1941-1950

This period started with the highest camper enrollment prior to 1941 – 116 children. But camp operation was abruptly curtailed due to strains and restrictions associated with World War II. Contributions were down due to the strain of war taxes. Many campers accepted for (free) enrollment were not able to make their way to camp because of gas rationing, travel restrictions, and very limited public transportation. Evening activities from visiting performers were canceled due to travel restrictions. The boys camp did not operate for several years due to the scarcity of young men to work as counselors. The camp compensated for food rationing by raising beef, growing potatoes and corn, and relying on plentiful local supplies of milk (for drinking and for making butter and ice cream).

In 1945 counselors volunteered to take over the Goshen air-raid spotting station, which was manned (actually womanned) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. An offshoot of this was plane identification classes for the children.

When the war was over, operation and enrollment quickly rebounded. Veterans made up the majority of the male staff. A new dining hall (still in use today) was constructed, the old swimming pool (a dam across Gould’s Brook) was replaced with a new asphalt pool (of the same basic size, shape, and location as the current pool), and much improvement was made to the boys camp. So, during the last few years of this period, the camps per-session capacity – the number of campers that could attend at the same time – had been greatly increased. The camping sessions were extended and many children stayed through the entire season.

With the new pool, the new dining hall, moving of the original row of cabins from the bottom of the hillside above the main house to the girl’s camp, moving of Christie cabin from the old pool site to the boy’s camp, new cabins and landscaping at the boy’s camp (which involved digging up and/or blasting an “unbelievable” number of rocks), and construction of the first fieldstone cabin (Wright), Camp Thorpe was developed into much of what it remains today.

In 1945, the camp’s name was changed to The Vermont Thorpe Camp for Crippled Children, in honor and recognition of its founders, Walter and Vena Thorpe. And Mae Walsh, eldest daughter of the Thorpes, who had assisted and advised her husband Basil from the start, was officially named Assistant Manager of the camp.

Joyce (Walsh) Heath began the second phase of her life-long involvement with Camp Thorpe, as a junior counselor, counselor, and head counselor.

Governor John Weeks, president of the Board of Trustees since 1927, a strong supporter of Walter Thorpe’s concept of starting a camp for handicapped children, leader and advocate of the camp for over 20 years, died in 1949.

Campers

Campers came from diverse religious and racial backgrounds with a wide range of abilities.

Handicapping Conditions

Included: Poliomyelitis, cerebral palsy, empyema, congenital dislocated hip, spina bifida, obstetrical paralysis, congenital defects, scoliosis, tuberculosis spine, TB of bone, torticollis, wryneck, Still’s disease, birth injury, accident injury, hydrocephalic, arthritis, Legges-Perthes disease, lung abscess, club feet, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, deafness, unknown

Enrollment

For most of this period, there were 4 sessions, each 2 weeks long. Most children from Vermont stayed for 2 sessions (4 weeks); some from Vermont stayed for all 4 sessions (8 weeks). Operation was scaled back from 1943 to1945 to a 6-week program admitting only girls.

Children from Vermont were only required to pay transportation costs to and from Brandon; they were not required to pay tuition. Children from out of state were charged a modest tuition. Starting in 1946, a few Vermonters voluntarily paid; most amounts were small, but parents willingness to pay indicated recognition of the benefits their children received.

1941: 116 children (85% from Vermont)
1942: 76 children (70% from Vermont)
1943: 35 girls (11 from Vermont)
1944: 34 girls (14 from Vermont)
1945: 36 girls (20 from Vermont)
1946: 85 children (53 from Vermont)
1947: 78 children (not recorded)
1948: 79 children (49 from Vermont)
1949: 71 children (49 from Vermont)
1950: 78 children (57 from Vermont)

Referring Agencies

Included: Vermont Department of Public Health, Industrial School for Crippled Children (Boston), Children’s Hospital (Boston), Massachusetts General Hospital, New Jersey Orthopedic Hospital, Connecticut Department of Public Health, The Vermont Association for the Crippled

The success of camp during this period, as always, was due to a compassionate, creative, resourceful, imaginative and fun-loving counseling staff as well as a hard-working, resourceful, and professional support staff. In the words of Basil Walsh (1949):

“Our work during the year requires the services of many people whose cooperation must be a large factor in the success of camp operations. We feel that we have been fortunate in getting excellent staff members many of whom have been with us for a number of years. We have also been highly fortunate in the interest shown by the public in contributions and other aids.”

It was rewarding work for all staff members, as expressed in the nurses annual report (1943):

“We observed that many of them showed a great improvement in physical condition and mental happiness over the last year. We feel that our work here with these children gives definite results and is very much worth the effort put into it.”

Daily Schedule

The daily schedule evolved over the years, with some experimentation along the way, as in 1941 (in the words of Basil Walsh):

“We tried out a more liberal method of keeping the children interested and busy. They were allowed to decide, each for himself, what activity would be selected for the day. This was new to them and, as might be expected some decided to do nothing. These individuals soon discovered how boring such a day can be and they gradually became interested in many of the projects offered by the counselors.”

Morning classes included Arts & crafts, swimming, dramatics, music, archery, outdoor games, model sail-boating (in the new pool), plane identification, trail work, and (starting in 1948, with new pool) swimming.
Corrective exercises were given to many campers during a daily scheduled visit to the infirmary.
Rest period in the afternoon
Swimming was an integral part of the daily schedule. After the new pool was built in 1948, a long walk (or, for some campers, a truck ride) was no longer required and the water was much warmer, so swimming became a twice-a-day activity.
The evening activity included group games, contests between girls and boys camps, skits and plays, performances by visiting entertainers, and starting in 1946, “moving pictures” were replaced by “sound on film motion pictures showing stories filmed in natural color” one night a week. After Christie Cabin was moved to the boys camp, the younger campers slept there; a fire in the fireplace and story time was provided for them before lights out.
Singing was an activity enjoyed throughout the day.
Special Events included: hayrides, picnics, overnight hikes, field trips to the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, and day trips to Lake Dunmore

With longer camp sessions, brace modification and repair became a regular activity for mechanically inclined staff.

A few times a year, day trips to Branbury Beach at Lake Dunmore.

At the end of each session, presentation of a play (rehearsed during drama class) by the campers. In 1943, the campers presented an operetta, “The Cobbler and the Elves”.

Once a week, all campers were weighed, measured, and examined by the camp nurse.

A non-denominational church service was held on Sunday morning.

Facility Development

1940: Clearing and grading of boys camp (involved digging and blasting an “unbelievable” number of large rocks)
Boys crafts cabin constructed
Guernsey bull calf donated
1941: Timber harvested (spruce); some sold, 5000 feet sawed, planed and stored for future construction; 60 cords of firewood
1942: 1 acre of potatoes cultivated (it was noted that potatoes grown in Goshen are of superior grade)
1943: New porch and terrace (with green marble random tile floor) constructed on main house
Several thousand feet of timber harvested from camp property, sawed into lumber, and stockpiled indoors for future construction
1944: Purchased 3 beef cows; planted 1 acre of corn to feed the cows
More timber harvested and processed into lumber
1945: Dining hall plans finalized
More timber harvested and processed into lumber and cordwood
1946: Dining hall framing and fieldstone facing on ground floor completed
1947: Dining hall almost complete (dining room not finished but was used, but work continued through summer); equipped with new electric oven/stove, refrigerator, freezer, and laundry facility
All cabins painted and re-shingled
New water system for both camps, installed 2500 feet of 1.25in copper pipe
1948: Girls washhouse moved from its location next to main campus
5 original cabins moved from hillside above main house to girls camp (shady lane)
First fieldstone cabin (Wright) completed
New pool constructed during the summer (used for a few days at the end)
Girls lodge not used, considered unsafe due to wind damage and deterioration
1949: Christie cabin moved from old pool site to boys camp
Electric dishwasher donated
1950: 7000 feet of lumber harvested

Financial Support

Camp was funded entirely during this period, as always, by the generous donations of individuals and community groups (no government funding). In the words of Basil Walsh (1949):

“Our work during the year requires the services of many people whose cooperation must be a large factor in the success of camp operations. We feel that we have been fortunate in getting excellent staff members many of whom have been with us for a number of years. We have also been highly fortunate in the interest shown by the public in contributions and other aids.”

Board of Trustees

Gov. John Weeks, President – Middlebury, VT
Riley Bowers, President
Frank Robinson, Vice-President
Basil Walsh, Treasurer – Proctor, VT
Earl Wright, Secretary – Rutland, VT
Shirley Farr – Braandon, VT
Vena Thorpe – Brandon, VT
Dr. G. Marshall – Rutland, VT
Benjamin Williams – Proctor, VT
Mrs. Redfield Proctor – Proctor, VT
E.S. Kinsley – Rutland, VT
Angelo Spero
Dr. George Norton