Campfire Notes

Remembering Estaline Watkins, Who Helped Start GAC

Remembering Estaline Watkins, Who Helped Start GAC

Estaline Watkins (1906-2014) was Manny Vezie’s first wife and was instrumental in helping Manny realize his dream of starting Gold Arrow Camp. Estaline passed away in Redding, California, on November 11, 2014, at the age of 108.

Manny and Estaline met while both worked summer jobs at Yellowstone National Park. She was a talented musician, dancer, and horseback rider who loved the outdoors. A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in music, she taught briefly while waiting for Manny to complete his education at Notre Dame. The two married in 1931 and immediately moved to Southern California to start a life and family. Manny had a law degree, but Estaline said it was work that never really “stirred him.” Throughout their early years, he had talked often with Estaline about starting a camp for boys. When he came home from his first day of work in a law firm, he told her, “I can’t do that. Let’s start a boys’ camp.” She said, “I’m ready.”

In the early years of Gold Arrow, Estaline did just about everything to support Manny’s dream. “I was the cook, dishwasher, clothes washer, secretary, happy helper,” she wrote. In the off-season, she earned money as a dancer at Graumann’s Chinese Theater to help finance camp and support Manny and their young son, Krieg Stanton Vezie, born in 1932. She had two other children with Manny: Diana, born in 1940, and Tim, born in 1941. For over a decade (1933-1945), Estaline kept the camp books, cooked for the campers and staff, and taught the boys “how to ride the ponies.” She was a very important person to Gold Arrow Camp and she remembered it fondly even to her last days. She was active and sharp, playing the piano and harmonica and writing poems until the very end. We at Gold Arrow have a deep admiration for the life she lived.

Chuck “Woody” Radke, Estaline, and Steve “Monkey” Monke in 2013.

 

 

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Jeanie Vezie: Remembering A GAC Legend

Jeanie Vezie: Remembering A GAC Legend

I spent the six most important summers of my life at Gold Arrow Camp. I have my blanket and I also think GAC changed my life. I had no idea I owed it so much to Jeanie.

Ellen Fead Fields (Camper 1964-1971)

Many parents and grandparents of today’s campers fondly remember Jeanie Vezie, who co-owned and directed Gold Arrow Camp with her husband Manny for thirty years. Jeanie passed away at the age of 101 on Saturday, December 13, 2014.

Jeanie was born on a ranch in Western Nebraska on February 17, 1913. “We lived on this ranch, and in February out west the weather can get pretty bad. There was a big blizzard. The doctor couldn’t make it. My father sent a team to go to the farm next door to get the midwife. When the midwife arrived, she found me all cleaned up and my dad holding me by the pot belly stove. “I suppose there was a little whisky in it too,” was what my dad said about the bottle he had fed me. My dad had delivered me. He took me with him when he was going to work. He took me everywhere with him.   I was my dad’s favorite from the beginning,” said Jeanie.

Jeanie had many adventures living and working in Los Angeles during World War II as a real estate agent. As fate would have it, her husband passed away while her son Scooter was a camper at Gold Arrow Camp. And thus began a new adventure in her life.

In 1958, Jeanie Vezie joined her husband Manny at camp and became part of the beloved team “Manny and Jeanie.” Together, they owned and operated Gold Arrow Camp during the years when many of our current camp parents attended (1960s-1980s). For 30 years (1958-1988), Jeanie brought her business sense and woman’s touch to camp and helped Manny create a successful and world-re-known summer camp.

We can especially thank Jeanie that GAC has girl campers now, as she had to convince Manny that girls would enjoy his “rugged camp” as much as boys did! In Jeanie’s words, “I recalled that some parents had asked why we couldn’t have girls at Gold Arrow. I broached this to Manny and, at first, he said it was out of the question. One day he asked me if I thought girls would like Gold Arrow. I said, ‘I’m a girl, and I like it.” Finally, we decided to try enrolling boys in July and girls in August. None of these changes made over the years were easy to get Manny’s approval but, after they were made, he always agreed they were good.”

The positive influence Jeanie has had on the lives of the campers and staff at Gold Arrow Camp is something impossible to measure.

On February 17, 2013, a group of GAC alumni gathered to celebrate Jeanie’s 100th birthday. She is fondly remembered for her high energy and her deep love for the campers and staff at Gold Arrow Camp. She is also credited with convincing Manny to allow girls to attend GAC. For that, and for her hard work creating a special community at Gold Arrow Camp, many of us are thankful.

We will always remember you, Jeanie!

 

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