Elaine Standish Gorham was born in Snohomish, Washington, in 1906. She was educated
at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and then returned to the Seattle area where she served for three years as
Assistant Executive Secretary for the Seattle Council of Camp Fire Girls.
|Elaine Gorham (1906-1956)|
In the fall of 1932, she was hired by the Portland Council as Executive Secretary and Camp Director of Camp
Namanu. She held this position for more than ten years. While she was in Portland Miss Gorham was active in the
American Camping Association, the Pacific Camping Association and the Oregon Conference of Social Work. She also
served on the speakers’ bureau for the Community Chest.
In her ten years of service to Camp Namanu, Miss Elaine brought both the stability of her consistent leadership
and the innovative enthusiasm that was part of her nature. Rusty Tomlinson describes her as "a lovely charismatic
lady." Jean Howard, a camper at the time, talks about Miss Elaine: "Everybody wanted to sit at Miss Elaine’s table
at least once. One of the things she always did, was she would learn the names of everybody sitting at her table,
all the campers. And before that meal was over, everyone at that table would know the names of everyone else! That
After the United States entered World War II Elaine Gorham felt the need to resign her job and join the American
Red Cross overseas. Before she left she read this poem at the closing Council Fire of the summer:
You will go along your forest way
The trail you follow may be traced by fire
That you have kindled through your heart’s desire
And golden dreams you dream of every day;
Oh, may the dreams you dream in passing by
Burn clear and true against your evening sky.
In early 1943, Miss Gorham arrived in India to begin her new job as Assistant Program Director for the ARC. She
helped to set up recreational programs in enlisted men's clubs and also designed and bought equipment for new
canteens and snack bars. In a letter to Portland Camp Fire, Miss Elaine describes her new home in India:
"After my former skittishness about such insignificant things as mice you would laugh to see me now. We killed our
first scorpion the night before last. And last night as we came up the drive there was a leopard strolling just
outside our gate! My ‘bath’ is a separate room with a tap in it and an open drain in one corner. I have a tin wash
tub, and when I want a bath, the pani-walla brings in a bucket-full from outside where he heats it in an oil drum.
And I sit with my knees up to my chin enjoying the luxury of an inch of water. Oh, for the luxuries of Camp Namanu!"
Soon after the war Elaine Gorham returned to New Jersey and was married to Louis Gillespie. They settled in
Morristown, where she was active as a volunteer in various organizations. On August 10, 1956, she died of a heart
Saddened members and friends of Portland Camp Fire Girls planned a memorial to honor their "Miss Elaine." The
star-gazing platform in the meadow was built in the spring of 1957, adorned with the signs of the Zodiac panels
carved by Lawrence Espinosa. A dedication ceremony was held on July 2, after dark, so that everyone could see the
stars over the Namanu meadow.
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.