DURING THE WINTER OF 1950-51, Marse Joe and I had three babies – Stephen Frazer, Glen Arden, and the swimming pool!
Upon the birth of this 5th Bell boy in November of ’50, Marse Joe decided to make a few changes n the life of the Bell family. The day after Stephen was born he came into my hospital room and said, “You can’t put me off any longer—we are going to borrow little girls and open a girls’ camp!” He had often, in the past, mentioned a girls’ camp, but I had always put it off, saying I was too involved with the Bell boys and the Arrowhead office.
Now, however, he had already committed us to an old friend, Mr. Dave Harris, who was headmaster of Christ School in Arden. Thus the name “Glen Arden” came into being, and we began thinking and planning. Converting a school used for boys in the winter into a summer camp for girls was no small chore! However, there we had 2000 acres over which to ride and hike and camp.
Marse Joe did all the travelling for I would not leave this tiny newborn son. Joe collected 50 girls that summer which was a tribute to his red hair, freckles, that engaging grin, as well as his determination to have little girls around.
The first summer I lived in an apartment under the Infirmary along with a babysitter, Maria Donkle (“Donk”), Stephen, and a former counselor at Camps Rockbrook and Bear Walla who served as our camp director. She was a delightful person and did a fine job for us. Due to ill health she was with us only one summer. My time was spent with the office and Stephen. At Donk’s suggestion, we asked campers to use plaid shirts (any they might have on hand) and navy shorts for dinner on weeknights with whites on Sunday. Upon seeing the many different plaids together one went a little cross-eyed—and I knew THAT had to change. However, liking the plaid idea, and being largely Scottish myself, we came to use plaid ties with navy and/or white uniforms. This was a happy idea for one’s tie came to represent one’s better self—the person we strived to become—to become each day a little nicer inside than we’d been the day before; a better friend, a better camper.
In Autumn following that first summer, Marse Joe, Mr. Dave, Raymond and I searched the woodland to find a possible spot for a small lake. We found a stream feeding into a small wooded ravine which would serve our purpose well. Trees were cut, stumps removed, swimming and canoeing docks, and a dam was built. Suddenly the Glen Arden lake was with us. A council ring was located above the lake and shortly afterward, a barn for 24 horses and two riding rings were completed. Now we were happily established!
As we began the second summer, Virginia Allen came into the picture. She had been a graduate student at the University of Georgia when I was a freshman—a most outstanding person, admired by everyone. We were fortunate indeed to have her join us. Since both she and I were Physical Education majors and old-time campers as well, we began thinking of an award system—one under which a camper competed only with herself; a system which would enable each child to move at her own speed and ability but would not put her into competition with her peers. Thus our Progression System became a part of our lives.
Along with the progression idea, we also felt the need for competitive fun—thus the RED and BLUE CLANS came into being. The ties, Red and/or Blue, were used to indicate a camper’s loyalty.
“Auntee,” “Rose Budd,” and Audrey became happy additions to our staff. “Auntee,” who was Dean of Women at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, then later at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, was our camp hostess. She could also play anything on the piano and everything by ear!
She insisted that I work through the progressions myself, which I did—though under protest! A camp director has little opportunity for personal undertakings, but I did finish it that summer. My most difficult problem was Glee Club, since I can’t sing. The campers put up with me (hilariously at times!), and I finally passed “Auntee’s” strict requirements.
“Rose Budd” was Madam Witch par excellence, and Audrey Betts ran a bang-up riding program, followed comfortably by Valla Walker a few years later.
Also this second season of Glen Arden, Joanne Dingus came to us from Virginia to handle the canoe dock and river tripping. Arrowhead’s Head Counselor, Keg Wheeler, upon seeing her, immediately decided she was the girl he would marry. This he did at the end of camp! After being married several years, the Wheelers returned to Arrowhead and Glen Arden. By this time, Cindy was five and Tad, three months. Needless to say, the canoeing program took an expansive new approach and all Glen Arden loved having a baby on hand—the “Old Ladies,” especially. Staff who did not have cabin responsibilities came to be called “Old Ladies.”
The summers passed much too quickly, the years slipped by. Virginia, with her wonderful wilderness knowledge could no longer be with us and Jo Wheeler assumed her role. As always, Jo did a splendid job of planning and organizing.
The Christ School Board of Directors sold a great deal of land belonging to the school. “Suburbia” moved in upon us.
Marse Joe suggested that we move over to the Tuxedo area and use the Arrowhead campus for half the summer. This we did and fell totally in love with our new home.
In the early 80’s, Marse Joe became quite ill and I found I was needed at home with him. At this point, Jo was teaching and could not be free year-round to handle the camp office. Therefore we began a search for a qualified director who would answer our needs. Our Guardian Angel lent a loving hand sending Casey to us.
Now, Casey had been on the Glen Arden staff during the ‘60’s and the early ‘70’s when we were on the Christ School campus. It was Casey and Flo Williams (Douglas) who, as we were moving away fro Christ School, went down into the woodland to our Green Cathedral, took up the cross we’d used for 20 years, and brought it to our mountain campus. With this in mind, we felt truly blessed. Casey was the person we needed.
For the last 20 years, Casey has been your friend and director, doing a beautiful job for Glen Arden. We are so grateful for her and for the touch of magic she brings.
Many interesting and well-loved faces, voices, hearts and minds have mingled to produce this dynamic Glen Arden personality we hold dear—this force which has so colored our lives and which continues to bind us together. Perhaps it has been derived from many factors—a happy sense of humor, an enjoyment of children, a willingness to do any and every task, to the best of one’s ability, an appreciation of the world around us, and an awareness of God’s presence in our world so full of beauty and wonder.
Each camper and counselor has left something of her “better self” here and has taken some small part of Glen Arden with her when she went away.
As for my part—you’ve greatly added to the richness of my own life. The thousands of you who’ve passed through our gates remain warmly in my heart and mind.
If Glen Arden has been a continuing joy to you, I am grateful. A corner of my love to you as always.
Mary Bell wrote this reminiscence in 2000 in celebration of Glen Arden’s 50th Reunion.