The Summer of ‘67
By Dr. Pelham K. Mead III
Chapter one- Departure from Springfield College, Springfield, Mass.
It was June 1, 1967, a Thursday, and I was trying to finish grading the final exam for the four Botany lab sections I was responsible for. It was a blisteringly humid day in Springfield, Massachusetts, however the cool basement air in the Botany labs that were under Alumni Hall helped make the weather more bearable. Dr. Brainerd the Director of the Botany program at Springfield College had given a particularly hard final exam to the freshman taking, “Introduction to Botany,” for the spring tri-semester. I was a graduate teaching fellow in the Biology department at the time making $2,000 a year and receiving free tuition toward my Masters Degree in Outdoor Education. Dr. Brainerd liked to give lectures using 35mm slides from the thousands he had stored in his office and at his home. If a student missed a Botany lecture, then it would have been extremely difficult to recognize the same slide during the final exam when Dr. Brainerd repeated some of his favorite slides and asked the standard question. “What does this slide represent? Or he might ask, “The burrow holes in the sides of this clay river wall were caused by what animal? As I checked off the right and wrong answers on each answer sheet my mind began to wander off to my big summer adventure. Dr. Charles Weckwerth, my advisor and Department Chairperson for Recreation had arranged for me to do my Masters Field work in Los Angeles board of education School camps in Clear Creek camp, high in the Los Angeles mountains, and the Point Fermin Lighthouse Camp on the palisades of the Pacific ocean in San Pedro, California. Fortunately for me, Dr. Weckwerth had a personal friend who just happened to be the Superintendent of the Los Angeles Board of Education. As a favor for me, Dr. Weckwerth called his friend in Los Angeles and asked if he could do him a favor by allowing me to serve my master’s field experience at Clear Creek School Camp, and Point Fermin Lighthouse School Camp. The deal was made, and I was to report to Clear Creek on June 12, 1967, Monday. It was only 3500 miles away from Springfield, Mass.
In anticipation of having to drive to California with my wife Jeri and my two-year-old son Dean Michael I decided to trade in my Chevy Corvair that was not running at the time anyway. Jeri and I had looked at a brand-new Volkswagen Camper in the dealer on Worthington Street in downtown Springfield. The dealer offered me a few thousand for my used Chevy Corvair sight unseen if I put down $500 deposit to purchase the brand new 1967 VW Camper. The camper was white and had stick shift. The inside of the camper had a bunk for sleeping two adults, a ice box refrigerator, a small sink with a small water tank and cabinets all around the top and bottom of the camper. For my son, a canvas hammock stretched over the front two seats. Curtains could be pulled across the inside of the front windshield. The side windows had curtains also with louver opening windows with screens to keep out the bugs. The camper was expected to get 30-35 miles to a gallon that cost $.28 a gallon. We were picking up the camper this Saturday June 3rd and I was already getting excited to have my first new car. Being a graduate student at Springfield College gave me potential credit that was good enough for the Volkswagen dealer. I had already signed for a full-time position as a Physical Education teacher in the East Ramapo School District in Spring Valley, New York (exit 14 on the New York State thruway). With the guarantee of a full-time job and the reputation of Springfield College in the community my credit was good.
I finished grading all the final exams that afternoon and turned them into the Botany office secretary for Dr. Brainerd to review and got on my 50cc Yamaha motorcycle and headed home. I live in a four-story walkup apartment on Worthington Street in downtown Springfield Mass. It was cheap at $135 dollars a month with a balcony and large bedrooms, living room, Kitchen and bathroom. My two-year old son Dean Michael had his own bedroom that was 15 feet long by 12 feet wide. His room was filled with toys and a child’s crib bed. The kitchen was very room and had a table to eat in the kitchen. The pantry was walk in size with plenty of room for storage. Walking up the four floors of steps was very tiring, but I was in the best physical shape of my life at the time at the ripe old age of 23 turning 24 the end of the month. Jeri was cooking spaghetti and meatballs one of our family favorites. I collapsed on the couch in the living room and looked at the brochure showing pictures of the VW camper. I could not wait until Saturday.
I yelled to my wife from the living room that I had to go into work tomorrow on Friday to pick up my final paycheck for my graduate teaching fellow position and have Dr. Brainerd sign off on my graduate teaching fellow duties. My office was cleaned out already and I had packed up my files and put them in storage until I had time to have them sent to Spring Valley New York next fall. We watched television that evening and packed clothes into boxes for the trip to California. I made sure we had trip insurance with the Automobile Association of American and a trip-tek book and a map of the southern route to Los Angeles from Springfield Mass.
Friday came quickly and I met with Dr. Brainerd that day and he signed off on my final exam grades and my lab grades for the four sections I was assigned. I told him I would be leaving for Los Angeles the following Monday since I had to be in California at Clear Creek camp on June 12th. He wished me well and told me some of the stories he often repeated of his trips around the USA. My greenhouse duties were all completed, and the greenhouse was clean enough to pass his rigorous standards. Dr. Brainerd thanked me for the work I had done in the Biology and Botany departments in the last two years and shook my hand and wished me well. I felt a twinge of sadness when I left the underground labs in the Alumni Hall dormitory that day.
I headed for the administration building after meeting with Dr. Brainerd to pick up my final teaching fellow paycheck. After getting the check I would take it to our bank in downtown Springfield and deposit it so that we would be able to withdraw a large amount on Monday when we were planning to leave. I sold the trusty 1966 50cc Yamaha motorcycle to another Springfield College student and he would be coming by on Sunday to pay $400 for the motorcycle.
When I got back to my apartment on Worthington Street, I parked my motorcycle next to my Chevy Corvair and got in it and tried to start it. The motor turned over and then died. I tried several times and succeeded in flooding the engine. I guess getting the car to the VW dealer was going to be a problem tomorrow when I was supposed to pick up the VW camper and trade in the Corvair. Luckily, the VW dealer was at the bottom of Worthington Street and if I rolled the car down the hill in neutral, I could probably make it to the dealer’s parking lot. I hope to hell he doesn’t demand to check out the car at the last minute. He told me he was selling the car to a wholesaler as soon as I trade it in, so the chances of him caring what condition the engine was in might not matter?
The next morning, I had an appointment at 11:00 in the morning to pick up the VW Camper, and trade in the Corvair, and sign all the final papers. I was nervous, because I wasn’t sure if I could get the car to roll safely down Worthington Street to the dealer at the bottom of the hill. I got in the car and tried to start it, but it was still not turning over. I put on the emergency blinkers and released the hand brake and slowly the car began to move down the hill to the dealer’s parking lot at the bottom. I made it halfway up the driveway to the parking lot and had to leave the Corvair there where it came to a stop. I walked inside the dealer’s office and there he was standing next to the VW Camper in the giant showroom. It was a tan color and it looked great under the showroom lights. Wow, I remarked it looks better than I had imagined. The dealer had just gotten the VW Camper from another dealer in Connecticut a few days before and had the mechanics change the oil and set the car up, ready to go. I signed the final loan papers and pointed to the Corvair sitting in the driveway of the parking lot. The dealer didn’t even look out the showroom windows at the Corvair. He handed me the keys to the VW Camper and wished me good luck. A mechanic slid the glass showroom doors apart and before I knew it I was driving the camper out of the showroom and up Worthington Street to my apartment at the top of the hill. When I got home, I ran up the stairs to get my wife Jeri and son Dean to give them a ride in our new family car or camper.
Shifting with a floor shifter takes some getting used to but I managed to adjust to clutching and easing on the gas pedal. Jeri sat in the other front seat and Dean sat on the couch in the back of the camper. We were all excited as I drove the camper out of Springfield toward Wilbraham out in the country. The engine was noisy but pulled up the hills easily. We drove around for a few hours, and then headed home for Dean’s afternoon nap. Two-year-olds must have their rest.
The weekend went by fast and on Monday morning we were at the bank at 9:00 withdrawing enough money to get through the summer in California. I had saved money all year for this trip across the country and the stay in Los Angeles for the summer. As soon as we left the bank we gassed up the VW camper and we were off on our big journey.
I took route 91 down to Hartford and then route 95 south to New York City. We made it to New York City and the George Washington Bridge in just three hours which is amazing because the VW camper does not travel that fast. Before we knew it we were on the New Jersey turnpike headed for Delaware. We stopped for lunch and to get gas at one of the rest stops on the turnpike. By late afternoon we were crossing Delaware entering Maryland. We stopped again for dinner and more gas and continues onto Washington, D.C.. We went around D.C. to avoid the traffic and entered Virginia. Our destination was Wheeling West Virginia. We took the turn suggested on the map and headed across Virginia to West Virginia. It was dark now and getting late. We got to Wheeling, West Virginia around midnight and got lost in the many hills that dotted the geography. Feeling to tired to continue we pulled over on the side of the road and went to sleep. About 4:00 am that morning there was a tapping sound on the side of the camper. I woke up and looked out the window to see a State Trooper standing there. It was still dark and he had a flashlight shining on the camper. I got up and went out to talk to the State Trooper. He informed me that I was right in the middle of an off-ramp on the highway and had to move the camper immediately. I complied and got in the camp and drove for the horizon. Eventually we reached the wooden bridge in Wheeling that crosses the Ohio river. It seemed like the bridge would fall into the river at any moment. I drove very slow over the wooden planks of the ancient bridge, holding my breath the entire way.
Finally, we made it into Ohio and stopped for breakfast sometime in the morning. Dean was keeping busy looking at the cows in the fields as we drove by. It was as if he had never seen so many cattle before. I was exhausted having driven since 4:00 am that day. We were headed toward Columbus, Ohio where we would connect with route 70 which would eventually take us south to connect with route 66. Once we got off the interstate highway in Ohio and headed south on route 71 south, the trip slowed down due to single lane roads with speed traps everywhere. We stopped at some burger places and ate a burger for breakfast. Bathroom stops were far and few between, so it was good to stop occasionally. That night we stayed at a State roadside rest area which was full of RVs and campers. We left the next morning headed for Cincinnati, Ohio. The sun glare on the flat dash of the Camper was so bad we had to stop at a Convenience store and buy some dark cloth to tape to the inside of the windshield to absorb the bright reflection off the white dash. Not having air-conditioning in the camper made it difficult when it got hot. We had all the windows open in the camper to cool it off when driving. Several hours later we went by Cincinnati and headed for Memphis, Tenn. on route 71 south. We stopped at another rest stop that evening and cooked our first dinner of hotdogs over a portable charcoal grill we brought with us. Dean was thrilled to be cooking outdoors and sitting at a picnic bench in the middle of nowhere.
The next morning, we reached Memphis, Tenn. and continued around it to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It was getting very windy on the open flat plains of Oklahoma, so we stopped to get a soda and some soft ice cream. I got out of the camper and when to order three sodas for us and three soft ice cream cones. It was so windy that the wind blew the soda out of the cups, and I had to go back and ask for a refill. Wow I thought to myself, it was windy here in Oklahoma. Next, I got the soft ice cream cones, and half the ice cream blew off before I could get back to the camper. I turned on the radio to the local AM stations to hear that a tornado had just hit the area where we were 20 minutes before we got there. No wonder it was so windy? Trucks and RVs were laying on their sides as we drove down the road. It was a scary looking aftermath of a tornado. I drove as fast as I could to put the tornados behind us. We drove late into the night headed for Amarillo, Texas. We stopped and rested for the night and left early the following morning after eating some dry cheerio oats cereal. We were out of milk at the time. We stopped at the next gas station to get more ice for the ice box and a quart of milk for cereal. We were supposed to stop in a Canyon Park for campers somewhere near Amarillo. As we approached the turnoff for the campgrounds, I noticed we were on empty with the gas gauge. Feeling very nervous we drove down into the canyon with no gasoline feeling we would stall at any minute. Fortunately, we got to the bottom and found a campsite for the night. The next morning, I told Jeri to pray that we make it back up to the rim of the canyon and find a gas station somewhere. We creeped up the steep canyon road in second gear until we reached the top and headed west. Twenty miles down the road we pulled into a gas station and filled up the tank. Apparently, there was some reserve gas that didn’t show on the gas gauge that the VW camper had. We stopped at a Texas breakfast place where I had hash browns, steak , and eggs for the first time in my life. I had never had hash browns before or steak with my eggs, so it was a big treat for me.
We traveled on toward Albuquerque, New Mexico slowly traveling down the single lane route 66. It was impossible to pass the big 18-wheeler trucks because the camper did not have the horsepower to pass them. We drove behind some trucks for hundreds of miles sometimes until they finally pulled off for gas. By the fourth day we had reached Flagstaff, Arizona where I had a gas station change the oil on the air-cooled VW engine. After that one-hour break, we headed for Grand Canyon on rt. 180 north. We arrived several hours later at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and took many pictures. Being that it was getting late we drove down to south to the desert view stone tower where there was a camping area. We camped out there for the night at this beautiful site where we could see the painted desert in the distance. Early the next morning we were awakened by the sound of dirt bikes starting up. I looked out the door of the camper to see many people on dirt bikes (motorcycles) headed out into the desert. Off they went in a cloud of dust not to return until later that morning. We rested and took pictures and planned our return to Flagstaff and then onto Kingman, Arizona.
We arrived at Kingman late that afternoon and headed north toward Las Vegas where we would pick up rt. 15 to cross over the mountains into California. We had to stop at a rest stop in the Mohave desert that night. It was freezing cold that night but when the sun came up the temperature jumped into the 90’s quickly. We arrived at Las Vegas later that day where I had my first burrito. The lady asked me whether I wanted red or green sauce and since I was not familiar with Mexican sauces, I choose the green chili sauce. I took one bike, and it was so hot I had to spit it out in the parking lot. So much for my first real Mexican food. I guess I had much to learn.
By the seventh day of our journey, we were crawling up route 15 over the mountains heading toward Los Angeles. Everyone passed us climbing up the mountains. VW campers had no hill climbing ability whatsoever. When we finally reached the top of the interstate road, we flew down the other side at 70 miles an hour. Los Angeles county was in the distance, and we were finally nearing our goal. I must make some turns to get to the road into the Los Angeles mountains where at 5500 feet above sea level the Clear Creek School camp was situated. The Los Angeles Board of Education sponsored this year-round School camp for their students in grades 4-8. They also had a marine theme School called the Point Fermin Lighthouse camp in San Pedro, California right on the palisades of the Pacific Ocean. After climbing back into the mountains for another hour or so we saw the sign for the LA Clear Creek School Camp. We turned off at that point and drove up a dusty dirt and asphalt road to the cabins high on a hill in the mountains. Finally, we had arrived.
Chapter two- Clear Creek School Camp, Los Angeles mountains 5,000 feet above sea leve.
(The approach road to Clear Creek) (The Hawks cages at Clear Creek)
The approach road to Clear Creek School Camp in the Los Angeles Mountains at 5500 feet above sea level.
As we approached the Clear Creek School Camp the director came out to meet us and welcomed us. He showed us a log cabin that we would be staying in for the next two weeks. My first impression as well as my wife’s was, “God it is hot here.” For the most part there were some trees to provide shade, however the majority of the campgrounds was exposed to the elements and the sun. Nearby on another mountaintop a beekeeper was raising bees that flew over to the camp area and alloyed the Hawks that were in cages.
In the picture above my wife Jeri and son Dean, n the background are seeking shelter from the broiling sun in the cabin. A view of the mess hall from the back of the building is in the next photo.
After we had unpacked and settled in we joined the Director and the staff in the mess hall where they were serving dinner. The Director and I talked about the philosophy of School Camps and about my major in Outdoor Education at Springfield College. My advisor, Dr. Charles Dr. Charles Weckwerth was well known nationally in the field of Recreation because he was the President of the National Recreation Association that accredits day and resident camps around the U.S.A. We talked about the Curriculum that was to integrate different academic subjects together. Combining Science and history together or Math and Outdoor survival skills. At night since the sky was so clear the camp offered Astronomy for lots of School groups. The overall theme at the camp was Ecology of natural resources. Unlike the Point Fermin Lighthouse School camp, Clear Creek had established permanent buildings and operated year-round. The Point Fermin Lighthouse Camp was only open in the summer for 8 weeks. Clear Creek also kept Hawks in captivity and many other local animals in cages for the campers to see. Point Fermin had no animals in cages at all. Clear Creek in addition to the camper log cabins had staff cabins, a mess hall, a classroom building and an outdoor pool.
The second day at Clear Creek the Director invited me to take a hike in the canyon with him and a camper group. He told me to wear high boots and pants because of the threat of rattlesnakes along the trail. I thought to myself, “rattle snakes,” I guess I will not be bringing my son or wife along the hike. We met after breakfast the following morning, and the Director and two staff members explained the rules for hiking into the canyon and the danger of rattle snakes. Campers were forbidden to bother the rattlesnakes or provoke them in any manner. If they saw a rattler, they were to yell SNAKE loud enough for everyone to hear. Then remain in place until a staff member did something about the snake. The side of the trail was surrounded by chaparral that is a woody bush that grew as high as four to six feet and was extremely dry in the summer months that caused a fire hazard. The director explained to the camper group that it only took a small spark or a streak of lightening to ignite a forest fire in a matter of minutes. We were five minutes down the trail when the first rattlesnake was spotted. SNAKE someone yelled and a staff member with a hiking stick that had a curled wire on one end came back to inspect the snake. He felt the snake was out of range and the entire group of campers slowly gave the snake a wide birth and continued down into the canyon where the stream ran through the mountains. We spotted twelve more rattlesnakes that day and I was a nervous wreck. Four of the snakes had to be removed from the hiking trail by a staff member using a snake stick which had a loop on one end that could ensnare the snake around the head and lift it and drop it some where away from the camper group. The chaparral was sharp and could cut you easily you so long sleeves were a form of protection.
(Reforestation of trees on the slopes) (Stone amphitheater at Clear Creek Camp)
(Stream coming down the mountain) (The outdoor Pool at Clear Creek)
The stream running down the mountain in the canyon. The photo on the fight is actually a white glare of a wide-open outdoor pool area. Over the past 40 years when this photo was taken the silver nitrate in the photo has faded making the picture look greenish.
While in the canyon the director and one of his interpretative staff members explain the ecology of the mountains and the importance of preventing erosion and fires. The stream ran down some steep rocks and often froze in the cold winter months of January and February. She shade from the trees was a welcome break. When we finished with the hike, we started back up the hill to the camp and of course spotted several more rattle snakes.
When I got back to my cabin, I informed my wife that are was infested with rattle snakes and to be careful about her and Dean. Wearing high ankle boots was a safety measure that we would have to abide by. Fortunately, we had brought high ankle hiking boots for all of us. I instructed Jeri and Dean to wear only high ankle boots at the camp because there were a lot of rattle snakes.
In the afternoon we went to look at the Hawks that were kept in cages on the campgrounds. Most of the Hawks had been injured at one time or another and were recovering or had been raised from chicks in abandoned nests. When it got real hot the staff would hose the Hawks down to cool them down from the high 90’s heat. I noticed that several Eagles were soaring overhead looking for prey.
At dinner that night staff members introduced some songs after eating and short skits about nature. It was standard procedure to have a pre-hike session in a classroom to introduce the campers as what they should be looking for in terms of plants and animals. The classroom building was another well-constructed log cabin building that could hold fifty campers at a time. Most groups were ten or so at a time.
When the groups were not doing Astronomy there were campfire activities, singing, skits and lots of fun for the staff and campers. By 10:00 pm each night was lights out time. There was no television at the camp or radios except an emergency weather and fire radio the Director kept in his cabin. Basically, the camp was as primitive and free from modern conveniences as possible. Oil lanterns were used at night and flashlights to navigate the paths from building to building. The campers were warned not to bring any food to camp or leave any papers or food outside their building because many animals came through the camp at night in search of food. Skunks, raccoons, possums, porcupines, wildcats, and sometimes bears had been known to tear apart garbage cans that were locked up in woodsheds.
After a week of the excessive heat and the fear of rattle snakes my wife had enough of our stay at Clear Creek and wanted to leave early. She was afraid Dean would be bitten by a snake and die.
I tried to calm her fears but spoke to the Director the second week asking him if we could leave early because my wife was very uncomfortable at the altitude, heat, and fear of snakes. He agreed since I had to report to Point Fermin Lighthouse camp the next weekend on Sunday anyway. We agreed to let me leave early on Thursday and I would take my wife and son and visit my aunt
(Clear Creek Weather facility sign) (Weather Station at Clear Creek)
Penny who lived in Apple Valley, California.
(Camp Hi-Hill belonging to the Long Beach (Camp Hi-Hill Modern Mess Hall)
School District outdoor education association)
On Monday of the second week, I was invited to travel to Hi-Camp School Camp for the Long Beach School District outdoor education program. The Director of Clear Creek had a staff member drive us over to the Long Beach camp after breakfast. I took Jeri and Dean with me to keep them busy. The buildings at Hi-Camp were more modern than Clear Creek and the whole campsite was newer with a good size mess hall and many modern cabins for the staff and campers. We had lunch at the mess hall of Camp Hi-Hill, and I had an opportunity to talk with the Director. He was very impressed that I was completing a Master’s Degree in Outdoor Education and that I and my family drove from Springfield, Mass. To do my field work at the LA Board of Education School Camps. He was so impressed that he offered me a job after I finished my summer field experience. I was very excited about the offer, but I had already signed a contract with the East Ramapo Central School district in Spring Valley to work full-time at Kakiat Junior High School as a Physical Education Teacher and Health Education Teacher. I had a dual degree in both areas when I received my Bachelor of Science degree from Springfield College. The Director at Camp Hi-Hill was most impressed with the fact that I was an Eagle scout when I was in the Boy Scouts of America. I told him about the many interesting camping experiences I had in the Boy Scouts in Winter and Summer camping. I spent one summer when I was 16 at a Boy Scout Camp called Onterora in the Catskills mountains of New York as a Nature and Survival Counselor. I had to take Boy Scout troops for a three-day survival trip on weekends at the camp where all we had to survive was a knife and a survival kit.
After lunch we returned to Clear Creek camp, and I told my wife about the offer for a full-time position as Director of the Hi-hill camp for the Long Beach school district in the fall. My wife’s response was that I could take the job if I wanted it but she would be returning with my son Dean to her home in Freeport, New York without me. She would then send me the divorce papers from New York. I got the message which was a definitive NO. I was disappointed but realized that she did not sign on to live in the mountains of the Los Angeles mountains with me when she married me. I dropped the issue after that discussion.
The Clear Creek Director asked me how I liked the Hi-Camp School Camp and I told him I was most impressed with their modern buildings and shady environment. I told me that Clear Creek had been around a lot longer than Hi-Camp and that the Long Beach school district floated a bond issue to build the camp from scratch just a few years ago. I figured that the Hi-Camp was newer because all the buildings and facilities were much more modern and larger than Clear Creek Camp. I did not tell the Clear Creek Director that I was offered a director’s position at Hi-Camp in the fall. I figured it was a personal matter and would do no good to mention it since I was a dead issue as far as my wife Jeri was concerned.
We departed the Thursday of the second week to stay at my Aunt Penny’s ranch in Apple Valley for a few days and then continue onto Point Fermin Lighthouse camp on that weekend on Sunday when I was supposed to arrive and meet with the Camp Director of the Point Fermin School Camp.
The stay at my Aunt Penny’s was great. We had an opportunity to ride horses and visit Roy Rogers Museum down the road and personally meet Roy Rogers and Dale Evans at an Episcopalian church service in which my aunt and uncle were parishioners. Roy was a lot shorter in person than I had imagined but he was a real gentlemen and leader of the church parish in Apple Valley. Sunday morning came faster than we had imagined and after checking the map and getting directions from my Aunt Penny and Uncle Johnny, we departed for Point Fermin School camp in San Pedro, California. San Pedro was down on the ocean next to Long Beach Harbor. In fact we took the Long Beach harbor freeway down from Los Angeles to get to San Pedro. It took us several hours and we stopped for lunch at a Taco shop to sample some real Mexican food. Eating Tacos and burritos was a real treat for us Easterners.
(Rocky trail down into the canyon) (Our cabin at Clear Creek Camp)
(Field trip by campers into the canyon (My son Dean entering the cabin)
where the stream was located)
Chapter THREE- Arrival at Point Fermin Lighthouse School Camp in San Pedro, California
After leaving my Aunt Penny’s ranch in Apple Valley we headed to San Pedro, California to meet the Camp director of the Point Fermin Lighthouse School Camp. After several hours driving we finally arrived at San Pedro. I checked the map and it appeared that the Lighthouse Park was a public park on the palisades of the Pacific Ocean. Finally, we arrived at the park and drove in looking for the camp buildings. All I noticed were picnic benches and a playground in a nicely shaded park where you could see Catalina out in the ocean. As we drove around the park, I noticed a maintenance man cutting grass and I stopped and asked him where the School Camp was. He pointed to an area near the base of the Victorian style Lighthouse on the edge of the ocean. As we drove into the driveway, I noticed there were three garages and a mobile trailer. I still did not see any classrooms or permanent building like they had in Clear Creek. After I parked the Camper and got out, I noticed a man getting out of the mobile home parked in the circular driveway. I introduce myself and realize I was talking to the Director of the Point Fermin Lighthouse School Camp. The director was Chris Lambu, and he was living in the mobile home with his wife Jenny. He welcomed me to the camp and gave me a tour of the facilities. He explained that the Point Fermin Lighthouse Camp was much different than the Clear Creek camp because the land did not belong to the LA Board of Education. It was leased from the California State Parks Association and everything on the public parks grounds was temporary and set up only for the summer and then removed after the summer season. The only thing permanent was the three garages that became storage areas for the army tents when the season was over. Needless to say, I was very disappointed in the appearance and lack of permanent facilities. I tried to hide my displeasure with the lack of permanent structures. Chris the Camp director sensed my displeasure. “I guess you are in shock after visiting Clear Creek,” he said. “Yes, quite a bit,” I responded. “Well this camp is all about location, location, location, “he said. It was the only way the LA Board of Education could get a Marine Camp concept on the ocean. The partnership with the US Coast Guard and the California State Department of Parks made this camp all possible. Chris showed me what was in the three garages. The first garage was the camp store. The second garage was a classroom setup and the staff lounge. The third garage was a storage area for equipment, supplies, etc. Behind the garages were a dozen or so large green Army tents that had 10 metal cots with mattresses in each tent. He showed me to one smaller tent was to be my home for the next eight weeks. I could tell from the look on my wife’s face that she was not happy, but she said nothing as we toured the camp. Chris explained that each week a different area of Los Angeles County would come to the camp, 80 campers in all with 10 to a tent. The uniqueness of this camp he explained was the dedication to marine life and the ecology of marine life. We walked over to the edge of the fence with warning signs that the public was prohibited from going beyond the fence and down the sandy trails to the ocean below. Chris told me that only the camp staff with campers were permitted to use the eroded trails and that they had special permission from the Coast Guard and the State of California to use the trails. Special care had to be exercised using the trails because it was washed out in many sections and the campers had to be careful not to fall or damage the trails. “We do tide pooling twice a week,” Chris said. “It is one of our favorite camp activities,” he explained. Pointing over to a small restaurant in the middle of the park he explained that the local school that provided us with heater-stacks of food did not provide coffee because the menu is designed for children and not adults. If we wanted coffee in the morning we would have to go to the restaurant and buy our own cup of coffee before the campers got up at 8:00 in the morning. I was shocked that there was no coffee. They did not even have a coffee machine in the camp store or staff lounge. Chris pointed out that there were no showers in the camp except for the staff at the back of the restaurant in an outdoor enclosure. Women had Tuesdays and Thursdays to use the shower and Men had Wednesday and Fridays. The campers had to shower at the local public beach when on beach trips. The only place the campers could eat was on the public benches right in the middle of the park. I asked what happened if it rained? Chris told me it never rains in LA. I doubted that statement, but after eight weeks at the camp I learned he was right, “it never rains in LA in the summer.” It did, however, have fog in the morning or a marine layer as it was called. The campers came in each Monday morning sometime between 9:00 and 11:00 depending on how far away their school district was located from the park. The staffs were called Skippers or Mates would unload the luggage that came in trucks in advance of the busses by 30 minutes. When the campers arrived the Camp Director would assign each Skipper to a group of campers for the entire week. There would be four female Skippers and four male Skippers, all college students from local colleges. Chris and I were the only Directors or administration of the camp. There was no camp Nurse or Doctor or custodian on the staff. Chris also mentioned that for the entire summer the Skippers and Directors were to assume a marine style name that fit the theme of the camp. He told me he had chosen the name Captain Flogg and his wife Jen would be called Mrs. Flogg to the campers and staff. I thought about it and decided I would choose a name like Sharkie. I would be Captain Sharkie for the entire summer and Jeri; my wife would be Mrs. Sharkie. Dean would be the camp mascot as it turned out and he used just his name, Dean. The skippers would be reporting to camp around 6:00 pm that evening for an orientation session and to receive their camper group assignments and learn the rules and policies of the camp. The schedule for the week was flexible as follows:
That night when Jeri, Dean and I were eating at Jack in the box nearby we talked about the camp and it’s lack of permanent facilities. I explained that this was my master’s degree fieldwork worth ten credits toward my degree and mandated by the master’s degree Program. I explained we would have to make it work no matter how primitive the camp appeared to be.
The camp director explained that I had some very specific duties to do each week because he was responsible for the weekly staff evaluations and all the camp paperwork. I was to take all the groups to the beach-on-beach days. I was to also learn the harbor tour talk and give that talk once a week when the camp went on the harbor tour on Wednesdays. I would also assist in evaluating the Skippers and fill the Camp Director in on situations where he was not present. The effort as he explained was a team effort and everyone pitched in on feeding the campers at meals, unloading, and loading suitcases, and supervising campers on field trips in and out of camp.
The lack of privacy was difficult to get use to at the camp. The only thing that separated the camp from the public was a ten-foot-high hedge that hid the tents from view of the public in the park. During the week we had reserved signs on the ten tables we needed to feed the campers and staff. On the weekends the signs were removed, and the park filled up with adults and children. On the weekends the camp closed however, Chris or Capt. Flogg, and I were responsible to watch out for anyone from the park going through the tents or trying to access one of the garages. As it turned out I had to lock up my stuff in my camper on the weekends because there was no security in leaving stuff in our tent.
I had some concerns about the 300-foot-high cliffs and keeping my two-year old son Dean away from those cliffs. We did not take the campers down the steep cliffs fortunately. We used a sandy trail off to the side of the park where there were no rocky cliffs and only a sandy eroded dirt cliff to the tide pooling area.
6:00 that night the staff/Skippers began to arrive, and Capt. Flogg had everyone meet and sit down in the staff lounge where we could have an orientation meeting. He explained all the rules and policies that he told me and had each staff member select their marine theme name for the summer. The names selected were:
Mrs. Flogg (Jen)
Mrs. Sharkie (Jeri)
Each of the Skippers explained what college they were attending and what their major was at that school. They also explained why they choose to work at the Point Fermin Lighthouse camp for the summer. Most of the counselors were in Teacher education, Biology, Marine Biology and Communications. We did a survey of personal skills, and we had some surfers, guitar players, singers, painters, and storytellers on the staff. After the formal orientation the Skippers set up their tents and bunks and came back to the staff lounge to chat and relax the rest of the evening. Captain Flogg posted the schedule for the entire week and the Camper group assignments. He pointed out the team effort concept with serving food to the Campers before eating themselves. Unloading the suitcases of the campers before they arrived and giving a general orientation of the rules and policies and tent assignments when the campers arrived. It looked like we had a really motivated and talented group of Skippers for that summer, and everything seemed positive. None of the Skippers had every been a Skipper before but a few had come to the camp when they were in elementary school many years before.
And so the sun went down over the pacific and the view of Catalina Island faded in the fog. We sat around the lounge telling stories and jokes. Dean amused himself with some of the toys that were lying around the staff lounge while we talked and laughed. Captain Flogg explained that he was a professor at UCLA and that Jenny was one of his graduate students whom he married the spring before the summer of 1967. What a honeymoon at the Point Fermin Lighthouse School Camp. Paychecks were discussed and Capt. Flogg explained that the checks would be delivered every other week. My paycheck situation he explained was not clear since I was doing fieldwork for my degree. I informed him that my advisor arranges for me to get the standard assistant Director paycheck because I assumed all the travel expenses driving across the country with my family in my own vehicle. The LA Board of Education was supposed to pay me on the same schedule as the Skippers. That however, as time went, by never happened.
Chapter 4- The First Week of Camp, July 1967.
The first Monday began bright and early at the Point Fermin Lighthouse camp. Everyone on the staff was nervous since this was the first time, they had a camp group arrive. The orientation yesterday on Sunday covered a lot of rules and policies and the counselors or Skippers as they would now be called had a lot to absorb and memorize. Captain Flogg was up early and his wife Jen, Mrs. Flogg camp out of their mobile home and headed directly to the coffee shack in the middle of the park. Jeri, Dean, and I joined them since there would be no breakfast delivered on the first Monday of each week. I sat down and ordered some coffee and a donut for Jeri and I, and a bowl of milk and shredded wheat for Dean. We talked about the first day and how we were going to organize it. Capt. Flogg had made up a schedule of Skipper assignments for each of our counselors to one of the eight groups of ten campers arriving this morning. The schools had already tagged the campers with a number to indicate what tent they will be assigned to and what Skipper they will report to when they arrive. The first thing we had to do this morning was unloading the trunks and suitcases that will arrive an hour earlier than the campers around 9:00 am that morning. This would give us time to arrange the suitcases according to the predetermined number code of 1-8. By the time the campers arrived in busses we would be able to line them up by group number and show them where their luggage was located and introduce them to their assigned Skipper for the week. Capt. Flogg would introduce all the skippers and me first thing and then we would have each Skipper get their assigned group together with their luggage. The next thing would be the raising of the American flag by two Skippers appointed by Capt. Flogg. Skippers Kip and Windy would raise the flag this morning. Capt. Flogg gave me a checklist he prepared to make sure we cover all the rules and regulations before we sent the campers to their tents. He said we would share telling the rules to the campers so that they realize him, and I will be working together as directors of the camp. The coffee never tasted so good that morning. Dean and Jeri were anxious to see how the morning kicked off with the campers since they would be observers and nothing more. This was all new for Dean, like a big adventure. For Jeri it was just something new since she had never been to a camp as a child.
(Captain Flogg assigning the Campers to the Skippers) ( Skippers unloading the suitcases)
9:00 are that morning the trucks with the luggage arrived on time and all the Skippers and myself began unloading the luggage. Once we got the luggage off the trucks they left and we sorted the baggage according to the number code. Numbers 1-4 were the first four girls’ groups and Numbers 5-8 were the boys groups. Captain Flogg announced the Windy had group 1; Jimmer group 2; Sandy group 3 and Jen or Mrs. Flogg had group 4. For the boys, Kip had group 5; Splutz had group 6; Kip had group 7 and Ketch had group 8.
A few minutes after 10:00 the school busses rolled into camp. The morning fog or marine layer was beginning to burn off and the sun was starting to come out. The campers began pouring out of their busses excited to be at the seashore and at a camp dedicated to Marine shore ecology. This week’s group was from Lincoln School District in the Los Angeles Board of Education system. Camp Flogg had a portable bullhorn that he used to project his voice over the excited noise of the campers. “Welcome to the Point Fermin Lighthouse School Camp. My name is Captain Flogg, and I am the camp director here at the camp. To my right is the Assistant Camp director, Captain Sharkie. Shortly, I will call out your pre-assigned group number and the Skipper or counselor you will be assigned to for the entire week. All the counselors are called Skippers at the camp and all of them have a seaworthy nickname they will use the entire summer. Let me introduce Skipper Rip from UCLA, Skipper Windy from USC, Skipper Jimmer from Long Beach City College, Skipper Splatz from Long Beach City College, Skipper Kip for Los Angeles College of Technology, Skipper Sandy from California State at Northridge, Skipper Ketch from USC and finally Skipper Jen or Mrs. Flogg from UCLA.
Now when I call your number you will line up behind the Skipper that has a cardboard number that they are holding. After you find your assigned group, we will raise the American flag. Following that each Skipper will take their group to get their baggage and trunks and carry their trunks to their assigned tent. While at the assigned tent your Skipper will go over the schedule for the day and week and review some of the camp rules and policies.
So, the roll call went smoothly, and campers lined up behind their Skipper. Let’s all sit down for a few minutes while Capt. Sharkie and I review the camp rules and policies you must while attending this camp. First and foremost, no one should have any money or candy on them. We have a credit system already set up at the Camp store for you to buy candy, popcorn or treats. As for food, please do not store or take any food to your tent because it will attract animals at night such as possums and mice. Secondly, all boys are to remain in their tent area and not to visit any of the girls’ tents. If you violate this rule or any other rules you may be sent home to your parents. The Coffee shop in the middle of the park is off-limits to any Campers. We are on the edge of a 300-foot cliff above the ocean that could be very dangerous. Do not go over the fence near the cliff at any time. When we go tide pooling, we will guide you down the sandy trail on the side of the park away from the steep cliffs. The public is not allowed to use these trails; however, we have special permission to use the trails to go tide pooling. When you are tide pooling you may see and touch the animals and shells but no shells, starfish, crab or any animal is to be brought back to camp. Rotting starfish, live shells or any animals can stink up an entire tent and make it unbearable for anyone in the tent to sleep at night. Also ants are attracted to these shells or animals and will come by the thousands to eat the specimen you brought up from the sea. We go to Cabrillo beach in the afternoon when the sun comes out and you must wear your Point Fermin t-shirt and Hat and your Skipper will put zinc oxide on your nose to prevent you from burning and to make it easy for us to identify you at the crowded public beach. Out food is delivered right here to the park beginning today at noon for lunch and ending on Friday at noon lunch. The Skippers will serve every camper and each group 1-8 will sit together with their Skipper and fellow campers or Mates as we call them. After the meals each group will clean up its table and surrounding area and throw the trash in the garbage cans provided. We are using a public park by permission and must leave the park nice and clean after our meals just the way we found it.
Regarding cuts or scratches or any illnesses at Point Fermin Lighthouse camp. We do not have a Nurse on duty. Skippers will take care of cuts and scratches and upset stomachs. If you are really sick we will call an ambulance and have you taken to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. Do not hide your illnesses or injuries and report them immediately to your Skipper so that they can provide the proper care.
The Camp Store is open on Monday, Wed., and Thursday nights after dinner from 6:00-8:00 pm. No money is used, only credit accounts. Every camper has five dollars in their account and can buy whatever they want with the five dollars all week. Any balances left over after your departure on Friday will be erased and returned to the general fund. No refunds in real money will be allowed at any time.
Now I am going to dismiss each group that will go with their Skipper to get their luggage and take the luggage to their assigned tent for the week. So each of the Skippers and their groups were called out and went and got their luggage and carried their bags to their tents. In the tents were ten army metal frame beds and cots. With each bed came a pillow and pillowcase and one sheet to cover the cots. Each camper was to store their luggage under their bed or at the foot of the bed. Skippers reminded each Mate that they must keep their luggage or trunks always locked. Skippers asked if everyone understood the rules and if they had any questions.
The Skippers then walked the Mates around the park for a tour. They were shown the Camp Store which was garage number one and the classroom which was garage number two which also doubled as a staff lounge at night or when it was not being used by Mates. The Lighthouse was manned by the US Coast Guard and was off-limits. The Mates were then shown the fence along the sea wall and warned not to go over the fence at any time. As they walked south along the sea wall fence the groups came to a large sign Warning, No Public us of Trails permitted. Here is where the camp would access the tide pooling ledges along the ocean edge at low tides. No public people were allowed down the trails because they were eroded, sandy and dangerous enough for someone to trip and fall. Cabrillo beach was a mile away from the entrance to the beach and the water taxi was two miles away at the San Pedro docks. School busses would come to the park and pick up all the mates and take them to the Harbor tour that was on Wednesdays and on beach days.
All the tours were completed by 12:00 and the heater-stack truck arrived at the park for the Skippers to unload and setup for lunch. Once the food and drinks were set up the Skippers served the mates the lunch meal and drink. Once they had their meals they went and sat down at their group table. Sometimes one of the Skippers would lead the camp in a song or story while they were waiting to be fed. After all the mates were fed the Skippers were allowed to get their lunches and sit down with their assigned groups. After lunch each group policed the area or cleaned up their tables. In the afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00 there would be a pre-tide pool discussion in the classroom garage for each assigned group. Skipper Jen would lead the pre-tide pool discussion regarding the ecology of marine life and what to look for when tide pooling. The camp had a shell identification board that was helpful in identifying different shells. Mates were reminded not to pick up or bring back any live or dead shells, starfish, crabs, or animals to their tents. While some of the groups were in the pre-tide pool classes other groups were introduced to camp songs that would be sung at night at the campfires. Almost all of the Skippers could play a guitar or sing well enough to lead a group. Some Skippers like Splutz had special story songs to teach that all the mates got to act out as they all went Walrus hunting. Skipper Windy had her own guitar and a whole list of camp songs she could play. Every Skipper had their own set of skills, stories and songs that made every campfire at night a fun event.
5:00 rolled around quickly and the entire camp assembled to take the flag down. Soon after that the heater-stacks truck pulled in and the Skippers unloaded the heater-stacks onto the picnic tables and set up the serving trays for the hot meal for dinner and the drinks. The header-stacks were pressurized under steam to keep the food warm from the Elementary school several miles away and when the food was delivered to the park. Milk containers and cool aide were always available for drinks. The Skippers dished out the food to each mate as they went down the line with their paper plates. After dinner Capt. Flogg announced the schedule for the evening that was a Campfire in the middle of the park at 8:30 when it got dark. Until then, the groups could go to the Camp store and buy something from their credit account. The Camp Store was open from 6:00 to 8:00 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights only.
On days when the camp was going to Cabrillo beach, box lunches were provided, and each Mate took his or her box lunch and drink to the beach when they got picked up on the school busses to go to the beach. It was my job to supervise the loading and unloading of the busses and to go and stay the entire afternoon with the groups at the beach. Tuesday and Thursday were tide pooling days if we could match the low tide to our schedule. Every Wednesday was the Harbor cruise in which all 80 campers got to go on a water taxi for a two-hour tour of the Long Beach harbor. Forty campers went on a trip at one time, and it was my job to do the speaker talk about parts of a boat, types of ships in the harbor, maritime terms, flags of foreign countries and special places around the harbor. At first, I had to work off a list Capt. Flogg gave me and after the second harbor tour the first week I was much more proficient at the two-hour harbor tour. After eight weeks of two tours every Wednesday I was an expert at the Harbor tour. We went over the bow and stern of the water taxi, the fore and aft terms, the head, the galley, starboard side and port side of the ship and many other terms. I showed the mates how to determine if a ship was full of cargo or oil or not by looking on how low they were in the water. We searched for US Coast guard cutters and boats and pointed out the Harbor Master’s house and his job in the Long Beach harbor. We talked about the international quarantine area for ships to remain at anchor until cleared by the Coast Guard and the difference between the Coast Guard and the Navy. Each week as I got better and better with the dialogue the two-hour tour got easier. The key to success was keeping the mates involved with answering questions and keeping alert for certain types of ships and vessels.
The harbor tours by Water Taxi Every Wednesday
(Here is the actual Captain of the Water Taxi)
(I learned to do the Harbor cruise the first Wednesday of camp for two trips and every Wednesday after that for eight weeks. By the time the summer was over I had become an expert on Long Beach harbor. That is my two year old son Dean Mead sitting behind me.)
When the first group camp back from the Harbor tour the second 40 mates got aboard the water taxi for their tour. The group that just finished the tour went back to the camp where Capt. Flogg was waiting for them, and lunch would be served. The second group would eat their lunches before they departed for the San Pedro docks for their Harbor tour. The excitement of the harbor tours and the exposure to sun burn on the boats usually tired the mates out and they had some free time when returning to camp with their Skippers. Tuesday night was mates’ skit night and their skippers would teach them the skit to perform after or before the Harbor tour.
Dinner was at 5:00 again with the heater-stacks coming in on time and the Skippers unloading the stacks and serving the mates. The flag ceremony was just after dinner after which the mates returned to their tents to practice their skits one more time before they got to perform at the campfire that night. A special treat was to occur that night after the campfire. The camp was all taking school busses down to Cabrillo beach to witness the Grunion fish run. The Grunion fish come up on the beach by the thousands around 11:00 pm and the Mates get to see and touch the fish during this incredible event. Needless to say the following morning many Mates were so tired they found it difficult getting out of bed.
Sometimes if the schedule permitted, we ran half the camp down the trail for tide pooling at low tide while the other half were engaged in another activity or the Harbor tour. Everything depended on when low tide occurred, and we had to stay flexible to work around when low tide occurred to access the tide pool area. The weather was always a marine layer of fog until 10:00 or so and then out came the sun for a hot day. The beach trips were always scheduled for the afternoons after lunch or with a box lunch to take because it was always sunny and warmer at the beach at the afternoon. When the campers got back from Cabrillo beach they relaxed for a while in their tents until flag time and then dinner.
Some nights some Astronomy was planned when it got dark before the nightly campfire. One or more of the Skippers who were acquainted with the stars and planets would do a presentation. Other Skippers learned from the first talks and eventually got to do their own introduction to the stars. We had a few charts and books in the classroom garage for them to study from in their free time.
(Camp Fire at Cabrillo beach. Notice the sailboats in the bay)
The Typical Weekly Schedule of the Point Fermin Lighthouse Camp 1967
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Weekend survival
Arrival of Camper busses Staff wakeup 7:00 am- coffee at coffee shack (public)
Wakeup time 8:00 am
Washup at faucet in campsite
7:00 am-shower optional behind coffee shack-female day- coffee at shack
Wakeup time campers
8:00 am, washup at faucet in campsite Staff wakeup-7:00 am- Men shower day-coffee in shack
Wakeup time campers
Washup Staff wakeup=7:00 am No showers; coffee in shack
Wakeup time campers 8:00 am; washup,
Wakeup optional for Capt. Flogg and Capt. Sharkie, etc.
Mates unpack luggage Breakfast-9:00 am outdoors on picnic benches- Mates serve breakfast Breakfast
outdoors on picnic benches. Mates serve food Breakfast
Outdoors on picnic benches. Mates serve food. Breakfast
9:00 am Outdoors on picnic benches in the park. Mates serve food Breakfast not provided by camp on Sat. or Sun. Eat foods saved in refrig or buy breakfast out.
Boys orientation and Girls orientation separately Pre-trip Orientation for Tide Pooling with Sandy or Skipper assigned that week 10:00 Depart busses for Water Taxi tour of Long Beach harbor
10:15 arrive docks for water taxi tour given by Capt. Sharkie 10:00 am
Tidepooling or Beach day depending on low tide schedule. If low tide, then tidepooling 10:00- Operation cleanup the tents, take out all mattress and stack in the sun, Pack all camp bags, Move camp bags to one central location Monday Breakfast not provided by camp. Provide own breakfast or eat out before campers arrive at 10:00 am.
12:30 -Lunch-Heater stacks- Mates serve lunch to campers and then eat 12:30-Lunch-Heater Stacks-Mates serve Lunch Return for Lunch 12:30
Mates serve lunch Return for Lunch 12:30.
Mates serve lunch 11:00- Mates load Truch with camp bags before lunch
Assigned tents and Skippers to each group Tide Pooling if low tide in the afternoon. Alternate activity shell crafts 1:30- Beach day at Cabrillo beach, swimming, all campers must wear camp t-shirts, camp hat and white zinc oxide on their nose for ID purposes 1:30 Tidepooling or beach day depending on low tide. 12:00- Lunch early- Final assembly..Good bye songs. Final inspection of all camper tents.
Busses arrive 2:00
Campers depart 2:30-3:00 pm Lunch not provided Sat. or Sun. Eat out Jack in the box or Taco Bell.
Some milk in the refrigerator in camp.
Camper setup time 4:00-5:00 Rest period 4:00-5:00 return from beach day 4:00-5:00 Follow-up Ecology talk for tide pooling. Identifying specimens. 3:30 Skippers meeting, Evaluation of Skippers weekly evaluation by Capt. Flogg and Capt. Sharkie.
5:00-Dinner-Heater Stacks- Mates serve dinner
Monday night Camp Store open
Monday Night Campfire- songs, guitar, skits, funny stories, marshmellow roast 5:00-Dinner Heater Stacks-Mates serve dinner
Camp Store closed Tuesday night
Table games, checkers, chess, cards
Tuesday Night Campfire
Late night Grunnion run (fish laying eggs on beach) 5:00-Dinner-heater stacks. Mates serve dinner.
6:00-Camp outdoor movies
8:30-Darkness-Camp fire activities
10:00 pm-All campers lights out in their tents 5:00 Dinner heater stacks. Mates serve dinner
Camp Store Open 6:00-8:00 pm
8:30 Darkness Last Night Mates Night campfire, special events, awards, summary of week
10:00 pm lights out Review problems and solutions and make corrections for the next camper group.
4:00 Skippers leave camp for home
5:00 No Heater stacks dinner
5:00 pm Camp Closed except for Capt. Flogg and Jen who live in Mobile trailer and Capt. Sharkie and Mrs. Sharkie and Dean Mead Dinner not provided by Camp Sat. and Sun. Eat off campus.
Chapter 5- The Second Week of Camp
The second week things began to run more smoothly. The Skippers were getting used to the routine and knew what to expect. At 9:00 a.m. the trucks arrived with the suitcases and the Skippers eagerly began unloading the suitcases and organizing them by assigned groups 1-8. Everything was neat and ready for the campers from the Watts School District to arrive. At 10:05 the school busses arrived and the excited campers got off the buses and waited to see what was going to happen. Capt. Flogg got on the portable bull horn and had the entire group sit down while he explained the names of the Skippers and what number tent they would be supervising. When he finished the Skippers held up their numbers and the campers all headed toward their assigned tent number.
Captain Flogg selected two campers/mates at random and two skippers to help raise the flag of the United States of America. Right after the salute to the flag each skipper took their group to get their suitcases and then took them to their tent. I remember commenting to Captain Flogg how well the first morning went and he agreed.
This time each Skipper explained the rules and policies to their own group in their tent after they set up their bunks with new sheets and pillows. This more personal approach allowed for questions and answers. By 12:00 the lunch heater-stack truck had arrived, and the Skippers marched their groups out of the tents to the picnic tables set aside for the camp in the middle of the park. The Skippers all pitched in and served the food to the mates and rejoined their groups after dishing out all the food. Cleanup followed lunch and the mates were most helpful. Each Skipper then took their groups on a tour of the park, the Camp Store, the pre-trip classroom, the lighthouse, the 300 foot cliff and restrictive railing and stay off sign, the sandy trail down to the tide pooling, the bathrooms, and the view of Long Beach harbor from the south end of the park.
That night around 5:00 the heater-stack food truck arrived again and the Skippers organized their group at the picnic tables and the Skippers began serving food to the mates. By know every Skipper knew the other Skipper’s marine theme nickname and real names were no longer used.
The Camp store opened at 6:00 p.m. that evening and the Skippers took their groups to line up for buying candy and other snacks at the store. While the mates were waiting on the line for the Camp Store, some of the Skippers took some wood and carried it to the concrete campfire circle in the park for the Monday night campfire. Some of the Skippers had brought guitars the second week and a few were practicing new songs and skits for the campfire. I personally learned how to finger pick a guitar from Skipper Windy who was an excellent musician. I played guitar a little in High School but lost interest in taking lessons. Now I had an opportunity to relearn the cords on the guitar so that I could contribute at the nightly campfires. Some of the Skippers taught the other Skippers short little skits and mate participation games. The Monday night campfire for the second week was one of the best campfires we had since camp began the week before. The Skippers learned at night in their free time to work on their music, routines and group presentations for the campfires to improve the experience for the mates and to get a better evaluation from Captain Flogg at the end of the week. Each week for all eight weeks of the summer Captain Flogg had to do the Skipper evaluations which were important for being rehired the next year or using as a reference for school or a job. Captain Flogg asked me on Tuesday to take notes on the Skipper’s performance levels especially at field activities where Captain Flogg was not in attendance. At the beach and the Harbor Tour I had to take notes on how well Skippers controlled their groups and whether there were any problems or not. When Thursday night came around Captain Flogg told me it took forever to do the Skipper evaluations and asked if I would help him for the rest of the summer. I agreed to help not realizing how difficult the process was on an evaluation form set up by administrators from the L.A. Board of Education. Carbon copies of all the evaluations had to be kept and sent to the main office at the L.A. Board of Education each week by Friday morning. Every Friday afternoon after the last mates bus left Captain Flogg handed out the Skipper evaluations and then spent two hours discussing each evaluation for five minutes or so with each of the eight Skippers. Some Skippers did not take the evaluations easily and sometimes a few of them did not agree with the evaluation. We tried not to give to high an evaluation grade in the first few weeks so they did not get to confident in their duties. Sometimes a low evaluation was a way in motivating a Skipper to improve and not sit back and do the minimum. We also wanted “Team” workers so that things went smoothly and if a problem or emergency occurred a team effort could resolve it better than a one-person attempt.
Tuesday morning of the second week low tide was late in the morning which meant we had to give pre-trip talks right after breakfast and then save time to go tide-pooling before lunch. It made the schedule a little rushed but we managed to pull it off. One mate was caught stuffing a Starfish in his pocket. He was warned and the Starfish was released back into the ocean. The rest of the day went well. Heater-stacks arrived on time and lunch was served. In the afternoon the entire camp when to Cabrillo beach by school busses Captain Flogg called up and ordered. The mates always loved being at the beach and it made for an easy afternoon for the Skippers also.
Wednesday the busses arrived for the first group to go on the Harbor tour and off they went. I had prepared notes I researched after giving last week’s Harbor Tour. Two Harbor Tours in one day was tiring and difficult but I felt much more confident the second week when I gave my guide talk about the Long Beach harbor.
Wednesday night we prepared for a new format for the Campfire by having it at Cabrillo beach. We had permission from the Parks department to set a campfire in a concrete fire pit for our entire camp. It was breezy and cool that evening, yet we had the greatest time. I sang a duet with Windy as she played the guitar about a French folk song. We taught the song to the mates and had them sing along with us.
Better organization of Skippers
Improved Campfire activities
Improved Harbor Tour
Camp Store better equipped
Daily routine better organized
Keeping up the morale of the staff
End of the Week Staff Evaluation
Thursday night Staff Evaluations with Capt. Flogg
Diagram of Point Fermin Lighthouse School Camp 1967
CHAPTER 6- Looking back 50 years later at the Point Fermin Lighthouse School Marine Ecology Summer Camp
In looking back at the summer of 1967 and comparing it to where the Point Fermin Lighthouse School Camp should be today, I would make the following recommendations:
1-Safety must come first regardless of rationalizations. If the tide-pooling trail ever became unsafe for children to walk down to the ocean at any time then the trail must remained unused. Conversely, the trails should be repaired by putting in stone barriers to prevent erosion and wooden railroad ties as path guides by the State Park Association. The tide pooling was the main ecological opportunity for the students/mates to experience live and Dead Sea animals, plants and fish firsthand. I can still remember 40 years later the excitement the mates had every trip we made down to the tide-pooling area each week.
2-Health- the single public bathroom for 40 males and another for 40 females was a Health hazard then and still is today. Portable bathrooms should be rented by the week and be cleaned out each week. The risk of students meeting the public in the bathrooms is great and there is always the risk of perverted adults using the bathrooms as their place of refuge.
3-Technology- in the summer of 1967 portable tape recorders had just come on the market. A portable tape recorder was most helpful in recording the sounds of the waves and ocean for the marine diorama that was created in the basement of the lighthouse. Fast speed forward, today at lease one laptop computer with internet access and a compact project would be a great education took for showing PowerPoint slide shows of ecology themes daytime or nighttime.
4-Weather protection- There is no weather protection if it breaks the mold and rains despite many summers without rain in the past. A large tarp could be permanently set up for the summer over the picnic tables to shade the students or protect them against the rain. This did not exist in the summer of 1967 and there was always a risk and a chance that rain could easily ruin the day since there were no places for the students to hide from the rain except in their tents.
5- Assessment follow-up and marketing- In the summer of 1967 the assessment was all about the Skippers and their function as a Camp Leader. There was no assessment of the curriculum or the summer program to support future funding for continuing the program for many years to come. Fast forward to today, cameras should be provided to the staff of temporary loaner cellphones to continually take digital pictures of all the aspects of the camp experience to use for PowerPoint Marketing promotions at all of the participating School districts during the off season.
6-Movies of Point Fermin lighthouse School camp- along the theme of using PowerPoint slide presentations for marketing the curriculum and school camp experience at Point Fermin Lighthouse school camp, which is so unique, digital movies can provide an even more exciting opportunity for potential students and parents to see the opportunities offered at the Point Fermin Lighthouse School Camp.
7- Archival after 40 years- I have tried to tie together 2014 and the summer of 1967 and bring forward the valuable experience that all LA Board of Education students should have at least once in a lifetime. Recently, I read on the Internet that the funding for the Point Fermin Lighthouse camp was in jeopardy and that was a sad moment because anyone who has ever experienced this program firsthand would support keeping it well funded for all time.
8-The lighthouse as a major resource- 40 years ago in the summer of 1967 the lighthouse was owned and operated by the US Coast Guard who had no interaction with the Camp program. Students were not allowed to tour or view the inside of the lighthouse at any time. Several years later in the early 1970’s I have read that the Lighthouse was abandoned or closed by the US Coast Guard that is typical of their mission in the 21st Century. A private group has taken over the Lighthouse and preserved it as a historical site. If campers were allowed to tour the inside of the Lighthouse and use it for educational purposes in learning navigation, marine ecology, Astronomy, and other academic subjects, it would greatly improve the curriculum of the LA Board of Education School Camp at Point Fermin Park. Had we had the opportunity to tour the Lighthouse back in 1967 that would have been one of the highlights of the camp with the same interest level as tide pooling? I would strongly recommend that the LA Board of Education supervisors of the School Camp program at Point Fermin Park work in cooperation with the private preservation group that now owns the Lighthouse to provide expanded educational opportunities for the summer campers. A similar lighthouse located on the Hudson River was slated to be destroyed after the US Coast Guard abandoned using it until the local private citizens, as in the Point Fermin park, stepped in and saved the little lighthouse on the Hudson river in Sleepy Hollow, Westchester county, New York. Schools now visit the lighthouse museum on a regular basis during the school season and Earth science students get to examine Marine Ecology and Navigation on the Hudson River as well as other Social Studies classes and Science classes. The little lighthouse is in the shadow of the Tappan Zee Bridge by the way and can be seen from the bridge by the thousands of cars that travel across the bridge everyday.
Nautical terms-Harbor Cruise Long Beach
abaft – toward or at the stern of a ship; further aft affreightment – hiring of a vessel
afterdeck – deck behind a ship’s bridge
afterguard – men who work the aft sails on the quarterdeck and poop deck ahull – with sails furled and helm lashed to the lee-side
amidships – midway between the bow and stern of a ship
astern – at the stern of a ship
backstay – stay extending from ship’s mastheads to the side of the ship ballaster – one who supplies ships with ballast
bargemaster – owner of a barge
bee – hardwood on either side of bowsprit through which forestays are reeved belay – to secure a rope by winding on a pin or cleat
bilge – lower point of inner hull of a ship
binnacle – case in which a ship’s compass is kept
bitts – posts mounted on a ship for fastening ropes
bluepeter – blue flag with white square in centre used as ship’s signal boatswain – ship’s crewmember in charge of equipment and maintenance bobstay – rope used on ships to steady the bowsprit
bollard – short post on a wharf or ship to which ropes are tied
boltrope – strong rope stitched to edges of a sail
bosun – boatswain
bottomry – using the ship as collateral to finance a sea voyage
bow – front of a ship
bower – anchor carried at bow of a ship
bowline – rope used to keep weather edge of a sail taut
bowsprit – spar that extends at bows of a ship
brails – ropes on edge of sail for hauling up
bream – to clean a ship’s bottom by burning off seaweed
bulwark – the side of a ship above the deck
bumpkin – spar projecting from stern of ship
bunt – middle of sail, fish-net or cloth when slack
buntline – rope attached to middle of square sail to haul it up to the yard burgee – small ship’s flag used for identification or signalling
cable – heavy rope or chain for mooring a ship
cabotage – shipping and sailing between points in the same country camber – slight arch or convexity to a beam or deck of a ship
capstan – upright device for winding in heavy ropes or cables
careen – to turn a ship on its side in order to clean or repair it
cathead – projection near the bow of a ship to which anchor is secured chine – the intersection of the middle and sides of a boat
chock – metal casting with curved arms for passing ropes for mooring ship clew – corner of sail with hole to attach ropes
coaming – raised edge around ship’s hatches to keep water out
cocket – official shipping seal; customs clearance form
cofferdam – narrow vacant space between two bulkheads of a ship cog – single-masted, square-sailed ship with raised stern companionway – stairs from upper deck of ship to lower deck cordage – ropes in the rigging of a ship
cringle – loop at corner of sail to which a line is attached
crosstrees – horizontal crosspieces at a masthead used to support ship’s mast davit – device for hoisting and lowering a boat
deadeye – rounded wooden block with hole used to set up ship’s stays deadwood – timbers built into ends of ship when too narrow to permit framing demurrage – delay of vessel’s departure or loading with cargo
dodger – shield against rain or spray on a ship’s bridge
dogwatch – a short, evening period of watch duty on a ship
downhaul – rope for holding down or hauling down a sail or spar
dromond – large single-sailed ship powered by rowers
dyogram – ship’s chart indicating compass deflection due to ship’s iron
earing – line for fastening corner of a sail to the gaff or yard
ensign – large naval flag
escutcheon – part of ship’s stern where name is displayed
fairlead – ring through which rope is led to change its direction without friction fardage – wood placed in bottom of ship to keep cargo dry
fiddley – iron framework around hatchway opening
figurehead – ornament or (usually female) bust attached to the bow of a ship flagstaff – flag pole at stern of a ship
fluke – part of an anchor that fastens in the ground
forebitt – post for fastening cables at a ship’s foremast
forecabin – cabin in fore part of ship
forecastle – short raised deck at fore end of ship; fore of ship under main deck forefoot – foremost end of ship’s keel
foremast – mast nearest the bow of a ship
foresail – lowest sail set on the foremast of square-rigged ship
forestay – stay leading from the foremast to the bow of a ship frap – to draw a sail tight with ropes or cables
freeboard – distance between waterline and main deck of a ship futtock – rib of a ship
gaff – spar on which head of fore-and-aft sail is extended
gaff-topsail – triangular topsail with its foot extended upon the gaff
gangway – either of the sides of the upper deck of a ship
garboard – plank on a ship’s bottom next to the keel
genoa – large jib that overlaps the mainsail
grapnel – small anchor used for dragging or grappling
groundage – a charge on a ship in port
gudgeon – metal socket into which the pintle of a boat’s rudder fits
gunnage – number of guns carried on a warship
gunwale – upper edge of the side of a ship
gybe – to swing a sail from one side to another
halyard – rope or tackle for hoisting and lowering sails
hank – series of rings or clips for attaching a jib or staysail to a stay
hawse – distance between ship’s bow and its anchor
hawsehole – hole for ship’s cable
hawser – large rope for mooring or towing a ship
headsail – sail set forward of the foremast of a ship
helm – ship’s steering wheel
holystone – sandstone material used to scrape ships’ decks
inboard – inside the line of a ship’s bulwarks or hull
jack – ship’s flag flown from jack-staff at bow of vessel
jack-block – pulley system for raising topgallant masts
jack-cross-tree single iron cross-tree at head of a topgallant mast
jackstaff – short staff at ship’s bow from which the jack is hoisted
jackstay – iron or wooden bar running along yard of ship to which sails fastened jackyard – spar used to spread the foot of a gaff-topsail
jib – small triangular sail extending from the head of the foremast
jibboom – spar forming an extension of the bowsprit
jibe – to change a ship’s course to make the boom shift sides
jurymast – mast erected on ship in place of one lost
kedge – small anchor to keep a ship steady
keelhaul – to punish by dragging under keel of ship
keelson – lengthwise wooden or steel beam in ship for bearing stress
kentledge – pig-iron used as ballast in ship’s hold
lagan – cargo jettisoned from ship but marked by buoys for recovery
lanyard – rope or line for fastening something in a ship
larboard – left side of a ship
lastage – room for stowing goods in a ship
lateen – triangular sail rigged on ship’s spar
laveer – to sail against the wind
lazaret – space in ship between decks used for storage
leeboard – wood or metal planes attached to hull to prevent leeway
leech – a vertical edge of a square sail
loxodograph – device used to record ship’s travels
luff – windward side of a ship; forward edge of fore-and-aft sail
lugsail – four-sided sail bent to an obliquely hanging yard
lutchet – fitting on ship’s deck to allow mast to pivot to pass under bridges mainmast – sailing ship’s principal mast
mainsail – principal sail on a ship’s mainmast
mainsheet – rope by which mainsail is trimmed and secured
mainstay – stay that extends from the main-top to the foot of the foremast manrope – rope used as a handrail on a ship
martingale – lower stay of rope used to sustain strain of the forestays
mizzen – three-masted vessel; aft sail of such a vessel
mizzenmast – mast aft or next aft of the mainmast in a ship
moonraker – topmost sail of a ship, above the skyscraper
oakum – old ropes untwisted for caulking the seams of ships
orlop – lowest deck in a ship having four or more decks
outhaul – rope used to haul a sail taut along a spar
outrigger – spar extended from side of ship to help secure mast
painter – rope attached to bow of a boat to attach it to a ship or a post pallograph – instrument measuring ship’s vibration
parrel – band by which a yard is fastened to a mast
patroon – captain of a ship; coxswain of a longboat
poop – enclosed structure at stern of ship above main deck
port – when facing forward, the left side of a shift
primage – fee paid to loaders for loading ship
purser – ship’s officer in charge of finances and passengers
quarterdeck – part of ship’s deck set aside by captain for ceremonial functions quartering – sailing nearly before the wind
rake – the inclination of a mast or another part of a ship
ratline – small rope forming a rung of a rope ladder on a ship
reef – to reduce area of a sail by rolling or folding part of it
reeve – to pass a rope through a ring
roach – curved cut in edge of sail for preventing chafing
roband – piece of yarn used to fasten a sail to a spar
rostrum – spike on prow of warship for ramming
rowlock – contrivance serving as a fulcrum for an oar
royal – small sail on royal mast just above topgallant sail
scud – to sail swiftly before a gale
scupper – hole allowing water to drain from ship’s deck
scuttlebutt – cask of drinking water aboard a ship; rumour, idle gossip scuttles – portholes on a ship
sheer – fore-and-aft curvature of a ship from bow to stern
shrouds – ropes supporting the mast of a ship
sidelight – coloured lights on side of a ship under way at night
skeg – part of ship connecting the keel with the bottom of the rudderpost skysail – sail above the royal sail
skyscraper – triangular sail on a ship above the royal
slipway – ramp sloping into water for supporting a ship
snotty – naval midshipman
spanker – sail on the mast nearest the stern of a square-rigged ship
spar – any ship’s mast, boom, yard, or gaff
spinnaker – large triangular sail opposite the mainsail
spirketting – inside planking between ports and waterways of a ship sponson – platform jutting from ship’s deck for gun or wheel
sprit – spar crossing a fore-and-aft sail diagonally
spritsail – sail extended by a sprit
starboard – when facing forward, the right side of a ship
starbolins – sailors of the starboard watch
stay – large rope used to support a mast
staysail – fore-and-aft sail hoisted on a stay
steeve – to set a ship’s bowsprit at an upward inclination
stemson – supporting timber of a ship
stern – back part of a ship
sternpost – main member at stern of a ship extending from keel to deck sternway – movement of a ship backwards
stevedore – dock worker who loads and unloads ships
stokehold – ship’s furnace chamber
strake – continuous band of plates on side of a ship
stunsail – light auxiliary sail to the side of principal sails
supercargo – ship’s official in charge of business affairs
taffrail – rail round the stern of a ship
thole – pin in the side of a boat to keep oar in place
tiller – handle or lever for turning a ship’s rudder
timberhead – top end of ship’s timber used above the gunwale
timenoguy – rope stretched from place to place in a ship
topgallant – mast or sail above the topmast and below the royal mast
topmast – ship’s mast above the lower mast
topsail – ship’s sail above the lowermost sail
tranship – to transfer from one ship to another
transire – ship’s customs warrant for clearing goods
transom – transverse timbers attached to ship’s sternpost
treenail – long wooden pin used to fix planks of ship to the timbers
trice – to haul in and lash secure a sail with a small rope
trunnel – wooden shipbuilding peg used for fastening timbers
trysail – ship’s sail bent to a gaff and hoisted on a lower mast
tuck – part of ship where ends of lower planks meet under the stern
turtleback – structure over ship’s bows or stern
unreeve – to withdraw a rope from an opening
walty – inclined to tip over or lean
wardroom – quarters for ship’s officers
washboard – broad thin plank along ship’s gunwale to keep out sea water watching – fully afloat
waveson – goods floating on the sea after a shipwreck
wear – to turn a ship’s stern to windward to alter its course
weatherboard – weather side of a ship
weatherly – able to sail close to the wind with little leeway
wheelhouse – shelter where ship’s steering wheel kept
whipstaff – vertical lever controlling ship’s rudder
windbound – hindered from sailing by contrary winds
windlass – winch used to raise a ship’s anchor
xebec – small three-masted pirate ship
yard – tapering spar attached to ship’s mast to spread the head of a square sai yardarm – either end of the yard of a square-rigged ship
yawl – ship’s small boat; sailboat carrying mainsail and one or more jibs
zabra – small Spanish sailing vesse
Foul weather flags
Queen Mary ship
Sites in the Harbor
Harbor Masters headquarters
Coast Guard Headquarters
Channel markers red and green
Parts of the Water Taxi
1-US Coast Guard Cutter
2- Tanker- housing at the rear
3- Cargo Ship-housing in the middle
4- Flags of foreign ships
Grunion fish run at night. Staff checks out the fish.
Water taxi and Disney World mountain
Point Fermin Lighthouse and the 300 foot clifts
My son Dean Michael Mead at age two at the Point Fermin Camp
Jeri Mead walking away from skippers unloading camper trunks
Food came from heater stacks cooked at a local Elementary School. Skippers served the Campers first. Other pictures of weekend staff trips to Disney World in LA.