Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm in the Lord's Army!

So much for the idea of writing about camp for a few days J … busy and stuck get in the way.  I’ve had lots of inspiration this week about other things too… but they sat, because I was going to write about camp.  Oh well, the week is nearly over.  Don’t you love the fact that every day is a do-over from the day before? 

As much as I’d like to share my thoughts about some other things, or spout off about my latest insult or discovery, I think on this quiet Saturday morning, I will write about Camp Ashford Hills.  I remembered a lot about this camp experience.  I was a Sunbeam and Captain Johnson arranged for me to go to camp.  I remember I rode in a van.  Any trip that involved my sitting in a vehicle was a big deal.  We didn’t have a car.  We were quintessential NY’ers.  We took public transportation everywhere.  It was too much expense or hassle to own a car and have to move it for street cleaning, not to mention digging it out of the snow during the winter. 

I remember the wonder of arriving at the Salvation Army Corp before the sun came up and the street lights were turned on.  As I walked with my mother the few blocks, she carrying my valies, my familiar world had a surreal feel to it.  I was in awe as Captain Johnson turned the key and waving to my mother, we started this adventure. 

Captain Johnson said good-bye.  Funny, I don’t remember any of the children who were on that van with me.  Cabin assignment completed, I found myself on an old army cot complete with a scratchy army blanket.  This army blanket had probably seen a lot of battles.  Emblazoned on the front was the familiar shield of the Salvation Army, God’s Army – soldiers of the blood and fire.  I was instructed on the art of hospital corners.  Inspection meant tight corners and a uniform bed.

I thought I could swim.  I could stay afloat in the water, I could get where I wanted without drowning, especially in a pool.  That was all my father cared about – not drowning.  As long as I could do that, I could swim.  Not at camp!  At camp I had to pass my first swimming test.  I had to tread water in the deep end for 30 seconds or I couldn’t swim.  I succeeded. 

It was green and lush at Ashford Hills.  The food wasn’t too bad.  At Salvation Army events I had already learned to tolerate bologna salad on bread.  Even bologna had to be stretched.  First you take the cheapest bologna you can find and chop it up.  Mix with mayonnaise and pickle relish and who knows what else – spread on plain white bread.  We were poor but we usually had our bologna in slices. 

The morning and evening meant chapel.  The morning sharpened our Bible knowledge.  The evening was come to Jesus time.  And of course, we had quiet time every morning.  My Bible would open and I’d read a verse or two.  I’d fold my hands and pray.  I don’t remember coming to Jesus that year.  I think the altar calls were more subdued.  Yet, the Holy Spirit was at that camp too.  Funny, how that is – funny how when people pray and expect the Holy Spirit to show up, He does.

For years I wondered where Ashford Hills was… I remembered the camp, the glistening pool, the clean mountain air – but where was this camp?  I never forgot sitting on rocks at camp and singing:
Ashford, dati, ati, ati, ati
Ashford, dati, at, ati, ati
A, S, H, F, O, R, D YEA!
Ashford Hills is the Camp for me.
I sang that song all summer long.  It the year of hand clap rhymes, like Miss Susie had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell… or Miss Mary Mack.
Ashford had no conversion experience, just Bible, clean air, and sweet memories.  I always thought it would be nice to see the camp again.  I used to think I knew where it was - that I'd driven right by it.  I thought it was tucked away off of highway 44 in the sleepy town of Ashford CT and that it was still being run by the Lads and Lassies of the Salvation Army.  But I was wrong -- I recently learned it was in Scarsdale NY.  

I found this offering on Ebay - a postcard of the pool from Ashford Hills Camp.

It was one summer, one week, imprinted with the love of Jesus.  

Did you go to camp?  
What do you remember most?


  1. I have wonderful memories of Camp Challenge. I started going to junior camp (1 week) and was so thrilled when I was a teen and could attend teen camp (2 weeks). I felt 1 week was not enough time - you barely got to know one another and then it was time to go home. My favorite activity was swimming in the pool. I would do that all day, every day, if allowed. I never had much money to spend at the canteen - a couple of dollars had to last me the entire 2 weeks. But those weeks at Camp Challenge were the highlight of my young pre and teen years.

  2. I participated in Boy Scounts with the Bedford Temple in Brooklyn, NY back during the 1960's . Several of us spent time at Ashford Hills camp, but I seem to remember its location being near Scarsdale. Is my memory playing tricks?

  3. Interesting about Ashford Hills - I think it was Ashford Hills in Ashford CT which now is called Camp CONRI - but I guess there could have been one in Scarsdale... I could be wrong. I really didn't remember where it was until I thought I put these two things together. Since I was there for sunbeam camp, we couldn't have been there at the same time I guess...

  4. Actually found that the place that I knew was in Greenburgh near the Saw Mill River Parkway closer to NYC. Discovered a newspaper aarticle online which states that the SA decided to sell the property after the area lost its rural character. The old Ashford Hills, described in the piece as "a fresh air camp for underpriviledged kids" is now hosts expensive homes in the $500k + range! Progress...

  5. Fascinating - thanks for the info! So did you sing A that's the first letter in S, that's the second letter in, H that is the third, FO that's the middle of the word, R that's near the end, D that is the end, A-S-H-F-O-R-D YEA! Ashford hills in the camp for me - ASHFORD,da-di-otti-otti-otti - ASHFORD da-di-otti-otti-otti A-S-H-F-O-R-D HILLS IS THE CAMP FOR ME LOL
    Yes, I guess we were rather underprivileged and I am not sure this is progress :)

  6. Hi there. Wow thank you much for the memories. My brother, sister and I went to Ashford Hills Camp every summer. The reading brought back so many good memories. The the camp song. Just as you wrote it. The counselors were great. I recall being so sad and cried when we left. Ms Sheena drove to my house and surprised me. Making baskets from ice cream sticks...singing at camp fires is all but a memory and one that has stayed with my by brother, sister and I even at the age of 60. Thank you for the memories.

  7. I went Ashford Hills also...I guess three years in a row because I remember living in Elmwood, Oakwood and finally Dogwood cabins...I never had money for the canteen and I remember vividly drinking cups of "bug juice" from those silver pitchers in the middle of the table...The swimming pool was right across from the boys cabins...and I still sing the song that we sang at night around the camp fire...What fond memories...I haven't heard any one even mention Ashford Hills in so many years...

  8. I went to Ashford Hills a few years in a row...Lived in Elmwood...Birchwood...and Dogwood cabins...Still remember all the words to the camp song and recall the little shimmy dance you were supposed to do to it but I never learned to swim in the pool pictured above...Recall drinking the "bug juice" in the silver pitchers...I could go on and on...

  9. My sis and I attended in the early 1950s. Was it always in the same Scarsdale location? We stood in line for tickets to be exchanged for candy bars etc. I would like to remember more. We still laughingly sing the jingle.

  10. If you drive north on Sprain Brook Parkway, get off just north of the reservoir at Jackson Avenue heading west, make the sharp right on what is labelled Sprain Road, I think the camp was on the right. I do remember a sharp right but I can't see any recognizable trace of the camp on Google maps. There are houses there now (which is what I also remember hearing). I don't remember the golf course which is now apparently across the street but this looks like the right place.

    I worked there for two summers in the kitchen. The kitchen, dining room, and maintenance staff tended to be high school students connected with a New York area Corps. As I remember it, the counselors were students from small bible colleges not near New York.

    I remember there being groups of Salvation Army kids for part of the summer and kids from poor families for the rest.

  11. WOW, I just don't believe it!!! ASHFORD HILLS Summer Camp, what memories of the mid 1960's. I learned to swim at this camp, I remember the campfire songs and horror stories and roasted marshmellows. I was a ward of the state Westchester Co Dept of Social Services, and along with my foster brothers and sister, we collectively went here just about every summer.. I'm so grateful for all the counselors in Birchwood, I'm 61 years old now, I believe I was 6, 7, and 8 when I attended!!! I thank God for Ashford Hills!!!


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