YMCA of the Chippewa Valley
The YMCA has impacted thousands of lives throughout it's long history in the Chippewa Valley. Below you can find stories from YMCA member and staff who found belonging, motivation, mission, and purpose by being part of our YMCA community.
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"YMCA CAMP MANITOU: 1945 MEMORIES AND MORE" BY DAVE WEISS
It was early summer, 1945, and World War II was grinding to a finish. Having been a camper during four previous seasons, I responded to Norm Bussell’s invitation and now served on Camp Manitou’s staff. The ongoing war had claimed almost all of the able-bodied males, and although I would be only 15 in July, the camp was desperate for counselors and cabin officials. And they urgently needed a bugler.
Some personal chest surgery had delayed my start, but toward the end of June, I was ready to assume my role of bugler, kitchen steward, and assistant cabin leader. My friend and classmate Kenney Wolf, a tuba player, had been the bugler in my absence and gratefully accepted my presence.
Soon, I joined Gene Johnson in the kitchen and began my duties under the surveillance of Mr. and Mrs. Herrick who actually created the camp’s culinary offerings. Learning from Gene, I tried to follow his example, preparing and distributing food. Gene, a year older than I, was a prodigious worker and keeping up with him tested me. One of the benefits of being a kitchen steward was piling a food platter with your own heaping helping. Later, I often joked that even though I was paid one dollar per day as a worker, the camp lost money on me be because of the mountains of food I consumed.
My bugling duties started early with Reville and finished late with Taps. In between, many calls ranging from first, second, and final calls for mess hall, etc., made for an extremely structured day. No wonder Kenney was glad to see me!
Camp Manitou’s director, Norm Bussell, ran the camp with strict efficiency. During the school year, Bussell served as the Eau Claire Public School Elementary Physical Education Coordinator in addition to being the Senior High School Track & Field coach. Somewhat resembling Bob Hope, Bussell alternately could be stone-faced funny or bitingly serious. But no one ever questioned who ran Camp Manitou.
Soon I found myself the sole leader of Hayes cabin as the official mentor, Trygve “Trig” Pedersen, seldom was present. The legendary Pedersen, a former Eau Claire Blugold college basketball star in the mid-1930’s, had returned from the war, fighting the remains of “Jungle Rot,” a varying skin condition troops suffered in tropical climates. Pedersen and another camp official, Julius J. Dinger, had been members of the famed 32nd “Red Arrow” infantry division which eventually secured New Guinea, setting the stage for liberating the Philippine Islands. Dinger had enlisted early as a private and came out a captain. These WWII veterans were the only privileged people who escaped Bussell’s strict attendance requirements…
More of Dave's story will be share in September 2022!