Camping in the Sixties

Camp had always had the philosophy of democratic decision-making, though structures for achieving this varied. Decentralized, camper planned programming, built around the individual teepee group had been tried on occasion. The late fifties saw a move to this.

Camp Chief Hector 1965
Ed Johnston with campers circa 1964

This movement was greatly accelerated during the sixties. In 1962, the year Ed Johnston became Camp Director, the third period was used as a trial for complete teepee unit programming. Counselors remained with their own groups throughout all activities and the group remained intact. It is said that Rae Robertson, the Assistant Camp Director, slept for the entire summer and thus missed the experiment. The trial was judged to be a success and camper planned program was instigated fully the following year. The style remains the same today. Leadership and group dynamics improved greatly with this change.

Counselors now had to become skilled in all facets of camp life. This created some interesting learning situations and many laughs. Leaders of the time such as Bryon Ward, Ron Dunbar, George Taylor, Bill and Bob Kelly, Stu and Russ McKinnon, Dave Yule, Wayne Cooper, Don Johnson, Jim Acheson, Al Gardner, Pete McArthur, Jake Blair, Dave “Camp is a tiddly experience” Hanley, Steve Senert, John Dillen, Adrian Swan, and others found learning with the campers an interesting and beneficial experience.

The experiment successful; Ed Johnston wished to try another one. The staff vetoed him however. Ed wanted to change the name of the camp. Ed had an interesting way of naming things. His dog was namedDog. His cat, Cat. It was years before anyone knew his family had names. At any rate he was vetoed on the name change because no one wanted to work at a camp called Camp.

Out-tripping underwent much expansion in the sixties. The Pioneers under directors such as King Woodside, Mickey McDonald, Ernie Stapleford, and Mike Love, were moving into much more extensive and challenging activities. In 1964 trips to Calgary via canoe were started for boys meeting the standards. This has become a highlight of Pioneer programming. Intermediate and Junior Sections also participated in expanded hiking to favorite campsites. Junction, Newfort, Wolena, Shangri-La, Cooper stone, Loggers, AI, A2, and Horseshoe, became special places for many campers and staff. Also in 1964 the C.I.T. (Counselor-In-Training) program was expanded and a C.I.T. director was hired. Garth Holler from Nova Scotia was the first of many fine directors.

In the same year an exchange visit was arranged between camping associations in Canada and Russia. Jim Love represented Camp Chief Hector on a most interesting trip.

In 1965 an unidentified Pioneers counselor on a canoe trip to Calgary ran his canoe into the Tenth Street Bridge. He reported that it moved into his path. Harley Smith, Assistant Camp Director, verified this.   (Clearly the editor in 1980 was taking liberties… Roger Tierney was the counselor in question!)

Music has always been an important element at Camp Chief Hector. The sixties saw the advent of a number of musical groups at camp. There were the Feces Five (very poor), the Chin quay Three (not much better) and the Mecrotch Brothers (truly superb). Dramatics also abounded as the Piffle took on a verbal method of reporting camp news.

A special Grand Council was held around this time. It was a staff only “mock” Grand Council, held in post camp. The “Chief” for the day, Gary Sargenia, received a surprise when after the fire had been magically ignited, a line of fire proceeded to move along the ground to his chair. The ever-popular “Go-Juice” had done its trick. The assembly was then surprised when the Chiefs burlap pants caught on fire. Fortunately, a quick roll on the ground extinguished the Chief and no injury was incurred. “Mock” Grand Councils were laid to rest.

Bill Halliday returned to direct Hector in 1966. Junior and Intermediate Sections were expanded to accommodate the large numbers of campers coming to Hector. A helpful new book entitled, “All You Ever Wanted to Know About Nature Lore But Were Afraid to Ask” was written by Rod Hayward (he still has three thousand copies if anyone is interested).

Camp facilities underwent numerous improvements in the sixties. A new maintenance shed was built and a propane heater was added to the wash shack, replacing the old wood-burning heater.

Nineteen-sixty-seven saw Terry Patterson become Camp Director and the Pioneers began canoe trips from Banff to Seebe. Wilderness One (a proposed mountaineering and high alpine hiking camp for older boys) was operated as a pilot project in 1968 under the direction of Pioneer Section Director, Gary Luthy

Early directors of WI like Rich Harding and Wayne Lyons made this a very successful and respected program, which has taken a permanent place as one of the ‘Y’s’ successful programs.

In 1969 Gerry “Krink” Cragg became Camp Director. It was the year of the first and last Pioneer Canoe trip through Seebe and Horseshoe rapids. No injuries, but paddles had to be fashioned from driftwood planks to continue the trip. (The editor is pleased to note that other people had difficulty with rapids.) A number of things occurred in the late sixties that were harbingers of change to come.

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One thought on “Camping in the Sixties

  1. I’m glad to see this write up about Camp Chief Hector in the 1960s. I was one of the participants of the “first and last” Pioneer canoe trip in the summer of 1969, when I was 14 years old. It’s true that we lost so many paddles during the spills through the Horseshoe rapids that we had to carve replacement paddles from driftwood planks. I offer the following transcript that I wrote soon after completing this memorable trip:

    “August 18, 1969
    Hi. Today is Monday. I just got back from Camp Chief Hector on Saturday. I went on a canoe trip from Banff to Calgary. It took five days to do it. It was the first canoe trip ever gone from there at our camp. We had to go over some dangerous rapids where people had been killed. One of our canoes was swept over them. The people on our trip were only bruised and scratched a bit, but two of the canoes were mashed. However, they were fixed by our ingenious counsellors and the trip continued. Our canoe, the P1, was the only canoe that didn’t get tipped or swamped. There was four canoes in all. The trip was about 95 miles compared to about 50 on the previous trip from Morley. There were many dams and rapids that we had to portage or liftover. There was Seebe dam, Horseshoe dam, a set of rapids that had to be tracked down, or lifted over, Ghost dam, and Bearspaw dam. On the previous trips, only the last two had to be portaged or lifted over.
    The first night, we camped at Gap Lake (lac des Arcs), the second, just after those horrible rapids, the third, on the Ghost Reservoir and the fourth, near Happy Valley.
    I was in a canoe with David Dornian and Pete Gardner who was our Section Director in Pioneers.
    The other people were John Robinson, David Menzies, Al Gibson, Joe McCarthy, Tim Collins, Grant Kaler, Chris Huber, Ian Robinson, and Harry McKendrick.
    The other canoes were named Ralph, Herman, and Total. Total was the one that went over the rapids. It got a huge hole in it’s port side. It was fixed with candle wax, fish line, pieces of pants that got burnt, tin cans and nails. Ralph got a bashed bow when it swamped after the rapids and crashed into a rock. Total and it’s crew didn’t have to track down the rapids. Near the rapids we had to track around a cliff in really deep water – 4 feet or so, and I floated down but caught thee canoe. It was a real tough day.”

    P.S. I returned to Camp Chief Hector in 1970 and 1971 to experience more adventures as a Pioneer, including a 10-day hike along the Ghost River and Aylmer Pass to Lake Minnewanka. Lots of great memories, and I’m glad to know that CCH is thriving at its “new” location 40 years later!

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