Kickapoo Kamp Celebrates 80 Years in Camping - The Tradition Lives On!!
For 80 years, generations of families have enjoyed the traditions and shared the memories of their summers at Kickapoo Kamp. This tradition in camping has been nurtured by three generations of the Ford-Findlay family, a family genuinely committed to a quality camp experience. Kickapoo Kamp is the oldest girl's camp in the Texas Hill Country, although it changed locations several times during the early years. Kickapoo began as the dream of a visionary man, Charles L "Chief" Ford. Through the years, he and his wife Budgie developed the dream, always striving to make it fit his vision. This led them to move the camp to five different locations before settling in its present location on Turtle Creek in Kerrville, Texas.
Chief believed in the value of camping for children. As a Dallas educator and father, he believed that children needed a well-rounded education including an appreciation of nature and an affection for teamwork. After researching camps in the East with an eye on summer employment, Chief concluded he could create a camp where his children and the children of his friends could thrive. He began to research summer employment at some of the existing summer camps in the East where he and Budgie could work and his children could attend as campers. He concluded that running a camp was something he could do with help from his Dallas area teacher friends. Mr. Ford and his wife both grew up in Ennis and Frankston , Texas , near the Kickapoo Mountains . In tribute to their roots, "Chief" and "Budgie" Ford founded Kickapoo Kamp in Monteney , Arkansas in 1925.
In 1926-27 the Fords moved the camp to the School of the Ozarks in Branson , Missouri . During the summer, Kickapoo leased all the facilities of the school, which is still in operation as College of the Ozarks. Desiring a more permanent site, Chief leased some land at the mouth of Bee Creek on Lake Taneycomo near Branson , Missouri and immediately began building cabins. Kickapoo's first summer at its new home was 1928! Girls and counselors traveled through Little Rock , Arkansas to Branson , Missouri on Missouri Pacific Railroad Pullman cars. Campers and counselors then rode one of the lake boats, the " Virginia May," the "Sadie H." or the "Mohawk" downstream to the camp. To staff the camp, Chief invited his fellow teachers from the Dallas area to bring their children and come spend the summer at camp. During those first years, the children of the staff outnumbered the paying customers!
In 1930 Chief bought property across the lake to start a brother camp, Kuggaho. Chief brought in one of his fellow teachers, E. D. Walker to direct activities at the boys camp. Mr. Walker was football coach of Highland Park High School in Dallas and later became the superintendent of Dallas schools. Many remember him as the father of Doak Walker, two time All-American running back at Southern Methodist University in the1940's, Heisman trophy winner and later a professional football player. Doak was a camper while his Dad was the director. Coach W.M. "Bill" Lantz followed Walker as camp director. Kuggaho, located on the site of present day Kanakuk and Kanakomo Kamps, was operated by Bill Lantz and later by Spike White and his family. Spike developed his love of camping while working as a counselor at Kuggaho from 1931 to 1933. The camps are now operated by Spike's son, Joe White.
For the summer of 1935, Budgie and Chief moved Kickapoo to New Mexico , and then moved on to Colorado for the summers of 1940 and 1941. When World War II began, it became impossible for train cars to be obtained to bring campers in, so in 1942 the Fords moved Kickapoo Kamp to Kerrville , Texas . The Fords leased the grounds of a family dude ranch on Turtle Creek that is now the site of Camp Chrysalis . Kickapoo's present site nearby was where campers in those days went for overnight campouts and was owned by the Claybaugh family. These were hard days on camping, and many camps were forced to close their doors. In order to purchase meat and other foods for the girls, campers had to bring ration books to camp along with their flashlights and bedrolls.
The Fords bought Claybaugh's land in 1944, and the present campsite was built in 1948, according to the layout and design of George Dahl, a renowned Dallas architect. Dahl's layout placed the cabins and other buildings up in the hills rather than along the waterfront, and the precaution has paid off; Kickapoo's buildings have never been threatened by high waters from its Bushwhack and Turtle Creeks. 1949 was the first summer at Kickapoo's permanent site; and the number of cabins has since grown from seven to twelve.
Kickapoo Kamp is still run by the descendants of Chief and Budgie Ford. When Chief and Budgie retired from the camp business in 1960, their daughter, Byrdimeb "Bimmie" Findlay and her husband, H. Gordon Findlay, became the owners-directors of Kickapoo Kamp. Since the Ford's original plan was to get involved in camping for their children, Bimmie attended the camp from its inception. She was a camper, counselor and program director, learning the camp business through personal experience. Under the direction of Bimmie and Gordon, Kickapoo flourished, and expanded to allow for approximately 100 campers.
In 1971, Bimmie and Gordon's daughter, Laura Findlay Hodges, joined the family operation as secretary and assistant director. Laura took over as director of Kickapoo Kamp in 1990. Like her mother, Laura spent every summer at camp, as a camper, counselor and program director, and put her own special touches into the running of the camp blending current trends with strong traditions. Bimmie and Gordon's son, Larry began working part-time in the camp business beginning in 1993 and became the Facilities Director in 2000.
From 1925 to 1947 the summer term was the traditional 8 weeks, in keeping with the traditions of the eastern camps. Beginning in 1948, Kickapoo split the summer into two five-week terms allowing families to schedule other summer activities with their children. In 1986, Kickapoo began the current tradition of offering both two and three week sessions. The number of campers who attend Kickapoo each term has traditionally been relatively small. Limiting the enrollment to around110 campers, ages 7 to 17, allows Kickapoo to emphasize the "family" atmosphere which has always been important to all generations of camp families.
Kickapoo offers a fun environment that helps to build self-confidence, self-awareness and self-acceptance as well as an appreciation for nature. A variety of activities are enjoyed each summer including horseback riding, swimming, water skiing, gymnastics, arts & crafts, cheerleading, riflery, archery, tennis, ping pong, dance, fishing, drama, canoeing, flags, aerobic dance, land sports, etc.
The traditions of Kickapoo Kamp have touched the lives of many girls. Over the years, Kickapoo Kamp has created precious memories and provided camping experiences to over 13,700 girls and over 2,650 counselors from all parts of Texas , the United States , and several foreign countries. Five generations of Kickapoo Kampers have felt its magic. These girls have all shared in helping to create so much more than Chief Ford's vision, for they are more than well-rounded, they are changed by their summers at Kickapoo Kamp and hold it as a sacred spot in their hearts.