The Amazing “Jerky”

Ellen Hume Jervey (center), 1928
Ellen Hume Jervey (center), 1928

In the stories and history of Rockbrook, perhaps no one is more legendary than former counselor and director Ellen Hume Jervey.  Fondly known as “Jerky”, she was an institution at Rockbrook for over 40 years.  Jerky grew up in Charleston, SC (just an interesting side note, Jerky lived next door to The Verner Gallery, the art gallery of Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, another memorable Rockbrooker). She began her Rockbrook career as a counselor in the 1920’s.   After college, Jerky was the Physical Education Director at Hood College, but she continued to work at Rockbrook for the summer.  In the 1940’s Jerky became a Director at Rockbrook and continued working at camp through the 1960’s.  She lived in Charleston, SC during the school year where she taught at Ashley Hall, a private girls school.  She is referred to by many of our alumna as one of the most influential people in their lives.

One of the most shared stories about Jerky is that during WWII she was commissioned as an officer with the US Naval Reserves!  Rockbrook closed for the summers during the war and many women became involved in the war effort.  None more so than Jerky! We have searched high and low for more information about it and were thrilled to find the following article from a Charleston, SC  Newspaper.

Charleston Paper 1942
Charleston News Ellen Hume Jervey

The WAVEs (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) division of the Naval Reserve consisted entirely of women.  From the very beginning, the WAVES was an official part of the Navy, and its members held the same rank and ratings as male personnel. The first commissioned female officer in the Navy was the commander of the WAVES, and she was commissioned in August, 1942.  You can see from the article that Jerky was not far behind, being commissioned in December.  We are not sure how long Jerky served, but will continue our research to find out more about her time in the Navy.  You can see just one of the reasons why she was an amazing role model and mentor to so many Rockbrook women.

Jerky, 1960's
Jerky, 1960’s

Stay tuned for more Jerky stories!  If you have any you would like to share we would love to hear from you!

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  1. Avatar for Kay Johnson Mann
    Kay Johnson Mann
    11 years ago

    I love checking out the newsy emails from Rockbrook; and, just clicking around the site decided to visit the Alumnae Blog. What a joy to see your article about Jerky! I have a story to tell (as so many of us must who were privileged to know her, if only for one summer as I did). As a junior English major at University of SC I sent a typed letter to Miss Jervey, hoping to get a job for the summer at Rockbrook. I’d graduated from Brevard Jr. College in ’57, worked a year as a secretary in a bank, and then returned to work at the college in Admissions and Public Relations until I was given an opportunity to continue with college studies at the university. Well, I must have written a pretty good letter; and, though I wanted to make a good impression, didn’t realize that I’d overdone it. Until sometime later….I was thrilled to get a letter back fairly quickly, and was excited. Miss Jervey had offered me a job as Office Manager at the camp, and invited me to Charleston to meet with her. The visit was so lovely, she and her sister could not have been more gracious and welcoming, and it was a treat to meet Maxine Abshire (Maxie) who would be at camp that summer. I had met Jerky’s illustrious neighbor, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, when I was recruiting for Brevard so it was great to go over and see her briefly, too. Fine so far, but when it got down to discussing everything involved in actually MANAGING the camp office I started to feel my confidence slipping about the same time Miss Jervey no doubt realized I was a nice girl, perhaps a decent secretary who could write a good letter (obviously, I had!) but…was NOT experienced office manager material. She didn’t say so then, however. God bless her. I did go to Rockbrook, and I had one of the greatest summers of my life! Jerky summoned me to the office, inquiring about my cabin on Middler, the campers I’d already taken to so readily; and then, told me a Sr hiking counselor had been called home because of a death in her family. Would I be up for assisting in that capacity? Well, I sure didn’t want to let her down, but though I’d been a Girl Scout and a Campfire Girl, I’d only had two weeks at a camp, with minimal hiking experience. I didn’t think too hard about it before I said, “Yes, m’am. I will do my best.” And, so I did. (With the sometimes amused, but always good natured help of those truly experienced campers until I got the hang of it and loved hiking, and Rockbrook! Jerky was an amazing woman and inspired great admiration from all who knew her. She took what could have been an awkward and embarrassing situation for me and, with much grace and understanding turned it into a truly rewarding growth experience for me. Such a treasure! In the true spirit of Rockbrook, I believe. Oh, and I was thrilled to be invited back for the next summer! (Wish I could have made it, too.)

    Kay Johnson ’60