MILEPOSTS #1000

By Ken Brafman, Image from ROWHS Collection

TITLE: WOODCRAFT RANGERS CAMP: Last week a few of us from the historical society explored the ruins of the Woodcraft Rangers camp in Lake Arrowhead, approximately three-quarters of a mile south of the Village. The Woodcraft League was founded in 1902 by Ernest Thompson Seton, whose youth development model was the forerunner for other well-known programs, such as the Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls. The Lake Arrowhead camp was opened in the 1920s and was the forerunner to camps located in the San Gabriel Mountains, Castaic and throughout Southern California. Activities included hiking, boating, swimming, arts and crafts, archery, horseback riding, team building and survival skills. This week’s image is a real photo showing several Rangers cooking over the campfire. Woodcrafts might include items such as Adirondack chairs, small writing desks, nutcrackers and toys. A favorite toy project was building an Indian drum. In the 1950s Woodcraft executive James C. Flanders explained, “The most fun comes at summer camps when the Rangers can really bear down on the cowhides as they tap their messages among their Tribes in typical Indian fashion.” Special events included “49ers Day” which involved scavenging for gold-painted rocks which could be exchanged for play money. There were talent shows and Indian festivals. In the 1960s camp attendance was opened to “Rangerettes,” who adapted readily to most camp activities. Campers were required to write home regularly. Most letters contained enthusiastic accounts of all the camp fun. But occasionally a letter might carry a complaint such as, “They make me take a shower every day and I have to help with the work!” On Sundays an open house was held where parents would tour the grounds and admire the various woodcraft projects. “The week goes too fast,” said one young camper. The Lake Arrowhead camp closed around 1980. The organization currently operates a camp in Idyllwild as well as offering afterschool programs serving approximately 14,000 students per year.

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3 Comments

  1. Lee M Cohen

    I attended the camp 1964-67 and learned to swim in the pool, we also hiked to the top of Mt San Gorgonio. I drove up and into “Camp Commerce” and saw the camp pool, it’s still there in its original condition, but did not go further. What do the “RUINS” look like? I remember the tent showers and bunk beds in the tent covered bungalows, the squirrels stealing all my candy I though well hidden in a duffle bag.

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    1. Marilyn Mays

      Lee,
      Actually we are talking about two different places. Camp Commerce is still in operation, and looks like it is maintained in excellent condition. The Woodcraft Ranger Camp is actually next to Camp Commerce, just west as you leave Lake Arrowhead Village. It had not been used in years and there is little left.

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  2. Richard Culbertson

    I believe Camp Commerce had the messhall on it’s grounds. A shame that this place has been lost. I had the misfortune of being injured on a camp made waterslide there, mostly roadrash on my back from the muddy ground. A good cleaning, some bandages and a clean shirt and I was back in the swing.

    My father and I and others did a work party during the early spring in 1970. It was darned cold but we managed. We stayed in the messhall during that time as it was heated. We also had movies at night.

    I was there in 69 and 70.. I still keep in contact with one of the girls from or troop. We grew up together… She was about like a sister to me, I was dense and didn’t see that she wanted to make it more later on. It still would have been like dating you own sister… She would stay around the house we were both shy so I guess we were doomed from the start

    At home my father lead the troop No other parent would step up… Later when my son joined the cub scouts in Oklahoma I ended up a denfather to my wife as denmother for the same reason… Even worse we were used for daycare. We both had to sign up as 2 adults always have to be present. Kids don’t get a break theese days.

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