Below is the History of Camp Shagabec... so far! Dave Fletcher has been collecting parts of the Story of Shagabec over the past few years. If you have a story or a piece of the puzzle to add to this story, could you please contact Dave: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Story of ShagabecThe History of a Summer Camp
1938 – Camp Shagabec was born out of a Swift Current United Church youth group that decided it would be fun to go on a retreat to the Cypress Hills. They camped out at the north end of the lake (near the present day group camping site). The outing was such a tremendous success that it was decided that it should become an annual event that included youth from all over Southern Saskatchewan. (Note: The name Shagabec was not yet around. At this time it was referred to as “The United Church Youth Camp”)
Well, they made it to year two before a major obstacle was encountered. After the summer of 1939, World War II began, and the organizing staff in Swift Current thought that it would be too difficult to operate a summer camp with a war on. The youth would be needed to help out at home and on the farms, and who would be available to help oversee the camp? It looked as though Camp Shagabec was finished… before it was even named!
Once word got out that the camp would not run for the summer of 1940, the Presbytery group from Eastend and Shaunavon decided that they would do their best to keep the camp going through the war years (the rationale was that it was during tough times, such as wartimes, that summer camps were needed more that ever. The youth needed a place to escape to; where they could still be kids).
SIDE NOTE: The leading voice behind keeping the camp going was a United Church Minister named Rev. Raymond Hord. Ray was a volunteer and committee member with Camp Shagabec for a number of years before he transferred to Toronto. In Toronto, Ray became a social activist. He worked with the homeless and underprivileged. The Vietnam War started shortly after he arrived in Toronto. Ray started to help American draft dodgers settle and find work in Canada. Despite the fact that he started to receive intimidating letters to stop this work, he continued. Reverend Raymond Hord was assassinated in a downtown street of Toronto in 1972. His killer was never found.
During the war years, camp was overseen by youth ministers (ministers-in-training) who were stationed at various communities around Southern Saskatchewan. These young men were called “Theologians” (or “Thee-Logs” for short). During this time, camps were opened up for only teenagers, but younger kids as well. During this time:
- Campers slept under the stars (still at the north end of the lake), and later they got large canvas tents to sleep in.
- Campers swam and bathed in the lake (and enjoyed going off of the diving board in the lake)
- Everyone helped to cook all their meals (over the campfire)
- The campers (at the youth level) took religious courses from the Thee-Logs, and they received certificates for the completion of these courses.
AND… what was the cost for this week of fun? TEN CENTS !!!
By 1941 – it was decided that this camp needed a name! Well, how do you name a camp? Bill Clarke (Climax), one of the Thee-Logs, came up with the idea of using the first letter from the towns that the leaders were from to create a name. Helen Mack (an albino from Swift Current) was another leader. The other towns represented were: Hazenmore, Governlock, Bracken, Abbey, Aneroid, Eastend, and Consul.
They could have come up with:
- Camp Bag-e-Cash
- Camp Gesh-Cab
- Camp Cage Bash
- or Camp Sheba Gac
- but instead they chose Camp Shagabec!
By 1942 – the Cypress Hills gave Camp Shagabec a ninety-nine year lease on a new section of property just west of the lake. That summer a cook stove was purchased for the camp, but there was no building to house it, so it would sit outside year-round.
By the summer of 1945 – World War II was coming to a close, and the availability of building supplies started to become more available, and the first really buildings were built on camp property. The first building built that summer was… of course AN OUTHOUSE, and after years of squatting in the bush, it was seen as a real luxury.
The next building to be built was a kitchen (nicknamed the “Kitch-Inn”). This building (which is today the manager’s tool shed) housed both the old camp stove, the food… and the cook’s cabin (that’s right, the poor cooks had to sleep in the kitchen they worked in all day long).
By 1947, with the war over, the army barracks from Maple Creek was decommissioned and sold to Camp Shagabec. The great hall (today including the craft room, rec hall, and mess hall) was moved up. The kitchen was added on to the building afterwards. Now, Camp Shagabec campers had a warm dry place to sleep (the girls did, at least, boys were still sleeping in the tents).
By 1948, camp fees had raised significantly to help cover the costs of new buildings. Campers were now paying $7 for a week of camp ($1 a day).
Next, water came. Campers still used the outhouses with no running water, but now the kitchen had water, and a row of taps were set up along the side of the rec hall. This greatly improved life around camp. No more hauling water for drinking and cooking, and campers didn’t have to go down the Shaga-path to the stream to brush their teeth.
The official records for the 1950’s and early 60’s were not kept, so it is difficult to determine the exact years for the arrival of electricity, the completion of the new kitchen, and the construction of the 8 cabins (NOTE: Cabins 2-9 were built in the early 60’s. Cabin 1 was built in the early 70’s (so for years, Cabin 9 was actually Cabin 8). Cabin 1 was built by the Shriners, so that a young girl with polo could attend camp. She was in a wheelchair, so they built the cabin flat to the ground. After three years, once this camper was finished coming to camp, the cabin was raised up to prevent the wood from rotting.
During the 60’s – Camp Shagabec had a bus. The bus was a flash of colour and writing. It was used to take campers out to Fort Walsh, Lookout Point, and the Beveridge Ranch (where campers were taken on trail rides and slept over night).
During the 70’s – Camp Shagabec built a real bathroom! It was built by John Herrick and Ron Toles, and it allowed camp to have flush toilets, showers, and even laundry service!