Sometime in the 1960’s, art teacher Anne Clark decided to decorate the tables at the Burlington Section Annual Meeting with hiker dolls. GMC members made almost a dozen dolls depicting adventures and misadventures along Vermont’s hiking trails.
There’s the jaunty trekker, hiking along in his stocking cap and colorful wool shirt. There’s the smiling volunteer heading out for a day of maintenance work on one of the Long Trail shelters, armed with a roll of roofing paper, a bucket of paint and (we think) a toilet seat for the privy. There’s the self-portrait of Dot Myer heading up a mountain to touch up the white blazes on the LT. And there’s the birdwatcher. She doesn’t have a pack and she’s not carrying any gear, so she must have taken the Toll Road up Mt. Mansfield to look for the mountain’s famous Bicknell thrushes.
Burlington Section member Herm Hoffmann sketched four of the dolls for us. (Herm also did the drawing of Taft Lodge used in our masthead.) There are many other dolls in the collection. One shows a snowshoer with her face buried in the snow and her legs and snowshoes waving in the air. There’s a woebegone hiker sitting hunched over with his boot off, inspecting his blistered heel. There’s a hiker on crutches, a tribute to teenager Joel Page who hobbled to the dedication of the Duck Brook Shelter with a fractured leg. There’s also a woman with dark glasses and a turtleneck, reclining on her sleeping bag as she soaks up a few warming rays of winter sun.
All of the dolls started out as skeletons made of bent wire. The artists then added layers and layers of newspaper and masking tape, molding the layers with their fingers to make realistic arms, legs and torsos. The dolls’ heads were made of styrofoam, with carved and painted features. Hair was made from yarn or steel wool, depending on the age of the character being portrayed. All the dolls were given complete outfits, right down to little leather boots made out of the fingertips of old gloves.
Today, after decades in storage, the dolls of the GMC are showing their age - but their charm and liveliness are still there.
Look for the GMC dolls at February’s Annual Meeting.