Ponderosa Lodge’s ministry began June 25, 1969. I found out whenever you begin something new there are a lot of unknowns and we certainly experienced them opening the Lodge. The Dinning Room and Forum were not yet finished so we ate and met in the Multipurpose Room downstairs. That opening year was so anticipated by Churches and people in the Bay Area that we overfilled and had to open up another week before Counselor Training. Yep, we ran a week of camp with no training. It made the following week of Counselor Training a very special week because we came at training with a need to know how to counsel!
That first summer we only hired 24 counselors – 1 per cabin. So there was not rotation that first summer. Ponderosa’s programming goes from 7:00 a.m. until about midnight most days so I had visions of purchasing pine boxes for each of the counselors at the end of that summer. They held up really well and it proved to be a great unifying factor that summer and continues to this day.
We purchased an 8’ in diameter ball to use on the Recreation Field the first day of summer. The camp was divided in half and positioned on each side of the field…the ball in the middle. The object for each team was to run to the ball and push it across to the other team’s goal on the opposite side of the field. I blew the whistle and every one went flying to the ball. The fastest person from each team impacted the ball at the same time which catapulted them into the oncoming crowd. A counselor hit his head on the knee of an oncoming student and went into convulsive shock. (Remember we only have 24 counselors for 24 full cabins!) He recovered and was back in the cabin later that afternoon with a purple heart. From that time on we had the teams circle the ball and push it back to their own goal reducing the inertia from a straight on direct hit.
In order to get into Ponderosa Lodge in the early days you had to bring a friend with you. We were focused on evangelism at that time in the Bay Area. My most vivid memory is seeing the number of students lined up outside John Fisher’s back of the Forum closet office to talk to him about following Christ. Because John was on the cutting edge nationally of the changing worship styles the students respected him and wanted to know about the Jesus he wrote and sang about. John did the work of an evangelist and was one of the most effective I have ever experienced. The whole staff took on the challenge to love and reach out to students in a time of national upheaval and God brought so many into the Kingdom that summer. I still look at that 1969 Staff picture and thank God for what He accomplished through that special group of people