Gather 'round the (Virtual) Campfire:
Stories from Camp Read's Past
How We Found the New Camp
John Farley & Bob Johnson
Your assignment is to take the camp truck, (who still remembers the green 1938 Dodge 1-ton truck? The one that got bellied up on a stone wall on V-J night! The one that John Hindle tried to drive to Pharaoh in 1950), and go to Camp Siwanoy where the Council shared facilities for the 1948 camp season. There you will load said truck with as many cots and mattresses as it will hold. You will then proceed to the newly acquired site in the Adirondacks where you will set up all cots in the “main building” for use by Council members who will be following in two weeks.
We packed basic camping gear, brought some food and off we went. At Siwanoy we decided it would be wise to take out the spare tire, then load the cots and put the tire in last – just in case. Someone had said there was a lake, so we lashed a canoe on top of the truck – just in case.
Between ’43 and ’48 we had driven that truck, but never with so much weight on board. We were surprised to find that hundreds of little gremlins were pushing when we went downhill and were holding back when we went up.
Our navigation instructions from Fred Smith and Joe Cooke were excellent. We followed Route 9 all the way to Chestertown (no Thruway or Northway back then), took Route 8 through Brant Lake village, found the turn-off to the Pilgrim Camp and the road at Heller’s Farm (in front of Mr. Heller’s house – the present road was built several years later). Then began the most memorable part of the trip.
They said we’d come to a gateway – two large stone pillars. There they were! The camp road had not been used for years. We were told that the wooden bridges would support us. As we came to each of them, we hoped – very hard.
“You will come to a second set of gate posts.” (Where the Rangers house and shop now stand). We did! Just beyond. The road rose sharply up what seemed to be a whole hill of loose sand. The truck bogged. We backed down, got a running start, kicked into low gear at just the right time and churned our way up. “You will come to a third gate. Don’t give up hope.” (In 1949 and for years thereafter, the right hand pillar bore Hap Simmons’ sign, “Don’t Give Up Hope.”) We knew that the end of our journey was near.
Then there was the Rangers cabin on the left. (You know it now as the Farm House or Boland Lodge). We stopped, but there was no one there! (They hadn’t told us that Art Boland had a real house elsewhere). We decided that the resident of this place must be a true mountain man with a great bushy beard.
We continued up the road that ended in an open area. To our right was a huge log structure with stone patios in front and on one side. The Main Building. In front of us was a small barn or large storage building. (Ask Art Boland how he hit himself in the head with a hammer while tearing it down.) And off to the left was a large horse barn (which became the Dining Hall and later named the Tomahawk Dining Hall).
It was dusk. We were eager to check out our home for the weekend. We went in, went back for a flash light, and went in again. To the right was a large room. We could see a mounted Owl on the mantel. A stuffed squirrel perched on a tree fork to one side. As we rounded the corner into the room proper – AAHHH! A bobcat was leaping at us from the top of the piano! When the bobcat didn’t move and our hearts slowed down, we knew this was going to be a great place.
Having spent many off-season weekends in the “A.B.” (Administration Building) at the old camp, it didn’t take us long to set up housekeeping. Supper, exploration of the building, and bed. Tomorrow we’d unload, set up the cots and then see what Scout Executive Fred Smith had bought.
In the morning, while we were examining a nail in the right rear tire of the truck, a man appeared. “Hi,” he said. “I’m Art Boland.” We looked at him, looked at each other and looked back at him. “He doesn’t have a beard!” we said. From that moment, Art became “The Man without a Beard.”
And this is how we found the new camp, and met a lifelong friend, Art Boland.
1. For the record, they didn’t need to use the spare tire, for the nail did not puncture the tire but was just a nail head. At some point, Bob & John offloaded the canoe from the truck roof and lugged it down to the lake (Chub Pond), not too far from where the Dan Rile Chapel is located, and enjoyed a ride and swim.
2. This story was originally published in the Camp Read Association Newsletter in the spring of 1991. In the early days of the Association, the Newsletter was produced manually meaning that the stories were typed, clip art taped on a “master”, and copies made and donated by the Morgan Press. Owner Doug Morgan was the Camping Committee Chairman at the time and was a big help to us. We gave him free advertising in return. One “good turn” deserves another.
3. This story is also presented in Chapter 2. The Camp That Moved, in the book For Joys We’ll Ne’er Forget: Curtis S. Read, the Camp, the Reservation, the Complete History, 1920 – 2009.
The book can be purchased at the Camp Read Trading Post, or via the CRA website.
Chapter 2 also goes on to tell how John and Bob found Pharaoh Lake and Farley’s Gap. Another great read written by the pioneers themselves!
Bob Johnson & John Farley, Circa Early to Mid-1950’s
For generations, summer after summer, scouts have been making memories at Camp Read. In 2020, the pandemic may have forced regular activities to pause, but campers from years gone by are sharing their stories here in an effort to fill in the gap. Read on to get your fix of Camp Read hijinks until we can safely fill a parade ground once more!
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