Camp Woody 70’s Year by Year 1975-1977

Introduction to Parts One and Two:

When I wrote the other articles in this series on Camp Woody, I wrote from the perspective of a “camp kid” who first came to Woody as a kid of three, and finally grew old enough to be a camper. But from 1970 to 1977, I was a staff member in various capacities, and in 1978 I served on the camp board.  It is not easy to write about myself as a camp staff member, because I want to avoid patting myself on the back in any way. I will limit my comments to what I learned from serving at camp, and how it felt to be there working with the many wonderful volunteers who kept the place running. It’s up to someone else to describe what it was like to be on the receiving end of the ministry there during that time. So I will try to write down what it was like at Camp Woody in the 70’s from the perspective of a full-time summer volunteer there for eight years. This article covers my first five years officially on staff, from 1970 to 1974. For more Camp Woody memories and lots of great photos, follow the Camp Woody logo link at the bottom of this article.

Below: Four photos from my square-format 120 Yashica MAT reflex camera, shot in glorious Kodak Verichrome and developed between camps in my portable darkroom at Camp Woody.

Camp Woody 70’s Year by Year

Part Two: A Photo Diary of 1975 to 1977

Written by Timothy Smith in 2006, Revised 2020

1975: A High Point of Fun and Friendship

As a kid who grew from “camp brat” to camper to staff member, I remember a few key seasons as being especially significant. The revival we experienced in the summer of 1971 was one such time. But for me, 1975 was a high point in friendship and fun. We really had a special time in the summer of 1975. The staff was as close as I had ever seen, and more new counselors became a part of the camp family. But for me something clicked that year, and not just because I got to know my future wife Debbie! There was more maturity in my experience, and I felt more comfortable leading the Bible teaching in the Senior High camp and leading the music. 

Kelly and I had a great time leading singing, even though we no longer had anyone else to form a group sound. We recorded our music several times that year, laying down most of our solo songs in the chapel and most of our sing-along songs with a very energetic group of Junior High kids in the dining hall. While certainly not great recordings, those tapes remind me of what a vast collection of really great songs we had amassed since guitar-based “Jesus Music” took over in the summer of 1971. The links posted later in this article give some sound samples, if you’re curious.

Perhaps I also loved the summer of 1975 because I had worked with several of the staff before, and already had strong friendships with them.  As had happened the previous year, friendships were formed that have lasted the rest of my life.  Larry Le Doux was back, as was Bruce Adams, and the repeat service helped to form a stronger bond for me. Larry’s intellect and humor kept my mind sharp.  And Bruce’s emotional and spiritual maturity helped to keep my own emotions in check.  A new addition that year was Cody Custer, who not only fit right in but came back to Kodiak for the next two years.  Cody’s energy and playfulness was a great contrast to the more sober-minded style of Bruce and Larry.  Cody helped to keep my energy level up, and he had by far the most contagious sense of humor.  I still feel that those three are like my brothers. Incidentally, Larry, Bruce, Cody and my brother Kelly called themselves “Frog, Toad, Wart and Hair” that year.

On the ladies’ side of the staff, three marvelous and beautiful women came to help us (and probably helped to moderate the male gawkiness that we had in abundance).  Kathy Arita and Diane Chestnut were sweet people, hard workers with a gentle spirit that ministered to campers and staff alike.  The other new counselor, Diane’s best friend Debbie Sullens, was simply the most spectacular young woman I had ever met, with a kind, patient nature, and abundant good humor. She was quiet but not shy, with a mature competence in any situation, including the inevitable “camper chaos,” such as when a bunch of kids came down with the stomach flu. Before the end of the summer, I knew that Debbie was someone I wanted to know considerably better!

Unfortunately, 1975 was also the last year that the Bokos would be at Camp Woody. Their departure from the scene left a big hole in Camp Woody, but in the summer of 1975, none of us knew that was coming. Since I was growing more mature (by small stages, to be sure) I began to see how special the dedication of the Bokos and my parents and people like Beryl Torsen and Dee Dee Bailey really was. These were all wonderful examples of servanthood and dedication to the cause of Christ, committed to passing on the good news of Jesus to younger generations.  What an example to follow!

1975 was a blast. There was a large percentage of returning campers that year, some of whom we had known for years. The campers benefited from seeing the returning staff again, but soon made deep friendships with the new counselors. Good weather, good camps, good company and a wonderful place to spend a summer!  I was always aware of how wonderful it was to be on Woody Island at the camp all summer, but every now and then the “specialness” of it was almost overpowering. Even then I knew that I was having the best young adulthood anyone could hope to have. 

We did weird things like bringing an abandoned FAA outhouse (replete with orange and white paint) back to camp just for the heck of it, and searching through every Quonset hut on Long Island. Even the challenging things like the “beef on tap” episode recounted in the 70’s Memories article, and the stomach flu outbreak in one of the camps could not blot out the satisfaction of that very successful season. For the previous three years I had moved my darkroom from Ouzinkie to Woody every spring, and I took photos of every thing that moved that summer!  I made and gave away hundreds of photos (see four examples at the beginning of this article). Campers were always pleased to get photos that came from camp. I’m sure all was not sweetness and light–it hardly ever  is—but so much about that summer was especially (for lack of a better word) fun. 

The following season was to be one of the most difficult we had ever faced, but for a season the camp was an oasis of friendship, adventure, and spiritual growth on our road to adulthood.  As always, I’m speaking from my own perspective, but 1975 for me was the ultimate balance of service and enjoyable surroundings, of spiritual growth amid youthful adventure.

A 1975 Photo Album:

Top: Senior High camp, 1975 (Joe Ritchie photo). Bottom: Junior High camp (Cody Custer photo). So many wonderful people, and I wish I could name them all!

Top Left: Diane, Debbie, Janette, Oscar the dog, Kathy with Joe Ritchie in front. Top Right: A cabin group of high school boys gang up on Emil Norton, Jr. (Center right). Bottom Left: A cabin group of great boys. The one holding the trash can is Mat Freeman, behind him is Jon Le Doux, and the guy holding the cow skull is Jimmy Challiak.  Bottom Right: Debbie sits on a picnic table surrounded by campers, while my brother Kelly sits in front.

Top: I love the concern on the campers’ faces for this injured seagull that Cody is holding! Middle Left: a lively beach volleyball game from a window in the main building, looking toward the chapel. Center Right: Debbie collects firewood on Sawmill Beach. Bottom: an outdoor concert by “Tim and Kelly.” We had no mic stands, and so a couple of sticks and cinder blocks had to work. The campers really loved to sing that summer!

An Excursion to Long Island to Explore Fort Tidball! Top Left: There were too many high school campers for the Evangel to make a single trip, so Bill Torsen helped with his Voyager, which dwarfs the Evangel at the Woody dock. Top Right: Cody Custer shot this photo of the Evangel unloading campers from the Voyager’s deck. Bottom: the campers enjoy a quick game of touch football before heading out to explore.

Top Left: The north coastal battery at Castle Bluff. Top Right: The south coastal battery, where I pose with a couple of campers (Debbie Sullens photo). Center Left: climbing the old radar tower is a shaky rite of passage (Debbie photo). Center Right: Debbie, Cody, Diane, and Joe pose atop the radar tower. Bottom Left: Margo and Oscar the dog explore a Quonset hut. Bottom Right: a “Field Layout” poster found in a partially collapsed Quonset. The poster is now at the Kodiak Military Museum.

After the last camp of the season, four guys and Oscar the dog spent a few nights camping and exploring on Long Island. Top Left: Kelly and Larry enjoy a campfire. Right: Oscar and Larry explore a searchlight and machine gun bunker on the south end. Bottom: we wore poor Oscar out! (An eagle landed on Larry’s back and then knocked over a cooking pot, stealing our bacon!)

Left: a fantastic summer staff: Rear L to R is Tim, Kelly, and Larry. Front L to R is Diane, Debbie, Cody, Kathy, and Bruce. Right: Debbie and Tim at the end of our first summer.

1976: The Summer of Challenges

Left: Marianne Boko and Cody Custer (pictured) work on a series of signposts on the trail to camp, featuring Bible verses. Gabie Boko poses in front of the finished sign, featuring John 14:6.  Cody Custer photos

The Rebuild Challenge! Scenes of the dining hall and cabin one being drywalled. Right: in a moment of levity, Larry poses with a destroyed tape measure. We also accidentally left a hammer somewhere in the walls!

The most difficult summer I ever experienced at Camp Woody was the 1976 season.  The camp board had decided to upgrade the dining hall, kitchen and Cabin One (the downstairs of the main camp building) by replacing the ancient Cellotex with new drywall and paint.  The camp schedule was adjusted to allow a few weeks for the remodeling job. Unfortunately, as frequently happens in an all-volunteer outfit, when the time came to put up the sheetrock, there were no volunteers. Larry Le Doux, my younger brother Kelly, and I were the primary workers for days on end. Bruce Adams and Cody Custer were also in town, but divided up their time with us because they also had jobs at the cannery run by Emil Norton, Sr. I knew that drill, and had regularly worked furiously in the canneries for a few weeks after camp to earn money for college (see my “Cannery Work” article.) Others occasionally came and went, and their help was substantial.  But the three of us lived there at the disemboweled camp the whole time, working until the wee hours, eating poorly, then getting up to do it all again. Neither Kelly nor I had done that type of construction before, and we all felt enormous pressure to finish on time. Dad was there when his schedule permitted, and was more likely than any of us to cook a decent meal, but in the absence of the Bokos, he was doing all of the water and heating system repairs himself, as well as running all the supply trips to town.

Of all the helpers and part-time helpers, Larry was almost always the only one on hand with any real construction experience, and we were fortunate to have him.  For Larry worked kind of like a tornado, and also knew what he was doing!  What he lacked in finesse he more than made up in creativity and energy. Granting that we were mostly under-experienced and in a bit of a hurry, we actually did a pretty good job of it all. There were frayed power saw cords, frayed nerves, a hammer lost in the wall and patience lost by all. Once after a particularly long day, I think I actually asked Larry to just execute me, only partly in jest!   

Finally we got the walls back in reasonable shape, and a nice Lutheran guy came over for several days to mud them (he taught me how to do it). I honestly don’t remember who helped us paint (including sanding and painting the floors for the first time ever). When it was all finished, the place was sparkly and new, and we were reasonably proud of ourselves. I think most of our work is still in evidence. But the toll on all of us, emotionally and spiritually, was enormous.  I began the camping season essentially exhausted. 

It took awhile for the exhaustion to be replaced with the old fire and enthusiasm, but eventually the joy of working with the campers replaced the frustration of construction and deadlines. The photos that I took that summer show a bustling, happy place, with lots of great goings-on as usual. There are many happy memories of another successful season on Woody Island. But I felt as though I was a little less effective than I had been before, and needed some spiritual refreshing myself. I know that there were little tensions among the staff that really shouldn’t have been there, and the tone of the joking and teasing had an edge that sometimes wasn’t conducive to the spiritual health of the camp. Yet the power of God was still present, and He worked in us and through us. I don’t think any of this dampened the campers’ spirits, because many of them have told me that 1976 was one of their favorite years. The camping experience was as meaningful as ever, but for me the main lesson from that summer was that God works through weak and imperfect servants. I know that’s always been true, but the lesson came home full force in the summer of 1976.

There were some outstanding, happy times in that summer. One of the special memories of 1976 includes going with Bruce Adams to a bunker on Long Island and singing into a portable tape recorder.  We carted my Gibson 12-string and a portable mono cassette recorder to the first bunker at the far end of Dolgoi Lake and recorded my best ever version of the Wilson McKinley’s “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”  Those great words, “Let not your heart be troubled, His gentle voice I hear, and resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears…” absolutely soared in that great dark hole. For a few minutes, a dank World War II ammunition dump became a cathedral of praise. 

I greatly appreciated having Bruce there at Camp Woody for most of the summer, since he and I had gotten to be very close friends. He had been a counselor in 1974 and 1975 as well, and in the winter months had often provided me with a place to stay when my college closed down during holidays. 1976 was to be the last summer of his involvement at camp, but he was by then a lifelong friend. His “even keel” temperament was helpful in bringing me back to plumb on numerous occasions! Our paths still cross whenever we can arrange it, and he has helped me on many music projects since the early 1980’s.  We stayed at his home in 1996 when Debbie and I first visited Kodiak with our family. Another cool thing that summer was that Travis North, counselor from 1969 to 1972, came back to Alaska to work at the Mission that summer. He brought his wife Carol, on her first trip to Kodiak.  Travis was busy putting sheetrock in the buildings at the Mission that summer, or he would have helped us at Woody.  But they broke free occasionally to come to camp and visit, and it was great to see him back at his old stomping grounds. And he took some wonderful slides, as usual!

That summer turned out to be good for music!  I had scrounged a marginal old Concertone reel to reel machine somewhere in California the previous winter, and it allowed us to record fairly reliably in stereo. “If that thing’s not running at the right speed this time, I’ll blow it up!” can be heard between a couple of songs. Kelly and I put together a makeshift recording studio in the dining hall (one snatch of talking between takes has us asking Mom not to start sweeping!) and recorded several songs that I had written. We also recorded a complete set of our camp songs with the dining hall full of enthusiastic Junior High kids. Kelly and I had now worked together for four straight summers, and the list of songs we had accumulated (starting with John Hicks’ 1971 originals) was impressive. Tom Stipe’s “Stagecoach” and the theme from Johnny Cash’s “Gospel Road” were among the campers’ favorites. With music so much a part of our lives at camp, it’s surprising we never invested in good equipment. On the other hand, it was never about performance, but about putting the song and its meaning front and center.  The recordings never captured the essence of camp music, and besides, recording wasn’t what we were there for.  But we sure had terrific songs!

We also made some cool trips in the Evangel that summer, taking the staff between camps to visit our home in the village of Ouzinkie, and taking the older campers to Long Island.  It was wonderful to have the use of that old boat! But Dad had recently gotten word of his impending retirement (not a voluntary move on his part) and he had to spend some of his time that summer in Ouzinkie, where he was arranging for other employment and for a possible move from the village. Thankfully, that move away never materialized, and Dad was able to spend the rest of his life in Ouzinkie among the people he loved. He found work running the village water system and power plant, and had the contract to deliver freight from the post office to the airstrip for many years. But all these changes meant that he was not with us as much as in previous years.  Mom Joyce was able to spend the summer with us, even when Dad was away. We certainly felt his absence, no one more than Mom. That summer made me realize the great investment of time that folks like Norman and Joyce Smith and the Bokos had made in Camp Woody.  This was the first summer without the Bokos, and that also added to the difficulties we experienced.

But I need to mention another, much happier event from that summer.  Debbie Sullens and I had been getting steadily more interested in each other since the previous summer when she had been a counselor.  We had been writing to each other all summer.  Naturally, I was delighted when she decided to come up to camp to visit us again.  She arrived late in the camp season, and stayed until mid-August.  I proposed and she accepted during the Women’s Retreat, and oh, what cooing and fussing those women made over us!  It was a happy ending to a challenging year, and added yet another dimension to the changes that were taking place.  

The summer of 1976 ended with yet another successful season.  Considering how it had started, that was surely a “God thing.” It had started out rough, but there was still that unmistakable blessing of spending a summer with rambunctious kids on a gorgeous Alaskan island.  I was privileged to be working with my brother and parents, and with lifelong friends like Larry and Bruce as well.  We’d had a hand in upgrading the facilities, we’d played a lot of great music and hiked to a lot of beautiful places.  But our goal, as always, was to see young people drawn closer to God.  That is what happened.  And that is what Camp Woody is all about.  

A Scrapbook of 1976 Photos:

These Photos Would Look No Different in Color! Left: Some camps had a little more rain in 1976 than in some years, but we had campfires and hikes and activities anyway.  Right: kids create a makeshift teeter-totter. This is Chabitnoy Beach, always a favorite of campers. The kids always said that they could be stuck at home in the rain, and camp was way better! Camp Woody has often turned a tired old phrase on its head, proving that “Into every rain a little life must fall!”

Our great staff ladies, 1976: Michelle, Linda and Sue.  They were hard working, encouraging and cheerful, in a year that had more than its share of challenges and transitions. The  guy staff was Larry, Bruce, and me, in our third year together. These women undoubtedly went through more difficulties than they should, due to the pressures the camp faced that year.

Top: Larry patiently cooks a doughboy over a very smoky fire that seems to be bothering some of the campers! The smoke indicates wet wood, the bane of our existence on those rainy days! (Travis North photo) Bottom: Michelle surrounded by campers is one of my favorite photos from 1976.

Camp Visits Long Island and Fort Tidball in 1976. Top Left: Rev. Norman Smith brings the Evangel right up to the shore in Cook Bay. Top Right: Kelly helps unload campers using the camp’s new Boston Whaler skiff. Left: This mid-70’s photo shows why we spent less and less time around the barracks area. Every year there was more vandalism and demolition evident. Far up into the hills and cliffs, there were still a lot of unmolested buildings from the old military fort.

The old radar tower on Castle Bluff always caught everyone’s imagination. Left: a view up the ladder from the base. Middle: a view down the center freight elevator shaft from the top. Right: Debbie Sullens nears the top in 1975.

There were lots of “parts missing” on that tower, and it was not very safe. It was a shaky, arduous climb, and there were bragging rights for folks who made it to the top. Below: The 1976 portrait from the top. L to R: Felicia, Veronica, Michelle, Linda. Seated: Vicki

Top Left: the entrance to a bomb shelter on Deer Point, looking down from the earthen berm built up in front of the entrance. Top Right: the open doorway into the shelter,  a huge metal can in the hillside. Bottom: campers explore the south coastal battery on Castle Bluff. The guns were actually maintained until the mid-40’s, and then dynamited in place. The huge cast iron housing sits almost where it used to be. The interior of the fort has many rooms, passages, and a central stairway.

Left: The Deer Point ammunition bunker in 1969, one of three on Long Island. In 1976, Bruce, I and my 12-string went to one of these and sang a few songs into a portable cassette recorder. In 1996, Bruce posed for me in the bunker where we recorded. The acoustics resemble a cathedral!

Right: The great 1976 staff. Back row L-R: Bruce, Larry, Tim. Front row L-R: Sue, Michelle, Linda, and Oscar the camp dog.

Below: A lovely slide by Debbie of the Evangel and its new Whaler skiff heading to Kodiak.

Smith Family Changes:

Top: In July, 1976, Debbie Sullens came back to Camp Woody for a visit, and in mid-August, during a women’s retreat, Debbie and I got engaged! But other developments were far less joyful. My father, Rev. Norman Smith, who along with Joyce and a few others had helped to found Camp Woody, was “retired” from his position as Baptist missionary. That meant his future involvement with camp would be limited, since he now had to seek other employment and a possible move from their home in Ouzinkie. Below Left: my parents in 1975 at Sawmill Beach, Kari Wasson in the background (photo by Cody Custer). Right: in 1976 eating a doughboy and in a deep conversation (photo by Travis North). Their involvement in 1977 would be limited, and would end that year.

1977: An Ending and a Beginning

My last summer at camp is a bit of a blur. There is more of a bittersweet emotional memory of that year, bitter because I sensed it was to be my last season there, and sweet because the glorious chaos of a thriving youth camp was all around me. I knew it was bound to be my last summer there, because I was now a year out of college, I had been working all winter in Kodiak, and I was about to get married at the end of the camp season. It was, nevertheless, one of the more enjoyable summers I spent at Camp Woody, and it was especially smooth after the multiple struggles of the 1976 season. I was a bit distracted I’m sure with the prospect of getting married, and I hope I did a good job that summer.  But it was a sweet and pleasant camp season, and I tried to savor every minute. I had been a full-time camp staff member for the previous seven years, and there’s no way I could ever give back what that place had given me. I had grown from being a toddler at Camp Woody’s first season in 1956 to a tax paying, career seeking young adult about to spread his wings and fly away. Such facts gave me some long thoughts that summer, and I was happy to have the warm community of campers and staff around me at such a time.

The original stalwarts of past years were slowly drifting away. Bruce and Cody were in Kodiak working, and were not on staff that summer (although they visited when they could). The Bokos were long gone. And worst of all, my Dad, Rev. Norman Smith, was struggling through his first summer in forced “retirement,” weighing his options (including taking a pastorate in some small church in the states) and working for the village of Ouzinkie. Dad was able to work his hours so that he was with us for several days at a time, and he used the Evangel to transport kids to camp all summer, but he wasn’t around on a daily basis. Mom Joyce served as camp manager and nurse, but it was different and strange; the Smith family’s involvement in the camp they helped to build was entering its last chapter.

There were good people on the counseling staff that year, including Jeannette from California and Lorie who later moved to Kodiak. But I didn’t feel as though I got to know anyone as well as I could have. We still had our share of adventures. During Senior High camp, we got to make our annual trek to Long Island. I roped a bunch of kids into going down to that previously-used recording site, the bunker at the end of Dolgoi Lake, and we sang a couple of great songs together into a cheap cassette recorder. “Father I Adore You” and “The All Day Song” sounded like a choir of angels in that dank, dark old concrete cave. And it was always fun to play tour guide to the new staff, showing them all the cool stuff the army had left behind when the war passed Fort Tidball by.

Then between camps, Dad took the whole staff in the Evangel to old Afognak village, abandoned after the Tidal Wave. Dad tried to find film for me in Kodiak, but no one had any more rolls of 120 Verichrome (or 120 anything), so I went on what should have been a marvelous photo safari with nothing but my eyes and brain. We were very respectful of the old buildings, but I did go into the attic of the vacant Russian Orthodox Church and viewed the unique log and wood-slat construction of the ceiling. It was solemn and sad to see such a beautiful log church sitting vacant and unusable right on the edge of the beach. That trip to old Afognak was a powerful event, a visit to a real ghost town, abandoned as the result of the Tidal Wave and subsidence of 1964. 

The journey across Marmot Bay and back to Woody was to be the last great voyage of the Evangel. It made a few more trips to Ouzinkie before it was unofficially retired in the late 1970’s, victim of the fact that Norman Smith was now too busy working to use it or to pay the insurance needed to haul passengers. The boat was also expensive to run and maintain, and my parents were in the process of buying Baker Cottage in Ouzinkie from their former employers, and so the boat lost out. The camp board, struggling to maintain their own ragtag collection of buildings on Woody Island, could never have taken on the expense of maintaining and using the Evangel themselves, if they could have found someone to run it. As strange as it may seem to me, who lived and traveled aboard it part of every summer from 1953 to 1964, the Evangel was only a tool, and my parents, who ran it for years, were now stuck with a limited budget and a struggle to make ends meet, forced out of the Camp Woody universe by their change in employment.

The Evangel  as a working, usable vessel met a rather un-dramatic, un-poetic end. Dad was now working full time in Ouzinkie. Although he and Mom kept their ministry going there with regular chapel services and youth programs, Dad could never find dependable people to help watch over the Evangel. There was neither time nor money to care for the boat, and four decade-old wooden boats do not do well without regular maintenance. A few years later, sagging and waterlogged, it was removed from the boat harbor, eventually ending up in someone’s yard as a makeshift museum. But in 1977, it was our venerable transportation to some of the most beautiful places on the north end of Kodiak Island. As strong as my emotional attachment to it may be, the fact remains that it was just an oddly-shaped old wooden boat; it was only what we used it for that made it so special to so many people. Its memory lives on in the hearts of everyone who climbed aboard it for all those trips to Camp Woody for all those years, and in the memories of all those people in the villages and canneries of Kodiak Island who knew it as the “Mission Boat.”  It had a great run! (Continued below…)

Snapshots of 1977:

Left: An abandoned lumber camp on Afognak Island in 1974. The new one is out of frame to the right. Notice the Evangel at anchor and a float plane taking off beside it. This photo has to stand in for our wonderful voyage to old Afognak village with the staff aboard the Evangel in 1977, because nobody in Kodiak had any film to fit my camera! Memories will have to do.

Left: Joyce Smith ready to board the Evangel, summer of 1977. Right:The Evangel is ready to load passengers in its last season, 1977.  Photos by Don Wells

Top: A group of hikers rest at the Arch before going on around to Sawmill Beach for lunch, summer of 1977 (one of the few photos I took that summer). Left: A poster made by a combined cabin group led by Pam (the girls) and Tim (the boys). Mat Freeman was in my cabin and is largely responsible for the multitude of puns based on “Pam, Tim, and Gang.” Favorite dinosaur? Pterodactyl. Favorite animal? Ptortoise. Favorite flowers? Ptunias. Favorite food? Ptato chips. And so on. What a blast we had that summer!

Top: I lead a bunch of campers in a sing in the BOQ (boys’ dorm) next to a fireplace donated by Darrell Chaffin. Bottom: a composite photo of Kelly (left) and Tim playing music at Camp Woody in 1977. We seem to be just relaxing here. By this time, Kelly and I had led music together at camp for five years. In 2000, Kelly played and sang on several tracks of my “Stone Table String Band” CD, available at this site. Don Wells supplied these photos.

For Lots of Sound Samples and Stories About Our Music, Click Below:

Left: Mat Freeman waves the flag. Hopefully that was his shirt? Right: On the same beach hike, I became the “Counselor from the Black Lagoon” thanks to a hat of seaweed.  These random shots speak to a fine time being had by all!

Top Left: L to R: Burl, Georgette, Maid of Honor Diane Chestnut, Rev. Norman Smith, minister and Father of the Groom, Larry Le Doux, Best Man, and a little corner of Kelly. Top Right: Lori Weisser (at the pump organ) and the bridal party look on as my brother Kelly plays my camp  “flower” guitar and sings Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song.” Botton Right: Oscar, the camp dog, with his flower collar, seems to bow his head during the prayer. (Top two photos are from Marian Paden. The rest are from our wedding book by Roger Page)

A Wedding at Woody: Debbie and Tim, 8/19/77

At the end of the camping season, my own great adventure began, when my fiancé Debbie came to town with her parents, and other friends such as Carol Chapman (1974) and Diane Chestnut (1975) began to arrive.  The Smith family was ending their careers at camp with a flourish: we were planning the first and only wedding at Camp Woody.  After the last campers had gone, the dining hall was transformed into a flower shop and bakery, as various friends from Kodiak assembled bouquets and wedding cake, and prepared the reception menu. When the day finally arrived, what a strange looking group of men accompanied me down the trail at Tanignak Park: Larry, my best man, was dressed in a stunning dark brown suit.  Bruce and Cody and my brother Kelly were also dressed to the nines. Quite a change from the “Frog, Toad, Wart and Hair” of 1975!  Lori Weisser, frequent camper and staff member, played the pump organ so Mom could be the Mother of the Groom. Debbie’s bridesmaids were quite a bit more color coordinated than my guys. Janet and Georgette from California, and Lorie from that summer’s counselor staff were bridesmaids, and Diane Chestnut, Debbie’s best friend, who had served at Woody in the 1975 season, was her Maid of Honor.  

A white cloth runner was stretched diagonally from the Inspiration Point trail through the trees to the wedding site, and chairs and benches had been scrounged from the chapel and cabins. My meager PA system and microphones were set up thanks to a couple of long extension cords that stretched to the old light plant shed. It was a gray day, and in fact we nearly canceled (to regroup at the Community Baptist Church) but at the last minute the rain stopped.  You could still hear drops of water hitting the microphones from time to time.  That and the fact that Larry lost my ring in the moss for a few minutes (to tell me about much later) made it a typical Woody adventure. But the slightly foggy air gave those tall trees in Tanignak Park a cathedral-like quality, and the lake sparkled just beyond the trees, making for a spectacular event.

Debbie appeared, looking absolutely glorious against the mossy forest in her lovely white gown, walking down the runner with her dad Burl. My Dad in his old black suit began the ceremony.  I remember that I tried to sing a song at one point (I don’t recommend it at your own wedding).  Kelly did much better singing for us! Then Dad spoke in his understated, simple way, that deep, calm voice echoing through the trees. We said our vows and the ceremony ended, and we walked up the white runner to the road. Enough people to fill the dining hall had come from town to share our moment, and soon we were seated at the benches (in suits and gowns and everything) to eat a fabulous spread of local delicacies. Then Debbie went up to the ramp that went to cabin 4 and 5 and threw her bouquet, and we were off on the Evangel to catch our plane.  I don’t think I ever got to take another trip on the Evangel again, and from what I’m told, ours was the first wedding at Camp Woody. It was an amazing day, and the Smith family concluded their long run as camp staff with a grand celebration!

Some Photos of Our Day:

Left: Shirley Le Doux (Larry’s mom), Mother of the Bride, Edith Sullens, and Mother of the Groom, Joyce Smith gather under the trees, ready to get walked in. If you look closely, you can see water droplets on the spruce boughs—just another Kodiak day! Right: Larry walks Edith to her seat, while the wedding party and Burl Sullens, Father of the Bride (behind a small tree) wait on the upper trail. (Left photo is from Marian Paden)

Right: We leave the service and go to the dining hall reception, all smiles. That day our wedding song could have been, “Wait a minute, it stopped raining…” We’re followed by Diane and Larry, Georgette, and Kelly. Dad stands watching between the trees.

Left: Debbie and I examine all the wonderful dishes (I’m bending over a tray of lovely salmon perok), joined by Lorie and Georgette. On the other side of the table, groomsmen Cody and Bruce have changed back into camp clothes in record time! At the end of the table, Edith, my new Mother-In Law, looks on.

An Epilogue of Sorts

It’s been over four decades now since the summer of 1977.  The following summer I was working full time, trying to get enough money so that Debbie and I could move to California to find better work.  I had tried many avenues of employment, and found none that were good career moves. (Ironically, I had done a couple of years of substitute teaching by then, and just knew that teaching wasn’t for me.  Twelve years later I joined the staff of Montclair High School as a teacher, and retired in 2018 after 29 years there!) I got over to camp only once or twice in the summer of 1978, but I served on the camp board, and did what I could.  I was pretty sure that I would never get to serve at Woody again.  Thankfully, that proved not to be the case.  

I got to visit several times in the 1990’s, including helping with music and serving as camp chaplain in 1998. Then in 2006, I not only was able to help with music and be a chaplain again, but was the director of Camp Woody’s Fiftieth reunion! The following year, I helped with music and served as chaplain, but out of their desperate need was asked to be a counselor for a group of rambunctious high school guys. We almost burned out little cabin on the hill down, and naturally every last one of those boys had toxic socks! Finally, in 2012, I got to return one more time to help dedicate the newly-built camp worship center as “Smith Chapel,” dedicated jointly to my parents who helped to found the camp, and to Evan Jones, Sr., who helped to get the chapel built. For some of my more recent camp experiences, please see the camp index page links below.

Above: a lovely sunset sky over Mirror Lagoon, looking across Chiniak Bay towards Barometer Mountain, at about 10:30 PM in early July, 1976 (Travis North photo). The photo illustrates the never-ending beauty of Woody Island. But there has been a never-ending stream of wonderful Christian volunteers, who have helped and will help to continue Camp Woody’s legacy for as long as God wills. 1977 marked the end of the Smith family’s full-time involvement with Camp Woody, after twenty-five years of leadership in Christian camping in the Kodiak area. We are grateful for whatever part we were able to play, and for the privilege of service in such a wonderful place with such amazing people, both staff and campers. Thank You!

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