Scouting History

Scouting History in the Heart of America Council - January 2017

by Andy Dubill, Council Historian

The 1st Summer Camp at Naish

The summer of 1928 brought the first official season of summer camping at the Theodore Naish Scout Reservation. The 150 Scouts that attended camp that summer all arrived to camp on the “Kansas City, Kaw Valley and Western Railroad.” Once the Scouts arrived, they were in for a long hike along a narrow, bumpy path that followed a stream cut gully straight up the bluffs to camp. Scouts who disembarked fresh from the train were tired and weary by the time they carried their gear up the long path to camp.

In 1928, the first camp buildings were erected - a small cook shack and dining pavilion next to the campgrounds. They were located about 100 feet northwest of the “Steel Building” - a structure that stood into the 1980's. The camp’s first administrative area was located in a small clearing near the walkway to today’s Rotary Dining Hall. Three green wall tents were set up in a semi–circle in this area. The center tent was adorned with a small placard that read “Headquarters.” A first aid and staff tent flanked it. The entire first year camp staff, the Camp Director and Camp Bugler, were housed in the staff tent. Reveille and retreat ceremonies were held in the area in front of the tents. A flagpole, cut from a pine tree, stood in front of these tents. There were four two-week sessions held that first summer.

The two campsites constructed earlier that year were able to hold all the attendees. The first two campsites were known as Camp Bridger and Camp Boone. This began the tradition of naming campsites after famous American pioneers. The first two campsites were located in the general area where the Rotary Dining Hall is located, not far from the present location of their counterparts. Campers slept in squad tents without floors.  These tents were known for the ease of which they blew down during the heavy summer rainstorms.

The activities at the early camp sessions were similar to activities at camp today. Nature, handicrafts and camping were the highlights of the program. The biggest difference was that the activities took place in the campsites under the watchful eye of troop Scoutmasters. Regular program areas with counselors and instructors, as we know them today, did not develop until many years later.

The water activities were also a big highlight of camp. Swimming, canoeing and other water games were held at the nearby Lake of the Forest. Campers swear that the one-mile walk down to the lake was about five-miles back. Boy Scouts continued to swim at the Lake of the Forest until the late forties when the first Camp Naish swimming pool was built.

Other activities that were popular at camp included archery and softball. A makeshift archery range was set up on a gentle sloping area not far from the dining shelter. Scouts made their own bows and used them to earn the coveted archery merit badge. This was one of the toughest badges for Scouts back then to earn. The favorite camp event was the camp softball tournament. Softball games were scheduled daily on a small meadow where the swimming pool now stands. Bragging rights went along with the camp championship as troops challenged one another each session.

Another popular activity at camp was a “fence line” hike around camp or a hike to the “bathtubs”. The “bathtubs” were a chain of water basins along a small stream not far from the dining shelter. Another popular activity was a cookout on the rock outcrop known as “Cooking Flats” – today known as “Coronado Flats.”

At sundown it was customary to hike down to “Fossil Point” – now “Inspiration Point” to watch the sun set over the Kaw Valley. In the evening, campers gathered at the council ring for a campfire program complete with songs, fellowship and lots of laughs. 

If you have questions about Scouting history that would be good topics for future columns email Andy Dubill at adubill@aol.com.