Camp Herrick Revisited, 2003

On October 21, 2003

by Scott Woodman
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Council Fire, 2003
S. Woodman photo
Before today, it had been at least 20 years since I walked the Camp Herrick grounds. It had been 46 years since I had been a camper, and perhaps 30 years since the camp was closed. A Fall day, sunny with a chill in the air, I drove, with my wife, from our errands in Laconia to see what had become of the camp and to introduce my wife to one of my favorite childhood places.

We drove south along the lake. Spotting the sign that announced the town of Alton. I knew that we were near. Then came the Wise Owl restaurant, or what passes for that establishment now. The name has changed but still has something to do with an owl. The camp road which should have been across the street had been replaced by a yellow house and the ball field was their side yard. About 100 yards north, however, was a grassy road closed off by a cable. We walked in not knowing where it would lead. Left turn, right turn, across a culvert, up a little incline, and wham! there was the camp road.

Gove Hall, 2003
S. Woodman photo
I turned back to look down the grassy road and knew that we were on the foot path to the ball field...the one with the high maintenance foot bridge that required endless hours of work detail to keep in repair. We turned right onto the camp road and there through the trees was Gove Hall...the men's latrine. Needs cleaning I thought. Bill Shay and I did that many times...It was easy duty and when we were done we could relax while the others were waiting for "swim call" to sound, indicating the end of work detail.

"Look Christine" I said. "That's where the glory hole was. That's where we dumped all the garbage." Her excitement level was telegraphed by her glassy eyes and her head rolling in an "oh god three-sixty". Her excitement level didn't even change when I went on about Richard Day falling in or that he was really pushed by Herbie Hammond. I guess you just had to be there.

Officer's Cabin 1, 2003
S. Woodman photo
The mess hall is gone. Just the concrete pilings remain. The cook shack burned over 20 years ago but the building still stands. Still inside and visible through the windows are the two big old stoves and the refrigerator with the condenser on top. As an older scout, I helped Al Brindle with the cooking, and learned a lot about life from himů.such as "no spuds, no dowdy". But the real reason to be in the cook shack, the reason kids liked to volunteer for kitchen KP, was to be near, and hang out with, Ann. At least that was my reason.

Cabin 6, 2003
S. Woodman photo
The field in front of the cabins is overgrown such that it is no longer a field and is hard to walk thru. Still standing are the ladies cabin, officers one and two, cabin four and six. The others look to be victims of snow load and age. Conspicuous by its absence, however, are signs of vandalism. Perhaps it's a credit to the locals that they just don't ruin stuff.

The flagpole still stands at the top of the hill, now crowded by saplings. The ladies latrine is in fair shape. The area between the cook shack and mess hall, where dishwater was heated, is marked by the concrete fire pit, four steel roof posts and the steel roofing lying nearby on the ground. I think that if Mr. Moffett could have found a way to get 400-degree dishwater, he would have had our hands in it.

Chapel, 2003
S. Woodman photo
We picked our way down what was once the stone lined path to the council fire and chapel. We easily found the council fire ring, since the pines have kept the saplings a bay. For some time after I had the sound of "John Jacob Jingle" running thru my head. It occurred to me that singing around a fire was what kids did before TV, video games and personal CD players.

The log seats are long ago rotted, but otherwise the chapel is unchanged. In front of the big rock, the alter stones are arranged perfectly. Of all that is now Camp Herrick, it is the chapel that has withstood time and generated in me a strange uneasy feeling. It sounds a bit corny as I write it, but this is the place where the spirit of Troop Two lives on.

Given the new roadwork into the campsite, it may not be too long before the hillside is covered with condos and all traces of Camp Herrick are gone forever. For those living close enough to make the trip, I highly recommend it. For those that can't, I've asked Bill to post my photos on the website.

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