Carbide camp reunion to stir cherished memories
Sunday March 24, 2002
FOR decades, children of Union Carbide employees were envied by their peers who weren't lucky enough to have a parent working at the South Charleston plant.
If you were a Carbide kid, you were entitled to attend one of three summer camps nestled in remote areas of Kanawha County.
Children ages 8-12 went to Camp Cliffside on Alum Creek. Those ages 12-15 headed to the Blue Creek area to stay at Camp Carlisle (girls) or Camp Camelot (boys). Cliffside closed in the early '70s and children then went to the two Blue Creek camps. Older teens returned by invitation to work their way up through the ranks as counselors to the younger kids.
The Carbide camp program ended in the early 1980s, but it lives on in the memories of thousands of adults across the nation. Former campers have launched Web sites to share their experiences. This summer, they hope to do so in person during a reunion July 12-14 in the Charleston area.
Bob Lilley of Santa Barbara, Calif., a Carbide camper and counselor in the 1950s, already is making plans to attend. "I'd like to think I'd be missed if I didn't," he said with a laugh during a telephone interview.
The South Charleston native maintains the Web site www .carbidecamps.net, which contains recollections, photos and links to other camper sites, such as www.wrandyrice.com/camp. Reunion information also is available on Lilley's site.
"The Web gives you such a wonderful vehicle for reconnecting with people," he said. "It became a labor of love. These hundreds of responses came back - people just got all excited about it. There have been some tears shed, mine and others."
Scott Mease of Cranford, N.J., is taking the lead with reunion plans. The Dupont City native attended Carbide camp in the late 1960s and early 1970s, then served on the staff for several years. After his graduation from West Virginia University, he began a 20-year stint as a mechanical engineer with Carbide.
"The third year [working at camp], I made $17.40 a week," he said in a telephone interview. "I got my employee number that I had with Union Carbide for years."
Mease said the reunion will start Friday evening with an informal get-together at a Charleston establishment to be announced. Campers will gather Saturday at the Carbide Hunting and Fishing Lodge in Glen. "We're going to try to spend the night out there and have a campfire," he said. On Sunday, the action will move to Coonskin Park for a potluck picnic.
"I've heard from people from the '50s and the '40s, and a lot of the crew from my generation because they know me," he said. "It should be an interesting bunch."
Cost to attend will be reasonable, he added. "It's going to be no more than what we have to charge [to cover costs]. I hope to keep it about 20 bucks a head."
Mease recalled Carbide camp as a "neat place" where people bonded through activities such as swimming, archery, horseback riding and riflery. "Since it's no longer available, I guess it's part of the mystique," he said. "One of my one-liners on it was, I think they understood the cost of running the camps but I don't think they understood the value. "My son's going to sleep-away camp with the Boy Scouts for the first time this summer. But it's not the same."
To contact staff writer Marina Hendricks, use e-mail or call 348-4881. Write a letter to the editor.
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