It is impossible to separate the decade of Camp Voyageur’s founding from the decades and the events that preceded. Charlie Erdmann, who started Camp Voyageur with his wife, Mim, was himself the product of the YMCA and Camp Boothbay in Maine. By the mid-1930s, Charlie had his sights set on starting a camp of his own—modeled largely after his boyhood summer haven, near Bath, Maine. After Springfield College, Erdmann worked for three years at the YMCA in Manila, where he famously pitched against Babe Ruth and traveling all-stars. Voluntary enlistment in World War II also stalled Erdmann’s camp ambitions. But by the time the war ended and Erdmann returned safely to the United States, he was ready to focus fully on making his camp dream a reality. An advertisement in a camping magazine in 1950 proved particularly serendipitous: a remote fishing outpost in Minnesota’s Canoe Country was for sale on Farm Lake. Charlie and Mim took the leap, settling on the name “Camp Voyageur,” and started the summer camping tradition that continues to this day.
Voyageur Camp had been the fishing outpost for Camp Nebagamon of Wisconsin. Babe Wheeler acted as Camp’s earliest program director and resident fish finder. Charlie would set up “basecamps” on nearby lakes as pre-supplied campsites. A pick-up truck and station wagons hauled campers to the train and Mesabi iron mines. By the mid-1950s, 16mm films entertained campers on Saturday nights. A legendary silent Robinson Crusoe movie created an endless demand for the movie. Augie Seliskar’s familiar bulldozer cleared the forest above the Mess Hall as Pine Stadium evolved. Mim and Charlie created a strong camp spirit that drew boys back multiple years.