“Every time I cross the bridge, I feel the Bay Cliff spirit that has been here since the beginning in 1934, and is still here!” says Mr. Johnny Bullock with a touch of awe and reverence.
He speaks from his heart. After 70+ years, he is still connected to Bay Cliff!
A camper first in 1943, Mr. Johnny arrived at Bay Cliff on the recommendation of his Marquette school speech therapist to participate in the newly established speech therapy program. “Speech therapy was held in tents at that time – rain or shine, “he recalls. His enthusiastic spirit came to the attention of camp director, Miss Elba Morse, who soon had him helping as a camp aide in the kitchen. “I truly enjoyed everything about camp; I didn’t want to leave!” So began his lifelong connection with Bay Cliff.
“Mr. Johnny” Bullock – Camper to Camp Director
Mr. Johnny returned in 1944 & 1945 as a camp aide. While studying at Northern Michigan University, he spent his summers working as a cabin counselor. “One summer I couldn’t work at camp because of my studies, and that killed me.” He later took on the role of program director. He now held a degree in Art Education, but it was at Bay Cliff that he sensed another calling. “Watching what the occupational therapists did at camp, I fell in love with it and knew I needed to become one.” He enrolled at Wayne State University to accomplish that goal. He was delighted when he was given a student therapist fieldwork assignment at Bay Cliff in 1951, and to return in 1952 as the camp occupational therapist.
With his OT career launched, Mr. Johnny worked for several years for Easter Seals as a therapist for the home-bound. His travels took him across the Upper Peninsula, but with a “home-base” in the Northern Michigan Children’s Clinic of Marquette, courtesy of Miss Morse, the clinic supervisor. He referred children to camp and continued to help Miss Morse by serving as the assistant camp director. In 1956, Mr. Johnny began working at the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing. “I loved it there. The atmosphere on campus, the camaraderie, and the emphasis on independence reminded me of Bay Cliff.” He still found time to return to camp in the summer. “Miss Morse asked me in 1956 to be the acting camp director as she began to step back. Fortunately, I was surrounded by many good people who helped.” He continued to serve as camp director through 1963, when a full-time director, Mr. John Vargo, was hired. Even though he lived and worked in Lansing, he found time to stop in at camp. “I was always interested in how things were going, and didn’t want to lose touch.” He continued to stay in contact with countless campers and staff. After he retired and moved back to Marquette, his visits to camp became more frequent. “Mr. Tim (Bennett) is always so inviting. I love coming to the Bay Cliff birthday party and singing the ‘Cookie Song’ with him.”
Whether it’s mingling with staff & campers, sharing camp memories, or teaching camp songs, Mr. Johnny continues to keep the Bay Cliff spirit in his heart. From camper to camp director to connected alum, Mr. Johnny is the “Hurray” in his…”Hurray for Bay Cliff!”