by Greta Hanson Maurer
Campers at Apache Camp had to wait in their tepee tents until 6:45am–when they heard the beating of the camps tom-tom–before they could start the day. It’s easy to imagine some of the girls narrowing a long list of the day’s activities, and others still sleeping hard from the previous day’s adventures, and camp duties. For three days or three weeks, at $22 per week, campers found a haven along South Creek built by deeply respected educators who brought a classic summer camp to life.
“Apache Camp where days can be long and lazy or filled to the exciting brim with sports and games and fascinating new crafts. Apache… where vacation means more than recreation… treasured days of friendship to last the year through.”
The brochure’s art deco cover was hand-stamped by two separate woodcut blocks featuring two figures running across the page. Inside, the black and white photos depict an array of camp activities—archery, riflery, horseback riding, Indian craft, deck tennis, dancing and council fires. The concise descriptions of camp sparked the possibilities for would-be campers, simultaneously reassuring parents considering letting their girls go to camp. Co-owners and partners Ethel Wentworth and Thelma Stevenson bought the raw land in the early 1930’s, and transformed the pine forest into a memorable haven for local youth, and visitors from out of state, specifically Kansas.
Ideally located adjacent to the newly established 611-acre Pueblo Mountain Park, and San Isabel National Forest bridle trails, the camp made the most of the nearby amenities. Hiking trails, tennis court (for rollerskating, too), the pavilion, and a ball field were easily accessed from Apache Camp.
Plans for the ‘girls summer recreation resort’ were first announced in January 27, 1935 in Pueblo Chieftain’s weekly column entitled ‘Beulah Notes’. Building started in February, and would eventually include multiple cabins, of varying purposes. At the top of Apache Drive sits Watseka Dining Lodge with meal accommodations for up to 36 campers, nearby Unaleyi Recreational Lodge boasted a piano and victrola. The camp office, and the summer home of Ethel and Thelma were at the bottom of the hill. These cabins serve as private homes, today. Other small camping cabins, a shower house, and a cook’s cabin were known to exist, but have succumbed to time and elements.
Just four months later, in June of 1935 the industrious pair announced the dates of the first summer camp session. Eager campers would check-in at the office, also called the ‘Trading Dining Hall’ (viewed from Pine Drive, it is the first cabin on the east side of Geronimo Avenue).
The modest pine slab cabin had a small kitchen, as well as the camp’s ‘Trading Post’, which offered authentic Indian articles, films, stationery, stamps, craft materials, candy, pop and souvenirs.
Ideally qualified for the rigors of directing camp life, both Ethel and Thelma were physical education teachers in Pueblo. During the school year, Ethel (Ike, Ikie or Teach) was the Physical Director of Pueblo District No. 1, teaching and coaching at Centennial HS, and Thelma (Stevie, Steve) taught at Thatcher Elementary, Risley MS and Central HS.
Chuck Conway, a graduate of Centennial High School, and one-time Beulah resident, remembered Ethel “Teach coached a total of 15 State Championship teams in her time at Centennial’s Head Rifle Coach, holding a record of 15 – 1, a truly amazing legacy.” In fact, Ethel was one of the first women to be inducted into the Greater Pueblo Sports Association in 1974, she taught for 37 years, coaching Riflery, Archery and Tennis.
Camp Rules clearly reflect expectations set by the pair, “Do not get up until tom-tom sounds at 6:45. Flag raising at 7:15am. Breakfast at 7:30am. Dinner at 12:00. Rest from 12:00-2:00. Get ready for bed at 8:30. Taps at 9:00. Quiet from then on.” A duty roster was assigned everyday, a healthy balance of work and play.
Doris Kester was 12 years old when she came to camp in 1941, the last year that Ethel and Thelma directed the programs at Apache Camp. “They both loved kids. Teach was more serious, but she let you be a leader; Stevie also was more happy-go-lucky’. A retired teacher and Girl Scout volunteer for 57 years, Doris readily asserts the teachers influenced her career. Today, at age 91 she is the Executive Director of Southern Colorado Community. “I had the time of my life at Apache Camp!” Eighty years later she shared the camp song.
A P A (boom, boom) CH (boom) E
Apache, Apache, we sing to thee
Best camp in all the land!
Give her three times three.
Rah , Rah, Rah, Rah
Long may we cherish her
Happy and free,
Apache Camp in the mountains
For you and me!
The Apache Camp brochures touted sleeping in tepees, assuring that every child would have a comfortable bed, mattress and pillow on a 12 x 12 wooden floor with wooden sides. Daily inspections were required of every camper, and a ‘neatest tent’ award was given out daily. Doris described colorful Indian motifs painted on the tepees.
Jan Calhoun knew the moment she saw the rock wall that leads to the cabin nestled on the hillside that she was home. It didn’t take Jan long to come to admire the previous owners. the home was filled with remnants of camp life—vintage stool, handmade armoires that served as closets in each room, Indian Craft in the form of knife holders and boxes, signs, and even a rawhide emblazoned with a fading ‘Apache Camp’ on one side, and on the other side, the names of hundreds of girls scounts who camped in 1939. As fate would have it, Jan was the perfect person to become the caretaker of this Apache Camp archive. Anyone who has ever visited Jan’s Beulah coffee shop ‘Stompin’ Grounds’ knows she is a keeper of special things.
Scrapbooks, vintage photo albums, songbooks, activity guides bound in painted wooden covers, craft magazines for ideas, 1940’s craft supply catalogs, newspaper clippings, and multiple Apache Camp brochures all fill a box that Jan has kept safe for 30 years. Ethel is pictured in her ‘school years’ photo album participating in a variety of performances. Amid the photos of dreamy ballet poses, and clown costumes, there are two striking group photos of Ethel and her college classmates wearing large handmade Indian headdresses.
Today, the property still carries a strong imprint of Apache Camp. A screened Gazebo sits along South Creek in the levelest spot of the camp, nearby a rusting antique ‘Dinner Bell’ stove with stone chimney looks ready to entertain a large group. Rocks are still purposefully situated to form intertwining circles, a symbol of unity, and the site of the camp’s Council Fire.
A barn is located across south creek where the corral ‘El Rancho Apache’ was situated, and according to photos was accessed by a simple wooden foot bridge. The equines at Apache Camp were loved by many, and worked hard. The camp brochure features Poncho, Tango, and a postcard show Chief Slivvers, the donkey who tolerated dress-up, and dutifully pulled cartloads of kids to the top of Geronimo Road throughout the summer.
Doris maintained that learning to ride a horse at Apache Camp was one of her highest priorities; riding up, down, and around the camp roads. Some campers would go on day trips on bridle paths through San Isabel National Forest, or overnight pack trips to Baver-li Lodge, Marion Mine, or the San Isabel Dam.
When the directed camps were no longer in session, other groups (Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, Girl Reserves, nurses, church groups, etc...) would rent the the facilities. A popular destination, visitors of Pueblo Mountain Park would also rent cabins when camp was not in session.
Thelma would pass away in 1956 at age 50 of cancer. Ethel continued to drive to Beulah long after she retired from teaching, visiting her cabin, and attending Beulah Belles lunch meetings. She finally sold her summer home in 1988, passing away 1990 at the age of 89.
While Ethel and Thelma were the heart and soul of Apache Camp, their keen interest, and lasting impact lay in their infectious energy for empowering youth, thus cultivating confident and capable leaders. The vision they shared, the barriers they broke, and the enriching experiences they provided still serve as inspiration, today.
If you have any stories or photos of Apache Camp, please share with Greta at firstname.lastname@example.org
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