Boys mount up! Summers at Camp Clifton


“Did you ever go to 4-H camp?” asked Bret Dixon, Director of Economic Development, as we toured the 4-H Camp at Camp Graham near Clarksville recently.

“No, but I attended Wilmington High School Band Camp at Camp Clifton near Yellow Springs,” I replied.

Tracie Montague, 4-H Youth Development Educator, had asked us to tour Camp Graham, and to meet the Clinton County Junior 4-H campers during their first year at this location.

As we toured the camp, Bret and I happily took a trip down memory lane. Bret said he had met his wife, Cherie, at Camp Clifton one year when they served as counselors there. We talked about our camp experiences for the next twenty minutes.

Our first stop was the mess hall. The kitchen was identical to the one I remembered at Camp Clifton. “We drank milk from a tin cup, which made the milk taste colder and gave it a fantastic flavor,” I opined.

We soon came upon the boys’ cabins.

“Late one night the boys in our cabin, Ralph Doak, John Reynolds, Paul Shivers, Don Wells, Fred Camp and I were talking about how hard Mr. Rodger O. Borror, the Band Director, had been working us in the hot sun all day.

Before we could continue complaining the clock struck midnight, and the McDonald twins, Dave and Dan, ran into our cabin and said, “Boys, mount up! We are going to raid the girls’ cabin tonight.” Tracie frowned at me, but I continued my story.

The girls’ cabin was in close proximity, and we only had a few hundred feet to run down a rocky dirt path to get to our destination.

“Whatever you do, don’t wake up Mr. Borror,” one of the twins breathed, our pace quickening.

We tiptoed out of the cabin and quietly walked down the moonlit path until we saw the cabin where Peggy Kerr Bennett, Shirley Vandervort Mitchell, Nancy Bishop Ermoian, Cynthia Boyd Tuck, and Barbara Pulver Lawson were slumbering peacefully in their bunks.

Tracie continued to stare at me wondering where this uninvited story was going. “We ran down the hill the last few yards, knocked on the doors, and then ran back to our own cabins,” I said.

Tracie gazed at me. “Let me get this straight. You only knocked on the girls’ doors and ran? That’s pretty tame, isn’t it?”

“It was a different time,” I said meekly.

“Let’s move on,” she said.

However, we were just warming up.

“Mr. Borror was a great music teacher,” I said. “He had a great sense of humor, but he was a ‘no nonsense’ type of guy. I remember saying to John Reynolds one morning, “John, are you like me? Does Mr. Borror scare you a little?”

Anyway, one morning I was shaving, and for some reason I had put about four times too much lather on my face. All you could see were my eyes. As luck would have it, Mr. Borror walked into the cabin and glanced at me. “I wouldn’t use that much soap next time, son,” he said never cracking a smile.

Tracie told us about the camp activities. Unable to resist, I asked Bret if they had talent shows at Camp Clifton.

“We sure did,” Bret replied.

“Well, we had a talent show one year and each cabin had to come up with a skit,” I said. “Jim Gumley was somewhat reserved in high school, but this particular year he let his hair down much to the delight of his fellow band members. Jim and his cabin mates pretended to act like they were the marching band, then gave us a flurry of sour notes.

After a few dreadful blasts of the instruments, Jim stood up and gave a terrific impression of Mr. Borror. We wanted to laugh, but we wanted to make sure Mr. Borror did first. He did, and soon the entire band camp erupted in laughter.”

“Ray, did you know Jim Gumley could act?” Mr. Borror asked his assistant, the late Ray Wolford.

“No, but I do now,” Ray laughed.

As our tour of the camp wound down, we entered the pavilion and watched the young 4-H men and women dance, work on projects, play soccer, and a variety of other wholesome activities.

“Bret, I see the common thread that ties our generation with this one,” I said.

“So do I,” Bret replied. “We are never going to have to worry about seeing the pictures of these kids in the newspaper for getting into trouble.”

“To paraphrase Al Pacino in Scent of Woman – 4-H is a path made of principle that leads to character. Let them continue on their journey. We see a valuable future. Protect it. Embrace it. It’s going to make us all proud one day, I promise you.”

Or as Aristotle said, “Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Local resident Pat Haley is also a Clinton County Commissioner.