The Virtual Museum
A Complete Summer: Parnell 1993
Every summer at camp produces photographs, but it is a rare summer that you can document virtually from beginning to end! This is the case with Camp Parnell. Thanks to the 2014 Boxwell Archiving Project, part of the 2014 Staff Reunion, we have been able to collect a series of photos that, when added to what we already had, allow us to show a complete summer at camp. Obviously, no photo set—no matter how complete—is going to be able to capture every moment. There are just too many perspectives and too many people to accomplish this. And, quite frankly, the photographer should be working too! Nevertheless, this set gives us a wonderful opportunity to look at a camp that has not been open to Scouts since 1998.
Camp staff in 1993 was a bit different from camp staff today, or even camp staff in the 1960s. There was no group staff site; the staff lived in staff sites that were divided by program areas. Thus, each area had its own staff site. None of these staff sites had electricity. If you wanted electricity, you had to find a way to “acquire” it, normally from extension cords off a showerhouse! Most of the staff was under 18, but most (not all, but most) of the 18 and up staff members were on the waterfront. There was one staff night out, always on Tuesday night. 18 and over got Thursday nights, while 21 and up could go out every night. If you were under eighteen, you couldn’t have facial hair and EVERYONE’s hair stopped at the collar of the Class A uniform. There were no women on staff and the staff hats were always red.
The camp facilities and program were different too. The Trading Post was not a walk-in, shop-yourself experience. It used windows and you were served by the Trading Post staff. Showerhouses did not have a women’s side or individual shower stalls. There was a Scout side and a Leader’s side, just like there had been since 1960. If you were female, you were given a sign to hang on the door of teh Staff/Leader's Side to denote occupancy. Showers were group showers and there were troughs to urinate in. The flagpole was up at the dining hall and all meals were done as big group, no matter how large the numbers were that week. Program shelters did not exist yet; they would come next year as part of the 1994 Capital Development Campaign. All swimming was done on the waterfront and boating (aside from canoeing and rowing) did not exist. The Boat Harbor had been closed since 1976 or the Pool wouldn’t arrive until 2004. This was also the first year that the Davy Crockett program (the Rank Requirements program, now called “Green Bar”) began at Boxwell.
Perhaps the most important item to note about Parnell in 1993 was the Program Director, Kerry Parker. Parker had served one year as Program Director in 1985 as a stand-in for the long-serving Jerry Barnett. However, in ’85, everyone (even Parker) knew this was a temporary situation. In 1993, Barnett’s failure to return came as a bit of a shock to the staff. They didn’t know what had happened to Barnett or why he wasn’t back. As with many things concerning the enigmatic Barnett, the end of his run was a mystery to most.
Parker brought with him a series of new ideas. His guiding principle was that summer camp was not school and should not look like school. A long standing tradition of telling Scouts not to run or “the rocks will bite you” was discarded; falling was a learning experience. Merit Badges and Scout Skills would not be called “classes.” They were “sessions” or “merit badges.” “Classes” smacked too much of school. Staff were encouraged to leave the program area and “have an adventure.” A staff member standing (or sitting!) to teach in the same spot every day was too much like the school environment (though it continued to happen!). Parker also didn’t believe in a Camp Commissioner—“too many chiefs, not enough Indians”—so the position disappeared for several years.
Perhaps the biggest change that Parker instituted was the re-introduction of family style feeding. Since 1976, the Reservation had been using cafeteria style feeding with the staff serving. Focusing again on the “not like school” philosophy, Parker re-introduced Family Style, also known as the Monitor-Host system, which had been used in the 1960s. Family Style required the food to be placed in platters and bowls, which the monitor put on the table before the meal. Once everyone sat down, platters and bowls were passed around the table, just like at a family meal. The idea was to encourage manners and politeness, ideals implied in the Scout Law if not explicit. The system also required the end of staff tables, as the staff would sit at Scout tables, which was to help not only with Public Relations, but also just general dissemination of information.
Of course, these are general comments. Every summer at each of the camps has unique items, but the above should help you understand Parnell in 1993 a bit better. There are more specific comments with the photos that accompany this Special Exhibit. Enjoy this look back at Camp Parnell in 1993.
For those not familiar with Staff, Staff Week was a different world. In the course of one week, the staff built the entire camp for the summer. Tents were set up by "Bull crew" the week before and cots and mattresses were installed as part of the OA Ordeal, but the rest of the work of putting the camp together happened during Staff Week. This included building the program areas as well as a variety of staff training. For Parnell staff, this meant daily trips to Camp Stahlman for meals and meetings. Waterfronts were not permanently set up at this time and since Parnell was not a "base camp," there was a great deal of prep that needed to be done to tame the wilderness! For many, Staff Week was the hardest work they had ever done.
The Weekly Routine at Parnell was not all the different from what went before or what came after. Sundays included troop check-in at approximately 1pm (though there was no 10 Day out meeting or pre-camp Swim Checks) as well as the tour from site leaders. Two groups moved luggage--one on the tractor and one on Parker's rebuilt 1951 one and a half ton Ford truck, the infamous "Gertie." There was marching in, flag assemblies, and merit badges sessions. There were no split shifts; thus, there was dining hall program at EVERY meal. Each program area was assigned a day to handle program in the dining hall. There was a CB radio that connected the dining hall to Crab; there were no hand held radios (introduced in 1997) or cell phones. If there was rain ("Boxwell Dew"), program continued. If there was a storm, you hunkered down, but program went on. Friday night included a campfire and troop leaders came to the dining hall afterward to review their advancement packets. Saturday morning involved a trash run (always on Gertie), showerhouse cleaning, luggage runs for troops that stayed over, and a general camp clean up. Staff checked in at noon on Sundays and (hopefully) left by noon the following Saturday.
Of course, there was "special program" as well. 1993 at Parnell was the year of the "Program Wars." The Waterfront in 1992 had started a "Scout club" known as CARP. By 1993, the other areas jumped on board, each vying for the allegiance of the Scouts. The Con-Yard had "SCUM" and the Activity Yard had "ESAD" (Eat SCUM And Die"). Each revolved around getting the Scouts to "join" through cereal box tops and then providing some special activity. 1993 also saw July Fourth fall on a weekend. Since there wasn't a joint campfire that year (the tradition for many years for the Fourth), the Burning Flag--a much larger version of Craig's and Stahlman's closing Burning Eagle--was done on Explorer Island on July 3 and July 5. The July 3rd version failed horribly, but the 5th version worked as planned.
Life among the staff was always a unique beast. With no electricity, the staff relied upon their own devices for entertainment. There were no video games, no fans, no washer-dryer, no pool tables, no televisions. This situation often led to late night conversations as well as some "devilment." Still, staff life wasn't all fun and games. Sometimes it was just the drudgery of paperwork for Friday night. Nevertheless, the images here are unique because the long standing rule of staff for "generations" had been "staff stuff remains staff stuff." In short, what happened in staff sites was not to be broadcast to the outside world.
No summer would be complete without staff photos. There are the official staff photos--those of the complete staff that demonstrate the group existed that summer--but there were also area staff photos and area directors photos. These were ALWAYS taken by Business Manager Russell Parham.
What took a week to set up was torn down in a little over twenty-four (24) hours. Beginning on Friday night of the 5th Week (sixth week total), the staff began tearing down the program areas and packing up personal gear. On Saturday morning, several groups were dedicated to different tasks: cots and mattresses, program materials, and picnic tables. All of these materials were stored for the off season at either the dining hall or the compound. A brief respite was taken at lunch and then the staff shifted to tearing down campsite tents. By 4pm, the entire camp was closed down and the staff met for the final time. By 5pm on that last Saturday, the final checks were handed out and the staff went their seperate ways. Some stayed over on Saturday night and left Sunday morning, but that Saturday of take down was the last time the 1993 staff would ever exist as a group.