Today, campers at Habor Point 4H camp play basketball, take line dancing lessons, and roast marshmallows-- all carefree summertime activities. However, during the summer of 1944, the same camp was used to house German prisoners of war.
"It was really a great fit because Mercer County needed the manual labor that these young men could provide, and also many people spoke some German here in Mercer County so they could communicate," said Barb Phares, Mercer Co. Extension Educator.
According to the Mercer County Historical Society, the prisoners of war worked at three different tomato canning factories in the county.
"The German people were very well mannered, and they were young men, and they didn't have a problem with guarding them. They just did what they said, and they talked to local people. It's like we had guests," said Joyce Alig, President, Mercer County Historical Society.
Camp officials say at night the prisoners of war slept in tents and the American guards slept in the cabins that are still used. Even the army issued bed frames are original.
Although the accommodations are old, campers continue to return.
"I think they like roughing it. It's a little different than being at home for a few weeks. I think they like it. It's a change of pace," said Mark Wuebker, camp counselor.
So, do the campers sometimes feel like their imprisoned?
"No, not at all," said Tiffany Bruggeman, camp counselor. "It's too much fun."
Besides the beds, there are other reminders of the camp's history.
"We do have silverware and cast iron and dutch ovens. Can you imagine? 60 to 70 years later we're still using this in our kitchen, and it's wonderful stuff," said Phares.
Some of the camp's past is documented. Other pieces of information are passed down-- such as this story. In 1944, an elm tree was planted by the prisoners as a sapling. Now in 2012, the massive tree remains as a part of the camp.
Besides the stories, there is something that the young campers can learn from the prisoners of war, who were just 17 and 18 years old. Joyce Alig of the historical society says she read a letter sent to Mercer County from a German POW after Hitler was defeated.
"He says always protect your freedoms, and I think that's so important now at a 4H camp. These young people are growing up out there, and that is a real message," said Alig.
Camp officials believe the cabins were actually built in the 1930's. They suspect the camp was a Depression era public works project. The cabins have been remodeled over the years and a shower house, dining hall, and dorms are all newer additions to the camp.