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The Camp Takodah Bells

Ryan Reed — April 24, 2016
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(As shared by Uncle JEF Craig and Yo-Bob Vreeland, April 13, 2016)

In 1983, I began to feel a need for a new challenge, and just before the summer of 1994, we found ourselves along with Bob and Madeline Vreeland, Takodah’s first live-in Maintenance Director, at Brandywine Valley Y Camps, consisting of three camps and a conference center. Promises made were not fulfilled, and it looked like moving forward we would not be given the resources and support needed to make the program and facility the quality operation it could have become. I suggested Philadelphia Y close the camps and sell the property based on the Associations lack of support, and left to become the Executive Director of Camp Hi-Rock/Bear Rock of the Bridgeport CT YMCA. Yo-Bob Vreeland stayed for the next season of camp and was involved in shutting it down, before becoming the Camping Services Director of the Springfield, MA YMCA.

As Brandywine Camps were being closed, Yo-Bob remembered Buffalo Bob’s strong desire to replace Takodahs old iron bell hung in the crotch of a tree to the side of cabin 14, with a big brass bell. Each year that wish had been passed over for other priorities. Each of the Brandywine camps had beautiful old brass bells, and after asking the powers that be, Bob acquired all three. One was to go to the Springfield MA YMCA Camp where Bob was moving as Camping Services Director, one was to come to Camp Hi-Rock of the Bridgeport CT YMCA, where I was Branch Executive Director, and one would be given to Takodah.

The Takodah installation plan as carried out, was to honor Buffalo who had passed away on November 20, 1985 and surprise the entire 1986 pre-camp maintenance crew by slipping into camp in the dead of night, placing the post into a pre-dug hole with the bell attached, and securing the post without being detected. Yo-Bob had prearranged with an unnamed Takodian who was sworn to secrecy, working on the pre-camp maintenance crew, to dig the hole for the post. Bob came to Hi-Rock late evening in early June of 1986, and together we traveled to Takodah and got there around 11:00 PM. We drove the truck with lights off down May Lane to where the bell pole is currently beside cabin 10. All lights were off in camp we placed the pole in the pre-dug hole and determined for the right height we would need to cut the timber. We loaded the timber into the truck again and silently drove out of camp with the lights off. We drove down route 119, past the Four Corners, several miles to the middle of nowhere. We cut the timber with a chain saw Bob had brought, secured the bell arms and bell to the timber, and repeated the drive back to the bell site. We were able to secure the timber and make it back out of camp without detection.

Both of us felt someone would be calling to ask if we knew anything but we never heard from anyone. Neither Bob nor I mentioned anything about the bell to Takodah staff.

As we left Camp Hi-Rock after a successful 5-year stay to come back to the Cheshire County YMCA and Camp Takodah, the Branch Board and the Bridgeport Metropolitan YMCA Association decided to take down the Bell we had brought from Philadelphia, screwed on a plaque honoring our time with them, and gave it to us as a memento. We brought it to Takodah, and it sat on the backbench of the Birches office. As I retired, I shared the above story with Willy Therrien, asking that the bell stay at Takodah, and be used if and when needed.

As the North Village came to be, I was warmed when visiting one day to see that Willy had arranged to remove the plaque, and mount the bell for North Village use. That is the bell that is currently in use today.