90th BIRTHDAY: “ORF’s” Remember Camp Mitigwa

The place turns 90 this weekend, but the focus, is forever young.

The boys who’ll be here to enjoy it have these old men to thank.

Call them “ORFs.”

“Stands for ‘Old Retired Fellows. If you want to be correct,” laughs Bill Darby, who’s been active in Iowa scouting since the 1930s. “It ain’t really what it stands for.”

All were scouts at one time…most attended Camp Mitigwa…and each one still has something to offer.

“There’s a couple of guys that are good welders,” says Bob Korte, a camper in the 1950s, ” a couple of guys that are good a putting in new windows and framing.”

“Anything that you will have seen here in camp, we will have had something to do with,” Darby says.

The ORFs are here every Tuesday, year round, but with summer camp looming, this is the big week.

“To me, summer camp’s the basic building block of a boy staying in scouting,” says Dan Fischer, was attended camp here in the late 1960s.

So for the sake of the boys, they’ll bang the hammer…and—ha!–battle bugs!

There’s something new every year, and this year, it’s the museum.

The ORFs built it, but they have more than just sweat equity in it.

“That’s one of the first things I noticed when I walked in here,” Fisher says, pointing at a tattered troop flag on the ceiling. “Very proud of that, because that’s my flag.”

Much of Mitigwa’s past is here…all the way back to its start in 1923.

For the ORFs, it’s quite a trip.

“That was a picture they found in somebody’s archives,” Darby says of a picture of himself and two other scout leaders in the early 1960s. “God, we were good looking, weren’t we?”

The Boy Scouts of America have had to evolve through the years, but a morning among the ORFs sheds some light on how they’ve persevered.

“For those of us who came to camp over the years,” Korte says, “we have a tie to this place.  I mean its…it’s in all of our hearts.”

And still in their lives. The skills, the friendships and the hope that others will someday join the fun.

“I got so much out of it when I was a kid,” Fischer says, “that I feel I owe it that if I can teach that to someone today—even if it’s just one boy—that maybe I’ve done my job right.”

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