Camper and Staff Stories
[add your own Camp Deka story in the 'insert comments' field at the bottom of this page ...]
November 4, 2008
Camp Deka Memories
Camp Deka was an important part of my early years as I was invited to come to camp by Lorne and May just a few years after my father had passed away. Lorne and my father had been friends since both were members of the YMCA Wisemens group in Vancouver. My older brothers had both preceeded me as Deka Campers by the time I arrived there the summer of my 10th birthday. Two weeks at Deka became became the final hurrah of my summer for the next four years.
When I look back at my times there, I can generally place the experience into two categories: 'usefull skills learned’ and ‘memorable experiences’.
Of the skills Learned for me the ones that carried most noticeably into my ‘post-Deka years’ were those that helped me in the outdoors. My favourite Deka activity was canoeing. I still cherish the time I learned to solo one of the beautiful cedar-strip greenwoods along the shoreline balanced ‘just-so’ with barely inches of freeboard. While, heading off on overnight trips we always carefully loaded and tied in our gear: it was on my wilderness camp year during our North Thompson voyage that the art of preparing the canoe for possible spills in the rapids, that the importance of this skill sunk in. Sunk is the operative word here as, earlier in the summer, while on a training run down the lake, some out-of-synch paddling resulted in my watching my cherished new camera drift downwards, just beyond my reach into the darknes that was the bottom of the lake.
Camera gear replaced, in later years I transferred my lake skills to ocean-canoeing trips. My first university summer job was as a salmon troller and my first paycheque bought a 17’ Chestnut. As we explored the southcoast, my now wife learned the Deka canoeing mantra, "The bottom of the canoe never touches anything else but you and the water!" Thanks to Deka, when I eBayed that canoe 30 years later, it was in fine form.
Aside from paddling, the ability to anticipate the needs of extended overnight camping trips instilled the ability to ‘pre-visualize’ needs on extended travels. Rarely has that skill failed me, except for the time the paddles were left against the hedge as we set off on the first leg extended coastal paddle.
While at Deka, I prided myself on being able, with but the smallest scrap of plastic, being able to build a fine home-away-from impervious to the most torrential weather change. So water and camping skills featured high on the list of Deka skills that carried into my adult life.
Memorable Deka experiences, aside from the camera dunking above include the times of closeness while gathered in the evening for hot chocolate and songs. Having come from an 'outdorrsy' family, I remember trying to calm one of the S-of-49 campers who was in extreemis one day when a bear was spotted alongside an out-camp. I’d never seen him move a canoe into the water so quickly as he headed for the middle of the lake until orsis terriblis moved on down the shore. Yes, we learned to respect, and mostly, not fear the wildlife we encountered at Deka.
Although I’ve not had much further riding experience since Deka, learning how to saddle and mount, let alone get the beast to co-operate on a trail, was a gem of a memory from the corral. One important Deka experience that has probably saved me money as an adult, was to learn during the after-lunch 'quiet time', that the house always wins. It cost me quite a few nickels before I learned to speak up to be dealer when one was needed for a tent-cabin casino. Games of chance haven’t featured in my adult life thanks to that experience.
And what of other formative moments? Well, as a C-I-T I was right in there with the best of the others, trying to befriend the kitchen help. I did manage some long evening chats and even visited once when we returned to the l Lower Mainland. But beyond acquaintance, nothing in my quiver to complement the CIT urban myths.
So, now when the later half of August rolls by each summer, I salute Lorne, May, the great guys who were my counsellors and give Thanks for having been a Deka boy.
- Graham Bryce
May 16, 2008
Back in 1967, and I hope I got the first year right, my Mother Lorraine Faessler, and I packed our bags and headed to Camp Deka for two months of summer employment working as kitchen staff for Lorne and May Brown who owned and operated the Deka Lake Boys Camp.
The next three summers were to be some of the fondest memories of my teenage years working away from home with the Brown's and their two children Greg and Barbara who were to become my shadow for the next three summers.
The first day at camp we left early in the morning and drove to Earl Phappenpous's place to collect and ride the string of horses the Browns rented for the summer as part of the campers daily activities. This was totally my thing, as I was raised on a ranch at Bridge Lake and riding horses was my passion in life. It was a bit of a shock to get this meak and mild mannered horse to ride back to camp, as I was eager to show off my riding skills to the two horse wranglers, Jim Burda and Jeff Thomas. The following two years I was allowed to bring my own "Nag" to camp, The name to be given to my two separate horses by the two wranglers. Chiko was an appoloosa who was to embarrass me in front of the whole camp at the end of the third year (story to be told later). Chiko at this time was only green broke and I was to put some miles on him for some friends.
The campers arrived on a Sunday and turned over on a Sunday two weeks later unless they were monthers.’ There were a total of about 70 people in camp at one period of time if my memory serves me correct, and being on dish washing duty I discovered what doing dishes, pots and pans was all about. The faster we got them done, the more time we had for our own recreation.
The day started at seven for the kitchen staff, and we took turns going in first to set up and assist the cooks. Campers were assigned to set up their tables, and it was fun to tease them over the counter.
The food the Browns served to their little guests was food fit for a king. Pork cutlets, fish and chips, chicken, turkey dinner on turn around week, pizza etc. Also on the menu were a great list of desserts, raised donuts, raspberry slices, pineapple slices, cookies etc graced the campers plates. Life didn't get any sweeter for me - as I saw this as a paid vacation.
In a staff's time off there was plenty to do on our end of the camp. Swimming, riding my horse, berry picking, hiking, etc.
One day the Brown's niece Susan and I decided to camp across the lake on our day off. We loaded a canoe with the needed camping gear for an overnighter and off we went. Everything went fine until the following day when we decided to return to camp early because it was raining and the lake was getting really rough. We weren't gaining much headway in the wind, so we decided that if we both rowed it would be easier. Susan lost her oar overboard, and then we were hooped. I wouldn't let her go in after the oar, so we had to start yelling for help. Thank goodness a camper was feeling ill, and heard us yelling for help as he headed to his tent. The Browns with the power boat rescued us and our lost oar which by this time was halfway down the lake. That evening Susan and I made the journal that Mr. Brown kept and made entries into daily.
Evening campfires were another special event in camp with the councilors playing their guitars, harmonicas etc and all the wonderful camp songs. Councilors like Jim Burda, Rick Bryon, Peter Marsh, and John Harper were all very entertaining for the campers, and some of the ghost stories told were so entertaining the campers were afraid to go to their tents without their flashlights afterwards.
One summer we did a hike up the mountain across the lake from camp. The day’s meals were boated across to the opposite side to be served later. Then we all headed up the mountain to add our names to the cairn at the top. It was fun racing with the campers up the slope to get to the top. Unbeknown to me there was one councilor who was a gym teacher. I guess I gave him quite a race. He told my mother later that he almost has a heart attack saving face because he should have had no problem getting there first. I was pretty fit in those days.
The camp cooks were to receive many "Come out of the kitchen, come out, come outs" calls for their wonderful meals. These cooks were Katherine Wells, Betty Johnson, May Brown and my mom Lorraine. One morning Katherine Wells had car problems and didn't arrive on schedule. I was first on duty that morning and decided I could be up to the challenge and started the pancakes for breakfast. I had picked blueberries the day before, and I decided to share these as a treat with the campers and threw them into the batter. To my embarrassment I had to come out to the campers call that morning. I was beet red and totally unwilling to go out. The chanting didn't quit, so in the end I had no choice.
My time at camp was a very rewarding time in my life and left so many fond memories. To this day I reflect back on those times and the people I had the privilege of meeting there.
Being a tomboy, I spent a lot of time horsing around with the guys, and to this day I have a disjointed finger when Jeff pulled me off my horse. He was always insulting my beautiful “Nag” and I had grabbed his cowboy hat off his head and sailed it off into the weeds. Another tussle left me with a scar over my eye. But would I trade the fun times – no not on your life.
Back to my horse Chiko, the last time I left the camp, the staff wanted me to ride out in a blaze of glory. Chiko had been down with a cold for about a week, and was just starting to feel better. I climbed aboard and gave him a kick in the ribs. He started to gallop out of camp, then decided to show off for the crowd. Down went his head and he started to buck. Needless to say I flew off and totally embarrassed myself in front of the whole camp. I think this was payback time for the day I helped a camper saddle his horse, and put the saddle on backwards, convincing him that you rode facing the tail. What did a city kid know any way.
Some of these fine people are no longer with us including Mr. Brown, but they sure gave from the heart in their lifetime.
This is my chance to say thank you one and all for time shared, time so treasured.
God bless you all.
- Catherine Anshelm
April 7, 2008
I Remember Camp Deka
I had only just heard of Mr. and Mrs. Brown and Camp Deka before I met Mrs. Brown one day. I don’t remember the circumstances that brought me in contact with her but I remember her asking me if I would care to come and help out with the cooking at the camp as they needed another person in the kitchen to help Lorraine Faessler and Kathryn Wells.
I knew both these women from previous occasions – Kathryn being the teacher where my children did their junior grades and Lorraine from a well-known family in the Bridge Lake area. I remember thinking I really should give it a try as I was financially strapped for cash at the time. I had some experience cooking for our hay crew at home and then a short while for the three employees and the family, when we had a small sawmill. I couldn’t afford to let the opportunity fly by so I accepted the challenge rather apprehensively, and there I was --- installed at Camp Deka !!
The first day I was initiated without any further ado – I barely got my coat off when Mrs. B. asked – “Can you bake bread ?” “Sure,” I said, “how many loaves?” I smiled to myself, I think, when she said “As many as you can handle”. I prepared to mix up a batch of dough, double the amount I usually
made at home. I think, in the end , it was about 20 loaves and it turned out fine and I was pleased with my effort and amazed how fast it disappeared. Four or more loaves went for supper that night, toast for breakfast next morning, lunches for some of the groups who were bound out on all-day trips and the rest for supper that night. The next day when I arrived I had to do the job all over again. I made a lot of bread that summer and managed to squeeze in a few more jobs in between times as I got better and faster at it.
It was a good summer for me. I enjoyed the company of the four girls whose job it was to wash dishes, peel potatoes and prepare batches of bannock, dry, so the designated cook of each group of boys could stir up a batch of pan bread over the campfire when they went on their overnighters. They also had dozen of other chores that had to be done for all those busy campers.
Everyone was shaken up and there was excitement in the air one morning when I arrived and found everyone scurrying around cleaning up the mess left after “Bruin” paid a visit very early in the wee hours of the morning. He had tipped the big ice box over and fed lavishly on everything in it and
ruining anything he didn’t eat. We were left without oranges and several other things that week.
Menus had to be adjusted to fit the occasion until someone could get into town to replenish the supplies. What a mess that bear made!!! The camp was bounded on one side by several huge old fir trees. I remember we had commented on one particularly big one which was leaning precariously and slightly towards the Lodge. During one night of severe winds, blowing up the lake, that big old tree came down and luckily for us and the Lodge it fell parallel to the building, instead of horizontal to it or
that would have ended the activities of the camp for the summer. The Lodge was the centre of activities for the camp. It was a huge old fir tree, very scarce in that area now due to logging.
We had talked of trying French fried potatoes for awhile but no one seemed to care to take that job on as cooking with oil over a open gas blaze seemed to be a hazard we could do without. However, I agreed to give it a try. Now that turned out to be an enterprise indeed. The day before the “frying”
4 gallon pails of potatoes had to be peeled and the potatoes, one at a time, put through the little dicer bolted to the kitchen wall. This was very time consuming but the girls set to with a will – but the job had just begun.
The next day, by the time the vats of oil were hot, the potatoes had to be drained from the cold water they had sat in over night, dried on towels and blanched in one vat and browned in the other, as fast as we could accomplish this feat. We kept the browned ones warm in the oven until we had enough
to service all seven tables of 10 people each. Needless to say, the chips were disappearing as fast as we could get them on the tables. Mrs B. lived in fear of a inflagration which would set something on fire!! We always kept baking soda handy but never had any incidents and we became quite efficient at serving up “fries” every so often and we got better at it as time went by. The peeling job was the worst part and of longest duration – I wonder now why we didn’t leave the peelings on as some food dispensers do to-day.
Our turkey dinners were a thing of beauty and something that took a lot of planning ahead of time. Mrs. B. would get up in the wee small hours of the morning and make her way up the hill from her cottage with flashlight in hand to pop the prepared fowls in the oven so they would be ready for the noon meal.
For an establishment without electricity of any kind and no modern conveniences what-so-ever, except the trucked in propane, the things we could accomplish when we “all fell to with a will” were amazing indeed. I think all the campers went home happy and I remained doing the “summer camp thing” for many years until Mrs. B. closed the camp after the 1976 season.
- Betty Johnson, 100 Mile House
March 24, 2008
I arrived at Camp Deka for the August session in 1962, when I was nine years old. The first person I met was Bill Preston, the counsellor for my 'cabin' (actually 2 tents), which was the youngest. One of his tasks, like it or not, was to reassure those of us who had never slept away from our parents before. In my case, that took a lot of reassuring because I was scared of the other 2 guys in my tent and was convinced that they were going to use their hunting knives on me one night. It took the best part of 2 weeks for me to get over that fear, so Bill must have been very patient. He must have been effective, too, because I returned to Camp Deka for the next 5 years and went through all the skill levels in camping, canoeing and horseback riding. No-one ever stabbed me in the middle of the night!
The reason I recall this interlude, in particular, is because 40 plus years later Bill and I have reconnected through the work we do. I do research on child development and Bill is a retired teacher who advocates for building strong connections between schools and the local communities where they are found. It turns out that 'community schools', which follow this approach, benefit the social development of the children attending them and, at the same time, seem to improve academic outcomes. In retrospect, it is clear that Camp Deka was all about supporting child development, too. Yet places and opportunities like Camp Deka and community schools are rare in our society. My work would be a success if we could find a way to make them much more common.
- Clyde Hertzman
March 7, 2008
Gunneling made you feel like a king!
Camp Deka was certainly a coming of age for many of us. I had the great privilege to spend 4 summer sessions at Deka, as a camper and junior counsellor from '61 to '64. I can remember my days at camp far better than any of my days at school. Here are a few personal lessons learned and memory flashes from those eventful times . . .
The Big things:
Being curious is a good thing; how to be quiet in the woods; to always try and leave a small footprint; observe! observe! observe! Be alive in the moment; push to the goal; explore; help others; have empathy; the joy of helping city kids discover the fascination of the woods; and the real biggy . . . as humans we are just one of the living things on this earth, no greater, no less than a mosquito or a chipmunk or a moose or poison ivy (actually, that has taken me a lifetime to know but Deka gave me a good push toward the truth).
The lesser lessons:
You can start a fire with one match in the rain….no sweat (impressed my dad no end); fizzies in swamp water from the top of Deka Mountain do NOT purify it; if you carry snakes in your shirt the guys will think you are cool; snakes smell; WWII backpacks really suck; $5.00 sleeping bags don’t work in the Cariboo; canoeing is like riding a bike, once you get it you’ve got it for life; swimming across the lake is just one stroke at a time; if you camp near a game trail you won’t get much sleep; animals are everywhere; in spite of the Daniel Boone image, squirrels really don’t taste very good roasted over the fire.
The other living beings who shared Deka with us ( This is my personal list, in no particular order, much of it thanks to the teachings of Bob Morford and Bill Duncan and the other great counsellors):
Flying squirrels, chipmunks, deer, weasels, mink, rabbits, butterflies, dragonflies, black flies, bats, coyotes, snakes, moose cows, calves and bulls, Bonaparte gulls, other gulls, crows, ravens, eagles, hawks, grouse, a myriad of small bird species, loons, muskrat, beaver, ground squirrels, frogs, lizards, grasshoppers, horses, squaw fish, suckers, no-see-ums, trout, poison ivy, devils club, birch, pine, alder, fir, wild strawberries, skookum berries . . . the pioneer’s laxative, mice, mice, mice, cattle, a fox, crickets, moles, ducks, jays, bugs, bugs, bugs, porcupines, owls.
- Climbing Deka Mountain and swimming back across the lake on the same day with Tarzan yells at the dock
- Hatchet and knife throwing
- Bob Morford catching a weasel in a butterfly net from the top of the corral
- Bob’s eagle eyes being able to pick out a deer’s head in the woods at a hundred yards
- The agony of portages with the ancient 3 ton red and white canoe
- Horseback riding and especially galloping the big bay gelding Cimmeron
- Bill Duncan saying “What seems to be the main problem here?”
- Paddling within a couple of feet of a cow moose and calf as they crossed the narrows near Bonaparte Island (Thanks Bill)
- Wading in the “sulphur” pile
- Listening to rock and roll (R&B, Booker T, Roy Orbison, The Beachboys) while lifting weights at night in the Dilly cottage
- A beautiful blond American girl in a baby blue T-bird in 100 Mile (do you remember that day Bruce?)
- A huge bull moose churning through the reeds in the misty pre-dawn on Beaver Lake (I would love to hear from any of the others that were with me on that adventurous morning)
- Watching a phosphorescent green asteroid as big as an apartment building flash through the western sky from the wilderness camp very late one night and wondering if the world was coming to an end
- Laughing our heads off that same night with another C.I.T. as we changed our soundly sleeping campers into different tents (The morning was full of surprise and laughter)
- Confined to the Dilly cottage for three days with strep throat. Everyone talks about plaques…. I have hardly any memory of plaques
I loved . . .
- The quality and quantity of the food in camp
- Being able to do fifty push-ups non-stop
- Our next door neighbour, Bob, making the entire front gateway with no nails
- Devil’s club taller than any of us combined with clouds of black flies on an exhausting descent of Deka Mountain
- Surfing four foot waves coming back to camp from a week long canoe trip, totally jazzed by the storm and looking forward to a warm welcome at the dock
- John’s big dinner and a warm, comfortable bed
- The honour of being Bob Morford’s bowman and all the skills and lessons he taught me
- Bob’s story about anti-ambush night patrols in Malaysia and the giant fruit bat night; and
- The really big lesson I got that first year with Bob as my councillor: that being a real man was not about how big and strong I was but how I could use that strength to help others
I always came home from camp wiser, stronger, leaner, full of confidence and brimming with stories. That physical and mental confidence and the lessons I learned during those summers have saved my life many of times over the years.
May is such a very real person; every time I’ve talked with her at camp and infrequently over the years she has made me feel special. The amazing forethought that May and Lorne Brown put into developing Camp Deka will be echoed through generations of campers, councillors as well as our friends and families.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
- Bill Leithead
February 27, 2008
Camp Deka Memories
I am told I first went to Camp Deka when I was three years old. I remember spending most of two summers living in tents down by the lake. Mum cooked all our meals on a campfire. When the Dillee Cottage was built, it became our summer home. It had a woodstove which provided heat for cooking, warmth, and best of all, for drying out wet clothes.
My uncle John helped with the construction of the Lodge, which meant my cousins Adams would come to Camp for part of the summer. We had so much fun playing at the waterfront with the rowboats and hiking in the woods.
In the early years of Camp operation I spent July with my grandmother at the coast or attended a YWCA camp out of Vancouver. I went to Deka on the train with the August campers. There I spent time with the kitchen helpers, known as kitchen girls, whenever they had time off. We took part in some Camp activities, specially the evening campfire which we enjoyed very much. We avoided the main dock as sometimes the campers went skinny dipping. We had our own swimming area down by the Log Cabin where we liked to cool down during those warm Cariboo days. One time, the kitchen girls organized an overnight outing. We went to the north end of the lake by rowboat, pitched our tents, had a campfire and felt like seasoned explorers. We sure enjoyed the adventure. When I was a teenager, I got a job as a kitchen girl and lived in the staff cabin, above the Lodge. I liked working with the cooks, Lorraine, Betty and Katherine and occasionally, would go home with one of them on a day off.
I liked to ride and if there was an extra horse, I would join the younger groups on a trail ride. I gradually did more work with the riding program and the last two years of Camp, I was the wrangler. Before Camp opened, we had to bring the horses from Earl Papenfus’ ranch at Canim Lake in time for Bob Parks to shoe them before Camp opened. One year, instead of coming down the road, we came along the game trails, stayed overnight at a trappers cabin, had breakfast over a campfire and even made coffee in a tin can. We thought that was pretty neat!
The routine for the wrangler was to be up at 6:30am and round up the horses that had been grazing overnight. Some campers had a keen interest in the horses and would come out early and help me bring the horses in to the corral where we fed them hay and oats before going back to the Lodge for our own breakfast.
We had two trail rides a day and some all day rides. We rode on the game trails to the Dragonfly meadows or over to Drewry Lake ranch. We had so many good times with the horses and most of the campers loved looking after them and getting extra rides in the evening.
At the end of summer, the horses were returned to Earls’ place for the winter. We did it in two shifts. Two staff and eight campers left after breakfast, with a big send off from the whole camp. The second shift left after lunch with Dad driving them to the meeting spot. The campers who had helped the most with the horses were called on first for this long ride.
I have so many good memories of all my summers at Camp Deka. I went from being a toddler to a wrangler! Hard to beat that kind of growing up!
- Barbara Brown
February 17, 2008
Camp Deka memories
Mine was a saltwater childhood, raised to the rhythm of tides, and the brackish tang of sea air. And so for me the thought of Camp Deka always begins with the memory of dipping my metal camp cup into the lake and drinking the cool water, and the strange discovery that a canoe pulled only halfway up the beach would still be there in the morning. And the sound of the wind rustling through birch leaves.
Camp Deka lies at the heart of all the summers of my adolescence. During the six years from the end of elementary school to the beginning of university, I made my way through the available ranks: first as camper, then as Wilderness camper, then C.I.T., then a whole summer as junior counselor and finally a month as a senior counselor in my last year, 1973.
It’s a long time ago, but it feels as important to me now as it did then. There are strong memories of particular moments where I can fix the exact time and place, knowing even so that my imagination is hard at work recreating the past. And there are other memories that simply hang without points of reference.
I remember paddling the Deka-Sulphurous-Hathaway-Dragonfly circuit in one day with Roger whose last name is lost to me. He came from Ontario, and had paddled in Algonquin Park. He made us fourteen year olds believe we could carry a canoe by ourselves and so, not knowing any better, we did, each taking our turns on the dusty roads and trails between the lakes. And then we took our confidence further down the road on what was one of the few Camp Deka explorations of Canim Lake and Mahood Lake, camping under tarps wrapped around the canoes, living mainly on stoned wheat thins, bannock, margarine and jam. I never ate better.
A year later, this time on Lanezi Lake, halfway round the Bowron Lakes. Rick “Tic” Bryan was in charge. At one point in our days of preparation he may have suggested we were the most challenging – that is, smart-alec, lazy and ill-prepared - group of campers he’d ever had the burden to spend time with. We probably were. But somehow or other we made it through the hard portages at the start of the circuit, and even survived the small patch of white water at the Isaac River chute. We were paddling down Lanezi in brilliant sunshine, hills and mountains rising on either side, all alone in the world. And for a moment I was almost overcome by a feeling that I thought then was something like homesickness, but know now was something different. It’s not that I wanted to be home, but instead I felt somehow both in a place and wanting all the elsewheres in my life to be there at the same time too, with a keen feeling that all of life was somehow wrapped up in this one moment.
Forward a year or two, one of my counselor colleagues was actually a second cousin from Ontario, Lloyd Hetherington. We hadn’t met before, and I don’t think we’ve met since. But I remember one early morning, long before the first bell, when the two of us took a canoe and paddled north to the place we called the sunken island, where we got out of our canoe, let it drift in the lake and swam and dove in the clear water with the rocks just below our feet and enjoyed the feeling that for a few moments we’d left the routine and schedule of camp life somewhere else, and the lake just belonged to us.
It’s funny, but most of my memories of the summers I was a counselor are of adventures when the campers were somewhere else – in bed, usually. This is not the time to admit whether, under the age of majority, I spent parts of days off in the Exeter Arms in 100 Mile House. But I do have a strange memory of a magical night arranged by Peter Marsh. Campfire was over and the campers were in bed, or ought to have been. It was long past sunset. A group of us who had received an invitation to participate in a mystery made our way – perhaps we were driven - up to the hay meadows and birch groves near the gate to the camp property. We were blindfolded and told to take our shoes off. And we walked in the dark along a sort of path for some distance, disoriented by the darkness, worrying about walking into trees or stumbling on rocks. And then we were told to remove our blindfolds and we found ourselves in a grassy open area ringed by trees, with torches blazing and fresh picnic food from town – watermelons! at camp! - and the feeling that we had just come upon a place visited by Tolkien’s elves. Do I really remember this?
And then there were the hopelessly tasteless cheese sandwiches on the PGE, eaten somewhere between Seaton Lake and Lilloet. The dusty bus ride from Lone Butte, and the mingled sense of pleasure and panic – what if it turned out I was a really hopeless camper? More painfully, what if no one liked me? Cold afternoon swims, when there was more than a hint of snow on Mount Deka. The moment on an overnight hiking trip when I had to assure my campers confidently that I knew where we were when I didn’t. Demonstrating my lack of fine motor skills in an endless parade of rainy day crafts that thankfully never made it home. Sailing a canoe up the lake, returning from an out-trip to Bonaparte Island, hoping to reach camp in time for lunch. Unloading blocks of lake ice from the sawdust-filled ice-house.
Trying to find a clever way to make a plaque that would stand the test of time on the dining house wall, and coming back the following year to see all too clearly that last year’s plaque was a dim effort indeed. Geoff Thomas and his way with horses – and a couple of early mornings when Geoff allowed me to ride with him up in the hills to bring the horses in. Wishing I could lead camp songs like Rob Ruttan, or play the guitar like Drew Bourne, who taught me songs and guitar chords I still remember. Telling troops of tired hikers that yes, we were almost there. Oh Great Chief Loony Loon, and the magic of his journey across the lake. Or was that the magic of the Great Chief’s cane across your rear end when, once again, it was impossible to resist testing his patience? The quiet few hours between the departure of one group of campers and the arrival of the next. Reading on the bed and writing letters home in rest time. Learning knots. Many knots. Useless knots. Useless knots I still use today. Lorne’s plans for the day.
And one July night in 1969, sitting at camp fire looking up at the sky and listening while Lorne told us that man had that day walked on the moon.
Paddling by moonlight. Saying goodbye. Waiting for my parents to drive up into the camp to take me home. Planning for next year, hoping I would be invited back as a C.I.T or counselor. Finding out forty years later that people I’ve known all my life were also at Camp Deka, but they must have been August campers, because I always went in July.
Although I did not return as a counselor after 1973, Camp Deka did not end there for me. Janet and I spent a long weekend at the camp in the summer of 1976, the last summer of the old camp. I think we all knew it was the last summer that May would operate the camp without Lorne, and even though I was working in Vancouver, I wanted Janet to see this special place and spend a few days there. To be fair, my strongest memory of that weekend is of my old Volkswagen breaking down on highway 97 just south of 93 Mile House, forcing us to spend a night sleeping in the car by the side of the road while the big trucks roared by. But we were not deterred, and made it into camp the next morning. And it didn’t end there: in 1978 May very kindly offered the dilly cottage to the two of us for our honeymoon. Without May or Lorne or Deka campers, the place was different but no less magical. We paddled and swam in the lake, drove to the Hathaway Lake store for pie, visited Greg and his wife at the ranch, and went to a movie in 100 Mile House. It must have had some effect: the marriage is nearly thirty years old and going strong, and both our daughter and son went to Deka as YMCA campers. And two summers ago, kayaking with friends in the Broken Islands, Janet and I taught everyone to sing, “My paddle’s keen and bright, flashing like silver, swift as the wild goose flight, dip dip and swing.”
- Geoff Plant
February 17, 2008
I believe I hold the distinction and honour of being the camper who attended Camp Deka the longest. In my first year (1967), I was a seven-year old newly arrived from Toronto, and in my last year (1976), I celebrated my sixteenth birthday as a CIT.
The cumulative ten year experience left me with great memories, lifelong skills and a permanent love of the outdoors - all thanks to great camp staff and the vision and devotion of the Browns.
The memories have all blended together from year to year, but I do have some distinct recollections of my first year - the highlight being the Canada centennial all camp hike up Mount Deka. As a young boy, it felt like the equivalent of trek up Everest. The lowlight was my insistence that the letter I received at camp from my parents stated they were to arrive to pick me up a day before camp ended. Despite May’s assurance I was certainly mistaken, she allowed me to pack my bags and wait for their arrival. They didn’t arrive until the next day of course, so I spent the day on my own in the parking lot watching everyone else participate in the regatta down at the lake.
There were other embarrassing moments over the years. But camp was also an opportunity for great personal achievements too. For me, it was finishing the cross the lake swim for the first time when I could barely swim, and then a few summers later, becoming a Woodsman by paddling down the lake on my own for an overnight, with minimal food and nothing more than a tarp and canoe for shelter.
Capture the flag. Horseback riding in the meadows. Regular out-trips to 30:30, Bonaparte Island or across the lake. More adventurous ones to Needa, Sulphurous, Drewy and Needa Lakes. Bald eagles. The sounds of the loons and the distinctive peel of the bell for wake up and meals. Hot chocolate in those yellow plastic thermos tumblers at the nighttime campfire. Great Chief Looney Loon and his loon-eye cane. The memories are rich and varied.
Underpinning it all was a sense of fun and adventure. Here's a story that captures a bit of that from the year I attended the wilderness camp.
Our first day of camp started in typical fashion. We arrived late in the day with all the other campers after taking a Greyhound to 100 Mile House, and then a school bus the rest of the way. After the traditional first night spaghetti dinner, Tik Bryan took us eight or so older wilderness campers aside. He said that rather than paddling across the lake to the teepee campsite, we needed to first paddle together to the end of the lake to help clear some falldown on the trail to Bowers Lake so some young campers could make the trip the next day.
It was late in the summer. While still in our summer city duds, we headed down to the lake and started on our way. By the time we got to the trailhead, it was already starting to get dark but with Tik leading the way, none of us questioned the wisdom of the trip. We headed into the woods and did our best to move quickly in the failing light, but after having gone quite some way, it became too dark to go further. Tik pulled out a flashlight and an envelope.
The note inside said our leader had fallen down, was unconscious and his flashlight batteries would be going out in one minute. We were now on our own and it was soon pitch black. Initially, we stumbled around in attempt to follow the trail back to the lake and our canoes, but when that became fruitless we resigned ourselves to lying on the ground in a tight circle to stay warm. It soon became apparent those lying outside of the circle were too cold to sleep. In an attempt by those on the outer fringes to move closer to the middle of the circle everything degenerated into a continous dogpile.
Meantime, Tik, who had of course made the appropriate clothing arrangements for himself, had settled down for the night. The rest of us ended up lying in mud, as at least it provided some warmth. At the first sign of light, now filthy and sleepless, we made our way back to the canoes. I remember seeing the lake through the trees and hearing euphoric cheers of relief. We broke into a run to get to the lakeshore. Our happiness quickly turned to disbelief as we realized that someone had come in the night and towed all of the canoes back to camp!
So we had to make our way back along the lakeshore. It was a tough slog. Despite the lack of rest, pure adrenaline got us there before anyone had even risen for breakfast.
We had been at camp barely twelve hours, but already had an experience we’d never forget. Thank you Camp Deka.
- Steve Kennedy
February 14, 2008
I went to Camp Deka only one summer – 1969. I was 14 and had just finished Grade 9.
Jim Berta. He was my counselor and had a very large effect on me, a positive one. I remember that he was a runner and a (politically incorrect to say?) draft dodger, as we used to say. I remember lying in the long grass next to him somewhere above the main part of the camp and we stared up at the sky and we talked about deep questions. We ran all the way back to camp after that. I was thrilled by this experience.
I remember swimming across the lake and experiencing hypothermia for the first time and didn’t know what it was (and not knowing what had happened to me until years later). I remember lying in my sleeping bag back in the cabin and everyone else piling their sleeping bags on top of me so I couldn’t even move the pile was so high. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t warm up like that.
I remember playing the then-popular song “Windy” on my recorder around a campfire. I remember learning to split wood with a sledge hammer and a wedge (although I may be mixing up this memory with another occasion), but I know Mr Brown had me chop some wood one afternoon when I asked to be of assistance. I remember Rob Rattan leading some unsuspecting young camper through the acting out the at first foreign-sounding words of “O-Wa-Ta-Naa” before the great king (or whatever) of “Siam”.
- Mike Hetherington
February 13, 2008
The difficulty for me is not that my memories of Camp Deka are few and faded but rather that I have so many that are sharp and lasting. Where to begin?
Those were certainly formative years for me. I think I did the better part of my growing up at Camp Deka - not that I pretend to be all grown up yet (which reminds me: the other day my wife remarked that she wants to be just like May Brown when she grows up). I was a camper at the main camp from 1962 through to the Centennial year, 1967. In 1968, I slept in the teepee across the lake and circled the Bowron Lakes as a member of the Wilderness Camp and then completed the summer as a "tripper" - a sort of junior C.I.T. position that I managed to talk my way into so that I could remain for the rest of the month of August. My excuse was that I would produce a film about the camp ... using my mother's Brownie 8mm camera ... which ended up falling off the wharf into the lake ruining what might well have turned out to be an award-winning documentary. No doubt. In 1969, I became a full-fledged C.I.T. and then a counsellor in 1970. I had the privilege of returning as a counsellor in 1975 and 1976, for what turned out to be Lorne's last summer and then May's solo stewardship of the final year of the boys camp, as we all remember it. I can only imagine how difficult that summer must have been for May without Lorne in the Dilly cottage. For the rest of us, Lorne remained a palpable presence, even, or perhaps I should say, especially on Challenge Night, when Greg assumed the mantle of the mighty Chief Looney Loon.
I was nine years old in 1962 when I first boarded the train to Lone Butte. The bus rides of later years never matched those train trips along the Fraser canyon - but the greyhound schedule was far more reliable. It was just the second year of the camp's existence (and it remained a sore point for me that I could never turn back the clock so that I could count myself among the famed "Charter" campers). Not all the cabins or the tent platforms had been completed. There were only about six canoes and a few rowboats. There were no kayaks yet. But there were horses. The horses were enormous, intimidating beasts to me back then. As the years went by, I would gain confidence and skill - as well as some height - as a horseman, but that summer I was content to be assigned a plodding horse named "Decidedly", with a mind of his own, which fortunately for me meant a mind to slowly but steadily follow the pack. Galloping freely across the meadows on the way to Wells' ranch to help load the hay baler and to watch the branding of calfs was still a few years off for me. Still more years on and I would be leading my own group of campers and fledgling horsemen on a trail ride to what would then be the Brown's ranch to churn butter and make french (or french-canadian?) toast with freshly laid eggs under the expert direction of Suzanne.
The waterfront was always a happy area for me. I loved swimming, long and often, even on days when others found the water a little brisk, and over the years I honed my abilities in various water craft, particularly the canoes. I recall the first canoe lesson was not actually in a canoe. We kneeled along the edges of the dock practising the basic strokes, naming the parts of the paddle and learning that most essential lesson: the tip must never touch the rocks! It was some time before I would master the "J" stroke, portage a canoe on my own, balance and bounce on the gunwhales without dunking, graduate from Bowsman to Sternsman and, finally, begin to teach others the basic strokes while they kneeled on the dock.
I didn't take as naturally to campcraft as I did to the water sports. In the early years I was all thumbs with a rope and, trying to tie a bowline, could never figure out which was the stump and which was the hole the rabbit was supposed to duck down. Left-over-right, right-over-left for the reef knot was much easier. But I did manage to light my first fire, as taught in the campcraft area next to trapper Bob Park's house, with only one match and not a shred of paper and, over time, an axe became more manageable and less dangerous in my hands. For this once clumsy camper to rise on Recognition Night, the final campfire of 1966 (now age 13), and be presented a thumbstick, the mark of a successful Woodsman, was at that point the proudest moment of my life. In fact, it's hard as I sit here now to think of achievements that have meant as much to me since then.
The following summer, my last as a camper at the main camp, Jim Millar and I persuaded the Browns and our counsellors, Pete Marsh and Tick Bryan (who a few years later would be my colleagues and friends - but still mentors), to allow us to head off on our own down the lake and over to Sulpherous for a "Survival" trip. I remember gathering, cooking up and actually eating such delicacies as bullrush stems and lichen but I don't know how well we would have survived without the bag of sugar and the bottle of ketchup May talked us into taking along "just to enhance the flavours". The large patch of wild raspberries we found sure helped, too. As I recall, the bear, who wasn't accustomed to finding a tarp stretched across his lakeside path covering boys in sleeping bags, was more startled than we were by our encounter ... but that memory makes me wonder how many camps nowadays would be willing to risk sending off a couple of fourteen year old boys on an unsupervised overnighter.
I suppose folk songs have always been popular at camps but we were especially fortunate in that those were years in which such classic songs as "Where have all the flowers gone?" , "If I had a hammer" , and "Four Strong Winds" were actually on the charts as top selling hits. There were many able guitar players and several strong singers who emerged at the campfires or the indoor alternative, a "hootenany", held in the craftshop - a sort of decaffeinated version of sixties era coffee houses. Alas, I was not one of the ones blessed with great musical talent. Oh, I would sing all the songs with great gusto ... just not always with great pitch. A ham like me was better suited to the tongue twisters and the novelty songs. There was more of the "zoomba zah" than the "vio vio viola" to my approach. I could summon up the deep and tragic pain of old Hiram's goat,while missing some of the high notes along the way to his eventual salvation, and I always responded enthusiastically to the invitation to sing "a little bit louder and a little bit worse" when little Barbie Brown, perched on a stool, would lead us in singing about that poor blue jay "a way down yonder", who was sadly afflicted with the whooping cough.
Skits were an enduring feature of campfires. Some may have endured a little too long perhaps and had a few too many revivals but I like to think there are some classics (not unlike the plays of Shakespeare) that can be rediscovered again and again ... and again. Of course, we never tired of going on a lion hunt, that repeat-after-me leg slapping adventure, led most memorably perhaps by Greg Brown ("up the tree ... down the tree ... through the swamp ... over the bridge ... etc."), and any skit that ended up soaking one of the counsellors with water was a guaranteed show-stopper. There were also calmer, quieter moments at campfires that linger in the memory, such as listening to Lorne reading a favourite Grey Owl story or when he would have us take a moment to stand and stare into the embers as we silently thought of our families back home. Oh, yes, in later years we were far too cool for such solemnities but some of us - especially, but not exclusively, the younger ones - didn't mind a moment to indulge a tinge of homesickness. That would soon be broken, however, by the rush to the wash house and the scramble into our sleeping bags, hopeful for a ghost story. There were several masters of the art of story telling at camp but no one in those days, and no horror flick of today, could match the impact of Geordie McNabb's scream at the conclusion of "The Monkey's Paw".
Finally, though, camp was about the camping. Hiking up hills and paddling down lakes, we may not really have been pioneers but we could readily imagine ourselves to be forging new paths in the wilderness and we all savoured the opportunity to be closer to nature than we ever were back in the concrete and glass cities which were home to most of us for most of the year. We probably all preferred the sunny days but hardy souls, such as we were then, would set out undaunted in all manner of weather for our out-trips. I well remember huddling under a taut canvas in the rain ..."don't touch the tarp! ... "why not?" ... drip ... drip ... drip. Our menus may not have been sophisticated but nothing ever tasted as good as food singed over a campfire after a long portage and a paddle. And nothing could be more refreshing than a skinny dip in a lake or stream after working up a sweat on a long, challenging hike. I remember that I particularly enjoyed taking a canoe out solo at dusk, dipping a paddle into a mirror surface as the light faded in the sky.
Oh, dear, this is where feeble attempts to capture what was so special to us about "the camp where the wild loon calls" veer into the sentimental. As I say, I've always been better at the "zoomba zahs".
Visiting the camp again just a few years ago, after a gap of about thirty years, I was greatly relieved to find that the wilderness surroundings appeared remarkably unspoiled, that the lake I had swum across and the mountain I had climbed so many times were still as I remembered them. The cabins were looking somewhat worse for wear and I wondered whether the addition of electricity was really an improvement. Certainly the absence of horses was a shame. But I was most struck by the sight of the lodge, the great lodge where we had assembled for meals always prepared to the standard set in the early years by John the Cook("come out ... come out ... come out of the kitchen, come out, come out!"), the location of such special events during rainy weather as indoor regattas and casino nights and, of course, of such regular events as lunch time sing-alongs and evening cocoa. The imposing lodge of memory had dwindled into a miniature version of its former self. Could it really have been such a small structure? And where did all the young girls come from who were now among the campers and counsellors at the camp? Including a daughter of Geoff Plant and one of my own, too!
I am pleased that Camp Deka is now a special part of my daughter's history, that she shared in the experience of paddling down the lake, of setting up camp and of hearing the call of the loon over the water at night. But it isn't, and could never be, my Camp Deka. Although for a moment I could pretend that it was the same camp when I discovered to my surprise and delight, there on the wall of this smaller lodge, the old Woodsman plaque with an entry from 1966: Charlie Lyall ... Mark Simpson ... and, yes,
- Rob "Rat" Ruttan
February 12, 2008
I was lucky enough to visit Camp Deka three times, 1970 for 2 weeks, 1971 for a month and 1972 for 2 weeks and although this was along time ago, some memories are as clear as if they were from yesterday.
I remember climbing onto the bus in Vancouver and being excited about the 7 to 8 hour drive up to 100 mile house. Once there we got to stop at the Diary Queen and enjoy cold frosted delights. Now, the thought of a 7 or 8 hour drive anywhere horrifies me !! However I still love Diary Queen.
I remember how incredibly beautiful the Camp Deka area was with the lake so big, the endless forests, the ranch not far away and the open fields where we played the best game of Capture the Flag ever.
I remember the pre breakfast joke telling sessions where joke tellers, depending on how the joke was rec'd, were rated with half a clap, a whole clap or a watermelon slurp. Usually it was Mr. Brown who gave the rating and all the rest of the campers and councillors followed his lead.
I remember the endless sporting activities available including the cross the lake swim where I placed 2nd ( though I always thought me first as the winner that year was none other than Greg Brown ... a full grown adult in my mind ! ), swimming instructions with me completing all levels, ping pong tournaments which again I believe I won one year, horseback riding where my claim to fame was being stepped on by Lone Butte, one of the biggest horses at Camp Deka ( I later rode Sally who was much more my speed and size --- slow and small !! ), the endless hikes ( where I stupidly walked between two stumps, both of which had wasps nests in them and I was stung 20 times on my head and face --- my face looked like a war zone and though painful, I thought it was pretty cool ), canoe trips to the sunken island ( sometimes for lunch ), overnight sleepovers ( where I spent one night on my own in the forests and though terrified most of the night felt so proud of myself when morning broke.
I remember going on an incredible 3 night canoe trip, over to another lake with the sunken mushroom like salt island, portaging our canoes for over a mile along with carrying loaded down packs with food, clothes, etc...
I remember several pranks whereby some of the councillors snuck around while we innocent campers slept and they felt penned us with question marks or ' guess who', or etc... later the next day we had a mock up trial where the accused were found guilty and thrown into the lake. And another night caper left many of us wet in bed as councillors had snuck around with warm water and dipped our fingers/hands into the water making us all pee our beds. I do not remember a trail for these night capers but do remember a wet bed !!
I remember finding a huge antler from a dead deer and spending hours sanding it, making it shine white and so smooth only to bring it home to have my brother fall on it and it going right through his leg. And yes my brother was fine but the antler did not stay !
I remember being given kitchen duties whereby we were responsible for helping prepare the dining room for meals. I never minded this as I like to help in the food and beverage area and I loved all the food that Camp Deka served, exactly what I am not sure but the creamy corn I do remember.
I remember the arts and craft room just off the dusty main courtyard.
If I were a little younger I know I would remember more but what I do remember for sure is how much I loved going to Camp Deka. How many friends and people I still see today that came from our time at Camp Deka. I remember learning so much about the outdoors, about myself, about friendships, about so much.
Thank you May Brown and to Mr. Brown, Greg and Barb for all that you did to make Camp Deka such a wonderful, friendly, energetic place. I shall always cherish my memories and experiences from my time there.
- Peter Dutton
February 7, 2008
My memories of my experiences at Camp Deka are vague at best, although it was a big part of my childhood:
- The train ride from North Vancouver to Lone Bute and spending all of my pocket money on food before I even got to camp
- Those chestnut canoes, all red except one green one that I always liked paddling
- Going to Sulfurous Lake and having mud fights and stinking to high heaven
- The many hiking trips I went on
- Learning how to survive in the wilderness - to this day I feel I could lead a group out of the wild
- Cooking over camp fire eating half cooked pancakes - boy they were tasty
But my biggest hurdle that I overcame at Camp Deka was my fear of horses. I learned to ride and care for horses. Saddly my favorite horse passed on after my first year, but there were others to love and ride. One ride I remember was to a ranch in the area during branding season. I rode whitish grey horse named 'Smokey' and we galloped all over the pastures on the ranch.
The one thing that takes me back to my time at Camp Deka is the sound the loons made at dawn and dusk. To this day every time I hear a loon I think of Camp Deka. There isn't a more peaceful sound to me than a loon.
- Gary Dietrich
February 6, 2008
A few thoughts:
There were no government grants, no waivers to be signed by parents or guardians, no waterskiing opportunities and no bouncy-castle like playthings in the water and there was no advertising, no bureaucracy and no faith based camping. Apart from the table tennis and the tether ball there was nature in the Cariboo and how to function in it and enjoy it.
There was, however, a vision: that a family could create and operate a camp where boys could learn wilderness skills and become competent in canoeing, hiking, camping, horseback riding and the care of horses so that the boys could confidently enjoy nature unembellished into the future.
On moving out of the residential camp to the wilderness camp older campers were presented with greater challenges. The skills we had acquired at Deka prepared us for these experiences and opened up to us the whole realm of wilderness adventure.
As an adolescent canoeing the Bowron Lakes I felt a deep connection to my natural surroundings for the first time. I think that was part of the vision for Lorne and May Brown. Chief Loonie Loon was about fun around the campfire but he was also about living softly on the land and encountering the spirit of the land and waters.
A few short remembrances:
Tickling Rob Ruttan until he couldn't stop laughing
Debating the merits of milk and life under W. A. C. Bennett with Clyde Hertzman and the counsellors at the age of about 11 - Clyde was very intellectually precocious
Witnessing a belching contest (proposed by Al Marler) at the challenge night
Riding out of control back to the corral wondering how I hadn't collided with a tree
Starting fires with birch bark and lichen
- Always having a storm brewing and rain and wind whipping up as we returned to camp in canoes from an outrip to Sulphurous Lake
Thanks May for a great experience and lots of fun.
- Peter MacDonald (1963-66 Deka, 1967 Bowron Lake trip, bowsman for leader, Bob Morford)
2 February 2008
Memories of Camp Deka
I am finding it difficult to isolate the details hidden in my memories of my experiences at Camp Deka, despite the number of summers I attended Camp Deka as a camper and as a counsellor-in-training. Regardless, I know I was enormously enriched by those experiences and by the people I had the good fortune to share the Deka experience with, and am left with an expansive sense of gratitude and warmth by the opportunities afforded by those experiences. Deka was an important part of my childhood.
Blurred in my memories are snapshots of swims across the lake, learning to canoe (even gunwaling), and to camp, adventures negotiating rapids on the Thompson Rivers, haying on the farm across the road, leading horses from the camp back to their winter stables, solos, traverses and portages, inter-cabin pranks, stories and songs around the campfires, swims in rather frigid waters but the warmer waters of the narrows, regattas, trail-rides, capture-the-flag games in the woods, the craft cabin, the camp across the lake, and the ringing of the dinner bell. There was the rush to the washhouse, the securing of the ice-blocks from the sawdust, the anticipation of the dining hall and the meals served, and the wondrous setting on the edge of the lake. What I do remember is that every moment was filled with learning and with opportunity.
One summer I had the opportunity to be the wrangler’s assistant and guide young campers on trailrides. I worked with a young man – Jeff, I think – who taught me volumes about horses and their care but, more importantly, about the respect all living creatures deserve.
All of my foundational skills and knowledge regarding minimalist camping, knot-tying, first aid, building a cooking fire, orienteering and map reading, planning and preparing for out-trips, packing backpacks, wilderness safety and environmentalism came from the opportunities offered by Camp Deka. However, all of that paled in comparison to how I – and all campers – were enriched by the interactions with the Brown family, the Deka staff and all the youngsters who participated in the Deka experience. I believe we all ended up being better people because of those experiences.
I am looking forward to the publication of the Deka memoirs and the memories it kindles.
- Jeff Ballou
February 2, 2008
A few random memories from my wonderful years at Camp Deka.
I remember walking down the corridor of the Bio Science building at UB.C. and looking at the notice board for summer jobs. There was a notice for staff at a boys' camp in the Cariboo. So started an experience lasting several years and packed with so many experiences and happy times.
There were interesting people counsellors and campers. Lorne and May were amazing for their energy, knowledge and enthusiasm. Picking up a new group of campers in N. Van. and taking the train all day to Lone Butte was a trip filled with humor and various 'happenings'. Then the car ride from the Butte to the camp usually in the old station wagons!!
It was always rewarding to see a nervous camper early on in his stay develop into a boy who was comfortable in some skills in the out of doors and interacting with his peers. Many, many thoughts come flooding back--campfires with all sorts of 'entertainment', indoor track meets organized at the last minute because of bad weather, fun at my main area--the waterfront, canoeing and swimming lessons, overnight with the senior groups and even longer trips with them. Dining room hyjinx, late night counselor 'meetings', laughter, good friends, being able to laugh at oneself--Dirty Rick.
Days off and hitchhiking into 100 mi house, events at the nearby ranch including helping with branding. Thinking back on all the boys I met and interacted with-each with their own interests and strengths. The beautiful scenery both day and night. The STARS. The peace in an early morning canoe ride near the shore and seeing some animal scurry away or looking back at me in a calm attitude as if to say 'isn't this a great beginning of a new day?
I have said to my wife that these were some of the happiest days of my life!! I grew in so many areas, learnt many things, honed some interpersonal skills --all of which have stood in good stead for me in my marriage of 40 years and in my profession as a doctor. So many things, memories, etc. that it would fill many audio tapes! Hope these thoughts are a beginning.
- Richard Wadge
January 31, 2008
I found some old pictures of mine from the summer of 1967 when I was a CIT in July and I attach them to this message. One is of the campers in my cabin along with the counsellor whose name I think was Mark. Another is a view of the lake and canoes from my cabin, and the third one is of some campers in the corrall. One thing I remember about that summer was that I had hardly any experience with horses and was rather afraid of them so I was very apprehensive when, as a CIT at the start of the first session, I was assigned to assist in rounding up the horses! Those animals sure didn't want to be brought in to be ridden by kids all day so they had some pretty mean looks for me. However, that was my assignment and I knew I had to carry it out so I just gritted my teeth and did what I had to. I guess that was one lesson I learned at Deka that helped me many times after that - you just have to do what you agree to do even if you are afraid of doing it.
My father Jack was always very keen on myself and my two brothers attending camps because it taught us how to deal with different situations and to get along with others as well as the wonderful outdoor experiences. He was also an avid sailor and it was his idea that Deka needed a sailboat. He suggested that he would pay for the wood, the sails and the plans for an 8 foot Sabot if I would build the boat. So that is what I did after school and on weekends in the Spring of 1967 in our basement and backyard. In late June that year we put it in the back of our stationwagon with the tailgate down and drove it all the way from Vancouver to camp. Boy were we dusty from the gravel roads when we got there! In the early 1960's there was a popular song on the radio by the Beach Boys called "The Sloop John B." so when the Sabot arrived at Deka someone called it the "Sloop John H." and it stuck. I know my Dad was very happy to hear of all the use the boat got at camp over the years.
Best of luck with the project May. I look forward to it.
- John Hetherington
January 26, 2008
My Camp Deka Memories
Approaching the end of my second year of teaching, Marilyn and I realized a summer job was necessary. Fortunately, I knew Lorne Brown from UBC Faculty of Education. After a May 24th week-end visit, we were delighted to sign on. I was to be a counselor and Water Front Director, Marilyn , an RN, was hired as camp nurse. We worked at Deka for July and August in 1963 and 1964 and for one month in the summers of “67 and ’68.
Staff usually arrived a few days prior to any campers and one of the first jobs was to assemble the dock. The sections of dock had been stored on the shore away from the lake’s winter ice. Installation involved wading and ducking under the freezing water. Campers didn’t find swimming a big attraction during the first days of July. Snow appeared on Mt. Deka one July 1st. The waterfront, the rest of the
summer was extremely busy with rowing, swimming and canoeing.
The campers were organized by age (8 to 14 )into six cabin groups. Each group had 6 ( and later 8 ) boys and a counselor, older groups often had a C.I.T. This was an enjoyable change for me who was used to classes of 36, 15 -17 years old. I often had the youngest group whose tents was near the waterfront. My evening routine was to tuck in the boys and then check on how the rowboats were tied. Windy nights brought a 2 am check.
Camp routine for the first few days of a two week session was to have each cabin group learn, update or improve their skills in canoeing, boating, horseback riding, campcraft etc – then out-trips began.
I recall my first overnighter with the youngest group. In the days prior, we used the rest hour to plan food, clothing, equipment and duties. The anticipated day arrived – Lorne used the power boat to transport us to 30/30 at the north end of the lake. A lean-to was built, sleeping bags laid out, evening cooking fire started, the pot was boiling and pasta was added. All was going very well and then the cooks realized their instructions were on the packaging which was merrily burning in the fire. In my minds eye I can still see campers dancing around the fire trying to read the instructions.!!
Meals at Camp Deka were terrific !! Many an outtrip was planned so as to be back for Friday’s fish and chips. Meals were accompanied by song – “Johnny get your elbows off the table” or “ I’d rather be a slashed arm than a McCutcheon” etc. Proper songs were a common feature after a meal and were extended if it was a rainy day.
Outtrips were much anticipated and served as motivation for campers to advance their skills. My memories centre on canoe trips which required a Deka qualified sternsman and bowsman per canoe. Paddling and portaging. keeping the canoes in a group. Gunneling was a favorite outtrip activity. Gunneling – not kneeling as Deka taught, or sitting on the seat but standing on the stern gunnels. In this position you bend your knees causing the canoe to bob and move forward. Races were held – bathing suits advised as a dunking was common.
Occasionally, returning from a trip, favourable wind encouraged rafting up and sailing. We would tie 4 – 7 canoes in formation using shoelaces etc. Sails were created by paddles inserted in poncho sleeves. An exhilarating ride as we surged down the lake. However, this excitement reached panic stage as we bore down on the dock struggling to untie wet shoelaces.
The McCutcheon’s enjoyment of Deka canoeing led to our buying a canoe and joining the Burnaby based Dogwood Canoe Club. With this group, we and our children have enjoyed many years of B.C. lakes and rivers. Now 40 years later we still take our grandchildren on local lakes. An example of Camp Deka’s long term influence.
The horses were another major attraction for campers (and for horseflies). Our first summer at Deka, our son David was a toddler. To keep him from wandering off, I used chicken wire to enclose a small area by the door of the Health Centre. Unfortunately, during the first days of summer, the horses were free, at night, to graze the long grass within the camp area grounds. They didn’t seem to notice my carefully constructed fence – trampling it completely. The grass was greener ……..
Deka’s grounds housed a colony of Richardson ground squirrels. There were always a few sitting by their burrows entranced. Also sitting nearly would always be a camper waiting to spring his trap. I never saw one caught despite the many hours spent in the craft shop creating traps.
The Craft Shop was one of the places of instruction wherein boys could saw and hammer to their heart’s delight. As a two week session neared it’s end cabin groups would create a plaque commemorating the members and their accomplishments. The Lodge was festooned with plaques of all sizes and shapes. These were of great interest to older campers who would visit. Personally, craft shop supervision led to my interest in carving – a hobby I have enjoyed for 40 years.
Evening campfires were attended by all the cabin groups who were in camp. Groups took turns preparing and lighting the fire. No paper allowed- shavings and kindling – only one match – were the mark of a Deka camper. Sing songs, stories and skits prepared us all for bed.
Each two week session would have one or two special events – a regatta, a rodeo or a Challenge Night. At Challenge Night an individual or group could issue a challenge to other individuals or group. Lorne, as Chief Looney Loon, dressed in a fringed buckskin jacket and cowboy hat, carrying a carved cane – attempting to look serious in spite of a grin – oversaw the special campfire. He would judge the fairness of the challenges and mete out punishment via a smart cane rap on the backside of offenders.
A Challenge Night was announced and my youngest group began plotting - two of them would challenge two of the oldest group. A boat race was the challenge- a boat race on the ground ??The young pair demonstrated – partners sit facing each other, soles together, grasping hands one pulls against his partner and then straightens his knees thus lifting his butt , extending backwards and sits down. - as in rowing. The forward facing partner scoots forward – repeat. The older pair are allowed, by Chief Looney Loon, to practice. Confident of their physical advantage, they accept the challenge. The race begins ! As the older pair moved to the lead, another member of the younger group slips a pan of water under the descending butt of the victim. The crowd is delighted!! The Chief gives his approval with only a slight tap on the offenders backsides.
- Counsellor evenings playing 31 by kerosene lantern in the old Log House
- The ice house below the Health Centre where Bob Parks had stored ice in sawdust after cutting it from the lake during the winter
- Loons calling on a quiet night
- Paul and Willie’s motto –“co-operation is the key”
- John - the cook, Swifty Pete, the mad balloonist
- Erecting the teepee at the Wilderness site
- Annual Mt. Deka climb so you could put you name in the tin can buried in the rock cairns on top
- Classic skits, backwards dinners (my granddaughter loves them)
- Man’s first walk on the moon
- I saw it on a TV in the Hathaway Bakery on my day off
- September gathering at the Browns to view last summer’s slides
Camp Deka – a marvelous and memorable experience for camper and counselors alike.
– Dave McCutcheon
January 26, 2008
Remembrances from a Camp Deka Nurse
The Health Centre, at Camp Deka, had 2 rooms – one for supplies and treatment and the other had a bed to rest a camper for further observations.
Most treatments were for mosquito and horsefly bites as well as slivers, small cuts and bruises. Once a spark , from the campfire, flew a small piece of rock into a camper’s eye. As luck would have it, the very next day an Eye Specialist arrived at camp to visit his son who was a camper. He checked to see if all was well with the lad’s eye !!! That saved us a long ride to the Dr. in 100 Mile House.
The trail rides, with the horses, made me nervous especially with the youngest campers in the first days of their experiences. On one fall a camper suffered a broken arm which was put in a case and a sling. That did not slow him down ! One proud camper wore a tattoo on his chest - U “Dusty was here “ where he claimed to have been kicked by his horse. After careful examination I determined that no
harm had been done.
Homesickness bothered a few boys but horseback riding, canoeing and Friday “fish and chips” usually affected the cure.
May and I checked suitcases into the end of the first week of each session to encourage campers to use their stock of clean underwear, T-shirts and socks. We came to recognize the same shirts being worm over and over again !
Usually, prior to rest hour the nurse would be on duty to give out pills, check campers for new bandaids, sore throats etc. We had healthy happy campers and so my job was light duty.
I enjoyed teaching a First Aid course to an enthusiastic senior cabin group. We had fun thinking up scenarios they might come up against on an outtrip.
I did go on one outtrip while at camp. Barbara, at age 7 years, was longing for her turn to go on an outtrip so May and I took her on an overnight hike down the lake. We set up our camp – tarp, sleeping bags, flashlights and evening snack. The mosquitoes were pretty bad and we all agreed that one night was just right and we headed back to the dining hall next morning in time for breakfast !!
Our day off was spent on a trip to 100 Mile House, Lone Butte or a visit to the Wells Ranch. On our third Wedding Anniversary, May and Barbara babysat our ten month old son. Dave and I went off for the day and had lunch at the Red Coach Inn !! The Lone Butte store was full of treasures. We located
a baby harness there which sure helped to keep our son in tow.
One summer, Lorne Brown discovered hammers missing from the Craft Shop. We found they were being stuffed down ground squirrel holes by our toddler.
Camp Deka provided our family with many memorable stories which we have told over and over. The mystery of the balloons showing up in odd places over a period of several days – in a cookie tin, up the flag pole, in the wood pile, in the Craft Shop etc. Who was the “mad balloonist” ??
Time spent over hot chocolate and cookies in the “Log House’ with the counselors, a fine and fun bunch of fellows.
We enjoyed working for such wonderful people – May and Lorne Brown.
- Marilyn McCutcheon
January 24, 2008
Feelings and memories? I have a thousand of them. But they all turn into one seemingly endless summer day spent learning and playing on the lake where I grew up.
I first came to Camp Deka in the summer of 1967 as a fat little boy who had never sat in a canoe or camped out overnight. By the time I had left 10 years later I had learned skills, something of leadership and responsibility, and discovered in the wilderness a refuge and resource I could escape to for the rest of my life.
Now, over 30 years since my last summer at Deka, I still backcountry ski, hike, and have led multi-week ocean kayak and canoe trips into some pretty desolate corners of British Columbia and beyond. My ongoing love of the outdoors is, quite simply, a precious gift that Camp Deka gave me. What’s more, after 25 years of work, education, travel, marriage, and raising a child, there is no place in the world I feel happier and more complete than when I am sitting in the stern of a canoe with a paddle resting across my lap.
You made it my home.
Those are the feelings. The memories? Well, I certainly still remember the day on Drewry Lake when I “got” the J stroke and paddled a canoe by myself in a straight line for the first time.
I remember being in Cabin Six when our group took a three-night out trip to climb Windy Mountain. We were the first group to ever do it. As we paddled back down Deka to the camp at the end of our trip, I was bursting with pride at what we’d done. So huge was our achievement in my mind that I expected the entire camp to be waiting on the dock to hear of our exploits. There was, of course, no one there. But that didn’t change the fact that, as I’d rehearsed in my mind to say to that waiting crowd, “We conquered Windy Mountain.”
When I was in my 20’s, I climbed for a while. I did some interesting (and difficult) ascents – several of them were winter climbs that were actually somewhat dangerous. But none of those climbs ever gave me the sense of accomplishment that I felt as a 14-year old paddling back down the lake, as part of the very first cabin group to have “conquered Windy.”
I also remember when Lorne gave two 16-year-old junior counselors – Ross Gilley and me – our own cabin group for the very first time. As Ross and I talked about it afterwards, we both confessed to each other that we were a little scared, and afraid of screwing up. Peter Marsh and Tic Bryan had cabin groups. How could we possibly measure up to them? Then I remember a year or two later when Phil Pouley and I were bringing a group of 11 year olds back from a trip to Sulphurous Lake and the heavens opened in a Cariboo rainstorm. We decided to take the long portage back to Deka to save time. As our campers carried their packs across the portage, Phil and I ran the canoes over as fast as we could in that drenching rain. We carried four canoes and our packs over the portage in the time our campers transported their packs and one boat between them. We ran the last canoe over in a flat-out sprint. As we arrived at Deka, Phil and I were soaked, gasping for breath, and laughing our heads off in the pouring rain. I realized there were a bunch of 11 year olds standing there and staring at us in awe – the same way I used to look at Tic Bryan and Peter Marsh.
And of course I remember Chief Loonie Loon and the campfires. As a camper I watched the counselors on those nights, and saw grown men willing to make complete fools of themselves for the sake of a good time. When I became one of those counselors I probably made a bigger fool of myself on too many occasions. I’d learned not to care or to take myself seriously. It’s a good thing to be able to do. I am glad I learned that lesson there and kept it with me throughout my life. But, I have to confess that there were times when my teenaged daughter was not so grateful.
Lastly, I remember my very first cabin group as a CIT with Mike Copeland. There was one boy in the group who was quite awkward and clumsy – the kind of boy others liked to tease and pick on. I liked him and spent time talking with him, teaching him some of the skills which others had taken the time to teach me. When I came down to Vancouver at the end of the summer my father told me that that boy’s dad was a friend of his. The boy had come back from Deka talking about how wonderful I was, how much I’d done for him. and how much he’d learned. His father, of course, had told my dad. I can still see the pride in my father’s eyes as he acknowledged a job well done that summer.
Of all my thousand memories, I think that is my favourite one.
This last summer my wife and I rented a cabin in the Cariboo for a week. I had passed through 100 Mile House countless times over the years – as a river guide running rafts on the Fraser; on my way to paddle at Chilko Lake, Bella Coola and beyond; or en route to the Coast Range to hike and climb. This was the first time, however, that I’d stopped over since my last summer as a counselor. One day we took the canoe over to Deka (there’s always a canoe in my life) and launched it in the south end. As that boat slid off my knees into the water, I resisted the urge to bow down and give thanks for being back. We paddled down the lake to Bonaparte Island for lunch, while I bored my wife with countless stories of cabin groups and out trips and boys who’s names I could not remember.
From Bonaparte we looked down the lake where I spent so many summers and, with binoculars, I could see the place where I had learned and felt so much. I feel silly telling you how moving it was for me to be so close to Camp Deka again. For the Buddhists, Mount Kailas in Tibet is the centre of their universe: the place where it all begins. For me, I discovered that day, I think it’s Deka Lake.
- Hamish (Jamie) McIntosh
January 16, 2008
Camp Deka Recollections (good yarns always blend fact with fiction!)
The old saying, “you had to be there to understand” was never more fitting than it’s application to Camp Deka and those of us who as young lads attended a unique life experience in the wilderness that surrounded Deka Lake and the camp run by May & Lorne Brown.
Over the years I have on a number of occasions endeavoured to explain to a friend or acquaintance what my childhood experiences at Camp Deka were like. As my monologue of horse flies, privy’s and campfires drags on, I see this glazed look in the eyes of my listener, shortly thereafter interrupted by an apology that they just remembered they had to be somewhere important and they excuse themselves from my verbal grasp. I have learned not to take offence, as I realise my verbal dialogue has really been for my self benefit and not that of my audience. I clearly have not wanted to forget something that was so very special to me.
I was a few months shy of my 8th birthday in 1967 when I attended my first summer session at Camp Deka and I carried on to partake in the camp every summer thereafter until I did my final year in the Wilderness Camp when I was 15. To have spent two weeks every summer at Deka Lake during my childhood, suggests to me that it was more than my parents simply trying to get rid of a troublesome son for two weeks of the summer holidays. I must have somewhere through the course of each winter said, “Hey, it must be time to confirm this summers Camp Deka session”.
So, where to start? I suppose I will have to rely on my memory (which can be questionable). My memories are many and they are extremely varied. Will these recollections be true? Possibly, but then the beauty of story telling as we learned all those years ago sitting around the evening camp fires, is that a good yarn blends the fact with the fiction!
So how does one paint a picture of so much in just a few words? Impossible really, so below I have included a few snapshots of what comes top of mind when I think back to all those wonderful summer weeks at ‘the camp’:
The sport of gunwale racing should definitely be an Olympic event. If it was, I would be bold enough to suggest that the next Olympic champion would be a lad who had attended Camp Deka. The hours of practicing (how to fall in the water gracefully) and racing each other while standing astride of the canoe’s gunwales and propelling it forward through the skilled balance and rocking of the canoe was one of my favourite pastimes at camp.
So when was the last time you made bannock over a campfire? A fate worse than death would have been the poor camper who when tasked with putting the food together for a ‘camp out trip’, forgot the bannock. The highlight of any Camp Deka campfire meal was the making and cooking of bannock. Now I can safely say that the last time I cooked bannock over a fire was at Camp Deka, but the memory of how it tastes is as if it were yesterday. Pride was always taken in getting the right stick for baking the dough. It needed to be a diameter that allowed plenty of butter and jam to slide inside the hollow dough on removal of the stick once baked. The stick also had to be green enough to allow it to remain non-combustion able during the baking process. And of course cutting a green stick required using ones knife, which as budding outdoorsmen; we would always go looking for an excuse to use our knives. Of course the art in getting the bannock to bake golden brown instead of charcoal black was a skill learned over years at Camp Deka. I would challenge any previous camper who can claim they were able to achieve a golden bannock outcome during their first summer at the camp!
Plaques, plaques and more plaques. A summer session at Camp Deka was not complete without the creative design and construction of the infamous plaque. Having attended the camp for as many years as I did, I believe I am able to pass the following comment. The construction of the plaque fell into in to two types of distinct operations. One; a team effort planned well in advance of the last day with a strong creative bent and a contribution made from each camper. The other scenario was considerably different; generally undertaken by the unlucky sod that drew the shortest straw on the morning of the day the plaque was to be presented. The result was generally a piece of poorly carved wood with the hastily scrawled names of each camper penned onto it literally only minutes prior to having to present the plaque to the rest of the camp.
The last time I played capture the flag, was at camp in the early 1970’s. Who ever invented this brutal sport must have had the campers of Camp Deka firmly in their mind’s eye as they mapped out how the game was to be played. The woods and fields that were the battleground for this sport were ideal for making the game equally challenging to defend as it were to attack. I believe that no camper actually ever died playing the game, but I am sure that there were a number of ‘near death’ experiences and many a cut and twisted bone that needed attention at games end. The worst culprits for physical violence were the counsellors and I remember wondering wide eyed as an eight year old on my first skirmish, whether survival from playing the game was some sort of draconian test that we had to pass in order to be allowed back to camp. Needless to say that as the years passed and as a camper one was able to apply more strength, stealth and skill into the game, the enjoyment increased and the pain even in defeat was more palatable. Today, as I watch my kids venture off to play in the modern equivalent of ‘paint ball’ wars, I often wonder how they would have measured up in an honest game of capture the flag Camp Deka style?
Remember all of those hot, windless afternoons, full of horse flies and dust when all we wanted to do was escape and swim in the lake, and yet we were having drummed into us the importance being able to build a single match camp fire? Our counsellors would ensure that our firewood was gathered and our ‘log cabin’ fire was constructed with fastidious care and detail. If I didn’t know better I would have argued we were building a temple to worship as opposed to a fire to burn dinner on. And yet something must have stuck, for today as the summer sun begins to set at the beach house, I still carefully construct my fire to prepare for the evenings ‘barbie’. First, is the ‘witch’s hair’ surrounded by small twigs in the form of a tepee. Then the log cabin fire construction begins in earnest. Largest pieces at the bottom, carefully laid with subsequent overlapping and decreasing in size pieces of kindling. As the log fire gets taller, pieces get smaller, and the final form has a surprisingly similar resemblance to an Aztec temple awaiting its capping flame. Then, as we did all those years ago, my single match is struck and carefully placed in the centre of the firewood construction. Subconsciously I hold my breath awaiting the signal of flame as it spreads upwards and consumes the constructed fire. It is only then that I relax, smile and thank those counsellors that taught us how to build the perfect single match fire!
Few things in this world of ours can compare to the absolute pure stillness of paddling silently along the shores of Deka Lake at dusk. The lake would be glassy calm, the only ripple being the tiny wave off of the canoes bow and the concentric rings and water drips formed by our paddles. We were taught not to allow any sound to interrupt the beauty around us. No touching of paddle to gunwale, no sudden shifting of one’s body within the canoe, absolutely no whispering, in fact we were barely allowed to breath. The challenge lay in working in complete unison with your fellow paddler either in bow or stern. It was all about being in total harmony and allowing one to be surrounded by the stillness and beauty of the lake and shore. The reward was immense, not only did one feel that you had managed to literally submerge into the silence of the lake, but if skill and timing were right we would witness the grace, stature and beauty of a giant moose at shores edge, taking a drink and also enjoying the last of the days light. This was some of the magic of Camp Deka.
Speaking of those majestic moose, who could ever forget the ghost stories of the “Great White Moose”. I can remember as a young camper during my first couple of summers, lying in my bunk surrounded by the blackness of a moonless night listening to the whispering voice of our counsellor as he relayed the tale of the infamous Deka Lake White Moose. With the passage of years I can remember virtually nothing of the story itself but what I can recall is being completely spooked by the climax of the tale and tossing and turning through a seemingly sleepless night as I wrestled with the fear of the appearance of the White Moose into our tent. Upon reflection, I marvel at the skill set of our camp counsellors. I am sure upon application to work at the camp; it must have had on the application form a section on one’s ability to tell plausible and frightening ghost stories to unsuspecting lads!
Of all my memories of Camp Deka, my final year as part of the Wilderness Camp is the most lasting. Perhaps this is because I was older and fewer years have had the opportunity to erode my mind, or perhaps it was simply because the experience of the Wilderness Camp was the culmination of all my previous years at the camp. I can remember the first time as a camper when my camp session coincided with that of the senior boys from the Tepee across the lake. I would look in awe at these seemingly huge boys as they paddled to our shore with all of the confidence and skill of experts. They were able to singlehanded pick up a canoe and with ease carry it up onto the foreshore. They would laugh and tease us and pick us up and throw us like pebbles into the lake. They would consume mountains of food in the dining room, as if they hadn’t eaten a decent meal in days. And of course if they played capture the flag with us, we all wanted them to be on our team! So when I accepted the invite to take part in the Wilderness Camp, I felt in someway I had already had a glimpse of what was to come. The two week experience was barely enough time to do everything we wanted. The opportunity to extend ourselves and apply all of the skills we had learned over the previous camp years as we paddled down the rapids and waters of the North Thompson River was fantastic. The camaraderie that existed between the group of us attending the Wilderness session had been established over the years of attending the camp. We had learned to be able to rely on each other and trust the respective skill and judgments within our group. It was a life skill that has followed me through the years and I have been forever grateful to May and Lorne Brown for their foresight and initiative to make their vision of Camp Deka a reality for all of us who were fortunate enough to have been part of the wonderful experience.
Back in the reality of today’s world I sometimes wonder where the modern equivalent of Camp Deka is. Yes, the passage of time has in all likelihood eroded the ability to find a pristine wilderness, such as that which existed in the late 1960’s and early 70’s at Deka Lake. But putting this aside, what have we done as parents of our own children to foster their independence and life skills from a young age? We insist in this politically correct world of ours to drive our kids to school rather than letting them walk or ride a bike. We teach our children how to use a computer rather than build a campfire. We foster the perception that water skiing is more fun than paddling a canoe. And when did you last tell your child, camped in a tent in the black of night, a ghost story?
Today’s Camp Deka experience can still be had. It will probably be different in virtually everyway, but the basic principles still apply. Take your child away from their comfort zone. Ensure they learn the necessary skills and have the appropriate tools for the challenge at hand. Teach them to respect nature and the environment around them. Set a goal for them that will stretch them; make it something that requires both physical strength and mental fortitude. Their task may at times verge on frightening them, but if they have been properly prepared, it is simply the fear of the unknown as opposed to potential risk that should be their concern. Your child will discover the satisfaction and reward of success or potentially even defeat in the face of attempt, but above all else, they will have had fun in undertaking the challenge. It is this that builds the character of our children and equips them to venture forward in life with independence, confidence and the desire to give life a decent shake and to make the most of every new day.
Best Wishes from ‘Down Under’
- Rob Andrews
Dear Mrs. Brown,
I am pleased to provide the following memories from my Deka days....
During the early 1970's, I attended Camp Deka, first as a camper, and later as an assistant counsellor. For me, Deka was the "canoeing camp", with trips across the lake and around the Bowron Lake Chain. (I want to take that trip again some day.)
During one of my stays, I kept a private stash of granola bars in my backpack. One morning I noticed a hole in the side of my pack. Mice! Rather than finishing off my granola bars, I was determined to get rid of all mice in the camp. The solution was simple: I filled a bucket half full of water, and then used a stick as a ramp from the hut's floor to the top of the bucket. I then got some peanut butter, put a few dabs along the stick, and then dashed a large bunch of the peanut butter on the side of the bucket, just beyond a mouse's reach.
My tent mate and I went to bed, but heard no rustling. When I woke up the following morning, the first thing my tent mate said was, "You are not keeping that contraption in here any more." He then explained that he had woken to the horrifying sound of a mouse slowly drowning in my bucket. I had a look, and there in my bucket were half a dozen mice! I was so proud of my catch that I strung all of them on a string across the entrance of our tent.
- Douglas Spratt
January 11, 2008
Memories of Camp Deka
Unlike many of the other campers, I was not from the big city of Vancouver, but from the small town of Quesnel, B.C. which is about 3 hours north of 100 Mile House. I came to Camp Deka not knowing a single other camper, but I made a great many friends and learned to further appreciate the outdoors. Last winter, there was a book published called “The Dangerous Book for Boys”. It summarizes some of the essential topics that every boy should read and learn. I bought it for my son last Christmas, but to me there is still a missing chapter about what every boy should learn at summer camp. Camp Deka provided me with the missing chapter growing up as young boy and hopefully I can pass on those skills and experiences to my son.
So what can a forty-something software development manager living in California remember about a summer camp that he went to years ago? Well, the answer is plenty. In software development we spend a lot of time making lists, so here is my list of Camp Deka memories in no particular order:
- Great ghost stories told by counselor Blair about the Deka Hag and the Goatman of Deka Lake. That was the year I was in a tent not a cabin, so it was a scary night, but no emotional scarring. I have retold those stories over the years and have even told the stories to my own my kids when camping.
- Climbing Deka Mountain and getting lost in the process – rechecking the map and compass again and finally reaching the summit to see a grand vista of the whole Deka region. I still have four taped together photos of the view taken with my tiny black and white camera and a picture of all the campers at the top of the mountain.
- Learning how to tell a good joke on a hike with older campers to the horse stables. When my parents picked me up that year I told them jokes throughout the drive home.
- Horseback riding for the first time in my life. Riding the biggest horse at camp. I think his name was Skookum. Galloping for the first time. Having a horse step on your toes when you are brushing them and learning that you have to knee or hit the horse to get them off your foot.
- Saw a rabbit at Greg Brown’s ranch killed by hitting it on the head with a hammer. Remember that the same rabbit tasted delicious roasted over the fire. Also, during the trip to the ranch we made butter using a butter churn. I have still never tasted butter better than the butter made at Greg’s ranch.
- Learning to canoe was my all time highlight. Do you remember your J-stroke, sweep, cross-bow pry? Being able to portage a canoe myself came in very handy later in life as my family canoed the Bowron Lakes on a seven day adventure. Even to this day the best feeling is padding a canoe solo with the canoe tipped to one side, gunnels almost touching the water, keel exposed, and the water is glassy calm.
- The canoes at Deka were beautiful. Most of them were colored red and had cedar ribs inside. It is rare to see a canoe like that today. I hope to have a red canoe like the ones at Deka to paddle around in when I retire, but I think I will skip the buckskin jacket, as then I won’t be accused of imitating Pierre Trudeau in his later years.
- Who remembers lashing canoes together tying a tarp to paddles to sail back to camp from the far end of Deka Lake? I also remember that although the water could be glassy and calm most mornings there were a few times that we had to head for shore quickly when a storm was approaching quickly.
- Oh yes – who could not forget the gunnel races – I wonder how many camps today would let their campers stand on top of canoes jumping up and down to race one another down a lake.
- I caught my first rainbow trout at Camp Deka. I saw the fish from the dock. Tossed the lure at the fish watched the fish take the lure. Then with one big pull the fish was on the dock. At that age I figured fishing was pretty simple. Never had the same luck since, but I still enjoy fishing and it was great to see my son’s enjoyment with his first catch - salmon fishing a few summers ago.
- My birthday is in July, so I did have a couple birthdays while at camp. The one that stands out in my mind was a birthday on an outtrip. My counselors really went the extra mile cooking a birthday cake over an open fire on a reflector oven. That is no easy task.
- Every time I build a campfire with my family I think of Camp Deka. I definitely attribute my fire building skills to all outtrips and being able to practice and learn this very essential survival skill.
- Speaking of camp fires everyone remembers the final campfire at camp with the arrival of Great Chief Loonie Loon from across the lake in a canoe.
- I wish I still had my Camp Deka song book. I have managed to teach my kids some of the songs that I can remember when camping, but I did get a few strange looks teaching them the Junior Birdsmen song.
- Does anyone remember the survival hike where after a swim in the lake we were told that the campfire had burnt our clothes (not really just a drill) and we had to make clothing and shoes from potato sacks? We were given books on the local vegetation that helped us to forage for food and identify what was edible. Needless to say when we returned back to camp later that evening we were glad they saved us some dinner as we were pretty hungry.
- During one outtrip we even built an outdoor sauna with tarps put heated stones in a pit and tossed water on the hot rocks to create steam. After sweating it out in the makeshift dome we then made a mad dash for the cold lake to cool off.
- Favorite camp fire food roasted bannock on a stick with plenty of butter.
- I know there were more people and I do apologize I can’t remember all your names but the counselors that I do remember were Blair , Geoff Plant, and Al Henricksen.
- Camp Deka was the first time that I had to write a letter to my parents. That’s right - we used to get mail at camp during lunch time. I remember one year one the older boys sent away for a Charles Atlas training guide from the comics (remember the classic ad in the comics with picture of the skinny guy at the beach getting sand kicked in his face) except that they had it sent to another boy in their cabin as a joke.
- Definitely spent some time at the “Craft Shop” carving wood, sharpening my knife, or learning to macramé and tie-dye (Yes - It was the 70’s). I also seem to remember there were many ground squirrels near the craft shop and campers would build tin can traps with peanut butter to try and catch the squirrels.
- Playing a huge game of capture the flag in the woods near the horse stables was a blast.
- Oh yes – how could I forget that each cabin made a plaque that would be added to the amazing collection of plaques that hung in the dining hall. I think one year we made a plaque with an Octopus holding a camper in each tentacle titled “Al Octopuses”.
- Canoes are definitely my favorite watercraft, but next would be the kayak. Having learned to be proficient paddler at camp it has been easier later in life to be more adventuresome allowing me to go kayaking in the surf in South Africa, the Gulf Islands, or in small lakes in the Sierra’s with my wife and children. Having mastered the initial outdoor skills at camp at a young age really gives you the confidence later in life to either try more adventuresome things by yourself or be the confident teacher when family are first learning new outdoor skills.
Although much of my life currently is spent in front of a computer monitor, my best moments are with my family on vacation when we are outdoors doing some activity that I have most likely have learned as a camper at Camp Deka.
- Gordon Newman
United States of America
December 17, 2007
The Deka Experience
Camp Deka wasn’t for everyone, but for those that made it past that first homesick twinge and struggled through their initial culture shock, the rewards turned out to be immense and everlasting.
In 1965 we embarked on the PGE train out of North Vancouver. There’s nothing like a 10-hour train ride to a place called Lone Butte to emphasize the fact you are not just headed to the corner store with your 10 year old buddies. It took a while to figure out that Deka was the perfect metaphor for learning to find your own way in the world, in a way that made you come back for more, year after year.
- The lively annual debates on whether it was better to live in a tent or a cabin or whether you were a “July guy” or an “August guy.”
- Ground squirrels interrupting the tetherball games and wrecking more than few ankles.
- Mr. Brown taking personal responsibility for those privies on a daily basis.
- Artfully dropping the 16ft Chestnut canoes on my toes, more than once.
- Really striking out at the Craft Shop and rejecting once and for all my inner artist.
- Mosquitoes, sweat, blisters, and storms on out trips; hating it at the time and then bragging about our exploits later.
- The simple joy of a hot shower after one of those stormy trips.
- Plaques, plaques, plaques…what an art form and catalogue of history they must be.
- Striving for Bowsman, Sternsman, Journeyman, and Woodsman levels, revelling in the sense of achievement. (were there more?, can’t remember)
- Merrily continuing a ping-pong game oblivious to the bear cub up a tree just a few yards away.
- Frog Races in the Lodge after it rained for 6 straight days, and somehow sensing this was a signal that the counsellors were nearing their wit’s end to keep us busy.
- Returning to school in September and discovering good old friendly Gordie McNab was now MISTER McNab, my homeroom teacher. “Hey Mister McNab, remember the fun we had skinning those ground squirrels…What? Why are you giving me that look?”
- Checking the mail to see if we were invited to Wilderness Camp or to be a CIT…and maybe we’d get a reference letter too!
- Riding the horses down from Earl Papenfus’s place at Mahood Lake at the start of the summer was a special ritual, sure to break in our own leather hides.
In 1972 I had a chance to be a Junior Counsellor at the Ranch Camp on Drewry Lake. Just 17 years old and going into Grade 12, I was all of 2 years older than the Ranch Campers. The old ranch house was straight out of Bonanza, we all had our own horses for the month, and somehow Greg Brown showed us how much fun it could be to hoist hay bales all day. One evening I rode back from the main camp at dusk, heard the wolves in the near distance (no dallying there!) and eventually came up over the rise heading down the dirt track to the old ranch house. The sun was setting in the distance, the late summer light reflected off the lake, and the hay bales we hadn’t yet retrieved lay waiting in the fields. I distinctly recall thinking that life just doesn’t get any better than this, and 35 years later this moment and the entire Camp Deka experience continues to define “contentment” and “sense of place.”
In 1987, we were living in Grande Prairie, and on one trip to Vancouver I convinced my new wife to join me on a “slight detour” into the camp. Coincidentally, it turned out to be Parent’s Day with the operators of the day, and we were able to blend in quite nicely and roam the property at will. Although the property seemed a little smaller than I had remembered when I had shorter legs, the setting and the buildings were the same and allowed me to relive those years in detail to my unwitting and only slightly comprehending wife.
Our daughters went off to “camp” too, but theirs had flush toilets, powerboats, and wakeboarding demos. I found myself regaling my kids of the times I spent at Deka, a “real camp”, and lamented that kids these days don’t know what its like to enjoy simple pleasures and be at one with nature. The nodded understandingly at first, but eventually their eyes slowly glazed over and they gave that special look reserved for relatives who persist in telling old war stories.
I guess you really did have to be there.
- Ross Gilley
December 9, 2007
Camp Deka - The All Too Fleeting Memories of a Camper
Where to begin? So long ago. It seems like forever ago and in the context of my now 50 years, it is forever ago. I was 8 and 9 I think.
I had only been in Canada for a couple of years, maybe 2 or 3 the first time I came to the camp. We arrived in Canada in 1964 when I was nearly 7. Did I still have an accent at the camp? Did I teach any of the campers my other languages (Hungarian, Swedish)?
I would love to reconnect with other campers. I hope/wonder if they remember me better than I remember them. I have such a terrible long term memory. I wish I could remember more detail.
I was small. I remember other campers being much taller, bigger than me. My son’s have both been small for their ages. My daughter is tall for her age group.
I was scared at first. Does everyone remember being scared as their first memory? Were some just excited? I know I was scared at first.
How did we get there? Train? I seem to remember a train.
Then I remember feeling enveloped. Quickly, I felt a part of something that had meaning and of being somewhere where people cared.
My parents were so young. They were less than 30 when they sent me? Maybe it was the feeling of something stable that I remember so fondly.
I need to find out how they discovered the camp in the first place.
Warm, home cooked meals. My mom wasn’t much of a cook in those days so I remember eating really well. Can’t honestly say that I remember the content of specific meals; just that I remember being well fed.
Camp fires, songs, stories. Ghost stories. Indian legends. I want to but I cannot remember them.
Warmth of the fire at night. Being tired by the time we actually went to bed.
Monstrously huge horse flies. I swear you could saddle them. Other campers being bitten badly and constantly but they seemed to largely leave me alone. I remember one of my cabin mates (what was his name??) being especially affected by the horse flies. Seems to me someone actually reacted so badly they had to be sent home.
Learning how to start a fire. We were taught how to start a fire from “witches hair”. I remember thinking that was such a cool name.
Canoeing. Canoe trips. Did we go overnight? It seems to me we canoed a lot. There is a vague memory that we canoed somewhere for an overnight trip but I may be confusing this with scouts. Am I?
To this day I find a sense of peace from canoeing. Much more so than from any other form of boating. Why don’t I canoe now?
Skilled counselors. Were they really or did they just seem that way to a 8 or 9 year old boy?
Swimming. I remember hearing what I recall being a girls camp across the lake and fantasizing about meeting them some day. Did we actually swim across one time? Did that happen or is that part of that same fantasy? I’m pretty sure we actually swam across.
My horse. Emphasis on MY horse. His name was Corky. It’s so sad that I cannot remember a single other campers’ name but “Corky” is as indelibly engrained in my memory as the smell of my grandmothers wiener schnitzel.
The responsibility of Corky. The sense of ownership that the camp insisted on having us take with our horses. They were ours for as long as we were there. I fed Corky, I brushed Corky. I believed in my heart that Corky was incredibly sad when I left and remarkably ecstatic when I returned the next year. I cared well for any pets I’ve had since. Well mostly so. There was that basset hound we never should have got in the first place….Poor Ralph.
Fishing. I remember trout fishing. Not sure if it was the first time I fished but I do remember enjoying it. I remember being surprised at liking trout. I like trout to this day. Lasting effects.
The docks. I just remember the docks. That’s all. Not sure why that’s important. Just is.
Great camp counselors. I honestly don’t think I can recall a bad memory. Strange really. I just cannot ever remember wanting to go home or that someone was mean to me in any way. Strange really. How many kids can you put into one place for this long and not create a single bad memory?
Meeting May Brown in my early/mid twenties. Fresh out of University. New career. New life. New wife. Living in Calgary but back in Vancouver to lobby Vancouver City Counsel regarding rezoning property to allow service stations to convert from full to self serve. Walking into May’s office; her gaze on me like she’d just been surprised by my presence. And then the words…”Tommy?” “Tommy Koltai?” I had had no contact for nearly twenty years and had gone from being a little boy to a man and a father and May recognized me in seconds flat. Remarkable. How many boys went through that camp? The thing is that May would have recognized any one of us had we walked into her office that day.
Speaking with May a few weeks ago about all this was much the same. We discussed global economics as much as we talked about the camp. She remembers every moment it seems. A remarkable woman with an astonishingly strong mind and love for what she does.
I can’t believe how therapeutic just thinking about Camp Deka has just been….
Why haven’t I sent my kids to camp?
- Tom Koltai – Camper
December 6, 2007
I wrote a book for my children (Perry, Colin and Evan) about my childhood experiences when I turned 40 because I wanted to share with them memories of events and people that shaped my life and the person that I am today. In the appendix I reprinted extracts from my personal journal that I kept as a youth as well. The process of writing and distributing that book to my family (and the other people referenced within it) was a catalyst for many subsequent memorabilia and reunion projects, allowing me as a middle-aged man, to re-connect with my past friends and acquaintances, and bring newfound joy and meaning into my life.
Part of my book publishing and re-connection process dealt with my 4 years attending Camp Deka, from 1973-1976, and so it was only natural to extend that project to this one, working with May Brown to create this web site, and help in the publishing efforts of her forthcoming book, and participate in the re-connecting with all of the former campers and staff. I was very pleased to meet up with May last summer and discover that she had already started the project a few years back, and only needed a jump-start on that stalled process, to get the momentum up to a full boil again, with a wider circle of supporters and contributors. Like all of us, I very much look forward to the final result and consider this to be a collective labour of love.
When I read the letters of former campers and staff that are flooding in, it is clear to me that I am not the only one who feels that my Deka experiences profoundly influenced my life - all for the better. Today as a businessman who likes to promote the interests of environmental causes, and a re-connection with nature and our need to respect it, I seem to constantly reference my internalized experiences out in the Cariboo wilderness setting of Camp Deka. To have been able to send 2 of my 3 sons to the YMCA Camp Deka these past few years has really been a treat for us all. And now they are excited as well about this May Brown Camp Deka book publishing effort.
Deka was tough love at times for the campers - it wasn't always a walk in the park. At the time I sometimes felt a bit homesick (and certainly desired a hot shower and favourite ice cream from DQ while in the outback) and got into a few scraps with other campers, but I grew up there, got to know myself there, and certainly grew (for a city boy) into understanding and appreciating the rural way of life, our Canadiana history (how our pioneering forefathers settled the land), and appreciating nature. A few years later I headed off to Outward Bound only to find that I could have easily been one of the counselors there, given how much more competent as an outdoors man I was than my fellow participants were - all as a result of my Deka experiences.
1976 at Camp Deka was again a wonderful experience but we all felt in our hearts that we were seeing the end of an era with Lorne's sudden death earlier that year. May and Lorne were giants for us all and we just knew that even with the fantastic support of Barb and Greg Brown, the future of the camp was in peril. I remember leaving camp that summer, saying good bye to everyone and heading back to my life in the city, and being extra sad that year. I was always sad leaving camp, but that year I really felt I was saying good bye forever.
I had the chance to work with May during a few of her electoral races in Vancouver as a campaign supporter a few years later and was thrilled to see her energies get re-directed in new ways that continued her very long tradition of community engagement and public service. In many important ways we are calibrating May's life's work by engaging in this project and sharing our memories and our profound thanks for what she (and rest of the Brown family) has done for us all. We are truly blessed.
- Derek Spratt
December 1, 2007
I think I was 9 years old the summer my parents went to Europe for a month. I was excited to be sent off to Camp Deka for the duration of the holiday. We had visited the camp the year before and I vividly remember Chief Loony Loon and his kangaroo court. It all looked very exciting with the canoes, horses and all and it just so happened that May Brown was my mothers best friend. She was an excellent choice of chaperone for a boy who was a wee bit wild. Her friendship with my mother coupled with her vast experience in dealing with boys made her the perfect choice. However a month is a long time for a young boy and I was a year younger than all the other boys. My mother was sure that I would adapt being that I was tough as nails and used to holding my own against two brothers who were six and seven years older.
That being as it may I remember feeling a bit out of place. I did not have the sophistication of my older city raised bunkmates. I felt picked on and got in a number of fights just holding on to my dignity. May had to step in and pinch hit for me on a number of occasions. But don’t get me wrong . I was not a stranger to violence. Over all I was having a good time, its just that I was a bit homesick and missed my parents.
After a bit of a rocky start that first week I was able to at last gain acceptance by the other boys and I think quite a bit of respect. It first came out of an incident with the horses. I had a distinct advantage over my older rivals in having been looking after my fathers team of retired logging horses from the age of six years old. Every day I rode the horses down to the lake for their daily drink of water. My legs were spread near straight on their broad backs. However I became a good rider and I knew horses well and had no fear of them.
Anyway our cabin had gone out for a horse back ride and I remember smirking a bit about some of my bunkmates fear of the horses. Being the little jerk I was I could not help but goad the boys about their trepidations. I do not remember the counselors name but I am sure he wanted to knock me down a wee bit by challenging my arrogance. There was a very long grassland stretch out from the camp that we had arrived at . The counselor put me to a test . He dared me if I could ride his horse bare back at full gallop to the end of the near mile long (it could have been ½ a mile, you know how things are to a little kid) stretch.
It was my city buddies turn to smirk. Riding bare back? On the counselors horse …. This was not the regular trail nag …this was a power house of a horse 16 hands+ and, known for its love of the pounding gallop. I was not afraid … at least not until I had dug my heels into the steeds sides and allowed the horse his head. Heck that horse ran away on me. I was so busy holding on to his mane for fear of falling off that I never even thought about the reins. Lucky for me it was a looong field and the initial speed of the horse was slowed by that distance. As the end of the runway neared I had gotten over my initial fear and was able to haul the horse around before I was swept off in the timber at the end of the race course. I was elated and once more dug in me heels. I thundered that horse right back at my trail mates and came to a skidding stop …quite some distance from where I had planned. Never the less it was my trial by fire and the city boys really seemed to respect me after my great ride. I remember so well how the counselor looked upon my return on the very lathered horse. He looked very relieved.
Over all however for me it was the canoeing. Those beautiful Chestnuts. I have been an avid canoeist ever since that camp at Deka. I returned a couple years after for two weeks. This time a friend came with me and it was an idyllic time. As long as you leave out the spider bite incident.
We were on an extended …22 mile trip to Sulphurous and beyond. I woke to find I had been bitten on my shoulder and cheek by a spider. And were these bites ever sore! We had canoed out to the submerged shell island and had a great time throwing shell mud at each other …but I was not feeling too well by this time and it was hurting to paddle. The next day we were heading back to camp and I was in pain! The bites had both swollen and were an angry red colour. Upon my return to camp the nurse said that I was to bathe them in hot sat water and that I should be going in to 100 Mile to a doctor. However I was not very keen on the idea. I would miss out on some of the fun . After a couple of days white heads had developed on the boils which now graced my face and right shoulder. We were out on another trek again and I was not on my canoeing game. My shoulder really bothered me and I know I was really irritable. In the morning I used a sock and bathed that shoulder in the hottest water. Then I squeezed my affliction.
The pain was terrible but suddenly it popped out a mucous head nearly the size of my little fingernail. I remember this head popping right over the campfire …at least 3 feet. I remember feeling immense pressure release, and relief as well. All my fellow campers were in awe that you could look into my shoulder cavity nearly 3/4 of an inch. I did the same on my face and finally I was purged of my infection.
As I read over the above I realize how gross the story is. But at the time, even with the pain, I refused to go to the doctor. I was just having too much fun. No pain no gain. I have ever since given spiders a wide birth.
Deka did a lot of formative development with me. My partner from camp and I were only 15 when we thought nothing of jumping in the head waters of the Nechacko river and running it 100 miles to Ft. Fraser….. Our instruction at Deka made us decent canoers however no training could have prepared us for the hypothermic conditions we endured. But that's another story.
Since my time at Deka I have built cedar strip canoes and kayaks and have logged many enjoyable miles on the Yukon River, the Peace, the Pine, the Athabasca, and the head waters of the Homathco in the Chilcoten ... Each time I step in the canoe I remember Lorne’s firm command … “Both hands on the gunnels”.
It’s a good way to start any journey!
- Jamie Long
PS. I grew up in Burns Lake. I am now residing in Nanaimo where my wife Beverly and I both teach. We have two children Jennifer 27 and Robert 26. We also have two grand kids Jamilla 7and Jamie 4 months.
November 30, 2007
I received your message the other day about your winter project and I think it is a wonderful idea. Even though it was 40 years ago I can still remember many things about my time at camp.
As I recall, I was a camper in 1965, at the wilderness camp across the lake in 1966 (I think that is what it was called) and a Counselor in Training in 1967. I went looking through some old papers and records of mine and found some material which I scanned and attach to this message. It is from the summer of 1967 and sure reminds me of how well organized things were at Deka. So organized you probably have these documents already! I also found some pictures (35 mm transparencies) from 1967 that I will try to get put into electronic format and send to you.
I have many memories of outtrips but one that comes to mind in particular was I think in 1966. We paddled down lakes and portaged overland from Deka Lake, Needa Lake, Bowers lake, Hathaway Lake and Canim Lake and Mahood Lake. We were gone for days through pouring rain and scorching sun but we sure got to know and trust each other as Brian Creer taught us how we had to be interdependent as well as independent in order to survive outdoors. That actually translates to indoors and throughout life as well.
I will try to recall memories of camp and put them together for you in a later note, but for now I thought I would send these along.
- John Hetherington
November 29, 2007
Camp Deka is one of my very fond childhood memories. I can still see in my mind’s eye the bunk house I stayed in, the eating hall, the craft hut, and the camp fires where we all sat around singing songs that have stayed in my head forever!
You and your husband changed the lives of many, many boys for the better and we all thank you for that. The basic skills I learned about camping etc I still use to this day and I try to pass onto my children. So most important I thank you for giving me some great childhood memories that I will cherish forever!
One special adventure occurred when we went on a overnight trip and due to Miles Kirkwood injuring his ankle, I along with the counselor and Miles used a raft we had built to float down the lake we were on. While I think you were not too pleased with this counselor for taking this action, I built a wooden model of this raft (which we used oil drums for floatation and bubblegum to seal the holes) in the craft hut later that week and now this model which I have kept as one of my childhood treasures sits on my son Nicolas’s shelf, some 38 or so years later!
May, I don’t think I have any pictures of my time at Camp Deka, but if I could somehow push the print button from those memory pictures in my head you would see smiling faces, good times galore and boys enjoying just being boys!
Thank you again for being a good friend to my parents over the years. Thank you for reaching out to my Mother. Thank you for giving me a few weeks at Camp Deka!
- Paul Tompkins
November 28, 2007
The Deka Experience
Memories flash through my mind: The evening campfires with someone performing a skit about peanuts being thrown off a bridge (finally Peanuts appears, a young man all wrapped in bandages!) then, a memory of evening camp on a point of land at sunset,- an out-trip to the far end of the lake, with bannock being roasted on the red coals of a fire as the sun sets behind low hills.
Horse riding, canoeing, swimming at the wharf and lunch in the lodge with a table of boys slapping the table top in unison and singing the play-on-names song: Id rather be a trumpeter, a trumpeter, a trumpeter, Iíd rather be a trumpeter than a Harper!!!
Such were the Deka days, full of fun, Nature and challenge for the boys and for the leaders too. Over the four decades that have passed since these times, such memories have often, unexpectedly, surfaced in my mind. They are stored deeply and pay tribute to how much the Deka experience helped to lay a more solid foundation for the adult life ahead.
Deka is remembered with gratitude and with great pleasure. And among these memories, there are few which are especially treasured, memories of brief moments that touched even deeper levels, bringing that rare contact with the soul in things, with that special something that gives a more real and deeper direction to our lives.
- John Harper
November 26, 2007
Camp Deka Memories
It was the end of May, 1961. I had just completed my first year at UBC. Lorne and I took to the road for Camp Deka travelling in a green Pontiac station wagon with heavy duty shocks. We stopped at Dinty Moore's place on the Pitt River to check the readiness of the canoes Lorne had ordered. We finally arrived at Deka eight hours or so later.
The next month, the month of June was to be a definite learning experience. I met Bob Morford. He arrived by car one or two days after our arrival. Over the next 30days, we built and assembled: two or three tent floors - a water tower with adjoining ditches for piping to the wash house, dilly cottage and lodge - completed the first cabin with the help of Jim Northey, a local carpenter - completed new flooring for the existing two tent floors and dug post holes for a new corral. The cantilevered wharf was built on land and a group of four of us placed the new wharf at the waterfront.
It is difficult to remember any specific camper or cabin group anecdotes while at Deka but some of my fond memories are these:
- John Gillowich's pancakes. What a cook!
- Campfires - zoomba, zoomba, zoombazy - Ach Von de Musica. Campers continually called for and requested this action packed ditty. Vio, vio, vio-la/super, super, super-suds/ radio, radio, radio-la/etc.
- 9 year old, Gary Dietrich swimming Deka Lake
- Horse trips that required looking after 6 or 7 campers and 6 or 7 horses
- The silence broken by the wild Loon's haunting call
- Keeping a safe distance in a canoe while watching two moose swim the lake
- Walking on the sulphur island in the middle of Sulphurous Lake
- Great Chief Loonie Loon
- Camper/Counsellor camaraderie
- A respect and great love of nature
- Pine Siskins and Hermit Thrushes
- Evening sunsets lighting up the mountain across the lake
- The silence
- The strength of an orienteering course. A goal and a compass is all you need
- Cool, clear water
- Mink scurrying and moving so quickly at and along the water's edge
- Solo canoe paddling
- Horse out trips and Overlander out trips
- Not walking between the fire and the food on out trips
- Carving totem poles
- The ever present, respectful, positive spirit of nature. Wow!
- Lorne and May Brown's dedication to having each camper receive a positive, enduring and life shaping camping experience
- Cowboy hats...saddles...bridles...hackamores
- The amazing horse sense of horses
- Lynx and their tufted ears
- Ground squirrels chirping endlessly
The Deka experience for me was amazing in so many, many ways. It was great to be part of Lorne and May's passionate vision.
- William N. Duncan
Counsellor 1961,1962 and 1967
November 26, 2007
Remembering Camp Deka,
or How I Spent My Summer Holidays -- and my Life!
Do I remember Camp Deka?
What a silly question. Of course I remember Camp Deka! How could I forget?
Let's see - it was the spring of '65. My Grade 12 year. Dave McCutcheon approached me in the hall one day.
Dave was my High School Physical Education teacher - one of the small group of teachers I truly respected. I first met Mr. McCutcheon in Alpha Junior High. He moved on to Burnaby North Senior High, and, as luck would have it, so did I.
Being aware of my involvement in the Scouting Program, he knew I had some basic camping skills. So one day he asked me whether I had a job lined up for the summer.
No, I said. Nothing yet.
Then he told me that he had spent a number of summers working up in the interior at a boys camp. Camp Deka it was called. Up in the Cariboo, he said, -- wherever that was! Seemed he had other plans for himself that summer, but he thought I might be interested in applying for a job as camp counsellor.
It sounded interesting to me, so on Daveís suggestion, I duly contacted the owners - folks by the name of Brown. In short order, I visited them in their Dunbar home, chatted with them about their program and about my camping experiences, and found myself appointed to My First-ever Summer Job - Camp Counsellor and Campcraft Instructor.
I didn't know it then, but for me, over the years, Camp Deka would become a formative and integral part of my life, and a place of many, many 'firsts.'
Journeying to Camp Deka in the back seat of Lorne's Dodge station wagon was the first time I ever traveled north of Cache Creek, and the first time I became aware that God's country existed in that broad expanse of grassland, lakes, fir, pine, aspen, country music, and Social Credit politics, which comprises the Cariboo. It was my first glimpse of that part of the world which I would, in '76 make my permanent home.
It was the first time I ever sat, or more properly knelt, in a canoe. The first time I would become familiar with a pastime that has fascinated me, and occupied my spare time, ever since. A pastime that has allowed me to venture onto more pristine lakes and rivers than I knew existed, not only in BC, but right up into the high Arctic.
It was the first time I saw and heard the magic of someone - Gord McNab it was -- pounding on a flattop guitar, veins standing out on his neck, bringing an entire group together in the magic of song: whimsical, bluesy, folky, and sometimes reverent, while the sparks and smoke from the campfire drifted upward into the night.
The first time I had the responsibility and joy of professionally supervising and guiding kids. The first glance at what would become my life's vocation in the field of Education. And the first painful experience in learning about how woefully inadequate my abilities were, and about how much I had to learn about kids and about myself.
It was the first time I enjoyed a liaison with a horse, and the first time I realized that walking or canoeing weren't such bad options sometimes!
And the first time I enjoyed a liaison with a young woman, in the soft lamplight of a little cabin, just above the lodge.
I remember leading, in the summer of '72, the first Camp Deka overland trip into a beautiful lake north-east of Bowers. We named it Dekade Lake, because it was Camp Deka's tenth year of operation. Eventually, the lake would officially be named Loren Lake, because on the exact day we 'discovered' it, a Dr. Loren lost his life in a plane crash into the lake within minutes of our group gazing onto the lake's placid surface.
And I was a small part of the first-ever all-camp hike to the summit of Deka Mountain, celebrating Canadaís Centennial Year.
I remember the first time I portaged into Sulphurous Lake, and how struck I was with the peaceful beauty of the place. And then, many years later, the first glance at the little brown cabin on Sulphurous' north shore, that my family would, in partnership with May Brown, purchase as our second-ever Cariboo retreat. Camp Deka had been our first, and we laughingly referred to the Sulphurous Cabin as 'Camp Deka: the Sequel.'
Many firsts. . .
The first time I ever swam across a lake. The first time I ever fed coins into a Laundromat. The first time I ever walked across a beaver dam. The first time I ever enjoyed -- really enjoyed -- a Tastee-Freeze milkshake. The first time I ever ate Red River cereal. The first time I ever saw a bear skinned. The first time I ever caught a trout in my bare hands. The first time I ever read by the flickering light of a coal-oil lamp. The first time I ever heard the haunting call of a loon at sunset.
And I recall the first time I ever had one of those gut-wrenching phone calls from a colleague advising me of the death of a close friend. It was during the off-season -- Al Henricksen it was on the phone (Uncle Al, the campers' pal.) And it was Lorne's passing of which he spoke.
Nothing is forever, and the years pass. But although the formal program that comprised the Camp Deka experience ended after the summer of '76, yet the magic of Camp Deka endured. And for me, the 'firsts' continued.
For a few years, the camp facility was leased to a variety of agencies, and thus, in the rainy summer of '81, the Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities first operated their program on the property. It was then, on a routine visit to the camp, that I first met Jaye -- an attractive and energetic redhead who was counselling a group of youngsters.
I was delighted when she accepted my invitation to drop by the Dillee Cottage for a visit one evening after her group was bedded down. I would prefer to think it was my masculine charm that persuaded her to accept my offer, but honesty compels me to admit it was likely the cozy fire in the stove, or possibly the proffered drink of rum and coke over real ice cubes.
Regardless, she became my love and my wife - my first, and my only.
And, in the fall of '83, during a Labour Day Holiday with May at the camp, my eldest son almost became the first child to be born at Camp Deka. Only a panicky high-speed drive back to town forestalled that 'first' from occurring.
So it has been that, for me, Camp Deka has been the essential element in the development of virtually every important phase of my life ñ my home, my family, my vocation, and my recreation. And, above all, my most enduring friendship -- with the Brown family -- Lorne, May, Greg, and Barbie.
Do I remember Camp Deka? What a silly question!
- Rick 'Tik' Bryan