Old Kia Kima youth camp near Hardy, Arkansas

A History of
Old Kia Kima
Preservation Association

As remembered by David Fleming
OKKPA co-founder
April 2022

Preface

Old Kia Kima Preservation Association’s co-creation was a 3-year event (1993-1996), including conception, gestation and ultimate birthing in 1996. This brief 1993 history is the first in a series about how OKKPA began. Later series will disclose OKKPA’s infancy of crawling, walking, running and climbing. You will read about events, circumstances, starts and stops and successes along the way. It will include the experience of exploring, abandoning and ultimately adopting an array of activities and decisions that provided the foundation for OKKPA today. More importantly, you will learn about sources and rationale prompting OKKPA’s vision and mission.

1993

In the beginning (1993), there were five of us sensing and discussing the urge to reunite on the sacred grounds of Kia Kima where our trek into adulthood began. We were in our 50s, each living in five different states: Frank Simonton (Bartlett, TN); Gordon “Scotty” Monteath (CA and VA); John Ozier (Baton Rouge, LA); Perry Gaither (Macon, MS) and David Fleming (me, Davis, CA). Thirty-five (35) years had passed since we had last been together at the same time and place.

With the exception of Gaither, we met in Memphis on a warm July 1993 morning in the lobby of the East Memphis Hilton. Simonton’s duties as a faculty member of Memphis State University prevented him from continuing with us on our journey from there to Hardy and Cherokee Village, AR. There we would meet with Gaither (his wife Judy and 16-year young daughter Emily) in Cherokee Village where Gaither had arranged rentals for our stay.

1993 In Memphis - l-r: David Fleming, Frank Simonton, John Ozier and Gordon “Scotty” Monteath

July 1993… Joan & Scotty Monteath - Perry & Judy Gaither - David Fleming - John Ozier Photo by Emily Gaither, Perry’s daughter

Of these 5, only Gaither had not ventured into California where over the past 35 years Monteath, Ozier and Simonton had made stops at the Fleming abode in northern California. It would not take long to reunite in the same hilarious fashion as we had last experienced at OKK. For the next 3 days we would explore, ponder and wander the much changed environs we had experienced since 1949-1958. Included was a canoe trip on the Spring River to test our whitewater canoeing skills.

We arrived in Cherokee Village July 11, 1993, where we met with Gaither, his wife Judy and teenage daughter, Emily. It took no time to happily reunite and to begin sharing our life journeys since our scattered gatherings over the years. While both living in California, Monteath and Fleming had several mini-gatherings to explore the whitewater rivers of California, Oregon and Idaho; on one occasion nearly destroying Fleming’s new whitewater canoe. Monteath would later move to Virginia.

In 1962, Ozier and Fleming met in California where Fleming was serving in the US Air Force and Ozier was passing through enroute from the Aleutian Islands, Alaska to Oakland and his ultimate departure to Japan on his final US Army tour of duty. In 1967, they would meet again with their respective spouses in Memphis for a short visit, never to visit in person again until 1993. Simonton would also meet with Fleming in 1975 while he was leading students from the University of Memphis on a tour of recreational areas in California (Lake Oroville, Yosemite, San Francisco etc.). They would not meet again for another 18 years – July 1993 in Memphis.

Gaither, Ozier and Simonton had several mini reunions over the years in Memphis and Macon, Mississippi where Gaither resided and served as a professor of English in a nearby college. Not so amazing were the links we continued having by way of celebrating birthdays with seasonal greeting cards, phone calls, and occasional letters. Each of us had married and welcomed our children into our lives as we developed our careers.

Activities during our 1993 reunion included dining at old and new establishments in Hardy and Cherokee Village (Sitting Bull). We roamed the countryside to stir memories of our hikes to afternoon swimming holes (Upper Falls now known as Star Falls, Humphreys Ford, Otter Creek, and Raccoon Springs). A highlight was a full day canoe trek on the Spring River from Mammoth Springs to Humphrey Ford with a lunch stop at Many Islands. Following the lead of Captain “Scotty” Monteath (retired Captain US Navy) we had only one mishap: a canoe log jammed with Gaither (stern) and his daughter Emily (bow). Rescue by Ozier and Fleming went smoothly.

Perry Gaither later recorded his 1993 memory on an audio tape.

A visit to the old campgrounds (the quad) was a joyful yet tearful occasion we would never forget. The experience was described by Fleming in an article published in the Old Kia Kima Newsletter and later in the Memphis Commercial Appeal with the intent of awakening those who shared the experiences and values instilled in us while on those sacred grounds high above the South Fork waters:

On an unseasonably chilly day in mid-July 1993 we stood there as 55-year-old men contemplating the place and the ruins of our beloved Kia Kima Scout camp. This was the place where we had started our treks into manhood some 35 years ago. Without a spoken word, we simultaneously realized that the Spirit of Kia Kima had been lying dormant in our hearts. The Kia Kima Spirit was awakening us to the fact that this sacred bit of land - where the river runs through it - was once again longing for the sounds of youthful voices. We knew then that we must do something to honor this sacred place and to pass on the Legacy of the Kia Kima Spirit.

While milling around the remaining walls of our beloved Thunderbird Lodge, an ominous black cloud appeared overhead accompanied by a chilling wind blowing the top limbs of the trees and giving us a sense of presence of kindred spirits who had shared these sacred grounds with us. It was then that we finally rediscovered our Kia Kima heritage. Our journey to Old Kia Kima was beginning. We came to realize what it was to know the place for the first time:

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
-- T.S. Eliot

Unaware that OKKPA conception had taken place, we departed our 1993 reunion trusting that we would annually gather on those sacred grounds. We had then started on journeys we would never regret. We vowed to return at another time, a time when we would begin the time for gestation. In 1994, 1995 and 1996 we did just that – together with an ever increasing number of brothers and sisters of the South Fork waters.

End of Part One


Old Kia Kima is not associated with the Boy Scouts of America or Chickasaw Council, BSA.
Old Kia Kima Preservation Association is responsible for Old Kia Kima and this website.