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


The co-creation of Old Kia Kima Preservation Association was a 3-year event (1993-1996) including conception, gestation and ultimate birthing in 1996. The intent of this story is to disclose OKKPA’s history – its birth, 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 created the foundation for OKKPA today. More importantly, you will learn about sources and rationale prompting OKKPA’s vision and mission.


In the beginning, 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 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 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 at Memphis State University prevented him from continuing with us on our Arkansas journey to Hardy and Cherokee Village. 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 old camp Kia Kima. For the next 3 days we would explore, ponder and wander the much changed environs we had not experienced since those summers from 1949 to1958. Included was a canoe trip on the Spring River to test our whitewater canoeing skills.

We arrived in Cherokee Village on July 11, 1993, where we met with Gaither, his wife and daughter. It took no time to happily reunite and to begin sharing our life journeys since our scattered gatherings over the years. While both lived 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 in Alaska to Oakland with 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 at 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, Humphrey's Ford, Otter Creek, and Raccoon Spring). A highlight was a full day canoe trek on the Spring River from Mammoth Springs to Humphrey's 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.


Having re-awakened dormant feelings and the Spirit of Kia Kima, four brothers of the old camp would experience the second gathering in September 1994. Joining Gordon “Scotty” Monteath and David Fleming for this second gathering were Buddy Keltner and John Hurt. The four of us were happily surprised to have a brief visit in Cherokee Village with Ralph Young and his wife, Martha Jane, who were visiting Joe Clark. Joe was the retired resident ranger of the new Kia Kima (now known as the Kia Kima Scout Reservation). Ralph (nicknamed Padre) had served as a long-time camp director of both the old and the new camps.

Cherokee Village, September 1995
Front: Scotty Monteath – Back: Larry Young, Buddy Keltner, David Fleming, Ralph Young and Joe Clarke. Photo by John Hurt

Our 1994 adventures included a canoe trip and a trek to the old Kia Kima campground where we witnessed nature continuing to reclaim what had once been Native-American Osage terrain. The Kia Kima Spirit was beginning to grow and kick. We would again pledge to return to the old camp in 1995 as the gestation was underway. We were inspired by the feeling that something good was in the making and we were sensing what would ultimately become the birth of OKKPA. When and how would eventually emerge in 1995 and 1996.


As avowed in 1994, we gathered again in September 1995. We are eternally grateful for John Hurt’s initiative and creativity with the first issue of the Kamp Kia Kima Sentinel (Summer 1995). Attending the reunion for the first time was Roy Riddick, our esteemed leader and Kia Kima Program Director of 1954-57. Roy was wholeheartedly welcomed back to remind us of his 1954 BSA National Camping School slogan to “Save the World for the Boy.” Attendance increased from the original 4 to 6 with the return of Perry Gaither.

The 1995 canoeing venture planned by John Hurt was intended to begin on the South Fork River at Saddle, Arkansas and end at Slick Rock. Waiting what seemed hours for the canoe rental manager to meet us at his Saddle store, Hurt finally recalled the reservation date had been changed. We would later learn the rental manager was busy bush hogging elsewhere. We reconnoitered and moved on to the Spring River for a joyous day of white-water canoeing.

Our 1995 gathering was not complete without another on-site tour of our beloved old camp. There, we sadly found the area being used as a dumping site for washing machines, tires, refrigerators and more.

The abandoned Kia Kima became
a dumping ground

As we stood there in silence, Monteath turned and said, “We must do something about this.” Then and there, the seed was silently planted with his statement. The 2nd of the triennial was ending and the 3rd was beginning as we departed to contemplate what that “something” would be.

OKKPA Early Reunion Attendees

1993 199419951996 *
  1. Adams, Phil X
  2. Billingsley, George   X
  3. Boggs, Jimmy X
  4. Fleming, David X XX X
  5. Gaither, PerryXX
  6. Gresham, Jerry X
  7. Harriss, Bobby X
  8. Hurt, John XX X
  9. Keltner, Buddy XX
10. Monteath, Scotty X XX X
11. Osborn, Umpy X
12. Oswalt, Cohen X
13. Ozier, JohnX
14. Riddick, Roy X
15. Simonton, Frank** X
16. Tate, Ron X
17. Williams, Bobby X
18. Wilson, Charles X
19. Young, Ralph X
* OKKPA was incorporated in July 1996
** Simonton met briefly with us in Memphis before
the original four gathered at Kia Kima

January 1996 - OKKPA Birth

On a business trip from sunny California to a frigid and snow-covered Washington, DC in early January, Fleming was welcomed by Monteath. For the next three days they would meet for dinner and chat about life as they knew it in their Scouting days and Memphis environs. While chatting over dinner about their Kia Kima past and the 1993-95 gatherings in Cherokee Village, Monteath had an inspiring declaration: “We need to create a non-profit organization” to acquire the beloved old camp Kia Kima campgrounds. There was no doubt in their minds that this could be done. [The rationale with a formal vision and mission statements would emerge in written form during OKKPA’s infancy (1997-98).]

After dinner they trudged through mounds of snow created by road-clearing plows to Monteath’s office to explore how they could go about creating a non-profit entity. Their first consideration was naming the ad hoc officers: President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. They required only seconds to think of Roy Riddick as an ideal president. Riddick was then serving as the Chief Medical Examiner for the southern Alabama region.

It was about 10PM when, from Monteath’s office, they phoned Riddick to ask him to serve as the non-profit president. Accustomed to all-hours medical examiner’s calls, Riddick sleepily answered his phone to hear a plea to serve as president of what would ultimately become OKKPA, Inc. He agreed without hesitating. Monteath and Fleming agreed to serve as vice president and secretary respectively. In short order Fleming recruited John Hurt to serve as treasurer. The then “nameless” Old Kia Kima Preservation Association was conceived as a non-profit entity.

April 1996 - Progress

All was quiet until April 1996 when Riddick embarked upon a spring vacation to show his wife Carol the environs of his youth: Memphis, Hardy, Kia Kima, Cherokee Village. Their trip included a brief visit with George Billingsley in Bentonville, AR. While returning to Alabama, Roy made two significant stops. The first stop was to meet with Sam Bell, a local attorney in nearby Highland, AR between Ash Flat and Cherokee Village. It was there Roy funded and arranged to create a legally recognized nonprofit 501(c) (3). Then and there, he precisely named the non-profit the Old Kia Kima Preservation Association, Inc. (OKKPA). The name reflected what the co-founders envisioned. Roy had initially given thought to merely acquiring the land and allowing nature to reclaim it. That option was considered and quickly eliminated given the enthusiasm to restore and preserve the old camp for the youth of today and the future.

Roy’s second stop was to meet with real estate agent Harold Hersch, a local legend. While the Articles of Incorporation were underway, Riddick made a $1,000 deposit and signed a “Real Estate Contract” wherein OKKPA - subject to contingencies -offered to purchase about 20 acres of the old Camp Kia Kima site. The land was then owned by Eben Daggett, a relative of the late John Cooper, Sr. (developer of Cherokee Village). The proposed purchase was subject to the co-founders funding and providing a survey for a legal description of the subject property.

After informal discussions among the co-founders, Scotty Monteath proposed and pursued a lease-purchase agreement of the property encompassing the “quad”: bounded on the south by the South Fork River, on the east by Spirit Creek, on the north by Kolo Drive and on the west by Cabins 12-16. The rationale for a lease-purchase agreement at minimum would allow entering and clearing up the disasters they had found during earlier reunions. This would also give time to recruit donors and members for the out-right purchase estimated as 5 acres.

Learning of Riddick’s incorporating efforts, John Hurt and David Fleming in late April would stake the subject area with survey tape outlining the boundaries for the survey (see FLEMING & HURT SCOUTING PARTY in the July 1996 News Letter). There would be a long delay before receiving the completed legal property description from the surveyors.

While on that preliminary surveying trip, Fleming and Hurt became aware of two former campers/staffers of 1948-51 living in the area: Bob “Sluggo” Williams and Bobby Harriss. Bob and Norma Williams owned and operated a 1950s-style soda fountain on Main Street in Hardy. Not finding him in the soda shop, it was suggested he could be found at his wife’s (Norma) antique shop. Walking toward the antique shop a gentleman fitting the Sluggo cartoon image walked by. After passing him, Fleming turned to Hurt and said, “I’ll bet that’s him!” … and it was him! On Norma’s advice, they returned to the soda shop to find him and introduced themselves and their mission. It was another step toward fulfilling the mission of OKKPA, with Bob Williams having a major role in restoring the camp.

September 1996 - Reunion

As energy shifted from purchasing 20 acres to securing a lease-purchase agreement of 5 acres, interest in OKKPA’s early endeavors was stirring in northwest Arkansas. This was evidenced by George Billingsley learning of the incorporation, the land survey and briefly attending the 1996 reunion.

Through the efforts of John Hurt creating the “News Letter” in 1995, word of incorporation spread among former campers and staffers. The 1996 reunion welcomed first-time attendees: Phil Adams, George Billingsley, Jimmy Boggs, Jerry Gresham, Bobby Harriss, Umpy Osborn *, Cohen Oswalt, Frank Simonton, Ron Tate, Bobby Williams plus Charles and Darlene Wilson **.

* A chance finding by the 1996 attendees was Umpy Osborn. After dinner at the King Catfish restaurant, the group decided to have a view of OKK from Cedar Bluff, the site of many evening vesper services. As they approached a sunset view of OKK and White Horse Mountain they discovered sitting alone, none other than Umpy Osborn. That discovery story appears in the November 1996 News Letter entitled “We know you are out there!.....Just like Umpy” by John Hurt, Editor. Umpy would later become instrumental in leading many members of Ole Troop 97 into OKKPA membership.

** Charles Wilson was not an OKK alumnus. He was and is a Hardy resident whose father once owned the only service station in Hardy. After retirement from the USAF Charles became President of the First National Bank of Sharp County. With his guidance, OKKPA’s banking was established. Charles would later serve as the OKKPA Treasurer during the early restoration of the stone cabins and Thunderbird Lodge (1998-2000). Charles’ wife, Darlene (CPA), served as the OKKPA accountant and tax representative. OKKPA is forever grateful for Darlene’s and Charles’ wise counsel. With newly incorporated OKKPA, Darlene advised creating bylaws. That task fell to Fleming who wrote the bylaws, which were then accepted by the State of Arkansas to complete the incorporation process.

With incorporation approved by the State of Arkansas, Old Kia Kima Preservation Association became a legal entity with an official birthday of July 6, 1996.

Forward from late 1996 and into 1997

A formal election of Officers and Directors was conducted at a breakfast meeting in Hardy on September 5, 1996. Unanimously elected were: Roy Riddick, President; Gordon Monteath, Vice President; David Fleming, Secretary; and John Hurt, Treasurer. Directors elected for terms varying between one and three years were: George Billingsley, Bobby Williams, Perry Gaither, Buddy Keltner, Ralph Young, Frank Simonton, John Ozier, Charles Wilson and Lou Pritchett.

In early spring 1997, Rick Phillips arranged a gathering of about 30 Kia Kima alumni at the Colonial United Methodist Church for an informal discussion of our intentions to enter into a lease-purchase agreement for the core of old camp. Shortly thereafter, Gene Bradberry, with Ron Tate and David Fleming, arranged a meeting with the Scout Executive of Chickasaw Council in Memphis to explore how OKK could coordinate potential activities with Kia Kima Scout Reservation. There was a distinct lack of interest on the part of that former executive. Moving on…

News of the earlier annual reunions slowly gained traction. Much credit goes to co-founder and OKKPA’s first treasurer, John Hurt and his creation of the Kia Kima Newsletter, first published in Summer 1995. Enriching Hurt’s newsletter efforts was a chance meeting at Cedar Bluff that would significantly boost the 1997 reunion attendance. All 14 attendees at the September 1996 reunion had ventured to Cedar Bluff to enjoy the view they had during their youthful years at Kia Kima. There they discovered a gentleman sitting alone quietly observing the sunset and view over the South Fork River. To our happy surprise that gentleman was Umpy Osborn, a 1953 Kia Kima staffer, who was traveling through the area on a business trip to northwestern Arkansas. That coincidental meeting would spark Umpy’s leadership in recruiting the well-known Ole Troop 97 alumni to join in the OKKPA objective to acquire and restore Kia Kima. Many, if not all, Ole 97 alumni of Kia Kima had been campers and staff members. Umpy’s efforts boosted the 1997 reunion attendance to an estimated 100 camp alumni and spouses.

Also contributing to the large 1997 gathering was a chance encounter between John Hurt (Newsletter creator/editor) and Brooks Gooch, a retired Memphis Police Officer. Of all places, they had coincidentally met at a flea market discovering Kia Kima apparel on display. That encounter instigated yet another boost in the awareness of OKKPA’s birth. As an investigative police officer, Gooch was able to scour the records of traffic violations to discover names he recognized as former Kia Kima campers and staffers. Gooch also discovered other Memphis Police officers who had attended Kia Kima. OKKPA holds a profound appreciation for Brooks and Beverly Gooch and their family for expanding and unselfishly serving OKKPA in innumerable ways. Moving from Memphis to Cherokee Village following retirement, they continue serving as resident overseers of our restored camp.

The time arrived to open a checking account. Catering to local business, the FNBC of Hardy became our bank. A half-dozen of us invaded the office of branch manager Charles Ed Wilson, a well known long-time acquaintance, local resident and USAF Colonel retired. Wilson’s well-remembered father had owned and operated the only Hardy service station for many years, serving many of the Kia Kima vehicles of those times. Wilson was of our youthful 1950's era and had cheerfully been an antagonist to the city boys from Memphis during Kia Kima camp seasons. He was and is held in high esteem by those who have continued forward with OKKPA. Wilson’s wife, Darlene, an area CPA, was retained to assist with the business needs of the infant OKKPA. Wilson would also serve two years as the OKKPA treasurer (1998-2000). It was through Charles and Darlene Wilson’s early guidance and patience that OKKPA has been financially accountable and successful.

With OKKPA’s eternal gratitude, Charles and Darlene Wilson graciously arranged and organized the 1997 banquet at the former Cooper estate facilities. With about 100 attending, testimonials were many and heartfelt. In the memories of many, George Billingsley (aka Uncle Dudley) made a shocking statement of doubt about the intentions to acquire and restore the old camp Kia Kima, suggesting the efforts were attempting to “…create a monument to ourselves.” Visibly disturbed by his suggestion, Fleming spoke to all those present saying that our intent was clear: to restore the camp for current and future generations of young people. Reflecting on those brief moments of doubt later (January 1998), it became apparent that Uncle Dudley was testing our collective resolve – a test he was noted to administer in many endeavors of this kind. These banquet commentaries would energize those present to move forward with determination to acquire and restore Kia Kima by whatever means could be assembled.

Also speaking at the 1997 banquet was June Adams, wife of a beloved staffer of the early 1950's, Phil “Poncho” Adams. June told the story of Phil learning about OKKPA’s creation and the vision of restoring the old camp. She had never witnessed Phil having such heartfelt enthusiasm for rekindling friendships and the Kia Kima brotherhood. Phil served as Treasurer from 2000 to 2005. With much enthusiasm coming from Phil and June, OKKPA was assured of in-depth leadership.

OKK Alumni attending the 1997
reunion while a lease-purchase
agreement was pursued by Roy Riddick
and Gordon Monteath.

President Roy Riddick called to order the first annual action-oriented membership meeting. It happened in what had been the Kia Kima dining hall (constructed in 1953-54). After camp closed, it had been converted and expanded to the Village Playhouse by the Cherokee Village Community – a theater offering entertainment by local talents. The locals graciously offered the use of the facility as the setting for the first on-site membership meeting. Motions and actions directed by President Riddick are reflected in September 4, 1997 Minutes, including a committee to create a Vision and Mission statement with clearly stated objectives. Today’s Vision and Mission statements remain intact and continue as a reminder of why we wanted to restore the old camp.

President Riddick, at the 1997 general membership meeting, entertained a motion from the Nominating Committee to fill the remaining one year of President and Treasurer. These officers were stepping down due to professional commitments and to focus on OKKPA Newsletters. Elected to serve for those remaining one-year terms were Gene Bradberry, President and Ron Tate, Treasurer.

All remained silent in late 1997 as we awaited the legal survey for the core of the camp in order to negotiate the lease purchase details. When secured, we could begin clean up and fix up.

A surprisingly banner year was ahead.

Forward from late 1997 into 1998

While less than patiently awaiting the property survey and legal description that would offer us the opportunity to pursue the purchase of the core part of the campgrounds, we were not aware of related negotiations taking place elsewhere. The legal description finally arrived, delineating an area containing 4.1 acres including the 16 cabins, the Thunderbird Lodge and the old Kia Kima waterfront. Before we could continue negotiating the purchase agreement, a surprise phone call changed OKKPA’s future. The story behind that phone call was captured in excerpts below in an email letter from John Hurt to David Fleming.

…My career was in sales for United Vans… I was blessed to do some business with Walmart. Early on, several of us thought how great it would be if George would help us buy the old Kamp. It was obvious with George’s help we could buy more of the old Kamp. However, we found out that George early on didn't go for the idea. In fact, he spoke at what was one of our first large banquets and soundly put down the idea. I remember Roy Reddick afterward saying ‘”he turned a light atmosphere to a heavy one…” …I found out that George had 15 or 20 names we could include on our [newsletter] mailing list. So, on one of my trips, he asked me to come by and get his list of names. On a later visit he told me he had found out from our realtor that the guy that owned the camp at the Girl Scout river ford wanted to buy OKK. I could tell he didn't like that …In January 1998 …out of the blue, he [George] called. It was a short conversation. He just said, “John, I've made-up my mind and I'm going to buy the camp for you guys.” What I said was something to the effect of “George, you are going to make a lot of old guys happy. Thank you so much.”
- John Hurt

That exchange happened in early January 1998, just a few weeks after John’s visit with George. John did note that his United Vans business interests involved George’s friendship and business with his tennis partner Sam Walton. That’s another story for a later chapter in our history.

Meanwhile, the Vison, Grant & Law Committee, consisting of David Fleming (Chair), Pete Bowman, Carl Goolsby, Bill Moor, Fred Morton, Rick Phillips, and Roy Riddick, was considering the wording to reflect the Kia Kima of yesteryears and the tomorrows to come. Fleming prepared the draft and sent it to committee members for review, comments and revisions. Surprisingly, only Pete Bowman responded to the draft by suggesting the word scared be changed to read sacred to reflect the true spirit of the place we would restore and preserve – Old Kia Kima. With that one correction the Vision-Mission-Goals statements were presented to the Board of Directors in a teleconference meeting on February 1, 1998.

On a motion by John Hurt and seconded by Buddy Keltner, the motion passed on a vote of 9-0. For the story and rationale behind the Vision and Mission statements, see A Vision on page 12 of the March 1998, Old Kia Kima Newsletter.

The 1998 reunion included the announcement and the presentation by George and Boyce Billingsley, granting 43 acres of the original Kia Kima property to OKKPA, Inc. It was there, in front of the yet-to-be restored Thunderbird Lodge on a rigged platform trailer, that George and Boyce gifted the 43 acres to OKKPA. The event was recorded by Mason Ezzell and has since been made into a video. See Old Kamp Kia Kima on Youtube. A brief history of the donation was written by David Cox, Villager Journal publisher and is available on the OKK website in the September 1998, Old Kia Kima Newsletter.

Following the deed presentation, a festive banquet was graciously hosted by Charles and Darlene Wilson in their “Hardy Station” historical museum. Pictured below are photos of the presentation to George and Boyce in recognition of their love for Kia Kima and its neighbors in Cherokee Village, Rio Vista and Hardy.

Ron Tate presenting the Cherokee headdress to George & Boyce Billingsley in appreciation of their love and gift of the Old Kia Kima campground to OKKPA, Inc. in September 1998.

(l-r) standing… George Billingsley, Bobby Harriss and Bob “Sluggo” Williams. (l-r seated) Phil and Jane Adams.

The Headdress was returned in 2023 by the Billingsley family and is on display in the OKKPA Thunderbird Museum.

October 24-25, 1998

Soon after the OKKPA Board formally accepted the gift from George and Boyce Billingsley came the first of the semi-annual OKKPA work parties. Organized by Bobby Harriss and Bob Williams, a crew of 6 to 10 Kia Kima alumni began clearing the irreligiously dumped debris on this sacred bit of earth. The crew included Fred Deen, arriving from Minnesota for an intensive, hard working three days.

October 1998 - Members of the 1st OKKPA Work Party (l-r) Bobby Harriss, Ron Tate, Fred Deen

The work party was followed by an October 31st Memphis meeting, arranged by Rick Phillips, with newly elected President Fleming of California who was passing through the area. Many of those 30 attending were now older but became new members of OKKPA including Mo Pledger, Fred Morton, Rick Phillips and many others. Traveling from Memphis to Hardy, Fleming met with Bob Williams and Bobby Harriss to plot further actions for the cleanup and restoration of that “sacred” bit of land that had become known as Old Kia Kima.

With the gift and title to OKKPA, we were on our way to fulfilling our Vision and Mission by cleaning and restoring our beloved Kia Kima "high above the South Fork waters".


The thought of Old Kia Kima did not occur until Roy Riddick and John Ozier pondered the question of, “What is it about that little spit of land that profoundly touches us?” My thoughts turned to friendships, learning and leadership from when I first attended the original site as a camper from 1951 to 1953 and returned to serve on the waterfront staff from 1954 to 1958. Today, I ponder the thought of why others from the 1930’s to 2023 have returned for the gatherings and fellowship plus laborious tasks of restoring, maintaining and planning for future generations. The obvious but hidden answer was the SPIRIT of Kia Kima.

It was more than that “little spit of land”. Looking back to when the original camp was in full operation and forward to when four of us returned to the abandoned campsite in 1993, we were serendipitously moved by the silent voice of the Kia Kima Spirit. That voice was demanding us to do something even if that “something” was to protect and allow nature to return the land to the days when it was occupied by the indigenous Osage. That “something” ultimately led to restoring the use of Kia Kima and aligning with our ongoing mission today – “Preserve the place, honor the vision of all who have shared in the Spirit of the South Fork waters and provide an environment where elders may pass on knowledge and experience, enriching and shaping the lives of young people today.”

When a quietly negotiated land exchange closed old camp Kia Kima in 1963 and relocated the camp 10 miles upstream, the Spirit also moved with those brave boys and men who created the new Kia Kima Scout Reservation (KKSR). The hardships and ultimate successes experienced by those creating KKSR confirm the ever present Spirit of Kia Kima. We, of the old camp Kia Kima, salute them for having felt and perpetuated that Spirit as it has moved along the South Fork of the Spring River to KKSR and back to Old Kia Kima.

Some of those who experienced the transition from the original camp to Kia Kima Scout Reservation and back to Old Kia Kima are pictured below. All have continued supporting and serving Kia Kima in the true Spirit of Cheerful Service.

(back left to right) Jimmy Hayslip, Rick Schmid, John Fletcher, Mark Follis, Bill Harrison, Terry Young, Dan McGuire, Mike Kinkade

(front left to right) Steve Demster, Larry Young, Charlie Holland, Mike Bowman, Jim Bottrell, Marvin Richardson, (?), Gary Waggoner, Sid Hurt, George Clarke, John Lauderdale, Matt Cain, Dennis Cain, Chip Ben-son, David Logan, Frank Simonton

The transition from the original Kamp Kia Kima to the Kia Kima Scout Reservation did not come without sweat, toil and frustrations. Yet, the Spirit moved them to accomplish what seemed impossible. The following excerpted memory is shared by Boyd Billingsley with his consent.

"As someone who had the privilege of being on the staff in 63 at ole kia kima and being on the staff at KKSR from 64-67, I have many memories, some pleasant but mostly concerning the hardships I encountered with the "new" scout reservation. Everything at Okk was close and neat and orderly. The waterfront was wonderful and the entire camp from the hospital to the T-Bird nest reeked with tradition. It was a place of honor and re-spect for the past. A place where you as a camper had dreamed of one day having the privilege of working on the staff. I had no idea in 63 that our camp was to be moved. 1964 was a nightmare. Imagine having to move an entire camp to an open field with nothing but a slab being poured for a future dining hall. No working areas, no waterfront, no staff area, and 10 miles from the sitting bull restaurant in Cherokee Village. We had 2 staff weeks that year to try and prepare (build) a camp. One weekend in April and the one week in May before camp was to begin. It was not fun. We had to spend all our days/nights in trying to build the facilities to handle the troops that had already been scheduled. Everyone worked on everything. 3 days before camp was to open Ralph Young walked Bill Harrison (the first waterfront director at KKSR) the approximately 1 mile from the dining hall to the river and told him to find a place to build a waterfront, canoeing area, and free swim. 3 days. We had a total of 6 guys on the water-front staff to get this done…from what I've written so far you can tell I have some strong opinions about what happened and what was required from a handful of teenagers. My love for Kia Kima and KKSR has never diminished."
- Boyd Billingsley

Boyd’s love of Kia Kima is clearly an expression of the Spirit that moves through many of us of all ages. It was more than the places like OKK and KKSR – it was the love and Spirit that has moved and continues to move us in service to Old Kia Kima’s Mission.

Old Kia Kima Preservation Association has heartfelt appreciation for those who have not necessarily associated with Kia Kima. They include spouses, friends, Kamp Kiwani Girl Scouts, YWCA Camp Miramechee, and residents of Cherokee Village, Rio Vista and Hardy. We of OKKPA have been truly blessed by those who have and continue giving of their time, talents and treasure. The Spirit of Kia Kima is enduring, contagious and moves amongst us.

— David Fleming

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.