Saturday, January 7, 2012

Former Tekoa Camper Writes Article about Flat Rock in Our State Magazine

I came across a great little article in the July 2011 issue of Our State magazine just recently, written by the director of educational programs and resident scene designer at Flat Rock Playhouse, Dennis Maulden. In the first two paragraphs of his memoir he mentions Camp Tekoa as what inspired him to return to Flat Rock and the mountains.

"I was in junior high school in 1962, the year I spent a week at our Methodist summer retreat, Camp Tekoa. I was a scrawny little kid, afraid of bugs an snakes and the unknowns below the pristine surface of the lake. I didn't know how to row a boat, and I wasn't a great swimmer, but I've always been a survivor at heart and somehow overcame my apprehensions and had a good time."

The article goes on to describe how the Flat Rock Playhouse brought him back to the mountains after he grew up. He also commented on the Playhouse's involvement with Carl Sandburg.

"When I first visited Flat Rock, Carl Sandburg still lived in his house on the mountain, writing and raising goats. During my first year at the Playhouse, he died, and we offered one memorial performance of The World of Carl Sandburg. Now, each week, campers come to the National Historic Site to see the Apprentice Company perform World and Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories, a tradition that recently achieved a kind of boarding-camp cult status."

I would like to think that the "boarding-camp cult status" he mentions in the article is thanks in large part to Camp Tekoa. Though he uses the words "recently achieved," what's recent to Maulden for me goes all the way back to the 1980s (some of you more "seasoned" folks are chuckling at me right now, I know). As a camper myself, I remember taking that van trip from Tekoa to Sandburg's home, listening to Steve Miller Band on every trip because the cassette tape was stuck in the player. The counselors had us all dress up in dew rags, bandannas tied around our head, and had some of us bring bags of popcorn and empty cereal boxes or paper grocery bags. When the story of the Huckabuck family was told, how their popcorn farm went up in flames one night, we threw popcorn up in the air in the audience. When the Playhouse Players did a skit from Sandburg's "Boxes and Bags" poem, we campers would hold up our empty boxes and bags as they went out into the audience looking for them. I looked forward to that every year I came back, even as a Tekoa counselor myself. I heard later from an older counselor that the park rangers asked the Tekoa counselors not to bring the popcorn because it caused such a mess among the benches in the audience! Years later when my wife and I visited Sandburg's home, a veteran park ranger commented on my remark about being a Tekoa camper and counselor. "I always knew when Camp Tekoa was coming. I could see the bandanas on their heads as they walked up the trail from the parking lot!" [This picture is from the Summer of '93, one of the first groups I took to Sandburg's as a counselor.]

To this day, Camp Tekoa still brings its campers to see Rootabaga Stories in the summer. Though the story lineup has changed with the creative tastes of the Playhouse Players, it still brought back fond memories when I took my kids to see them perform.

If you can get a copy of Maulden's article in Our State, it is an interesting read, and it brought back a lot of memories of my summers in Flat Rock.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Camp Tekoa 60th Anniversary Reunion

Saturday, October 31, 2009 – 10:00am-4:00pm

Staff, campers, and parents from past to present, join us to celebrate Camp Tekoa’s 60th Anniversary! Come spend the day at Tekoa and see what is new while reflecting on our great memories of the past with all of your many camp friends!

This is a drop-in event. You and your family can stay all day or just for the food. We will have activities lined up for this wonderful occasion. Activities include: music, boats, zipline, giant swing, camp tours, hayride, fishing, store, campfire and more.

A picnic lunch will be served at 12:30pm.
Please send RSVP to and indicate how many people in your party will be joining us for lunch.

We hope to see you for this great celebration!

-- Mike Pruett, Program Director

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Camper Turned Counselor Shares Her Memories

I received an e-mail from a former staff member from the early days at Tekoa (Tekoa is celebrating it's 60th anniversary this year!) and was given the go-ahead to share it with you. If you remember Sarah and would like to contact her, click on her name below!

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Hi. I grew up in the foothills (Hildebran) and attended Camp Tekoa as a camper probably in the early 50's. Later returned as a counselor the summer of '59 I think (summer after freshmen year at "Women's College in Greensboro"). It was a great experience in both roles with the exception of losing a beautiful ring in the lake when I was a counselor.

While surfing the net looking for a summer camp for my grandson, I happened upon your site and thought, what the heck, I will take a look. Don't know if my grandson is ready to be away from his parents, but I am going to broach the subject with his dad, my son. If not this year, maybe next.

I live in Orlando now and have been away from NC for 26 years but it will always be home. I still have siblings there as well as my son, step-daughter and three grandchildren. I am retired from education (teacher and administrator in K-12) and higher education (also teacher and administrator).

Camp Tekoka was a special place and I am sure that it still is. Look forward to listening to the stories and songs. Hope your summer is full of laughter, learning, and fun...

Sarah Cooke Magann

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Jack Tales and Camp Songs of Tekoa

In 1995 David Porter, son of Jack Porter the camp director at the time, set up some recording equipment in Laurel Lodge to make a collection of camp songs and Jack Tales told by his father. It was quite professional, I might add. I remember doing several takes on some of these songs for David to get the sound just right. Out of those recording sessions he made cassette tapes for everyone working on staff that summer. For some reason the tapes were not able to be massed produced for the camp store, so the only copies of these tapes are in the hands of the 1995 staff. I found mine in an old cassette tape carrying case I used to put tapes in for travelling in my car. Though the tape was chromium quality, I wanted to preserve this collection for posterity, so I burned them onto a CD, then loaded it onto my computer.

Here I provide for everyone's listening pleasure that recording session in its entirety. Some of the files are only a few minutes, while some of Jack's storytelling tracks last as long as 10-18 minutes. If you hear anyone singing out of tune, it was probably me. My wife said she could pick me out of the chorus of voices when I turned it up loud on the computer!

One of the facets of working at Camp Tekoa that I was most fond of and found most inspiring was the songs and music. Whenever campers and staff got together, whether it be at mealtime or around the campfire, I could feel the presence of God around us when we filled the air with his praises. I hope these songs and stories bring back fond memories for you as well.

Camp Tekoa Song
Pharaoh, Pharaoh
Hardy Hardhead
Seek Ye First
Lord, I Lift Your Name
Search My Heart
The Golden Teepee
I Will Call Upon The Lord
Wesley Grace
The Love Round
Soap, Soap, Soap
Rock Of My Salvation
The Snakebit Hoehandle
Amazing Grace
Singing About His Love
The Gift
Humble Thyself

Order now from K-Tell Records! Just kidding. I'm still new to this type of file-sharing technology, but I would think all these songs are public domain. After you click on a link, you can choose to download or just listen to the song. If anyone out there who knows more about music or file sharing knows any reason why I can't offer these songs free to anyone who wants them, let me know as well. Otherwise, enjoy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Backpacking Adventure

One of my favorite jobs as counselor at Tekoa was the one week out of the summer that I got to be the counselor for Backpack Adventure week. I was fortunate enough to be counselor for this adventure camp at least 4 or 5 years in a row. Getting out in Pisgah National Forest was amazing. The sites you'd get to see that you wouldn't otherwise on a day hike. Of course, we had to contend with campers getting blisters, or getting the "Green Apple Quick Steps" from eating too much dried fruit, but I remember having a blast nonetheless. I hiked both with Helen Porter, Jack Porter's daughter, and with Joe Pyle as trail guides. I remember on one hike we picked up a stray dog that followed one camper around for the entire hiking trip. Another time all the campers and counselors played in the creek around Sam's Knob for what seemed like hours racing boats made out of sticks. My sister and I were co-buddies one hiking trip, which was fun. And there were always the running trail jokes that would perpetuate themselves to pass the time as we hiked. In the last picture below, I just happened to catch the "Pull my finger" gag after it was successfully executed by one of Brooks Ann's and my campers. Time seemed to take a different progression than the structured activities back at camp. It helped me learn to appreciate God's natural wonders more.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Family Pics

Jenny and I met through the Wesley Foundation at ASU, and in 2000 got married. Though we didn't meet at Tekoa, we exchanged vows in Laurel Lodge with Jack Porter presiding. It was beautiful, of course, with the rhododentron and mountain laurel in bloom. Candace Walker did a great job taking the wedding photos. I also hired the Blue Kudzu String Band (Greg Trollinger, Taylor Mackey, and Jesse Norton) to play some traditional mountain music and ballads before and after the service. Jenny wanted Pachelbel's Canon in D to be played as she walked down the aisle, but was a little dissappointed that it was recorded while the rest of our musical arrangements were live. Then the day before the service I heard Jesse, Greg, and Taylor warming up with a familiar tune. It was Pachelbel's Canon in D. Excited, I asked if they could play the arrangement for us the next day.Greg replied, "I knew that's what it was called. Jesse told us it was the Taco Bell Cantada!"

We moved to Jenny's hometown of Morganton where she
had a teaching job. She convinced me I should become a teacher as well, and that same year I started a lateral entry position as a high school English teacher while I worked on my licensure. Three years later we decided to have our first child, Margaret Anne (we call her Maggie), and four years after that had our second child Garrett Reid. Maggie is now 5 and Garrett is 19 months. They are our pride and joy. Parenthood is like the military -- it's the toughest job I've ever loved.

I've already been talking to Maggie about Camp Tekoa. Though we attend a Baptist church now (I even got dunked!), I'm still a Methodist at heart. I hope in a few years she might like to go.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Staff Share Tekoa Experience in College Newspaper

Joel Bonner and Kathryn Kraft shared their camp experience in a 2005 issue of The University of West Alabama's
The Life. Bonner's article can be found on page 4.

White Water Rafting

As a senior high counselor, one of the things I remember both campers and counselors alike looking forward to the most was white water rafting at the end of the week. For senior high resident camp, it was a long ride on the Tekoa bus to the Nantahala River and the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center). We used to sing camp songs; I remember someone brought a guitar one time. Mostly, it was a time for the campers to socialize. Greg Trollinger was the one who usually drove the bus, but I don't think he went rafting. On the particular trip that the first photo is from James Johnson, who was working with Jack Porter at the time to replace him as director, drove the bus. It had just been refurbished and repainted from its oxidized self to look almost new. In taking the turn to cross the bridge over the Nantahala at the NOC, though, James took the corner too sharp and scraped the guardrail. We all said that the "new" bus was officially christened then, and there was no need to worry about keeping it new at that point! Pictured in this 1997 photo (from L to R) are: Shaggy, Frank Day, Zack Greene, James Johnson, me, and Warren Bevaqua (I know I misspelled it, but I'm sure you are used to it ;) )

After getting our life jackets and paddles, and watching that same video on how to raft, we loaded in an NOC bus and headed upriver. I can remember one time trying to race with another counselor, and my group of campers and I did so well we outrun the water released from the dam. We had to stop and wait for the water to catch up because we were hitting so many rocks.

At the end, there was the customary photo they would always take of your raft going over the last rapids, which was supposed to be a class 3 because of the hydraulics, but I've heard other people dispute it. I didn't buy most of the photos they took of my trip down it, but I did order this last photo, circa 1994, because I knew it would be pretty interesting after the fact. I pulled over right before the rapids, like many people do, to dump out the water, scope the rapids out with my campers and go over some strategy. Then we huddled up for a prayer before jumping back in to the raft. Then things got crazy. I steered too far to the left and hit a rock, spinning us around backwards. I then realized I was going back first down the falls just as the photographer was snapping the photo. I thought for sure I was going to be sucked under the hydraulic and never seen again. The campers were less worried. If you look carefully at my reddened face, you might hear me screaming "Backpaddle!" while two guys are staring calmly downstream, two girls are cheesing for the camera, and only one camper shared my concern (the guy in the front) as I'm sure some sort of profanity was about to leave his lips. And nobody's paddling!!

I'd love to hear some more canoeing or rafting adventures from some staff who worked with Water Adventure. You don't even have to post pictures, just share an adventure!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Update from the Isleys

Hello Fellow Tekoa Alumni:
Before I begin let me introduce myself for those of you wondering who you are reading about... I am Carrie "Henson" Isley. I worked at Tekoa in '95,'96,'97, '98, and '00. I have very good memories from those years. My favorite weeks were Special Friends weeks and Day Camp (believe it or not). I remember wearing the infamous Hawaiian shirts with my brother Chris, DeHarde, Zac G, and I believe someone else had one but my memory escapes me. I remember countless Talent Show moments like: DeHarde singing that old Lemonheads' song with lyrics that went, "If I was a booger would you pick your nose" or something like that. I remember the Tekoa version of Margaritaville that my brother and I wrote. I remember doing the Riverdance intro for the Talent Show with Clint. Gosh I could go on and on...But the best thing about my whole Tekoa experience was the summer of 2000 when I met the love of my life - John Isley. July 7, 2000 John asked me out after the Barn Dance at Montreat. I was so shocked that a man of his caliber would be interested in me. He was the first guy to ever pursue me with such honor and respect. I remember that I could hardly sleep that night and was so bummed that I left the next day for my week off! When I got back to camp I had to pinch myself that he really did ask to date me. Our first date was memorable. We went to downtown Hendersonville and ate at some restaurant that served me (no lie) Stoffer's microwaved lasagna (Hello!!). Then we went to the Dancing Bear and tried on silly costumes and John sang "My Little Buttercup" from the Three Amigos while wearing a Mariachi hat. We ate ice cream at the old Pharmacy shop (forget what the new name is now). Two years later John asked me to marry him at the "H" Tree. Now 8 years later we have been missionaries in Romania, serve a church here in Waxhaw NC and have a beautiful daughter named Elizabeth Faith. God has really blessed us. I did a lot of growing up from when I started as a naive and impressionable CIT (or TIC) to the person I became my last summer there as Recreation Director. Tekoa helped shape me and I still to this day feel so at home when I am up there with our church family for retreats.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kitchen Duty and the Staff Assistant

It was a given as a staff assistant -- you were going to work in the kitchen. Some staff abhorred it, while others thrived in the steamy, food service environment (David DeHarde and Brian Combs are a few that come to mind). It was a conversion time between C.I.T.'s and being a full-time counselor, though counselors did not have immunity from being pulled into the kitchen on occasion. I was a staff assistant the summer after I graduated from high school, 1992. Ruth was in charge of the kitchen, and ran a tight ship. I learned some things I didn't know, like not to do food prep on the gas burners (gummed them up), or not to drop sharp knives in a sink of soapy water(sliced fingers). It was hard work, but kitchen staff found ways to entertain themselves. I remember on one occasion we made up kitchen dances like The Can Opener or Stir the Grits, or The Bart (Bart was our Hobart dishes sanitizer) and show them off on Wed. dance night, back when Tekoa used to have a Wed. night dance. A few weeks I remember how each kitchen staff member took turns choosing the music. I picked Garth Brooks, and David DeHarde told me he beat his wife and made up lyrics to some of his songs, singing them to me to get on my nerves ("The thunder rolls, the lightning strikes, I beat my wife..."). Of course, I was so easy to tease because I was so darn gullible! We also always found an excuse to go to the walk-in cooler when it got too hot in the kitchen, or the freezer if it were a real scorcher! Of course, that wasn't very energy efficient, and someone would notice the temperature gauge would be too high and know what was going on. I'm sure some Tekoa folks out there have funnier stories to tell than I do, so chime in! The first photo is from the summer of '92 and includes all of the Staff Assistants and C.I.T.'s of that year.

My first year in the kitchen I also learned about the legend of the Ruth Rolls. It was said that Ruth was so thrifty her first few years as kitchen director that she would use the leftover oatmeal and grits from previous breakfasts and add them to a homemade dinner roll recipe of hers, then serve them to campers that evening or the next day. Now, I remember having Ruth Rolls as a camper. I just didn't know that's how she made them. I thought they were pretty good, and I must give her credit for being creative.

The second pic comes from the summer of '96. Cheesing for the camera is Earl Wilson III and Carrie Henson. This was probably taken on the weekend, as they look way too clean and non-sweaty to have just washed a bunch of pans! Earl was mild-mannered, but had a sharp wit about him. He used to eat food dropped in the pig bucket to gross campers out. He would say, "It's all about mind over matter, if you don't mind it doesn't matter."

The third pic also comes from the summer of '96. Kyle (and two other lovely young ladies whose names escape me at the moment) are doing a real dirty job -- cleaning the greasy hood vents from above the ovens behind the dining hall.

The last picture shows Mike Pruitt in a moment of rest on top of the cardboard recycling pile with a few campers of mine. Notice the look of sheer exhaustion in his eyes.

Working in the kitchen was like a rite of passage for staff. You worked behind the scenes, stuck inside while campers and counselors got to play, and never got as much appreciation as you probably should have from other staff. It was a selfless job, but it made me humble, and it also built a camaraderie among many staff members that built lasting friendships. Whatever happened, we could say we survived the kitchen, and had the burns and pruned fingers to prove it!