Entrance way to CFE
Sunny Land Council, late in 1928, located a piece of land ideal for a campsite. It was a 140 acre-tract about fifteen miles east of Bradenton. Most of it was heavily timbered with dense tropical undergrowth. The upper reaches of the Manatee River flowed through the property.

Since the Sunny Land Council was not incorporated it could not secure a loan in which to purchase the property. The Executive Board therefore decided to form a private organization to secure the loan, purchase property, and to hold title of it for the Sunny Land Council. The private organization was to be named “The Manatee County Boys Development Association.” It received its State Charter on 18 January 1929. Incorporators were Judge W. T. Harrison, Dan S. Blalock, Sr., L. F. Vaught, S. E. Simmons, A. F. Wyman, Harry C. Groff, R. L. Whitney, O. W Shelton, D. L. Thorpe, W. H. Tucker, and J. P. Harilee, all members of the Sunny Land Council Executive Board.

The property was purchased on January 19, 1929 for $2,000 from Mrs. Minnie Harris. To pay off the loan money was raised by the “sale” of individual acres to donors. The suggested price was $15 per acre, but any amount was accepted. Sunny Land Council EB minutes of 1929 through 1931 indicates that some 36 business or individuals purchased individual pieces of property of Camp Flying Eagle sufficient to pay off the loan. It is the oldest Boy Scout camp in Florida.

Much work had to be done in the first half of 1929 to get the camp ready for its inaugural summer camp. Access to the camp via road was very limited. The road leading to the camp (known today as Upper Manatee River Road) was just a dirt trail. Getting material to the camp to construct facilities as well as campers and supplies was an effort. The easiest mode of transporting construction materials and donated camp items to camp was via barge on the Manatee River. This required the construction of an unloading dock at camp.

The campers would require a source of water, a dining hall for meals, sleeping quarters for campers and staff, as well as program facilities.

The Bradenton Rotary Club built a dining hall and a second-hand walk-in refer was added even though it involved the renting of a gas-powered 5 KW electric generator refrigeration compressor. The gas powered generator was retired on 25 June 1947 when Florida Power and Light extended electrical power to the camp.

A 600-foot well was drilled near the west end of the dining hall to provide water for the camp. This was an artesian well that provided a steady flow of water to the kitchen. By 1930 a sump pump powered by a small gas motor and a pressurized tank was installed. This enabled the camp to control the water flow into the kitchen as well as extending a line to the waterfront where two shower stalls were constructed for campers to bathe.

Cooking for the hungry Scouts and Scouters was done on a wood burning stove in the dining hall kitchen. Members of the staff were detailed on a daily basis to chop the required amount of wood needed to cook the meals for that day. It remained that way until 1947 when a butane gas range and tank were installed. The original dining hall is still present, and is the oldest structure on camp property.

In 1929 two small metal buildings were donated for use by the camp. The decision was made to use these as staff quarters. These cabins remained until they were demolished in 1964.

Six wooden patrol cabins were constructed as campers’ quarters. The Bradenton Kiwanis Club built three of these cabins, while the Bradenton Elks Club and the Palmetto Kiwanis Club erected one each. These were built in early summer 1929 prior to the July camping period. The American Legion constructed a sixth one in 1931.

The camp personnel used a pit latrine for the first three years. There were also two night urinals (pipes driven into the ground) just to the rear of the patrol sleeping cabins. In 1932 the Diamond Ball Association of Sarasota designed a concrete latrine/bathhouse to be built to the rear of the patrol cabins. It was constructed that year by the summer camp staff.

A Camp Director's quarters was also constructed in 1929. It was a two-room house that had been donated by the village of Manatee. It was moved to and rebuilt overlooking the council amphitheater. This building did double duty serving as the camp’s first health lodge.

These were the only facilities available to the staff and campers when they reported to CFE for the first summer camp. One must remember also, that prior to electricity coming to Camp Flying Eagle in 1947, kerosene lanterns lighted all cabins as well as the dining hall, and a wood stove was used for cooking in the kitchen.

The first camp conducted at Camp Flying Eagle was two weeks long being conducted from July 1-12 1929. Since it was the inaugural camp it is worthwhile to look at the camp with a historical view of what occurred. Here is that first camp based on existing records:

The 1929 camp fee for the two weeks was $6.00 per camper. The camp had an income of $469.48 and an expense of $421.59!

An interesting thing about that first camp was that each camper, youth as well as adult, had to undergo a complete health examination by a medical doctor twice each week. In addition, the camp kept records as to the amount of weight each camper gained or lost during summer camp.

Forty-eight capers spent one week in camp while fourteen stayed for both weeks. The Scouts were divided into patrols – the Bears, Otters, Foxes, Wolves, Tigers, Hawks, and the Lions. Each patrol slept in its own patrol cabin. At the end of the two-week period Scout Bernard Russell, Palmetto was named the Honor Camper.

A small group of adults made up the staff. Charles N. Wilson, the Sunny Land Scout Executive served as the Camp Director. Scoutmaster George T. Blakely and Scoutmaster Edward Heim were responsible for the nightly campfires. Assistant Scoutmaster Millard B. White assisted by Henry Curry staffed the waterfront. L. D. Roberts conducted the daily handicraft program. Scoutmaster S. F. Williams served as the camp cook. Doctors Blake, Davis, McDuffie, and Gates took turns throughout the two weeks as the Health Officer. The name “Flying Eagle” was chosen as the name of the camp.

One of the main activities during the early summer camps was the construction of canoes for the Canoe Merit Badge classes. A total of 14 one-man canoes were built the first year. For several years afterwards one canoe was constructed each summer. The canoes were constructed in the dining hall. The outline for the canoe was marked on the floor of the old dining hall as a pattern. One can still see that faint outline in the floor.

World War II, with its food-rationing, brought many new problems to the running of summer camp at Flying Eagle. Each camper had to bring his ration book and a quarter pound of sugar. No one could be found to serve as a camp cook, so the Scout Executive’s wife assumed the duties.

Buying food for the camp involved removing exactly so many blue stamps and so many red stamps from each camper’s ration book. Then, armed with a bag full of these stamps, trips to every store in every town within a ten-mile radius, she was lucky if she found the items in the quantity she needed to feed the camp population.

Using funds bequeathed to the Council, a bridge spanning the Manatee River was constructed in 1953. This opened the wooded area on the peninsula for camping to Explorer Scouts.

In 1956 Camp Flying Eagle hired a person that was to become a legend at the camp. That year “Miss Bertie” Crawford was hired as the summer camp cook. She cooked for the camp for the next twenty-five years. Miss Bertie was employed as dietician and director of the lunchroom at the Oneco Elementary School, but at CFE she was more than a dietician/cook. She was also friend, mentor, camp mother to the younger Scouts, and counselor to all.

The Council hired its first full-time Camp Ranger in 1960. His name was John Kellogg. Since then, the following have been employed (in order) as the CFE Ranger: Frank Bileth, George Kaiser, Wayne Gifford, Ralph Peters, Bud Johnson, and since August 2003, Todd Greene.

The last summer camp held at Camp Flying Eagle was in 1994. With the merger of the Sunny Land and Southwest Florida Councils in January 1995, summer camp was moved to Camp Miles. CFE now serves as a Cub Day Camp in June each year and as a weekend camp the rest of the Year. Approximately 15,000 campers annually use the facility.

Written by "Red Dog" Maynard
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This is an aerial photo of CFE taken in 1940. It was found in the main library downtown Bradenton. As you can see, aerial photography with high resolution had not even been heard of back then.

Yet, you can identify what was the forerunner of Wilson Pond, the CFE Archery Range (where the present pool is) Rotary Hall, and a few of the early cabins built in the 1930s. If you look closely you can see the fence line around what is currently the main parade field. That was basically the main camp back then. The road going to Hidden Lake is very visible, and appears to be the main entrance to the garbage dump (current Gilwell Field).