Allentown Hiking Club
War And Revival: 1941-1961
An Allentown Hiking Club History
by Barbara L. Wiemann

Merritt Zimmerman was one of the 12 hikers on AHC's first hike when the club re-organized in 1954. He served the club as President (2 years), Vice-President (1 year) and Treasurer (9 years). He was honored by the club for leading a series of hikes on the AT in PA and served as KTA VicePresident for 9 years. An honoray member since 1975, Merritt currently lives in South Carolina.
On Dec. 2, 1941, when the Allentown Hiking Club celebrated its 10th anniversary, the club was a flourishing organization, with a full hike schedule, a well maintained section of the Appalachian Trail, and a recently constructed shelter. But World War II would change that. Men (and some women) went off to war and women took jobs outside the home and planted victory gardens. Time and energy for leisure activities were at a premium; gas and rubber were rationed, and transportation for hikes was difficult to obtain.
The last wartime schedule in the club archives, for May 1943, lists two afternoon hikes, both led by women and requiring no driving. Participants walked to South Mountain and along the Lehigh Parkway. Sometime after this date, the Allentown Hiking Club suspended activities for the "duration."
The hiatus lasted longer than anticipated. For reasons that are not explained in any club records, the club was not officially reorganized until January 1954. However, club members apparently did get together and hike informally, since there is a 1946 picture in the archives, taken at Hickory Run State.
In January 1954, the Allentown papers carried news articles announcing an Allentown Hiking Club reorganization meeting to be held February 4 at City Hall; anyone age 17 or older was invited to join. Twelve hikers attended the initial February 14 hike; at least one of those hikers, Merritt Zimmerman, is still a club member 52 years later. The reorganized club quickly re-established past practices and activities. In March, a quarterly schedule was assembled and newly elected club president Dale Beach offered a slide program. A social committee was established and in June, when the club held a picnic, records show that 34 people had paid the $1.00 per year dues, one third of the way toward the goal of 100 members that had been set at the February meeting. Club emblems (patches) were designed.
Members also quickly focused on the club's Appalachian Trail responsibilities. On March 28, the club hiked to the Allentown Shelter, then almost 20 years old. The trail and shelter seems to have survived the hiatus rather well; most likely, individual members had undertaken the responsibility of performing maintenance during the previous decade. Paint for blazing became a regular club expense. Shelter repairs were made in 1957, and in 1961 bunks were built by Explorer Post 107 and installed, so backpackers no longer had to sleep on the dirt floor. [The 1969 date given in the previous installment was a typographical error.]
Publicity in the Allentown papers and hike announcements on WKAP promoted club activities. By 1958, increasing club membership supported double hikes (two hikes, one longer, one shorter, on the same day). Weekend trips became a schedule staple. Destinations included the Catskills, Clarks Valley on the Appalachian Trail, and the Jersey shore. A hike with the Blue Mountain Club to Hidden Lake (Sunfish Pond) in November 1954 was followed by many other joint outings.
On November 12, 1956, AHC hosted 140 hikers from six other clubs (Alpine Club of Williamsport, Batona of Philadelphia, Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing of Berks County, Reading Hiking Club, Susquehanna Trailers of Wilkes-Barre, and the Wilmington Trail Club) in a 12-mile trek through seven parks in the city. Highlights of the day were the annual Chrysanthemum Show and the trout at Lil-Le-Hi Trout Nursery. This successful venture was followed in March, 1957, with a "Hiker Reunion‚" attended by 100 hikers from Batona, BMECC, Reading, Susquehanna Trailers, Susquehanna AT, and Lancaster Hiking Clubs. This was a far more rugged 12-mile hike, as the route included the Appalachian Trail, Pulpit Rock, and the Pinnacle.
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