Currently viewing the tag: "Camp David"

by James Rada, Jr.

Hitchhiking Marines Get a Special Ride

Marine Pfc. Harold Payne and Pfc. William Weaver were stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, but when they got a weekend pass near Christmas of 1956, they decided to head home to the Midwest. Payne was from Akron, Ohio, and Weaver was from DeWitt, Michigan.

The snag in their plan was that neither Marine had a car, so the young servicemen set out on foot, thumbing for rides as they went. Since they were wearing their uniforms, it was relatively easy for them to get rides at first.

They were about halfway along their 700-mile journey on the Friday afternoon of December 10, 1954, and the pair found themselves at Grafton Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. Despite being in uniform, no one seemed to be willing to give the Marines a ride.

They watched as a procession of dark vehicles approached along the road.

“At first when I saw these cars coming along, I thought it was a funeral procession,” Payne later told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Lucky for them, a decorated World War II Veteran was in one of the vehicles. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a former five-star general and had been the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the war, was on his way to Camp David with his wife, Mamie.

“The president’s car was stopped at a red light, preparing to turn onto the main highway, when Eisenhower saw the two men and ordered the motorcade to a halt,” Ohio.com reported. “He dispatched James J. Rowley, leader of the U.S. Secret Service, to ask if the Marines would like a lift.”

They quickly accepted the offer. “Eisenhower didn’t exactly scooch over on his seat or have Mamie sit on the servicemen’s laps, but he did direct them to a waiting vehicle in the motorcade,” according to Ohio.com.

The Marines rode in a car, two vehicles behind the president and one behind the first lady. “Got a good view once in a while of the back of the president’s head. Mrs. Eisenhower turned around every so often, and I could see her pretty well,” Payne told the Beacon Journal.

The president’s valet and a Navy doctor rode in the same vehicle as the Marines. They talked on the drive to Hagerstown, where the president dropped the Marines off before heading over Catoctin Mountain to Camp David.

Meanwhile, in Hagerstown, Payne and Weaver decided that if they were going to have time to spend with their families, they had better pay for some transportation.

“It got cold, and I hopped a bus to Pittsburgh and then another one home,” Payne said.

Their hitchhiking journey turned the men into folk heroes, as newspapers across the country carried the story that the president had picked up the hitchhikers. The president did something similar three years later, when he saw Airman Second-Class Jerry Beswick hitchhiking through Frederick. The president was passing through the city on his way to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and he gave the airman a lift to the town, where he then caught a bus to continue his journey. He had his car stop next to the airmen. Then he rolled down the window and said, “I thought we’d give you a lift.”

This wasn’t the first time that the president gave a lift to a hitchhiking serviceman. “He rarely passes them on the highway,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Photo shows President Eisenhower in a motorcade.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Local Artist Yemi Fagbohn announced in spring 2017 that he would be completing the mural project on Main Street, on the former electric building, after the Thurmont Commissioners approved the project to proceed. The current Main Street murals depict Thurmont’s historical buildings, natural resources, and trolley history, which were completed in collaboration with the Thurmont Lions Club, Yemi, and the town of Thurmont. There are four panels left to complete on the building, and Artist Yemi’s aspiration has always been to ensure every empty panel is framed with a mural!

“Thurmont is one of the most beautiful places in the USA! The Catoctin Mountains are the backdrop, with tall majestic trees, the beachfront lake at Cunningham Falls State Park, wildlife, clean air, cycling, hiking, fishing, Catoctin Colorfest, and Camp David! Not too many communities can say they live or recreate with the president of the United States!” expressed Yemi.

The Main Street mural project will be completely financed by donations and grants. Dr. Jon Moles of Gateway Orthodontics is leading the mural project journey, and serves as general project chairperson and sponsor. Dr. Jon Moles and Artist Yemi are pleased to announce, “We are getting close to reaching 50 percent of our funding needs for the Thurmont Celebration Murals!”

In addition to Chairperson Dr. Jon Moles, the following associates have engaged their efforts to assist with the Thurmont Celebration Mural Project:

  • Dan Ryan Builders in Thurmont—major project partner and sponsor and will participate in unveiling activities.
  • Ausherman Family Foundation—signed on early as a matching grant sponsor.
  • George Delaplaine—signed on as a major sponsor.
  • Marlene and Mike Young—signed on as advisors and sponsors.
  • Catoctin Colorfest—signed on as advisors and sponsors.
  • Several anonymous donors have signed on to the project so far.

The Main Street murals are a celebration of the scenic beauty and tapestry of history for a picturesque town, located at the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains in Northern Frederick County.

“My goal is to have the viewers of the completed murals come away appreciating Thurmont as the jewel it is, and, hopefully, come to visit us often while rejuvenating their spirits in the mountains—relax, shop, dine, worship, and enjoy!” exclaimed Yemi.

Yemi Fagbohn was born in Ibadan Nigeria to S. I. Fagbohun and J. T. Fagbohun. His father was a well-known custom men’s tailor, his mother a wedding dress maker. Yemi came to New York, where he attended Pratt Institute and received both a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Science in Art and Communications Design. For the years he has been an artist, he has done drawings for more than one hundred of the Fortune 500 companies.

For more information on the Thurmont Celebration Murals, you can contact Yemi at yemi777@aol.com or 240-409-5728.

A fire above Thurmont between Route 550 and Kelbaugh Road consumed seven acres on Sunday, November 21, 2016. The fire started around 2:00 p.m., was contained by 5:00 p.m., and fully extinguished by 8:00 p.m. It was started by downed power lines.

Ironically a new fire broke out around 1:00 a.m. the following morning near the same area. It is believed that the second fire started when a spark from the first fire was carried by the wind to the new location.

Initially, Thurmont’s Guardian Hose Company responded to the second fire, and by 7:30 a.m. fifty to seventy-five fire fighters were involved. Responders from Thurmont, Graceham, Emmitsburg, Rocky Ridge, Wolfsville, Smithsburg, Leitersburg, Frederick City, Camp David, Lewistown, Greenmount, Middletown, Blue Ridge Summit, Raven Rock, and more reported to help. Route 550 was closed to traffic during these fires.

Graceham Fire Company’s Assistant Chief, Louie Powell, was in command at the base of the mountain on Route 550 where water, gas, food, and holding tanks were set up. A canteen truck was brought in from Independence Fire Company to feed the responders.

Powell explained that to pump water up the mountain to fight the fire, a fire truck from Rocky Ridge had a 5” supply line pumping from the holding tanks to an engine from Vigilant Hose Company, and then that engine pumped through to another engine, and so on, to reach the fire higher up the mountain. He said, “It’s a neat operation.”

Neither of these fires resulted in a threat to human life, nor was there damage to homes or buildings. The second fire consumed approximately ten more acres of forest before being fully extinguished sometime in the afternoon on Monday.

Thanks to the many residents who provided assistance to the firefighters by opening access routes, allowing access to your property, and allowing the use of your private ponds for water. Good job to everyone who pulled together to successfully beat these fires!

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Photo of fire by Donna Sweeney,

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photo of basecamp by Deb Spalding

Allison Rostad

It has been said before that true heroes never die. These words were proven during a memorial for Marine Cpl. William Kyle Ferrell of North Carolina. Cpl. Ferrell grew to call the Thurmont community his second family, as he was assigned to the naval support facility at Camp David.

On September 29, 2015, Ferrell was a victim of a hit-and-run while pulled over on Route 15 north bound to lend his assistance to a stranded motorist in a heavy rain storm.

On the morning of June 11, 2016, just four months shy of one year since Ferrell’s death, the Thurmont community, along with Ferrell’s family, friends, and his North Carolina hometown community, gathered for a dedication ceremony at Memorial Park in Thurmont, hosted by the Thurmont American Legion.

During the ceremony, guest speaker, David Wood, expressed with admiration, “That day, Cpl. Ferrell wasn’t ordered to pull over and help, but he did what any non-commissioned officer of the Marine Corps does: He led by example.”

This same notion echoed through every word spoken about Ferrell during the ceremony.

Congressional Candidate Daniel Cox said, “We understand that this Marine is a hero, because not only did he serve when not required to, he paid the ultimate sacrifice for it.”

Prior to the completion of the ceremony, a pin oak tree had been planted and dedicated to Ferrell in Memorial Park, along with a new highway sign revealed, dedicating the Catoctin Furnace Trail footbridge to Ferrell in honor of his selflessness, kindness, and dedication to helping those in need. His parents, Dan and Donna Ferrell, were also given a smaller, exact replica of the dedication sign to be taken home with them to Carthage, North Carolina.

Following the ceremony, a pig roast was held at the American Legion, from which all proceeds were donated to the Carthage Police Department in North Carolina, in Ferrell’s name.

Just as Emily Potter once said, “Heroes never die. They live on forever in the hearts and minds of those who would follow in their footprints,” so will Cpl. William Kyle Ferrell live on eternally in the hearts and minds of his loved ones, the Thurmont community, and those who travel Route 15 northbound through Thurmont.

Photos by Allison Rostad
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Sgt. Tyler Bergeron, who served with Cpl. Ferrell, presents Cpl. Ferrell’s parents, Dan and Donna Ferrell, a scale replica of the dedicated footbridge sign.
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The sign reveal for the Catoctin Furnace Trail footbridge that spans across Rt. 15, in honor of Cpl. William Kyle Ferrell.

 

 

by James Rada, Jr.

1965 — Training the Unemployed from the Catoctin Mountaintop

Catoctin Mountain can boast a lot of interesting history from Camp David to the Blue Blazes Still raid. From an Office of Strategic Services training camp during World War II to Camp Misty Mount for children.

“Also on the Government side is the ‘mother’ camp of President Johnson’s Poverty Program,” the Frederick Post reported in 1965.

President Johnson had been the Texas director of the National Youth Administration. It was a New Deal program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, similar in objective to the Job Corps. Johnson convinced Congress it could work again, according to Barbara Kirkconnell in Catoctin Mountain Park, An Administrative History.

The camp, called Camp Round Meadow, opened in January 1965 and served as the place to train people who would be sent out across the country to depressed areas to open and operate other similar camps.

At the camp, 75 people were hired and trained on how to run a poverty training camp. “While these people are being instructed, some 20 persons accepted as trainees by the new program, will be working in the area,” Kirkconnell wrote.

Consideration of using the park for such a site began in May 1964. Federal government officials visited the park and inspected possible sites for the camp. Within a month, the government began converting the 60-acre Central Garage Unit Area in the country’s first Job Corps Center, according to Kirkconnell.

Besides building the camp, officials met with residents of Thurmont, Hagerstown, and other communities where the camp attendees might spend their off hours. They wanted to make sure that there would be a good relationship between the camp and towns.

“Thurmont merchants were wooed by an expected $200,000 in revenue from supplies, equipment and food sold to the camp for the program,” Kirkconnell wrote.

Camp officials spoke at civic meetings and invited officials and organizations out to tour the camp.

“On January 15, 1965, 85 young men between the ages of 16 and 21 arrived at Catoctin MP to inaugurate the job Corps Program at a site ‘largely unimproved’ since the CCC left in 1941,” Kirkconnell wrote.

The Jobs Corps Center was dedicated on February 27.

The center got off to a rocky start, with staffing problems and too many visiting dignitaries, not only from the federal government but also foreign governments, such as Japan, Canada, British Guinea, England, Israel, the Philippines, and the Ivory Coast.

“Continual recruitment brought a total of 157 recruits into the program but 57 left before the end of June.  The bleak winter contributed to homesickness; stark conditions of the camp without indoor recreation facilities and high expectations added to the general ‘depressive atmosphere,’” Kirkconnell wrote.

Camp Director C. A. Maxey blamed the high drop-out rate on the recruits who had “temperamental and emotional problems in boys who had known little but failure,” according to a Baltimore Sun article.

The boys had been recruited from families earning less than $3,000 a year (around $23,000 today) and had an average of a ninth grade education. At the camp, they earned $32 a month plus $50, which was put in a bank account for them. “If they made a family allotment of $25 from the $50, the government matched it with another $25,” Kirkconnell wrote.

The program included a half day of work and a half day of education in the winter. The work time increased and the education time decreased as the weather warmed up. The work consisted of park projects, such as building trails, picnic tables, and needed buildings. They also did work improving the Gettysburg Battlefield.

As they mastered basic skills, they were given more-complex work.

“A sign construction program teaching printing, mechanical drawing, hand routing, measurement skills, painting, and organizational skills produced 225 signs for Catoctin, Greenbelt, Cunningham Falls State Park and Antietam Parks in Fiscal Year 1965-1966,” Kirkconnell wrote.

They also performed work in the surrounding community, such as building a ball field and picnic pavilions for Thurmont parks.

By 1966, things were running far more smoothly. By the end of eighteen months of operation, 439 men had been recruited to the camp. And 102 had transferred out, 165 had resigned, 24 graduated, 16 went back to school or jobs, leaving 111 Corpsmen in camp at the end of June 1966, according to Kirkconnell.

By that time, it became an election year issue. Congress criticized the program and cut funding. Discipline was a problem and so were community relations.

The Job Corps Center finally closed in May 1969.

Deb Spalding

Employees of the former Cozy Restaurant in Thurmont gathered at the restaurant for a group photo with Cozy’s owner, Jerry Freeze, on March 30, 2015. Many of the employees shared memories about their times together, and some of the famous customers they served. It was sobering and sad to notice how much of the historical restaurant has disappeared, including the main Cozy Restaurant sign and a few shingles from the wishing well.

Many wishes were made in that wishing well, and many memories were made by diners and employees. Former Cozy Restaurant employee, Linda Ballenger, of Rocky Ridge, recalled serving Joe Lockhart, President Clinton’s Press Secretary, the year Bill Clinton hosted a summit at Camp David. It was Lockhart’s birthday, and, after a party in his honor at Camp David, Lockhart returned to Cozy because he liked it there.

Linda said she collected a few autographs from some famous diners, but noted that Jerry Freeze wouldn’t ever ask for an autograph, because he felt it was invading the diner’s privacy. “That’s our Jerry!” said Linda.

It was important to Jerry to make sure the employees know how much they are appreciated. On the marquee, he stated, “Cozy thanks you, terrific employees, pleasure of serving 15 million,” so that everyone would know his sentiments.

Diners from all kinds of professions, ethnicities, and different countries enjoyed dining at the restaurant. Because of its proximity to Camp David, notable news journalists and political figures would utilize the restaurant. It is not to be overlooked that non-famous patrons supported the restaurant, whether passing through or meeting for a habitual meal. Jerry Freeze extended his appreciation to everyone—employees and diners.

Jerry indicated that the Smithsonian Institute has been gathering information about the restaurant for their records. He has given the mining cabin and some pig iron to the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society. An old 1929 cottage will be restored. Jerry said, “It’s crazy how excited people are about this history, and I hope more places in town will be preserved and shared historically.”

The mural on the back of one of the shops in the Cozy Village, visible from Frederick Road, was created by C. Colley in 2000, and depicts Jerry’s father, Wilbur, in the early days of the property with his dog, Rover, at the original gas station and tourist camp with tents and cabins.

Cozy-Employees

Cozy employees gathered for a photo on March 30, 2015. Owner, Jerry Freeze, is shown in the middle of the bridge.

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Mural by C. Colley shows the original station.

nixons at easter service 1971Easter at Camp David

by James Rada, Jr.

Anyone with eyes knew just where President Richard M. Nixon and his family were Easter Sunday morning in 1971.

It was pretty widely known through town that the Nixons would be spending the weekend at Camp David, a favorite retreat for the president. Since it was also Easter weekend, speculation was on whether they would attend church on Sunday and which church they would choose.

“Gold Cadillacs, television cameras, photographers, newsmen, and Secret Service agents do not stand outside of a church in Thurmont for the average person,” the Catoctin Enterprise reported.

The church was the Thurmont United Methodist Church, where the Reverend Kenneth Hamrick was pastor.

Prior to the Easter service, Mrs. Hamrick had received a call from Camp David asking for her husband.

Rev. Hamrick was officiating at another church, but when he returned home, his wife had him to return the call. That is when he found out that he would have special guests during his service that day.

This visit apparently came about because of Mrs. Hamrick.

“Rev. Hamrick, a part-time White House employe[e], attended a staff reception last Christmas at which time Mrs. Hamrick had asked Mrs. Nixon to bring the President to her husband’s church sometime in the future,” The Frederick Post reported.

Not only did the president and first lady attend, but they were joined by Julie and David Eisenhower, former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, and Tricia Nixon and her fiancée Edward Finch Cox.

“I didn’t mention their presence to others attending the services,” Hamrick told The Frederick Post. “I did mention the President, as well as other world leaders, in my prayers at the end of the service.”

Rev. Hamrick’s sermon dealt with the rejection of both Christ and Christianity in biblical and modern times.

Afterwards, Hamrick told the Catoctin Enterprise, “The President said the sermon was ‘very good, very pertinent’ and it appeared that I ‘had done my homework’.” He added that the first lady told him, “It made my Easter Day.”

The Nixons and their guests then returned to Camp David for an Easter dinner. Two months later, Tricia Nixon and Edward Cox would return to Camp David to spend their honeymoon there after their June 12 wedding.

President Nixon enjoyed spending time at Camp David. It was a place where he could think, relax, and get work done. He had worked on his first acceptance speech as the Republican presidential nominee there as vice-president. Although John F. Kennedy won that election, Nixon would return to Camp David in 1968 as president.

W. Dale Nelson tells a story in The President Is at Camp David that Nixon speechwriter William Safire tried making a case to Nixon’s appointment secretary, Dwight Chapin, that the president should spend more time in the White House, not on an isolated mountain.

“Do you want to be the one who tells the president he can’t go to Camp David? Because it sure as hell isn’t going to be me,” Chapin said.

According to Nelson, when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower died in 1969, Nixon wrote his eulogy at Camp David. He made the decision to order troops into Cambodia during the Vietnam War there. He wrote his 1972 presidential nomination acceptance speech there.

The Nixons also spent Easter 1972 at Camp David. They also celebrated David Eisenhower’s 24th birthday during that Easter weekend.