off the boat at the end of session. In other words, the boat ride ride to and from Copeland Island should be as much about camp as early-morning polar bear swim and late-night cabin camp fires.

For Burton, what happens now for campers is just a quick-turn-around shuttle service. It's fleeting. It's noisy. It's uncomfortable. And it's crummy if it's raining. Getting in and out of the boats at dock isn't easy for anyone, especially little children.

So, Burton is busy talking to Transport Canada about the legal requirements for camp to own and operate its own boat. And there are many. 

Right now he's just doing the research, just seeing what might be possible, what might be affordable, what kind of boats might fit the bill, what might be better than camp's current taxi service.

There is also a possibility (I've underlined that word to stress it) that if he finds something out there that camp could use, he might even build it. 

Which would not be out of character.

The Y's Man at the old camp main dock with George Cooke 1958 or 1959, with Rudy Danzinger and George Cooke in background.

The Neaniskos at dock in Kenora in 1913.

Building the new main dock off the dining hall.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A dream job

Paul Schram and Hadley Burns have been hired by Path of the Paddle to spend 10 weeks canoeing from Thunder Bay, Ont., to Jessica Lake in the Whiteshell, sharing their experiences along the way. Photo by Phil Hossack/Winnipeg Free Press

Paul Schram and Hadley Burns might want to pack a horseshoe and rabbit's foot along with their freeze-dried pineapple and tent to prolong their good luck.

The University of Winnipeg education students landed a summer job most outdoorsy people could only dream about -- paddling a canoe from Thunder Bay, Ont., to Jessica Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park in 10 weeks.

The pair have been hired by Path of the Paddle as trail ambassadors for the canoe-based section of the Trans Canada Trail, which is about 1,000 kilometres long. They plan to launch their canoe in Thunder Bay June 18.

Path of the Paddle is an Ontario-based organization that promotes canoe and kayak routes in northwestern Ontario.

"Our job is to paddle this trail throughout the course of the summer and promote it," Schram said Tuesday. "It's not as remote as what we've done in the past. It's a lot more accessible. But there are a lot of portages. I think we have between 200 and 300 portages on this trip."

Schram, 23, and Burns, 24, are graduates of the YMCA-YWCA's Camp Stephens Wilderness Program. Last summer, each led six-week canoe trips for young men and women.

The route they're paddling is fairly well-established, with campsites and portage routes, compared with canoe trips they've taken on more remote rivers in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

It's the national canoe route of Canada's Trans Canada Trail and there is no land-based trail to hike. It has been dedicated to Canada's First Nations and canoeing icon Bill Mason, and covers 1,000 kilometres starting at Thunder Bay. It follows the Pigeon River and the Gunflint Route to Quetico Wilderness Park and then Atikokan. It then follows the Turtle River waterway system to Dryden through to Kenora, Ont., and finishes along the Winnipeg River system at Jessica Lake.

The route Burns and Schram will be paddling. You can also find maps of specific sections of the route on Path of the Paddle's website. The maps were created by Hap Wilson
They're starting the voyage with 30 days worth of food packed, with planned food pickups in Atikokan, Dryden and Kenora.

Burns said they will use a lightweight Souris River canoe for the trip.

"It sounds kind of intimidating, but when we go to pack it really won't be that much," Burns said. "We're just packing for two."

She said they're experimenting with the menu.

"We've been dehydrating tons of food for the past week," she said. "We've dehydrated tons of pineapple. Another thing we've been able to purchase is a ton of protein bars. We're also taking a lot of protein powder just to supplement being out that long."

Burns said they will be able to take time to explore their surroundings, such as searching out indigenous rock paintings.

"Part of it will be taking the time to appreciate what's around us," she said.

"It will be a new experience for me compared to past trips from Camp Stephens," Schram said. "It's a neat opportunity to see a lot of areas we haven't paddled before. We'll be running into a lot of people along the way, and I think sharing stories and getting to know people out there is something we haven't experienced as much, and something we're both looking forward to."

Schram and Burns will share what they are seeing and experiencing along the way. They will use Spot Connect to obtain satellite service for their smartphones so they can update Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on their progress. They'll also take photographs and shoot video.

Fore more information on the trip, visit: Path of the Paddle

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 26, 2015 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bill Alldritt and camp in 1914

Bill Alldritt doesn't strike you as a man who liked to sit still.

William Alldritt in 1910
Alldritt in 1932

He was the director, or manager as it was known then, of Camp Stephens just before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

For Alldritt, camp was as big of deal then as it is now.

His story is shared by his grandson Robert. (The Manitoba Historical Society has a brief biography of Bill Alldritt on its website: Memorable Manitobans: William Alexander "Bill" Alldritt (1881-1933)).

"While not a Camp Stephens alumnus myself, it appears that my grandfather William A. Alldritt was camp manager 100 years ago," Robert said in a recent email.

"While doing some research on his World War I involvement, I have come across some cards and some photographs of teams he coached at the Winnipeg Y. I'm not sure if any of the teams were based out of the camp.  

"We have a couple letters from him from the camp dated August 1914, talking about the outbreak of the war," Robert added. "Apparently he was a regular around the Winnipeg Y and was most notably manager of the Winnipeg Toilers basketball team which won national championships in 1926, 1927 and 1932."

The Toilers, which played out of the downtown Y, were at that time almost as famous to Winnipeggers as the NHL Winnipeg Jets are today.

In 1933, the year Alldritt died, the team was flying back to the city after playing in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The plane crashed on the way home, killing two players and injuring others. Hugh Pennwarden, son of one of the survivors tells his father's story in this video directed by Kevin Nikkel:

Robert Alldritt also sent several photos and documents of his grandfather's time at camp. (To view and read, click to insease size).

"It might be neat to use some of these for the 125th anniversary of the camp," he said.

"I have also included the full application form (posted below; it was a double-sided, fold-out) and a camp postcard from Alldritt to his sister Ethel in August 1914, saying 'war news has us all excited.'

"It's interesting it is addressed to her care of the Winnipeg YWCA.  I also have a brief letter that he wrote to Ethel from Camp Stephens about the same time. It's rather mundane as he suggests what she should do with the family house, implying that he will soon be heading overseas I believe.

"I have also attached a couple more photographs - swimmers on the dock (untitled, but perhaps at Camp Stephens) and some rather smug looking Y athletes. I wonder if the 'K' emblem (on jerseys and ball) might mean Kenora?  I have also attached a team photograph noted on the back as 'International and National Hexathlon Champions March 1928'. This was probably taken at the Winnipeg Y.  

William Alldritt is in the centre wearing sweater.

William Alldritt is in the second row, second from the right.

"In the end, the Y did not send him to the war. He enlisted himself in late September 1914 and was mobilized at Valcartier Quebec," Robert said. "There are some notes that he turned down an officer's commission (he was 33 and a veteran of the South African-2nd Boer War) in order to fight alongside the men he had coached at the Y."

Alldritt was later among the scores of Canadian soldiers injured in German gas attacks in the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915.

Alfred "Davey" David, the former camp cook, also saw action in WWI at Ypres, and was also gassed and captured. His story is HERE.

Robert said he was at first reported killed in action, but later confirmed to have been captured by the Germans.  He remained a prisoner from April 25, 1915 until the end of the war in 1918.

"In his own words, he was 'persistently unlucky' in his escape attempts," Robert said.

Robert also sent the full application for Camp Stephens when his grandfather was manager before the war, and a photo of the camp boat Neaniskos, a 69-foot, gasoline-powered, 45-horse-power launch.

 What's unkown is whether he returned to camp after the war's end.

Photographer was Carl Linde, known for his early images depicting Lake of the Woods

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas at 'Home'

I stop and roll my shoulders to ease the growing ache, thinking, ‘I’m getting too old for this.’ 

Peering through the fog of my breath, I look back on the tracks of my skis that disappear around the corner of the swim dock at BB. It’s hard to reconcile this view with the rolling waves and bone-jarring bounce of the Hi-Techs in summer. The silence is overwhelming. The peace of the moment is profound.

Imagine, if you can, standing on the rock-hard frozen surface of the bay, about a hundred yards out from the campus, Emblem Rock draped in a stole of snow on your left, the dining hall, deck and front dock , all covered with a pristine blanket of snow on your right, and ahead, Lount Lodge. In summer it’s an impressive log edifice. In the icy silence of winter it morphs into a snow-capped cathedral. This place of boisterous fun becomes a basilica, almost a place of worship.

The island, a few days before Christmas, has settled itself for a well-deserved rest. 

Snow covers the scars of the past season of camp when the assault of a thousand young feet wore down its paths and the exuberant shouts of youthful play still echo quietly in the pine tops. I hesitantly break the bond of snow and soil with my tracks and explore Copeland at peace. 

A closer inspection of the hall and lodge shows how long icicles have descended from the eaves where the sun has managed to have a moment of sway and melt the snow cap. Following down the  line, the empty cabins silently stare out through the bare trees toward Patton. I know each one by heart and ignore the new names. ‘The old shall not pass away until we do,’ I think with a touch of loss. 

Tracking on past St. Juliens I follow the rise to Raspberry Rock and pause to gaze out on the mighty Manitou Stretch. Below is little Ball Island, frozen in a sea of ice. Little Peanut is invisible. Up here the wind is free to clear the snow from the rock. I pull my collar tighter and turn down toward the log cabin and chapel. 

I’m old enough, getting to ancient, so I remember Davey on a summer Sunday morning sitting on the big rock at the side of the chapel, a wreath of pipe smoke around his head as he listens to the boys intone a favourite hymn. I still sense his presence, just as I know the presence of the Carpenter from Nazareth abides in this place. 

Back along the path to the campus I pass the boathouse and depot. No-one is preparing a trip on this chilly day, but there is a feeling of anticipation of paddles pulling through still waters and soft nights around a campfire. My tour is nearing its end.

Preparing for the long trek back to old Fishmarket and Kenora I enjoy one last savouring of Stephens in winter. Strange, but perhaps not for me, my thoughts are of a gracious God who has blessed us all with this place, these memories, these faces and voices of friends. 

Im ‘home.’ Thank you, Lord.

Hal Studholme, December 2014

Camp in winter

Dining hall renovation and new dock construction

High rise #1

The Jeep and old rec hall

Back of the old dining hall
Cabin line

Lount Lodge Nov. 1980

Lount Lodge January 1982

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Knowing the spirit

I have been reading the many messages sent by friends of Brent Cuthbertson over the past several days. 

They have touched me deeply.

Brent was one of those fortunate enough to have come after “the “Studholme Era” at Stephens. 

Regardless, I came to know of his exploits and contributions to camp from many sources. 

‘Chase,’ as he came to be dubbed, had all the special qualities that we have all come to recognise as the hallmarks of a true member of the ‘tribe:’……energy and dedication to the campers under his wing, loyalty to his fellow staff, skillful in the arts required of the job and above all, an understanding of the spirit with which Camp Stephens is endowed, that all of us have worth that should be acknowledged, respected and fostered.  

In my day we called it I’M THIRD.

We once had a special ‘society’ at camp called ‘Order of the Falcon’ that recognised those qualities and honoured the holder. I nominate Chase for Order of the Falcon, and if I may, I would add one other name to that group who passed away Gord May.

Two guys who have made us all proud to be part of Stephens.

There are probably others who should also be so recognised. Perhaps time we gave the Order a posthumous revival in their honour.  

Hal Studholme
CS 1960-65

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Familiar faces

More than a year ago I got an email out of the blue from a writer in Britain basically asking if she could have Kelly Hardwick.

Or more accurately, a photo of him:

Dear Mr Owen and/or somebody in Alumni/Archives at Camp Stephens:
I found your article on the Camp Stephen's web page from 2008 re: Kelly Hardwick's Left Hand. 
There is a photograph accompanying the story of Dr Hardwick etc. in a canoe on the river. 
The reason I am writing is because I have authored a book which will be published by Seren Press in the United Kingdom next Spring 2014 and I would absolutely love to reproduce with permission from Dr Hardwick, The Camp Stephens archive, and the photographer, to use the photo as the cover for the book.
It is a full-length text, fiction, about kids on the Susquehanna River in southeast Pennsylvania, USA in the mid-1970s.
If you could please let me know if it would be possible to obtain permission/rights/release to use the photograph I would be very grateful. 
Thank you very much.
Sincerely Yours,

Karen Fielding

This is the photo she spotted while reading this blog, specifically this 2010 post: The Left Hand of Kelly Hardwick. It's the story of what happened to him during the 1976 six-week trip as told by him and the other participants.

I replied to Fielding:

Are you sure it's the same Kelly Hardwick?

Her reply: 

I think so.

She sent me the photo from the blog and I identified the two people in the centre of the photo; Kelly Hardwick walking a canoe with an injured John Maclean seated inside.

The photo was taken by tripper Neil Robinson, so I replied to Fielding he was the best person to ask for permission.

Thanks so much!  I shall try to contact him. 

P.S.  i went to summer camp in the pocono mountains in pennsylvania and used to go on overnight canoe trips down the delaware river...but six weeks on the river? -- canadians are amazing!!

Neil gave permission (obviously).

Fielding replied:

Your wonderful photo really captures the essence and spirit of the time.  And of course you would be given the photo credit...!!

I read the story online and was really amazed, actually.  Kelly must have been in excruciating pain. And far from the world except probably bears that would like you for a tasty snack. 

Now that the book is published, Robinson says in a recent email he and Hardwick are arranging a get-together.

Kelly and I are trying to get together as I have a copy of the book for him. Apparently, I am now acting as his agent for all present and future engagements.

American Sycamore is available online at Goodreads and Amazon.

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

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.


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.