The 1940s began with an exciting development, the acquisition of 40 acres of land on
the bluff above main camp for a Ranch unit! For several years campers had enjoyed horseback riding on occasion,
but now there would be an entire unit just for those girls who liked to ride. The 1940 camp brochure states:
|The new Ranch Unit at Camp Namanu|
"A new feature this year will be the opening of a Ranch unit for campers who are fond of horseback riding and
The Ranch at Camp Namanu was unique in that, rather than just having campers ride horses once or twice in their
stay at camp, girls spent their entire time immersed in the Ranch atmosphere. The campers not only learned to
ride, but also to care for the horses, clean out the stalls and all other necessary duties. The Ranch campers
cooked their own meals at the Ranch house under the supervision of the staff.
When Camp Fire purchased the property, improvements included a house, a barn, a windmill and a water tower. The
Ranch quickly became a very popular place at Camp Namanu.
Continuing as a favorite activity for Balagan and Kiwanis girls were Sammy trips--overnights to places outside of
camp. Common destinations included places such as Lost Lake, Still Creek, Salmon River campground and other places
in the National Forests around Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson. An old army truck, named Samson because of its great
strength, was used for transportation. Girls would climb aboard with their sleeping bags and gear and leave camp
singing. Traditionally, while on their Sammy trip, groups would write lyrics to a song and set it to a popular
tune. When they returned to camp, they would share this song at their first meal back. In the summer of 1940 a
group introduced a new song, "They Pitched Their Tents."
They pitched their tents upon a hill
And called it Camp Namanu.
Those girls are gone, but we’re here still
Enjoying Camp Namanu.
Camping out upon the Sandy
Seventeen years ago,
Nothing then was quite so handy
But the girls still loved to go.
For the early morning swimming
Everyone was game.
Though the changes are astounding
The spirit’s just the same.
In those old days the clothes they wore
Never now would please.
Their bloomers bagged behind, before,
Their middies reached their knees.
This song quickly became a camp classic, sung year after year.
Another new structure built in 1940 was the caretaker’s house just across the road from Guardians.
Continuing the program of growth mapped out by the Camp Committee, the Pioneer Unit was built in the spring of
"Another surprise in store for Namanu campers this summer is the opening of a new Pioneer Unit which will house
twelve campers, located in a very beautiful spot overlooking the river. It will be made up of Adirondack shelters
and is planned especially for girls who have just finished grammar school, and like pioneering. Sounds like fun!"
-1941 camp brochure
The Pioneer Unit had an authentic covered wagon for campers to eat in, and they could cook meals in a large
outdoor fireplace nearby.
Two new Blue Wing cabins were built for the youngest campers at Namanu. Sometime in the ’30s, "Winnie the Pooh"
became popular and the new cabins were each named after a character from A. A. Milne’s stories. Harriet Howes
"And I remember [in Blue Wing] we had a young lady from Hawaii who was our counselor and we called her Miss
Lalani. She had dark hair and she would read to us from Winnie the Pooh every day after lunch. I'd never heard of
Winnie the Pooh before and we got very well acquainted and I think that’s why this whole Pooh thing got started--you
know, with the cabins in Blue Wing, because she introduced us to Winnie the Pooh and it just got to be a
Another Camp Namanu tradition was the special activities during the last session of the summer. Many campers came year
after year to this session because of these ceremonies:
"If you went the last session (which was my favorite) then you had both the corn roast and the midnight banquet.
For the corn roast we went down and crossed that creek down by the Sandy. I have never been able to go across a
log bridge - it was just a single log and I remember each year being so scared of that thing. But after we got
across we got to go where they had dug a big pit in the sand and put the corn ears in there. It was the best corn
I had ever eaten in my life. And what we had to eat with it I have no idea, but we all ate corn until we were just
stuffed and then we had a sing down there and then back across the log and up to bed.
"Then the midnight banquet where we had the dreamboats and of course they always went down the Sandy and we’d all
have our little dreamboats with our wishes. I don’t know, there was something so special about that. It brings
tears to my eyes to even think about it--all those wishes for Namanu..."
-Harriet Howes Lesher
In December of 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America entered into World War II. For the next several years,
Camp Namanu struggled along with everyone else through the difficulties caused by the war.
A more personal tragedy for Namanu campers was the death of Uncle Toby in May of 1942. For many, it was hard to
imagine camp without him. He left behind Mr. Skriggleboggle, Humyak, Hoohoopoowalla and memories in the hearts of
campers that live on still today.
So the summer of 1942 began with a void in the Camp Committee and many obstacles to overcome because of the nation
A victory garden was planted at the Ranch:
"At the Ranch we planted everything you could plant that will grow in the Pacific Northwest and mature in time to
use. Some of the things - corn, for instance - came a little later. The kids were back in school. I can remember
going out with Elaine to check on some aspect of the camp after school had started and we ate corn right out of
the garden. Without cooking it. It was just as sweet!"
In the fall of 1942, Elaine Gorham resigned to go work with the Red Cross overseas, and Marionbeth Wolfenden
became Executive Director for the next two years. She had been a camper at Namanu and then a counselor during her
college years. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in psychology. Marionbeth directed
Sherwood, Balagan and Kiwanis before becoming Assistant Camp Director and then Camp Director for the summers of
1943 and 1944.
She describes the war years:
"The war years were grim - gas rationing, butter, meat, nylons...
"Farmers were short of help and so we signed up these youngsters and we packed lunches for them and they went into
the berry fields and picked berries. It was a wonderful service for the farmers and they were so grateful! We had
special swimming times because they’d been working and it was in sunny weather and bless their hearts--they’d
really worked hard.
"It was a difficult time because people didn’t have gasoline and so we had lots of youngsters and next to no help.
Because, if you were able-bodied then you could earn much more money than we could pay at camp. And the ration
bit - getting enough food - we had to sell ourselves and we did, with the Rations Board, but it wasn’t easy. We
just had to go in and tell them that we had 300 kids in Camp Namanu and we have to have butter and we have to have
meat and we have to have all these things in order to maintain our camp! We’re taking care of these kids because
they have no where else to go!"
Sylvia Jaureguy Love, who was Assistant Camp Director during some of the war years adds:
"There were difficulties. You know, food was rationed so that it created problems in meal planning and production.
And we got terribly crowded because people didn’t go away on vacation, but they did send their children to camp.
"There was trouble with staffing during those years because, well, there were so many war-related jobs where you
were needed. I know I worked in the shipyards at a child care center and quit to go to camp. Staff didn't
necessarily come for the whole summer, kind of a session at a time and that was very difficult. You were
constantly trying to get enough staff to keep it going. And we were definitely full."
An article in The Oregonian from July of 1943 talks about summer camp problems:
"Because many families, knee-deep in war work, are not taking time off for vacations this year, they are sending
their daughters to camp so that the youngsters, at least, won’t miss, entirely, all the fun of the good old
summertime. Intelligent parents, these Directors say, know that supervised camping provides a safe and
satisfactory answer to the knotty problem of what to do with the children in this gasless, vacationless, wartime
"'We have never had so many registrations,' says Mrs. Edward J. Kolar, President of the Portland Council of Camp
Fire Girls, both pleased and regretful over the season’s success. ‘Even our waiting lists are closed! We feel that
camping is more important than ever this year when we need all the holds to normal living that we can cling to.
Camp is one place where we are sure our children can find release from the tensions of wartime living and be
Camp Namanu campers and staff endeavored to make the camping experience as normal as possible for the campers during
these years. Sylvia Love says, "We were pretty away from the war up there, pretty isolated."
Harriet Howes Lesher describes an incident at the beginning of the summer of 1943:
"We went up for Trail Week with my whole Horizon Club and we had the most marvelous time and they assigned four or
five of us to whitewash Heaven. It was outside of Raker Lodge up the hill before you get to Guardians Cottage and
it was used as a storehouse.
"We started whitewashing this Heaven and we had on old funny clothes that we had brought, and the cockroaches
started coming out of the walls. Well, we just got hysterical, we were 15, and we got to laughing so hard and for
a long time we picked the cockroaches off and killed them. Well, it got to be a matter of expediency, here were
these things - they were all over the walls - so finally we just whitewashed all the cockroaches into the wall.
And here were these big lumpy things all over the wall. When we went down for lunch, the Camp Director said,
'Unfortunately I have lost my list. I do not know who was responsible for whitewashing Heaven. I would kindly like
those responsible to go up and redo the job because it is absolutely a mess and all the cockroaches are
whitewashed into Heaven.'
"After the meal was over, we went up and said, 'If you’ll get us some more brushes and whitewash we'll go up and do
the job over.' That was one of the funny times."
One of the most exciting events of the war years for Camp Namanu was the launching of the S.S. Camp Namanu. This
16,500-ton tanker ship was built by the Kaiser Company on Swan Island and launched in an impressive ceremony on
April 25, 1944.
"The voices of 2600 Camp Fire Girls and Bluebirds were raised in song at Swan Island today as the tanker Camp Namanu,
named for the Camp Fire Girls’ camp in Oregon, was launched.
"Honor of naming the vessel went to Mrs. Edward J. Kolar, president of the Council. Ann Burgess, Grant High School
Camp Fire Girl, as mistress of ceremonies, directed the massed children in a special tribute to S. B. Cobb, who
donated the original 160 acres of the Camp Namanu site in 1924. The girls sang a song, 'Cheer to Mr. Cobb', in his
honor. Other songs rendered were 'The Walking Song', 'Above The Rapids', 'The Merry Go Round' and 'They Pitched
Marionbeth Wolfenden was there:
"That was a wonderful event. I don’t know why Camp Namanu was chosen. Most of the victory ships were named for
cities and at that particular time Camp Namanu was a post office and that might be why Kaiser chose to name this
ship the Camp Namanu. But it was an event never to be repeated... it was so exciting! We had a police escort with
sirens going, thirty yellow school buses filled with Camp Fire Girls in uniform. 3000 kids on either side of this
huge tanker - when they are in dry-dock and it was getting ready to go down the ways - it stands way high. It was
the most exciting event. It was so wonderful; it was just a thrill! And to have CAMP NAMANU on the side in great
huge letters! We were delighted!"
The next year the girls received a letter from a sailor on the Camp Namanu:
Somewhere on the High Seas
February 6, 1945
This may be somewhat of a surprise to you, but being an old sailor, having sailed under the Norwegian flag some 32
years ago, and now sailing as Assistant Cook on the S.S. Camp Namanu, I couldn’t help but write you, and tell you,
that I think you have every reason to be proud of the ship that carries your camp’s name.
She is by far one of the trimmest, neatest tankers I have ever had the pleasure to put foot on. And she takes the
sea like a dainty little lady would, swaying to and fro in the heavy swells of the sea.
Yes, girls, I want to congratulate you for having had the good fortune of having such a lovely lady named after
your camp. May her voyages always make you feel proud, that you have a part in her. May God bless you, one and
all, back there at Camp Namanu.
Marge Dibble, who had been Marionbeth’s Assistant in 1944, took over the job of Executive Director and Camp
Director for the summer of 1945. She had been a Camp Namanu camper since she was seven years old and had worked
in the Camp Fire office during high school. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in
Sociology. She had won a scholarship for graduate work at Radcliffe, but was persuaded by Elaine Gorham to stay in
Oregon and assist Marionbeth.
-Earl A. Lange
For many people, the most memorable event of that summer was V-J Day, August 14, 1945.
"But I was there when V-J Day came, and it was in August and I was always a waterfront counselor, so I was down
there with my little class at the waterfront along with a million others. All of a sudden, we heard firecrackers
being shot off over at Dodge Park, which was kind of unusual, it wasn't the Fourth of July. Then a runner came
down from main camp and they had heard it on the radio that the war was over. And that was exciting, that really
was! But it happened when I was there at camp which was kind of nice."
-Harriet Howes Lesher
Sylvia Jaureguy Love says:
"I do remember that on V-J Day I was in a boat in the middle of the river lifeguarding, and somebody had a radio
and ran down and told us. That’s how I got the news. It was very exciting!"
Marge Dibble Platt adds:
"I guess it must have come in on somebody’s radio and all of a sudden it was there. And we were yelling and
screaming and making plans to travel; it was toward the end of camp."
After the war ended, Camp Namanu joined the rest of the nation in getting back to normal. Reluctantly for some,
electricity was added in the spring of 1946. Perishables such as milk that had been cooled out in the Ocean could
now be stored in an electric refrigerator.
The job of both Executive Director of Camp Fire and Camp Director of Camp Namanu had become too large for one
person, so the position was split into two jobs. Marge Dibble remained as Executive and Margaret Obertueffer was
hired as Camp Director for 1946. She was the daughter of G. H. Obertueffer, "Chief Obie," a prominent leader of
the Boy Scout organization in Portland. Margaret was followed by Blanche Hutchins in the summer of 1947. By this
time the camp fee for one week was $13.50 for main camp and $18.00 for Ranch. Camp Committee Chairmen were Mr. and
Mrs. Church. Sometime during this time a relationship was begun between Camp Fire and the Mazamas, a Portland
mountain climbing club. Once a summer older campers were given the opportunity to climb Mt. Hood with a Mazama
The Counselor’s Cabin was built in 1947. The cabin, built near the intersection of the camp road and the North Fork
Road, was meant to be a place where counselors could go on their time off and relax.
The Pioneer Unit received the addition of "Old Oregon," a fortress-like lodge for the girls to meet in and warm
themselves by the fire.
As 1948 opened, Martha Killies Darcy was hired as Camp Director. She was a member of the Mazamas and had helped
lead Camp Fire trips to Mt. Hood.
Martha was born in Germany and, after the death of her mother, she was raised by an aunt in the United States.
She was an avid mountain climber and was awarded the "Sixteen Major Northwest Peaks Award" by the Mazamas on
December 10, 1938. The Mazama history book, We Climb High, says of her:
"Martha K. Darcy was enthusiastically voted an honorary member, the first and only woman in our history to receive
such a high honor. It is difficult to think of any individual who has spent more of a lifetime working for the
benefit and glory of the Mazamas than Martha."
The spring of 1948 found Camp Fire Girls preparing to celebrate the silver jubilee of the acquisition of the camp
on the Sandy River.
"As part of the current celebration of Namanu’s continuous service to Portland Camp Fire Girls, a free of charge,
city wide tuberculosis survey and chest x-ray will be offered all members beginning this week. The survey will be
made a prerequisite to summer camping and registration."
-The Oregonian, January 18, 1948
A full-page article ran in The Oregonian during the summer, carrying the headline: "Old Girls Returning This
Summer to Youthful Haunts on Sandy River."
The article continues:
"They are coming back to Camp Namanu, the ‘old girls’ who first learned to stargaze and to roll a pack in the
meadow down by the duckpond.
"Some are still active in the Camp Fire program, and are helping with various phases of camp improvements through
participation on the Portland council board’s activities. Others are looking forward to a possible ‘Return of the
Camper’ day, late in the summer, when girls who were Namanu campers 25 years ago... will once again hike over the
trails and paddle in the duckpond.
"For thousands of others, no such return is possible, for the old campers are scattered to all parts of the
country... still others will have followed the long trail beyond, with Uncle Toby and Daddy Raker.
"...And perhaps a quarter of a century hence, these present-day campers, in turn, will stage another return to the
camp upon the Sandy."
-Marguerite N. Davis
Marguerite Davis also wrote of the old campers:
"In memory they will be hearing the songs by the campfire, the ripple of the Sandy, the bird hymns added to their
own in the Green Cathedral; they will see the Guardian Fir and the three Wohelo trees. Their dreamboats passing
bravely out of sight the last session; they will remember the hush of the twilight hour as the girls gather around
the Council Fire for the ceremonial.
"For them, the Torchbearer’s Desire has become reality, for they have ‘passed undimmed, to others that light which
was given to them.’"
At the reunion day old campers enjoyed together singing the old song:
Remember the times you’ve had here
Remember when you’re away.
Remember the friends you’ve made here
And don’t forget to come back some day.
Remember beside the campfire
Amid the hills so blue,
That you belong to Camp Namanu
And Namanu belongs to you.
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.