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.