PART 2: Johnson’s Call and a Leap of Faith

PART 2: Johnson’s Call and a Leap of Faith

Before the 1960s campers at Crystal Lake were all white, middle class children.  But in the last part of that decade, Dottie and Joe felt compelled to answer President Lyndon B. Johnson’s call for racial integration in schools and summer camps.  There was a Christian Science church in D.C. that contacted Joe & Dottie to ask for their help in sending their black Sunday School students to camp.  So CLC set up a special program for churches that wanted to send their Sunday school students. This allowed for a lot of inner city campers to start attending, many of them black.

Dottie says, “Joe and I just felt there wasn’t any other way. It was the right thing to do to have black children.”  Crystal Lake Camps became one of, if not the first, Christian Science camps to welcome black campers.

Joe and Dottie Alford looking out over Wild Rice Lake at CLC

The reality, however, was that this change wasn’t always well-received.  Some families stopped sending their children.  The camp didn’t always come out ahead financially during this time.  Joe and Dottie sometimes second-guessed their decision.  But eventually, over time, more parents started sending their kids to CLC because they wanted them to have a multi-racial experience.  Anna remembers: “People started supporting us because they felt we were genuinely supporting an multi-racial experience that wasn’t happening anywhere else. It took a little bit of faith to do it.”  Anna recalls that as a result, CLC gained the reputation of being a diverse, inclusive place.

That experience for the camp was a stepping-stone in broadening their reach to international campers. A lot of the same issues were there – cultural, racial, financial. If there was a group of campers who all came from one country and spoke the same language, sometimes it was hard to get them integrated. At times the staff didn’t know how to properly support campers who spoke another language. And often (especially post-9/11) there were visa challenges.

Come back tomorrow for Part 3: The Ripple Effects of Mexican Cheese

Do you have any history to add to this account? Any memories from this time? Post your comment below!

And click here if you didn’t get a chance to read yesterday’s post: PART 1: Moscow and the CIA

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2 Comments on “PART 2: Johnson’s Call and a Leap of Faith”

  1. One of the most fun trail rides I ever led at CLC was when we took about 10 of the inner-city kids up over Boardpile. There was so much laughter and joy during their time being with the horses out in the woods — because this was something they had never before experienced. It was a trail ride unlike any other. Steve and I also made sure our special friend from the Washington, DC, church, Gabriel Morris, was at our wedding in Sept. of 1971.

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