Ye Old Menogyn Guides
Reflections  on the Leadership of Past Menogyn Directors (1950 - 1967)
Part 1: Reflections on Phil Brain by Arm Paulson

During Phil Brain’s 50+ year career on the professional staff of the Minneapolis YMCA, he transformed the Association with his leadership, wisdom, commitment and dedication to excellence. At Menogyn early in his career, he engineered the camp’s development as its director from 1949 to 1956. At the same time he served as the Executive of the new Westlake Branch YMCA. Following this he served the Y as the Metropolitan staff Executive for Finance and Administration. Later he pioneered a new position for Financial Development (major gift fund raising) that enabled the Y to build several new suburban YMCAs, two major inner city branches and improve its camps. His leadership mentored many Y professional staff and young men. He was also a war hero. I was privileged to work with Phil on the Minneapolis YMCA staff for eight years and now to write this beginning statement about him. He was one of my mentors.

Phil Brain - continued (Click)

Part 2: Reflections on Jim Gilbert by Arm Paulson

It’s my honor and privilege to write a beginning statement about Jim Gilbert. He was a long time friend for over 50 years, a colleague on the Minneapolis YMCA professional staff, a fellow Menogyn director and a significant mentor to me. He was a rare and exceptional leader and man. He left a huge imprint at Menogyn, with the people who served on his staffs and on the Minneapolis YMCA.

Jim Gilbert - continued (Click)

Part 3: Reflections on Arm Paulson by Staff

In Days of Old by Dave Malmberg

In those days of old, Arm wasn’t much to look at.  Of medium height, kind of stocky, a round face, with a beard…certainly not my 18 year old idea of a ‘Homme du Nord.’  And yet, when I look back at pictures of him now, he had every bit the look of a man of the north.
At my job interview at the Y in Minneapolis he asked me what my spiritual philosophy of life was.  I replied confidently:  “Well I’m third.  First there is God, then my friends, then me.”  (I thought this ought to impress him.)   He responded by saying:  “Well that’s a bit naïve as it doesn’t often play out that way in real life.”  Here I thought I was dropping a spiritual nuclear bomb on him and he essentially had popped the balloon of my prominent 18 year old ego.  But, he nevertheless gave me a job.  In fact during that summer, I held many jobs at Menogyn, from Cook Boy to Guide.   I am forever grateful to the Director for taking a chance on an 18 year old that really did have a lot to learn.
There was intelligence in his eyes…eyes that could be soft and hard, warm and cold.  His medium height and stocky build could be deceiving to the strength that lay beneath.  When he spoke to us as a group, or to arriving campers, his hands would be on his hips and he would kind of move back and forth like a boxer in slow motion.  There was a constant flow of energy in his being. 
He used to tuck his pants into his socks when on the trail.  He was the only one on the staff that did, I recall. He was usually in a jack-shirt with a maroon beret that contained the Menogyn pot and kettle insignia.  Those berets lasted a short time in Menogyn’s history, but in their time they distinguished the Menogyn guide from all others. Those berets were his idea.   They were a call back to the Voyageurs of old and a reflection of the underlying Voyageur spirit that wove an intrinsic tapestry in every Guide under his tutelage.
At Menogyn, he was always first up in the morning.  Speaking French as he strolled past Hernando’s and it’s gaggle of sleeping Guides.  “Leve!  Leve! (get up! get up! or something like that)  Much to the chagrin of the sleeping guides, I might add.
His decision making process as Director was one of taking input from the guides and then making a decision. As young men on staff were prone to do, this was initially misunderstood as a democratic process.  The Director was quick to point out that Menogyn was not a democracy, that he was the Director and that all final decisions were his as concerned the day to day operation of the camp.
A lesson in authority and responsibility to be sure.
His spirituality was present every day.  It often took the form of a lesson from circumstances that arose at the camp.  Once during a volleyball game, he expressed to the other side that he ‘wanted their blood.’  One of the guides immediately called him on this as being unchristian.  He looked at the young man and said:  “Never forget Jesus in the temple.”  Another time he had capsized on South Lake.  Later that night, drying his bag out around the campfire he asked the question; ‘which one of you would give up your bag for me tonight?”  All of a sudden, we all understood the exhortation of Jesus to go the second mile or give a man not only your tunic, but your coat as well.  By the way, like the bonehead disciples of old, none of us offered our dry bag…
One day, he was at Hernies and a guide came running up the steps all out of breath and said:  “There has been an accident with the chainsaw and Steve Mcdonald has been hurt.”   The Director looked at the guide and very quietly said:  “Is it serious?”  To which the guide said:  “yes.”   All of a sudden the chair the Director was sitting in crashed to the floor as he flashed out of Hernie’s with a bolt of speed and energy.  I recall with awe this event to this very day.  “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”  He knew, in wisdom, when it was time to act, and when not.
He always had his pulse on the camp, not only from a work ethic standpoint, but also from a spiritual standpoint.   He knew the emotional, intellectual and spiritual condition of every staff member.   He had an uncanny awareness of this equilibrium that caused each and every one of us to stand in awe and respect at his presence.  For example, early in the summer, I was working as a cook boy.  This was the lowest of lowest positions (though an important one) and the Guides were forever telling the ‘cook boy’ to do this and that and every other thing.  The job was indeed a trial by fire.   Well, it wasn’t exactly my idea of being a Voyageur. As such, I was pretty glum in those first weeks at Menogyn.  One night, the Director came up to me as I had my hands in dirty dishwater and said:  “I think you’re doing a really good job Dave.”  This is the kind of sensitivity I am talking about from this man of the north.

Another example:  during that summer I had not heard from my sweetheart in some time.  It was a point of concern to be sure.  One day during a staff meeting the letter arrived.  The director stopped the meeting looked at me and said:  “I know this one is important.  Why don’t you excuse yourself from the meeting so you can devote your attention to that letter?”  I have never forgotten his display of compassion and sensitivity that day, and neither has she, who is still with me to this day!  
It was 1967 when the above events occurred.  They are all true and stand as a testament to the profound influence the Director had on all of us during his years as Director. It is no wonder that many credit him as being a major influence in their lives.  Of course, the influence and love of wilderness he instilled, I carry with me to this day for I have paddled the lakes of the Quetico-Superior these past 45 years, keeping in my heart the spirit of the voyageurs instilled in me 45 years ago by The Director, Armond Paulson….the Bourgeois.

Reflections of Arm Paulson by Bruce Ahlquist

My first memory of Arm was talking to him on the telephone and finding out that I would have to fill out an application and have an interview if I wanted to be considered for a job during the summer of 1963 at Menogyn. I was kind of miffed that I wouldn’t automatically be hired since I had worked the summer before when Jim Gilbert was the Director. I did go through the process and I was hired as a Guide.

I have always found that it was difficult to follow someone that was good at a job. I admired the way that Arm followed Jim who was very good as a Director and became very successful at being the Director of Camp Menogyn in his own way.

I played a lot of volleyball with Arm. As I remember it, he really didn’t like animal ball [no rules at the net] but he played it fiercely. The director’s office was on the porch of the director’s cabin. This had to be one of the greatest places for its wonderful views and great fresh air. Although it could be really cold. The summer of 1965, I was the assistant director and would meet Arm in the office. He had the habit of going through his waste basket before disposing of the waste. At the time I found this a little strange. He had a bad experience when some important papers had somehow got thrown away.

Arm emphasized training and the Christian aspect of the YMCA. He developed materials that I often used in the 13 years when I directed two different YMCA camps. I can see him in my mind’s eye teaching us how to lead songs. He also enjoyed reading James Bond books that were popular at that time.

What a great example Arm was as a YMCA Camp Director. He made me want to be one and showed me how they were supposed to act. He also helped the staff get to know the Minneapolis YMCA Staff members that accompied the Hi-Y groups that used to come to Menogyn. They were neat guys doing an important job which also influenced my choice of careers. The opportunity to be the assistant director for a summer was wonderful. I learned a lot and became convinced that I wanted a career in the YMCA. I’m very grateful to Arm for giving me the chan.

Later, I had the chance to be on the same YMCA Hiawatha Branch staff as Arm for a short period of time. One summer we went to a movie together in Brainerd, Minnesota and saw the movie “The Graduate”- quite a contrast to campfires at Menogyn. When Arm moved to Green Bay, WI, I was in Appleton and we had chances to get together. When I was moving to Salt Lake Arm was moving to Appleton. I enjoyed these opportunities to get together.

When I think about Arm, I always remember the emphasis that he put on Christian Personality Development. His Introduction to Menogyn Devotional Booklet that was done in 1966 is a great expression of this and is a charge to the staff.

Recollections of Arm Paulson by John Thoren

I worked for Arm Paulson in some other YMCA capacities before he recruited me for Camp Menogyn. He always seemed to understand me and fellow guides, and though we may have deserved some criticism it never left his lips. He could convey toughness and high expectations, but he taught me the merits of positivity.