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, making it one of the best resources for the history of camp.  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:

Carrier Pigeon writings 1926
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

Camp writings book 1980
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 history 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!

Vintage camp photos of women in ties
Rockbrook Uniform, 1920’s
modern camp girls in ties
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

Vintage camp girls relaxed pose

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 historical 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.”

vintage camp girls hiking

“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.”

early camp horse riding

“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 history of 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.

Henry N. Carrier of Brevard North Carolina
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!

chicken yard at Rockbrook Farm

The chicken yard at Rockbrook Farm

While researching the history of 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:

Dog boarding listing
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.

Cow announcement
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.

Rockbrook Remembers Jennie Lewis

Jennie Lewis

It is always a sad day when we learn of the passing of a member of our Rockbrook Family.  It was particularly hard when our dear friend Jennie Lewis passed away this summer after a courageous fight with breast cancer.  Jennie was a long time Rockbrook girl, attending camp for years from a little  junior to a head counselor.  She was known for her fabulous sense of humor, her crazy dancing style, her wonderful energy, some wacky costumes and being the best friend you could hope to have.  Along with her sister Chrissy and her mom Marguerite, the Lewis ladies are Rockbrook legends and have been an important part of camp life to so many people.  At Jennie’s memorial service the spirit of Rockbrook and friendship was clearly evident.  Camp friends from all over the country were there to celebrate the life and amazing spirit of a wonderful friend.

We all know Jennie as our camp friend, but she was also a very successful woman in her “real” life outside of camp.  Jennie worked for The Carter Center in Atlanta, GA as a Senior Associate Director.  She focused particularly on democracy and peace building efforts in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. She traveled with President Jimmy Carter in Sudan to monitor elections in 2010 and also South Sudan’s vote for independence in 2011. Her career of service took her from Afghanistan to Sudan and many places in between.  What an amazing woman!

Jennie Lewis and her mother
Jennie and Marguerite

Here at Rockbrook plans are now underway to create a memorial in Jennie’s honor.  We want to make the most fitting tribute to our dear friend so we are creatively brainstorming and developing our ideas.  We will stay in touch with you all as those plans continue.  This summer during camp our good friend and camp mom, Dolly led the campers in creating a wonderful mosaic tribute to Jennie.  It will hang in the dining hall where we can all see it daily and smile when we think of Jennie!

Tribute Mosaic to Jennie Lewis
Tribute to Jennie Lewis, created by Rockbrook Campers 2012

Here’s to you Jennie Lewis!  The spirit of Rockbrook is with you always and the spirit of Jennie is with us always.

Reuniting at Rockbrook

Camp Alum women and daughters
Sophie, Kelley, Dibble and Kathryn

Opening and Closing Days of our camp sessions are always filled with happy reunions.  You can feel the excitement as parents tour the camp, led by their camper, old and new friends meet or reunite and camp pen pals find one another, thrilled to meet after exchanging letters.  There is so much enthusiasm and Rockbrook love flowing around camp on those days.  It is also a special time when camp alumnae get to share the magic of camp with their daughters and granddaughters.  Many of our current campers are second, third or fourth generation Rockbrook Girls.  You can always tell the camp alumna because of their enthusiasm

This photo above captured a particularly sweet reunion of camp alumnae, as a former counselor and her camper were reconnected.  Kelley was Dibble’s counselor at Rockbrook in the 80’s and they had not seen each other since their time together.  It was a special moment for both moms and their daughters.  In just a few years their daughters Sophie and Kathryn may be counselors at Rockbrook, continuing the Rockbrook legacy in their families.

The Wildflowers of Rockbrook

Showy Orchid

The Showy Orchid, Brevard, NC

As we walk the paths and trails of Rockbrook we are always excited to find unusual species of plants and flowers.  On a recent walk, Rockbrook alumnae Barrie B. and Maggie K. spotted this orchid, known as the The Showy Orchid.  The Latin name is Galearis Spectabilis.  While they are not rare in NC, they are on the endangered list in SC and several other states.  The Showy Orchid grows in deciduous forests and can typically be found growing on rocks.  It flowers in the spring, the bloom lasting 2-3 months.  When the campers arrive in a few short weeks, the orchids will still be putting on a beautiful show. Thanks you Maggie for sharing this photograph with us!

If you missed our last wildflower report, check out this recent blog post on the Trout Lilies that grow at RBC.