Harveys Lake
Additional Resources

YWCA Camp and Camp Wildwood


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Camp Wildwood

The Weckesser home is one of the most recognizable at the Lake. It was built by Frederick J. Weckesser in 1907. Weckesser was born in New York State in 1867. At age 10 while still in school he worked part time for a local store. At an early age he joined the F.M Kirby store chain and moved to Wilkes-Barre in 1899. Kirby merged with the F.W. Woolworth dime-store chain and in 1912 Weckesser became district manager for Woolworth serving on the executive committee of its board of directors. Until 2007 his home on South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, was the administrative office for Wilkes University, which still owns it.

In March 1936 Weckesser donated the Lake property to the Wyoming Valley Girl Scouts for its Camp Wildwood program. The local Girl Scout program was formed in 1924. The Weckesser gift provided the Girl Scouts with a settled camping ground. Earlier camps were along the Susquehanna, at the Irem Temple Country Club in Trucksville, and Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre.

The following description of Camp Wildwood was provided by Sharon S. Robinson who attended Camp Wildwood at various years between 1952 and 1964.

"The Weckesser summer cottage was the main Lodge for Camp Wildwood. It was extensively remodeled in 1947. On the first floor there was a large stone fireplace over which “George” (a large mounted moose head) reigned. A kitchen was off the main room. There were also smaller bedrooms, pantry areas, and other rooms. The second floor had a wrap-around balcony. Bedrooms with cots were off the balcony area.

The Half-Way House was half-way up a hill behind the Lodge. Built like a one-bay-garage with a room over the top. In the large room scouts slept in sleeping bags. There was also a stove for cooking.

The Christmas Grove was a group of 3-sided buildings to provide shelter from the weather. Older scouts (usually Senior Scouts) camped at the Grove. All cooking was only by campfire. Activities were all outdoors.

The Scouts also had Day Camp programs, usually at a simple camp site with a stone circle for a camp fire. Campers brought a bag lunch or food for the camp fire. There was a morning activity, lunch, an afternoon activity, and time for swimming at the famous Boat House (also the scene of the 1913 Crispell murder).

Campers changed into their bathing suits at the Boat House. Red Cross certified instructors taught various levels of swimming skills. On the outside of the building was the “buddy board” since each swimmer had an assigned buddy and each disk had to be placed in an “in” or “out” slot so instructors could track everyone. There were periodic “buddy checks” - a system common at all camps. The swimming area was roped off and no one - even the best swimmers - could swim outside the roped area (the water was quite deep)."

Sharon Robinson also provides other personal memories of Wildwood:

"Camp Wildwood provided both ‘Day camping’ and ‘Troop Camping.’ Day camp was ‘by the week’; buses brought in scouts from W-B, while local scouts were transported daily by their parents.

"Troop camping allowed girl scout troops to spend a weekend, or a week, at one of the sites at Wildwood, either the Lodge, Canteen (upstairs), Half-Way House, or Christmas Grove.

"Troops brought their own food, supplies, sleeping bags, and created their own activities. Cookouts were popular, and the foods often inventive. Instead of Chili, troops cooked ‘Ring-Tum-Diddy’ – A chili dish with a can of corn added or ‘Blushing Bunny’ (grated cheese was pla- ced in the bowl before the hot tomato soup was added), or ‘Stuffed Hot Dogs’ (Hot dogs were split lengthwise, stuffed with mashed potatoes and diced onions, then wrap- ped with strips of bacon and the completed item wrapped in aluminum foil and put over the coals.) Of course, baked potatoes were always on the menu.

"Breakfast was often cooked over a 'tin-can stove' (Take a #10 can, cut a small door in the side, punch holes around the vertical top edge. Bottom of can was now 'top' and cooking surface. Heat was provided by a 'Buddy burner' – rolled cardboard was placed in a tuna-fish can, then melted wax poured on top. The buddy burner was lit, then the tin-can stove placed over it. Eggs would cook on the top of the can.

"For a 'roll', Scouts made 'Doughboys' a bisquick-type mix was placed in utsa plastic bag and a little water added (needed to be thick!). The mix was kneaded in the bag into a very heavy dough. Then the dough was wrapped around the end of a 1" peeled green stick which the scout had obtained in the local woods. The dough was cooked over the fire, then removed from the stick and butter placed inside. Only problem was that the dough often fell OFF the stick and ended up in the campfire!"

In April 1973 Wildwood was sold by the Girl Scouts to a private owner. There had been too many issues with lake pollution. For a time Scout camping moved to Camp Joy-Lo in Mountaintop, but later settled at the Girls Scouts of Penns Woods Council’s Camp Louise near Berwick.

[Sharon S. Robinson is a native of Harvey’s Lake and a retired educator in Tafton, PA. She is the genealogist for the Crispell, Oney, Anderson and other pioneer families who settled in the Lake region.]


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Copyright 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo

Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo