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 of camp alumni.

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.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Alfred David Goes To War (updated Dec.5)

Posted here is Alfred David's Attestation Paper. (scroll down).

When World War I broke out in 1914, Canadian men who signed up to fight in France filled out an attestation paper.

Don Cochrane found it during some research he was doing online about his own family.

I've ordered a copy of Davey's military record from Veterans Affairs and will post it here where I get it. In past experience, that will take several weeks if not months.

Also posted below is Davey's 1919 military service discharge certificate and his 1962 obituary notice in the Winnipeg Free Press. Both say he was a prisoner of war. 

Attestation Paper
David served with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in France and Belgium. It appears he was captured by the Germans after serving about three months on the Western Front and was a POW for almost the entire duration of the war. The war ended in 1918. 

Also posted below is a front page photo of Davey in the Winnipeg Free Press during his last summer at camp in 1961.

Attestation Paper page 2

Alfred David's obituary notice (fifth one down on the left)

Alfred David's last summer at camp

Davey in the his kitchen

Discharge certificate


Camp cook Alfred David
 In the meantime, if you haven't seen it, here are some photos and video of Davey I posted earlier: Davey.

"A Living Tradition"

"I'll be going down to camp as long I am able to carry on."

This was written sometime in the early 1950s. Davey's last summer at camp was 1961. I believe this article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press. The reporter, Clell Bryant, would later be posted at the London bureau of the Montreal Gazette and later become the editor of Time Canada.

Bryant's story refers to Davey's 1947 trip paid for by some of his "boys". I've posted another newspaper article (I Write What I See) that details that trip.

Below is a second article by Bryant he wrote in July 1951 after a visit to Camp Stephens.

"High point of the season is Little Chief's Day, when most of the staff leaves the island and the boys run the camp."



The kids have been back in school for a couple months and the new program season is up and running at all Winnipeg YMCA-YWCA branches. Be sure to pick up a current program schedule of activities and times at the membership desk if you haven't done so already.


An Exciting New Look Emerging
After a summer of renovations that, at times, provided a tad of frustration for members and staff alike, things are moving toward completion with completely revamped main floor Men's and Women's locker and shower rooms. The final result is promising to be well worth the wait! MORE


Fundraising Campaign Kicks Off with Early Success
Even before the official start of the campaign, key donors came forward to give the projects at Camp Stephens and Camp Y a head start. MORE

Camp Stephens Sept. 2010

A Great Season at Camp Stephens; and Camp Y Begins Services
Canada's oldest resident camp completed its 119th season providing exciting challenges and adventures to over 1,100 youth. Camp Y completed initial renovations and opened operations for the first time this summer. MORE


The Busiest Place in the North End
Although it only opened its doors in October of last year, the North Y Youth Centre, partner in the Win Gardner Place has been responding to the excitement of hundreds of youngsters eager to try out its features and programs. MORE

Jack Mowat 

Jack Mowat - a Half Century of Volunteer Service Remembered
One of the Winnipeg YMCA-YWCA's longest serving volunteers passed away this spring at the age of 83 years. Few have served our youth programs with greater devotion. MORE


Women of Distinction Awards
Do you know an amazing woman or group of women? Nominate them for a Woman of Distinction Award. MORE

Save the Date - Annual General Meeting - Jan. 31, 2011

Friday, November 12, 2010

A camper's letter home August 1969

Another camp memory from Greg Gillis.

"Dear Mom, My pants fell came off"

"This letter looks like something Eeyore or a child on the verge of depression might have written, though I know Camp was the thing I looked forward to more than anything in my life," Gillis says. "I knew I should have paid more attention during Grace."

I Write What I See

In my job as a reporter with the Winnipeg Free Press I get to cross paths with a lot of fascinating people.

Doing this blog, it's the same, but with a twist.

Case in point: Lynda "Tuck" MacIntosh provided me a while with a number of photos and documents regarding the old camp cook Davey.

One caught my eye. It was a newspaper article written by Ron Poulton about Davey under the headline I Write What I See.

It appears it was written in 1947 and ran in the Winnipeg Tribune.

What got me curious was, who was Poulton? As it turned out, he was one of Canada's great newspaper men.

Here's his obit story as it ran in the Toronto Sun in 1993:

Newsman Poulton Dead At 77
The Toronto Sun
Wed. Nov. 17, 1993
Page: 42
Section: News

Ron Poulton was a writer's writer, a literary alchemist who turned mere words into gold.

The former Toronto Telegram columnist and Sun associate editor died aged 77 at his West Hill home Monday of natural causes, his wife of 48 years, Kay, by his side.

``He'd been enjoying his retirement years, his three grandchildren, reading history and gardening,'' the middle of three sons, Dana, said yesterday.

``He was a brilliant writer,'' said Sun editor John Downing. ``Each word was painted as a painter paints a brush stroke.''

Doug Creighton, a co-founder of the Sun ousted as CEO last year, remembered Poulton as a ``total pro.''

``He ran the bureau over in London for the Tely years ago,'' Creighton said from Edmonton, where he was promoting his new book, Sunburned. ``He was one of the best writers I've ever met.''

While at the Tely, he wrote The Paper Tyrant, a book on John Ross Robertson, founder of the Telegram.

He joined the Sun as associate editor two years after the demise of the Telegram. He is best remembered at the Sun for his 1976 book Life in a Word Factory, the history of the fledgling tabloid that turned Toronto on its ear.

History, however, remembers him as the wordsmith who covered the world for the Telegram.

He could move readers, such as he did in his 13-part series of Sir Winston Churchill's life and times or awe them with the tale of his 1961 visit to Hiroshima, Japan, site of the first atomic bomb attack.

Born in Moose Jaw, Sask., Poulton served with the Saskatoon Light Infantry during World War II, then with the Strathcona Horse Regiment before transferring to the Maple Leaf, the serviceman's newspaper.

The curious thing for me is how Poultan met Davey, and why he took the time to write this column. My only guess is because it was important to him just to tell the story.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Letter of Note

This is a letter written by Alex Owen to Alfred David on Dec. 28,1958. Owen was camp director 1953-54. 'Davey' started working at camp in 1920 as cook. His last summer was in 1961. He died that winter. 

Native Lore: In A Different Time

A while ago I asked former camp director Bill Owen to tell me about the Native Lore program at camp. There are several references to it in this blog. 

The Native Lore program is long gone, but more than 50 years ago it was as vital to camp programming as today's programming is now.
My first summer was in 1977 on Operations. One of our first jobs was to remove the old totem pole from the Council Ring. You can see it in one of these photos. It was rotten and in danger of falling down. The painted images and carvings on it were faded and worn.
There are now few reminders of the Native Lore program at camp. 
Bill Owen (no family relation to me, we think) explains its significance. - Bruce Owen

This is a photo from the Winnipeg Free Press July 24, 1952.
Caption: No, the smiling lad is not being scalped - but it's the nearest thing to it, Indian style. Warren Chafe, camper at YMCA's Camp Stephens for boys at Lake of the Woods, near Kenora, gets an "Iroquois" cut from Guy Kroft, of headquarters staff, as he prepares for Indian grand council, one of the features of the camp's activities. Don't worry mother, campers need parents' permission before getting one of these "exclusive" cuts!

The background on the prominence of the native Indian themes at both Camp Manitou and Camp Stephens goes back quite a few years. 
My first experience was as a first time camper at Stephens in 1940 or '41 and it became a part of a camp tradition at both Manitou and at Stephens until 1959 when I transferred to Vancouver. 
It may have continued with my successor (Stephens director) Ron Watson for a few more years. I was advised by Wray Yeomans (a legend in his own right at Manitou) and later by Bill Skinner (also a Manitou Director and later also of YMCA Camp Pala) that the Indian camp theme came to Manitou and Stephens from long-time camp directors from the west coast, Gordon Hearn and Charlie Forsythe
The Indian theme provided a great variety of fascinating program possibilities from an historical, legendary, inspirational and physically challenging perspective, even the camp directors were known as the "Camp Chief", and the theme carried on from there. 
Of course in today's overly-sensitive and "politically correct " situation such an emphasis might not be acceptable. This Indian theme was carried on, elaborated, enhanced and traditionalized by a succession of "Camp Chiefs", including Don Hills, Bill Skinner, Ross BannermanAlex Owen, myself and Ron Watson and others. 
It was the camp staff, counsellors, section directors and long time campers that enhanced the Indian theme over the years, and this theme resulted in many program spin-offs including an extensive crafts program, skits, story telling, sing songs, canoe challenges, fire building , tripping, the five island swim challenge, camp to Kenora swim, Indian games and the highlight Grand Council ceremony that was the final evening program at the end of each two week session. 
The photos (posted here) were taken at one of the Grand Councils, A little more about that later.
The Indian theme introduced the idea of the "friendship sticks " that campers created out of the rotted roots of the diamond willow shrubs that were prominent on the islands. The roots were peeled carved, sanded and campers were encouraged to print the names of cabin-mates and friends, varnish them several times to be lasting mementos. I bet some are still around in some Winnipeg basements. 
In later years trippers were encouraged to do the same on there trip paddle - augmented with an Indian design.  Mine is mounted on a wall at my cottage. 
The ultimate challenge that grew out of the Indian theme, and which for litigious reasons I suspect does not exist today, was the Stephens "Vigil " where a qualifying camper (canoe certificate, five island swim, canoe trip, fire skill, etc.) was challenged to leave the camp after dinner, canoe to one of the other islands (usually Patton) with a bed-roll, one orange and three matches. They had to beach the canoe, set -up camp, build and maintain a fire, and at about midnight and at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. was required to open an envelope and give a written answer to an enclosed question. Each required some thought about the universe, leadership, God, friendship and being alone. 
In the morning they had to pack up and be back at camp in time for flag raising. The H.Q. staff would read the responses and vote on the "passing" of the Vigil.
They almost always passed and in front of the total camp the camper was inducted into the "Camp Stephens Order of The Quest" and presented with a classy white feather, the connection to the Indian theme.
The Grand Council, on the last night of each two-week session, was held when it it was dark. The camp bell summoned the entire camp to the council ring (behind where Cleavis #2 is now). Campers with their counsellors were seated on logs around the fire pit. Not always, but in my day, I had two or three program staff wearing loin clothes and painted solid gold (the paint was augmented with green soap so that it coud easily be washed off in the lake). Two of them would hold a flaming torch a each side of the entrance path to the council ring and wide- eyed campers would pass through.
One of the main features of the Grand Council event was the lighting of the Pipe of Peace, which also centered on the elaborate lighting of the camp fire. The ceremonial lighting of the peace pipe, usually, but not always by the Camp Chief included what we believed were authentic Indian tribal language, phonetically as best as I can recall: "Mey nay-kayoonay-aws way . . .  maka eeway- (mother earth) noon way," It meant; This is a council of peace so now we light the pipe of peace. I don,t know where the Indian words came from or whether there is any authenticity, but I first heard them as an 8 year old camper at Stephens and it was just carried on from there.
The Camp Chief would, also in Indian dialect ("meta kolla nay hume po") welcomed every one and in circling the huge fire site (prepared earlier) would call upon the appropriate Indian spirit to light the magic fire. 
Earlier, we made a wick out of string cord and soaked and dried saltpeter which we could time how long it would take for the hidden wick to reach the bottom of the fire bed where we had earlier placed some kerosine and a little white gas. It was quite impressive, even magical to some. The evening followed by stories any one wanted to tell, some cabin challenges like Indian leg wrestling, and announcements of any special personal achievements of the day. Davey often attended.
The fire lighting added a little drama of course. Once I had George Alliston (our boatman) climb about 30-plus feet up a tree at the edge of the council ring where we had strong a very rigid heavy string from the tree to the bottom of the gas-laden fire, and we had a spool wrapped in a kerosene soaked rag and when the "Chief" called for the magic fire from the heavens. George would release the burning spool and it would fly to the fire pit and BOOM!
Yes, a little dramatic, but it added to the theme and was a hit with the campers. 
 A visiting Y staff from Mexico taught us how to do an impressive Indian Club drill,and he showed us how to make clubs out of tree branches and how to make a solid ball out of potato sacking attach these to the clubs, soak them in kerosene and we were able to get a small group of  staff and counsellors to perform an impressive synchronized Indian club display down by the waterfront.
As Camp Chief it was my responsibility with a silent canoe to check on each  Vigil for safety reasons and to be sure their canoe was properly beached and that the fire was tended until at least 3 a.m.
It was all worth it to see the campers response when he received his reward. Of course The Chief had a head dress and staff and campers completed the Grand Council with appropriate face paint.
Why am I burdening you with all of this ? You have your own stories, but, you did ask about the Indian theme that was the focus of the time. This likely more than anyone wanted to know,  but the fact is there is a lot more that could be told. 
Camp is very different today being co-ed and with certain overdue health and safety regulations. There are also so many new opportunities, better equipment, available funds and bright young leaders with skills and imagination.
I feel as good about Stephens today and the impact it can make on the lives of the children and youth who can take advantage of that great location on Lake of the Woods.
Bill Owen, Camp Director 1958-59

Davey awards camp badges with Camp Chief standing behind. The photo was taken, I believe, in the 1950s.

The Car On The Island

Jim Leggat's car summer of 1977
Recently I got a photo of this car parked outside the director's cabin. 

Like a lot of old photos, it brought back a bunch of memories long repressed in the back of my head.
It ended up on the island at the end the summer of 1977, my first year at camp. That year I mostly cleaned the toilets in the two High Rises. (It was my best job ever. I was so proud of myself when I was handed a $100 cheque at the end of the summer).
The car belonged to then camp director Jim Leggat.
Here's how it got to Camp Stephens, as told by some of the folks who pulled the caper:

Grant Platts:

Grant Platts
"We decided to have a little fun with Jim and bring his car out to the island," says Platts, who was camp director after Leggat.
"Burton (Tutt), Doug (Fraser), and I were definitely involved.  We also recruited Rod Cowtan (John's brother) who was the boatman that summer.  There may have been one or two others but I can't remember. 
"Burton arranged to get someone's barge from Kenora (It was Billy's barge-ed.) and we got a hold of Leggat's keys."

Eyewitness Jim Arthur:

Jim Arthur and Thomas, the bus
"Back then it was easy to get keys to someone's vehicle ...just say …'I need to do some running around; can I have your keys?' A promise to buy beer on the day off also helped.
"One night I do remember it being noted that a fair number of people had not shown up for evening java, not to mention any names but the initials were Burton Tutt and several others. In fact, they had not been seen since after supper. It was a particularly nasty night …. wavy, windy overcast… You get the picture…"


"Late one night we went into town, drove the car onto the barge and proceeded back to camp using the I/O (camp boat) as our motive power. 
"I remember it was a rather cold night and rainy - we had the car running to keep warm.  All was going well until we were stopped by an OPP patrol boat in the middle of the Devil's Gap channel.  They shone their big search light on us and came along side. In the ensuing excitement, the 'Dinse' (Doug Fraser) walked off the barge into the lake so we had to fish him out. 
"Of course the police wanted to know who's car was it, what we were doing in the middle of the night with it, if we had the owner's permission, why we didn't have proper running lights on, and other minor details.  Somehow we talked our way out of it and they let us go on our way (I think they made us turn on the car's four-way  flashers)."

Doug Fraser:
Doug Fraser

"Grant got everything right as far as I remember it," Fraser says. "I thought (Sailing director Commodore) Bob Colborne (Dave’s brother) was also in on the caper. I walked off the barge while we were being interrogated by the police because I was literally blinded by the searchlight. They did make us put the flashers on the car the rest of the way out to the island."


"Those involved in the caper has not taken into account, what happens when the OPP stop you (Hmmm, because they see a car on a barge on Lake of the Woods?) and you have to stop. in the Gap … where…. Oh…please sir, don’t make us crash into the shore ….and no sir, I don’t have the registration, but the owner does know I have it, honest. And you wonder why some camp staff have such large noses!
"Also, in the excitement, after putting the car into neutral so it could be rolled upon the barge …I guess someone forgot to put it back into park or put the emergency break on. And at one point (wind, waves) the car came very close to becoming an anchor."


"We arrived back at Stephens when it was still dark and offloaded the car by the sail dock.  We pushed it across the campus and past the director's cabin and got it down to McKinney's. We hid the barge behind King's Point.
"The next morning at breakfast we had Jim come outside and the car was driven up.  Jim did a great job of not appearing overly shocked - I think he just got in and drove it back to the director's cabin where that picture was taken.  We had to spend the rest of the day getting it back to Kenora."


"We staged a marriage ceremony that next morning for Jim and Karen and I thought we had confetti and everything. As they came out of the dining hall someone yelled 'Bring up the car' and the car drove up. Leggat did a fantastic job of taking it in stride – he jumped in the car with Karen and drove it to the director’s cabin."


"Anyway, the rumours abounded as to who is responsible and how did the car get onto the island. After much interrogation, it became clear that getting the car to the island was far more exciting and adventuresome than it being on the island."

What little I remember:

Burton was my 'counsellor' as he headed up Operations. Because Burton was busy, we didn't have much to do that day. So we stood near the sail dock as the barge was brought from its hiding place so the car could be loaded on it and taken safely back to Kenora.
Burton (now Boryen) backed it up onto the barge; two big planks were used to drive it up onto the barge. Burton was behind wheel and Doug provided guidance.
I remember Leggat watched from the shore in horror as it once or twice almost hit the water. He had to leave and go back to his cabin because it was so nerve-wracking for him to watch.
Once on the barge it headed back to Kenora no worse for wear.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bruce Allan "Rabbit" Robinson


BRUCE ALLAN ROBINSON On Sunday, October 31, 2010, our family and our city lost a leader, Bruce Robinson. With his family at his side, Bruce passed away peacefully at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.
Left to cherish their memories of this wonderful man are his wife Jane, son Brett, daughter Leigh (Dallas Wiebe), sister Judy, brothers Ross (Allana) and Neil (Cathy), Leigh and Brian Hilton, John and Orion Black, Jeff Woelki (Arlette), Amy Baizley (Darren Burkett), Carol and George Prosk, Don Atkinson and many cherished nieces and nephews.
He was predeceased by his wife Lynne, infant son Todd and his parents B.A. and Gerry Robinson.
Bruce led a full life and embraced everyone he met both personally and professionally. Through his high school years Bruce (AKA Rabbit ) spent every summer at YMCA Camp Stephens where he developed many life-long friends.
While attending the University of Manitoba, Bruce was active in fraternity life as member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. After graduation, Bruce began his career with Ford of Canada before joining his father and his brother Ross in the family firm, B.A. Robinson Co. Ltd. in 1971. After 25 successful years together Bruce incorporated Robinson Lighting Ltd. and along with Brett and Leigh established branches in Winnipeg, Burnaby, Kelowna, and Langley.
Bruce loved every moment at work with his children and their wonderful staff. Raised in a family that believed in giving back to the community, Bruce was very involved in Winnipeg. He served as President of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1992 and 1993 and spent 26 years as a Winnipeg Football Club Director. He was President of both The Manitoba Club (1999) and Winnipeg Executives Association (2001 to 2002).
Professionally Bruce served as Chair of the American Lighting Association in 1998 and in 2003 was inducted into the American Lighting Association's Hall of Fame , the first and only Canadian to be so honoured.
Bruce valued the friendships made through his years of curling at the Winter Club and golfing at Breezy Bend and St. Charles Country Club. He treasured his summers spent with his family at Granite Lake.
 A memorial service will be held on Friday, November 5 at 2:00 p.m. at Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster Ave. (Maryland and Westminster). In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in the name of Bruce Robinson to Liver Research at the Health Sciences Centre Foundation, MS1-820 Sherbrook Street, Winnipeg, MB R3A 1R9 or a charity of your choice. Bruce was an organ donor and we encourage everyone to join him and sign an organ donor card. THOMSON IN THE PARK 925-1120 Condolences may be sent to

(published Nov. 3, 2010 -Winnipeg Free Press)

"We lost a good friend long before he should have left us. Bruce impacted all of our lives in different ways but as Stubby (Brian Law) said the common bond between us was camp.
"He loved Stephens and the Y and everything they stood for. Obviously, they had impacted him in a positive way, more than we had imagined.

"I’m sure you would all agree that in his own way Bruce lived by the three words 'I’m Third.'"

Punch Jackson