Navigate / search

Synod Youth Conferences of the 1930s-40s

November 2012

The summer months on our campus are not as quiet as one might imagine. These days we host Girl’s State, SC Business Week, the Montreat Junior High Conference, band camps, sports camps of all varieties, and four weeks of our own CHAMPS program. All this activity keeps the college staff busy until the return of our students in August; however, summer programs are not new to our campus. Last month a question about an old photograph found among the papers of a Summerville woman brought the Young People’s Conferences of the 1930s and 1940s to our attention.

By the summer of 1935, the country was beginning to show slow progress in recovery from the Great Depression. Emerging from those dismal days, Presbyterian College hosted the first Young People’s Conference sponsored by the Synod of South Carolina in June of that year.

As stated by Ben Hay Hammet in The Spirit of Presbyterian College,

“Synod youth conferences staged at Presbyterian College were among the most popular summertime activities for South Carolina high schoolers. In a rather restricted society before the era of youth mobility, these well-supervised programs offered week-long opportunities for boys and girls to stay in college dormitories and use the recreational facilities in a summer-camp type fellowship that also included religious instruction. Many lifelong friendships were formed at the conferences which attracted up to 300 youths each year. In addition, the program also introduced PC to many future students.”

Young People’s Conference at PC’s Old Bailely Memorial Stadium, June 11, 1936
Young People’s Conference at PC’s Old Bailely Memorial Stadium, June 11, 1936 ~click to enlarge photos~


In 1936, Doris Mae Singletary of Charleston attended the second annual YPC held on our campus. Doris later married David T. Anderson, Sr. of Summerville who graciously allowed us to use the photograph above. It was found among Doris’s papers after she passed away this summer. The family contacted the PC Archives to ask if the photograph was taken on the Presbyterian College campus.

Most PC folks will recognize the location in the photo as the stands of the Old Bailey Memorial Stadium at the center of our campus, now serving as PC’s lacrosse field. The Clinton Chronicle from 1935-36 provided aadditional information about these c onferences stating that an intermediate conference preceded the youth conference and that “enrollment reached 325, the very largest it is possible to comfortably accommodate on the campus. The conference offers to young people a week of fine fellowship, inspiration and recreation. Its aim is to lead young people into an intimate relationship to Christ and loyal service to Him.”

Close up of photo Doris Singletary, 3rd row center, circled
Close up of photo Doris Singletary, 3rd row center, circled


The headband worn by each child in the photograph above displays the name of a Native American tribe. Further information from the Clinton Chronicle of June 18, 1936 states, “the conferences, for purposes of administration and development of leadership, are divided into ‘tribes,’ each bearing an Indian name.”

Close inspection shows the Choctaw, Mohawk, Catawba, and Oconee tribal names, not exactly politically correct by today’s standards. In addition, the back of Doris’s old photograph has the signatures and hometowns of fellow campers, the summer keepsake of an eleven-year-old girl from an enjoyable week spent on the campus of Presbyterian College.