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Fresh Air Camp

The Sylvan Lake Community Center is the site of the former Detroit Free Fresh Air Camp that operated during the 1920's, 30's, 40's, and 50's. The Merrill Mills family gave the Free Press a restricted deed to the property formerly occupied by Mill's summer hotel. The newspaper developed the property as a summer campground for underprivileged children brought out from the city for two weeks of recreation. The project was supported in part by city schoolchildren who sent in pennies to build the camp. Several long-time Sylvan residents fondly recall their Fresh Air Camp memories... Saturday nights at the camp found entertainers from Detroit brought out to perform for the children including such acts as Red Skelton, Gene Krupa, the Andrews Sisters, and poet Edgar A. Guest. Sylvan villagers also took part in performing for the children. During the weeknights the children would take turns entertaining the villagers with songs and skits. Camp activities including baseball games on the front lawn, swimming, boating, and singing. At flag ceremonies each morning and evening the camp children recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Every Sunday the children ate a chicken dinner provided by the owner of the Free Press. Roy Gamble, a Sylvan resident and internationally known artist, painted murals on the outside of the dormitories depicting Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk as well as other characters from children's stories. The children that lived in the village played with the camp children. Sylvan resident Daisy Worley remembers going down to the camp at night to comfort crying, homesick city children. When the Fresh Air Camp was disbanded in 1962, the campground was deeded to the city, which later developed some of the old buildings into the Community Center.

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