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Our History


Camp Fire Greater Long Beach was founded in 1923 and chartered in 1925 as the result of the leadership of Miss Ruth Kirkland, and her sister Irene, who started the first Camp Fire group in the Long Beach area at Jefferson Junior High School. Camp Fire groups continue to be the oldest, continuously operating program of the Council. The Council was chartered to serve Long Beach, Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, and Signal Hill, and currently provides services to “classic clubs” from the Orange County area.


The Council opened a day camp, Camp Suanga, in north Long Beach and a resident camp, Camp Hemohme, near Jackson Lake in Wrightwood. Camps have operated continuously since that time. In 1958 Camp Wintaka was bequeathed to the council through the generosity of Will J. Reid in honor of his daughter Virginia Reid Moore. In 1969, Camp Shiwaka opened in East Long Beach as the Council Day Camp and Service Center.


The Council has for many years offered a variety of in– and after–school programs including self-reliance programs, service learning, conflict resolution, youth empowerment and most recently after school enrichment programs through community collaboratives.


The most recent program addition to the Council’s proud history of service to children and youth is its challenge course which opened in 1997. Challenge course programming provides program opportunities for at-risk youth, leadership training for youth, and church and other youth group participation.


Milestones


1923 First club founded by the Misses Ruth and Irene Kirkland at Jefferson Junior High School.
1925Long Beach Council of Camp Fire chartered.
1927There were 437 members, in 38 groups. Among the group leaders were 11 teachers, 10 mothers, and 17 businesswomen.
1929Eliza P. Houghton donated family land in north Long Beach for establishing an “in-town” camp. This was named Camp Suanga in honor of an Indian village located nearby at one time. The “old” Camp Hemohme was established in Big Pines County Recreation Park.
1931Camp Fire’s annual doughnut sale held to earn money for a cabin at Suanga. The bank stays open late so that monies can be deposited. However these were the Depression years, and on Monday morning the bank did not reopen.
1932With help of community leaders, Mr. Prisk, then owner of the Press Telegram and Mr. E.E. Buffum, the Council built the log cabin at Camp Suanga for overnight outings, group council fires, and skills.
1936The California Community Foundation gave $500 for Camp Suanga.
1938The “old” Camp Hemohme literally began washing away, literally…
1945The “new” Camp Hemohme relocated to a site near Jackson Lake in what is now known as Wrightwood. Highlights from the camp report filed that year: “Lodge and shower house complete enough to use…drinking water drawn from mountain stream analyzed weekly by county health department…milk is pasteurized and from tuberculin tested herds and arrives daily in iced truck…health report indicated 5 campers with homesickness (1 sent home)…Registration fee and board for 7 days was $13.00.”
1950After renting several other locations, Council offices move to 2120 Cherry Ave.
1958Through a bequest from the estate of Will J. Reid, the Council purchased 248 acres near Running Springs. The new site was named the Virginia Reid Moore Camp Fire Girls reservation, in honor of Will J. Reid’s daughter Virginia, who had been active in Camp Fire since her childhood and was a registered leader at the time that Camp Wintaka opened there in June 1958.
1959Two adirondack shelters built for C.I.T. units at Camp Wintaka.
1961State of California began process of acquiring one third of Camp Suanga property for the proposed 91 Freeway.
1969Council offices and day camp move to new site, leased from city of Long Beach, at 7070 E. Carson. Camp is named “Shiwaka,” the “camp of all seasons.” Camp Shiwaka, in-town camp and service center, is officially dedicated October 26, 1969.
1975Boys began joining Camp Fire in the Long Beach area as Thunderbirds in 1978.
1985The Freeman E. Fairfield Foundation provides $25,000 for development of amphitheatre at Camp Shiwaka.
1994Camp Fire inaugurates Mark Twain Memories, a dinner and auction fund-raising event which includes challenge events themed around five of Mark Twain’s most memorable novels.
1995Camp Fire begins outreach to its former alumni: youth members, parents, and leaders with a newsletter, The Camp Fire Difference.
1997Camp Fire opens the first challenge “ropes” course in Long Beach at Camp Shiwaka. Adventure programming allows Camp Fire to reach out to new kids in new settings, with a special emphasis on outreach to middle school youth.
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7070 East Carson Street, Long Beach, CA 90808     562.421.2725     Fax: 562.421.4056