A Piece of Scouting History Finds Its Way Back Home
The story of the Tonkawa Lodge plaque
Hopefully you have heard of Tonkawa Lodge, our newest building at Stearns Scout Camp near Annandale. What you may not know is that this Lodge is designed to look like a building that has a history dating back to a 1921 Scout Camp on the shores of Lake Minnetonka – Camp Tonkawa.
The original Camp Tonkawa had several buildings, including a main lodge building that served as a dining hall and gathering place. The camp was a joint venture between the Minneapolis Council (Boy Scouts of America) and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Minneapolis Chapter #44, to create a camp for our Scouts to attend. An 18-acre parcel of farmland was purchased for $18,000 in 1921, and a couple of the buildings from when we owned the camp still stand today, including the lodge.
The thousands of Scouts and hundreds of leaders who walked into the lodge were greeted by a bronze tablet on the outside wall. It featured the official logos of the Boy Scouts of America and the Elks Lodge, and the inscription:
Eighteen Acres and Lodge
Minneapolis Elks Lodge 44
Minneapolis Area Council Boy Scouts of America
The first Scouts who attended Camp Tonkawa experienced a two-week camp session, and within a few years a winter camping program was established there. After Many Point Scout Camp was opened in 1946, Tonkawa became a leadership training camp.
On June 30, 1965 Camp Tonkawa was purchased by the Men’s Club of Temple Israel for $80,000 to be used as their youth camp. Proceeds from the sale of that camp were used by the Viking Council to develop Camp Heritage (now known as Camp Stearns) in 1966. After Camp Tonkawa was sold the eighteen-pound bronze plaque was removed. The plaque had been forgotten about, as no one had seen it since the mid-70’s.
On July 25th of this year, Mr. Cary Schaik was eating lunch in Plymouth, and he noticed our newest Scout Shop only two doors down. He then remembered that he had a plaque in his trunk, given to him a while ago by a fellow former Scout named Julius Berezofsky. On a whim, he stopped in and introduced himself to Scout Shop employee David Blacker. He explained that he had a plaque that he had been toting around and asked if the Scouts would ever want it back. David Blacker took a photo of the plaque. This was the beginning of the journey home for the Camp Tonkawa dedication plaque, more than fifty years after we last owned it!
On August 17, several people gathered at the Plymouth Scout Shop, where the Camp Tonkawa plaque was received by Northern Star Scouting. It was also a time to hear first-hand accounts of Scouting at Camp Tonkawa and the story of the travelling plaque. Those able to attend were Cary Schaik, Julius Berezovsky, David Blacker, Bob Thielen and Retired Viking Council Scout Executive Don Blacker.
Julius Berezovsky became a Boy Scout when he joined Troop 86 at age 12, chartered to Beth El Synagogue of Minneapolis. Julius had many favorite memories of Scouts and being able to attend Camp Tonkawa about 1944. During his tenure as a Scout in Troop 86 Julius achieved the rank of Life Scout. Julius then took some time off from Scouting as a young adult but later became reconnected when his son became a Cub Scout. Julius shared that his wife became the Den Mother for their son and his den of Cubs. One night she returned home from a leader’s meeting with an announcement: the pack leaders had decided that they needed to replace the Cubmaster. Julius was at first a bit concerned, and asked – “well where will you find a replacement for him?” His wife responded, “that’s not a problem. We already found him, and he has been recruited. And it’s you.”
So began a second phase of Scouting for Julius, first as the Cubmaster for his son’s Cub Scout pack, and later moving on in the Scouting program with his son as an Assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 86, which had about 70 Scouts at the time. Julius has very special memories of Scouting with his son and all the others of Troop 86 and their many trips to Camp Tonkawa and to Many Point Scout Camp between 1955 and 1961.
Cary Schaik is a veteran Scouter, with his first experiences as a Boy Scout in Troop 86. Cary has fond memories of being a Boy Scout in the 1950’s, and the time he spent as a Scout at Camp Tonkawa. He recalls that back then it cost $12 to attend a week of camp, and for him and his fellow Scouts, that was a lot of money. So, they set out to earn their way to camp. They would gather on Saturdays and meet up with a scrap metal collector. The scrap collector would drive his truck down the alleys of Minneapolis, with Cary and his friends prowling through the alley for discarded metal. They would toss it in the truck, and when the scrap collector turned in the metal for cash, the Scouts would get “a cut of it”. This was their camp funding. Cary also recalls that Camp Tonkawa had the best snipe hunting anywhere!
Cary achieved the rank of Life Scout and became a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow. This recognition has a special meaning for Cary because the original Order of the Arrow lodge in the Minneapolis area was named Tonkawampus Lodge #16, and was created during the camp programs in those early years at Camp Tonkawa.
Cary later was recruited by “Bunny” Bearman to be an adult leader for the troop, and he led many trips with the troop to Many Point Scout Camp. He shares that “I feel that Scouting was a very important part of my life. It taught me many good things and to this day “I cite the Scout motto “Be Prepared” and the 13 points of the Scout Law – the 13th being a Scout is always hungry”.
For those interested in learning more about fifty years of Scout camping on Lake Minnetonka, check out the Northern Star Scouting book “Builder of Men”, available for purchase at the Northern Star Scouting Leadership center.