New Waterfront at Union League Camp

A new camping season begins later this month at the Union League Boys and Girls Club camp in Salem Wisconsin. Something new this year is a renovated Waterfront. When I was there in 1970 the lakefront was all grass and a rocky bottom even in shallow water. I loved to use the rowboats there on the lake but didn’t like swimming there. I preferred the pool which was right next to the lake. One New Edition that I like is a Sandy Beach where kids can play there. I would presume they put a Sandy Bottom into the shallow part of the lake. That would make swimming more fun. The entire Lakefront has changed dramatically since I was there. And for the better I might add. I wish all the new campers this year the best possible camping experience of their life. Even when I return to camp through the Hoffman Estates Boys Club in the late 1970s, I thought this was a superb camp. Again enjoy the camping season campers.

Waterfront Walk

this was a sidewalk at Union League Boys Club camp that web to the waterfront. Here there were rowboats, a ski boat, kayaks, and paddle boats. There was also a swimming area at Fox Lake and a swimming pool adjacent to the lake. You can actually jump from the pool and into the lake. The lake had pretty decent fishing and the kids loved it. Just pass the pool, there was a lagoon where the legendary Swamp Man dwelled. There was also a locker room and shower right next to the pool. The pool was 4 feet deep and used for swimming instruction. It was a great summer camp for kids.

Dusk at Union League Camp

Dusk at Union League Camp overlooking Fox Lake and the camp pool. I am still amazed today how close the pool is to the lake. You can actually jump from the pool into the lake. Even when I was a counselor there, several counselors used the pool at night. This was my first experience with Boys Clubs of America. That was way back in 1970 but my Hoffman Estates Boys Club was able to take advantage of the camp in 1977, 1978, and 1979. We even used the camp in the offseason. Al Mackin was the camp director at that time. I really enjoyed that camp and it is still in operation today.

Hoffman Estates Boys Club Winter Trip

this young man is Randy taking a walk at the Union League Boys Club camp in Salem Wisconsin. Randy was a member of my Hoffman Estates Boys Club. We were using the camp in January on one of our monthly trips there. On this trip we had some snow which made it fun hiking in the woods. Some of the boys actually camped outside by an open fire all night. Camp director Al Mackin showed the boys how to pack their sleeping bags with snow all around to keep them warmer. It was a great trip and Randy chose to sleep inside that night with several of the other boys and me. The next day we went sledding and had hot chocolate waiting for us after our fun. It was a great trip.

ULBC Camp Basketball

what used to be the Union League Boys Club.Camp tennis court is now the basketball court. It was resurfaced a couple of years ago for basketball as tennis really never caught on. It can be converted to a tennis court if needed. But basketball has taken over and the kids really enjoyed the court. After a great game of basketball the kids are ready for a swim at Fox Lake. Basketball has been a big addition at camp. The next new thing will be an obstacle course.

Al Mackin’s Camp office

when Al Mackin was the director of the Union League Boys Club summer camp in Salem, Wisconsin this was his office. When I was a counselor at this camp in 1970 Twiggy was the camp director and his office was about a third as big. Here Al can plan out his year-round schedule. When I was a counselor in 1970 they had no year-round schedule. They do now. And Al was about the best there was. My Hoffman Estates Boys Club was allowed to use their camp both in the offseason and during the summer time. To my knowledge we were the only Club allowed that privilege which was reserved for the Union League Boys Club Chicago and they had three units. The camp was wonderful and you can find a tour of camp on our pages and many articles under the category ULBC camp. Al is no longer with us having passed in 1990.

The ULBC Pool and League Lake

I like this picture of the Union League Boys Club Camp Pool and just how close League Lake is to the pool. The pool was highly preferable to counselors and campers alike due to the high algae content of League Lake. In fact in close proximity to the swimming area in the lake was a stretch of algae just beyond the pool.

The pool was about four feet deep and an excellent place to teach swimming. Games were also played there such as water volleyball and tag. I myself enjoyed lounging in the pool whenever possible especially on my off days as a counselor.

The lake was great for boating and fishing and then there was always the lagoon, not far from the swimming area, that led to where the legendary Swamp Man was said to live. ULBC had a great waterfront that was always filled with activity.

The Bong Show

with apologies to Chuck Barris, our bong show was a bit boring. The Union League Boys Club campers were more than a little hot after a 5 mile hike from camp. Gordon Payne and myself were also disappointed upon arriving at the former bong Air Force Base. No underground tunnels were found and we searched most of the afternoon in a field of weeds and garbage. After this major disappointment, the boys were so glad to get back to camp. Despite the high expectations the day was a waste and we did not repeat it with other campers that summer.

Year Round Lodge

The building in the background was used by my Hoffman Estates Boys Club monthly during the off season and ULBC Camp Director, Al Mackin, was always on hand to provide the boys with great fun.  At times some of the Union League Club kids also were up the same weekend providing a joint camping experience.

I remember on one trip I met an older Greg Kokines.  I had his younger brother, Mike, at Tent City when  was a counselor at the camp in the 1960’s.  Our kids made great use of the forest around now Fox Lake playing Hound and the Hare with both Al and myself as the hares.  Once when it snowed several boys camped out in the snow for a night and had a great experience doing that.  I chose to stay in the heated lodge.

I wonder if this lodge is still used by present campers today in the off season?  Is the present camp director hired year round?  Let us know by way of a comment.

Al Mackin

Al Mackin was the camp director for the Union League Boys Club camp in Salem Wisconsin. He coordinated the work with the three Union League clubs in Chicago. Al was also good enough to include the Hoffman Estates Boys Club in year round planning for the camp. Al and I hit it off right away and our Club made off-season trips to the camp every month. Al was even the guest speaker at an awards night event. He was incredibly talented in camping skills. Once on a winter trip to the camp he prepared a 7-course meal for us. The boys really appreciated that night. Sadly Al passed away in 1990.