By: Karen Lloyd-D’Onofrio, Association Historian
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my position as the Association’s historian and director of the museums and archives is having the opportunity to spend time with our alumni and listen to their stories. Last month, Michael Ohl Camp Executive of Camp Chief Ouray (CCO) reached out to me to see if I would like to join him and alum Frank Traylor on a visit to the original camp, north of Granby. It didn’t take me long to get my bag packed and head over Trail Ridge Road!
Frank, his daughter Susan and her husband Mayo, met us and Wesley Brown at the Red barn on the property. Wesley, a former alum and property owner at Ouray Ranch, graciously agreed to guide us around the site and share his own memories with Frank who, considering his age of 91 years young, is remarkably agile. As we walked around the property, memories of his time at the camp came flooding back.
Frank’s father was on the board of directors for CCO during the 1930s and 1940s, and his brother, Louis, had been a camper and a camp leader for several years before his death at the age of 23 years old. Frank looked up to his brother, who was 15 years older, and began attending CCO. But as Frank shared with us, he wasn’t much good at swimming, canoeing, or athletics – although he was successful in receiving the devotional award – and he didn’t know anyone. His friends in Denver all went to the Boy Scouts camp; and much to his father’s annoyance, after two years so did Frank!
Despite his few years at CCO in the 1940s, the camp impacted his life in very profound ways, and his memories of the camp are as vivid and real as if it was yesterday. In 1939, his dad and uncle donated money to CCO to build a hospital in memory of Louis: it was named the Louis M. Traylor Memorial Hospital. The June edition of the Denver Young Men newsletter noted that Louis was one of the “finest boys to attend camp” and that the hospital would make it better to care for the health of the boys who attended camp. Indeed, according to a story shared with us during our visit, Frank told us of an emergency appendectomy conducted at the hospital. Fortuitously, a father was delayed in leaving the camp for his home in Denver, and being a medical doctor undertook to perform the operation with help from a local nurse in Granby. The surgery was successful and the boy recovered to full health. Frank went on to become a medical doctor in Denver, while serving in the Colorado state legislature and as the director for the Colorado health department. While the camp hospital no longer stands, its impact on the lives of early campers resonates down through the years.
At the end of our visit, I shared some artifacts and photographs from our CCO collection. Frank recognized the camp director Leslie Deal and remembered cabin square. Susan nudged her father – “Sing the song Pop!” Frank started to sing the Chief Ouray camp song and faltered. I pulled out a copy of the song and gave it to him, switched on the video and sat back while Frank sang the camp song, just as he had done 80 years ago. There was silence from our small group as we allowed Frank to remember.
It is during such interludes – these brief moments – when we reflect on our early childhood experiences and ponder the impact they had on our lives. And so it was with Frank. In that brief moment, Frank was transported back to camp and his childhood; remembering perhaps his brother Louis and his father Frank.
I am thankful and grateful to be part of these precious moments with our families, and I’m honored to help them preserve their memories and history with our organization.