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Decades of Smiles

My daughter has many smiles, but a special one that exudes adventure, joy, and a free spirit happens at Camp Golden Pond. When I see that smile it makes me want to know more about the place that causes it. Unexpectedly, what started as research into a camp about to be sold became the story of a thousand smiles across thirty years with a legacy stretching back decades more. It’s about the smiles that were remembered from days gone by at Camp Barree from 1938-1983. It’s about the smiles that broke the earth at Camp Golden Pond in 1987 and dedicated Lake Louise in 1988.  More than that, it’s about the smiles that won’t happen if the camp closes. Camp Golden Pond is advertised as “Camp Golden Pond where girls always find their shine!”

This summer smiles that have lit up the faces of our local Girl Scouts for thirty years, with a legacy of half a century more, may cease shining at Golden Pond. Hopefully, they won’t. Even so, their story deserves to be told.

Huntingdon Daily News, May 7, 1987

The first shining smile I saw was in a newspaper photo of a Girl Scout atop a bulldozer (Huntingdon Daily News, May, 7 1987). The ground for Golden Pond was broken by the girls. It was not broken by the ceremonial shovel toss of someone in a suit. It was not broken by the workers. The ground was broken, just like the camp would be maintained and improved, by the girls. It’s fitting that Hemlock Council did it this way. After all, so many trails, facilities, repairs, and improvements were done by the small hands that love Golden Pond in pursuit of bronze and silver awards, and a place where the gold award ceremony was held.

But as I looked at the first article I found, and assumed it was my starting point, I discovered I was wrong. I was off by about fifty years. Small hands don’t stay small. Small smiles don’t stay small. Small dreams don’t stay small. And the article, and others, made it clear that Camp Golden Pond was born out of the love and dreams fostered at Camp Barree. And it was the now grown, strong, and capable hands of the women forged by their experiences at Camp Barree that made sure the ground for Camp Golden Pond would be broken.

Huntingdon Daily News, June 29, 1984

Camp Barree was the first Girl Scout Camp that served Huntingdon and Centre area girls. It opened on July 10, 1938. The camp was on state land and as the state expanded the park system, Camp Barree was closed around 1983 when negotiations between the state and Hemlock Council broke down. The Council owned the buildings and the state owned the land.  And in the end, Camp Barree was gone. No matter how hard the Girl Scouts fought, it was gone. But that only energized Hemlock Council and the former scouts who would not let camping and outdoor experiences be only a memory and removed from the area. Prominent families like Walker, Palmer, and Wald teamed with the entire community, and would not rest until the local scouts had a camp. And four years, thousands of hours of work, and a massive fundraising campaign of 2.9 million dollars later, comes the picture of a smiling girl on a bulldozer.

Camp Golden Pond was envisioned and promised to serve for girls for generations, not just one and a half (Clearfield Progress June 12, 1988). At the dedication of Lake Louise, beautiful words were spoken by Alan Walker to his mother Louise:

“It is a gift given to honor the past with something to be used in the
present and the future. We can never repay all you have done for us and the thousands of sacrifices you made for your family over the years. But this gift is a very small way of saying thanks for being one very, very special mother”

Huntingdon Daily News, May 7, 1987

But it was not just the Walkers. The Palmers supplied Palmer Lodge and a substantial donation for the land. Phyllis Henry provided major support in the memory of  her sister Solveig Horn, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John R. Wald (Clearfield Progress June 12, 1988).

The connecting thread in all of this, from prominent families to fundraising brownies was a love of scouting. The families mentioned and thousands of supporters who are nameless gave so many hours to both Boy and Girl Scouts. They gave their love, time, money, and effort to make sure the dream of a local Girl Scout camp did not die. And at the dedication, the head of Hemlock Council said: “We’re beginning to see our dreams become a reality.” Through the efforts of council and community together, that dream was realized.

Huntingdon Daily News, July 20, 1995

I slowly moved through decades, mostly thanks to The Daily News out of Huntingdon, PA. There were Girls at a sheep dog trial (Daily News, April 25, 1994). There were girls at the hug a tree event (Daily News, July 20, 1995). The “Every Girl Matters” campaign in the late 1990’s to 2000 that raised 3 million dollars (Daily News, October 31,2000). There was the large celebration at the dedication of the Schreyer Great Hall in May of 2000. That article title now has a ring of sadness: “Golden Days Ahead At Girl Scout Camp” (Daily News, May 20, 2000).  And even as late as 2011 there was the five year plan ending in 2016 that intended to use some of the money raised to add cross country skiing to Camp Golden Pond (The York Dispatch Dec 11, 2011). So much has changed in two years.

Silver Trail of Remembrance

This summer the smiles might end for the girls in our area and our local residential camp. Thirty years ago Hemlock Council teamed with all those formed by the love, smiles, joy, and adventure of Camp Barree to build Camp Golden Pond for the generations to come. Little hands grown strong, little dreams grown big, and little girls grown into relentless women joined with their families and council to build a new camp when their old one was taken away from them.

But this time, there will be no new camp with the ground broken by the girls and then maintained and improved by their love and dedication marked in bronze, silver, and gold. The only hope to preserve Camp Golden Pond for the generations it promised to serve is for the families and community to come together to buy it for the girls from Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania.  The smiles of the past wait to see if they will fade away without a place to anchor them in memory. The smiles of the future wait to see if they will be allowed to shine in our area.

 

Articles Cited

Clearfield Progress June 12, 1988

Huntingdon Daily News (Later Daily News)

May 7, 1987

April 25,1994

July 20, 1995

May 20, 2000

October 31, 2000

The York Dispatch December 11,2011