By the mid 1940’s, the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ were growing at a rapid pace and Christian Camping was an important part of their ministry. However, each year it became increasingly difficult to find facilities to rent for our churches. A number of locations were used in those days.
It seemed as if the churches were at the mercies of the camps when it came time for scheduling and available facilities. Socachriseco (Southern California Christian Service Conference) was the name given to the week of High School Camp. It was this week of camp in particular that needed room to grow.
It became apparent that our Churches needed a Camp of their own. Reuben Anderson (First Christian Church, Long Beach), John Chase (First Christian Church, Downey), G. Russell Barber (Park Avenue Christian Church, Montebello), and Lowell Megorden (First Christian Church, Compton) were the leaders who had taken a strong interest in Camp. These men began to look for suitable land on which to build a church camp.
At about the same time, Harold “Hal” DeBar, a man in one of our Los Angeles churches, had obtained a lease on U.S. Forestry land deep in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains. It was Hal’s dream to start a boy’s camp there. However, when Hal heard that these men were looking for a camp site for our churches, he invited these ministers to meet with he and his wife, Esther, in their kitchen. Hal was so excited about the dream of a Christian church camp that he offered his lease to these men and Angeles Crest Christian Camp came into existence.
There was much work to do before having the first week of Camp at Angeles Crest. The land was very primitive and unspoiled by man. There was not any electricity, water, gas, telephone or buildings on the property. Sunday School classes, and scores of individuals, began to make regular trips up the mountain to get the grounds ready for the first week of camp in the summer of 1948. There were pit toilets to be dug, tents to be set up, a concrete slab was poured for a dining room, a small kitchen to be constructed, land to be cleared, etc. “Old Timers” will tell you that they literally were nailing the doors on the outhouses when the first campers came up the hill.
Those years between 1948-1955 were building years. The U.S. Army surplus tents eventually gave way to wooden cabins, the dining hall was built, a caretakers cabin constructed and in 1955, the camp swimming pool was in place. Needless to say, the swimming pool was the center of attention. It came at a time when home pools, or even pools in schools, were unheard of.
However, there was still much work to be done. Even as late as 1957, most of the cabins did not have electricity. That meant you and your flashlight were inseparable after dark. The cabins had “shutters” on two sides that were opened to let the cool air (and bugs) into the cabin. The cool air sometimes turned into bitter cold air at night.
Gradually the cabins have been insulated, remodeled and completed. A chapel and recreation building were added about 1975. This much needed building enabled Angeles Crest to seriously develop an all year ministry. A 255,000 gallon water tank was added to meet the needs of an increased number of campers and then finally in 1986, the Ponderosa Lodge was completed in the north cabin area.
The history of Angeles Crest Christian Camp is much more than just the evolution of buildings and grounds. The history of Angeles Crest really lies in the lives of over fifty thousand young people who have spent a week on the mountaintop. The purpose of Angeles Crest lives on in the lives of hundreds and hundreds of preachers, missionaries, youth ministers and other servants who have said, “It was around the campfire at Angeles Crest Christian Camp that I gave my life to Christ!”