1974 - David Schmidtke
I was a Scout at Fox campsite in Chippewa for two years, I think 1963 & 1964 although it might have been a year or two later. At that time, the waterfront was at Blackfoot campsite on Lake Neilson. You had to wade through the muck to get to canoes on racks by the swim pier.
As a Scout, I thought it would be neat to be a staff member, but jobs, college, etc. got in the way until 1974 when it looked like I might graduate from college and thought that if I wanted to work on the camp staff, I better do it. I was hired as the Assistant Sioux Beach Director and was sent to National Camp School at Many Point Scout Reservation. Because I was a novice at the beach, it was about 3 weeks before the beach staff, led by Paul Sieverson, allowed me to run the gate to the swim beach. I was back to direct Sioux Beach from 1975 through 1978, then moved to the sailing beach in 1979. In 1980, I’d gone to work on the aquatics staff at National Camp School. When I got home, Homer Miles asked me if I’d be Chippewa Program Director. I thought a couple of seconds and said yes. With that, I became the first non-professional program director in many years to work at TSR. I was Chippewa Program Director in 1980 & 81.
I finally did graduate from college and got a real job, but was back at Tomahawk in Sioux Camp as a Provisional Scoutmaster for a few years. During most of these years, I also served on the Council Camping Committee as the Camping Chairman from Chief Little Crow District. I came back in 1989 to direct Sioux Beach, then 1990 to direct Chippewa Beach, then in 1991 to open up and direct Navajo beach the first year Navajo was in operation. Since then, I’ve helped select and develop the White Pine Beach and have built the lookout towers at White Pine and Sioux Beach.
Since 1986, I’ve lived in Janesville, Wisconsin making it a bit more difficult to be active at TSR. I am active with a troop in Janesville, and camped at TSR in 2004 with a nephew and will be back this summer.
Fourth of July, 1976
Because this was the bicentennial year of the country, we did a big parade from Sioux to the Chippewa Parade field. Leading the way were Greg Shad and myself on motorcycles dressed like troopers with Smokey the Bear hats and uniform pants. Pete Chisolm (sp), the assistant ranger had a siren that we hooked to the horn button on my motorcycle. (partly melted the horn button during the parade as the siren drew a lot more power than the button was designed for). We were escorting an honor guard carrying flags. I’m not sure of the entire order at the beginning, but we had a couple of British soldiers in red uniforms, scouts carrying their U.S. and Troop flags.
Behind them from photos was Pete’s old Cadillac Hearse or ambulance, I’m not sure which. He was driving the old red military fire truck with Mark & Lori on it. Behind the fire truck, in Mark Crowley’s Oldsmobile Convertible, driven by Mark with Keith Warrick (sp) riding shotgun, were Homer and Mrs. Miles dressed as George and Martha Washington. Along the way, ecology was carrying a mounted Bison head. My Green Machine (1963 Pontiac Ambulance painted bright green) carried Betsy Ross sewing the first flag. Also, the 1 ton yellow International flat bed truck had a band which I think included Chuck Clabbots. Tom Trant’s black Mercury held Abraham Lincoln (played by Art Gil de Lamidrid (sp) and had security made up of Mike Barnard, Russ Jacobsen, Dennis Welch.
There were a number of other entries which I don’t remember or don’t have photos of. We ended in the Chippewa Parade field with scouts from both camps and there were a couple of speeches if I remember right.
Fourth of July, 1977
If my memory is correct and photos are labeled properly, we had a big storm come through just after lunch on the 4th in 1977. It had been rumbling most of the morning and we had Sioux Beach closed for most of it. We went to lunch and after lunch, most of the beach staff were sitting in Hawk cabin. We noticed out the window, that it was really black to the west. We hadn’t really battened down the beach so I ran down with a couple of others and we hauled in rowboats and finished just as the storm hit. We stayed in the tower and the wind blew so hard that we could barely open the door which pushed into the wind. It was lucky the tower didn’t blow over. After the storm blew through, all the canoes were blown off the canoe racks and many of the pallets on the pier were tossed around from the waves. Arvid Maki and Dan York came down from the cabin after the storm and were on the pier surveying the damage when one mentioned to the other that his hair was all puffed out. They both had light, dry, blond hair. Realizing that there was a lot of electricity in the air, they both exited the pier quickly. Over in Chippewa, one canoe was wrapped around a tree. The staff were concerned that Homer Miles, the Reservation director would be mad so they tried to straighten it out as best they could. One of our canoes was also severely damaged. They were replaced by insurance money with plastic Coleman canoes which had just come out. Interestingly, because they were plastic, many scouts would pick them up to launch for the Merit Badge thinking they were lighter than the aluminum canoes, although they weren’t much lighter if any. They were not built to stand up to scout use and only lasted a couple of years.
In these years, halfway through the camp season was a Wednesday night and a large number of the staff would dress up in crazy costumes and go to the 52 Auto-Vue drive in theater south of Rice Lake. Afterwards, they would go to eat someplace, although it was hard to find a place that was open late that you could take the young staff to. In 1977, McDonald’s opened in Rice Lake and they were open till 1:00 a.m. That year, about 40 of us descended on McDonald’s after the movie all dressed in wild attire. We sang the Johnny Appleseed grace twice, the dining hall steward didn’t think we sang it good enough the first time. All in all, we were good and I think only one drink was spilled. When we left, there were 3 police cars around the store, the employees had panicked. The next year they were not open late. Glenn Bruck and I went in to see if they would stay open late for us. Some of the employees remembered us the previous year. They wouldn’t stay open for us. Not all the Hump Night memories were that good. One year, the driver of an old mail truck (I don’t remember the name) with a couple of others fell asleep on Cty M and landed in the ditch upside down. Amazingly, nobody was seriously injured.
Sunday night Sioux Staff Skits
1976, Turkey Productions. The Sioux staff arrived in the parade field in the back of the Muck Truck and piled out. Tom Trant was the producer of a movie and the scene was a soldier injured in a war being carried to his parents on a stretcher. There was a big box drawn up as a camera on an old tripod. Walt was on sound with a pole and line tied to a stuffed chipmunk as the microphone. Mark Crowley was the mother and ____ was the father. I don’t remember who played the soldier. Dan York was a doctor who pronounced the soldier dead. There was a makup man with a bunch of flour in a sock who would powder people before each take. The “takes” consisted of the doctor pronouncing the soldier dead, the mother weeping, the soldier getting picked up on a stretcher to be carried away. At that point the director called “cut” and they dumped the soldier. Each “take” was done differently: fast, slow, a lot of emotion, funny, etc. After about the 4th take, everyone took off chasing the director off the field.
In 1979 I moved from being Sioux Beach director to running the sailing beach on Lake Neilson in Chippewa. At that time, there were 16 of the little foam & plastic Sunflower sailboats on the lake along with about 10 Alumacraft rowboats for fishing. There were actually a few days when I had all 16 Sunflowers operational during the summer because they really were not designed for the use and abuse of a Scout camp. Because the beach was right on the road to the dining hall, it was dusty. On a day off I brought back some garden hose and a small pump run off an old Briggs & Stratton engine which I used to wet down the road and occasionally to hose down a group of scouts coming back from a “bog jog” before they hit the showers. It was always hard to get gasoline in camp but we had Kerosene for lanterns and smudge pots. I discovered that the Briggs & Stratton engine would run on Kerosene. It was hard to start, but once warmed up, it ran well. Virtually everyone in Chippewa walked past the beach but a lot of people in Sioux were not aware of it. I started taking a sailboat on my trailer to the Sioux rifle and archery ranges on Sunday morning to promote the sailing beach as part of the Sunday morning tour the scouts were on.
One day, I had a couple of scouts come in from fishing and one was all doubled over. He had a lure with 2 treble hooks on it, some barbs hooked in his pants and others in his shirt. Fortunately, none were in his body.
1977, Camp Granada Skit. This was basically acting out the song. I was the camper sitting on a bench in front of a tent holding an umbrella and pretending to write the letter on a clipboard while singing it. Mark Crowley and Kent York were the parents standing behind. Dennis Welch had a backpack fire pump creating the rain. At different points others came out acting the different parts. Arvid Maki in a swim suit was chased by a blow-up alligator, two staff with hard hats and coils of rope were the searching party. A doctor came out of the tent shaking a thermometer for the Malaria, a staff member was slathered in white cream for the poison ivy. When the sun came out, we had a cardboard sun on a pole and the rain stopped.
Q. What year(s) were you on Tomahawk staff?
A. 74-78 Sioux Beach, 79 Lake Neilson/CIT director, 80-81 Chippewa Program Director, 89 Sioux Beach Dir., 90 Chippewa Beach Dir., 91 Navajo Beach Dir.
Q. What was your position(s)?
A. See above
Q. What was happening at Tomahawk during your tenure? What was new?
A.Opening 3 campsites on the Fire Road in the 70's. Adding diving boards, board sailing and then kayaks at the waterfronts, building a staff lounge in Chippewa and adding to the Sioux Program building, Development of a 4 week CIT program in 1980, Opening the Navajo camp and the Navajo waterfront in 1991.
Q. What was your most memorable experience?
A. This is a really hard question because there are so many: Sioux Sunday nite skits, Christmas in July, the 76 Bicentennial 4th of July Parade, the 4th of July storm in 77, A fast trip to the RL hospital with a SM having a heart attack (he was back with his troop the next summer), Beach Bashes, Tommy's, but probably Hump Nite in 1977 when we had over 40 people dressed really weirdly go to the 53 Auto-view. It was the year McDonald's opened in Rice Lake and they stayed open till 1:00. We all went there after the movie to eat. The Dining Hall Steward made us sing the Johnny Appleseed grace twice because we didn't sing it good enough the first time. We were actually really well behaved and I think there was one spilled drink. When we got ready to go, there were 3 police cars around the outside of the building! The McDonald's staff had panicked. They were not open late the next year and I went in on a day off with Glenn Bruck to see if they would stay open late for us for Hump Nite because there really were not any good places to take the under age staff. When we explained what we wanted, a couple of the staff at McDonald's said "Oh Yes, I remember that!" They wouldn't make an exception for us.
Q. How did your experience at Tomahawk affect your life?
A. I've stayed active in Scouting and aquatics working with a Troop and teaching at National Camp Schools as well as for the American Red Cross. I've gotten to camp when I can and enjoy meeting old staff at gatherings.
Q. What was your favorite place in camp?
A. Sioux Beach
Q. Do you have any advice for the current staff?
A. Don't think of your time at camp as "just a job". It is an experience and make sure you take part and enjoy your time because most of us will have many years of working "a Job" later in life.
Q. When was your last visit to Tomahawk? What was different?
A. The 2019 Alumni Spring Work day. There is a LOT of expansion and nicer facilities although a lot of areas were still rustic which I like.
Q. What is your current occupation / affiliation with Scouting, etc?
A. After 30 years with a Troop in Janesville, I moved to near Black River Falls, WI. There are no local Troops so I've been working with the District Roundtables and the Gateway Council Camping Committee and will be the Aquatics Director at Camp Decorah in 2020 (if that happens due to Covid-19)
Q. Which former staff members do you keep in touch with?
A. Unfortunately, I haven't really kept in touch with anyone on a regular basis but enloy catching up at Alumni gatherings.
Q. Any other comments you would like to share about your time at camp?
A. Overall, counting the years worked, summer camps as a scout and as a leader with my old Troop, work weekends, etc., I figure I've lived more than 3 years at Tomahawk and have enjoyed all of it.
Camp Granada Song
Hello Muddah, Hello Faddh
Here I am at Camp Granada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining
I went hiking with Joe Spivy
He developed Poison Ivy
You remember Leonard Skinner
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner
All the counselors hate the waiters
And the lake has alligators
And the head coach wants no sissies
So he reads to us from something called Ulyssis
Now I don’t want this should scare ya
But my bunkmate has malaria
You remember Jeffery Hardy
They’re about to organize a searching party
Take me home, oh muddah, Fadduh
Takek me home, I hate Granada!
Don’t leave me out in the forest
Where I might get eaten by a bear
Take me home, I promise I will not make noise
Or mess the house with other boys
Oh, please don’t make me stay
I’ve been here one whole day
Dearest fadduh, darling muddah
How’s my precious little bruddah?
Let me come home, if you miss me
I would even let Aunt Bertha hug and kiss me
Wait a minute, it’s stopped hailing
Guys are swimming, guys are sailing
Playing baseball, gee that’s bettah
Muddah, faddah kindly disregard this letter!