AMC Outdoors > Flashback > From the Magazine

Rosie the Recreator: The Outdoors During WWII

December 23, 2016
Outdoors during WWII
AMC Library & ArchivesInterest in cycling grew during WWII. These AMC cyclists gathered in Boston in 1942.

The 75th anniversary of AMC’s first bike trip got us thinking about how the second World War changed outdoor recreation. While WWII unfolded overseas, a host of challenges faced those on the home front, from a gas shortage to a depleted workforce. Although recreation was far from a priority, the war did much to shape AMC.

With so many men enlisting or being drafted, AMC faced a dearth of labor for its White Mountain huts. For the first time, the club hired women to work in some of the huts and closed others. AMC also helped the U.S. Forest Service recruit women to staff White Mountain National Forest fire towers.

With the nation’s manufacturing might focused on the war effort, many outdoor companies produced military supplies, and recreation gear became hard to find. Fuel rationing also had an impact. Many AMC outings were kept local and inexpensive, and as a result, members began bicycling more. The club’s first bike trip was held in September 1942: a 256-mile, week-long ride through Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

Post-war, AMC saw a gradual return to normalcy. The huts reopened, trails that had fallen out of use were repaired, and men returning from overseas rejoined the staff. But not everything went back to the way it had been. The war permanently opened the door for women’s involvement in what previously had been considered the realm of men, and a flood of Army surplus gear made outdoor recreation more accessible than ever.

Outdoors during WWII
AMC Library & ArchivesWith gas rationing resulting in fewer trips to the mountains, bicycling became a more popular form of recreation for AMC members.
Outdoors during WWII
AMC Library & ArchivesAMC cyclists held the organization’s first multiday bike trip in 1942, riding from Rhode Island to Vermont.
Outdoors during WWII
AMC Library & ArchivesMany AMC members, including Laurie Brown, pictured above, served in the U.S. armed forces during the war.
Outdoors during WWII
AMC Library & ArchivesEach issue of AMC’s Appalachia journal during WWII included a list of members serving in the armed forces.
Outdoors during WWII
AMC Library & ArchivesWith so many young men entering the armed services, AMC hired women and families to work in the White Mountain huts for the first time. The Harris family worked at Zealand Falls Hut in 1945.
Outdoors during WWII
AMC Library & ArchivesThe demands of the war sparked many innovations in outdoor gear, including two-piece skis developed for soldiers.
Outdoors during WWII
AMC Library & ArchivesA 1943 item in Appalachia speculated about the eventual availability of lighter-weight gear, developed for the Army, on the outdoor gear market.
Outdoors during WWII
AMC Library & ArchivesAds for Army surplus gear began appearing in Appalachia by 1944.
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Amanda Keohane

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.