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Ten Mile River Scout Camps invite public to celebration

Three anniversaries to be observed

By SANDY LONG

NARROWSBURG, NY — Today, the tidy blue house along Route 97 not far from the Ten Mile River Scout Camps (TMR) is simply the quaint home of Margaret Soller’s daughter, Beulah, now in her 90s. But prior to its closing in the mid-70s, the Donut House bustled with boy scouts and camp personnel who made regular journeys to its kitchen to sample Soller’s steaming donuts and other delights prepared there. And though the days of the Donut House are over, there may soon be an opportunity to taste, once again, the old-timey treat at the upcoming celebration of the 80th Anniversary of the TMR Camp on July 14 and 15.

TMR Scout Camps

celebrate 80 years

The largest Boy Scouts of America council camp in the U.S. is based in the Town of Tusten, Sullivan County and consists of 12,000 acres of forests, lakes and wetlands. It was established in 1927 under the directive of future United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served as president of the Boy Scout Foundation of Greater New York between 1922 and 1937. There were five New York City boroughs representing the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island that established camps on the property.

On April 3, 1936, the Delaware Valley News described TMR as “a splendid vacation land and playground for all Boy Scouts of the great metropolitan area” providing “a great opportunity for the presentation to these youths of the true and essential values of forests and wildlife.” During the past 80 years, more than one million scouts camped at TMR. Many will travel from across the country or region to attend the upcoming celebration.

TMR Museum marks 10 years

In addition to the camp anniversary, the TMR Museum will celebrate its first decade as keeper of camp memorabilia and historical items. Among the many interesting artifacts on display will be the famous machine (one of only three in existence) used to make the donuts. Efforts are underway to bring the machine back into operation for the weekend, but even if this proves impossible, visitors can still see what scouts and their families saw as they placed their orders and waited with anticipation.

Back then, freshly fried donuts were two for a nickel, and many a scout remembers making the trek to the Donut House to secure the special treats and sometimes sing around the piano that stood in the parlor. The piano, and the mounted deer head that hung above it, will also be on view, along with an original menu.

Other interesting artifacts abound, including items related to the lumbering, tanning and bluestone industries. Photographic displays of the camps scattered throughout the property provide an interesting perspective on this unique place. Hordes of scouting memorabilia are housed in the museum, which also contains a small movie theater and extensive records and research materials. Currently, the museum is being expanded to accommodate its growing library.

A special collection of frontier crafts created by assistant curator, Jake Pontillo, will be on display.

75th anniversary of the CCC

During the weekend, a living treasure of the TMR Camp’s history will be on hand when 90-year-old Thomas Batchelor is recognized for serving four terms in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a program instituted in 1933 to address rampant unemployment during the Depression. Enrollees were all single men between the ages of 17 and 25.

Roosevelt established CCC Camp S-85 in 1933 on the shore of TMR’s Turnpike Lake. Enrollees performed various assignments related to forest management. Between 1933 and 1936, the CCC trimmed and planted trees, cleared brush, created fire breaks and opened roads.

The camp looked like a small village that included officer’s quarters, an infirmary, kitchen and canteen, recreation and education buildings, a storehouse and laundry facilities. One building, the well house, still remains.

Enrollees like Batchelor received $30 per month, $25 of which was sent home to their families. The remaining $5 was theirs to keep. After completing their work, the young men enjoyed occasional parties, dances, music and recreational activities. Similar to scouting merit badges, they also completed courses in wood, leather and metal work, as well as basketry, photography and stamp collecting.

Batchelor joined the CCC in 1935 and served four tours. He later accepted a job on the Moore Farm in Beaver Brook, then moved to Utica to make machine guns for Savage Arms. Batchelor married Dorothy Buddenhagen and the couple eventually returned to Narrowsburg in 1945, where Batchelor worked as a custodian at the Narrowsburg Central School for 30 years. The couple had one daughter, Sandy Nuttycombe, also a resident of Narrowsburg.

During the Anniversary Weekend, museum director John Dowd will provide information about the history of the CCC as it relates to TMR.

TMR Anniversary Weekend Highlights

The public is invited to attend the following activities scheduled on July 14 and 15.

A midway will feature booths staffed by the Tusten Historical Society, the TMR Alumni Association, the Eagle Institute and more. Taxidermist Mark Visneski of the Bragging Post in Highland Lake will display mounted animals like deer and bear, along with a collection of birds of prey that he has restored for the TMR Museum. Photo displays about the CCC, a historical neckerchief display and displays of the various camps will also be on view. The TMR Museum will sell memorabilia and provide tours, while the Trading Post will sell knickknacks, snacks and souvenirs. Lunch is available for $5.

Opening ceremonies begin at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 14 with presentations and awards, including recognition of CCC member and Narrowsburg resident John Batchelor. Softball games, swimming, archery, rifle shooting and other scouting adventure activities will occur throughout the weekend.

Visitors can join a tour of the camps, observe a special alumni campfire and hike or ride a bus to the awe-inspiring Indian Cliffs. Like most scouting adventures, events will be conducted rain or shine.

For more information visit tmrmuseum.org (click the 80th Anniversary link) or call 845/252-2003.

TRR photo by Sandy Long
The original piano around which scouts and their families sang after enjoying treats from the Donut House in Narrowsburg is on display in the Ten Mile River Museum, along with many items related to the Ten Mile River Scout Camps history. Museum curator Bernie Sussman (seated) and museum director John Dowd pose with other artifacts, including the mounted deer head that hung above the piano. The Donut House, depicted in the framed photo above the piano, was fondly referred to as the Donut Farm by the scouts. (Click for larger version)
Contributed photo
Thomas Batchelor (right) as a member of the Civilian Conservation Camp in Beaver Brook, NY in the 1930s. Now 90, Batchelor will be honored at a ceremony held during the Ten Mile River Scout Camps’ 80th Anniversary Weekend on July 14 and 15. (Click for larger version)
Contributed photo
Photos of Boy Scouts and their camps at Ten Mile River are on display in the TMR Museum. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Sandy Long
Jake Pontillo, assistant curator at the TMR museum, will share his collection of self-made frontier crafts based on designs used by Western and Eastern Native Americans. Items on display include a brain-tanned buckskin war shirt featuring a Northern Plains Sioux design, a ball-headed war club, moccasins, leggings, knife sheaths, medicine wheels, “trade silver” (small broaches that were part of the economic interaction between native Americans and European traders) and more. Items based on Lenni Lenape and Seneca designs are also included. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Sandy Long
Most Native American clothing lacked pockets, so pouches and bags were crafted for many uses. Pontillo has created examples of medicine bags, warrior bags, belt bags, shoulder bags and beautiful pouches like the Metis (French and Indian style) bag above. This bag shows the delicate quillwork used to decorate the items. The porcupine quills were carefully harvested, softened by cooking, dyed, Flattened, folded and stitched onto fabrics or leathers. The quilling, beading and finger-weaving required to create the various items represents countless hours of meticulous handwork. (Click for larger version)