Who Am I?–Camp Yonahnoka Edition

"Professor" Hugh Morton and photography student at Camp Yonahnoka, early 1940s

A few weeks back, we heard from someone who was a photography student of Hugh Morton’s at Camp Yonahnoka in the early 1940s. He said in his email, “if you have any photographs taken prior to Morton’s WWII service, especially those with young boys in them, I might be able to help identify some people and places.”
Well, yes—we do have a few of those. A few HUNDRED, that is! Here’s just a small sampling. We’d love to hear from our email correspondent, as well as from anyone who attended Yonahnoka and may have memories or identifications to share.
Is this, as I suspect, an image of the darkroom at Camp Yonahnoka?
Boy developing prints in Camp Yonahnoka darkroom?, early 1940s
Of course, no camp is complete without a campfire. I’d love to know what’s going on in the first image below . . .
Campfire scene at Camp Yonahnoka, early 1940s

Marshmallow roast at Camp Yonahnoka, early 1940s

The image below looks like something from “Survivor.” (It was in an envelope labeled “Canoe Tilt”).
"Canoe Tilt," Camp Yonahnoka, early 1940s
And finally, it appears the boys were encouraged to develop their artistic as well as athletic abilities. In case you can’t make them out, the sign above the mic in the first image reads “NAZI,” and the sheet music on the piano in the bottom image is for a Glenn Miller tune called “Moonlight Cocktail,” a big hit in 1942— listen to it here! (Judging from the reaction of the boy at the piano, perhaps this particular performance left something to be desired).
Boy performing in skit at Camp Yonahnoka, early 1940s
Band performance at Camp Yonahnoka, early 1940s

33 thoughts on “Who Am I?–Camp Yonahnoka Edition”

  1. The bottom two pics were taken in the Bark Room, which, as I understand, remains to this day. The “Y” emblems in the bottom picture were the felt patches you won at the end of the camp season when you’d satisfied all the requirements to get one: earn enough ‘work points’ (earning 7 work points a day cleaning the rifle range, for example) and “qualify” in a certain number of activities. Campers who won their patches returned the next season with their patch sewn on the back of the thin blue Yonahnoka camp jackets (I have one somewhere).
    The older you were, the more activities you had to qualify in. For instance, to qualify in canoeing, you had to learn all the parts of a canoe and paddle; know and be able to demonstrate all the various types of strokes with the paddle; and know the safety rules of canoeing (how to right a swamped canoe, how to safely enter and exit a canoe, how to sit in a canoe, etc.).
    The stage of the Bark Room was used for Dramatics, for the bunkhouse skits (this looks like it might be from the Skit Competition or Talent Night), and for the bunkhouse Song Contests, when each bunkhouse had to first sing the Camp Song (I’ll supply the lyrics upon request}, then a song of their own choosing.
    When I was a camper and, later, a counselor in the 50s and early 60s, the prize for both the Skit Contest and the Song Contest was an “ice cream supper” – the campers in the winning bunkhouse were treated to big dishes of homemade ice cream, a big deal since we RARELY had ice cream and Mrs. Forbes homemade ice cream was the best I ever had.
    The photo of the campers in canoes was taken just outside the swimming area, near the dam.
    The “Indians” photo comes from an annual event when the campers and counselors dressed as Indians, carrying wooden tomahawks and outfits they’d made themselves in the handicrafts shop. The picture below it would have been taken on the night of one of the weekly bunkhouse cookouts, when we’d meet at a regular cooking area and roast marshmallows and hot dogs over an open fire. The cookouts were a good occasion for the bunkhouses to rehearse their songs for the Song Competition.
    There was a darkroom for campers during my first two years at Yonahnoka, located beneath the Pavilion, between the laundry room and the camp store; after 1961 I don’t think there was a darkroom. That whole area smelled forever like wet concerete. There were no windows in our darkroom, so this shot would have been taken elsewhere.
    Great photos! Keep ’em comin’!

  2. As someone whose high-school friends were all in rock bands (a different era of course), I have an alternative explanation for the boy near the piano.
    Singers often cup a hand over one ear to help them hear themselves sing, to make sure they’re in key or on the right note. So, it might not be a comment on the music if the song has vocals.

  3. Thanks to Will for all the fabulous CY information. I looked more closely at the darkroom photo, and I don’t believe there are windows — I think there’s just a bright light on those two display panels in the back that makes them look like windows. I don’t think a darkroom with windows that let in that much light would be very effective! So, maybe this is the Yonahnoka darkroom after all?

  4. Thanks to Will also for mentioning my grandmother Mrs. Robert Forbes, the Camp Dietitian. She had a great influence on a lot of campers. I also had the opportunity to attend as a camper in ’63, and helped with the grounds maintenance during the summer of ’71. A ton of memories came back while reading about the Pavilion and the activities on Lake Kawana. The Lake underwent a wonderful restoration several years ago but sadly, the old Pavilion and Dining Hall were torn down. There was a lot of mountain history captured by Mr. Morton, and we are so lucky to have folks like Elizabeth to preserve them for future generations. Many thanks to all of you that are involved, I’ll gladly keep watching.

  5. What a pleasure to view some CY pics. I was a counselor during the Summer 1973 and, the camp’s last year, 1974. Two wonderful and memorable years. I taught photography (with Harrison Turnbull), campcraft, canoeing and waterfront those two years. I’d love to find some old’timers. Mine was a short tenure in the 50 year history of a great service to boys by Mr. Tompkins and so many others. Does anyone remember,”enthusiasm is contageous!” ? A great teaching one-liner.
    Here’s to my buddy’s of CY:
    Toy Savage
    Harrison Turnbull
    Dwight Smith
    Chris Kolbe
    Robin Lincks
    Curry Morris
    Carl McNeil
    Bill Sidule, Sr. Counselor….
    and many more ! “Gimme some o’ that jug”!
    Dale Latty

  6. P.S. on my last comment.
    Those “windows” in the photo lab are not windows. It’s a wall-mounted “lightbox” to inspect developed film negative images. And, yes, the photolab was still underneath the pavillion in 1974.
    Long live “Chief Watauga”!
    Dale, Again

  7. My summers at Camp Yonahnoka as a camper (1956-’61) and counselor (1965) have left me with wonderful memories of God’s magnificent creation. Mr. T instilled in us our standard: “Your word is your bond.” This fit in perfectly later at Sewanee with our written pledge during exams that, “I have neither given nor received information on this exam.” Camp memories include the following: rolling and relining the tennis courts after rain; candy bars at Linville golf; bear stories at campouts; riding to dances at Camp Yonahlossee in the back of trucks; freezing at “Horn in the West”; digging for worms on the camp golf course; Sunday’s outdoor chapel service; homemade ice cream; having the kitchen cook the fish I caught; frog gigging; “new” sports such as soccer and wrestling; taking the overnight train from Tampa to Spartanburg and a bus to camp; almost falling to my death from a wet ladder on Grandfather Mountain; believing that barrels of heating oil were put into the lake to warm it up; gunnel-pumping canoes; Tuesday night vespers services; Sunday night song service; smoking rolled-up leaves in the woods (sorry); moon pies, spoonbread, and Bob’s Sensation Balls candy; required long sleeves for breakfast and dinner; required rest periods after lunch; playing chess; toothpaste writing on the bunkhouse walls; open rows of toilets; and many lost memories known but to God.

  8. A note on the bottom photo: just to the right of the piano you can see what is, I believe, the storage locker for the camp’s 22 cal. rifles, ammo, and gun cleaning swabs and such.

  9. My dad, Jim Seidule, was a senior counselor during the 60’s and early 70’s. We lived in the cabin near the nature cabin with all the snakes and mice. Camp ended in 1975 when I was 10 (or was it 1976?). I remember Smokey, Mr. T’s dog playing with our dog Daisy and both smelling Laka Kawana. I remember the Camp song (“The Mountains of North Carolina…..”), the candy store with pixie sticks, ping pong in the pavillion, and wishing I could be a camper like my brother Ty. I also remember heading up to the bunkhouse after the boys went home for the summer to go through all the stuff they left — comic books mostly but sometimes candy and t-shirts. I remember Madge, one of the cooks. We always had a few of the homesick younger campers at our house, and my Mom, Molly, helped teach Handicrafts. Would love to see photos from the 70’s.

  10. Jim Seidule here. Head Counselor for 13 years. My three children – Ty, Nancy & Amy – all came as babies – and left not only older, but with the Camp Yonahnoka spiri.
    The spirit of the camp was never displayed better than during the Kawana Games, especially the all camp Kawana Relay. The other time was at the Camp banquet. It was always a sad time saying the Camp prayer, followed by the Camp song and finally Taps. Some of you were at the last banquet, when we were not sure Mr. T would attend. He had been sick most of the summer. Everyone was thrilled for him to be there. Then he announced that the camp would no longer operate. 1974 was the last summer for Camp Yonahnoka. There were many tears during that last Taps.

  11. Dale Latty checking in again… so nice to read the memoirs above. A few more from me. Loved to hear counselor Toy Savage tickle those piano keys. I was never a camper, but one of the youngest counselors in ’73 and along with Robin Lincks in ’74, whose father was a counselor, and head counselor, too, in the early 60’s, I believe. How about that Curry Morris? He could throw a fit on the tennis courts on a bad shot. And, I remember being at the Linck’s cabin on Grandmother Mtn. the night Tricky Dick Nixon resigned. Boy was Curry happy about that. lol, lol. Where’s Harrison Turnbull now? Perhaps a D.C. attorney? a Virginia banker? So many others, so many memories. I remember stopping at the old camp and asking about Mr. T. some years after the last camp in ’74. Found out he is buried down atthe Linville cemetery, near the crossing corners, with his faithful and loving partner in life.

  12. I entered as a Cub at age 8 in 1946 and rose to be an Assistant Counselor in 1955, making ten summers at Camp.
    Mrs. Juanita Forbes is the one on the left in the photo of the three women. Ms. Tarpley, the Camp Nurse, is the one in the center. The one on the right is Ms. Ellie Wood Keith, the horseback instructor, who also provided the horses. Unlike prior instructors, Mrs. Keith taught care of the horses, not just riding them. The photo is probably 1955. Mrs. Forbes lived in the Linville/Newland area, and I believe that Mrs Keith lived in Charlottesville Va outside of the summer season.
    I can help date any photo whch shows the bunkline (the row of bunkhouses) with the info that when I was there in 1946, Bunkhouses 1 thru 4 had connections between them and the connection between #4 and #5 was new in the summer of 1947. Bunkhouse 1 was the southernmost of the line, bunkhouse #2 just to the north of #1, and so on thru #5 5Bunkhouse 6 was about 100 feet to the south
    end of Bunkhouse #1 and somewhat uphill of it. Bunkhouses # 1-5 had five bunkrooms each, with each room having at least one double bunk (upper and lower) and most having two. Bunkhouse 6 was originally built the same way, but two additional bunkrooms had been added at the norhen end.
    Near the southernmost end of bunkouse 6 was a two-story building, with the showers one the gound-floor level, and the photography darkroom above. In my day there was a window which could be opened to allow cross-ventilation on a hot day, since developing/printmaking was not happening all the time. I think in 1954 or 55, photography counselor Dave Matthews rigged a fan and “light-trap” so that the fan could run during darkroom use. Most or all of the developing/printing took place at night before that.
    In my day, Camp ran for an eight-week period. The last time I was there while Camp was running under mr & Mrs T was in the summer of 1967, and the main Camp session was two weeks and there was a separate two-week session. Mr and Mrs T didn’t like this as well, because you couldn’t have as much effect on the kids, but it was what the parents wanted.
    “Your word is your bond” is good advice lifelong. The stated camp objective in my era was to help “create Christian gentlemen. A gentleman is defined as a gentle man — one who is both gentle and manly” In my last summer there, there was one Jewish kid, by the way.
    For those not oriented to compass directions at Camp, Grandfather Mountain is just a little east (maybe 10 or 15 degrees) of due north from Camp.
    Anyone who would be willing to provide me a photocpy of the Camp catalog for 1935 or 1936 or any in the 1947-56 interval please contact me at tmollegen [insert “at” symbol] alliedr.com THe catalog dayed for year X has some photos from the previous year, as well as some that were used for many years.

  13. The first campfire scene shown was lakeside, and was probably part of a show for parents on Parents’ Day, the last full day of Camp. The date is before 1946.
    The second campfire scene is at the Council Ring, near the top of the hill just to the west of the bunkline. It is identifiable as such because of the totem pole in the background. The totem pole was there in 1946 and remained — quite a bit weatherworn — in 1955. Meetings were held one night each week (I think on Thursdays) just after supper. Activities include the singing contest mentioned previously, and skits.
    Will Ravenel’s father taught me English at EHS and Mr. T taught me Plane Geometry and Chemistry there. Both were terrific teachers.
    When I was last at the Yonahnoka site, (2002) the barkroom portion of the Pavilion building had been torn down by the new owners and replaced, but the basketball/ping-pong area was the same. All of the other buildings were gone, except for the open shelter at the rifle range. It was too decrepit to walk into.
    The Geological Survey quadrangle maps (available on the web)stll show the locations of many of the buildings.

  14. The website of the Hugh Morton Collection at UNC Chapel Hill identifies the Camp Nurse in the photo of three women at CY as Mrs. Martha Thornley (not Tarpley). My apologies.

  15. Ted, thanks for the kind words about my dad; he really was a great guy.
    I have a copy of a camp catalogue from the 50s somewhere close by; the only info I can give you is that Jim Taylor, who was teaching at EHS with Mr. T and my dad at the time, is pictured among the counselors. He was probably the camp’s wrestling counselor – at EHS he coached the varsity wrestling teams, which in 1954 included future Sen. John McCain.

  16. I was a camper 1969-1974 to my memory. My first year I was 8 years old a younger camper. I had a great time at Yonahnoka
    and remember Mr T telling us camp was closing. I was truely upset and surely would have returned. At this point I was in bunkhouese #2 but a senior camper due to my many years there.
    My father had been a camper too and that was common.
    One thing I recall is catching fish and taking it to the kitchen. You would get fish for dinner that night and boys who caught nothing had the regular dinner. That in itself was a lesson and a good one. The dinner was a big part of camp for me. Mr T or a senior counselor would talk about camp activities. It was always anounced if you got a hole in 1 at golf or a 50 at the rifle range.(50 is perfect) I was a very good shot and got many 50s at camp. I still have my T-Bolt 22 today and its well cared for. I was one of the few campers that brought his own rifle.
    The water in the lake was really cold especially by the dam/swimming area. At night it got chilly in those mountains but we had wool blankets and kept warm.
    My life has encluded “Your word is your bond” this has been taught to my son and I live by it today. Lying is certainly a sin and one of the worst sins in my view.
    I went to camp carolina my next year and it was ok but I longed for Yonahnoka and that was my last year of camp.
    To attend Yonahnoka was special we all had a unique bond. It was a good part of my young life and a positive character building activity. All the sports where fun but we had arts and crafts too. The dinner was the highlight of my day though telling stories and talking to fellow campers.The food was very good there Mr T ate what we ate and if it was not good he had it fixed. We where always treated as equals by Mr T.
    He was a great man…I sure miss my days at Yonahnoka.

  17. One summer afternoon in 1947 I remember climbing the wooden stairs to the photo lab to what I feel was a climb to my destiny.
    I was seven years old when my parents dropped me off to my first camping experience. I was a stranger in a strange land with unfamiliar sights, smells and sounds. Sixty four years later the details of my camping experience are now vague yet strong feelings linger of excitement and wonder.
    One day a counselors asked if I had ever had seen how a picture was made and if I was interested to see how it was done. He told me he would take me to the photo lab the next afternoon. I remember entering the lab and feeling it was the beginning of a new world of adventure for me. The room was dark illuminated only by strange yellow lights and surrounded by mysterious looking equipment and odd smells coming from the sink lined with trays. He began an explanation of negatives, paper, the projection and chemicals that makes a picture. And then IT happened. He took a blank sheet of paper from under the enlarger and put it into a tray. To me magic happened that day that would effect me for the rest of my life. Slowly from noting an image began appearing, getting stronger and stronger until it became a picture. Yes, to a seven year old it was noting short of magic!
    For the rest of my camping experience I took every chance I had to be in the lab to learn how to be a magician. From that day I was never without a camera and now work as a professional photographer and teach 14 photography classes at a local college.
    Each new class I start by telling the story of my experience at Camp Yonahnoka and how one very special counselor formed my destiny some sixty years ago.

  18. Thanks, Jack, for sharing your experience! I had a similar introduction to the “magic” of the darkroom. My magical day was in a television station’s darkroom about 1970. I didn’t have a mentor as you had, but I will never forget the day I saw a white silhouette of my hand surrounded by pure black, magically appear on a sheet of paper in a tray of liquid under a safelight. Digital cameras, and PhotoShop, Lightroom, and Aperture software are magical in their own ways, but nothing will every replace that first experience—and every visit to the darkroom that followed since that day.

  19. I can’t believe it has taken this long for me to find this website. I was a camper at Yonahnoka from 1965 – 1968 and a counselor from 1970 – 1973. It is impossible to overstate the influence of Mr. T and all those counselors and campers on my life. Because of my experiences there, I have dedicated my life to teaching, and 40 years after my last tour in Linville I am still working with kids who might have been in bunkhouse #2.
    The nostalgia from those days is almost overwhelming. I wood so much love to hear from those of us who considered each other as indispensable. I have tried in vain in basic Facebook and other searches to find the likes of Bill Geralds, Vic Granger, Dwight Smith, Curry Morris, and Chris Kolbe. A few others I have tracked down, and one or two of us still stay in touch.
    I would welcome any suggestion as to reestabling any kind of network among us.

    1. Toy, I see your comment is almost 10 years ago but in the hope you are still with us I wanted to share with you that a persistent and favorite memory of my years a Yonahoka is you playing the piano and singing “My Girl”. To this day when I hear that song it transports me back to a Sumer afternoon in the pavilion. God bless wherever you are!

  20. I went to Yonanoka for two years 68 and 69. I was always a bit of an outcast there being young skinny and a Yankee. I did find out there that we all have some talents and over the course of two years became one of the best shots in camp. I had lots of friends there Jim Hamilton, Christian Burke and David Stallings. I left camp because I wanted to do more canoeing than was offered at Yonanoka. Today I am a registered guide living in coastal Maine. Still a Yankee. I spent a lot of time in the darkroom so we still had it in 1970. I had no Idea the camp had closed so long ago. I remember watching the moon landing on the old black and white set hauled up from the counselors room. We had to go to bed before Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface. Where all our cares are laid away

  21. I followed in my father’s footsteps by attending the 3 week sessions at Yanahnoka from 1967-1970. My older brother, Pinkney, was attending the adjacent 6 seek sessions during this time. In my final year I roomed with counselors Jim Hamiliton and the Rudisill brothers, Jake and John. The golf option at Grandfather Golf and Country Club had been introduced, so I choose it over horseback riding. Favorite memories include the hike on Grandfather Mountain, playing the 4-hole camp golf course and having my score of 11 announced at dinner by Mr. T. Time in the darkroom below the Pavillion next to the camp store where 25 cents went a long way. I met fellow camper Joe Wadsworth who I would see again a few years later as a classmate at Virginia Episcopal School. Though I was not a counselor I was allowed for 1 day to answer the camp phone located on a desk in the corner of the Pavillion. Every year Bunkhouse 6 with the youngest campers would win the song contest and get the ice cream treat. One Sunday I attended the Catholic Mass in Linville with the riding instructor. After a long wait and still no priest, we returned to camp. Since everyone else was at the chapel in the woods, she and I rode horseback through the wooded trails of the camp. I obtained my adult aversion to oatmeal and Creame of Wheat from the many bowls I had no choice but to consume at breakfast. My hope is that one day a website will be created to capture and preserve the stories, rememberances, pictures, and history of Camp Yonahnoka. The posts above mine are a testament to the many positive outcomes of having the priviledge of attending this fine camp, and shaping our Christian values under the tutelage of Mr. T.

  22. I was at CY 1954-58. I would greatly appreciate it of someone would sende the lyrics to the camp song.

  23. Virgil, this is what I remember of the camp song: (Others please help me out.)
    “The mountains of North Carolina uprear their heads in towers high, and Lake Kawana’s lovely waters reflect the glory of the sky, the sky. The rhododendron blooms in splendor with many a glorious hue when summers comes to Yonahnoka neath skies of saffire blue.
    On mountain trails we love to wonder and camp upon the mountain’s heights and see the moon shine down in splendor upon Kawana’s waters bright, so bright.
    We’ll sing our praise of Yonahnoka where all our dreams come true. When summer comes to Yonahnoka, …”

  24. I remember the first verse slightly differently. “The mountains of North Carolina lift up their heads and tower high, and Lake Kawana’s lovely waters reflect the glories of the sky, the sky. The rhododendron blooms in splendor with many a bright and glorious hue, when summer comes to Yonahnoka ‘neath skies of sapphire blue.”
    Does anyone have an actual copy of the song?

  25. ….we”ll sing our praise of yonahnoka..where all our cares are laid away
    and raise on high our glorious banner…the flag of blue and grey

  26. boy I hate we missed watching armstrong walk on the moon on this day 45 years ago….but it’s a great memory 45 years later of being at yonahnoka when it happened….

  27. I guess I’ll look at these pages every few years or so… and it’s wonderful to see Toy Savage has stopped by and Mr. Sidule has commented, too. Today Curry Morris called me from Ireland where he has lived a simple life for many years. We had a wonderful retrospective conversation and life talk; (int’nl tel. # 353-86-3437821). Curry gave me Vic Grainger’s tel #, 704-332-9135 and Randy Lincks, 604-894-1985. I also spoke to Harrison Turnbull (704-643-9394) last summer as he called while I was digging out from the Colorado floods of 2013.
    Thinking back to the motto’s of CY one popped into my head that stuck deeply… “get the right a-tit-ta-tude”. I always wonder if Mr. T could not properly pronounce that word attitude? but, I suspect it was another special way he had for teaching using word play. Whatever the facts, it sure made an impression on me and the kernel of the importance of “right attitude” was conveyed. I still look forward to speaking with Dwight Smith someday and a my other special friends from a special time in life… at Camp Yonahnoka. Please leave your contact tel. #’s if you stop by this site. Perhaps we can find our way to come “home” for a visit someday.
    Dale Latty, 706-968-3600
    CY Counselor,1973-74

  28. I just happened to trip over this website… I went to CY I believe for 7 years (1961-1967). The first year was just for 2 weeks and after that for 6 weeks. I believe I lived in almost every bunkhouse. The last year I was a ‘junior counselor’. I have some great memories of the summers there, from the organized activities to the general camaraderie. Very nostalgic… ‘Moon pie for a Hershey bar anyone?’

  29. Toy Savage! That takes me back. I was a slightly younger camper (Bunkouse 2 to his Bunkhouse 1) when I met him and really looked up to him. Toy, I, and a boy named Fax Conquest (if I remember correctly) were shared a canoe during an epic overnight (which may have been just one night, possibly two) on the New River. We had a fantastic adventure. I remember a torrential rain storm. Swamping in water over our heads and somehow righting and reentering the canoe nonetheless. There was a boy named Danny Brewster, whose father was a governor or something, who peed on an electric cattle fence at a stop. He knew it hurt but it took him a while to figure out why and to make the necessary correction. We laughed ourselves hoarse. Toy was the model for who I aspired to be. Sounds like he still is.
    Toy, if you’re out there, drop me a line.
    Bill Heavey

    1. I went for three weeks in 1969 (Bunkhouse 4) and 1970 (Bunkhouse 1). My older brothers were six-weekers. Favorite memories were canoe trips up the creek, the cinnamon toast and the sound of the rain beating on the roof of the bunkhouse. I have always had fond memories and felt fortunate to have gone to CY.

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