BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA
HOW IT STARTED
In the late 1930's several Scout Executives who were actively related to the Wisconsin Eagle Forestry Camp and/or conducted council canoe trips in northern Wisconsin conceived the idea of a jointly or Regionally sponsored canoe outfitting base that would make the advantages of this great canoe country available to many councils. The idea was discussed with the Wisconsin Conservation Commission, the Superintendent of Northern Highlands State Forest, and the Regional and National office. The National Council was reluctant to take on such a project in view of the proximity of Region Ten Canoe Base and their policy of minimum property ownership and permanent nationally sponsored programs. Finally, however, permission was given for the interested local councils to set up a co-operative program on a trial basis.
Ed Schwechel, Scout Executive of Samoset Council, Wausau, Wisconsin, Ernie Schmidt, S. E. of Twin Lakes Council, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Ted Shearer, S. E. of Aurora Council, Aurora, Illinois and Dick Potter, S. E. of Arrowhead Council, Champaign, Illinois, took on the task of getting a base established. Judge Rosenberry, Chairman of the State Conservation Commission, Haskel Noyes, a member of the committee, C. L. Harrington, Director of Conservation, and Leif Steiro, Superintendent of Northern Highlands State Forest, were very much interested and most co-operative, due somewhat at least to their fine experience with the Eagle Scout Forestry Camp.
The initial plan of the committee was to establish a base on Lost Canoe Lake near the Eagle Scout Forestry Camp. A beautiful site was chosen on a ridge jutting out into the lake and accessible from county road K. However, when the possibility of a base on this property was discussed with the Conservation people, they suggested the possibility of using the former C. C. C. Camp on White Sand Lake which was no longer used and had been turned over to the State by the federal government. This would eliminate the need for any construction of buildings and facilities during the trial period. A visit to the site revealed it to be ideal in location and to have the finest beach in northern Wisconsin. The Conservation Department offered the use of several buildings and the project was off to a fine start. When logging operations were in full swing in northern Wisconsin, a logging camp had been located on this site and it also served as an assembly point for logs that could be floated in, a railroad spur ran to the beach and the cut made for the tracks to the beach can still be seen at the northern edge of the present camp. In fact, the new Woodbadge Patrol site is on the other side of it. Back of the pump house there still existed a White Pine stump nearly 5' in diameter.
Funds for initial equipment were contributed by many councils of the Region and interested individuals. The Base opened in the summer of 1940 under the name of "MIWI" (representing the 4 states of Region 7). Ernie Schmidt developed numerous routes, marking portages and campsites, and drew the first map of the area for use of canoe parties. Members of the Executive Committee served as the Base Staff with the help of other volunteers. The program was enthusiastically received by many councils of the Region and by 1942, Region Seven established a co-operative relationship in preparation to the assumption of full responsibility. A. F. Claude of the Regional staff was assigned to serve as coordinator of the Base during the transition period that summer.
That year $2118.00 was received in contributions to provide additional equipment and 2 Senior Scouts employed to assist the 3 man staff. Participation totaled 280 Senior Scouts and leaders for 280 camper weeks representing 22 councils.
REGION SEVEN BECOMES OFFICIAL SPONSOR--1943
In April 1943, C.J. Carlson, Regional Executive, appointed R.E. Gregg, Deputy Regional Executive, as Director of the Base, and the name was changed to Region Seven Scout Landing. Working with the original committee of Executives who continued to assist for several years, 6 outstanding young men who had previously gone on trips from the Base, were selected to serve as guides for parties during the summer. Bob Gregg recruited Jack Loesch, Toledo, Ohio, with whom he had worked at National Aquatic Schools, and who was an expert canoeist and wilderness camper, to spend two weeks at the Base to help open camp and give the very best in training to the guides. Jack continued to serve in this capacity until 1955 and rendered a truly outstanding service and made a major contribution to the growing success of the program. The staff that first year consisted of R. E. Gregg and members of the committee who took turns serving as cook and the other adult staff members, plus the 6 guides.
Several additional buildings had been made available by the Conservation Department so that facilities now consisted of barracks #1, 2, 3 and 4, mess hall, shower and toilet house, pump house and water tower, generator house and motors, ice house, and part of the garage. Electricity was supplied by gasoline driven generators which were cranked to start every evening and shut down the last thing at night and were not very dependable. Water came from an excellent well pumped into a 20,000 gallon wooden tank. However, the tank dried out every winter and required a great deal of caulking and soaking each spring. This was overcome only because Leif Steiro caulked it each year and sent a large pump over to pump water from the lake into the tower for days to soak it up. The gasoline motor which operated the well pump was very unreliable and frequently would not start. Ice had to be cut each winter and stored in the ice house from which huge blocks were put in the walk-in refrigerator each day to provide the only refrigeration in camp. This "walk-in" had one additional advantage in that many mornings early and late in the season it was the warmest place in camp! Vegetables were kept in a vegetable cellar in the hill behind the mess hall.
One of the great assets of the camp was the fact that J.A. Scott, an employee of the conservation Department lived on the property. His telephone to the Forestry Headquarters at Trout Lake was the only contact with the outside world in case of emergency, though of no value for regular telephone business. Scotty was employed by the Region as year 'round caretaker and to assist in the summer on maintenance in his spare time. J.C. Steiro, brother of Leif, who owned a number of summer house keeping cottages on White Sand Lake, put up ice for us in the winter and did a great deal of maintenance and repair work on buildings. Another person who should be mentioned at this point is Dr. Kate Newcomb who served this entire vacation-land area and later became famous for her dedicated service through the television program "This Is Your Life' and a book entitled Dr. Kate. She made many trips to the Landing to do medical rechecks and was always on call for emergencies. The nearest hospital was at Tomahawk, 50 miles away, though one was built in later years at Woodruff in memory of Dr. Kate, from contributions of school children across America.
Building #1 was used as camp office, adult staff and camp lounge. Building #2 served as map room, equipment issue, and a place for planning sessions. Building #3 provided overnight facilities for incoming groups and storage for their equipment while on the trail. Building #4 housed the junior staff. Canoes were kept on racks in the pines near the lake and stored in the barracks each winter. Campsites were established along the lake and several wells were driven to provide water. Parties camped at these sites while the guides gave them training and helped plan their trip.
War rationing had become a serious problem by 1943 and made it almost necessary for all parties coming any distance to travel by train. Fortunately, the Milwaukee Railroad still had one train a day to Star Lake, which is 7 miles from White Sand Lake. Since the only vehicle owned by the Landing was a canoe trailer with a bed in the bottom for paddles and gear, there was no way to transport people to camp even from Star Lake. The train arrived at about 11:00 A. M., so parties were met by an adult staff member with private automobile and the trailer. Upon arrival, the party was given a picnic lunch and then loaded all their gear in the car and trailer. The duffel was then hauled to the Landing while the party leader and Senior Scouts hiked in. The return trip was the same unless there happened to be a number of private cars on hand at the Landing with sufficient gasoline ration to assist in transportation.
Food rationing and the needs of the armed services made it necessary to resort to fresh vegetables and cured meats plus canned lunchmeats such as Spam. What canned goods could be secure were largely in glass jars and this posed a secondary problem. As a result, parties were issued bags of potatoes, heads of cabbage, bunches of carrots, etc., plus hams, slab bacon, and large quantities of bread. It was almost impossible to carry enough food of this kind for more than 4 or 5 days. This meant shorter trips or being replenished on the trail. For 10 day trips, the groups were always met at an agreed upon rendezvous with food for the rest of the trip. This was hauled to them in the car of the Director or other adult staff member. Remarkably, no group ever failed to meet on schedule and the staff contact was always on time. In later years, canned beef and other products were available from the military including dehydrated vegetables. In fact, the Landing did some testing of "C" and "K" rations for the Army.
Cooking at the Base was done on coal or wood-burning stoves and water was heated by coal fired heaters. The small barbershop room at the end of the shower and toilet building was converted into a laundry with tubs and was boards. All laundry was done by hand. A huge garbage pit was dug behind the mess hall each year until a truck was available to haul to a dump.
In spite of transportation problems, 192 campers and leaders came from 17 councils for a total of 234 camper weeks the first year of Regional operation.