Camping was awarded to boys who sang in the choir. For many years St. Paul’s choir consisted of boys and camps were well attended. But in the late 1970’s the number of young men and boys dwindled. With changes in the choir, it was inevitable for the first time in 50 years in 1979 St. Paul’s did not have a boys camp. However, there were plenty of girls and a camp session was arranged for them. As the number of campers started to get smaller, coed camps became popular.
Camp Lawton offered children opportunities to learn crafts, play sports, swim, use small sailboats and other boats and make lasting friends. We also had campers who came from outside Minnesota. The Camp Director researched outside adventures such as visiting the local zoo, rock climbing, hiking, etc. Family camping became popular. Many planned their vacations at Camp Lawton. Those who owned campers brought them and stayed in them rather than tents. Groups who used camp were St. Nicholas, St. John’s, Richfield, Epiphany, New Hope, St. Luke’s. St. Martin’s By The Lake were big supporters of the camp for over 20 years. They held fund raising dinners and other events to help camp. They also volunteered in the opening and closing of camp. As word spread more outside groups became familiar with the camp.
For children’s camps the paid staff included a Camp Director, Cook, Waterfront certified Life Guard. Volunteer counselors were picked to oversee the campers. Scholarships were given to the choir. Neighborhood Involvement Program were big supporters of camp in helping to find children who need financial aid to go to camp.
Volunteers appear in the early spring, usually after the water can be turned on, to start cleanup for camp. Buildings have to be completely scrubbed, windows washed, dishes washed, etc. The grounds are cleaned, meadow cut, tent row and other areas raked and tents hung. This includes fixing broken windows, broken platform boards, checking tents for rips or needing to be replaced. Occasionally, there are things that require professional help. In the fall boats are put away, tents are hung in Pyke Hall. Beds, mattresses, game equipment is put away. Buildings are secured and the water is turned off for the winter. All this work is done by volunteers.
Camp Lawton was closed during the winter. Research was done to make the camp an all weather facility to be used for conferences and seminars, skiing and snowshoeing. The idea never materialized mostly due to finances. Because Camp Lawton was self supporting, fund raising dinners, sales and other events were held. Each year an all parish picnic was held at the camp, always well attended.
But competition from camps who offered more extensive and costly activities caused attendance to drop. As well as updating and repairs needed. Income did not cover costs. Meetings were held, much discussion for and against, but a parish meeting determined that the camp would be sold. The camp was sold in 2006. It was a wonderful outreach for the parish and is missed by many.
written & submitted by Rose Nightingale
Do you have memories of Camp Lawton? Please share them in the comments section!