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8/23/07 - After 70 Years, WPA Worker Returns to Gunstock

WRITTEN BY: Carol Anderson

Seventy years have come and gone since 89-year-old Albert Moulton helped with the development of Gunstock Mountain Resort. Work began in l937 on Belknap Mountain Recreation Area, as it was originally named, and Albert was there at the very beginning.

Sandi Fitzgerald, Sales Coordinator for Gunstock, first met Albert and his wife, Marion, at Gunstock’s 70th Anniversary Event, “Remember When”. It was then that Albert revealed that he, as a worker, used to ride up the very first chairlift that was installed at Gunstock. Sandi cordially invited both of the Moulton’s back for a ride on the resort’s high-speed quad chairlift, the PANORAMA, during this year’s Rockin’ Ribfest.

Albert was just barely 20 when he began work on the Gunstock project. In the late l930’s, President Roosevelt created the WPA (Works Progress Administration) which aimed at putting men back to work at the end of this country’s Great Depression. “I was just a kid at the time,” said Albert, “but there were men who had two or three kids but no job. We were all glad to be put to work.” These days, with a relatively low unemployment rate, it is difficult to imagine a time when there was literally no work.

The land that was to become Gunstock was originally a farm, but at the time when work began, the land was heavily wooded. One of the first jobs was to begin cutting in an entrance. Albert and the rest of the men who worked on the WPA project did all the work by hand. Albert commented, “There were no power saws at that time, just axes and hand saws.”

As the road in was cleared, creating the ski slopes came next. Again, due to the lack of heavy equipment, dynamite was used to blow up tree stumps, rocks, and ledge. Albert agreed that there was an abundance of ledge and rocks to be dealt with on a daily basis. Working with dynamite was always a dangerous occupation and special precautions were always taken to keep everyone safe from harm. “One of the things I remember is the men hauling buckets of dirt up to cover the dynamite once it had been put in place, “ said Albert. “We used to cover the top of the dynamite so that it couldn’t get any air, which was a necessary part of it working properly.”

In general, the men working stayed safe, but Albert recalled one occasion when the building for the chairlift didn’t fair so well. Albert said, “One time when clearing rocks, after the dynamite blew, the pieces of rock came down right through the roof of that building and repairs had to be made.”

Any cement used in the building of Gunstock had to be mixed on-site but not in trucks like in modern times. From the on-site mixer, cement had to be hauled by wheelbarrow. One man to one wheelbarrow, the cement was pushed up across planks and taken to where it was dumped into the forms. Albert laughed as he thought of how difficult it was to balance those wheelbarrows full of sloppy cement. “You really had to balance the wheelbarrow well, because if it tipped, all the cement went where it wasn’t supposed to and it wasn’t all that easy to balance!

Albert earned a grand total of twenty-two dollars every two weeks. His wife, Marion, remarked, “That wasn’t good pay even at that time, but these men were just happy to have a job.”

Lunch break at Gunstock would include a ride up the chairlift which sported single chairs. Albert said, “We’d eat our sandwich as we rode on the chair tow.” That chair tow only went partway up the mountain, unlike the chairlifts of today.

It was thrilling for Albert and his wife, as they rode up on the high-speed quad with Gunstock’s Sandi Fitzgerald. What was most enjoyable for Albert was the view from the top of Gunstock Mountain. Since the original lift stopped at a much lower point, Albert never had the chance to take in the magnificent view from the top. Marion, who enjoyed the view just as much as her husband said, “It is just beautiful up here!”

The Moulton’s, who have been married 65 years, chose to live in the Lakes Region all of those years. Their four daughters were born and raised here, and they remain a close-knit family. As Albert and Marion both looked out at the panoramic view, they recognized many landmarks that have become so familiar to them over the years.

When asked what he thought about Gunstock today, Albert commented, “Oh, it’s just fantastic, really terrific!” Gunstock has developed into something very different than what Albert started 70 years ago. But, if men like Albert hadn’t been willing to do the work, Gunstock Mountain Resort would not be the place that it is today.

For more information on Gunstock’s history and events go to: gunstock.com. If you have a story that you would like to share with Gilford’s Thompson-Ames Historical Society, please feel free to e-mail us at: thomames@worldpath.net. Be sure to check for a complete listing of our events listed on our website: gilfordhistoricalsociety.org.