When Marion Caldwell visited a real estate agent and expressed interest in purchasing property for sale in the Santa Cruz Mountains, he responded: “Did you get your husband’s permission?” That was back in 1946—back when women couldn’t even open their own checking accounts. We’ve come a long way as a society since then. But imagine what we’ve missed out on with all of the women’s ideas that didn’t have the chance to take root and grow. Imagine if Marion’s vision hadn’t become a reality.
Marion and Max Caldwell did bring to life their dream of a summer camp for kids on that piece of land in the mountains over the Monterey Bay. They raised the property, the small business, and a family at the same time. To this day, the Kennolyn business still holds much of the same charm and traditions that the Caldwell family instilled in the mid-20th century. In fact, Max and Marion’s granddaughter Pam Caldwell Nootbaar picked up where her grandparents left off and has guided the Bay Area business into the 21st century with both traditional and modern relevance.
Discovering Her Own Spark of Inspiration and Enterprise
“My grandmother always encouraged me to be the one to keep the family business going,” Pam remembers. Marion must have recognized in Pam a familiar entrepreneurial spark early on.
So much of Pam’s young life was centered around Kennolyn Camps. In the summers, she was a camper. On weekends and school breaks throughout the year, she was a granddaughter visiting her grandparents’ vast mountain wilderness. She became attached to the place, the people, and the horses. Riding became a part of her identity and linked her even more strongly to Kennolyn.
But the time came when Pam started to really branch out. At the University of California, Berkeley, she majored in Political Economy of Industrialized Society (PEIS) with an emphasis in Public Policy. It was so academically rigorous that she took a break from riding—which she’d been doing competitively and for the love of it. One summer, she took a break from being a Kennolyn Camps counselor to intern on Capitol Hill. She learned quickly that Washington’s slow-paced diplomacy didn’t suit her ambition and desire for action.
Returning to Her Roots to Help the Family Tree Grow and Thrive
After some time working in catering and hospitality, Pam landed at Georgetown University in D.C. to pursue her MBA. It was there, almost 3,000 miles from her Bay Area home, that she started the journey back to Kennolyn—to fulfill her grandmother’s wish. Pam designed a business plan to maximize Kennolyn’s profitability—and to share its beloved, homegrown offerings with more and more people. After all, this unique and highly successful camp was seeing business only 10 weeks out of the year, during the summer months. Just like Marion did 50 years before, Pam saw incredible potential in those 300 acres of peaceful redwood retreat.
In fact, Pam’s vision was ahead of its time. She conceptualized an events venue where Bay Area companies could retreat for some unplugged integration and R & R. But back then, in the mid-90s, businesses were still in the process of plugging in and getting to know the benefits of technology in the workplace. So, as Pam settled back in at Kennolyn to grow its all-seasons business, the focus became more focused on weddings as couples discovered the unmatched sanctuary for private, highly personalized wedding experiences.
Pam had found her unique role as a keeper of the Kennolyn family enterprise. She hadn’t been able to envision it before because it depended on her rich and diverse experiences in between—stepping away and stretching her talents in order to come back.
Kennolyn, a Home of Rich History and Future Connections
She was able to work alongside and learn from her grandparents for about 5 years, even as they started taking steps back toward retirement. Since 2000, Pam has been overseeing all operations for both the Kennolyn Events and Kennolyn Camps businesses. “I’m the glue that keeps it all together,” she reflects. And not just from a professional standpoint: she’s also the perfect person to preserve Kennolyn’s original traditions and family-powered benefits. She even had her own wedding at Kennolyn.
Pam met her husband in 2000, and they quickly learned of all the surprising connections—through family and friends—they had before ever knowing each other. It was as if their relationship had been taking root long before that first meeting, and they knew after only a few dates that it would be a lifelong partnership. They got married on the lawn in front of Max and Marion’s house and had a full destination wedding weekend with friends and family at the Stone Creek Village.
Now, with three daughters, the family lives in the Bay Area, and Pam continues to nurture and grow her grandparents’ original dream to fit the modern world. Her initial business plan for unplugged corporate retreats has come full circle as fast-paced industries—especially in San Francisco and Silicon Valley—begin to recognize the need for work-life balance and valuable opportunities to slow down and reconnect with our roots.
There’s no better place for that reconnection than Kennolyn. Pam had to stretch out her branches in order to come back and truly begin to build from where she started. She has returned to her love of horses, family, and that remarkable entrepreneurial spirit she witnessed in her grandparents starting so long ago. Because of Kennolyn’s reach—its breadth of opportunities—it now welcomes an astounding array of individuals and families, from the Bay Area and beyond, to settle in for a time, plant roots in this thriving mountain community, and bring their personal visions to life.
How can you find your niche at Kennolyn? Reach out to us to explore how. Thanks to Pam and her Kennolyn family, the possibilities for personalized events are endless, and our diverse camp activities have something for every kid.