I took my FFA officer team to the 1st session of the very first FFA Camp at the center, in May of 1971.  There were no cabins built at that time and a set of National Guard/Army tents were set up on the level ground just east of where the three cabin units stand now.  We all remember those tents well, because the temperature got down to about 35 degrees F. one of the nights and we all froze.  Most of the Ag Teachers spent at least some of their time at the first camp sessions painting rooms, trimming the old cedar trees and doing lots of maintenance wherever we could.  No one slept much, but the fellowship and purposeful work made the early camps very memorable.

There weren’t any girls at the 1971 FFA camp; Nebraska FFA didn’t change their by-laws to allow girls in FFA until 1972.  That was probably a good thing as the bathroom and shower facilities were pretty crude to say the least.  There were a couple of working showers in the old bath-house next to the “pool.”  The pool hadn’t been filled in years, but was still there, located just out front of where Mather Hall is now.  “Old White”, the big building that had been a roller rink in it’s day, was our meeting hall.  The roller rink area had room for all the large group meetings and work was being done to partition off eight small group rooms for the “Herd” meetings and officer training sessions.  The canteen area at one end of Old White was the meeting place for the Ag Teachers.  This was where The Five Dollar Club was initiated.  I think every teacher from every session kicked in $5 for the Camp Fund.

Meals were catered and carried in.  The food wasn’t too good, but there was plenty of it.  Few complained because we were roughing it at FFA Camp!  It is a real joy to have seen the growth and progress, from the early beginnings of FFA Camp, and to see a quality conference center take shape.

Happy 50th Anniversary to The Leadership Center.

-Gene Wissenburg

Past officer/President on the Board of Directors and an Agricultural Education Instructor at Newman Grove Schools 1968-2002.

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