HUTS IN THE 1930's
In many ways we hutmen were an extension of Joe Dodge. After
all he had picked us all himself. He put trust in us, and for the most part
we returned it. He believed in team work and that you achieved it through
a mix of pride and competition. So when we tried to best each other
in packing heavy loads, traveling faster or cooking delicacies such as lemon
meringue pies, Joe lent encouragement. Well do I recall the summer of 1939
when we plastered a large red MADISON MADHOUSE sign on the west side
of the hut and then outdid ourselves to live up to the sign in a manner that
was both friendly and good-humored. When he hit the Adams crossover with
Camp Mudjekewis in tow, he just smiled and let loose a friendly cussing in
a loud voice that meant approval.
Another extension for us was “Uncle Harry”, Dr. Henry P. Nichols. “Uncle
Harry”, a slender ramrod straight retired minister, knew the trails and much
of White Mountain history first hand. Madison Hut and its crew were special
favorites of his, in part because he spent most of the summer at the Ravine
House, which also served as our packhouse. As a minister he had an appropriately
commanding voice, and I can hear it again as he told one of his favorite tales,
the death of William Curtis and Alan Ormsby on the summit cone of Mt. Washington
in June, 1900.
For me there were two special “Uncle Harry” occasions. The first came in
1936 when Don Allen and Bob Ohler included me in their trek through the Mahoosucs.
While I was respectful of them as big hut hutmasters, I was further impressed
by the fact that “Uncle Harry” was driving us into Success Pond
in his model T Ford—the only vehicle standing tall enough to ford several
stream crossings. I thought of myself as a very very junior hutman. Probably
said almost nothing.
Later when working at Madison, I had a much easier relationship with him.
It was his custom to occasionally invite the hutman who was packing to have
luncheon in the formal dining room at the Ravine House. I was so invited in
early summer, 1939. But before entering the dining room I had carefully rigged
my pack so that a case of beer was turned upside down. “Uncle Harry “ had
noticed me fiddling with the carton and after we sat down he asked what it
held. “Tomato soup”, I replied. He listened, paused, then looked directly
at me and in that booming voice which reached every corner of the dining
room said, “Fred Stott, that is not tomato soup on your packboard, that is
A...L...E” Well chastened I never “lied” to him again. And I was one of some
thirty hutmen who gathered at the Ravine House at summer’s end to pay honor
to our senior friend then in his early ‘90’s.
Then there were accidents and rescues. Nothing stimulated Joe—and his hutmen—more
than an accident. My time came in 1938 at Madison, the death of Joseph Caggiano
on August 24. He was one of three young men climbing in the Presidential Range,
but seeking to avoid paying the fees for food and shelter. They had hovered
about the Madison Hut on August 22, then headed for the Lakes of the Clouds.
At the Lakes they had done the same thing, eaten a scanty meal and tried
to camp out. During the night a storm drove them inside. Then in the morning,
again inadequately fed, they set out across the Gulfside Trail in the midst
of an oncoming cold front with a gale out of the northwest which cleared
out he valleys. But above 4000' it spat a mixture of hail and rain.
At Madison we had a hut full of people, wisely weatherbound, when in the
early afternoon one of the trio arrived. He, the most experienced, reported
the other two coming on together, but in some difficulty. Fellow hutman Ernie
Files, one of the guests and I started gathering our gear when the second
arrived. He was in real trouble and in a very shaky voice told us that
the third, Caggiano, had fallen , couldn’t keep the trail and had been left
“in the lee of a rock half a mile back up the trail”.
At that we sent word by courier to Joe Dodge and took off up the trail to
J. Q. Adams at a gallop. We went all the way past the “crossover”, saw nothing
and turned back, splitting as far as visibility would allow (30-40 yards).
The guest kept the trail, Ernie went above and I went below. Carefully checking
a swath we came upon Caggiano, dead and off the trail perhaps 1000 yards from
the hut. At that moment Sumner Hamburger, a hutman came running by from his
days off, and he carried the news of death back to the hut, plus the word
we needed a stretcher.
The rest was routine. The stretcher, actually an unbolted metal bunk, was
carried up by guest volunteers and Caggiano was brought back to the hut. In
the kitchen we wrapped him in a blanket and lashed him to a packboard. Then,
in absolute silence, we carried him through the main room and out the front
door. Four of us alternated in the carry and halfway down the Valley Way
we met Joe Dodge leading a dozen rescuers. The next morning’s Boston Herald
carried it on page one.
Conclusions don’t make sense when writing about the huts. In effect the
huts are a stream of life formed by the guests and the hut crews for 110
years. Huts are unique because of their sites, relatively remote from the
busy doings of modern society, and because hikers must commit their own energies
in order to get to them. Perhaps it is precisely that reciprocity of commitment
( energy by the hiker, hospitality by the hut) which accords the hut system
that deep down esteem of the men, the women and the children who have enjoyed
this mountain hospitality since 1888.
Fred Mac Stott
was born in Andover, Massachusetts in 1917. At age 13 he was “christened”
in the mountains when a Phillips Academy (Andover) teacher took him and two
other boys on a weeklong trek starting at Moosilauke and ending at Pinkham.
They took just blankets (sleeping bags didn’t exist) with canned and dried
food. It was a make-or-break trip, and he’s stayed with it ever since. He
worked in the huts 1936-39, developing a lifelong friendship with Joe Dodge.
Joe called him “Mac”, and the name stuck.
Amherst College he served in the Marine Corps ( 4 invasions; Navy Cross, Bronze
Star, 2 Purple Hearts). After WWII and a spell in California he came back
east and became Secretary of the Academy at Andover. Retired
since 1980 he has had a field day working on projects from Mass General Hospital
to the Nature Conservancy of Alaska, with prime emphasis on the Appalachian
Mountain Club. He’s served two terms on the AMC Board and is currently co-chair
of the President’s Society.
August 1997 his wife Susan and son Sandy (editor of Appalachia) organized
an 80th Birthday fling on top and at the base of Moosilauke, with 38 friends
and family members climbing the mountain (ages 5-84). The AMC presence was
strong including Jennifer Huntington, Andy Falender and Clare O'Connell.
24, 1998, he was awarded an Honary Membership by the OH Association at the
73rd annual meeting for his extraordinary efforts on behalf of the Huts System.
Fred Mac Stott with Fran Belcher, Al Folger and Bob Ohler at the base of
Mt. Washington June 4,1988