History of Three Links Camp Reviewed From 1958 Founding

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MI WUK VILLAGE - The Three Links Camp (also known as the California Odd Fellow-Rebekah Youth Camp) came into being as a dream for the happiness of children in 1958. Establishing the youth camp was the project of Frassie Speckert, RA president, and Donald R. Smith, grand master, in 1958-1959. For more than 40 years the camp has served both youth and adults from all sections of California. The board members were elected from the various grand bodies in California including four from Grand Lodge, three from Rebekah Assembly, and one each from the Grand Encampment, Grand LEA, Department Council and Department Association LAPM. Later youth members were added, one each from the Grand Junior Lodge and Theta Rho Assembly.

A resolution was adopted by Grand Lodge and Rebekah Assembly in 1958 to accept 23.85 acres of land in Tuolumne County from the Odd Fellows Sierra Park Recreation Association for organizing and maintaining a Youth Camp. Grand Master Smith, acting as temporary chairman, presided over the first meeting of the elected trustees and appointees from the other units of the Order. The main purpose was to form a Board of Directors, elect officers, and arrange for incorporation of the camp as a nonprofit organization. During that first meeting on June 21, 1958, officers elected were Agnes B. Altnordhoff, president; John Berryman, vice president; Ruth Akers, secretary; and Earl Chandler, treasurer. Others members of the board were Thad Smith, Robert G. Smith, elected by Grand Lodge; Kathleen Miller, elected by Rebekah Assembly; Edward Christianson, Grand Encampment; Irene Gregory, Grand LEA; William Lane, Patriarchs Militant; and Bonnie Kilgore, Dept. Association, LAPM. The last four being appointed until their annual sessions. During the Grand Encampment sessions that year, Joe Lemos replaced Brother Christianson, and Jeannette Johnson replaced Sister Kilgore on the board.

Grand Lodge Trustee Al Gommo was the legal advisor and committees were appointed to consider water, sanitation, buildings, land clearing, surveying, roads, insurance, and many other tasks.

Ground breaking ceremonies were held on July 26, 1958, under the direction of all the leaders of Odd Fellowship in California. An engraved granite corner stone for the future Multipurpose Building was donated by James King of Stockton and Clarence Bowman of Stockton provided initial insurance coverage without cost. The Articles of Corporation were prepared by Brother Gommo at no cost, and were filed with the State.

Throughout the 1958-1959 fraternal year, the Grand Lodge and Rebekah Assembly Goodfellowship Committees, headed by Don Eaves and Bonnie (Martin) Page, were busy raising funds to get the camp started. The climax of fund raising efforts during the 1959 annual sessions in Long Beach was a Mardi Gras and donkey basketball game netting nearly $1,000.00. Throughout 1958-.59 more than $30,000 was raised to develop the camp and provided funds for building the sanitary building, kitchen, and the road leading into the camp. San Diego County contributed the funds for building the first dormitory. Pat (Barnard) Player, T.R.A. president, and John Ramsey, grand ruler, both had projects for the camp, with Sister Player raising $1,228.39. Most of the other fraternal leaders in California also had projects.

Tent platforms were used for campers and also one was built in front of the kitchen for a dining room. The first Youth Summer Camp was held for two weeks in August of 1959; and while there were only five campers, it was the start of many campers in future years. There were 37 campers in 1960, and the following year there were 100 campers and 132 Junior Odd Fellows and Theta Rho girls for their weekend.

In June of 1961, the Palladium, a stage with dressing rooms and logs for seats was dedicated as the project of youth leaders Georgia (Larsen) Lucas and Don Miller. Dwight Cooper of Beaumont Odd Fellows Lodge, built the Palladium and the Pump House. The log seats were replaced by benches, the project of Judette Rippetoe, 1988-1989 R. A. president.

The use of heavy duty equipment was arranged by Charles Oleson and the members of Eureka Odd Fellows Lodge #4 in Sacramento. They cleared the trees from the ball field in early 1962 and also spread decomposed granite in the camping area. A cement slab dance floor, down hill from the camp proper, was developed in 1962. The dance floor also become a basketball court, the project of Cody Holliday, grand ruler, in 1998-1999.

During 1963 the first aid building was built by the Ancient Mystic Order of Samaritans and the Ladies of the Orient, for the First Aid room, camp office, and two bedrooms, The Area 13 (Southern California) Dormitory was built; and Palo Alto and Santa Clara County area lodges raised funds for the Merten Memorial Cabin also built that year. A 50 foot steel Flag Pole was donated by Tulare Odd Fellows Lodge. The U. S. Flag was presented to the camp by U. S. Congressman John 1. Me Fall, a past grand of Manteca Odd Fellows Lodge #425. The flag had flown over the Nations' Capital in Washington DC. The California flag was donated by the Dept Association, L.A.P.M. Past Grand Matriarch Ruth Frisk donated a washer and dryer.

The construction of the swimming pool was taken on as a project by the San Francisco lodges, under the leadership of Philip Liff. The pool was completed in 1963 at a cost of $9,237.26. More than $3,000.00 was raised by the San Francisco lodges, and the Board of Directors also sold cement squares for $10.00 each, which were placed around the pool area. One of the sisters on the Board loaned the camp $4,000 to finalize the project. Gina (Rippetoe) Lands, T.R.A. past president, built the Life Guard station as her project.

The San Joaquin Dorm was built by the Three Links Social Club of San Joaquin County. Since then these brothers and sisters have continuously supported the Youth Camp making sizable donations each year in addition to funding the construction of the craft building and laundry room.

The Board of Directors was able to secure a used bus, for transporting campers, and it was a familiar sight traveling the highways and in Sonora with all the campers singing and Irene Gregory, one of the pioneer workers at the camp, driving.

Vivian Kara, R.A. past president, raised $20,000 for her project, the "Little Chapel in the Pines". The three windows in the north end of the building were from El Segundo Odd Fellows Lodge. The three bells in the steeple were the bells from Western Pacific, Southern Pacific, and the Santa Fe railroad engines. There are white memorial benches in the courtyard of the Chapel. On the day of the chapel dedication, a wedding for a couple from San Francisco was held. Since then there have been several other weddings, along with many nondenominational services.

George Hannaford, P.G.M., was instrumental in starting the Muti-purpose building, and it was dedicated on June 25, 1972. Dorian Dunlap, past grand matriarch, had wagon wheel lamps installed, and she later left in her estate a large amount of money for the Camp. Jane Jensen, R.A. past president, had a project of installing the benches outside the muti-purpose building. The fireplace of native rock, was the project of Robert Tuttle, P.G.M.

Gerald Poarch, P'G.M., started the fire protection system at the Camp, and this was completed by several other officers. Margareut Oleson, R.A. past president, purchased a new kitchen stove for her project, and June Gennaria, R.A. past president, installed new book cases in the multi-purpose room. Joyce Link, R.A. president in 1998-1999, had a project of providing funds to purchase gravel for the Camp road. She presented $10,000, from an anonymous donor, to provide for the gravel in addition to presenting funds she raised during the year by the Rebekahs.

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