J D Currie Youth Camp,  Camas, WA
  Historical Highlights of Camp Currie
The Beginning

The name "J.D. Currie Youth Camp" honors the Camas attorney who conducted an outdoor program for young boys in the Camas area called Boy Rangers in the first part of the twentieth century. The J.D. Currie camp gives youth groups the chance to enjoy nature in one of the most beautiful scenic areas in Clark County.

The site of the camp was leased from Crown Zellerbach, former owners of the Camas Paper Mill. Materials for the lodge kitchen, fireplace and outside cooking facilities were donated by the mill and several individuals over the years. Crown Zellerbach also donated the cable for the fences, wood and lumber for fuel, and a large cedar log, which was hauled out to make shakes to cover the lodge and kitchen.

A very special donation, a World War II Bell, hung at one time in the tower over the lodge. During the war in Grand Island, Nebraska, a large bell was found in an old school house at a location where a munitions plant was being built. It was given to Mr. Meyer Avedovech, involved in the munitions project, and he in turn donated it to his good friend J.D. Currie for the youth camp in 1947.

Buildings include the lodge, a separate toilet building, a covered outdoor cooking  hall with fireplace, the caretaker’s cottage, amphitheater, and a chapel. The amphitheater is ideal for evening council fires and ceremonies. The meadow can be used as an athletic field. There are several tent campsites around the meadow and throughout the camp.

Here at Camp Currie, young people can observe, appreciate, and study plant and animal wildlife in their natural habitats.

J.D. Currie

John and Alice Currie moved to Camas from North Dakota during a fourth of July parade in 1911. The streets were crowded with buggies and there was a long comic parade winding its way through the streets. It was 100 degrees in the shade when the young lawyer arrived in North Dakota determined to make his home there. In 1899, at the end of the Spanish American war, John had stopped in Portland with his regiment. He saw how beautiful the area was and vowed to come back. Using a list of towns where a lawyer might practice, John visited Camas, the last city on the list. He knew immediately that Camas was where he wanted to live. John married Alice Currie in 1904. John and Alice’s first home in Camas was rented to him by John Roffler. The now historic home is John Roffler the first, a Queen Anne Victorian home located at northeast 15 and Everett. John had practiced law for four years in North Dakota, after leaving his original home in Minneapolis. His law practice was welcomed by the citizens of Camas, who elected him the first city attorney in 1911. He served in that capacity for many years. G. M. Self was the justice of the town. John went into a business partnership with O.A. Stone, and undertaker in the real estate and insurance business. Stone did his undertaking in the back, while Currie took care of the front office. The old wooden building was located where the Brick Farr building is today. Currie helped organize the Farmer’s Co-operative Creamery, Clark County Savings and Loan, the Mason Lodge, the Spanish War Veterans Lodge, and was very active at St. Johns Presbyterian Church. He was named 1949’s "Camas first citizen".

Attorney Currie was a visionary, predicting continued growth and invasion of Camas’ sites by manufacturers because of its facilities – its railroad, its water transportation possibilities, its highway, its abundance of electrical power and the nearness of the market. He believed a deep-sea channel to Camas would be one of its greatest advantages and pushed for the formation of a port district. "My ideas may be rather ambitious," Currie said in 1924, "but without a vision the people perish and nothing we have now is not regarded as visionary when it was started. Someday, these things will come true." John and Alice had two daughters and a son. Billy, who was adored by his father, died of meningitis in 1925. Billy had belonged to a neighborhood club made up of boys who were preparing themselves to become Boy Scouts once they reached the age of 12. In the mean time, John Currie continued to work with the other boys and a year later obtained a charter to organize a lodge for the Boy Rangers of America. The Ranger program was designed for boys 8 to 12 years old. Mr. Currie worked with the boys through the Ranger program until they were old enough to become Boy Scouts. The rituals and activities were based on American Indian lore and were organized into tribes bearing the names of authentic Indian nations. Each young brave was given a name taken from the tribal records and Eagle feathers were awarded for achievements. Currie sponsored the lodge through a quarter century and was lovingly called "Tecumseh" by the boys he helped, after the famous Shawnee chief. The J.D. Currie Youth Camp on LaCamas Lake was named in honor of John Currie. The man who was denied by fate from seeing his own son grow to manhood, was a second father to hundreds of other boys until his own death. It is important that Camp Currie be preserved for future generations in the outstanding and historic tradition of John Currie.

The Lodge

J .D. Currie began building the main lodge in 1945. He leased the land from Crown Zellerbach for a dollar a year. Crown Zellerbach donated a 60’ cedar log, which was cut into shake bolts on the river bank with a drag saw. Lonnie Beltz, who owned a Model A with a homemade bed on the back end, and Barnie Reese who also had an old car with a box on the back, hauled these shake bolts to Camp Currie. This took many trips. They used lumber from the mill for the frame work. They put blocks on the ground in the corners for a foundation. Joe Stewart had a friend who lived in Ridgefield, WA, and had a slitting machine. Joe Steward convinced his friend to come to the camp and split the shakes for free. The shakes were placed so they wouldn’t sweat and get moldy or let air through.

After the building was done, they built the fireplace. Mike Paul gave the order from the Crown Zellerbach Mill to use the "digester bricks." The bricks were round and of no further use. Tony Stear, a mason at the mill, built the fireplace in two days with Lonnie Belz as his helper. Mr. Thatcher built the first two outdoor toilets, men and women. Volunteers included Lonnie Belz, Milt Franklin, Carl Crosby, Dick Lawton, Louie Kersavage, Fisher Barnie Reese, Joe Stewart, Mr. Ted Freeman, Fred Good, and Lloyd Hutchinson.

Camp Currie received its name from a contest.  Lloyd Beltz and Andrey Fisher Jr. tied by naming it "J.D. Currie Youth Camp."

Dr. A. K. Harris, Reverend Phipps and several fathers from the Presbyterian Church managed to persuade Crown Zellerbach to donate land for Camp Currie. Crown Zellerbach was more than generous to allow their working employees to work at Camp Currie. They also donated a tremendous amount of supplies.

The Bell

For many years there existed a large brass bell hanging in the tower over the historic wooden lodge located at Currie Youth Camp. However, originally the bell was not manufactured with Camp Currie in mind. It has a historical in depth history of its own.

During World War II, in Grand Island, Nebraska, which is said to be the most central town of the United States, became the location of a large munitions plant. In clearing 20 square miles of Nebraska prairie for the huge installation, soldiers found a little country schoolhouse in good condition. The school was estimated to be around a century old and was clearly deserted for many years.

Mr. Meyer Avedovech, general manager of the operation, having an appreciation for early history, saved the building and utilized it as a workshop. The bell remained hanging in the belfry over the facility for many years until one day, the workmen had a great idea for the bell. First, they decided to polish the bell until it shone. Then, they made a platform on wheels, mounted the bell, and presented it to their general manager as a token of their esteem.  Years later once the war was over, Mr. Avedovech became an executive of Quaker Oats Company.

He returned to Chicago where he put the bell in storage. In 1947, he traveled to Portland to build a Quaker Oats Plant on Swan Island and stopped in Camas to visit an old friend from his Minneapolis days, J.D. Currie.  Mr. Currie was very proud of the camp which was named "J.D. Currie Youth Camp" in his honor. He decided to take his good friend Mr. Avedovech to see the campsite. Mr. Avedovech remembered the old school bell still in his storage facility and ordered it shipped across the country to Camp Currie. There the bell continued to call boys and girls together, as it did one hundred years ago on the prairies of Nebraska. 

In the year of 1958, the historic bell was stolen from the lodge tower one tragic evening.  A sheriffs department investigated the incident, but no suspects were found and the bell was never recovered. 

The bell currently in Currie field was donated by Dick Golladay. Mr. Golladay bought the bell from Mr. Tim Dickerson for $40.00 in 1994. The bell was originally purchased at an estate sale in Vancouver from a Coast Guard Station by Mr. Dickerson. 

All historical information on the J.D. Currie Youth Camp historic bell was provided by Alpha Kersavage, secretary-treasurer of J.D. Currie Youth Camp Inc. board of directors.  In honor of her service to the camp the first adirondack was named after her.
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