By Robert M. Hausman
Vermont derived its name from the Green Mountains running the length of the state. French explorer Samuel de Champlain first entered the region in 1609 and called the mountains Vert Mont, or ‘Green Mountains.’ Before 1791, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York had made claims to parts of Vermont’s terrritory. But the Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Allen, drove out settlers who had received land grants from New York. Later, the Green Mountain Boys fought heroically in the Revolutionary War and helped win the important Battle of Bennington in 1777.
During the Revolutionary War, the region declared its independence as a republic with the name of New Connecticut. In 1777, the region’s name was changed to Vermont. Since colonial days, Vermonters have been known for their independent thinking, love of the outdoors, and their industriousness. In modern times, the state has become a popular vacation destination and is of particular interest to military and small arms aficionados as it contains a holiday spot all their own.
Located just five miles west of the state’s capital city of Montpelier is the Camp Meade Motor Court and Bunker House Restaurant. Operated with a military atmosphere, your stay at Camp Meade won’t be quite as uncomfortable as the accommodations available to you during basic training. Your hosts will also be a lot friendlier than your drill sergeant was.
The motel offers twenty comfortable cottages with cable television, pool, restaurant (where meals are served mess hall style), lounge, playground (for the kids), a military surplus gift shop and quiet spacious lawns. There is also a large display of vintage military vehicles, artillery, and a World War Two museum. It is a perfect retreat for the student of military history.
The cottages were built in 1928 for use by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps who were building a flood control dam in the area. Since the mid-1930’s, the cottages have been operated as a seasonal motel. Camp Meade (no connection to the military facility in Maryland), located in Vermont’s Washington County, was named in recognition of the first family to settle in the area in 1782. Current owner Gaston “Gus” Gosselin bought the motel in 1984 and later gave it its military theme park atmosphere.
“Everyone who visited here after we bought it asked us why we named it Camp Meade and thought there was some connection with Fort Meade in Maryland, although there were no military exhibits here initially. So many people drew a connection between our name and the military, that I decided to make the place have something to do with the military by buying a tank and displaying it in the front yard,” Gosselin explained.
His interest in things military grew along with his collection over the ensuing years. “Every day I learn a little more from the guests. One person recognized the deactivated bomb shell we had in our gift shop as the same type that took off half her calf in World War Two,”Gosselin recalled. About half of the motel’s business comes from repeat customers who come back year after year. Veterans’ groups often rent out the entire motel for several days to hold gatherings where they meet their old combat buddies and reminisce about their days in the armed forces. Military Theme
Guests are reminded of the military theme of the facility throughout their stay. In the early morning, reveille is played on a public address system followed by military “run to cadence” music. “It brings back memories for many of the veterans and really gets the blood flowing,” Gosselin commented. In the evening, the sound of taps floats through the air. Maids travel from cottage to cottage in a 1942 World War Two vintage ambulance loaded with clean linen and toiletries. When he first began to implement the military theme, Gosselin became worried about possible protests from peace activists, but thus far none have occurred.
The cottages are named after famous generals and other military figures such as General Mark Clark and Admiral Chester Nimitz. The most popular cottage is that named in honor of Lt. Col. Oliver North and guests often pose for pictures in front of it. On the televisions in the rooms, a label lists which channels play war movies. Guests are offered rides in the military vehicles, all of which are said to be operational.
Among such vehicles is a Light Tank M5A1 designed and standardized in September 1942 as a replacement for the Light Tank M5. Changes included an improved turret with a radio bulge at the rear, larger and better water-sealed access hatches, an improved mount for its 37mm gun, and an escape hatch added in the floor of the hull. Manned by a crew of four, its weight is 33,907 pounds. Other items on display include artillery pieces and a few aircraft.
Camp Meade is located on Route 2 just off Interstate 89 from Exit 9. The cottages are open from May 1 to November 1. For more information call (802) 223-5537
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N7 (April 1999)