As you've been cycling around the country side, hiking the Buckeye Trail with a full pack, enjoying the scenery on Rocky Fork, have you ever wondered how the Columbus Council began?
On October 3, 1939, the first meeting of what we now know as Columbus Outdoor Pursuits was held. The 21 persons had been "gathered together out of a common interest in hiking and bicycling trips and Youth Hostels."
They decided on a committee of workers that would be formed that would be a nucleus for all future action.
On November 5, 1939 National AYH Directors, Isabel and Monroe Smith, and the Field Worker for the Great Lakes Region, Justin Cline, held a special conference in Columbus at which they explained the organization of national and its' districts. The local Columbus group, which had attracted additional members, became known as the Buckeye Trails District Committee, AYH. The boundaries of this District were Marion on the north, Dayton on the west, Portsmouth on the south, Marietta on the southeast and Cambridge on the east. These were people with a vision who had worked tirelessly to make it become a reality. Hosteling in Central Ohio was promoted on every front: they made speeches; showed films to youth, recreation, and civic groups; displays and booths were set up at various county fairs and sports shows; news releases were given to the newspapers and radio stations. Community leaders gave moral support to the infant organization. In addition, the members of the Columbus group worked with key people in each of nine communities where they hoped a hostel would eventually be located.
By September 30, 1940 there were 287 hostlers in Ohio, most of whom lived within the Buckeye Trails District. There had been 27 overnights at hostels, at least 60 stories about hosteling had been published in newspapers throughout Central Ohio, a movie had been filmed by OSU ("Along Buckeye Trails", centering on a youth trip of September, 1940), speakers had addressed 47 gatherings and had written and received over 2500 letters. The Council had a booth at the Ohio State Fair that was very successful in reaching individuals and potential Hostel operators.
How here organizers of the local AYH Committee to know that a war would soon drain off most of its' leadership? At this crucial point, "Doc" Wilbur Batchelor, OSU School of Social Administration, not only assumed the Chairmanship but provided trip leaders from recreation classes.
In 1943, the Columbus group supported 9 hostels: Griggs, Westerville, Worthington, Lancaster and the previous five. At this time a hostel might be a barn or a garage made liveable and furnished with cots, blankets and a heater. Work holidays were participated in by students and others "as of result of which essential improvements were made." Fireplaces were built, screen doors were hung, and the buildings given a thorough cleaning. In 1944 two hostels opened on an year round basis: one at Griggs Dam and the other at the farm of Lynn Rohrbaugh near Delaware.
Membership in the 40's differed from what it is today: it consisted almost exclusively of college age students. The number of members was around 50. This number of members was not sufficient to keep hostels in use and many of the houseparents grew discouraged and closed their hostels.
According to Al Orcutt, the Buckeye Trails Committee might have folded despite their struggle to survive, were it not for the support of organizations, like the Central Ohio Hiking Club and the YMCA, which permitted them use of phone and of office space.
An Executive Secretary was hired in July, 1943 for $150 per month. She was available until sometime in 1944 when she went into war service.
In 1944 there were hostels at Dennison University and New Marshville (Clayton Ranch). The treasurer continued to report income and expenditures in the $400 per year range. The club was headquartered at the OSU School of Social Administration with information about the club available at Ohio State Museum.
The "Rolling Hostel" came into existence at the time, operated by the national organization. It consisted of a sleeper railroad car, named Colonist, which was heated by a wood burning stove and posed equally simple sleeping accommodations. A train would deliver their car to a city, drop it off on a siding, from whence they would start off in the morning by bicycle to tour the city or country.
In the summer of 1945, Dr. Batchelor, Merriss Cornell and Mayer Rosenfeld led the Rolling Hostel from Northfield, Massachusetts. In Montreal, the group moved into their "rolling" home... They rolled westward across Canada: Ottawa, North Bay, Saskatoon and Calgary. At this point they left their sleeper and proceeded by Canadian Pacific to Baniff, Edmonton and Jasper. On this leg of the trip, their purpose was to scout for desirable locations for hostels. One can only try to only appreciate their accomplishment when one realizes they were riding single speed Schwinn over dirt roads.