12 Fascinating Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Camp ABK
As we begin another season of ministry of Aush-Bik-Koong Bible Camp, I’ve been reflecting on the many previous years, some of which I experienced (having first come to Camp ABK at the ripe age of three as a staff kid), and some of which I know only through the photos and stories I read in the archives. As the Director, I have the privilege of going through the old files from time to time. Rather than hoard this knowledge to myself, I thought I’d share some of it with you. See how many of the following 12 fascinating facts about Camp ABK’s history you know. For those wanting a more complete history of the work at Camp Aush-Bik-Koong, you can find it HERE.
And now…onto the list:
- Camp really began in the mid-1950’s
While we celebrate 1960 as the first year of camp sessions, the groundwork for a children’s summer camp in Walford began earlier than that when Evelyn Miller (nee Taylor) started pestering Mr. Ringold for the property on Sugar Lake. Although he didn’t want to sell it initially, that didn’t stop Evelyn from scouting out the property in 1955 with some friends.
- Camp Aush-Bik-Koong takes its name from Psalm 81:16.
“But he would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” (ESV) Many people know that “Aush-Bik-Koong means “to the rock/from the rock” in Ojibwe. An Anglican minister, Mr Sissenah, working on the Spanish River reserve provided the English translation for Psalm 81:16. Other verses/phrases considered: “The glory of His name” – Psalm 79:9 and “That I may know Him” – Phil. 3:10.
- The first cabins came from the mines in Elliot Lake.
Work crews of volunteers went to Elliot Lake to dismantle the buildings, and then bring them piece-by-piece to Camp Aush-Bik-Koong, where they were re-assembled. We still use those cabins today as our staff cabins. However, we have begun the process of replacing them, with the first new staff cabin having been built this spring. Like the early days, it was done with work crews of volunteers.
- Camp sessions used to be 2 weeks long, and cost $10.50
The first camp session went from July 2-16th and was open to boys and girls aged 9-13. There’s no record of how many showed up that first year, but by 1962 the camps had grown to the point where there were separate boys and girls camp sessions. Records show that 44 boys, 38 girls, and 12 youth attended the three camps in 1962.
- We’ve had excellent food right from day 1!
Ok, so most of you probably already knew that. But did you know that sticky buns (in various forms) have been a fixture at camp since the beginning. Here is the recipe for “Spanish Buns” that Mrs. Lydia Fiss (Harold Fiss’s mother, and one of the first cooks at Camp ABK) used the first summer. Since then ABK’s reputation for good food has continued to grow. A few years ago a camp on Prince Edward Island even contacted us, asking if we would share some recipes, as they had heard that we had great food.
- The Union Jack used to fly at Camp Aush-Bik-Koong.
The National Flag of Canada did not officially become the “Maple Leaf” until 1965, after Camp ABK’s inaugural season of 1960. Before 1965, the Union Jack was flying from the flagpole at Camp Aush-Bik-Koong. This is confirmed by the following note from the April 8, 1961 minutes: “One of our patriotic brethren moved that a flag pole be erected this year flying the Union Jack and the Christian flag.”
- Camp Aush-Bik-Koong had an Aboriginal theme very early on.
Before “political correctness,” Camp Aush-Bik-Koong had numerous First Nations-type activities. Doug and Bea McKenzie (Chief Chicken and Princess Me-No-Cook) had an interest in Canadian tribes and culture and wished to share this with the campers so that they would be interested and accepting of aboriginal people as they learned of their history. The tribal names still appear on the camper cabins, and some of the old native regalia is still in our costume room.
- Volleyball is ABK’s unofficial “official” sport.
Some might debate this point, arguing for Capture The Flag, or archery, or even the new defunct Squamish. I’m going to suggest that volleyball has been played more at Camp ABK than any other sport over the years. Check out this picture from the first summer at ABK (Historical note: it’s the only picture from year 1 that we currently have on files). As you can see, volleyball figures prominently in it.
- Camp ABK once had it’s own songbook professionally printed.
Before Powerpoint, before photocopied duotangs, even before those Bristol board song cards, Camp ABK had it’s own printed songbook! The first song in it was called The Word Of Our God Shall Stand Forever, and was sung to the tune of Beethoven’s Ninth (Choral) Symphony.
- Campcraft used to be a big part of the program at Camp ABK.
In the early days campers were taught a broad range of campcraft skills, including orienteering, angling, casting, even arrow making. Over time this was developed into an organized, mutli-level campcraft program, where campers learned to tie various knots, how to handle a knife safely and went on overnight out trips. The highest level one could achieve was the Woodsmanship Badge.
- We used to sell Aush-Bik-Koong pennants in the gift shop.
Some of the items sold in the gift shop have remained the same year after. While the logos and styles change, we’ve always sold sweatshirts and t-shirts. Lately, ABK blankets, sunglasses and flashlights have been added to the inventory. Perhaps the most unique item sold in the gift shop was the Camp Aush-Bik-Koong pennant. Gord Fiss got this one when he was a camper in the late 1960’s.
- The bell came from an old school and is over 100 years old.
Over the years, people have wondered where the bell came from. Some speculated that it came from the railroad; others said it was from the mines, or from an old church. We discovered the bell’s true history at our 50th Anniversary Celebration back in 2010, when Charlie Collins, the man who brought the bell to ABK many years ago dropped by. He settled the mystery by telling us that it used to be the bell for the old school house in Lorraine Valley, near Cobalt.