My mother died in December.
This may sound like a really sad way to start a blog, but my mother was anything BUT sad.
Living until she was 94, Jean Marie Albrecht Lochtrog enjoyed an incredible life that was shaped by her participation in Camp Fire Girls with the First Texas Council in the 1930s. My sister and I found an entire box of Camp Fire memorabilia last year while downsizing her home of 55 years. What a special memory I will always cherish getting to sit with her and hear her life stories.
I’d like to share a little of her Camp Fire history with you.
Mom joined Camp Fire Girls, Inc. on her 10th birthday, March 20, 1932. I can confirm that exact date, because I have her original “Certificate of Membership” card signed by her Camp Fire Guardian. Her club’s name was the Wahanka Group. Mom’s Camp Fire name was Muchon-a-mu.
Muchon means “You have a sacred character and impressive magnetism. Leaving nobody indifferent towards yourself. Being a good listener adds to your ability of presenting yourself in an interesting manner.”
Mu is the Greek symbol for music.
In mom’s Camp Fire memory box (I’ll start referring to this as “the box”) I found one of her Camp Fire lessons where she wrote down the Camp Fire Law, the color and meaning of the seven craft beads, her Camp Fire name, her Camp Fire symbol and what the symbol meant. She wrote that her symbol means music, honesty, and out of doors and ambitious.
Mom was all these things: sacred, never said a bad word about anyone…EVER, a great (not just good) listener, filled with music and loved the outdoors. How fascinating that her Camp Fire name was such a reflection of the woman and mother I knew. (Remember, she picked this name when she was only ten.)
Mom went to Camp Fire First Texas’ Camp El Tesoro the year it opened in 1934. She even attended camp BEFORE Camp El Tesoro. Camp Shawondasee was a camp in Mineral Wells (truth be known, it was a Girl Scout camp that the “Fort Worth Council of Camp Fire Girls Inc.” used until they purchased Camp El Tesoro). She was only able to go for one week and told the story many times that she complained to her parents about wanting to stay two weeks, not just one. One week was just not long enough. Unfortunately, they could not afford two weeks. In the box, I found the brochure for the 1933 camp. One week was $7.50 and two weeks cost $15.00. Even more exciting, I found in the box the 1934 camp brochure and application for mom to attend the opening of Camp El Tesoro. Rates were only $6.50 for one week and $13.00 for two weeks! How cool is that?
Another story mom told all the time was of her Camp Fire club planting a tree at Sylvania Park in Fort Worth in 1932. And guess what – I found the newspaper clipping in the box.
Moving forward about 30 years, Mom was Camp Fire leader for my sister Debra’s Camp Fire club in the 1960s while one of mom’s best friends was my club leader. Yes, I’m a Camp Fire Girl too! In fact, all our family has gone to Camp El Tesoro at some time or another. Even my husband, son, two nieces and now my great-niece, who plans to be an Equestrian Camp Counselor-in-Training at Camp El Tesoro this summer. The legacy continues!
In the box, there are letters I wrote home while at camp in 1963. The one dated June 18 (Tuesday) says “I am having a good time” and “P.S. I am OK.” But the next letter dated June 20 starts “Mom I do not want to come home. I am having a very good time here.” This is the sentiment of so many first-time campers – moving from apprehension of being away from home for the first time to sheer joy of being outdoors, making new friends and experiencing new things.
Mom also saved the letters that her mom wrote to her in 1933 while she was at camp. Aside from the price of a stamp being 3 cents in 1933 (stamps on my letters were 5 cents), my grandmother gives new meaning to why camp counselors encourage parents to send letters with happy thoughts of encouragement so their child does not get homesick. Let me share the first sentences with you from my grandmother’s letter to mom dated July 25, 1933:
My darling Jean Marie,
It’s too lonesome here with you gone. I think I’ll have to come and get you. Are you ready to come home?
That just makes me smile and giggle.
Another treasure found in the box was one of mom’s studies of nature. In this book, she gathered 20 different leaves and taped them to a page with the name, shape and kind of veins the leaf has.
How ironic that in my position at Camp Fire, I am now promoting the outdoor education program at Camp El Tesoro to schools around our region. It’s funny how things come full circle.
One last treasure I found in the box is the 1962-1963 Secretary’s Book for my sister’s Camp Fire club, Wi-ta-kani (means friends, singing and enjoying the outdoors). Think about the skills these girls were learning: leadership, finance, membership, science, love of outdoors, running a meeting, taking minutes and even home economics.
Some of the notes in this journal are priceless.
September 12, 1962:
- Business conducted: We elected officers.
- Program of meeting: A teepee was decorated for a fly up ceremonial.
January 30, 1963:
- Business conducted: New officers were elected.
- Program of meeting: We made hydrometers. They were paper dolls with treated sashes.
February 27, 1963:
- Business conducted: We went to Buddies and went through all the stores. We wrote down some stuff for an honor.
- Program of meeting: Learned how to select good vegetables and fruits. Learned about different sizes of cans.
March 20, 1963:
- Business conducted: (nothing recorded here).
- Program of meeting: We had to go in front of the school lawn to get our pictures made.
My mom wrote a side note: Planted magnolia tree in front of Eastern Hills Elementary School.
Yes, mom shared her love of nature with my sister’s Camp Fire club. That magnolia tree? It’s still in front of Eastern Hills Elementary! And March 20, 1963 – was my mom’s 41st birthday!
April 10, 1963:
- Business conducted: Plans were made for trip to El Tesoro. Reservations must be made by the next meeting.
- Program of meeting: We learned how to make a bedroll for our trip to El Tesoro.
But what is the most touching part of the Camp Fire meetings is something that wasn’t on the agenda – friendship. Mom, my sister, and I, all stayed in contact with our respective Camp Fire Girl groups. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were doing more than learning how to sew – we were cultivating relationships that would last a lifetime.
Yes, my mother died – and that makes me sad. But this is not a sad story after all. Rather, it’s a celebration of the life of Jean Marie Albrecht Lochtrog and how Camp Fire First Texas was monumental in my mom’s life – as well as my sister, me, our family and the girls in this story. I’m honored to be able to work for Camp Fire First Texas. Thank you for letting me share my mom’s story from the box.
Diane Johnson is the Director of Business Relationships at Camp Fire First Texas. She has been with Camp Fire since 2003. However, her affiliation with the organization began when she was a young girl and became a Blue Bird and later a Camp Fire Girl, with her mother as her leader. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas Christian University. Diane is chair of the Life Long Learning Committee and a member of the National Alumni Board, both at Texas Christian University. Diane is a lifetime member in the Texas PTA.