Originally known as Topanga Glen and then Slauson Memorial Camp, the camp came into being as the result of a deed of gift from the late James Slauson's daughter, Kate S. Vosburg, to the Crescent Bay District Council on October 18, 1923. The land, an eighty acre piece of undeveloped property in Red Rock Canyon near the town of Topanga in Los Angeles County, inured to the Council as long as four conditions were met:
- That the Council pay its property tax bills and any debts on the property in a timely fashion.
- That the land be used by the Crescent Bay District Council for the free recreation of children and youths.
- That the Crescent Bay District Council not forfeit or surrender its charter with the Boy Scouts of America for 15 years.
- That the Council not go a year's time without actively using the property for the recreation of its membership.
There was nothing in the terms of the original bequest that required there be a "Camp" per se, on the parcel, only that children and youths use the land for "recreation". Presumably, troops used the location as a place for day meetings and an occasional weekend overnight trip. There is no evidence that Slauson Memorial Camp ever served as a place where Crescent Bay Council actually conducted summer camps, choosing instead to organize camps in Temescal Canyon, Russell Ranch in Ventura, North of Saugus and Emerald Bay on Catalina during the 1920's.
Front page article in Los Angeles Times - April 28, 1926 (copy)
Hitting the Lottery
Unbeknownst to James Slauson or his heirs, it was believed that there was oil underneath the land he gave to the Crescent Bay Council Boy Scouts. When the discovery was made in 1925, the Vosburg family probably rethought the gift they had made but both the family and the Council were blocked from leasing the land for oil drilling. Uses of the land were restricted in the original gift deed for recreational purposes only. A deal was struck in court on April 28, 1926, allowing the Crescent Bay Council and Slauson heirs to lease the tract to the Standard Oil Company. A royalty of one-sixth all of the oil taken would be paid, the first $500 per month of the Council's share to be spent by the Scout executive as he saw fit. The excess was to be invested in another piece of property for recreational purposes and once paid for, the additional funds to be put into a trust fund with the income used for the recreational needs of the Scouts affiliated with the Council.
A New Camp Slauson?
With the Crescent Bay Scouts making plans to spend their new found fortunes, the picture becomes very fuzzy. Whether, Standard Oil never started drilling; they drilled and found dry wells, or they simply decided to drill somewhere else and leave the Council and Slauson heirs holding a worthless agreement, the oil wells never materialized. The scouts continued to use Camp Slauson in the very same location and this is where it stayed until 1986 when the camp was sold by the Western Los Angeles County Council.
1930's and the Camp Veteran Program
Over time, the camp was improved with buildings and camp sites but was still not used as a Council summer camp location. Troops built their own cabins up and down the canyon around camp. There was a Lodge, parade grounds and a flag pole.
A program originally developed at the Council summer camp in 1923 called Camp Veteran was also instituted at Camp Slauson where scouts and troops could camp and work on their requirements for the Camp Veteran Award. It appears that the Camp Veteran Program continued on at Camp Slauson into the 1950's.
In 1942 a fire burned through Red Rock Canyon destroying almost all of the Scout cabins. Four years later, the scouts made arrangements to secure the U.S.O. cabin from Los Angeles International Airport (then located in Burbank) and moved it to Camp Slauson. It was used by Troop 2 for twenty years until the flat roof and ceiling were finally wrecked by wood rot and two decades of scouts walking around on top of it.
Earl "Grabby" Grabhorn became Ranger of Camp Slauson in 1949, a position he would hold through 1962 and then again in the late 1960's through his retirement in the 1970's. No individual is more closely associated with or embodies the spirit of Camp Slauson more than Grabby.
1955-Camp was closed through November due to fire danger. A new water pump and storage tank was built to help with dry conditions.
1960's - 1972
In 1962, Ed Jordon took over the position of Camp Ranger. That lasted six years when Ed and his wife Patty moved to Gardena. Once again, the ever popular Grabby answered the call and was back as Ranger at Camp Slauson in February of 1968.
Great Western Era
Western Los Angeles County Council Era
In 1986, the Council sold Camp Slauson to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy which opened it to the public as Red Rock Canyon Park. It has drinking fountains and a small picnic area but is otherwise undeveloped.