History


Boston Gay Pride, 1980

The Early Years

Gay Community News - April 29, 1978 Boston - Mountain Climb! Up Wachusetts. Easy hike, all are welcome. Sponsored by Boston Unitarian Gays. We're leaving at 9am from the Boston Commons at the corner of Charles and Beacon Sts. lnfo: 277-6167.

 

Chiltern Mountain Club was founded in 1978 by Sturgis Haskins, a Maine Yankee with a wonderful sense of style. He explained in a recent letter how it happened:

"I moved to Boston in the mid-1970's and found it difficult to meet people who liked the outdoors. It occurred to me it might do well to organize something to bring together other gay/lesbian outdoor types. I scheduled a climb up Mt. Wachusett for the fall of 1977. It was a lovely day and my ad (in Gay Community News) said to meet at the Beacon and Charles Street gates to the Public Garden. Alas, no one showed. So I returned home and moped. The following spring, on April 29, 1978, I rescheduled the hike. There were about ten people who showed up I think. The event was a success and other outings were scheduled. "

Bliss Woodruff, himself a sixth generation Connecticut Yankee, played a major role in the early years. He and Sturgis knew each other from the Boston Unitarian-Universalist Gays and Lesbians (BUUGL), which met evenings at the Arlington Street Church. BUUGL agreed to sponsor what was initially known by the daunting title of "The Boston Gay Hiking Club in association with BUUGL." Bliss brought to the club his familiarity with the mountains and trails of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, while Sturgis' hiking had been mostly in Maine. Bliss Woodruff became the club's founding Treasurer. Sturgis, of course, was President. Trips went about once a month during those first memorable years: Monadnock in May, Mount Tom in June, Osceola in July. In the early years nearly every trip was the "first" of its type: first overnight trip, to Gray Knob Cabin on Mount Adams, August, 1978; first tenting trip, to Bondcliff, September, 1978; first repeated mountain, Monadnock, May, 1979; first Randolph Cabin trip, September, 1979; first bicycle trip, Nantucket, November, 1979; first skiing and first skating trips, both December, 1979; first hike on our adopted trail, Welch-Dickey, May 1980; first long weekend in Maine, July, 1980. Although the club had fewer than 100 members, as many as 30 came on each trip.

Initially, the club also had monthly evening meetings, but these were soon abandoned. Sturgis recalls needing a name in a hurry for an upcoming ad in Gay Community News. At that time it did not seem feasible to select anything explicitly gay. As he remembers it: It happened that a vintage Bar Harbor cottage directory was on my desk. Chiltern had a nice ring, I thought, and chose it without much thought. The Chiltern estate in Bar Harbor had been built by Edgar Scott, founder, I think, of the Scott Paper Company. The handsome house was razed in the 1940s, after his son, Warrick (who was reportedly gay) was killed in WW II (bombed by American planes while imprisoned on a Japanese ship). The Chiltern gates still survive, but now lead to an adjoining estate at the end of the famed Shore Path, on Bar Harbor's waterfront. Sturgis announced the club's new name at the next board meeting. His surprised board raised no serious objection, and Chiltern Mountain Club we became. A few years later one of our talented members created the club's familiar "mountain and bird" logo.

Chiltern's initial By-Laws, adopted in 1980, did not contain a limitation to outdoor activities. In the early years indoor events such as swimming and volleyball were well attended. Over the years the Club became increasingly focused on outdoor events, and this requirement was added to the By-Laws in 1989. Several other gay and lesbian recreational organizations began as elements of Chiltern and then spun off into separate entities: Frontrunners, the gay volleyball league, and the annual Boston-Provincetown Bicycle Ride, sponsored by Out Riders, are all examples.

In 1982 we became Chiltern Mountain Club, Inc., a Massachusetts not-for-profit corporation. In 1991, after a succession of Executive Committees waded through nearly ten years of IRS red tape, we received confirmation of our tax-exempt status as a club "organized for pleasure, recreation and other non-profitable purposes... Chiltern was one of the first gay organizations to sponsor an AIDS fundraising event. In June, 1983, one of our members organized a Hike for Lift in the Blue Hills, at which 90 hikers raised nearly $10,000 for the AIDS Action Committee. Checkpoints at the 1/3 and 2/3 marks assured that the walkers completed the entire route. The event was repeated, with increasing success, in 1984 and 1985. In 1986 the hike was discontinued, and the Club encouraged members to instead participate in the AIDS Action Committee's first Boston-area pledge walk, now known as From All Walks of Life. A similar fundraising hike in Connecticut was initiated in 1984 and continued successfully for several years.

In 1984 about 20 Chiltern members participated in the First International Gay Outdoors Jamboree, held in the Catskill Mountains over Labor Day Weekend. That event gave rise to the idea of establishing a networking organization to be known as the International Gay and Lesbian Outdoors Organization. IGLOO came into existence in 1985. A series of summer and winter IGLOO events have provided an opportunity for Chiltern members to join in outdoor recreation with members of similar clubs elsewhere in the United States and in Canada.

Written by Robert Mack, 5/13/95

CMC ski trip, date/location unknown