Camp White Earth

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Below are a more thoughts and memories provided by Paul Whitney, Chip Peterson, and others:

1.   Hagbert and his draft-horse-team drawn wagon…. He helped the campers move into and out of the cabins. Hagbert cut ice in the winter and packed it in the ice house with saw dust. The kitchen cooks used the ice house as a walk-in refrigerator. I remember a huge northern pike caught through the ice, still alive, hanging in the ice house. 


2.   Craft Shop. Raw materials for projects were few and far between…. One could only make so many lanyards out of gimp.  Remember the big ol’ stone wheel to sharpen our hunting knives…


3.   First, second, and third class motor boat pilots. Same for sail boat skippers - and Archers - Bowman, Yeoman, etc.  The big Achievement Board was hanging on the wall in the Lodge.


4.   Bug juice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ham salad sandwiches for the Sunday eve meal. The ham salad was …..well, sometimes not so good…..personal opinion.


5.   The Catholic kids were driven to church on Sundays.  Everybody all dressed in white T-shirt and white pants…


6.   We read the Sunday paper in Pete's cabin.


7.    The "Lilly White Earth" news read by Tom Nelson in front of the campfire - we loved it. Weather forecast was always "Muggy" followed by Tuegy, Weggy,  and Thurgy.  Bob Adams writes:  The Lilly White Earth was already established when I was a camper, and the earliest writer/reader that I remember was Tom Nelson.  Although there were a variety of successors after Tom left, I basically took it over during the three years that I was counselor.  There was an accordian-like file in a room on the second floor of the lodge where I, and those before me, stored copies of the LWE.   During the camp's last summer, 1961, there were already strong hints that Coach and Pete had decided to sell the camp, but the official notice by letter did not come until that fall.  I don't remember if those forewarnings moved me to take that file home.  I do remember that I had a copy of the LWE with me at Beloit, but I have no recollection of ever having the complete file.  I have not run across it in my many moves and garage cleanings so I have to assume that it was left in the lodge.  What a pity - and too bad we didn't have computers then to back up files.  (These comments were in response to an inquiry made to locate Tom Nelson or past LWEs)  During my tenure as editor/writer, I always made a carbon copy for the file, and I have rich memories of sitting in that second floor room, typing the Lillie, on an ancient typewriter and looking out the window at the lake.  Usually if one's name appeared in the Lilly, it was for an event that the subject was not proud of but on the last night of camp at   the banquet, the Lilly included the name of everyone at camp…..that was always a bit of a challenge.

8.   Some of the "ner do wells" snuck over to Bowman’s Resort (across the Back Bay) for candy. Bowman always knew who we were and called Pete. He checked to make sure we made it back but we never got punished. There was another resort on the other side of the rifle range and ball field. Sometimes we would sneak over there for candy. What was the name of that resort?  (Sorry Paul, don’t remember that one.)


9.   We drove into to Detroit lakes for a "Summer Festival"….”The Water Carnival”.  They had these cranes in glass boxes that you could operate to pick up junky stuff that we just loved.


10. There was a "hermit" that lived on Schermerhorn Bay. We always thought he was "John Balongy" an escapee from the insane-asylum.


11. Coach would always "swim over" to his dip dock after the daily swim. It was a big deal to join Coach on the swim over.


12. We wrote our names and addresses on the ceiling of the Middle and Big Cabins but this was not allowed in the third "Little Cabin".  I wonder if they’re still there?


13. A large bell announced the start of the day, activities, dinner time, etc.


14. The out houses were called "The Jones"…..or “Mrs. Jones”.


15. The wash basins were called "bird baths". We always knew when one of the counselors had a date because he would be shaving with a #10 can of hot water at the birdbath.


16. There was always one or two counselors who could be regularly seen at the "Nurse's Cabin".


17. We made dreadful "bed rolls" for camp outs at the other end of the lake.


18. The large island at the other end of the lake was called 'Ant Island". There was a Girl Scout Camp on the other side of the island. We always wondered if they swam in the nude. (Paul has always been a dreamer)


19. The rifles had names. I always tried to get 'Olde Betsy". Coach usually ran the rifle range and would announce "bolts open" and "bolts closed". Coach had a plastic convex prism called the 'cheater" that could be used to determine the area of bullet penetration on closely scored targets.


20. Discipline was always threatened but rarely given. The legend was that Bruce Piggot got more swats with a paddle that anyone else. Rumor had it that there was a paddle with holes drilled in to reduce wind resistance. Paddles could always be feathered to increase speed before flared into a Butt hit. When Bruce was really bad, they made him drop his underpants and
"grab your ankles".


21. Ticks were regularly burned off and we did "leach checks" after each swim.  One time we had to get out of the canoes and pull them over a clog of reeds, weeds, and lily pads, etc. in the White Earth River.  You guessed it…..each of us had several leaches hangin’ on us.  Felt like Humphrey Bogart in the “African Queen”.


22. The "10" was the really fast wooden boat that would carry about a dozen campers.


23. Coach and or Pete would check the cabins each evening just before bedtime. If we were lucky, they would tell us a story…..remember “Hateful Hanna”….the first time I heard it….it scared the hell out of me!


24. We had this dreadful stuff called 6-12 Mosquito Repellant. If things got too bad, Pete would have someone come in and spray.


25. We gathered in the lodge prior to dinner and would play ping pong. We would always ask for "winners" to play the next game. The best "sand paper" paddles were highly prized.  Remember trying to play in the wind on the front porch of the Lodge…?


26. Jerry Annis always had the "hots" for Sandy Baltunis from across the Back Bay. Some lucky campers across the wall from Jerry's bunk heard more than they were supposed to late at night.  


27. The Baltunis floating pontoon boat was referred to as the "African Queen". For some reason it was a big deal to see it on the lake. They also had a bullet nose boat with a 25 horse Johnson. It was blistering fast!


28. The counselors would dis-assemble the dock and the campers would "float" the sections over to the rifle range for winter storage.


29.  There was always a huge bowl of ice cream for the Expert and Distinguished Rifleman awards….the achieving campers favorite flavor.


30.  Remember the sign:  “Ain’t no Can’t in this Camp”.


31.  “Capture the Sticks”….evening activity for those groups that got “The Hill”, was always a favorite.  For “Back Bay” it was canoeing through the reeds….which we weren’t supposed to do…


32.  The bus trip to Itasca State Park was always a ‘hoot’; singing Big Ten Fight Songs on the way, and yelling approval for Hagbert as he kept the bus in the middle of the road.  Many, many trinkets were purchased…..log cabins that burned incense, little flasks of maple syrup, I still have a pennant from the early 1950s.  Don Knutson bought a bow and arrow set…the critters around camp didn’t have a chance.


33.  Didn’t Sam Haupt bring his dog one summer?


34.  I’ll never forget the night we were on a campout on the south end of the lake.  The counselors took us through the woods that led to a road, then to a corner store in the middle of nowhere, to buy candy.  On the way back one night this half dressed lady came stumbling out of the woods onto the gravel road….Borstad hustled us up and moved us along very quickly.  At the time I couldn’t figure out why she was half dressed, but through the years it all came together.


35.  Half the counselors had t-shirts or sweatshirts that said “Property of the University of Minnesota---Do Not Remove from Campus”.


36.  Jerry Fladeland’s nickname was A-Bu Ben Fladeland…..I never knew why?


37.  We always liked to see Don Knutson’s parents visit….they brought ice cream for the whole camp.  I think George Miken brought ice cream bars for everybody, too.


38.  Remember the annual ‘Camper vs. Counselor’ soft ball game..?  I chased more than one fly ball into the trees in left field!


39.  How many of you guys “walked the rocks” from the big cabin ‘dip dock’ all the way around to Back Bay?


40.  Jim and Fred Richards mentioned that their grandfather, Fred Sanders, was the realtor that originally found and facilitated the sale of the camp site land to Coach and Rudy, which started their venture at White Earth back in the 1930s.


41.  Rocky Elton has a great story about Coach letting him and his bride ‘honeymoon’ at the camp as a wedding gift in the spring of 1955 (?).  They stayed in Coach’s cabin.  Hagbert Johnston was working at the camp getting things ready for another season. So, the first morning Rocky and bride were awakened by a huge KA-BOOM !! right outside the cabin!  It seems Hagbert thought they were ‘sleeping’ just a little too late. Actually, he was ‘blasting some stumps/trees out’ in the vicinity of the cabin……and took advantage of the situation; I guess he had a good laugh over that scene.


42.  J.D. Ayres remembers marking all his socks and underwear before departing for camp.


43.  Then there was always that great attraction….pee rock.

44.    “Stretch”. We played stretch with our pocket knives. The rules were well understood by all at the time. The only rule I can remember is that the increase in distance couldn't be more than the length of the knife. I think the knife had to flip 360 degrees to count?

 45.    Mumbley Peg. We played this knife (the folding type) game on a board and got points for flipping the knife and getting the blade to stick after the flip. I think there were different points for which blade (large or small) actually stuck.

 46.   Inspection. I seem to recall we had open lockers in a small room in the central portion of the cabins and that our clothing had to be arranged neatly when it came back from the laundry. Our weekly (?) inspection involved neat lockers. My mother dreaded sewing in all the name tags. She finally resorted to "iron       ons" but they irritated the skin and were somehow lost!?

 47.    The cabins were swept clean on Sundays? Sometimes the dust was so heavy the counselors added a little water to the brooms. Once we swept, the counselors mopped while we were at Sunday lunch??

 48.    The camp outs across the lake featured pancakes and syrup made from powder and water. The syrup was dreadful. We washed our dishes (some type of mess kit) by abrading the leftover gunk with sand and mud on the lake shore. I'm sure we went home with an intestinal flora that was different than the flora we arrived with?

 49.    The camp had its own stationery. Did anyone dig up an old letter head?

50.     At meal time we would play…”paper, rock, scissors”, until our wrists were red and welted…!

51.  Every morning, at an hour we could only speculate about because no  one ever got  up early enough to catch him in the act, Pete would  check the weather forecast on the radio and then post a sheet  assigning groups to morning and afternoon activities for that day.   Later, at a more civilized hour, counselors and campers alike would dash in to check the posting. Counselors would quietly celebrate or moan depending on the activity they drew.  Everyone felt sorry for 
Steve Koepcke, who day in and day out would go the rifle range to be  eaten by mosquitoes while the rest of us canoed, sailed, swam, hiked,  or played tennis.  The kids loved it, though, because they were working for medals issued by the NRA (which in those days did not have the evil political connotations it does today).

52.  I wonder if there was another camp in the entire country that scheduled four swims per day (counting the brief, optional morning  and evening plunges from the dip docks).

53.  Once in a while the kids in an activity group assigned to hiking would scrape some pennies together.  Against regulations, the accompanying counselors would take them on a hike up the east side of the lake to a little country store where they could buy popsicles.   When taking orders, the old proprietor would always ask what flavor they wanted: yellow, red, green, or purple?

54.  There was a comforting regularity to the rhythm of the summers.   Year after year you could count on such highlights as the Itasca trips, the mile swim, the canoe race, the sailing race, the campers- vs.-counselors softball game, and Coach's recounting of the Count of  Monte Cristo at evening campfire.

55.  On the Itasca trip it became a tradition for the counselors to organize a betting pool as to which camper would be the first one to fall in crossing the Mississippi on stones.  It was always a dilemma whether to put your money on the most uncoordinated or the most foolhardy; at least we could be pretty sure the winner would be from one or the others of those two categories.

56.  Thursday dinner, always consisting of leftovers thrown together into a single casserole, was lovingly (?) known as shipwreck.

57.  With some frequency Coach would observe disapprovingly the ravenous appetites of the counselors and would scold, "Most people eat to live; you guys live to eat."

58.  (Addition to number 36 on the web site) I believe the nickname was coined in an edition of the Lilly White Earth that followed close on  the heels a mysterious late night raid that left the kitchen's  reserves of ice cream seriously depleted.  If I recall correctly, the full original name was Abu Ben the Food Snatcher.

59.  Many of the counselors liked to work out with weights on the porch of the middle cabin.  The old Swedish handyman/caretaker, Hagbert Johnson, would snort derisively whenever he came across the scene.   He had spent his entire life putting in long days of hard labor, was  spectacularly strong for a man of his advanced years, and thought  anyone who would do all that physical work to accomplish nothing at all must be slightly deranged.

60.  Some of the counselors would occasionally play whist with Hagbert.  He would drive his partner to distraction by "going high" and then turning out to have virtually no face cards in his hand.  When quizzed about his bizarre bidding he would invariably reply, "Oh, I was counting on a little help from my partner."

61.  An institution known as the swat box helped keep the cabins from becoming too messy.  Any article of clothing that a camper left lying around went into the box and had to be purchased back at the price of a swat with a canoe paddle to the unfortunate's posterior regions.

62.  Counselor John Anderson had a yellow 1939 Pontiac that he affectionately called the Yellow Jaundice.  One day he was driving to Detroit Lakes when suddenly the car began smoking.  He managed to pull over to the side of the road, came to a stop on the shoulder, then looked up and saw a sign, "Prepare to Meet Thy God."  He said he figured that was the end of the Jaundice.  It was.  He opened the hood and found a hole the size of a fist in the engine block.

63.  After the campers were all in bed, occasionally some of counselors not on cabin duty would go moonlight sailing.  There were only a few nights each summer when the combination of moon and wind was propitious, but they were worth the wait.

64.  Aside from unsuccessful passes at the kitchen girls, counselors' social life consisted mostly of Saturday night wedding dances in Waubun.  We did not fully appreciate at the time what a remarkable bit of Americana these were. You did not have to know the bride or groom to get admitted (for a price), but it did help to know the polka and the schottische--the only dances played.

65.  Some of the things that went on make me shudder in retrospect. A tradition during overnight canoe trips was for counselors to scare the wits out of the kids telling stories around the campfire after it got dark. The favorite was the apocryphal legend of John Belangi (sp?), a local man whose wife and child died of starvation one winter while he was in town trying to get some food that could save them. He was so angry at the store owners who would not sell to him on credit that he subsequently went berserk and ran around chopping people's heads off with a double-bladed axe.  He still was believed to range around the woods in the vicinity of Camp White Earth. One year, on an overnight that would become legendary in Camp annals, the kids became so engrossed in the story being told by one of the counselors--I cannot remember which one; that they did not notice that his partner, Jerry Annis, had slipped away from the fire. The kids huddled ever closer to the fire as the story approached its climax. Just as John Belangi's axe was whistling around his head, a faint whistling sound began to float out of the surrounding shadows. As the storyteller continued, the whistle became ever louder.  Finally Annis, who was deeply suntanned and built like a Greek god, burst out of the woods, stark naked and swinging a double-bladed axe around his head.  The campers scattered like fireworks exploding; one actually jumped into the lake.  I hope no one was left scarred emotionally for life.

66.  Musings from Jim Sutherland:  Jerry Gale drawing a picture of a WW 2 mounted machine gun on the diving board down at the beach.  He used a stone of some sort to make an etching-like picture on the sandpaper (like emery paper) which covered the diving board. Other memories:  Jimmy Bell from Tipton, Iowa who became one of the youngest (age 12?) sharpshooter (?) in the country.  Also, Billy (?) Bly, the counselor who would go higher and higher on the diving board; like he would get seven eight feet high off the board. The war stories that Gordy Soltau would tell around the campfire, and who could forget Niels Thorpe with his campfire stories about Eric the Red and other Viking heroes.  He would stop the story right when something terrible was about to occur. 

67.  “Poika”…Who could ever forget him?  And the night “Poika” and Dick Wainio capsized their canoe on the way back to Camp from Bowman’s…..the root cause of the incident has been in question for 50-60 years.  “Poika” and Dick were Marines.  In 1951, “Poika” had been called back.  Paul Schorr and I (Whitey Kenagy) received a letter from Sgt. John A. Kalin serving in the 7th (?) Marines in Korea.  I’m an old Marine……probably because of how much I admired “Poika” and Dick.

68.  Paul Schorr writes:  “I can remember eating Spanish rice once a week.  I hated it…..still cannot eat it after 60 years!”

69.  Al Standish (‘50-‘51)had a few recollections:  ‘Fish Fry Day’—After catching a mess of sunnies and crappies, we had tons of fish for dinner, usually with canned spinach and some kind of potato.  The morning ablution:  skimming the Mayflies off the water at the dock before dipping toothbrush in the morning.  Evening snack….Graham Crackers and milk at the Lodge pump before bedtime.  Mess On The Tennis Court:  Filling a #10 can with army worms, inverting and setting off a cherry bomb inside!  And rainy days…..with some activities canceled, wearing out the piano in the Lodge playing “Chopsticks” and “There Once was a Lady Named Mable”.  And my first “Gedunk” at Bowman’s….always thought it had to be ice cream and orange soda, until I learned differently in the Navy.

70. Some of Bob Klock’s memories: Getting my mouth washed out with soap for cussing; waterspouts on the lake were crazy; leeches when I went swimming; 22 shell got swept into a fireplace and went off just missing one of the counselors; many medals at the rifle range; Nils Thorpe breast stroking every day; the Hill and four leaf clovers; missing my Mom; candy stash when she came to visit; canoeing and sailing; horror stories at the campfires about John Belache chopping off heads…..the list is endless.

71. Some comments from Howie Clark….made Expert at the rifle range; swimming off the long dock, hikes, canoe trips ….the Mrs. Jones, only cold water. I can still hear Coach telling us the Monte Christo every Sunday evening down in the Back Bay. I found Dave Clark’s name in your list; he and I had more than a few great ping pong games…..he was really good!

72. John Roschen writes: For many years following my Camp White Earth days, I was using socks and handkerchiefs onto which my mother had sewn a name tag. An inexperienced camper, I didn’t have a sleeping bag, so I came with a bright red wool Adirondek blanket, of course, with a name tag attached……it’s currently in my daughter’s guest bedroom. The second year, because my brother had measles or chicken pox, I had to miss the first two weeks of camp and had a memorable solo train ride from Mpls. to Detroit Lakes, where Mrs. Thorpe met me and drove me to the camp. I remember the whole camp being bused into Detroit Lakes one Sunday afternoon for the Water Carnival; we enjoyed seeing the House of Jacob traveling baseball team playing a local team. I remember the tin cups with painted numbers on the bottom hanging on a nail near the pump outside the dining hall. And there were the white pants we wore on Sunday with a clean T-shirt. I was always conscious that the Catholic boys were taken to Mass at a nearby church, but there was no provision for us Protestants and Jewish boys to exercise spiritually. John well remembers Karl Hauschild, Steve Leuth, old, Gordy Soltau, Cal Stoll, and Howie Dawson

73.  Jim Mirick writes (6/17/2010)…My grandparents were long-time friends of Coach and Johnnie….but, much earlier my mother and aunts were campers at Camp Lake Hubert in Nisswa where Coach and Johnnie met…..he was the waterfront director at Camp Lincoln ( the boys camp) and Johnnie was the same at Camp Lake Hubert.  That was in the 20s!

74.  From Greg Wright (from Chattanooga, Tn.  7/15/2014:  I remember Bill Chorske; who, when he finished football at Minnesota, gave me his “cleats” to play in.  I was at Washburn at the time.

75.  From Tim Donovan (6/15/2014:  I was at CWE for several years in the early 50s and my aunt, Erma Burgess, was the camp nurse for several years before and during my camper years.  She died several years ago at the age of 103.  Camp White Earth was always one of her favorite life experiences as well as one of mine.

76.  John Foley on May 14, 2009 writes:  One of my memories from CWE is a canoe trip with Coach.  It was to be a trip up a river from White Earth Lake to another lake, returning to Camp that evening.  It was a beautiful warm day and we prevailed on Coach to let us spend the night at the other lake.  The only problem was that someone across the lake kept honking their horn.  Next day when we got back to camp, both Johnnie and Pete were furious.  Johnnie said that she thought Coach had more sense than to scare them by not returning that night.  It was Pete that sat on his horn the night before, as they thought there had been an accident and that was why we had not returned…..



More to come, I’m sure….