This article was originally posted in November 2016 and has been updated for 2020.
Veterans Day is approaching and is a great time to reflect on those who have served our country. With the Green Mountain Club’s 110 year history, our members have been affected by many wars. The effects of World War II, in particular, were documented very well in the Long Trail News issues published in the 1940s.
Reidun Nuquist wrote an excellent summary of how the GMC was affected in our book, A Century in the Mountains (no longer in print):
Many GMC Members went off to war while others worked long days at home for the war effort. Few had the time, money, or the inclination to go hiking. Gasoline for private use was difficult to come by, and buses and trains were crowded. The Long Trail Patrol was dissolved for the duration, and the trail was, of necessity, neglected. Louis B. Puffer, Long Trail guidebook editor and cartographer, advised hikers to “blame Hitler or Hirohito instead of the Green Mountain Club” for poor trail conditions.
Army private – and future club president – Arthur R Koerber mused in a 1943 Long Trail News: “… does the green water still tumble down through Clarendon Gorge to fascinate the Long Trailer who pauses on the brink? … Do the chipmunks still reign at Lake Pleiad Camp to hold guard over that smoky stove? … These are a few of the things a soldier thinks about when the going gets tough and the future hazy.”
When the war finally ended, GMC members could once again turn their attention to the Long Trail. Wind and weather had taken their toll, war-time lumbering obscured the trail in places, blazes needed painting, trail signs were down, and the Carmel, Cooley Glen, and Hazen’s Notch shelters required extensive repairs. Leaders “earnestly urged” section members to get the trail in shape, so as to “not let the users of the Long Trail down.” Slowly, they made the Long Trail passable, and in 1946 the first postwar guidebook appeared.
Reading the Long Trail News through the years shows more particular details of how the war affected the GMC and its members:
From the May 1942 Long Trail News: War Service:
GMC members may perform two invaluable services for their country at war: in fire prevention and control in the forest areas, and in scouting service for the troops if a front ever develops on the East Coast.
The Trustees have voted to offer GMC’s cooperation in fire prevention and control to the National and State Forest Services, to give all lodge caretakers the additional responsibility of fire wardens, and to urge that all Sections cooperate to the best possible advantage in this connection. Year-round scouting service, to guide troops through the local terrain, was favorably discussed at the April meeting, but no action on behalf of the Club was taken. It remains for the Sections to act individually in sizing up opportunities for service and preparing to take advantage of them.
From the November 1942 Long Trail News: All Together, by Larry Dean:
Everybody has or is soon to feel the pinch of this global war, and our Club and its Trail are no exceptions. Many are leaving the Trail to combat the foes to their way of life. Memberships will undoubtedly fall off as money and energies are diverted to the support of the war. Are we who remain behind going to consider the Trail and the Club part of the past?
Are bushes and nettles to choke the Trail for the lack of restraint? Are the shelters to fall into disrepair? Or will we at home keep the spirit, keep the faith, do all we can to prevent the entire blotting out of the Trail and the total disrepair of the shetlers?
As Club and Section members, all of us have an opportunity to show out loyalty and worth, even though we have little time or money, by doing what we can to maintain the Club and its Trail.
In the past our trail and lodge work has been done by a handful of workers or by the Patrol. Now many of those are gone.
The leader of the Long Trail Patrol, Prof. Roy Buchanan, kept faith with the former Patrol members now in the service (his son among them) by carrying on alone during his limited vacation time this past summer. If Roy can carry on with little or not help and a cut in funds, so can we.
Here I am reminded of a construction boss that I once worked for. When we had a hard lift to make he, mindful of the ways of a group of men, would get down with us and shout at the top of his lungs: “Lift, all together – one after another.” Let us who remain at home get down and lift, but lift all together, so that when the boys return they can again find the Trail and lodges inviting.
From the April 1944 Long Trail News: Our Part, by Ruth F. Northridge, Chairman:
“What’s the Worcester GMC Hospitality Committee doing for the folks in service?” A question we will be glad to answer in a very short way. Well there is nothing on earth that will boost the morale of our soldiers, sailors, Waves and Wacs more than long letters, V-mail or packages from our grand club. So the Hospitality group put their shoulders together like football players in a huddle and emerged with wonderful ideas. For over a year we have sent packages to the folks in service, in this country and across the seas. Boxes filled with pleasant reminders of Mother’s luscious home cooking, tempting brownies that bring back memories of the cookie jar on the pantry shelf. You recall the snappy ginger cookies Mom used to bake on Saturday mornings, yup we did, so cookies have been included. And for corner fillers, hard candies and peanuts slide in just right. Our reward comes in reading the “Thank-you” notes the club receives for these packages that we send about four time a year. The Christmas box is generally something special – food, games, small gifts, magazines and mystery stories. To bring back thoughts of New England and the Long Trail trips, we drop a spray of hemlock, spruce or a pine cone into the box before closing the cover. Oh, yes! We keep in touch with every member whether in this country or abroad writing newsy letters about our new camp, “Camp Cobb”, sending snapshots and the latest items concerning home surroundings. We have noticed that every member has written home that he or she feels homesick for the “Long Trail” – wish they could have a long furlough to roam the famous trail once more.
In order that our club may have the opportunity to read the latest news from the fellows and girls in service, the committee has erected a large bulletin board at Camp Cobb. Here we can have the pleasure of reading Freddie’s letter about the army life in the south, Al’s note from England describing the holiday festivities with an English family, how Dave spent Christmas and New Year’s in Africa, the joy of seeing American nurses in formal attire at their big Christmas dance and what Dorothy is doing in her new assignment at the naval station. Also pinned on the board are snapshots sent from all around the globe to give us an idea of how the war has changed our folks.
So ‘til the day when we’ll all meet once more on the Long Trail, the Worcester Green Mountain Club will keep our club in the hearts and minds of every member by sending boxes and letters to all away from home.
Veterans Day is a time to honor those who have spent time in military service to our country, and for that, we thank them.