Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Place Where Happiness is Found

In September of 2015 Peter Llanso of Orangeville, Pennsylvania, commented on Sarah's remembrance of her many summers spent at Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa, a rural Pennsylvania girls' camp that was in operation in the 1930's and early 1940's. Peter lives near the old campgrounds and is very much interested in local history, hoping one day to write a book on the subject. Peter very kindly supplied me with some old photos of the camp lodge and other local points of interest, and took several shots of the grounds as it stands today. (The property is currently owned by members of his wife's family.) His enthusiasm prompted me to dig out one of Sarah's photo albums containing pictures of her camp days, scan them and post them to this blog, which you can see here.

Peter has kindly allowed me to post the photos he sent me, and I have done so below. What prompted this current excitement was being contacted by one of Sarah's camp mates, the former Cecily "Cecy" Swabb, featured prominently in a couple of Sarah's photos. She discovered the blog through another former Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa alumnus, Mimi Wilmont, also pictured. Cecy supplied me with much background info on the camp (including the fact that many of the girls had "camp" names, and that Sarah's was "Skinny") and she updated me on the lives of several of the girls in the photos, many of whom hailed from Hazleton. Most are gone now, some seventy-five to eighty years since the summers in Forks, at Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa, Indian for "The Place Where Happiness is Found."

Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa was founded in 1925 by two unmarried schoolteachers from Sunbury, Sarah K. Brosious and Elva C. Foye, known affectionately as Aunt Sally and Aunt Til. According to contemporary newspaper accounts the two women "owned and operated" the camp each summer for a period of six weeks. Advertisements for the camp appeared in numerous local Pennsylvania newspapers and girls from towns as scattered as Shamokin, Hazleton, Danville, Wilkes-Barre and Camp Hill attended. The camp promised to "promote a healthy, happy vacation for active girls," and featured tennis, basketball, baseball, swimming and, of course, horseback riding. The season usually began the second week of July (which puts into doubt Sarah's recollections of celebrating her July 3rd birthday there) and finished up in August. The site was open for inspection by parents the week prior to the semester. The cost for this little bit of paradise was $12.50 a week.

In the early 1940's (probably 1943) Aunt's Sally and Till were forced to sell the place, and did so to The Salvation Army, who continued to operate the camp under the same name. They renovated the main lodge by adding indoor plumbing and a modern kitchen, and the focus of the camp was changed, as one might imagine, to a more religious  discipline, including Bible study, music and leadership skills. Ai-Yuk-Pa remained in operation until the early 1960's, when it was sold and no longer used as a girls' camp. According to Peter the main building was heavily damaged by a flood and taken down. From the contemporary photos he sent me there is little evidence that Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa ever existed.

Elva Foye, "Aunt Til," from her 1918 Bloomsburg State College yearbook
For a better view of each photo simply click on them.

(Left) The Lodge: the main building at Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa, where the girls, the counselors and Aunt Sally and Aunt Till ate, slept and conducted indoor activities. The date of this photo is uncertain but it predates 1942 and was likely taken during one of the summers that Sarah attended. The camera is pointed north-east.

(Right) Probably taken at the same time the previous photo, this view is looking south-west and shows the back of the building where the dining area was. The lodge blocks the view of the covered  bridge crossing Fishing Creek.
(Left) Contemporary view of the dining room photo, the lodge was located just on the other side of the dead pine tree.
(Right) Contemporary aerial view of the Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa site, notated by Peter, showing the location of the lodge and the railroad tracks, going north-south. The entrance to the campground is south of this photo, as is the location of the covered bridge crossing Fishing Creek.

(Left) Larger aerial shot notated by Peter, showing the surrounding points of interest.

(Right) Forks station of the Bloomsburg and Sullivan Railroad, and Harrison's General store, located north-east of the lodge and to the east of the railroad tracks.

(Left) Detail of the first lodge photo, showing the railroad station and the general store through the image of the lodge porch.

(Right) The covered bridge that crossed Fishing Creek, from the camp-side of the creek looking west. The Beacon Lodge, not visible from this perspective, is to the left of the bridge on the far side of the creek.

Sarah's photo of her and the girls enjoying ice cream cones at Beacon Lodge, late 1930's. Photo is looking south.

(Left) The covered bridge, facing south (?)

(Right) Contemporary view of the entrance to Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa, looking north. The lodge would have been located to the left of the building at the end of the lane.

After Sarah and her family moved to Washington, DC in 1941, she put together a scrapbook containing much of her saved memorabilia. This included several pieces of Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa remnants, which I have photographed and included below. There were also letters, postcards and even a "last will and testament," (written in her teens) indicating that she kept in contact with several camp compatriots long after she was too old to attend, including Sally Wilmont and the older (by three years) Marion Drasher ("Drash").

(Left) "Camp Banner, first Year."

(Right) "Emblem I got at one of my summers at Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa, Forks, Pa."

(Left) "Another emblem from Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa."
(Right) "Favors at camp farewell party."

(Left) "Camp Ai-Yuk-Pa emblem autograph pennant (everyone in the camp signed it)."

(Right) "Another camp emblem."

(Left) "Camp placecard at farewell party."

(Right) "Poster I made when our room at camp had the entertainment. I was the banker."

(Left) "Poster made by Sally Wilmot."

"Another camp pennant."

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