Taylor Statten Becomes “The Chief”
The year 1906 saw Taylor Statten, A Boer War veteran, become the full-time Boy’s Work Secretary for the national YMCA. His work was celebrated by parents across the country and he soon established the Canadian Standards Efficiency Training program. This program gave children an opportunity to be rewarded for the development of their intellectual, social, physical, and religious skills.
In 1912, while on a family vacation, Taylor became enamored with a spot in Algonquin Park named Canoe Lake. There he envisioned a place for young men and women to come and bask in its natural glory.
In 1921, Taylor’s dream was realized as a summer camp that focused on teaching wood-craft and natural lore. He named the camp “Ahmek” after his Ojibwa name meaning “Great Beaver.” Having to mortgage his home to fund the camp, Taylor opened Ahmek for six weeks that summer and welcomed 60 boys. As the director of the first Canadian owned private summer camp in Algonquin Park, Taylor became affectionately known around camp as “The Chief”.
By this time, TSC’s reputation had spread all over North America as one of the leading authorities in the camping movement. A group of TSC alumni published esteemed camping literature such as Camping and Character (1929), Marks of Good Camping (1941), and Administration of the Modern Camp (1948). These and several other works produced revolutionary philosophies and institutions that became common practice for camps in the American and Canadian Camping Associations.
The Taylor Statten Camps grew to be revered for five outstanding characteristics:
- Attention to health and safety.
- Philosophy centered on character education, individual development, and a democratic community. A sharp contrast to militaristic camps of the day.
- A rich camp culture centered on values, tradition, and a strong understanding of the natural environment.
- Programs built on learning skills for life.
- A focus on unlocking individual potential in order to train youth as outstanding leaders for the future, supported by measurable objectives.
The Torch is Passed
The 1950s proved to be a period of great transition and expansion for the camps. In 1954, Taylor Statten II (Dr. Tay), Canada’s first Child Psychiatrist, took over as the second Director at Ahmek. Adele Ebbs (Couchie) and her husband, Dr. Harry Ebbs, had already been directing Wapomeo for several years.
Under Dr. Tay’s leadership, extended canoe trips outside of Algonquin Park became popular options. In 1965, two 28 day canoe trips were undertaken with great success in Quetico Provincial Park. Then in 1968, Dr. Tay founded The Outpost camp on Lake Maskinonge on the southwestern edge of the vast Temagami canoe tripping region. Suddenly new and exciting exploratory trips were launched into connected areas including the Biscotasing area further west and the Kipawa and La Verendrye domains in northwestern Quebec.
In 1987, word was received that the beloved Dr. Tay would be honoured with the Order of Canada. While TSC’s reputation continued to grow, so did both the in-camp and canoe-tripping programs with new buildings, new activities, and new canoe trip routes.
In Dr. Tay’s final years as Camp Director, Ahmek and Wapomeo had the distinction of caring for the sons and daughter of three Canadian Prime Ministers. Prime Minister Trudeau, a former Ahmek camper himself (and yes, we taught him the “Ahmek J-stroke”), sent Justin, Alexandre (Sasha) and Michel (Mike) to Ahmek. Both Justin and Mike eventually became counsellors. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sent Ben, Caroline and Mark to TSC and visited them via helicopter in 1987. Prime Minister John Turner also sent his son Michael for a couple summers.
A Third Generation of Statten
By 1975, Couchie and her husband Dr. Harry Ebbs decided to retire. In 1976, Taylor “Tike” Statten III moved to Wapomeo with his wife Sue to take on the Directorship.
Wapomeo and Ahmek continued to prosper and expand as campers from Mexico and numerous European countries began making TSC their summer home. For twelve years, father and son directed Ahmek and Wapomeo until 1988 when Tike and Sue returned to Ahmek and joined Dr. Tay. Shortly thereafter the mantle was again passed and Tike (a teacher and counsellor in the Toronto public school system) became Director of Camp Ahmek and of the Taylor Statten Camps.
The Camps, on leased property from the Ontario provincial government, became concerned that their long term lease was nearing expiry. In 2002, after years of negotiations, Algonquin Park Superintendent, John Winters, quietly announced 60 year lease extensions for all Algonquin Park camps. A flurry of much needed repairs, renewals and additions followed this announcement. At Wapomeo, this included 2 new barges, a spectacular new lodge/theatre facility, a triproom and a refurbished central washroom. At Ahmek new cabins were built along with a state-of-art central washroom complex with solar panels for the production of hot water. A high ropes course was added for the use of both Camps while boardsails and kayaks further expanded programmed activities. A solar system was added to The Outpost and a new barge for transporting supplies across the 8 mile length of Lake Maskinonge was built. A small house was purchased in Toronto, converted into a Business Office and is presently the Winter office for the camps.
Family Tradition Continues with the Fourth Generation
After working in the investment industry and spending a year abroad earning a Master of Business Administration degree, Taylor IV joined the family business in 2003 as Director of Business Operations. Today, in his current role as President and Managing Director, Taylor continues to manage the company’s finances, supervises day to day operations and is President of the Camp Company. Tike and Sue officially stepped away from being in-charge in October of 2010, handing responsibility for overseeing the entire company to Taylor IV. They will remain active as consultants and Tike will continue as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Fundamentally, TSC Stays True to Values..
In recent years, camp has modified some of its ways to accommodate the modern day family lifestyle. Shorter lengths of stay have been created, sparked by a strong lobby from a great number of parents. A two week program, and a Tryout Camp of 4 days for younger girls and boys, have opened up the opportunity for more children to attend TSC. The Taylor Statten Camping Bursary Fund, created and administered by TSC alumni, was set up to assist parents unable to pay the total cost of enrolment. A new ’green’ policy was applied to reduce the environmental impact of the camp and its trips. Moreover, the camps still emphasize individual development, leadership skills, basic core values, and team building -fundamentally the philosophy espoused by the Chief and passed down through four generations. In many ways, TSC indeed remains very much the same.