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Paul Weiss - Paul Weiss was a special man and one-of-a-kind. He helped build Camp Wolverton during his many trips to Sequoia, while serving as the Ranger at Camp Josepho in the Santa Monica Mountains. He smoked cigars and spoke loudly.
For those of you who didn’t know Paul, a short story here will help you understand his influence. Mike Robbins fondly recalls his first memorable encounter with Paul at Wolverton on Labor Day weekend, 1961.
Mike had helped out with the Junior Leader Training program and was driving the camp truck to the guest area to pick up the tents. Not wishing to drag the tents up the hill to the truck by hand, Mike decided to drive the truck down the hillside to the tents.
As he drove, the truck wheels got deeper and deeper into the duff while the truck began to slide sideways. Mike wound up straddling a rock between two trees. But he wasn’t worried about the truck, he was worried (much too mild a word) about what Paul would do when he saw the truck. And about that time, Paul appeared at the top of the hill, took in the situation, and burst into one of his wonderful laughs.
Mike says it took a lot pipe-threading and woodworking to gain Paul’s respect after that move.
Art Brice remembers how special Paul Weiss was to us all. “At the close of work week in 1963 or so, someone bought a box a cheap cigars. They were passed out in the staff lounge and everyone lit up, more or less, and waited for Paul. He entered and everyone jumped up, cigar clenched between our teeth as best we could, pushed out our bellies and stuck our thumbs in our low-riding pants ala Paul. He was far too pleased at the tribute to reprimand us and stood there, cigar-in-teeth and thumbs-in-pants, laughing. It was a wonderful moment.”
We probably all remember being afraid of Paul. Being told that “his bark is (usually) worse than his bite” never helped. Especially for the younger staff. But nobody loved Camp Wolverton as much as Paul as Art Brice demonstrates in this remembrance. “The essential Paul Weiss is Paul making us sing the Wolverton Hymn at a work week campfire until we got it right, and sounded like we meant it.”
Sadly, Paul passed away at the age of 84 in February, 1990. However, much of his knowledge of Wolverton was not lost. Mike Robbins and Rich Stowell spent an evening talking with Paul a few years earlier and made a tape recording of it. Some of this history book is based on Paul’s memories of the camp.
Mike Robbins - One of the most influential people who is still working at Camp for nearly 50 years is Mike Robbins. As Stan Morse remembers, “He came to camp as leader of a Beverly Hills Troop. Little did we know the impact Mike would have on the future of Camp Wolverton. He was not only full of enthusiasm and energy but a smooth operator. When Park officials would complain or want us to do things we didn’t think were necessary, Mike stepped in. He had these same people eager to help us. Mike was a great ambassador of good will and a mover and shaker.
“It was through Mike’s effort that the spirit and camaraderie of the staff grew and continues to this day. When I look at the present staff roster I see so many names of men I knew and worked with over the years, and how great it is that this gang still keeps together in a common cause.”
It looked like the summer of 1971 at Wolverton was going to be without a camp director when Mike Robbins stepped in to take the job yet again. Though he was only recently married to Louise, Mike decided to come up for one more summer. Of course, Louise came with him. She was a big hit with the staff that summer and probably one of the most popular and respected people who ever worked at Camp. It was easy to see that Louise enjoyed Wolverton as much as anyone else and that love must have been transferred in utero to the Robbins children, Scott and Andrew.
For years, Mike and Louise would open their house in Los Angeles each Holiday Season for a Staff Reunion Hanukah and Christmas Party. Now that Mike is retired from his regular day job, he is serving Wolverton once again - this time - he has become the new Web Master of WolvertonStaff.org
Rich Stowell -
Art Marquez -
Staff Work Parties/Family Encampments
A new tradition was born in the summer of 1987. It started with a simple notice from Mike Robbins and Rich Stowell that read:
“A new water main and an underground electrical conduit were installed on the camp side of the Wolverton Road during this past summer. A connection to the water main has been provided at the point where the camp road joins the Wolverton Road. We are planning to install 200 feet of pipe to connect the existing camp water system to the new water main. We need your help. Please set aside the weekend of June 13-14, 1987, for work and fun in the High Sierra.”
Nearly 75 people (past staff members, their families, and their friends) showed up to work, have fun, and reminisce about old times. The weekend was so successful in getting the waterline installed and the camp set up, and everybody had such a good time, that there has been a similar weekend in June ever since. (Later that summer, Mike sent a letter relating his thoughts about the weekend. Click here to read it). Other work projects that have been accomplished on these weekends over the years include digging new latrine holes and building new latrines, painting the lodge, setting up tents, various plumbing repairs, re-supporting the lodge and shower house, projects in the kitchen, repairing falling tree damage to the lodge, etc.
These weekends, 23 of them so far, have kept the spirit of Wolverton alive. The original camp staff are all over the age of 50 and beyond, but their children and grandchildren are learning to love and care for the camp too. The second and third generations will take over when the first generation is gone. There are also many friends of the Camp who were not associated with the Camp earlier on. These people volunteer their time, tools, knowledge, and friendship to make the Camp a better place today. Many of them have been coming to the work parties/family encampments and providing a great service for years, such as Ed Schwartz, Armando Quintero, and Dale Sueda.
A campmaster program was initiated in the summer of 1987. It helped relieve the work and responsibility of the camp from Rich and Margaret Stowell, and Mike Robbins, who had been the primary operators of the camp since it became an outpost in 1976. (Margaret Stowell passed away in 1992 from cancer.) Dick Jackson also helped run the Camp for several summers in the late 1970’s after it became an outpost.
The campmaster program allows former staff and their families, and others who are knowledgeable about the Camp, to run and maintain the Camp for a week during the summer. Experienced staff were more than willing to volunteer their time for this program. All of the staff on the campmaster program have over 35 years of experience with Wolverton and can handle almost any situation.
A list of campmasters and their families who have served at Wolverton since 1987 has been prepared. Click here to view the Campmaster list.
Art Brice was working as Campmaster one summer when he thought he saw an apparition from his past. “In 1997 on a warm afternoon I was sitting at the campfire circle, lazily outmaneuvering the moving sun with a chair and a book. As I moved for the twelfth time, I looked up the road and saw a memory walking down towards me.
“He was too thin, his brown hair organized in no discernable manner and he walked in a way I can’t describe, but remembered well. He held out his hand and said unnecessarily “I’m Don Williams’ son, is Art around?” I identified myself and he said, “My Dad said you would take care of me.”
“This message, from someone I had not seen in all these years. It just happened to be my week, but Don knew that no matter whose week it was, any one of us would take care of his boy. That sense of camaraderie, of faith even, is what Wolverton has always been about. It is God’s country preserved, but it always been the people that made it what it is.”
Author’s final note - thank you for taking the time to read this history. There is still so much more that can and should be said. Please check back once in a while and hopefully I will have added more for you to read.