Legacies & Lessons – Leaders of OCA Camps Respond to International Conflict

Knowledge of the past enlightens the present and, like a flashlight, discovers paths to the future. Dr. Mary Northway, OCA Honourary Life Member

This monthly message, provided by the Archives Committee, will share stories of the actions and contributions of past OCA camp leaders that helped to address an issue affecting camps at that time.  Our purpose is to provide insight into OCA’s rich history to ponder and apply to the challenges OCA members are facing today.

As this is our first article, we would love to know what you think, how it may be helpful and hear your stories on the subject! Please send an email to ocaarchivescommittee@yahoo.com

 Leaders of OCA Camps Respond to International Conflict
Vol.1, No.1: June 2024

Historically, camp leaders have responded to international conflicts and crises with creative, life-affirming, positive action.

In 1941, Mary Edgar, Director of Glen Bernard Camp, built Shangri-La on a site two kilometres from her main camp. This small facility provided a camp experience for twenty British girls who had been evacuated to Canada from the war in Europe.

Starting in 1941, Mary G. Hamilton’s Tanamakoon counsellors and senior campers performed the work of the Algonquin Park Rangers who were fighting in Europe. The young women and girls built docks and shelters, cleared portages, and cleaned campsites. Meanwhile in camp, at Arts and Crafts, the campers made educational toys for the Wartime Day Nurseries Demonstration Centre in Toronto. The government had established a day nursery program to assist working mothers as the number of women in the workforce had doubled.

Camp Tanamakoon staff and campers as Park Rangers during WWII.

In response to world conflict, in 1944, Irwin Halladner founded Camp Wabikon in the Temagami wilderness as an oasis for youth away from the stresses of the war.

In 2015, Mike Sladden, Director of Camp Pathfinder, welcomed refugee campers from the Syrian war.  By 2017, the program had flourished to ten campers, attending at no cost. In 2023, one of the original campers was still at Pathfinder and on track to become staff.  Since then, a group of camp parents spontaneously began contributing to help the camp continue financing campers whose families arrive in Canada escaping violence from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and Central Africa.

Camp Pathfinder refugee campers. In 2017, a film documented the camp’s effort.

A camp is a community that models fairness, respect, caring and compassion. What can you do at your camp this summer to reinforce these values and teach our youth how to resolve conflicts amicably?

Pondering the past, present and future…

  • How are these legacies from OCA’s past relevant to challenges you may be facing now? How can you apply this knowledge to your future actions?
  • To enhance this legacy lesson, we invite you to send us your questions and comments on this story, or share a story from your camp experience with helping campers through conflict, by contacting the Archives Committee at ocaarchivescommittee@yahoo.com. We will share a summary of your contributions in future Legacies & Lessons.
  • To learn more about these and other valuable OCA camp archives, visit OCA’s Archives at Trent.
  • Find tips on archiving and donating items about your camp history to the OCA Archives – more information coming soon!
  • Keep discovering and making our history matter!