San Francisco Council Patch, (c 1950)
San Francisco Bay Area Council History
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Boy Scouts of America, San Francisco Bay Area Council • 1001 Davis Street, San Leandro, CA 94577-1514, (510) 577-9000  |  Contact Webmaster
Camp Lilienthal (Marin County)
History
1929 - 1973
Camp Lilienthal patch (c 1955), Image courtesy of the Adam Lombard Collection Pictures History

Around 1944 Camp Lilienthal got a new Camp Director.  His name was Jim Oren.  He served in this capacity until sometime in the late 1940's.  He was followed for a short time by Howard Kalisch.  In 1946, the program director at Camp Lilienthal (Dick Hacke) led a group of Scouts on a 65 mile trek from Camp Lilienthal over to Camp Moore (Royaneh) in Sonoma County.  The Scouts took four days to complete this trek using both trails and secondary roads to make their way.  


By 1947 after almost twenty years of use as a scout camp, Lilienthal was in need of some major repairs before the camp could open for the 1948 season.  The old wooden walk-in ice box/refrigerator was condemned by the City of Fairfax and had to be removed.  Concrete bulkheads had to be added to the Camp Office and the vocational building.  A garage needed to be built to protect the council truck and other equipment.  Fire suppression equipment such as hoses, fire lines and other safety provisions had to be added to the camp.  The total cost of the repairs was estimated to be around $10,000.  The council considered mortgaging the camp and borrowing the money but ultimately agreed to borrow the $10,000 on a deed of trust which was carried out on April 4, 1947 by Wells Fargo Bank with an immediate loan of $6,000.  This loan allowed the council to install a new state of the art electric refrigerator, build eight new troop shelters, construct a combination storage shed and garage as well as make the other required upgrades.


In 1949 the camp had the honor of hosting the first ever Area 12-B Order of the Arrow conclave put on by Royaneh Lodge of the San Francisco Council which was attended by 35 Arrowmen.


Around 1951 Capt. Fred C. Mills became resident Camp Director.  He was considered "one of the country's leading experts on camps, field sports and rugged outdoor living".  He had been one of the founders of the Red Cross Aquatic program.  In his twenty-five years of service to the Boy Scouts of America he had served as the National Director of Health and Safety.  The resident Camp Directors lived in the back section of the old Jory log cabin.  The log cabin had been divided to provide an apartment-like complex for the Camp Director in the rear.  The front half of the cabin was used for scout functions.  


Being the all year weather camp, Lilienthal was used for many different activities throughout the year including conferences, planning meetings, troop day hikes, Order of the Arrow ordeals and even conclaves.  In 1952 Royaneh Lodge hosted the conclave for the second time and used Camp Lilienthal once again for the location.  Members from Royaneh Lodge inducted a new lodge into the Order of the Arrow from the Mt Diablo Council at a ceremony held at Lilienthal.  The newly formed Lodge was known as Oo-Yum Buli.  


In the early 1960’s the Rangers house which was a two-story log cabin built out of Redwoods by William Jory in the 1890’s was condemned and torn down.  San Francisco Troop 14 helped in the razing of the termite infested building.


In its place a small ranger’s cabin was constructed to house the new Resident Director who was now referred to as the Camp Ranger.  In 1963 the Morley memorial hospital was dismantled due to its deteriorating condition.  The front meeting room and the fireplace of the hospital were the only parts that could be salvaged and these areas were rebuilt into a restroom and lounge.  Also, due to the changing philosophy of camping it was not necessary to have a building specific to a hospital since the nearby town of Ross had a full service general hospital.


In May of 1964, three months after the San Francisco Council and the Oakland Area Council merged, the new Roland E Dye rangers cottage at Camp Lilienthal was dedicated in honor of Roland Dye, the former San Francisco Scout Exec who died in 1962.  Roland Dye began his scouting career in Bakersfield when he started Troop 1 in Bakersfield.  Dye’s assistant Scoutmaster at that time was Arthur Myer (California’s First Eagle Scout and future Scoutmaster of San Francisco’s Troop 17).  In the 1920’s Roland Dye became Scout Exec for the Kern County Council as well as the Regional Scout Exec in the 1950's.  In 1960 though, Roland Dye took over the position of the San Francisco Scout Exec on a temporary basis until a Scout Exec could be located following the departure of San Francisco Scout Exec Oscar Alverson.


Camp Lilienthal Closes:

With the merging of the two councils in 1964, the San Francisco Bay Area Council now had six camps to operate and maintain.  In 1973 due to fewer Scouts using the camp, the encroachment of new housing around the property and the cost to operate so many camps, it was decided to close two of the council camps that had the least amount of use.  Although it was a difficult decision by the board, it was decided that both Camp Lilienthal and Camp Loomer would close.  


An article appeared in the April 21, 1974, issue of the San Francisco Examiner entitled, "Too Tame, Scout Camp up for Sale".  It read "Camp Lilienthal, the San Francisco Council's Boy Scout Camp, where thousands of San Francisco youth got their first taste of the joys and discomforts of outdoor living, is being sold".  Fred Emerald, the council's Director of Properties, is quoted as saying, the camp is no longer remote enough for the Scouts.  He is referring to the fact that the San Francisco Council, which numbered 8,000 scouts, had merged with the Oakland Council which had 20,000 scouts.  In 1974 the combined council was serving some 45,000 youngsters a year.  The San Francisco Bay Area Council had a number of other properties it wanted to develop into camps and the money realized from the sale of Camp Lilienthal would help in that development.  Lilienthal was just "too small and expensive to maintain" according to a council spokesman.  The article stated that the camp had originally been donated by the Lilienthal family and family members had authorized its sale.  This would help to explain a letter dated March 19, 1973, which exists in the archival material on Lilienthal.  It is a letter written by Robert P. Lilienthal, Max Lilienthal's son, in which he is responding to a request for information on the whereabouts of living members of the Lilienthal family.  At the time the Examiner article appeared, negotiations were going on for the sale of the property by the Council to a group who wanted to use the property for a tennis club.  


People living in the vicinity of the camp objected to the tennis club proposal stating that the use of the property for such purpose would increase the traffic on the winding two-lane Bolinas Grade, decrease the isolation of the area and increase the noise and fire hazard.  Robert Sherman, a resident of the area and a descendant of the Jory family who first owned the property, disagreed.  "As to fire hazard, the tennis club would be the best use of the property.  Whoever heard of a tennis club burning down?" The sale of the property to those who were proposing the tennis club however fell through.  


Two years after Camp Lilienthal closed in 1973 and forty-six years after it opened as a Scout camp, the property and buildings were sold for $150,000 to the Islamic Society of California.  


In 2010, thirty-seven years after its last campfire, a few of the Scout buildings still remain standing including the Roland E.  Dye ranger’s cottage, the building adjacent to it that had been called a tool shed, is now used as an office and meditation room.  The main camp building which had been the administration building and dining room for the scouts is now used as a mosque.  The kitchen annex still extends out the rear of the building and a small storage building still exists on the hillside nearby used for storage.  One of the KYBOs (not functional) resides on the hillside above the road that led to the various scout troop cabins and the John McGregor swimming pool and pool house are still there.  However, the pool house is now dilapidated and the pool itself is green with algae and has been turned into a giant pond for Koi fish.  The foundations for some of the Troop cabins and BBQ pits could still be found as well as downed power lines and lights attached to the trees.  The two spiral-bark redwoods still stand majestically just below the pool house and two poles supporting a sign that said "McLaren Axeyard" mark the location of where scouts learned the proper techniques in the use of an axe.  Down on the ball field a new building has been constructed to provide guest accommodations for the Islamic Center.  The City of Fairfax required that the original entrance to the camp be moved further up Bolinas road to provide a safer entryway for vehicles.  The entrance and parking lot is now between the location of the admin building and where the vocational building was located.


Although Camp Lilienthal is gone it certainly has not been forgotten by the thousands of Scouts that used the camp over the years.



Personal Recollections:

Among those who fondly remember attending Camp Lilienthal were Joe Ehrman III, Ed Bodie and Dick Macke.


Joe Ehrman - Troop 14 used to go to Camp Lilienthal in December.  We would help the Ranger with camp projects, such as cleaning the leaves from under the buildings and occasionally taking down an old troop shelter.  The Scouts changed from uniforms to work clothes when they arrived at camp and brought bag lunches.  Around 4:00 PM the work would stop, the tools were cleaned, and a station wagon would arrive with hot dogs and soda pop.  After that dinner the troop, still in work clothes, would assemble in the rec hall for a game of British Bull Dog.  If a Scout still had his t-shirt intact after the game he had not played!


By now it was dark.  The troop changed back into uniform and hiked by flashlight (it was the annual Flashlight Hike) out of the camp to the reservoirs and down to the Phoenix Lake picnic area where hot chocolate and donuts awaited the Scouts.  After the Closing Circle everyone was driven home.


Ed Bodie - started attending Lilienthal as a scout in 1934 when he was twelve years old.  At the age of 15 (1937) Ed became a member of the camp staff and served in that capacity until he entered the service at the beginning of World War II.  Ed remembers getting off the Northwestern train at the Fairfax Station and walking two blocks over to Bolinas Road.  He and other boys deposited their gear on a bench provided by the owner of the Park Service Station, on the east side of the road, just across from the entrance to Fairfax Park.  Twice a day a truck from the camp would come down the hill and pick up the scout's gear and haul it back up the hill to camp.  Ed never remembers any of their belongings being stolen as they lay there unattended, waiting for the driver of the camp truck to pick them up.  From the gas station the scouts walked up Bolinas Road toward the camp.  At Deer Park Villa, they had a choice - they could continue up the road or they could take a trail which began at the Villa and proceeded up through the old vineyard planted by the Balangero family on the hillside above the road.  The trail led up to the ridge line and followed the ridge to where today's Water District tank is located.  From the tank they descended to Bolinas Road.  Part of this section of the trail is today's Fern Ridge Road.  Crossing the road, Ed recalls that the trail continued up a slight rise and along a second ridge, continuing until it emerged at the intersection of Bolinas Road and the road leading to Lake Lagunitas.  According to Ed, the trail along the second ridge was wider than the one along the first ridge.  This was because it had been a part of the older alignment of the original Bolinas Road that was realigned to give the road less of a grade.  Today this older section is a private road along which homes have been built.  Was the trail to Camp Lilienthal shorter or longer than hiking up the county road?  This was always a question the scouts would ask as they climbed the trail but it was certainly more adventurous and safer.  They did not have to compete with the traffic on the county road.  


Dick Hacke - spent a lifetime in scouting, beginning his career as a member of the San Francisco Council.  In 1948 he became associated with the Marin Council working full time with that council.  Dick began attending Camp Lilienthal in 1933 and it wasn't long before he joined the camp staff.  Ed Bodie, who attended camp at about the same time, remembers that Hacke's first staff assignment was an assistant to the camp cook (also known as the dishwasher).  From dishwasher he rose through the ranks of the camp staff until he became the Camp Program Director.  One of the programs initiated at Lilienthal during Dick's tenure was the extended hiking trips for some of the more advanced scouts.  These hikes were usually from Camp Lilienthal over to Tomales Bay.  One of the ranchers in the area had given the scouts permission to camp on his ranch.  Similarly scouts from Camp Royaneh near Cazadero would hike down from their camp to the same Tomales Bay ranch and the scouts would have a combined camp-out.  The story is told about the time that Dick and Bob Bohach, in 1948, set out from Lilienthal to look for trail systems which would avoid the scouts having to take the public highways on their extended hikes.  They left Lilienthal on a Thursday in 1948, just after lunch.  Traveling light, they had hiked some 14 or 15 miles when it began to get dark.  Just as the moon came up they spotted a deserted farm house.  Here they hoped to replenish their water supply and rest for the night.  Climbing through a broken and rotting old fence, they went to the rear of the old house and discovered a dilapidated barn and a nearby horse trough.  Into the trough was running clear cool water from which they filled their canteens.  After sitting down and eating a sandwich or two, both men felt better.  They then laid out their sleeping bags beneath a cherry tree and sat around speculating about who might have once lived in the abandoned ranch house.  Did some tragedy befall the family who once lived there? Why had the place been abandoned? Did the deserted farm house hold a secret?  As if in answer to the men's speculations, there was suddenly a sound of "bump-bump-tap-tap" coming from the upper story of the dark and deserted house.  Startled, Dick and Bob, who by this time had settled down in their sleeping bags, both sat upright.  The sound stopped.  They settled back down again and were about to doze off to sleep when a scream pierced the air, followed by a sound as if someone were walking on the floors of the old house.  It was some time before Dick and Bob could finally settle back in their sleeping bags and drift off to sleep.  At the break of dawn, while they were rolling up their sleeping bags, out of a broken window flew a fat old owl.  He flew over and perched himself in the cherry tree above where the two men had nervously slept that night.  Looking down and blinking at them, he seemed to be saying, "That was me making all that racket”.

Boy Scouts of America, San Francisco Bay Area Council • 1001 Davis Street, San Leandro, CA 94577-1514, (510) 577-9000