Hey, Camp Fans!
Door County was full of summer campers in the 1920s. Chock full of forests, fields, and bays, that Wisconsin State Legislature designated for preservation in 1909, the Peninsula State Park offers a breathtaking view looking northwest: the chain of Strawberry Islands as they skip through the Green Bay water. A world of fun was had here by children in the Midwest area who attended camps in this gorgeous part of beautiful Wisconsin such as the rustic Adventure Island Camp off the shores of Ephraim on the thumb of the state.
Check it out!
It was a man from Illinois, Charles “Skipper” Kinney who spearheaded a boys camp on the largest of the Strawberry Islands (initially named Big Strawberry Island and renamed Adventure Island) in 1925. He kept dominion over the land and summer operations season after season, and remained true to the original purpose the camp was founded upon—“The Spirit of Adventure which is inherent in practically every boy.”
Adventure Island Camp was truly a self-made camp. Aside from the cooking, all the work at Adventure Island Camp was done by the campers. They did it all and they did it without electricity or running water. In the very beginning, work included the construction of the camp’s cabins and other structures.
To compensate the boys, Skipper gave them incredible freedom. Every day, he would ask them individually what they wanted to do for the day and, as you weren’t going to kill yourself doing it, he provided the material and guidance for them to achieve their goals.
The 7 to 14 year old boys would venture out on solo treks for overnights in the woods or build their own wooden kayaks. One year, the kids constructed their own Viking ship and named it ‘Serpent of the Sea’. They took it on a five-day cruise, a voyage off to distant lands like Escanaba and Marinette!
To make the freedom that much freer, the boys could even bring their dogs for the summer. The freedoms taught the campers invaluable lessons. They found that they were ‘free’ not to do their dishes, but then must eat on dirty plates. They were ‘free’ to stay up at night, but had to be up and at ‘em with the sun.
With further establishment in later days, the camp came to offer a baseball league, stamp club, journalism, orchestra, and shooting range to expand the activities, the boys created for themselves. A true inspiration to the very heart of why we have summer camp, the Skipper was a wonderful influence on the youth of his day. The camp stayed in operation until 1952.
There were a handful of other historic camps that operated in close proximity to Adventure Island such as Meenahga Girls camp and the Cherry Camp. I’ll cover these camps and more in future Blog posts. And, as always, thanks for reading, Camp Fans!