From a 1935 publication of the camp's GITCHIE-O-KO-O-HOO news

After Dad’s company became well established, Camp Elphinstone would order rowboats and canoes from the Greenwood Canoe Company as needed to complete their armada. This included two 25’ war canoes, built using his existing freight canoe mould. In 1966 Dad constructed a new boathouse at Elphinstone, which in 1979 was officially named the “Bill Greenwood Boathouse” in my father's honour. 

Also in 1939, Dad was inducted into the coveted “Order of the Golden E” fraternity. This group was dedicated to the ideals and furthering the purpose and fortunes of Camp Elphinstone. Senior campers and staff were invited into the Order to further their personal growth through service to the camp. The ‘E’ membership was formed from those who significantly contributed to camp and were deemed worthy of being invited to join.

Photos courtesy of the Vancouver Maritime Museum

The first of two 32’ war canoes was built by Dad and the campers in 1938 and christened the “William Greenwood”. The second war canoe, the “George Ross”, was completed in 1939. George was the revered camp director from 1915 – 1938.

Camp Elphinstone

Dad later became involved with the YMCA's Camp Elphinstone, volunteering, as others did, for only  room and board. In addition to working as a counsellor, he led a popular program of woodcraft, focussing specifically on boat building. Dad would work with the campers to build boats and canoes, and in 1935  became the camp’s resident boat builder.

Dad joined the YMCA and became part of the Intermediate Leader Corps while in his mid-teens. He remained enthusiastically active with the organization throughout his life. Originally, his involvement focussed on teaching athletics and gymnastics as a member of the Physical Department. The organization held an annual gymnastics exhibition, and Dad would often reminisce about his involvement in these events as a performer. Part of his routine included walking the entire length of the gymnasium on his hands.


“If a boy is permitted to experience the delights of camping and hiking, to feel the warm rays of the sun, the refreshing moisture of the rain on his bare skin, and to learn nature’s many lessons, he will have a never failing source of happiness for the balance of his life… The lure of the out-of-doors is the lure to character making, to abundant health, to true happiness.” – YMCA, 1928

Princess of the Stars photos courtesy of The Banff Centre Archives.

Costume design by Jerrard and Diana Smith.

© Susan Greenwood

Camp deka

Camp chief hector

Gary Luthy wrote, "I used to run YMCA, Camp Chief Hector near Seebe, AB in the early 1970's and met Bill Greenwood when we were looking to buy some canoes for the camp. I visited his shop on Mitchell Island and was impressed by the quality of the canoes and his attention to detail.  The woodwork was like well-built furniture and the filler and paint were akin to a custom finish job on a restored hot-rod. Also, Bill seemed like a bit of a character, which added to the allure of his canoes. I was looking for canoes that would be good for tripping on the Bow River and would have bought Chestnuts without keels (Boone Model) if they had still been available. Never the less the Greenwood canoes were so pretty we ended up buying eight, 16’ canoes paying about $900 a pop, fob Vancouver. We had to send a guy to Vancouver with a canoe trailer to pick them up. They were wonderful canoes on the lake but less good on the river.

Bill and I kept in touch for a few years and I believe I might have gotten his recipe for canoe filler. I seemed to recall it had many components that were likely noxious and deadly like lead and linseed oil."

The video below is an excerpt from this ceremony. I replaced most of the ambient audio with my reading from the 1939 Camp Elphinstone war canoe dedication and christening ceremony.

Photo courtesy Gary Luthy

Camp howdy

One of the features of Camp Elphinstone’s 75th anniversary in 1982 was the presentation of the camp’s heritage war canoe, the "William Greenwood", to the Vancouver Maritime Museum. A stalwart crew of former campers and staff paddled the canoe from the Royal Vancouver  Yacht Club to the museum.

Camp Deka was established by May and Lorne Brown, who in 1958 purchased undeveloped land located on the north-western shore of Deka Lake in the southern Cariboo region of British Columbia. The Browns operated the camp from 1961-1976 and purchased at least ten 15’ Greenwoods for the camp. The original camp closed in 1977 and the fleet of canoes was dispersed. May and Lorne’s son Greg and his wife Suzanne acquired a 17’ model.  The most impressive adventures I am aware of in a Greenwood canoe are those undertaken by Greg and Suzanne Brown (See Friends and Owners). Photo at left shows the Brown's Greenwood motorboat in use at Camp Deka.

According to the CCH "Golden Tipi" website - "In 1974, eight wood and canvas canoes were purchased from the Greenwood Canoe Company in Vancouver at a cost of about $900 each. These canoes had high bows and keels and were best used on the lakes but they also saw some use on the Bow River. In a near major catastrophe, six of these brand new canoes were on a trailer that blew off the highway near Lac des Arc west of camp. These beautifully crafted canoes slid on their sides down the highway and in one case crashed into a highway sign. This incident was a major reason for establishing the “Bowfort Canoe Repair” shop in the basement of the tack shed. Bill Greenwood later visited the camp during his retirement and saw his canoes in use on Chilver Lake."

According to Paul Dampier, who was director at Camp Howdy – “your dad was a tireless support ... The first year he organized a group of us to build picnic tables to be used in the camp dining hall…. The next two years he took charge of constructing eight pan-a-bode cabins… Somehow your dad was able to get those of us who knew nothing about building to put these tables and cabins up according to plan.”

"In 1975, my wife and I each bought a canoe for the camp. We named one the Ray Fairbairn and the other the Bill Greenwood. Both were Greenwood 16’ standards, painted red."

"…What he could do with one arm, I couldn’t do with the arms of an octopus”

The "William Greenwood" war canoe was  later loaned out by the museum and used in a production of "The Princess of the Stars". This experimental opera by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer is notable because it must be performed around and on a lake, preferably as far from civilization as possible. The opera was performed in 1985 for the Banff School of Fine Arts summer festival on a remote lake in Banff National Park. The performance was performed at dawn and attended by over five thousand people.

The main characters and dancers appear in canoes on the lake. The characters of Wolf, Three-horned Enemy, and Sun God are large, 7 to 10 foot high, lavishly decorated puppets mounted on long war canoes.

The 32' "William Greenwood" war canoe played a prominent role as the Three-Horned Enemy, as seen in the slideshow below.