Have you ever wondered how the Stilson and all its glory came to be? Here is an excerpt from the Fires of Friendship book in which Charles Fick remembers how it all began…
The Origin of the Stilson Race by Charles Fick
My favourite year as a C.I.T. Director was 1952. That year I, along with Jimmy Schiele who was visiting camp for a two-week period, instituted the Stilson Trophy race. It came about because Jim, who was a good friend and had been a C.I.T. with me and John Helston, sat up one night and thought that there must be something we could do to register and give honour to those who were excellent paddlers and canoe trippers. We finally hatched the idea that it should be some sort of race.
I must, with some humility (because it has become quite an institution), say that the name “Stilson” was my idea because I wanted something to rhyme with the “Wilson” trophy from the sailing race. The Stilson trophy was named after Joe Dupuis’ Stillson wrench. You remember that Joe was responsible for all the fine tuning on the machines and generators; he also looked after the kybos. He had this great big wrench that we used for the trophy. Then we tried to figure out where the race would take place. Jim and I thought about the road to Joe Lake, and that that could be a portage. It was easy from then on. We established that the race would go around Hayhurst Point, then past Mowat up to the road bridge on the way to Joe Lake, then down the road to Ghost Walk Creek, then around Chubby’s Island, with the finish being the bridge at the trading post.
The first one was a great race. Jim and I challenged the whole camp to this race. We went over to Wap and challenged the guides. Several challenges were also made in the Dining Hall at Ahmek. Tay and Gibby were in the race. Many of the C.I.Ts were also in it. I was so proud that Chuck Watson and Tom Sanderson, who had been my campers and were C.I.Ts in 1952, won the race. Jim and I came in fourth, which was amazing since neither of us was in very good shape. We paddled like mad, and didn’t do too badly. We were very pleased that the Wap guides did not win the very first race.
It’s nice that the tradition continues. We tried very hard to get Joe Dupuis to come in and present the wrench trophy the first time it was won. He just poked his nose out of the kitchen, but it was impossible to persuade him to made the presentation. The Chief or Tay made the presentation. We had wrapped the wrench in foil to make it look a little better. Of course, it had to be returned to Joe after the presentation. (Joe always stood in the shadows during subsequent presentations to make sure that he got it back right after the ceremony.) I don’t know where the wrench is now. I hope it’s in the Dining Hall somewhere.