12. DOLLY COPP AFTER 1960

 

Above is evidence from the early sixties that Dolly Copp Campground
continued to be New Hampshire's most popular camping resource.
These brochures list all public and private camping facilities in the
state and both feature Dolly Copp on their covers.

See 1960 cover full view. See 1961 cover full view.
Source: Scott McClory Dolly Copp Collection.


There was a final spurt of Campground improvements in the sixties. One affected the water system, which received a major upgrade.

The Forest Supervisor’s 1962 report indicated that “a new water system at the Dolly Copp Campground is being installed. This will make possible the installation of flush toilets at a later date.”

His report of 1963 then states “the water system at Dolly Copp Campground was completely rebuilt. Drilling of two wells and installation of distribution lines will supply the new flush toilets planned for construction next spring.”

Outhouse in Dolly Copp in the thirties, the
primitive sanitation standard until 1964. "But this
hardship keeps out the riffraff" said some old timers.

The end of primitive sanitation facilities was at last at hand. Twelve modern lavatory buildings were installed, strategically placed to maximize convenience.

But even this had a conservative reaction. Bobby Cook remembers: “Many campers were against the installation of flush toilets, as they thought they would bring in the riffraff, kept out until then by the hardship.”

Many of the small wooden outhouse buildings were structurally sound and were trucked away and reused for storage sheds and other purposes in the area. One can be observed housing electrical equipment off of Route 16 at Libby's Pool in Gorham (CH).

Then about 1962 the Big Meadow section received a major expansion, this to make more spaces with easy access for trailers.

As it is remembered that a new entrance road was under construction in 1965 (GB), the new entryway with its new gate house location must have been operational for the 1966 season.

Casey Hodgdon recalled that electric service first reached nearby sections of Route 16 and then Dolly Copp in 1965. The main electric power line in this part of the Peabody Valley runs through the forest parallel to Route 16 on its eastern side.

A spur for Dolly Copp then swings west to cross the Peabody south of End Loop, that spur then turning north between the Campground and the Hayes Copp Ski Trail.

From this line the twelve lavatory buildings in Dolly Copp receive their electricity without overhead wires; electrical distribution near camp sites was thoughtfully channeled underground.

A Windswept Magazine article of Fall 2002 provides evidence that the extension of power south from Gorham passing by Dolly Copp in the mid-sixties was to reach the new Wildcat Mountain ski lifts, a power user large enough to afford the expense of extending power lines.

Dolly Copp pictured on sixties USFS WMNF brochure.
Source: Scott McClory Dolly Copp Collection.

In 1962 there were sufficient funds in the Forest Service budget for staff to offer organized daily recreational activities. A mimeographed weekly “Activity Schedule” was available to all. The schedule for the week beginning 8/11/1962 offered the following:

SATURDAY: 7:30 to 10:00 P.M., the “Dolly Copp Dance”, campers and guests only, 7:30 to 8:45 children 12 and under, 8:45 to 10:00 adults.

SUNDAY: 10:15 A.M., Catholic Mass at the Administration Building, Father Turgeon of Holy Family Church in Gorham. 7:00 P.M., Protestant Service at the Administration Building, Reverend Eric Swanfelt of Mount Forist Methodist Church in Berlin.

MONDAY: 10:30 A.M. to Noon, Youngsters’ Program of movies, Smokey cartoon, games, arts and crafts.

TUESDAY: 1:00 P.M., Trip to Pine Mountain, with autos assembling at the Administration Building, hike in to the USFS Fire Tower, “bring your cameras!” 7:30 P.M., Movies on multiple use management of National Forest lands.

WEDNESDAY: 10:30 A.M. A nature walk through the forest to explore its mysteries. 7:30 P.M., Fishing talk on “Where to Get the Big Ones.”

THURSDAY: 10:30 A.M. to Noon, youngsters’ Program on “Getting Acquainted with Nature.” 7:30 P.M., Forest Service films for general family enjoyment.

FRIDAY: 1:00 P.M., Guided tour of the Brown Company's Cascade Mill in Gorham. 7:30 P.M., A slide tour of the White Mountain National Forest.

NOTES: All events will start from the Administration Building unless otherwise noted. Weekly schedules will be available at the Gatehouse and Administration Building each Friday. In event of inclement weather the originally scheduled outdoor events will be replaced with indoor events at the Administration Building.

Contributing experiences to the 75th anniversary journal, Dorothy Shouldis remembers:

When our children were little {Ricky and Wendy in the sixties} they enjoyed the twice a week morning Smokey the Bear programs.

On Sunday morning they held Mass at the Dolly Copp Recreation Hall in the A.M. and the Protestant service at night. Everybody took off their dungarees and shorts and transformed into Ladies and Gents with skirts and suits on.

The activity schedule for the summer of 1968 is particularly intriguing from the perspective of Campground history, for on a Thursday afternoon was offered “A Guided Tour of the Campground. Dolly Copp’s history, policies, geology, tree species, wildlife, etc., will be discussed during the tour. The tour will leave the Recreation Building promptly at 1:00 P.M.”

While there are no longer the fiscal resources to make such daily activities possible, as of 2009 the budget still allows for Saturday evening educational speakers or entertainment. The offerings for the summer of 1999:

7/17, 7 P.M., “A Taste of the White Mountains”, Carol Felice.
7/24, 8 P.M., “The White Mountains, A Geological
Wonder”, Patti-Dugan Henriksen.
7/31, 8 P.M., Ecology of the North Woods”, Chris Lewey.
8/07, 7:30 P.M., “Maple Sugaring in New Hampshire”, Lucien Blais.
8/14, 7:30 P.M., “Moose!”, Norm Charest.
8/21, 7:30 P.M., “Old Time Dancing- Bring Your
Two Left Feet”, called by Ray Hilton.
8/28, 8 P.M., “Leave No Trace Hiking for Little People”, Pat Nasta, USFS.
9/04, 7:30 P.M., “The Joy of Dog Sledding”, Mahoosuc Guide Service.

Good times on a Saturday evening
in 2001 at the Dolly Copp Visitor Center.
(At center in white shirt is Danielle Rugg, holding
hands to right with sister Michelle Rugg in pink shirt).

These enjoyable educational programs for campers have deep historical roots at Dolly Copp. Such presentations can be traced back to at least 1928, for a news article that year reported:

“Every Friday evening in August, Ranger Spinney gave an illustrated talk before the assembled camp explaining the purposes and activities of the Forest Service... In attendance at one of these talks was Colonel Henry S. Graves, Dean of the Yale Forestry School....”

There has been minimal physical change inside Dolly Copp since the late sixties. Its long evolving layout reached maturity at that time. See link at end of this section for additional changes coming.

But aspects of national camping itself continue to evolve. During the seventies, the typical green or brown heavy canvas tents were on the wane. These were replaced by a variety of lightweight nylon tents, some in bright colors. Tent technologies broadened as well, to dome designs and full support from external aluminum poles.

In the mid-seventies a visiting Forest Service speaker said to an evening Visitor Center audience how well Dolly Copp campers kept even the minutest piece of litter off of both their sites and common areas. He commented that the self-policing here was the best he had seen. This was not an exaggeration.

The USFS went all out in 1996 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Campground. A press release of 8/5/1996 announced:

“The Androscoggin Ranger District of the White Mountain National Forest invites everyone to come on down to Dolly Copp Campground to join in the 75th anniversary celebration.

The celebration will take place from August 10-18, 1996, and will include evening programs, guided wagon rides, a square dance, a fiddler’s concert, a classic auto show, field games, a parade, and other special events.”

In a major administrative change reminiscent of AMC campground management in the fifties, in 1997 a private firm began operating Dolly Copp under contract to the Forest Service. This was in response to significant budget cuts imposed upon the USFS by Congress.

Two opportunities for the USFS to name Campground landmarks became available during the eighties. First was the creation of a name for the cross country ski trail newly constructed in 1981.

Second, after 1987 the updating of the name Swimming Pool Drive, as the Pool had by then been closed for almost thirty years. It is interesting that in both instances, the name Hayes Copp was chosen. Perhaps this was to give him a little more credit relative to his famous wife!

Long time camper and totem pole carver
Jay Milliken and son at old "Swimming Pool Drive" sign.

As in the past, Dolly Copp’s attraction today remains multi-faceted. Climbers use DC as a base camp. Fishermen on the Peabody are rewarded with a catch for breakfast, as that River is nicely stocked with Rainbow, Brook and Brown Trout. Bob Brown is an expert as to the most fruitful fishing spots.

We do have some fishing advice from an early sixties USFS brochure on Dolly Copp Campground: “Small flies and angleworms are the best lures in the summer with early morning and early evening the best times of day.”

With winter use of the Hayes Copp Ski Trail, there are increasing numbers who enjoy the “off season” experience at Dolly Copp. Without the foliage it is possible to walk in and view the lay of the land as it cannot be seen in the summertime.

In the winter, vistas across pastures can be better visualized as they were in the thirties. An excerpt from Casey Hodgdon's letter of 1/8/2001: The Campground is snowed in now and I took a walk through in the moonlight. It looks a lot different than in the summer.”

Since agricultural use ended near 1920 the edge of the forest surrounding the Campground and the vegetation between its features has continued to move in and reclaim buffer areas. This increase in leaf cover enhances the privacy of some sites, but reduces the mountain views once available from others.

While foraging into the woods near camp sites for dead branches has kept underbrush there relatively tame, a short walk in any direction still leads to a nearly pristine forest experience.

The inventory of camp sites as of 2009 is as follows:

BIG MEADOW: sites 1 - 50, total 50
SPRUCE WOODS: sites 51 - 74, total 24
BROOK LOOP: sites 75 - 91, total 17
LITTLE MEADOW: sites 92 - 96A, total 6

HIGH WOODS: sites 97 -109, total 13
HIGH FIELDS: sites 110 -115, total 6
MIDWAY LANE: sites 116 - 123, missing 124, total 8
HAYES FIELD DRIVE: sites 125 - 136, total 12
RIVERSIDE DRIVE: sites 137 - 153, missing 144, total 16

IMP VIEW LANE: sites 154 - 157, missing 158, total 4
HOMESTEAD LANE: sites 159 - 160, missing 161, total 2
BIRCH LANE: sites 162 - 168, total 7
END LOOP: sites 169 - 180, total 12

CAMPGROUND TOTAL 177

A striking quality of this unique recreational area remains its popularity within families from generation to generation. The Dolly Copp Campers Association may be gone, but some of its now elderly members, and even more so their adult children and grandchildren, faithfully return year after year.

They crave the camping experience as it was practiced a century ago; briefly living outdoors in a much simpler lifestyle than that to which they return.

The evolution of Dolly Copp Campground has had its spurts, twists and turns. It sprang up on what had been farm land, was refined with CCC improvements and revised access, then had additional significant changes in the fifties and sixties.

This cumulative change has resulted in the well ordered, attractive, but still relatively Spartan facility we enjoy today.

 

 

The Forest Service has succeeded in
its mission, for the words “Forest Camp“
in the early name still ring true.

For the thousands of camping enthusiasts
who are drawn here to commune with
the Spirit of Nature, Dolly Copp
remains their hallowed ground.

 

 

Brian, Melissa, Caleb and Emily Craig
on a weekend camping trip in June of 2012.