Marie Brown Chapel

Toward the end of our recent Rockbrook Alumnae reunion celebrating the 90th year of the camp, the women attending held an impromptu chapel meeting. Like those held on Sunday mornings in the summer, this gathering was a chance to sing favorite traditional songs and reflect upon some of the more important experiences, lessons and values we all associate with Rockbrook. These are wonderful moments, often full of personal stories, and on this occasion, childhood memories of camp.

Marie Brown, who came to camp starting in 1989 when she was 8, shared something that we’re so proud to reprint here. It’s a brief reflection on how the Spirit of Rockbrook can sustain and revive us long after we grow up and become adults in the “real world.”

Alumnae Reunion Chapel with Marie Brown
Alumnae Reunion Chapel

“The wonders of air travel, incredible timing, (and a supportive husband) have made it possible for me to step out of the stifling mayhem I have been living to come for a brief moment to be here. All the stone and concrete has fallen away into mountain laurel, rushing water, beloved rocks and roots and trees…and faces that, despite the decades, haven’t seemed to age.

I have to admit, I was afraid to come. My memories of this place are so deeply embedded in my heart, so close to my core, so invaluable to my spirit, I was afraid that coming back here with the sharpened, hardened and perhaps jaded eyes of an adult would somehow mar the perfection of those memories. And between having a genetically poor memory, and the inability to return to any of the places I actually called home as a child, at times it feels as though the past were no more than a figment of my imagination. There is no other place on the planet that I can go to that holds anywhere as much of my memory in its hillsides as this place. So it was with trepidation that I came to tread back into those memories.

Marie Brown and Sarah Carter
Marie and Sarah

I was grateful as a child and well aware it was only because of the generosity of my grandmother (also a Rockbrook girl) that I was able to come year after year. But I don’t think there was any way for me to understand how big a gift she was giving me until I left Rockbrook to fare the rockier world of “civilization” without my annual reprieve in this Rivendale.

I have spent countless days and nights over the last years feeling I was going crazy, feeling so trapped or confused or heartbroken about the state of the world; a world continually more driven by fear, over “teched” yet disconnected, and terrifyingly detached from, and destructive of, nature. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all the noise… and for someone as sensitive as myself, to feel despair. But despair won’t do any of us any good. So coming back here at this particular moment for me, and walking literally as if I were Mary Poppins jumping into the chalk painting of my childhood and finding it hasn’t changed (and where it has it has only gotten better) has given me such rejuvenating hope. I am not crazy. I am not intolerant, or impatient, or bitter. I am just in severe withdrawal of my annual dose of Rockbrook.

And what this weekend has shown me is that the gifts and perspective, and lessons this place has to offer are just as present and valuable to me now as there were for me when I was a little girl. If not more so. These enduring stones soften my hardened defenses. The cold waters warm my chilled spirit. These steep hills dull my impatience and intolerance. And rather than damaging the perfection of my memories, returning has added to them. Returning to Rockbrook for even this brief sip has filled my belly once again with a little bit of ginger, a little bit of grit, a little bit of spirit and a little bit of wit to carry with me as I go back out once again to face the big bad world.”

Thanks Marie!

Generations of Rockbrook Women

During the recent Rockbrook reunion there were several sets of Mothers and Daughters in attendance.  It was such a special experience for Moms and Daughters to finally get to be campers together, sharing bunk beds, singing camp songs and dining around the green tables in the dining hall.

During the activity portion of the reunion there were lots of Mother and Daughter sets spotted sliding into the lake on the water slide, hiking together, playing tennis or making crafts.  Overall though, the favorite experience for everyone was just sharing time with their loved ones in such a special place.  Sharing the gift of Rockbrook with your daughter is definitely the gift that lasts a lifetime.

Camp Friends are Forever Friends

Morgan and Linda
Morgan and Linda

The years drifted away during the recent Rockbrook Reunion weekend as old friends reconnected in the heart of a wooded mountain.  For some women it was their first trip back to Rockbrook in more than 40 years but it did not take a moment to find a friend and jump right back to where they left off. The joy on everyone’s faces as they saw their old friends was magical!

Phyllis and Sparky
Phyllis and Sparky
Kelly and Jennie
Kelly and Jennie

We will post more stories and memories from the reunion soon.  It was a spectacular weekend filled with fun!

90th Year Reunion a Great Success

What an amazing weekend! It was 3 days bathed in absolutely perfect weather, decorated with fond memories relived, and filled to the brim with laughter and conversation among friends… a camp reunion to remember. Rick and his crew took great care of us by serving wonderful meals, including several fresh yummy desserts baked by Alison. Everyone stayed busy on Saturday hiking to Kilroy’s Cabin, climbing the Alpine Tower, making pottery, shooting archery, and zipping down the water slide at the lake, but perhaps most enjoyably, spending a lot of time relaxing amid the beauty of Rockbrook.

90th Camp Reunion Almunae Attendees

Here is a group photo we took after lunch on Saturday (click the photo for a larger version). We also took lots of photos all weekend long and have published them here: 2011 Alumnae Reunion Photos. Take a look!

Stay tuned to our Alumnae Blog for more updates about the reunion. There are many wonderful moments to recount.

Thanks to everyone who attended the reunion. We always enjoy welcoming former campers back to the “Heart of a Wooded Mountain.” It won’t be long before we do it again!

Nancy Carrier’s Family Legacy

Walk in the Woods
Caroline, Emily and Hannah -Nancy Carriers Great- Great Granddaughters with their Aunt Helen and Grandfather Gus

Each summer we are always thrilled to have campers in attendance whose family members are also former campers.  This year we were especially excited as we had three campers during our Third Session who are the great-great granddaughters of Nancy Carrier, Rockbrook’s founder!  It was so great seeing their enthusiasm about camp and knowing how proud their great great grandmother would be to see them as campers!

The Spirit of Rockbrook is with you always!

Rockbrook Riflery Woman of the Week

Earlier this summer, we were lucky enough to have former camper and counselor Dolly Robertson Herron stay with us for a few weeks during 1st session. Dolly helped out around camp in a variety of ways, and one of her biggest projects was refurbishing old riflery plaques from the 1960s. After over 40 years on the riflery range, the weathered plaques had lost their shine, and Dolly decided to preserve these important pieces of Rockbrook history. While cleaning the plaques, which were emblazoned with the names of expert riflewomen, Dolly noticed that one name in particular, Vesta Bateman, was inscribed several times on a 1974 plaque. After doing a bit of her own research, Dolly found Vesta’s contact information and sent her an email asking about Vesta’s camper days.Vesta wrote Dolly back, confirming that that was indeed her name on the plaque. Vesta also sent a picture of her shooting on the Rockbrook range in standing position! Thanks to Dolly’s hard work, Vesta and other former campers will continue to be honored and recognized for their sharpshooting abilities!

Riflery Woman
Rockbrook Riflery Award- Before and After
Vintage rifle girls
Far left, Vesta Bateman shooting from the standing position, 1970’s RBC Catalog

In Memoriam: Ellen Lensing

Ellen Lensing

It is with great sadness we report the passing of Rockbrook Alumna Ellen Lensing.  Ellen passed away on June 22 at the age of 92.  Phyllis Shaw sent us a beautiful email that captures the spirit of Ellen:

“I am very sorry to report the passing of Ellen Lensing, age 92, last night June 22.  Her passing is truly the end of an era for my generation of Rockbrookers.  None of us feels old enough to be the front line!

Ellen worked with Jerky in the office and was a counselor on senior line.  I have known her since I was 16 years old.  She lived a remarkable life of teaching (she had a PhD in business), mentoring, serving others, traveling all over the world, camping, hiking, etc.  Finally at age 89, she decided not to get ON her roof to clean her gutters!

Her health declined in very recent years prior to her moving to Milwaukee to live with her sister two years ago.  She was a remarkable embodiment of the Spirit of Rockbrook.  We will miss her dearly and remember her always.”

Trail Rides at Rockbrook Camp

Horseback Riding at summer camp
Campers gather near the old barn for a trail ride, 1920’s

In the early days of Rockbrook, trail riding was a popular activity.  Rockbrook’s location 3 miles from Brevard was far enough from the hustle and bustle of town to allow the girls to ride to the river or down the road towards Caesar’s Head.  They also had daily instruction in the ring on what is now our sports field.  In the 1920’s, Mrs. Carrier along with the barn staff would even ride the horses over Caesar’s Head and down to Greenville to return them to their winter home. What an adventure!

Eventually, the riding program outgrew the sports field location and moved across the road to it’s current home.  This location features 3 riding rings and a jump course as well as several pastures and an inviting trail that follows the French Broad River.  We no longer ride over Caesar’s Head on horseback, but there are plenty of exciting adventures that happen down at the barn!

The Carrier House Tennis Court

We recently found another Rockbrook photograph during our search of the archives at The Transylvania County Library.  In their records they had this photo of the original tennis courts at The Carrier House.  The Carrier House or Rockbrook House as it is now known was the home of the owners and directors of Rockbrook, Henry and Nancy Carrier.  Here at their house many camp activities were offered including tennis and lawn dancing. Tennis was a popular activity from the beginning of camp and quickly outgrew this first court as the  number of campers increased.  In the late 1920’s two more courts were added and then ultimately three more courts were built.  This original court was removed from The Carrier House lawn and was turned into a beautiful side porch.  Note the small boxwood hedge in the background of the picture, those same boxwoods are now over 9 feet tall!  Here is a previous blog post that tells you more about our current tennis program.

Carrier House Tennis Court
The Carrier House and Tennis Court, circa 1920’s

Camping in the Mountains

Check out this great page from a 1941 Rockbrook Catalog.  Campers had the opportunity to go on lots of different adventures including overnight camping trips.  Camping trips now follow the principles of Leave No Trace, but back in the 1940’s you can see that the camp outs were quite elaborate.  Don’t you know those S’mores tasted delicious?!

Campers at Rockbrook enjoy an overnight camp out
Rockbrook Catalog Excerpt, 1941