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Founded in 1918, Camp Winnataska, grew out of the desire
of youth-serving organizations to serve city children
during the summer months. The idea was to move children
out of nearby Birmingham, Alabama, with its thick factory
smoke and steel-making smog, to a wholesome, woodsy environment.
The site was used first in 1916 and 1917 by the Boy
Scouts and the Boys Club. In 1918, the Birmingham Sunday
School Association bought the land and started a pioneer
effort in religious camps, offering sessions not only
for boys, but also for girls.
The guiding spirits of
early Winnataska were Dr. Elwyn Ballard, first commissioner
of Boy Scouts in the Birmingham area, and his wife Florence.
The Ballards first recognized the Winnataska location,
on Native American hunting ground, as an ideal campsite,
and they became vital forces in the founding and growth
of the camp. Mrs. Ballard selected the name Winnataska
from a list of Indian words, meaning “laughing waters,”
alluding to the site's Kelly Creek and its delightful
Daniel Ray Price, who married Ballard's sister
Pauline, came to Birmingham in 1921 and was elected executive
secretary of the Sunday School Association the next year,
taking the running of Winnataska on as a personal challenge
which lasted until his retirement in 1958. He stayed
involved in the camp until his death, and his family
is still active with the camp.
After the earliest sessions
when campers slept in tents, Winnataska rapidly added
rustic huts -- named for native tribes including Seminole,
Creek, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw -- as well as
a dining hall, chapel, nature hut, and other facilities.
The Maltese cross is the official symbol of Winnataska,
with its four arms representing the “fourfold life”:
mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional.
of early traditions remain popular today, such as Indian
Night and the pageant of the Holy Grail. Many of today's
campers are fourth and fifth generation Winnataska family