Falling Creek Camp was founded in 1969 by Jim Miller as an independent Christian camp for boys, and the brother camp of Camp Greystone. Jim purchased the land in 1968, and opened for the first season the following summer with 110 boys for one 7-week session. After three years of building a firm foundation, Jim had growing obligations at Camp Greystone, and decided to sell Falling Creek - and did so to a young man named Yorke Pharr.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.
For more of our camp’s early history, watch Yates’ interview with Jim Miller.
For the next 18 years, Yorke and his wife Barbara invested in excellent people and programs, and new facilities and acreage. During the ensuing years, Falling Creek grew in enrollment and new session options were added. In the fall of 1989, Falling Creek was purchased by Chuck and Jean McGrady. Chuck and co-director Donnie Bain operated camp for 16 years.
In 2005, Yates Pharr (no relation to Yorke), a 12-year FCC camper and counselor, and his wife Marisa, purchased camp. Yates had led a successful career in commercial real estate, but considered it a dream come true to return to Falling Creek with Marisa and their three daughters.
The great thing about a summer camp… it’s a place where children can come to be away from television, where you’re away from negative peer group [pressure] - it’s a community of people coming together and in a short period of time you can create a very positive learning environment.
Jim Miller III / Founder
For over four decades, the above verse from Psalm 133:1 has been recited to open each Sunday night campfire. Longstanding traditions and a commitment to character development are hallmarks of the Falling Creek program. Here are some of our other cherished traditions that your son can look forward to this summer.
The Secret of Falling Creek is very simple. It’s the secret of one word. And that word is hidden inside the Falling Creek Creed - unselfishness. Yes, the world teaches that the values it treasures are money, power, prestige. But at Falling Creek, these are not the values that are shared. For at Falling Creek, the values that are shared are love, compassion, helping others, and what you can give to the group. The Secret of Falling Creek has led me to leadership, respect, love, trust, happiness, and fulfillment. It is a secret that will do the same for you and all those with whom you share it.
Phil W., Founding Camper
After the big cabin inspection on Sunday morning, boys put on their white collared shirts for our Church service. Staff and campers organize and conduct the service. A theme is chosen that follows the Falling Creek Code. There’s something about the sounds of the birds, the breezes, and the location overlooking the lower lake that accentuates the beauty of the church service at camp. We think this is one of the most beautiful settings to enjoy God’s creation as a community of friends.
On Sunday evenings, the entire camp community shares the tradition of our campfire program. The boys gather with their cabin groups way out by the swim docks before walking in together. Everyone becomes silent as they cross Bain Bridge that leads into the campfire area, overlooking the lower lake. After the boys are all sitting quietly on the benches with their cabin groups, the fire is lit with a single candle. As the flame crackles and glows, Psalm 133:1 is recited to begin the evening, the same opening since the first campfire in the summer of 1969.
For the returning boys, they know this is a special place with many positive memories. We still hear the bullfrogs at night and leave our mark by singing songs, telling stories, and enjoying skits with our lifelong friends. The boys realize this beautiful place has allowed thousands of campers and staff to come together as a community for over half a century — and yet it looks today just as it did that first summer in 1969.
Although this Light that is in each one of us is fragile and easily buried, when we give it away, it multiplies and becomes like a campfire.
Candlelight Campfire/Ceremony of Light
After the excitement of the evening program, the boys return to their cabins for “Call to Quarters,” where they follow their evening routines, including showers, brushing teeth, etc. It is often a new experience for boys to share a cabin with seven others and their counselor. Every evening after the lights bell, counselors facilitate “Evening Embers” for 15-20 minutes, during which a candle is lit and cabin mates talk about their busy day. The opening night focuses on making sure they all know each other’s names and hometowns. They talk about how their day was, what they will do tomorrow, and what they may want to do before the session is over. As the session progresses, they will talk about the FCC Code, Christian values, and how the camp as a community models these expectations.
As the boys and staff walk quietly to the final campfire for the session, they bring with them a rock to drop on the right just before Bain Bridge. Many others, before and after them, have added or will add rocks to this growing old style uneven rock wall for their final campfire of each camp session. This is our Ebenezer Wall. An Ebenezer serves as a reminder of God’s love, God’s real presence, and God’s assistance. Every Ebenezer rock serves as a reminder for each camper and staff member of the contributions, memories, and experiences they have had at Falling Creek Camp. This meandering stone wall reminds us, too, of the spirits of all those who have been part of the Falling Creek Camp community – past and present.
The final campfire in the main camp session is the traditional Candlelight Ceremony, which holds a special place in their hearts of campers and staff for years to come. This is the same ceremony that was brought here from the old Camp Sequoyah in the 1969 founding summer. Each boy lights his candle from another, symbolizing the light we share, costing us nothing to spread our light to others. It gives the boys a thoughtful reflection into their Falling Creek experience.
During Main Camp, the entire camp community elects campers to the Honor Council. These are boys who they feel strongly exemplify the Falling Creek Spirit and Code, and are tapped and recognized during Campfire.
There are representatives from all four tribes so all ages participate. The size of the group ranges from 15-25. The group meets with directors and staff who were on Honor Council when they were campers, at least once a week to discuss how they feel camp is operating. The group elects a leader to serve as a point person to communicate with the directors. Meetings are run using Robert’s Rules of Order and they divide up the “positive” and “challenges” feedback with various members of the council who share these with the entire staff Sunday evening at the beginning of the weekly staff meeting. There’s no doubt that they will learn the difference between constructive vs. critical feedback.
After a hearty breakfast, get ready for the world famous Morning Assembly where anything can happen and it usually does. The entire camp community assembles together on the front porch of the Dining Hall overlooking the upper lake. Whether it’s one of our crazy staff skits or joining in an all-camp sing along, nothing beats this upbeat way to start a great camp day.
A special treat at Main Camp honors the boys and staff who have been at Falling Creek for five or more summers. They put on nicer clothes and gather together on the front porch of the Dining Hall to enjoy appetizers and share stories about camp experiences.
The kitchen crew goes all out with the meal and serves a delicious supper, including grilled steaks. A Falling Creek alumnus often serves as the guest of honor and shares with everyone stories from his time at camp, tying them back to life lessons he learned during his experience at Falling Creek.
Another big Sunday tradition is when ice cream sundaes are served for dessert - a cool, refreshing treat. After the lunch announcements, Yates acknowledges the cabins in order based on their challenging Sunday cabin inspection scores. There is a top cabin for each tribe that is excused first to go directly to the front of the line for sundaes. The rest of the cabins are released based on their scores. What an incentive to clean your cabin well!
The legendary Steve Longenecker has been a long time outdoor educator, nature enthusiast, falconer, rock climber, and “lump chef” at Falling Creek since 1975. Steve shared that his “lump recipe” was born during a backpacking trip in the 60s: “I was on a hiking trip with some boys and we were camping in the Shining Rock area. We had some leftover bacon grease in a small metal can and some left-over biscuit mix. I heated up the grease, dropped in a glob of dough and ‘Longenecker Lumps’ were born!” Steve brought the recipe from his time at Camp Mondamin, to Camp Sequoyah, and finally to us at Falling Creek.
At some point in the camp session, Steve Longenecker offers the boys a chance to experience the incredible “Longenecker Lumps.” He sets things up at the ESEFEL Library on the front porch, and boys are in for a treat. A Longenecker Lump is basically a Bisquick lump dropped into hot oil, then removed and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. You need to eat it when it’s fresh and warm, just like a good doughnut.
You can cook some for yourself by following the recipe from this blog post!
Oh, the Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed
The Lord is good to me
Gracious giver of all good,
Thee we thank for rest and food.
Grant that all we do or say,
In thy service be this day.
Father for this noonday meal,
We would speak the grace we feel.
Health and strength we have from thee
Help us Lord to faithful be.
Tireless guardian of our way,
Thou hast kept us well this day.
While we thank thee we request, Care continued, pardon, rest.