Kegley Family Carries Camp Meeting Legacy

August 02, 2015 | Heidi Baumgartner

Whenever someone has a roll call at Washington Adventist Camp Meeting for who has attended camp meeting the longest, Albert Kegley always bypasses — with ease — attendees who have 20, 40, 50 or 60 years of camp meeting history.

Kegley’s parents first brought him to camp meeting when he was a baby in 1936, and 79 years later he hasn’t missed a camp meeting in western Washington.

“When I first came here, the first recollection I can remember was a big tent in front of Gibson Hall,” he says. “There was sawdust on the floors, and everyone sat on wooden benches with seat backs.”

Kegley remembers how the road came in at a different place, the current girls’ dorm location was a chicken coop and a Quonset hut near the modern-day cafeteria served as a meeting location for youth. All the other children’s meetings convened in tents.

“My parents were thrifty, so we only ate in the cafeteria once,” Kegley recalls. “We would come and stay in a tent for the whole week.”

In all, four generations of the Kegley family have camp meeting history: his parents (now deceased); he and his spouse, Marjorie; his daughters; and his grandchildren. The Kegley campsite has been the same number, A-315, for 40 years, although the site along the fence has shifted down four spots to accommodate motorhomes instead of canvas tents.

“My dad’s most favorite thing about camp meeting is seeing people,” says his daughter, Laura Worf. “He will watch from his campsite for someone he knows and then go talk with them. My parents have a revolving door of people coming through their motorhome.”

His profession as a log truck driver didn’t always allow him to attend all 10 days of camp meeting, but he always came for the weekends and any time off he could find. For the meetings he missed, Kegley would pick up eight-track tapes, cassettes or CDs over the years so he could listen to sermons as he drove.

In addition to Kegley’s camp meeting memories, The News Tribune added to the camp meeting history this year when they published a history tidbit from 100 years ago. On June 17, 1915, the newspaper published that 1,000 delegates were attending the “annual camp meeting and business session of the Western Washington Conference for Seventh-day Adventists in Manitou Park,” a tourist camp in Tacoma.

The historical camp meeting featured a tent city with a pavilion to seat 1,500 people. Services were offered over 10 days in English and Scandinavian.

Camp meeting today is still 10 days in length and offers programming in English, Russian, Korean and American Sign Language. A separate camp meeting is held in Spanish. Attendees now have lodging options for tents, RVs or dorm rooms. Many children’s divisions meet under large white tents, while adults join meetings in Rainier Auditorium (a facility built in the 1950s).

Living testimonies add a vibrancy to limited historical archives. Have camp meeting history to share? Email the Washington Conference.