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Camp Lowden celebrates its 70th anniversary

Counselors of Boy Scout Camp Lowden shared memories of their time spent teaching Scouts lifelong skills during an anniversary celebration Sept. 4.

Camp Lowden continues to host Boy Scouts each summer.

The 70th anniversary was a chance for counselors to see changes made to the camp, reunite with friends, and share stories.

The camp first opened June 16, 1940 after Governor Frank Lowden provided the land to the scouts to be used as a camp.

Over the years many changes have been made, but the camp still serves as a tool to assist the counselors with teaching.

The camp’s current and longest serving camp director Bruce Small talked about the camp during Saturday’s anniversary.

“Thank you for taking the time to celebrate,” said Small. “For 70 years, because of the pride and excellence of our staff, Camp Lowden has become a premier camp. Each camp staff has set a new level of excellence. Without your commitment, the message of the camp will die. You are the best messengers of the value of Scouting.”

Small encouraged the staff to renew their commitment to scouting. He then led the staff in the Scout Oath.

“Please remember that nothing is easier then saying words,” Small said.

Following the meaning of the words is the challenge, he said.

Small joined the camp staff in 1979. He became the camp director in 1981. In 1988-1990 Small left the camp but returned in 1991.

One local Scout in attendance during the camp anniversary was Harry Fletcher, Oregon.

“The program today was well done,” said Fletcher. It was very nice.”

Fletcher received his 60 years of service to the Boy Scouts of America on Aug. 11.

In 1951, Fletcher joined Troop 69, which met at the Oregon Coliseum.

“Troop 81 started two years later,” Fletcher said. “I joined the new troop because they met at my church.”

In December 1954, Fletcher received his Eagle Scout award.

As a scout, Fletcher attended Camp Lowden.

“We used to always camp at “Riverview” campsite,” said Fletcher. “We requested it. It was the site closest to the river.”

Fletcher’s fondest memory of camping was also his first camping trip.

“The Dogpatch Camparee was held near Payne’s Point in 1951,” said Fletcher. “We had not camping or cooking experience. This was our first camp out. I remember that Bob Martin burned the pudding. This was my first of many unique things scouting has provided.”

In 1954, Troop 81 went to Canada for a two-week trip, Fletcher said.

Planning for this trip took some time for the troop.

The boys had a charter school bus to drive them to Canada. They also needed a truck to haul supplies.

“At this time, Olsen’s Lumber on First Street made hardwood molding by the dam,” said Fletcher. “They let us use their truck.”

The troop crossed into Canada by Ferry and drove back through Detroit.

“While at Algonquin Park it rained for three of the five days,” said Fletcher. “We also visited the Ford factory in Detroit on our way home.

After his time in Troop 81, Fletcher and some older Scouts formed Explorer Troop 681.

“Troop 81 was still serving the younger boys,” said Fletcher.

While in the explorer post, Fletcher received the Silver Award.

He also received the Quartermaster Award.

In the 1960s, Fletcher became a Scoutmaster for Troop 88, Grand Detour.

“I was the assistant Scoutmaster then I took over,” said Fletcher. “I also did Dixon’s scout troop.”

Fletcher also was a Scoutmaster while working at the Dixon State School in 1966.

“I had four weeks each year where I took 20 boys to Camp Lowden,” said Fletcher. “I had 150 boys a week attending our meetings at the school. We had 15 nights of camping each year.”

Following his time at the state school, Fletcher went to the Village of Progress in Oregon and formed an Explorer Post.

“We formed an Explorer Post with handicapped kids,” said Fletcher. “It was the first one in our district. From there we started four others.”

Through the years Fletcher has served as an adviser for explorer posts, and as an adviser for the Sheriff’s post and Mt. Morris Police Post.

“Scouting and athletics have been the biggest things in my life,” said Fletcher. “I have been a track official for 37 years and basketball coach for 21 years.”

Another lifelong Scout attending the camps anniversary was Dan Reilly.

As a camp counselor, Uncle Dan as he was known by everyone at the camp, taught 13 nature merit badges and Indian Lore beginning in the early 1980s.

He recently celebrated his 90th birthday

“I was on staff for 16 years officially,” said Reilly, Blue Island. “In 1996 I was a guest counselor for one week.”

Every day, Reilly looked forward to what the day would bring.

“My favorite part about being at the camp was everything,” he said. “I did a lot of star hikes and Indian stuff– I was the Indian. I was also the French Canadian on Sundays.”

Reilly enjoyed working with the Scouts and remembers each Scout.

He even remembered when this reporter spent an entire camp earning the merit badges he taught.

“The star hikes were fun. We always had fireflies lighting the way. It was beautiful,” said Reilly. “My favorite merit badge was the one I was currently teaching, but Indian Lore was always fun.”

Reilly began his scouting career in 1932.

“I am an Eagle Scout with two Silver Palms,” said Reilly. I also assisted at my brother’s grandson’s Eagle ceremony. Scouting has been a big part of my life.”

The only time Reilly was not involved in scouting was during a four year period following World War II.

He was recognized by the Boy Scouts for 70 years of service to scouting.

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