By Molly Grogan Rawls
Day camps and resident camps have attracted Forsyth County youngsters for over 90 years. Camps by the name of Lasater, Civitan, Sylvania, Dor-ker, Shirley Rogers, and Betty Hastings just exist as memories today. Camp Hanes and Camp Raven Knob date their beginnings to 1927 and 1954, respectively, and still operate as camps for young people today.
In 1935, when many camps were just getting established, the Winston-Salem Journal published an article that mentioned YMCA-sponsored Camp Hanes, entitled “Selecting a Camp Regarded As Serious Responsibility.” The writer observed that, “Summer camps are great character, muscle and courage builders. They make a boy handy and hardy of heart. They teach them order, cleanliness, and a daily purpose. They keep their hands and their feet busy.” The article listed many other benefits of attending a summer camp and urged parents to make their selections wisely, and to be aware of the influences the boys might encounter at camp.
The local YWCA leaders recognized in the early 1930s that Winston-Salem was attracting young women who came from outlying areas in North Carolina to work in stores, factories, and other businesses. These single, unattached young women often lived in boarding houses. Mrs. Gideon H. (Bettie) Hastings, YWCA president, desperately wanted the girls to have a camp away from the city, where they could relax, socialize, and enjoy natural surroundings.
Winston-Salem attorney Fred S. Hutchins, Sr. donated nearly 55 acres to the YWCA for a permanent camp site. The property was located about two miles off the Walkertown Road, about 10 miles from Winston-Salem. Camp Betty Hastings was named for the woman who worked tirelessly for the camp, and the main camp building was named Hutchins Hall, for the donor of the land.
The time between acquiring the land in 1933 and opening the camp on June 1, 1936, was filled with planning and building. A dining hall/kitchen/storage building, cabins, a lake and boathouse, trails, and Hutchins Hall had to be built. Programs were devised, staff hired and trained, and recreation areas built. The business and industrial girls soon had their own cabins where they could socialize in the evenings and on the weekends, with programs appropriate to their areas of interest.
The first schoolgirls’ resident summer camp opened in July 1936 with 55 campers who were told that they had the rare chance of starting the traditions, making their own choices, and setting their own standards of excellence. Over the years, some changes occurred, but campers were mostly ages 8 to 15, and were divided among the eight cabins by age. Eight to ten campers and one to two counselors filled each cabin, which was designed with a screened sleeping porch. Campers supplied their own linens, towels, and the personal items they would use for the two-week session. Money was deposited in a canteen account for snacks throughout the session.
Mornings began with reveille, raising and saluting the flag, and eating breakfast in the dining hall. The camp was situated in a lovely, wooded setting with nature trails throughout the acreage. Campers could select a wide-range of sports and arts and crafts activities, and they were encouraged to advance in their swimming classes.
Campers also roasted marshmallows and sang camp songs around the campfire in the evenings. Shrieks of excitement pervaded the camp as campers were awakened for the Shipwreck Party; a surprise event that everyone knew was coming, but not exactly when.
Older campers had a mixer/dance with the boys from Camp Hanes each session, alternating the location between the camps. Girls spent the day primping and dressing for that special evening. Parents and family members were invited to observe the Aquacade (water pageant) on the last day of camp, when girls demonstrated their swimming and canoeing skills, and traditionally tossed the camp director into the lake.
The camp facilities deteriorated during the mid-1970s, causing the number of campers to diminish. It was cleaned and repaired in 1978, but closed in 1984 and was sold in 1985. The camp is private property today.
For nearly 50 years, at least two generations of young women gathered beneath the trees of Camp Betty Hastings, sang camp songs, made friends, snapped photos, swam, hiked, swapped stories, paddled canoes, slept in sleeping bags, and cooked stew over a fire. At home, they pasted their photos into an album to remind them, years later, of their days as a Camp Betty Hastings girl.