History & Tradition
Falling Creek Camp was founded in 1969 by Jim Miller as an independent Christian camp for boys, 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. After three years of building a firm foundation, Jim had growing obligations at Camp Greystone, and decided to sell Falling Creek – and did so to a young man named Yorke Pharr.
For the next 18 years, Yorke and his wife Barbara invested in excellent people and programs, and new facilities and acreage. During the ensuing years, Falling Creek grew in enrollment and new session options were added. In the fall of 1989, Falling Creek was purchased by Chuck and Jean McGrady. Chuck and co-director Donnie Bain operated camp for 16 years.
In 2005, Yates Pharr (no relation to Yorke), a 12-year FCC camper and counselor, and his wife Marisa, purchased camp. Yates had led a successful career in commercial real estate, but considered it a dream come true to return to Falling Creek with Marisa and their three daughters.
For more of our camp’s early history, watch Yates’ interview with Jim Miller.
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)
The Spirit of Falling Creek
For over four decades, the above verse from Psalm 133:1 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, the breezes, and the location overlooking the lower lake that accentuates 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 you become silent as you cross the bridge before climbing up the trail that then leads down into the campfire area overlooking 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. As the flame crackles and glows and climbs out of the neatly prepared logs, Jim “Goody” Goodrum recites 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. We hear the bullfrogs at night and leave our mark by singing songs, telling stories, learning skills from role models, and making lifelong friends. The boys realize this beautiful place has allowed thousands of campers and staff to come together as a community for more than 45 years – and yet it looks today just as it did that first summer in 1969.
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!
- 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 upbeat way to start a great camp day.
- 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, and the boys are in for a treat.
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 team had just met up with Steve and his group of climbers coming off of Table Rock, North Carolina. Steve cooked up a batch of his famous Longenecker Lumps, and man, they were good!”
What do you need?
- Cooking Pot (# 10 can or old cooking pan – 3qts)
- Large slotted spoon
- Pot clamp or hot pad (You’re cooking with very hot oil)
- A mixing bowl for the dough, container for the raw lumps, and a skillet for the cooked lumps.
- Small box of “Bisquick” dry biscuit mix.
- Liter of cooking oil
- Table sugar
How do you cook them?
- Put Bisquick mix in a mixing bowl, being sure to leave some in the box. Sometimes, you need to add more mix to keep the dough from becoming sticky.
- Add water to the dry mix and mix it around until you have a big lump of dough in your bowl that is not too dry or too wet. Play with this until you have a glob of mix that is about softball size and is the right consistency (too dry, it won’t hold together; too wet, it’s all yucky!) You’ll also notice how clean your hands are, now that you have been playing with the dough a while.
- Now it is time to pinch the dough into the perfect-sized “Lump”. Roll each one around between your palms until it is formed just right. What size is “just right”? About the size of a large grape, marble or a very small soccer ball is fine. Too large and they’ll be raw on the inside; too little and they’ll burn up in the oil.
- Now it’s time to heat the oil. Have your pot clamp or pad ready, just in case you need to move the hot oil. When you think the oil is hot enough, take your slotted spoon and gently roll a “test lump” into the hot oil. Never drop one into the oil so that it splashes on you. Hot oil burns!
- If the oil is hot enough, the “lump” will float to the top and cook there until the right color; if the oil is not hot enough, it will sink to the bottom of the pan.
- When the oil is just right, gently add more raw “lumps” to the cooking oil and let them cook until it’s time to roll them in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
- As you take them out of the hot oil, drain them so that the oil goes back into the cooking pot. Now, put them into the cinnamon/sugar mixture, roll them around, then eat!
How were “Lumps” invented?
“A long, long time ago, back when there were real hippies running around (ask your parents about them) and before Falling Creek Camp existed, I worked at Camp Mondamin, one of our neighbors down on Lake Summit,” Steve recalls. “I was on a hiking trip with some boys and we were camping in the Shining Rock area. We had some left over bacon grease in a small metal can and some left-over biscuit mix. I heated up the grease, dropped in a glob of dough and ‘Longenecker Lumps’ were born!”
- Cabin Overnights
Cabin groups will enjoy a true camp out each session. They work together to organize their personal packs, divide up their group gear and food, then head off to a campsite somewhere on the camp property.
Once they arrive at their site, the boys set up camp, play games, make a fire, cook 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.
- 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 along with their cabin. They work together as a part of the cabin time program to paint their names and any other important memories they have had for the summer on their sign.
The signs are permanently mounted on their cabin in a protected area under the front porch. Every alumnus who returns to visit camp seeks out his cabin(s) to show his children, or friends who are with him, and is usually quick to point out the sign, the year, and all of the names of his buddies. The signs truly bring back some wonderful memories and stories.
- Ebenezer Rock
As the boys and staff walk quietly to the final campfire for the session, they have been told earlier to bring with them a rock to drop on the right just before the bridge leading to the Campfire Area. Many others, before and after them, have added or will add rocks to this growing old style uneven rock wall for their final campfire of each camp session. Even dads and sons will each place a rock at their final campfire during their weekend at camp.
This is our Ebenezer wall. An Ebenezer serves as a reminder of God’s love, God’s real presence, and God’s assistance. Every Ebenezer rock serves as a reminder for each camper and staff member of the contributions, memories, and experiences they have had at Falling Creek Camp.
This meandering stone wall reminds us, too, of the spirits of all those who have been part of the Falling Creek Camp community – past and present.
- Meal Time Blessings
Falling Creek Camp Blessings
Before each meal, campers and staff enter the dining hall and stand behind their chairs. We all sing the following blessings as a prayer before sitting down and enjoying the meal together.
Gracious giver of all good,
Thee we thank for rest and food.
Grant that all we do or say,
In thy service be this day.
Father for this noonday meal,
We would speak the grace we feel.
Health and strength we have from thee
Help us Lord to faithful be.
Tireless guardian of our way,
Thou hast kept us well this day.
While we thank thee we request,
Care continued, pardoned rest.
Oh, the Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed
The Lord is good to me
(Campfire closing song)
Day is done. Gone the sun.
From the lakes, from the hills from the sky.
All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.
- Wild Wild West
The boys always eagerly anticipate the announcement of the famous FCC all camp game – Wild Wild West! They erupt in cheers and excited yelling, while giving fist pumps and high-fives in anticipation of one of the most popular games in Falling Creek’s history.
As part of the game, boys search all over the main campus (100+ acres) for things such as gold, the Pony Express bag, the Sarsaparilla Bottle – and they get points for colored flags that they pull off of other team members. There are four teams that divide the camp and each team has some of each of the Tribal cabins.
Imagine all of the campers and counselors running throughout the woods creating strategies, moving around in teams, pulling flags off each other. 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 your flag is pulled while taking gold or items to the bank, you have to hand the gold/treasure over to the person who pulled your flag. The staff gets as excited to play as the boys.
- Special Meals
There are many delicious and hearty meals served at camp, but some are extra special.
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.
One of the other big Sunday traditions is to serve ice cream sundaes for dessert. After the lunch announcements, Yates acknowledges the cabins in order based on their challenging Sunday cabin inspection scores. There is a top cabin for each tribe that is excused first to go directly to the front of the line for sundaes. The rest of the cabins are released based on their scores. What an incentive to clean your cabin well!
- 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 four tribes so 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.
- Five-Year Dinner
A special treat at Main Camp honors the boys and staff who have been at Falling Creek for five 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 experience at Falling Creek.
The Ironman competition involves swimming the lower and upper lakes, then mountain biking a three-mile loop on our single-track trails and camp roads, which take racers over to the ball field for transition to the run. They run a tough two-mile course that brings them back to the ball field where they hear the sound of the music blaring and cheers from the rest of the entire camp as they cross the finish line in triumph.
Each participant has a pit crew made up of camp buddies. All competitors receive the traditional race T-shirt. The winner has his name added to the wall of the land sports hut, which 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.