Traveling The World With The Lodges of Ondessonk & Tekakwitha!
By Pati Egan
Imagine meeting the Pope and celebrating Christmas midnight Mass at the Vatican. For some Lodge members from the 60s and 70s this was a reality. Perhaps riding a camel in Morocco sounds like fun – Lodge members did this too!
Beginning in approximately 1963, Lodge members could earn trips to foreign countries by selling a quota of advertisements for the Camp “Souvenir Book.” Camp now has a yearbook that highlights each week of the summer. The Souvenir Book might add a few new pictures every year but the main purpose of the book was to generate money for Camp through ad sales.
You didn’t have to be from a large city to earn these trips. Larry Davis and Kathy (Tinkerbell) Chambliss went on several trips, and they were from Cairo, Ill. Lodge members took trips to Italy, Vatican City, Spain, Portugal, the Bahamas, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Switzerland, and Morocco.
Christine (Hempen) Kengott went on seven Lodge trips! This was quite an accomplishment for a camper from New Baden, Ill. I asked Chris how she got all of those ads and she stated that “(She) went to all the major cities in the area like Germantown, Albers, Damiensville, Breese, and Aviston”. I imagine no business in Clinton County was safe from Chris’s ad-selling skills! Another person who went on multiple trips was George Boatright. George is originally from Paducah, Ky.
Memories from those who went on trips:
I went to the Bahamas in 1971. Probably the highlight for me was seeing Cape Kennedy. This was the happening place to be if you were interested in the space program. It was too cold to take a boat to the Bahamas. We instead ventured down to Key West, which is 329 miles from Cuba.
Other people went on much more exciting trips than my trip. This is Chris Hempen Kengott’s memory of meeting Pope John Paul II. “The highlight was being kissed on the forehead by Pope John Paul ll, somehow he knew I was from the USA and came up to me and said ‘You from the United States, right?’ Then kissed my forehead and blessed me.”
Steve Rheinecker also experienced meeting the Pope on a trip featuring highlights in Italy. “We too had a private papal audience. Turns out that meant for a few thousand people. Midnight Mass at St. Peters for Christmas, with the Pope, visits to Pompeii, Assisi, Florence, an opera in Venice.”
Steve was only 14 years old when he started going on the Lodge Trips. Steve also recalls that “We were from the 60s and 70s, so chaperones were on their own vacation. We did find ways to take care of ourselves without them. The downside was Camp vehicles to New York. The vans had no heat…. single digit temps. I was extremely fortunate, at 14, I was one of the youngest to ever go. Semi growing up at Camp, the older staff looked out for me, yet I was accepted as part of that group. Best of all worlds…. The next year took us throughout Spain and Portugal. The Alhambra, Costa del Sol, Toledo, Barcelona, Lisbon, and a side trip to Morocco.” Steve’s uncle was Camp’s first Ranger, Ralph Rheinecker.
Jim Klein recalls that “While we were in Rome over Christmas, Camp’s connections got us into midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, with seating only a couple of rows back from the altar. It was amazing being so close to the Pope holding Mass in St. Peter’s. We also did New Year’s Eve in Venice. Florence was amazing with the statue of David. Pompeii was unbelievable, as were the tours in each city. Loved the food but after a week of Italian food we found a place that did US hamburgers. The following year we did a club in Morocco. Camel riding in Morocco and just walking through the old markets was great, although our hotel had a big wall around it and we were told not to go out at night, it was too dangerous.”
Kathy Chambliss probably took one of the last Lodge trips in 1980. This trip was to Israel. We (Steve, Jim, Chris, & Kathy) put our heads together and decided the Lodge Trips ended when Camp branched off into the adult Silver and Golden Frontier trips around 1980.
How Did They Do It?
Every year at the Lodge Reunion the Camp Director would announce the trip and get everyone fired up to sell ads. Lodge members would go home with their ad forms and be convinced that they would win the trip in one day. The trips were very hard to earn. You had to bring in a certain number of ads that equaled a sum of dollars. This was the easy part! Take off of school the next day armed with your last year souvenir book and be the first to hit the businesses that gave last year! The Shrine of Our Lady of The Snows in Belleville was a big ad to try and get. I assume that by 9:30 a.m. on Monday some lucky Lodge member got that ad. I went on a Bahama Trip and did not bother to go to the Shrine. I concentrated on the big ads from East St. Louis.
The hard part of the trip, at least for me, was securing a certain amount of business “Patron” ads and “Supporter” ads. You would think this would be easy, but this took much more effort than going to an established business that you were confident would renew their ad. You just had to be first!
The supporter ads were your friends and family, maybe your family doctor, or a small confectionery. As I recall, they cost about $5.00. That doesn’t sound like much, but take my family as an example; 4 kids, mom & dad, grandmas, and grandpas – $50 was a lot of money back in the day!
The Lodge trips are now a thing of the past. The world has changed – can you imagine your parents letting you go to Europe or Africa with minimal supervision? The trips were hard to earn and did teach you about salesmanship and how to present yourself to an owner of a large business. So many of the businesses were privately owned and not franchises. I don’t imagine you would have as much success dealing with a corporation as we did with local businesses.
The trips did open the world to many campers and staff from Southern Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana. These experiences are still vivid in the participant’s mind 60+ years later.