Celebrating 100 Years of Camping - Medomak Family Camp

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Celebrating 100 Years of Camping

Medomak Camp in Washington, Maine will be celebrating its 100th season of camping July 4-6, 2003. Originally founded by the man whose family farmed the land for generations, Frank Poland (who ran the camp for 50 years) opened up his family’s rural home to city boys seeking refuge from the pitfalls and trappings of a hot, idle summer in the city. The perception at the time (and maybe still today) was that due to the rapidly changing world where the jobs created by technology and progress lured thousands into the cities, society as a whole was in danger of losing the skills and knowledge essential to a self-reliant lifestyle. Summer camp (and Medomak Camp as one of the founding pioneers) began as a way to get children out of the city at the height of the industrial revolution and immerse them in the secure rhythms of rural life.

Over the past 100 years Medomak has never been pigeon holed into any specific category of camp. It has offered an all-American program, with a place for all faiths, all talents, and all inclinations and placed its greatest emphasis on individual self-development and appreciation of community. At the turn of the century (and now) children learned how to fish, make a fire, find drinking water, prepare food, identify constellations in the night sky, animal tracks and flora & fauna, find their way with a map & compass, and build shelters. True to its founding mission, Medomak Camp today operates as a summer camp for families and adults; still surrounding it’s campers in the beauty and simplicity of the natural world.

Medomak (rhymes with comic) is a slice of history. Many of the buildings are original to the camp, including the Sr. lodge built in 1811. Of special significance to everyone who has attended Medomak is the “meditation seat”, where for close to 100 years, campers and staff have recorded their personal thoughts and observations. These writings, continually kept in the same copper box, remain as a unique perspective on life during the entire 20th century.

Thousands of campers have summered at Medomak and many now return to share the experience with their families. They come to camp to re-visit their youth and expose their children and spouses to the kind of memories that can only be made at camp. Holly Stone, the newest steward of Medomak and mother of four, was a former camper & counselor at Medomak. Stone states, “Like many other Medomak alumni I have no hesitation in saying that, other than parents, Medomak was the driving force in making me who I am today. I believe that is because camp allows children to flex all their aspects – feminine and masculine, strengths and weaknesses, solo and team player – they learn about themselves and the world around them. They learn how to build a community based on cooperation; they learn how to respect others and the land they depend on. In short Medomak campers learned what’s important and enduring.” Duncan Goldthwaite, a Medomak camper from 1937 until 1944 and a counselor at Medomak in 1948, recently wrote, “I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say that, other than my family, Medomak was the biggest influence on my life during my formative years, and for the good.”

Many generations of former campers are expected to attend the centennial weekend which will host a dedication of an alumni-built log lean-to (using trees on site), the unearthing of a time capsule and the remaking of a new one, and a 5k walk/run open to alumni and neighbors to celebrate its 100th season. A highlight of the week will be the unveiling of old camp films from the past 60 years that have been preserved to VHS tape. Also on display will be photos from each decade but notably those made from Silver/glass slides dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, postcards and letters from campers written home in the 1920’s, camp awards, crafts and written memories chronicled by former campers.

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