Home » A Brief History of Camp Emerson » An Incomplete History (1994) » The Carl Helmick Years

The Carl Helmick Years

1937 – 1972

Upon the retirement of Executive John Leecing, Carl Helmick was transferred from the Imperial-Yuma Council Area to RC Council as the new leader. He had been a professional in the Oakland Area Council, California, from 1929-1935 before Imperial-Yuma.

Miller Peak, 10,500′, (south & east of Mt. San Jacinto) named for Frank Miller, founder and master of the Mission Inn, Riverside, and Executive Board member, was dedicated in 1937 by eight Scouts from Camp Emerson with Carl Helmick, Council Executive as photographer and Norm Mellor as senior patrol leader and camp hikemaster. Tom Harwell (SM Moreno Valley, Silver Beaver 1964) recorded it on movie film. Two bronze plaques, one with the Scout Oath and the other with the dedication, were supplied by Marion Miller, his widow. They, with the required cement, were backpacked to Round Valley which was used as a base camp. Mt. San Jacinto State Park was dedicated that same year and included Miller Peak.

With continual use, expansion was necessary. In the late 1930’s, an archery range was constructed in the southeast corner of the camp, west of what was later the main parking lot. The range was on a north to south line. In 1948, the archery range was relocated one hundred and fifty feet to the east of that area. This new location was on new acreage that was acquired in 1946. In 1968, the archery range was moved again to the northwest area of a 20-acre purchase made in 1960 (near the Kidston Boat House, built in 1968). At that time, the Harwell Rifle Range was relocated approximately 300 feet west, across the lake and up the hill from the archery range. It was named for Tom Harwell, counselor in marksmanship, who had been a machine gun Sergeant in General John J. (Blackjack) Pershing’s cavalry, that pursued Pancho Villa all the way to Chapultapec, Mexico, in 1916 (illus.16)

The Tribe of Tahquitz, which began in 1921 from ideas generated around the Carlson-Emerson campfires, was a service society for more advanced back-country campers. It did not have a totem. All of those who were inducted into the Tribe were usually older second or third-year campers. For example, Norm Mellor recorded that in 1931 as a 15-year-old First Class Scout, he (sic) has not “tapped out” until after he had completed his third 29-mile hike and campout, from Camp Emerson to Jacinto Peak and back.

When Scout Executive Helmick came to RC Council he had another idea for the Tribe of Tahquitz. Started by professional Scouters who incorporated the Indian lore of Ernest Thompson Seton, the Order of the Arrow was established by the National Counci, BSA, in 1921 as a service society of honored campers. Before coming to Riverside from Oakland and Blythe-Yuma Councils, Helmick remembered taking trips about the forming of the OA to Region XII Headquarters, where C.J. Carlson was the Executive, and to National Headquarters where James E. West was the Chief Scout Executive. Helmick said, however, that most of the earlier organization of the Order of the Arrow was accomplished by mail, and that it was run by volunteer professional Scouters for the first five years.

When he became RC Council’s Executive in 1935, Helmick encouraged the Tribe of Tahquitz to immediately apply for membership in the Order of the Arrow. It did and was accepted as Tahquitz Lodge OA # 127 in 1938. This established its name in perpetuity. When the Tribe became the OA Lodge a totem was designed. Painted red on a three-inch round of white felt was a face view of an Indian in a feather headdress with “Lodge 127—Order of the Arrow—Riverside County” around it.

The only secret order in Scouting here had been the Tribe of Tahquitz which included three steps or degrees of honor: 1/Brave 2/ Warrior 3/Medicine Man. After 1938 in the National Order of the Arrow these honors became: 1/ Ordeal 2/ Brotherhood 3/ Vigil.

However, the Long Beach Council had also named their society the Tribe of Tahquitz after its Camp Tahquitz, Idyllwild, in December 1925. Executive Helmick said that LBC had never (and never did) join the Order of the Arrow because the National Council would not allow them to duplicate the name of Tahquitz if they did join. When LBC moved its camp to the San Bernardino Mountains in 1959, it kept the name, “Camp Tahquitz” and also the name, “Tribe of Tahquitz” for its program.

Steve Harvey (Eagle Scout T & XP-110) remembered that the competition was vigorous and sparks flew between their dance teams when the Camp Emerson OA Tahquitz Lodge would compete against the LBC Tribe of Tahquitz where OA lodges met at conclaves with those that did not belong to the OA. Mike Goldware (Eagle Scout T & XP-110, National OA Distinguished Award in 1973) said that this occurred twice, once in Santa Barbara in 1973, and again at Camp Pendleton in 1975. Goldware led the team on the first and Marv Goffman was the section advisor (sic) for the second.

Another change happened when the three Councils, Riverside, Arrowhead and Grayback were combined to make the California Inland Empire Council, with John Dudley as Scout Executive. Each of the three Councils had their own OA lodge and wanted to have its name perpetuated. This was impossible, so the new name for the CIE Council OA Lodge was “Cahuilla”. Tahquitz Lodge had been the oldest of the three OA lodges so its low number of #127 was kept. Cahuilla Lodge OA # 127 was registered by the National Council Order of the Arrow. Many of the members of each former lodge were upset and wanted to remain independent of the NCOA and retain their former groups. As the Councils got together and worked out their differences so did the OA lodges. The new CIE Council owned two camps, Camp Emerson in the San Jacinto Mountains and Camp Helendade in the San Bernardino Mountains.

In February 1938 Jerry Johnson, realtor and president of the Idyllwild All Year Resort ( the former properties of C.L. Emerson) gave a quitclaim deed to the RC Council lifting Mr. Emerson’s former restriction of the camp from “Boy Scouts” to “youth and church groups”.

During the spring camp promotion of 1938, a camp slogan contest was held and the winner was Charles Berry, T-50, Indio. The winning slogan was “Heigh Ho, to Emerson we’ll go”.

Executive Helmick was an avid photographer who took thousands of photos and reels of black and white and colored movies. Everything and everyone was well-documented. He built a darkroom in 1940 between what became the Main Lodge and West Lodge to develop many of his still photos. In 1960 this darkroom was removed. Unfortunately, almost all of his photos and files were destroyed and were unavailable for this history.

Between 1933 and 1939, Tahquitz Bowl was reconstructed in concrete at the original location. This campfire bowl had been the site of many Tribe of Tahquitz and Tahquitz Lodge OA ceremonies and activities. Prior to the late 1950’s, the seating consisted of three rows of stone. The additional seating was added in subsequent years as service projects during the annual OA Ordeals. In 1950, the Lodge hosted the Region XII A Order of the Arrow Fellowship Conference, the first such activity at Camp Emerson. In April 1955, the camp again hosted the same Region XII A conference. The Cahuilla Lodge OA 127 held a Fall Fellowship at Camp Emerson in 1993 to celebrate 20 years of service— 1973-1993. The bowl played an important part in all of the OA activities. In about 1922, the Tribe of Tahquitz began the painting and repainting of Tahquitz Rock. (illus. 17)

In 1939, two cabins donated by E.T. Wall, citrus grower and packer of Riverside, were built in the camp. These were obtained because the USFS no longer allowed any buildings on USFS land. Both of the cabins were actually disassembled in the San Bernardino Mountains and reassembled by Roman Warren (Chairman, RC Council Camping Commitee, Silver Beaver 1947), Riverside County Sheriff. The first cabin was put near the south boundary and what became the location of Beauvell Gate, and was used as the Ranger’s Lodge. This one was razed in 1961 to clear the area for the construction of the Central Services Building. The second was a small cabin erected near the then southwest boundary and was known as West Lodge, to honor the Chief Scout Executive James E. West, who had visited the camp. It had a high pitched roof, floored attic, indoor plumbing, and electricity. Scout troops used it for sleeping prior to a weekend hike up Tahquitz Peak, and Scouts were known to have slept in the attic. In 1994 Beau Sawyer converted it into a temporary darkroom for teaching the photography merit badge for the Temescal-Mt. Rubidoux District 75th Anniversary Camp. (illus. 18 and 19)

Another addition was the establishement of a short BB or pellet gun range in the clearing that later became the location of the three main flagpoles, north of Strawberry Creek. In 1981 this area became known as the Brownsea Island Field in honor of Baden-Powell’s first Boy Scout camp held on Brownsea Island, England, in 1907.

%d bloggers like this: