Not many people know that the former principal at Cuyamaca Outdoor School (COS), Denver Fox, used to live onsite with his family.
Fox, who served as principal at Cuyamaca, Palomar, and Marston from 1947 to 1971, lived at Cuyamaca for about seven years along with his wife and three kids during his tenure. His middle child, Janice, recently visited camp to talk with current staff about her experiences growing up at Camp Cuyamaca.
At 82, her recollection for details was impressive. She shared a lot of milestone moves for her family, as they lived all over San Diego, but also small things like where the bus used to stop on the road from Julian to Cuyamaca, or where her front door used to stand, or how her dad had to get a skunk out of their house one night.
“I enjoyed living here. I could always amuse myself,” Janice shared. “I came out all the time and walked around. In the state park, it was always fun. We’d go find a creek in the areas where nobody went. And we’d look for tiger lilies. Our summers were quite adventuresome, fishing and hiking.”
Janice and her siblings would occasionally join the students at camp to watch their skits at the Thursday night talent show, or eat multi-colored pancakes for breakfast with the students.
Most endearing was how Janice talked about her father’s ability to connect with troubled students. He was big on democratic education and the learn-by-doing philosophy.
“He would teach his 6th graders to run themselves,” Janice said. “He could leave the classroom and the president the kids had elected would have organized everything. The kids would be on task when he got back. It would just come naturally to him.
“He was good with kids with problems,” she said through tears. “Though I’m not sure he could have the same connection with today’s kids,” she added.
To that, Cuyamaca Outdoor Education Liaison Dustin Burns responded, “I think the magic that your father helped create here still exists. When the kids get up here, it takes some time for them to adjust but they turn back into those kids from years’ past," Burns said.
Fox died of brain cancer in 1971, but his legacy lives on at COS. One of the more recent buildings built in 2010, which serves as a meeting space, was named Fox Lodge.
Janice was thrilled to hear that her father’s memory is still alive and well at camp.
“I’m very pleased frankly, because he put his heart and soul into it,” Janice explained. “And I think we all believed in it. And we loved nature, and if it can help even a few kids, you feel like it’s worth it. He was doing what he was meant to do.”