Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fourth of July Picnic

While we're talking about summertime, let's include the July 4th Picnic at Camp Straus. That was the best 4th of July celebration EVER. What a great time to be a kid!!!

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36 comments:

  1. The July 4th Picnic at Camp Straus was un-equalled anywhere. There was everything going on and hundreds of people having a great day. Lots of interesting things like the Greasy Pole Climb. Free Lemonade and ice cream. Everyone brought folding chairs and watched the events. It always seemed to be hot weather. Looking back it seemed like the company went to a lot of effort to see that everyone had a good time. I know all of us Little O' Boys had a good time.

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  2. I adored the July 4th picnic. All the contests...greasy pole, greasy pig, baby parade (and every mother had the prettiest baby), pie-eating contest...wow, I remember those blueberry pies all over the guys' faces. (We refined girls didn't enter those contests.) All the special treats. Then there were the swimming races, and all the other races. Great fun! Wish it had never ended!

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  3. This is a little off topic, but when I think about Camp Straus I think of Mr.O.K. Smathers, who became A World Champion archer by practicing almost everyday at Straus. I shot the lane next to him several times and was amazed at his concentration and abilities. In those days everyone used re-curve bows, which are hard to pull and today they use compound bows with all the pulleys, which make it so much easy to pull the bow back. He was really dedicated to the sport. Camp Straus provided a place to Swim, fish, golf, tennis, basketball, ping pong, archery, shuffle board, picnic and just have a good time. It was just a special place.

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  4. Didn't Olin bring in one of Winchester's traveling marksmen and trick shot performers to put on a show at one of the picnics. That may have been at a special event but I seem to remember it being at the picnic. My Dad and I watched the man shoot and that was special.

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  5. Camp Straus was THE EVENT for the 4th of July...... about everyone in Brevard was there - what great, great memories.........

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  6. You're right, Ron. Olin did bring in a sharpshooter at least one time for the picnic. Ann, I think as far as Transylvania County residents were concerned, the 4th of July picnic was the great social event of the YEAR. Ron, do you remember the year it rained and none of the cars parked on the "golf course" could get traction...all of us guys ended up pushing just about everyone out of their mud hole...and then jumping in the lake to cleanse ourselves. Remember the underwater swim contest when Roy Lambert stayed under so long everyone started really worrying...until he surfaced way out in the middle of the fishing part of the lake? Or Tom Mitchell and Tody Erwin putting on excellent diving shows? Or the water ballet show starring the Matthews sisters, Nanchy H, Nancy Jane N. etal? Or the expert fly fishermen casting their flies almost all the way across the "deep end" into the center of the life guards' life rings? Best lemonade I have ever had...Mr. York surely was in heaven overseeing all the food stands, and Fritz, Jack Alexander, Charlie Russell, and all the college athletes working at Straus for the summer were everywhere ensuring the safety of all.

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  7. Jim's post got my old gray cells to working. Fritz Merrill was one of the most personable people I ever knew. He was always kidding around with all the kids. I also especially remember one of the lifeguards. She was a Carpenter, but I can't remember her first name. She was very pretty and older than my group, but we took great delight in breaking the rules to get her to blow her whistle at us and sometimes to even put us out of the pool for ten minutes. Seems like all the people that worked at Camp Straus were well suited to the job. Great lose to Translyvania County.

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  8. I searched my database of the BHS students of the 1950s and couldn't find a Carpenter. I guess she could have been married or a college student relative of an employee working at Straus for the summer.

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  9. Ron I'm pretty sure she would have been a college student. Her parents lived on New 64 just past Pisgah Gardens. The reason I remember Carpenter was that her Dad had an extensive Indian Atifacts collection. Arrowheads, axe heads, pottery and such that he use to show at Scout Meetings. No guarantee tho these gray cells aren't what they use to be.

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  10. The only Carpenters I knew were from Canton...and they were genuine Native Americans...Charley was a year or two older than my brother Buddy ('55) and played quarterback at Canton and later for Wake Forest...Wiley (Ron's and Tom Cabe's age) was a fullback at Canton and, if I remember correctly, played freshmen football at Carolina. Maybe Michael's pretty lady life guard was related to them.

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  11. Mystery solved! Michael sent me a private message. He thought that instead of Carpenter, the name was Carter. Rhuemma Carter was a lifeguard at Straus a couple of summers.

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  12. Well, that clarifies a lot. Don't know about her life saving abilities, but do agree that Rhuemma was a "looker"! Her father, Valery, and my Grandpa Capell used to talk to me every Sundy morning and evening and at Wednesday night "prayer meetings" at Pisgah Forest Baptist Church trying to keep me on the straight and narrow. Michael and his family used to live across the road from my Grandparents Capell. Michael, do you remember Sara Kate Evans...and the McGees who lived where your family did?

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  13. Pat
    I have some history on Straus if you would like to post it.
    Jean P.

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  14. Jim 58'. Yes I remember Sara Evans and Your grandparents were the finest people I ever knew. I use to ride to church with them. Do you remember the arrowhead collection that Mr. Carter would show the Scouts ?

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  15. Michael, I may be a little biased, but I have to agree with you about my Grandparents Capell. One of the biggest compliments I get is everytime I see my Aunt Murle (Capell) Smith, she tells me that I look more and more like Grandpa Capell as time goes by. I don't remember Mr. Carter's arrowhead collection, but then Ron and I were in Troop 11 which met at Oak Grove Methodist Church across from where Straus School was built. Almost every week during the summer after scout meetings, we would all sneak into Camp Straus and go skinny dipping. Even our scout master Rev. James Banes would go with us. Old man Alex Kaiser was the caretaker at that time, and I think he was too hard of hearing to even know we were there.

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  16. Jim 58. Your family had a lot of influence in my life. I think of them often. I remember Paul, Murle and especially, Charlie, because he was the one that caused me to end up on the N.C. Hwy. Patrol. He also gave me my first dog. When I was just a preteen he would show up in his patrol car with his family and all to visit your grandparents. Every kid around would show up to look at his car!! I was hooked from the very first time I met him. If you look like your grandpa your lucky, because he was a fine person.

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  17. This is part of an article I did for the Heritage of Transylvania County Book, Vol II on Ecusta

    Camp Sapphire / Camp Harry H. Straus
    In the 1800’s much of this land was owned by members of the Allison Family. John L. Allison had a home where the two storied rock home stands today near the main entrance to Straus Park Development.
    Sapphire Camp was built in 1913 just below Elk Lodge Mountain. The camp surrounded Deer Park Lake. It was an Athletic and Educational Camp for boys. When the camp closed it became a private club called Club Sapphire. The Ecusta Fourth of July picnic had been held at Club Sapphire from 1942 to 1944. Ecusta purchased the 400 acre Club Sapphire site in 1945 for the use of the employees and their families.
    The six-acre lake was ideal for swimming. Ecusta employed life guards and bath house personnel.
    After the death of Mr. Straus, on 27 Feb 1951 the Board of Directors of Ecusta met on March 13, 1951 and voted to change the name to Camp Harry H. Straus in memory of Mr. Straus. The dedication was held at The Fourth of July Picnic in 1951.

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  18. Thanks for the info about Camp Straus, Jean. I remember when Mr. Straus died. It was the first time I had ever heard of someone being cremated. It is interesting about the Capell Family, Jim. How many brothers did your Mom have? Was Murle her only sister? I thought all this time that Paul was the Patrolman!

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  19. July 4 Picnic/celebration at Camp Straus was the top event of the year. Daddy had to grease the pole & put the "award" at the top for all those boys wanting to climb for it. I also remember there was a boxing ring for the boxing enthsiasts! I remember one summer when there was allowed no swimming because of a polio outbreak (well before the vaccine). Pie-eating contests, Bingo for the adults, popcorn, ice cream, & my Mama's famous Southern Fried Chicken! Those were the best of times!!

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  20. Good reminder of the polio outbreak, Connie. My parents would not allow me to go to the pool at Franklin Park because the water was not free flowing and fresh like Davidson River or Camp Straus. My mother also would not allow me to drink too much cold water to cool off in the summer because (wives' tale) that would also cause polio. HA!

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  21. Hugh (59)

    The Winchester marksman who performed at several picnics was named Herb Parson(s)

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  22. Hugh, you are right! It was Herb Parsons.

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  23. Remember when OK Smathers and kids were on "I've Got a Secret." He'd just won the Archery World Championship and was returning to the US from abroad and made the appearance on the show. My mother and I watched - quite exciting for someone we knew to be on national television. I don't remember if we knew in advance that he was going to be on or just happened to see it. My mother liked the show and always watched it.

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  24. Pat: If memory serves me right I think O.K. Smathers won the World Championship in Czechoslovakia. Does anyone remember if thats right. He was really dedicated to the sport.

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  25. Becky McDaris, who is in contact with Lynn Smathers, probably knows the answer to your question, Michael, but I thought he won the championship in Belgium. Didn't Lynn and Kenny win national championships in their class that year? Wasn;t the family on the Ed Sullivan show also? During the 70s and early 80s, I worked in Philadelphia. One morning when I was reading the sports page in the Philadelphia Inquirer, I noticed a picture taken at an archery tournament near Philly. The picture was of an archer riding a small 4-wheeler to his target after shooting...that archer was O.K. Smathers. I cut the picture out and saved it until I saw Lynn in Brevard years later and gave it to her. She told me that Mr. Smathers had been in an automobile accident and severely injured his legs. I was still as proud in the 80s to have known Mr. Smathers as I was in the 50s. During archery lessons at Camp Straus, did anyone ever try to pull Mr. Smathers's bow back to shoot an arrow...he was one STRONG man!

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  26. CORRECTION! I found my copy of the picture of Mr. Smathers...he was competing in Syracuse, NY and was riding a motorcycle instead of a 4-wheeler. The caption below the July 29, 1981 picture is: "STILL AN ARCHER at 66, Oswald K. "O.K." Smathers of Brevard, NC, acknowledges the crowd (he was tipping his hat) after competing in the 90-meter archery competition at the National Sports Festival in Syracuse, NY. Smathers, the oldest of the 2,500 athletes competing, uses a motorcycle because he has two artificial knees as a result of a near-fatal auto accident in 1960."

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  27. As a little girl in the 60's, my Mama and me used to picnic quite often at the picnic shelters at Camp Straus and I vividly remember Mr. Smathers riding his motorcycle up and talking to us. He also competed in the Olympics if I'm not badly mistaken. And as for 4th of July picnics, Biltmore Ice Cream and popcorn and lemonade .... those were the days!

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  28. Ann Goldberger YandleFebruary 18, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    My father's uncle was Harry H. Straus. Harry sponsored him into this country from Austria in 1938 just before World War II started and Hitler invaded Poland. Harry helped my father while he had to spend the first five years in this country in a TB sanitorium in upstate NY. Eventually he brought my father down to Brevard and employed him at Ecusta where he worked in Research & Development and later became Technical Librarian. I am indebted to Harry Straus for many reasons - and have the greatest memories of the many Fourth of Julys I spent as a child - stuffing myself with popcorn, push-up ice creams, lemonade - running the three legged and wheelbarrow races, playing bingo, watching the greasy pole climb, etc. Those truly were the good ole days. And in case you didn't know, Harry (and my father, of course) are descendants of Isidor and Ida Straus who started Macy's department store and sank on the Titanic. They were huge philanthropists, as many in the Straus family were and sstill are, and were always doing things in big and small ways to help their fellow man. I am proud of my heritage and of my good fortune to have been born and raised in a community as beautiful as Brevard, NC !!!

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  29. Ann, thanks so much for the fascinating history of the Straus family! Brevard (and those of us who grew up on those good Ecusta weekly paychecks) are so thankful Harry Straus chose our county for his plant.
    I didn't know about the Straus/Macy connection. However, I plan to read all the copies of The Echo, Ecusta's news magazine, when I'm in Brevard next. Fritz Merrell donated a complete set to the Trans. Co. Library and I'm determined to go thru all of them. In addition to informational updates about the growth of Ecusta, employees could submit photos and news for publication. My dad was an avid part-time woodworker and put some photos of his pieces in The Echo.
    I'm personally indebted to Harry Straus for throwing the best July 4th Picnic ever and for having an employees' library. I loved the Bobbsey Twins books when I was little and my dad checked them out for me regularly - Ecusta had the complete series, county library had none! Can't forget the children's Christmas party either. Harry Straus was way ahead of his time as an employer! What a forward-thinking/visionary work environment! Thanks again for posting.

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  30. Ann: I would like to add my thank you for the information on Harry Straus. I have been a fan of his since childhood. Its mind boggling to think what would have happened to Brevard and the surrounding communities if not for him. All the Homes, Cars, Educations, etc.,etc., that were paid for with money earned at Ecusta. Camp Straus provided a safe place for all of us to swim,play and have fun. I will remember my days there as long as I live. Thanks to Harry Straus Mike Brock

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  31. I just found this blog via the facebook "You are probably from Brevard if. . " group. I am Katie Loeb- Schwab and my Dad was Art Loeb, also a relative of Harry Straus. . . my Mom was Kitty Loeb Barger. My Dad passed away in 1968 at the age of 54. He loved Brevard, and all of the people that made Ecusta , Ecusta. I grew up in Fortune Cove , right next to Camp Straus. I too loved Camp Straus and grew up there. Anne, if I knew about Isidor and Ida Straus, the Macy's connection and the Titantic, I have completly forgotten that!

    Harry Straus set an amazing example of giving back to the community and caring for the employees and their families. I am certain that many of us from Brevard have been influenced by his vision.

    Thank you Pat for this blog and the opportunity to celebrate our past.

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  32. I didn't grow up in, or ever live in Brevard, but I spent some important time there in the summer of 1966. I was 19 at the time, and I was employed for the summer at Camp Arrowmont, outside of Cullowhee, as an archery instructor. I planned to go to the national tournament of the National Field Archery Association that summer, and I had arranged to take the time off before I accepted the job from my employer, so that I could compete. However, I didn't own a car, and I didn't know how I was going to get to the tournament, so I contacted the NC Archery Association, to see if they knew of anyone in the western part of the state who might be going to the national tournament. They gave me O.K. Smathers' name and contact information.

    I phoned O.K., and he immediately invited me to come over to Brevard to shoot with him on the range at Olin. I went with a friend who worked with me at the camp, who had a car, and the three of us shot for some time, after which O.K. invited us to his home, where we discussed plans for the tournament. I ended up practicing with him a few more times, and then I rode with him to Point Pleasant, W. Va., for the five-day tournament. We shared a room in a very old hotel (one bathroom for the floor), and I had a great time listening to him tell about his exploits with a bow. (He was proud of his accomplishments, but not boastful. In fact, when I visited his home I was surprised to see only his world championship trophy on display, and I asked him about it. He told me that he only kept trophies that had some value, and he took me over to a closet, where he opened the door to show me trophies of Sterling silver that were piled up from the floor to over my head height. That was impressive!) I found him to be very friendly, and he helped me get acclimated at the tournament after I had a slow start, as I had a difficult time dealing with the very high humidity in the Ohio River valley after having spent time practicing in the mountain air. O.K was in class 'A' Amateur, and I was in class 'B' Amateur, at the beginning of the tournament. My most memorable moment was realizing, at the end of the final day, that I had shot my best score ever, which jumped me from 4th place at the start of the day, into 2nd place at the end. And, a bonus was that I had qualified to move up into class 'A', while actually beating O.K. on the final day by 16 points.(For the tournament he averaged 50+ points a day better than my scores, but we won't talk about that.) O.K. congratulated me on my final round, and we stayed over until the next morning, when he dropped me off at the Trailways station for my bus trip back to Silva, while he left on his way elsewhere. That was my last contact with him, but........... (2nd post to follow...I'm a bit wordy.)

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  33. Page 2 (:^)

    Last week I saw some information about a nearby indoor archery range (I have lived just south of Charlotte, NC, since 1979.), and I started thinking about getting into the sport again. I've been thinking of it, on and off, for a few years, but with this being an Olympic year, I thought I'd try to find some information about a friend from my Florida days, who I knew had made one of our Olympic teams. After searching for him, and finding the sad news that he'd passed away several years ago, I began looking for information regarding when he had been on the U.S.Olympic Team, and I did a search on YouTube for video. The first thing I found was some video of the 1957 World Championships. I remembered that O.K Smathers had been world champion near that time (I misremembered 1956.), so I watched the video, and, at the end I watched the three top men stride to the award podium. When one of them tipped a woven safari hat he was wearing, I KNEW that was O.K. Smathers.(When I knew him, he always wore a similar hat at practice and at the tournament.) I re-wound the video to the point where the scoreboard was shown, and stopped the video. Sure enough, SMATHERS was world champion! I immediately did a search that came up with this site, and I was thrilled to read the notes from some of you, and your remembrances of O.K. (He won the 1957 World Championship, in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He never competed in the Olympics because archery was removed from the Olympics in 1920, and was not reinstated until 1972.)

    I missed having an opportunity to try out for the Olympic Archery Team, as I was out of the sport by that time, recently married, and learning the skills I've used in my career. However, I've had thoughts about getting back into it(I still have my 1960s tournament equipment, though it likely wouldn't be competitive at this time.), and Jim '58, thanks for your post here: I will be 66 at the end of this year, and your information about O.K. still competing at that age might be just the inspiration I need to get on that horse again.

    I enjoyed teaching archery in western Carolina camps for two summers while I was in college. Brevard is still one of the most beautiful areas in the mountains, and I enjoyed vacationing nearby this past spring.

    Best Wishes to everyone who visits there, and this site.

    Mark

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  35. I just came across this site and enjoyed reading all the comments. We grew up outside of Hendersonville and my dad (Kermit Hill) worked for Ecusta, and passed away while working there, July 24, 1964. Camp Straus was such a WONDERFUL place for us to go for the day. I have so many memories of family picnics and time there, mom and dad's Sunday School class going there for picnics and swimming, the list goes on and on! It was above and beyond all you could need for any kind of entertainment and everything you could need was provided for. What a kind and generous man he was to do this for his employees and the community, Many of my best childhood memories are centered around times we spent there and I STILL dream about getting ready to swim in that large building they had for changing and showers, etc. I certainly enjoyed what you wrote Anne Yandle about the history of your family!. It is sad to think about the Straus' losing their life on the Titanic. Interestingly enough, another somewhat "local" family was to have sailed on it...the Vanderbilts but due to the mother's uneasy feeling they decided not to sail and the rest is history. Thanks to everyone for helping me to relive happy memories. If anyone out there has family that remembers my dad I would love to hear from you. All I know was he worked in the lab there. Dianne ..... Beesinn@bellsouth.net

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  36. Well its 2nd of July 2014 and I'm looking forward to going to Brevard on the 4th. We may not have Camp Straus anymore, but the people of Transylvania County still know how to celebrate Independence Day. The Car Show, Arts and Crafts, Music and everything else that goes on makes for a enjoyable day. We've been going there for the last several years and wouldn't miss it for the world.

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