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Camp Kawanhee
A Memory Book

The Beginnings of Camp Kawanhee

Here is a brief account from the reminiscences about the first decade or two of Camp Kawanhee by George R. Frank and a few campers of that era.

On their sixty acres during the summers of 1918, 1919, and 1920, the Frank Brothers with the assistance of "Wildcat" Schofield from Weld, began building the physical structure of their dream. The three-story Main Lodge with living quarters on the third floor and the Eagle and Falcon Lodges, which, incidentally, were destroyed by the 1977 fire, were completed for their first summer in 1921. There were sixteen boys, twelve from the east and four from the west. The camp grew quickly to forty boys by the mid-twenties to eighty by the end of the decade.

Of critical importance to the success of the camp was the intellectual, moral and above all, the commitment of the Frank Brothers to the wholesome development of young men. The vision, mission and goal statements of the camp evolved from their understanding of the needs and wants of boys and the exceptional staff leadership that they attracted. Their ability to listen and benefit from the critical remarks of the boys and men would guarantee a bright future for the camp. George ('21-'77) took responsibility for the waterfront including boating, sailing, and aquatics as well as the shop and the range. While Raymond ('21-'66) along with keeping track of the finances was responsible for general athletics, basketball, tennis, campfires and the Sunday services. His musical ability and enthusiastic direction lent much to the campfires. G .R., also, designed Kawanhee's buildings since he had recently taken a course in architectural design at Columbia University. Maintenance of the camp was no problem with the Frank Brothers' dad, Charles W. Frank, known to the campers as Pop Frank ('22-'32), providing the needed repairs in those early days.

The first summer initiated the long leadership role of Harry C. Marshall ('21-'56) as Director of Activities. His creative ideas made a lasting imprint on Kawanhee's destiny. He conceived of the camp emblems to be earned by boys classified in different size and weight categories (later ages) beginning with Midget, Junior B, Junior A, Senior B and Senior A. This predated the level program, but did include a point system of camp honors built on the Maroon and Grey teams. Also, Cup Awards were instituted by 1923 in such areas as Highest Point Winner, Greatest Physical Improvement, and Most Helpful Boy in camp. The "Chief', as everybody called him, had had two years experience at another camp just before coming to Kawanhee where he gained experience in identifying and scheduling camp activities.

From the start there was the Athletic House, housing the camp's athletic equipment in what was the original building on the Frank property at the time it was purchased, and what became in 1926 the counselor's quarters of the Deer Lodge. The second year saw the opening of the rifle range as well as the completion of the Panther, Birch, Beaver and Moose Lodges. There was by that year, also, the boathouse, garage and shop combined in what was to become known by 1928 as the Crow's Nest. The parents of these boys found what they wanted in this eight-week camp in Maine and their response was so great that it took well into the twenties to catch up to them in facilities, equipment and program. The Frank Brothers were referring to 360 acres of camp by the end of the 1920's. The standard tuition for such an experience began at $300.00 remaining that amount into the '40's with modest discounts during the depths of the depression in the early 30's. Providing such a quality program and equipping a camp of this size required much planning, personnel, and no little means of funding as it does today. The 1924 camp catalog already boasts of "the 'Pete', the fastest pleasure craft on the lake" for aquaplaning. Also, it mentions chemical toilets having been installed in a new building completed before the 1923 season. Could this have been the original "fort"? In addition the catalog has a picture of the fIrst bouncing buggy which must have been essential to bring the counselors and boys from the Wilton train station over the dirt road through Weld to camp which has been graphically recorded on film. The Pole Cat and Deer Lodges were added to the other six in 1924 and by 1927 the Lynx and Wild Cat Lodges provide additional space for the growing number of boys.

Here are a few excerpts from interviews of a few early campers who eventually became junior and/or senior counselors during the 20's and 30's.

Raef Marshall ('21-'34) recalls seeing his dad, H.C. Marshall, engineer compromises in the early days between the young Frank Brothers who sometimes saw issues from opposite perspectives. Caring for the horses and instructing in horseback riding was his main interest as a counselor.

Jim Kurtz ('21-'31) as a seven year old was in the Eagle Lodge when that age group were referred to as "the Midgets". One day Mike Pepe('22-'26, '62) ,who later coached Ohio State University swimming championships, was in charge of boxing and had a session with the midgets. Jim remembers one young lad his age mentioning to another that "he would not hit hard if the other guy did not hit hard". Jim recalls his counselor, Max Savelle ('21-'26), carrying him on his shoulders out to the Saturday night campfire. This was before the showers in the fort, so they had fun going to Sunday Beach for their weekly sudsing before church. Tennis was his interest as an older camper and junior counselor. A concluding comment was "I wouldn't have missed it [his camp experience] for the world."

David A. Miller ('26-'32, '34,'35) pointed out that George and Raymond Frank were so different, yet so similar in their philosophy of how to run a boys camp. He realized even as a young camper that camp was something special; the standards were so high of cleanliness, disciplinary rules good and sensible, yet not ironclad. It was a relaxed, but highly structured place. "There was this melding of the eastern and mid-western groups that was interesting because you did not have contact with them the other ten months of the year, but you hoped they would return the next summer." He remembers Ross (Dean) Miller ('25-'64) introducing him to Victor Hugo's Les Miserable during story-telling evenings in the Rec Hall. Fixed in his memory was Fred Heimberger ('27-'67), who became a vice-president at Ohio State University, overseeing waterfront activities and. calling out following the bell for swimming "Hurray!, Hurray! Hurray! as he strolled through camp.

Read Murphy ('29, '30,'34, '36, '40-'43) reminds us of how impressive the vesper's services out at Bass Rock were to him with Ross Miller giving the talks. Maud and Bert Carlson were the cooks before Emma and Lawrence Briggs. Ma Frank was a great force in the camp especially for a little guy away from home. Read remembers helping to build Ma Franks cabin in the mid-thirties. He remembered the coming of the chief with Raymond calling out, "Oh! Kawanhee, Oh! Kawanhee," and the chief H.C. Marshall responding "I hear you, I hear you." Whitney Murphy ('26-'36) was very popular and worked in dramatics with the shows on Friday nights. Dr. Carl Elmore, whom he also knew back in Englewood, New Jersey, was a great influence on him. Bob Cory ('26-'29,'35,'36,'44) remembers the great time he had trout fishing at Tim Pond. He mentioned in his interview Mac Henney in sailing and how impressive the war canoes were. Fixed in his mind was climbing Mt. Tumbledown when one of his buddies got stuck In "Fats Man Misery". In his first year in the Birch Lodge he built a lean-to type cabin with Pete Schofield beyond Sunday Beach.


Camp Kawanhee Catalogs 1921-1940.
G.R. Frank's account books covering the years 1925-1940.
Audiotape interview-G.R. Frank, April, 1977.
Audiotape interview-Bob Cory, August, 1984.
Audiotape interview-David S. Miller, August, 1987.
Audiotape interview-Jim Kurtz, June, 1992.
Audiotape interview-Read Murphy, August, 1999.

Ed Hamblin Camper/Counselor 44-50,54,56,58-61 Boating, Camp Store, Wigwam, Camp Historian After many educational posts, I retired as a professor from the University of Connecticut in 1991. I have been visiting the Kawanhee Inn since 1975 and have spent countless hours collecting and working with my extensive Kawanhee archieve.