Ah, summer camp!
Summer 1948. Societe Generale opens, for its employees' children, its first summer camp at La Baticolière, in the Lyon region. A successful initiative launched by its Central Works Council, which was established the day after the end of the Second World War.
Wednesday, 21 July 1948. In the middle of the afternoon, a coach pulls up in front of La Baticolière castle and its estate, located in the municipality of Saint-Cyr, in the Monts d'Or region of Lyon. The alighting passengers, mostly children, are eager to discover the site. To be honest, their curiosity is normal. These young boys and girls, aged between six and fourteen, and all children of Societe Generale employees, are set to spend part of their summer holiday in this newly created summer camp. It is the first time that the bank, through its Central Works Council established two years earlier, has offered its employees the opportunity to send their children, at a reduced cost, to a recreation centre.
La Baticolière estate, which was acquired in December 1947, included a magnificent 18th century castle, large common areas, five acres of grounds enclosed by high stone walls, a vegetable plot and an orchard. Badly damaged during the Second World War, the estate launched the fitting out work required for its new-found vocation in February 1948. Therefore, when it welcomed its first holiday makers, the main castle included dormitories, sanitary facilities and the infirmary, whereas the kitchens, dining hall, games rooms and staff quarters were located in the communal buildings. The immediately adjacent covered courtyard was designed to hold gatherings, vigils and parties, and provided cover in the event of rain. Run by qualified instructors, La Baticolière camp offered its young residents various sporting and cultural activities, outings and camping trips for older children. The project proved to be a success. By 1960, the camp had already hosted 3,140 stays, each of an average length of 36 days. Some 300 of Societe Generale's employees' children were welcomed each year during various summer sessions. Young boys and girls who do not hesitate, in certain cases, to return to the camp as instructors themselves a few years later. "La Batico", as it had become affectionately known, closed down in 1969 after 22 years of existence. The establishment of an increasing number of summer camps across the company, coupled with the inconveniences related to the urban development of Lyon (congestion, noise, pollution) led the Central Works Council to open a new camp, closer to nature.
On 26 July 1970, Jacques Ferronnière, the CEO of Societe Generale, inaugurates the Montcabrier summer camp, which had opened less than a month earlier. Bought in 1966, the 13 acre estate is located in the Lot, in the hamlet of Mazières, on a site shaded by forests of oak and chestnuts. The renovation of the existing buildings and the foundation laying for the new buildings respect the specific style of buildings in the Quercy region. The centre, which blends into the local landscape and is perfect for developing a large range of leisure activities, meets all the safety and comfort requirements: spacious, brightly lit and airy rooms, an infirmary, modern indoor equipment (kitchen, heating, pumps), a fully-equipped and well-protected terrace, no uneven surfaces, play areas, swimming pool, etc. Moreover, during each session, the residences receive a guided tour of the fortress of Bonaguil, providing them with the opportunity to learn more about a region full of history and discover the magnificent remains left behind by the feudal civilisation.
During this period Societe Generale, again through its Central Works Council and aimed at employees' children, also formed partnerships with other establishments and tented camps that it did not manage directly. Based on the same principle, the price paid by parents are subsidised by the Group. However, as early as 1948, holiday allowances were paid independently of stays in summer camps. A policy of solidarity that continues to exist, to allow the children of each employee to go on holiday regardless of their family's financial situation.
© Archives historiques Société Générale