Letterhead by Martin O'Niell, Jr. Sarasota, Florida 1948(deceased)

Reprinted from Rick Obermeyer's book, From Kuna and Calusa, April 1991

Chartered June 6, 1942, and officially ended when its 1955 charter expired on December 31, although its members did participate in the April, 1956, Area 6-E Conference. The name is that of the pre-Seminole tribe of the area noted for its ferocity. The eagle totem was taken from the council's Camp Flying Eagle. Their information resource on Calusa Indians was Montague Tallent, who owned a furniture store in east Bradenton and who had a pretty good collection of Calusa artifacts on display in his store.

The concept of the Order of the Arrow was brought into Sunnyland Council by John L. Shutt, Executive for Royal Palm District (Ft. Myers) and also Camp Director for the summer of 1942. Mr. Shutt had been in the OA in Tennessee, and sold Council Executive Fred Treat on the idea.

The summer camp staff of 1942 in its entirety became Calusa's charter members in a slapdash Ordeal and ceremony conducted entirely by Mr. Shutt and Mr. Treat during staff week. The new members immediately went into a cram study of the ceremony ritual so they could conduct an Ordeal in the first week of camp. (There were only two weeks of summer camp with a total of 106 Scouts.) Gordon Knowles was the first Allowat Sakima, and Tom Burgess was the first Meteu. Danny Ebersole was also on that first team.

The lodge was for its life mainly a summer camp activity. It did have occasional meetings outside of summer camp, quarterly at first, then only in December or February.

Youth members were elected by the troops at camp, either chartered or provisional, one per each eight Scout campers. Camp staff elected the adults, usually Scoutmasters there in camp, but also some council level volunteers. And also, anybody on staff who wasn't already a member had usually become one by the end of the summer. The lodge also occasionally elected adult honorary members who did not have to undergo the rigors of a whole Ordeal. They merely had to show up Saturday evening in time for the ceremony.

Tom Burgess remembers that he was Allowat Sakima when Calusa Lodge provided a Ceremony Team for Aal-Pa-Tah Lodge #237's first ordeal. The ceremony was on the shore of Lake Osborne in early 1943. Calusa Lodge also supplied a Team for Tipisa Lodge #326's first Ordeal in 1946 at Camp Wewa.

An early work project was clearing a "nature trail" across the river that was actually a circuitous route Ordeal candidates took to the ceremony ring. They did repairs to the dock and to the steps down to the river, and worked on the "Athletic Field," or parade grounds, next to the dining hall.

Two camp improvements by the lodge were a sheltered rock masonry water fountain on one of the camp's trails and a rock masonry lectern at the original chapel. Tom Burgess remembers that the water fountain, built in memory of William S. Leak, was a Ordeal project in 1946 under his direction. Because of the scarcity of rock or stone in southwest Florida, they were short on materials. Fred Treat said they could use the stones piled by the door of his cabin. When the Ordeal candidates carried them over, they were discovered to be of a wide variety in shape, color, and type.. Since they wanted the exterior of the fountain to be uniform, they used only Florida limestone and some coquina for the outside, and put all of Fred Treat's miscellany inside for filler. Not until after the concrete had set did they learn that it was all a collection of rocks and stones Mr. Treat had painstakingly collected in his travels, from nearly every state in the union. The water fountain, which had not had running water for twenty years, was demolished in the late 1980's. The lectern is still there.

The lodge only inducted a few new members each summer in the 1940's- fifteen in 1946, sixteen in 1947, and thirteen in 1948.

At first, a member "worked for" Brotherhood by completing a personal service project. The first Brotherhood member, Gordon Knowles, improved the ceremony ring for his project. Tom Burgess, the second, made a plains feather bonnet for Allowat Sakima's costume. Later, Brotherhood membership was a high honor voted on by the whole lodge, after being "recommended by a committee composed of 10% of the membership." No more than one or two per year attained Brotherhood in the first several years of Calusa.

A would-be transfer needed a letter of recommendation from the Scribe or Chief of his former lodge, "a sincere desire to take part in, and to contribute to the program of the Calusa Lodge," a two-third's vote of the Calusa membership at a business meeting, and a "reaffirmation of the Obligation of the Order, in the presence of the membership..."

The lodge made available a lifetime membership for $25.00. That was quite a sum in the days of five cent soft drinks and one cent postcards.

At the July 2, 1948, Summer Meeting, Mr. Fred Treat, the Council Executive, provided ice cream and cupcakes for the party that was after the Ordeal and Brotherhood ceremonies. Raymond "Tiny" Edge represented Calusa Lodge at the National Conference that year in Bloomington, IN. Instead of being held at camp, the December, 1948, Annual Meeting was at a campfire in Everglades City. It was part of a trip arranged by the Council that included a boat trip through the Ten Thousand Islands and a ride on a logging train to the Humble oil wells. Oddly enough, it was later determined that this meeting "was not Constitutional," and that lodge officers had to be elected over again at another meeting on February 7, 1949. The ones who were elected at Everglades served as acting officers until that second election and were reported as "doing an excellent job for the most part."

The meetings at Camp Flying Eagle convened Saturday at midday and lasted until after a short meeting Sunday morning. Through the 1940's to at least 1950, all brothers had to make their own arrangements for their own meals. They were requested to "...Please bring something that can be prepared quickly. We have some very important things to do and we do not want to spend all of our time cooking."

It seems that some kind of amendment to the Lodge Constitution was on the agenda for almost every meeting. If members couldn't attend, they were encouraged to sign a proxy form to allow the Lodge Chief to cast their vote for them. For example, at the February, 1949, meeting, twelve members were present, but the Chief held proxies for fifteen absentees.

Laddie Williams, Lodge Chief for 1949-50, has many strong and rich memories of Calusa: "The Lodge served Camp Flying Eagle in good standing. When I was active, it cleaned up camp prior to the arrival of campers, replaced step-logs on the steep bank to the river and ceremonial amphitheater there, replaced window screens in the cabins, painted anything that paint was provided for, cleaned out the kitchen grease traps, sanitized the showers and toilets, cleaned up the water front, repaired boats and canoes, built nature trails... (Besides these,) the lodge always had at least one major project."

"We spent hours making or building costumes and drums, other accoutrements, and building campfires."

"At that time, there were only three ways for a boy to become eligible:"

"Be elected from your own troop that has a minimum of eight boys
in camp that week."

"Be elected from a provisional troop that had eight boys in camp
that week."

"Be elected from either the Jr. Staff of Sr. Staff while serving
on the staff of Camp Flying Eagle."

"The Order of the Arrow was a major attraction to come to Camp Flying Eagle. Elections were only during summer camp. There was no such thing as 'home troop elections.'... It was true that being on camp staff was a sure route to membership.

However, the lodge bylaws provided in Article IV, Section 2, Clause that "A boy may be refused membership in Calusa lodge if there is any evidence of 'campaigning' or 'politicking."' And, in Clause 2, a troop could be refused the privilege of having an election "if there is any evidence of campaigning."

"Please understand the term Lodge Staff... because of the way a person became a member, and other activities, you would find most of the former lodge's membership would be very uncomfortable separating Camp Flying Eagle events and activities from the Calusa lodge of the Order of the Arrow. If it didn't happen at Camp Flying Eagle, it didn't happen."

"...Ex-staff, Pre-staff, and Former-staff, you are talking about Calusa Lodge leaders and membership. Our activities were almost exclusively at Camp Flying Eagle, and the bylaws required that 'At least one meeting shall be held during each camp period."'

Laddie further recalls, "The highlight of my experience as lodge chief was creating and choreographing, with the assistance of a most able Jerry Brown, some fine Indian lore pantomimes, as a lodge service project to the Council's summer camp programs. Jerry (a natural pantomimist) as Meteu and I as Netami Sakima, together with the honor ritual team on staff (and we always tried to have the Ordeal Ritual Honor team on staff) enacted many of these. Enhanced by dances, and accompanied by drums, they brought the lodge many compliments, as well as to us as individuals, for their beauty, symbolism and originality. Jerry's 'Death of the Flying Eagle' was a study in precision. I suspect I saw him do it at least half a dozen times and it always gave me 'goose bumps."'

(At the beginning of each program) "The campers and guests had all been seated after dark by ushers with flashlights. While they sat in total silence, the campfire was lighted remotely using chemicals and acid. The RED sparks of the potassium flew out the top of the carefully stacked wood, maybe eight or ten feet up into the air, with WHITE billowing smoke and an acrid pungency filling the air."

"It was difficult to set up the chemical fire starter. Concentrated sulfuric acid was placed in a small glass salt shaker in the center of an old pie pan which contained about a cup of a mixture of sugar and some potassium compound, possibly potassium nitrate. A fine wire string was tied to the top of the salt shaker threads where the lid would normally be screwed on. This wire was run about twenty feet into the woods and tied to the base of a small tree. At night the 'wire puller' could not be seen."

"It would take several hours to select manageable wood, cut it to size, and prepare for the fire. We usually started gathering wood about three or four in the afternoon, finishing up while the campers were at retreat or eating the evening meal."

"This was a dangerous activity (with the chemicals). That summer, our patient and forbearing Field Executive/ Camp Director, Mr. Leroy M. Starrett, would place his hand over his eyes and tell us, 'Don't tell me about it!... I don't want to know anything about it... just do it. It's beautiful."'

"All went well until one afternoon, long after the fire had been set up, a camper wandered down to the campfire ring and tripped the wire. We had to tie it to a tree so we could find it in the dark. The fire went up and he took off. He was not hurt at all. Actually, he never got close to the fire, and had no idea why it 'blew up.' He ran up the hill, back to the dining hall, totally terrified of the flaming devil down at the campfire site. He was so frightened that he was incoherent, but we soon saw the smoke and knew what had happened. Finally, he calmed down. As I remember, he was very young, a first year camper. He wanted us to take him to his Scoutmaster, so we did, greasepaint and all."

"Mr. Starrett SUGGESTED that we not do it anymore. I don't think we did. That year, anyway."

"We became experts with grease paint, both in creating striking designs and patterns and in their removal. We must have used a gallon of cold cream and a case of toilet paper every two weeks. Fenton Rogers was especially artistic and creative."

"Were we authentic to the Calusa Indian? Not in the least. I am sure we were not authentic to any tribe. Of course, we considered ourselves authentic Calusa! Our best source of Calusa information was 'Uncle' Charlie Wilson, a much loved, elderly, retired Scout Executive, and respected amateur cultural anthropologist who lived in Palmetto, Florida, near Bradenton. Charles N. Wilson received the Silver Beaver in 1951. He told us the Calusa were not a 'spectacular tribe as far as their costumes were concerned.' He was not sure they even wore any kind of breech clout."

"We knew that would go over big with the parents, grandparents, and sisters who sometimes attended our campfires as guests!"

"Whatever else, we knew that Spanish moss was a part of their apparel, perhaps as a skirt or even as a woven into the hair as a form of headdress. The thought of all those red bugs (chiggers) made the old, tattered and torn, tent-canvas costumes about as 'authentic' as we needed. Anyway, ceremoniously, we were definitely a spectacular tribe, and the campers, their relatives, and even the executive branch would bring honored guests to these campfires to be sure and catch our act. We put on a good show."

"A favorite was the 'Fall of Meteu.' (The campfire would be mysteriously and spectacularly lit.) With a bloodcurdling scream, Jerry bounded down the log-stairs, leaping at least fifteen feet as he threw a peace pipe at Netami Sakima's feet who was sitting behind the campfire. To the beat of the drums, he gyrated motions of war and blood, dancing several times around the campfire and stomped and disparaged it. After a time, Netami retrieved the pipe and offered it to Meteu with motions of peace, then rising and lifting his arms and the pipe to the great spirit... Motioned to the four directions, to the four seasons... sitting, again offering it to Meteu, who knocked it to the ground, repeating his warlike motions and expositions. Finally, Netami Sakima arose with expressions of anger and motions of disgust. Pointing at Meteu in a dramatic sweep of his arm, he banished him, pointing to the patch up the hill from whence he had come. Realizing the error of his ways, Meteu hung his head in shame and made conciliatory gestures to his chief, to no avail. He'd had his opportunity and had worn the patience of the wise old chief too thin. Meteu exited up the hill in disgrace..."

"An alligator was captured each year I was at Camp Flying Eagle, to become the Lodge's camp mascot, and was turned loose at the end of summer camp. Some members of the Lodge/Staff would go to Hidden Lake, off the Manatee River, and make a night raid in 'Gator Country.' back then, the lake abounded with alligators. The capturing, care, and custody of the annual alligator was the responsibility of the Lodge/Staff. It was a tradition."

"When it became our (my?) turn to supply the alligator, I must confess that I did not know very much about alligators. I was always told that the distance between a gator's eyes in inches equaled his length in feet, and had played around with a four-footer someone else had captured the first year I was a camper. I'd watched Delbert Ammons (Lodge Chief 1944-1946, two terms) put it to sleep by turning it on its back and gently stroking its abdomen. My experience with that one convinced me that it would gladly eat me, and I had great respect for its tail and teeth. However, once off the ground, with its mouth held shut, it did become somewhat docile. That was it."

"The summer of 1949," (when Laddie was lodge Chief) "the camp didn't yet have a mascot. Armed with all my abundant knowledge and experience, we were in hot pursuit at Hidden Lake. I rolled out of the canoe onto a pair of eyes four inches apart that turned out to belong to a gator as big as I was (I was six feet tall and weighed 235 pounds, at age 15). I guess it had a misshaped skull. It went straight to the bottom with me holding on for dear life. I was so scared that I am sure I polluted the lake, but the gator hesitated for a moment so I planted my foot in the middle of its back and shot for the surface. The canoe was only a few feet away, and I rolled into it like a rocket. I don't think I could have done that again, and I'm not sure how I did it then. Furthermore, I don't believe that lie about eyes, inches, and length anymore."

"I did pick up a small alligator in the Manatee River. It was about 21 inches long and mean... It was promptly dubbed 'Alliwat Repikima,' or 'Alli' for short. I secured it with a collar and a small piece of rope about three feet long tied to the leg of my bunk in the staff cabin. We would take it out and display it to the campers and to those pursuing Reptile Study Merit Badge."

The lodge tried out having chapters (which had to have a minimum of four members). In 1952, the Manatee and Sarasota Chapters were to clean up and keep up Camp Flying Eagle, and the project for the Ft. Myers and Southern Chapters was to put together new ceremonial costumes.

There are some hints of later problems in a letter mailed to all members in 1950 that outlined recent changes in Order of the Arrow policies by the National Committee. Under the topic "THE ORDER AND ITS RELATION TO THE COUNCIL CAMP," it commented that it is "in no way a camp fraternity... Our order is much more than a summer camp society... We must nor regard the Order of the Arrow as a organization apart from, or only affiliated with Scouting."

"Unfortunately, there have been those who incorrectly assumed that membership in the Order allowed them prerogatives in camp administration as such. It should be clearly understood that Order membership does not delegate authority to the Arrow man... The Order of the Arrow should not and must not become a camp corps that assumes the duties of the Camp Director of the Administrative group."

"...If the Order members in the Council camp adhere to their appropriate role and are guided by the ideals of the brotherhood, then we well have no difficulty from cliquy (sic) groups that falsely claim to be members of a camp hierarchy." In these admonishments, we hear hints of the problems that later led to Calusa Lodge's termination.

Fourteen attended the Lodge Annual Meeting in February, 1951, but forty nine were at the Summer Meeting in July. Meals were offered at the Summer Meeting: Saturday supper was 50 cents, Sunday breakfast was 35 cents, and Sunday dinner was 60 cents. At its business meeting, the lodge determined to complete the Chapel site. "Fred Treat gave a talk about the purposes of the Order."

Members were again advised to bring their own food for those three meals at the February, 1952, meeting. Thirteen members attended, at which time they Clarified£ied the requirements to become an OA member, one of which was, "During the time of the ordeal the candidate will be allowed to speak from 12 to 16 words, and if more is said the candidate will have to take the ordeal over." Iow did they arrive at the range of "12 to 16?"

Calusa must have had some good newsletter editors, because it ran the "Bulletin making and preparing" workshop at the 1950 and 1951 Area Meetings. At the 1952 Area Meet, its topic was "The OA and Camp Promotion." They also "almost froze at the Area meeting." For these people from southwest Florida, Tallahassee was a cold northland.

Only twenty four were at the Annual Meeting held in June, 1952, at Camp Flying Eagle. Brotherhood candidates were still approved by vote of the lodge, although by this time, with new rules from the National Office, it was probably only a formality. For the first time, there was formation of a Vigil committee. Its nominations (Martin O'Neill, Jimmy Prine, Bill Watkins, and Delbert Ammons) were unanimously approved by lodge vote. They also discussed making all OA members in camp at the time of an ordeal into a committee to decide whether a boy fails his ordeal, "should the question arise."

Were there Indian hobbyists in Calusa? Almost every lodge meeting included scheduled "costume repairs." Its skill demonstration at the 1953 Area Meet was "Beadwork and Accessories," and it was also in charge of the softball tournament and the Campfire program. Attendance at the July Annual Meeting was back up to forty five. A committee was formed to report back on making a patch emblem. For Chapter projects, Bradenton was assigned work on the camp, Sarasota on costume accessories and signs, and Ft. Myers on costumes.

The last Annual Meeting of Calusa lodge, held July 3, 1955, was a big one, attended by sixty members. They voted to amend the Lodge Constitution so that Brotherhood and Vigil would conform with the OA Handbook. Fred Treat, Council Executive, did not attend this meeting, but a letter from him was read to the Lodge "...and its meaning clarified. Discussion on this matter followed with no de£inite motion or action made by the Lodge."

Calusa's responsibilities at the Area VI-E Meet in April, 1956, were the Ordeal tapout on Friday evening, sharing a "Headdresses & Costumes" skill demonstration with Seminole Lodge on Saturday morning, leading a discussion qroup on "Ceremonies," and looking after the horseshoe game in the afternoon.

Fred L. Treat had been instrumental in bringing the Order of the Arrow to Sunnyland Council, and is listed among those present at almost every meeting of Calusa Lodge. What kinds of things brought him to write this letter dated May 8, 1956, to every member of the lodge?

"Dear Scout:"

"It is my duty to inform you that Calusa Lodge of the Order of the Arrow, went out of existence as of December 31, 1955 - the date upon which its National Charter expired. This was due to the fact that the Lodge Chief failed to make application for a new Charter."

"The form upon which to make such application was received in the Council headquarters office early in February and transmitted to Lodge Advisor David Blake on February 6th. He forwarded it immediately to the Lodge Chief to fill out and return. The latter did not do so and, in spite of repeated inquiries from Mr. Blake to the Lodge Chief, no response has been had."

"All memberships terminated, of course, when the Charter expired."

"No effort will be made at this time to reorganize the Lodge." "Sincerely, Fred L. Treat, Scout Executive."

As with many communications from a Council Office, how much more is left unsaid? And even now, thirty five years later, individuals recalling that time might be tactfully vague on details, but a feeling of conflicting strong personalities still comes through.

Calusa's most frequently used ceremonial ring was "across the river." Another of its old ceremonial rings is still identifiable for those willing to take the trek on Camp Flying Eagle's back property along the Manatee River. In 1975, there was still a piece of board nailed to a tree, and a little thrashing around under the palmettos could turn up a few rusty tin cans (buried flush with the top of the ground) that had been cut out for candleholders. When the 1989 .SE-1 Conference was at Camp Flying Eagle, tours were offered back to the old ring. In 1991, the general area was used for Eckale Yakanen 552 Vigil sites, but the ring itself was unidentifiable unless you already knew where to go.


1942-43 1943-44 1944-45

Chief Gordon Knowles Delbert Ammons
Sec./Treas. Bill Harrison
St.Advisor Fred L. Treat Fred L. Treat Fred L. Treat

1945-46 1946-47 1947-48

Chief Delbert Ammons Tom Burgess Bill Shultz
V.Chief Wayne Todd
Sec./Treas. Jimmy Johnson Raymond "Tiny" Edge
St.Advisor Fred L. Treat Fred L. Treat Fred L. Treat

1949 1949-50 1950-51

Chief Laddie Williams Jon Allyn Simmons Jerry Brown
Secretary Reverdy Wright Bob Nealy Doug Bartleson,Jr.
Treasurer Edward Williamson Jimmy Prine
St.Advisor Fred L. Treat Fred L. Treat Fred L. Treat

1951-52 1952-53 1953-54

Chief Harold Hudson Charles Alvord Bill King
V.Chief Eywin Rassmussen
V.Ch.(Sarasota) - - Don Laurent
V.Ch.(Ft.Myers) - - Dwight Cole
Sec./Treas. Doug Bartleson,Jr. Bill King Jess Tucker
St.Advisor Fred L. Treat Fred L. Treat Fred L. Treat

1954-55 1955

Chief Jess Tucker Henry Cowlishaw
V.Ch.(Bradenton) Rod Magie
V.Ch.(Sarasota) Carlton Hurt
V.Ch.(Ft.Myers) Jerry Girardin
Sec./Treas. Allan H. Horton Bobby Rhea
Quartermaster Pete Bridenbaugh
Vol. Advisor David Blake
St. Advisor Fred L. Treat Fred L. Treat