1953 - Dick Fihn

by Dick Fihn


     The trail that led me to Tomahawk Scout Reservation (TSR) started with joining Troop 230 in Braham, MN. The Troop was sponsored by the local American Legion Post and was in the Minneapolis Council (now Viking Council).Early Scout experiences were, no doubt, similar to most youth involved in Scouting i.e. learning the Scout Oath, Law and Salute and then gradually learning the various skills to advance from Tenderfoot upwards. Other memories of those early years include; putting up and taking down flags, parade units, cookouts, camporees, wearing uniform during Scout Week, Troop campouts, Courts of Honor and service projects. A two week camping experience at Many Point Scout Camp will long be remembered.Somewhere around 1950 C. D. “Cully” Caldwell, a pro Scouter, went from the Mpls. Council to the St. Paul Council. As is typical he borrowed some camp staff from his previous camp to bring to his new assignment. In this case one staff member, from Camp Stearns - a small camp near Annandale, Mn. was my brother Dave. Over the years a number of Troop 230 members were to work at Camp Neibel, or Tomahawk or both. In the 1950’s Troop 230 Scouts who worked for the Indianhead Council were Dave Fihn, Bill Nygren, Charley Olson, Dana Marshall and myself.

     There are many fine memories of this small camp, that was located on the shores of Balsam Lake. The staff was a good mixture of people. Like most staffs they were a colorful group. Do the “pro” Scouters do this on purpose or does it just happen? The couple summers spent at Neibel tend to blend together. My first contract (1952) states that wages were to consist of $20.00 per week (board and room) and $5.00 per week in salary. From the salary insurance was to be deducted. That first year my duties were in the Trading Post and they were many and varied. Along with the sale of pop and candy there also was a selection of craft items. Gimp (plastic coated flat material) in many colors was sold by the yard. It was woven into lanyards, Turk’s Heads, belts and bracelets. There was no instruction book. The Storekeeper had to know how to start each project, the different weaving patterns and how to finish each item. Frustration was the word for a few days. Ice cream and other frozen items were kept in a chest freezer. Frozen candy bars were a good seller, maybe frozen they lasted longer and that was the attraction. For some reason Cherrio’s, smashed flat - using the freezer closure - were a big seller. Staff members bought a lot of pints of ice cream.
Most staff members (and many scouts) bought an Official Scout Moccasin Kit at the start of camp. They were put together, worn constantly and were usually discarded at the end of camp. They were part of the camp uniform. The odor of fresh leather always triggers memories of those days and those kits.

     The Trading Post occupied part of a small building. The west portion of the building was used as an office area by the Camp Director and various program staff. The telephone (singular) was located here. The building was of three season construction and by the 50’5 had settled and moved around to its satisfaction. Mice could and did enter and leave at their whim. So one of the Storekeeper’s duties was to run a trapline. Different Storekeeper’s kept their catch tallies on the back of the store shelves. It wasn’t in the contract but it was part of the job to help out in other areas. So in my time at Neibel I put time in several areas. Time was spent down at the waterfront, kitchen, tool shed and just about every other place in camp.
     In the two years at Neibel I was given a good background in most camp functions. I was at Neibel in 1952 & 1954. In 1953 the National Jamboree was attended. This was also a great experience and rounded out part of my scouting days. Several people stand out from Neibel days and the one that always comes first to mind is Dick “Rocky” Rothmund. “Rocky” could do it all and he did. Whether it be song leading, program skills, OA pageant, stories, skits, Indian dancing or whatever else might need doing “Rocky” would be doing it. Yet he always had time for youthful inquiries - which were probably frequent and of little need. His “Snow-white and the Seven Squirts” was a classic performance, face, hands, body and voice were blended into a great delivery. Roger Lothson was on the kitchen staff. If memory serves he was the 3rd Cook or Bull Cook. The kitchen was a wild and crazy place. The hustle and bustle to get a meal out and on the tables, supply seconds and then clean up, while getting another meal going was hectic. Then some time off and do it again - this three times a day and seven days a week. Roger was always in the thick of things and did more than his fair share. One kitchen skill learned early on was to open a loaf of bread quickly and into two roughly equal halves - stand loaf on end and hit hard with a fist - Presto! Two halves. If you hit it really hard you end up with squashed bread. This only works well with the old paper wrappers. Prior to a meal Table Waiters - “Wable Taiters” appeared. (we ate family style with a staff member sitting at the head of each table). Table waiting involved checking the table for needed place settings, getting the food stuffs to the table, securing seconds and more milk etc. during the meal. He also cleaned up after the meal. First food stuffs were returned, then dishes and flatware cleaned, and the garbage disposed of. The dirty dishes etc. were loaded into a large (say 18”) wire meshed rack. This was taken to a window opening into the kitchen. Roger in his (black?) rubber apron and gloves would dunk each rack in the wash and rinse tubs. The Table Waiter would then reset the table for the next meal. Cups and bowls had to be upside down in the rack or they would be full of the hot - hot water. Those unlucky Scouts who had not listened to instructions and presented racks to the window with cups and bowls upside right were required to stand on a bench and yell at the top of their lungs “Cups and Bowls go Upside Down”.

     On occasion one of the other kitchen crew would do the dunking chores. Jim King seems to think that one of the crew - a young one - was more forceful to him on the “Cups and Bowls” routine than was needed. He always looks at me rather pointedly when mentioning this! Paranoia is a sad thing to witness. Privies served the Camp. Since the peak Scout weeks occurred during the warmest days of summer it was a constant battle to keep the privies clean and odor free. It was a job that few people cared to do. Enter Ralph Underhill. One of his areas of work was the maintenance and tool shed. I think he also had to do with the pioneering and such like - no matter. He solved the outhouse dilemma, at least for one year. Ralph got a #10 can cover and a number of covers from smaller cans. He punched a couple holes in the covers and they were strung with a length of gimp. LATRINE KING was painted on the covers, in bright red. Strung around his neck it became a badge of office - and pride! Only those Scouts who cleaned privies to Ralph’s satisfaction were awarded the smaller tin badges with the coveted inscription of LATRINE KING. It was quite a sight to see Ralph and his aspiring “Kings” moving from privy to privy, with brooms, brushes, and buckets of pine-sol and water in hand. The group would quickly have every privy in A-1 order. He had more than enough volunteers to do the job several times a day. All this for a tin can cover, a length of gimp and a red hand lettered LATRINE KING slogan. Go figure... In later years I have often wondered what parents thought of their son’s trophy and how he earned it.

     Rocky, Roger and Ralph all died too young. They were great people and great Scouts. They did much for many of us and certainly did much for all they came in contact with. One was and is richer for knowing them and can only be glad for the opportunity to have known and worked with them. There are a lot of dis-jointed memories from those early Neibel days. So in no real particular order or of importance some of them follow in either a few words or a longer piece of prose. The hustle and bustle of Work Week; putting the heavy wooden dock - huge timbers and cresoted in place, white leading the boats and repairing the canoes - they were all wood then - cleaning the Mess Hall and all the cooking gear, getting all the other bldgs and gear in shape, setting up the tents at each provisional site, opening and displaying the Trading Post stock, preparing the OA ring, and the other thousand and one items to remember and do. The kitchen staff put out the meals, cleaned up and then helped where needed.

     All was not work during Work Week. There was time for swimming, putting together moccasin kits, doing some gimp work, singing old songs and learning new ones - Puffer Bellies, Green Grow..., King’s Nivy, and more. Softball was played on the Parade Ground. Gene Peterson, Camp Director, was a super good pitcher. He was of semi-pro caliber. When he wanted to burn it in no one on the staff could hit him. Then camp would open for the season. Scouts arrived and got settled in. The routine would be established, up in the morning, breakfast, Merit Badge classes and beach activities, dinner followed by more and different projects, uniforms on for retreat, lowering the flag, folding it up and then supper call - “Soupy Beans”. The evening hours might include a softball game, the OA pageant or some such activity often there would be Troop campfires with songs, skits and stories. Then “Taps” and bed. It’s a wonder the staff didn’t collapse after a couple weeks of this seven day a week grind! But we were young.

     Since I was often in the kitchen our day went something like this; up early to get breakfast on the way, serve out breakfast and then clean up, start the noon meal, serve and clean up, start the evening meal and clean up, in the evening play ball, do the OA pageant, visit campfires or just goof off. We did usually get in an afternoon swim, or sailboating or canoeing. Some of us worked on Merit Badges. One kitchen chore that was made a little nicer was peeling potatoes. By hand of course. We would sit outside and the whole crew would do the job. Kidding each other and singing “Think of All the Beans You Et” etc. made the task go by quickly. On Tuesday or so a Col. Cotton (?) came to Neibel to work with Scouts on Marksmanship Merit Badge. He was a retired military type. He would be at camp a couple of days. I earned my Marksmanship Badge through him. At the time I was (and still am) left eye dominant. This gave me no end of trouble trying to shoot a decent score, as I was shooting right handed and aiming with my left eye. This does not make for accurate shooting. The Col. didn’t catch this and I burned up al lot of ammo to pass. The Merit Badge class was attended for two weeks. He probably passed me to get rid of me and also save me the money that was being spent on .22 ammo. If it happened to be raining he would postpone the outside sessions by noting “That Neptune is draining his bowels and we can not shoot”.
In 1954, Troop 230, Braham, Mn. came to Camp Neibel. They camped in the site north of the tool shed, which was on a flat piece of ground on top of a small hill. Ted Melcher, our scoutmaster, came along with the Troop, which was not normal for Provisional camping. I had a bit of glory, since I was on Staff and the other guys were just campers, until they saw me peeling potatoes. There were seven or eight scouts from the Troop that came to Neibel that year, including “Charley” Olson. Later he would work at Tomahawk.

     The Troop from Totem Town also came to Neibel. They presented challenges that were different than the regular Scouts. But all in all a pretty good bunch of kids. Back then youngsters that had taken a wrong turn were not as hardened or into chemicals like now. The Council owned a small island in Balsam Lake. Week long camping was held there and on occasion groups would paddle to it. Bulk supplies and Scouts were taken to the island in a large (green?) barge. When loaded the outboard engine moved it at a slow but regal pace.
Duncan Yo-Yos were made at Luck, WI, a small town a few miles from Neibel. Duncan’ were considered the Cadillac of yo-yo,s. Much down time was spent perfecting yo-yo tricks. We discovered that when “Sleeping the Dog” if the yo-yo was lowered just to a water surface, the spin would send out a stream of water - not unlike the wake of a boat. “Motor Boat” was added to the tricks one could perform. The kitchen crew was warned that doing this trick in soups, gravies and potato water was not the done thing. Either the bread truck or the milk truck driver gave out pencils with a miniature Yo-yo where the eraser would normally be. Some Staff took the tour at the Duncan Factory and came back with gratis Yo-yo’s. While I was not that fortunate I still have several hard maple Duncans from that era including one from the 1953 National Jamboree. Wood poles and rope were on hand for building a tower. Putting it together required knowing one’s knots and lashings. This rope project enabled a Scout to earn most of his Pioneering Merit Badge. Some of the groups could put it up in a remarkably fast time. This construction was done on the Parade Ground so one could keep an eye on it from the Trading Post or the long screened porch of the Mess Hall. For at least one season a similar project was done on the north end of camp. Here a monkey bridge was constructed over a swampy area. Scouts really needed a swim after working in the swamp.

     The Balsam Lake, Luck, Milltown area is known for strong wind storms and tornadoes. Camp endured several of these. These strong blows created much havoc - trees down, branches all over, tents flattened, canoes tossed off the racks and boats to chase down and return to their tethers. During one storm (with strong winds and torrential rain) Scouts in one tent abandoned it and headed for shelter in the Mess Hall. It was lucky they did. The next morning when they returned to their campsite their tent and cots were flattened by a large tree. Storms and rainy weather puts strain on all that are enduring it. A lengthy rainy spell can lower morale for all concerned. Tent living gets to be no fun when clothes are soggy, bed rolls are damp and mud is everywhere. Program sessions are hard to hold if they can be at all. One week we had almost constant rain. Spirits were depressed. Some one - “Rocky”? - had several longish skits. One of which was “Poor Little Nell”. Scripts were duplicated, on the Spirit Master, costumes were created - amazing what can come out of foot lockers - and parts learned (somewhat). Due to the endless rain the Mess Hall became the theater. Tables were stacked, benches were arranged and a make shift stage was created. The campers sloshed in. Songs were sung. Some short skits performed and then the Camp Neibel Thespian Troupe presented “Poor Little Nell”. It was a success and then some. More songs and then back to the soggy outside world. But that evening provided us with a welcome break, some camaraderie and a mental lift from the endless rain. Spirits were much better the next day....and the sun finally did shine. The “Troupe” also put on “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” a time or two. Some of the players did a form of early lip synching and miming to different Spike Jones records. They were fun to do but required considerable time to get the actions to match Spike’s rapid fire delivery. Scouts and the other Staff got a kick out of these presentations.

     The River Falls, WI Troop came to Neibel. The year I recall they camped south of the Health Lodge. They did most of their own cooking and were wood carvers. Earl (?) Foster was the Scoutmaster and a carver, so the troop carved. This was, I think, when I first met Bruce “Fishee” Foster. The Troop was a good one and they had extra carving blanks for a young staff member. Others met at Neibel and became companions and workmates at TSR were Ray Chun, Tom Campbell, Dave Franks and Ralph Underhill. There were many other Staff that made impressions on a young person and have not been seen or heard from since those days and sadly even the names have faded.
There are many other fleeting memories from the Neibel years that often come back to me. Sometimes a tune recalls songs from those camp days or some other little thing causes the mind to go back to those first camp days.

     When I left Neibel in late summer of 1954 it was a leave taking of a property that would no longer be a Scout Camp. It was sold, had a life as a small resort and then was subdivided into lots. On a recent stop there the only structures that remained, from camp days, was the field stone entrance pillars and the Mess Hall.



     In 1955 I returned to being a Camp Staff member. Tomahawk had been open for a year but things were still a bit rough around the edges. The Service Lodge had been operated as the center of the camp but would now begin to function as a satellite to the new Admin Bldg and would, down the road, be one of several sub camps.
Familiar faces were amongst the Staff as well as new ones. One of the more flamboyant new people met was Terry Pratt. He drove truck and outfitted and acted as an aide to Bob Bryant. He was an all around good guy. Many pranks and escapades were enjoyed with “Terr”. Louie Sudheimer was also a new face. Louie and I were to become class mates at the “U” in the School of Forestry. There were many others that were met in 1955 - some to work with for a summer, some for several summers and some to go to College with and keep in contact to this day.

     My job that year was as the 3rd or Bull Cook and I would hold that position for several years. As such I would work under the direction of the Head Cook. A nicer boss would be hard to find then Mary “Ma” Kleven. She was a peach of a person. Fern Martinson was the 2nd cook and also “good people”. The Commissary Director was Ed Sitzer. He also ran the Boy Scout Service Camp at the State Fair and I was to work for him a couple years at Fair Camp.
One other new face that I met and was to have to do with for my years at Tomahawk was the Camp Director, Dick Molby Jr. He was an easy person to work for and he got results. In my mind he ran a good camp. The Chicken BBQ was his baby and he did the BBQing, himself , every week of the 4 years that I was at Tomahawk.
During this season the main kitchen was to be moved up to the Admin Bldg. Only minimal food preparation would be done at the Service Lodge. This occasioned much planning and head scratching. As the move had to be made in one swoop and not disrupt the three meals a day and seven days schedule. One happy result of this move was that the Kitchen Crew, at first, was double staffed. One set for the Admin Bldg and one for the Service Lodge. The work load was not heavy.
Some of those remembered from that first crew are Jim King - we have kept in contact all through his many Pro Scouting moves and I introduced him to his wife, Dale Martin, Rich Yager and Tom Jensen. Memory is a fickle thing so perhaps not all of these guys were on the1956 crew. Tom Campbell was in and about the kitchen some, or at least that’s what my memory tells me.

     Home for those first few weeks was a 16’x16’ surplus Army squad tent. It had wood flooring and a screen door. Not the height of luxury but not all that bad. The permanent Service Lodge crew bunked in the rooms on the one end of the Service Lodge. Other than the Professional Staff , the remaining Staff slept in “squads”. For the life of me I cannot recall who was in the same tent those first weeks. Some memories linger tho; the patter of rain on the canvas, the resulting drips from said rain, the hiss of the white gas lanterns, the sound of mice running on the canvas and the bang of the screen door.

     The squad tents had about a 4’ sidewall. A metal bed was placed against the side wall and the sloping roof rose up and away from one as you laid in bed. Mice used the outside sidewall and roof junction area as a travel way. If you were in the sack and a mouse came tripping along this travel way, with good timing, one could whack the canvas and the mouse would become air born - a small thud announced the landing of the mouse on the ground.

     As time went by the time for the big move kept getting nearer. The new kitchen up at the Admin Bldg was equipped and readied. The move, for the most part, took place after the evening meal. The big ovens had been thoroughly cleaned (I recall Tom C. cleaning on them) and were perhaps the worst items to move from place to place. Along with the kitchen items to be moved all of the Kitchen Staff’s gear had to be moved along with the other administrative people who would now work out of the “north end’.
Wonder of wonders it went off fairly smoothly. To help make the move a tad easier I think that the first meal after the switch was a breakfast of pancakes which was done on the griddles at the Service Lodge. Pancakes and french toast would continue to be done at the Service Lodge. The other cooking would now be done at the Admin Bldg and trucked down to the Service Lodge. The new “digs” were something else. The Admin Bldg was all new. It was spacious and impressive with big beaming, fireplace and lots of room for Staff, work, storage, cooking, eating, and office space. Staff bunked in two people rooms (bunk beds) with showers etc. adjacent. The dining area was classy with arched beams similar to those at the Service Lodge. The kitchen had stainless steel work surfaces and all kinds of new stuff. The Office and Trading Post area was, at the time huge. Storage was every where. We were in hog heaven.

     The new routine started: Up early and get breakfast going. When completed it was loaded in the hot carts. Hot carts loaded into the Food Truck. Truck driven down to the Service Lodge. Food unloaded. Meal served. Hot cart pans washed. Hot carts loaded into truck. Truck back to Admin Bldg. Carts unloaded and cleaned up from the dusty road trip. Meanwhile the meal had also been served at the Admin Bldg to Staff and any Provisional Scouts in residence. While the meal was being served and cleaned up by the Dining Hall Staff the Kitchen crew had sat down to eat or eaten on the run, as the next meal had to be started and on its way. Same thing each meal, every day for the entire Camp season.
There were some breaks or at least some changes in the routine. The big Chicken BBQ was held down at the Service Lodge. The crew down there got things going and there was always some extra hands to help around the pit with the basting and turning of the racks. Part of the Admin Bldg crew went down early to help put out tables and the like, the meal was served outside. We tried to get the other food stuffs done early and taken down early so as to have a double crew to set up, serve and clean up. This got to be a rush, even with the extra hands, as the OA Pageant was also held that evening.

     Time off gave all of us another welcome change. We usually got a couple of days off each summer. Some guys laid around camp, some arranged to get home for awhile, and who knows what else they might of done. The one summer - 1958 - there were three of us, from Braham, working at TSR. We arranged a schedule of one going home, getting a vehicle, and then each of us driving one way, loaning the car to the next and so on until we all had been home and back to TSR and the car back at Braham. This was because none of us owned a car and we had to use parent’s cars. Sounds complicated and it was.

     Along with my kitchen duties, I often drove the Food Truck back and forth at each meal. This gave me a change from the kitchen chores but it did eat up time. The Service Lodge dishwashing crew was good about getting the hot cart containers done first but we did have delays. One memory that I have o f those waits is of Rich Yager and Dale Martin working the dishwasher. Clouds of steam, the clatter of the dishware and an unkind word now and then, as super hot water met bare skin. Pans falling on the floor made some noise and caused a few dents but falling crockery made both noise and a broken serving item. Heavy rubber gloves helped and a policy of “break it, you buy it’ helped cut down the breakage.
Bob “Animal” Peterson was the “out” of camp and sometimes the “ in” camp truck driver. He got his name honestly. I knew him only one summer but he remains in my memory. I really wish he had been driving the Food Truck the day the stack truck had been pressed into service. The stack truck had no tail gate. The hot carts had been loaded, securely tied in (per usual) and I headed for the south end with breakfast on board. About half down a large noise caught my attention. Looking in the rear view mirror my eyes were greeted with the sight of one of the hot carts standing on it’s head - so to speak - with scrambled eggs scattered on the road. One of the ropes had broken and with no tailgate the cart had rolled off. We scratched together some kind of chow for breakfast and between Bob Bryant and myself we repaired the hot cart.
There was also the exploding gas grill fiasco. That takes quite a bit of explanation, so to shorten things up lets just say I had one blow up on me. The flames from the explosion removed some hair, my eye brows and also gave me a bit of sun burn all over my face.
These two incidents occurred within two weeks of the move to the Admin Bldg. About then Ed Sitzer may have had second thoughts about keeping me on but he never hinted so.
The OA pageant was great fun and like the BBQ preceding it, it brought the staff together. Between the dancers and the parts the pageant used up quite a few bodies. Besides being fun there was an aura about the tale and the resulting calling out of the new members. It was both enjoyable and serious.
The ceremonial site was on a flat surface with Long Lake for a backdrop. Slight slopes rose from the flat area and split logs provided seating for the audience. It was a simple layout but still impressive.

     It would be hard to say whether Gordy Lothson or Pat McCardle was the top “pyro”. They both liked fire. If it were up to me I would award both of them a first place, in different categories. Gordy would win in the fire pot division and Pat the Council Fire division. In ‘58 and ‘59 I lit the fire pots around the outside of the ring and also the inner ones. Road flares were used to do the lighting. Each week there were more pots to light. It was getting to where the flares might not last to get the job done. Finally I said, “No more Gordy or you get to light them”. A hazard of working with the flares was that they would spit gobs of phosphorus now and then. One night a gob came off and hit me in the upper chest. It burned off the fluffies hanging from my bead choker and continued burning into my flesh. That burn took several months to completely heal.

     Pat thought bigger was better. The Council Fires kept getting wider and higher. Wood was also stuffed inside of the cross frame. During dances one had to be mindful of not getting close to the ever expanding inferno. Even on coolish nights one could get overly warm dancing near one of Pat’s masterpieces. They both were winners in their own areas.
Some of the people who worked out of “north end” will long be remembered. Terry Pratt and Tom Wilson each served as the Outfitter and right hand man to Bob Bryant. Each had skills for most any job. Recently I saw an orange crate canoe that Tom had made while a scout, a neat job.

     In 1957 and ‘58 Keith Johansen was the Admin Bldg and Dining Hall steward. He and I roomed together both those years. He kept things in apple pie order. We enjoyed much camaraderie and many good times. The “north end” hosted staff parties and that meant extra work but I never heard him complain. He lifted weights and had quite a build. When we went to town he usually ended up with the better looking girl. Others from the “north end” were Doug Ubel, Bob Albright, Doug Keim (followed me as 3rd cook), and “Skip Sheldon. In the kitchen I had a number of good helpers; Steve Wilkie, Wes Cochrane, and Steve King. Steve King was Jim King’s younger brother and we have kept in contact all these years. I once located a Springer Spaniel pup for his later day grouse hunting.

     Bob Ellison was also up at the “north end”. He was an Indian Dancer so we shared that interest. He often did a snake dance so we all had to share his enthusiasm for big bull snakes. During Work Week anyone driving the camp roads had to keep an eye out and capture snakes for Bob E. and snapping turtles for Bob Bryant. Bob E. had a rare sense of humor (weird?) he added much to camp life.

     Tom Jensen and his brother Steve both had stints at the Admin Bldg. They each added their skills and talents to the early TSR days and mixture.
“Charley” Olson and Dana Marshall arrived, from Braham in 1958. Dana worked at TSR for one year and “Charley” for two years. “Charley” was and is in a class of his own. I have known him since we were young kids and it has been an experience to know him. We were in Troop 230 together, we both had paper routes, we worked together at TSR, roomed together at college and chased around together in our “Tom Catting” days. He is bright, articulate, brainy, and much more but there is something missing in saying all that. Perhaps the word that covers what is missing is “screwball”. “Charley” started in as soon as he arrived and was exiting from TSR, to laughter and accolades two years later. Nominally he was the “in” Camp Truck Driver and he was all of that. You can read about a day in his life in this booklet but that really doesn’t cover all that he did and was up to. Garbage runs became the thing to do. We all wore sailor hats for this job and the 6x6 became the garbage truck (the 6x6 was used for many chores - people hauler, camp supplies, auxiliary outfitter truck, trail maker, and who knows what else). The pit runs were livened up once we got off the main road by playing “near miss tag” with trees. Once arrived at the pit the garbage was dumped in and every so often burned. That wouldn’t be done in this day and age but was state of the art then. To get the pit really burning a tad of “kero” was added. It was found that by adding more “kero” a slight “whump” occurred. Evil minds began to work!

     The “Big Bang” evolved from that simple beginning. It had been a week of rainy weather. Just dumping the garbage got one wet, burning the pit would get a body soaked. Finally the rain slowed down to drips. A discussion was held about how wet the paper etc. would be in a pit that would held water. Sailor hats on the cans of refuse were loaded. A stop at the lean-to shed was made. Here all the partly full “kero” cans were put aboard along with a couple of gallons of white gas. To the pit. Garbage was unloaded. The “kero” was poured in and all around the pit. The white gas was added. Normal procedure was to lay a train of “kero” from the pit to a safe ignition point and this was followed that day. Meanwhile, the fumes in the pit were growing and mixing. The train was lit. It wended its way to the pit and over the edge. The explosion that followed exceeded our wildest expectations and the garbage - what was left in the pit - was in fact burning. A simple job done in a workman like style. One downside of this caper was that much paper etc. had to be picked up and put back in the pit.

     In 1957 two nurses joined the Staff. Shirley Arndt and Mary Elmore were recruited by Dick Molby Jr. to work at TSR. They were from Ohio. They added a bit of class to the operation. They had their own car to get around in for the sick calls. Driving at the posted speed limits was a challenge to them. So Bob Bryant got to exercise his chewing out routine on new blood. Shirley worked at TSR one year and Mary three. Kay McNaughton came on board and then worked with Mary. An evening stop at the Health Lodge was sometimes enlivened with a libation concocted of grape pop and Army Surplus 80 Proof Alcohol “doled”out by Mary. One of these made one rather “tiddly” and hitting the rack was the next stop.
We had a big storm at TSR and lost power for a couple of days. The wind took down scads of trees. It took several hours with a fair sized crew to cut our way down to the “south” end. Gerorge Cherny (day man) was the main muscle on this job. He was a good chain saw man and was very strong. His shirt ripped when he bunched his arm muscles in moving a downed tree. Camp was fortunate to have no injuries. Tree removal did take awhile but provided much firewood.

     The early phone system was rudimentary. We had one phone into the Admin Bldg. This was in the office where Ken Berglund kept the books, registration was held and other Camp business conducted. Old crank phones were used to connect the two ends of camp. The line for these phones was laid overland and were prone to breakage. One summer the line seemed to break frequently. Linus “Liner” Hayden (Commissary Director) disappeared into the woods with wire and side cutters and did a bang up job of splicing in and getting the line in good shape.

     Due to the separation of the camp ends Staff did not always get to know each other well. The BBQ, OA and Staff parties did help to bridge this gap. Also if people worked more than a year this helped to get to know them. I got to know a lot of neat people over the years. Some like Jim King (Service Lodge Honcho) I had a lot of contact with. A quick rundown of some of the others is in order. I know that I will miss some good people in doing this but it can’t be helped.

     Let’s see: Mike Miler, with his red hair and grin; Don Kelsey, with his guitar and songs; Dave Benson, with his mixed pop drinks and archery doings; Paul Elefson, I later went to Forestry School with both Dave and Paul; Dave Beardsley, down at Beaver Point; “Big” Bob Culver and his wide mouth grin and his clothes washing stint; the Water Front types; Steve Albrecht, Ray Chun, Dave Fihn, Dave Franks, Ron Johnson, Dick Molby III et al; Tom Campbell walking along and carving slides as he went; Bruce “Fishee” Foster a guy of many, many talents and skills; Steve Melander, John Winters and his Eagle costume; Perry Campbell and Bill Ellison, Dan Pratt, and John “Ozzie” Hanson and Jack “Smiley” Jorgenson and the list goes on. Professionals too: Dick Molby Jr., Ed Dery, Don Tracy, Lloyd “Knute”Knutson, Linus Hayden and some I can’t recall.

All these people and more made Tomahawk. It was the early and growing years. There was a lot of work but we did it cheerfully. We were better off for the work. It really was the best of times. Thanks to all of you who made me welcome and helped to create Tomahawk Scout Reservation.

1953 - Dick Fihn