Memories of Belsano Camp Meetings
Other recollections of Belsano life in the 1930s

This page by Walter E. Cameron

Photos by Judy Rose

I was born in Strongstown in 1927, the youngest of four siblings. Several months after my birth, my mother moved in to Belsano. She moved because my dad had been killed in an accident on the C&I Railroad just two days before my birth. The move to Belsano was prompted by the opportunity to purchase a home there with the proceeds from the sale of the Strongstown farm.

Events before my own personal memory are pertinent to Belsano history, as you will notice by some names of people known to all in Belsano. Mother started selling LARKINS products, which were very much like Watkins and Ralieghs products.

Being only a few months old, I needed a "Nanny" to keep the house while Mother worked the area building a route of customers. She hired a lovely young woman named Cleo Rummel as my Nanny. Cleo sometime later married Doss Paul of lumber mill and trucking fame in Belsano.

After three years of living in Belsano, mother found work in "the Overall Factory" in Johnstown and we moved to Coopersdale. Mother rented out our Belsano home to George Mentch, who rented for many years from Mother before deciding to purchase the old house. George (Bucky, Jr.) lived in that house for many years before he built a new home across the street, just below the Monroe Learn family. I remember Bucky from childhood as he, regularly as clockwork, drove in to Johnstown each Month to pay his rent, before he finally bought our house.

The cottages

I really do not recall our early trips to Belsano to attend "Camp Meeting." I guess I must have been about six or so when my first recollections began to stick in my memory. Every year, we went to Camp Meeting. It was a very exciting time for me and brother Charles. Charles usually got a job in the dining room kitchen, working for Mrs. White—or was it Wright [or Wike, a prominent Belsano name—webmaster]? Charles did things like carry water from the spring, helped around the kitchen, sometimes cranking the ice-cream freezer, sometimes doing dishes or building a fire in the outside fireplace. For this, he was given free board in the upstairs bedrooms above the dining hall. I loved sleeping in those old cubicles they called bedrooms. They had no ceilings, and were open up to the roof rafters from about seven feet high. This allowed for the prankster-type children to peek over the top to see who was in the next cubicle. The aroma from the aging raw lumber walls of the cubicles, plus the fresh straw used as mattress stuffing, was a special and unforgettable memory. I hated the mandate to "be quiet so people can sleep" and usually did not get much sleep.

We arose early to partake of breakfast in the dining hall below before setting out for the day. The Tabernacle, which I believe is still in use, was another adventure in the smell of raw lumber and sawdust. The floor was dirt, well packed from years of use. It was covered with what seemed like a foot-deep layer of sawdust, furnished, I think, at least partly by Doss Paul. There was a long balcony across the rear of the Tabernacle, and a row of rooms there, also. These rooms were not usually available for public use as very often they were occupied by visiting ministers who were scheduled to preach.

The Tabernacle windows were swing-open barn-type windows that served a fine excuse for not going inside the Tabernacle for services. Many people huddled around outside, looking in the windows to listen to the music and then leave when the sermon began.

A permanent fixture on the front pew was Nellie Anderson, a rather eccentric lady who lived alone next to our farm in Strongstown. Nellie lived for the 10 days of Camp Meeting each Year, never missing a service. She was fired up with her love of Jesus Christ and was not bashful about it at all. She wore long ankle-length wide-bloused dresses and wore bonnets or homemade sun hats, and usually carried an umbrella. She was a loud "Amen" shouter and prayed long prayers. She would very often jump up and begin running up and down the aisles shouting praises all the way. Nobody minded, as everybody knew and understood and loved Nellie.

Up on the rostrum (stage) you would always find Ward Adams seated stage right in his usual location, from where he would always be the first one to his feet when it came to pledge time. He was always good for a $50 or a $100 gift. I used to wonder how anyone had that much money. Ward and his siblings and his parents were very good to us kids of a widowed mother, and I sometimes was deposited in the care of Mother Adams while Mother worked, when we lived in Belsano.

It seemed like everyboby came to Camp Meeting, even the "sinners," who were, of course, the ultimate targets for salvation. I always looked for Uncle Ed Cameron, as He was usually good for a dime, which I converted into Popsicles or ice cream cones up at Bob Clausen's store.

the spring houseThe favorite place of every camper was the spring house. There was a small peaked-roof house with a concrete reservoir, which had a shelf across the back where people stored things like milk, butter, soda pop, and such. One eternal problem was marking your watermelons for identification, as there were usually a number of them lying in the cool spring water. There was a pipe for the water to flow out of the spring house, where you could fill a bucket or a cup for a cool drink. There was also a hand pump up the hill outside the dining hall with a public tin cup hanging where people could drink water.

There were three or four little cottages around the grounds outside the Tabernacle, which were also usually occupied by featured speakers and evangelists. I remember one evangelist who was a very loud snorer, and he always took a daytime nap, so a bunch of us kids would often hang around outside his cottage just to listen to him snore.

Finally, our usual stopovers in Belsano during Camp Meeting (which always came over July Fourth) one day visiting with Doss and Cleo Paul and daughters. I always especially loved this, as Doss always had fireworks and Cleo always served up a sumptious meal with great desserts. I remember being close to the age of the daughters, and they would invite me to climb around in Doss' Diamond T truck and pretend to be driving it.

We usually would visit the Mardis family and I would play with George. I remember when they built the "new" brick house across the road from their old house, around 1935 or so. George and I used saw horses and roof joist boards to make see-saws and had a ball.

Down nearer the Camp Grounds, my cousins Elton (George) Straw and his wife Gertrude (Cameron) Straw lived for many years. We always stopped there for at least one visit. Gertrude was my Uncle Ed's daughter. My widowed mother was to later on marry Elton's brother, Bradley Straw. There was a lot of fun made about that, as the marriage made her nephew George also her brother-in-law and her neice Gertrude also her sister-in-law. All I know is that Bradley was a wonderful man and stepfather to me.

Mother and Charles and I would usually have to walk to Big Bend to catch the bus back to Johnstown. We would walk by the homestead of Dr. William Prideaux, who delivered me and one of my siblings (I'm not sure which). I did not mind standing to wait for the bus to come, as it usually entitled me to get a Popsicle to wile away the time waiting. My Uncle, Mervin Angus, was very often the driver for our ride back to Johnstown, but he stood for no nonsense. When I was tall enough that I could not walk under the divider rail in the bus, I could no longer ride for free.

I wanted to say so much more once I finally got started, but time and space constraints won out. I hope you all enjoy sharing my memories of Belsano Camp Meeting.

—Walter E. Cameron
A true Heart for Belsano


Links to additional Blacklick Township pages

Blacklick Township Home Page
Blacklick Township teachers recalled

Clarks' Farm Market recalls valley's past general stores
Red Mill site: Blacklick Valley's good news
Blacklick Township Churches 
Blacklick Township High School Class Lists
Off the Nanty Glo Home Page site:
     
George Warholic's Blacklick Township Pages
Belsano Memories (from Jon Kennedy's growing up there, with Belsano School photo-1)
Belsano Memories (from Trudy Rummel Myers, childhood on the pig farm)
Belsano Memories (from Jon Kennedy's adolescence, writing for Mountaineer Herald-2)
Belsano memories—Halloween in the 1950's (Jon Kennedy-3)
Belsano's famous literary figure - Malcolm Cowley
Spring fever on the Kennedy farm, 1956
Views from the hamlet of Cardiff/Nettleton
The Blacklick Township Class of 1960 35th anniversary reunion photo
Blacklick Valley's most famous athlete - Bill Hartack
The 'good old days' at Blacklick Township High School, by Linda Rae Watson Silbaugh
A Death in the Family and how it forever changed our lives (Belsano crash kills three)
      A Postscript
A virtual hike, Vintondale to Belsano
The Belsano Job—robbery and murder on the C&I Railroad
Remembering growing up in Twin Rocks, Shirley Bracken Kozlovac

 

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