30. CAMPERS ASSOCIATION

Letterhead of the Campers Association in 1954

Campers organized themselves into a social and advocacy group in the early thirties. This group sponsored good times for the campers and had considerable influence with the Forest Service. It was active for about twenty five years, until its disbandment in the late fifties.

Forest Service correspondence of 1939 documents that “the Dolly Copp Campers Social and Recreational Association.... has been of considerable assistance in promoting functions and supplying facilities for the added enjoyment of campers. The Association purchased a piano to be used in the Administration Building, and conducted dances and other social entertainments in 1937.”

The 1980 unsigned history places the origin of the Association in 1933. According to that resource;

The ‘esprit de corps’ generated by the reclamation of the Copp home site and the latrine petition {to move an outhouse away from the home site} encouraged the campers to formally organize. Spearheaded by a group of long time campers from the Boston area of Massachusetts the ‘Dolly Copp Campers Association’ was organized, elected officers and began to hold regular meetings.

According to the short unsigned 1980 history the new association became more influential and better organized as the years went by. In the later thirties “They wanted more campsites added to the campground each year.”

Also; “By the late thirties many of the core group had been coming to the camp for 10 or more years and occupying the same campsites all summer each summer.” Local resident Guy Gosselin remembers: “All in all the Association was viewed as having too much power and it was resented in some circles.”

George Brackett recalls a distinction between two phases of Association history. The first limited itself to organizing a collection for the homestead restoration. This was a different leadership with a limited purpose, in contrast to the broader goals of the second and longer lasting group that emerged a few years later and lasted until 1958.

A subset of the organization is noted in a 1936 archival letter from a camper in Massachusetts: “In New Bedford, we have a group of Dolly Copp Campers that meet once a year. To belong, the party must have camped at Dolly Copp for five years.”

That same camper in his 1936 letter also grumbled about the expansion then underway in Dolly Copp: “My personal opinion is that the more grass that is removed from the ground, the more dust that the camper has to contend with. This is another reason why some of us think that the spurs should not have been made.”

He goes on: “I was told that Mr. Goodwin, who was on a committee of campers elected four summers ago by us to check up on some proposed changes, said that over 90% of the campers were opposed to the swimming pool and to the Community House. If this is so, it shows us Washington is not ‘camp minded’.”

It must have been difficult for the many who had come to love the bucolic and rough Campground of the twenties to see it formalized, expanded and manicured in the thirties. Also, to see structures added such as the Administration Building and Picnic Shelter, however rustic looking.

Results of a fishing derby at Dolly Copp. Famous local
northwoodsman Paul Doherty is in shade at center rear.


The rare and historic decal above arrived with the email below in January of 2010:

Hi Jon:

I came across this item which I thought you might like to add to your Dolly Copp collection. I notice on your DC website you have a pic of the Dolly Copp Campers Association letterhead, but what I have here is a photo of a Dolly Copp Campers Association Decal.

My sister, Gail Gordon has the actual decal and it is in remarkable shape considering it would have come from the fifties I believe. Gail couldn't remember my dad belonging to the association, but I know he did for a brief period and I remember my parents receiving a newsletter during the winter .

As I can best recall the woman sending out the newsletter was a Mrs. Paquette, Gail mentions her son Whitey and his pink Hudson Hornet convertible in her memories of the fifties. I don't recall what her position was with the association but I remember her campsite and if I had my Dolly Copp map in front of me I could come up with a number.

I remember her big old green trailer. We all called her the chipmunk lady as she bought shelled peanuts in 25 or 50 lb. bags to feed to the chipmunks and when you visited her site as you can imagine there were chipmunks everywhere.. Hope you like the decal, talk to you soon.

Sincerely,
Bob Craig


Excerpt from an email from Bernie Brackett in January of 2010:

We were members of the Association. Mrs. Paquette was Marge Paquette. She and her husband were Presidents. The Association put on dances Tuesday for adults only and Thursday and Saturday for all.

The children had a great time-- The Mexican Hat Dance, the Bunny Hop, and the ever popular Hokey Pokey. We all had membership numbers and they had drawings for gifts.

They had an annual field day. All kinds of races and games, topped off by the crowning of Miss Dolly Copp.


The Dolly Copp Campers Association declined rapidly after 1958. The primary cause was the strict enforcement that year by the Forest Service of a 14 day limit of stay.

With highway improvements making the area more accessible, and the parents of the baby boom generation taking their children camping in ever greater numbers, demand for sites at Dolly Copp was intense. The 14 day limit was the response.

The demise of the Association is noted in the 1980 short unsigned history;

An easy answer would be that it was the 14 day limit, but the problems go much deeper than that. The relationship between the Forest Service and the Association had deteriorated before the final straw.... The Forest Service had relied on the volunteers so heavily that the Association felt they were in control.

The Association considered their campsites their summer homes. They had paid for these homes with 20 years of stewardship. Part of the problem was the changing times and a group of people that were desperately trying to maintain a lifestyle they had developed over a period of 20 to 30 years.

In March of 2009 these memories of the late fifties period were offered by George and Barbara Kotsiroplos:

Please do not miss interpret my comments as negative, but just a different outlook. The Campers Association did a wonderful job and may be responsible for keeping the camp ground open when money was scarce. I was very fortunate to have become life long friends with many of them.

A lot of effort was put in by the Association, but there were some that wanted to pull in the ladder after they climbed in. In my own personnel opinion, they wanted to keep the camp ground there own little summer resort, and keep others out. The statement that you had to have been camping for five years before you could join says a lot.

Items I find hard to understand; 1) That 90% did not like having the swinging pool. Based on the information that I was told at the time, the Forest Service could not afford to have a life guard on duty 12 hours a day, 7 days per week.

They also could not afford the heavy equipment that was required every spring to clean all the leaves out of the pool. The pool was allowed to drain in the fall so all the leaves would pack in very tight and were very difficult to remove, especially after the spring run off. Again a money issue. We always found the pool to be very busy and a good place to meet fellow campers.

2) The two week limit. It had reached the point where real problems were stating to surface about this subject. Many would be campers could not find a site to camp on and began to hear about campers camping all summer long. This was the time when camping had exploded.

Many complaints, I was told, came in to the ranger in charge, but were ignored. I have no proof that this report was accurate.

What was very clear at the time were two major problems. Locals from Berlin and Gorham were using Dolly Copp for there summer home along with the other summer long campers. Residents of Berlin and Gorham could be observed every morning leaving for work and returning in the late afternoon. In most cases they were leaving the camp site empty all day long.

There was some talk that people from Massachusetts were paying Berlin and Gorham residents to get into the grounds on opening day and stake out the best sites for a fee.
I have been told that the ranger in charge at the time was removed via transfer and then the 2 week limit was then put into effect so every one had a chance to enjoy Dolly Copp.

Again, please do not take my comments as criticism of the Association. My comments are only to give you another camper’s opinion. Like always it only takes a few.

Children of the Kotsiroplos Family in 1957

The task of enforcing the new two week limit fell to Belvin Barnes. He notes that some campers had been marking choice sites with personal possessions in the late spring, clear notice that those sites were to be theirs exclusively over the entire summer season.

A few would even go so far as to take this step in the preceding fall, leaving some personal property on their site to freeze under the snow for the entire winter!

From today's perspective such practices seem quite extreme. According to Mr. Barnes, imposing the two week limit was not easy on anyone and some of the old timers never came back.

Mr. Barnes stresses that these tenacious campers were fine people, but that the traditional practice of summer-long camping on the same site was just not fair to the new generation that was discovering Dolly Copp.