An Oral History of Hidden Valley – Memory Flashbacks
Hon. William W. Lipsitt
One’s memories of adult scenes fade with age but the happy experiences at the Hidden Valley Camp remain a lifetime.
The summer months of 1929, 1930 and 1931 were an eventful segment of my youth. In those days, the Harrisburg Area Council was comparatively small and the boys in the city seemed somewhat close-knit. A certain number of us looked forward to the excitement of the days at Hidden Valley. The camp location had been a hunting site, owned by three Harrisburg businessmen, which was purchased by the Council. The purchase was made possible by a generous gift from Mary Sachs in 1926. Originally, there were four colonies, each with four wooden frame structures (there were no tents), a central dining hall, a health clinic, headquarters and trading post, circular campfire setting and, for necessary purposes, there was a place called Hinkerville. Sherman’s Creek, muddy as ever, served for swimming and canoeing activities.
Most troops came to camp for one or two week periods. I was in Troop 10, sponsored by the Ohev Shalom Temple, and several of us stayed the entire eight weeks. We occupied the “Great Stag” location, but of course, other troops shared the colony with us. Troop 19 of Grace Methodist Church also had Scouters who remained for the full summer. They occupied the Beaver Colony. If my memory is correct, the cost was ten dollars per week, so our parents were happy to have the camp staff take care of us for most of the summer vacation.
The head of the camp was our Council Executive, Chief Sparrow. He lived at camp with his family. I remember that he had a good looking daughter – even as teenagers, it was nice to see a pretty face – and I believe that she married our swimming instructor. The assistant Chief was Scotty Burgoon, a popular character and real outdoorsman. Scotty was the examiner for several merit badges; we had to build our own adirondack lean-to for the Camping badge and Scotty required a Scout to eat his own cooked hunters’ stew and dough twist to earn the Cooking merit badge. I twinge a bit, even today, when I think of what went into my stomach. Every fellow I knew wanted to become an Eagle and camp was the place to earn your merit badges as the facilities for the outdoor badges were readily available.
The staff included adults and older Scouts. Dr. Fluke took care of our medical problems, ordinarily a dose of castor oil for a variety of aliments. Among the older Scouts was Elmer Myers, who played football for the William Penn 1928 state champions,, Charley Baltimore of the John Harris 1931 state champions, Ivan “Jack” Glace, center for the John Harris basketball team, Wilson Everhart, currently a well known area physician, and two of the Herbert brothers. Dick Herbert, before his recent death, was a nationally recognized sports’ writer and Albert Herbert is today quite prominent in many community activities. One of my long time friends since camping days is Dick Goldsmith of the highly regarded furniture store family. At camp, when we had meat, the gravy was put separately on the table in a bowl. Unfortunately, it was placed in front of Dick at one meal, and mistaking it for soup, he proceeded to eat all of the gravy. One night a week, Doutrich’s Men’s Store, which had the franchise for Scouting clothes and equipment, supplied pies and that was a gala evening.
The colonies (Red Cloud, Beaver, Chipmunk and Great Stag) were athletic rivals. Softball was the big sport. When Troop 24, Second Baptist Church, was in camp, they would annually win the championship, most often representing Beaver.
There was a bugler who awakened us, called us for meals, played daily for the retreat ceremony, and put us to sleep with Taps. Perhaps the most special occasions were around the campfire, singing old favorites and World War I tunes. And, of course, there were the macabre, weird, incredulous campfire stories.
It has been said that no first rate Council could exist without a good camp. I do believe this is true for without the camping adventure, Scouting is without lifeblood.
I was an Eagle Scout from Troop 10 in Harrisburg. I received my Eagle in 1930 and attended Camp Hidden Valley for several years in the late 20’s and early 30’s.
I recall that Hidden Valley was founded in 1928, when Mary Sachs donated $25,000 to the Keystone Area Council in honor of Dr. Phillip David Bookstaber, an ecumenical rabbi who was very active in Scouting. Dr. Bookstaber was a recipient of the Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope and Silver Buffalo. He got his highest award presented to him from President Eisenhower.
When I attended Hidden Valley, the camp was divided into four “colonies.” Each colony had four cabins, which were known as “bunks.” The bunks were open on all side. The colonies’ names were Chipmunk, Great Stag, Beaver and Red Cloud. No one slept in tents. Troops would go to camp for two weeks. Some Scouts, such as me, would stay for longer periods of time. I often stayed for the entire summer. The charge to attend camp then was a dollar a day.
The camp would hold between 125 and 150 campers, with 14-15 staff. There was a shower building but no pool. We swam in the creek. There was no bridge across the creek. There was only one entrance into the camp; it was by way of ferry. The ferry was operated by the campers. It was busy on parents’ day, which was Sunday. A clothing company, Doutrich’s, brought pies up to the campers each week. That company had the exclusive right to sell Scouting apparel in the Council.
One of the features of the camp was that there was only one latrine at the time. It was known as “Hinkerville” and it was shared by the four colonies. Campers who did not want to walk to the facility at night would use a garbage can in the site. Then, in the morning, two campers would carry the can up to Hinkerville and empty it.
We had a great time at camp. I earned many of my merit badges there and also made some lifelong friends.
Two weeks at Hidden Valley stand out in my memories of premier events in my 54 years of Scouting. The first memory is of my first week at a Boy Scout camp, in the summer of 1945. I first joined a Boy Scout troop in 1944, but I was not old enough to attend camp that year. Thus, August, 1945 was my first trip to Hidden Valley, which was then known as Loysville Boy Scout Camp. I still remember the signal towers where staff members waved you in or out on the one land road to what is now Rotary parking lot. You can still see remnants of that road at the northeast corner of the parking lot.
We unloaded our gear and carried it down the log steps beside Rotary lodge to a pontoon bridge across Sherman’s Creek. Then, a two-wheeled army cart was used to pull our gear to Daniel Boone campsite, which was located where the swimming pool currently is. We camped in army squad tents.
The storage building at Kiwanis was used as a troop room and kitchen. One of leaders – “Pop” Parsons – prepared breakfast and lunch there. We ate the evening meal in the East Dining Hall.
One rainy day, I guess this young Scout looked forlorn. My Scoutmaster – Walt Scheaffer – pulled me aside, brought over a piece of leather, and helped me make a neckerchief slide. That slide is still part of my Scouting memorabilia.
Six years later, Walt called me on an evening. He had recently experienced a heart attack. ” Doc won’t let me take the boys to camp,” he said. “You’re it,” he added. “But I’m only 19, you must be 21 to be a leader in charge,” I responded. “I already cleared it with the Scout Executive, Charlie Steele, you’re it,” he added. “But what will the parents think,” I said? “I’ve already cleared it with them, you’re it,” he concluded.
Thirty-one Scouts and myself spent the week in Frontier campsite. We earned 82 merit badges that week.
So much for memories. Oh yes, over half of my merit badges for Eagle were earned at Hidden Valley.