Familiar faces and new friends rolled through the front gates of Alpine today for the beginning of First Term 2023. Since 1959, Alpine has opened these same gates for boys to pass through into a special place where they can breathe in clean mountain air, swim in the cool waters of Little River, and be surrounded by giant boulders. It wasn’t always this way. Today we welcomed 307 campers all driven in family or friend vehicles. That first summer probably hosted around 50 campers. Most boarded the Amtrak passenger train and disembarked in Valley Head, AL at the foot of Lookout to be loaded into large cattle trucks and driven up the mountain. Boy how things have changed! And then again, they haven’t. I talked with a grandfather of a current camper who was in that very first group of campers in 1959. Walking around camp he reminisced that so many of the sights and sounds and smells haven’t changed.
I’m Glenn Breazeale. My wife, Carter, and I are directors. My family is 3rd generation Alpiners. My dad camped here in the early 60’s, a buzz cut boy from McComb, MS (and later Jackson). My brother and I were fortunate enough to spend quite a few formative summers here in the 80’s and 90’s (sans buzz cut). Today we once again welcomed 2 of my nephews back (plus 2 of Carter’s) and will welcome one more Second Term. We have twin girls, Caroline and Gigi. And that’s just my side. Carter’s side has the real history of Alpine! We’ll save that for a future post. Our family is so, so grateful that your family has chosen Alpine.
Familiar Faces. Today I watched a 14 year old jump out of his car and run hug his friend from another town when he saw him coming down the road. That is camp. So many friendships were renewed today as boys reunited with old cabinmates.
New Friends. I also witnessed boys who just met for the first time today playing games together like it was old times. We get boys active almost immediately after you leave. We’ve always said that boys relate “side by side”, meaning through an activity. And it holds true almost every time. And that doesn’t have to be a sport necessarily. It may just be walking down the road beside each other and talking.
So this afternoon, our ropes course staff led each age group through some icebreaker games designed to help boys get to know each other and loosen up. The staff reported that it was a huge success. Boys also signed up for activities, divided into tribes, and completed a quick swim check in the pool. We’ll delve more into activities in the coming weeks.
Just before lunch we gathered the entire camp in the gym for a welcome meeting. Carter and I introduced all the key administrative staff. I’ll hope to do the same for you over the term. I reminded them that it’s OK if they get a little homesick. It is very normal. We talked about Alpine being a place where you can be yourself and that we don’t pick on boys that are a little different than us. Some of us love sports, others music or art. God made us all unique. We reminded the boys to please let us know if something is bothering them, physically or otherwise. And to always speak up if someone is saying or doing something that they know is inappropriate. I gave a few health and safety tips, discussed a few boundaries and camp wide rules.
And then we walked straight into the Dining Hall for perhaps my favorite lunch of the term, an opening day tradition. Mrs. Gail makes homemade chicken and dumplings with fluffy, buttery silver dollar biscuits. She sides it with peas and corn and a green salad. Uncrustable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are always available at lunch and dinner for any boy who might be a little picky (or just extra hungry!).
Tonight humidity is low, skies are clear and the temperature already registers 67 degrees as the boys head to sleep in their open air cabins. Not a bad night to be on Lookout Mountain. We’re glad your boys are with us.
Thanks for reading and good night for now, Glenn