As Middletonians celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Bull’s Run Nature Sanctuary and Arboretum,” we recall the site’s interesting history as home of “The Fresh Air Camp.”
When it opened in the mid-1920s, the fear of tuberculosis had gripped the nation and the Middletown area.
Parents were advised to remove children from crowded cities where the disease could easily spread. A country-like setting with fresh air, room to exercise and a diet of healthy food would keep the malady at bay, they were told.
Such was the atmosphere that encouraged the creation of Middletown’s Fresh Air Camp, now the site of Bull’s Run Nature Sanctuary and Arboretum.
In his “Middletown Diary” column of June 25, 1924, Middletown Historian George Crout announced that a “new permanent Fresh Air Camp, located one and one-half miles east of Middletown...abutting the golf course, opened today...”
Sponsored by the-then “newly-organized Civic Association” and approved by its Board of Governors on May 19,1924...Camp construction was authorized with an appropriation of $3000,” Crout wrote.
The camp would operate for ten weeks until shortly before Labor Day and would cost about $1800.
Crout reported that Ann C. Munn, camp supervisor, said “the major aim of the camp is to prevent tuberculosis.”
“Although none of the children admitted to the camp have any trace of tuberculosis, they live in an environment which might cause the disease,” Crout quoted Miss Munn as saying. “It is the purpose of the camp to protect children from the disease until they are past 12 years old when they naturally will be better able to combat it.”
At the time he wrote the column Crout observed that “...they are still roughing it out” at the camp. “Water must be hauled from the city, as this utility has not yet been installed out this far. Electric lights have not been connected.”
Nevertheless, he continued, “Ten children were taken to camp this morning by nurses in the Bureau of Public Health, and 22 others will join them before the week is over. Sleeping accommodations limit the camp to 32.”
Assisting Miss Munn was a public school nurse, a recreation director and a “capable kitchen staff,” Crout recalled. “A physician visits the camp daily, while Dr. G.D. Lummis, Director of the Bureau of Public Health, keeps a close watch over the project...”
According to Crout, to “promote the development of strong bodies,” a “well-planned” day at the Fresh Air Camp included:
Waking at 7 a.m.
Having one’s temperature taken
Breakfast at 7:30
Cleaning chores and bed-making
A post-lunch, 2-hour rest period
Supper at 6, followed by recreation
Bedtime at 8:30 “for everyone.”
Having visited the camp, Crout reported he was “amazed at its natural beauty, under tall trees, high on a hill where the fresh air strikes one across the face...”:
“Through the camp wanders Bull’s Run which used to wander at ease through downtown Middletown, but which now ends ignominiously in a sewer.
“But here old Bulls Run is still free, gurgling its merry way down the ravines, watering the rabbits, squirrels and raccoons...”
In 1974, following “a half century of service,” the closing of the Fresh Air Camp was reported in the Middletown Journal:
“For years, the 11-acre camp, a gift to the Civic Association from Armco Steel Corp., provided six weeks of wholesome food, regular habits and plenty of fresh air for these children.
“Today, however, the demand for this type of activity has diminished, [Calvin] Lloyd, [Civic Association President], said.”
“The decision to close the camp, which has been under consideration for the past two years, was made at this time because of a request for retirement by its longtime counselor and director Mrs. Ella Hines, Lloyd said.
“Mrs. Hines has served the camp for 20 years and has been in complete charge for the past six years. A staff of 14 has been employed at the camp each summer including a full-time nurse, four cooks, seven student counselors, a maid and Mrs. Hines.”
Although Middletown’s Fresh Air Camp no longer exists, the land on which it cared for children – now the site of Bull's Run Arboretum -- still nourishes the soul to this day.
Below : Enjoy a video about the Fresh Air Camp made possible by TV Middletown. It appears on Google Images: https://vimeo.com/87104696
“New Fresh Air Camp Opens,” column #152, by George Crout, dated June 25, 1924. It appears in a collection of Mr. Crout’s columns titled “Middletown Diary, Vol. I” which is available for reading in MidPointe Library’s “Ohio Room” of historical collections.
“Fresh Air Camp will be closed by Civic,” from the Middletown Journal, January 30, 1974.
“Billy Big-Heart" comic from the Sunday News Journal, September 20, 1953.
The newspaper items above can be found on microfilm at MidPointe Library-Middletown or online at :
www.midpointelibrary.org > eLibrary > Research Databases > Magazines and Newspapers > Newspaper Archive > Middletown Journal (date)
The photo of the Middletown Historical Society’s “On This Land” monument (above), designating the site of the Fresh Air Camp and Bull’s Run Arboretum, is from Google Images.
The two photos of children dining at the Fresh Air Camp and the photo of a camp building with an unidentified woman under its awning can be found in MidPointe Library’s Digital Archives:
If you’re interested in local history, visit MidPointe Library’s “Ohio Room” full of one-of-a-kind, non-circulating items, and its Local History and Genealogy Gallery just footsteps away! Both are located at its Middletown location, 125 South Broad Street. Then...
CELEBRATE BULL’S RUN’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY AND LEARN ABOUT ITS HISTORY, WHICH INCLUDES THE FRESH AIR CAMP!
IT ALL HAPPENS AT THE BULL’S RUN 2019 ANNUAL MEETING :
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 7-8:30 P.M. AT M.U.M. VERITY LODGE, 4200 N. UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD, MIDDLETOWN.
LEARN ABOUT BULL’S RUN HISTORY FROM ADAM WANTER, MIDPOINTE LIBRARY DIGITAL AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS ARCHIVIST, and
SAM ASHWORTH, MIDDLETOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY TRUSTEE & PAST DIRECTOR.
THE PROGRAM IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.