My introduction to church youth camping came at Eggelstone Park, near Belmont, New York where I directed Western Association one week youth camps in 1940 and 1941. There were about twenty teenagers in 1940 and perhaps 30 in 1941. A staff of seven adults made for a good program and happy campers.
Pastor George Shaw, then retired and living in Alfred, led a featured hour in the program that we called, “Grampa Shaw’s Story Hour”. Rather than have a rest period after lunch with the campers lying on their bunks, they gathered after lunch under a huge tree and listened to Pastor Shaw share a series of talks on “Seventh Day Baptists I Have Known”. What a great shame that we were not able to record or video those stimulating, informative historic sessions.
Reverend Harley Sutton, Executive for the Seventh Day Baptist Board of Christian Education, and I co-directed the first Pre-Conference Youth Retreat on Cotton Lake near Battle Creek, Michigan in 1940. I recall that Dean Bond was guest lecturer on the staff and Harley’s wife, Madge Sutton helped too. One evening Harley attempted to lead a worship service from a boat off the shore of the lake but the mosquitoes were so vicious we had to move indoors. Someone composed the following lyrics for a fun song we sang often:
Randy Randolph is a peach,
But he’d rather fish than preach.
Hey, hey, do-anonny, do.
The 1941 sessions of General Conference were held in Denver, Colorado so the second Pre-Conference Young People’s Retreat was held at Rocky Mountain Seventh Day Baptist Camp on Lee Hill above Boulder. Harley Sutton and I co-directed this retreat. I remember the two of us taking a hand saw up on the mountain above the camp and cutting pieces out of a seasoned western cedar tree. Taking them back to Little Genesee, Harley made a cross, or had a cross made, that is now on the mantel at Camp Harley Sutton near Alfred Station.
It is good to observe that Pre-Con Youth Retreats have continued to be a successful part of the Conference program for young people for over fifty years. Now the program has been expanded to provide Young Adult and Family Pre-Cons. How many hundred Seventh Day Baptist youth have attended?
The Boulder Seventh Day Baptist church was without a Pastor at the time of the 1941 Retreat at Rocky Mountain Camp so they invited me to preach for them on Sabbath. Sometime after returning to Alfred Station from the Denver Conference, I received a “call” to the pastorate of the Boulder church. declined for the reason that I had been at Alfred Station so short a time.
Our second child, first son, was born July 30, 1941, seven days before I left for the Pre-Con Retreat at Rocky Mountain Camp. My mother came from West Virginia to help Madeline with the family. We named the new son, Daniel, and the next day, Sabbath, I preached on the text: “And Daniel purposed in his heart”.
In the years since 1941 I have directed a Pre-Con in West Virginia and Madeline and I co-directed a Young Adult Pre-Con at the university in Alfred.