10 August 2012

Camps Manyung and Buxton (Shoreham)

Melbourne (Point A) to Camp Manyung (Point B)
to Camp Buxton at Shoreham (Point C).
(Map data ©2012 Google, Whereis(R), Sensis Pty Ltd)
The next few letters have a lot of information about the progress of the YMCA camps at Shoreham, and especially Manyung.

It took me a little bit of research to appreciate the references to the camps in these letters. Both camps are on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne, and were quite new in 1931-32. Camp Buxton, which George refers to by its location, Shoreham, is long since closed, but Camp Manyung is still around and is an active YMCA camp.

"The Camp Manyung complex is one of two permanent camps which demonstrates the YMCA's involvement in the welfare of young people and their families over more than 70 years in Victoria," according to the heritage website On My Doorstep. "In its scale and grand vision for future development, Camp Manyung demonstrates the strong commitment of the YMCA to youth camping in Victoria. It is the only remaining early Victorian property managed today by the YMCA as the city headquarters has been demolished and Camp Buxton is now in private ownership."

As George is writing his letters and mentioning the camps, it is around the Christmas and New Years holidays.

Since I'm from the Chicago area, my first instinct is to think of these camps in context of the Northern Hemisphere. I have to remind myself that the Christmas and New Years holidays occur during a hot season in Australia, and there is a strong tradition of going to the beach around this time. These camps offer a cooler summer getaway for the residents around Melbourne.

Camp Manyung

Camp Manyung is still an operating YMCA camp, and is deemed to be of historical significance to the state of Victoria. The YMCA's website is the best place to go for information about its present operations and photos.

In looking up the history of the camp, a name that is frequently referenced in George's letters comes up as being instrumental to the development of the camp -- Ivor Burge.

According to one history about the camp found online titled "Camp Manyung History": "Burge (who had just returned from America) came up with the idea of a permanent camp like the ones he had seen in America. He asked an architect to plan the camp layout and design the bunkhouses. It was decided that the camp would be built by volunteers because the YMCA did not have the money to pay for it."

This volunteer effort is evidenced by frequent references in George's letters.

Also according to On My Doorstep, many innovative programs were developed at the camp, including leadership training and family camps.

In 1993, The National Council of YMCA's of Australia published a book by Ian F. McLaren, titled "Camp Manyung, Mornington: a brief history". It's an 18 page booklet. Unfortunately, I do not have access to any copies here in Chicago, but copies are available in the libraries of Monash University and the State Library of Victoria. If anyone wants to look at the booklet, I'm curious what it might say about the camp's history, especially as it relates to George's time period, the 1930s.

Camp Buxton

Y.M.C.A. Holidays for Country Boys
Gippsland Times (Vic. : 1861 - 1954)
25 November 1946, page 5
courtesty of the National Library of Australia
In Shoreham, on land that is now largely preserved as a forest preserve, was Camp Buxton. Some of the buildings remain, converted into a bed and breakfast. The camp closed after the mid 1970s, as best as I can determine.

"The YMCA Camp, Shoreham ... was in ideal setting, only an hour's drive from Melbourne and five minutes from the beach. On arrival the campfire looked like a tent city with numerous tents and huts scattered all around the central marquee... " This is one description of the camp I found in an article about a retreat at the camp in 1975.

Of course, the best reference I found for information about Camp Buxton is a website written by Robert Pedula, who stayed at the camp in the 1950s. He has put together a nice history and photo gallery, and is the source of much of my information.