Looking Back: Silver Lake in 1957

4/26/2017
By Drew Page

Images of Camp Easton - pre-1957
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"A Camp and Conference Center of Our Own!"
 
Those words spanned the top of the 2-page centerfold of the February 1957 edition of Congregational Connecticut — the publication of the Connecticut Conference of Congregational Christian Churches (soon to become the CT Conference of the United Church of Christ). Beneath those words were images that served as a first glance at the site that would become Silver Lake Conference Center.
 
In December 1946, the conference Board of Directors voted to purchase the near 50-acre plot known then as Camp Easton. In January of 1957, the Conference announce the decision and portrayed the camp as "exactly what we have been looking for." The announcement described the existence of several "fully equipped buildings in excellent repair," some of which still exist today.
 
Did you know?
 
  • The original camp had only 16 cabins. It also had tennis courts, an "Indian Village," a dark room, and something called a "steam bath." Click here to see a map of the camp from 1942. (Most of these are gone; new cabin villages and 3 winterized buildings have replaced the old cabins.)
  • In February 1957, the Conference asked churches "to invest $150,000 in the future of their young people and for the strengthening of their churches." $75,000 of that was for the actual purchase of the site, a huge discount even in 1957. In 2017 purchasing power, that's roughly $650,000.
  • Prior to Silver Lake's purchase, over 1200 young people attended conferences at one of 6 rented facilities the conference used for its summer program. Three of those conferences were held in Connecticut — Camp Woodstock in Woodstock, Hotchkiss School in Salisbury, and Camp Hazen in Chester — while three others took place in New Hampshire.
    Young people boarding bus for camp
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  • The first Silver Lake "brochure" was released in April 1957.
  • The front page spread of the Congregational Connecticut showed an Arrow Line bus parked in front of the Congregational House — the conference office building on Sherman Street in Hartford built only 4 years earlier — and a dozen campers getting ready to leave for camp. Yes, that's right. Buses were used to transport campers to camp destinations.
  • The eleven 1957 conferences were limited to youth in grades 8-12. (Today, campers are welcome from grades 4-12).
  • Cost of registration was $31 a week.
  • Churches were limited to 4 youth per week, and "no more than two of whom may be girls."
  • Silver Lake held only one conference per week, accounting for 11 of the 19 conferences offered that year from June 22 through September 14, nearly twice the number of summer youth conferences offered in previous years. (This year, Silver Lake is offering 39 conferences in 7 weeks.)
  • Of the 21 adult "deans," 17 were ordained ministers.
  • The Silver Lake conferences were only numbered at first, but by 1958, they all had names like Pilgrim Conference, Mayflower Conference, and William Brewster Conference.
  • Even the adults had a chance to retreat to the new camp for 3 days in July. The Laymen's Summer Conference attracted 35 adults, including the Conference Minister Rev. James English, and included an early morning "silent communion" under the trees, some competitive horseshoes, and some fun in the waterfront trying to sink an "unsinkable canoe." (Today, Clergy Camp is held each year for authorized ministers. Registration is now open for Clergy Camp 2017, which will be May 9-11.)
  • The 1957 season attracted over 1604 campers – 992 girls and 612 boys. Almost 350 adults were involved in summer conferences. This included more than 100 ministers, and the first Camp Staff who were all known as "Camp Family."
  • The camp director for 1957 was Lloyd Duff, who also worked at Camp Hazen and later founded the Holiday Hill Day Camp in Mansfield, CT. Duff passed away in November 2016.
 
In May 1957, the Rev. James Yee, chairperson of the committee responsible for finding the new site, wrote about the potential that Silver Lake would have on young people:
 

"How can anyone describe the possibilities and the potentials of development of mind and body and spirit that are at Silver Lake? It will become what we and many another will put into it of themselves at their best. IT can become one more project of which Connecticut can be proud, if we make it the place where lives become touched with Christ's spirit 'for the living of the days.'"

 
Silver Lake will celebrate its 60th Anniversary on Saturday, August 26, 2017, from 11 AM to 5 PM.
Tickets are $15 per person with a family maximum of $60. Commemorative 60th T-shirts are available to purchase at the time of registration for an additional $10. A cookout lunch will be provided, as well as time to participate in traditional Silver Lake activities, explore on your own, take a group decade photo, and join in worship. Go to more information.


Silver Lake registration is now open for the 2017 season. Invite a child today.
 
Drew Page is the News & Media Editor for the CT Conference and a co-dean for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a conference for 7/8th graders during week 4 this summer at Silver Lake.