Thanks to Tim Jernigan for the photos from the early 80's at Camp Hudgens.
<<-- On the left is in front of the dinninghall.
On the right is out---->
on a hike.
The 911 story.
We are playing Microsoft Golf in the office. We had modified the audio files so when you hit the ball into the trees or rough it insulted you. So we were fast into a tournament when we see lights heading up the hill after 11PM. So its a Pittsburg County sheriff unit. He reaches the top of the hill and starts driving around. He then stops at the office where we all went out in one big fell swoop. We scared him as he pulled his gun and had it ready. Soon other units showed up in the parking lot. We had no idea what was going on. He tells us to stay where we are. He then says that someone called 911 from the camp. At this juncture, we only have one line and four extensions. One in office, one in health center, one in kitchen, and one at director's home. We knew it was not in the office so we sent the deputies down to Paul's home to check on him. He was not amused but that was what we had to do. We then searched the health center and kitchen. Several more units show up and we just assured them nobody was in need of help. We had a suspiscon about who could have made that call. We knew one staffer who liked to feed the phone through the kitchen window to call his girlfriend late at night. The kitchen was locked up at night back then. That was the only phone that was not locked up at the time of the call. So we were at the weekly staff meeting the next night and Bro. Paul mentions the call and how it tied up several officers and could have risked lives of people if those deputies were not able to answer a real call because we had them tied up here. So one staffer says, "Maybe someone tapped into the phones from the CB radio at Unit III." For a brief moment, Bro. Paul look at me and I immediately reply, "Are you kidding? We are using CB radios because they are cheap. The system that would allow us to connect them automatically to a phone line is thousands of dollars."
The saga of the payphone.
Jerry Kersey had come to lead camp and wondered wny we did not have a pay phone for the counselors or kids. He got a salesman to agree to the terms and he signed a contract. I was at camp when the installer showed up. I'm in the office to meet him and he walk in and asks where the service box is. I show him the boxes on the outside on the north side. He asks, how many lines do you have coming up the hill from the toten pole or junction box? I point up to the two copper wires going from telephone pole down to the base of the hill. He replies that we can't have a phone installed unless wire services is upgraded. He leaves and I tell Jerry. Jerry makes some calls and in a few days I hear a huge sound of trucks going up the hill. The trucks carry a backhoe, trencher, and a trailer with a big spool of wire. They run a new underground cable from the box in front fo the caretaker's home to the office. After that, the camp was upgraded to a capacity of 25 lines. As far as I'm aware, four lines were the most it had at any one time.
The time a tornado came over camp during a missionary kid retreat.
It was the early spring off season and I was at camp for a getaway, work weekend. Dr. Dick Rader was there with the OBU missionary kids. It was their annual retreat and they loved Hudgens. I still had the apartment in Pennington at the time. They were watching movies in the lodge area and they usually watched Princess Bride. They recited all the popular lines and were having fun with it. It was now around 2AM and I'm asleep as someone bangs on my door. I open it up and its Herb. He says that Frank had called from the county and that a supercell tornado was headed south on the Turnpike and headed our way. We loaded up the kids in the pickup truck and headed over to the cooks quarters that are under the dinninghall. They are still having fun but at least they are save. Me and Herb decide to sit in the truck and listen to the spotters on the scanner and the DJ on the local radio. We could see the lightning from the storm approaching. Had it been today, I would have been watching it on radar on my phone or tablet. So the DJ says, "This is bad McAlester, this is realy bad. I make this promise though, I will be here with you all until its over. This may be my last broadcast but I'll stay until I'm gone." I look at Herb and ask if that's an illegal panicking of a mass of people. He agrees. It rains hard and then the 50 mph wind. We leave the truck and decide to watch from the cooks quarters like the kids. Then things get calm and everyon'e ears pop. It goes dead calm and we hear what sounds like a freigh train passing over us. I stick my head out on the porch and see the clouds swirling around just like you see in movies. I was looking into the belly of the beast. I then close the door and have everyone go into the back bedroom where there's most protection. It could drop at any time. Our ears popped again and the wind and rain returned. Me and Herb go back to the truck and listen again. The spotters in town are reporting trees down, fences tore up, and windows knocked out. But it turned out to not be that bad in the end. That was closest I got to a tornado until May 2013.
My frist time as a unit II tent counselor a storm hits and blows everything out one tent.
I was assigned to chapter 11 on my first time as a Unit II counselor. 11 was kind of out by itself and served as a backup Unit III tent if we didn't have the staff to send out there. It was the farthest chapter away from the flagpole. So I'm new to this and am listening to the unit director which If memory serves me correctly was Jim Winnegar from Carney. The week was going well until a storm came through camp while we were away from the chapter. We get back and find the entire contents of one tent blown out into the trees, matresses, clothes, bags, etc. Well, since I was regular staff, I used my free time the next day to launder everyone's clothes in the staffhouse. It turned out good. The only other mistake I made was overreacting to the storm. The next time we left, I tied down the sids and doors with some rather strong knots. We later had problems putting the doors and sides open because of that. Oh well, that was a good lesson I did not forget to soon. I later was a Unit II director myself, probably one of the youngest. Paul would often come up to the Unit Lodge and just talk. I stayed there a lot and he liked that. Those Unit II days were golden days. The Unit III days were also great. But I never had to worry about program and meals at Unit II.
The time a kid in our tent chapter got a huge HIckory Farms cheese box.
I figure it was my last year as a camper, 1977. It was chapter 6. Paul got suspicious as a very large flat box arrived for a camper in our chapter that had a birthday that week. It turned out to be a rather large mixed cheese and meat gift box from Hickry Farms. He was nice and shared with everybody. That was a good choice of gift for the tents. It did not require any refrigeraiton. We were nice though and left him some to take home. The usualy items sent by parents was gum. Bro. Paul was like an early day TSA agent. He could ferret out that rogue stick of contraband gum. We put it in a box in the office until the week was over. Gum was strictly banned at camp for very good reasons.
Dr. Joe Ingram playes penny ante poker with staff.
Dr. Joe would often spend a week of vacation time at Hudgens. He was almost always the camp pastor during that week. He stayed in the pastor quarters which was at the time near the staffhouse. He was very laid back on his week and often would be in our staff meetings and participated in the card games. He also was a good chess and checkers player. One time, I went into the staff lounge and he was playing a game of penny ante poker with the staff. Bro. Paul just sratched his head and turned around.
The saga of the BBQ foods meat product.
Every year at the annual food show at the Myriad, Bro. Paul would invite Mrs. Goddard up to see the new food products. She was still cooking a lot of fresh foods but we were under the gun to get costs down even more than ever. There was even talk of closing camp (which did eventually happen). So she agreed to buy a line of meat products that later turned out to be a lot like the Taco Bell meat. The barbeque beef was not that bad. We learned to make the taco beef for chips and tacos. She did order some regular meets after figuring out that it was not very well liked by the campers. A close friend of camp who was a cattle rancher said he would get with Paul the next year and slaughter a bull for camp if things did not get better. But we went back to the original supplier in town.
Two girls get stuck on golf cart in late hours of night.
It was the week before July 4th in 2005 and I was not feeling well. Turned out I had an infection and was in hospital for about three days the next week. One night I was not feeling well it was after 11PM. I had put my radio on a charger but forgot to turn it off. I was half asleep when I heard someone call for help. They said they were stuck on a rock in the middle of the cabins and needed help getting back. Nobody else would have heard that radio call that late so I got in my jeep and went down to the cabins. It was Macie and someone else. They had finished cabin devotions and drove over a large rock. I pushed it off the rock and followed them back to the staffhouse. I was in the hospital the next day because of the infection.
Reece Watson and I cause massive smoke signals at Unit III.
The first summer of Unit III, Paul put me and Reece over there to run it. We had to make up the program as we went beause we couldn't do anything when Unit I and II were operating. We had to schedule time with waterfront, pool, archery, etc. We cooked as many meals as we could but tried to eat lunch in the dinninghall due to the heat of the day. We scheduled chapel and mission time with the pastor and missionary. So, we were making a big fire for the evening worship time and we decided to make it a really big fire. We had the campers go out and find as much fallen wood as possible. Some started putting green branches and leaves on it. It started smoking real bad and we heard the one sound we didn't like to hear, Bro. Paul's Crown Victoria coming up the road. We knew it couldn't be good and Bro. Paul said
they thought Unit III was on fire. We told him we would tone the fires down in the future.
Unit III runs its own game, after 11pm on the ballfield. Has flexibile schedule.
We had trouble figuring out how schedule the activities for Unit III since we didn't want to do much during the heat of the day. We decided to have rec time in the evening. We went up to have vespers at the same time as the rest of camp then had concessions and then headed to the ballfield. Well, we got so wrapped up in the game of capture the flag that we lost track of time. It was getting very dark and then Bro. Paul comes over. I then realize we let it get way too late. We had a long walk back to Unit III but that helped people sleep because they were quite tired after that.
Gary Smith shows up at Unit III in dark for no reason at all.
We are having a service at Unit III and it was already quite dark. I heard this commotion in the woods and all of the sudden Gary Smith shows up out of the black. He sits in on our evening worship time and then tells me that he likes to practice what he learned as an Army Ranger. He says its a skill he learned on how to sneak through the woods. He stayed a while and I think he was going to sleep over until I heard a call come over the CB radio set. It was James asking if we had seen Gary because they knew he liked to visit. I told them he was there and they told him to get back for the staff Bible study. He came over several more times as he didn't like hanging out with the staff.
Wednesday night Bible studies were the highlight of staff week.
Bro. Paul would pick a book of the Bible to go through that was much like the program, "Through the Bible with Les Feldick." Some of the more memorable ones were Colossians, John, Galations, Ephesians. Bro. Paul used a six-version Bible and often read all six versions of a chapter. We often went around and read a verse then gave an interpretation. By the time the summer was over, we had finished the book. We also had a discussion of the week so far. The camp pastor would often interject a comment. Sometimes we had pizza or some other treat at the end. It was also at this time you learned if you were going to be a counselor for the next week. Bro. Paul would walk up and place his hand on your shoulder. Some staffers preferred to be counselors because they saw it as a privledge and not a burden.
We had our favorite places in town to eat. Pete's, Amigo's, Brangus Feed Lot, Taco Pronto, Trolley's, Walmart.
We ate in town starting on Friday and Sunday if we stayed over. Sunday night was usually a meal at camp though. It was almost always pizza made in the kitchen. We ate in town during staff traiing on Saturday night. It was almost always Pete's place. If you don't know about it, this is a place built in the early 1900's to feed miners. It started out as a house someone turned into a restaurant. So you ate in what were the bedrooms. If they had room, you could get a private room for your group. They have expanded numerous times since then and they have more private areas incoroprated into the new areas. How it works is simple. You get to your table and the food starts arriving like you are family. First is the salad. Then bread. Then dish of peppers, cheese, etc. Then spaghetti and meatballs and ravioli. Then you can order an entree if you wish such as iron skillet fried chicken or a steak. The highlight there is a togo box of all the wonderful leftovers. Then there was Trolley's. It was called W.C. Fields because he had memorabilia from his movies. It was a seafood/French restaurant. You could get a steak, fish, and some chicken. It was very good and surrounded by trolley cars. The old trolley car that greeted visitors to camp for so many years was sitting outside. We got good steaks at Brangus Feed Lot. It was interesting to see people order the 3-gallon bucket of beer. It had 4 spigots for the guests to refill their own glasses at the table. Then there was Taco Pronton or Taco Bob. I went there for the guacamole. No trip to town was complete without a visit to Walmart. We saw everybody at Walmart.
Pete's place is a favorite to this day. He realized the need and opened his house to hungry miners. Soon word got out and people made a train trip from Tulsa or OKC just to visit. The menu has changed very little since then. His great granddaughter has opened, "Gabriellla's" in the old County Line building near the Cowboy Hall of Fame. She said she will not try to bring family style dining to OKC. That's a Mcalester license.
Weekend in town watching movies was great, Jaws, Meatballs, Friday 13th.
The Cinema 69 was out hang out place in town. It expanded through the years to eight screens. The last expansion was kind of sad because it meant the end of Cinema 69 drive in. It was a very good value as movies were usually around $5 and concessions prices were way below that of any places in the city. One classic thing at Cinema 69 were the commercials. No, this is not what you think as today's movies have commercials. I'm talking 1980 and the commercials were done locally on 16mm film. One favorite of ours was for First National bank. It started out with a Christmas scene saying "Its Christmas at the First." Many of the stores on Choctaw avenue had these films. They were later replaced with the slide projector and more lately with a digital projector.
Trips to Tulsa were golden days.
We would take as many as three cars up the b-line (US75). The order of activities never changed. First was supper at Casa Bonita.
It was all you can eat with the deluxe dinner. Nearly every time we went, we were asked to go on the the games room because we had stepped over the edge for some reason. Well, the guys always got into a refill contest on the dinner. I usually just ordered another taco. One visit, we had already reached the line and one of the guys looks up and says, "look like your laundry is dry." Next thing the manager is asking us to leave. Another time, one of the staff steps over the line but the waitress comes over to apologize. She says, "I'm sorry I jumped your case. One guys says, "That's ok, we needed help shutting it anyway." Again, the manager asked us to leave.
After we had been kicked out of Casa Bonita, we headed for a movie. It was Jaws one year. Then Jaws 2. We started out watching movies at the twin theatres. None of them are open today. One theatre we went to even had a projectionist strike going on. One time we were coming out of Jaws 2 and James yells, "Jaws gets electrocuted." We were in three cars at the time and some guys who were waiting in line start running toward our car. We get in and speed out like it meant something. In the process, we lost Evans who was new to Tulsa and also had Bill who didn't know Tulsa. Our next stop was always Oral Robert's University. We would go in and see the fountains and all the guilded buildings. One visit we even went into the prayer tower and to the observation deck. It had buttons you pressed that told you what you were seeing out the windows. One visit, we went to the bookstore and a staffer had a cast for wrist surgery. The clerk at the register asked what the problem was and he put his hand on the cast and said a healing prayer. Sevearl times we arrived after the campus had closed. On occasion, we were reminded by campus security that they had closed and to move on. We then always headed back to camp on US75, the b-line. I mentioned the time we lost Evans and Bill because of tearing out of the theatre parking lot. Well, they never found us and wound up driving all the way to Stillwater where they ran out of gas. They had to wait for a station to open to buy gas and get back on Saturday morning. Maybe kharma got James because on another trip he ran into a cow near Okmulgee. We waited on the officer to get there and then a guy shows up to carve the cow and get some fresh beef from it. We decided to go into town and file a report directly with the PD. We always made it back to camp although Bro. Paul had to lecture us now and then, especially for leaving Evans and Bill.
James runs into a friend's Camaro.
We used to have these mini-camps in the off season where people showed up on Friday and we went through a program on Saturday. James had picked me up at my home in Nicoma Park and was headed down Anderson when I said to him he was going fast and a stop sign was ahead. He didn't slow down enough and wound up hitting someone knew from high school. It was Tony Ong and he was in his cherished Camaro. He was the son of the Jr. High principal. We had to tell the officer to call camp and let them know we were going to be late.
Unit III raids the staffhouse.
I was relaxing in Pennington Lodge when I look out and see some kids coming past the flagpole area. I could see it was the Unit III campers. It was Kelton and Alan's week there and the kids had snuck away to pull a raid on the staffhouse. Before they made it, ran over and warned them of the coming raid. The staffers were waiting for them and we scattered them across the main camp. We caught one of them and he said the plan was to first raid the staff house and then Unit I and II. Jerry was at his house and had his radio on when we called down and let him know what was going on. He said to try to round them all up and get back to Unit III. I jump in the van and grab some staff and decide to out flank them as they returned back to Unit III. We parked the van off the road in the trees and as they came walking over the hill to Unit III, I turned on the lights. They were surpised as they thought they had got away with it. I asked Kelton and Alan and they said the campers said they wanted to walk down the road and back to burn off energy. We only had one camper not accounted for but I had an idea that he was in the woods watching us. I walk around and quietly tell everyone with a flashlight that when I give the signal, they turn around and shine their light in the woods. I couint down and say, "NOW" and every light is in the woods around us and we can see the camper trying to hide behind a tree. He gives up and thus ends the raid on the staffhouse.
Kelton hides the key to Unit III bus.
Kelton liked to play stunts on his week at Unit III. We issued a bus to them because they were exactly 1 mile away. Alan, his other counselor, parks the bus near the pool and Kelton decides to take and hide the keys. Turns out its the only set we had. Soon some good intentioned staff decide to hotwire it. But in the end, they wound up tearing up the ignition system. By then, Kelton says, "here's the key." The joke was on them, we made them walk back and forth between Unit III until it got fixed. The other issue with the Unit III bus is that every summer the windows on the doors got knocked out. Herb would take it to the body shop and they would put in plexiglass windows. But then the next summer came and the windows would be broke again. Turns out that nobody liked to drive around with the doors closed so they drove over there with it open and it wound up hitting branches along the way.
The canonball run from camp to town, who holds the record?
How fast can you get from the front camp gate to Talawanda and Stonewall (the first stopsign you encounter). That's the canonball run and many tried to beat it. The prevailing factors include traffic, road conditions, OHP patrols, checkpoints, vehicle condition, and driver condition. As it turns out, it is exactly 7.0 miles. I believe Don Fine holds the record. I know a close second would have to be Alan McCoy in his Mach 1. An honorable mention is Charles Davis who has a highway patrol ticket to show for his efforts.
Staffer gets arrested for running through prison fence.
A sub category under the Canonball run is the staffer who went through the prison fence where the road turns to the East as you turn toward the prison going south. We had some suspicions about him drinking beer. Someone saw the beer in his trunk. We believed he was drinking on duty at camp as he had come from a job working at a Nevada casino. When he crashed into the prison fence, he was most likely exceeding 100mph. The fence wire was wrapped around the axle. He was arrested on DUI. He got a pre-trial diversion and probation. I was working at U.C.O. several years later and he came in with a crutch and his leg was mangled up and covered by scars and graft marks. He said after he left camp thinigs got worse and he was in a DUI crash that nearly killed him. He was partially paralized on one side and his leg was torn up. He was getting his life back together and working on a degree again.
Staffer shoots self with bb rifle.
We had moved bb riflery and archery to the west side of the new multipurpose building because it had rained a lot and the ballfield and trail were too mushy. This staffer is teaching riflery and for some strange reason, he takes a Powermaster 760 and loads it up then fires it into the palm of his hand. His lesson was that the bb rifles were not strong enough to hurt you. We took him into the ER and they referred him to a specialist who then referred him back to his own family physician. Well, the x-rays showed the bb was in the bone marrow. His own physician decides it would be too much trouble to remove it. So in the style of Wes Anderson, its there to stay.
We get a camp van stuck. Then another one, and another one, and eventually all of them.
It had rained for many days in a row. You could not leave the gravel road at all, not even an inch or else you sank. I was headed to Unit III for something and there was another fan on the road. We both went slightly off the road and both of us got stuck in the muck. I run back and get the third van to pull us out. I hooked up a chain and it slipped and I wound up backing into the muck and getting the third one stuck. I then went and found the tractor and got all three back on the road.
Mr. Universe Missionary comes to camp, for three weeks. Orville and Velma Reed. You will be saved before you leave camp. In the mid 80's, we learn that the Reeds will come to camp and be missionaries for three weeks. Orville is world famous for his Mr. Universe style demonstrations. He had trucks drive on his stomach, karate chops from champion black belts, and baseball bat hits. He kept his stomach muscles strong by special exercises he developed. He did these exercises nearly all day long along with walking up and down the camp road. It is a 200 foot change in elevation. We didn't do the truck stunt but he brought video of same. We did do the karate chop and bat hit to his stomach. His body was perfect but his mind did start to go. His mission lessons were based on stories of his many services in Africa. He spoke about having services in a church by inviting the people for a rice meal. He would then invite them into the church and have the staff lock the door. He would then go through the plan of salvation with them and make sure every one knew what it meant. He reached tens of thousands of people that way by doing this for more than 50 years on the field in Africa. He did kind of scare us one week. We had missions at Unit I and II lodges at the time. Unit I lodge had not yet been converted to a cabin. So we were in the lodge after 9pm and I thought things were going ok. He talked about Africa and how he reached people there. He then decides to have an alter call, which was unusual as Paul wanted that to be at the campfire service. I know Paul would be fine with it though if Orville felt it was needed. But things got strange. He told the staff to shut all the doors. So the building was then closed off. He then said, "everybody who has NOT made a decision for Christ, raise your hands." So the odd 10 or so kids raised their hands. He then says, "Now, why do you kids not believe Christ came for your sins? What is the hold up? You can make that decision now and leave saved." So, one of the staffers then closes things down and we go on to tell Bro. Paul. He has us identify the kids who raised their hands and he individually talked to them, letting them know that God had a plan for them and they were not at all being rushed into any decision now.
The best of the July 4th celebrations at the waterfront. Delbert Taylor does "cast line on other side of boat" story, casts net, gets small fish.
As a camper, I first attended camp with Trinity Baptist Church. Later after we moved away, I would pick a week. Steve suggested the low week which was always July 4th. Early on, we did not modify the week like we did later. It was a full week. July 4th was special though as we planned activities around it. An evening wireworks display by the staff was always fun. It was usually at the lakefront because by July, the grounds were usually dry. They would put a piece of wood panel in a row boat and set off the mortars and rockets. It was neat to see. One summer, Delbert Taylor was there from Columbia. He did the Bible passage from John 21:6. It was not a particular good place to fish but he did get a few smaller fish in the net. It was a memorable evening. That weekend the staff would get into fireworks wars in the parking lot or at the lake. It was dock versus dock. They fired popbottle rockets at each other. There was a historic roman candle war in the parking lot one time. Thankfully, nobody got hurt, except for a guy's bedliner in his pickup truck. The other neat part of the day was watching the fireworks display in town at the fairgrounds. Looknig south from the parking lot you could see it perfectly. Some of the staff would get a ladder and climb up on Pennington and the staff lodge to get an even better look.
The campfire service, perpetual camper's favorite activity, they loved the food.
It was Friday night (later Thursday), and the drawing down of the camp week. We had the staff/counselor ballgame or the kids games such as the laugh-a-lympics. We then had vespers and people went back to the cabins to clean up and then it was the evening campfire service. We met at the flagpole as a group just to calm down the campers. We then sent the campers in order by Cabin #1 to Unit III. The staff rock was on the right side of the meeting area. Staff rock was reserved for staff, either part time or summer staff. It started out with some fun songs like Ram-Sam-Sam, Little Rabbit in the Woods, three part Row your boat, Oh you can't get to heaven, etc. Then Paul would take over and ask the kids if they wanted to tell their favorite things about camp. The first few hands up would say, "The food was the best every." Next it was, "Waterfront was the best." Then pool, riflery, archery, crafts, nature, and campcraft. It was hard being a landskills instructor because you know that the kids were always going to prefer the waterfront areas. Then the staff, like Reece Watson, would take over with a guitar and start songs like One in the Spirit, Pass it on, I am free, Jesus Loves Me, etc. The serious part of the music always, through time, ended with "Kumbayah." Then Bro. Paul got up, and would give his cherished, classic version of the campfire message. It went like, "Through the ages, many a treaty has been decided around the campfire. People would gather around the fire and shake hands and be in one accord with each other and leave in peace." We are here today together to celebrate Jesus. This week at camp comes to an end but this is really the beginning for you. Now the pastor comes to tell you the good news of Christ." Then the camp pastor would deliver a message and we had an alter call. The pastor would tell the campers to stand behind the fire and see God's warmth. By then, there was usually a cool wind blowing up from the lake below and it was a very neat time for everybody. We then sent the campers who made decisions over to Pennington Lodge, later the dinninghall. Each staffer was asked to talk one on one with the campers and make sure they understood the plan of salvation. We then prayed and filled out a decision card. We then sent them to Bro. Paul so he could ask them about their decision. Later, I came up with the idea to have icecream after the campfire service. It was after we moved the service to the west chapel and I figured it would help their group to wait for them instead of having to take the kids down to the cabins where they devotions were already started. It allowed them to go back together as a group. It turned out to be a fun time in the concessions area.
Kid goes missing, was out roaming around a stream 1/2 mile away.
Kid goes missing, was result of mis count.
The worst fear of any camp director is a missing kid. Just like with prisons, we do head counts all the time. The buddy system also helps with that job. One incident this kid was missing after the Wednesday night cookout. The Unit I cabins did a cookout along the old cattle trail. The leader had left and did not notice one of his campers wanted to stay behind. Nobody else in the group noticed he was not with them when they came up the hill. When he gets to the cabin he noticed the kid was not there. We get all available staffers together and find him wondering along the creek near the cattle trail. The next moment of search came when we hear on the radio that a kid is not at chapel. He was at the dinninghall and had not made it to the chapel. We look in all the cabins and buildings and then another call comes that says the kid was sitting on the bench the whole time he just did not see him sitting on the end of the row.
Dad calls to chew us out for making his son drink milk.
I'm in the dinninghall and Bro. Paul has yet to arrive for breakfast. The phone rings and Mrs. Goddard and the cooks are busy. We have this rule that if you pour yourself a glass of milk, you need to drink it as milk is one of the most expensive food items we have at camp. So we also encourage kids to send post cards home on Tuesday so it can arrive at home before they leave. Well timing was perfect and the kid had written home that kids were required to drink milk they poured. So the phone rings and I answer it. Its a dad who is absoltely livid about his son's post card home. He says his son says on the card that he's required to drink milk at breakfast. He says the kid is severely lactose intolerant and will get very sick if he drinks it, especially a whole glass full. I tell him that I'm a part of the camp program and know of no rule requiring kids to eat or drink anything. I do tell him that if a kid pours himself a full glass, we like for them to drink it and not pour it down the drain. So decided to find the kid and let him talk to his dad. So I get the kid to the phone and have him explain to his dad. He says" No dad, I have not been drinking any milk. They just said to drink all of it if you do pour a glass." So I talk to the dad and he's satisfied.
The dump truck takes out Cabin 4.
The brakes on the dump truck were not the best and the parking brake was malfunctioning. Some workers had parked it next to cabin 2 and left it for the night. It jumped out of gear and rolled right into the recently remodeled cabin 4. The workers had to start over on it.
The dump truck takes out a home in town.
So it was time to have some heavy duty work done on the dump truck and Herb took it to town to get worked on at a sheet metal fabrication company. That company was up on a hill with US 69, a train crossing, and a rental home owned by the owner of the sheet metal company. They left it parked out front while it was waiting for parts to be made for the engine compartment. Like it did with Cabin 4, it jumped out of gear while sitting at the top of the steep hill. It rolled down the hill and went right through the rental home. It took out their bedroom. The owner called and said the dump truck had been in an accident but that their own insurance would cover the light damages to the truck and the rental home. The owner of the company said he was worried because the renters had returned and grabbed cameras from a local convenience store and were taking photos of the damage.
As a footnote to this story is how we got the dump truck. We needed one and we always had to pay dealy for sand and gravel deliveries. We needed to repave the road to Unit III and got a quote from the rock services in town. The estimate was $15,000. Terry Sledge, pastor at Victory Park, was helping us with his remodling skills and was working on the caretaker's home and cabins. He ate lunch with us as we discussed the dump truck. Terry proposed to Herb that we buy a truck from the local dealer, "Long's Automotive." No relation. We wouild pay $15,000 and then buy the rock wholesale from the Hartshorn quarry. The board members agreed and they sent the check. We took it into town and had Terry meet us there since this was his deal with Mr. Long (no relation). We let Terry take it to his church and have his guys go through it thoroughly to make sure it was ready for us. In doing so, they paved their back parking lot with new gravel. It was all tuned up and ready to go. Me and Herb rotated turns getting up a 5Am to make the short hop to Hartshorn and get rock. We started at the gate and wound up all the way to the Unit III lodge. We used it for untold amount of deliveries of rock, sand, dirt, and wood chips for the ropes course. It payed for itself many times over.
I got the tractor stuck, nearly up to the top of the smokestack.
I was mowing Unit III area and getting ready for camp. I needed to mow the trail to chapter 11 and 12 because they were not used as much and had not yet made a good trail. I got past the Unit II lodge and then everything came to a full stop. The tractor just sunk down to the axles. There was no getting out. I walked back to the office and told Lloyd and called Bro. Paul. Lloyd created an ingenious solution by roping a large 2x4 to the back wheels and then using the wheels power to climb out of the muck. He had to do that a few times until it finally got on more solid ground. I was later in the office when Paul called. He asked how it was going and I told him Lloyd had saved the day, again. He said, well Kerry said not to call him until the tractor was up to the smokestack in mud.
Old hospital is now Jackie Brannon prison center. But it once treated the staff.
The current Jackie Brannon Center is a pre-release center for the McAlester penn. It started out in life as McAlester's main hospital in early statehood days. It was an old building with plaster walls and old tubular steel beds. We had to take staff and campers there on occasion for treatment. The worse was when Jimmy Kinnemer turned his knee at the staff/counselor ballgame. McAlester did not have an MRI and they first thought it was a blood clot because it was swelling. McAlester also did not have an orthapedic surgeon in the city at the time so Jimmy had to wait until one made the trip down from Tulsa on his weekly run. That was not until the next week. So as a precaution, they pumped Jimmy full of blood thinners. The orthopod finally arrived and made a quick diagnosis, it was a torn ligament. The problem now was that he was full of thinners and needed surgery. There was no way he could have surgery for at least a week. So he stayed in the hospital until he recovered from the blood thinners and the orthopod returned in another week to fix his knee. The rest of the summer he wore a brace.
Cookout areas change through the years. By the cabins, on the cow trail, on the rocky flats, out in the wilderness, then back to cow trail.
We started out having campfire hobo dinners out in the wilderness because camp did not own the property north of the dinninghall or west of Unit II. So we left the cabins with US army backpacks full of ground beef, carots, potatoes, onions, foil, matches, cups, and a water pack that leaked. I remember my first place to hike and have campfire in Cabin #1 was on Mr. Weeks property to the west.
You can see below a pond on the left side of the image. We built a fire there and cooked the hobo dinners. Then we hiked back and it was always finished with an evening swim, concessions, vespers, and then evening missions. Unit II cooked out next to their tents as they had cook pits. Unit III cooked out at pits and also at the main lodge.
Ok, with legend come rumors. Pete has made Choc beer since days of Indian Territory prohibition. It was by request only and never available for take away. They did finally get a license for it. The red sauce they use has a rumor that it has been in the same kettle since he first opened up his house to strangers. He simply just keeps putting in ingredients but has never taken the kettle off the stove. If you ever eat there you will find it a taste not found anywhere. The Muenster cheese they serve is from Lovera's. Its a favorite for Italian sausage. Pete (well his descendents) set up a booth at the annual Italian Festival in May. They have Italian sausage burgers. That's the inside ingredients cooked into a patty. They had a bottle of sauce on the booth and I asked about it. He looked me squarely and said, "Itsa Gooda."
Vans are four wheel vehicles afterall, can go anywhere as long as you havet tractor handy.
We took vans where they were never designed to go. That includes the 1965 Dodge van that I swear could climb Mount Everest. It went to the riflery range, down the cattle trail of the newer campfire areas, over the rocky flats, up to nearly tent chapter, and over a flooded creek in the great flood of 1983. Other newer vans also made the same trek and often had the signs of paint being rubbed off. Bro. Paul would get upset to see the scratches. When a staffer took off down a trail with a camp van, I called it the Flintsones car wash.
The case of the church fued at 2nd Baptist. Split staff down middle.
We had mainly visited First Baptist McAleseter on Sunday because they were responsible for camp being there in the first place. But Bro. Paul would let us attend anywhere in McAlester we liked. Reece Watson sometimes went to Frink because his dad was pastor there for many years. We even went to a homecoming there with a covered dish lunch. Then came the case of Second Baptist. Evans Bailey attended Second at the time because his own church he grew up had changed a lot and the pastor, O.J. Findley, had moved to the northeast. So Bro. Rob Grim had started being the pastor at Second Baptist Church. It was in the original town area that was determined by the US Congress to be called North Town. US Congress had to decided this because Mr. McAlester had established the original town during the Indian Territory days and congress ruled the area. Newer town leaders came along and established a new commerce center at the junction of the Texas road, Texas railway, and State Highway 1. US Congress then deemed the newer part as McAlester and the original town area as North Town. So 2nd BC is in North Town, right next door to the J.J. Mc Alester mansion. Well, their ballfield is the immediate neighbor to JJ's relatives. We were very involved with second Baptist, way much more than at First. We got involved with the softball teams and Bro. Paul even let some of the staff go in on a week night and play with their team. I liked it because I would have them go by Amigo's (mama Dawn's) and get me some tacos or chocolate chimis. So Evans told me that things at 2nd were not going so well at 2nd. Some of the old members did not like Bro. Grim's preaching style. It is no different than what you may see today at Lifechurch or Crossings, Bro. Grim was 30 years ahead of his time. Problem we had was that there were staff at camp who were a part of the group who wanted Bro. Grim fired. So he was fired by that group. We had staff supporting him, and those opposed to him. So Bro. Grim opens the pastor's study window from outside and removes all his personal items and on the next day, Sunday, he starts a new McAlester church. I decided to help out Evan's family and I was with the group who visited the new church that met in an old Assembly of God building. But things got even more weird when Bro. Paul took the pulpit supply job at 2nd Baptist. But he was fair and let each one of us decide where to attend. In the end of it all, most of us wound up back at First, where we had started.
Wacky weed found at camp. Statute of limitations far exceeded.
It was my third year on staff as a fulltime summer worker and we were going to have our training cookout during staff training week. We had moved the cookouts to the cattle trail and were hiking down there to the farthest cook pit area. When we made the turn at the lake to the north, one of the staffers looked down and saw some rather healthy plants growing up about six feet tall. They had a slightly blue tint and kind of looked like maple leaves but were thinner. Yes, it was marijuana growing. Now, set the wayback machine three years prior to my first year on staff. We had a staffer who was an MK from parents who were missionaries to Panama. You can do that math. He and some others were not asked to return the next summer. But my second year, we saw these "fishermen" take boats back to the creek near the cattle trail. They always wore hats or warm up tops so we could not see their faces. They set up trotlines which later we figued were a ruse. We believe it was these guys who planted the mary jane at camp. So we decided not to do anything right then as we needed to proceed carefully. Well, first of all we didn't want a full blown raid on camp. Even in 1980, the war on drugs was not nice. So leadership decided to cut the wacky weed and burn it in the campfire pit. The wind was from the northeast which meant the smoke would blow to through camp and dissipate before it the property. Chances are, nobody outside of camp would be able to smell it. So, they piled it up and caught it on fire. The staff were told to shut all the windows and stay in the staffhouse. But the smoke was very strong and the staffhouse smelled like burning rope. Bill complained of welps as it turned out he was allergic to it. Evans told Bill not to attend any events at Lloyd Noble at OU because it was filled with mary jane smoke. Bill went in to get some allergy cream.
A cobra hits Unit II.
It was a typical day and everything was going well until a call comes over the radio that there is a cobra located at Unit II, chapter 8. I jump in a van and head up there. I get up there and it was an agitated Western Hognose (as I later found out). It did kind of look like a cobra as its body was flatened out. But it was not harmful and we could tell it was not a typical pit viper. We moved it away from tent #8 and later a staffer who knew what it is identified it by description.
Wreck at dam, lots of sirens, three dead kids.
We were in the office again playing a tournament game on the computer. It was a space simulation game based on adventure and you upgraded your ship, weapons, and got awareded space money for defeating aliens. It was an extensive game and took the whole summer to complete. We kept hearing siren after siren. I didn't have the scanner at that time so we decided to get in a van and drive down to the dam area to see if they needed a boat for whatever happened. We get to the dam and there are ambulances and police everywhere. There was a car turned upside down in the spillway. We decided they didn't need the boat and left. It was reported in the paper the next day that three kids had died in a DUI crash. We went out to the site and the spillway had lots of blood stains on the rock. For many years, there was a cross memorial at the spot where the car had crashed.
The saga of Spilly Bob.
Bob Gilmore hated it when we called him spilly Bob. But it was not necessarily if he spilled something, it was if anyone spilled something. So how did it get started? Well, Bob may have filled a trash bag a bit too much. He was headed out the kitchen door when it split open and spilled trash just everywhere. But another spilly Bob moment was when we installed the large water coolers in the dinninghall on the east wall. It was Thursday supper and we had sandwiches and chips. So the table hops come in and set up the table. Then after the prayer they go in and get the tray of sandwiches and bowls of chips. So I'm at Paul's table which is located between the two coolers instead of near the pop machine like it had been years before. So this kid gets his bowl of chips and walks in front of one of the coolers. It was hilarous to see the entire bowl of chips empty out and the chips flew all over the middle of the dinninghall. Now that's the ultimate spilly Bob, Bob.
Camp gets mentioend in Oklahoma Supreme Court case.
Bob Gilmore had passed away while working for the McAlester schools. He left his car to Camp Hudgens. While Herb had it parked at a local mechanic shop, it was stolen out of the yard. Turns out that Fowler, Norman had a lien on it. The tow company cut the lock and broke the fence when they towed it out. Jim Willimason of McAletser won a suit against Fowler for the damages.
Gene Leroy Hart walks through camp?
Highly possible. It was the 1973 riots and there were several escapes. The northeast side of the prison was in flames. Several prisoners go out before the state and local police got it locked down. Gene Leroy Hart was one of those escapees. He was full blooded Cherokee. He was later given the association with having special powers of invisibility. He avoided capture for many months and was later accused of committing the Girl Scout murders although he was found innocent at trial. The week of the riot, there were deaf children there. It was not hard keeping the real details from them and the staff simply told them it was a fire in town. There was a group camped out on the other side of the lake that consisted of the Primitve unit, later renamed Unit III. My older brother was with that group and a state highway patroll trooper showed up and told them to return back to camp where it would be safer. It was a long tradition to canoe over and stay the night across the lake and return the next morning after breakfast. We would often check on them as there was a road right up to where they landed. They returned and I remember our car passing the still smoldering prison after that week to pick up my brother. The next year was my first year at camp.
Then there was the saga of Indian Joe or Big Sam.
For many years, it was tradition to get the kids together in the cabin area and tell the story of an Indian or otherwise large escaped prisoner who roamed the hills at night preying on any campers that had snuck out of their cabins. Although there was officially a ban on ghost stories at camp, the staffers did their level best to concoct a myriad of these strories in order to get the campers to go to sleep and not want to leave the cabin. It came to a head one night when the staffers concocted the most elaborate stunt on the cabins in all the years of camp. We had all these full hasmat suits with hoods and the several of the staff had put them on. They also had some small flourescent flashlights and put them in the hoods. It was a scene right out of, "Virus." The story was evidently that aliens had landed and the government sent in agents to investigate. The staff borrowed a deer head from Pennington lodge. The deer played heavy as the alien and the kids were scared out of their minds that night. Needless to say, we got a few letters and the skit was banned going forward. It mostly worked but there was one time I had made a very late raid of the walkin cooler and upon returning I saw a kid running through the middle of camp (around 11pm). Turns out he was an ADHD kid who escaped the cabin and was evidently running away for some reason. We got him back to the cabin and the counselor slept with one eye open the rest of the night.
Rainy Saturday morning we float over creek to get back to Pennington.
A staffer decided to drive across the cove, so he thinks.
Ray decides to drive across the cove in his truck in 1982 because the lake dried up. He gets about half way and then sinks all the way to the axels. He is so far out that a tow truck can't reach him. He is sunk too low for us to reach a cable or chain to him from the tractor. Thankfully for him, the bull dozer that was clearing a path for the new water line out to them main part of the lake was still working. He had a chain and was able to pull him out of the lake. The reported extra charge for doing that was $250. He evidently lost a few weeks of wage to cover that tow.
Two days of rain cure the drought and lake fills up.
The drougt came to an end in 1983. The line we buried under the lake floated up. We had got leeches the year before because we had to dig a trench across the cove and we were bare footed at times. It was a choice between ruining a pair of shoes or going bare footed. We just had to remember to check between the toes for leeches. The trench was only 2 feet deep and evidently the air in the line caused enough boyancy for the line to rise above the bottom of the cove. The solution was to cut up some well casing pipe and slide it down. We slid enough of them to get the line to sink. In a couple years, it sunk down in the mud and was no longer a problem. It helped that once we started using it on a regular basis, it had water in it all the time. The line is still there but capped off on both sides. The line out to the lake and the utility service was never fully completed. After Jerry Kersey came along, we decided to dig a new line to the lake road and hook into the local water district water line.
Camp Caretaker brings wonderful groceries to Unit III, stays for dinner.
Mrs. Goddard had a set menu to cook for the week. On way to get crossways with Mrs. Goddard was to dig into her groceries she needed for the week. We needed our own provisions in order to cook more than four meals out at Unit III. Bro.Paul told caretaker LLoyd Ellis to get with me and have him go to town to get the food we needed. I decided to make it a special week so I had Lloyd pick up things like pork chops, minute steaks, smores makings, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, etc. We thought since Lloyd took good care of us, we needed to invite him for supper. Lloyd brought even better items as the weeks progressed. We even talked him into some T-bones the last week.
Charlie Loper rows out to sailboat after dark to ask why were were still on lake (with Gary Smith).
Gary Smith was the lakefront program director. We had just got the Viper sailboat and he liked to be out on the lake for a sunset cruise. One problem with that was that the wind died almost like clockwork as the sun was setting. So I am one of the instructors at the lake and I'm out on the boat with him. Instead of heading in before the winds totally die, we stayed out in the middle of the lake until they do. We have evening devotion and then I hear this swosh, swosh, swosh coming from the darkness. Soon we can make out a row boat and then see its Charlie Loper. It was Wednesday night and time for the staff Bible Study. Paul had sent Charlie to retrieve us from the lake. He hooks up a rope and tows us back to the dock. We send the campers back to their tent and make it back to the Bible study before it concludes. Paul informs Gary not to do that again.
Staffer gets sent home over a softball game.
There was an era of the staff/counselor ball game. It was classic game and the kids got a kick out of watching it. We talked it up all week and in the days when campers went home on Saturday, the game took place on Friday evening after supper. When we switched to going home on Friday, it was then Thursday after supper. It stopped in Paul's later years, probably around 1995 for various reasons. Most of all, we had a lot of the staff in the cabins during the night and it was a matter of the game changing. So this staffer is trash talking all week about the game, as usual. I should add that we had won the game the previous week. It so happens, all of our best softball players were assigned this week to be counselors. Then if memory serves me correctly, both Lane Buckly and Clyde Hughes are counslors that week. The counselor side was a virtual dream team. Not that the staff were out because we did have Charlie Loper on the staff team. So this staffer is already worked up about the good players being counselors that week and he is making comments of same. So it happens that Paul's grandson is visitnig that week. Paul wants him included in the staff team. So it all comes to a head on that fateful afternoon. We make the rotation and the game goes on. Its a slaughter. The counselor side wins big time. This particular staffer had already been on borrowed time because of getting into trouble the year before. After the ballgame is over, we usually had vespers, then cleaned up and had the campfire service. This is the time when campers made decisions. I was taking it easy on my bed in the staffhouse (near the bathroom as a newby) and Bro. Paul came in. That usually got us worried but he was just going to let the staffers know who were going to be counselors for the next week. Since this staffer knew he was doing that, he decided to make a topical comment about choosing whom to be counselors. So this staffer says, "Bro. Paul, I think its a shame for you to pick staffers to be counselors just so that they can win the softball game. You should not be rigging the game just to make us look bad." Paul replies, "I am not sure why you are saying that because the people I picked had not yet been counselors this summer and it was their turn." Then the staffer continues, "And by the way, I want to let you know that you are doing a horrible job as camp director and you really need to think about your decisions that are ruining this camp." Ok, you have to know that this is in front of everybody in the main dorm part of the lodge. Everybody heard this guy say these things. So, Paul gets red in the temple and says, "Look, I have repeatedly let you have second chances over and over again as you did things I did not like and I promised your parents that I would work with you this summer after what you pulled last summer. It is evident that you don't want to be here and I will make it easy for you. I want you to pack up your bags and I want you off camp property in the amount of time that it takes for your mom to drive here to pick you up." Well, it turned out the mom worked late and nobody could get him until the next day. This guy had upset Paul so much that he told James to take him into town and get him a room at the Holiday Inn,which he did, and we never saw that guy at camp again.
The boat sinks, several times.
We had an old motorboat with a 40 HP Mercury motor. It would barely pull a skier. We justified it because of the active sailng program and it could be used to rescue boats that had turned over on the mian lake. It was getting old and it leaked a bit. It had a unique bilge system where you just pulled the drain plug as you drove around and it would suck out the water. Therin was the fly in the ointment. Staffers wouild pull the plug as they headed in and would forget to put it back when they pulled into dock. One time, they had been out on Saturday and skied all day. they returned to the dock and forgot to put the plug back in. When we got back down there on Sunday afternoon to go out, it was gone. But the chain that locked up the motor was still attached and locked. So we find it in 10 feet of water. We rigged up a rope system and tied every lifejacket we had one at a time until it floate up to the surface. Then we could walk it to the beach and bail out the water. The first time this happened, we took it in to Art Quadracci and he cleaned it up and got the motor running. On the second time it happened, Art just told us to go to T.H. Rogers and buy a gallon of methanol and run through it until it ran smooth. We had several boats through the years and I know that Dr. Tanner was curious why we had problems. It was because we always got old, ran down boats. We did our best to use good oil for the fuel mix and to buy gas in town at Texaco instead of the bulk delivery. The gas they delivered to us was not bad, it was the old rusty tank. Even when they changed out tanks to a gravity tank, the fuel was somehow dirty in it. I warned staff not to use it in their own vehicles. While I was there, I always went into town to get fuel for the boat.
Gary argues with Charlie on who runs the water (lake) front program.
It was the first day of staff training of 1978. I ride to camp with my brother and right there in front of the staff house is Gary and Charlie. Gary is airborne Ranger and Charlie is USMC. They are arguing about who is the boss of whom. Gary is the lake director and Charlie runs the pool and lifeguard training. Gary believes he is over the pool program under the auspices of "Waterfront director.." But Paul referees the dispute and decrees that Charlie is over everybody at the pool and Gary is only over the people at the lake.
The boat comes off trailer, passes caretaker and goes into woods.
Its a friday morning and we are fast and furious getting the campers to Pennington, getting their refunds, running the camp store and concessions, and trying to close out camp for the week. I'm at the refund table and Herb comes in and says, "I need you right now." I tell him I can't leave for a while and he says, "No, I need you now, find someone to cover the table." So, I run into the office and tell Paul that Herb needs me and he finds a staffer who can run the table. So Paul asks Herb what the deal is and Herb tells him that the boat came off the trailer, passed him on the road down the hill, and landed in the woods. Paul pauses for a moment and then starts to laugh uncontrollably. The way Herb told it was that he was headed down the road with his daughter Beth in the pickup cab. He is looking straight ahead and Beth turns left to see the boad next to them on the road. She then starts jabbing Herb and points and syas, "Da, da, da, boat, da boat," Herb looks at her in confusion and she points ahead of the pickup and says, "Da da boat." He says, "what is it doing there, and where does it think its going." It veers to the left and heads into the woods about 40 feet. It hits a tree and comes to a stop. We winched it out of the woods and took it to a good fiberglass worker. He fixed it up just like new and only charged us for the materials.
I use oil rig maneuver to plug a water leak.
We were treating our water in Herb's early days in the early 90's. There was a pump station at the waterfront that pushed water up to the treatment plant next to the dinninghall. The muddy water ran through chemicals that first settled the mud then added purfication agents and then a final filtration and then to the tower. One day I was headed to the dinninghall for something and noticed a very large amount of water comoing from the treatment plant and running down the hill. I was training in operating the plant and had a key. I opened the door and noticed that a plastic pipe had come loose at a joint. There was a valve down stream of the joint that was closed and it lead to the settling tamk. I remember that with oilwell blowouts, they will install an open valve over the well and then close it. That's what I did. I opened the valve and reattached the loose line. then I closed it. I also went down to the boathouse and turned off the power to the pump until Herb could check it out. I was covered in muddy water and had to go shower and change into dry clothes.
Caretaker's grandkids set fire behind shop the week of the tragedy at the lake.
It was the Thursday afternoon of the accident week at the lake. We closed out camp early so staff could attend the funeral. The groups were all gone and I was headed to the dinninghall to say goobye to Mrs. Goddard before heading home. The phone rang and it was Lloyd's wife. She said there was a fire near the shop and she didn't know what to do. I quickly looked down at the house and saw white smoke. I knew we had to get a hold on it because it we waited for the local volunteer station to arrive the shop would be gone, it was filled with wood and chemicals. I was in my truck and just drove down but saw Don Fine at the parking lot. I told him there was a fire and to grab all the fire extinguishers and head down to the shop. Right away, I noticed it was a grass fire just northwest of the shop. I grabbed a water hose at the house and got it close enough to fill buckets with water to get the grassfire under control. Lloyd arrived and started a leaf blower and blew the burned leaves back into the burned area. This was the first time I saw that and he said that's what the leaf blower was for. Don arrived with the fire extinguishers and I was glad because we had some tires that just would not go out. Paul and Betty also arrive with more extinguishers. We would just drench them in water and it seemed like they were out, and then you look back and in a puff the whole thing is a big ball of flame. We emptied an extinguisher on each tire and that snuffed the fire. I started looking around and noticed some firework fountains in the middle of the burned area. I picked it up and gave it to Lloyd. He then looks at his two visiting grandsons and says, "You could have burned down everything down here." Paul and Betty tell us they are leaving before anything else happens. I tell him that me and Don are behind them.
The staffhouse was frought with stunts and practical jokes. The bunk in the ceiling, moving the bunk, the chlorine bomb, the NBA and the
remote, Conehead Nigh court. Climbing the water tower.
We had these staffer twins that wanted to be highway patrolmen. They had attended the annual event for high schoolers at Burns Flat where they shoot the weapons and do the tactical driving training. There were a bit much and needed some pranking. Some staffers riged up a pulley system above one of their bunks. Then they slowly pull the bed higher and higher until he finally wakes up about 8 feet in the air. The other twin gets tied up on his bed and transported over to Pennington when he wakes up. We had planned to do the Morty skit from meatballs but he woke up too early. The next one is that Dave Nixon was fresh from the Army and wanted to make a special effect for the campfire service. His manual showed a way for a fire to start after about 10 minutes of mixing up chemicals. He needed to test it out so he asked me for some chlorine tabs. I gave him a few tabs to play with. Me and Herb are in the truck headed to town when we pass the staffhouse and notice smoke coming out of every window in the lounge. It did not have a/c at the time. It was a deep white smoke. I thought it could be something burning on the stove so I grabbed the extinguisher from Pennington. I went in and right away noticed a very strong chlorine smell. I could see there was no fire and the smoke was billowing out of the sink. I went out and caught a big breath then went in and turned the water on in the sink. It snuffed out the small fire that was burning in a glass in the sink. Turns out that Dave had mixed the chlorine tabs with brake fluid. It didn't cause a reaction like he thought and he just left the glass in the sink until it did react, just much later.
It was the NBA finals during staff training week. The staff settled into the staff lounge for the game. I had taken the remote control for the tv earlier. Me and another staffer go up to the attic loft where we can see down on them watching the game. I started changin the channel when someone made a shot. They had to continually change the channel back. We later fessed up to it and I'm sure they got even with us.
We had an old black and white tv in my apartment in Pennington. The top part of the screen stretched out the picture so it made some programs extra funny. The only programs we could watch were on later, after 10:30. So that first program we picked up on Tulsa TV was Night Court. The character, Bull was always framed to the top of the screen. So he looked like conehead. The other character, Dan also had very tall hair so we nicknamed him, "Dan King."
The water tower just sat there wanting to be climbed. Nobody knew how well the welds on the ladder were after more than 30 years. But we were willing to try. It was not a fun climb. It looks so easy on the ground. First you had to climb an extension ladder to get to it. So about half way up, you got the gitters. But you really had to make it the rest of the way. So you went to the top and had the best view of the Lake McHoma area, Bucklucksy Township. You could also see into town quite well. We always took a marker up there and signed our names. The climb down was just as hard as you just went slowly and didn't look down.
We coulda been in pictures!
There was some plans made to film a movie at camp much like, "Dances with Wolves." A Choctaw Indian city was going to be constructed at Unit III and on the plateau where the Scipio trail remnants are. Locals would be hired as extras and camp would get several authentic teepees. The primary funding was to come from Ron Howard and Pam Dawber. It never made it out of development and it never got green lit.
Another movie went farther in planning. A guy showed up with a letter of permission from. Dr. William G. Tanner to use Camp Hudgens for a motion picture based on a summer camp. We went around with the group and showed them all the areas. They were excited about what they could use without a lot of changes. But then things got weird in that they wanted to construct more elements that did not exist such as a flowing stream. We have a stream but it was not very flowing unless it had rained a lot. Then they wanted to build more tents to match a specific camp that the movie was about. Turns out the movie was to be about the Girl Scout murders at Camp Scott. We made a phone call to the Baptist Building and let Dr. Tanner know that was their intention. Turns out that he had got his information through a Shawnee church where he knew the pastor. The pastor was told it was a movie about a camp but not about Camp Scott. Needless to say, Dr. Tanner removed his endorsement and thus their using camp ended right there.
Wiring up the buggle speaker in the staffhouse.
I got up early everyday to play reville each morning. But the staff stayed in bed as long as they could and Bro. Paul was having to go in and wake them up just before the morning roll call at the flagpole. So I decided maybe the staff couldn't hear the buggle very well. The first one I installed was visible and was taken down and disconnected. The next time I hid it further in the area above the cubicals. Someone found it and again removed the wires. I then placed it in the old lft storage area where the exhaust fans were. I made it hard to get to but they still found it and removed the wires. On my final attempt, I decided to not have a bugle speaker there at all and instead use a boom box with the bugle tape. So I carried the boom box over there and just played reville from it. I think they finaally got the message and made a better attempt at getting to flapole on time.
There was a time when just about all the staff went to Falls Creek when Hudgens was over. It was when Laddie and Bro. Paul ran the rec staff at Falls Creek. Falls Creek started later back then and we missed a couple weeks. They would have other people do the rec staff until Hudgens was over. I remember my first year to work Falls Creek was in 1979. I worked pop and ice cream. There were lots of neat girls and I handled the big case packs of pop bottles. Me and Gene Daley handled the empties. I would go sell them to the pop dock. I made an extra $40 per week and at the time I was paid $35 per week. The next several years I was on the ref staff for volleyball and softball. We were no longer asked to help out around the mid 80's because Gary Fielding wanted to hire hiw own staff.
A former counselor threatens to sue.
A former counselor was arrested in a sting operation at a park in the OKC metro area. He had been involved in a metro church's R.A. program. But that church had already banned him from the program. We got a call from the pastor telling us he was not longer affiliated with the church and if he showed up, he was not to be near their kids. We hadn't heard from him and then on a Monday at 2PM his car barrelled down the middle of camp and down to the cabins. We knew exactly who it was. We sent down a staffer to tell him to get back up to the office. The staffer found him unloading all his gear into the cabin we usually assigned him. He drove back up and asked what the problem was. We told him he had not registered and we did not need any extra counselors for the week. He said he was not going home. We told him since a church had not sponsored him, legally we could not let him stay unless he passed our own background check system and we did not want to do that so late in the summer. So he angrily left. He then sent a demand letter through a lawfirm stating he indended to sue for sending him home. Our attorney said he welcomed any such inquiry or action. But it never made it that far. He was arrested as a local school bus driver where some kind of incident happened. The media made a circus of it because of his prior problems. He left us alone after that.
Staffers cook a snake.
Someone found a copperhead and they killed it. We didn't always do that unlesss it was found in the residence areas. Instead of tossing it, the staff gutted and filleted it. He rolled it in corn meal so it really had a taste like catfish. Well, it was more like catfish meets chicken. I tasted a small part and did not really like it. Other things we cooked in the staffhouse include deer meat, nachos, pizza, casseroles, bbq on the breezeway, hobo dinners, stew, etc.
The Camp Vendors
I thought I would take time to mention some of the fine places we did business with in town. Of course there was Walmart. Ok, first of all, it was a Walmart home store. There were none in any of the larger metro areas. We thought it was the best thing ever. You could run to town and get anything you needed. They purchased the old Pittsburg County Fairground and it moved to the west side of town. Then Walmart built one of largest Super Centers in the U.S.A. They said they did $5M in sales the first week. Then in town, you had Gibsons. It had stuff Walmart didn't carry like farm supplies. It later turned into Atwoods. Then there were the ma and pa stores we loved so much. Diamond Hardware was great. Next to it was Diamond Sports. They did a lot of sports printing for the region. T.H. Rogers Lumber was almost a daily trip and they supplied lumber for many of the buildings like the cabin remodel and the store extension. Early on, Hudgens Lumber was still in business but that was before my time. The oldest place we bought from was Union Iron. They were in a 1900 period building as it was a former iron smelter. It turned into a general plumbing and HVAC supplier. Then we had Lalli plumbing for fixtres. That's Dino Lalli's uncle. Early on there was McAlester Wholesale. We bought all camp food from them. Then we always bought chicken and eggs from Oak Ridge Poultry. Yes, excellent free range products. Later came Indian Nation's Wholesale. Then we went to Sysco. You had Ben E. Keith, Mellani, William E. Davis, and US Foods. Can't forget NAPA, Finnemore paint, and Benjamin Moore. Then there were the Tonys. No, not the award, Tony Refrigeration and Tony's Chemicals. We banked at First National Bank, an old timey bank with old fashioned customer service. We did business at Tandy Town shopping center. Yes, there was a town named Tandy Tandy was one of the old Choctaw families of Indian Territory. The Tandy family formed the town of Tandy, west of McAletser but actually prior to the town being formed by JJ. Mac. The family created a leather dynasty that later turned to electronics when it went public. Then they built a modern, successful shopping center at US69 and Carl Albert. It bustles to this day and has one of the oldest original Radio Shack stores. It was always occupied so it must have been a good profit center. Early on, there was Tandy Leather and Radio Shack. Then Tandy Leather closed and we did a lot by catalogue. Radio Shack was a favorite through the years if you could get them to recognize our state issued tax permit. There was a Benjamin Franklin store there which was like TG&Y if you remember them. There was a Sears Catalogue center that had some items on hand. We liked Tandy Town Shopping Center because it had a McDonalds with a caboose, Long John Silvers, a Pizza Inn, and Charles Chicken. Further on south on US 69 or The George Nigh Parkway, you had Arby's, Taco Bell, Giacomo's, KFC, Sizzlin Sirloin, and Chinese. As the oil boom hit in late 90's, dozens of new motels opened up in the box style. Of course you have the old Hiway Lodge and McHoma Lodge. On around to the south of town on US 69 you have the Cinema 69 with a former drive in. We saw movies such as, "Friday the 13th" which was about a summer camp. I saw most Star Trek movies at the drive in. We sat through, "Truman Show" and then wondered what we had just seen. Movie prices were cheap, concessions were very reasonable. Then there is a great steakhouse called The Brangus Feed Lot. A great steak and lots of good sides. On around up Main was Taco Pronto. Taco Bob, as they called him ran the front register. Excellent guacamole. Early in the days, we had Amigo's. Mama Dawn from FBC McAlester ran it. She also owned a rental store and a a cable channel.
How to wire a bugle system.
Charlie Farmer, with a 1 mile spool of US Army surplus bell wire, a week in the dense jungle of Shawnee Hills and you have a working bugle system. It originated at first at the Temple of Silence. There was a tube operated amp with a built in turntable. They played wax records of bugles and the vespers music was mostly Ralph Carmicle. You knew when a bugle call was coming because you heard the scratch of the record start. We heard it out at Unit II because Charlie had wired it up to a power pole. It was a 70 volt system. That allowed it to run as far as it did else wise the line loss would have made it impossible. My brother Steve took over the maintenance and he went with a new 100 watt amp and a tape player. Bro. Paul's brother in law is Ken Meyers. He is Betty's brother. Another famous Meyers was married to Fran Bartlett, Gene's daughter. He ran music at the time at Metro Church. So Ken provided the Lord's Prayer that ended vespers all those years. Ken worked up a set of tapes for the week that timed out exactly to 15 minutes. That ended having to guess the run time of tapes and then slip in the prayer at the end. Later when Jerry came along, we changed it to praise music. Then when Jerry left I changed it to just some nice tunes from the latest groups that the staffers liked a lot. I made sure to update the list each year. It played from a computer in the camp store. I no longer ran a wire to Unit I and Unit III. I transmitted the music over a radio frequency to receivers in the lodge and dorm. You could also make localized announcements with microphones located at each location. You could access the radios from a walkie (if you had that channel programmed in). I also automated the bugles. We had set times for bugles such as Reveille, assembly, end of rest time, Church Call, and Taps. I used a program that played specific music files at specific times. I only had to trigger bugles to lower or raise the flag. Not sure what they did when I left.
We lose a staffer.
First of all, the official account by the state HP is below. I will epxplain some inconsistencies that came out early on. First, John was not a camper, he was the canoeing instructor. Second, the campers were not in any danger that morning and the reason that Charles, Norman (missionary), John, and camp pastor were on the catamaran that morning was the wind was too high to let campers on the lake. The morning started the same as any other. It was Tuesday and we had breakfast then chapel. But it was different in that Chuck, John Rhea, and John Hoskins stayed behind a bit after the service had ended. We talked briefly and thought how nice a day it was. I left them to go to the office and start my duties there. That summer I was assigned mainly to the office because James Warren had left after getting married. I was working on printing up the banking refund envelope labels we used to give campers their money back on Saturday morning. It was a TRS-80 system I had built and modified. I also built a UPS to keep it from crashing because the electrical grid was horrible back then. The power in the office briefly blinked off and on. I soon heard someone driving up the hill very fast. I noticed it was Pat, one of the lake instructors. He came to a a screetching halt in the parking lot and ran in saying a pwer line was down in the lake. I asked why he didn't use the radio system to call and he said he just headed up the hill to get help. I pressed the squak box to the health center and alerted Bro. Paul. I headed back down with Pat in his truck and we arrived to a strange situation. Observing the "scene safe" technique taught by Red Crosss I carefully approached the area where campers were standing. It really does come back and I still have vivid memories of what the waterfront looked like that day. First, there was no power line down. The catamaran was beached just east of the Unit I dock. The mast was down and laying across the ground. The power lines looked fine to me. Next, there were not a lot of campers there. Just about 10 or so. I asked them what happened and one pointed out to the lake and said, "He went down over there." I then notice Charles sitting in the motorboat, which at the time we used to tie up at Dock #1. I asked him what happened and he was in a daze and pointed out to the lake and said, "John is out there somewhere." I see the camp pastor sitting on Unit II dock. He was in a severe state of shock and could not talk at all. By then Lloyd had arrived and I told him to go back to his house and call an ambulance for the pastor. I notice the camp missionary sitting near the boathouse and ask him what happened. He is not of a right mind and says John grabbed the boat and was shocked, he was in the lake. He then couldn't stop saying, "Sweet Jesus what have I done." This all happened very fast. I get pat and tell him we have to start a search pattern. The water level was unusually high and that contributed to the accident. In hindsight, I should have started my search right down the wire line. I could have looked up and saw the char mark on the wire strand. But the campers kept pointing to a different location away from that point. Pat and I start a grid search from that area. Then the mssionary joins us and I start worrying about him. He's in shock and grabs a row boat and starts walking around the lake repeating "Sweet Jesus." Paul and Betty arrive with more staffers and Don Fine starts helping with the search. Lloyd gets back puts on a lifejacket and starts helping. But we were not searching the actual point where John went down. The guy who was designated as the lake patrol shows up. The county EM director shows up along with an ambulance. We had a half dozen staffers doing the grid search when Paul tells us to get back to shore so they can search with a boat and drag line. Paul tells me to go to the office and make sure the phone is monitored. He reminds me I should not discuss anything with anyone who calls. Don Fine is posted to the main gate. The ambulance arrives and it takes Norman and Chuck to the hospital. A McAlester police officer arrives. I am not aware of what is going on in the rest of the camp at the time but evidently as ativities ended, people were just hanging on for any news and things kind of stopped. I got one phone call from a close supporter of camp and one of Pauls dearest friends. He said he was in his car on the way to work when he heard on the ONN that there was an accident at a church camp in McAlester and someone was missing. Don Fine comes up to the office and says they found John and he was deceased. He said Paul wanted me back down at the lake and he would man the office. I went back down and another ambulance was headed out, taking John into town to the funeral home. Paul tells me to go up to the staff house and get a box and collect up all of John's items and take them to the Mills home in town. I go up and several of the staff are there as camp has come to a stand still. I get all his items and take them to the Mills home and return to camp. Paul had the flag placed at half staff. Laddie Adams is there as he planned a visit that day already. Laddie is offering his help to the staff. I get the word Norman, Chuck, and the pastor are ok but their families were on the way to take them home. Paul told me to go down to the waterfront with some staff and get the cat out of the water and to a trailer. When I got to the cat, I then noticed why the mast had fallen, all the guy wires were burned off. We move it around to its trailer then we notice a hand print on the side of one pontoon. We moved the trailer behind the caretaker's home and eventually someone bought it. I went to the dinninghall and hadn't thought about how this would affect Mrs.Goddard. I went in the back door and she comes to me in tears. She says she never wanted to hear of anyone dying at camp. She said it had made her so sad. Like a lot of people, she only heard bits and pieces so I told her what happened.
A lawyer for the Hoskins showed up at camp to depose the staff who were involved. Thankfully I was not included except he asked me for a copy of the map of the lake, which we had from the USGS. He had already reasearched that any lake over three square miles had restrictions for electrical service. The map showed Lake McAlester was 3 square miles. He had to get proof of that later. He interviewed an invovled staffer and things got emotional very quick. I knew this could be bad because emotions got involved. We finished out the week and for the next week's registration packet, some of the registration forms said, "Our kids will not be on that boat that hit the line." We had a section on the health form that gave permission for lake activities. Some of the parents marked through it so their kids got a double dose of land skills that week. The funeral was on Friday afternoon in Yukon and we dismissed camp early so everyone could attend. It was at Yukon FBC. One entire half of the sanctuary was filled with Boy Scout groups. Some of John's high school friends did the music. Internment was at the local cemetary. Because it was so close, everyone went to the grave side service.
The next week was hard on everybody because the staff needed to give those campers the best experience possible. What made it harder was that the counselors and campers wanted to talk about the incident, which we were forbidden at that time. the only difference in operations at the lakefront was we only allowed Dolphin sailboats until the line was moved. The resulting legal case was against the power utility and the city of McAlester. The power line was for Unit III. It was 15,000 volts. Things went back and forth and the defendents later attached camp to their side. The family had already exempted camp from liability but the utility said a contractor hired by camp put up the line and they had dimished responsibility. But they had signed off on the installaion of the line. John's dad had really impressed on the utility to move the line away from the lake. The first thing they did was raise it about ten feet higher. Alvin called and asked and when Paul told him ,he was understandably livid. His lawyer came back down and took photos. Then a crew arrived and re-routed the line almost straight west and raised it to around 35-feet high. It would be next to impossible for anything camp owned to hit the line. But Alvin was not impressed. He came to camp to see for himself and he said, "I'm still not happy about this, I wanted the line routed down the road totally away from the water." So, the line is there to this day but its higher than any craft that could ever be placed on that lake.
The weekend prior to the accident was Father's day. Nobody was allowed to stay at camp that weekend. I had taken John home to Yukon because it was not that far from my house in west OKC. He had a nice ranch style home his dad had built in the north side of central Yukon. He didn't want me to have to drive all the way back so he told me to pick him up at the McDonalds on US 66. It as Sunday afternoon and I go in and order some food and we sit for a short time to finish eating. He talks about some of his Boy Scout projects and mainly the leadership projects he was involved with. I told him that leadership was not my strong ponit. He said that leadership was not something you just picked up, you developed it through time. I could tell his Boy Scout invovlement had benefited him greatly. I had not had the best impression of them until I met John. Usually when they came to camp, they didn't like it very much. John was not that way at all, there was never a time he insulted anything we did at camp. That was very unusual for someone of John's level with the scouts. Especially with Eagle Scout order of the Arrow. If anyone starts a forest fire, it will be one of them, usually. I made a rule they couldn't come on any of my backpacking trips. Not because they know more, but because there is nothing they won't do on a trip and that includes lighting a campfire with white coleman fluid.
Before the summer was over, I told Paul that starting the next summer, I wanted to run the lakefront program. He told me to take all the necessary classes with Red Cross. So, I took lifeguard and water safety instructor. I returned for 1986 and was waterfront director. I made some strict rules about the use of lifejackets by everybody. It turned out that none of the people in the accident had lifejackets on that morning.
The photo on the left is the prison today. The multi colored area is the prison rodeo area. The photo on the right is at time of construction. You can see them building the rodeo area. The areas marked in yellow and red are the buildings that burned in the riot. The state lost the plate factory and that's when Oklahoma switched to the decal system. Prior to that, you just got a new tag every year. Big Mac has a rodeo because it is a large cattle operation.
In 1982, there was a terrible drought that dried up the lake. Then next year, we barely made it through the first week of camp with limited water. By Thursday morning we get a constant rain. This was at a time when we went home on Saturday morning. The rain continued through Friday and got worse on Friday night. By Saturday morning, cabin 4 was nearly under water and the stream on the road to Unit II had swelled to huge proportions. We ran a flotilla of vans to pick up luggage and get kids back to Pennington. The highway patrol called and said the road to town may be closed at the Coal Creek bridge so we needed to act fast to get people out of camp. We had one more load to get out of Unit II so Paul said to hurry. We were in the 1965 Dodge van (with shifter on the dash). Jimmy Kinnemer was driving and he gunned it as we reached the flooded creek. We got across and made it to Unit II. We loaded the last group of kids and luggage and headed back. The creek was even wider and the water was moving fast. Jimmy Kinnemer insanely guns the throttle and we hit the water going around 40mph. It was a good thing because we started floating sideways a bit and we were floating forward fast enough to reach the other side of the creek and get traction to get back on the road. We made it back to Pennington and everybody got out of camp. That week had started with an almost dry waterfront and I went down to take a look and water was up to the doors of the boat house. It only did that one more time in my memory of camp. The project to lay pipe out to the Unit III dock was cancelled. Also, Unit III dock was our main dock during the drout. It only became Unit III dock after the cove refilled. about you.
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