History & Tradition
Jim Miller III founded Falling Creek Camp in 1969, as an independent boys Christian camp and the brother camp of Camp Greystone. Jim purchased the land in 1968, and opened for the first season the following summer with 110 boys for one 7-week session.
The great thing about a summer camp…it’s a place where children can come to be away from television, where you’re away from negative peer group [pressure]—it’s a community of people coming together and in a short period of time you can create a very positive learning environment.” -Jim Miller III (Founder)
For more of our camp’s early history, watch Yates’ interview with Jim Miller.
During the ensuing years, Falling Creek grew in enrollment and new session options were added. In 1989, Chuck and Jean McGrady purchased the camp; Chuck and co-director Donnie Bain operated Camp for 16 years. In 2005, Yates Pharr, a 12 year FCC camper and counselor, and his wife Marisa purchased Camp. For Yates, returning to Falling Creek was a homecoming—walking the trails he walked as a child, swimming in the same lake,
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” -Psalm 133:1
Time Honored Traditions
For over four decades, this verse has been recited to open each Sunday night campfire. Longstanding traditions and a commitment to character development are hallmarks of the Falling Creek program. Here are some of our other cherished traditions that your son can look forward to this summer.
After the big cabin inspection on Sunday morning, boys put on their white shirts for our Church service. Staff and campers organize and conduct the service. A theme is chosen that follows the Falling Creek Code. There’s something about the sounds of the birds, breezes and location overlooking the lower lake that accentuate the beauty of the church service at camp. We think this is one of the most beautiful settings to enjoy God’s creation as a community of friends.
On Sunday evenings, the entire camp community enjoys the tradition of our Campfire program. The boys gather with their cabin groups way out by the swim docks before walking in together. Everyone knows that you become silent as you cross the bridge before climbing up the trail that then leads down into the campfire area that looks onto the lower lake. After the boys are all sitting quietly on the benches with their cabin groups, the fire is lit with a single candle burning on the stand off to the side. As the flame grows to climb out of the neatly prepared logs, Jim Goodrum will state Psalm 133:1 to begin the evening, the same opening since the first campfire in the summer of 1969.
For the returning boys, they know this is a very special place with many positive memories. Campers usually participate in these programs. The boys know that this beautiful place has allowed thousands of campers and staff to come together as a community for more than 45 years and yet it still looks today as it did in that first summer.
The final campfire in the main camp session is the traditional Candlelight Ceremony, which most all boys find has a special place in their hearts for years to come. This is the same ceremony that was brought here from the old Camp Sequoyah in the 1969 founding summer. It gives the boys a thoughtful reflection into their Falling Creek experience.
All campfire programs end by standing and singing “Taps” together. How blessed we are!
- Ebenezer Rock
It’s an Ebenezer, which serves as a reminder of God’s love, God’s real presence, and God’s assistance. It’s a reminder for each of their contributions and their experiences they have had at Falling Creek Camp. Fast forward to the next 45 years of FCC history and everyone will walk between a set of meandering stone walls that reminds us of the spirits of all of the folks that are part of the Falling Creek Camp community past and present.
- Honor Council
During Main camp, the entire camp community elects campers to the Honor Council. These are boys who they feel strongly exemplify the Falling Creek spirit and Code.
There are representatives from all 4 tribes so that all ages participate. The size of the group ranges from 15-25. The group meets with Yates, and staff who were on Honor Council when they were campers, at least once a week to discuss how they feel camp is operating. The group elects a leader to serve as a point person to communicate with the Directors. Meetings are run using Roberts Rules of Order and they divide up the “positive” and “challenges” feedback with various members of the council who share these with the entire staff Sunday evening at the beginning of the weekly staff meeting. There’s no doubt that they will learn the difference between constructive vs. critical feedback.
- Morning Assembly
After a hearty breakfast, get ready for the world famous Morning Assembly where anything can happen and it usually does. The entire camp community assembles together on the front porch of the Dining Hall overlooking the upper lake. Whether it’s one of our crazy staff skits or joining in an all-camp sing along, nothing beats this way to start a great camp day.
- Special Meals
There are many delicious and hearty meals served at camp, but Saturday and Sunday are extra special.
After Church and free time on Sunday, we all enjoy sitting down together for the traditional Sunday dinner (aka – lunch term in the south). We serve crispy fried chicken, mashed potatoes (hand mashed from scratch) with gravy, green beans, a loaded salad bar, and warm bread.
Then, after the announcements, Yates will acknowledge the cabins based on their challenging Sunday cabin inspection scores. One of the other big Sunday traditions is to serve ice cream sundaes for dessert. The cabins are dismissed based on their inspection scores. There is a top cabin for each tribe that is excused first to go directly to the front of the sundaes line. The rest of the cabins are released based on their scores. What an incentive to clean your cabin well.
- 5-Year Dinner
A special treat at main camp honors the boys and staff who have been at Falling Creek for 5 or more summers. They put on some nicer clothes and gather together on the front porch of the Dining Hall to enjoy appetizers and share stories about camp experiences.
The kitchen crew goes all out with the meal and serves a delicious supper including grilled steaks. A Falling Creek alumnus serves as the guest of honor and shares with everyone stories from his time at camp, and ties them back to life lessons he learned during his FCC experience.
- Longenecker Lumps
At some point in the camp session, Steve Longenecker offers the boys a chance to experience the incredible “Longenecker Lumps”. He sets things up at the ESEFEL Library on the front porch.
Yates remembers his first Longenecker Lump. “It was in 1979 and I had just finished a 5-day backpacking trip in Linville Gorge with Chuck McGrady (Falling Creek Camp Owner/Director for 17 years). Our group had just met up with Steve and his group of Climbers coming off of Table Rock, NC. Man, they were good!”
- Cabin Signs
All of the boys and staff have the opportunity to leave their official mark at camp each summer by creating a cabin sign. They work together as a part of a cabin time program to paint their names and any other important memories they have had for the summer on the sign.
These signs are permanently mounted on their cabin in a protected area under the front porch. I know that they will really appreciate this in later life because every alumnus that returns to visit camp will search out their cabin(s) and want to show their children, or friends who are with them, that they were in that cabin in the year that is listed on that sign. It always brings back their camp memories and stories immediately.
- Cabin Overnights
In the first week of the session, cabin groups will enjoy a true camp out. They work together to organize their personal pack, divide up their group gear and food, and then head off in groups of two or three cabins to a campsite on the camp property.
Once they arrive at their site, the boys set up camp, play games, make a fire, cook their supper, and enjoy making and eating S’mores. This outing is a great way for the boys and counselors to get to know each other. There’s something about a campfire that makes this the perfect atmosphere. They will camp out for the night and return in the morning in time for Morning Watch and breakfast. In longer session, there are more cabin overnights.
The Ironman is comprised of swimming the lower and upper lakes, then mountain biking a 3-mile loop on our single-track trails and camp roads, which take them over to the ball field for transition to the run. Then, they run a tough course (2.0 miles) that brings them to the ball field where they hear the sound of the Rocky theme blaring and cheers from the rest of the entire camp as they cross the finish line in personal triumph.
Each participant has a pit crew made up of camp buddies. All competitors receive the traditional race t-shirt and the winner has his name added to the wall of the land sports hut we call the Salamander Sports Complex.
Quite a number of boys sign up for the race, some of which train to perform well, however it doesn’t matter who you are or what kind of shape you’re in. You just have to complete the required skills classes for each leg of the race to qualify.
- Wild Wild West
The boys always eagerly anticipate the announcement of the famous FCC all camp game—Wild Wild West! The boys erupt in cheers and excited yelling, while giving fist pumps, high-fives and jumping all over the place. This is one of the most popular games in Falling Creek’s history.
Boys search all over the main campus (100+ acres) for things such as gold, the Pony Express bag, Sarsaparilla Bottle, and they get points for colored sashes that they “scalp” off of other team members. There are four teams that divide the camp and each team has some Cherokee, Catawba, Tuscarora and Iroquois Tribe cabins. The red are the Raiders, green are Cowboys, blue are the Outlaws and gold are Indians.
Indians scalp Cowboys, Cowboys scalp Outlaws, Outlaws scalp Raiders, and Raiders scalp Indians. If you’re scalped, you head to Boot Hill and get a new sash to get back in the game. An “X” on your cheek means you’re a Cherokee or a Catawba, “O” means Tuscarora, Iroquois or staff.
Imagine all of the campers and counselors running throughout the woods creating strategies, moving around in teams, “scalping” each other. You get extra points for frisbees, lacrosse balls, tennis balls and any other camp equipment, and a big prize for a Pony Express Letter. All items that are found must be successfully brought back to the bank teller. If you’re scalped while taking gold or items to the bank, then you have to hand them over to the person who scalped you. There are other rules, but I thought I’d give you the main gist of the game. The staff is always just as excited to play as the boys.