The biggest change of the ’80s was the continued introduction of boys to Camp
Namanu. In the summer of 1980, third-grade boys were again offered two weeks at camp. As the decade progressed,
more sessions were opened up to male campers each year, and the age range expanded; until the summer of 1988 when
the camp was fully integrated. The number of male staff members also increased yearly.
The summer season of 1980 was nine weeks long, with an average of 240 campers attending each week. Registered Camp
Fire Girls and Boys made up 69% of the camper population.
The Nature House has always been an enjoyable place for campers to visit. The program of nature education at Camp
Namanu has traditionally included both scheduled activities for kids and informal displays of plants and animals.
Over the years, many campers have aspired to win the Woodsy Wizard Honor. Each day the Nature counselor puts out a
sample plant and campers can come in and try to identify it. They write their answer on a slip of paper and put it
in a No.10 can and if they are correct four out of five days, the award is theirs. Vaune "Hooper" Kemp, a Nature
counselor in the early ’80s recalls:
"I had put a piece of Oregon Grape or something on the table next to the can. Apparently sometime during the day
the Ranchers were coming down the trail to main camp and on the path one of the girls found a dead bird. For some
reason they brought it to the Nature House and left it on the table. Later I ran through and grabbed the can and
went off to Spruce to tally the answers. I started pulling out little slips of paper and they all said Cedar
Waxwing! And I said, "What the heck?" I went down and checked and sure enough on the edge of the table there was a
dead Cedar Waxwing. So I had to give them credit!
"Another time I had a family of orphaned baby ducks living in the little pond in the Nature House. There is a
drainpipe coming up in the middle of it for the water to recirculate, and someone had taken the screen off of it.
All these kids were gathered around watching the ducklings and suddenly one little ducky got slurp... sucked into
it. The kids all yelled, ‘Hooper, help, Hooper!’ I ran over and pulled on the ducky and pop, out he came with all
of his little head feathers sticking straight up!"
Karen House continued as Camp Director through the summer of 1982. She says of her time there:
"I think I did some positive things. I had a good time and have lots of good memories."
In the spring of 1983, Lesley "B’Gosh" Thompson was hired as Director of Camping. Lesley had grown up in Camp Fire
and had attended Camp Hiwela in Wild Rose, Wisconsin, as a child. She was on staff there for five years, two of
those as Camp Director. Lesley attended the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh and received a bachelor of business
administration in December of 1981. She had heard about the position at Namanu from a National Camp Fire staff
member who was visiting in Wisconsin.
The camp brochure for 1983 announced a new program--family camping. It states:
"Bring the whole family and enjoy the fun of the outdoors at beautiful Camp Namanu during the week of August 21
through August 27. There will be swimming in the solar-heated pool, meals served in Raker Lodge, trails waiting to
be explored and new friends to meet. What a wonderful way to spend the end of summer before the hectic ‘back to
school’ rush. For registration call the Camp Fire office as soon as possible. Family camping fills up fast!"
Family camping did fill up fast and soon another week was added. Many old Namanu campers were thrilled to have a
chance to come back to camp again:
"One day The Sunday Oregonian had an article on summer camps. I thought, ‘I’ll just look at the part about
Namanu.’ I consider this to be one of the luckiest days of my life. Besides the list of all the regular sessions I
expected, it also said that there was going to be a Family Camp. I was thrilled, then right away discouraged. I
knew it couldn’t be the Namanu I remembered and that I didn’t just want to go to the place, I also wanted the
experience. I called the Camp Fire office and when I got off the phone I was really hopeful. Each family got its
own cabin. The counselors would be there. There would be meals and singing in the dining hall. There would be
group time for children to attend, or not, as families chose. There would be guided hikes, but they were optional.
In fact, everything would be there, but was optional.
"We went, had a great time, and have been attending ever since. Lots of the families come back year after year.
Some we have come to know over the years. The first year the dining hall was filled with high chairs and crying
babies. Every year we all got a little older. Some parents were grown up Namanu girls like me. Some were Camp Fire
leaders. Some just came. Some parents set up their lawn chairs in the meadow and visited and read all week, some
met in Raker and beaded, some went on every hike and to every activity. Over the years the big kids dropped off or
became CITs but the moms and the younger kids kept coming. For our family it has been a wonderful thing!"
-Pam Hembree Bierly
Pam’s son, James, recalls his adventures at Family Camp:
"These are some of the great activities that I remember from camp: Swimming--I loved swimming and somewhere there
is a dent in the bottom of the pool where I swam under water and chipped my tooth on the bottom. Tie dying--we
tried it every year. We got great patterns and designs. We went home and washed them, and had pink mottled shirts
for the rest of the year. But we went back and did it again. It was the doing it that was the fun part. But we
still always hoped. Duck pond--what is there to say about the duck pond? A place that speaks for itself. It is the
focal point of my camp experience. I spent many happy hours on or beside the pond. Weaving--we had to wait until
we were older for weaving. I made a little mat for my grandmother. I even gave up swimming to keep on weaving.
Counselors--what wonders they performed, in my eyes! Always looking out for the little guy, making us kind of
outcast kids feel like we had someone who cared, and generally being a happy and cheerful bunch!
"Family Talent Night--oh, the hilarity and joy of talent night! It’s the one thing I’ve never missed, and it’s
worth it. We start planning this weeks ahead, maybe even months. We’ve done skits, plays, poems, songs and
listened to hundreds of Stretche’s bad jokes (I really miss her). At Family Camp was where I learned that I was
good at writing songs to old tunes that tell about our fun times at camp. I’m sending you my favorite one ever,
that I wrote when I was thinking about all the campers who ever went to Namanu. Camp is the one place I feel like
I’m OK and that everything’s right with the world. I will always love Namanu."
Somewhere over Namanu, way up high
Stands the Guardian Fir Tree
Waving a lullaby.
Somewhere over Namanu, on a hill
Lives the dreams of our childhoods
And we have found them still.
I wonder as I nightly walk
If Namanu could only talk
What spells would bind me.
When all along the woodland trails
The air is thick with songs and tales
Of bygone campers.
Somewhere over Namanu, time stands still.
And we sing that we love it
And that we always will.
The 1985 brochure describes camp:
"Camp Namanu, tucked in the gently rolling hills and valleys of the lower slopes of the Cascade Mountains, offers a
multitude of camping opportunities for all girls who will be in the second to twelfth grades this coming fall, and
boys entering the second through sixth grades.
"If you listen carefully, as you walk the tree-lined trails or play in the meadow, you’ll hear the waters of the Sandy
River, as it winds its way past camp.
"The warm glow and soft crackle of campfires light the evenings as choruses of young voices fill the still summer
air. The rustic cabins and lodges, the swimming pool, boating on the pond, the fir needle laden trails are all at
Camp Namanu, all waiting for you!"
In 1985, one week of camp cost $85.50 in main camp and $118.50 at Ranch. Mini sessions, three-day weeks for the
youngest campers, cost $56.00. The camping season was nine weeks long and approximately 45% of the campers were
Camp Fire members.
Lesley Thompson, Camp Director, says of her years at Camp Namanu:
"I guess my favorite parts were the traditions and the love that so many people had for camp. Wonderful volunteers
and staff sacrificed many things so that kids could have positive experiences in the summer and during group
"Of course I loved the kids. You can’t beat seeing and hearing happy and safe kids at play. The phrase at camp
that we kept saying, ‘kids come first at Camp Namanu,’ was not just a slogan but a way of life."
Due to falling enrollment, Camp Kwoneesum, Portland Camp Fire’s other resident camp outside of Washougal,
Washington, was closed after the summer of 1986.The sailboats and canoes were returned to the warehouse at Camp
Namanu. It was suggested that a water sports program be tried at Namanu, and so the 1987 season offered two weeks
of sailing and canoeing to Balagan girls. Each morning the boats and the girls were driven to Roslyn Lake, about a
mile up the road toward Sandy from camp. They spent their days learning to sail and to handle a canoe. They also
swam, braided friendship bracelets and sat in the sun and talked when the winds died.
"Learn to captain your own sailboat and learn the proper techniques of canoeing all in the same week! This program
will take place at Roslyn Lake, which is only minutes from Namanu. You will stay in a Balagan treehouse and do
many special things at camp when you are not sailing or canoeing. Qualified instructors will teach you sailing and
canoeing. Sign up now, so you can take place in the first-annual Camp Namanu sailing regatta!"
In the late afternoon, campers and boats were driven back to camp so the girls could participate in many regular camp
activities in the evenings.
"I was on staff at Namanu, for the second time, from 1987 to 1991. It was great to be back again. I loved teaching
the Balagan campers to sail when there was wind, and swimming and playing around, or having canoe-gunnelling races
when it was calm.
"Many of my favorite memories involve singing. On Friday nights after Council Fire the Okihis (helping hands)
would serenade all over camp. Songs like ‘Have you all Seen the Eagle,’ ‘I Shall Arise,’ and the ‘Swing
Low’--‘Saints’--‘Dominique’ round we sang over and over as we traveled through the cabin areas. It was like
putting your kids to bed, but you’ve got 250 of them.
"I also loved sitting by the fire in the meadow and doing skits and stories and songs during Family Camp. As the
evening turned to night, younger children and parents would drift off to their cabins for bed, but others would
stay and sing and talk late into the night. At times like these it was easy for me to look just beyond the
firelight and see the benign ghosts of all the Namanu campers that had gone before me and had sat around fires
with their friends singing and laughing..."
-Nancy Nord King
Many of the cabins in the units were aging, and so throughout the ’80s cabins were torn down and replaced or new
cabins built to increase the camp’s capacity. The chief designer and builder was Ed Swanda. Sometimes working with
others on official work weekends, but more often by himself, Ed has quietly and skillfully built at least fifteen
cabins and 100 bunkbeds at Camp Namanu. The Pioneer cabin, Wild Ed, is named in his honor.
Cabins and lodges at camp had a variety of different sign genre, from the stapled-stick to the tempera paint type.
In the late ’80s a project was begun to resign all the buildings. Led by Jerry and Nancy King, Molly Prehn and
Lesley Thompson, redwood signs were routered, painted, dipped and affixed to each cabin.
From the beginning of Namanu time, a large, smooth, round rock has sat beside the Gypsy Trail just beyond the edge
of the meadow. Early campers passed this rock every day on their way to and back from swimming in the Sandy River.
It came to be known as Wishing Rock. By the 1980s, the rules were as follows: Close your eyes, put one hand on the
rock and walk around it three times. Then sit down on it and make a wish for Camp Namanu. This is a favorite
activity of many campers at Namanu, as witnessed by the groove worn around the base of the rock by decades of
Around this time the swimming pool was retiled around the edges and the bottom was resurfaced, saving the soles of
many campers. Also, the large tiled Namanu symbol was placed in the shallow area.
Karen Maunu, a camper in the late ’80s, wrote home saying:
Lesley Thompson’s favorite dreamcake poem for the ’80s was:
When the day is dark and dreary
And your way is hard to find,
Don’t let your thoughts grow weary
Just keep this thought in mind.
It is better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark.
Better far that you light one little candle
All you need is a tiny spark.
If we’d all say a prayer
That the world would be free,
A wonderful dawn
Of a new day we’d see.
And if everyone lit just one little candle
What a bright world this would be.
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.