HUTS IN THE 1930's
part 3

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.

    After 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.

    In 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.

    January 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