(This is a copy of the document placed in the Order of Arrow Time Capsule at Camp Tonkawa in August,1996)
I was interviewed and hired to be the Council Executive of the Chisholm Trail Council on July 15, 1954 and reported for duty on August 15. In the interview process, I was asked, "Have you had any experience in camp development?" My answer was, "Yes, in CT, MA, NJ, and NM." I was hired.
At the first board meeting I was told that the present Camp Tonkawa was inadequate for the council and I was asked to look over the state and see if I could recommend some areas to locate a larger and better camping area. Like a good employee, I did just that and did look for camp sites that would be adequate, have trees, and the natural beauty befitting a good Boy Scout Camp.
After about 1 year, in late 1955, I reported to the board, "The only clump of trees between Waco and Ruidoso that was good for a camp was right where Camp Tonkawa was located. What needed to be done was to purchase additional land next to the land already leased from the Texas State Park Board." I was told that this was impossible; that several attempts had been made to do that and that the owner would not consider selling any land. I asked if I could try to work out a purchase arrangement. I was given the opportunity.
In the meantime, I had observed that the lease from the state would expire in 1968, only 12 years away. There was no need to pursue purchase of land there if we could not use the leased land.
President Shaw contacted the Chairman of the Parks Board, a Mr. Horsley, from Albany, and invited him to a lunch at Camp Tonkawa, under some primitive conditions. We were granted an extension of the lease on May 21, 1956 for a period of 62 years or until 2018.
Knowing that the Council was going to be involved in an acquisition of property and a camp development program in the future a capitol fund drive was established with a goal of $250,000. Cal Young, President of West Texas Utilities was chairman of this drive and we reached the goal.
Ben Sellers had been the Camp Ranger since 1946 and had lived at the camp all this time. He knew Mrs. Newt (Anne Brookerson) Persley, the lady that owned the land as a neighbor. She lived in an old 2 or 3 room house across the road from Camp Tonkawa. I asked him to introduce me to her which he did in early 1956.
A couple of weeks after being introduced to Mrs. Persley, I stopped by to see her and just passed the time of day, talked about my family and asked about hers. I then made it a habit of dropping by her house for short visits to bring her some cookies that my wife, Helen, had made. After three or four visits, I asked Mrs. Persley, "If you could have anything you wanted, what would it be?" Her response was, "Oh, I'd like a bathroom!"
The next time I went to visit her, I had made a floor plan of her house and had located a bathroom right off the bedroom in a small added on room. After a little visiting, I showed the plan to her and said, "If you would sell that land across the road to the Boy Scouts, you could have this bathroom installed in your house right away." Her response, "Oh no, I can't sell that land, my grandfather homesteaded that land and he and his bride lived in a dugout right on the side of the bank of Elm Creek right next to your dining hall. You wouldn't have that now if Abilene had not taken it for the Abilene Lake project."
I went home rather discouraged, but I had planted the seed. The next several months there were visits every couple of weeks at which times we talked about how we could use the property. That we would not destroy her view of what she was now seeing. That we were interested in preserving the trees and that several thousands of boys could enjoy one of the most beautiful spots in this area. I observed that she liked to do hand work and sewing, so for Christmas, 1956, I made her a sewing box like one that she had showed me a picture of and took it to her.
As we visited in the spring of 1957, I mentioned to her several times that she surely could have that bathroom. Then she said one day, "What I would really like is a new house." The next time I saw her, I had a floor plan of a house and went over it with her. After a few more visits she said, "I'm going to make you a proposition, and I am afraid that you will take me up on it. I'll let you have that land for $50,000." "Mrs. Persley, that is a lot of money." I responded. She said, "Yes, but that is a lot of trees." My response was that I did not have the authority to make a deal, that I would have to take the offer to the board and let them act on it. I asked her if she minded if we had some real estate appraisers look it over and give us an opinion. She agreed to that, which we did and the response was that $50,000 was not out of line.
The Capitol Fund Campaign was going full force in the spring of 1957, and the Executive Board was pleased with her offer, and I was asked to work out the details of purchasing. I discussed this with Jim Culwell, one of the District Executives, and we worked out a plan to save her taxes and we would have a long term pay out. With this plan, and the go ahead from the board, I continued to visit with her.
She told me that she had shown the house plans to a builder and that she was going to need $7,000 to build the house. I learned that both she and her husband were over 65 years old and that they could receive $250 per month without paying any taxes, so I proposed to her that we pay her $7,000 and she carry the note for $43,000 payable at $250 per month. I'm sure this was more income than she had ever had on a regular basis. She then asked, "What about the interest on the unpaid balance?" My response was, " Mrs. Persley, we are not interested in paying interest on this $43,000 as we have the money in the bank right now to write you a check for $50,000, but if we did, do you know how much inheritance tax you would have to pay? Remember, your Grandfather homesteaded this property for 50 cents per acre and you are selling it for $500 per acre. You would have to pay the government about $15,000 in taxes, which would be your loss." I had almost lost the deal, because she responded with "I guess we had just better call the whole thing off." With that, I went home not feeling good.
Another week went by and I went to see her again. She had obviously visited by telephone with her friends and maybe children for she had a new interest in the house and the proposal. I suggested that she contact her lawyer, Bryan Bradberry, and have him get in touch with our lawyer, Alex Bickley, and have them develop the contract. On 16 July, 1957 Mr. & Mrs. Persley, Nib Shaw, Alex Bickley and I met in Bryan Bradberry's office. She opened the conversation with, "I have never been courted so much in my life." Then she and Mr. Persley signed the deed in which the Boy Scouts paid her $7,000 and she carried a note for $43,000 payable $250 monthly with no interest on the unpaid balance. In the event of their deaths the Boy Scouts were to pay her 4 children $62.50 each per month until paid out.
In the Fall of 1957 she built the house across the road from Camp with the plans I had given her. The neighbors gave them a house warming and she was very proud of the new house with the bathroom. She had an income of $250 each month from the sale of this property which was more than she had ever had before. These payments continued for 14 years and three months until a few months after her death in 1971.
By this time, I was real involved in the development of the camp sites and the building of the dining hall. Late in the fall, I stopped in to see her. I asked her if she was enjoying all of the nice things in this new house. Her response was, "I sure wish I could go home" I could easily see why she was feeling this way. She had never had a fancy modern home and she didn't really know how to enjoy it. This was not the home she had known for the 69 years of her life. She later learned how to cope with the newness of everything and lived out her life in a fine home which she learned to love. She died April 18, 1971 and is buried in the Buffalo Gap Cemetery.
Mr. Persley did not adjust to the new house as well as his wife. When they moved into the new house, he moved the privy from the old house and located in back of the new house to provide for his personal comfort. He also built a closed in porch on the rear of the new house where he had his bed, rocking chair, wood stove and other items that meant security to him.
THE NEW DINING HALL OF 1957
As soon as we finalized the purchase of the new property at camp we started working on the plans to build the new dining hall. Paul Lindberg, an architect living on Sayles Blvd, in Abilene was asked to draw up the plans for this new building. In a few weeks time he presented the plans which had the reception from the Scout Executive, "That certainly doesn't look much like a dining hall for a Boy Scout Camp with all that steel and concrete." His response was, "We must remember we are not building this building just for today but for 25 to 30 years from now." How right he was, because now we are still using that building which with its added fineries makes it one of the finest buildings in any Scout Camp in America.
Paul Lindberg worked into the building many features which the Scout Executive and the camp development committee wanted, such as a building that could be used by as many as three different groups at a time; consequently the double doors that go into the kitchen area on both sides of the fire place and the sliding partitions that have now been installed; outside doors on the side of the kitchen wing that would allow groceries to be delivered into the storage area without going through the kitchen and an outside door to the walk in refrigerator so that milk and refrigerated goods could go directly from the trucks to the cold area, a rest room for the kitchen help, a dish washing area etc.
The contract to build the building on a cost plus basis was granted to C. B. Oates & Co. in Abilene. The building cost $23,000. C.B. had a great record of buildings built by him in Abilene. His son-in-law Duane Unrue had just returned from his military service assignment and became a part of the C. B. Oates Company. This is one of the first buildings that Duane worked on after coming into the company. When that building was finished in 1958 it was the dream come true for all concerned.
It is interesting to note that when it became necessary to update the building to meet the new Health Department standards for Camp Dining Halls, Duane again was the contractor in charge and once again provided Camp Tonkawa with the fine facility it is now. This building was constructed with the finest materials and techniques available at the time. It is the first building in Texas, west of Ft. Worth to use pre-stressed concrete for the roof structure. Those 4 ft. X 60 ft. pieces of pre-stressed concrete were transported by truck from Ft. Worth and then raised on to the steel framework by huge cranes to make the roof. The entire roof was put in place in about 6 hours. The rock for the corners and the fireplace came from a rock wall corral on a ranch south east of Potosi. George Maxwell was the Sheriff of Taylor County at the time and he asked for volunteers from his jail population to help load and unload the rocks on to several trucks running between the collection site and camp. About 25 men volunteered and with 12 on each end of the project had the rocks moved using oil field flat beds in one day. Those volunteers were tired, but happy, when they were taken back to jail that night.
At the time that the Capitol Fund drive kicked off in the Council a Safeway Store in the seven hundred block of Butternut St announced that it was going to close. Jim Culwell suggested that perhaps we could get some materials donated from that building. Horace Cook, Safeway's district manager, was contacted and he arranged to have everything in the building donated to the Boy Scout Council. This involved a lot of work to dismantle the store, but the results were great. We were able to get a huge walk in refrigerator, walk in freezer, all the compressors, shelving, and many items that we were able to sell and turn into cash.
The stove that went into the new dining hall came from College Heights School in Abilene and the Fraley LP Gas Co converted it to LP gas. Mack Eplen, who had purchased much of the kitchen equipment from Camp Barkley and who had since been dealing in kitchen equipment gave us the keys to his warehouse to pick out whatever we wanted for the kitchen. This included large commercial ovens, potato peelers, slicing machines, etc. The Supply Department at Dyess had acquired three Air Base Kitchens from bases that had been closed and we had our pick of them with a lot of stainless steel sinks, serving counters, etc which we were able to use. Just prior to our getting one of these kitchen units, the camp in the Wichita Falls Council burned and we were able to arrange for that council to select whatever items they needed.
As the building was beginning to take shape, Edith and Steve Rowe, long time Scouters and operators of The Hobby Shop in Abilene, indicated they would like to donate a ceramic tile mural for the front of the building. They designed the one that is still there, with the 1957 Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Explorer, painted the tiles, fired them, and installed them.
The original building had a very high and open ceiling which was about 10 feet higher on the back side of the building than on the front. It was designed to catch the prevailing wind in the summer and exhaust the heat out through open windows placed in this high area.
A few days after the cement floor of the dining hall was finished, the Scout Executive needed to have a conference with the Camp Ranger. As he was leaving his house in Abilene, with the new cement floor in mind, he asked his daughters ages 11 & 12 if they would like to go roller skating. They grabbed their skates and as soon as they got to camp ran to the new floor and started skating. After the conference with the Ranger was over they went over to the building site. To the amazement of the Scout Executive, the entire new floor was completely covered with roller skate marks. He was frightened, scared, embarrassed, nervous etc. He felt of the floor and there were no indentations where these marks were, just parallel white lines all over the place. He contacted the contractor and was assured that no damage was done, and in time these marks would fade away. To that Scout Executive those marks never did fade away. He never went into the building without seeing them but he never said anything about them until the summer of about 1993 when, at a chapel program, he was telling about the history of the camp he asked if anyone had seen these lines on the floor. No one had. He then told the story about them. When he returned to the dining hall after the program, it was full of Scouts observing the lines they never knew existed. Vinyl tile covered the floor when the building was renovated in 1996 and the roller skate lines were put out of sight and the old Scout Executive can have peace.
retirement party in August, 1969 held in the Dining Hall at Camp Tonkawa
my wife Helen and I were completely overwhelmed when President Nib Shaw
pulled a large sheet of paper off the front of the fireplace and displayed
the Bronze Plaque naming the Dining Hall in my honor. This was indeed
one of life's great moments.
My mother kept these andirons and after she died in 1978, I had to dispose of many of her things. These andirons I could not dispose of and brought them to Texas where I stored them in my garage. In about 1994 when John Clark, the Council Executive was securing items for the Annual Boy Scout Garage Sale I decided to let him have them to sell. At that point I complete forgot about the andirons. One of my life's most emotional moments occured when I walked into the newly updated dining hall on the day of its rededication in 1996 and saw those andirons sitting in the new Camp Tonkawa fireplace. John had set them aside and did not let them be sold so they could become a part of the new updated wonderful building that resulted from his leadership. We are very proud to have John as our Council leader.
THE CAMP TONKAWA BELL
As the Dining Hall at Camp Tonkawa was being built in 1957-58, Mr. J. B. Evans, a man well into his sixties, was the Scoutmaster of a small Troop at View, a small community southwest of Abilene. He also was the Station Master at the View Santa Fe Railroad Station. Mr. Evans was a very devoted Scouter and through his Troop came some outstanding Scouts, many of whom continued in adult Scouting leadership positions.
As Mr. Evans saw the Dining Hall taking shape, it occurred to him that there was a need for some sort of a device to warn the Scouts and Troops that a mealtime was approaching. Also, there was a need of a way to call everyone in camp to a central location in case of an emergency.
At this time steam locomotives were being phased out of service on the Santa Fe Railroad and were being scrapped. He was also mindful that the Santa Fe Railroad had a number of bells that were being removed from the discarded steam Locomotives. He also knew that these bells were collectors items and to secure one was very difficult. One of these was just what he wanted to get for Camp Tonkawa.
Having had worked for the Santa Fe Railroad for a great many years, he was well acquainted with the current leadership of the Railroad as his tenure much longer than most of his supervisors. He wrote a letter to the President of the Santa Fe Railroad requesting a steam locomotive Bell for Camp Tonkawa. Within a few weeks, a bell was delivered to the View Santa Fe Station to be erected at Camp Tonkawa.
Its location was soon determined so to be handy to be rung at the time when the table waiters were to report to set up their Troop's table. Thus it was placed near the side kitchen door. Mr. Evan's Troop and Camp Ranger, Ben Sellers erected a pipe in a concrete base and mounted the bell on the top.
This bell is a cherished piece of history as it represents the great steam locomotives that brought the settlers to Texas and is an item that is limited in number. We were proud to get this bell from a great old Scouter that had a vision and the connections to get it for Camp Tonkawa and the Chisholm Trail Council Boy Scouts of America.
THE OLD DINING HALL
Dining Hall, later called the Recreation Building and Quartermaster Building
was built in the early thirties on the edge of Elm Creek. It served
as a dining Hall with the kitchen located on the east end of the building.
In the wintertime when we wanted to have training courses or winter camp
we would hang canvas over the screened area and build a fire in the center
of the building under a fire hood which was hung from the rafters. This
hood was made from a metal cement form that was used in the construction
of the Citizens National Bank Building in Abilene.
As negotiations were being made for the purchase of additional land from Mrs. Persley, she mentioned that her grandparents had homesteaded the land where the camp was located and that the first home they had was a dugout on the bank of Elm Creek near the old Dining Hall. After close inspection of the area a definite indention in the bank of the creek was observed. In 1965-67 the Order of Arrow took on the project to reconstruct that first home of the pioneer that settled at the campsite. In 1970 or 71 someone drove their automobile onto the roof of the dugout and destroyed it and it was then filled in again.
THE CAMP RANGER'S HOUSE
Mr. & Mrs R. T. Taylor of Avoca, Texas donated the building that eventually became the Camp Ranger's house at Camp Tonkawa.
This building was originally a barracks at the Stamford, Texas Air Field during World War II. After the war it was moved to land owned by the Taylors in the center of Avoca to be used as a meeting place for the Boy Scout Troop there. Through the efforts of Harley Sadler, Mrs. Taylor's uncle, and a popular West Texas entertainer, funds were raised to pay for the moving and the remodeling to put it in condition for a fine meeting place. The troop used it for several years but after the troop disbanded for the lack of neighborhood boys, the building stood vacant for several years.
Mr. & Mrs. Taylor, noticing that it was being vandalized and wanting
to carry out their mission of making it available for the Boy Scouts to
use, contacted the Council office and asked if we could use it. We immediately
saw that we had the makings of a much needed Camp Ranger's house This was
in about 1962.
James Day was the Camp Ranger at the time and he, using the plans developed by the Scout Executive, started the renovation project. Later R. C. Jones worked on it and then a man by the name of Mr. York was hired to do the finish work on it. A water line was run from the main camp area after several attempts of drilling a well near the house failed. The septic system was installed at the rear of the house.
The Jones family was the first to occupy the house and to them it was a real step up in the world after living in the rock house in the center of camp.
By placing the house in this location we were able to control access to the camp when there were no activities going on in the camp and have the main gate available during high traffic times.
THE HOLLAND COGDELL MUSEUM
Holland Cogdell was a Forest Ranger in New Mexico and after he retired he returned to Abilene where he had family connections. He was a talented nature observer and knew the name and use for every tree, flower, weed, grass, shrub, etc.
In the fall of 1957 he was recruited by Russell Day to be his Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 5. He went to the Scoutmaster training (which later became Timber Tag Training) along with Keith Wells. It was while in this training program that his outstanding knowledge of the nature around us was observed.
He came to Camp Tonkawa with Troop 5 in the summer of 1958 and in 1959 he was recruited to be the nature counsellor at camp. A tent was set up near the site of the current Nature Museum. He worked from here and related nature stories to the Scouts that were captivating. That fall he developed an extensive Nature Trail that wandered through out Camp Tonkawa. At each station on the Trail he had a story to tell and gave the details of the nature specimen. In 1960 he continued to use the tent as his Nature Headquarters. His interest in the boys and nature caught the eye of Doyle Elick and Keith Wells who were involved in the local oil industry. They came up with the idea to build a Nature Museum from which he could operate. They got other oil personnel interested and raised the money and labor to build a 30 X 60 cement block building to be used as a Nature Museum in 1961. The building contained a room for the Order of the Arrow to use with a shower and dressing room, rest room and a work room to store nature displays, rock cutting and polishing machines, in addition to the main room which was filled with display cases made by E. W.Berry. The museum and Holland were great assets to the camp program. Holland would go out to camp on Saturdays and work with Scouts and Troops. His Nature Trail talk was an education in West Texas plants, trees, flowers and nature in its essence.
THE CAMP CHAPEL
In 1961, we got a call from the Real Estate Developer that had developed much of the Lytle Shores Addition asking if we could use the A frame building that they had been using for a real estate office. We agreed that we could use anything that we could get for free. After looking it over and trying to figure out how to use a building of that shape, it appeared that it could indeed be best used as a Chapel Building.
The Elam Oil Field Trucking Co. was again contacted and they moved it to its present location. It was constructed in such a way that we had to do very little work on it to use it. E. W. Berry and Holland Cogdell built the podium and the shelf in back of it, moved a door and it was ready except for the seating. The room behind the podium was designed so a visiting pastor or priest could stay there. The front area was available for a Scoutmaster to have a serious talk with a Scout if necessary.
The Explorer Post that Holland Cogdell was working with built the first
seats in much the same lay out as is there now. Various Troops paid
for the materials to build a seat and the Explorers did the work of building
THE CAMPFIRE CIRCLE
Soon after the kick off of the Camp Development Campaign in 1957, it was announced by the Texas-Pacific Railroad that they were going to abandon the telegraph poles between Putnam and Clyde, Texas and we could have them if we would move them. It was agreed that we did want them. A group of Scouters went over there to see what was needed. It was discovered that every one of these poles had a cross arm on them with 3 bolts holding the steel braces. This meant removing 5 bolts from each pole before they could be moved. Still the poles seemed to be just what we wanted. We had to get them out of there right away because the neighboring ranchers also wanted the poles. The project was accomplished in a couple of weeks and again with the help of Elam Trucking and his friends we were able to get a large number of these poles which made the seats for the campfire circle as well as many other projects around camp.
As the Council leadership was studying the goals for development of Camp Tonkawa the idea of a small lake to provide training in boat safety, canoeing and fishing evolved. After some study and the knowledge that Elm Creek ran through camp it was decided to see if there could be a properly located dam to make this lake.
After the Camp Development Campaign was under way in early 1957 Fred Swan,
of the Caterpillar Tractor Co. in Abilene was asked to see if his equipment
could do such a job. He sent Leonard Farmer, one of his employees,
out to camp with one of the company's largest dozers to clear the area
of trees etc. and to build the dam.
Everything went well until Leonard starting digging for the base of the dam. As he was digging, all of a sudden he and the bulldozer started sinking. He had gotten into quick sand. A fast call to Abilene got the largest piece of equipment available to rescue the big dozer.
The dam was completed soon after this experience and soon after its construction a nice rain sent enough water to fill the lake. Small boats and canoes were acquired, fish were given to us by the fish and game department and we then had what had been a dream for Camp Tonkawa. As the years have gone by, the lake has filled up with silt and the water is very shallow in the whole area.
THE CAMP WATER SYSTEM 1954-1969
In 1946 a 4 inch cast iron water line was connected to a newly installed pump located in the Abilene City well in the State Park. This was installed to provide water for the swimming pool and to keep a water tower filled with water in the center of camp. There was no provision for water purification and when the water was tested for the 1955 camp season it was returned "unfit for human consumption". Immediately, we installed a chlorinator in our water line at the State Park which took care of that problem. During the 1955, & 56 camp seasons the troop campsites were located between the swimming pool and the State Park fence so these sites had water direct off the main water line.
After we acquired the new property we had to put in additional lines to serve the new campsites and the new dining hall. We ran a 4" plastic line from where the cast Iron line ended by the pool to a location near where the front of where the Nature Museum was built. Here we connected a 2" PVC pipe that went in a large circle to all of the new campsites around to the new dining hall and connected back into the 4" plastic line. This provided equal pressure to all campsites and to the dining hall. There were no showers or flush toilets in the campsites at that time so the water demand was low.
A new submersible pump was installed in the State Park well for the purpose of supplying the domestic needs of the camp and the old big pump was used only when we wanted to fill the swimming pool. We were then able to abandon the water tower.
When the Camp Ranger's house was built in 1963 we had a well drilled to the depth of over 100 feet. There was never a bit of moisture detected at any point in this 100 feet. At the end, the clay was so hard that it was burning the drill bits. This caused us to abandon the well idea and to hook on to the camp water supply. An 1 1/4" PVC pipe line was installed going from the rear of the dining hall to the Ranger's house. After a few months there appeared muddy spots along this line. This meant leaks. We spent nearly a year repairing leaks. By that time we decided that we had received a roll of pipe that was faulty and we finally replaced that line which ended our leak problem.
ORDER OF ARROW
The Order of Arrow, Camp Honor Brotherhood, has been a part of the Chisholm Trail Council since 1946. In the summer of 1955 it was observed that Scouts who were selected by their Troops to be honored by becoming Order of Arrow members were being harassed by those who were conducting the work projects and induction ceremonies. It reached a point where those in leadership positions in the Order were going to change what they were doing or the charter was not going to be renewed. With direction and guidance the Kotso Lodge Order of Arrow became one of the strongest influences for good and honor in the Council.
In the fall of 1956, Jim Culwell, a Vigil Honor Member, inducted Joe Ed Burnam, Chief of the Kotoso Lodge, Henry McGinty, Joe Galbraith, Scout Executive of the Brownwood Council and a Scouter from Brownwood as Vigil Honor Members. In 1957 he and Joe Ed Burnam conducted the Vigil Honor induction of Ben Sellers, Skipper Willis, Ed Burnam and the current Lodge Chief.
By 1958 the new Council Ring had been built and on Thursday evenings hundreds of visitors from all over the Council came to camp to observe visitors night and the Tap Out Ceremony. This was a highlight of every camp week from then on. The Tap Out Team, under the leadership of John Lanier, made Indian costumes, erected a tepee at the Campfire Circle and put on impressive ceremonies.
The Kotso Lodge was host to a very successful Region 9 Order of Arrow Conference at Camp Tonkawa which was attended by OA members from all over the Region 9.
We want to thank Henry H. McGinty, Council Scout Executive, 1954 - 1969, for allowing us to place this page on the website, taken from his book "Chisholm Trail Council, BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, 1954 - 1969"