Memories of Wartime Scouting in Beverly, NJ

A post about Medford’s Camp Lenape seen here almost two years ago and another last January continue to engage readers who no doubt land on rivertonhistory.com because scarce information exists elsewhere on the web about the now-gone Boy Scout camp.

After Don Ulmer commented in April that he had been Aquatic Director there in 1944-45, and had material to contribute, we reached out to him.

Don writes:

…we downsized from 3600 to 1600 sq.ft. I know there is more Lenape/Scouting stuff, including a number of superb photos taken summer of ’44. Am certain they will pop out in time and will get them to you when they do. Believe they include a US Navy Captain from Riverton, but can’t be sure of that. The name Ryan resonates, though a long time ago. Recollection tells me he was a mover/shaker in getting C. Lenape set up…
If you have specific questions about that time, perhaps asking them will trigger memories.
At age 89, am in sort of rush to get whatever I have into the right hands to preserve it for future generations. All my scouting years were concurrent with WWII which made for interesting times.

We communicated by email and phone, and apparently managed to “trigger some memories” because the following memoir is the result.

Memories of Wartime Scouting in Beverly, NJ
by Don Ulmer

Spring 1941 found an America struggling to recover from the Great Depression and in the final pre-World War II months of peace.  However, hovering war clouds nonetheless made their marks on Scouting.  By spring, a leaderless Beverly Troop 8 depended upon older scout and Assistant Scoutmaster Austin Haines to fill the void until LCDR Kenneth Heinrich, USN, stationed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and Church Street resident jumped into the breach. In this same time frame, an expanding Fort Dix claimed what once had been Burlington County Council Scout Camp Edge.  This left Burlington County scouts dependent upon the kindness of other Councils in and out of state for annual summer camping.

Despite mounting international pressures, LCDR Heinrich showed up dutifully at Troop 8 meetings each Friday evening in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Parish HallAustin Haines remained on as Assistant Scout Master.  ‘Dutch’ Wilmerton was Senior Patrol Leader over the Eagle and Moose Patrols, led respectively by Bonsall MacFarland and Howard Cramer.  Eagle Patrollers included Frank Pisa, Earl Adams, Ralph Anderson, Joe Orfe, Ralph Ulissi, Ken and George Heinrich (both drummers when the troop practiced for the Beverly Memorial Day Parade); Moose Patrol consisted of Kenny Rogers, Marvin Weiss, Bob Thompson, Cook Stockton, Ron & Don Ulmer, John Hines, O. B. Thompson and Billy Lucas. Hopefully, better memories than mine will fill in the many omissions.  Track has been lost with all but a few of these scouts, but many reports over the interim are consistently good.

Camp Edge gone, Del-Mar-Va Council invited Troop 8 scouts that summer of ’41 to camp at Rodney Scout Reservation, a Boy Scout camp located near North East, Maryland. Indeed a magnificent setting, it shares a long border with the woodlands of Elk Neck State Park and Chesapeake Bay on the other.  Beverly lads frequently made their presence known with renditions of their marching song.

(To the tune of Gary Owen)

There’s a bunch of boys from Beverly town

who belong to a scout troop up and down

Their reputation is best to be found

Their Troop is Troop 8 Beverly

(Chorus)

Now they are all good scouts and they know their ins and outs

They always work and never shirk

Their Troop is Troop 8 Beverly

However, ominous harbingers of the impending war echoed from the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground across Chesapeake Bay from Camp Rodney.  Principal among these, the new Bofors forty-millimeter anti-aircraft automatic cannon. Since sound travels slower than light, five air bursts, visible as black smoke puffs in the distance, appeared seconds before the blast of the explosions.

On December 12, 1941, our first meeting after the attack on Pearl Harbor which plunged America into World War II, a grim LCDR Heinrich stood before Troop 8. “Last week we met in a nation at peace.  This evening we meet in a nation embarked upon a terrible war.”  Specifics of his remaining speech are lost to time, only that LCDR Heinrich reluctantly passed leadership of Troop 8 to Mr. Sam Phillips.

An interesting aside – though Troop 8 is how the rest of Burlington County regarded Beverlyites, for years it had been Troop 5, and our scouts were reluctant to change uniform arm patches to the new number.  Mr. Philips gently brought his Troop into compliance and the white number 8 replaced 5 on the square red sleeve patches.

World War II fell upon Troop 8, and it quickly immersed itself in scrap drives and just about anything they could do to aid the war effort.  The Troop, as it was custom over the years, marched with great pride in the annual Memorial Day Parade after practice marches up and down Church Street to the beat of the Heinrich boys’ drums.

Left to right, Joe Orfe, Marvin Weiss,Ken Heinrich, O. B. Thompson, Don Ulmer at Camp Minitik

In the summer of ’42, at the invitation of Camden County Boy Scout Council, Troop 8 visited Camp Minitik near Uhlertown, PA on the Delaware River.  The balance of the summer passed in war effort related jobs and keeping track of older siblings who disappeared into the service at a great rate.

The summer of ’43 saw the opening of Burlington County Council Camp Lenape near Medford Lakes.  Property included an abandoned cranberry bog equipped with an adjustable height dam that permitted flooding a sizeable swimming and boating lake that accommodated swimming, boating and canoeing tests for advancement from second to first class scout and subsequent merit badges. Trails cut through the Pine Barrens permitted observing plentiful nature of the area.  This included a nearby nest of flying squirrels, king snakes, and occasional deer that dropped by, no doubt wondering what this hubbub was all about. Rumors of venomous copperhead snakes abounded, but none sighted.

Don Ulmer and Marty Hamel of Beverly at Camp Lenape waterfront, 1944

As young men went off in the service, younger scouts took over duties of camp counselors. From Troop 8, Ron Ulmer served as Camp Naturalist and his cousin Don Ulmer as Waterfront Director.  Don attended classes at Mortimer L. Schiff Scout Reservation near Bernardsville, NJ to prepare for his job.  Full-blooded Sioux Indian and Princeton college professor J. P. Baldeagle served as Camp Director ’44-45 and drew upon both qualifications much to the benefit of his charges. Tents served as shelters and a mess hall for Beverly youngsters and other scouts of Burlington County.

Only a few World War II era Troop 8 scouts remain among us and to a man treasure all gained from those wonderful years.  They are ever grateful for them and for leaders who always found time from their busy schedules to support scouting.  So, to LCDR (later Captain, US Navy) Heinrich, Austin Haines, Dutch Wilmerton and Mr. Phillips, the many volunteer merit badge counselors about town, and countless others, your qualities and wisdom passed down sustained us well. From what is known, when scouting days ended and Troop 8ers went their separate ways, all traveled successful careers and lived happy lives, most putting something back into scouting.  They wish for Beverly scouts who followed the same good experiences of those happy times.

D.M. Ulmer PHOTO CREDIT: amazon.com

We sincerely thank Mr. Ulmer for entrusting us to share his scouting story here. He served in the US Navy from 1947-1979, worked at the Boeing Company (1979-96), and authored a dozen fiction books under the name D.M. Ulmer. We invite reader comments and contributions which will further fill out this chapter in local history.  – JMc

June 9, 2018:  Mr. Ulmer adds some names to his Camp Lenape recollection.

Other staff I remember at Camp Lenape

Scout Vondy, Assistant Camp Director, Bordentown, ’44
Scouts Tom and Jim Morrisey, Beverly, ’45
Scout Jerry Levy, Nature Counselor, Maple Shade, ’44
Scout Ed Sumner, Bugler, Moorestown, ’45 Metal scarce during WWII, his bugle was plastic.
Scout Bill Steinke, Maple Shade

Hanley Diehl, 1943, First Lenape Aquatic Director.  Hanley was a Quaker and Conscientious Objector during WWII.  He and I corresponded a bit to help me better understand the waterfront job.  His address was at a CO camp. I vaguely recall he once spelled me for a weekend off.  Do not know what became of him. Definitely recall him to be  a superb young man, as were all the Lenape-ers.

Those were wonderful years indeed.