"Historic Highlights" for Gilford Steamer’s 28 Oct. 2004 issue

"The Era of the Gilford Outing Club"

Thompson-Ames Historical Society will feature "The Era of the Gilford Outing Club" as its program on Monday evening, November 1st.

The now comfortably warm Union Meetinghouse, at 24 Belknap Mountain Road in Gilford Village, will be the setting of the evening’s activities

7:00 monthly meeting and 7:30 program, to be followed by serving of refreshments -- with the evening ‘s activities open free to the public.

The sense of community in Gilford was never stronger than in the 1940s. The Grange, which had come to town in 1875, was still going strong. In 1943 the Thompson-Ames Historical Society was formed. And then in 1948 the Gilford Outing Club appeared on the scene.

Even though the Gilford Outing Club had to succumb to modern-day pressures in the early 1990s, when a visitor steps into the Union Meeting-house the first display area encountered features the Gilford Outing Club sign and warm memories of those bygone days.

Memories of the Gilford Outing Club are dear to many people -- the adults who made it all happen and the participating children, now grown with children and even grandchildren of their own!

T. Gary Allen, Penny Pitou, Don Chesebrough, and others warm our hearts whenever the topic of conversation turns to the Gilford Outing Club. That is what we look forward to happening on Monday evening -— and we hope that these "others" will come to the get-together and add their memories to make for an evening of much reminiscing.

For those of you who were not living in Gilford during "The Era of the Gilford Outing Club", let’s turn to some of the many highlights encompassed in Thompson-Ames Historical Society’s collections, some copies of which are included in the Gilford Outing Club scrapbook that is part of the Meetinghouse theme display.

Photos, an important part of the scrapbook, feature snow—based activities at the Route 11-A site, near the intersection with Route 11-B, where the windows along the back wall of the warming lodge looked up at the ski slope bordered by evergreens. Pictures include the rope tow, constructed with a $30 rope and propelled by a Model T engine, as well as the Thiocol Snowmaking Machine.

As a 1982 Upbeat newspaper article states, "...generations of Gilford children have begun their schussing careers at the Club’s rope tow as participants in the Outing Club’s successful winter ski program. More than a dozen members have gone on to Junior National and Olympic-calibre skiing and coaching, most notably Outing Club alumna Penny Pitou, who won silver medals in downhill and giant slalom at the 1960 Olympic Games."

To help back interest in skiing, the Martin Hall Nordic Junior Ski Fund was established in the 1970s.

Skiing opportunities afforded were not limited to down hill, as testified to by a map of the extensive cross-country ski trails which the Outing Club created and maintained and which interconnected with other trails.

Gilford Outing Club’s activities extended far beyond winter and skiing. Again referring to the 1982 Upbeat article about the Gilford Outing Club, "...its wide range of activities attract the veteran hiker as well as the leisurely walker and satisfy both those who yearn for the sun and beach sand year-round and others who prefer winter’s snowy slopes and trails."

An annual activity was the Belknap Mountain hike, which many a youngster looked forward to. Easy hikes up the Rattlesnakes and Welch and Dickey Mountains were offered and, in addition, a tougher climb up Mt. Adams, the second highest of the New England summits, as well as an overnight family hike to the Carter AMC hut in Carter Notch.

As the Upbeat article states, "Gilford Beach provides a perfect backdrop for the annual Outing Club beach party, and pot luck suppers are apt to dot the calendar in any season.

Activities varied over the years and at one point included Saturday night offerings of square dances and movies for children.

The Outing Club members looked forward to participating in the Old Home Day parade and keeping up to date by reading their Slope Dope newspaper.

Among the items in the Outing Club scrapbook at the Meetinghouse are a Gilford Outing Club flyer, a ‘81-’82 newsletter, 1983 Fall Hiking Schedule, December 1984 Slope Dope newspaper, Third Annual Christmas Party notice, 1st Annual Opening the Beach Party notice, 1986 Alumni Ski Day letter, a September 1988 Clambake notice and sign-up sheet, 1989-1990 Shack Duty roster, Operating Rules, Ski Area Operation Information (including hours of operation and job descriptions for Shack Duty, Officer of the Day, Rope Tow Operator).

Sprinkled among the Gilford Outing Club records are names of many active members who made the Gilford Outing Club the great success that it was in achieving its goals "in promoting wholesome, year-round activities... encouraging individual growth, friendship and community traditions... where people can be themselves and take part where they like."

Thompson-Ames Historical Society hopes that there will be a good turnout on Monday evening to reminisce about an organization that added much to the cultural heritage of Gilford.

For further information, please telephone 527-9009.