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Founding and Organization of the Los Alamos Mountaineers Clubs
According to Tom Newton, the first President, and Ken Ewing, the first Treasurer, the Los Alamos Mountaineers were founded in late 1952. Tom recalls that he and his wife met in the rock climbing section of the Sierra Club in California, and that they moved to Los Alamos in 1949. They were interested in doing more mountaineering and rock climbing, and began meeting with like-minded friends to organize trips. The Newtons had a 3-bedroom Western area house, so they were the only ones with a place big enough for meetings. They started club meetings in their house in the fall of 1952 or early 1953, with meetings scheduled about once a month. George Bell and Virginia Lotz met each other at the Newtons' house and later married. Tom remembers that they all had a lot of fun enjoying the outdoors.
Fig. 1. Tom Newton on the highest point of the Organ Mts. near Las Cruces on a climbing trip with John Ramsay and Stan Landeen (John Ramsay photo, April 1955.)
Tom Newton served as the first President and remembers that Ken Ewing kept the treasury in a paper bag. The club was originally the Rock Climbing Section of the Outdoor Association, but quickly became a separate group. The founding members were Tom Newton, Ken Ewing, Bob Mulford, Liz Gittings, Tom Stevenson, Stan Landeen, and Gene Tate. John Ramsay came to Los Alamos as a summer student in 1953, a year after the club was founded. In 1954 he returned to work at the Laboratory in explosives research. John had done his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he had known Don Liska and Alice Liska before they were married. John took Don on his first rock climb at Devil's Lake, over a decade before the Liskas moved to Los Alamos.
Fig. 2. Stan Landeen, Liz Gittings (later Marshall), Wally Green, Bob Mulford, Emily West
(later Wilbanks), and Ken Ewing (?) on Lake Peak (John Ramsay photo, winter 1957.)
Other early active members included Stretch Fretwell, Pat Fretwell, Frank Pretzel, George Bell and Ginny Bell, Marvin Tinkle, Don and Margaret Hagerman, Dick Stokes, and Emily Willbanks. Ken Ewing served as President twice. He may also have served as Vice-President, but does not recall ever teaching the climbing school. He also served as Treasurer for quite a few years. Ken Ewing is still an active club member in 2008, and we are very happy to have a founding member of the club still attending our meetings.
The club has had a formal written Constitution since at least 1962. There is also a set of club bylaws, which were amended in 1968, 1972, and 1984. The club is incorporated as the Los Alamos Mountaineers, Inc., and is registered as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization with the State of New Mexico. The club officers are President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Other Board members at this point in time are the Program Chairman, the Membership Chairman, the Equipment Manager, the Audio/Visual Potentate, and the Webmaster. In some past years the club also had a Search and Rescue Director, and during the late 1970's, a Conservation Director. A list of past club officers and other board members is given in the following link (LAM Officer History). Regrettably, this is an incomplete list of all the people who have given time to serve as club officers or board members. For many of the club's early years, the records are no longer available. Some club records were also lost during the 2000 Cerro Grande fire.
In December 1967, the club membership voted to accept affiliation as a Group of the Colorado Mountain Club. The club bylaws were amended to reflect this change and to call for the appointment of one of the club's board of directors to serve as the representative to the CMC. In the 1973 to 1975 time frame, the Mountaineers voted to break this connection because of concerns about new CMC safety rules that limited how far CMC members were allowed to drive on weekend trips. This may have been only a misunderstanding, but at that point in time the majority of the Mountaineers were concerned that such rules would not be feasible for them because of the long driving distances from Los Alamos to Colorado. After the club separated from the CMC, several members still maintained individual CMC memberships and sometimes joined CMC trips. (Ken Ewing recalls going to Scotland, Norway, and England on CMC trips.) In the past few years, under the initiative of Bill Priedhorsky, the Mountaineers and the CMC have begun doing an annual joint trip in Colorado again, providing members with the opportunity to visit new areas and make new acquaintances. During the 1980's the Mountaineers were also affiliated with Club 1663 at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This affiliation provided support to the club for meeting places, administrative activities, and communications.
Bob Cowan, Don Liska, and Larry Campbell remember that around 1967 the club used to meet at Ernie Anderson's house. Membership was small, with only 8 to 10 members attending the meetings. Bob distinctly remembers George Bell attending these early meetings. Bob also remembers 1967-era meetings at the old fire station on Arkansas Street. Beginning around 1978-1979, the monthly club meetings moved to the LANL HRL building auditorium. In later years meetings rotated between the Los Alamos High School Little Theater, the Los Alamos High School Speech Room, and the HRL building.
The Mountaineers' monthly meetings are now held at Fuller Lodge on the third Wednesday of every month, at 7:30 PM. The meetings provide information on recent club trips and on new trips coming up on the schedule. They also feature a slide show program on an outdoor activity by club members or invited speakers. Members of the public are welcome to attend these meetings.