Irene Gurganus' Camp Hunt Memories
An excerpt from Irene Gurganus' life story found on the Tokyo church web site. Here is the link to the complete story. JP
In the fall, we moved to Hubbardsville. The church met in a two-story building and was founded by J.J. Dart one hundred years earlier. Occasionally, we had sent Christians down from Syracuse to work with the 30 or 40 members there. It was to this congregation, where Lewis was going to preach when his wife, Georgia was killed. George Pope preached for them without pay and we lived on the second floor of the church building. Eddie and another nephew, Wayne (Wiley's son), from Chicago, lived with us. Charles, Wayne's brother, came to live with us when Eddie went home. I joined the PTA because our nephews were in high school. It was a unique experience since I was only twelve years older than Eddie.
Living in the country was quite a change for us. I became involved in an "extension" club for women, where we learned to garden, how to clean a sewing machine, and to make an aluminum tray, which I still have. Because he loved to sing so much, George joined the Civic Club. He put on a minstrel show and organized a couple of plays. We were well accepted in the community and God used us to convert both young and old. There were only two little stores, one two doors away in which was the post office, and one at the foot of the hill. There was a school and the firehouse, and that was it.
Colgate University was an all-male school at the time and quite expensive. George took his debate team to Harvard, Yale and other big schools and often won. He had quite an expense account, traveling to Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. On his days off, he preached for the little churches in the area and even took the team to Harding and Lipscomb for unscheduled debates.
Pioneering Teen Camps
George had seen a Bible camp in Canada, which had classes like a school. He thought something like that would be great for children from New York City, who were not able to experience the country. Many churches in the area were trying to impact young people and George thought this would be a good way to enable them to study the Bible. There were many critics, who warned that a group of young people would cause trouble in such a setting. Therefore, we received no financial support the first year, but were able to raise the money ourselves.
George Pope found some property in the mountains two miles from our house. It was an old farm with a big house and a deserted barn. He tore down a nearby house and carried all the lumber back. He and his nephews built a dining hall and a couple of cabins and put up tents for the boys. I papered the rooms in the big farmhouse for the faculty and for offices. We put mortar between the bricks in the barn, which was falling apart, and used it for a hobby shop. Since George was teaching at Colgate and his salary was year round, he could work on the camp in the summer. Lewis and Peggy helped a lot with the camp, as well as Pope's nephews, who understandably, didn't like creosoting (distilling wood tar), but it had to be done.
Around the end of March 1947, my blood pressure spiked, and the doctor asked me to move to Syracuse until the birth of the baby. I stayed with Lewis and Peggy, who had been married by George and Peggy was also pregnant and due three weeks before me. My diet consisted of four unsalted crackers and one quart of milk a day and I had to lie down most of the time. The doctor expected the baby to be born early, but she delayed for a whole month. Every Sunday, Peggy and I would go downstairs to the church service and friends would say, "Haven't you two gone to the hospital yet?"
I missed my family. Janetkay was with me, but George and his nephews were at home, probably eating lots of hamburgers. I kept telling the doctor I was having labor pains. My doctor had gone on vacation and had given me to another physician who didn't know my case and did not give me the proper attention. When my doctor returned, he realized I had been in labor all that week, but had not progressed.
He put me in the hospital and brought on hard labor right away. I had a placenta previa delivery, which is very dangerous for the baby, and many don't survive. He was a very good doctor and God was with us, so Lynette was healthy and normal. The doctor said it was a miracle that everything turned out as it did. Again, I had to stay in the hospital for an extended period, this time ten days. Lynette was born on a Thursday and on Saturday, Peggy, whose baby was overdue, took castor oil at midnight and had her baby the next day. We joyfully spent the next week in the hospital together. When we brought Lynette home from the hospital, Janetkay kept counting fingers and toes to make sure she was complete.
My sister, Kay had a baby boy in September after Janetkay was born. Unlike me, she just barely made it to the hospital. I went there to take care of her with my four-month-old baby. They had a small apartment and her husband came home on leave. I had to wash diapers in the bathtub and hang them up in the bathroom. At Christmas, her husband came home again so the next September, she had another baby. I went to take care of her again and this time we had three babies. Then her husband came home the next Christmas and sure enough she had her third child the next September. Our second daughter, Lynette, was born on April 24, 1947, a week before Janetkay turned three. Between my first and second child, my sister had given birth to three children, one each year, all in September. My mother welcomed five grandchildren in three years and traveled often between Syracuse and Chicago.
During the summer, Kay was our camp nurse and I was the cook. I left the house at six o'clock in the morning to cook breakfast for 75 campers. I put three-month old Lynette in the buggy and gave her one bottle while I cooked, and another while I washed the dishes. We had put a little fence around an apple tree outside the kitchen, where Janetkay, Billy, and Jerry (Kay's kids) played. Kay said she only needed Pepto Bismol (when campers ate green apples from the apple trees) and kerosene (when the New York City campers came infected with lice). The New York City kids marveled constantly at seeing the moon, trees, and animals.
My father came and took 8mm movies of the camp, so Pope could show various churches in the area the great work of the camp. This helped raise money and also attracted campers and workers. George drove down to Harding and Lipscomb to bring some students back to be counselors. We converted many young people during their few weeks at camp, because they were away from their often-negative family environments. Every morning we had Bible classes and every afternoon sports activities. On alternate nights we built a campfire and had skits or preaching. The counselors lived with the campers. There were blackberry bushes behind the farmland, from which the campers picked, so I could make a huge cobbler. We spent two months of our summer at camp and loved it.
In later years, we met campers who were active in the Schenectady and Rochester churches and all over the area. There were only a few churches in the New York State area at that time. Because of the influence of the camp, there are mainline churches in every nook and cranny of New York State now. The camp is still operating to this day, as Camp Hunt and influencing many people.
Back to Camp Hunt Memories|