Markham Hill Moment of History                                                       2020-3-23

A Word Picture of Hilltop Camps

by Joy Pratt Markham (1938) - Part 1 of 4

Community Radio show
aired on KPSQ 97.3 FM:

Hilltop Camps occupy one hundred and fifty acres on a mountain top one mile west of the State University town of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The University grounds over-lay the limits of the town on the west, reaching down into the valley which separates Fayetteville from Hilltop, coming within a short distance of the east boundaries of Hilltop, which in their turn reach down into the valley from their side. Our mountain top is one thousand, six hundred feet above sea level. No road passes us. We are secluded by being lifted above all surrounding places but are within five or ten minutes by automobile of highways, railroad station, and the excellent physicians and hospital which the city of Fayetteville affords.

Joy Pratt Markham

On the mountain top are sunny meadows, wooded places, and springs of cool water. The skies above Hilltop are spacious. The white clouds are close to us by day, and the stars at night. Foliage opens to reveal vistas of blue hills and shining valleys. Eras ago our mountain top was a sandy seashore. It is like that still, with its smoothness and its wideness transposed to the dry, mountain air. Being inland, and not experiencing the extremes of heat and cold of a more northern region, we have few summer fogs. Those that come rarely reach us at our mountain height. Flowers bloom on the mountain top all summer through. Soft breezes blow over us. At night we look down upon the lights of Fayetteville.

The boys’ and the girls’ camps are on opposite sides of the mountain top, the boys’ on the west, and the girls’, on the east. Both are in open meadows on highest parts of the mountain. The boys’ camp field slopes gently down to the swimming pool, where glimpses of their tents are reflected.

A woods separates the pool from the girls’ campgrounds. The girls live in houses, six girls in little curtained off rooms and one leader to a cabin. The cabins, or “shacks”, are little more than a roof and a floor, with sides built up a few feet and curtains to lower against rain. There is scarcely less air and sunshine in these than in the boys’ tents, which perhaps the girls would not be quite so capable of managing.

The girls’ camp is in full view of the sunrise, as it comes up over the eastern hills, the boys’, of the sunset, spreading its glory across the western sky. Both look out over the valleys to the mountains of the south. The girls’ camp field is curtained from the remainder of the campgrounds by a grove of small trees which conceal the houses from view.

Just beyond this curtain of trees is our “Play House”, where plays are staged, handcrafts are done, music and dancing lessons are given, and on weekend evenings we gather for programs and parties. The boys share this building with the girls, but they have also, nearer their grounds, a large open shed, with tool house, for their manual work, together with a darkroom for photography. Girls may come here with the boys to make their bows and arrows, bird houses, or other things of wood, and to develop and print their Kodak pictures.

The stables are by the path of the girls as they come from their camp field to their meals, and beyond them, across the “breeze-blown” meadow, past the blue vervain and orange butterfly weed, is our dining room. This is in a grove of trees on the north boundary of our grounds, which we call Wren Grove, by a spring. The spring is one of three near the borders of our mountain top. The boys and girls come together at the dining hall for their meals.

Our fourth spring lies centrally on the mountain top. This is “the pasture spring”. In the center of what was once the large sunny pasture which was a part of Mrs. Markham’s home as a child, and what is now our camp play fields, this spot, with its swimming pool, is perhaps the center of our picture at Hilltop. (The stables, with their beautiful horses, have a strong appeal). The water in the pool is soft as rainwater. Flowers bloom here which are not found on other parts of the campgrounds. Below the pool the little stream has cut its way down, exposing large rocks, making little pools with sandy beaches where little boys may play, building their dams and harbors and sailing their boats (and where little girls may do much the same, and make their play houses). Fossils are found here, rare birds are seen, and a chipmunk or rabbit or squirrel may become less timid during the summer months. The swimming pool is built of concrete and is one hundred feet long by thirty feet wide, with an average depth of five feet. There is a diving board at the deeper end. Campers row their kayaks here before they (the older ones) take them out on their camping trips to the nearby rivers and streams. The kayaks are built by the older boys and their leaders in the shop at camp.

In the widest open place on our play fields stands the brick column for our telescope. In the evenings to many of our campers there is no other spot more interesting than this. The telescope has an eight-inch lens.

There is a smaller swimming pool for the smaller campers, those five or six and under. This is in The Hollow, a place of depth and shade, near The Big House, our guest house for parents and friends of the campers. Near the Big House also are houses for the younger campers, with their own little play house, shower bath and toilet, outdoor fireplace, and playgrounds. We occasionally have several of these little ones, and wish that we might have more, for they live the very essence of the camp life.

On opposite sides of the large swimming pool are showers for the girls and boys. These, with only curtains about them, are open to the sun and air. There are additional showers for the girls and their leaders on the girls’ campgrounds. The kitchen staff have their separate shower room.

The toilets on the campgrounds are of the governmentally approved type, with concrete floor and septic tank beneath, with, in addition, one of the chemical type.

The Big House, near the east entrance to the grounds, is a large frame house with large rooms and high ceilings. In the electric ovens of the large kitchen of the Big House the many loaves of home-made bread for the camp tables are baked. Electricity is used also for refrigeration here, while at the camp kitchen a three-hundred-pound ice box and wood and coal range are used. Drinking water is served un-iced at both the camp and the Big House tables, frosting the glass as it comes fresh from the well from which it is drawn. Guests at the Big House may have room and board by the day, week, or month. Accommodations are limited to four large bedrooms with one conveniently large bath, in which there is always an abundance of hot and cold water. Water for the bathroom is electrically heated. There are electric lights and a telephone at the Big House. Electric lights (unless the flashlights belonging to the campers may be called so) are not used on the campgrounds. Girl campers wishing hot baths come to the Big House bathroom for them. The large back porch at the Big House serves as our camp craft room, where supplies for trips are packed. The attic of the Big House provides storage space for city clothes.