Camp Horseshoe celebrates 75 years

ST. GEORGE – Camp Horseshoe, located in St. George is the only remaining Civilian Conservation Corps built camp that is still being utilized, and on Aug. 31, the camp reached a milestone – it celebrated its 75 th anniversary with a weekend camp for those who are currently employed, those who attended the camp in the past and those who worked as counselors through its history.
Gordon Thorn receives the Golden Horseshoe Award from past Executive Director David King during the 75th anniversary of Camp Horseshoe in St. George. Thorn was a camper, counselor and director, as well as a life-long supporter of the program.
Gordon Thorn receives the Golden Horseshoe Award from past Executive Director David King during the 75th anniversary of Camp Horseshoe in St. George. Thorn was a camper, counselor and director, as well as a life-long supporter of the program.

In observance of the event, Gordon Thorn, a long-time supporter of Camp Horseshoe, received the second ever Golden Horseshoe award. The plaque was presented by past Executive Director David King.

“Gordon was a camper and a counselor, and went on to be a camp director,” King said. “He met his wife while he worked here. He is a life-long donor of the program and a life-long volunteer.”

“This is a special place,” said current Executive Director Tom Starr. “I have been with the organization since December. They make you feel so welcome and you are family the instant you get here.”

Starr said Camp Horseshoe is a local jewel.

“We hope folks will come and visit us,” Starr said. “I hope they recognize what we have.”“This camp was built by the CCC and is a historic treasure,” past Executive Director David King said. “I still help out, but I have retired. I came here as a counselor in 1969. Those who are here today were counselors, campers, neighbors and friends.”

“I was to come to Camp Horseshoe in 1942, about six months after Pearl Harbor,” Elkins resident Don Rice said. “They didn’t know whether or not to have the camp but they did. We had to bring a half pound of sugar with us because it was rationed and when we got here, they served us soybeans because meat was rationed, too.”

Rice said he had never eaten soybeans before attending camp that year.

“We had soybean everything including soybean salad,” he said laughing. “They were pretty good and we got along fine.”

Rice said the camp has changed since the 1940s.

“We had the dining hall and the dorms, which are pretty much the same,” he said. “The terrain and vegetation has changed drastically. The swimming hole used to be over in the creek before they added the swimming pool. We enjoyed the swimming hole and hiking on the trails. It was pretty primitive but we had a great time.”

Rice said he came back in 1949 as a counselor.

“Youth Leadership Service Camp was a big thing – it brought kids in from all over the state,” Rice said.

Dave Cooper has been the director at Camp Horseshoe for three years.

“I have worked for this organization for 18 years,” Cooper said of Youth Leadership Association. “I started out as a volunteer in seventh grade. We used to come and pull the boards off of the building. Then they needed a counselor volunteer. I came back my senior year to be on summer camp staff, went to college, and came back to be on full time staff.”

Cooper said the camp offers campers a youth tool box.

“It’s great to be out in nature,” Cooper said. “We offer campers leadership skills, where campers learn how to pull skills such as public speaking, writing and other key elements when they are needed. It’s amazing for city kids to come here and hear a barn owl. They ask what’s that? They also have the opportunity to see deer and the night sky. There is very little opportunity to see the night sky in a brightly lit city.”

Former W.Va. Senator Sarah Minear attended the celebration. She said she has served on the board of directors of Camp Horseshoe for many years.

“Bob and I supported the camp for many years,” Minear said. “It is a great organization that helps a great amount of people. They help turn many lives around. It is an honor to serve on the board.”

Courtney Kirtley attended Camp Horseshoe from 1991 to 1996, and came for the anniversary celebration.

“I regret that I was never a counselor,” Kirtley said. “As a kid driving up here, you do not appreciate how beautiful the area is. Now when I drive here I am crossing the lines (on the road) because I am looking around.”

Jane Bond, of Columbus, Ga., traveled back for the 75 th anniversary celebration at Camp Horseshoe. She worked at the Camp from 1966 to 1969.

“We have a number of friends who worked her in the 60s,” Bond said. “As a matter of fact, I met my husband while working here. We were part of the counseling staff during the summers in college. We have stayed in close contact with a core of friends from that era and every time there is a reunion, we all get together and have a great time.”

Bond said during the week, they sang old and new songs, had a campfire and spent time getting to know others.

“Back in the 60s, the kids had to do the dishes at the table,” Bond said. “The one sitting at the head of the table was the hopper, and they went to get all of the food served family style.”

Cooper said there are a few wants on the table for the future at Camp Horseshoe.

“We hope to a new pool and a couple more buildings on the property,” Cooper said. “We hope to renovate the cabins and a paved parking lot.”

Participants at the 75 th anniversary celebration signed quilt blocks, which will be stitched together in honor of the event.

Additional information about Camp Horseshoe is available by calling 304-478-2481.


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