The sign simply said, “ Farm for Sale On Lake”. Rev. Robert Rumball was just three years into his ministry with the Evangelical Church of the Deaf and the Ontario Mission of the Deaf when he saw that sign on the side of highway 69 just south of Parry Sound Ontario. He walked in, wearing his street clothes, unprepared for the waist high snow that had just fallen. Very quickly the deal was closed and for the first time the Church could run a summer camp program at a place that they could call their very own. The Ontario Camp of the Deaf had begun to do what no one else was doing or could do. From the very humble beginnings in 1960 to the present day, the goals of the Camp have not changed. Meeting the Spiritual, Social and Recreational needs of deaf young people is the driving force behind the work of the camp
The Evangelical church of the Deaf had run summer camp programs for children and their families under the leadership of the late Rev. Ethridge at Redstone Lake in Haliburton. In 1957-59 Rev. Rumball booked Elim Lodge in the Peterborough area to run the summer camp. While the deal in Parry Sound was closing the Church used Sharon Lodge in McKellar in 1960. The Church Board had met to approve the deal in progress. Mr. H. Grooms was opposed to the positive votes cast by Arthur Hazlitt, John Morrison, Alex Crowley, Don MacKillop, Don Smith Keith Johnson and John Major yet it was Mr. Grooms who stayed behind and wrote a cheque for one thousand dollars to give the debt retirement a positive start. Mr. Grooms was asked to cut the ribbon on opening day. Walter Bell organized the selling of chocolate and candy to pay off the original $25,000 and did so in 3 years.
The property found on that snowy February day in 1960 was second to none. A parcel of land nestled between two lakes with a natural rise in the middle. It was a perfect sight. Prior to the purchase, the land was used for farming. Fencing ran along the shorelines and fields were used for grazing pastures. There were three homes on the property. The Farmer had his home on top of the hill, a cottage was built on the lakeshore for his daughter and a small chicken shed was converted into a small three-bedroom cottage for his son. The son’s home, we called #1. The farmer’s home was #2 and the lake front cottage was called #3 for many years. Many guests over the years have stayed in the bedrooms of #1 never knowing that is was a converted chicken shed. The kitchen and living room of #1 was added on to the chicken shed to build the son a home. Having that done, he saw the need for a new place for the chickens so a rather large chicken coop was built. That was good for the camp because the Chicken coop was the dining hall for many years as well as providing a place for the girls to sleep upstairs. As for the boys, they got to sleep in the barn.
That was the beginning. It was rough but the children that came to camp were being touched and reached in a way that no one else had been doing. This is not a camp where a “ special week” was put aside for the “handicapped kids”. This was a place that was owned and operated by the Deaf. This was a place where a deaf child could come and have a terrific summer camp experience but without any of the typical communication barriers normally associated with their deafness.
On to 1960s and 1970s