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Sinoquipe alumni to celebrate Boy Scout camp's 60th anniversary

July 17, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

FORT LITTLETON, Pa. -- Sixty years ago at Camp Sinoquipe, Boy Scouts spent time digging latrines by hand, removing thorns from their skin and trying to sleep through the constant bellowing of bullfrogs.

For many, those are among the fond memories created at the camp.

The Mason-Dixon Council and the Scouting community will celebrate 60 years at Camp Sinoquipe with alumni weekend Saturday and Sunday. Campers of the past and present, as well as anyone else interested in absorbing its natural, historic surroundings, are invited.

The weekend is a celebration of the Fulton County, Pa., camp that was established in 1948 when Troop 43 of McConnellsburg, Pa., was one of the first to pitch tents.

"No toilets, we had to dig those. It was just like going to an area with no paths - just woods," said Andy Washabaugh, 72, of McConnellsburg, a former member of Troop 43. "We were out there for about six days and we were ready to go home because it was so bare," he said.

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"But we had ... fun that first year and started laying the groundwork and, not knowingly, we were going to have a pretty nice camp down the road," Washabaugh said.

Gene Headley, 73, was also a Scout in Troop 43.

"It had to start somewhere. I don't think we suffered too much," said Headley, of McConnellsburg, who will be one of the speakers at alumni weekend. "The lake was brand new and there was a lot of debris. The one thing that you didn't do was walk in the water. You went out the pier because you would get a thorn in your foot.

"Lots of people ended up in the first-aid tent getting thorns pulled out of their feet," he said.

Now, the 10-acre lake is among the attractions at Camp Sinoquipe. The lake was recently dredged to remove 85,000-cubic feet of sediment, increasing its depth by about five feet.

The removed sediment was placed on a piece of land purchased by the camp. It has been drying for two years, and after grading will become Patterson Athletic Field, which is expected to open in 2009.

"In about 1997, we got serious about a swimming pool - it was either build swimming pool or clean out lake," camp Ranger Jack Rhodes said. "The executive board chose to clean out the lake, and we finished two years ago. It was an enhancement to the lake and it was the environmentally correct thing to do."

The athletic field is one of many upgrades in the works at the 528-acre camp.

A new chapel is expected to be completed by the end of summer, replacing the current 45-year-old structure, and the camp dining hall is being renovated to double its square footage and accommodate about 350 campers per meal.

Camp improvements are paid for through various fundraisers and the contributions of organizations and local businesses. In addition, the camp was granted more than $250,000 for stream improvement and erosion control through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP).

The Scouts who camped at Sinoquipe in its inaugural year notice the differences, but they have only been for the better.

"We had two-man tents, iron cots and we slept on blue-and-white straw tick," Headley said. "It's a real camp now, very modern."

While the landscape and architecture have changed at the camp, the general mission there remains the same.

For six weeks each summer, Sinoquipe welcomes hundreds of Scouts to teach how to handle the challenges thrown out by Mother Nature, as well as those that life brings.

Each troop spends parts of six days at the camp, while the slightly older camp staff watches as they come and go, and they themselves gain valuable life experience.

"It's definitely a great place to explore and expand leadership skills," said Dr. Jeffrey Rubino, a former camper and chairman of the alumni association. "You gain a lot of self-confidence and organization skills. But we were able to practical joke with one another and build bonds."

The camp program has expanded to include a full-day program for new Scouts, and C.O.P.E. (Challenging Outdoor Physical Encounter) teaches team building and tests wills. Both programs were among those implemented under Angela Holsinger's leadership as program director.

Angela's father, Bob Holsinger, was a camper from Troop 64 of Maugansville during the 1970s and all three of his sons - one is a stepson - participated in the program.

"It's a wonderful place, an opportunity for a tremendous experience for the scouts to learn a lot of things," said Bob Holsinger, executive Scout director at Sinoquipe. "The staff spends the summer here and they go home a different person. They leave well-mannered and courteous, ready to take on a lot of what life has to offer."

Rubino, also a '70s camper and staff member, will direct the alumni weekend in its second year. Rubino, 46, of Hagerstown, said nearly 40 people attended last year.

"We thought it would be a good idea to get one started so we could bring people back for one weekend a year," Rubino said. "We wanted to give people an opportunity to enjoy Camp Sinoquipe as an alum. It gives them a chance to see changes that might have happened."

While it is deemed an alumni weekend, registration is open to everyone. Alumni association members get a discount - $25 instead of the normal $35 rate - but all activities areas are open.

Sinoquipe has rifle, shotgun and archery ranges, as well as Scout craft and horse corral areas. There are 12 campsites that accommodate 250 campers and four lodges.

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