Camp Lewallen Swim Tag

Ken Steinhoff BSA swim tag c 1963I was rummaging around in the attic this afternoon looking for something and ran across a box that hadn’t been opened in years. Some of the findings will show up later, but we’ll start with this object.

Anybody who went to Boy Scout Camp Lewallen will recognize it as the tag you were assigned after you had taken a swim check to determine your ability. Before you could get into the water, you had to pair up with a buddy and move your tags from one side of the “buddy board” to the other. In addition, you had to stay within an arms-length of each other at all times. If the lifeguards blew their whistles for a “buddy check” you had to grab hands and hold them in the air so they could see if anyone was missing.

If I remember correctly, non-swimmers got tags that were plain, like this one; beginners had the top half filled in with red, and swimmers had red at the top and blue at the bottom.

Here’s a good piece on Boy Scout swim tests and how traumatic they were if they weren’t handled properly.

I wasn’t big on swimming

BSA 1963 Camp LewellenI clearly remember taking swimming lessons at the Capaha Pool when I was about 10. I knew from the moment that my skin touched that early June pool water that this boy was not cut out for any sport that requires you to crack the ice before you can participate in it. When I jumped into the pool, I ran across the surface of the water as long as I could, but eventually the laws of physics won. Shrinkages happened that I’m not sure have been reversed to this day.

Before the pool was built at Camp Lewallen, we swam in the St. Francis River. Surprisingly enough, maybe because the water was warm by mid-summer, I learned to swim there fairly quickly. A couple of summers later, I earned the Canoeing merit badge there. I was old enough that the counselors would let us check out the canoes to go fishing or exploring up and down the river. That was one of my favorite summers.

After the pool was built, I set as my summer goal winning my Mile Swim patch. When I got home from camp, Dad was a little perturbed that I hadn’t earned any merit badges. I told him that the Mile Swim meant more to me than any merit badge. It represented an achievement that not everybody could reach. It was sort of like the first time I rode a Century (100 miles in one day) on my bike. I wasn’t fast, but I finished.

I don’t know who the counselor is on the left, but the boy in the back on the right is Tom Mueller. The other boy might be Mike Fiehler.

I regret to inform you

Matt Lila Adam Steinhoff 08-01-2010_7241Wife Lila and Sons Matt and Adam participated in a family triathlon in 2010. When I wrote a post about it, I recounted the tale of her shepherding a bunch of Boy Scouts qualifying for their Mile Swim badge.

She was in the water with the Scouts at the Sebastian Inlet down here in Florida when all of a sudden, this huge, dark object rolled over right in their path. She said could just see herself writing a packet of “I regret to inform you that your son was eaten by an alligator while in my charge” letters.

Fortunately, the large object turned out to be a harmless manatee, and all the boys completed their mile.


Throne of Contemplation

Outhouse near Racine OH 08-31-2014I really pulled over to shoot a picture of an old schoolhouse outside Racine, Ohio, but I couldn’t stop myself from taking a couple frames of an old outhouse. I guess the chair is where you could wait until the current occupant of the reading library is finished. (Click on it to make it larger.)

The occupant of the waiting room chair would have an excellent view of the Ohio River and the Racine Locks and Dam.

Cherry bombs and outhouses don’t mix

I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed using the outdoor facilities, but I got where the latrines at Camp Lewallen didn’t bother me. They had a certain “earthy” aroma that wasn’t really offensive if you acquired the right attitude.

I DO remember when an unnamed member of Troop 8 thought it would be fun to throw a contraband cherry bomb firecracker down the chute before one of his fellow Scouts sat down. There was no explosion, so the miscreant waited until his target left, then he lifted the seat to see what happened. Evidently, the cherry bomb had a slow fuse. It went off with an impressive noise and coated the prankster with the aforementioned “earthy” aroma and more.

The red-roofed school

School - Racine OH 08-31-2014_7679Looks like the old school has long ceased being used, but there’s no trouble spotting it from a distance.



Marble Hill Artesian Well

Artesian Well on 34 west of Marble Hill 11-07-2013A trip to or from Cape Lewallen wouldn’t have been complete without a stop outside Marble Hill to fill up canteens and water jugs from an artesian well on the south side of Missouri Hwy 34. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Been on my bucket list

Artesian Well on 34 west of Marble Hill 11-07-2013Getting down to see if the spring was still flowing has been on my bucket (bad pun) list for a couple of years, so Mother and I took off to Bollinger County to see if we could find it. We headed west on Missouri Hwy 34 and thought it was near Woodland School, but we couldn’t spot it. There was a lot of road work going on, so we were afraid they might have “improved” it like, I think, Cape County is going to do to the spring off Bloomfield Road.

After driving four or five miles, we headed back toward town. There, just before the school, just like we remembered from the old days, was a nice paved parking spot right at the artesian well.

Listen to the sound of the water

I produced a short video showing where the spring is located and what it’s like. To be honest, I think the audio of the rushing water is better than the pictures. It’s worth 1:07 of your life.

Road to be dedicated December 17

Artesian Well on 34 west of Marble Hill 11-07-2013The pull-off gives you plenty of room to get off the road and would easily hold half a dozen cars parked side-by-side

The Missourian had a story that there will be a ribbon cutting December 17, 2013, to mark the completion of a project to add shoulders and curve corrections along that stretch of road.

What’s the history of the spring?

Artesian Well on 34 west of Marble Hill 11-07-2013I didn’t think it would be hard to find out when the well was drilled, how deep it is, how long it’s been flowing, etc., but I struck out. I figured if anybody would know, it would be Missourian blogger James Baughn who wrote about it in 2008. James is a pretty thorough guy, so surely it’ll be in his story.

He must have run into the same problem: about the only fact he had other than a Wikipedia definition of an artesian aquifer was that it was a test drill for oil and mineral exploration.

Cold and sweet

Artesian Well on 34 west of Marble Hill 11-07-2013When I went back down to Marble Hill to shoot the flags for Veterans Day, I made sure to bring along half a dozen gallon jugs to fill with the pure spring water for Mother to use in her coffee maker.

While researching this, I ran across a 1907 United States Geological publication called Underground Waters of Missouri – Their Geology and Utilization. It listed just about every source of water in Missouri and some of the surrounding states. This well, unfortunately, wasn’t one of them.

The section dealing with mineral waters, including Excelsior Springs, was particularly interesting. “When the the intelligent practitioner reads that a certain water is positively curative in an imposing list of diseases set forth in divers pages of testimonials from renovated statesmen, restored clergymen, and rejuvenated old ladies, and then learns from the analysis that it contains 2 or 3 grains of lime salts to the gallon, with the remaining ingredients required perhaps a third or fourth decimal point to express, he can hardly be blamed for tossing the circular into his wastebasket, with an objurgation upon quacks generally, and mineral springs quacks in particular,” Dr. Cook wrote.

OK, maybe mineral waters DO help

Artesian Well on 34 west of Marble Hill 11-07-2013Then, he conceded there COULD be some benefits: “There is no doubt that much benefit is derived from most of the health resorts connected with mineral springs or wells; and while a great deal of it is undoubtedly psychic, some is unquestionable due to the use of the waters. People who are broken down from overwork or who are troubled with many incipient diseases find at these resorts rest, which they perhaps can not get elsewhere; a change of air; a new environment; distractions from trouble; and they use, both internally and externally, perhaps a much larger amount of water than has been their custom at home; these, together with faith in the curative qualities in the water (since every wise physician recognizes faith as a helpful element in cure), form a stimulus to nature in the restoration of normal action to the functions of the body.

Just for the record, the spring waters not captured in canteens and gallon jugs, run into Crooked Creek.





Troop 14 at Camp Lewallen

Boy Scout Troop 14Troop 14 raised most of the money it took to go to Camp Lewallen in the summer of 1966. When their sales of soft drinks at the Arena Park stock car races and distributing posters came up a little short of being able to send all the boys to camp, the Cape Girardeau Jaycees made up the difference.

Somehow or another I managed to convince jBlue to devote the whole July 30, 1966, Youth Page to the boys. It’s the only single-topic page I can recall. That made me happy, because we ran eight pictures, which brought in almost as much money as I made in salary that week. I’m missing a couple of the photos that ran, but I substituted some that were close. The information under the photos came from captions that appeared in the paper for the most part.

Doing their swim checks

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966Most Scouts take to water with the fervor of ants heading for a picnic basket, and these members of Troop 14, sponsored by the Cape Girardeau Jaycees are no exception. Hitting the water for their swim check at Camp Lewallen are Roscoe Newbern, 304 LaCruz; Ed Slaughter, 532 College; David Vann, 522 South Frederick; Raymond Ward, 1211 South Sprigg; Harold Webb, 620 Vine; Calvin Sides, 548 South Frederick, and Larry Ross and Ervin Williams, 1622 South Sprigg.

Medical check

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966Before they go swimming, they are given a quick medical check to detect any major physical disabilities that might limit their participation at camp. Dr. Tim Talbert listens to Ed Slaughter’s heartbeat, while a nurse examines Calvin Sides for possible skin infections that could keep him out of aquatic activities.

Some quiet time

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966Ottis Johnson, 1610 South Sprigg, finds that there’s even time for a little solitude worked into his busy schedule of axemanship, horseback riding and a little advancement work. [I don’t know if ‘Ottis” is the correct spelling, but that’s what was in the paper.]

Acting Senior Patrol Leader Ervin Williams

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966The responsibilities of an acting senior patrol leader are mirrored by Ervin Williams’ wrinkled brow. Ervin, the oldest scout in the troop, was elected to the post at the group’s first meeting at the camp. [This wasn’t the photo that ran, but it’s close.]

Jaycees helped out

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966[This isn’t the photo that ran, so the names won’t match up. I wanted to get them listed, even if they might not be in this particular photo.]

Talking over the plans for the week are are, from left, Harold Webb, David Vann, Acting Scoutmaster Roy Dzurick, Ed Slaughter and Troop Committee Chairman Jeff Ryan, a Jaycee. Because the boys’ regular scoutmaster couldn’t attend camp, a Lewallen staff member was in charge of the nine scouts.

Newbern and Moore sell drinks

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966Roscoe Newbern seems to turn up everywhere. The Missourian photographer caught him and Joe Moore dishing out soft drinks to Jeff Ryan at the Arena Park stock car races. Proceeds from the stand helped pay the troop’s way to Camp Lewallen.

A pensive Tenderfoot

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966Roscoe is silent, pensive, wondering, perhaps how it was possible to cram so many projects into a six-day period.

Making a tent a home

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966

Roscoe and his tentmate Calvin Sides worked so hard to make their tent liveable that one of the other boys shouted, “Hey, Roscoe, you’ll make some woman a good wife someday.” Roscoe, always a good Scout, didn’t reply.

Most boys advanced in rank

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966At Lewallen, most of the boys advanced at least one rank and some of them picked up merit badges.

“Kind of spooky”

Troop 14 - Camp Lewallen 07-30-1966Long-term camping was something new to most of the scouts, but a few random comments would indicate they they got along all right.

“It was great – the food was good and there was plenty of it…those Indian dances Thursday night were terrific – I really liked the Hoop Dance… I had trouble getting to sleep that night we spent out under the stars: it was kind of spooky.”

Camp Lewallen photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the side to move through the gallery. Bonus point if you can find the photo with me in it.