Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Camp Tosebo ( II )

I continue discovering more things about my family and Camp Tosebo. My aunt and my cousin have reconnected with people they knew during their summers there. My cousin, Gary (son of Aunt Micky and brother of Arlene) was allowed to be a camper because he was the right age and because he was a boy. Arlene says she was upset by this because he got the Camp Tosebo t-shirt and she did not.
Cousin Gary (above) in his spiffy TOSEBO t-shirt
Cousin Arlene (below, left) no spiffy TOSEBO t-shirt
notice the pout
When I started this journey, I “googled” both Todd School for Boys and Camp Tosebo. There was not a lot to be found about the school, but I found someone had taken the time to collect and post over 100 pictures of Camp Tosebo – times that he and his older brother had spent at the camp. In this collection, I found pictures of my cousins, Gary and Arlene, and several of my grandfather, General Johnson. In this collection was a 1940’s brochure of the camp. In some places the printing in the brochure is very difficult to read. [One of my projects surrounding this journey is to decipher the information in the brochure.]

I thought you would enjoy seeing what a day in the life of a camper was in the 1940's. A well-rounded curriculum was provided for every camper.
The regular daily program will look something like this – only most days aren’t regular, for there are usually some trips or special events planned.

7:00 First Call
7:05 Assembly.
Getting up drill.
7:15 Wash up
7:30 Breakfast
8:00 Make beds and put camp in order.
Toothbrush brigade.
8:20 Transportation
8:30 Athletics. Class instruction and individual coaching in track and field, athletics, baseball, and rowing(?). [I believe archery was in this group also.]
9:30 Classes. The camp is divided into eight groups according to age and there are eight subjects taught. This gives each boy one week in each class. The subjects taught are Rowing, Canoeing, Horsemanship, Woodcraft, Material (construction work, model sailboats, etc.) and structural, Photography, and Bird Lore.
11:00 Swimming
12:30 Dinner
1:30 Rest Period
2:30 Free for recreation.
Sailing or motorboat trips. Fishing trips about twice a week. Horses available. Swimming.
6:00 Supper.
After supper: Ball games, boating on the lake, camp fire.

The camp was immersed in Native American folklore (all campers were given an Indian name).
From the brochure: The Thursday night camp fire is held in the sacred Indian Council Ring. Indian dances – Indian customs prevail. In the picture you will see four Tosebo Indians standing at the four points of the compass on the circle. They will do the Fire Dance at the end of which the stacked wood will miraculously bust into flame. How is it done? Nobody knows – unless possible Chief Whirling Thunder.

Memories from another TOSEBO camper: For the activities involving competition the camp was divided into two tribes, the Blackfeet and the Chippewas. Some of the feature events of the season included the regular games of the "major" and "minor" leagues, tournaments in tennis, track, archery, BB's, and Tom Thumb Golf.

Another visible sign of the old Camp Tosebo is the boathouse. The Camp Tosebo Boathouse has been a landmark on the southern shore of Portage Lake since 1912. Until 1938 the Boathouse sat on cribs out in the water and boats were "driven in" through doors on the east side. The second floor was used for clothes changing and featured a slide that went right into the water. In the winter of 1938-39 the Boathouse was dragged to its current location. Clothes changing was moved to the first floor and the upstairs was used to hang out the sails to dry.

Memories from my Cousin Arlene…
July 22, 2009
…I appreciate that the old Boathouse has been restored and it appears to have the same colors it did for years. It originally was sort of a light gold color like some of the other buildings. One day Grandpa took me - and perhaps my brother Gary- in to Manistee to choose new paint colors for the boathouse. I remember choosing the light green (though perhaps I was "guided" in that choice) for the boathouse - but it was Grandpa who chose the red for the lettering. I remember thinking that those colors might not go together, but I'm glad I was overruled. We got to help paint the boathouse - at least at the lower levels and seeing it restored is gratifying.
Arlene Thomas

I was going to include stories about the old camp truck. However, today I got an email with more information about the truck in it. So I will save that for later.

Thanks, again, for stopping by…
Have a great day !


  1. What a rich history your family has. A most enjoyable journey too. I'll await your next installment.

    Have a terrific day Carol. Big hug. :)

  2. Carol,

    These are wonderful stories. I just love them. As a matter of curiosity, I priced a camp that I attended as a child for about $70 for a week. It is now $420. That is a shame because this is an experience all children should have.

  3. So, what were the "Indian names" your family chose? I love this little jaunt into history, but the "activities" at that camp make it sound like a boot camp ... lol ...

  4. The only "Indian name" I have come across is the one my aunt took. She says her name was "WAUWENA". She is not sure of the spelling or the meaning.


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