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Camp Wolverton - History - 1939-1945  
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The Beginning of Camp Wolverton 1939
 
          Much of the story of Camp Wolverton's earliest summers comes from the scrap books, Council news letters and photos compiled by Bill Van Slyke, Scoutmaster of Troop 34, Venice. Bill took his Troop to Wolverton in 1936, 1940, 1947, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1956, 1977  & 1978.  Additional recollections from Alden Barber many years following his retirement in 1976 as Chief Scout Executive of the B.S.A., fill in the record of the early 1940's. Barber, came to Crescent Bay Council as a field executive in the fall of 1940 and was Director of the camp in 1941. He recalled Sequoia National Park designating the Wolverton Area for use by all Scout troops in the late 1930's although the historical record is clear that Crescent Bay Council began summer camping in Sequoia in 1927 and into the early 1930's.
          Crescent Bay decided to resurrect summer camping in Sequoia National Park in 1939 at the request of seasoned Scoutmasters like Van Slyke who felt that Camp Emerald Bay had become too much like a luxury resort where scouts slept in cabins and dined on three meals a day served up in the mess hall. Camp Wolverton officially opened that summer as High Sierra Camp and it is thought that the Council received its first use permit from the Park Service around that time. The permit continued annually (except between 1942-45) until 2011 when the Park service notified Western Los Angeles County Council that it would no longer be renewed.
          The official name of the Camp during this period
remains somewhat of a mystery. The traditional name High Sierra Camp, used throughout the 1920's and 1930's, was still the common reference. High Sierra was certainly the name used on the first Good Camper patches in 1939 and 1940. However, evidence is clear that at least by 1940, the camp was called Wolverton and  High Sierra.
Mart Bushnell            Mart Bushnell
, original Emerald Bay Staff in 1925; Assistant Director of the 1933 Council Sequoia Summer Camp and Crescent Bay's most experienced Camp Veteran by the late 1930's, was first Camp Director in 1939 and Carl Helms1940. He also lead the first Mt. Whitney Trek for scouts from Camp Wolverton in 1939. Other staff members chosen for 1940 were: John Ingram-Assistant Director; Dean Kennedy -Commissary & Store; Rod Hope -Swimming & Canoeing; John West & Carl Helms -Packers; Kemp Thomas -Program & Activities; Dick Cummings -Crafts; and  Fred Kirby -Doctor.
          For transportation, the Council's REO Speedwagon purchased in 1929, was replaced with a new truck in 1936, and subsequently replaced by a bus. Along with private cars, Scouts caravanned to Sequoia with  camping gear (packs, tents, food and supplies) loaded into the Council trailer wagon. The Council provided regular shuttle service between Santa Monica and Wolverton all summer.

Arriving at High Sierra Camp
First Summer, 1939
 



Scouts caravanned to Sequoia by car. The Council's bus seen in the background. Wooden, trailer was loaded with gear, food & supplies.
L-R: Al McCluney • Art Marquez 4th from left • Bob Bishop on right.
NOTE: Post card is only known image of High Sierra Camp in 1939.
            Scouts inherited a rustic cabin and out-building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933 and located at what became the central camp. For campers and staff, the cabin served as headquarters and provided food storage, safe from the ever-present black bears roaming through. There was also a window in the cabin that probably served as a makeshift trading post, store and commissary. The Cabin was eventually demolished and replaced by the Camp Wolverton staff in 1947.
          During these years, there was no centralized dinning. Troops supplied their own food and cooking supplies. Camping as entire troops and patrols was highly encouraged but was also open to individual scouts who were assembled

into provisional  patrols when they arrived. Life in camp was primitive, at best. There was no running water, electricity or latrines. Troops were assigned
semi-private areas among the trees that had camp stoves for
cooking and a picnic table.
Wolverton Good CamperHot showers were only available if the Scouts brought firewood to heat the water tank.  1940 Wolverton patch
          There were probably few in-camp activities but enough going on to warrant a Good Camper program right from the start. While in camp, scouts could fish, sight-see, work on merit badges and sing around evening camp fires. But for the most part, High Sierra Camp served as a jumping-off base for one-day hikes around the the many sights in Sequoia National Park and 2 to 5-day pack trips into the Sierra, Mt. Whitney and beyond.


 
Original Cabin
Camp Wolverton High Sierra
1940


Original Troop Camp Site
Camp Wolverton High Sierra
1940

 
       

Earliest known photo of central camp showing the
original CCC cabin and another structure (location of the first showers) in the distance to the right.The scouts had use of these buildings when the camp opened in the summer of 1939.

 


Scouts camped in natural and primitive campsites
scattered in the forest around the central camp.
Little more than a camp stove & picnic table was provided
as seen in this 1940 photo of Troop 34's "kitchen".
L-R: Bert Nurse • Joe Rhodes • Floyd Larson •
Walter Ludugson • LaVerne Jordon •


         Wolverton Becomes the Only Summer Camp in 1940

          As it turned out, had it not been for the resurrection of Camp Wolverton in 1939, Crescent Bay Council may have had no location for a summer camp in 1940. In April of that year, Scout Executive F.R. "Uncle Bob" Hill announced that the lease for Camp Emerald Bay expiring on May 31, would not be renewed and summer camping on Catalina Island would be abandoned. Hearing the news, Anatol Josepho generously stepped in and offered the Council a gift of $50,000 to purchase land and make improvements adjacent to his own ranch in Rustic Canyon
( jump to  >  full Josepho Gift story ). But construction of Camp Josepho would not be completed until 1941, leaving Camp Wolverton as the only Crescent Bay Council summer camp in 1940, a circumstance never to be repeated in its 73 year existence. (Note: Camp Trefoil outside Frazier Park, CA was also available but there was no staff or program).
          Crescent Bay mounted a full-on marketing campaign to promote the attributes of Camp Wolverton (and smooth over hard feelings  about the closure of Camp Emerald Bay). The kick-off started with creation of a special tabloid news letter called The Scout News. Sent to everyone involved in scouting within Crescent Bay, the newspaper told every detail of the wonders of Wolverton in Sequoia, including pack trips, trout fishing and outdoor life.
          There definitely appeared to be doubts within the Council leadership as to how well troops would accept Wolverton High Sierra as the only summer camp option.
And who could blame them - Emerald Bay would be a hard act to follow. Despite the dramatic beauty and outdoor camping opportunities afforded by the High Sierra Camp, Crescent Bay Council was acutely aware of the absence of an aquatics programWolverton Water Thrills of any significance. Camp Emerald Bay had become known for its second-to-none aquatics facilities and the Council felt the need to promote a comparable program at Wolverton High Sierra. A small man-made pond that once existed adjacent to the Wolverton area was suddenly being touted as "Lake Wolverton" where scouts would enjoy all of the "thrilling" water front activities they were used to at the Catalina Camp. That, proved to be wishful thinking. According to Frank Glick, the so-called Lake was really not much more than a water hole behind an earthen dam built in the 1930's. Each year, run off into the reservoir filled it with silt to the point where, by the 1960's, it no longer existed. To date, no map has ever been located that shows "Lake Wolverton"Wolverton Plans          
       Changes were made from previous High Sierra Camps, none bigger than dropping the age and rank requirements to attend. Age and rank criteria were back in place the next summer when only older scouts were eligible.
          Different camping plans were available, with something to suite every unit in the Council.
For groups of 18 campers or more, 10-day sessions were available for $11 per Scout which included all food, transportation and equipment. Individual Scouts from troops not signing up as groups were still eligible for the same $11 deal, where they would be assembled into provisional troops when they got to camp.
          For a mere $2 per Scout, troops wishing to furnish their own food and equipment could get transportation to and from Camp Wolverton on the Council bus. And troops having their own transportation and desiring to "do their own thing" were welcome to camp at Wolverton for no cost at all.

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                                                    Day Trips and Pack Trips

          Camp Wolverton High Sierra's main draw was it's proximity to Sequoia National Park's natural wonders. Included were the General Sherman tree, Morro Rock, Crescent Meadow, and many others, all within a three to seven mile loop hike from camp. Also instituted for 1940 were the first "Pack Trips" into the back country lakes, granite peaks and Sierra vistas complete with two pack mules, named Pete and Repete, to carry equipment and supplies. The mules were purchased by the Council and kept at Camp Josepho in the off season. Troops planned their own itineraries and were free to head out in any direction. Images from Troop 34's Wolverton Summer Camp provide a photo essay of the summer adventures experienced by hundreds of Crescent Bay Council Scouts in 1940. 


                                          Troop 34 Arrived in Its Own Truck and Wagon
           
They left Venice, CA, at 9:00 PM, the night of August 28, 1940, and arrived at Camp Wolverton at 11:00 AM the following day.

Scouts Rode to Wolverton in the Back of the Truck



Boxes of Food & Supplies Rode in the Wagon

     

Standing L-R:
Bill Van Slyke • Junior Robertson • Jack Harrington • Ralph Robson • Carl Helms • Joe Rhodes • Walter Lundrigsen • Stuart Fergusan • Dick Gearing • Floyd Larsen
Kneeling L-R: Ok Jordan • Verne McMasters • Bill Anderson •       LaVern Jordan • Eddie Shaw • Hobart Ferguson • Bill Wright • Robert Jordon • Bert Nurse • Albert Keith

Food, tents, sleeping bags, packs and supplies
for the 10-day camp filled 9 wooden lockers.
The truck driver (not shown) was known only as "Lewie".




 
1940
License to Operate Motor Vehicle
Sequoia National Park
 

Issued to Bill Van Slyke for
Troop 34's trip to Camp Wolverton in 1940.


                                       Plenty of Things to See Right Around Camp
                                
Hand-colored postcards are from a souvenir set for sale in the National Park
                       and sent by Scoutmaster Bill Van Slyke to his mother during Troop 34's High Sierra summer camp in 1936.
                      The Black and white photos were taken by members of Troop 34 at their 1940 summer Camp in Wolverton.


Deer in the Park



Deer in Camp Wolverton


General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree
   
         

What fun for a city boy from Los Angeles to see a deer!


"Hey,back off.
I don't have any food!"


The General Sherman tree looks so tall on the postcard!


"Wow, there are so many tall trees I can't see the top"!


                                          Sample of Sights Seen on the Day Hike

Tharp's Log in the Giant Forest
 


Troop 34 at Tharp's Log
 
       

Cool, a cabin built in a huge fallen tree.


"Hey, it really is a cabin built in a huge fallen tree."



Crescent Meadow

 


Troop 34 at Crescent Meadow
 

       

Beautiful and serene.



"I can't believe the whole Troop
fits on this log!"



                            Troop 34 Plans a Pack Trip to Emerald and Pear Lakes

Final Instructions
 

Resting at Emerald Lake
 

Over the Ridge to Pear Lake
 
     
     

Bill Van Slyke talks to the Troop. Hike is
6 miles each way. 3,000 ft. elev. gain.


Elev. 9,000 ft. & 5.2 miles from Wolverton Ready to head out to Pear Lake.


 
The steepest grade. Its downhill
to Pear Lake from here
.


Pear Lake in Late Afternoon
 

Campsite at Pear Lake
 

Packed for Return to Wolverton
 
     
     

A little slice of Heaven.



Sleeping under the trees and stars.



Hey Scouts... where are your uniforms?


          As the summer of 1940 was mid way through, Crescent Bay Council sent out the call to Scoutmasters to fill the few remaining openings left at Camp Wolverton for the season.
          In total, 1940 saw an astounding 26 camping periods, a number never approached again in the Camp's history.


                                                        Scout Master's Bulletin
                                                              July 26, 1940


                             


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                          Camp Wolverton Scales Back in 1941

           The big news in 1941 was the opening of Camp Josepho. On June 7, Crescent Bay's best patrols were invited to a competitive Camporal held in conjunction with the dedication of the camp. For the next six years, camping anywhere else within the Council took a back seat to the hoopla surrounding the "West Point of Scouting" (as Josepho soon came to be known). Summer Camp season opened in July and most all the troops wanted to spend 10 days at the brand new facility in Rustic Canyon, a quick drive from Santa Monica.
           Just a year had passed since the Crescent Bay summer camp in Sequoia was being promoted as the greatest camping adventure a Scout could possibly have. Suddenly in the shadow of Camp Josepho, the Sequoia Camp was drastically scaled back for 1941.
Alden Barber
took over for Mart Bushnell as Wolverton High Sierra Camp Director
.
Carl Helms returned as Packer and was the only other staff member.

          The 1941 Wolverton Patchprogram was cut back too. Supplies and commissary were no longer available at the cabin. Troops had to bring their own food and everything else they needed. There were no organized camper sessions. Troops coming up to Wolverton only needed to call Council headquarters to let them know when they were coming up to Wolverton and how long they were staying. The cost was reduced to 10 cents per scout per day.
          But nothing could stop the Wolverton faithful. Scouts and Troops loving the smell of mountain air, sleeping under the stars and hiking in the pristine back-country of the High Sierra returned to Sequoia in 1941. To be a Good Camper at Camp Wolverton was literally a "Badge of  Honor".
          The pack trips begun in 1940 were still the ultimate camping experience and definitely not for the weak of heart. Troops interested in a pack trip of any duration were invited to make their interest known to Council headquarters. According to the May 1941, Scouting14,496 patch News, Carl Helms "will be ready to take your Troop back into the lake country, leave you and come in and bring you out whenever you wish." Pete and Repete, the Council's burros,were also available to haul food and supplies up and down the arduous trails to outpost camps.
          Beginning in 1941, those scouts making the
Mt. Whitney trip were awarded a special badge & membership into the exclusive 14,496 Club. The award was later renamed the 14,495 Club in the mid 1950's when the U.S. Geological Survey determined that Mt. Whitney was one foot shorter than original estimates.
           



Mt. Whitney Pack Trip
circa 1941

 
  Summit of Mt. Whitney
1941

 
       

Group comprising some of the top Scouts in Crescent Bay Council
were likely the charter members of the 14,496 Club.
Front Row L-R: Martin Weinstien • Jack Davies • Jerry Ringer •  Loren Tarvin • ?
Back Row: starting 5th from left: Art Marquez • John Erhlichman • Alden Barber
 
Members of the 14,496 Club
from the 1941 Pack Trip.
L-R: unknown • Jack Davies • Loren Tarvin

 

 
                                 The War Years 1942-1945

          World War II took it's toll on Camp High Sierra/Sequoia/Wolverton. Experienced
camp Directors and leaders like Alden Barber, Mart Bushnell, Carl Helms, John Ingram, Jack Davies and John  Erhlichman enlisted in the war effort, depleting the entire camp staff. The summer camping program was further hindered by war-time mandatory gas rationing; making the 250 mile drive from Santa Monica to Sequoia problematic. In 1942, Crescent Bay Council abandoned High Sierra Camp in favor of the proximity and spectacular new facilities of Camp Josepho which had opened the previous summer. Mt Whitney Pack Trip Patch Wolverton
          However,
Wolverton did not close down completely. Crescent Bay Scouts remained loyal to camping and hiking in Sequoia, war restrictions or not. Some of the previous leadership still remained, either too young for military service or otherwise not eligible, although most of these leaders served their main summer duties as the staff of Camp Josepho. (see photos of the Camp Josepho Staff Council Pack Trips up to Mt. Whitney were organized in 1942 and possibly other years between 1943-45. And a few troops may have organized their own summer troop expeditions to Wolverton
during these years.
          Additionally, Wolverton and other former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps were used during World War II as temporary summer training, rest and recuperation sites for soldiers. Conscientious objectors (mostly Mennonites) may have also lived and worked on National Park maintenance and construction projects out of Wolverton. However, summer camping by Crescent Bay Scouts would not significantly return to Sequoia National Park until the program resumed, full-steam as Camp Wolverton, in 1946.
                                             

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jump to Wolverton this page  >  1940    Day Trips & Pack Trips    1941                                         
                                       early history before 1939  <  Camp Wolverton History on other pages  >  1946-2011




 
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