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Gay Day Camp on Markham Hill

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

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When I was a seven-year-old Brownie, I attended Gay Day Camp in June of 1964. I remember this because I was fascinated when the nature lady showed us that if you pull a leaf off a Sassafras tree and immediately smell where the leaf was severed, it had a spicy, citrus scent. I decided to apply this knowledge and teach it to my neighbor, eight-year-old Mitch Kattan, on our walk through the woods (where the University of Arkansas Chancellor’s Residence is now located) on our way to Leverett Elementary School at the end of summer. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember exactly what a Sassafras tree or leaf looked like, so we broke off and smelled numerous kinds of leaves. We soon broke out with the worst case of poison ivy we ever had or will ever have, all over our face, eyes, hands, arms, body.

Several weeks ago, I decided to learn more about the day camp and so joined I found the culture and speech of those articles from the 1950s and 1960s entertaining. I hope you do too. Plus, if they bring back remembrances of Girl Scout day camp on Markham Hill or anywhere else, I hope those memories are sweet.

Fayetteville Arkansas Times, May 14, 1954:

Girl Scout Camp Planned in Two Eight-Day Sessions - Gay Day Camp is to be the name of the Girl Scout Camp, Fayetteville Girl Scout Council Inc, when it opens June 21. So called for the late Gay Pratt Markham, son of Mrs. Joy Pratt Markham, the camp is located at Hilltop, and was formerly the Markham Camp. Camping will be by the day, morning and afternoon periods, lunch at noon, and home in the evening. Each session runs for an eight-day course, Monday through Thursday of each week. The first session will be for Intermediate Scouts, girls from 10 to 14, and for the Fly-Up Brownies. The second session is planned for Brownie Scouts. Cookie sale proceeds and operating funds of the council are supplementing the day camp expenses and the cost for each girl per session is $3, including transportation to and from the camp, milk, program supplies, and one cookout. Capacity of the camp will be 90 girls for each of the sessions and there will be a staff of approximately 16 persons. Emphasis will be placed on living in the woods, stressing resourcefulness and initiative. There will be a camp craft, camping, and overnight hikes. Swimming will be available for those who desire, and health examinations and typhoid shots required.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 7, 1955:

Gay Day Camp Registration Is Continued - Each Scout will attend camp with a nose bag lunch, unbreakable cup, a “sit-upon”, and a pocketknife, if convenient. The activities, under proper supervision, prepare the young camper for established summer camp life either at a permanent Scout camp, or some other type of summer camp. It offers an opportunity to learn something of wildlife, crafts, camp skills, games, outdoor cookery, and dramatics.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, March 11, 1957:

Gay Day Camp Schedule Told - The fourth annual Girl Scout day camp, Gay Day Camp, will be held in July. The day camp will serve both Brownie and Intermediate Scouts and will be held at Markham Farm, as in previous years. The camp program is based on building a home in the woods, and day campers participate in many activities related to this theme. Nature study, guided by resource people from the city and the University, work with the campers. Cookouts, “overnights”, hikes, and conservation are offered. Last year archery was a popular activity, and opportunities are available to Scouts to work toward badge requirements.

Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas, May 4, 1964:

‘Gay Day Camp’ Dates told For Local Girl Scout Troops - The Girl Scout “Gay Day Camp” for 1964 will be held on the property of Mrs. Joy Pratt Markham at the end of Markham Road in Fayetteville. Camp will be held for eight days during a two-week period beginning June 8th … from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. The aim of the Camp is to provide an adventurous and interesting experience combined with fun for the girls. There will be nature hikes, bird and tree identification, cookouts, pottery making, and other outdoor crafts. Each girl will have an overnight camp out. Girls attending will wear outdoor clothing with comfortable walking shoes. They will bring a “sack lunch” (except on cookout days), a plastic bottle, drinking water, a cup, and a “sit-upon”. Milk will be furnished at the camp.

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