Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays

Seasons Greetings from Camp Cedars. It has been a snowin' and a blowin' around here - at least 15 inches with drifts approaching 4 feet. We will dig out eventually. Winter camping anyone?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall @ Cedars

The leaves are beginning to turn, and there is an unmistakable crispness in the air. Fall is a beautiful time of year. Cedars is no different, but then again it is. Sure, there is OA conclave and NBZ festival, but few see camp during the off season. For the staff who have so much invested in Cedars, it feels strange to visit camp in the fall. It is eerily quiet, empty, void of the energy associated with summer. We thrive for that missing enthusiasm, the fellowship of our peers, the commitment to Scouting, and the chance to impact the lives of thousands of young men - future leaders. We eagerly await June 2010. Whether as a Scout, leader, or new member of staff, come join us. If you aren't there, we will be diminished.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Meal Count

With one Webelos session to go, I am projecting 76,306 meals served this summer. The all-time record is 81,358 set in 2007. As Papa Koz once said, "You use a lot of groceries woman." Indeed, we could fill a warehouse with the tons (literally) of food that it takes to feed hungry campers. Beyond groceries, stop for a minute to think about washing over 75,000 plates, cups, knives, forks, and spoons, plus 25,000 cereal bowls.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


As the summer nears an end and I begin to reflect on the past few months, in addition to those individuals who have already been mentioned, acknowledgements are deserved by the following:

Staff and Camper Volunteers: To those who have helped in the kitchen in any way--washing dishes, sorting silverware, plattering food, etc.--you have our deepest thanks for making life in the kitchen easier for us and better for the campers.

Aquatics Staff: They have been the serving staff for family nights all summer, entertaining the campers and families with song while serving dinner. Their contributions have been so significant and sustained that Chuck drove to Hockenberg's in Omaha on his day off in order to be able to present them with a special sloppy joe scoop and "AQ" stamped serving spoon for baked beans. Both will be kept in the dining hall in their honor.

Marty Kirchmeier: Though I have spoken of him before, the progress that he has made and the leadership he has provided during his second year as a cook merit additional recognition. Marty has mastered the fine art of red sauce and pasta, become the king of macaroni and cheese, learned the nuances of fine salad dressings, and wowed the staff and campers with meatloaf. This summer he became Keeper of the Sacred Bundle Nourishing Trader. We are proud of Marty, wish him the best in his academic and culinary endeavors, and look forward to his drinking a big horn next summer when advancing to Shaman.

Dish Crew

The following three young men, along with rotating staff members, CITs, and a host of volunteers, have been responsible for washing the tens of thousands of table dishes and cooking pans/utensils. Their duties also include the cleanliness of the dish room, dining room, and bathrooms. The collective effort constitutes the best dish crew I have had in many years.

Kyle Mooney: Kyle is a second-year staffer who worked his first summer in the dish room. This year he has taken on the additional duties of dining hall steward, in which he has accepted responsiblity for supervision of the dish crew and determined the quantities of milk, juice, and bread needed for meals. Kyle is presently the assistant senior patrol leader of Troop 510. He has completed his Eagle project, and pending a future board of review, we are looking forward to his being our next Eagle Scout. Kyle enjoys the NBZ program, in which he is a Warrior. He is a senior in high school, involved with drama and musicals. He entertains us with stories and songs from these events.

Cody Shellgren: This is Cody's first year on staff. He is a Star Scout, NBZ Brave, and assistant senior patrol leader of Troop 476. Cody participates in Air Force ROTC and is interested in wrestling. We have enjoyed watching him grow as a leader over the course of the summer.

Blake Maslonka: Also Blake's first year on staff, he is a member of Crew 326 and NBZ Brave. He attends Cedar Bluffs high school as a sophomore, where he plays football, lifts in the weight room, and wrestles. Like myself, he lives close to camp, which is a definite advantage.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Conclusion of Boy Scout camp

Webelos sessions are ahead, but we have successfully closed a good Boy Scout camping season. Since the response to the blog has been positive, there are plans to continue posts throughout the year, though on a less frequent basis. We hope you continue to enjoy the content.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dr. Chuckles

The last (and with his humility, he would want to add "least") dining hall staff member is Chuck McAllister. This is his 12th summer on staff, and he describes his role as "serving at the pleasure of the camp director and director of camping." Staff would describe Chuck's role as part psychologist, part chaplain, and part brother or father. For the dining hall, Chuck meets the delivery trucks about 5:45 AM and stacks the boxes in the storeroom. He tries hard to explain our rules to the table waiters; for instance requiring empty bread bags for a replacement loaf so as not to waste bread. Chuck also enjoys tasting the cookies to ensure that quality standards are being met, and he prefers the soft ones. During the rest of the year, Chuck is a business professor at Southeast Missouri State University. It seems to us that he is widely admired and respected both at and apart from Camp Cedars.

Friday, July 17, 2009


'Tis the season where the caged staff animals are lacking of ways to entertain themselves, so they start pranking program areas. This morning, the Rotary Shelter was plastic wrapped quite well with a chair suspended in the middle, and we saw the lakefront staff carrying a canoe back toward its rightful home. I'm not sure what else might have gone on last night, but the dining hall is understood to be untouchable. At least staff knows that if they play with fire, they won't eat.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How many am I serving?

Last night was a little hectic in the dining hall. In addition to camp, we issued food for Scoutmaster's dinner, Easter Seals at Camp Eagle, and the council properties committee meeting. Unexpectedly, two additional tables had to be set in the dining hall. It's pretty hard to get table-ready food to appear from thin air. This got me thinking about the time that I scrambled the most in the dining hall. Unquestionably, it was 1990. It may have rained every day during staff week. Given the construction activity, camp was not ready to open, and Week 1 was postponed. The troops who had registered for Week 1 were told to come "whenever you want" later in the summer. Just how do you plan, order, and cook food for an unknown number of campers? Some weeks we were filling bowls 3/4 full and hoping we had enough to go around. Other times, we were throwing away 4" pans full of food. It was certainly a stressful, miserable summer for the dining hall. From that first summer comes my paranoia about having an extra day's worth of food on the shelf. We maintain high standards in the dining hall, both quantity and quality. As former staff member Gilligan used to say, "There is always food in Mom's dining hall," and every meal was his favorite.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I was asked about the time that I was the most surprised in the dining hall. It was probably my 60th birthday. Unbeknownst to me, my family had approached the program director (Chuckles) about a surprise birthday party. In addition to the cake they provided, Chuck arranged for camp to purchase food and another cake for the corresponding Sunday staff lunch. To maintain the secrecy, Chuck had some sort of story about how I wasn't supposed to cook lunch that day. Something happened....either I forgot, missed the memo, or opted to prepare food regardless (better safe than sorry). When Chuck arrived for the week and saw that I had cooked lunch, he was terribly disappointed. At some point during the meal, I was coaxed out into the main part of the dining hall for celebratory song, and my family walked in through the kitchen. I was completely surprised.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is there a doctor in the house?

I met Dr. Dennis Crabb in 1991. A Scout had been cut just above the right eye during some sort of horseplay. I watched a gentleman taking down benches and pushing two tables together, trying to figure out what was going on. Before I could approach him to ask, he had the Scout on the makeshift operating table and was stitching the cut. Several times since then Dr. Crabb has sterilized medical equipment in boiling water in the dining hall. Fortunately, so far this week, his services have not been required.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Liver & Onions

Former Director of Camping Duane Kosmicki and I liked liver and onions while our spouses did not. Duane would bring the liver, and I brought the onion, potatoes, and cast iron skillet. We would cook over the stove in the kitchen and then tell stories at the picnic table outside until we couldn't eat any more. Sometime after the camping season was closed, this was our tradition for about 4 years, and it is one of many fond memories of Duane.

Trudy Kirchmeier

After volunteering for several years, this is Trudy's second on full-time dining hall staff. She and her husband Tom have owned and operated Ace Refrigeration of Sioux City Iowa, dba Refrigeration Engineering for the past 32 years. As such, they have been supporters of the dining hall and providers of hard-to-find parts for our equipment. Sons Jake and Bryan work in the business (and you already know of their youngest Marty). Trudy and Tom have 2 grandsons and a dog named Sadie. Trudy helps Pack 214 coordinate activities, is the committee chair of Troop 183, and also serves as a unit commissioner. She attended the 2005 Jamboree and has twice been to the the Philmont Training Center. When not working or Scouting, Trudy enjoys quilting, scrapbooking, and traveling.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

O Christmas Tree

The dining hall had its first live Christmas tree this summer, a 12-14' cedar that brushed the ceiling ducts. Since the variety of cedar that we have in this region of the country is simply a weed, it looked like a Charlie Brown tree, providing a very campy appearance. The people involved with this epic project were: Chuckles - idea and tree selection, Marty - decoration, Matt Wilkinson - Scoutcraft mastery, and Dave Tasich - transportation. Stories will be told.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cathy Pieper

Cathy is our dining hall staff newbie who is a general worker bee around the kitchen. She is curious and inquisitive about camp and the various programs offered. We genuinely appreciate her service and could not have asked for a better first-year cook. We all hope she comes back for many more years, and the fact that Harvey has not yet scared her off is a good sign. Cathy is in her 30th year as an elementary office associate for Fremont Public Schools. She has a wonderful husband, 3 daughters, and 7 grandchildren. Cathy really enjoys the kids at school as well as family activities and vacations.

Cathy and Charlene made us a "Christmas Lunch" today that consisted of meatloaf, creamed corn, lettuce salad, au gratin potatoes, dinner rolls, blueberry salad, pumpkin bars, and pecan fudge pie. Every dish was absolutely delicious.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Staff Infections

When staff starts dropping to illness, I often wonder whether they are really sick or if they are taking the opportunity to count spots on the ceiling of the health lodge. Whenever any of the children were sick enough to miss school, my mother would make us take a tablespoon of castor oil. We all knew that if we were sick enough to take the castor oil and its consequences, we were truly sick. If not, we went to school. Maybe it's time to PIW (Put In Writing, our internal camp order/request system) a bottle of castor oil?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

One of my favorite memories

One Thursday night when NBZ was a new program, we cooked an especially big spaghetti meal for the benefit of the Foxmen who had been on scant food for the day and were on silence. I was walking around the main part of the dining hall, and a particularly small Scout, about a minute long and half a minute wide, is sitting with a canvas headband fervently eating. His Scoutmaster is watching him inhale spaghetti. I commented, "It looks like you are enjoying dinner." The Scout nods, grabs my arm, and kisses the back of my hand several times.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Christmas in July

This is Christmas in July week at camp, and the dining hall is decked out in greenery and lights. The celebration is geared toward staff who tend to need a little extra perkiness at this point in the camping season. I play along for the good of the staff, but you will not find me staying up late on Friday night for all of the revelry....I cannot stand either the commotion or mess in the building and have to be up regular time on Saturday morning.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Grace Kubik

This is Grace's third year on staff, originally recruited by her brother-in-law to fill a midsummer shortfall in the kitchen. She has cooked for Millard Public Schools for 11 years. One of Grace's responsibilities is taking care of the special meals for campers with dietary needs. This can be challenging because due to a mishap earlier in the summer, she needs administrative approval or supervision to use the microwave. Grace is our favorite target to harass; she takes it well and also returns the favor. Her NBZ tribal name is Enduring Diamondback. We joke that's because we must endure her. Both her husband and 3 sons are members of Mic-O-Say in the Diamondback clan. Grace also has a daughter, 5 grandchildren (plus one on the way), and a Jack Russell terrier named Charlie (also known as Chuck-Chuck).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pillsbury Pancake Packages

I've always wanted to do pancakes for camp, but the problem has been keeping them hot long enough to get them to the tables. Pillsbury introduced a new product....8 silver dollar-sized pancakes in self-serve ovenable bags. Thus, we tray up packages of pancakes, bake them in the ovens, and put 8 packages in each bowl that goes to the tables. Given the response this morning, they were a definite hit. Next time we do them, I want to serve them with link sausage to have something different and provide a little different flavor than the sausage patty. Similar to not being able to do meatloaf for weeks of large attendance due to the availability of oven and heat stack space, I'm not yet sure about our pancake capabilities, but we're sure going to try.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Perhaps it isn't the most pleasant topic, but have you ever wondered who maintains the dining hall restrooms? As a part of the honor unit criteria, troops are responsible for cleaning them on a daily basis. To keep them extra clean, the dishroom staff gives them a second daily cleaning. When plumbing problems arise, we rely on Marty and Dr. Chuckles to solve the most common issues. Otherwise we call the camp director and rangers. Given the high usage, we think we do a pretty good job of keeping the restrooms clean and operational.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grumpy Old Men of the Dining Hall

Otter and Harvey - where does one begin. They arrive every morning about 5 AM, have the ovens going, heat stacks turned on, and coffee perking before I pull in around 5:15. Otter's igloo is the large walk-in freezer. Whether it is cookie dough, chicken fried steak, or the golden wall of ham, Otter has a place for everything and keeps a very good inventory in his head. Harvey's domain includes the sausage gravy for biscuits. We occasionally try to confuse him with the number of cans of gravy vs. powdered packages vs. gallons of water. It isn't the easiest math for 5:00 in the morning, but he does well. Both Otter and Harvey collaborate on the Jello. We have lots of Jello stories through the years, but you really have to be a part of the dining hall family to understand. I can be clear about at least two things. First, Otter and Harvey do not get paid for their efforts in the dining hall that extend beyond their normal and already extensive staff responsibilities; they have simply chosen to help due to their commitment to camp and ensuring that the dining hall runs as smoothly as possible. Second, we can always count on Otter and Harvey to keep us entertained. I wouldn't know what to do without them.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cutting Tables

We've been asked to explain the mystery surrounding the "Do Not Set" cups that occasionally appear on staff tables in the dining hall. This morning there were 32 campers, leaders, and staff who attended the equestrian overnight program and had breakfast at Camp Eagle before riding horses back to Cedars. Therefore, we did not serve 32 in the dining hall, meaning that we cut 4 tables for breakfast (32 / 8 people per table) to ensure that we do not overcook and waste food. Other recurring table reductions are for NBZ Foxmen, troops that choose to host parents night during the week with a potluck meal in their campsite, aviation flight days, and other camp programs. The dining hall staff works to move the "Do Not Set" cups around so that staff tables are cut equally and fairly. Sometimes there is a naughty staff table at odds with the program director, in which case he declares that table to be cut first.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Staff of the Week & Charlene Myers

As I've said before, the dining hall staff this year is one of the best ever. Carl was this year's first recipient of the CIT of the week award. Kyle received the youth staff of the week last week. Both were well deserved.

Let me continue the staff introductions with Charlene Myers. This is Charlene's 4th year on staff. She previously was one of the afternoon cooks but this year switched to mornings, arriving at 6:00 AM. You'll never find Charlene standing still. She is always doing something, whether that's panning food, watching the ovens, sweeping floors, getting food from storage, or other task. Charlene cooks at the new grade school in Fremont during the academic year, and has cooked in the Fremont school system for 35 years. Through this extensive experience she has been able to teach us new tricks. Charlene bakes scrumptious goodies as a hobby and side business. Most days she brings us a plate of the edge pieces for the kitchen staff to share. We don't go hungry around here. Charlene once showed us a picture of herself and President Clinton. She was working for a caterer in Omaha, and he was making a campaign stop at a function that was catered by her employer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sorting Silverware

This week we have been integrating adult volunteers to help sort silverware following meals. It is a tedious task, and it really helps the dishroom crew finish more quickly to have the extra help. The best silverware sorter in the history of camp is Ben Nachman. I refer to him as Edward Scissorhands for his ability to sort silverware by the fistfull with both hands at the same time. Talk about finger dexterity, he should be a magician. One thing is for certain, he is a genuinely nice young man, and we miss having him around camp.

Monday, June 22, 2009


This week we are cooking for a few less tables than the past couple, but most of the difference is offset by an increase at Camp Eagle, which is hosting Operation Purple, a camping opportunity for children with a parent in the armed forces. We are pleased to support this effort.

Refrigeration, freezing, and telephone have been restored--still waiting for internet service.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


We're still recovering from the electrical storms of early Friday morning. Fortunately, there was no physical damage around camp. However, it appears that the dining hall took a lightning bolt, as we have lost internet connectivity, the telephone system, and part of the electrical service to the coolers and freezer. Given the experience and resourcefullness of the food service staff, we have been able to adjust, but the challenges have us all worn down this week. Not to be worried, if everything was predictable and easy around here, it would be boring and uninspired.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sorry, no blog post today--I'm eating my birthday cake!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cook Marty Kirchmeier

I have a lot of great help in the dining hall this year. It seems appropriate to highlight their contributions in a series of posts spread over the summer. I'll begin with Marty Kirchmeier. Marty is a hard-working cook who originally started in the dish room in 2004. He is an Eagle Scout from Sioux City who attends the University of Iowa. There is very little about the dining hall that Marty does not know. His favorite activity is either mopping or running the floor machine.

This year Marty is staying in the basement of Karp with the "senior" members of staff and the opossumus clan. They left AARP membership materials on his bunk, and we now refer to Marty as a junior AARP member.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My First Summer

Preparing the food orders for Thursday (Cash-Wa) and Friday (Sysco), I started thinking about the way things used to be. Originally there was no telephone in the dining hall. The only phone was in the camp office. Hence, to order food, I would have to go up to the administration building to use the phone. (There were no cell phones in 1990 either.) Being a busy office, it was hard to hear. Plus, I was tying up their line and often got a busy signal with the food vendors. Sometimes, I would drive home to order food. At the time, the vendors required that I use product numbers (542200) rather than the item (1/2 oz. strawberry jam packets) for what was to be ordered. It was a large undertaking. Presently, the dining hall has a dedicated telephone number. I place several orders per week and get food deliveries 3 times per week while milk, juice, and ice cream is delivered twice per week. A salesperson from each vendor comes to camp once each week with a wireless laptop. They have real-time information about what is available in their warehouses. I simply tell them what I want, and they confirm the order. They are familiar with what we use on a regular basis, which makes ordering much easier. I could place web orders, but even the salespeople advise against it for two reasons. First, there is no information provided about stock outs. In other words, I could place an order, and only find out that they were out of a particular item when the truck arrived. Second, the order entry requires a high degree of precision and product knowledge. For instance, recognizing that ice cream is ordered by the carton of 24 serving cups rather than a case of 6 cartons. We have very good working relationships with all of our dining hall vendors, which has made my job a lot easier.

Monday, June 15, 2009


We are fortunate to get wonderful bread and buns donated by Rotella's Italian Bakery in Omaha. It is delivered weekly, and we place it on bread rollers for storage until it is needed. The delivery ticket for this week indicated 5,400 bread items. Yet, the week 2 crowd managed to eat through our supply of sliced bread. We have plenty of jelly packets and peanut butter, but the bread is on the way!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Beef Stroganoff has been a well-received staple of the Sunday dinner menu for many years. Unfortunately Betty Crocker opted to discontinue the 14-pound food service cases of pasta noodles and seasoning mix. Though it is the same product as the Hamburger Helper family-size boxes you find at your local grocery store, purchasing and opening enough individual boxes to serve 650 is not practical. Marty Kirchmeier and Chuckles have been joking around the kitchen that they will go into business making stroganoff noodles along with the appropriately sized Rubbermaid containers that we can no longer get to fit the silverware cart. Without stroganoff to serve tonight, we will be dining on beef stew with added green beans, french bread, fruit salad, and chocolate pudding.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


With closing campfire in the dining hall last night, the floors still need some attention tomorrow morning before the next group of campers arrive. The usual Saturday morning continental breakfast was served this morning (doughnut, milk, juice, cereal). This is an especially light day because there are leftover 6' party subs from staff week that will be served for the Sunday staff lunch. When no cooking is needed for Sunday lunch, it means more time for us to recover a little in the dining hall. Thanks for the break, Don (camp director).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Guardian of the Council Fire

Guest blogger, Chuck McAllister: Mom was elevated from Sachem to Guardian last night. Due to rain earlier in the day, ceremonies were held in the dining hall. Even though most of us would prefer holding ceremonies at the regular site, the dining hall aspect was most appropriate for Mom's elevation. She was certainly caught by surprise, and it was an emotional night for all. She says that she was still teary-eyed (and undoubtedly tired) on the way home and drove right past her driveway, turning around at the highway.

In the dining hall today, we are baking almost 1500 chocolate chip cookies for parents night. Next to go in the ovens are the baked beans and sloppy joes....yep, we decided to take a break from the taco boats that have been done for the past couple of years. Since the Roberts milk truck just pulled up to the dock earlier than anticipated, I'd better go rotate milk in the cooler before Mom is calling my name.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NCS Visitation

Today we are expecting the NCS visitation team. If you are not familiar, the Boy Scouts have external visitors who evaluate all aspects of summer camp to ensure that acceptable standards are being met. We're ready in the dining hall. The hot/cold charts are continually current, food thermometers are always used to check food temperature before it is served, the storeroom is clean and organized, and other food service requirements are being met. We don't do anything special just because it's NCS day, just another day in the kitchen, and the State of Nebraska does a surprise visit. This reminds me--one year NCS and the state happened to come on the same day--that was a crazy day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Old Dining Hall

Our current dining hall opened in 1990, the same summer that I started as food service manager, making 2009 my 20th year. I cooked a couple of times in the old dining hall as a volunteer, probably for camporee or OA events. It was 140 degrees in the kitchen because it wasn't ventilated well at all. Back then summer camp hosted 150-200 Scouts per week and we cooked a little more from scratch. The Scoutmasters used to cook the Wednesday night meal, and one week, Darlene (the cook at the time) made cinnamon rolls for Thursday breakfast. Well, the Scoutmasters fried chicken for Wednesday dinner and served the cinnamon rolls for dessert. Darlene freaked when she arrived on Thursday morning to find that the breakfast she prepared was gone! In the current dining hall, I have one piece of equipment from the old dining hall--that's the brazer, and it is at least 35 years old.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Dining Hall Procedures

We have made some changes this year to how food is served in the dining hall. Most notably, north and south camp waiters are served at the same time. North camp enters the old "In" door while south camp comes in what we used to call the "Out" door. Both exit through the center door. This allows us to cut down on the time it takes everyone to get their food. It requires a few extra hands to pull trays from the heat stacks and hand bowls and platters to the waiters, but it has been working pretty well so far. It will be a little tricky for lunch today (hamburgers) when we attempt to serve seconds, have a salad bar, refill butter & peanut butter containers, and replace empty bread bags with fresh loaves.