California: The San Francisco Bay Area and Other Northern California Camps – Part 1

San Francisco and other Bay area Camp Fire councils sponsored more than a dozen resident camps for varying lengths of time during the twentieth century. Among these were Wasibo, 1923-1948; Caniya, 1948-1986; Kilowana, 1946-1961; Maacama, 1948-1986; Thayer, 1928-1945; and Wastahi, 1927-1975. North of San Francisco were Seabow, 1939-1975 and, the most northern Camp Fire Girls’ camp in California, Kimtu, 1929-1967.

Wasibo in the Santa Cruz Mountains was one of California’s first Camp Fire camps. A 1943 article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel refers to the twentieth season of Camp Wasibo and the 1938 camp brochure says “Fifteenth Season” so the camp was probably established in 1923. [1]

Brochure 1

The brochure briefly describes the camp.

“Camp Wasibo is in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the heart of a once famous redwood country. Since its development by the Camp Fire Girls fourteen years ago, great care has been taken to preserve the beauty of the site, and to increase its usefulness to the campers. Two streams flow through the property. One gives an abundance of clear spring water which is piped for drinking and cooking purposes, the other supplies the swimming pool. Tents, each with accommodations for four girls, are grouped under the trees. There is sufficient open space for games and a secluded hilltop for Evening Fires and Council Fires.”

During a 1931 visit the Red Cross suggested ways to use the seventy-five square foot swimming area more efficiently and to incorporate aspects of the Red Cross program. [2] In 1938 girls were required to purchase bathing caps in colors to indicate swimming ability for 10¢. Health certificates were also required and the Council had arranged for women physicians to examine the girls at the San Francisco Camp Fire headquarters.

Girl Jumping into Water
Real Photo Postcard of girl at Camp Wasibo

 

Photos of Wasibo’s outdoor dining hall appeared in Everygirl’s in April 1926 and on real photo and Artvue postcards. Tents where the girls slept are shown on other postcards. Six real photo postcards, mentioned in a previous post, show the same two girls in various parts of Camp Wasibo. The girls’ shorts and ankle socks worn with middies suggest the photos were taken in the 1930s.

Dining - Everygirls's
Photo which appeared in April 1926 Everygirl’s

 

Wasibo was located “about a mile and a half from Zayante R.R. station.” In 1938 girls could travel to camp by train from the Southern Pacific Station at Third and Townsend for $1.45, or 75¢ if under twelve. They left at 8:17 in the morning and were accompanied by counselors. That year there were four camp periods, each of a different length, twelve days, ten days, fourteen days and seventeen days. The final seventeen day period was reserved for high school and college girls.

Tents 1
Real Photo Postcard of Tents at Camp Wasibo

 

In 1948 the San Francisco Camp Fire Council acquired Camp Caniya near Sierra City. Caniya, more than two-hundred miles from San Francisco, required a bus ride of several hours. At an elevation of 5,200 feet Bay Area Camp Fire Girls experienced the cold Sierra nights. While Caniya was being prepared for campers, San Francisco girls were invited to Oakland’s Camp Celio. In 1949 fifty San Francisco girls twelve or older were invited to live outdoors, hike and take pack trips “over the well marked trails to the many mountain lakes” at Caniya. For almost forty years Caniya campers enjoyed the wealth of beautiful cirque lakes and the towering Sierra Buttes. When I was a counselor there in 1968 girls came for two weeks and slept outdoors; tents, large enough for six or seven cots were used for dressing and for shelter when it rained. Campers enjoyed exploring the creek which ran through camp, and sailing on nearby Packer Lake. The camp had a swimming pool and dining room. [3]

 

Creek
Campers enjoying the Creek at Camp Caniya in 1968

 

When other Camp Fire Girls’ camps closed girls were welcomed at Camp Caniya. In 1963 the San Francisco and San Mateo Camp Fire Girls merged, forming the Golden Gate Council and making Caniya available Marin County girls. At that time Camp Caniya accommodated 175 girls for each of three sessions. By the time I was a counselor there in 1968 there were four two-week sessions. In the 1970s Ukiah Camp Fire Girls were also attending Camp Caniya.[4] In the 1980s Caniya was sold to the Girl Scouts, as Wasibo had been more than thirty years earlier. Today Camp Fire Golden Empire, located in Vallejo serves the San Francisco Bay area and sponsors Camp Gold Hollow.

[1] Santa Cruz Evening News June 26, 1925; Santa Cruz Sentinel June 10, 1943; “Camp Wasibo for the Camp Fire Girls of San Francisco” 1938 brochure.

[2] Santa Cruz Evening News August 18, 1939; Van Slyck, Abigail A. A Manufactured Wilderness: Summer Camps and the Shaping of American Youth, 1890-1960 Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006, p. 84.

[3] “San Francisco Camp Fire Girls: Summer Activities 1949”

[4] Ukiah Daily Journal June 13, 1977; Daily Independent Journal (San Rafael, California) April 1, 1963.

Advertisements

California’s Camp Fire Girls’ Camps: Introduction

 

On my desk I have the 1966 Directory of Accredited Camps for Boys and Girls published by the American Camping Association. I used this directory when applying for summer jobs many years ago. Yenis Hante was a small camp with a relatively short season of only five weeks. I wanted to work as a camp counselor for at least two months. At Yenis Hante I had met counselors who had worked at other camps and sometimes had jobs lined up for the month of August after Yenis Hante closed.

Crafts at Yenis Hante
Crafts at Camp Yenis Hante 1967

 

In 1966 California had twenty-one Camp Fire Girls’ resident camps accredited by the American Camping Association. (Now the American Camp Association) They spread north from Camp Wolahi, the San Diego camp near Julian, to Camp Kimtu in Humboldt County and east into the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Using  ACA directories from libraries along with the earlier Sargent handbooks I have collected data about Camp Fire Girls’ camps during the last century . However, directories and handbooks were not available for every year, and camps were not always accredited. Also, sometimes there were errors and discrepancies from one directory to another, such as the year a camp was established. In 1967 we assumed Yenis Hante was opened in 1927 because that date was on the bell; later newspaper research showed that Yenis Hante opened in 1930. Camp Kimtu is not in the 1966 directory but an article in the Times Standard (Eureka, California) for August 14, 1967 reports “Camp Fire Sessions Under Way at Kimtu.” A year later the Eureka Camp Fire Council offered the 364 acre camp site to the county for $4,500 because they had found that sending girls by bus to a camp in Mendocino County would be less expensive than continuing to maintain their own camp. [1]

Bell at Yenis Hante
The Bell at Camp Yenis Hante

 

During the twentieth century there were more than three score Camp Fire Girls’ camps in California. Some of these, for example Mawahua and Woape, were ephemeral, listed only once in The Handbook of Summer Camps or a newspaper article. There might have been others which left no record at all.

In 1915 Los Angeles introduced the concept of municipal summer camps. These city owned and operated camps in national forests, were available to families and to groups such as the Camp Fire Girls. Usually a camp had a kitchen, an open air dining room, an assembly hall and cabins or tents on platforms. By 1921 Oakland, Sacramento and Stockton each had a municipal camp and Lost Angeles had two. Camp Seeley, owned by Los Angeles, and the Oakland camp were both used by Camp Fire Girls for a summer or two. [2] Camp Fire Girls also used camps belonging to other groups such as the YWCA’s Camp Estelle in the San Bernardino Mountains, the “Kiddie Camp” at Glennville and Boy Scout camps.

Just over a dozen of the sixty camps, mostly sponsored by San Francisco Bay area or Los Angeles area Camp Fire councils, operated for fifty years or longer. Those with the longest time spans are Nawakwa, Wolahi, Gold Hollow, Wastahi, Wasewagan, Minaluta and Minkalo. Other long-lived camps were Celio, Yallani, Augusta, Metaka and Okizu.

California is blessed with magnificent mountains. The San Bernardino Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and coast ranges have all been the summer homes of California’s Camp Fire Girls. Camps in the Sierra Nevada include Me-Wa-Hi near Sattley, Nawata near Placerville, Yenis Hante at Greenhorn Mountain, Minkalo in Amador County, Caniya in Sierra County and the camps around Lake Vera, near Nevada City, Augusta, Gold Hollow, Celio, Watanda, Okizu and Minaluta. A newer camp, Adahi, is located near Oakhurst. A number of Los Angeles area camps have been located in the San Bernardino Mountains; these include Wasewagan, Nawakwa, Li Tanda and Yallani near Seven Oaks, Metaka, Hemohme and Deer Ridge near Wrightwood, Wintaka at Running Springs, Cohila at Big Bear Lake, and the elusive Mawahua.

Skit at Caniya
Campers performing a skit at Camp Caniya in 1968

 

Other camps have been located up and down the coast. One of the earliest was Wasibo, a San Francisco camp located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Pacific Palisades in the Santa Monica Mountains was the location of at least two camps, Temescal and Wasewagan. Wasewagan later moved to Seven Oaks. Camp Wa-Sta-Hi was located in Big Basin, south of San Jose and Campbell.

Although it did not yet have a permanent site Camp Minkalo was founded in 1919 making it California’s first Camp Fire Girls’ camp. The number of camps increased during the 1920s and through the depression and World War II. At the end of World War II there were more than twenty and by 1960 there were nearly thirty. In the 1960s camps began to close but there were still at least twenty-five in 1970. They continued to close through the rest of the century until there were only six in the year 2000. Today, in 2016, Wintaka, Adahi, Gold Hollow, Natoma and Nawakwa are the only resident camps in California listed on the National Camp Fire web page. I can only feel sad when I think of the mountain days that many of today’s children are missing.

 

[1] “County May Acquire Kimtu Site for Park” Times Standard (Eureka, California) July 25, 1968, p. 15. The Mendocino County camp is not named but might have been Seabow, near Laytonville, about 45 miles south of Camp Kimtu.

[2] “Municipal Summer Camps of the West” New York Times January 16, 1921, p. R7; Swenson, Stella S. One Hundred Years at Sliver Lake – Amador County: 1848-1948 – The Swenson Team (Bert & Stella), A Report Presented to Doctor Rockwell D. Hunt, Director of California History Foundation, College of the Pacific, April 1948, page 48.

Names of Camp Fire Girls’ Camps

 

Places, people and Native American words have all been used for the names of Camp Fire Girls’ camps. At least 153 camps have had unique names; many of these are based on words in Native American languages. Camps named after people include Harriet Harding in Nebraska and Camps Kirby and Sealth in Washington; Chief Sealth was the Native American after whom Seattle was named. Camps in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas Montana, Michigan and Washington have been named Kiwanis or Rotary, after the organizations which helped many Camp Fire Girls’ camps get started and sometimes owned and maintained the camps. A number of camps, including Cimarron in Oklahoma, Tuckabatche or Tuckabatchee in Michigan and Ohio, Toccoa in Georgia and Wyandot in Ohio have been named for places.

Camp Kiwanis Massachusetts

Two books often used by Camp Fire Girls for selecting personal names as well as for naming camps are The Name Book and Indian Names: Facts and Games for Camp Fire Girls.. The Name Book, researched and compiled by Charlotte Vetter Gulick, has been reprinted many times. My Camp Fire group used this twenty-nine-page book in 1957 when we selected our names. The book contains an alphabetical list of English words followed by Native American words with the same or similar meanings. Abbreviations indicate if the Native American words are from the Chippewa, Dakota, Klamath, Lenape, Natick or Biloxi and Ofo languages.

The other useful book is Indian Names: Facts and Games for Camp Fire Girls by Florence M. Poast. Published in 1916, this book is now out-of-print but was digitized by Google and can be acquired from Google books. Florence Poast introduces her book by a warning that it is “disrespectful and unrefined” to refer to Indians by some of their common nicknames. She then discusses Native American culture and European mistreatment of Native Americans. Pages fifty to seventy-four have lists of Native American names, subdivided into “Personal Names,” “Camp Names,” “Boat Names” etc. In each subdivision the names are grouped by the language. Several camp names found here, Adahi, Talahi, and Nawakwa, mean “in the forest,” “in the woods,” “in the oaks” or “in the midst of the forest.” Two others are Nissaki, meaning “at the food of the mountain” and Wetomachick meaning “friends.”

Enough camps took the name Wohelo that the first Camp Wohelo, on Lake Sebago in Maine, became Sebago-Wohelo.[1] Another popular name, Kiloqua, means “Lake of the Great Star.” [2] At least two camps one in Oregon and one in California were called Yallani; Yallani means mountain. [3] (The name also appears on a 1915 Camp Fire Girls’ postcard of a girl sitting on a rock, with the caption “Yallani, a Camp Fire Girl.”)

Some names combine Native American words or syllables from words. Zanika Lache, on Lake Wenatchee, combines Zanika, healthy, with Lache, lake for “healthiness by the lake.” I-Wa-Su in New York and Iwaqua in Colorado both use “Iwa” meaning “among the hills or mountains”. Since “Su” means “lake,” I-Wa Su” must have been a camp on a lake in the mountains.

Other groups including the Boy Scouts and YMCA and YWCA have used some of the same names; sometimes, but not always, this is because they have acquired camps that were formerly Camp Fire camps. Far more names are not found in either of the two books above and are probably based on local Native American languages.

 

[1] Dorgan, Ethel Josephine Luther Halsey Gulick: 1865-1918, New York, New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University 1934, p. 113.

[2] Gulick, Charlotte Vetter The Name Book of Camp Fire Girls, New York, New York: Camp Fire Girls, Incorporated, p. 17.

[3] The Name Book, p. 19.

The Camps

A decade ago, somewhat by chance, I started collecting postcards of Camp Fire Girls’ camps. I was searching eBay for copies of the Camp Fire Girls’ magazine, Everygirl’s when I found the first camp postcard and before long I had enough cards to start organizing them by camp and grouping the camps by state.

Concurrently I was collecting data about the number and names of Camp Fire Girls’ camps throughout the United States. This project started when I recalled an event from my first summer as a counselor at Yenis Hante. That summer, 1966, enrollment for the last camp session was so low that the director had to send half the staff home. I remembered the meeting when she told us that the Camp Fire staff had been calling camps all over southern California, looking for positions for these unneeded counselors, but all were suffering from the same problem of declining enrollment. Declining resident camp participation continued for the final decades of the century. As the baby boom grew up camp enrollment and school enrollments declined. At the same time, more mothers were working so fewer were free to lead the Blue Bird and Camp Fire groups which had always depended upon volunteers. In A Manufactured Wilderness Abigail Van Slyck notes that “By about 1960. . . traditional camps seemed to be on the decline, outpaced by camps teaching special skills and eventually outnumbered by day camps (which often function as summertime day care centers for school-age children). Although traditional camps began to enjoy a renaissance in the late twentieth century, camp – a term now used to describe any summer experience for youngsters – plays a somewhat different role in American life.” [1]

The initial purpose of my data collection was to examine the decline of summer camps but it also complemented my postcard collection, showing where and when Camp Fire Girls had been the most popular and successful. Libraries provided early editions of Porter Sargent’s A Handbook of Summer Camps and the American Camping Association’s Directory of Accredited Camps for later years. Although I did not have access to directories for every year, I was able to compile a list of over three-hundred Camp Fire Girls camps located in forty-three states. Some camps were ephemeral, a few tents, a fire circle in a clearing, and a name, in a borrowed campsite for a week or two, or a couple of summers. Others lasted ten, fifteen or fifty years. Eventually some were sold or given to other groups or to private owners.

Allegheny State park - girls on logs

Compiling a complete and accurate list of all the Camp Fire Girls’ camps would be impossible even if libraries had directories for every year. Not all camps were accredited and directories can have errors. The names of camps sometimes change and may be inconsistently spelled. Camps moved but kept the same name. In the 1920s some camps were simply called “Camp Fire Girls Camp” Sometimes a camp moved and kept the same name, or the name of the post office or nearest town associated with a camp changed.

Allegheny State park - tents

Most Camp Fire Girls’ camps have been located within or near their Camp Fire councils; almost always they are in the same states. Camps in different states include the Spokane, Washington camp, Sweyolakan, on Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, Camp Trowbridge, in Vergas, Minnesota which was sponsored by the Fargo, North Dakota Camp Fire council and Chicago’s Kiwanis Nawakwa in South Haven, Michigan.

In his 1924 Handbook of Summer Camps Porter Sargent explains that the Camp Fire program “grew up in private camps. The organization has been developed by private camp leaders and the program of the organization is followed in many private camps today.” [2] The directory lists twenty camps sponsored by Camp Fire Girls’ councils in thirteen states. In some places, such as Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan the Camp Fire Girls were using municipal camps. Others had names like “Camp Fire Girls Camp, Augusta” (Georgia) or “Des Moines Camp Fire Girls Camp.” Nebraska’s “Kiwanis Camp” at Milford, Nebraska, sponsored by the Lincoln Camp Fire Council and “Camp Kiwanis” with a Lincoln mailing address are probably the same camp, owned by the Kiwanis and used by Camp Fire Girls and other youth groups for any years.

Boat Landing, Camp Kiwanis (Nebraska)

Good Times Camp Kiwanis (canoeing - Nebraska)

The Boston Camp Fire Girls Camp, at Hanson, Massachusetts probably became Camp Kiwanis, later called Camp Kiwanee. (The number of Camp Fire Girls’ camps called Camp Kiwanis is some indication of how important the Kiwanis club was in the founding of Camp Fire Girls camps.) Among the twenty camps in this list are three on the west coast, California’s Minkalo, Oregon’s Namanu and Washington’s Sealth. A year later more than twice as many camps were listed in twenty states. This may reflect better data collection as well as Camp Fire’s growth. By 1935 Sargent’s Handbook of Summer Camps listed ninety-six Camp Fire Girls’ camps in thirty states.

Today Camp Fire councils sponsor fewer than three dozen resident summer camps in twenty states. Not quite a score of these can trace their history back as far as the 1940s. A dozen were established in the 1920s. Postcards provide glimpses of these Camp Fire Girls camps, and sometimes messages from long ago campers.

[1] Van Slyck, Abigail A. A Manufactured Wilderness :Summer Camps and the Shaping of American Youth, 1890-1960. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. p. xxvii.

[2] Sargent, Porter A Handbook of Sumer Camps: An Annual Survey 1924 Boston, Massachusetts, Porter Sargent, 1924. P. 97

White Coral Bells

White Coral Bells song 2

          I listened to the words echoing and fading table by table, enchanted by the beauty of girls’ voices singing a round. I had completed second grade and my first year as a Blue Bird, but never before recognized how beautiful singing could be. “White Coral Bells” was one of the songs we sang in the Yenis Hante dining room after meals. It was one of many songs I quickly learned to love at camp.

Yenis Hante formed my archetype of a Camp Fire Girls camp. I knew nothing then of the Gulicks’ camp on Lake Sebago in Maine, of Camp Sealth on Vashon Island or of the two dozen or more other Camp Fire Girls’ camps found in California’s mountains in the 1950s. However, I knew that camp needed mountains, pine forests and little cabins for sleeping as well as a big dining room. At camp girls hiked, learned nature lore and sang; they made friends, wrote letters home, cooked over a fire, played games and did the Bunny-hop.

I was eight-years-old the first time I boarded an Orange Belt Stage Lines bus, along with scores of other Blue Birds and Camp Fire Girls, for the fifty-four mile trip from Bakersfield to Greenhorn Mountain. I had always known that someday I would go to camp. On family vacations at Huntington Lake I heard about and saw the Boy Scouts, whose camps were across the lake from my aunt’s cabin. Someday I could be a Blue Bird or a Brownie and then I could go to camp too. When I started second grade I chose to be Blue Birds because I liked the neat blue skirt, white blouse and red-and-blue vest Blue Birds wore better than the ugly brown dress Brownies wore. I have always been glad of that decision.

That first week at Yenis Hante, I learned to love singing. I saw my first snow flower (Sarcodes sanguinea) and learned to recognize Ponderosa pines by their bark which resembles the design of jigsaw puzzle pieces. We should have learned to recognize the Incense Cedars (Calocedrus decurrens) which gave Yenis Hante half of its name, but I don’t remember anyone mentioning them.

I attended Yenis Hante for a week every summer except one, until I became a Counselor-in-Training and then a counselor and could stay for five weeks – the entire summer season. My early memories merge with later ones; small changes occurred but did not change how camp felt. When I was a Blue Bird milk arrived in large milk cans on the back of a truck. At meals we poured the milk into our glasses from metal pitchers. Later milk cartons replaced the pitcher son the tables. When a milk carton was empty we turned it on its side and said the cow was dead.

The first year we washed our dishes in buckets of water standing on the benches next to our tables. Later we washed dished at a large sink in the back of the dining room and eventually the dishes were washed by the “maintenance men” – high school boys who did odd jobs around camp and drove the camp van down to Wofford Heights for mail or to Bakersfield for bread.

YH Old Cabins
The old cabins at Yenis Hante – 1956

 

My second year at camp a number of large cabins built of cinder blocks and redwood replaced some of the small wooden cabins. The new cabins had cement floors, screened windows and metal roofs. They were big enough for seven or eight bunk beds instead of four. Sometimes the older cabins, which became fewer over time, were used for crafts or other special activities, but I didn’t sleep in one again until I was a nature counselor without my own cabin group.

 

Yenis Hante -A New Cabin
A New Cabin – 1960s

 

For a while we had crafts in a Quonset hut at one end of the lower row of cabins. Later the Quonset hut disappeared and there was an open-air crafts shack where supplies were stored.

YH Swimming Pool
Swimming Pool at Yenis Hante – 1956

The swimming pool, probably built in the 1930s, was fed from a stream; icy cold water flowed down the hillside above into a pipe to the pool. Newspaper articles from the 30s mention girls learning to swim there but I never did more than wade in shallow water one pre-camp weekend before the pool was completely filled. The pond, about the same size, was below the swimming pool. I think perhaps water from the pool drained into the pond.

When we filed into the dining room we always sang “Hey Ho, nobody home, meat nor drink nor money have I none, Still I will be merry” over and over until every girl stood in place behind a bench and the words of grace rang out “For Health and Strength an daily bread we praise thy name Oh Lord”. Then there was a clatter of benches as everyone sat down and the meal began. Afterwards we sang “Sarasponda” and “The Zulu Warrior” and then the lovely rounds of “White Coral Bells.”

Later, as shadows deepened and stars appeared in the ink-black sky we congregated on the long, low benches of the outdoor theater. A fire burned in the fireplace on one side of the stage and sometimes we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. Girls might present skits on the stage and there were always songs, especially the haunting strains of “Witchcraft.”

Yenis Hante, the Camp of my Dreams

YH Sign

Yenis Hante, the Camp of my Dreams

 

“Wherever I go, I’ll never forget

Yenis Hante, the camp of my dreams”

 

For nearly five decades this song might have been heard on summer evenings, echoing through the pines and cedars of Greenhorn Mountain Park.  Although Camp Yenis Hante never belonged to the Kern County Camp Fire Council it did belong to the hearts of Camp Fire Girls who spent memorable summer weeks there from 1930 until the mid 1970s. Yenis Hante was a place where we dreamed and made friends, wrote poetry, read fairy tales and sang around a campfire beneath a starry sky.

Yenis Hante was named and first used by Kern County Camp Fire Girls in the summer of 1930.  Located within the county owned Greenhorn Mountain Park, the camp was named for the abundant wild roses and incense cedars, (Calocedrus decurrens). Yenis is an Indian word for wild rose and Hante means cedar.  During the 1920s Camp Fire Girls had camped at Shirley Meadows and at a camp located in Glennville called “The Kiddie Camp,” as well as at other mountain locations.  When Yenis Hante opened in June 1930, they had their own mountain camp to love and cherish, a cool retreat more than 6,000 feet above the hot southern San Joaquin valley floor.

After Camp Fire Girls was incorporated in 1912, word of the new organization for girls spread across the country through articles in publications such as Ladies Home Journal and St. Nicholas. There probably was at least one Camp Fire group in Bakersfield as early as 1916.  By 1922 meetings were being held to discuss recruiting more girls into Camp Fire and forming new Camp Fire Groups.  Mrs. R.E. Vivian, who was active in the P.T.A., hoped that Camp Fire would be as important to girls as Boy Scouts was to boys.[1]

Plans to establish a summer camp for Camp Fire Girls in Kern County Park on Greenhorn Mountain were announced in the Bakersfield Californian on May 28, 1923. In June Mrs. Lawrence E. Chenoweth, president of the local Camp Fire council, described a site selected on Greenhorn as “one of perfect beauty, set in the heart of virgin forest [with] a good supply of water and . . . unlimited possibilities for hikes.” [2]  It is not clear from newspaper accounts if this site later became Yenis Hante but the description does fit the area where Yenis Hante is located.  Several Camp Fire groups camped at the summit of Greenhorn in early June of that year, and added sledding to their camp activities after an unexpected storm brought rain and snow.

Camp Fire camps were held in several different locations from 1924 through 1929. Eldora DeMots, a teacher at Kern County Union High School directed one at Frazier Park for two weeks starting August 26 in 1925.  In June 1926 the first national Camp Fire convention west of Chicago was held in Stockton.  Delegates from Bakersfield included Mrs. L.E. Chenoweth and her daughter Dorothy, Ruth Hanning and Eldora DeMots. During that summer Camp Fire groups camped at Mt. Breckenridge, on Greenhorn Mountain and at California Hot Springs.  In 1927 approximately seventy-five Camp Fire Girls spent the ten days after school closed at the “Kiddie Camp” located in Glenville. Again, Eldora DeMots directed the camp which was attended by girls representing eleven different groups.  Later during the summer Eldora DeMots and Mrs. W.C. Harmon attended at Camp Fire training course at Camp Wasibo, the summer camp of the San Francisco Camp Fire Girls located at Zayante in Santa Cruz County. In both 1928 and again in 1929 two sessions for Camp Fire Girls were offered at the Glennville camp and Eldora DeMots was in charge.

In the weeks before Camp Yenis Hante officially opened. The Californian provided information about the site and how girls could register to attend camp.  The paper quoted Mrs. C.L. Campbell who said, “A wonderful location has been provided this year through the kindness of the county supervisors.  The camp will be situated on the summit of Greenhorn mountain among the cedars in the county park.  The camp site has been worked out by an architect and includes a mess hall and recreation hall, with sleeping quarters arranged in a semicircle, and a space inclosed [sic] where the council fires will be held and games of all kinds enjoyed.  The girls themselves will build a stone fireplace as one of their projects.  The finest of spring water is available for drinking and it is hoped that a pool for swimming may be constructed by the time camp opens.  There will be a paid director; a registered nurse will be in attendance; a caretaker will be on the grounds at all times; and a good cook has been employed who will provide the girls with varied and nourishing food.  An instructor in handwork will also be in attendance, and all handwork material is furnished free.  Books will be provided by the county librarian, and in general everything will be done to see that the girls have a chance to develop the Camp Fire program in the happiest way.”[3]  That summer Omah Burton, a teacher and Camp Fire Guardian, was the director; the girls slept in tents and camp activities included a 4:00AM hike to watch the sun rise, painting curtains for the recreation hall, and weaving pine needle baskets.[4]

The summer of 1930 was followed by forty-five more summers when Yenis Hante provided a home under the brilliant blue mountain sky to Blue Birds and Camp Fire Girls from Kern County as well as more distant towns and cities. Cabins replaced the tents in 1931.  A swimming pool filled with a creek’s melted snow water was used to teach swimming during the daily swimming periods. Camp staff was recruited from around the country as well as from Bakersfield College, and other California colleges.  Omah Burton directed the camp until 1936 or 1937.  From 1938 until after World War II there were a number of different directors including Margaret Briggs, Catherine Fowler, Margaret Momsen, Margaret McCarson, Wilma Smith and Barbara Symmes.

The succession of summers was punctuated by milestones and memorable events.  In 1938 Margaret Slack, who had been a camper for ten years became a counselor and Barbara Igel took movies of camp activities. [5]  In 1940 there was a midnight banquet; campers went to bed at 7 PM and were wakened by the camp bell at midnight for the banquet which was “served in a gaily decorated Morrison hall with a toastmistress presiding and entertainment between the courses.”[6]  The 1943 camp season was sadly cut short when a camper came down with polio and the camp had to be closed for three weeks.[7]  In 1947 Arlene Reed and Judith Marchi won weeks at camp with their essays on “What Camp Means to Me” while several other girls won “campships” for their camp posters. A 1964 C.I.T., Cheryl Acrea, came down with appendicitis and was rushed to the hospital; she soon returned to camp to complete her C.I.T. training and was a counselor the following year. The unnamed architect who laid out Yenis Hante provided a camp that resembled a compact village, a place to grow and learn as one summer succeeded another.

Mary Broaddus became executive director of the Kern County Camp Fire Council in 1947 and served as director at Camp Yenis Hante most summers from 1948 through 1960.  The 1950s brought more girls than ever before to Camp Yenis Hante as the “baby boom” children reached school age.  During these years Orange Belt Stage Lines provided two buses to carry campers to and from camp each session.  The girls and their mothers gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Camp Fire office while the morning still had a hint of coolness and as their names were called girls eagerly boarded the buses.  After a two-hour ride the buses reached the Greenhorn Summit and the girls poured out the doors and followed the waiting counselors up the road into camp.  Passing the Woodland Pond and the swimming pool they reached the outdoor theater where the staff was introduced and cabin groups were formed.  Being transported from the hot city of Bakersfield to the shady, fragrant evergreen forests at the summit of Greenhorn Mountain, felt like magic. A delightful week of singing, hiking, outdoor cooking, camp fires, crafts and nature lore followed.

A 1933 visitor provided a dinner time description that evokes memories of Yenis Hante in the 1950s and 1960s. “It was almost the dinner hour when we drove into camp but some of the girls were still washing up under the faucets at the wooden sink outside the dinning room.” [8]  Meals were preceded by the line of girls singing “Hey, ho, nobody home, eat nor drink nor money have I none, still I will be merry” as they processed into the dining room.  Between courses there were lovely rounds of “White Coral Bells” and as they left the dining room “I’ve been camping Yenis Hante,” to the tune of “I’ve been working on the railroad,”  rang through the trees.

YH Outdoor Theater
The Outdoor Theater at Camp Yenis Hante in 1956

 

While there were a few changes at Yenis Hante over the years what mattered were the things that did not change – the sense of fellowship, the scent of evergreens and the sound of birds and wind in the trees.  In 1952 a new camp sign was erected at the entrance to camp.  Beginning in 1956 larger cabins, of cinder blocks and wood, with screened windows, replaced most of the small wood cabins.  In the late 1950s the swimming pool was filled in.  Some years the pond was stocked with trout which girls could catch using bamboo fishing poles; later there were a raft and a couple of kayaks.  There were always incense cedars, pines and firs.  At Yenis Hante an eight-year-old Blue Bird could see the bright red of a rare snowflower (Sarcodes sanguinea) for the first time and learn to recognize Ponderosa pines by their bark that resembled a jigsaw puzzle.  On a short after-dinner hike a counselor showed her girls how the new green needles of a fir tree were a different shade than the older needles on the branch. The nature trail that was developed in the 1960s provided a short hike where counselors could help campers learn to recognize trees and flowers.

Mary Broaddus resigned as Camp Fire’s executive director in the early sixties and was succeeded by Dorothy Chenoweth Klausner who had attended the Stockton Camp Fire Conference in 1926 and was a Camp Fire Girl and then a guardian in the 1920s and 1930s.  From 1961 until 1965 her daughter, Deborah Osen directed Camp Yenis Hante.  During these years the Counselor-in-Training program provided opportunities for high school girls to develop skills in camp leadership and special programs were offered to older girls featuring backpacking and creative arts opportunities.

YH Pond
The Pond at Camp Yenis Hante in 1956

 

 

The ten years from 1965 to 1975 brought a decline in Camp Fire membership and camp attendance; the baby boom hand ended and there were fewer school age children and fewer women available to serve as Camp Fire Guardians. Bette Caldwell, Lilly Long and Ruth Moore were among the directors at Yenis Hante in those years. In the mid 1970s the decision was made to send Kern County’s Camp Fire members, who began to include boys in 1975, to camps in other counties.

Yenis Hante today is empty on most weekdays during the summer. As part of Kern County’s Greenhorn Mountain Park it is available for rental but most groups only come on weekends.  The camp looks much like it did fifty years ago although the pond and the sign above the road at the entrance are gone.  There is no longer a mailbox next to the bell in the center of camp; buildings have been painted a different color and back doors have been added to the large cabins. Perhaps those who sleep in the cabins today are unaware that Yenis Hante was named wild rose and cedar by those long ago Camp Fire Girls of 1930 and that once scores of girls  enjoyed summer days under the blue sky and sang as they camped “Yenis Hante, all the live-long day.”  The spirits of those long ago Camp Fire Girls still haunt the cedars and wild rose and Yenis Hante remains part of their dreams.

[1] Bakersfield Californian January 13, 1922.

[2] June 4, 1923

[3] May 30, 1930

[4] July 10, 1030

[5] June 15, 1938 and July 20, 1938

[6] July 25, 1940

[7] July 14, 1943

[8] July 4, 1933