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Pieces of our Past: Part 3 A Story Of Service To Takodah Across Generations

Graeme Noseworthy — March 17, 2016


The name Dickinson continues to reverberate through the air at Camp Takodah with anything from a quiet story to a mighty cheer.

Whenever you drive down the camp road, set foot upon the fields, assemble around the flag, or dive into the cool waters of the pond, you’re following the legacy of a family that not only helped found our camp, they also built and saved it in more ways than one.

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Dick Dickinson. Dick had been a friend and caretaker of camp since he was born in 1922. As we took Dicks flag-draped casket by horse-drawn carriage around camp for one last trip, I was struck by thoughts of how deep the life-long connections are that many of us have with this rustic acreage that lays in the shadow of Mount Monadnock.

Dick's Last Ride

Of course, as the large gathering of family, friends and local residents were sharing stories of ol Dick, the conversation naturally drifted to his father, Harold J. Dickinson. While Dick was a great friend, his father was a certified legend.

Harold Dickinson - 1

Throughout his 68 years of dedicated service to the Cheshire YMCA and Camp Takodah, Harold:

  • served as the associations first clerk and secretary after famously driving an open horse-and-buggy in the middle of a heavy snow storm from Richmond to Keene on December 8th, 1913, to attend our Ys earliest recorded meeting
  • helped identify and secure the first lot of property for camp and spent many a spring cutting 60-100 tons of ice-blocks from Cass Pond and storing them in sawdust so the campers could enjoy cold food, cold water and, most importantly, ice cream on those hot summer days
  • was instrumental in getting electricity into Camp in 1928 before the town of Richmond had any service of its own and later saved camp from a forest fire that broke out due to electrical wires near Friendship Lodge that had been knocked down during a storm
  • worked with his Father to build the stone fireplace that can still be seen in the Office and to move a dance hall from Royalston, MA to Camp (we now know it as Hobby Nook) and worked with his son, Dick, to plant Victory Gardens around the property during WWII
  • wrote a beautiful poem about Takodah Lake that is still read at Candlelight Ceremony from time to time.

The stories and accomplishments go on and on and once again I was inspired to dig through the Lake Street archives to see what I could find. Today, Id like to share a few pictures of Harold being awarded in 1978 for his service to the Y along with one of a few clippings I found from the Keene Sentinel in 1974 and 1980. (Click to view full size images.)

When Harold passed away in March of 1982, he stipulated in his will that in lieu of flowers, contributions should be made to the Harold J. Dickinson Campership Fund to help send underprivileged children to camp year after year.

Thank you, Harold. Thank you, Dick.

And thank you to all those from the generations past whose strong commitment, hard work and dedication to volunteerism ensured that Camp could be what it still is today: a remarkably special place that we can all enjoy.

This summer, as we gather for the Centennial, be it as campers or alumni, you will, no doubt, be regaled with stories of people like the Dickinsons. Youll see signs and plaques with their names. You’ll pass buildings that they erected. Youll walk the grounds where their footprints could once be found. Youll see your reflection in the water that they were among the first to gaze upon.

When that time comes, I hope you’ll pause for a moment and give thanks to those who came before us. For we would not have a Camp to hail without the men and women who hailed it first.

Next week, Ill share some photos of Camp when it was first being set up including an aerial shot that shows parts of the property being cleared for construction. In the meantime, if youre interested in having me find and report on something in particular or if perhaps you have a piece of our history that you’d like me to feature, Id love to hear from you.