Frank Kush Did Not Start Camp Tontozona



Contrary to recent articles in your newspaper, Frank Kush did not start Camp Tontozona.

Frank Kush is a great football coach with an unmatched enthusiasm for football, but Camp Tontozona was created prior to his affiliation with ASU.

In the 1940s, Martin Mortensen, a science professor at Arizona State College, (now ASU) would bring his science classes on camping trips to old Camp Geronimo on Tonto Creek near Kohl's Ranch. Martin became acquainted with the family that owned Kohl's Ranch, they offered to sell ASU 10 acres, with a spring and a meadow, for $2,000.

At the time students paid for their trips, this money was deposited into a Camping Fund. Martin used this fund to purchase the Tontozona property for ASU.

There was no money to build anything on the Tontozona property.Whenever an old building was torn down on campus, Martin would salvage the lumber, borrow a truck, and promise campus carpenters a fishing adventure on Tonto Creek if they would come to Tontozona and build something out of the salvaged lumber.

Martin's vision for Tontozona was a camp where families, school children, science classes, music camps and football teams could come, learn and enjoy Rim Country.

Funds for an irrigation system were nonexistent, so Martin planted grass on the meadow and flood irrigated it with water from the spring. He hauled sawdust from an abandoned sawmill nearby to build up the soil. He kept the field mowed with a little 20-inch gas lawn mower he pushed across the field. It took three days to mow the field.

Martin convinced Frank Kush that Camp Tontozona would be a perfect place for preseason football practice. When the football team started using Camp Tontozona, suddenly ASU had money to build new buildings and improve the football field.

Martin Mortensen's efforts were rewarded when his grandson, Fred, was a member of the ASU football team in the 1970s. Fred threw a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion in the l975 Fiesta Bowl Game. ASU beat Nebraska, and finished the season ranked #2 in the nation.

Tontozona continues today as a truly unique facility where families, school classes, science classes, and the football team can enjoy this beautiful Rim Country setting.

Thanks to Tom Dunny, Clint Daniels and Bob for continuing my grandfather's vision of Camp Tontozona.

Kent Mortensen, Tonto Village

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