HISTORY OF CAMP KAROONDINHA
(document provided by Ethel Snook)
This information comes from several sources – the first part was written in 1960 by an unknown author and was provided by Nelson Clements. The second part of this history, beginning with construction of the pool, was added in 1987 by members of the Camp Staff Reunion Committee. Information from a 1960 newspaper article was added for clarification.
The first camp site of the area Boy Scout council was in tents in Strickler’s Woods, just across the street from the present camp. The council then included the area north of Sunbury and covered the territory of upper Northumberland and all Union and Snyder Counties. The Scout Executive then was William L. Taylor and the Council President was Robert N. Thompson of Lewisburg.
In 1928, the Susquehanna Valley Area Council was organized. Dr. Lewis E. Theiss of Lewisburg took donations and purchased the present camp site, consisting of 72 acres, from William Libby, who was the father-in-law of Jacob H. Lamey. There was only one open space, which was the field where the camp fires are now held. The balance of the flat was dense brush and rattlesnakes; copperheads and various animals were abundant. Money was solicited and nine buildings erected at the cost of $50 each. The buildings had solid roofs, screened sides with an inside canvas drop to keep out the rain and wind. In 1932, Dr. Theiss became Council President, Dr. Frank B. Hitchcock of Lewisburg became Camp Chairman, and George M. Hosterman, Scout Executive.
The old trading post between the road and the creek was then headquarters. A dining hall about 50 feet long was erected and was later extended to twice its length by members of the Order of the Arrow. A short time later, a fireplace was erected at the east end of the dining hall by the Lewisburg Rotary Club. Brush was cleared off the flat and trees planted at the east end of camp by the same boys. A well, 28 feet deep, was dug at the dining hall by Silas Zimmerman of West Milton at a cost of $28. William J. Busser of Lewisburg donated a one-third horsepower pump.
In 1933, the Black Diamond Area Council was added by order of the National Council and the Susquehanna Valley Area Council expanded to include Shamokin, Mount Carmel, Coal Township, Centralia, and Trevorton. About 1935, a new headquarters building, known as Lamey Lodge, was erected by Ellsworth Snook, New Berlin, John J.Williams, Milton, Edward Burrows, Milton and Thomas Beggs, then Field Scout Executive. Dr. Carl L. Millward became President, William J. Busser, Jr., Chairman of the Camping Committee, and George Hosterman, Scout Executive.
In 1938 a topographical survey was made of our land by John L. Williams, then a junior at Penn State, assisted by various Boy Scouts. J.C. Williams, member of the Camp Committee raised $200 and purchased two acres of land where a pond was located. (See the proposed plan for Camp Karoondinha probably about this period of time.) Telephone service was needed. The Camp Committee secured the right-of-way over the Pennsylvania Railroad for the telephone line across the tracks. The matter was taken up with James McClure of Lewisburg, a member of the Executive Board, who was attorney for the Buffalo Valley Telephone Company. Through his effort the Telephone Company placed a private phone in the camp at no cost to Scouting. It did cause the telephone company to erect eight poles to give this service.
In the late ‘30s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps went out of existence. The Camp Committee purchased one building 20 feet by 110 feet, for $220. Seven other buildings were given to the Scouts. John C. Williams was appointed to move the knocked-down buildings to our camp site and was placed in charge of construction. Ray Rugh came in as Scout Executive and George Hosterman was transferred to Washington, Pennsylvania. At a meeting of the Camp Committee, Jacob H. Lamey was given the job of going to various CCC sites, raise the buildings, and move them to the camp and erect them there. Mr. Lamey completed this project with his men at a cost of 65 and 75 cents per hour for expert carpenters. A drive was instituted for funds on a basis of $300 per building with the names of the donors placed thereon. Ten sleeping buildings (nine on the old sites) and three main camp buildings were erected – Indian Site 4 – Nature Site 4 – Pioneer Site 4 –Outpost 1. Additional lumber needed was cut from our camp by Jacob Lamey, dried and sawed at a cost of $15 per thousand board feet. In August in the early 1940s when the Boy Scouts ended their summer camping season, the Camp Fire Girls, under the camp direction of Francis Kepple, Lewisburg spent two weeks at the camp.
The next dream was a new dining hall. The location was selected and all Boy Scouts helped get the stone (approximately 260 tons) which was hauled to the site. Mr. Lamey cut more lumber to be held for the new dining building. Mr. Ray Rugh died suddenly. At a meeting of the camp committee it was decided that if and when the dining hall was finished it should be named “Ray Rugh Memorial” because of his untiring devotion to Scouting and the camp. Harry Porter came in as Scout Executive. He served only a short time and contributed very little to the area. Donald R. Gay followed as Scout Executive and John C. Williams as Camp Chairman. Plans were drawn for the new dining hall and taken to Harrisburg for approval. John C. and John L. Williams were put in charge of construction with Jacob Lamey and helpers to do the construction. The foundation was laid and money was depleted. The foundation laid for two years. Two things were necessary before actual construction – a new road from the main road to the shale bank (at the shooting range) and the electric transformer moved from beside Lamey Lodge to the dining hall site. Mr. Lamey with son-in-law, Oley Boop, constructed the road at the cost $675. After several contacts, the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company entered into a contract with the Boy Scouts (cost $1.00) to cut a 30-foot right-of-way, erect poles and place the transformer in its present position; a wonderful tribute to the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company.
In the spring of 1951, with $1,000 cash, J.C. Williams instructed Mr. Lamey to proceed with the laying of stone, the idea being to stop when our funds were depleted. Contributions began coming in. The day before work was started, Dave Broscious to Sunbury sent a truckload of lime, cement and drain tile. Before the job was completed Mr. Broscious with brothers and father contributed in excess of $9,000 in materials and labor. Mr. and Mrs. Marlin Shauda of Shamokin contributed and applied the roof, 67 squares; William Busser, Jr., Lewisburg cash, pump, ventilator fan; Wilfred Watts, Milton, installed all wiring; Robert Berkheimer, all the 4 foot lamps for the main dining hall; Daubert Plumbing of Lewisburg, materials and labor – just to name a few. A few hundred letters were sent to various donors of labor and material. Mr. Lamey and associates worked for $1.50 per hour, holding up jobs, which they had contracted for $3.50 per hour. Donald Gay, Scout Executive, was untiring in his efforts, soliciting material and cash. Steel, sash and glass were secured at factory price from a friend of John L. Williams. Scouts and Scouters spent days puttying in the glass. Two Zimmerman boys, West Milton, dug the well 82 feet deep, at a cost of $87.
We were near the end of the job but about $3,000 short. Raymond Broscious loaned this amount to the area at 3% interest. At this writing (1960) the loan has been repaid. The Ray Rugh Memorial Dining Hall was dedicated October 25, 1953, with Mr. Clarence Erffer, Regional Scout Executive, and George Hosterman, former Scout Executive, present. The Council was headed by Judge William I. Troutman, President.
Camp Committee: J.C. Williams, Chairman
John L. Williams
Williams J. Busser, Jr.
Donald R. Gay, Scout Executive
Lester M. Auchmoody, Field Scout Executive
Stanley C. Rogers, Field Scout Executive
The next building needed was a home for the cooks. Again through contributions and labor by Lamey, the building was completed, two sleeping rooms and a combination living and dining room; equipped with shower, toilet, electric stove, etc. The members of the Order of the Arrow constructed a stone entrance at the east end of Camp. The bridge contractor (without charge) at the suggestion of Ronald Dommermuth, Field Executive, moved the trading post to its present location, where it was rebuilt by Broscious men under David Broscious, Jr. Twenty four men worked on the project without charge.
Raymond Broscious, Sunbury, became Camp Chairman. Many improvements were made – a new hospital erected by Broscious men; a walk-in refrigerator by Weis Stores for the dining hall; sufficient slate surfaced shingles secured by Broscious Lumber Company to re-roof all buildings except the dining hall, hospital and trading post. As of now, March, 1961 – all new beds secured from army surplus; and 1,000-foot plastic waterpipe, a gift of the White Deer Mountain Water Company. Mr. David Broscious has contributed $5,000 toward the erection of a swimming pool.
(This is where the narrative is continued by the Camp Staff Reunion Committee)
In the mid 60’s the Camp could no longer use Penn’s Creek for swimming. To continue the quality program, funds were raised, and the swimming pool was constructed to provide a safe swimming area.
Also, in the mid 60’s the Camp was in need of an upgraded maintenance facility. A new shop was constructed near the site of the original camp dining hall. In 1968, the Council acquired Camp Nik-O-Mahs, the land directly across Penns Creek from Camp Karoondinha. Camp Nik-o-Mahs was originally established by the Black Diamond Area Council in the 1920s, became a private camp in 1942, and ceased operations in the mid-1960s.
In 1970, the chapel areas of camp was relocated from just north of the dining hall to an area in the forest near the entrance to camp. The chapel was constructed with an outdoor stage area for services with an attached apartment for the use of the summer camp chaplains and staff. In 1972 during the Hurricane Agnes Flood, Penn’s Creek overflowed its banks and damaged the Headquarters Building, Lamey Lodge and the Order of the Arrow Building and all the staff tents behind the headquarters. Camp was delayed one week that summer before opening. Scout Executive Bruce Weidman was the Camp Director and Rich Nornhold was Camp Commissioner. A decision was made to move all the sites “up on the hill.”
An All-Purpose Building was constructed at the top of the hill, housing the camp office, a trading post, a kitchen, bathroom with shower, two bedrooms and a health lodge. Later there was a ladies’ restroom to replace one of the bedrooms. With the merger of the West Branch and the Susquehanna Valley Area Councils in 1974, several new campsites were established and several old campsites were revitalized and reopened to accommodate the additional troops. Much of this work was done by the Order of the Arrow, with some to work being completed by the Summer Camp staff just prior to the opening of the camping season. Also in 1974, the Ranger’s home was destroyed by fire. Through a fund-raising effort a new home was constructed that same year.
In 1975 the camp director Rich Nornhold undertook a project to carve a totem pole of the camp history of Camp Karoondinha. He completed much of the history, and the pole was erected near the entrance to camp. In May 2008 at a Scouter’s Beaver Work Day, under the supervision of Mr. Nornhold, the totem pole was razed. He agreed to refurbish it and re-erect it. During 1977, the Council was able to finally purchase the property surrounding Camp Karoondinha known for years as the Tressler Tract. This purchase greatly increased the size of camp. To finance this much-needed purchase, Camp Nik-O-Mahs was sold in 1976 and much of the camp property was timbered. In 1978 Faylor Middlecreek Construction Company rebuilt the camp road adding an additional layer of shale to build up the camp road. Fred Brouse, a contractor from Lewisburg, helped by hauling many loads of shale to improve the road from the dining hall to the Ecology Center; thus the name “Brouse Road.”
Beginning in 1976, many of the old CCC camp cabins started to show signs of their age, and one collapsed in a snowstorm. Council properties chairman John Fogarty led a project to build new staff and winter cabins. Kirby and Harris cabins were constructed in the spring of 1978 and dedicated during that summer. The old CCC cabins, having served the camp for more than 40 years, were torn down during the period of 1976 through 1981.
Mr. Fogarty continued this project, and in 1979, he built an additional cabin to be used for the camp handicraft lodge and as a winter cabin. This handicraft cabin located on the ridge to the south of the shooting range is now called Ertel Lodge. All three of these winter cabins have been maintained interior and exterior by John Fogarty. Inside cupboards were either replaced or refinished, water supply updated, rotted wood replaced and new windows installed.
In 1978 the rifle range was rebuilt. In 1996 the rifle range was rebuilt again and relocated just east where the archery range was. The shifting of these shooting ranges gave archery all the land west almost to the campfire area for a Field Archery Range. Ethel Snook constructed the field range designed to use the 14 target Boy Scout Round for merit badge use. The area is ideal because of the ridge as a safety background for the target placement. In 1980, an addition to the dining hall was begun to house the walk-in refrigerator and freezer. This addition was completed and in use for the 1981 camping season, was paid for by the Order of the Arrow.
The council, working with Susquehanna University, developed the George Hepner Ecology Center, which opened in 1981. This building provides a field research station for the University and the council with an outstanding nature center for the summer camp program. There is a small kitchenette and sleeping quarters. In 1982, the first national Wood Badge Course was conducted at camp by Paul Snook, Course Director.
When the forested area began to be cleared for the construction of a natural-fed lake, several campsites were in that same area: Maples, Beaver Lodge, Laurel, and Hickory. It was decided to relocate these campsites east of the dining hall and to change site names to Wood Badge Patrol names. Seven new campsites were opened in 1983: Beaver, Bear, Owl, Bob White, Eagle, Fox and Bison; and four additional new sites were developed for the 1984 season. They were James West, Baden Powell and William Boyce and White Buffalo campsites.
Year 1983 was a year of many changes at Camp Karoondinha. A lake was constructed by Faylor-Middlecreek Construction in memory of their owner, William Faylor. The lake has improved the camp waterfront area and the counseling of water vehicle merit badges. In 1982, a vast area of forest had to be cleared and Scout troops helped. One weekend PPL employees with their equipment volunteered to remove the electrical line poles on the “Power Line Trail” from the dining hall to the pool. To
replace this line a ditch was dug underground by Citizens’ Electric, Lewisburg under the supervision of Paul Snook and Jim Dieffenderfer. The service line was installed in the ditch following the road from the pole at the pool to the pole at the dining hall.
Also in 1983, the kitchen area of the dining hall was remodeled to enable the campers to be served cafeteria style. Several Scouters with expert skills worked that winter under supervision of Paul Snook and Dave Lash. It was designed by Jacque Hasse, a research chef for American Home Foods, Milton. The plumbing was done by Martin Shirk, welding of counters by Wilson, carpentry by Dave Lash, and electrical panel and line connection by Paul Snook. Danville State Hospital donated the gas warming serving counters and Joe Shaffer, Lewisburg, donated the large exhaust stove system.
In 1985, through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Sanders, a new shower house was constructed near the new campsites. Sanders chaired the Camping Committee at the time. In 1987 the shower house area of the pool was rebuilt by Ron Kobel.
Also, in 1987, Paul John and the employees of Ritz-Craft Homes, constructed four family tebins to be used to provide housing for older camp staff members and their families. During the summer, the tebin area was dedicated as the Ritz-Craft Family Tebin Area and the tebins named for four gentlemen that have been very devoted to Scouting – Dr. Richard Klinetob, Arthur J.May, Herb Enck and Howard Ensinger. The year 1999 saw the construction of Edna Sheary Lodge, the Lakefront Pavilion, the Sports Field Pavilion, the Handicraft Pavilion, the Shotgun Pavilion, the Neverland COPE course, and the Welcome Center. The COPE course was created by William Carlucci, Paul Snook, John Stamm, Jr., and Harvey T. Zerbe. In the early 21st century, the shower house was replaced by a new modern building with individual showers and toilets, the swimming pool and poolhouse were replaced, and a new Trading Post was built.
In April of 2013, less than one year after the proposal was approved by the Council Executive Board, an extensive addition and renovation to the dining hall was completed. With great care and attention (and the friendly counsel of Ethel Snook and Richard Nornhold), John T. Fogarty oversaw and secured funding for this project, which included: the removal of the old kitchen; an addition designed to maximize the efficiency and production of the camp kitchen and bring it into the 21st century; the completion of the Paul Snook Memorial Multi-use Room (complete with projector, screen,and a divider to separate the room for training purposes as well as the “Woods of Pennsylvania” Display); the installation of air conditioning, a re-finishing of the stone inside and outside the dining hall, the completion of a walnut wood mantle, engraved with “On My Honor…”. The main dining room grew in capacity thanks to the addition, and the integrity of the building was kept intact. In gratitude for Mr. Fogarty’s work on the project, the dining hall was dedicated in his name on April 28th, 2013.
A new, state of the art Health Lodge was dedicated in 2016.
The old Nik-O-Mahs staff site of deeply shaded tent platforms was transformed in 2018-2019 when 12 two-person tebins were erected and many of the trees removed. In 2019, a small showerhouse was built across from the staff site. Thanks to a bequest from the late Dr. Edward V. Twiggar, the staff site was rededicated as the Twiggar-Nikomahs site.