Camp Mockingee still going strong after 65 years

Carole Morris-Underhill
Published on July 22, 2014
Camp Mockingee 1

Published on 22 July 2014

<p>International exchange students Isabella Martins and Julian Giacomuzzi enjoy roasting marshmallows at Camp Mockingee while in Nova Scotia.</p>

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Camp Mockingee 2

Published on 22 July 2014

<p>Three international exchange students join sisters Faye Pellegrini, Sylvia Jee and Cathy Pellegrini, youngster Cameron Baker and Rotarian Andy Kirk for a photo around the campfire. Visitors converged on Camp Mockingee earlier this summer to celebrate the site's 65th anniversary.</p>

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Camp Mockingee 3

Published on 22 July 2014

<p>Gina Murdoch and her son, Grayson Cochrane, test out their luck roasting marshmallows by the campfire.</p>

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Camp Mockingee 4

Published on 22 July 2014

<p>Folks who visited Camp Mockingee earlier this summer for the camp's 65th anniversary were transported back in time when they had the chance to explore the cabins and examine the walls to see if their names were still written there.</p>

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Camp Mockingee 5

Published on 22 July 2014

<p>Tabatha Ward (nee Rafuse) poses in front of Cabin 2 – the same cabin she slept in more than two decades ago. She said her name was scrawled on the walls of all of the original cabins.</p>

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Camp Mockingee 6

Published on 22 July 2014

<p>Faye Pellegrini spent a while scouring the walls for her name. She eventually found it and was eager to show it off.</p>

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Camp Mockingee 7

Published on 22 July 2014

<p>A highlight of many campers' experiences was playing in and around Lake Mockingee.</p>

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Hundreds of former campers converged on Camp Mockingee this summer to help celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Windsor Rotary Club's highly successful project.

The visit, for many, brought back fond memories – some dating back decades.

Faye Pellegrini was one such visitor who thoroughly enjoyed taking the trip down memory lane. As she wandered around the site, memories of past friends, crafting and fun times popped in her head.

“It's amazing to be here, it's just amazing. All the memories just keep flooding back,” said Pellegrini, standing outside one of the original cabins.

She attended the celebration with her sisters Cathy Pellegrini and Sylvia Jee – all of whom attended the camp at some point during the mid 60s to early 70s.

Pellegrini said she looked forward to the camp every year, eager to see friends.

“We would catch up and lay awake all night talking,” said Pellegrini, quickly adding that sitting around the campfire at night singing songs was always a highlight, and something she now shares with her family.

In 1949, the Windsor Rotary Club purchased 40 acres of land bordering Lake Mockingee, and transformed it into Camp Mockingee – a place primarily aimed at giving children one-of-a-kind outdoor experiences.

The camp is open to youth of all ages, often being a venue for those involved with Scouts, Girl Guides, Cadets, church programs and schools. Groups from Hants County, Kings County and Halifax are the main users of the recreational facility, but it is rented by organizations throughout Nova Scotia.

Since its modest beginnings, Camp Mockingee has been added to and transformed into a year-round complex. In 2002, a bequest resulted in an additional 35 acres of forest being added to the site.

Rotarian Andy Kirk, the chair of the camp's committee, has been involved with Camp Mockingee for about 20 years. He has a building at the campsite named in his honour.

Kirk said the highlight of the recent anniversary celebrations was connecting with the past campers.

“I think the highlight for me was meeting so many former campers who came back and brought with them their memories and stories of their experiences,” said Kirk. “They were just delighted with the fact that the camp has remained active and remained available to a wide variety of groups, and has been modernized in so many ways.”

Although the site has undergone much improvements, all of the original buildings still form part of the camp complex.

Pellegrini was one of the many visitors to search the original cabin walls in hopes of finding her name scrawled somewhere.

“I haven't been this excited about anything in such a long time,” said Pellegrini. “I love it. It just takes you back to... when you were a kid and things were so different back then.”

Although the camp now offers many modern amenities, Pellegrini can't help but recall a simpler time.

“Like, it's not like it is today. When you camped, you camped. There was no cell phones, nothing like that,” said Pellegrini.

Even though Tabatha (Rafuse) Ward grew up “just down the road” from Camp Mockingee, which is located at 160 Smeltzer Road, Upper Vaughans, she looked forward to attending the summer camp more than two decades ago.

“I always made my mom drive me all the way to Windsor to meet the bus to come all the way back out here to come to camp,” said Ward, with a chuckle.

Ward said the changes to the campsite were “amazing” and commended the Windsor Rotary for putting in the effort to upgrade the site.

“I've been down to the water and it is really nice; they've really done a really good job here.”

Kirk said the Windsor Rotary Club are already planning the next improvements for Camp Mockingee.

Three Rotarians “are going to take a leadership role in trying to develop the forested areas with additional trails and do some silviculture,” Kirk said.

“Eighty acres of land and we aren't fully using more than 30 or 40 of those acres,” said Kirk. “That's our big initiative, I would say, in the next year or two.”