In 1925, Donald MacJannet decided that as the French government would not allow French students at his school he must bring French and American students together some other way. (Hear him here.) A camp on the shores of Lake Annecy seemed the perfect solution. Donald had previously had a camp in Bretagne but the ocean proved too wild for teaching swimming and canoeing and so a lake was deemed more suitable. The town of Talloires was the perfect location. The lake for water sports and the Alpes for hiking and camping all provided the perfect backdrop. The camp was based on American camping models - something never before seen in Europe. Here the campers were encouraged to develop their skills, to learn to swim, or sing, or canoe. (Listen here.) For the first few years the campers lived in tents raised on wooden bases. Soon though chalets were added to the water front property. In 1926 construction was started on Upper Camp, a small cabin high in the Alpes. Here campers who had earned the privilege could go on an overnight hiking trip at the end of the camp season. The building is still in existence today.
The camp proved very popular amongst American families who wanted to spend the the summer in Europe but knew their children were not up for the prolonged sight seeing tour. Sending them to an American run camp nearby was seen as most advantageous. The camp provided a place unlike any other during the late 20s and 30s. The town of Talloires witnessed the campers daily exercises and walks. In one instance, Donald was asked by the gendarme to not let the girls walk in public as at that time they wore bloomers while hiking and this was seen as scandalous. (Listen to the story here)
The onset of World War II brought the formal camp programs to an end. By 1939 the MacJannets had decided to turn the property over to the safekeeping of the Quakers who used it as a refugee camp during the war. Quickly after the war though Donald prepared the re-opening of camp. Funded by generous Americans who had seen his film "France Rebuilds" and by the MacJannet Committee for War Orphans, the camp welcomed campers from America and France (many of them war orphans) in 1946. The French campers
One parent writes about her daughter's experience: "Thank you for everything regarding Linda. It was indeed something we shall all remember. Linda had a wonderful summer and certainly is well informed because of her travels and you. ... You are so remarkably able in so many capacities that no wonder, she tries to impress us with all your knowledge, apprehension, appreciation and judgment. Happiness is an art and you and Mrs. MacJannet seem to have that - calm, composed and relaxed - perfect for a camp. Pleasing too! We are sometimes not easily pleased but the MacJannet camp has everything together with being a most distinguished camp, something we find out each day! Linda is sweet and intelligent since she arrived home - we are proud of her!"