The History of the Parlez-Vous Song

Singing is a huge part of camp life and one of the funniest song traditions at Rockbrook is the Parlez-Vous Song.   A Parlez-Vous is a song made up by a cabin or group of campers and then performed spontaneously in the dining hall.  After asking several Alumna if they remember singing Parlez- Vous at camp, it seems that they have been part of the Rockbrook lore since the 1930’s.  Here is an example of a Rockbrook Parlez- Vous:

Parlez- Vous

We had so much fun at the camp out last night, parlez- vous

We had so much fun at the camp out last night, parlez-vous

We had so much fun at the camp out last night

The S’mores and stories were out of sight

Inky Dinky parlez- vous

These spontaneous songs are often very humorous and creative and always bring a laugh and a smile to everyone as we enjoy our meals together.

So, what in the world is the history of the Parlez- Vous and how did it come to Rockbrook?

After a little digging it appears that the origins of the Parlez- Vous come from a World War I song called Mademoiselle from Armentières.  This song was adapted from a British Indian Army song called Skiboo.  It was a rhyming song, whose lyrics changed quite regularly.  During World War I it was often referred to as the Hinky Dinky Parlez Vous Song and would be adapted and sung by soldiers.  Some versions were a bit risque but we were able to find a great version.  Listen below and be sure to wait for the chorus!

Isn’t it fascinating how songs at camp are passed along from generation to generation?   If you remember any funny Parlez-Vous from your days at camp, please send them in!  We would love to hear them.

The Rockbrook Songbook

Singing along at Spirit Fire, 2012

Singing is a HUGE part of life at Rockbrook and is something that every camp generation can share.  We hear fabulous stories from our alumnae of camp songs being sung at weddings, college events, in the middle of a restaurant, or even when you run into a friend at the grocery store.  What is it about those fun camp songs that sticks with you forever?

Because singing is such a big part of camp life at Rockbrook, we are in the process of updating our famous camp songbook.  Over the years some songs drifted out of popularity, while new ones “came into fashion”.  Songs like “Liberty” and “When the Moon Plays Peek A Boo” were very popular in the 60’s while songs like “The Coconut Song” and “Yogi Bear” are a few current hits.  With our new songbook we hope to include ALL of the camp songs from the Rockbrook repertoire.  That is where you come in!  We do not have a songbook from the 20’s-40’s.  If anyone has an old songbook or can send us any information about the songs from the early years of Rockbrook we would SO appreciate your help.

The Rockbrook Songbook, 1970

Now that camp songs are running through your mind, visit this page to hear some recordings of some popular Rockbrook songs!

The Carrier Pigeon

We have just mailed the 2012 Rockbrook Carrier Pigeon to this years campers and staff.  The Carrier Pigeon is the camp’s annual yearbook featuring stories, poems, drawings and photographs of the summer.  The Carrier Pigeon has been published each year since the camp was founded in 1921.  This makes this years copy the 91st edition of the Rockbrook memory book.  The Carrier Pigeons are wonderful treasures filled with Rockbrook memories and fun times.  Here are some samples from over the years:

The Carrier Pigeon, 1926

The Aim of the Pigeon

“Like ghosts passing to and fro, good times come and good times go.”

Good times do come and go as swiftly, but the Pigeon is going to help us keep our good times with us.  The little funny incidences and all the pleasures that go toward making up this happy summer of ours are going to pass more slowly because of the Pigeon.  Certainly, time will pass as quickly, but the memories will remain.

In the long winter to come, we will be able to laugh and talk over the good times at camp.  Not only that, but we will be able to pass on our happiness and share it with others- the others that are not with us now.  All because of the Pigeon that will bring back our memories at Christmas time.

We will never forget it it, this happy summer of ours, It is the aim of the Pigeon to do this, to serve as a record of happy memories.  With your help it will succeed. – K. Wallingford, Junior Editor

The Carrier Pigeon, 1980

To Me Rockbrook Means-

togetherness around a campfire

Jean and Sarah Scott playing their guitars

And everyone listening and enjoying the soft music

Making crafts and going home and sharing them with your family

Sitting on the hill in the evening watching the sun slowly

fade behind the proud tall mountains

Rockbrook I thank you for the Happy days you gave me. – Muffy Howard

We hope you have many happy memories of your time at RBC and if you have any copies of your old Carrier Pigeons we would love to hear from you.  Please share with us any of your favorite camp poems, memories, stories and photos.

The Rockbrook Tie

The most distinguishing feature of the Rockbrook Uniform is the Red Rockbrook Tie.  The tie has been part of the camp uniform since Rockbrook was founded in 1921.  This made us wonder…what is the origin of the Rockbrook tie?

After doing some digging, it looks like that many of the early girls’ camps like Rockbrook had a tie as part of their uniform.  While they come in many different colors, they all share a similar element- the Friendship Knot.  It appears that the first use of the friendship knot in camping came from the Girl Scouts.  According to the Girl Scouts, the Friendship Tie (and knot) stand for the “tie that binds all girls and women who are part of the world association of Scouts”. The knot is a sign of the continuous friendships they share.  Nothing could be more true for all of our Rockbrook girls and women all over the world.  The red Rockbrook tie is surely a symbol of the Spirit of Rockbrook that binds us all together!

Rockbrook Uniform, 1920’s
Rockbrook Uniform, 2012

We also found a wonderful poem that speaks to the beauty of the Friendship Knot.  While we are not sure of the author, we know that they definitely went to camp!

The Friendship Knot

This knot is women in friendship true,
And interlaced with memories, too.
Of friendship found and share by you,
That times and miles cannot undo

Rockbrook Girls Ahead of their Time

Did you know that Rockbrook was founded only 2 years after women earned the right to vote?  The 19th Amendment was passed on June 4, 1919 and Rockbrook officially opened on July 6, 1921.   Nancy Carrier, founder of Rockbrook, was certainly ahead of her time in creating a space for young women to come to gain independence, learn skills, make friendships and take part in adventures.  It is hard to imagine the excitement a camper must have felt to pack up and ride the train to Brevard and stay at camp for 8 weeks!  Here are some wonderful excerpts from an early camp catalog that describe the adventures.

“For 25 years camping parties have gone out from Rockbrook, thus they know by experience how far the first hike may go, where is the best spot for a moon-light supper and in what sheltered coves tents may be pitched for a stay of several days.  They know where the coldest springs lie hid; when the huckle-berries are ripe on the top of the ridges’ and on whose property a canoeing party may camp.”

“Hiking. Here at Rockbrook, it means a well regulated walk amid scenes of unsurpassed beauty with a party of congenial comrades.  The over-night hikes, taken after the girls have learned to climb up and down, to make camp and to care for themselves and others, are among our most popular sports.”

“The Pisgah National Game Preserve is within reach of both riding and hiking parties from Rockbrook.  The forest regulations are complied with so that campers may enjoy the camping and fishing if they wish to do so.”Thanks to strong, empowered women like Nancy Carrier, we think Rockbrook Girls have always been ahead of their time!  Here’s to many more years of fun, friendship and adventure in the heart of a wooded mountain.

Rockbrook in The New York Times

In our last blog post we shared some interesting information about the history of Farming at Rockbrook.  During our research on the farm, we also found a fascinating news article from The New York Times about The Carriers bringing the first motorized tractor to the area saving the farming season with their new machine.  Mr. Carrier was in the automobile and tractor business down in SC, and that is how he came to Brevard in the first place. H.P. Clarke, founder of Rockbrook Farm and father of Nancy Clarke Carrier (camp founder) ordered an automobile from Mr. Carrier’s dealership.  While delivering the car, Mr. Carrier met Nancy Clarke and their romance began.  They would eventually marry and Mr. Carrier would relocate to Rockbrook Farm.  It is during this time that Mr. Carrier joined Mr. Clarke in his farming business and eventually purchased the tractor that would come to serve such an important role in farming of the French Broad River Valley.

The New York Times, September 12, 1920

The article states that:

When Mr. Carrier took over Rockbrook and became a farmer, he carried his auto-traction interest with him.  He had his car and his truck, and he got a couple of tractors.  He sold one tractor to the town of Brevard for street and road purposes, and then the French Broad River got busy.  It flooded the valley three times before May 1.  Farmers who had lost their crops in the bottoms before began to despair.  Not a grain of corn was planted in the whole valley, but then came a few precious days of dry warm weather and the tractor got busy.  It plowed up whole fields in the time when a team of mules had previously covered only acres.  It ran from sunrise until after dark, without a whimper.  It carpeted the young green valleys with mighty areas of rich dark brown.  The sound of its chug-chug as it sturdily turned its wide furrows from river’s bank to mountain side, echoed back from distance coves and told the wondering mountaineers that a new era had dawned on the French Broad.  Excerpt from The New York Times, September 12, 1920

Isn’t it interesting that this bit of news made it all the way to The New York Times?  Mr. Carrier really did save the day!  It is said that not only did he lend out the tractor to local farmers, he also traveled with the tractor to teach his friends how to use the new gas powered machine.

From Plow to Tractor
Transition from plow to Tractor, The D.H. Ramsey Special Collection

Rockbrook Farm and HP Clarke

Did you know that before Rockbrook was a summer camp it was well known in the area as a working farm?  Henry P. Clarke, the father of Nancy Carrier, camp founder, was a well respected farmer in Brevard.  After doing some research we have found that Mr. Clarke bred chickens, shorthorn cattle and even raised dogs.  There was a large garden plot, muscadine grape vines and a dairy that was run by a family member of Mr. Clarke.  When Rockbrook was founded in 1921 the farm provided all of the food and meat for the whole camp!

Rockbrook Farm

The chicken yard at Rockbrook Farm

While doing the research on the farm, we came across Mr. Clarke’s name in several publications.  We learned that Mr. Clarke operated a kennel called Brevard Kennel.  Here is a snippet from The Field Dog Book:

From The Field Dog Book

We also discovered an interesting advertisement in the back of The Country Gentlemen Magazine for Rockbrook Farms Shorthorn Cattle.  Check out the ad as well as a birthing record of two of the cows Lady Mell and Minerva.

Birthing Record, 1900

It is clear that Mr. Clarke was a man of many talents! In our next blog we will share a great article about Mr. Clarke “saving the farming season” with his new modern tractor.

The Lodge Legend

The ruins of the Hume Hotel, Dunn’s Rock, Transylvania County, NC

In the oral history of Rockbrook there is an interesting story of the connection between Brevard’s oldest hotel, The Hume Hotel and Rockbrook.  Legend says that the stones from the hotel ruins were used by Rockbrook’s engineer Royal Morrow in the construction of The Junior Lodge at RBC.  While we can not authenticate the story, it seems possible that the stones could have easily been used due to the hotel’s proximity to the Rockbrook property.  As you can see in the photo above, the ruins lie just below Dunns Rock, on the current Island Ford Road right across from main camp. Currently there is a house on the site, but there are a few remaining rocks left from the 1840’s hotel.  At the time it was built, it was the first hotel in Transyvlania County. We may never know the real answer to the mystery, but we like to think of Rockbrook’s connection to such an important landmark.  Check out this blog post from our archives for more information about the hotel.

Junior Lodge, do the stones match the old hotel?