Camp Namanu entered the 1950s on an upward swing in both attendance and popularity.
In the summer of 1950, 1,505 different girls attended camp; all but 50 of them were members of Camp Fire. In the
off-season, nearly 1,000 girls and their leaders attended weekend campouts at Namanu. The session fee for one week
was still $13.50, with $1.27 for round trip bus fare. Buses left from the Masonic Temple in downtown Portland.
|Camp Fire Girls board the Sammy at NE 39th and Glisan in Portland|
The 1950 brochure asks the question, "What Do We Do?"
It also states:
"Nondenominational church services are held Sundays at Namanu and evening services on Thursdays. Arrangements are
made for Catholic girls to attend Mass."
Sometime in the early 1950s a ceremony was introduced, dream cake, that quickly became a Camp Namanu tradition. At
the end of the banquet, after Forest Echoes, small pieces of white cake with candles were passed to everyone in
Raker Lodge. The candles were lit and the lights turned out. Someone would read a poem and then everyone sang a
song together. Campers made a wish for Camp Namanu and blew out their candle. This tradition was a poignant and
fitting close to banquet. A popular poem was:
When darkness gathers dismally ’bout
Then must I have candles I can light.
The candle of my faith unwavering, bright,
To banish every evil spell of doubt.
The candle of courageousness to rout
Weakness and shrinking, shallowness and fright.
And also the candle of my love to smite
All hate and selfishness and drive them out.
Nor would I be equipped without a small candle
Of laughter to combat my tears;
And one of song for lighting every minute.
I shall not mind the darkness so
With all these lovely flames
Like beacons through the years
Darkness is lovely with all these candles in it.
Over the years Raker Lodge, the oldest building in Camp Namanu, had become too small and out-dated. Pat Welch, in
the 1951 KP report, said:
"'KP, KP in our lodge so nice' - this is the cheerful song two thousand Namanu campers have sung as they willingly
served on KP during their week’s stay at camp. Raker Lodge, the dining hall, is in the center of camp. Even though
it is old and we hope to have a new one next year, Raker is loved by every Namanu camper because of the gay times
spent there during meals. In the lodge are eighteen tables and because of the many campers, three tables are out
on the side porch. Twice during the summer each of the twenty-one tables held thirteen girls. In the new lodge we
hope there will be room for every camper to have a little elbow room, which is lacking now."
Many campers and former campers were sad to see Raker Lodge torn down. Twenty-seven years of happy memories
permeated the aging rafters.
Construction on the new dining hall was begun in early 1952 on the same site as the old lodge. It was completed by
the beginning of the summer and dedicated on June 22, at the annual family day picnic. The Oregonian announces the
opening of the camping season:
"Camp Namanu, Camp Fire Girls’ summer camp on the Sandy River, will roll out the welcome mat Sunday for 190 girls,
according to Miss Dorothy M. Preuss, Executive Director for the Portland Council.
"Raker Lodge, the new dining hall built this spring, will offer many surprises for the hundreds of campers already
registered for the eight sessions of the 1952 season. An automatic dishwasher, shiny stainless steel-equipped
kitchens, serving dollies, knotty pine tables and two large fireplaces are among the special features of the new
"Buses will leave for camp on a different day and from a new location this year. They will leave Sunday at 2 PM
from Holladay Park at NE Thirteenth and Multnomah, and will return Saturday at 4 PM to Holladay Park."
During the first week of camp, a group of counselors noticed that something was missing in the new Raker Lodge. An
old bottle of Worcestershire Sauce, home of Gertrude, had held residence in the rafters of the old lodge. Gertrude
was a fairy whose job it was to watch campers eating and strike with a stomach ache those who ate too fast or too
much. Apparently, Gertrude’s bottle had been lost in the demolition of Raker Lodge.
"I think it might have been during pre-camp training or the first week of camp, two or three of us went up toward
the mountain to go to dinner one night. Of course you always had steak if you went to dinner and you were a camp
counselor. When we were through, we ‘requisitioned’ the bottle of Worcestershire Sauce that was on our table. We
took it up to the counter and asked them how much they wanted for it! They said, ‘Take it away, it’s alright, just
"So we had a ceremony at the next banquet and installed Gertrude. Of course, there were no rafters in the new
building, and so we had to hang her from a light fixture."
At the end of that summer, Blue Wing staff had a special surprise for Camp Namanu:
"The last night arrived. We all gathered around our evening fire in Blue Wing Lodge for the unveiling of a mural
of Winnie the Pooh painted by the Blue Wing counselors during the summer as a gift and token of affection to all
the Blue Birds that came to camp this season and as a greeting to all who come in the years to follow."
-Thelma Vandervlugt, Blue Wing Unit Report
In the early spring of 1953, Camp Fire Girls hired Miss Virginia Denton as Director of Camping. She had served
ably as Assistant Director the previous summer and brought her skill and enthusiasm to the new position.
At the first banquet of the summer, Joan Hartke, toastmistress, kicked off Camp Namanu’s thirtieth birthday
"A house without a family is only a building, but a house with its family becomes a home - and so Camp Namanu
welcomes you, its family, on its thirtieth birthday of being a home to hundreds of campers.
"We of the first session have laid the foundation for those who will enjoy camping during this summer. We have
worn down the paths, warmed up Raker’s benches, and taken the chill off the swimming hole - so a hearty welcome
to all of you."
An exciting development this summer was the launching of a new Counselor-in-Training program. This was advertised
to be a "practical training course for future Camp Fire camp counselors" and was open to girls who had completed
their junior or senior year in high school. It was planned as a two-year course with four weeks of training each
summer. Two early CITs describe their experiences:
"Pat Evans was our director. The very first day she sat us down and went through the whole history of camp--that
was where she started. Our counselor kept us going from morning to night in sessions and after dinner we would
end up in Uncle Toby’s for more. We sat out in the meadow when the weather was good, on our sit-upons. Miss Pat
was from the East Coast, with very eastern habits and ideas--serviettes instead of napkins and she carried an
umbrella across the meadow. We thought she was really quite an oddity. In later years we really appreciated the
sessions we had, but at the time we thought we were really being worked hard."
-Teddy Tethrow and Lynn McCracken
The CITs went on a Sammy trip that summer to Phlox Point:
"At that time overnights did not include tents, so we went out and just spread our sleeping bags on tarps on the
ground. During the day Wanda and I had put our sleeping bags out in the sun in the afternoon and so that night we
were sleeping a little away from the others. During the night a bear came and decided to try to pull our tarp
away. We joined the others really fast! We did find the tarp down over the bank the next day, I remember that."
The CITs lived in tents at the western edge of the meadow. They worked on all the skills they would need as
counselors, including leading morning sing, planning Cathedral and Council Fire, and learning outdoor cookery.
"My favorite part was that we cooked a lot. We had to learn to emu and every other kind of cooking that the kids
did. For our graduation we got to pick what we wanted to do and so we planked salmon. It was superb!"
"We wore whites for banquet like the counselors. We also got to foot or head tables if there weren’t enough
counselors. That was a big deal at the time! We could start songs. We also poured coffee, and we had to pour Miss
Ginny's first, that was the tradition. The highlight of CIT training was getting our staff ties at graduation.
"Our CIT group chose the song ‘The Angels Are Lighting’ as our night song. Miss Pat loved poetry and she
introduced the idea of a Magic Ring [a small notebook of songs and poems] to Camp Namanu. That was a big thing
with our group."
1953 was the last summer of the Camp Namanu Post Office. The address was changed to Camp Namanu, Sandy, Oregon.
The 1954 camp brochure announced one of the biggest changes in Camp Namanu’s history:
"A swimming pool at Namanu has long been our cherished dream. This year, that dream will come true.
"The pool, which will be completed by the opening of the camping season, will be regulation length. On either
side are wings providing large areas of shallow water for beginners."
The beautiful new 165,000-gallon pool, advertised as one of the largest outdoor pools in the state, meant that
girls would no longer walk down the Gypsy Trail to swim in the chilly Sandy. Water for the pool was supplied by a
new water line from up Walker Creek.
In spite of the very wet weather that summer, the pool was quite a popular place, particularly for night swims
when the underwater lights were turned on.
In 1955, the units at camp were restructured so that Kiwanis was a 7th grade unit, leaving Robin Hill exclusively
to 6th graders. In order to keep up with the space demand, a new unit, Tepee, was developed and opened:
"The Tepee Unit with real Indian Tepees and an outdoor fireplace will be ready this summer for girls who will be
in the 8th grade in September. Girls of this age may register for either Pioneer or the Tepee Unit."
-Camp Brochure, 1955
Four tepees were clustered around a central area with room for twelve campers and two counselors.
"Some of the unique program activities carried out successfully in the Tepee Unit were making a Navajo loom and
weaving straw sit-upons, making fishing poles and then taking fishing trips, learning native dances, and having a
bean hole. In addition, the Tepee Unit program included improving this new unit with lashing and making a fire
-Nancy Hooper, Tepee Unit Head
The small size and unique theme of the unit helped to engender its popularity.
"Tepee was a great place to be and we had some really good kids up there. There were only twelve kids, which was
neat because you really got to know them. Sleeping in the tepees was really the coolest. One evening a week we
would let the campers start their own little fires in the tepees. You just made sure the flap was open and the
smoke would go straight up. It was hard to get them started so the counselor in charge usually ended up helping
everyone. They had to be kept small, obviously, for safety reasons, but the kids thought it was just too cool."
-Nancy Weigel Jaureguy
Mr. Harry Prideaux, Chairman of the Namanu Committee, was at a meeting when he noticed a medallion worn by a staff
member. The counselor was Mary Lou Pierson and she wore a necklace given to her when she worked at Camp
Sweyolaken, Spokane Camp Fire’s summer camp. Mr. Prideaux felt that Namanu needed its own medallion, and so Jean
Brownell, who was on the Camping Committee, created the Namanu symbolgram. The trees represent the three Wohelo
trees, the wavy line is the Sandy River and the other symbol represents the five-toed beaver. At the end of the
summer, Miss Ginny received a ring with the new symbol engraved on it and the counselors received a medallion on a
In the 1950s nearly every camper was also a Camp Fire Girl and so ceremonials continued to be an important part of
each week. At least once during every session, a ceremonial Council Fire was held. Younger girls dressed in their
Camp Fire uniforms and older girls in their ceremonial gowns and beaded headbands. The entire camp walked in
procession to where the North Fork Trail branched off of the camp road. The call of Wohelo would come through the
woods and the assembled campers would answer in kind. The drums would begin and the girls would sing "Kahinto
Kamya" as they walked up the trail and circled the Council Fire ring. Council Fire usually included a candle
"I light the light of Work. We glorify work because through work we are free. Wohelo means Work.
"I light the light of Health. We hold on to health because through health we serve and are happy. Wohelo means Health.
"I light the light of Love. Love is the joy of service so deep that self is forgotten. Wohelo means Love."
Each unit sang songs and honors were given out. Often girls would receive their Torchbearer candles at Council
Fire. At the close of the evening the candles would be extinguished and the girls would stand and form a
friendship circle and sing "The Call of the Fire." Then the notes of the bugle playing "Taps" would ring through
the darkness and the campers would leave singing quietly:
Now our campfire fadeth,
Now the flame burns low.
Now all Camp Fire maidens
To slumberland must go.
May the peace of the lapping water,
The peace of the still starlight,
The peace of the firelit forest,
Be with us through the night.
The peace of the firelit faces,
Be with us through the night.
By the summer of 1957, the camp fee had risen to $17.00 plus $1.35 bus fare and 50 cents for the physical
inspection clinic. Everything included for only $18.85! The Ranch fee was $27.00 per week, and the CIT program
was $21.00 for the first four weeks and $46.00 for the second four weeks. Registration was by mail only and girls
were no longer required to wear a uniform at camp.
By the beginning of July the Star House was completed. This structure was built in honor of Elaine Gorham, former
Camp Director, who had died suddenly in 1956. The Star House was equipped with a 2.4 unitron telescope so that
campers could study the heavens far away from city lights. Woodcarvings of the signs of the Zodiac, donated by
Lawrence Espinosa, decorated the outside of the structure. A dedication ceremony was held after dark on Tuesday,
July 2, with Espinosa’s granddaughter, Aleta Loftis, cutting the ribbon. Star-gazing sessions were very popular
all summer with campers in Tepee, Pioneer and Balagan.
In addition to the counselors and unit directors, Camp Namanu has been blessed with many talented and dedicated
support staff members. These include craft directors, kitchen staff and caretakers. In the late 1950s the Camp
Namanu caretaker was Dwight Tangeman. Nancy Weigel Jaureguy, a camper at that time, remembers Dwight:
"He was so great and everybody just loved him because he was so good-natured. I was a Rancher when he was there
and we thought he was so cool. He would take us all up to the Ranch in the Sammy ruck and in those days it wasn’t
paved all the way up. We would go up the road the first night after dark, and if the moon was right it was almost
like daylight and you could look out and see all the deer grazing in the pastures up there. There was that one
steep corner half way up and we’d be in the back of the Sammy and every time he would try to make it. But it was
just too steep to get around it and so he would have to stop and back up and then go on up. And we’d be singing
our heads off all the way up."
For years, all the paperwork that needed to be done at camp was done either on the floor in Glad House, or among
the noise and clutter of Guardians. As time went by, the need for an administration building became more and more
apparent, and so this announcement came in the spring of 1958:
"Brooks Manchester, Chairman of Camp Fire Girls’ Namanu committee, announces construction has begun on a new
administration building for Namanu, their resident camp east of Portland on the Sandy River.
"Harold Boone, an architect, designed the rustic building which will be approximately 20' x 36' and will provide
office area, a small conference room, a guest room and bathroom facilities. The office quarters will include a
fireplace and shelf space for a library."
The building, built at the Crossroads near Raker Lodge, was ready for the summer season and was named Spruce
Lodge. Later on it was realized that there were no spruce trees growing at Camp Namanu, so Ginny Denton planted
one across the road up Robin Hill from the new building.
As the decade came to a close, Miss Ginny’s consistent leadership was a great benefit to the staff and thus to the
campers of Camp Namanu. In 1959, more than 50% of the counselors were returning staff, including most of the Unit
Directors and support staff. Camper attendance was at an all-time high of over 2,000 different girls that summer.
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.