14) Camp Jocassee

                          My Summer at Camp Jocassee with the Godbold Sisters

By Sylvia Carter Rumer


   When my husband and I took a boat ride trip on Lake Jocassee early this summer our guide pointed out the area where Camp Jocassee used to be. Memories of Camp Jocassee came back to me.  It had been a camp for girls in the 1920’s until the 60’s when Duke Power purchased the land and built Lake Jocassee as part of a plan to build three lakes in the area for electric power.  Nothing was left of the camp, as it was underwater.

   Before the camp and Jocassee Valley were flooded, the area had been used as a summer resort.  About a half-mile from the camp was the Attakulla Lodge which had a swinging bridge across the Whitewater River.  Near the river were summer cabins, however by the 50’s these  and the lodge had been deserted; the depression and war years had taken their toll on the area.  All that remained was Camp Jocassee, which remained a popular girls’ camp until it was destroyed in the 60’s.

   In 1951 my parents decided that I should spend the summer at Camp Jocassee.  While I was not too excited about the idea, I was familiar with the camp. My best friend had been a camper there for two years but this summer she was going to a camp in North Carolina.

   There were several reasons why they were anxious for me to attend camp.  I still had a great fear of the water.  I blamed my fear on the fact that a boy (the forest ranger’s son, whose parents were friendly with mine) had held my head underwater as we were playing in the children’s pool at Oconee State Park years before.  When a swimming instructor would tell me to put my head underwater I refused, thus ending the swimming lesson even before it started!

   Another reason was that, at age 14, I would be a sophomore in high school and had little knowledge of sports. Although in grade school we had played games at recess, there was no daily physical education program for middle and high school students.  There were sports after school – football and track for boys, basketball for both sexes – but these teams only took students with some knowledge of the sports.

   Oconee County was the poorest county in the state, and we had no supplement money for physical education.  Since South Carolina was trying to support two school systems – one for whites, one for blacks – the poorest counties in the state had no money for extras such as physical education, or more importantly, science labs for high school students.

   Camp Jocassee was owned by the late Paul Brown’s family.  Mr. Brown was a local businessman and for several years mayor of Walhalla.  His sister, Mrs. Julia Brown Ballenger, shared with me her memories of Camp Jocassee and the Jocassee Valley of the past.

   The directors of Camp Jocassee were Miss Sarah Godbold and her sister, Lucille, or “Miss Ludy” as she was called, was something of a sports celebrity my father informed me.  She had won several international awards for sports.  In the spring of 1922 she was invited to participate in the Federation Sportive Feminine Internationale Games held in Paris.  At this time women were not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games.  Miss Ludy won a total of six medals, two of which were gold.  She established a world record in the 800-meter run.  Both sisters were physical education teachers; Miss Sarah taught at Columbia High School and Miss Ludy at Columbia College.

   On the day camp opened my parents accompanied me there.  Camp Jocassee was located in the beautiful Jocassee Valley along the pristine Whitewater River.  The camp consisted of two large buildings, one a two-story unpainted building which housed the dining room and rooms for the Godbold sisters and administrative staff.  The other large building was the gym; it also had a stage and functioned as a meeting place for morning devotions, Sunday school and vespers.  There was also a small lake which had been rumored to have leeches, but I never saw any!

   On a hill across from the river were cabins for campers.  The counselors were college students and their cabin was called Lovers Leap.  The older girls’ cabin was named Bootleg.  The cabin I was assigned to was Jackson, a rather dull name I thought.  The camp was run mostly by females; there was a medical student referred to as “Doc.” Plus a few of the Godbold sisters’ nephews who did maintenance jobs around camp.

   My cabin, along with the others, consisted of one large room with several cots, and a small bathroom with a cold-water shower.  There was nothing luxurious about our accommodations!  The girls in my cabin were mostly from the Columbia area and were seasoned campers. I felt like a novice but soon fell into the routine of camp life.

   Camp life had a regular routine during the week: Breakfast at seven, clean the cabin, a talk by Miss Sarah, often of a devotional nature, the sports and lessons began.  I was in the beginners swimming class along with the youngest camper, a 6-year-old.  Mattie, one of the older counselors, who taught school during the winter, was my teacher.  She soon learned that I was, as she later told me, “scared to death of the water!”  Wisely, she taught me first to float, then the backstroke, and finally how to breathe underwater.

   At first, riding lessons were also difficult.  Never having been on a horse, I was rather apprehensive about riding.  My first lesson was a disaster.  I was placed on a horse named Beauty, who I later learned was very high strung.  Beauty knew I was afraid, and tried to throw me off but I prevailed!  Wiser the next time, I chose a horse named Rinso who looked like he was ready for the glue factory!  Rinso also wore a western saddle.  Western saddles, unlike the English saddle, had a horn on both sides that one could hold onto, thus making it easier to stay on the horse!  At least I felt a lot safer.  Although I never got out of the riding ring to ride along the roads, I began to enjoy horseback riding.

   After lunch we rested for an hour and the camp store was open.  We could buy writing material, stamps and snacks.  In the afternoon we also took a dip in the Whitewater River.  We mostly played in the river, as swimming was rather difficult because the water was not very deep.  We also hiked in the afternoon with Miss Ludy as our leader.  We also sometimes hiked after supper.

   One of my favorite times was joining in the singing of the evening prayer.  The prayer verse went something like this: “If I have wounded someone’s soul today, if I have caused one foot to go astray, dear Lord forgive.  Forgive the sins I do not see, and guide me and my Keeper be.  Dear Lord, forgive.”  This was an ideal prayer, for there were campers of the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant faiths.  I have never forgotten this prayer and its meaning for me.

   Miss Sarah and Miss Ludy had interesting contrasts.  Both were tall women with large-boned frames and were rather masculine in appearance.  Miss Sarah wore dresses and permed her hair.  Miss Ludy wore her hair in a bun and wore either slacks or culottes.  Miss Sarah gave devotions and taught Sunday school on Sundays.  Both had a dry sense of humor.  Miss Ludy would often joke with the campers.  I doubt if any of us were really aware of her great athletic abilities.  They were both middle-aged but Miss Ludy especially showed no signs of slowing down.

   Campers who stayed the entire season could earn two camp badges.  One was earned by a point system, keeping a clean, helping in the dining room, etc.  The one I valued most was the hiking badge.  To earn it, one must hike to Whitewater Falls, an all-day hike, but the real test was the hike from Jocassee into Salem without stopping – a nine mile-mile hike.

   Hiking to Whitewater Falls was rather enjoyable but there was one scary event.  When we reached the upper falls, we were allowed to wade in the stream above the falls.  Noticing that the rocks were covered with moss, I decided not to wade.  One of the counselors slipped on the rocks and began to fall.  Quickly Miss Ludy grabbed her before she could fall and possibly go over the falls.

   For me the most difficult test for the hiking badge was the nine-mile walk into Salem.  One of the campers looked at me saying, “You’re too skinny, you’ll never make it.”  This was all I needed to make me determined to go, even if I died on the way!  Miss Ludy hiked along with us.  As she passed me she gave me some encouragement.  As we could not stop, one needed to keep a steady pace.  All of us made it into Salem and were treated to ice cream and a ride back in a school bus.  Summer was almost over.  We sang, “No more vacation, soon we go to the station, the train will carry us home!”

   As for me, I had accomplished much.  I was over my fear of the water, I could ride a horse, and most important, I began what would be a lifelong love of walking and hiking, especially in the woods.  My two badges from Camp Jocassee are on display at the Oconee Heritage Center in Walhalla.


   Miss Ludy continued to teach at Columbia College for 58 years, and the physical education building at the college would be named the Godbold Center.  On a recent trip to Myrtle Beach I went to the convention center where her portrait is displayed with other famous South Carolinians. 

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