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50th Anniversary Reunion Weekend September 7-9, 2018

This past weekend, nearly 200 Falling Creek alumni gathered to celebrate camp’s 50th anniversary and reconnect with old friends. It was heartwarming to see so many people reconnected, and to realize just how much this camp means to so many.

Yates, Marisa, and Stephen PharrYates, Marisa, and Stephen Pharr

Everyone began trickling in late that Friday afternoon, mingling on the grassy knoll by the old Lakefront cabin, which is now the ESEFEL library. Render Braswell and Clay Willett were two of the alums returning for the first time since the late 2000s. “This just makes me so happy,” Render beamed, walking to the cabin areas with his bag ready to settle in for the weekend. “I haven’t smiled this much in forever.” Their walk to the cabins kept getting cut short as they couldn’t walk more than a few yards without seeing another old friend and excitedly embracing.

Render Braswell, Clay Willett, and Henry Foah heading to their cabin for the weekendRender Braswell, Clay Willett, and Henry Foah heading to their cabin for the weekend

As old campers and counselors arrived, we were welcomed with lemonade and “gorp”, classic camp treats, while mingling on the grassy knoll by Morning Watch. The excitement for the reunion was contagious, and everyone was happy to see each other, no matter what decade they were from. Phil Walker, a founding camper from Falling Creek’s first summer, was explaining what a fun surprise it was to drive up the old dirt road to camp again, experiencing all the new additions since he had last been here. “As a founding camper, we found out how Jim Daddy had the most brilliant business plan. We paid $100 a week (which we thought was a lot), and we were put to work building the camp instead! We had counselors in the water for 8 hours a day building docks. Everything we worked on in the woods seemed to have yellow jacket nests in it. But we loved it.”

Founding Camper, Phil Walker, and Marisa Pharr mingling on the Grassy KnollFounding Camper, Phil Walker, and Marisa Pharr mingling on the Grassy Knoll
Camp Songs and GORP at the Esefel Library (Lakefront) to welcome everyone Camp Songs and GORP at the Esefel Library (Lakefront) to welcome everyone
David Brown with son Joey Brown, both previous paddling counselors and campersDavid Brown with son Joey Brown, both previous paddling counselors and campers

Fathers and sons were able to come back to camp together, and old counselors were reunited with their previous campers. David Brown, counselor 1976-1987, came with his brother Bucky, counselor 1978-1984 (they both served as head of the paddling program in the early 80’s), and his son Joey. David was hanging out on the grassy knoll with some of his old campers like Brooks Scurry and Stephen Gray. Joey was playing some favorite camp songs on his banjo, setting the mood as people gathered, returning to their summer home for the weekend.

Reminiscing and catching up over Fried Chicken SupperReminiscing and catching up over Fried Chicken Supper

For dinner on Friday, we had Falling Creek’s famous fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and warm rolls, a meal usually reserved for Sunday lunches. The dining hall was once again buzzing with energy as old friends reminisced, reconnecting after years apart.
As the “Evening Program” for the night, we divided into groups based on the decade we most resonated with. Each group had a leader from their decades to head up discussions on the individual flair from each generation, including their favorite foods, skits, songs, most legendary counselors, or funniest memories. For the 70s, the group leader was Phil Walker, the 80s was Dusty Davis, Crom Carey was leading the 90s, Clay Willett led the 2000s, and Will Walters led the most recent group from the 2010s.

Phil Walker sharing the highlights of camp from the founding year through the 70sPhil Walker sharing the highlights of camp from the founding year through the 70s

After the group discussions, everyone came together to share highlights from their decade with the whole crowd. Phil told everyone about the early days of camp, when there were organized green and gold camper work days, and how during the first summer Jim Kurtts removed 15 copperheads in one week. They had to frequently get up at 5am for “work days” and even build their own cabins, but as Phil said, “we boys thought it was heaven.” During these early years the boys were treated to blackberry pie for dessert with hand-picked blackberries, joined Bob John’s music program with the “Men’s Corral” choir, and had to turn in a letter home (many of which were blank paper mailed home) if they wanted to partake in the weekly banana split sundaes. Phil had the whole crowd rolling with laughter as he reminisced on “the night that all the campers got diarrhea at 1am,” particularly during a time at camp when cabins had no electricity or plumbing. Everyone cringed and laughed as Phil described how they had to take their kerosene lanterns and “shlep down to the 4 communal toilets” at the bathhouse. On a happier note, Phil also told us about watching the first moon landing from a tiny black and white TV screen in the dining hall, trying to crowd all 113 boys around the small display as history was made.

Dusty Davis and his prior camper Stephen Grey sharing highlights of camp in the 80sDusty Davis and his prior camper Stephen Grey sharing highlights of camp in the 80s

Dusty Davis and his prior camper Stephen Grey shared the highlights of camp in the 80s, starting by chanting “stud,” much to Yates’ embarrassment. This nickname originated during his time as head of the paddling docks in the 80s, and Dusty said that he “had been everyone’s favorite CIT,” so they enjoyed poking a little fun at him. The favorite food of this decade was not only fried chicken, but specifically the leftover fried chicken out of the trunk of Skeet Keyes’ car on the following Monday. The legend of camp in the 80s was Virgil Starks, one of the first African Americans to work at camp, breaking down racial barriers and bringing his kindness, enthusiasm, and humour to grace camp. His legacy lives on everytime camp alums repeat his famous chant, “I am. Somebody.” Dusty and Stephen also laughed about the times that the old Volkswagen was put in the Dining Hall, or the time that all the dining hall chairs were carabiner-ed to the high wire, and how anytime you wanted to call home you would have to use the old pay phone in the counselor lair. They looked forward to Saturday nights especially, when the camp gathered to watch reel to reel films like Indiana Jones and Star Wars.

Crom Carey describes the best parts of camp in the 90sCrom Carey describes the best parts of camp in the 90s

Crom described the best parts of camp in the 90s, a decade that he chose because even though he was a counselor in the 2000s, he can remember idolizing the counselors as his heroes every summer during his camper years in the 90s. Food that he remembers from the 90s included Frito Pie (complete with it’s own theme song), cookouts on the field, the coca cola you get at 5 year dinner, and Longenecker Lumps. Legends included JJ Hicks and John Dickens as camp comedians, Bill Wilson because Crom was both terrified of and in awe of him, and of course Chuck McGrady and how they called him “the stealth” because of his ability to seemingly be everywhere. The 90s were a transitional time especially for the cabins as they began to get renamed, each got their own bathroom, and the old rusty metal beds were finally traded out for wooden ones. The 90s was also the era of pranks, with Chuck recalling the time he inflated the entire blob inside cabin 8, the time the cow that they borrowed for Cow Pie Bingo escaped, and the paddling competitions with Merrie Woode for the elusive Bull Sluice sign.

Clay Willett and William Rhodes Sharing highlights from the 2000sClay Willett and William Rhodes Sharing highlights from the 2000s

The 2000s were highlighted by Clay, who described the unique position of that decade as being witness to the “transition years” from Chuck and Donnie to Yates and Marisa. Choco Tacos were the favorite dessert of the time, acting almost as a “camp currency” during mealtimes. The legend of the 2000s was Rick Bowers, also known as “Wood God,” and they’ll never forget the time that Ben Williams smashed through the plexiglass onto the front porch while trying to act out the “bug on a windshield” skit. The trends of the millenials in the 2000s were birkenstocks, crocs, having a myspace, and Nalgene water bottles that were not yet BPA free. The struggle of this decade was trying to make sure your laundry made it on the outside of the huge cabin laundry loads that were washed in the industrial size machines at the time. As Clay said, if your laundry was clumped in the middle of the massive laundry loads, it would just remain there untouched by the soap and return back to you still filthy, but sanitized.

Will Walters describing memories from the most recent decadeWill Walters describing memories from the most recent decade

Finally, Will Walters shared the most recent highlights of the past decade. Food highlights included stromboli, mini corn dogs, and s’mores pockets. The best pranks included the time the counselors moved a smartcar to different locations all around camp, when the paddlers performed an enthusiastic “harlem shake,” or the ongoing legend that beaver sharks live in the lakes. We laughed about the failed addition of a 5th tribe “Algonquin” and remembering Duckles, the fat duck who couldn’t fly.

Judson Randolph enjoying the gift for the weekend, our new book, Behold50, a celebration of the past 50 summersJudson Randolph enjoying the gift for the weekend, our new book, Behold50, a celebration of the past 50 summers

Though each decade had their own highlights and memories, reflecting on what made Falling Creek so fun throughout the years was a common theme for all. To close the first evening, everyone was given the newly released book, Behold50, a celebration of the past 50 summers and a collection of the stories and photos throughout the years.

"Top of the World" sunrise hike to the new orchard side of camp

The next morning, many of the early rising alumni chose to join in on a “Top of The World” sunrise hike. This hike went up to the top of the new apple orchard property before breakfast, enjoying the view of the Green River Valley below as the sun rose to greet them. After a beautiful start to the day, they returned in time for Morning Watch, led by Dusty. The focus was on camp’s central verse: Psalm 133. Dusty explained that the verse specifies both “good and pleasant” because sometimes things that are good for you are not always pleasant. At camp however, we have the privilege of experiencing the good and the pleasant simultaneously as we “dwell together in unity.”

singing singing "Fire on the Mountain" during Morning Assembly
Goody sharing his famous Goody sharing his famous "Opie Rap"

After a hearty breakfast everyone gathered on the front porch to experience an extended Morning Assembly. We were treated to several skits, including Ben Williams’ “bug on a windshield,” Timothy and the “used toothbrush” skit, the newer “dead cat in a box” skit, and even Goody shared his “Opie Rap”. The band for the morning was extensive, with dozens of camp legends up at the front with guitars and singing voices at the ready. Joel Priest started it off with “Rooster in the Yard,” Nathan suggested “Fox on the Run,” and requests for “Rocky Top,” “Dust on my Saddle,” and “Leroy Brown” were all honored. Donnie Bain even borrowed a guitar so he could join in with other legends Walt Cottingham, Steve Rogers, and Dave Dickerson on the favorite “Hey Baby” song.
Ben Williams performing his Ben Williams performing his "bug on a windshield" skit
Steve Drewry sharing his hilarious acting talent during the Steve Drewry sharing his hilarious acting talent during the "used toothbrush" skit
Left to right, Dave Dickerson, Walt Cottingham, Donnie Bain, and Steve Rogers playing their famous rendition of Left to right, Dave Dickerson, Walt Cottingham, Donnie Bain, and Steve Rogers playing their famous rendition of "Hey Baby"
Dave, Walt, Donnie, and Steve in the same order, playing the same song, 42 years earlier (1976), in the exact same locationDave, Walt, Donnie, and Steve in the same order, playing the same song, 42 years earlier (1976), in the exact same location

The morning was a whirlwind of choose-your-own activities. SFL was cooking Longenecker Lumps at the library, Joe Duckett brought his giant snakes and tarantulas to hang out in the warrior ball pit, Ben Lea was planning a mountain bike epic around camp, and several old alumni were channeling their inner camper as they back flipped and dove off the high-dive. After lunch, we had ice cream sundaes on the road by the dining hall, complete with all the toppings. The afternoon was another free choice time, with rounds of disc golf being played, kayaks and canoes out on the lower lake, and folks trying to make it to the top of the climbing wall. SFL also shared a combined program presenting birds of prey and snakes.

Sam Frame with Longenecker LumpsSam Frame with Longenecker Lumps
Steve Longenecker with Joe Duckett at his snake presentation Steve Longenecker with Joe Duckett at his snake presentation
Garrett Randolph (left) and Judson Conway (right) holding Garrett Randolph (left) and Judson Conway (right) holding "Cuddles," one of Joe Duckett's snakes
Cooling off at the swim docks Cooling off at the swim docks
Ice Cream Sundaes by the Dining Hall!Ice Cream Sundaes by the Dining Hall!

Before dinner, everyone gathered at the McGrady Gym for a group panoramic photo and cocktail hour. It was a treat to be able to mingle with old friends, snack on hoursdouvers, and reminisce over the many photos and memorabilia that were hanging up around the gym. Shortly after, everyone sat around the stage.

Simon Wilson looking over the decades of pictures strung around the McGrady GymSimon Wilson looking over the decades of pictures strung around the McGrady Gym
Gordon Strayhorn (FCC Program Director in mid 1980s and now Director of Camp Illahee) reconnecting with Sarah Bailes (FCC Secratary 1970s-80s)Gordon Strayhorn (FCC Program Director in mid 1980s and now Director of Camp Illahee) reconnecting with Sarah Bailes (FCC Secratary 1970s-80s)
Garrett Randolph, Skeet Keyes, Hagar Rand, and Terry Tyree recreating the same photo from 1981Garrett Randolph, Skeet Keyes, Hagar Rand, and Terry Tyree recreating the same photo from 1981
Garrett, Skeet, Hagar, and Terry in 1981Garrett, Skeet, Hagar, and Terry in 1981

Talbot Carter, who attended with all 3 of his sons, led a toast to Falling Creek and how the camp has positively impacted his entire family. He remarked that “They say the road to heaven is paved in gold,” Talbot mused, “but for me it’s a dirt road. And I know I’m there right now.” This was a perfect segway to then watch the new historical video, made specially for the reunion and highlighting the past 50 years in detail. As the video ended, we all were blessed to have the opportunity to stand with so many important FCC aumni to announce and celebrate that the sacred bridge that everyone crosses on their way to church and campfire has been reconstructed and now renamed “Bain Bridge”, dedicated in honor of Donnie and Kim Bain who each have offered over 30 years of service to Falling Creek. It was a standing ovation of love, happiness, and gratitude for the Bains.

Talbot Carter leading a toast to Falling CreekTalbot Carter leading a toast to Falling Creek
Stuart (left) and Jimboy Miller, enjoying the time to celebrate what their father (JimDaddy) foundedStuart (left) and Jimboy Miller, enjoying the time to celebrate what their father (JimDaddy) founded
The campfire bridge renamed the The campfire bridge renamed the "Bain Bridge" for Donnie and Kim Bain

For supper we were treated to BBQ, tomato pie, texas caviar, warm rolls, and coleslaw. Everyone was able to enjoy a great meal before heading to the campfire area for a Candlelight Campfire ceremony. Campfire is a place that is held dear to all who come to Falling Creek. The minute you walk over Bain Bridge and pass the “Behold” sign with Psalm 133, a wave of peace and reverence immediately washes over you. As we gathered in silence along the rows of benches and listened to the alternating conversations between bullfrogs and cicadas, it felt like any other summer before.

Walking over the Walking over the "Bain Bridge"

During this Campfire, gratitude was the redundant theme, and with good reason. Between songs of “Country Roads”, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, and Garrett sharing his song he wrote about Steve Longenecker called “Down South Again,” Terry Tyree reflected on why he was grateful for Falling Creek, and opened the floor for other alumni to share their experiences. Terry’s thoughts centered on the ever present “Spirit of Falling Creek,” and how those values never leave when you leave camp, allowing you to make a difference and touch lives every day because of the things you learn at camp. He shared how he believes that you get what you need at Falling Creek. Leland Morris shared, “Boys get what they need in camp. It meets you where you are and teaches you what masculinity is about, through vulnerability, caring, and unselfishness.” Phil Walker echoed this positive impact, sharing, “Falling Creek didn’t change my life, Falling Creek made my life. It was the first place that I was able to say ‘I can,’ and at the end of the summer I could say, ‘I did.’” Phil expressed, “you can go home again if you never left – and Falling Creek never left me or my heart.” Phil challenged us to take on a new identity, one that is not simply Falling Creek alums. Instead, he declared us “Guardians of the Flame,” since we let the Spirit of Falling Creek live inside us. Each of us can give something to make this flame grow brighter and ensure that it doesn’t die, taking on a more active alumni role as “guardians” of the Falling Creek spirit we know and love.

Terry Tyree reflecting on his experiences at Falling Creek during CampfireTerry Tyree reflecting on his experiences at Falling Creek during Campfire
John Moll, Robert Kirby, and Nathan Newquist sharing their musical talents during CampfireJohn Moll, Robert Kirby, and Nathan Newquist sharing their musical talents during Campfire
Candlelight Campfire Candlelight Campfire

For the final morning of the weekend, we gathered at the campfire area once again for a church service before breakfast. As the quiet sounds of the morning surrounded us, Allen Kannapell began the service, sharing the story of how he “came back to God on the banks of the Tuckasegee River” as a camper. The theme of the service was “love,” a fitting way to end a weekend spent celebrating brotherhood. Dusty Davis also shared his experiences with the CITs (now called men of S.T.E.E.L.) this summer, emphasizing the importance of the love and support from peers and mentors at camp, something that is so formative for a teenage boy.

Allen Kannapell leading Church service on SundayAllen Kannapell leading Church service on Sunday

As we fueled up for the day with a hearty pancake breakfast, the excitement was high for another Morning Assembly before heading out. In addition to singing even more popular tunes from the past, Terry Tyree led us all in “Fleasta” and Steve Rogers performed his famous “Chicken Walk”. Starting the day with enthusiastic singing, hilarious skits, and just goofing off together was a great way to set the mood, and everyone was hesitant to get on the road before lunch. After a fun weekend spent reminiscing and catching up in a place loved by so many, it was hard to say goodbye. However, with the reassurance that the Spirit of Falling Creek was still alive and well, everyone knew it wasn’t goodbye, but only a “see you next time.”

Author: Annie Pharr

If you would like to see the full album of photos from the weekend, go to our website and enter your e-mail and password to log in to your CampInTouch account. (The link is below the video on the home page). Once logged in, click Photos. You can also use this link. Behold!

Steve Rogers performing his famous Steve Rogers performing his famous "Chicken Walk"
Terry Tyree leading us all in Terry Tyree leading us all in "Fleasta"

An awesome crew of musicians for Morning AssemblyAn awesome crew of musicians for Morning Assembly
Comments (2)

Boy! What a great idea!

Boys’ laughter rings out across the Green River Valley. Then you see them, a blur of sweaty bodies — sprinting, climbing, riding, splashing, singing, shooting, hiking, paddling — until there’s no energy left and they collapse in their cabins. And do it all over the next day. This is Falling Creek Camp.

To the camper, to the casual onlooker, it’s a seemingly magical utopia where everything runs like clockwork, there’s always a fresh coat of paint, cool new stuff is added constantly, and endless hours of sheer fun and positive vibes are doled out from a bottomless reservoir. But it didn’t start out that way.

In fact, the story of how it did start is almost as good as the stories its founder used to tell by the campfire — stories of sacrifice, heroism, and redemption. This is the story of the camp… that almost wasn’t.

It would be appropriate to say that Jim Miller (James Miller III) went out on a limb to start Falling Creek camp in 1969. It would probably be more appropriate to say it was the gamble of a lifetime.It would be appropriate to say that Jim Miller (James Miller III) went out on a limb to start Falling Creek camp in 1969. It would probably be more appropriate to say it was the gamble of a lifetime.

Raised by a coal miner in Madisonville, Kentucky, Jim (Jimdaddy, as many affectionately called him) was acquainted with hard labor and didn’t even know what a camp was until later in life. His ticket out of the coal mines came when the head football coach at the University of Kentucky, the late Bear Bryant, recruited him and offered him a full scholarship as a lineman. After a year at University, when Jimdaddy didn’t keep his grade point average high enough, he became eligible for military service and was drafted for the Korean War.

Fortunately for Jimdaddy, football saved him once again when he was selected to play for the Army team, which he did for two years before returning to the University of Kentucky. He soon met a young lady by the name of Elizabeth (Libby) Hannah, whose great grandfather, Joseph Sevier, had founded Camp Greystone for girls in Tuxedo, North Carolina, in 1920.

Joe founded Greystone as the fulfillment of a longtime dream after his career as a Presbyterian minister. He was the executive pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia. A church known to be a center of political power — a big deal in the south. He gave up that prestigious job in order to start Camp Greystone, because he thought camp would be a better, more exciting, more productive platform for spreading the
Good News to young people.

Babies, Corporate Life, and the Prospect of Camp

Libby and Jimdaddy married in the summer of 1959. Jimdaddy excelled in corporate sales with various companies, including Proctor & Gamble, while Libby kept the home; prepared for their first child, Kathryn (Katie) in 1961; and continued to make the trek back to Tuxedo in the summers to work at Greystone.

After several years passed, and several more children were added to the Miller family — including Jimboy in 1963 and Stuart in 1965 — Jimdaddy got an itch to learn more about the camp business, because Libby’s parents were wanting to know if she or any of her sisters might be interested in taking over Camp Greystone.

Stuart, Libby, Jimboy, Katie, and JimDaddy Miller of Camp Greystone.Stuart, Libby, Jimboy, Katie, and JimDaddy Miller of Camp Greystone.

“So there came a big decision in the summer of 1966,” says Jimboy Miller, son of Jimdaddy and current director of Camp Greystone. “My dad decided he would give up the whole corporate thing and do the camp thing as his life’s work,” Jimboy says. “I don’t think he really understood what he was signing on to. He didn’t know the full extent of what was involved.”

In order to learn more about running a camp, Jimdaddy spent a summer working at Camp Sequoyah near Asheville, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sequoyah was founded in 1924 by C. Walton “Chief” Johnson, with whom Jimdaddy had the privilege of working all that summer.

“The great thing about a summer camp situation is that it is one of the few controlled environments we have left in America. It’s a place where children can come to be away from television, to be with a care group. It’s a place where a community of people can come to be together, and in a short period of time, you can create a very positive learning environment.” — Jimdaddy Miller

Camp Sequoyah banner. It was a historic North Carolina Summer Camp

“Sequoyah had a fabulous reputation and Chief Johnson was an icon of the camping world,” Jimboy says. “My dad had an extraordinary experience working there. They gave him a whole lot of inspiration for what really proved to be Falling Creek. My dad thought that for the camp experience to be great, it needs to be more than just doing stuff; you need to have a platform that is impacting all aspects of what it means to be a man; and the reality of our existence has been made in the image of God — the part of the thing that, as boys grow into men, they need to wrestle with and come to grips with.”

When Jimdaddy went back to Greystone to apply what he’d learned at Camp Sequoyah in the summer of 1967, he was like a fish out of water. “They didn’t know what to do with him and he ended up doing mostly manual labor stuff, moving trunks and helping the maintenance man (Grady) around the camp. He didn’t do much with the administration of the camp,” Jimboy says. “He felt like he needed to make a place for himself that was outside of the girls’ camp. He thought that a boys’ camp would be ideal, something modeled after Sequoyah that could be a brother camp for the Greystone girls.

“I got involved in this primarily because when my wife inherited Camp Greystone, which had been in her family for some 50 years, I came with her to help. My mother-in-law, Virginia Hannah, had suggested, ‘Jim, why don’t you do a boys’ camp?’ My wife loved it. She had a passion for doing camp and I felt it was something I would be suited for, so that’s how the first seeds were planted — and I liked the idea.” — Jimdaddy Miller

“Jimdaddy had an entrepreneurial spirit and liked the idea and the challenge; he loved the idea of building something from scratch that would last for a long, long time,” Jimboy says. “He had seen the impact Sequoyah had had with boys, and the impact Greystone had had on his wife and all of her friends. So he knew it would be a worthwhile thing to do and it would be a good business.”

Jewels in a Crown

Soon, Jimdaddy and Libby began looking in earnest for camp property as they explored the winding back roads near Camp Greystone. “In hindsight, it was just meant to be,” says Jimboy. “It was a very unlikely property, because it wasn’t for sale.”

“We had heard of Virginia Prettyman, who at the time was a teacher at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and we had heard that she owned a sizeable piece of property, so we drove up there and drove in around the top of the mountain, and there, nestled just like jewels in a crown, were these two beautiful little lakes, right on top of the mountain — ideally situated for a camp. And so I looked at Libby and she looked at me and said, ‘This is it.” — Jimdaddy Miller

Jimdaddy wrote and telephoned Miss Prettyman to inquire about the land, but she initially replied that it was not for sale. He arranged a meeting in Boston to meet Miss Prettyman in person. He explained that he was the director at Camp Greystone and that he could afford to pay $200 – $250 an acre for her land to start a boys’ camp. Miss Prettyman replied that her idea for a fair price would be more like $800 – $1,000 per acre, but she did not want to sell. Jimdaddy once said: “I can’t tell you what a sinking spell I had, because I just knew that the Lord had led us here and this was the place for the camp.”

Then the unthinkable happened. Convicts broke free from a county chain gang and an FBI manhunt ensued. “These guys had broken out of prison and were killing people,” Jimboy recalls. And that’s when Miss Prettyman had a change of heart about selling her property. “She just saw herself having no defense up there by herself in this remote cabin,” Jimboy says. “And that upset her mind and she decided to sell out of concern and, in a sense, of wanting protection.”

“Miss Prettyman called me and asked me if we could get together. And she said ‘Jim, I’ve been thinking over your offer,’ and she says, ‘It’s woefully inadequate, but on the other hand, I felt that I would like to have a camp up here and also I’d really appreciate, now with this incident raging around us . . . we were just glad to have some people up here.’ And so she says, ‘I’ve decided to accept your offer.’” — Jimdaddy Miller

Pray Really Hard

Jimdaddy had secured 125 acres from Miss Prettyman, and had lofty dreams of building cabins, a dining hall, tennis courts, a shower house, a rifle range, a ball field, horse stables, swim docks and a rollercoaster in one of the lakes — and open Falling Creek Camp in the summer of 1969. But many obstacles lay ahead — lots of them.

In February of that year — with four cabins built and some excavation and concrete work done here and there for the other amenities — a deep freeze blasted Tuxedo.

“It snowed for four days. Then the temperature dropped to minus ten. This cold set in and lasted three weeks. The clock was ticking. We needed 11 cabins, but only 4 were built. The dining room, not one piece of wood had been put together. The stable wasn’t even cleared for the horses. We had excavation for the athletic field and the tennis courts, but there was nothing there. We were leveraged to the hilt, we had borrowed money on everything. I couldn’t find any carpenters . . . For the first time in my life I’m scared to death, I’m thinking we’re going to lose it all.” — Jimdaddy Miller

A little tyke at the time, Jimboy recalls riding in his dad’s yellow Jeep up to the camp site and actually driving out onto the lake; everything was that frozen. “The project was way behind schedule and my dad was under a whole lot of pressure,” Jimboy says. “I remember him being excited about it, yet scared to death about it all at the same time. He was trying to convince people to send their sons to camp, but he couldn’t even show them a picture of the dining hall because the dining hall hadn’t even been built yet! He had said, after the fact, that it was the hardest time of his life, and I’m certain that is true. There is no way he was sleeping well . . . it was a pressure cooker. I think he felt, it may be hard, it may be stressful, but in the end it will all come together and work out; all you’ve got to do is just work really hard and pray really hard about it, and it will work out.”

Ray of Hope

March sunshine and melting snow meant all systems were go, but Jimdaddy was having a difficult time finding carpenters, because most of the good ones worked for the bigger construction companies in Greenville and Asheville. Finally, he came across a good, honest man and excellent builder named Ralph Beddingfield. Jimdaddy said, ‘Ralph, is there any way you could come?’ Ralph replied, ‘I maybe could come, and maybe my brothers, too.’ Jimdaddy perked up. ‘How many brothers do you have?’ Ralph said, ‘Four. Three skilled carpenters and one rock mason.’ Needless to say, Jimdaddy could have cried.

When Jimboy thinks of how his dad undertook the task of building Falling Creek from scratch, he shakes his head. “It boggles the mind to think that someone would jump into that abyss,” he says. “I can’t imagine. In a big sense, it was like the biggest roll of the dice he ever made in life.”

JimDaddy Miller, Mrs. Hanna, and Libby Miller of Camp Greystone.JimDaddy Miller, Mrs. Hanna, and Libby Miller of Camp Greystone.

To add to the challenge, Jimdaddy and Libby were buying Camp Greystone from her parents at the same time, so they had to make regular payments for that. “My grandfather said, ‘If you miss a payment, then your loan will be considered in default, and we will take Camp Greystone back,’” Jimboy says. “He told my mother and father very clearly that he thought it was a bad idea to start this boys’ camp. He said camps are not a very good business, they take a lot of money, starting from scratch is going to cost a lot more than you think, and I don’t think you are going to find that you have enough money to pull this off. And if you find this is not working, don’t come to us for the money, because I’m telling you, I’m not going to support you in this. This is your deal. You have got to make this work on your own or see it fail on your own. And if it fails you are the one pay the consequences on this.

“So my dad really did put everything on the line and his line of credit was tapped out with Greystone,” Jimboy says. “And he had no line of credit with his father-in-law, and he didn’t have money of his own, and didn’t have friends with money. He came all the way down to the point where the carpenters that were working on the job self-funded the thing for a little bit… I think he came right up to the brink of financial calamity at Falling Creek.”

“We felt if we were going to make a go of it as a business we were going to have to have a bare minimum of 100 campers. The first of March we had 13 campers enrolled. I had built a camp for 100 campers and we had 13 boys enrolled and camp was three months out. There’s two families that represented Greystone — one was the Turner family from Sarasota and the other was the Monroe family from Cincinnati. And I called and I said, ‘You know, we really need some campers.’ They were strong Greystone supporters and so they said, ‘We’ll help you.’ We prayed every night for the needs of the camp and that the Lord would provide.” — Jimdaddy Miller

Building Camp . . . on the Fly

Falling Creek Camp's legendary camp roller coaster into our swimming lake.

Sure enough, 113 boys signed up for camp that first summer of 1969, but Falling Creek was far from ready, and was still lacking a program director. Then a track coach at the University of Missouri named Bob Teel, whose daughter attended Camp Greystone, called Jimdaddy and said he’d heard about the opening for a program director and said he had a great camp man on his staff named Jim McGregor. Jim came over and took a look at Falling Creek, which had an unfinished dining hall and no tennis courts. Miraculously, Jim said, ‘You know, I’d like to give it a try.’

When Falling Creek opened there were signs posted that read, “Horseback Riding – to be announced,” “Tennis – to be announced.” There was no electricity in the cabins and the campers were actually helping build the camp, doing landscaping, gardening, cutting paths, and building the campfire area. “My dad always felt and had a profound sense of life-long gratitude to those first-year camp families,” Jimboy says. “If they had not given him the benefit of the doubt, he could have lost everything he’d been working on and it would have been a devastating thing.”

“Some of the guys said, looking back, it was the best year, learning about camaraderie and team effort. Growing is not easy. And looking back, there have been some bumps in growing Falling Creek. We have to die a little to grow, and that’s been true of Falling Creek, and true in my life and true of most people. But there’s never, ever, ever been any doubt in my mind that the camp was an enduring, lasting entity. And in my opinion, even now I think that the spiritual and moral values of a good summer camp is more important than the programs. And I think any institution founded on those principles will have a lasting legacy.” — Jimdaddy Miller

Under the leadership of Jimdaddy Miller, Falling Creek Camp quickly gained a reputation as a safe, secure, fun-filled camp where values and morals were lived out, where enthusiasm and positive attitude were modeled daily, and where stability and excellence could be relied upon by parents, families, and boys across the country.

One of Jimdaddy’s true gifts was storytelling, and he often used lore and song as a vehicle for sharing the message of the Christian faith. “He did not really put a lot into sermons and that type of thing, he did more with inspirational stories,” Jimboy says. “He would tie the Gospel to poignant stories of heroism, of great deeds done of sacrifice, he taught us that all of great stories lead back to the great story of redemption. So he would introduce us to Christian ideals in an entertaining and inspirational way. Everyone loved my dad’s stories. He would paint the pictures just beautifully and the stories would really come to life. It felt very much like great entertainment to sit through one of his campfire talks.”

Passing the Torch

Boys tubing the Green River at Falling Creek Camp

In order to keep up with their obligations at Camp Greystone, Jimdaddy and Libby sold Falling Creek Camp after having owned it just over three years. “During the three years it was probably always, financially, a very difficult thing to do,” Jimboy says. “I don’t think he was ever seeing any money out of it and I think he was under a tremendous amount of pressure. Plus, once he showed that he could start his own camp, my grandparents started entrusting him with more management responsibilities at Greystone. So he was in over his head.”

Since Jimdaddy and Libby opened Falling Creek in 1969, the camp has changed hands just three times, from the next owners Yorke and Barbara Pharr, to owners Chuck and Jean McGrady, and to the current owners, Yates and Marisa Pharr (no relation to Yorke). Jimdaddy continued to promote the camp and to come visit, read, and sing with campers for a number of years after it sold.

“My dad was thrilled with the success the camp had over the years,” Jimboy says. “My dad very much felt you have to improve camp — both the facilities and the program — all the time. He particularly felt it important to invest strongly in the facilities that make up a camp. Such commitment inspires confidence in the future of a camp and the vision of the directors.

“My dad liked the fact that Yates and Marisa aggressively improved Falling Creek’s property each year. That’s always been the way he liked to run a camp. The camp community really does delight in such projects. The campers love the fact that you care about it and the parents love the fact that you are not just trying to make a buck, you are investing in the place that they love and they appreciate that attitude. Yates and Marisa are running camp the way my dad would have liked to have done it. He would have loved that gymnasium. My dad would have said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s exactly what I would have done.’”

Indeed, with each owner, Falling Creek has enhanced and added new facilities, and increased enrollment. Jimdaddy’s original 125 acres have expanded to 675 acres of remarkable beauty, where boys from the U.S. and beyond come to meet again each summer, and to bond in unity and brotherly love.

Jimdaddy passed on in 2010, but many of the roots he planted almost 50 years ago have become time-honored traditions at Falling Creek, including the verse of scripture that is still recited at the opening of each Sunday night at campfire beneath the starlit sky: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” — Psalm 133:1

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Living Life by The Code

Sure, when you spend the summer at Falling Creek, you’ll have the chance to roast marshmallows around a campfire… improve your game and climb the tennis ladder… dash through the woods on Wild, Wild West Day, and a thousand more incredible opportunities. But did you ever stop to think that one of the best things about being a camper at Falling Creek is getting to spend your summer with a bunch of really great guys?

If you had to pick, who would you say is the most important, really great guy at camp? Your first reaction might be to name your favorite counselor, and that’s a nice thought. But hang on. Think again…

Could it be that the most important “really great guy” at Falling Creek is you? Not because the world revolves around you, but because if you choose to follow The Falling Creek Code, you can have a positive influence on everyone at camp. How great is that? After all, there is no better feeling than making someone else’s day.

Positive Attitude

Campers wear white polo shirts on Sundays.

Having a positive attitude means being fun to be around, living with enthusiasm, and focusing on the positive. Let’s make sure you’ve got that straight, the rule at Falling Creek is to have fun and be enthusiastic. Seriously? Yep, your job when you are a camper at Falling Creek is to be fun to be around.

So, joke around, be silly, and don’t just chuckle, but laugh out loud with your cabin-mates and at yourself, and at the goofy skits in the dining hall. Sing at the top of your lungs at Morning Assembly. Encourage your teammates on your ultimate Frisbee team. Laugh it off if you lose. Congratulate the winners. Have fun out there. And most importantly, be grateful for God’s blessings. Stop and look up at the clouds. What do you see? A dolphin? A dragon? Appreciate the breeze on a hot day. Delight in the cool lake after you’ve worked up a sweat in the game. Enjoy the lullaby of the crickets and bullfrogs at night. God’s creation is magnificent, and you are right in the middle of it. Notice and be thankful.

Warrior Spirit

Campers walk under The Code sign during the day.

Hmm, that’s certainly not a phrase you hear every day. What exactly does it mean to have a Warrior Spirit? Here at Falling Creek, it means to “live with courage, to persevere, and to always do your best.” Not a day goes by that you aren’t presented with a chance to demonstrate courage while you are at camp. Even on Opening Day, it takes courage to hug your parents goodbye and settle into cabin life with a group of new friends. It takes courage to try something new, like taking a hairpin turn on a mountain bike. And it takes courage to stand up for what is right instead of what is popular.

Without ever using the word “persevere,” a camper from Chattanooga perfectly summed up the Warrior Spirit when he described his love for rock climbing. He said, “Climbing is really fun. It teachers you to overcome obstacles. When you’re in the middle of a rock and you have to finish a really tough move, you think, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do this. It’s way too hard!’ That’s how life is sometimes, but you’ve got to just push through it. Commit yourself to getting to the top of that one move. And then get to the top of the next route. And then all of a sudden you are on top of the rock. Celebrate and just let go! You find that you can make it to the top of almost anything if you set your mind to it.”

Servant’s Heart

To have a Servant’s Heart is to treat everyone with respect, and to treat others the way you would like to be treated. It means taking the initiative to help someone without being asked. Demonstrating a Servant’s Heart can mean doing something really simple, like putting the balls away after you play basketball or helping the counselor clean up the arts and crafts supplies before dashing off to your next activity. It can mean introducing yourself to the new camper and suggesting that he join you on a trip to sliding rock. It can mean inviting someone to meet you at the lake to swim during the afternoon free choice period. Having a Servant’s Heart means making friendships a fine art!

Moral Compass

Campers have a laugh at our traditional morning assembly.

Last, but certainly not least, the FCC Code expects our campers and counselors to have a Moral Compass, which means to act with integrity, to tell the truth, and to take responsibility for our actions. Here’s an example. We offer a can of Cheerwine at the weekly cookout of hamburgers and hotdogs. We have enough Cheerwine for everyone to get one. Could you cheat and sneak a second can? Of course you could, we operate on the honor system around here. So the question is not could you take a second drink but, should you? No way! You know better than that, and you shouldn’t dare your friend to break the rules either. While daring your friend to sneak a Cheerwine is not the biggest disaster in the world, daring your friend to break other rules later in life can have serious consequences. So why not practice pointing your moral compass in the right direction when you are young?

Here’s another perfect example — You hear a few other boys whispering about a fellow camper. They approach you, wanting you to chime in on their unkind comments. “That isn’t cool, guys,” you say. “Keep it positive.” That’s acting with integrity, even when only a few people are watching. That’s what it means to follow your Moral Compass.

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Free Choice: Camp-Code for, "The Boys Decide"

Remember the days when your son flatout refused to get dressed for pre-school? Fortunately, you were bigger and stronger, so you could wrestle him into an outfit and get him to school, pretty much on time. Try as you might, it was difficult to disguise how frazzled you were when you pulled into the parking lot 15 minutes late.

Camper holding a frog at camp.

Thank heavens for the calm, wise teachers back then, who advised, “It’s important to give your son some choices. Let him feel he has some control over his life — within limits, of course.” Needless to say, they didn’t mean, “Son, would you rather get dressed and go to pre-school or stay in your pajamas and watch TV all day?” The more appropriate choice might have been, “Son, do you want to wear your bulldozer T-shirt or your Panthers’ jersey today?” The latter was a simple, age-appropriate choice, with no right or wrong answer.

The pre-school teachers were indeed onto something. The ability to make wise, heartfelt choices is a vital characteristic of independent, successful teens and adults. Indeed, experts say that allowing children to make their own decisions can increase their confidence, feeling of importance, and personal delight. Child development experts say that teaching young people good decision-making skills is one of the most powerful ways to teach them responsibility and self-discovery, and to encourage them to be successful, happy, contributing members of society.

No Time Like the Present

Camper jumping a horse at Falling Creek Camp.

What does making wise choices have to do with camp? At Falling Creek, we have deliberately structured our activity schedule to provide our campers with numerous opportunities to practice making sensible, independent decisions that have no right or wrong answer. On Opening Day, campers begin to flex their “choice making muscles” when they design a schedule that is tailor-made to suit their personal interests. Each day consists of six “structured” activity periods, so each camper chooses his six favorite activities. With 28 activities on the roster, there are more than enough options to excite boys of all ages.

There are also two “free choice” periods each day, one before lunch and one before dinner. Free choice activities give campers an opportunity for free time. Boys might choose to hang out at the waterfront, catapulting their friends off the blob, zooming down the roller coaster, plummeting from the rope swing, or doing cannon balls off the diving board. Other free choice options include working out at Frank’s Fitness or getting involved in pick-up games of basketball, tennis, Ping-Pong, or indoor soccer. Some boys choose to play in the creeks, making dams. If a camper would like a slower pace, he can sit and play chess with a friend or simply read a good book. Regardless of personal preference, they all show up happy and hungry when the bell rings for meal times.

Camper enjoying the activities at one of our camp lakes.

Many boys bring passions from home to camp with them. For example, each summer there are boys at Falling Creek who excel at club soccer, AAU basketball, tournament tennis, and a myriad of other activities they already love. It’s up to the boys how much time they devote to those “main sports” while at camp. Experts argue that children who specialize in activities too young can get burned out and suffer from overuse injuries. Other coaches believe the opposite, that, “If you want to play at the highest level, you need to practice year-round.”

At Falling Creek, we respect each camper enough to allow him to be the “expert” for the summer. Your son will have the freedom to go with his gut and choose the combination of activities that feels right to him. That might mean choosing kayaking, rock climbing or riflery, which he can’t do back home, or it might mean pursuing his “main sport” as much as he possibly can so he’s a step ahead when he returns home. Boys often choose activities to be with their friends, or because the counselor teaching it makes it so much fun. He might want to try an activity that is brand new for him, because he knows camp is the perfect place to experiment and learn. There are truly no right or wrong decisions when it comes to choosing activities at camp. What is certain is that your son will have to make some tough choices. A camper can’t possibly participate in all 28 activities during a single summer. But isn’t that the way life goes? Boys are forced to prioritize, and what better place to practice doing so than at camp, where there are no negative consequences?

Decisions, Decisions . . .

After lunch on Opening Day, our counselors put on hilarious skits to introduce themselves to the campers and to sell “their” activities. It’s Marketing 101, camp-style.

Campers enjoying Sliding Rock at Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.

After activity skits, the boys head up to the gym with their cabin counselors to sign up for their ideal schedules. Tables are set up for each activity in case the boys have questions. Cabin counselors make sure the process runs smoothly. Once each camper has chosen his schedule, he then gets to choose from a wide variety of out-of-camp adventures. It is not uncommon for 10 trips out of camp most days. Your son might choose a mountain biking trip in Dupont State Forest or Tsali, or a paddling trip on the Tuckaseegee River or the Nantahala. Or he might pick a trip to Sliding Rock or a trail ride on his favorite horse. On average, we have over 100 boys each day mountain biking, backpacking, paddling, sailing, and rock climbing in the mountains of western North Carolina during June Session (3 weeks) and Main Camp (4 weeks).

Checking In

Campers playing basketball in our camp gymnasium.

Parents sometimes ask, “Why isn’t my son choosing to do something other than what he initially signed up for?” Or, “Why is he not taking advantage of the trips and special sign-ups?” The boys are coached and encouraged regularly to sign up for the specific activities they want. Our counselors suggest activity options as a part of their normal discussions, especially during Evening Embers. Cabin counselors check in with the boys, and follow a series of specific prompts we require them to ask about activities when they meet with their campers individually each week. Trying new activities is also often a theme or topic during Morning Watch, Church, Campfire, and Morning Assembly. We make sure the boys know about all the opportunities for activities, special sign ups, and adventure trips. We make ourselves available after morning announcements and encourage them to ask any questions they may have.

You would think most boys would want to take immediate advantage of special sign-up activities, especially the outdoor-related ones. But many times the boys just want to stick with the in-camp activities they enjoy so much, even with all the prompting and encouragement they receive from counselors.

The Days of our Lives

Camper backpacking on our camp property.

With “sign ups” out of the way, it’s time for the fun to begin. Activities commence immediately on the first full day of camp, which means your son has yet another decision to make: how seriously will he pursue his activities? It is totally up to him. Some boys arrive at Falling Creek sick to death of being graded by teachers and evaluated by coaches. All they want to do is “chill.” They would rather focus on the fun, which is fine with us. Other boys want to participate in as many unique activities as they can while they are here, mastering new skills along the way. We love that, too. That’s why we have implemented a camp-wide progression system that gives campers the opportunity to build confidence as they advance through five levels within each activity: Level 1 – Scout; Level 2 – Explorer; Level 3 – Challenger; Level 4 – Ranger; and Level 5 – Warrior.

Each level has a set of criteria a camper must complete in order to advance. The level system is similar to the Boy Scouts’ rank program. Progressing from one level to the next is based on a camper’s effort, and includes leadership and service components. Some levels can be achieved in a few days, while others take several summers. Campers who reach the Ranger and Warrior levels are recognized permanently on the Hall of Fame Board on the side porch of the dining hall.

Flexibility: In our DNA

This is camp, so flexibility is in our DNA. We mention that because, as interests are discovered or developed, campers change their minds. When the boys want to tweak their schedules, they can do so each Sunday when they also sign up for new out-of-camp adventures. As you can see, we give the boys a great deal of freedom so they can follow their hearts and begin to experience making their own choices. Choice extends to other things — if you choose not to hang up your wet bathing suit to dry, you will have a cold, wet bathing suit the next time you need it. This is a natural consequence, but one without harsh or long-term, negative outcomes.

We believe it is never too early to practice making smart decisions, especially in an adult-supervised environment like Falling Creek Camp. As author and speaker Anthony Robbins puts it, “Our lives are shaped by the choices we make. Success and failure are not overnight experiences. It’s the small decisions along the way that cause people to fail or succeed.” We see successful young men all around us!

Campers enjoy the Blob at our camp swimming lake.
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50th Anniversary Alumni Weekend

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity”

For five decades, Psalm 133:1 has been recited to open each Sunday night campfire. The commitment to personal development and fun as the boys develop an understanding of their relationship with nature, their fellow man, and God remain our mission. It’s been said that who we are is a product of who we’ve met and where we have been. Falling Creek Camp is more than a camp, it’s a community of friends bonded together through the Spirit of Falling Creek.

The 2018 summer will be our 50th. To honor this milestone, we will celebrate. It will be an opportunity for past campers and former staff to join together and relive camp traditions, share memories, gratitude, and encouragement. Please plan to attend over the weekend of September 7-9. Reach out to your favorite FCC friends and encourage them to sign up via the link on the alumni page of the camp website . You can even request friends to room together in the same cabin. We will unveil at the event a commemorative coffee table book and video that celebrates our 50th anniversary.

We enthusiastically announce these Falling Creek alumni who are already planning to attend

Pack your trunk… you will want to be here when the bell rings.

For questions, please contact Yates Pharr – or Sam Clayton –

In Brotherhood There Is Strength

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