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Preserving the History & Heritage of Lake Winnipesaukee & Vicinity
 

 

SUMMER CAMPS

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OF LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE



Camp Menotomy, Meredith, NH

The modern summer camp movement has been contributed to by many, but the organized camp is essentially an educational institution. As such it was originated and has been developed by educators, those who were concerned with the lives of the young and their training for adulthood.

The first organized summer camp that presented practically all the best features of what summer camping is today was that of Ernest Balch, opened in 1881 and continued until 1889. But there were unknown to Balch others before his time who took boys into the open wilderness during the summer months.

Ernest Balch started his camp as a result of deliberate planning to meet a particular need. All the essential features of the organized camp were worked out by him at Camp Chocorua. Moreover, his camp was maintained continuously on the same site for nine years, and as a result of its influence, other camps were established that followed his practices and many of his old campers later established camps of their own. That is, Balch not only put into execution a carefully thought-out educational plan, but he established a school of imitators and disciples who followed his practices and out of which has come the organized summer camp as the lake knows it today.

Regarding Camp Chocorua, Balch wrote the following:

I first thought of the boys' camp as an institution in 1880. The miserable condition of boys belonging to well-to-do families in summer hotels, considered from the point of view of their right development, set me to looking for a substitute. That year and 1881, I had thought out the main lines of a boys' camp. That year, also, with two boys, I made a short camping trip to Big Squam. In 1881 I occupied and bought Chocorua Island.

It is hard now to distinguish invented ideas from those acquired by experience. Certainly we began with several important ones which persisted in the structure of the camp during the nine years of its active life.

The first theory was that there should be no servants in the camp; that the camp work must all be done by the boys and faculty. Another was that the boys must be trained to master the lake. So a systematic and complex plan was thought out to provide safety for the boys and teach them swimming, diving, boat work, canoeing and sailing.

Minor activities were singing, the choir, acylyte [sic] work, the library, carpentry, chiefly building, law court, contracting companies, baseball, "The Golden Rod," camp paper, correspondence with home, pillow fights, water fights, liberty day without rules, stories, charity, fishing, cooking, examinations, races, land sports, cruises. The division of work in a crew, the management of a crew by the boy "Stroke," was always amusing to watch.

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