The critical moment that led Don Angevine to spearhead the formation of the Bethel Outing Club 33 years ago came in a casual conversation “across gas pumps.”
In the late 1970s Angevine, who had been a top-notch cross-country skier at Gould Academy in the late 1950s, got involved with the local chapter of the Bill Koch Youth Ski League. The national organization, founded by the U.S. Ski Association, and endorsed by Olympian Bill Koch, encouraged youngsters and their parents to get out on cross-country skis.
Angevine, whose sons skied, took over the program from Frank Vogt in 1979, “a no-snow year,” he remembers.
With BKYSL kids ranging in age from 7 to 13, Angevine found himself straddling two other Bethel ski programs – Ginger Kelly’s after-school program and Coach Bob Remington’s Telstar MS/HS programs.
“Ginger had earlier established the after-school ski program at the Crescent Park Elementary School, with Steve Wight (of the Sunday River Inn Cross-Country Center).” said Angevine. “Steve had brought in rental skis for them to use to get the program off the ground, until it was taken over by the Rec Board. The Remington kids were in my program as well, so Rem, Ginger, and I worked closely to make sure any kid who wanted to ski, could.”
In early March of 1981 he observed that Remington was soliciting area organizations to help fund a trip for two Telstar skiers to go to the Junior Nationals competition. “I felt something was not right about that,” said Angevine. The need for more support for young skiers had become apparent.
During that time, Angevine stopped one evening to get gas in Bethel. Across the pumps from him was Bettyann Hastings, a mother of skiers. In conversation with her about his thoughts, she said, “You know, maybe Bethel is ready for a club”.
Hearing that from someone else, he said, “was the tipping point for me”. He started talking casually with Remington and his wife, Anita, and several others about the idea of establishing an umbrella organization to support Nordic skiing in the area.
Soon after, on March 15, 1981 he gathered a group of interested coaches and parents for a meeting. “The motivation was to get more parents involved and find a way to raise money,” said Angevine. “They were just so committed to do it, and embraced a lot of ideals from the Bill Koch Youth Ski League.”
They initially called the organization the Bethel Nordic Ski Club.
A couple of weeks later – at the tail end of another low-snowfall winter – a group of families met in Evans Notch to ski or snowshoe on the only snow left, and barbecue.
As the day concluded, some of them thought it was too bad it would be so long before they could go on such an outing again.
So they decided to plan some hiking and canoeing in the summer to fill the void, Angevine said. The club quickly morphed into the “Bethel Nordic Ski and Outing Club” (later shortened to the current name).
“It was intended from the beginning to be loosely organized,” said Angevine. “You didn’t have to do anything to be a member other than participate. We were very committed to our ‘purpose’ to promote and support youth development programs around Nordic skiing, and family oriented outings”.
They also went ahead with their signature fundraising idea – a ski sale that doubled as a community service event. Families could bring their outgrown equipment to sell, and in turn buy more equipment.
Tom Remington first suggested the sale. Tom had previously worked at the Mt. Abram ski shop, and had been involved in similar ski sales/swaps. Angevine had never been to one, but knew it would take a lot of work to solicit vendors for equipment on consignment. “Tom assured me we could do it, and coached me. So long as I had an eager group of volunteers willing to follow me, I was willing to give it a try”.
“The first three years we had the sale in the Telstar gym,” Angevine said. ”We didn’t make much money, but it was well received and growing.”
By that third fall, Bill Clough, a great supporter of Nordic skiing and the fledgling organization, was Gould Academy’s new headmaster. With his blessing, they were able to move the next ski sale to the Gould Field House.
Back on the ski trails, while supporting the local programs, and informal family ski touring outings, the club also hosted qualifying races for the Junior Nationals, and helped Remington with the Telstar relay races. With the beginning of each spring, an Annual Awards Banquet was held when every child, and some adults, were recognized.
March of 1983 saw the club as the lead organization hosting the annual Bill Koch Festival. It was the last time that the whole of the East and Mid-Atlantic divisions were competing, with 350 kids, plus their parents, coming to town.
It was set at Telstar. But again, lack of snow was a problem. “It had rained for four previous days. The snow on Telstar’s trails was rotten,” he said, “and the only place where there was usable snow was on the snowmobile trails.
“Everywhere else there was bare ground. Warm, bright sun. It was a sight to see. Some families were ‘tailgating’ in the parking lot,” Angevine said.
So organizers talked to the local snowmobile club and arranged to use their trails.
But there was another problem – a ski jumping competition, planned for Gould’s ski jumps at Swan’s Corner.
Angevine made a pitch to the Town Manager and the Selectman went along. The Town of Bethel came to the rescue, hauling 26 truckloads of snow for the jump.
“We made it work,” said Angevine.
And the informal, social gatherings continued, often combining a swim event at the Mollyockett pool, and a potluck or barbecue supper with a short business meeting. Over its 33 years, said Angevine, the BOC has had only two treasurers – Anita Remington and Julia Reuter.
Angevine stayed involved with the club for about 18 years.
Looking back now, he said, “I think we have more than outdone ourselves. Countless kids and families have benefitted. And, it’s satisfying to see 33 years later that it’s still going strong.”