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   Chapter 2 LEADERSHIP

Camping For Boys By H. W. Gibson Characters: 14111

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


The success or failure of a boys' camp depends upon leadership rather than upon equipment. Boys are influenced by example rather than by precept. A boys' camp is largely built around a strong personality. Solve the problem of leadership, and you solve the greatest problem of camping.

The Director

No matter how large or how small the camp, there must be one who is in absolute control. He may be known as the director, superintendent, or leader. His word is final. He should be a man of executive ability and good common sense. He should have a keen appreciation of justice. A desire to be the friend and counsellor of every boy must always govern his action. He will always have the interest and welfare of every individual boy at heart, realizing that parents have literally turned over to his care and keeping, for the time being, the bodies and souls of their boys. To be respected should be his aim. Too often the desire to be popular leads to failure.


Aim to secure as assistant leaders or counsellors young men of unquestioned character and moral leadership, college men if possible, men of culture and refinement, who are good athletes, and who understand boy life.

"They should be strong and sympathetic, companionable men. Too much care cannot be exercised in choosing assistants. Beware of effeminate men, men who are morbid in sex matters. An alert leader can spot a 'crooked' man by his actions, his glances, and by his choice of favorites. Deal with a man of this type firmly, promptly, and quietly. Let him suddenly be 'called home by circumstances which he could not control.'" The leader must have the loyalty of his assistants. They should receive their rank from the leader, and this rank should be recognized by the entire camp. The highest ranking leader present at any time should have authority over the party.

In a boys' camp I prefer the term "leader" to that of "counsellor." It is more natural for a boy to follow a leader than to listen to wise counsellors. "Come on, fellows, let's-" meets with hearty response. "Boys, do this," is an entirely different thing. Leaders should hold frequent councils regarding the life of the camp and share in determining its policy.

The most fruitful source of supply of leaders should be the colleges and preparatory schools. No vacation can be so profitably spent as that given over to the leadership of boy life. Here is a form of altruistic service which should appeal to purposeful college men. Older high school boys who have been campers make excellent leaders of younger boys. A leader should always receive some remuneration for his services, either carfare and board or a fixed sum of money definitely agreed upon beforehand. The pay should never be so large that he will look upon his position as a "job." Never cover service with the blinding attractiveness of money. The chief purpose of pay should be to help deepen the sense of responsibility, and prevent laxness and indifference, as well as to gain the services of those who must earn something.

Do not take a man as leader simply because he has certificates of recommendation. Know him personally. Find out what he is capable of doing. The following blank I use in securing information:

Leader's Information Blank, Camps Durrell and Becket



College or school

Class of

Do you sing? What part (tenor or bass)?

Do you swim?

Do you play baseball? What position?

Do you play an instrument? What?

Will you bring it (unless piano) and music to camp?

Have you won any athletic or aquatic events? What?

Will you bring your school or college pennant with you?

Have you ever taken part in minstrel show, dramatics, or any kind

of entertainment; if so, what?

What is your hobby? (If tennis, baseball, swimming, nature study,

hiking, photography, athletics, etc., whatever it is, kindly tell

about it in order to help in planning the camp activities.)

[Illustration: A Leader's Pulpit-Sunday Morning in the

"Chapel-by-the-Lake"-Camp Becket.]

Leaders should not be chosen in order to secure a baseball team, or an athletic team. Select men of diverse gifts. One should know something about nature study, another about manual training, another a good story-teller, another a good athlete or baseball player, another a good swimmer, another a musician, etc. Always remember, however, that the chief qualification should be moral worth.

Before camp opens it is a wise plan to send each leader a letter explaining in detail the purpose and program of the camp. A letter like the following is sent to the leaders of Camps Durrell and Becket.


The success of a boys' camp depends upon the hearty cooperation of each leader with the superintendent. The boys will imitate you. A smile is always better than a frown. "Kicking" in the presence of boys breeds discontent. Loyalty to the camp and its management is absolutely necessary if there is to be harmony in the camp life.


Your personal life will either be a blessing or a hindrance to the boys in your tent. Study each boy in your tent. Win his confidence. Determine to do your best in being a genuine friend of each boy. Remember in prayer daily each boy and your fellow leaders. Emphasize the camp motto, "Each for all, and all for each." Study the "tests" on pages 8 and 9 of the booklets, and be helpful to the boys in your tent who are ambitious to improve and win the honor emblems.


Neatness and cleanliness must be the watchword of each tent. Sweets draw ants. Decayed material breeds disease. Insist upon the observance of sanitary rules.

It is unwise to have all the boys from one town or city in one tent. The tendency is to form clans, which destroy camp spirit. Get the fellows together the first thing and choose a tent name and tent yells.

Appoint a boy who will be responsible for the boys and the tent when you are not present.

Too much attention cannot be given to the matter of ventilation. When it rains, use a forked stick to hold the flaps open in the form of a diamond. In clear weather, tie one flap back at each end (flap toward the feet), allowing a free draft of air at all times. On rainy days encourage the boys to spend their time in the pavillion. Whenever possible, insist upon tent and blankets being thoroughly aired each morning.

Three inspectors will be appointed for each day; fifteen minutes' notice will be given and boys will not be allowed in or around their tents during the period of inspection. Leaders may suggest but not participate in arranging the tent.

The Honor Banner is to be given to the tent showing the best condition and held as long as marks are highest.


The U. S. V. L. S. C.[1] crews' in boats will patrol whenever the boys are in swimming, and the leader of swimming must give the

signal before boys go into the water. Boys who cannot swim should be encouraged to learn. The morning dip must be a dip and not a swim.

[Transcriber's Note 1: United States Volunteer Life Saving Corps.]


No boats are to be taken unless an order has been issued by the tent leader (or by the superintendent). The man at the wharf always has power to veto orders at his discretion.

Order of Day

It is the leader's part to see that the order of the day is carried out and on time, including the setting up drill. (See Camp Booklet.) "Follow the leader" is an old game which is still influencing boys.


Three tents and their leaders are responsible for the work at camp, and will be expected to report to the assistant superintendent after breakfast for assignment of work. These tents are changed each day, so that the boys and leaders come on duty only one day in seven.

Each tent is under its respective leader in doing the following work:

Tent 1. Sanitary work, such as policing the campus, emptying garbage cans, sweeping the pavillion, disinfecting, etc.

Tent 2. Preparing vegetables for the cook, drying dishes, pots, pans, cleaning up the kitchen, piazza, etc.

Tent 3. Cleaning the boats, supplying wood for the kitchen, putting ice in the refrigerator, etc.

The next day tents 4, 5 and 6 will come on duty, and so on until each tent has been on duty during the week.

Leaders for the day will call the squad together after breakfast and explain the day's plans. Encourage the boys to do this work cheerfully. Lead, do not drive the boys when working. Not more than three hours should be consumed in camp work.

Sports and Pastimes

Bring rule books on athletics. Study up group games. Bring any old clothes for costumes; tambourines and bones for minstrel show, grease paint, and burnt cork-in fact, anything that you think will add to the fun of the camp. Good stories and jokes are always in demand. Bring something interesting to read to your boys on rainy days. Think out some stunt to do at the social gatherings. If you play an instrument, be sure to bring it along with you.


Encourage the boys to turn their money and railroad tickets over to the camp banker instead of depositing them with you.

Camp Council

Meetings of the leaders will be held at the call of the superintendent. Matters talked over at the council meeting should not be talked over with the boys. All matters of discipline or anything that deals with the welfare of the camp should be brought up at this meeting. Printed report blanks will be given to each leader to be filled out and handed to the assistant superintendent each Thursday morning. Do not show these reports to the boys.

Bible Study

Each leader will be expected to read to the boys in his tent a chapter from the Bible and have prayers before "taps" each night, also to take his turn in leading the morning devotions at breakfast table. Groups of boys will meet for occasional Bible study at sunset under various leaders. Each session will continue twenty minutes-no longer. Sunday morning service will be somewhat formal in character, with an address. The sunset vesper service will be informal.

Praying that the camp may prove a place where leaders and boys may grow in the best things of life and anticipating an outing of pleasure and profit to you, I am Your friend, (signature)


In securing men for leadership, impress upon them the many opportunities for the investment of their lives in the kind of work that builds character. In reading over a small folder, written by George H. Hogeman of Orange, N .J., I was so impressed with his excellent presentation of this theme of opportunities of leadership that the following is quoted in preference to anything I could write upon the subject:

"The opportunity of the boys' camp leader is, first, to engage in the service that counts most largely in securing the future welfare of those who will soon be called upon to carry on the work that we are now engaged in. Most people are so busy with their own present enjoyment and future success that they pay little heed to the future of others. They may give some thought to the present need of those around them because it more or less directly affects themselves, but the work of character building in boys' camps is one that shows its best results in the years to come rather than in the immediate present.

"In the second place, the opportunity comes to the camp leader to know boys as few other people know them, sometimes even better than their own parents know them. When you live, eat, sleep with a boy in the open, free life of camp for a month or so, you come in contact with him at vastly more points than you do in the more restrained home life, and you see sides of his nature that are seldom seen at other times.

"Finally, the opportunity is given to the man who spends his vacation in camp to make the time really count for something in his own life and in the lives of others. To how many does vacation really mean a relaxation, a letting down of effort along one line, without the substitution of anything definite in its place! But he must be a dull soul, indeed, who can come to the right kind of boys' camp and not go away with his muscles harder, his eye brighter, his digestion better, and his spirit more awake to the things that pertain to the Kingdom of God.

"Then again the camp leader must have the ability to forget himself in others. Nowhere can the real play spirit be entered into more completely than in camp life. A watchman is the last thing he must be. That spirit of unselfishness which forgets its own personal pleasure in doing the most for the general good, is the ideal camp spirit. As Lowell puts it in the Vision of Sir Launfal, it is:

Not what we give, but what we share,

For the gift without the giver is bare.

"The results of all these points which I have mentioned are some very positive things. One is the very best kind of a vacation that it is possible to have. How frequently we hear in response to the question about enjoying a vacation, 'Oh, yes, I had a good enough time, but I'll never go back there again.' To my mind that indicates either that the person does not know what a really good time is, or that his surroundings made a good time impossible.

"Another result of camp is the real friendships that last long after camping days are over. Of these I need not speak. You and I know of many such and what they mean in the development of Christian character in the lives of our men and boys. And, after all, there is the greatest result of all, the sense of confidence in the ultimate outcome that comes with having a share in the work of bringing others to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

"The ideal life for a boy is not in the city. He should know of animals, rivers, plants, and that great out-of-door life that lays for him the foundation of his later years." -G. Stanley.

[Illustration: Camp Becket]

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