A BRIEF HISTORY OF PORTLAND CAMP FIRE
1921 - - 1945
Written in recognition and tribute to the leaders and friends of Camp Fire - those fine men and women whose vision,
talents and purpose through the years have made the Wohelo program available to the host of Portland Camp Fire girls.
The following is a transcription of “A BRIEF HISTORY OF PORTLAND CAMP FIRE 1921- - 1945” which was written by
Marguerite Norris Davis in April 1948. The original document is 32 pages long and is typewritten and bound
with a black tasseled cord into a 12” x 10 ½” red vinyl photo album. Although the title indicates the ending
date as 1945, the final 5 pages cover the period 1946 to 1951. These pages were obviously added later and
might have had a different author. The original was found stored in the basement of the Portland Council of
Camp Fire’s headquarters at 619 SW 11th Ave. Portland, OR.
In the margin of the original there are many pencil-handwritten notes and corrections possibly made by Virginia
Denton, Exec. Dir. during the 1960s, 70s & 80s. These notes are footnoted and cited as MN (margin notes).
Although no factual or grammatical errors were corrected by this transcription a few obvious typographical errors
were corrected. When obvious factual errors were recognized by my wife, Nancy King, or myself they were
footnoted and cited as GBK (Gerald B. King).
Portland's Camp Fire history began in March, 1913, just one year after the National Association had been incorporated.
Largely due to the initiative of Miss Jessie Millard of the Portland Library, the girls in Mrs. Ralph W. Wilbur's
study club decided to enter upon the new program of Work, Health and Love, and in May of that year began their Camp
Fire experience, organizing as the Minnehaha group. There were thirteen members, eight of whom were still part of
the group when they disbanded as the girls separated to go to college.
Since there are no records of those early days, the names of but few of the pioneer workers are available, but we do
know of Mrs. George Marsh, Mrs. Louis Gerlinger and the Misses Helen Gillespie, Jessie Nottingham, Laura Cleland
and Aileen Brong as having been active Guardians. The groups had their projects, their regular meetings, their
ceremonials, and most wonderful of all, they had their camping sessions, usually choosing the location best fitted
to group needs.
In 1914 Miss Ethel Mitchell, executive secretary of the Y. W. C.A.1 and first president of the Guardians' Association,
established the first joint camp at Riveria, on city property. Others were at New Era, Gearhart, Lake Oswego,
Dunthorpe and other (at the time) isolated areas where the girls might with impunity wear the voluminous middies,
long black stockings, sturdy shoes and heavy bloomers that “bagged behind. . . before”, and have a program of
handcraft, setting-up exercises, swimming (in suits with skirts), nature lore, etc. Old pictures show the
“long hairs" drying out after swimming, the ankle-length skirts of the girls and full-length ones of the adults.
At that time, twelve was the entrance age for Camp Fire girls, so many of them were teen-agers, and ankle-length
skirts a “must”.
By 1921, the Camp Fire movement had gone forward so rapidly that the need of some closer organization was felt,
and Mrs. Elizabeth White, an active worker who later became the first paid executive, organized the Portland council,
with Mrs. Reade Ireland as president and Mayor George L. Baker as honorary president. Mrs. Wilbur was
vice-president.2 Because the council was not organized in time to get into the Community Chest, Camp Fire
was allowed to solicit funds, and $4000.00 was raised from friends for the year’s work. Later Mrs. White
secured recognition from the Chest and enlisted the patronage of the Kiwanis Club. The interest and support
of the Kiwanians have continued and grown through the years. Space on the 6th floor of Meier & Frank’s store
was secured and “Po-he-qua” (Portland Headquarters) was established.
Besides weekend camping, Camp Fire had a three-weeks' camp on a tract of land lent by Franklin Griffith of
the Portland Railway, Light & Power Company, on the Clackamas River near Carver, eighteen miles from Portland.
The fee was $6.00 per week for Camp Fire girls; $7.00 for non-members. One hundred twenty-five girls
registered during the period, fifty-seven camping the first session of one week. They were housed in seventeen
tents lent by the National Guard and used benches sent out by the city park. There was swimming in the nearby
pool of Mrs. C. S. Jackson. Pottery and basket-making were popular handcraft projects, and stunt nights around
the fire were popular then as now. Mrs. Wilbur named the camp “Namanu", for Beaver.
The first big celebration of Camp Fire under the council was a ceremonial held at Reed College in August, 1921,
when 200 girls and leaders took part. In October, a money-making project (for the purpose of raising funds
“for a permanent home”) took the form of a program, which included a Grand Council Fire. Groups undertook
the filling and distributing of Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for the needy, a custom which happily still
Camp Fire was spreading to adjacent communities, and groups in Camas, Oregon City, Vancouver and Corbett were
placed under our council. One very active Chinese group was organized3 in Portland and for many years we had
several of these.
A white satin ribbon attests to Camp Fire's float and marching group entries in the Grand Floral Parade of the
Rose Festival winning third prize in 1922. Grand Council Fire was held in the James John High School gymnasium.
Camp that summer was extended another week, with 305 girls in attendance, including some Bluebirds. A bus
supplanted the private-car transportation of previous years. In September Miss Edith Kempthorne of the
National Camp Fire Executive staff arrived to conduct a training course for Portland leaders at the camp site.
With the formal organization of the Guardians' Association in October, the Portland papers began to devote regular
news columns to details of Camp Fire activities and for some years items of interest about the different groups
appeared regularly. Mrs. Marie Taylor was first4 president of the Guardians’ Association as now organized, and
met with the leaders in the evening at the Portland Library. Membership in Portland Camp Fire that year was 720,
with Stevenson, Ridgefield, Forest Grove, Milwaukie, Longview and other nearby towns included. 1922 was the
year when Camp Fire girls made over 300 big black "Puss in Boots" from oilcloth for the children's institutions.
Camp Fire made headlines early in January of 1923, when the Indian princess Tsianana, the singer, was formally
made a Camp Fire girl at an elaborate ceremonial held in Lincoln High School. (Galli Curci, Frieda Hempel and
Pavlova had previously been so honored in other parts of the country.) About this time a super-paper-drive was
taking place for camp funds and W. S. Raker ("Daddy” Raker) was meeting with his committee to discuss the
possibilities of a permanent camp site. On this committee were Mrs. Theodore Harper, Mrs. Wilbur and Miss Millard.
At the Big Rally celebrating Birthday Week, 400 girls took part. It was held at Lincoln High School, and
photographs show the girls in gymnasium togs of puffy bloomers, long stockings and tight middies doing athletics
stunts in the park blocks in front of the building. Another big event was the field meet, with competitive stunts
between groups, held in May.
On June 17th a camp site was selected at Eagle Creek, with high hopes that it would answer the propose of a
permanent camp. Kiwanis members gave unreservedly of their time and strength in erecting tents, building a
cook cabin and dining hall and damming up a place for a swimming pool, etc. June 19th, the second Camp Namanu
opened for four weeks, with “each Sunday a visiting day” (against Daddy Raker's vigorous protests, which he
continued to give as long as he lived).
One hundred twenty girls left for the first session, "clad in khaki", with almost that many registered for each
of the following weeks.
In September5 Miss Aethel6 Moore took over as executive; Mrs. Ralph Wilbur was made Council president on the
resignation of Mrs. E. A. Mitchell; Mrs. Geo. L. Boynton succeeded Mrs. Goldie Peterson7 as Guardians' chairman;
the Association's constitution was approved; the camp committee again began to look around for a "permanent
The Umatilla Camp Fire group (Pendleton) and those at Tobias, Gresham, Aurora, St. Helens, Kelso, La Grande,
Eagle Creek, Garden Home, Willamina, Hood River, McMinnville and Prineville reported their activities to us,
as did Grants Pass. Imagine an executive with all this supervision and the contacts to make with her council
and Guardians' Association, as well as the various committees and teaching handcraft, working in the field
and leading training courses!
By 1924 Camp Fire girls were having regular meetings to practice8 part-singing, and this continued for several
years, so that singing was an important and thoroughly enjoyed part of every public gathering. Birthday Week
this year saw three of these, with a “Kid and Stunt" party at Couch School one day, basket social and games
program the following one. The Grand Council Fire had been held early in the same week, at the Women's Building.
It was an afternoon affair.
The Ralph Hoyt home at Everglade was opened to the girls for weekend camping that summer and many hiking parties
led by Mrs. J. Neilsen Barry and others were enjoyed. Four hundred girls enjoyed a four-week camp session at
the current Camp Namanu located this time on the Sandy River, near Dodge Park – the "Camp Namanu on the Sandy"
of which the girls still sing. . . .the Camp Namanu to which the boats and canoes the girls had earned and other
camp equipment had been brought from the former location. (A disturbing flood had proved that the Eagle Creek
site was not suitable.)9
Mr. S. B. Cobb and his associates donated 125 acres of beautiful forest and meadow to Portland Camp Fire girls
in this year. The old farm house was used as a kitchen, with a shelter in front of it which was used as a
dining-hall. Seventeen National Guard tents were put up in the meadow and fairly primitive camping was enjoyed
by the girls and their councilors, many of whom were Guardians.
Mentioned in the news columns of 1925 were Walla Walla, Centralia, Grays River, Canby and many little places
which had groups and it was estimated that there was "a membership of between 1200 and 1500 in this district".
Miss Karen Degermark10, 11 came on as executive in January of this year; Mrs. Mary Thomas was president of the
Council; Mrs. Otto Wiedemeyer, president of the Guardians' Association. Grand Council Fire during Birthday
Week was attended by 800 girls and leaders; it was held at Franklin High School. Announced at the time was
the national membership of 160,000, every state of the union and in twenty-two different countries.
In March the first of our doughnut12 sales took place, with 9000 dozen being sold for the purpose of "erecting
a brick clubhouse", later interpreted in terms of needed building for the girls at Namanu.
Camp Namanu, now covering 160 acres, was opened for the first of its national training courses that summer,
with thirty leaders and national staff on the scene. Camp sessions were extended to six weeks, with seventy-five
girls each session and twenty-five on the staff of councilors and helpers. The carpenters' union helped build
the "club house", Raker Lodge, for which much of the lumber had been donated. It was named for W. S. Raker,
ornithologist and nature lover, who gave every free waking hour, from 1924 until his death, to Camp Fire.
Cabins on Robin Hill were erected.
The interest of Theodore A. Harper, engineer and author, had been thoroughly aroused in Camp Fire, and it was
now becoming an increasingly familiar picture to see him seated in the meadow or beside an evening fire,
telling stories as he rested from his work with the camp committee. One of the most popular of the camp
councilors was Miss Gladys Snyder, who took on the duties of executive in September, with Miss Florence Craven
as her assistant.
Interesting sidelights of the year are the Harper plays during Book Week, the Masquerade Skating Party, the
special Scholarship honor, repeating the girls' service in staffing the Christmas seal booths and caroling
for shut-ins. We find the first mention of the annual Christmas Ceremonial for Guardians and Bluebird Leaders
at Westminster Presbyterian Church, with Mrs. W. S Henderson, chairman of the Guardians' Ass'n, conducting.
Not many of the present leaders remember when "black sailor ties” were required13 as part of the Camp Fire
service costume, but instructions to girls in 1926 so read. In February of that year the second of the All-City
Swim meets was held; the Bluebird Leaders organized, approved their constitution and elected Mrs. J. F. Rusit,
chairman. In March the annual Parent - Daughter dinner was held at the Elks' Temple, with prizes for the
best-decorated tables. That spring, also, Mrs. Wilbur presented a block of seats to Camp Fire girls in order
that they might attend the Symphony. Grand Council Fire was attended by groups from "within a radius of fifty
miles from Portland". Among the projects was one in which girls donated "windows for the Lodge", Mrs. Barry's
girls being first with their $5.00 to pay for one of the windows. A local business college gave a scholarship
of $125.00 to the Camp Fire girl writing the best essay on "Why Being Trustworthy is the Keynote of the Camp
Fire Law as a Preparation for Business Life". The final meeting of the Guardians' Association was held as a
picnic at Namanu for the second time.
Camp Namanu opened on July 3rd, with four sessions, covering a period of six weeks. New features14 were a
shower house and laundry facilities; the water-front was ready for a complete swimming program; the corduroy
roads into camp were not quite as teeth-jarring as the previous year. Ninety girls were accommodated at each
session, with fourteen councilors in charge and Mr. and Mrs. Lance Smith having a prominent part in activities.
Girl government day was inaugurated, with the councilors surrendering ties and jobs to the girls for one day.
The trip on the river-boat Swan, an annual event, was made more thrilling because of the release of carrier
pigeons, with messages from the girls to important personages. This trip, usually with a "pirate" theme,
was an important September event. Mrs. L. T. Merwin was elected president of the Executive Board.
1927 was "Tree Planting Year". The popular swimming meet was held again (and for several years). Important
event for the Bluebirds was an Easter Egg Hunt. Grand Council Fire was held in Pythian Hall, with
eighty-seven groups participating. The annual Birthday Sunday services were held that year in Centenary
Wilbur Methodist Church.
Those days the Committee of Awards was called the WoHeLo Court. National membership in 1927 was 170,000.
By this time Uncle Toby had become well-known, not only as an author but as a speaker, and he was a splendid
public relations person for Camp Fire, as he gave his talks on our organization and on psychology, not only
for us but for many other meetings, in Portland and other cities. In April of 1927 his play "Murmuring Pines"
was put on by Camp Fire at Franklin High School. He was awarded the highest honor of Camp Fire - the national
Wohelo award. Mrs. Wilbur and Mr. Raker15 are the other two Portland people so honored.16
Mrs. Merwin was re-elected as president of the council. Lester Scott, national Camp Fire president again
visited Portland. Mrs. Edith Montgomery's group was the first in the city to receive the national Needlecraft
Guild honor. "Gypsy" Day at camp was again most successful. Mrs. Harry W. Sharp succeeded Mrs. Otto Wedemyer
as chairman of the Guardians' Association, taking office at the October meeting.
Summer day camp was very popular, members of the staff going to the different districts to conduct handcraft
classes and supervise projects. "The Museum"17 for Nature Lore was put in order at Camp Namanu and an outdoor
cookery area established.
Late in this year, the "Wohelo Court" became the Committee of Awards, and the pattern still in effect, of
having it held the first Saturday morning of each month, was set. "The Janitor's Cat" by Uncle Toby, was
put on over the radio, with high school girls in the cast. In connection with the current need for, careful
buying, a "Know Your Groceries” essay contest was held. The annual winter trip for high school girls had
added thrills when they were marooned in their bus, enroute from Mazama Lodge, due to falling trees during
a severe storm. In no danger, but some discomfort, they nevertheless made the headlines. The Guardians'
Christmas Council Fire was held at B'ni B'rith Center.
Lots of fun for 1928 Camp Fire girls, was the "Jinx" Skating party, on a Friday the 13th date, to which they
all wore weird costumes.
A feature of Birthday Week was the vested Choir, made up of girls who had won in the tryouts preceding that
Sunday. The Sunday Vespers were held at the First Presbyterian Church and were unusually outstanding due
to the girls' fine singing.18 The Grand Council Fire, held at the Masonic Temple, was broadcast over the
radio. Kiwanis began sponsorship of Grand Council.
Helping the Red Cross and the Needlework Guild19 were this year's major projects, with highlighting of 1st
Aid in exhibits. Groups raised funds for the Near East Relief - "to raise an orphan". Leaders had a banquet
at the First United Presbyterian Church, all being requested to "wear their uniform". Mrs. Wedemyer was
In April Bluebirds had their day and "The Enchanted Forest" was given, and in May a Mothers' Tea was held
at one of the churches, and the garments - more than 1000 for the Guild, which the girls had made, were
displayed, as were special Red Cross exhibits. In June, national training course was held at Namanu.
During "Blossom Time", one of the popular all-city hikes were held to Mrs. Lewthwaite's Farm. Girls
went on these hikes "rain or shine".
Sunday help at Camp Namanu became a regular thing, among other things being completion of the porch on the
Lodge.20 Much interest was shown in the four tree houses that Uncle Toby and some high school girls had
built the previous summer.
In our scrap book we have clippings showing many pictures taken at Camp that summer, and also some in our
collection of photographs that give us a good idea of what the girls were doing to make Namanu their very
own. Exchange campships with Seattle and Spokane were given and proved valuable experiences to the girls.
Four hundred fifty grammar school girls went on the annual "Pirate" trip, with the carrier pigeons again
feature attraction. The second fall tea for high school girls was held, this year with Mrs. Sharp.
Girls' glee clubs were formed, to furnish music for public functions. "The Janitor's Cat" and other
radio skits went over the air by Camp Fire girls.
Mrs: Eva Cresmer was president of the Guardians' Association and on November 17th of her term Articles of
Incorporation of the Portland Council of Camp Fire Girls were filed in Salem and published under the current
list of "Incorporations", with a capital stock of $10,000.00. The Articles were filed by Mrs. Otto Wedemyer,
Mrs. W. H. Thomas "and others".21
A "Benefit Bridge and 500" party was held at the Irvington Club House that fall, to raise money to furnish
two new units at Camp.
The 1929 Doughnut Drive was put on by 1500 girls, with a "campship for both girl and Guardian whose group
sold the most"! 9900 dozen doughnuts were sold. "Flowers and Plants" were featured in the Birthday project,
and many Old People's Homes, hospitals, etc. benefited. There was a Valentine costume party for Bluebirds,
held at the Irvington Club. An unusual touch was given to the grand Council Fire22, when the Bluebirds, in
flower costumes, were featured. A Camp Fire orchestra played and over 1000 girls participated and responded
by group roll-call. This was the first time the Ceremonial was held in the Armory, where the circle of girls
made a colorful picture as viewed by parents and friends in the balcony.
For the third year, the Cheskamay group won the cup at the swimming meet, held at the Portland Natatorium.
A three-day rummage sale on Third Street netted needed funds for sending leaders to national training course
out of the city. There was an active Torch Bearers' Club, engaged in taking a Red Cross 1st Aid course.
Mrs. Wedemyer, Council president and Mrs. Cremser, Guardians' president, were re-elected. A benefit Bridge
party was held for Camp funds, to be added to the proceeds from the doughnut sale, when 10,000 dozen were
sold and $900.00 was cleared.
Busy days were spent by Daddy Raker and the camp committee. With additional gift of land from Mr. Cobb and
the money from the doughnut drive spent for more land, the camp now comprised 240 acres. The boys from
Benson High' School spent two days working at the camp, under the supervision of Raker and Harper. Other
men who put in much time and labor were Mr. Otto Muhlig and Martin Luther, with Mr. John Meek and other
Kiwanians. Mr. Muhlig and Mr. Luther23 installed all the plumbing there and kept it in repair for several
Robin Hood's Barn, for the storing of craft materials24, was built, as was a unit for older girls, Kiwanis
Lodge. It was planned by Daddy Raker and built with funds provided by Mr. Cobb. Four cabins were built
in Sherwood Forest; a new flag pole and flag were dedicated; the "Green Cathedral" grounds were cleared
and first services held there.
Miss Snyder (for whom the "Glad" house was named) resigned in September, to study at Columbia. Miss Volena
Jenks came to the staff as executive.
The all-city hikes; Torch Bearers' Club; Pirate trip on the Swan for grammar school girls and Costume Skate
at the Oaks for high school girls; all city presidents' meetings continued for the girls. Leaders were
busy with their groups and money raising projects, such as rummage sale and benefit bridge parties.
Po-he-qua was moved to the l0th floor of Meier & Frank's, where it still houses our staff and our
Mrs. W. S. Henderson was president of the Board in 1930. The Blue Birds had a Mother Goose party at
the Irvington Clubhouse. Meier & Frank's auditorium was open to visitors to view the one-week exhibit
of Camp Fire work and activities. National membership reached 210,000 and the entrance age was lowered
to ten years.
Vesper Service opened Birthday Week, and was held at the First Congregational Church; the special
project for the year having been Indian Lore. Grand Council Fire was again held in the Armory.
The dinner was a Dad-Daughter affair, held at the United Presbyterian Church in May, with 180 present.
The Torch Bearers' Club took their Dads to Camp for a day and initiated them into Camp Fire lore and
the idea of helping at camp.
Weeks at Camp passed a1l too quickly again. In news items we first find mention of the last session's
"after taps" fun and the "good wish" (later "dream") boats.
A two-day "Pageant of the Seven Crafts"25 was held in the Municipal Auditorium in November, and was most
successful, both from attendance standpoint and for the interest it aroused in Camp Fire. It was
written by Uncle Toby and directed by Doris Smith. There were ninety booths, with prizes for the best.
Other towns in the district participated and over 2000 girls took part in programs and demonstrations.
A tea for Guardians was held in October, honoring the newly elected president of the Association,
Mrs. C. W. Ackerson.
Miss Louise Nunn was asked to be acting executive in March, 1931. At the time Portland was reported to
have the second largest registration within a thirty-mile area in the United states, 2019 members,
increased to 2435 by fall; 191 groups.
The Older Girls had a Larch Mountain trip that spring, with "Miss Mill" (Mildred Erickson) in charge.
The Alice Wilbur cottage, so named in honor of Portland's first Guardian, was built this year, for the
use of Guardians. It made available another unit for weekend winter camping, which was proving so popular.
Mrs. Henderson was re-elected president of the Council and Mrs. Ackerson re-elected president of the
A news item announced the organization of the Argonauts26 - Torch Bearers' group, "to act as a service
organization to assist younger Camp Fire groups to do special service work for the community".
1932 - At a Campbell Court luncheon of Council members (thirty-five present) in November, Ben Hazen presented
Miss Nunn with a silver coffee service, in appreciation of her two-year's service. She had assisted,
previous to being executive. Miss Nunn left to be married. Later that month Miss Elaine Gorham became
executive, and one of her first public meetings was the fourth annual patriotic demonstration and
presenting of honors to Camp Fire girls by the Rose City American Legion. Mrs. George Guthrie27 and
Mrs. W. R. Millar were elected as presidents of the Council and Guardians' Association, respectively.
Important building had gone on at Camp Namanu that spring and summer. Uncle Toby's story House had been
built and dedicated to the man who, with Daddy Raker, made Camp Namanu one of the most outstanding in
the United States. I should like to quote from his informal talk given the day of the dedication:
"I have thumbed over reports from most of our Glass A camps and I am going to tell you a secret - For
locality, accessibility, privacy, topography, beauty, variety, in the excellence of its physical setup,
and in its future possibilities, Camp Namanu stands away up at the head of the list of Class A camps.
"Year by year, summer and winter, I have watched Camp Namanu grow. I have watched Daddy Raker pursuing
his vision, building with commendable persistence, toward a well-considered end… This very building talked
over and planned through the years. Amidst it all I have come and gone, doing essentially the things which
I wanted to do. Not sternly practical things, such as plumbing and sanitation, but trail cutting, bridge
building, story telling, watching the girls develop. Things that interested me. . . . .
"Playing a Camp Fire game we often play, 'If I had three wishes', what would I wish? I would wish: First,
that we might secure enough money to carry on through the coming year (and every year). Second, that we
might secure fifty new Guardians as good as those we have already. Third, I would wish that I might be
active in Camp Fire to the end of my days and that Camp Namanu may not come to think of this building as
too exclusively Uncle Toby's story House, but as a dream which has come true because Council, Guardians,
Camp Committee and the girls themselves all worked together toward a considered end - - creatively, with
enthusiasm, the Camp Fire way."
Uncle Toby's three wishes all came true!
Twenty-four hundred members in 1933 - another Grand Council Fire in the Armory, with parents watching from
the balcony. Mrs. George Guthrie was president of the Council; Mrs. W. R. Millar, of the Guardians' Association.
That summer, for the first time, there was a special unit set aside for Bluebirds, while Sherwood had their
own new unit. The older girls had a trip to Lost Lake, leaving Namanu for five days. On August 15th, there
was a celebration of the camp's tenth anniversary, called "Home Coming Day". Mrs. E. V. Creed, representing
the Council, and Mrs. D. B. Minor, the Guardians' Association, were in charge of the tea in the Alice Wilbur
Cottage, which honored two former executives - Miss Louise Nunn McGilvra and Miss Gladys Snyder. A special
feature was the dedication of eighty more acres presented by Mr. Cobb, making the present area of the camp
"about 200 acres".
Dads and Daughters had an all-city hike in November and the usual Christmas trip was in store for "thirty
girls of Firemaker or more advanced rank, above the third term in high school". Market Day was held to
help the N.R.A. program. There was a depression on. Remember?
1934 - and the first cake contest, suggested by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. Statistics: Camp Namanu had the
highest rating of any camp in the United States. . . . There were 5292 Camp Fire girls in the state
- 2200 of them in Portland.
The Birthday project was an unusually interesting one - Hobbies, and was featured at the March Grand
Council Fire in the Armory. A nice custom, observed about this time, was the annual honoring of newly
awarded Torch Bearers with a midnight supper. In April came the big Hobby Show in Meier & Frank's
Auditorium - one of the most elaborate put on by Camp Fire. It lasted for five days and brought
hosts of visitors.
In May Mrs. Mary Parker's home was opened for the annual Guardians' tea. The winter snow trip was
a three-day one to Mazama Lodge.
Kiwanis sponsored a contest - "Our Town". This was also the 1935 Birthday project. Miss Gorham
was conducting both beginning and advanced training courses. Mrs. Fenton was chairman of the
Committee of Awards, a service which she performed for a number of years.
High School Camp Fire girls not Torch Bearers formed Gulick groups. Torch Bearers at the time became
Argonaut members. In January there was a speaking Contest "Our Town", in which the Camp Fire girls
competed in three age levels, speaking for five minutes on Portland, its history, its cultural and
scenic advantages, its industries.
The Grand Council Fire, held at the Armory, had "special interpretive dances" on the program.
Balagan was begun in April and completed for summer use, as were the cabins in Sherwood forest,
the later in a location that the Guardians felt was "too far away from the main camp". But Raker
and Harper had certain convictions about how a camp should be laid out, and camps all over the
country have been built or remodeled to follow the latter's plans, as he was for many years national
camp chairman. Balagan was always Uncle Toby's special unit, built as it was to resemble the
hideaway of his friend and favorite story character, Hishnik, the Siberian gold thief. Built
high on the cliff overlooking Sandy, its charm and interest for the older girls have overcome
the original protest of Guardians that its location and tree-houses were "dangerous".
Camp Fire had its own style show at Meier & Frank's that year. Mrs. W. H. Thomas succeeded Mrs.
Guthrie, who had held the presidency of the Council for three years. Vagabond Day Camp at Reed
celebrated its fourth season. Over 300 cakes28 were baked in the all-city contest.
By 1936 it was realized that the Grand Council Fire could no longer be held in the Armory, due to
the size of the participating membership, so it was held in the Municipal Auditorium. Many regretted
the passing of the ceremonial circle, but effort is made each year to make of the Grand Council an
impressive and inspiring event.
Bluewing was built this year and a regular program of Bluebird activities was inaugurated for the first
time. The Weavery was built, construction on some of the separate Kiwanis cabins begun and the duck
pond was enlarged for better canoeing.
Council president, 1937, was Mrs. Richard M. Steiner, with its membership of eighty. The winter trip
for older girls was sponsored by the Camp Fire and Y. M. C.A., and the young people who went voted the
"mixed" trip to Sprit Lake a huge success.
With W. S. Raker, L. A. Baumhover and A. B. McPherson in charge, and Dads to help, the girls built a
nature trail through Macleay Park in February, as part of their Conservation Birthday project, 1938.
While on his way to the Grand Council Fire at the auditorium, Daddy Raker stopped to have his shoes shined,
and fell quietly asleep. His death was not known to the large audience of girls and leaders and parents,
but those of us who did know were deeply touched by the courage of those conducting the ceremonial,
in the way they substituted Daddy Raker's own song for the time when he was to have spoken to the girls.
The doughnut drive provided for special camp equipment; the tea at Mrs. Parker's provided funds for sending
leaders to national training course. Mrs. A. B. McPherson was president of the Council and Mrs. Leon Kuhn,
president of the Guardians' Association.
A Bluebird Festival was held in May and was a beautiful sight as the girls danced in their colorful costumes
on the green. A membership contest was held in the fall, between Portland and Seattle and we won - with
the largest number of Camp Fire girls (2224) and largest number of Bluebirds (516) in the United States.
First mention is made in the news clippings of the Older Girls' Conference at St. Helen's Hall, for which
"Vocational Horizons" was chosen as theme. The day ended with a formal dinner at the Masonic Temple, at
which thirty Portland high school groups were represented. At the conference were several hundred girls
from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
Birthday project was one of the most popular ever outlined for the girls - "Americana". Both doughnuts
and candy were sold during the drive, and highest number sold brought the girl the honor of being Doughnut
Queen and having a campship. Doughnut day was a big feature at camp, with all girls selling a certain
number having a day's fun there. The older girls went with their councilors to Camp Merriweather (sic)
for an outing at the end of the season; Balagan had its usual pack trip.
Mrs. McPherson was re-elected president of the Council and Mrs. Warren Hunter was made chairman of the
The new House of Health was completed under Dr. Paul Spangler's29 supervision, taking the place of earlier
Whether the "forty" in 1940 provoked the theme for the older girls' conference, "Life Begins Today", is
not known, but it was chosen and the representatives from Oregon and Washington joined our girls at
St. Helen's Hall for their second annual meeting. The Grand Council Fire in March chose the theme of
"Skillful Living" (Birthday project) for special emphasis, and tableaux on the stage illustrated "The Law".
The Mother Goose Bluebird Festival in May at Washington Park was again a highlight in the junior
organization's life. National Training Course was held at Namanu in June. The ranch, with its old
farmhouse that was later rebuilt for better camping, was bought this year and a new unit for girls
of twelve and over (with one session of camp behind them) was put into operation and proved a most
popular one, particularly with girls who love horses.30
The fall "Fiesta" membership drive resulted in a membership of 553 Bluebirds, 2768 Camp Fire girls and
355 sponsors and council members.
1941- The high school conference was based on the theme "What So Proudly We Hail", and was held at Reed
College. District meetings were substituted for the all-city Guardians' meetings, a few times during
the year, as a trial. The Grand Council Fire was held at Washington Park - the first outdoor one in
many years. There was a pageant - "Why I am Glad I Am An American" - that proved interesting, but was
hard for the audience to hear, and the girls felt they did not participate as much as at the indoor
Fort Pioneer, for girls just out of grammar school, was tucked into just the right spot at Camp Namanu,
and the girls had primitive camping, much as in Balagan. This has proved one of our most popular units,
and followed another of Uncle Toby's ideas of separating the girls into smaller units.
Mrs. L. V. McCumsey was chairman of the Guardians' Association, Mrs. Warren Hunter, president of the Board.
National Camp Fire membership was 307,000. Mrs. Guthrie was presented the national Wohelo Award.
Mr. Wm Oberteuffer had previously received this award.
Special project for Camp Fire girls was the cooking and serving of a "Dinner for a Dollar", on the
"Fortifying the Family" Birthday project.
High School Camp Fire groups became Horizon Clubs for the first time, with their own handbook and
installation ceremonies. The Bluebird Leaders Association reported 1000 Bluebird members.
Mrs. Theodore Miller was their chairman.
Registration at Camp, 1124, was the largest since 1923.
The year ended with another meaningful Guardians' ceremonial, this time at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
The Horizon Clubs held a dance in the Sunken Ballroom at the Masonic Temple.
1942 - Camp Fire girls once more engaged in civilian aid in wartime, as did their older Camp Fire sisters
in 1917-18. The five-point Service for Victory program was launched. District Council Fires were held
in place of the large Grand Council Fire - a trial measure that did not appear to be as successful as hoped.
The high school conference theme was "On the Alert" and the meeting was held at St. Helen's Hall.
The Guardians' benefit tea was held at Yaw's, and prize war-time recipe bread was served instead of the
customary prize-winning cakes. The Bluebird festival was replaced with a picnic.
On June 7th31, Uncle Toby passed away, after a very short illness.
Family work days were held at camp and girls at the ranch planted and cared for a garden and joined the
girls in general camp in berry picking for nearby growers. An active Summer-in-Town program was held
from June 15th on, for eight weeks. Due to the fact that so many parents were working at wartime tasks,
and also no transportation, there was a long waiting list for all camp units, composed of girls whose
parents were glad to have them enjoy such vacation as they could have.
"Scrap Happy" parties (collecting scrap) were held all over the country by the 321,000 members.
In Portland the Horizon Clubs had a garden party at the home of Mrs. Orville Miller, honoring
incoming freshmen; a contrast to their days spent at berry and bean-picking for food conservation.
Mrs. A. F. Janowski was president of the Guardians' Ass'n and Mrs. Edward Kolar began the first of
her two years as president of the Council. The Birthday project was "Serve by Saving" and the "Thriftees"
were seen on every hand. Girls were giving volunteer service in day nurseries, and a new childcare course
was studied and practiced.
The 1943 Horizon project was "This Air Age", but Portland high school girls had small time for it, as they
were engaged in helping with drives of various sorts and had begun their outstanding piece of service as
Hospital Aids, piling up hours of service through carrying trays, arranging flowers and helping where
needed in the hospitals. "Wake Up, America" was their conference theme, and the girls from Portland
attended in goodly numbers.
The first recognition dinner was given by parents and council for leaders, and service was honored.
Camp opened in July; under difficulties of lack of help, transportation, the point system, etc., but
all seven units were filled to capacity. Girls over twelve were expected to work in the berry fields
on alternate days to those spent in camp activities, earning their stipend along with the others.
In October32, Miss Elaine Gorham left for duty with the Red Cross in India, leaving a big gap that has
been hard to fill. She was with us so long, and was so co-operative with Council, leaders, staff and
girls that she seemed to be Camp Fire itself. Miss Marianbeth Wolfenden, who had been her assistant,
was made executive.
In 1944 our membership of 4700 (highest in the country) included towns within a radius of thirty miles
A two-day exhibit in Meier & Frank's auditorium was most successful. It included an exhibit of the
prize-winning bread baked by the girls, which was then taken to the George White Service Center.
The Horizon Conference stressed the "Accent on Youth".
High School Shirt Sleeve Session continued as in former years and girls registering for camp who lived
in Balagan, Pioneer and Kiwanis understood that "berries must be picked if the need arises", which it
The Grand Council Fire once more returned to the Auditorium, and presentation was made to the Hospital
Aids for their hours of service - some as many as one hundred hours. April 25th was a big day in Camp
Fire history, when Camp Fire girls, 3000 strong, watched the christening and launching of their own SS
Camp Namanu at the shipyards, in a most impressive ceremony.
Mrs. Raymond Vester was president of the Council and Mrs. Ralph Deardorff, chairman of the Guardians'
Patrice Munsel, Metropolitan star and a former Spokane Camp Fire girl was a very gracious guest of honor
at a reception for Camp Fire Horizon girls and Advisers held at Mrs. Parker's home. The girls had a
block of seats at her concert in the Auditorium, when they presented her with a huge bouquet of roses.
Due to ill-health, Miss Wolfenden resigned in September and Miss Margery Dibble, her assistant, was
made acting executive. Mrs. Dean Webster began a fine program of helping develop Torch Bearers,
beginning with a tea for prospective candidates for rank, held at her home, early in the fall.
The freshman tea, by Horizon Clubbers, was held at the home of Mrs. Blaisdell Smith.
A special eighth-grade project was launched, to create new interest in this age. A "Suzette" program
was worked out, but never proved too popular and was finally dropped.
In November, Miss Elizabeth Blair was made executive.
In 1945, the year in which this history book will be completed, saw the appeal for leaders still as
strong and as urgent as when the council was formed, back in 1921. Efforts were being made to draw
the two girls' groups Camp Fire and Girl Scout - into greater harmony, and a joint Sunday service
for the members was held at the Municipal Auditorium.
The second recognition dinner was held in the Neighbors of Woodcraft Hall, with many parents in attendance
to honor the leaders for their service. Mrs. Webster gave her second tea for Torch Bearers, and worked
all year developing them and helping them to work on rank.
Instead of national training course, there was an Institute set up by national staff members, covering
two days of classes. It was held at Lewis & Clark College.
Horizon girls had an election and took over, for a day, the city government in Portland.
Mrs. Judges33 was president of the Council and Mrs. N. E. Walker, chairman of the Guardians' Ass'n.
The collection of clothing for the UNRRA was a major project this year.
Camp Namanu had fifty buildings on its 335 acres and about 2000 girls were in session during the 1945 summer.
It is hoped that the history of Portland Camp Fire will be continued through the years. No attempt
has been made here to make a story of the facts. The simplest form possible has been used, in order
that reference may be made to projects, developments, growth in Camp Fire during the years from 1921
to 1945, inclusive. Since there is a possibility that an occasional error may have crept in, due to
the task it has beep to identify some of the dates, etc., it is our hope that these may be corrected
on the following pages, and at some later time a substitute page may be inserted, giving the corrected
data. Please help us to make this an accurate record! My thanks and appreciation to those who have
helped me trace back this history through the years.
Marguerite Norris Davis,
Historian of the Board
April - 1948
1946 began with a brief and business-like annual meeting. In February an area council meeting was held
and reorganization plans laid with the assistance of Miss Martha Allen. One of the results of this
meeting was monthly council luncheons for the purpose of developing a larger and more well-informed
working body of council members.
Camp Namanu was the object of industrious repair and replacement work by generous Kiwanians. Since many
expensive repairs would be necessary in the near future and the Donut Drive was deemed inadvisable,
a plea was sent to all members of the Camp Fire family to raise some $8,900.00.
Horizon Girls held their annual conference on Sunday, February 17, with afternoon discussion groups,
and a tea and a banquet which 105 girls attended.
Miss Alice Collins, Director of. Field Operations of the National staff, visited Portland in July and
in August. Miss Marjorie Dibble resigned as executive director. Miss Alice Wiley was selected to
take her place.
Day camp was held at Reed College, and a new site in the Hinton district was contracted for as a
supplementary day camp area. The importance of the camping program in Camp Fire was emphasized
at the national conference in Cleveland, Ohio, in November as beneficial to both girls and adults
in many ways.
The Portland Council received generous donations during the year from Mr. Joe Fisher, Mr. Aaron Frank
and Mr. A. A. Sersanous.
1947 will be noted in the national history of Camp Fire as well as in our local council as the year
in which the national headquarters was acquired.
Shortly afterward the Portland council established an enviab1e record of financial support which continued
until the mortgage was burned May 3, 1952. The "Birthday Project" had a theme appropriately titled
"Going Places." The doughnut sale was resumed, and its success evidenced that summer by a new "Sammy"
truck carrying girls and supplies in and out of camp. Those girls numbered 1,307, and Namanu ran with
a minimum of homesickness since Visiting Sundays during sessions were replaced by two visit-and-work
days in May. Day camp at Reed College was attended by 370 additional girls.
Under direction from National Headquarters, Portland initiated the celebration of Founders Week in January
instead of March the next year. Live window demonstrations and an all-city theater party were just two
of the many events commemorating the 1910 founding date. The scope of interest was extended across the
globe as the Birthday theme, "Hello World: Let's Get Together" supplied the Christian Herald Orphanage
in Foochow, China, with articles made and collected by Camp Fire Girls in the United States.
recognition dinner for leaders brought together 600 leaders and parents for a pot-luck at the Masonic
Temple. Miss Alice Wiley resigned and Mrs. Blanche Brewer temporarily assumed the office of executive
director in April. Somewhat over 47,000 dozen doughnuts and 5,000 boxes of peanut brittle enabled the
Board of Directors to plan extensive repairs to Namanu, and 25 girls went to camp on sale campships.
With the rapid growth in number of the Camp Fire family, the Torch Bearer group known as the Argonauts
was unable to keep pace and hence plans were made to disband within the next 12 months. The Grand Council
Fire in May was highlighted by the 25th anniversary of Camp Namanu which was commemorated later in the
year by early campers attending an "I Remember Namanu" day at Camp.
Tragedy struck Vanport in the summer of 1948, and Horizon girls, leaders and Camp Fire girls were on hand
to assist the Red Cross and Salvation Army with flood rescue work. In September Claire Barricks became
the executive director. Another day camp site was acquired in Forest Park through the assistance of the
Registration of Blue Birds, Camp Fire Girls and Horizon Girls took a jump in 1950. Early in the year the
Girls' Juvenile Home received a record player, the outcome of a successful Horizon vaudeville show.
Portland Horizon Girls attended the regional conference in Everett, Washington, and made plans to hold
their own conference at Reed College in March.
The money raising project, a peanut brittle sale, was reorganized to allow wider distribution of
campships for top salesgirls and for some of the money collected to be retained by the girls' groups.
Somewhat over $10,000 was raised.
An April membership report revealed Portland to be the second largest council in the country at this
time, and the Portland Council boasted three members on the National Council and one on the National
Board. As befits a council so prominent to set the example, Portland's quota of the National Building
Fund was fulfilled by summer.
550 day campers attended Camp Johnson, Camp Marshall, Camp Ainsworth, Camp Tolinda and Reed College,
and Namanu's nature trails and many crafts were exercised through 1,884 camper weeks. By the end of
1950 Camp Namanu and Camp Fire had benefited through the generosity of Mr. J. P. Rasmussen, the Rotary
Club and friends who made donations in memory of Mrs. Charles Wegman.
Window displays in, the downtown business district heralded the 1951 Founders Week, the theme of which
was "Everybody Counts." The service project, "A World of Friends for Camp Fire Girls," was directed
to five countries abroad, in addition to local service to Community Chest, Tuberculosis Association,
Red Cross Blood Bank and participation in Red Cross courses by the girls.
Chocolate mints teamed with peanut brittle to bring over $15,000 for "Capital Improvements", and 406
campships for the girls. As always, April was a busy month for the Committee of Awards, bringing the
year's total to 1,477 girls to receive rank at May council fires. May had special significance because
after many years of generous service on the part of Meier & Frank Company, the store required the space
Camp Fire occupied, and May 1st new offices were opened in the Park Building. Board members, council
members, leaders and friends were invited to see the offices and enjoy a cup of punch May 7 and May 8.
An unusually sunny summer enabled an all-time high number of camper weeks - 2,000. Day camp showed a
similar increase to 596, showing that camping was becoming more and more an important part of the over-all
Camp Fire program.
Some of us might be inclined to lose sight of the vital strength each council is continuously receiving
from National headquarters were it not for such inspirational messages as that delivered by Miss Martha
Allen, national executive director, at the annual meeting in January of 1952. Regional Adviser, Miss
Nora Garvin, is equally generous as her time will permit of encouragement, advice and commendation in
broadening the scope of those who are not able as representatives to attend yearly regional and tri-ennial
national conferences. January 15 Miss Claire Barricks resigned as executive director, and was replaced
by Miss Dorothy M. Preuss on February 1.
Plans were made and executed for a new Raker Lodge at Camp Namanu, and dedication ceremonies June 22
climaxed half a year of concerted effort on the part of the able committee in charge. With the financing
of the new dining hall in mind, candy drive chairman, committee, leaders and girls raised over $20,000.
The Committee of Awards passed nearly 2,000 girls for rank before the May council fires, behind which fact
lies days of leader training and months of passing this training on to each girl. This is possible only
through the efforts of many in the Leaders' Association, chairman of Training Committee, Blue Birds, Camp
Fire and Horizon girls all working together.
The Board of Directors sponsored the sale of a bloc of tickets for the Portland Symphonic Choir's performance
of "The Student Prince" one night in August. The operetta, performed out of doors and under the stars,
was something new for Portland audiences and enjoyed by all.
The Personnel Committee has no small job in this large council as retirement, marriages, births and other
causes necessitate replacements among the professional staff. The same was true of the adult council, and
at the end of the year a large number of new names had been added to the roster with some one hundred men
and women serving actively on at least one committee. The active interest of these adults, professional
and volunteer alike, enables leaders to maintain as active an interest among the more than 6,000 girls
served by the Camp Fire program in Portland and Multnomah County.
1 Y.W.C.A. Girl Reserves - MN
21st Board-Mrs. Ireland, Mrs. Wilbur, Mayor Baker, Miss Lucile Elrod-Mooris, Mr. Ray Conway,
Mrs. Wedemeyer, ?Horace Mecklem, R. W. Hoyt, W. S. Raker - I was 3rd president of the board,
I believe. (Mary Alice Reed, Mrs. Vester, Martha Darcy- Estacada). - MN
3 By Mrs. Boynton - MN
4 No, margin notes disagree with this - MN
5 1923 - MN
6 Eathel - GBK
7 Margin notes claim this was Mrs. Vernon Wessler - MN
8 Mrs. Wedemeyer (sic) trained singers - MN
9 Mrs. Henderson was added to the Camp Committee about this time - MN
10 Miss Moore ill resigned - MN
11 Eathel Moore Milthaler, still living in 2003, says she "returned to help family after house fire" - GBK
12 Mrs. W. S. Henderson was general chairman of this donut drive. Money, $400+, was used to restore road
to Camp Namanu which had been destroyed by City water depart. In laying water main - MN
13 And shorts were not permitted - must be bloomers - MN
14 Guardians met at the house of Mrs. W. S. Henderson and made curtains for the new windows in the lodge,
sewing machines were loaned by Singer Sewing Machine Co. 7 train car loads of building material, lumber,
roofing, cement, bricks, nails, etc. were donated by Portland dealers as a result of solicitations by
Daddy Raker & Mrs. Henderson - MN
15 Mrs. Henderson was awarded the Wohelo honor at the same ceremony with Mr. Raker - MN
16 Mr. Oberteuffer & Mrs. Guthrie were later so honored - MN
17 This museum had been a chicken house formerly - the girls labored diligently to transform it.
The girls with Uncle Toby's assistance built a sun dial also - MN
18 Mrs. Otto Wedemeyer (sic) directed the singers - MN
19 Mrs. Ralph Wilbur was chairman of this activity, i.e. Needlework Guild - MN
20 The Carpenter's Union worked every weekend thru out the first season of building Camp Namanu.
The lodge was erected in one day, except for windows & doors by approximately 100 carpenters donating
time and furnished their own barbecued luncheon - MN
21 Mr. Ralph Wilbur advised & prepared articles - MN
22 Held Masonic Temple - MN
23 Mr. Muhlig & Mr. Luther installed the plumbing and kept it in repair for several years - no charge
of course - MN
24 This was the first year C. F. furnished tools for craft work - MN
25 Mrs. W. S. Henderson was General Chairman - MN
26 Mrs. Eva Cresmer was adviser and leader of this group - MN
27 Mrs. W. S. Henderson was elected Chairman of Dist. 6 at the conclusion of term of Council president
and Mrs. Guthrie was elected to the same office, Chairman of Dist. 6, at the conclusion of her term
as Council president - MN
28 The cakes were auctioned and money given to Camp Fire, for camp - MN
29 Kiwanian - MN
30 Daddy Raker never approved of the horses at camp - MN
31 May 6, 1942 per Portland Mausoleum records & The Oregonian obituary - GBK
32 1943 - MN
33 Mrs. Fred Judges - MN