Friday, January 15, 2016

AT Museum Volunteer Newsletter - January 2016

January 2016
brought to you by Joe Harold, Appalachian Trail Museum Manager

We have begun a new year and with the turning of the calendar, a new season at the AT Museum will soon be upon us.  As usual, everything is looking good for another successful season at the Museum.  I continue the process of ordering retail items for sale and aside from some minor issues with one of the new heat pumps, the Old Grist Mill slumbers for now, awaiting the Spring and the foot treads of new visitors checking out the exhibits.

Watch this area transform next season...

The Volunteer Sign Up Site 

I have updated the VolunteerSpot Group Page and they are now fresh and ready for your sign ups.  In addition to the Docent shift sign up, you can find the Road Scholar sign up and and also a Picnic sign up, for when we start having our annual Hiker Picnics and also our Volunteer Picnic.  

I have also placed the annual Museum Clean up Day (March 19th) on the group page. The clean up starts at about 9:00 am and we should be done around Noon.  Refreshments will be available.   

Once I determine when to have my Orientation days (for new and returning Docents), I will add that Sign Up to the Group also.  You can start picking your shifts now if you like. Hurry before they are all gone.  ;) 

Community Read Update 

On January 8th, Larry Luxenberg and Jim Foster attended the Community Read Kickoff at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA.  

Community Read Kick Off
This is the third year that Longwood Gardens has teamed up with local libraries and community partners for the Community Read.  This program is designed to encourage reading for pleasure and to start a conversation.  This year's theme is "one person to inspire many" and features two inspiring titles.  

Grandma Gatewood's Walk, by Ben Montgomery
Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery.  The story of Emma "Grandma" Gatewood, first solo, female thru hiker.  Emma is a Class of 2012 of the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame inductee and one of our main exhibits at the Museum.

On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole.  This book is an interesting offering to the younger crowd and we plan on adding it to our Children's Bookshelf in our ground floor Children's Area reading nook at the Museum.  

The Museum will be providing speakers for some of the local library events and we are planning our own event at the Museum some time in April.  You can find out more about the Community Read and the events at the Longwood Gardens Community Read page. 

Museum Receives Grant from South Mountain Partnership 

Once again, due to the unwavering efforts of Gwen Loose, the Museum Societies Vice-President, the A.T. Museum is going to receive another grant to help us with the renovation of the top two floors of the Museum.  

The South Mountain Partnership has awarded us $11,500 to help complete the demolition, build-out and utilities on the top two floors of the Old Grist Mill.  The Museum will provide matching funds and donated labor.  Ron Bungay and his crew have been doing all the work on the two upper floors and Jack Adams and his crew have been building the ramp, which is an important part of making the upper floor accessible.  

The start date of the grant will be in February or early March, so no work will be going on until the grant is in effect.  That's ok, since it is pretty quiet in the Museum right now.  

Thanks Gwen, for your continuing support of the Museum.  We are well on our way with this grant.  Also, much thanks goes to the South Mountain Partnership, who have been an important part of the Museum's success and growth throughout the last several years.

Spring Museum Volunteer Appreciation Picnic 

Last July, Ron and Carol Bungay had a great idea to have a Volunteer Picnic to show our appreciation to all our volunteers and also as a nice meet and greet, so that the volunteers could meet each other and get to know their counterparts.  We are planning on repeating this, but a little earlier in the season this time.  

Museum grounds picnic area
I have picked April 16th as a tentative date for the picnic.  We can use the new tables and fire ring on the Museum grounds and I will put up the two canopies if the weather doesn't cooperate.  

So if you give your valuable time at the Museum, or maybe are thinking about volunteering at the Museum, mark your calendars now and we will make this happen.  

Sunday Public Programs 

Once again the Museum is hoping to offer a robust and interesting offering of Sunday Public Programs.  We are starting to book the presenters now and hope to offer great stuff throughout the season.  If you have something you would like to present, let me know and you can have an early pick of which Sunday you want to present.  Your topic can be just about anything, relating to the trail, the outdoors, the park, the area, you get the idea.  If the program can be held outdoors on our Rampatheater or down by the picnic tables, all the better.  

Send me a short description of your presentation and pick your date.  I will be updating the AT Museum Programs page on this site soon, so as of now.  All Sundays are open between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  

Interesting Camp Michaux 

Whenever I have a few free hours, I have been heading up Michaux Rd. and walking around the ruins of Camp Michaux.  If you have never explored this place of ruins and the reclamation of nature, now is the perfect time.  I like to come up after the leaves have fallen and before the snows arrive.  You can see so much more when Mother Nature has loosened her grip on the blanket of plant life, which makes finding the ruins much easier.

Historical sign at the bottom of Michaux Rd
As I walk from ruin to ruin, pausing to read about what I am looking at in the Historical Societies self-guided tour of the area, I think about the three (really four) lives that this place has had in the twentieth century.  

Civilian Conservation Camp (CCC).  1933-1941.  In 1933, this camp was created on the property of the old Bunker Hill Farm (aka Gardners Farm).  That farm had supplied grain and other produce to the workers at the Iron Furnace down the mountain, but had not been farmed since about 1919.  The camp built Michaux Road and improved Ridge Road and did other conservation work in the area like replanting all the surrounding mountains that the iron industry had stripped of its hardwoods to make charcoal.  As World War II arrived, the manpower that made up the CCC was now needed for something more urgent.

POW Interrogation Camp.  1943-1945.  As the war progressed, the Army decided to transform the old CCC camp into a POW Interrogation Center.  Double rows of barb wire fence were erected in two different compounds and seven guard towers were built.  Its location and mission were shrouded in secrecy and intrigue.  German (and later some Japanese) prisoners were brought to Pine Grove for a short time to determine if they had any secrets to share that the Army could use to help win the war.  Its location was selected due to its remoteness and close proximity to Washington DC.  One prisoner who seemed to spend a longer time at the camp was a painter and many of his paintings of the camp still exist at various locations, including the Historical Society in Carlisle.  You can read a very interesting book about the camp titled Secret War at Home, which we carry at the Museum.  It details the POW era and also touches on the other lives of the camp.

Church Camp.  1947-1972.  After the war, the vacant camp was acquired by the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the United Presbyterian Church to form a Summer Church Camp.  As you can see by the dates, this was the longest duration of any of the three.  For twenty-five years, kids from the area would come and spend their summers, enjoying nature and practicing their faith.  The Appalachian Trail Conference would use their Michaux Lodge (previously a forestry office and interrogation building) for their winter meetings.  The Churches made many improvements to the camp throughout the years including a swimming pool that you can still find, sitting in the woods, filled with water and debris as it reverts back to nature.  When the Lodge burnt down in 1969 and the state would not rebuild it, the Church decided to cancel the lease of the property.  The buildings were dismantled and removed and all that remained were the stone and cement foundations.  Nature would take care of the rest.

Old Swimming Pool
One of the things I find interesting as I did my self-guided tour, is the remnants of some of the POW structures, like the bases of the guard towers and the indentation of the double fence row that can still be seen today, even after the Church had removed these structures when the converted the area to the Church Camp.  Another interesting thing is the non-native Yucca plants still growing in the area and the flowers that spring up where the old farm house used to be each spring.  

Fountain build in the CCC era still sits in the woods.
One of the bases of the old guard towers
The steps to nowhere. Used by the Church Camp for pictures.
If you ever want to fall down the Internet Rabbit Hole that is the Camp, check out this interesting website.  I have already spent hours scrolling down and reading the interesting stories.  It is called Camp Michaux - Farm - CCC, POW and Church Camp.

So, if you have a few hours, print out the self-guided tour and explore the place that was transformed again and again for different uses and finally, when the people left, Nature took back what was hers.

Things Coming Down the Trail

January 22nd - 24th, 2016 - Northern Ruck - Bears Den Hostel, VA
March 19th, 2016 - 9 to Noonish - AT Museum Clean Up Day
March 26, 2016 - AT Museum opens for the 2016 season
April 4th, 2016 - Road Scholar Hike
April 16th, 2016 - Volunteer Appreciation Picnic
April 25th,, 2016 - Road Scholar Hike

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