Hortense Camp

in the Wesleyan tradition

100 Years Celebration: 1904 - 2004

Ruth Roberson Jones

(Daughter of Milton and Edith McGraw Roberson)

The camp was established the year my dad was born.  I was the only girl in a family of ten children.  I don't remember a time when all ten of us were at home.  By the time we younger children came along, the older boys were in military service or married.

Never-the-less I can't imagine all the preparation that went into getting ready to go to camp Meeting.  our family looked forward to this time of year like most folks looked forward to going on vacation.  Camp meeting was the nearest thing to a vacation we knew anything about.  I'm sure that many o fthe good people who attended these services only saw one another once a year.

Our cabin was a crude little unpainted wooden building separated into three rooms.  It had a peak roof and wooden shutters at the windows.  We had wall to wall beds.

This is the time we were introduced to junk food.  Things like Vienna sausage and soda crackers.  Stuff we call "fishing food" now days.  Whatever would not spoil with no refrigeration.  We probably ate our first Corn Flakes and Cheerios using canned evaporated milk, which was diluted with equal amounts of water.  When we had the good fortune to have "lite" bread our favorite sandwich was peanut butter and home made jelly.  All country kids know about poking your finger in the side of a leftover biscuit and filling the hole full of home-made syrup - the best snack!  Mama got a much-needed break from the stove when we ate Bologna sandwiches for supper.

My grandmother was Mrs. Gertie McGraw, a very devoted Christian, who camped every year as long as she was able.  Somehow she had linoleum on her floor and she tacked cheesecloth over the windows to serve as screens.  Her place always was so clean, and she smelled like sweetheart soap.  She loved camp so much.

When it came time to build a new building for the workers, they had a pledge service and Grandma stood up and said, "I'm just a poor widow woman but I believe I can sell $100 worth of junk iron in the next year".  By collecting her neighbor’s discards and selling it to the man that bought junk iron she was able to live up to her promise.

Some of the people I remember who camped were Mrs. Holt from Brunswick (after Granddaddy died, she always stayed with Grandma), the Day family: Glenn, Bobby, Grayson, Reba Jewel and Ruby Lillian; Mrs. Addie Lewis and her brother Talmadge Scott, the Henry Sapp family, Mr. Burnell and their children Marie and Hubert.

All the cabins and most of the dormitory would be filled by the first service on Thursday night.  I thought I would never become a teenager so I could stay in the dormitory.  The bed was a wood frame structure and had those plain squeaky springs and cotton mattress.  The floors were bare wood.  A broom handle nailed across the corner served as a closet.  A shelf held the washbasin and if you were not lucky enough to have a chest of drawers, a couple of apple crates would have to do for storage.  Oh what FUN!!!  The only electric power was a single bulb hanging from a cord in the center of the room. 

We were expected to attend every service except the sunrise service.  That was four services a day: Children's service, 11:00 AM service, afternoon service, youth service and then the night service.  My parents didn't put up with horseplay and cutting up in church.  We were expected to behave or else - and we knew what 'else' meant.  Mama and Daddy believed in "spare the rod and spoil the child".  We had no nursery or baby sitters.

I can remember a couple of women ministers.  Mrs. Ruth Newton Rogers, such a Godly woman.  I was named after her.  I can never fill her shoes, but I can strive to be a witness purely from her teaching.  I remember Mrs. Lala Sports and someone named Wigglesworth.  We had fun with that name, since we were used to plain names like Roberson, Rowell, Moody, Smith, etc.

The sulphur water pump was at the front corner of the grounds and was always the meeting place for young boys and girls.  I believe that is where I met the Spaulding boys, Glynn and Gene.

Between services the children were allowed to roam the grounds and occasionally walk to the store.  Most of the time we had to stay in sight of the camp.  Having been warned to watch for snakes and wildcats kept us pretty close anyway.

To wander into the edge of the woods and find those newly emerged palmetto shoots with the tender morsels at the tip of a freshly pulled frond was such a treat.  Then we used the strips of the fan to weave place-mats and braid sandals; and tying a knot and wrapping it just right made the greatest ring.  The things were only pliable for a few hours.  By the next day the would have shrunk with holes all over.

Once in the fifties a hurricane came through here.  Everyone gathered into the dormitory.  It was a two-story building but was probably the most substantial building on the grounds.  The place was packed, and before too long it became very hot and humid.  The squirming children were very uncomfortable.  The lamps were lit, which made it even hotter.  The men would peek out the wooden shutters to see what the weather was like.  That was a very nervous prayer and song service.

I didn't think I was so very lucky when I was not allowed to everything because "everybody else is doing it".  That's the first reason I couldn't do it.  I truly appreciate being brought up in a Christian home.