Camp of the Crooked Creek remembered
Ceremony Saturday unveils historic marker at former Boy Scout camp
Today there may not be any Boy Scouts splashing in the swimming hole or gathering around a campfire in Morningside Park, but for Harry Bruce and thousands of former Scouts, the area has special meaning.
The story begins in the 1920s when the Scouts camped in the area with permission of the valley owners, the Lennox family. Considered an ideal location for a Scout camp and only 15 miles from Toronto, the Scouts purchased 100 acres of the land and named the area Camp of the Crooked Creek. A Scout, who won a competition to name the camp, named it after the crooked creek winding through Highland Creek Valley.
The camp included a 50-by-50 foot campfire pavilion, complete with a stone pillar fireplace and steel smoke canopy, a chapel and a swimming hole, created by damming the creek, and a lodge.
Bruce was there almost from the beginning.
"My first experience was as a wolf cub in 1939," the 75-year-old Bruce recalls. "When I camped there, it was very remote."
Getting to the camp in those days wasn't easy.
Bruce took a bus to Kingston Road from Toronto and made a two-mile hike to get to the camp which formed a large portion of what is today Morningside Park. The park's rough boundaries are Ellesmere Road to the north, Morningside Avenue to the east and Orton Park Road to the west.
In those days, Bruce said, Scarborough was strictly farmland with a few villages and hamlets.
The camp had a profound impact on Bruce and his development as a youngster.
"There are many, many fond memories of the times we had down there," he said.
Some of his fond memories include camping in the area during the Easter weekend and seeing wildlife in the area such as white tailed deer. He also recalls fishing in Highland Creek.
Over the years thousands of Cubs and Scout lit their first camp fire, cooked their first camp meal, spent their first night under the stars and learned their first woodcraft skills in the camp that they used year-round.
Crooked Creek shrunk in 1963 when the Scouts sold roughly 46 acres in the north to make way for the Scarborough Centenary Hospital.
The 1950s and 1960s also brought other changes to the camp as civilization slowly encroached, bringing subdivisions and conflict.
"Once the housing started going in, we had difficulty with our neighbours," Bruce said. "They complained about the smoke from the campfires and the noise."
By 1968 the camp was closed and the Metropolitan Toronto Region Conservation Authority took over the camp and melded it together with other land to become Morningside Park.
Today Bruce and a group of former Scouts, known as the "old goat patrol", join together and hold barbecues in Morningside Park and reminisce about the good times they had.
They hope others will join them in commemorating the good times at the unveiling of a historic sign at the western most part of Morningside Park on Saturday, June 24 at 10:30 a.m. Access to the occasion can be gained by passing through the park's Morningside Avenue entrance and it will take place near the third parking lot. A number of honoured guests will be on hand for the unveiling.
Camp of the Crooked Creek site in the movies
In Summer 2011, the site of the Camp of the Crooked Creek was used for the making of a movie called 'I Declare War'. This featured twelve children playing a game of war in a forest. The story is told through the lens of their imagination. Guns are real. Killing is real. It's like Stand By Me meets Full Metal Jacket.
Crooked Creek Remembered
Planned design for the commemorative plaque to be dedicated in the former Scout campground scheduled for June 24, 2006. The wording was originally to be 'Crooked Creek Scout Camp', but it was finally decided to use the formal name 'Camp of the Crooked Creek'
CAMP OF THE CROOKED CREEK 1936-1968