About Camp La-No-Che
amp La-No-Che is the Boy Scout Camp located on the North shore of Lake Norris in Paisley, Florida. It is a part of Central Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America and is home to Tipisa Lodge of the Order of the Arrow (OA), as well as the greatest Summer Camp Staff in the United States of America. A proven fact due Camp La-No-Che’s tradition of being a Nationally Accredited Camp for over 25 years. Camp La-No-Che is part of the Leonard and Marjorie Williams Family Scout Reservation.
La-No-Che is 1,480 acres (6.0 km2) and located near the southern border of the Ocala National Forest and on the shores of lake Norris. It is also on the North side of the Wekiva River Protection Area.
The camp is open year round with its most active time being the 8 weeks during summer camp in June and July. La-No-Che also hosts weekends for local JROTC units, Venturing units, Learning for Life units, Cub Scouts (Boy Scouts of America), and Webelos (Boy Scouts of America) weekends. Tipisa Lodge also hosts OA events including sectional weekends.
There are multiple sub-camp locations on the Leonard and Marjorie Williams Family Scout Reservation including Scout Ranch- a large council camping area used to host large events and Council Camporees, Camp Rybolt — a large group camping area used for District and special events, Camp Pooh Bear — a secluded and primitive camp, and Adventure Camp, which has a Project COPE course, Alpine Tower, and Static Ropes Course.
The camp has two waterfront areas with docks, an aquatics program, a climbing wall, two swimming pools, laundry facilities, a trading post (camp store), shotgun, rifle, and archery ranges, a health lodge, outdoor chapel, dining hall, and multiple modern latrines. Also contained on the property is a water treatment plant, 5 residential houses, sulphur springs, Pooh Bear Lake, 25 Troop campsites, a baseball field, amphitheater, basketball court, bouldering wall, a dance arbor, and the Florida Trail.
The W.T. Bland Dining Hall is a full service food facility able to produce 3 meals a day for 1000+ campers.
Adventure Expeditions and hiking trails are numerous including Big Stump, a 12′ cypress stump an Orlando area attraction trek, Eagle Week, SCUBA diving, climbing, caving, kayaking, sailing, and trail biking. American Red Cross Health & Safety Certifications are also offered.
Short Historical Summary
Central Florida Council’s summer camping was originally located at Camp WeWa off of Orange Blossom Trail (US Hwy 441) Apopka, Florida. Due to limited available land for expansion, close proximity to a highway, and a polluted lake on property, the Central Florida Council decided to seek new property around 1949. The Committee to find new land suitable for a summer camp was headed by Judge Don Cheney, an Orange County judge and long time Scouting supporter who was the first president of the Central Florida Council when it was organized in the 1920s. Through various means they investigated the Gould Hunting Lodge on the north shore of Lake Norris in Lake County, FL. The hunting lodge was owned by the wealthy Gould family from Massachusetts, owners of the Gould Pump Company. The former Camp WeWa was sold to the YMCA, which still operates a program there under that name.
The first summer camp held on the new property was in 1950. During 1950 and 1951 there was no public electrical hook up onto the camp, although there was an electrical generator used for lights and a well-water pump. Ice blocks were brought in along with butane and propane for cooking and hot water purposes. In 1952, a 5000 Watt generator was purchased due to plans for an on-site refrigerator unit.
A few years later on the west end of the property land was purchased from the Dyke family, who was given continued access. Their house still exists today. The purchased land included the Sulfur Springs and the Big Stump nature areas, as well as a creek that feeds into Lake Norris.
The camp name was given by Judge Don Cheney and consists of “La” for Lake, “No” for Norris and “Chee” to give it an Indian sounding ending. According to Tom Burgess a professional Scouter of that era, “Cheney absolutely insisted that the name be La-No-Che… one “e”, and even in the face of the fact that “La Noche” translates “the night” in Spanish…behind his back everyone understood that it was his way of putting the name of “Cheney” on the camp in perpetuity!”
In the mid-1990s, Florida based supermarket Winn-Dixie donated a large sum of money to the Central Florida Council, and the camp was given the overall title of “Winn-Dixie Scout Reservation.” In 2007, the Winn-Dixie name expired, and the Scout Reservation later sold naming rights to the Leonard and Marjorie Williams family.
The current Camp Director is Matt Ragan and Assistant Camp Director Kathy LaBar and Assistant Camp Director of Program Mac Griffith.
Camp La-No-Che Early Beginnings
(The Writer is Tom Burgess, retired professional scouter, who started his career with the Boy Scouts of America in 1948 as a Field Scout Executive in the Central Florida Council and retired in 1987 as an Area Director of the Southeast Region).
My start with the Central Florida Council began when John L. Shutt, the professional serving Orange, Osceola and Lake County was selected to become the Scout Executive of the Pinellas Area Council at St. Peterburg, Florida in April of 1948. At this time, I was a Senior at Stetson University in Deland Florida, and had been a long time friend of John Shutt since he had been the first professional Scouter in my home town of Fort Myers, Florida at the time I earned my Eagle Rank, and served under him on summer camp staff for two years.
The reason that this is related to Camp history is that John Shutt lived in Mt. Dora and one of his responsibilities was to make a weekly trip every Saturday to the then Council camp to carry the Ranger, (who did not have a car, and didn’t drive even if the Camp had a vehicle!) to cash his salary check at a bank in Okahumpka, buy his groceries for the week (he had no ice nor refrigeration) and to have a couple of drinks at a local watering hole. (That was the Ranger, not Shutt!) I came into the picture since with the departure of Shutt in the spring, the nearest Council staff member was either Orlando or Daytona Beach, neither of which wanted to make that trip every Saturday. I was “hired” by the Council to perform that service while I was in college, and I guess on the recommendation of Shutt and getting acquainted with the Scout Executive, signed an intent of employment as Shutt’s replacement on the staff conditional upon my graduation from Stetson. The Camp Ranger…or really just a caretaker…was a “Mr. Arnold” a very interesting character…. do not know his age, but he must have been well into his sixties then, for he lost his wife in the earthquake and fire of 1906 in San Francisco! He had only one eye, but was quite active and capable, tho definitely a real loner if not a hermit…. Neither I nor anyone else ever called him anything but “Mr. Arnold”. He was the camp caretaker at “Doe Lake” when I first met him, then moved back to Camp WeWa and eventually to Camp La-No-Che. He died of throat cancer sometime in 1952, I believe, after being hospitalized after the camp season closed in 1951.
For a short time the “interim caretaker” was a volunteer scouter from Mt. Dora who was a retired WWII American Red Cross worker …. he was having “wife problems” and moved out of his house to live at Camp La-No-Che! His name was Bill Barker, was a member of the Executive Board (can’t figure out why!) but mostly he worked Rover Crew” in the council, consisting mostly of college-age alumni of the Mt. Dora Scout troop.
But, back to the camp story….
At this time the “Council Camp” was a former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) “camp” in the Ocala National Forest, called by Scouting “Camp Doe Lake”. I do not know what the Ocala National Forest, called by Scouting “Camp Doe Lake”. I do not know what the Forest Service called it. This had been used by Central Florida for several years because the Council-owned Camp WeWa, near Apopka, had its swimming lake water condemned on account of pollution.
Camp WeWa was on very small piece of property only a short distance off “The Orange Blossom Trail” U.S. Highway, and had the distinction of having a public road only within a hundred yards of the Dining Hall, but between that dining hall and the waterfront of the swimming lake! Somehow the pollution got cleaned up, and the Council returned to Camp WeWa for the 1949 season, with me as the Camp Director. I had recruited a college friend, still in school at Stetson, Jordan Maynard, to be my Asst. Camp Director…or Program Director…and we had three or four week season. At the end of the Scout Camp, by prior agreement, the Camp was rented to the Orlando YMCA and ran for another 3 or 4 weeks as a YMCA camp retaining most if not all of the BSA staff, kitchen cooks, menus etc, with Jordan Maynard as their camp director. This is all relevant because when the Council found and purchased the land for Camp La-No-Che , Camp WeWa was sold to the Orlando YMCA. After graduating from Stetson and a brief stint working for a meat packing wholesaler, Jordan Maynard entered Professinal Scouting in 1951 as the first resident District Executive for Orange County (also serving Osceola County). Prior to his addition to the staff, Burgess had served as the Executive for the three districts (3 counties) of Orange, Osceola, and Lake living in Mt. Dora. During the National Jamboree at Valley Forge in August of 1950 the Korean War broke out, and Hardy Prather, who was Field Scout Executive living in Daytona Beach, was called back to active duty in the Air Force. Temporarily, Burgess served the Seminole District and West Volusia District along with Lake District after Maynard joined the staff in Orlando.
During all of this time Scouting was completely segregated racially, and there was a camp exclusively for Black Scouts just west of Sanford. I do not recall the name of the camp or what ever happened to the property. There was one Black professional who served all of the Council except Lake County, where Burgess served all of the units, black or white.
But back to the Camp La-No-Che story….
The water, small acreage, highway etc… had all been problems at Camp WeWa, and the Council had been looking for land for a new camp for several years… A former Council President, Donald Cheney of Orlando, was chairman of the Camping Committee and generally headed the effort to find suitable land. His “committee” consisted of the District C & A Committee Chairmen. (Remember when “Camping and Activities” was the proper name?) Periodic meeting were held, generally without much progress in finding a suitable site. Since I was the Camp Director, I was the “advisor” to the committee. One of my District C & A Chairmen…. of Lake District… was Franklin “Doc” Hatfield, a dentist in Umatilla. Among other things he was a private plane pilot and owned a Republic SeaBee… an amphibian pusher-propeller aircraft that he landed on a private strip near his home and orange grove property sitting on top of a hill east of Umatilla. One meeting of the Camp Properties Committee was held at an office on the campus of Rollins College in Winter Park. I flew down from Umatilla with Doc Hatfield and we landed on one of the lakes in Winter Park, tying his plane up at a dock in front of a cocktail restaurant, and we waited in the bar for someone previously arranged to pick us up and take us to the meeting.
By strange coincidence, one of the bar patrons was an acquaintance of Doc Hatfield…. whether a fellow dentist or what, I do not know. At any rate, in conversation the friend was told why we had flown in to Winter Park and of the trouble that we were having finding suitable camp property for the Boy Scouts. This “friend” asked Doc if we had looked ….”at the Gould hunting lodge” on Lake Norris. Strangely enough, Doc Hatfield had never heard of the property, as close as it was to Umatilla on the north shore of Lake Norris.
At the Camp property committee meeting, all of this was reported. Sometime later, after getting onto the property by flying in with that Republic SeaBee, seeing what the land was etc… and searching through real estate records or whatever, negotiations were begun with the Gould family…of Boston, I believe, but definitely from Massachusetts… wealthy family from the Gould Pump Company… to eventually buy the land, which was accomplished in either late 1949 or early 1950 in time to hold summer camp there in 1950.
There were three buildings on the property, all of basic log construction. The “Manor House” and a Lodge that had a wood stove kitchen (which I believe eventually became known as Cally’s Cabin). and a third building about half-way between those first two… a two room caretakers “residence” with an attached garage storage room and a smaller almost “shed” at the end that housed the electric generator.
There was no public power to the camp for at least the first two seasons. The gasoline one cylinder generator was a unique arrangement hooked into all three buildings in such an electrical hook-up that if a light switch were turned on in any one of the three, it closed a circuit that caused the battery powered started to crank the generator to shut down until someone turned a light back on. I refer to “lights” because there were no other electrical uses in camp except for the well water pump, which operated just like turning on a light switch. There was no electric refrigeration at all for the camp for the first two seasons! Only ice blocks! We did bring in propane… or butane gas for a hot water heater and stove.
Norma and I were married in 1950 and she spent the summer camp season with me and worked in the “kitchen” and Commissary in 1951… What trading post there was operated in either the garage of the caretaker’s residence or in the big room of the Lodge, adjoining the kitchen. We lived in the Manor House in the “master bedroom”, with us expecting our first child, born in September after the camp season was over. It was quite an adventure… For neither of those first two seasons did we get much food deliveries to camp other than the pre-camp orders from Gumpert or Seidel or one of the other institutional packaged food suppliers touted by Camp Schools… Believe we did get milk delivered… and ice was delivered, but all meats and produce were bought by me, in local grocery stores, as camp director and driven to camp in a loaned pick-up truck from Heintzleman (not sure of the spelling) Ford dealership in Orlando, who was a member of the Board. We got a lot of free produce from the truck farms around Sanford and Oviedo in Seminole County and the truck farms between Mt. Dora and Apopka around Zellwood. Growers in Lake County provided all the watermelons and canteloupe we could use! What exciting times!!
At the end of the second season, we bought… from a man named Eichelberger in Eustis, a one cylinder diesel generator of higher capacity… (would you believe 5000 watts?) and planned to have a refrigerator for 1952! The diesel though was hand crank…no automatic operation that we enjoyed with the smaller gasoline model, but I left before that was in full operation.
There were no other buildings… we had put a couple of pit latrine shelters for sharing between tent campsites: there were no shower or washing facilities!…. and “shelters” consisting of four trunks of cabbage palmetto trees in the ground and pretty rough roof trusses with sheet metal roofs at each troop site for troops to use as dining areas. That first year food was prepared in the central kitchen for some meals and carried to troops in “heater stacks” for serving in troop sites. Other meals were prepared as sandwiches etc. for some lunches or cereal, fruit etc.. for some breakfasts. We used dining flies as needed for activity areas, but it was really primitive. The second year was mostly patrol cooking with fewer meals prepared in the “central kitchen”.
The waterfront was pretty primitive too… we did erect a metal dock. It had adjustable length metal legs with welded flat plates on the bottom end that just sat on the sand of the lake bottom. Fortunately the bottom was sand and not mud. The decking was also metal and bolted onto the legs. The dock extended out into the lake for a short distance… and the swimming area was well punctuated with cypress knees in all of the shallow water. There was no lifeguard lookout, but we “patrolled” the outer area with a rowboat to keep swimmers within the vague boundaries. There was a roped off area to enter and the “buddy tag board”.
Camp staff was minimal. The waterfront director and a provisional Scoutmaster were the only adults besides me and one cook. We had perhaps one other lifeguard on the waterfront, one handicraft instructor, one first aid, two scoutcraft type staff and one that ran the archery and rifle range. In those days we extensively used the NRA awards and recognition system on the rifle range. I believe that the staff were all Eagles.
I do not know exactly what acreage was… but other property owners on the east side came up to within a few yards of the waterfront…. straight down to the lake from “Cally’s Cabin”. That land was owned by a family in Eustis… would have to really think back to come up with a name…. but the principle in the family was a relatively young man, “Buster” Something… with a terrible reputation for both game poaching and drinking… but again… eventually some deal was struck to buy some of that land too.
At the other (West) end of the property, we managed to buy…. from the Dyke family, I believe…. another piece of land that included a spring feeding into Lake Norris… but only negotiated the purchase by agreeing to a life-time access and use of a piece of the property by “Old man” Dykes! I never knew what eventually became of that deal.
When in 1949 or 1950 the land was purchased, came the decision to name the camp. Don Cheney was still a manor domo or the operation, and under his direction the name Lanochee was brought up…. “La” for Lake, “No” for Norris…. and “Chee” to give it an Indian sounding ending…. like Lake Okeechobee…. or the Caloosahatchee River or Wekiwatchee Springs…. all either Seminole or Calusa Indian names, but always with a double “e” ending…. Cheney absolutely insisted that the name be La No Che… one “e”, and even in the face of the fact that La Noche translates “the night” in Spanish… and that Lanochee was more Indian-ish…. one “e” was final, and it was to be seperated by capital letters…. but behind his back everyone understood that it was his way of putting the name of Cheney on the camp in perpetuity!
I left Central Florida in December of 1951 for the Occoneechee Council (there’s that “chee” again!) and have not been back to Camp La No Che since…. am looking forward to my April visit.
Now…. what else can I tell you? Your questions and my answers, if I have them, are free!