Tag Archives: YMCA



Informant: How did the Ragger Program come about? Am I allowed to know?

Interviewer: Yes of course. So . . . they would always have game and competitions at Y-Camp, that was the big thing at the end of the week to always have competitions- cabin competitions, to see who’s the best cabin or who’s the best . . you know . . swimming, hiking, stuff on the lake. And one year there was this one kid that went to camp  . . . and I guess . . . was he in a wheel chair? Yeah. And he just had great camp spirit. He couldn’t participate in any of the games but he was the greatest camper up there. So one day they tied a plain bandana around his neck as a surprise for him because he was such a great kid . . great camper and that’s how the Ragger Program started.

Interviewer: So is that unique to Ta Ta Pochon?

Informant: No. It’s unique to the YMCA program, so that’s all across the nation and the world

Interviewer: What the process for getting a rag?

Informant: The rag is just an outward sign of your inward challenges. Okay. That’s what it is and its all personal challenges that you’re making to become a better person and you have different levels of the rag. You start with a blue rag and when you’re 12-years old you can get a blue rag. Before that you can get what’s called leathers. So you can start as a little kid and you can get your leathers but it’s not as elaborate. You just make challenges for yourself; to be a better person, a better friend . . . I don’t know. And so for like the blue rag, I don’t know what the first [challenge] is, but it’s like service to others or service to God. It’s personal goals that you should reach yourself. If you think you’ve reached it, then the next year you can go on to the next one. The next one is silver. Which is specific to some other challenge. You make the challenge, the rag challenge, and then you also make an inner challenge so that you can go on the next year. Some people, some years say, “you know what, I’m not ready to move on”. The highest rag is the white rag and we say that those people walk on water. I never got my white rag because I don’t walk on water. The youngest you can get a white rage is 21.

Interviewer: Who decides who gets a white rag?

Informant: You do, but you have to have somebody tie your rag and if that person doesn’t feel that you’re ready, they can say that, “I’m not going to tie your rag”. So with the raggers someone can say, “I don’t feel comfortable tying your next rag,  I think you’re too young, I think you’re just doing it because they status etc.”. Most of the time people take it a little more seriously. Most people say, “I’m not ready to go on to my next rag yet, I think I want to kind stay here”. I stopped at gold. Because when you stop going to camp . . .

Interviewer: How far is that?

Informant: It’s blue, silver, brown, gold and then you have red, purple, white. A lot of people stop at their purples and they are people who have been doing camp for twenty years and they’ll stop at their purples. I have known some people who have gotten their white rags at 22 years old, not too many though, not too many

So that the number one . . . that’s a tradition, and that’s not just specific to Ta Ta Pochon.

Interviewer’s notes:

The story is interesting in that one tradition, from one story, at one camp, has come to influence the YMCA camp tradition of the entire world, which in turn has sparked the use of an international folk object in the form of the rag. Because of the story and the meaning behind it, the rag has come to have more emotional worth than its actual monetary worth; it’s value comes from the tradition of the Ragger Program. Additionally, upon further research I have discovered that there is no one single “Ragger Program” website with which to reference, so each camp has their own individual portion on their websites, which had made for many variations. So aside from the folk object itself, the origin story has become legendary, and thus also folklore.

For a different version of the origin story see: http://ymcablueridgeassembly.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/the-story-of-the-rag/

The Doctor and the Architect

The Doctor and the Architect

Informant: Okay so there are two friends, best friends and one grows up to be an architect and one’s a doctor. Then they grow apart because the architect is jealous of the doctor’s success. So the doctor says to the architect that he wants a house and he say’s that he will pay for the supplies. He says he wants the greatest house in the greatest location. So the architect is like, “oh, well, this is my chance”. So they architect goes no to the best location for the “Great house”, and buys the cheapest wood for the “Great house” and buys the cheapest paint for the “great house”. Then he would charge the doctor for the price of the good stuff and keep the cash for himself. So at the point that the house was done, it was a good house, not a great house. So when it was done, the architect presented it to the doctor, but the doctor said, “this house is for you”.

Interviewer’s notes:

This tale is moralistic and fable-esque, in keeping with the Christian traditions of YMCA camp. It implies that a person should always put their best effort forward because one only gets what he gives. Since there is no overt reference to Christianity, this also could coincide with the idea of karma, which would connect the story across religions. The story is told at camp to indoctrinate the kids with a strong moral compass. The setting of camp, the tradition it has as being told orally, means that the tale has the advantage to be really resonate with the campers-which is evident in the young informant’s ability to recall the story. Also, this could be a bit of occupation folklore, playing off of the stereotypes of the respective careers and being inherently and being unsuccessful.

Boulder Woman (as told by an active barer)

Boulder Woman (as told by an active barer)

Informant: I learned it my first year, and then took it on as nature director at camp. Boulder woman is an exclusive legend of YMCA camp Ta Ta Pochon because it had happened up there. A friend of mine and I were taking a group of campers on a trail, a nature trail which crosses the stream about half a mile up from camp and that’s were Boulder Man, or Boulder Woman, actually lives, or lived. And back in the 60’s she was living up that area which we call Bible Point. We took the kids up there on our Wednesday hikes. I do like to do the hike at dusk because it is more fun. We got the whole area  . . . it’s dark, not too dark, enough where you’re hearing from all the animals and once and a while you hear (imitates wolf cry) “ooooooooh” or you hear some twigs breaking which I love the best. It really helps. Anyways . . . so my friends and I were going up that way to see what the trail was like and we someone running away from us, about a half a mile, and we found out that it was Boulder Woman

Interviewer: So Boulder Woman was a real person?

Informant: Boulder Woman. We saw her running.

Interviewer: And that’s where this story started?

Informant: I was told a previous story, but this is with my own eyes, what I saw. Somebody running up a half a mile, so we took off after her, just the two of us, no kids with us at the time, and we said “hey, what’s going on, this is camp and why are you here?” Face to face and umm, so she said well, “Her name was Boulder, and her family lived just above camp where two streams cross”. That’s true, there are two streams that cross at camp. So she went on to tell us that there was a flood in the 60’s, that wiped out her family’s place. Some people just call that [the chair] the chimney, but it actually is Boulder Woman’s throne. And so people will say that’s Boulder Man’s chair, just the chimney, no! Maryann and I know the truth of Boulder Woman.

So we were running along beside her, trying to catch up with her so she said, “okay, you got me”. We said, “we don’t want to hurt, you we just want to figure out what’s going on . . . if we could help you”.  So, she said, “No, I’ve been here since the 60’s and I lost my husband and son in the flood of 1960”. Which actually is true because a couple of buildings from camp were destroyed by a flood as well. You could just see parts of buildings hanging around. Everything she said was true, correct, so we kind of believed her. We started following her around, she told us the whole story where she lost her husband and her son and her whole house, she just wanted to stay up there, I mean where else did she have to go? So she didn’t want the kids to know that she was up there, she didn’t want them running up there. And so umm . . . what she would do, she didn’t care for littering, and we were thinking we don’t either. So what she wanted to do then was that she wanted to remind people not to throw their candy and junk and to take care of nature. So she would come out at night, when the kids were in their beds and after devotions, and so Boulder Woman would come by and throw stones or what we would call “boulders” at the cabins to make certain that they would know that she meant business so that they would know that you were not to throw candy wrappers and that you were to take better care of nature. So that was the main story of Boulder Women, but all the people have told it different ways, I don’t like to tell it really scary because then kids are scared out of their minds. Some other boy counselors decided that no, its really Boulder Man, it’s not Boulder Woman. And so they wanted to make sure that they showed us women that they did not know what we were talking about, but we said “Oh no. Ingrid and I have spoken to Boulder Woman” so . . . we know better. And so what did they do? They went and they took big huge boulders and they threw them at Cabin 8 and one went right through the roof.

Interviewer: What year was this?

Informant: that was in 1979. And another boulder went flying and knocked a 2-foot piece off of Cabin 8, which is probably still visible today. And so we had to stop telling Boulder Man because it was freaking kids out, it was really getting scary. But to this day, I know that there is a Boulder Woman and we don’t know if she is still there or what, but there are remnants of her plates and forks and stuff we have taken kids up there to see Boulder Woman, because that’s where she is, that’s where she lived and that’s what she did for a long time. I haven seen her for many years, but I do know her and I do believe that she was real, because I saw her.

Interviewer’s notes:

The length and detail of the tale are very indicative that the informant is anactive barer of the story. She takes the legend beyond camp lore by asserting that Boulder Woman is in fact true because she has “met” her, which leaves the authenticity entirely up to the audience to decide. This is further complicated by the fact that the informant claims the be the origin of the story. This creates a plausibility which keeps the story alive and well.

Additionally, with a female active barer, who also happens to be the nature director, the tale begins to reflect these aspects. The Boulder Figure now decidedly becomes a Boulder Woman and her presence becomes a cautionary one, warning the campers to respect nature.

Kum Ba Yah

Kum Ba Yah

Informant: Okay, it needs to be dark, there needs to be a campfire, I got get myself in the mood here. Umm . . . okay . . .

In a deep, doth, darkest of Africa, there was a group of men who went into the mountain. They were thirsty, they were hungry, they needed to eat! They mined  for their families. They did everything they could, everything they could to find food and help their families! (pause)

They were in the mine, when a horrible, horrible, horrible, accident had happened. (pause)

The barrel of coal started from the top and started to head down deep and hit 12 men. That took all the shorings out and everyone of those men, were stuck in that deep mine.
Well you know how these men would be, they would be freaking out! Wouldn’t you? Right? Don’t you remember your great-grandma telling you this story, right? Of those men? Her brothers and sisters even! They did what ever they could to feed their families.

*A beat, informant becomes highly emotional *

(solemnly) Well it was a horrible, horrible, day. Back in 1886 in that mine and everything went wrong. Everything collapsed. (Raises voice) It was horrible! It was horrible! (pause)

And the men didn’t know what to do, they were out of their minds crying. They were frightened. They were crying . . . yet there was this one man who said, “no, we’re going to make it. We’re going to make it through this. We are not gonna perish today. We are gonna make it through”. (pause)

So this man he prayed. He prayed. “Come pray with me” he said. “Pray?” What are you talking about, we need to get out of here, we need tools, we need people to get us out!” said the others. “ Well” he said, “ we need to pray that we can get out of here”.

And the men started crying, (sobbing voice), “ what are we going to do, I don’t know what to do, how are we going to get out of here? We’re going to die in here!”. So the miner started singing, (in a singing voice) “Come by here, my lord, come by here. Kum Ba Yah, my lord, Kum Ba Yah”. He sang, he finally got the men to laugh. “ Please, laugh with me . . .laugh with me” he said. “Even if this may be our last day on earth, we can have a good laugh, we’re together, let’s hold hands. It’s pitch dark in here, there is nothing else that we can do”.

“okay”, the others said, “it’s worth a try”. They prayed, they laughed, they cried together because they were so frightened. Then the miner said, “I think were going to make it”. He started singing again (singing) “come by here my lord, come by here”. Louder! “Come by her my lord! Come by here!”. So all 12 men started to sing. Then something came over them and they started to laugh and they thought, “okay, this might work”.

Then they heard it. They heard it. (Takes keys and starts tapping it against table in a rhythmic tapping). “what’s that?” one man said. “It sounds like Billy-Bob, he’s on the top!”. “Billy-Bob we’re here, we’re down here Billy-Bob”, they all scream.

And so the men, started to all be so positive. They started to start clinking. “Grab the rocks, get your tools, pound! Pound! Pound into that rock! We’re going to make it! (rhythmic tapping). “can you here us up there? oh God! Can you hear us? Help get us out of here! (rhythmic tapping)

Ands all of a sudden there was this huge pound. Huge Pound! Huge Clink! (one final tap) and Billy-Bob broke through the rock. There was sunlight coming through, the men could breath. The lights came back on.

The roar could be heard all over town! “They’re alive, they’re alive! Sound the alarm, they’re alive”. And they were. Each man held his hand up and walked out of that mine and they were all saved that day. And that’s the story of Kum Ba Yah.

(singing) Kum Ba Yah my lord, Kum Ba yah.  (2 x) Oh Lord, Kum Ba Yah. And that’s why we sing Kum Ba Yah out at campfire, almost every night to close it. So we can think about how it is to be at camp. Looking at the last ember of the flame of the campfire and thinking about how grateful we are to be together.

Interviewer’s notes:

It is interesting to note the blatant religious motif such as the fact that there were 12 men, just like the 12 apostles. The story perfectly coincides with the Christian ideas of  YMCA camp by highlighting the rewarding aspects of having faith in God. As an oral story, the storyteller employs an interesting use of the rhetorical. This invites audience participation, which in turn enhances the memorability and thus the longevity of the story. Furthermore, the story has a direct connection to the song the campers sing each night at camp. This also ensures the resonance with the audience. Also repetition in the story, no only enables memorability, but is also in keeping with Olrik’s Epic Laws of Narrative.