Carolyn Walker, born 1954, worked as a counselor at Camp Mueller in the late 1970's. She compares her GirlScout camp experience with co-ed Camp Mueller. Walker describes some camp activities and talks about the positive learning experiences children have at camp.
Walker, Carolyn (interviewee)
Rotman, Michael (interviewer);Epps, Michelle (interviewer)
Phillis Wheatley Association
"Carolyn Walker Interview, 2010" (2010). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 110008.
Carolyn Walker [00:00:00] Okay.
Michael Rotman [00:00:03] Okay. It is May 8, 2010. We are talking about Camp Mueller today. My name is Michael Rotman and why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself. Say your name. When were you born? Where were you born?
Carolyn Walker [00:00:17] Okay. My name is Carolyn Walker. Actually, I was born in southern Ohio back in the '54 and I was raised in Cleveland.
Michael Rotman [00:00:26] What neighborhood in Cleveland did you grow up in?
Carolyn Walker [00:00:30] Glenville, Glenville and went to all of the public schools there.
Michael Rotman [00:00:36] Okay. What was your experience growing up? How was, how was growing up in Cleveland?
Carolyn Walker [00:00:40] It was all right. It was during [the] late '50s and the early '60s, it was okay. We had a good time. Had two brothers and we had a good time.
Michael Rotman [00:00:51] Now. How old were you when you first went to Camp Mueller?
Carolyn Walker [00:00:55] Well, actually, at the end, I was a Girl Scout growing up, and, and went all the way through to the Cadets and after being a Girl Scout, I was a camp counselor with the Girl Scouts. And while I was at college, I think, I think I ran late as far as, you know, trying to find a summer job, and somebody had mentioned they were, you know, hiring. So I had experience with counseling. So I, I came down and it worked out. So I was, I was one of the counselors.
Michael Rotman [00:01:22] Oh, you were a counselor.
Carolyn Walker [00:01:22] Yeah.
Michael Rotman [00:01:23] Okay. [For] how many years? How many years?
Carolyn Walker [00:01:26] Well, just, I think it's just for one summer, if I recall. And I, it may have been two, but as far as I remember, it was only for the one summer. And actually, what I had done prior to that, I was like a counselor with girls with the Girl Scout camps. And this turned out to be a co-ed camp. So that was a little different. So it was a good challenge and it was fun.
Michael Rotman [00:01:45] Oh, I'm sorry.
Carolyn Walker [00:01:45] Oh, no. That's fine. That summer went quickly. So it worked out real nice.
Michael Rotman [00:01:51] So.
Carolyn Walker [00:01:53] They had like on this particular camp, they had like an Indian theme, I think. What, it ended up, everybody had different names because back then we had, in, with the Girl Scout camp. You had names, too, you know, they gave you like, you know, like, you know, apple, cherry or, you know, different names like that. But there we ended up my, my camp name, it was Nakia. And I can remember some of the other different names that we had while we were there, but it was, it was good. We would, well, in this case, we lived in cabins, whereas while at Girl Scouts camps, we lived in tents. And it was a nice experience.
Michael Rotman [00:02:23] So what was your, what, what kind of things did you do with the kids at camp? What kinds of activities?
Carolyn Walker [00:02:28] We did everything. We did the hiking. We did the crafts. The, you know, the fire, you know, making, you know, having cookouts, swimming, and also just other skill, surviving skills. You know, the nature walks and learning how to, you know, well once sometimes there may be the case of kids that have never been, you know, away from home or if they were like inner-city and just been in the city, it was a good chance for them to be outside and get a chance to see nature. So it was, it was fun. We did a lot of things and hiking and we had field, I think one or two field trips that went beyond the campgrounds. But no, it was fun.
Michael Rotman [00:03:03] What was your favorite activity?
Carolyn Walker [00:03:06] I just playing the games with the kids. Yeah, just playing the games with the kids, I would say. And like we do scavenger hunts, you know, that was kind of fun. And you had, there were games, you know, water games. And we just had a good time, just like a full, full program.
Michael Rotman [00:03:25] And I'm sorry around what year were you a counselor?
Carolyn Walker [00:03:27] I want to say it was the late '70s or early '80s.
Michael Rotman [00:03:31] Okay.
Carolyn Walker [00:03:31] I want to say it was like seven... '79, '80s, early. But it was, it was, well I was, I know I was in college at the time.
Michael Rotman [00:03:38] Okay.
Carolyn Walker [00:03:38] Yeah.
Michael Rotman [00:03:39] And how do you think the kids responded to, to being at Camp Mueller?
Carolyn Walker [00:03:45] Yeah. They, they liked it was fun because I, you know, some of the kids I know that they had been there before and they brothers and sisters had been before. So in, in a lot of the kids came from the neighborhood here and so, you know, there's camaraderie. And sometimes I think, they, we would split them up kind of so that one team would be on, you know, one unit and one would be on different units. So, but no, it was, it was good. Looks like the kids had a good time. And I know that when I went to camp, I always looked, you know, forward to the activities and the people and meeting new people and stuff. So that was always fun when I was young. I went to Girl Scout camp, but, but at that time, I know that that's a fulfilling experience. Sometime that will always change, you know, change your life over a period of time.
Michael Rotman [00:04:24] What was Girl, where was, where did they all live? Girl Scout camp that you attended?
Carolyn Walker [00:04:27] Not too far from there. I think it was Camp Julia Crowell and Hilaka.
Michael Rotman [00:04:33] Oh, really. So it's close.
Carolyn Walker [00:04:33] This they are right in that little section, were in Peninsula near there.
Michael Rotman [00:04:36] How did you first decide when you were, what age did you got to camp?
Carolyn Walker [00:04:42] Gosh, I think I was about nine, eight or nine.
Michael Rotman [00:04:46] And how did you first decide to do that?
Carolyn Walker [00:04:46] All the other girls, our troop went, and everybody else went. So I was like, you know, thing everybody wanted to go to camp. Everybody wanted to learn how to swim and everybody wanted to, you know, just be outside. And there was a chance to be away for like a two-week period. I think it was ten days or something. So, we had fun.
Michael Rotman [00:05:02] Was there any way in which the Girl Scout camp was maybe different than Camp Mueller? Were they the same idea pretty much?
Carolyn Walker [00:05:04] Pretty much the same idea. Only thing that, they had more girls, you know, girls and they were you know, you were working towards badges, you know, like they would have, you know the different badges and probably, you know, different activities to complete a badge and stuff. But pretty much it was the same thing, just learning new things and experiencing nature and learning that, you know, new people and learning to live with people. And I, kind of like now I hope kids are able to go out. I know a lot of cutbacks in, in shorts, you know, short funding from the government, a lot of times some kids don't have that chance or that experience to go out to camp. And it's just, you know, a lot of times they just had the day camp, you know, you come to the camp and you go back home and for cost purposes. It seems like it was always a, it was like probably one of the early times that I was away from home and just working with the kids. [It was] good. We had a good time.
Michael Rotman [00:05:52] Yeah, and it's interesting that you mentioned today and, and kids going to camp, but you kind of mentioned already, but, I mean, what do you think the benefits are for, you know, people in the cities to get out [and] go?
Carolyn Walker [00:06:06] Sure. You get the chance to learn it, learn about nature. You get to learn quietness. In other words, just like, like say here you have a lot of pollution, the asphalt. You get out there, it's green. A lot of kids may not have that opportunity just to have green, little frogs, animals, you know, just being back with nature. And it's good and it's good to be away. You know, sometimes some kids, children may not get a chance to get away to like summertime, and that's a good time to just go out and, and meet new people and, and do things and, and learn skills because from there they could, you know, find a talent that they enjoy and that becomes their career.
Michael Rotman [00:06:44] Now when you were a counselor at Camp Mueller.
Carolyn Walker [00:06:45] Okay.
Michael Rotman [00:06:45] Who, who were the other counselors?
Carolyn Walker [00:06:47] Oh, they were mostly, they were other college students and we had, I think, the rec person he was, he was already a like a, he was from some rec company. I can't remember his name, though, but I remember it was he and his wife and they would take care of some of the crafts and, and, you know, like activities and stuff. But at most the people, they were, they were young. They were in their 20s or early 30s. But, you know, but it was always that, you know. Same goes, a lot of the similarities and characteristics. Everybody, you have to have a certain attitude if you want to be outside. You can't, you can't like want hot showers all the time, and radios, and stuff, and watch TV. And even though, I guess, you know, you could have the back then they didn't have the iPods and stuff.
Michael Rotman [00:07:28] No, they didn't.
Carolyn Walker [00:07:28] To accommodate you, but yeah. But I mean, there, there were ways to work around it, you know. But yeah.
Michael Rotman [00:07:33] So that was easy for you to adjust to because you had already done it before.
Carolyn Walker [00:07:35] Right, had already. Yeah. And I knew what kids would like being homesick and learning how to you know, you write letters home and that kind of thing. Or if you were one, of the kids, the parents didn't write you back, you know. There was always things you know, kids, actually kids were they're more honest than people. And a lot of times they, they would help each other out. You know, if they had problems.
Michael Rotman [00:07:54] Did the counselors, did you guys kind of do your own thing when the kids were asleep or did you guys have your own fun or?
Carolyn Walker [00:08:01] Gosh, I can't remember that far back, but I think, I think yeah usually it was like, you know, once they went to bed, like there was some, some you'd have your nights off or you'd have your weekends off. I remember that.
Michael Rotman [00:08:10] Oh, okay.
Carolyn Walker [00:08:10] And then I think there was the cook, he used to look out for us and put, you know, snacks out for us on the side. If, you know, when you were to go to the refrigerator, you know. But, yeah, no, but it was a good experience. I liked it. It was different. And beforehand, I had never been around little, you know, like boys. And it was just, you know, that, you know, boys play a little rougher than girls. It was, it was good. It was fun.
Michael Rotman [00:08:30] Were there any disciplinary problems? Did you ever have any?
Carolyn Walker [00:08:34] Not that I can remember. No, I don't think I've ever remember anybody going, you know, if anything, they wanted to stay longer. You know, just like you got to go, you know? They wanted to stay. But I remembered the whole thing. They would meet here and the bus would. I think they were sorted. I can't remember. I think, I don't remember how the sorting part worked. But I guess they had kids that they had like tour buses, I believe. And I think they would just fill up the buses and they would leave from here and.
Michael Rotman [00:08:59] From Phillis Wheatley?
Carolyn Walker [00:08:59] Right. And then I remember riding the bus with them. So that was like about a 30-minute ride. So that was kind of cool.
Michael Rotman [00:09:04] What was that ride like? Were people nervous? Were they excited?
Carolyn Walker [00:09:07] No they, they kept, no they, they kept themselves entertained. You didn't need to when you're on a bus back then you didn't have to worry about it, but that was fun, you know? And then once you got there, it was more like it was like being at camp, you know, like you're here, you know. So, you know, they had their little I think what, and they used to hand out the list to make sure that they had enough stuff, you know, enough, you know, like for the. I can't remember. I think they were, I don't know if it was one week or two weeks. I can't remember the duration that the kids would stay, but to make sure they had enough supplies, you know, soap and all that kind of stuff, maybe they didn't and we had to make sure the other, you know, kids would have what they needed.
Michael Rotman [00:09:40] But the kids generally, they had a good experience?
Carolyn Walker [00:09:41] Oh, yeah.
Michael Rotman [00:09:41] And were able to adapt to everything.
Carolyn Walker [00:09:43] Oh, sure. Oh, yeah.
Michael Rotman [00:09:47] What was the food like at camp?
Carolyn Walker [00:09:49] Oh, you know, it was actually the cook was really good. I remember she, she used to bake. She was a baker. But yeah, the food was, I mean, you had the general morning stuff, the oatmeal, and toast, and stuff. But no, I remember that the food was all right. You know, the food was okay. And the, and the kids would eat it. And I think, you know, they tried to get them a balanced meal to eat the vegetables and stuff. And, and a lot of stuff, you know, we'd go out and try to, you know, some of the, like some of the stuff that was in the wild, you know, learning berries and that kind of stuff. So I think kind of that seeing the stuff that was good, like a good, teach, you know, teaching tools for them and learning how to, you know, eat right, you eat right. Yeah.
Michael Rotman [00:10:30] Could you take me through quickly just a typical day at camp or?
Carolyn Walker [00:10:34] Oh, God. I can't remember that far back. But I, if anything, I just remember I know we'd, we'd wake up and gosh. We'd get the kids up and get them dressed and everybody, you know, they'd. I can't remember where the shower was, but the bathroom was. But, you know, we get them up, everybody, you know, and we'd walk down to our unit, you know, because breakfast was at certain, you know, at a certain time. And everybody have they'd ring the bell. It was like an alarm clock. I don't think we had chickens or nothing like that. But, you know, they'd ring the bell and you'd come down and you'd eat, and then they'd have a list of activities for the day.
Michael Rotman [00:11:05] Okay, so every day was kind of a little bit different?
Carolyn Walker [00:11:08] Yeah, they had there was variety, right? There was, you know, different varieties and stuff. And then I think there was free time. There was a time, you know, when the kids could just sit and write letters or, you know, play ball with them, you know, with each other or whatever. But there was or go to the craft and work on the craft. So it was structured. Yeah, I liked it.
Michael Rotman [00:11:28] Have you been back to the area recently?
Carolyn Walker [00:11:30] Just that when they had the reunion two weeks ago.
Michael Rotman [00:11:33] Oh, okay.
Carolyn Walker [00:11:33] And just got a chance to walk the trail and it was kind of like, it just seemed small. I was just telling the other person, yeah, it seemed like was always smaller. But actually, when we were there, it looked bigger and, you know, more like a wilderness. But then, you know, the pond, everything looks the same, the pool, everything.
Michael Rotman [00:11:50] So, it hasn't really changed all that much?
Carolyn Walker [00:11:53] No, just the fact that, you know, it, years change, you know, the, the path, you know, the main house is still there. They've added a few things like I think we're on a campfire. They used to just, you'd sit on the rocks. They have benches, you know, modern-day, I guess, and they have, have a basketball court. I don't think they had that. You know, certain things that, you know, that, you know, they, they added, you know, over the time. But, yeah, but no, it's, it's had the same feel. It was a camp.
Michael Rotman [00:12:17] What do you do? Do you still work with kids today or?
Carolyn Walker [00:12:21] No, I, I think for a while there I did work. I was just, I think I was a teacher part-time for a while and a substitute teacher. But right now, no I'm retired. So, but the.
Michael Rotman [00:12:33] Overall, I mean, how would you say that your experiences not just at Camp Mueller, but also as a counselor to the Girl Scout camp?
Carolyn Walker [00:12:44] Oh, it was a good. I wouldn't, you know, I think my, my brothers, they went to camp also. You know, it was, it was a time period and it was good, you know, it was good to, you know, be away. Learn to live with them. Kind of, of like a preface to going to the dorm, like learning how to live out. You know, when you go to the dorm and learning how different, you know, personalities, different cultures and, and just kind of learning how to adapt, whereas, you know, at home or if you're an only child, for example, you never been with other kids. You learn, you know, you learn the camaraderie and being all together. And our unit was against the other unit, it was, you know, it was fun, you know. Like say, we had game challenges and stuff.
Michael Rotman [00:13:23] Your two brothers, they, they went to Camp Mueller?
Carolyn Walker [00:13:25] Oh, no, no. They went to whatever boy camp.
Michael Rotman [00:13:27] Oh, okay.
Carolyn Walker [00:13:27] So I don't remember their names, though. The names of them. But yeah, we, we all had, you know, camp experience or learn how to, you know, we know how to make a fire, you know. Showing the kids how to make a fire from, from flint and stuff, so that was pretty cool. So I think I'm.
Michael Rotman [00:13:42] Oh, I'm sorry go ahead.
Carolyn Walker [00:13:42] . Oh, I was thinking. No, but that was all in all I was just, you know, if, you know, if kids, children do have an opportunity, they should go to camp. It's a good place.
Michelle Epps [00:13:49] Excuse me. I understand that you don't have enough time due to constraints.
Carolyn Walker [00:13:57] Oh, sure.
Michelle Epps [00:13:57] A bit quick.
Carolyn Walker [00:13:58] Sure.
Michelle Epps [00:13:59] But, was there anything that stuck out in your mind about some of the children, as far as, what backgrounds they were coming from?
Carolyn Walker [00:14:06] No. I think if. A lot of times, because, you know, kids will tell us how, you know, what, you know, what the, you know, home life was like or, or something like that. But you know, then. No, not really out of the. They were just from all different, you know, walks of life and from like, you know, some had never been to camp. Some had been to camp, which is cool, which was nice. And just, you know, it was just kind of just fun. It was like everybody was happy too, you know? You know, some days, you know, you're going... 'cause everybody's going to be, everybody's going to be, you know, it's going to be maybe one or two that may not have a good day, but every [unintelligible]. So. But no. But it was good.
Michelle Epps [00:14:41] Was there any particular child that stuck out the most in your mind?
Carolyn Walker [00:14:44] Can't remember that far back. Sorry. But, but no, I just remember like being around kids and, and just doing the activities. I think once when we were at camp, I remember the camp director at that time her name was Squaw Chief. I can't remember what her real name was. And I remember that she, she liked well nature and all the effort but she also had a fetish about the snakes. And we could never, snakes would come around and we couldn't kill the snake. So if they say we got us, they would say a snake ended up at the cookout, or whatever, they would just collect the snake and put it at the far end of the, of the park. And well, we all know that snake would come back because there was food there. You know, the snake would eventually be back in another week. But I think it was one time, there was one in the rafters. It was a snake. They caught him. And so the kids named him, Fred, because they knew they wern't going to hurt him. That was a good thing, because, you know, the kids at that time would be like, you want to see the snake and the guy would catch it. And so we named the snake, Fred. But and we, we set Fred. They guessed they sent him back out in the wall. In the wild, I'm sorry. But then way later, they found out Fred was really, Fredricka because it was babies were, had hatched. [And] the things, I know they had to get them out. So I don't know. By that time, I think that was almost the end of the summer, so I don't know if she ever came back looking for her kids or not. But that was always, that was good. You know, it was learning nature and learning how to respect nature was a good, good thing with us. It was. You know about snakes? Yeah, they were. Yeah.
Michelle Epps [00:16:12] Well, we'll probably be contacting you again.
Carolyn Walker [00:16:14] Oh, okay.
Michelle Epps [00:16:17] For a follow-up interview. I mean if you, if you want to do it.
Carolyn Walker [00:16:17] Okay. All right.
Michelle Epps [00:16:21] And, I guess other than that if there is something that you'd like to add that we didn't cover?
Carolyn Walker [00:16:21] No, just kind of it was, it was, you know, as I said, [it was] boys and girls. And it was some, I remember we used to have at night, used to do the campfire, and the songs, and stuff. And used to tell that. I can't remember the story. It was, there was a story they used to tell that, I think, the first night there and I remember, they would get the kids like settled down because I know little kids would someone would say this ain't nothing at all. This is, you know, this is, you know, and we're like, oh, they caught their attention. So that was the fun part, you know? Just trying to get that feel because they were like, you know, they weren't used to sitting around the fire and just, you know, having marshmallows, and hot dogs, and stuff. So it was always, it was good. The first night, always the first night, you got along and you had songs and stuff. I remember that much. Okay. All right.
Michelle Epps [00:17:01] Thank you very much.
Carolyn Walker [00:17:01] All right. Thank you.
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