Sugar Camp was a National Cash Register (NCR) sales training camp that was used by the U.S. Navy during WWII to develop a secret project.
In 1884 John H. Patterson founded NCR. Ten years later he started a teaching camp, held in the summers, for company salesmen. He believed excellent salesmen could be developed through training.
The school was first held in a little cottage on the Patterson farm on Brown St.
Nine years later, in 1903, Patterson realized the school needed to be moved because men were suffering from the heat in the little house. He chose a breezy hillside covered with maple trees on West Schantz Ave.which had been used by the Patterson family to produce maple syrup. In two days Patterson set up wooden floored tents to accommodate his school. He named it Sugar Camp but it was often referred to as the “University Under Canvass”. Up to 275 salesmen from all over the country attended per session. In the training classes they practiced their sales pitches.
In 1934 Colonel Edward A. Deeds, the third Chairman of the Board of NCR, improved Sugar Camp by replacing the tents with 60 four person cabins. The cabins were 14 by 35 foot wood frame buildings.
Deeds, in1938, hired Joseph Desch, an electrical engineer, to be the head of NCR’s Electrical Research Laboratory. In 1940 the National Defense Research Committee asked NCR to develop electronic defense equipment. This drew the attention of the U.S. Navy. In 1943 hundreds of Waves (Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service) were sent to stay at Sugar Camp and work on a secret WWII research project in NCR’s Building 26 located at the corner of Stewart St. and Patterson Blvd.
The Germans had a code machine called the Enigma used to send cryptic messages to their submarines. The British developed a device called the Bombe which had limited success breaking the Enigma code. The Germans refined the Enigma and the British machines no longer worked.
Years after the war, it was revealed that the NCR project involved the Waves building an improved Bombe. The American model was six times faster than the British one. When completely assembled it was seven feet tall, ten feet wide, and two feet deep and weighed 5000 lbs.
The Waves wore uniforms consisting of navy shirts and jackets with a white blouse and marched in formation one mile from Sugar Camp to Building 26. Marine guards were stationed at every door and floor in the building. The women put together parts six days a week working in 3 shifts. The work was so secret they didn’t know what they were making.
After the war Sugar Camp reverted back to an NCR training site. Around 1970 the facility was again remodeled and was used year round. Decades later Sugar Camp was permanently closed and the land used for other purposes. Carillon Historical Park received Cabin #22, the last remaining cabin, in 2004.
Much information for this article was taken from the Carillon Park’s volunteer training manual