Beason. The name carries many meanings at Culver.
For nine months of the year, Beason refers to Beason Hall, the seniors-only building – and lawn – on campus. But for those attending Culver Summer Schools & Camps – Woodcraft Camp, in particular – Beason holds a different meaning.
Beason Memorial Park is a small park outside Winamac, Indiana, that campers visit once each summer by unit. And the Gold C Butterflies, Cardinals, Cubs and Beavers’ annual canoe trips on the Tippecanoe River finish at Beason.
The Beason trip can be either a highlight of camp or a camper’s worst nightmare, depending on who you ask. Some campers called it an “orphanage,” one camper said it was “a bunker,” and another answered with “Boy Scouts.”
That answer lines up with Culver’s history with The Boy Scouts of America, but is not the true reason Beason Park was created. And while the park has been used for multiple purposes through the years, we will focus on its relationship with Woodcraft Camp.
According to a Feb. 27, 1959 Vedette article, the Elvera W. Beason Memorial Park began construction with three buildings: a dining area, a “dormitory,” and a house for families and important individuals. The 40-acre park was “designed to give cadets an opportunity to enjoy wholesome recreational activities in a natural, inspirational environment.”
Although designed for CMA, it was not long until Woodcraft Camp started using the facilities. A July 10, 1959 Woodcraft Vedette (called The Culver Woodcrafter) article, titled “Estey Becomes New Woodcraft Director,” describes how different facilities will be utilized, including “the Beason Memorial Park for the river trips.” The river trips, as the Woodcraft Camp 75th anniversary catalogue notes, date back to 1916.
“About the biggest deal of the summer is the ‘Tippy’ trip. On that you paddle down the Tippecanoe River in canoes, just the way the Pottawattamie Indians used to do. You end up at Beason Park, a special Culver place, and do all kinds of things. Some kids say they saw a bear there once, but others say it was only an officer dressed up in a bear skin.”
According to Ken Trickey Jr., current Woodcraft Boys Director and Major of Division 5, the “Tippy Trip” has gone through a few adjustments since it began. Trickey recalls that the trip went from originally lasting two days long and traveling more than 10 miles, between the 1930s to the 60s, to a much smaller affair. The trip originally started as all-boys trips for the older campers, Beavers.
“The boys would canoe down the ‘Tippy,’ for 13 miles and during the trip, stop and eat lunch, continue on and spend the night in tents; then get up, eat breakfast and paddle until they reached Beason Park,” Trickey said. “They would spend the night there, get up, eat breakfast, then return to camp.”
Those trips to Beason Park were clearly not for the faint of heart. The campers used large, heavy war canoes until 2005, which is probably why the trips were only for the Gold C Beavers and Cardinals. Now, Gold C Butterflies and Cubs also make the trip.
But like other traditions, Beason evolved with time. The Gold C canoe trips are separate from the unit trips to Beason. All the Woodcraft Campers still spend the night, using the existing facilities. Trickey said the tents and cots were retired about eight years ago and the campers now watch a movie in the evening.
“All in all, the ‘Tippy’ trip was a challenge and extremely exhausting. But it was part of the summer camp experience,” he explained. “It still is today, though in a more moderated, lighter experience.”
When asked to describe Beason, Maggie Rinard, C3, said, “It’s a place where we go to have fun and spend the night and eat burgers.” Sami Hittab, of D1, described Beason as “a fun place to bond with your division.” A fellow Beaver described it as “a camp away from camp”.
Between roasting marshmallows and playing games, it is no wonder that Carola Roman, C3, said, “Beason is my favorite part of Culver. It’s free time, we don’t get to form up, you feel free, and you just play with your friends.”
And, while current campers may not know the history of the park, they understand the importance behind it, with Allison Sway, C3, noting there are a lot plaques at the site, including a large one above the huge fireplace in the recreation-dining hall. That plaque contains a poem, “To My Son,” dedicated to Ross and Elvera Beason’s son, Ross Jr., a 1939 Culver graduate who was killed during World War II.
“Do you know that your soul is of my soul such a part
That you seem to be fiber and core of my heart?
Like mother, like son, is saying so true
The world will judge largely of mother by you.
Be this then your task, if task it shall be
To force this proud world to do homage to me.
Be sure it will say, when its verdict you’ve won,
She reaps as she sowed: ‘This man is her son!’”