Special to The Pioneer
By Bob Anderson of Windermere
Years ago, dozens of boys spent their summers at a month-long summer camp that was perched overlooking the waters of Lake Windermere. The boys learned life skills like how to canoe, ride horses, and shoot rifles. On sunny days, boys lined the beach, churning up the water with swimming and sailing competitions, and when it was raining, the campers would huddle around the woodworking shop, building canoe paddles and other creations.
Rocky Mountain Boys’ Camp was owned and operated by Ted and Betti Zinkan. It ran from 1954 to 1974 and was located on Lake Windermere, where Timber Ridge now is. In those days, that area was much more open than it is now, with just a few trees scattered here and there. Beautiful views up and down the valley could be seen from anywhere on the property.
They boys who went to camp were aged 8 to 16. The camp had about 100 boys each month, who would stay for the entire month of either July or August. A few stayed for two months. They boys were organized into groups of 10 to a cabin, with two counsellors in each cabin. Camp participants came from Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Seattle, and Spokane. A small number even came from countries like Japan, Mexico, Germany, and England.
My dad, Dix Anderson, worked at the camp for all of the 20 years it operated. He ran the horseback riding and mountain pack trips. Fred Hunt worked at the camp for many years helping dad with the horseback riding, and Margy Brown from Edgewater also worked for the Zinkans.
The Zinkan children, Vicky, Gaither, Ted Jr., and Gretchen all worked at the camp over the years, and Gaither and Ted Jr. were a great help to their dad in running the camp.
I went to Boys’ Camp from 1960 to 1964 and then worked there from 1966 to 1974. The staff would number about 30 people, give or take, depending on how many boys were there. Counsellors came from universities right across Canada. I remember quite a number coming from Maritime universities like Dalhousie. Ted Chamberlain, who was at Boys Camp for many years, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
The activities at the camp were numerous. We went horseback riding for up to a week at a time, canoed, swam, water-skied, and sailed on the lake, and practised riflery and archery. We also took part in workshop, where everyone built a canoe paddle to take home with them. There were all sorts of other sporting activities like football, table tennis, and a camp favourite game we called “beanball.” Beanball was sort of like tetherball but with a small rubber ball hit with wooden bats. There were at least 10 beanball poles at camp. This camp was not a “specialty camp”; it was an old-fashioned summer camp with lots of activities.
Flag raising: Mornings would begin with everyone gathered out at a point of land high above the lake for the raising of the Canadian flag and the singing of O Canada. Activities for each group for the day would also be announced. Then, everyone would filter into the dining room where we sang grace before every meal. We recited either ‘Johnny Appleseed’ or ‘We Thank Thee Father’ and one other I can’t remember.
Mr. Anderson Sir: Some of the boys would call my dad “Mr. Anderson Sir.” They were usually boys who went to private schools and were used to addressing their teachers in a very formal way. Since dad was quite a bit older than most of the people working at the camp, they thought they had to address him that way too. Anyway, dad got a kick out of it. Ted Zinkan and Fred Hunt would then call Dad “Mr. Anderson Sir” as well.
Galloping Goose: The Galloping Goose was a barge built by Ted and powered by an outboard motor. It was for the youngest groups to take on an overnight trip down the lake where they camped on the shore at the south end.
Mountain trips and canoe trips: Camp participants were often taken into the mountains with horses. These trips would be five or six days at a time, and would travel into areas like Mt. Assiniboine, Lake of the Hanging Glacier, and Pedley Pass, before the road went so far.
Later in the month, we would take a canoe trip down Lake Windermere, and paddle the Columbia River upstream, sometimes getting out and dragging the canoes. We would go to Columbia Lake, across, portage into the Kootenay River at Canal Flats, and then go down the Kootenay River into Montana. A truck would drive down to bring the group back. This was about a five day trip.
The train: The boys who came from Vancouver would come up on the train. I remember one year, dad had to go to Vancouver to supervise the train trip up. At one point when the train was at full speed, one of the boys pulled the emergency cord, just to see what would happen. Well, the train came to a screeching halt. The CPR conductors were not happy, to say the least!
Phones: The camp had its own phone system, which was set up by Ted. The phones were old-fashioned crank phones and were set up in different places througout the camp.
Haircuts: In the early days, dad was the camp barber, but when The Beatles came along, his haircutting days at Boys’ Camp were over (he still cut my hair, though).
The Infirmary: There was a camp nurse and infirmary for boys who were sick or injured. I think boys would sometimes fake being sick just to be around the nurse, who was always very pretty and nice.
Letters home: Every Sunday a full turkey dinner was served (all the meals in the dining room were fantastic!), but to get a turkey dinner, each boy had to have a letter ready to be sent home. There was a lot of letter writing on Sundays.
Ice: Ted was one of the last people to cut blocks of ice out of the lake in the winter for use in the summer. The ice was stored in a shed and covered with sawdust. It was used in the kitchen and drinking fountains around the camp.
Ted the builder: It seemed like Ted built almost everything himself. The sail boats, the row boats, the cabins the boys stayed in, the “Galloping Goose”, and a whole bunch of other stuff. What a worker!
Mrs. Zinkan: Mrs. Betti Zinkan was not seen too much and stayed in the background, but she was a key person in making everything run smoothly. Ted always said the camp couldn’t have been run without her. She was also a wonderful photographer.
Prize Giving: A regatta was held on the last day of each month. The regatta included swimming races, canoe races, and sailing races, among other things. On the last evening of each month, “Prize Giving” was held to hand out ribbons and trophies. Each boy was presented with a wooden shield made by Ted, which was sort of a report card on each activity.
And then, the summer was over, and it was time to say goodbye to the Rocky Mountain Boys’ Camp.
Ted and Betti Zinkan worked very hard to make the camp one of the best summer camps in the world. Thanks to my mom and dad and the Zinkans, I got to experience the Boys’ Camp. I was very lucky.