The March 1940 issue of the Ecusta Echo expressed the need
for an athletic program. The goals of
program were to get employees outdoors, provide physical exercise, add to work
efficiency, and offer social benefits.
Recreation at Ecusta stretched beyond sports and included
not only employees but their families. In
1945 Harry Straus purchased Camp Sapphire.
The renamed Camp Straus offered swimming, fishing, row boats and canoes
on the lake, as well as tennis courts, horseshoe pits, a track, a baseball
diamond, a 3-hole golf course, and a rifle range. Shuffleboard, badminton, volleyball, and
basketball courts were soon added.
The Recreation/Athletic Department managed all events and
activities, including the Ecusta Band, the annual company picnic, and Christmas
|Ecusta employee picnics drew large crowds.|
The first Fourth of July picnic was held in 1942. It featured “every kind of contest for every
member of the family with prizes in Defense Stamps to all winners.” There were tug-of-war teams, boxing matches,
square dance band contests, rifle matches, foot races, canoe fights, and much
more. The only cost to attendees for the
entire event was 5₵ per game for bingo.
Attendees brought their own picnic basket but lemonade, iced
tea, coffee, popcorn, and ice cream were provided. If you entered the pie eating contest you
could also have all the pie you could eat.
|Children enjoy playing in the sand at Camp Straus.|
It was reported that approximately 2000 attended that first
year. The event continued to grow over
the next several decades, regularly attracting thousands.
Generations of families learned to swim in Camp Straus Lake
and participated in year-round recreational activities and gatherings for more
than 50 years.
Photographs and information
for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room,
Transylvania County Library. Visit the
NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our
history and see additional photographs. For
more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or 828-884-3151 X242.