Markham Hill Moment of History                                                       2020-4-13

A Word Picture of Hilltop Camps

by Joy Pratt Markham (1938) - Part 3 of 4

Community Radio show
aired on KPSQ 97.3 FM:

Because we do not accept a large number of campers, our program need never be a rigid one. Hilltop has about thirty boys and thirty girls each summer. One of the first things a camper does upon arriving at camp is to make a plan for his or her daily living, aiming at some definite accomplishment and taking into consideration the wishes of the parent for the summer, but not filling the day too full. Plans are made in week-long units, building up from balanced days to a balanced summer of finest growth, accomplishment, and enduring happiness.

Often an unscheduled day will be included. There are camping trips that break into the program. Saturdays and Sundays we are always at home, on Saturday mornings to do a thorough camp cleaning, polish our shoes, shampoo our heads, care for our nails, and even to give our horses a bath. There is a general swim in the afternoon that is longer than ordinary, and in the evening there is a play or party given by one of the groups. Occasionally on Friday or Saturday nights we hike across the valley to Fayetteville to a picture show. Each summer there is an excellent program of concerts, lectures, plays, and voice, instrumental, or dance recitals given at the University auditorium or Greek amphitheater which our older campers enjoy. The University auditorium and very beautiful amphitheater are just across the valley from Hilltop.

Sunday is the best day of all. With breakfast a half hour later, the two camps have a dip together in the pool before breakfast. After breakfast, in a beautiful woodland spot, or in our Play House, as the weather may dictate, we gather to hear the Bible read to us by a group who have made the selections, and to repeat the Lord’s prayer, following which campers may go with a leader to their respective churches in Fayetteville. At 10:30 we have our weekly horse show, with those participating who have not gone to church, when horses and riders to their best for Mrs. Markham and visiting parents to see.

Just before dinner [noon meal] the required weekly letter, the passport to the Sunday dinner, is written home, and when dinner is finished, the weekly camp newspaper is given out. In the afternoon we have the remaining part of the horseshow, then all campers swim for Mrs. Markham and their parents who may be present. After this we all go to the lawn of the Big House for an outdoor tea supper. After Vespers around the piano in the big rooms inside (sometimes a Bible story is enacted here for the rest of us by one of the groups), the day and the week are done.

Our usual daily program is as follows:

7:00 Reveille
7:45 Weight taking and camp inspection
8:00 Breakfast
8:45-11:30 Activities
11:45-12:25 Rest and preparation for noon meal
12:30 Noon meal
1:00 Free period
2:15-4:45 Activities
5:00-5:25 Rest and preparation for evening meal
5:30 Evening meal
6:00-8:15 Visiting and quiet play, followed by tennis, archery, rifle practice, possibly a dip in the pool or an evening ride, programs, campfires, and parties.
7:15 Younger campers (ten or eleven and younger) leave for their camp fields
8:15 Taps, younger campers. Older campers start to their camp fields
9:15 Taps, older campers.

At 7:40 and 8:40 graham crackers and milk are served at the camps. Campers receiving boxes of fruit, cake, or candy from home pass them at this time. These are kept in the custody of the leader and brought out only at this hour. Before reveille at seven in the morning campers whose weight charts are satisfactory and who have slept in either the period preceding or following the noon meal are allowed to rise and quietly leave their camp fields for a game of tennis, a stroll with a leader, or a morning ride.


Horseback riding, swimming, tennis, archery, riflery, hiking, baseball, basketball, soccer, and other outdoor games are the sports of the camp. All of these are under competent leaders and instructors. Beginners in horseback riding are carefully taught how to conduct themselves while near a horse and take their first lessons and do their first practice in the ring. Accomplished riders learn to do formation work here. Trails lead down three sides of the mountain to valley roads which call for a canter, then up the sides of other mountains where we again have the world beneath us. Our horses vary in temperament from spirited to very gentle, and the campers, in their growing ability, “graduate” from one “school” of horse to the next. All of the horses are our own. A number of them have been known to our campers for many summers past. Some of them were born at camp, and others have been acquired through the years. No camper is allowed to ride a horse except in company with a leader. Overnight horseback trips are the privilege of each experienced and thoughtful rider. Boys and girls learn to care for the needs of a horse at Hilltop.

The same careful attention is given the camper at the pool. Younger campers are taught not to go near the pool except in the presence of a leader, and no camper may enter the pool unless the swimming instructor or one of his assistants is present. Swimming is taught in the most approved manner. Campers are asked to have at least three swimming lessons a week, and accomplished swimmers to set a definite goal of progress for themselves, while beginners, from learning how to keep up in the water and to be fearless of it, soon acquire a degree of skill. Games played in the pool from water polo and water tennis to “dibble dabble” all seem equally enjoyable.

Riflery and archery are very interesting to certain of our campers. Bows and arrows belonging to the campers and the rifle belonging to the camp are kept in a locked cabinet by the leader in charge, and taken out when two or three go together to the archery or rifle range, where they are taught the proper handling of the gun or bow and are given practice in the use of them.

Our boys and girls do work in leather, metal, clay, and in weaving adapted to their ages and degrees of skill. They work with the hammer and saw, making bird houses, small sail and motorboats, and their bows and arrows. Older skilled workers build the kayaks and an occasional glider. Some of the older girl campers learn weaving on the large looms which are available for our use at “The Lodge”, a mountain handcraft workshop near the edge of Fayetteville, where they may make linen towels, rugs, or the homespun for their fall suits.