Dinner at The Rockbrook House, 1921

Old dinner inside clarke carrier rockbrook house
Campers and staff enjoying dinner at The Rockbrook House, circa 1921

We were thrilled to visit with former camper Shea Hussey Lackie and her parents and daughters last week.  Shea wanted to give her future Rockbrook campers a tour so they would know all about camp when it is their time to attend.  Sarah enjoyed walking around with them and sharing camp stories.

Shea’s parents were kind enough to bring copies of two Rockbrook photos that were taken in 1921, the year that Rockbrook began.  Shea’s grandmother Kathleen Conant Hussey attended camp that year and is in both of the pictures.  We were particularly excited about one of the photos as it features the campers eating dinner in The Rockbrook House.  Before the dining hall was built, all meals were served inside The Rockbrook House (or Carrier House as it is sometimes called) but we have never found a photograph of mealtime.  We were so happy that they were kind enough to share this picture with us as it is a great addition to our archives.

If you have any photographs that you would like to share please let us know.  How lucky we are to have so much history in one place, here in the heart of a wooded mountain.

Flashback to the 70s

Girls Camp 1970s Ceremony

Another quick historical photo post… Browsing through our archives, I found this picture labeled “August 1971.” It shows the Sunday morning flag raising ceremony, the girls gathered on the hill dressed in their uniforms, and the amazing view of the mountains we have at the center of camp. The Sunday uniforms are slightly different nowadays. Campers today wear white shorts, shirt and a red tie, but not red knee socks! 🙂

Is that an Oldsmobile in the background?

The History of Goodwill

Goodwill Cabin at Rockbrook
The Rockbrook Camp Goodwill Cabin

In 1895, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Peck Clarke, formerly of Connecticut, purchased over 800 acres in Transylvania County on which they built their mountain estate.  On this site, their daughter Nancy Clarke Carrier and her husband Henry established Rockbrook Camp for Girls in 1921.   One of the more interesting facts about Mrs. Carrier is that she was the great granddaughter of PT Barnum, of circus fame.  Many circus artifacts were on display in the Carrier House, and thrilled many a camper, such as the chair of Tom Thumb and many lovely home furnishings.

This circus history also has a direct link to the building known as Goodwill.   The circus winter residence was at the Goodwill Plantation, located near Columbia, SC.  When Nancy Carrier decided to establish a summer camp on her property in Brevard, she moved two 200-year-old hand-hewn chestnut log cabins to the property.  She restored the cabins to their original beauty and made them part of the center of camp life.  The buildings were named “Goodwill” after the SC plantaion and Curosty (the mountain word for crafts). Both are still in use by the campers and remain a part of Rockbrook’s proud history.

The Camp Fire Girls

Summer Camp Fire Girls Book

Do you know about the “Camp Fire Girls” of America? This is a drawing taken from the inside cover of their handbook (the 1947 edition), The Book of the Camp Fire Girls.  The history of this organization is really cool.  Founded in 1910 in Vermont, it’s as old or older than the girls scouts in America.  It later became coed, and has since changed its name to “Camp Fire USA,” but it originally sought to help girls gain important skills for living a “well rounded life—a vivid, intense life of joy and service.”

As you can see from the drawing this included all kinds of skills. Some, like boating, camp craft, nature lore, gardening, dramatics, dancing and art, are still part of the camp experience at Rockbrook. Others are more specialized, like aviation, science and business. Click on the drawing to see a larger version. It’s really great.

The Camp Fire Girls valued spirituality, beauty, service, knowledge, trustworthiness, health, work and happiness, and provided opportunities for girls to form, as Luther Gulick the founder put it, “habits making for health and vigor, the out-of-door habit, and the out-of-door spirit.”  It’s neat to realize that this was “in the air” when the first summer camps were forming in America, and how Rockbrook too shares these ambitions.  Camp really is a place to grow… in some really important ways!

Rockbrook Camp Council

Sunset on the Hill

We had a nice conversation the other day with Belinda Strickland aka “Sparkie” who was a camper at RBC in the 1960’s.  She told us that one of her fond camp memories was being chosen to be part of the Camper Council. The Council met weekly with Jerky and discussed lots of topics including the upcoming special events for the week.  Most of us here in the office had not heard of the Camp Council before.  What stories or memories do you have of the Council?  If you have any information on the Council or any other stories you would like to share we would love to hear from you!

A cold day at the Rockbrook lake

Ice skating on Rockbrook Camp lake
Nancy Carrier and her children,  Henry and Helen, enjoyed a cold day at the frozen Rockbrook lake. We think this photo was taken in the 1930’s.

We sure have had a cold winter this year in Brevard, but take a look at this photo from our archives. Can you imagine ice skating on the frozen Rockbrook lake? It looks like the Carriers were having a great time sliding around- they didn’t even need ice skates!  These days we drain the lake in the winter, but if we didn’t it would probably look just like this picture.

Rockbrook Memories Book

Rockbrook Camp Memory Book
The inside cover of Rockbrook Memories by Mary Thompson

We have a wonderful book in our camp archives called Rockbrook Memories by Mary Bissell McIver Thompson.  It was published in 1968 and is filled with stories about the early days at camp.  It is fascinating to read all of the stories and realize that Rockbrook has not changed much at all!  There was singing, polar bear, fun activities, skits, a ringing bell and of course fantastic friends.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  We hope to reprint this wonderful treasure and have it available for the new generations of campers to enjoy.

Nancy Carrier Signature
Rockbrook Memories Letter

The History of Summer Camps

1861 First Summer Camp

The American Camp Association, the national accrediting organization for summer camps (including RBC!) and camp professionals is celebrating its 100 year anniversary. It was back in 1910 that it was founded under the original name of the “Camp Directors Association of America.”

As part of their celebration, the ACA has published a nice collection of historical photos, documents and interviews. It traces the history of organized camping to a particular event in 1861. Here’s how the timeline starts:

The Gunnery Camp is considered the first organized American camp. Frederick W. Gunn and his wife Abigail operated a home school for boys in Washington, Connecticut. In 1861, they took the whole school on a two-week trip. The class hiked to their destination and then set up camp. The students spent their time boating, fishing, and trapping. The trip was so successful, the Gunns continued the tradition for twelve years.

It’s nice to see summer camps so well represented, and interesting to think that Rockbrook’s founding in 1921 came so soon after the ACA. By the way, if you want to learn more about the history of summer camps, there are some great resources out there.