Glen Miller's "In the Mood" plays on the radio and President Franklin D. Roosevelt tells a nation in the midst of a Depression that the only thing that they have to fear is fear itself. During this time, President Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to alleviate the high unemployment rate. Camp Meade in Middlesex, VT, was established in 1933 to house the CCC workers.
Seventy years have passed, and while America has changed, time stands still at Camp Meade. FDR is no longer the president, but Miller's tunes still play, and the sights and sounds of the 1930's and 1940's come to life at Camp Meade. The former CCC camp is now a motor court and military history park that memorializes the years of the Depression and World War II.
A tour group was in attendance at the museum when I visited Camp Meade recently. I eavesdropped on the Sentimental Journey presentation, where contestants played "Name That Tune" and "Treasure Hunt". The audience seemed to be having a good time, especially when the "Andrew Sisters" and "Bob Hope", (three women and a man from the audience) got up and entertained.
"My dad was in a CCC camp," said Virginia McCarry, from Glens Mills, Pa. She was visiting Camp Meade with her sister-in-law, Helen Burke, from Claymont, Del.
"Of course, it was before I was born but I remember him talking about it."
"You must register your tires or you can't get gas." The group heard sound bites like this from radio broadcasts of the 1930's and 40's during the show. Another bit urged consumers to use their ration points for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (c).
"The radio was a welcome change from war and rationing," Diane Perreault explained to the group. Diane, daughter of owners Gus and Clara Gosselin, is responsible for collecting the items, setting up the exhibits, and entertaining the tour groups. A self-admitted history buff, she enjoys dealing with the visitors to Camp Meade.
Sister Lori (LaCroix) takes care of the cabins. An old military ambulance straight out of the TV show MASH makes the rounds each morning, carrying towels and clean linen as Lori and the staff clean the rooms. A note in my room said that it had been cleaned by "Hotlips Hoolihan". When asked if she was "Hotlips", Lori laughed and said, "no, that's my mom!".
Each of the 19 comfortable cabins is named for a military leader. I stayed in #8, named after General Clair L. Chennault. You don't have to stay at Camp Meade to visit the museum, but if you do, admission is free.
Camp Meade was a motor court when the Gosselins purchased it in 1984. Although Camp Meade was named in honor of the first settlers in Washington County, Vermont, "people kept relating Camp Meade to Fort Meade in Maryland," explained Gus. "There's no connection, but it gave us the idea to put a tank on the lawn. After the tank, the rest just followed."
The Gosselin family works together seamlessly to care for Camp Meade and make their guests feel welcome. As a result, they have many repeat visitors, such as the motorcycle club that has returned every summer for 20 years. Clara and Gus live on the grounds during the summer and fall, while the establishment is open. During the rest of the year, they live in nearby Barre, where their daughters and families make their homes.
Continued in Part 2
Update: Unfortunately, Camp Meade is no longer open. The new owners decided not to remain open as a museum/motel.
This article was originally published in the Grapevine magazine.