In 1920, the Rock Island YWCA opened Camp Archie Allen, a summer sleep away camp for girls. Many girls returned year after year, and spending multiple weeks at the camp. The camp drew in girls from the Quad Cities, as well as girls from all over the area – many traveling from Chicago or Rockford to spend a week or more in Port Byron. Like many of the YWCA’s programs, the camp was supported by the Hauberg family.
A pamphlet about the camp from 1923 advised girls to bring all kinds of necessities – a pair of dark bloomers, three middies (one dark if you have it), three pairs of non-silk stockings, and other toiletries. Campers were also welcome to bring a tennis racket, Kodaks, their ukulele and music. They could participate in many activities – swimming, baseball, volleyball, tennis just to name a few. Camp cost $5 per week, and spots were open to members and non members of the YWCA.
As time progressed, the necessities for camp changed, but the memories and fun didn’t. Camp was a place for girls to have a week away – to learn important skills that could last a lifetime. The camp hosted thousands of young women over the years, where they made memories that lasted much longer than just a summer. In 1937, the Haubergs donated another unit to the YWCA, so that Camp Archie Allen could accommodate 20 more campers each year. By the summer of 1938, the cost of a week of camp had gone up to $7.50, a whole season of camp (7 weeks) was $50, and activities were expanded to include boating, canoeing, and archery. The camp was the place to be for girls in the summer.
Women’s sessions were held at the end of each summer. These sessions date back to the 1920s, when women who didn’t work were usually homemakers, and didn’t get a chance to get away. This was incredible progressive in this age, as it gave women a break from their duties as a mother. The women’s week was very popular, and was something that many women looked forward to at the end of each summer.
During the summer, local newspapers reported on which girls had gone, and highlighted ones who were doing the whole summer session. The camp was a fun atmosphere for girls to grow and learn with their peers. There were different levels for many of the activities, and girls would come back year after year to try to improve on their skills in activities like swimming, diving, sailing, and lifesaving. There were activities for everyone, including arts and crafts, plays and performances, archery, and nature.
The camp was well run, by women, for women. The counselors and junior counselors were trained for several days before the campers arrived, and then it was 7 weeks of fun for the summer. The activities changed somewhat as time progressed, but they stayed true to the idea of an outdoor sleep away camp – they slept in cabins, had small camping trips, and embraced the nature around them.
A few of our current pool members (and one staff member!) attended Camp Archie Allen in their youth. Some of their fondest memories were canoe trips, archery, swimming in the river, and fun daily activities for everyone. The director and counselors created a fun environment for campers, which kept them coming back year after year. Campers who were at a high swimming level could take the challenge to swim across the river, followed by a canoe for safety. Memories of pranks, tipping canoes, and telling spooky stories by the train tracks brought our members back to a simpler time in their lives. “It was just the best place ever.”
Campers are ready for a summer of fun at Camp Archie Allen!
The camp shined for many years in the area, until the mid 1960s when campers left for the last time. The interest in an outdoor camp had fallen to the point that the YWCA could not keep it open any more. The memories made at Camp Archie Allen will last forever, and the fun that was had is still described today as ‘unforgettable’.
Do you have stories from your time at Archie Allen? We would love to hear them! Feel free to share below, and to share with those you know who attended camp!
The YWCA has always strived to provide high quality and beneficial youth programming. Our current School Age program for the summer includes many field trips, weekly pool time and swim lessons, and fun projects in the classroom. This program is funded in part by generous donations from the community. Would you like to make a difference in a child’s summer? Donate to the YWCA today to help us provide brighter futures for all!