At the beginning of the 1930s, Camp Namanu had become well established and it
entered a decade of unprecedented growth and expansion.
|Oscar "Shorty" Luther, Daddy Raker and Otto Muhlig standing in front of Guardian's Cottage|
Miss Volena Jenks accepted the job of Executive Director. She had been director of sports at Camp Sealth in
Seattle, as well as director of both Sherwood and Kiwanis at Namanu. She was a graduate of Willamette University
and held a masterís degree in Physical Education. She presided over the eight-week summer season, assisted by
Barbara Rogers and Louise Nunn. 450 girls camped by the Sandy during one- and two-week sessions and camp fees
were raised to $8.00 a week.
A reporter describes the final ceremonial of the summer:
"It was all sweetly simple and sincere. There were songs, sung softly. Without announcement - as if they had been
improvised or sung themselves spontaneously as a natural expression of the hour and its quiet happiness.
"When the charming ceremony was over, the girls, many of them wearing long beaded and embroidered robes of a
leathery brown but little darker than their suntanned skins, walked softly and slowly down the winding path in a
singing processional that died away and left behind the echo of a benediction."
During the winter of 1931, Miss Jenks was succeeded by Miss Louise Nunn, her assistant from the previous summer.
Miss Nunn, also a Willamette University graduate, became Executive Director of the Camp Fire Girls and Camp
Director of Camp Namanu. Portland Camp Fireís magazine, The Trail, stated in its June, 1931 issue, "Miss Louise
can hardly wait for camp to meet all you campers with your blue middies and smiles."
In addition to Miss Louise, campers were also greeted by a newly constructed building named the Alice Wilbur
Cottage after Portlandís first Camp Fire Guardian. The purpose of the building was to give Guardians from Portland
a comfortable place to stay when they visited Namanu. So the cottage was nicknamed "Guardians." Daddy Raker stated
that Guardians is "an attractive cottage accommodating two dozen Guardians at a time. It contains a well- equipped
kitchen, hot and cold water, toilets and wash room, fireplace, two porches, and sleeping quarters on the
mezzanine floor, equipped with Simmons beds and mattresses. The back porch overlooks a fish pond stocked with
The Bull Run Electric ceased operation after 1930, so now the girls came to camp by bus. Round trip fare was $1.00
and the buses left from the station at SW Sixth and Salmon downtown.
Uncle Toby and Daddy Raker had for several years dreamt of a multi-purpose building to be used for an open-air
theater and play house. In the spring of 1932 this dream became a reality. Uncle Tobyís Story House is 50' x 75'
with a stage and adjoining dressing rooms. There are balconies at each end, a darkroom for photography and two
fireplaces. The building spans a bubbling brook and overlooks the meadow just below Raker Lodge. Theodore Harper
spoke at the buildingís dedication and said, "When I say that I appreciate very deeply indeed the distinction of
having my name coupled so intimately with this, the last and most interesting of our many camp buildings, I am
merely telling you in a roundabout way that for once you see a storyteller who is stumped for words." He concluded
his speech, "I would wish that I might be active in Camp Fire to the end of my days and that Namanu may not come
to think of this building as too exclusively Uncle Tobyís Story House, but as a dream which has come true because
Council Guardians, the Camp Committee and the girls themselves all worked together toward a considered end.
Creatively, with enthusiasm, the Camp Fire way."
The United States was in the middle of the Depression, and so in 1932 the camp fee was lowered to $7.50 to make
Namanu accessible to more girls. Many girls sold donuts to help them earn their way.
Frances "Rusty" Tomlinson remembers:
"After the first year I had to earn my own way and so I used to sell Sugar Crest donuts. I lived on 23rd on the
west side and I would go around from door to door selling donuts and when I had about 50 or 60 orders then I
would pull a little red wagon all the way across the Burnside Bridge to the Sugar Crest Donut Company and load
up the donuts and then back across the river and deliver them. You had to sell quite a few because you only got
10 cents on a dozen.
"I did this for a couple of years until one day Uncle Toby said to me, ĎI want to see you. Iíve got something for
you.í He brought out an old army bugle... He took his knife and at the bottom of it he carved a mountain showing
the emblem for ambition and he said, 'I want you to learn to play this and once you play it you can go to camp
free. You won't have to sell donuts.'
"It took a little bit of work to learn how. Helen P., who was at Lincoln High School with me at the time, said she
would teach me for 25 cents a lesson and so we would go into the girls restroom with her bugle and mine and we
would blow, and finally I learned to play a few of the bugle calls. I blew the bugle for several summers until I
went away to college. I always say that good things began to happen for me in my life at Camp Namanu. Everything
in my life changed."
Miss Louise retired after the summer of 1932 in order to be married, writing:
"I will long remember the pleasure it has been to work with the Camp Fire Girls of the Portland area."
She was followed by Miss Elaine Gorham as Executive Director. Miss Elaine came to Portland from the Seattle
Council, where she had been on staff for three years. The Trail states, "She is dark-eyed, tall and
slender - and altogether charming, as well as a most efficient person."
The summer of 1933 was Camp Namanuís ten- year anniversary on the Sandy River. The camp fee was reduced again to
$7.00 and the theme for the last session of camp was "The Return of the Natives." A highlight of the week was an
afternoon tea honoring Miss Gladys Snyder and Louise Nunn McGilvra, both former Executives.
In her summer report Miss Elaine writes:
"The climax of the week came Thursday when camp was put to bed in the afternoon with crackers and milk, and roused
at 8:30 PM for a pageant on the river, followed by a midnight banquet. Down the river came two canoes bearing
girls in ceremonial gowns holding high colored flares, which reflected beautifully in the water... A group of
dancers gathered and performed a primitive cycle to the accompaniment of percussion instruments. With gay balloons
tied to their shoulders a group of brave souls and trained swimmers waded into the river in formation and executed
"The banquet was beautiful - and hilarious. The lodge was decorated with lanterns and fir boughs and candles
galore. The pioneer theme was beautifully worked out by Mildred Crain, the toastmistress. The Namanu book of
woodblocks, done by Ethel Kopp, was presented to members of the Council outstanding in service for camp."
A Camp Fire Girl who came to Camp Namanu in the 1930s was able to earn several different honors, one being the
Good Camper Honor.
Jean Spearow Holt recalls:
"I remember with great fondness the wonderful oven toast the cooks used to send to the breakfast table by the
bushel. And the strawberry jam out of No. 10 tins that we loaded on to the toast. I remember with loathing the
chocolate pudding with cornstarch lumps and the stringy green beans that I simply couldnít eat without retching,
and which prevented me session after session from qualifying for my Good Camper Honor (due to inability to observe
the Gospel of a Clean Plate).
"I recall with love a Miss Evelyn, who was my cabin counselor on Robin Hill, and who one single session had me sit
at her table every meal and gave me one small spoonful only of green beans and chocolate pudding, so that my poor
mother--waiting at the bus station--could actually greet a daughter waving her Good Camper Honor."
In 1932, 228 girls earned their Good Camper Honor.
Girls could also work toward and receive at camp the National Camp Fire Honors of Fagot Finder, Trail Maker and
Gypsy. The requirements for these honors included many outdoor skills such as, "Fry an egg on a hot stone, or wrap
an egg in wet paper, or leaves, and cook it in hot ashes."
The Camp Fire manual exhorts, "Of course no honor is earned for camping, cooking out of doors or fire building
until the fire is extinguished and the camping spot properly left clean."
Jean Marie Ackerson Spiering worked toward one of these honors:
"A sequence of leather honors were given in Camp Craft, the highest one being Gypsy. This one among other things
entailed making a latrine for a camping site. I recall doing this on a Sammy trip in 1932. We went to Lost Lake
and at that time there were no Ďimprovements.í Beautiful--most pristine. We were the only people there except for
some Boy Scouts camped on the far side of the lake. Another girl and I were working for the Gypsy honor and so the
latrine duty was ours. We accomplished this by finding a fallen log which could be used as a seat and digging a
trench below leaving the shovel at hand for each person to fill in with dirt after use."
In the fall of 1934, Daddy Raker and Uncle Toby sat on a mossy log on the bluff below the meadow and dreamt of a
new rustic unit built on that spot overlooking the Sandy Rapids. Guardians objected that it was too far away from
camp and too precarious a spot, but Daddy Raker and Uncle Toby won.
"During the spring of 1935, Mr. Theodore Harper and several crews of older girls set about the construction of a
log cabin which was to be used as an in-between unit for older girls who had outgrown Robin Hill and who were not
quite old enough for Kiwanis.
"Young saplings were cut down and skinned and dragged to the spot selected for this unit, a high bluff at the edge
of the Sandy.
"With the help of carpenters, the building was erected and ready for shingling by Trail Week--the opening period
of the summer. All the shingling was done by Namanu girls. The Log Cabin, Balagan, is 18' x 24', and has a porch
and sleeping room for eleven. The cooking is done outdoors over the huge fireplace. Running water was piped to the
-W. S. Raker scrapbook
The name Balagan comes from one of T. A. Harperís books, Siberian Gold, and it means "small hut" in Russian. Uncle
Toby declared the cabin to look just like the hideaway of the Siberian Hishnik, or gold thief from the book.
1936 opened enthusiastically with a bumper crop of new buildings. Uncle Toby single-handedly constructed two tree
houses over the river to add to his Balagan Unit. New cabins were cropping up around Kiwanis Lodge, and the
Weavery and Blue Wing Lodge were built. For several years Blue Birds had a session or two a summer when they could
attend camp, but now they would have their own place and special program at Namanu. When they arrived that summer
they ran eagerly up the hill beyond the duckpond to their new lodge. With wide porches, a lovely step-down
fireplace and its own kitchen facilities, Blue Wing Lodge could accommodate eighteen young girls each week.
The Weavery, also known as the Martha Washington Cottage, was constructed in a charming grassy area next to the
creek that flows from under the Story House. Weaving had been a popular activity for a couple of years, and the
six looms had outgrown the porch of Robin Hoodís Barn. The building was stained inside and out during Trail Week
and on June 22 at 12 noon it was dedicated at Open House Day. The beautiful hand-wrought hinges were placed on the
door by Mr. Muhlig. Several looms were donated by Mr. Richardson, Mr. Peterson and Uncle Toby. The 36" rug loom,
called "Ahgathnakwa," was named after the Camp Fire group of Mrs. Peterson, an avid weaving enthusiast.
The total number of different campers that attended Namanu in 1936 was 677. Sometime during the summer a group of
older girls sat together around the huge fireplace in Kiwanis Lodge and wrote the song:
When itís twilight on the hill
And the shadows fall,
I hear a melody
Camp Namanuís calling me back again.
When itís twilight on the hill
Tall Wohelo firs
Stretch arms up to the sky,
And Namanu breezes sigh tenderly.
Walking down the meadow to the Gypsy Trail,
Standing by a rushing waterfall,
Memories of those friendships that will never fail,
Oh, how we love it all!
When itís twilight on the hill
And the shadows fall,
I hear a melody
Camp Namanuís calling me back again.
The amazing success and growth of Camp Namanu during these years could not have happened without the dedication of
numerous volunteers organized by the Camp Committee. Daddy Raker and Uncle Toby spent countless hours doing what
needed to be done around camp.
Jean Spearow Holt remembers the two:
"Daddy Raker and Uncle Toby were frequent visitors to Camp Namanu when I was a girl there and it was always such a
treat to have them and to sing our appreciation for all they did. Daddy Raker with his Kiwanis friends busy with
hammer and nails and saws, fixing up and making safe the various infrastructures. Uncle Toby, leaning on his
crooked stick, with his red bandana covering his thinning hair, transfixing scores of little girls with his tales
of Hoo-hoo-poo-wallas and other fabulous fiction from his fertile imagination.
"Once, during supper, I slipped away from the lodge and managed to pull down the flag in the meadow and attach
Uncle Tobyís signature red hat to the flag before raising it again and getting back to the supper table. At flag
lowering, there was some consternation as I recall, and somehow I was fingered as the culprit. Several years
later, when I was a counselor in Blue Wing, Uncle Toby came down to our end of the meadow to march to flag raising
with us, and when he saw me as one of the counselors then he did an exaggerated 'double take,' 'You--a
counselor!,' he exclaimed. Then he grinned and added, 'I shouldn't be surprised, I guess. Itís usually the ones
who had enough energy and imagination to be problem children who come back to be counselors."
Tragedy struck in March of 1938, when beloved Daddy Raker died suddenly of a heart attack. Dressed in a suit and
tie, he had stopped on his way to the annual Grand Council Fire to get his shoes shined, and he died in the shoe
shine parlor at SW Tenth and Yamhill. Later that evening during the program "one of the older girls rose and
announced that Mr. Raker would not be present that evening, and at her request the hundreds of girls sang their
special song to their old friend, few of them knowing that in reality it was a farewell to him." Camp Namanu owes
so much to this sturdy, silver-haired man.
Uncle Toby assumed the Chairmanship of the Camp Committee and Mrs. A. B. MacPherson was elected to the Presidency
of the Portland Council. New volunteers that became involved around this time included Mr. C. K. Miller, who was
interested in the riding program and Mr. Wallace Peterson, craftsman and furniture builder. Also, Mr. Francis E.
Williamson, Jr., who did mapping, Mr. Howard Gifford, an architect, and Mr. A. B. MacPherson, an engineer and
Full-unabridged text of this chapter is available in the 75th Anniversary Book which is for sale at the
Camp Fire USA Portland Metro Council's office in Portland.
©1998 Reprinting only with written permission of Camp Fire USA Portland Metro Council.