EARLY YEARS 1939 to 1945 

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.

Club Formed
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.

Club Grows
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.

Hostels Operated
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. 

Outside Support
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. 

Rolling Hostel 
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.


AYH Philosophy
Feelings about AYH were expressed by several members through a paper written by Wakie Buchanan in 1946 and titled 'On Youth Hostelling.' '... The fun of good fellowship goes hand in hand with folk music, games and dances which are particularly appropriate to the spirit of hostelling. Hostlers introduced to the folk way for the first time experience the thrill of creative achievement, gaining appreciation of other's creations. The zest of adventure in and out of one's own community is one of the factors propelling hostelling. Traditions of friendliness and reliance gain hostlers acceptance away from home....'


In 1948 there were six hostels: Griggs, Westerville, Granville, Conkles Hollow, Camp Yohio and Camp Indianola near Revenge. The office was moved to the YWCA. There were twelve hostel trips. One bicycle trip started at 4:30 AM from Indianola and Oakland Park and went to Newark by way of Granville.

The spring Rally was held at Camp Buchsieb, near Groveport. It was billed as a "typical" AYH get-together with games, movies, square dancing and refreshments. Transportation to and from the Rally was generally by Schwinn.

The most frequent trip made at that time left Alum Creek and Livingston Avenue at 6:30 P.M. on a Friday via bicycle, with an overnight spent at Camp Buchsieb [on Groveport Road 2 miles east of Obetz]. On Saturday, the group cycled through many of the Hocking State Parks and on to either Camp Indianola or Conkles Hollow Hostel. Other popular trips of the day started from the steps of the Ohio Historical Museum at 15th and High. The group usually headed north to Hayden Falls or the zoo and an overnight at Indian Camp Hostel, or east to Granville Hostel and on to Newark for a look at the mounds. Summer hikers refreshed themselves after their walk with a swim in the lake at Camp Indianola or in Blackjack Lake.

Each spring, work trips were scheduled for the purpose of cleaning and making the needed repairs on the hostels located on the Buckeye Trail which was not the current hiking trail by the same name.

During the cold days of winter, Columbus AYHers did not concern themselves much about what clothing was best for keeping off a chill, for sufficient heat was generated on the floor of the YMCA during Saturday night square dances called by Jim Wagner.


YEARS 1949- 1952

In the winter of '49-'50 activities included: square dancing, bike riding when the streets were not icy and it was not raining, hikes to the woods, downhill skiing, skating and eating. Summer time included the same activities plus swimming.

Extended trips were popular with many people going to Canada, Europe and to the east coast of the USA.


The name was changed to Columbus Council, American Youth Hostels, Inc. sometime in 1950.

On April 16, 1952 a formal constitution was approved by unanimous approval. This constitution had been drawn up by Blain Ingram and John Shaw.

Hostels were on the wane. Only Camp Buchsieb and Indian Camp remained open in 1952.

Membership increased from 117 in 1951 to 170 in 1952. Four pass holders took nationally sponsored trips in the Americas and ten in Europe.

During the early years there were work parties each spring and some during the summer to fix up the hostels, that were a lot of fun. Spreading the word about Columbus Council was a constant item of discussion in both the newsletter and in the minutes. Travel to outings was not always done under their own power, but was often by car.


The description from the "Youth Hostelling on Buckeye Trials" newsletter from Summer 1952 will give some idea of a typical bike trip in 1952.

"An enthusiastic group of hostlers gathered at 15th and High on Saturday May 3, at 2 P.M. for the start of a weekend at Indian Camp.

After a short stop at the University barns and a brief lesson on 'how not to cross railroad tracks' we proceeded to Gabel's Dairy (on Godown Road), where their products were judged up to their usual high standard. Our next stop was Indian Camp where we were joined by Marilyn Fankhauser and Arthur Bedford. While part of the group aired and sunned blankets the rest went for food. We enjoyed a somewhat late but satisfying meal and an evening of surprising coolness.

Ann Gustin and Jane Shepard drove out and joined us for Pat Newman breakfast on Sunday, while Jean Werts, Alice Beardsley and Connie Johnson biked out. After closing up the camp we cycled to Hilliard where at the village drug store further steps in support of the dairy industry were taken. We returned by way of the Campbell Mound on McKinley Avenue. (One of the outstanding works of the prehistoric Mound Builders in this area.)"

On a nationally sponsored New England trip in the summer of 1952, 10 girls traveled 1200 miles in six weeks by bicycle and limited their expenditures to $115 for each person. The Columbus attender Helen Feinberg said "traveling by bicycle puts you in direct contact with people; we talked to policemen, ministers and construction workers. They were curious to see ten girls clad in pedal pushers and shorts riding bicycles loaded with saddle and sleeping bags." They slept on straw mattresses in quarters ranging from chicken coops on a New Hampshire farm to a settlement house in the heart of Boston.

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