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The 1950’s

The Kidston Memorial Fund was bequeathed to the Riverside County Council upon the death in 1950 of William H. Kidston (RC Council Executive Board), of Palm Springs and Chicago. It consisted of $25,000 in chemical stocks and only the interest was to be used. In his annual budget report to the Council in 1966, Executive Helmick reported that the principal corpus was over $100,000. Robert Hillery (Eagle Scout T-39, Coachella, Executive Board, Silver Beaver 1964) remembered protecting the fund’s principal from raiders who wanted to use it to build a second swimming pool and make other big expenditures. He said that the Kidston Fund paid for the 27,000-gallon steel water tank # 4, high in Camp Brown, sometime after 1968.

In 1950, the Council held a Camporee, and about 700 Scouts attended the event. The Region XII A OA Fellowship Conference was held at Camp Emerson. Again in 1951, the Council held another Camporee, and 700 Scouts attended

Rin-Tin-Tin, III, dog hero of the 1954 TV series, Ft. Apache, was “discovered” at Camp Emerson. He and his owner-trainer, Lee Duncan, were both ASM’s, T-2, Riverside. His grandsire, Rin-Tin-Tin, had been in many movies made in Hollywood prior to the great depression of 1929. A talent scout from Hollywood TV had come to Camp Emerson to check out the Indian dance teams. While there, he saw one of this dog’s many performances at a campfire in Tahquitz Bowl, and he lost interest in the dancers and took Duncan and his dog back to Hollywood for a multi-year contract. Duncan at T-2 administered a Rin-Tin-Tin Fund during the 1950’s to help deserving Scouts attend camp.

Two more permanent multi-use cabins were added to the camp in 1953. One of them constructed by the Temescal District, with Corky Davis as contractor, was named the Dan Beard Lodge in honor of the first National Scout Commissioner. It was located north of Simonds Flat and just west of Bearclaw Bowl. The other cabin was constructed by the San Gorgonio Pass District, and was named for Dr. A.A. Langston (SM T-31, Banning, Silver Beaver 1950). With the construction of the Langston Lodge, a road was built through the middle of the original chapel (undated and builders unknown). The concrete and stone podium along the south side of the road just north of the pool was rebuilt leaving several rows of stone seats located on the north side of the road across from the podium. In 1994 the plan was to refurbish it as the place worship for individual troops or religions. The lodge was at the end of this road as it traveled east. Both of these lodges greatly increased the use of the camp during the winter months for they had stoves or fireplaces. During summer camp before 1962, the Lodge Lodge had also served as a nature lodge. (illus. 25 & 26)

Ken Kammeyer, Eagle Scout T-35, Corona (subsequently its SM, Council President 1978 and 1979, the youngest Wood Badge recipient in the Council, Shaver Lake 1963, Silver Beaver 1965), remembered the method used to light campfires in Tahquitz Bowl. He, Chuck Pierce (Eagle Scout T-27, XP-47 Banning, Area XII OA Chief, Tahquitz Lodge Vigil Honor) and Marty Clure were counselors in 1952.

While carrying an arrow-like stick wrapped in cloth and made into a slider with figure-eight wires, and a bottle of gasoline, Chuck Pierce would climb to the top of a pine tree near the cook shack and across the meadow from the fire ring. The OA Indian shaman (medicine man) would give a magical incantation and the hidden climber would light the gasoline soaked cloth on fire and slide this flaming arrow down a wire toward the seated Scouts. The wire slide from the tree ended in the fire ring where the fire contained more gasoline. This fiery streak from the dark heavens coming towards them was very impressive to all, until the USFS Ranger on Tahquitz Peak caught on. That put a stop to this dangerous but fun practice.

Kammeyer said that Chuck Pierce was the “firebug” of the ground and Pierce agreed. He also developed a chemical method for fire starting by mixing sugar, potassium chlorate and powder for colored flames. Upon a pre-arranged order given during an incantation, a hidden string would be pulled to tip a bottle of sulfuric acid on it and the campfire would light with colored flames. Bob Swartzel remembered this being used as late as 1946.

Steve Bryant said that during the 1960’s, the arrow-method of lighting was used in Bearclaw Bowl. He described the arrow-slider as a piece of steel pipe, wrapped in cloth and soaked in gasoline. The wire and fire came from the right side of the bowl and fire ring. He said that Jess Southwesll, USFS Ranger for 20 years on Tahquitz Peak never saw it.

Clem Glass (Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope), the Scoutmaster of The Air, for many years had a regularly scheduled half-hour radio program on KFI, Los Angeles. On a Sunday in 1953 he featured Bill Brinks, SM T-35, Ken Kammeyer and Norm Mellor. They told the nation about Camp Emerson and its comprehensive program. Every Scout in Southern California (and many nationwide) would tune in on these programs. The Mitchell Boys Choir sang, “On My Honor”. Each week SM Glass awarded a scholarship for his two-week High Sierra Pack Trip on the John Muir Trail in Yosemite, to an outstanding Eagle Scout. All travel and other expenses for that mule-accompanied hike of 40 Eagles were courtesy of KFI.

The popularity of Camp Emerson’s location and program helped increase Scout registrations in the RC Council from 1948 through 1953 by 74 % and the units from 101 to 150. Dwight Nelson D.D.S. was the Camp Emerson Chairman during those six years.

The annual Conservation Master Plan for Camp Emerson originated in 1954 following a USDA Soil Conservation survey by the Service Officer from the Hemet office., accompanied by Norm Mellor, Chairman of the Idyllwild School of Conservation and Natural Science and camp naturalist. A repeat survey in 1967 showed that considerable progress had been made in completing the recommended projects.

A map of Camp Emerson used as part of the plan from 1954-1993 to designate manmade features of campsites, buildings, and roads was drawn by Chet Snell, public utilities engineer, City of Riverside. Sites for conservation projects were then written on it in letters and numbers to correspond with the written instructions. These were updated regularly (illus. 48).

The development of this plan helped to slow the soil erosion and helped Scouts to qualify for merit badges in Environmental Science and Soil and Water Conservation. Both of these required multiple field surveys or completing demonstration work projects not readily accomplished in urban areas. These projects gave Scouts and units ways to earn the SOAR (Save Our American Resources) patch for the national conservation good turn, requested by President Richard Nixon in 1971. (illus. 51)

In 1956, a three-story tower was built in the main meadow close to the southwest corner of the present main parking lot, with money from the Kidston Fund. The third level of the tower was used as a signalling platform to communicate with a similar structure on top of Guenther Lodge, constructed the same year. Named for Hugo Guenther (Charter Executive Board Member 1920, Council President, 1942-1945, Silver Beaver 1940), owner and developed of Murrieta Hot Springs, this lodge was west of the Central Services Building, and also financed by the Kidston Fund. The tower was reduced to one story in 1961. At this location it served the Scouts as an archery hut, and later was used as a hikemaster station for Scouts hiking to San Jacinto and Tahquitz Peak. When the main parking lot was built, the building was moved to a location in the rifle range to be used for storage. The Camp Emerson Long Range Task Force completely rebuilt the Harwell Rifle Range in 1994 to National Rifle Association standards, and the tower was moved there for storage. (illus. 27 & 28)

In the mid 1950’s, there existed two double-walled Quonset hut-type structures of canvas design with a wooden floor. They were donated to the camp as military surplus and were cold-weather structures. The double canvas had an insulation material between them for arctic use. These two structures were located near the area that became the Central Services Building and the Beauvell Gate. One was originally used as the first aid tent, the other one was used for storage. (illus. 29)

On June 4, 1957, a memorial grove was planted in honor of C.L. Emerson. The Emerson Memorial Grove was a series of 103 Blue Spruce between Strawberry Creek and the Cobblestone. Almost almost all of these trees were destroyed by gophers, three survived. Two were on the north and one of the south side of Strawberry Creek. In 1993, two competing Incense Cedars and two White Alders were removed and many limbs were trimmed to aid these non-native Blue Spruce which were being crowded and shaded.

In 1958, the signalling platform on top of Guenther Lodge was removed and placed in storage inside one of the Quonset huts. These huts were removed to make room for the construction of the Central Services Building in 1961.

From the very beginning of Scouting, Chief Scout Lord Robert Baden-Powell used games, skits and the play-acting of historical events in his program. He believed that these taught everything from observation, to deduction, to clever thinking, to humor, to pride of country, and more. He had successfully used deception, trickery, bluffing and play-acting to hold off superior forces and with the siege of Mafeking. For example, he had his soldiers pretending to step over imaginary barbed wire entanglements (sticks but no wires) surrounding the village, pretending that they were burying large landmines inside and outside of the wire (boxes of earth), and by pretending that they moved a huge cannon and several large searchlights (all wooden) around the compound.

Camp Emerson carried on this tradition from its very beginning through humorous campfire skits and also some that developed historical themes. During WWII, skits involving U.S. and German soldiers were performed. Unexpected was the fact that the swastikas originally painted on Tahquitz Rock were not removed then.

First used on ancient Greek pottery, with arms turned either to the left or right, the swastika was thought to be a symbol of the sun and a good luck charm. The Tribe of Tahquitz adopted it though, because it was an American Indian peace symbol. The swastika’s arms on Tahquitz Rock turned to the left and on the Nazi German symbol to the right. Small swastikas (the originals were quite large) had been repainted on the sides of the rock, but were graffitied with white paint. During a work party in the early 80’s, Rick Pohlers, Assistant OA Advisor (sic) under Hank Schmel, painted over them with a front and rear footprint of a Grizzly Bear stylized after the Indians of the Northwest.

Of interest and completely unknown to the Tribe of Tahquitz and the OA, in 1912 B-P had given his future wife, Olave Soames, his “Thanks Badge”, which was a swastika with the arms turned to the right and a Scout badge superimposed. Later he would write that a swastika in Sanskrit meant good luck. Even though the British press criticized them, until 1935 he and Lady Baden-Powell used it on their “Thanks Cards” with the arms turned to the right. Despite their keen senses of observation they had never noticed, and had even written, that their swastikas’ arms turned left and that Hitler’s turned right. Actually they both turned to the right!

The property continued to grow. In 1959, the Council acquired a lot at Idyllbrook and Estate Drives for $1,800 from Henry (Hank) Roselle who had been a RC Council Field Executive. The adjacent corner lot of Idyllbrook and Canyon Drives was purchased in 1964, including a residence, for $11,000. Known as the C.B. Covell Memorial Lodge, it honored an Executive Board member in 1959 and prominent Hemete banker. It was purchased from his sister, Mrs. Phyllis McKinney from the McKinney Tract to the south. The house served as the Camp Ranger’s residence and was located due south across Idyllbrook Drive from Tahquitz Bowl. Captain R.S. Simpson, USN (Executive Board, Silver Beaver, 1953), Commandeer of the Naval Ordinance Laboratory, Norco, was honored by his family with a plaque who gave a major donation in his memory toward that purchase (Map # 5)

In late 1959, Walter Wenzel, National Director of Conservation, BSA, and C.J. Carlson, who had retired from Region XII in 1948, visited Camp Emerson. They reviewed and lauded the Conservation Program developed and supervised by Norm Mellor. He was also the founding Chairman of the Idyllwild School of Conservation and Natural Science. Due to these efforts, the National Council BSA awarded Mellor the Gold Medallion of the Hornaday Award for Distinguished Service to Conservation in 1958.

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