Loyal NCM reader Jon Elliston has just published an interesting story about Camp Summerlane of Rosman, N.C., and its forced shut-down in 1963. (He stumbled upon details concerning Camp Summerlane while researching a different topic in the North Carolina Collection Clipping Files.) The camp was designed as a kind of social experiment where children and adults had equal input in deciding rules and activities, no censorship was enforced, and older campers were given the chance to do outreach work with migrant workers.
Image from http://www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles/the_camp_summerlane_documents
However, locals responded aggressively to the camp’s opening, though the reasons for this are still a matter of debate. Some claim it was the camp’s integrationist stance that stirred the locals, while others cite rumors of nudism, sex exploits, drug use, and communist connections.
Roughly a week into the camp opening, groups of angry townsfolk gathered at night to “run Summerlane out of town.” Dozens of armed locals waited outside the camp yelling threats. A nearby pond was set on fire, and as the flames died down, camp staffer George Hall claims that he “Got into one of the little boats and paddled next to the reeds that were still burning. Then [he] roasted some marshmallows.”
To find out more about the background of Camp Summerlane, how the shutdown events escalated and eventually concluded, and to view more original documents about these events, see the full series from Mountain Xpress: Cruel Summer: The Attack on Camp Summerlane.