Camp Morton and Time


Visiting the ruins at Camp Morton is always a highlight of my summer. The crashing of Lake Winnipeg’s waves, the sparkles on the water, and 1930s era stone mosaics touch me in a visceral way. It’s a place where history and nature embrace each other and I like to be caught in that embrace.

One of the children's cabins from 1930s
Why do I feel so connected? Perhaps, because first of all, I love shorelines. Any shoreline. I’ve ambled along the Baltic, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. The colours, the sound and spray of waves, the texture of the sand, broken shells, unique driftwood and always, the stones—each one containing a timeless story. Camp Morton, along the western edge of Lake Winnipeg, has such a timeless shoreline.
Water tower with 1937 in stone mosaic


Then there’s the coincidence of the camp’s dates. While Camp Morton opened in 1920,  many of the buildings are dated 1937. That's the same year my grandfather was shot in Zhytomyr during Stalin's Great Terror. The year my mom worked on some East Prussian estate in a Nazi world. For some reason, juxtaposing the serene lakeside camp with my family's losses during the Stalin and Nazi years, helps me appreciate the peaceful times I spend here at the lake. Camp Morton’s ruins are my ruins, too.

Remembering the Sisters who supervised the camp

But there’s another reason why I’m drawn to Camp Morton. It’s the religious over-tone. I spent childhood summers going to a religious camp and know it’s a perfect place to build friendships, make music and create memories.   It’s also a place where vulnerable young people can fall prey to manipulative elders with sometimes soul-sucking intentions. 

Perhaps the Fresh Air camps on Lake Winnipeg were only places of healthy recreation. But I can’t help but wonder about those children in the 1930s. Sometimes I think I hear their ghosts calling me. But it’s probably just the wind in the poplars, or the crashing waves. Or just me, casting my own shadow on the past. 

Stone fence on perimeter

Stone-clad sundial


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