By Harlan B. Radford, Jr.
The passage of time has not diminished my memories of the now-gone Boy Scout camp known as Camp Lenape in the Pinelands of Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey.
This personal narrative presents a blend of historical information along with my own recollections. Doubtless, during its forty-five year existence, the Camp Lenape experience helped shape the lives of the men they were to become for thousands of young scouts. One wonders where they are now.
Founded in 1943, the very year I was born, the Burlington County Boy Scout Council in Mount Holly acquired a 419-acre tract of land primarily for providing a site for area Boy Scouts to attend a summer camp in a somewhat wilderness setting.
Designated as the Camp Lenape Reservation, it was named after the historical local Lenni-Lenape Indian Tribe of the Delaware Nation. Camp Lenape was generally open for 6 to 8 weeks each summer.
In general, camping was considered an essential experience in order for boys to learn, develop, and embrace the key elements of the Scouting movement. Consequently, for the better part of three years, volunteers devoted their time, energy and resources to creating a scenic camp that would feature many important program areas.
Camp Lenape would soon proudly boast some eleven separate campsites, each bearing the name of a particular type of tree such as tupelo, oak, and birch. Each campsite provided the following amenities: raised wooden platforms with spacious World War II canvas style wall-tents and cots set up for shelter and sleeping, facilities for washing and showering (cold water only), and latrines.
Several man-made lakes included a splendid waterfront for swimming, boating and canoeing. The cedar water bore a distinctive dark brown hue typical of lakes and rivers in the South Jersey Pine Barrens.
On a hot summer’s day scouts enjoyed a refreshing swim at “Ye Olde Swimming Hole,” pictured in this post card postmarked JUL 13, 1954. There were designated areas for the non-swimmers, the beginners, and the swimmers, and each scout received tests to determine their swimming ability.
The message to my parents in Moorestown I included on the above postcard in 1954, specifies one prized perk in passing such tests:
I sure am having a good time. Guess what. I just passed my swimmer’s test. Now I can dive off the diving board.
In 1955, my letter home from camp announced news of my passing “the ordeal” of the Boy Scout swimming merit badge, while my 1958 dispatch reported that I was working on the Lifeguard Merit Badge.
Little did I realize it then, but achieving these childhood aquatic milestones would be the origin of my lifelong passion for the sport and eventually lead to participating in my high school swim team.
During the course of their week at camp, scouts received swimming instruction to learn to swim or improve their swimming. Water safety at this waterfront was paramount as there were lifeguards on duty and they used the so-called “buddy system.” Each swimmer would “check-in” with his buddy and together they placed their personal tags bearing their names on a Buddy Board upon entering the swimming area.
During each swimming session, the lifeguards would periodically blow their whistles whereupon all scouts had to immediately get with their partner in their designated ability area and hold their joined hands up in the air to be counted. Each scout was expected to be aware of, watch their respective companion, and keep in near to one another for safety sake. The paired scouts were then counted and checked against the Buddy Board and the corresponding number of paired buddy tags. Once lifeguards accounted for everyone, they allowed the campers to resume their swimming.
This great system fostered safety in the water. Should a scout ever be in need of help or assistance for some emergency, certified life guards each with long bamboo poles or other lifesaving equipment could respond, act quickly, and reach the swimmer.
In addition to swimming, there were also opportunities scheduled for supervised boating (using rowboats) and canoeing. Again, all scouts took tests in the proper and safe use of such watercraft. No wonder the waterfront was such an important activity focal point for the young scouts at Camp Lenape.
Another focal point was a large dining hall, which could accommodate some 260 scouts and their leaders. The dining hall boasted an impressive indoor fireplace as well as an outdoor fireplace.
This postcard from camp mailed by me on JUL 20, 1954, depicts the massive fireplace inside the “Edward A. Mechling Memorial Lodge.” Built in 1943, this so-called “lodge” became the very first building, which served as the camp dining hall. The rocks used to build this fireplace came from the Delaware River.
Another camp feature included an informative Nature Island with cages containing many small animals and even terrariums for growing plants. An area provided a rifle range and archery practice area.
Postmarked JUL 14, 1954, this postcard shows the popular “Nature Island” at Camp Lenape. A young scout looks at some of the visual displays, posters and exhibits about plants and animals. Today, we might refer to such an open-air facility as a “learning center.”
At the Trading Post, one could buy necessities and postcards to send home. Minor medical treatment was available at the first-aid station.
A general assembly area with flagpole, an outdoor campfire assembly arena with seating overlooking a lake, and a parking area somewhat removed from the camp itself completed the rustic setting.
“Salute to Old Glory,” postmarked JUL 21, 1954, shows scouts assembled and standing at attention for the lowering and folding of the colors at the end of the day. Scouts also assembled early each morning to pay their respects and salute the raising of the American Flag.
Prior to dismissal, leaders gave important announcements to the scouts at these times. The sound of “reveille” from the camp bugler roused the Scouts in the morning, and at the end of each day, the horn played “taps,” meaning day was done, lights out and it’s time to go to bed!
This photograph shows my Boy Scout Troop 44 of Moorestown during our stay at Camp Lenape in the summer of 1957.
My dad was Scoutmaster. I am in my green explorer uniform and wear a National Jamboree Patch received upon attending the National Jamboree held at Valley Forge earlier that summer – one of many that my mother stitched on my uniform.
Here are the names of people as I recall: (back row from left to right) – RICHARD PAOLETTI, ___unknown___, JOHN SCHANZ, HARLAN RADFORD, JR., RICHARD KALYN, AND HARLAN RADFORD, SR.; (front row from left to right) – ___unknown___, TERRY DAVIS, ___unknown___, RICHARD BARTHOLD, ROBERT PATTERSON, JOHN PATTERSON.
I attended Camp Lenape summers 1954 -1960, often staying two weeks at a time. Upon graduation from college and no longer a scout, in the summer of 1966, I served on the Staff at Camp Lenape as the Aquatic Director for all programs and activities at the waterfront. It would be the last time that I would be able to enjoy this wonderful camp.
In addition to summer camp, there were spring and fall Camporee events that generally lasted a week-end. Scouts learned to sharpen their pioneering skills such as cooking, knot tying, rope bridge building, plant identification, first aid, and hiking. Somewhat akin to the military, scouting had requirements for incremental advancement in rank. The names associated with those ranks start with Tenderfoot, then Second Class, First Class, followed by Star, and then Life, until one reached the highest and most esteemed rank in Boy Scouts, namely Eagle Scout.
There were many different kinds of planned activities and scouts were usually quite exhausted at the end of these busy camping experiences. In my view, the scouting movement was instrumental in fostering core values and life lessons regarding character development, leadership, doing service and good for others, and focusing on becoming better citizens!
Ironically, in the end, the very wilderness setting of lakes and natural pinelands that made Camp Lenape the extraordinary refuge it was, proved to be its undoing when it became a victim of urban sprawl during rapid land development in the 1980s.
In 1988, the Burlington County Council of Boy Scouts sold the 419-acre camp to a group of land developers (Philadelphia Inquirer, July 1, 1987) keen to incorporate all that greenery into a “new community of wooded estate homes” (Trenton Evening Times, April 22, 1990). By 1990, construction was well underway. (Trenton Evening Times, June 17, 1990)
Finally, let us fast-forward to today, 2016! You will be hard-pressed to find any vestige of Camp Lenape.
Gone are the waterfront as we knew it, Nature Island, the original dining hall, and campsites – replaced with luxury homes on cul-de-sacs, with amenities including a clubhouse, tennis courts, and fitness trails. Today, a drive down Jackson Road to the former Camp Lenape site reveals the transformation of the once rustic site into prestigious suburban addresses now commanding half-million dollar price tags. (Zillow)
What do you recall about Camp Lenape? We welcome comments, first-hand memories, photos, or relevant maps, particularly of the layout of Camp Lenape. Kindly contact the Historical Society of Riverton.
In just two weeks, months of planning, prep, and fundraising by the tireless volunteers of the Riverton July 4th Committee will culminate with the arrival of the 119th Children’s Parade.
Part summer picnic, part homecoming, part testimony to patriotic pride, who doesn’t look forward to Riverton’s Glorious Fourth?
By now, Riverton households have received their July 4th Programs.
We hope you will frequent the many business and professional donors and appreciate the many patrons whose generous contributions continue to make this treasured tradition possible.
Even our own Society placed this ad with a not-so-subtle invitation to join.
We highlighted Mary Honeyford’s family photo used on the July 4th Program cover in our Nov. 2014 Gaslight News along with an ad we found in the April 7, 1949 edition of Riverton’s now defunct hometown newspaper, The New Era.
How many of you remember any of the car dealerships that once made their home in Riverton?
Here are two to get you started.
Finally, can you tell which 4th of July Showcase sponsor now occupies the site depicted in the postcard below?
During the recent Garden Tour and the Historic Riverton Criterium folks stopped by our table to check out the historically themed mugs.
More than a few times people have wished to see photos of Riverton’s long-gone lunchtime eatery, The Sharon Shop, Klipple’s Bakery at Main&Broad , and Reynold’s Gas Station at the point.
If a reader can favor us with a donation of a photo or a high-resolution scan of these spots (or any other favorite of yours), please contact us. – JMc
Tethered to my workplace until 5PM that day I knew I would be unable to catch the arrival of the HRCentury riders, so I appealed to the Universe and it delivered in the form of this great pic of HRCentury creator Rob Gusky from Carlos Rogers.
Rob looks pretty fresh after biking a hundred miles from Millburn, NJ to Riverton.
Susan Dechnik sent in most of the following photos.
The ride took longer than anticipated since the cyclists ran into a punishing headwind for much of it.
Also conceived by Rob Gusky, the 3-Mile Community Ride was to follow the conclusion of this second realization of the Historic Riverton Century, and many residents of all ages awaited in the former District parking lot.
Meanwhile, HSR member Susan Dechnik handed out souvenir buttons bearing Anne Racioppi‘s imaginative logo and explained the connection to the 1895 NYC-Riverton Relay Race to those who were unaware.
The arduous trip caused the bicyclists to converge on the parking lot from different directions and not all at once.
Carlos Rogers congratulated Rob and the other riders. A cheer arose from the crowd as the Community Ride began led by the Century riders.
The ride ended with a ceremony at Memorial Park.
Mayor Suzanne Cairns Wells, Lifelong Wheelman Gary Sanderson and Riverton’s Town Historian Paul W. Schopp each addressed the audience and congratulated the athletes on their achievement.
In his address Mr.Schopp acknowledged that “…women have always maintained a keen interest in cycling and the mix of riders in today’s Riverton Century uphold the long legacy of female cyclists,” and described the 1895 Tri-State Relay Race which inspired Rob to create the Historic Riverton Century in 2014. Find a text file of his address here.
Attired in vintage wheelman gear and displaying his restored 1895 Indian Racer bicycle, Gary Sanderson described the adversity experienced by the riders in 1895 with traveling miserable roads on failure-prone single-speed bicycles. Read Gary Sanderson’s remarks here.
Mr. Gusky cited nonagenarian Bill Hall for his dedication to bicycling, and recognized Carlos Rogers for creating in 2011 the Historic Riverton Criterium which every year contributes money to local organizations and individuals. To date Carlos has distributed over $20,000!
Gusky called up the women participants in this year’s HRCentury and Phyllis Rodgers and Pat Brunker presented them and the men with sashes reminiscent of those worn by riders in 1895.
Later, many in the group met at Riverton’s Orange Blossom Cafe to eat and to recount details of their experience.
Everyone agreed that the two big bike spectacles now associated with the second weekend in June are community assets which combine to promote the sport of bicycling as well as provide family fun.
Perhaps it was the influence of the euphoria of a bicyclist’s high, but Gusky and Crew were already heard scheming to recreate the next ride.
Are you up for it?
Later on Facebook, Rob Gusky generously thanked the many people and organizations that made this year’s Riverton Century and Community Ride a success.
Century route planner Randy “Wheels” Jackson of the Major Taylor Cycling Club also wrote a lengthy Facebook piece recognizing those who had made it possible for him to “…relax and enjoy the ride.”
The creation of the Historic Riverton Century Ride by Rob Gusky and the Historic Riverton Criterium by Carlos Rogers now rank among the most treasured traditions of the Borough. The Historical Society of Riverton is privileged to be associated with them both.
Please add your own photos or submit comments. – JMc
Be advised I have to work until 5pm today so I will not be there for the arrival of Century riders or the Community Ride. I expect to make it to the Orange Blossom dinner.
Pulleeeze… can someone get pix of the event with a camera, cell phone, GoPro Hero, camera drone, Fisher-Price camera, anything so we have a record of the event.
Please send to me at email@example.com Will be off tomorrow for the Criterium, tho’. – John McCormick
Check all the latest historically themed mugs made from the Society’s archive of vintage images in the 1.05 MB jpg file at right or this 416 kb PDF file. – JMc
Just in from organizer Rob Gusky is this sitrep on this coming weekend’s Historic Riverton Century and 3-Mile Community Ride:
FYI – everything is looking good for Saturday’s events – here are some updates
Registrations 12 – 100 mile Century riders
• 5 – 30 mile riders from Bordentown
• 64 – Community Ride participants
• 23 – Orange Blossom Dinner attendees
Saturday’s Weather Forecast (From National Weather Service): Mostly sunny, with a high near 79
Timetable: 8 am – riders leave from Millburn
• 2 pm – riders at Bordentown
• 4:30 pm – riders gather in parking lot near old District Restaurant (N corner) for Community Ride – Carlos Rogers to M/C
• The Community Ride ends at Memorial Park, where refreshments will be available and a short ceremony will be held commemorating the event
• 7 pm – Dinner at Orange Blossom – $15 pay at door
PS: Perfect Timing – Thank you to HSR’s Susan Dechnik for writing a cover story for Editor Regina Collinsgru’s June issue of The Positive Press.
These webpages have recounted the exploits of the riders of the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race more than a few times. As that event unfolded in June 1895, Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky, a young mother of three children, was just three months from completing her goal of bicycling around the world – a remarkable achievement she supposedly undertook on a wager between two wealthy Boston club men.
Seemingly impossible conditions imposed on the bet was that she start penniless, not accept handouts, earn $5,000 along the way, and complete the journey in fifteen months.
Mrs. Kopchovsky financed her adventure with income earned through product endorsements, by displaying advertising banners on herself and on her bike, by giving riding demonstrations, selling photos and souvenirs, and by making personal appearances.
Not far into her trip, newspapers dubbed her Annie “Londonderry,” a sobriquet earned when she started to display a placard for the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company on her bike as a promotion.
It would be generous to say that she was given to tall-tales and embellishment in telling of her exploits. In interviews and later wrings the natural entrepreneur and master of self-promotion constantly reinvented her own back story and told sensational tales of hunting Bengal tigers with a German prince, close calls with encountering highwaymen in France, and of time spent in a Japanese prison. She may have even fabricated her claim that a wager inspired her.
Periodicals of the era chronicled her adventures much as they followed the travels of Nellie Bly in her successful attempt in 1889, to break the record of Phileas Fogg, the fictional character from Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.
Annie completed her circumnavigation in just under fifteen months.
But unlike the her globe-trotting counterpart Nellie Bly, the exploits of Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, which advanced women’s bicycling in the United States and made her one of the most celebrated women the 1890s, were largely forgotten until author Peter Zheutlin penned Around the World on Two Wheels in 2007.
Since then, Londonderry’s remarkable story has been the subject of dozens of blogs, magazine articles, a 2011 musical play by Evalyn Parry called SPIN, and a 2013 documentary film produced by Gillian Klempner Willman titled The New Woman – Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky.
In 2006, filmmaker Gillian Klempner Willman sought to recreate the leg of Annie’s 1894 trip from New York City to Boston with the help of Gary Sanderson, antique bicycle enthusiast and current editor American Bicyclist Magazine, and others.
Ms. Willman’s described Mr. Sanderson’s contribution in her April 15, 2006 blog entry.
The Society is most fortunate to have Gary Sanderson appear with his c.1895 Indian Racer at the Historic Riverton Century and 3-Mile Community Ride Ceremony on June 11.
Rob Gusky, originator of the June 11 event reports that at least six women athletes have registered to ride at eventbrite.com.
Carlos Rogers’ Historic Riverton Criterium on June 12 features a Women’s Cat 1/2/3 event that promises a $500 purse, neutral support, beauty and haircare gift baskets for the top 3 places, and cash primes!
When you watch those women athletes next weekend remember the debt owed to the legacy of Annie Londonderry which has helped make their participation possible.
And make some noise with those cowbells. – JMc
Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. – Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106 BC – 43 BC
Key bullets resulting from a conference call with Rob Gusky this morning and an email from Phyllis Rodgers about the upcoming Historic Riverton Century, 3-Mile Community Ride, and Historic Riverton Criterium follow:
- Eventbrite regisistration as of June 1 (10 days to go for the June 11 launch)
- full-century riders committed to ride from Millburn, NJ to Riverton – 12
- cyclists committed to ride from Bordentown – 9
- 6 of the riders are women
- 3-Mile Community Ride participants – 44
- Orange Blossom meal ticket for after the event – 21
HSR President Phyllis Rodgers adds these details about the two-day cycling event
- Saturday, approx. 4PM-4:30, representatives of the Society to meet Community Riders at District parking lot; Check children for helmets and waivers; Give out buttons to children
- Speakers at the brief ceremony at Memorial Park on Saturday include Mayor Cairns, Paul Schopp, Gary Sanderson with his c.1895 bike, and originator Rob Gusky
- Dinner at Orange Blossom 7PM
- Marshals for Sunday’s big Criterium advised to bring an umbrella or sunscreen, and a chair
- Still need some more volunteer marshals – contact Iris Gaughan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856-829-8671
- Support of the Criterium at gofundme
- HSR members will sell HSR merch at a table outside the Library