The Highlands Archives
Since 1904: Oldest Camp West of the Alleghenies
Mr. Highlands 

    To all coming after the time of Harry O. Gillet, University of Chicago Laboratory School educator Doctor William James Monilaw was the embodiment of everything we think of when we think of Camp Highlands.  Most of the images in this section of the site were captured by ‘Doc’, Camp’s director and owner from 1914 to 1959.  With a physician’s eye, ‘Doc’ saw not just the characters in the picture, but the surrounding whole.  A technical master, Doc was chosen to field test lantern slides for Eastman Kodak.  His beautiful pictures of life at Camp are like paintings on film.  A large format, 440 page coffee table book on the first 55 years of Camp, including many of Doc's best photographs is available.  The book includes a great deal of history as well.  Here is a link to A Camp on Plum Lake:


Above:  1934.  All Camp and Cropped All Camp.  Doc was Camp's center of gravity for 46 summers.      

    With ‘Doc’ in the Director’s seat, Camp Highlands survived three difficult periods:  World War I, The Great Depression, and World War II.  In 1932 the all-camp picture shows one boy for each counselor, enrollment bottoming out.  But Highlands went on, much in part to ‘Doc’ and his love of the place.  We hope you will agree his feelings for Camp are evident in the photographs displayed below. 

    This section also contains a small number of photographs taken by staff member Al Pfanstiehl.   See the 1930s for his beautiful portrait work.  Also, be sure to see Doc’s best sunsets, taken in the late 30s/early 40s, at the bottom of the Song/Sunday page.    

    Many of the titles below have the initials LS in their title.  This indicates the scans were taken from glass Lantern Slides.  The results are stunning; many images showing spectacular clarity.  Sadly, many of the other pictures here only exist on porous brochure papers or old Dinglebats (the camp yearly).  These don’t show as well, but are worth archiving for history’s sake.  You will also notice some pictures taken by ‘Snow’.  These pictures show a little slice of the Northdurft family (daughers Sharon Bachmann, Jan Freeland and Jill Wright) at camp in their early years, starting in 1943!

Above:  Doc on Cub/Colt Pier, 1947.  Never one for fake smiles, Doc was real.

    To capture the life Doc experienced during his 49 summers at Highlands - not possible, except to know that his life was rich with the song of the great American north woods and the splendor of boys in the wild. For almost half of the twentieth century, his feet crossed the paths of CH.  How many moon rises must he have viewed alongside the stone fireplace of the Monilaw Cottage; how many moving Camp Assemblies, reading the names of those who had died in two world wars, placing his son’s favorite things into the stone fireplace of the Tom Monilaw Memorial Clubhouse; how many trips up Star Creek, hard fought Steeplechases, campfires under the stars, buildings built, all night trips up from Union Station on the ‘Camp Special’; how many happy moments with his daughters and wife, and his lost son Tom?  The pictures below only catch a glimpse of what was...          

Doc’s Timelines 

1874, July 22.  Born in Scotch Church, New York, of parents James and Margaret.  

1884  Family moves to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Graduates from Washington High School  in 1892.  Works as a carpenter with father from 1892 to 1895.  1895-1897 Surveyor for City Engineer, Cedar Rapids.

1897  Enters Drake University as a student and Physical Education Instructor/Track Coach.  Coaches Track, Football, is Director of Athletics...and simultaneously earns a license to practice medicine!  Undergraduate degree in 1901, M.D. in 1903.   

1898  Locates and proposes the first stadium at Drake University.

1900 - 1906  Three Children: Thomas, Margaret and Mary are born.

1906  Transfers to the University of Missouri to coach Football and Track.  Helps found the Missouri Valley Conference.    

1908  Becomes General Manager of Athletics at the University of Missouri.

1910 - 1929  Director of Health and Physical Education at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  Founds the Chicago Suburban Athletic Conference his first year in Chicago. 

1911  First Camp Highlands Summer 

1914  Purchases camp from Harry O. Gillet (his boss at the University of Chicago and CH)

1921, Fall.  Son Thomas is killed in auto - train accident. 

1922 - 1952  Official Starter of all Big Ten Track Athletic Championships

1929  Resigns from University of Chicago to direct camp full time.

1940 - 1952  Starter at all National Collegiate Track Meets held in the Midwest.

1956 Undergoes abdominal surgery, never fully recovers.

1959 Sells camp to The Admirals

1963 Last visit to Camp


Chicago Camping Association
Physical Educational Society
Missouri Valley Conference
Chicago Suburban Athletic Conference

Quotes about Doc

    "Camp Highlands has always been brilliant among the greatest privileges and opportunities and treasured experiences of life on this earth, all of which have created priceless and indelible memories.  ALL OF THIS has been due to Doc, his vision, integrity, character, personality, abilities, sincerity, and to his family, relatives, friends, associates - and to sum it up just the great, wonderful 'Doc' he has been.  Doc always selected the best of everything, including people, and always had the best people around him.                                                  
                                                                                                              - Ken Nelson, 1924 - 1931

    "One thing about 'Doc' was that he was never a name-dropper and not awfully impressed with big names or big deals or things like that.  He took people as people and I would find out quite by accident that some parent was the president of this or the head of that and very important.  People were just parents, Camp parents, and no boy was treated with preference because his father was somebody special.  When we were back in Wisconsin in 1960 and 'Doc' was 85, it just amazed us - we'd sit there and ask about this counselor and that boy and he could tell you right away where they were and what they were doing.  I think he had a great correspondence with them and of course he had a phenomenal memory.                                         
                                                                                              - Beulah Miller Bowen,  1921 - 1928

    "There were lots of people associated with Camp - the names are endless.  Doc, of course, was a tremendous person; he really was one of those great leaders of men.  He had a unique capacity to inspire both boys and grown men to do what the right thing was, to get things done without coercing or cajoling them, simply by being the good person, setting the good example and having the unique wisdom to make the decisions that seemed to get done.  He always gave the impression of enjoying Camp in addition to running camp.  This is not necessarily true in all Camp directors.  Doc's unique ability to recognize the worth in a person, to stimulate both men and boys, to bring out the best in them, are what made him so special."                  
                                                                                                              - Bob Winter, 1939 - 1958

On Doc

by Mike Bachmann, 1950 - Present

    I was fortunate enough to start my Highlands summers in 1950 as a ten-year-old camper while Doc Monilaw was still the Camp Director.  As a kid, you are not looking at the operation of camp, but as I look back, it seems to me that by that time the roles had evolved so that Norvil Beeman was doing much of the day to day directing, and Doc was a larger than life inspirational figure.

    Doc would use the noon mealtime to make brief character building talks.  He would tell little parables with a point.  A favorite was:

    The boys were playing a baseball game and Johnny was up to bat.  He made a nice hit and rounded first base, heading for a double.  He slid in as the second baseman made the tag in a close play.  The umpire called Johnny safe.  Johnny, knowing that he had been tagged just before his foot touched the base, looked up and said, “I was out”.  The game ended and his team lost.  Doc would then ask – Was Johnny a loser or a winner?

    Sportsmanship was always at he heart of our competition.  Whether it was Army vs. Navy or Highlands vs. Red Arrow Camp.  We knew that the Highlands way was to play hard but play fair, and never use put downs or Boos toward the opponent.  I still remember Doc quoting the legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice.” For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes - not that you won or lost - but how you played the Game.” I have used that myself in more than one Sunday Assembly!

    We all saw Doc as a man of the highest integrity.  He was always looking for opportunities to teach us life lessons.

    These days we celebrate the Camp Birthday on the second Saturday of second term.  It is the day of the great Highlands Steeplechase.  When I was a camper, the day was a celebration of Doc’s birthday.  It would start the supper before when Tony Anthony would tell us how to trick and surprise Doc.  The day started normally, and then when the bell rang to start breakfast, Tony would start five! Ten!  We would all join in by fives until we got to the last numbers as we counted the years leading to Doc’s age.  Then we all yelled Happy Birthday Doc!  He was always surprised.  I did not know that he had actually planned the entire day’s events – including his surprise!

    Doc was a great photographer.  Most Sunday Night Sings, Doc would use the intermission between the fast, silly songs and the slower songs to show lantern slides he had taken during his off season trips.  They would be of scenes in National Parks or other nature pictures he especially wanted to share with us.  That is one reason we still use the old lantern slides of the sunsets at the close of the Sings.  Tradition is a vital part of maintaining the Highlands Spirit.

Please double click on any image to view these pictures in a larger format.  To see the largest possible view, select Play Slideshow.  Song_Sunday.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0
The William james Monilaw Years,  1914 - 1959




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