Decades of history was on display inside the dining hall at Camp Boyhaven in Milton on Saturday: camp patches from the 1940s, neckerchiefs from the 1960s and staff photos from the 1990s.
The camp dates back to 1924, but memorabilia from before the 1940s is hard to find, according to the camp’s unofficial historian, Joe Berlant.
Camp alumni gathered in groups and caught up on each other’s lives, reconnecting with old friends to tell favorite stories of their time on the nearly 400-acre campus: swimming in Kayaderosseras Creek, hiking to Rock City Falls and the myriad ceremonies and competitions essential to any summer camp.
But there was an air of sobriety, as well.
“This is probably the last time we’ll all see each other together again,” said Paul Chiarello, 25, who attended the camp as a Boy Scout before becoming a counselor in high school.
A combination of declining attendance and a lack of resources to maintain the facilities at Boyhaven have led the Boy Scouts of America to negotiate the property’s sale to the town of Milton.
Dozens of former staff members, some dating back to the 1950s, gathered at the camp on Saturday to share memories.
“It was important for us to be here to turn the lights out,” said John Papp, a camp patriarch who first set foot on the grounds in 1973.
The event was dubbed “End of the Line,” and featured a glossy booklet with pictures of campers and staff and written tributes to Boyhaven. A patch was also made to commemorate the occasion, and read “Camp Boyhaven, End of the Line, 1924-2017.”
Drew Chesney, the camp’s most recent director, said that while he’ll miss the physical setting of Camp Boyhaven, he’s more attached to the friendships he’s made while attending and working at the camp.
“Boyhaven was the centerpiece to a lot of my friendships, and we’ll have to find a new way to get together,” said Chesney, who met his wife, Julia Chesney, at the camp. “This place, for me, it’s not about the property, it’s about the people. The activities here are nothing without the people.”
Julia Chesney, who worked at the camp as sports director, business manager and registrar from 2005-2013, agreed.
“The campers come and go, everything is so fast-paced,” she said. “But the relationships forged over the years are really special. This is where I started my family.”
While the group is not privy to negotiations between the Boy Scouts and the town, they said scout access is part of the discussion and their hope is that the grounds stay undeveloped.
Gary Guido, 75, first set foot on Camp Boyhaven in 1947 before becoming a counselor in 1952. He played a large role in developing the camp over the decades, installing power and water lines and helping with other construction projects. He still checks in on it at least once a year.
“Every year we meet up here in June and we walk through the camp,” he said. “We talk about the old times.”
For Guido, the camp is still a major part of his life, and he has trouble talking about its demise.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” he said, adding that his four sons all filtered through the camp as Boy Scouts. “I’m having a good time seeing my friends. On the other side of the coin, I wish this never happened.”
Evan Weissman, 28, worked at Boyhaven all throughout high school and has two other brothers who came through the camp as well.
“I met my best friend here, he was the best man at my wedding, and we’ve been attached ever since we came here,” said Weissman, adding that the friend in question flew in from Colorado to attend the event. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.”
Gus Boucher, another former camp director and camp patriarch, said the camp fell victim to changes in society and an increase in other youth programs.
“There’s been a lot of changes in the scouting movement, and changes in society, that have affected attendance,” he said. “There’s still a decent movement, but it needs to grow.”