My Memories of Pinebrook Bible Conference
Royal W. Kramer
Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship Church
After 30 years of summer attendance at the Pinebrook Bible Conference with my family, I guess I could be classified as an “Old Timer.”
My family and I started going to Pinebrook in 1969, the first year it started. When the Bible Fellowship Conference purchased the property from the Crawford family in 1968, we attended the official open house, which was held over the Labor Day weekend in 1968 if I recall correctly. Our first summer there in 1969 was a memorable one to say the least. My brother-in-law, Jim Hummel from Elkhart, Indiana was the song leader and choir director for the week. It was the third week in July as I recall. Most of my wife’s family was there for the week; her three sisters, two nieces and a nephew, her dad and step-mother and my parents. Jim and Joyce Hummel were in the Honeybrook section, both of our parents were in the Sunnybrook section but the rest of us relatives (all 10 of us) were in the camping area where we all ended up in a pop-up camper and two tents. My two brother-in-laws set up the camper in a torrential downpour of rain on a Sunday afternoon. The tents were set up at the same time. As a result, we were drenched from Day 1 as we had rain continuously for the next 3 days. Thursday was a beautiful day but Friday it was raining again. Saturday was a beautiful day but that was the day we went home. The camping area bathroom and shower building was not constructed as yet so we all had to take our shower and bathroom supplies to Viewbrook in one of the empty motels which was right on the end. With all of the rain, we were drenched by the time we got to the shower and were again drenched when we got back to the camping area. I thought for a while that I was still on bivouac in the U.S. Army as this type of living seemed to be normal for us troops. We all slept good although in the morning when we got up, our clothing was so damp we had to put them on our bodies for them to dry. Also every morning, around 6 or 6:30, a truck going through the camping area spraying insecticide usually awakened us, as the mosquitoes were so bad they just about ate you alive. This insecticide created such a fog that you could not see from one campsite to the other. However, it did dissipate in a short period of time and thankfully the mosquitoes did too until the process was repeated the next morning. This went on every day for the entire week. The trash barrels setting around the campsites never got emptied and by the time the week ended, they were overflowing with trash. Despite the fact that this was the week that world history was made when the three astronauts landed on the moon for the first time, none of us were really that interested in watching it on TV in the Administration Building as we had our own problems in just trying to keep body and soul together to survive and to keep dry. Trying to cook meals in this kind of weather was also quite a challenge in trying to keep the rain from soaking up the potatoes and roast beef. However, we did survive but we never forgot those days. Since this was the first year of Pinebrook under the direction of the Bible Fellowship Conference, we knew things had to improve over a period of time which they definitely did.
For the next two years we did not come to Pinebrook but in 1972 we returned and have been coming every year since that time except in 1974 when I had to cancel my reservations since the company I worked for went on strike for three months and I needed the money for other expenses. Pinebrook was a second home to our two children and they looked forward to coming up every year. As they grew older, our daughter Louise worked there for four years, the first year in the nursery and the other three years as a waitress in the dining hall. Our son Curtis worked there one year as a dishwasher. It was a learning experience for both of them. They did not earn much money but they were serving the Lord and they learned to work and get along with other young people of their age. That experience was worth more to them than money could buy.
Then there was the old swimming pool; shaped like a cereal bowl but not very deep. It only came up to my neck at the deepest part but it was a fun place to spend a hot, summer afternoon; just to splash around in there and chat with the other folks. Those memories too will not be forgotten.
The old auditorium in front of Honeybrook has many memories as well. The creaky screen door on the front where everyone would come through and then grab a hymnbook prior to the start of the service. To walk on that old wooden floor was like walking up and down a roller coaster, as it was so warped, wavy and creaky it was unbelievable but this was the result of Hurricane Diane that came through the area on August 18, 1955 and flooded the entire camp. The auditorium was under several feet of water, which really did quite a bit of damage. However, it was a sacred place to many folks as this is where they gave their heart to the Lord over the many years of its existence. On a hot, humid summer night it used to get so hot in there it was unbearable but they did have a few big fans blowing the hot air around so there was at least some circulation of air.
The dining hall was also a memorable place as well as this was the place you not only got well fed but also endured a steam bath as it was not air conditioned and despite the ceiling fans that were going full blast, the humidity in there was unreal and everyone just wilted from it The floors would get very slippery as a result of the humidity and perspiration especially when it was very crowded.
Many of the motel units were in rather bad shape with a lot to be desired but everyone knew that things would improve in due time. This they did but it took time and money and each year when we went back, we could see the various improvements or additions.
Eventually, the old auditorium was razed and a new multi-purpose auditorium was built with air conditioning. The dining hall was also air conditioned, a new roof was put on and other improvements made. A beautiful “L” shaped pool to the delight of everyone replaced the old “cereal bowl” swimming pool. The “chapel on the hill” was renovated into a beautiful worship center. A new building was erected in the camping area for showers, restrooms and laundry facilities. New lights were installed on the premises. Steps from the Sunnybrook area to the camping area were a big improvement for those who had difficulty walking up that hill. A new bridge at Sunnybrook #1 was installed to cross over the small stream coming down from the mountains over to the Nearbrook area motels.
After the evening service, the snack shop was a hangout for many of the guests. In the beginning, the service in there was quite bad as you had to wait and wait and wait until you got waited on. It seemed to be total confusion at times but as time went on, new ideas for better service became prevalent and eventually service became a science and the waiting time became negligible. However, the ice cream sundaes and all the other goodies never changed over the years. They were as good as ever to everyone’s delight.
Then Meadowbrook was built which is a beautiful, luxurious motel unit with 12 rooms designed for couples who enjoy peace and quiet. It also has a small kitchenette with living room facilities for folks who just wanted to sit there and chat or have a Bible study or prayer time. It had beautiful furnishings and very comfortable beds.
In recent years, much of the area was macadamized replacing the dirt and gravel in front of Sunnybrook, Honeybrook and Echobrook. A new play area was built for the children in the grassy valley between the Administration building and the flagpole. Much of it was made of fiberglass and other rust-resistant material which should last indefinitely.
Numerous pastors became directors of Pinebrook over the years starting with A. L. Seaforth back there in 1969. Each director was different, had different ideas, and different opinions but each one did their best to make it comfortable and cozy for the guests as they enjoyed the Christian fellowship, good food, prayer time and closer fellowship with the Lord that week. I always dreaded when the end of our week drew near as I knew I had to come down from this “mountaintop” experience and get back to the real world again and go back to work. To me, Pinebrook was a little bit of “Heaven on Earth.”
Over the years, we met many fine brothers and sisters in Christ. Most of them were from the Bible Fellowship conference but there were others from other denominations who became close friends of ours over those years. As time went on, many of these folks did not return the following year due to ill health or they went home to be with the Lord sometime within that one year period or else they moved away from the area or out of state. They were sorely missed to say the least.
With the ten acres of land that Pinebrook has recently purchased, I know more improvements will be made up there behind the camping area and I am looking forward to going up again this year and seeing other improvements and additions that have been made. Since our children are now married with families of their own and not living around this area anymore, they do not get up there anymore like they did when they were younger but they certainly have fond memories of the friends they met, the experiences they had and the Lord’s leading in their lives while they were up there. They have become much better Christians as a result of this experience and are raising their children the very same way. My wife Charlotte and I feel that we have been blessed beyond measure as both of our children have married Christian spouses and serving their respective churches where they attend and the Pinebrook Bible Conference was one of the major experiences that they had that directed them in this way of life. May the Lord continue to bless the Pinebrook Bible Conference and its staff as they continue to serve Him and to bring honor and glory unto Himself.