"Nudity and Community"
When a listener first reached out to me on Facebook in August of 2021, suggesting that Barry Siegfried would be a great interview candidate, I had almost zero knowledge of Rock Lodge club. Beyond his and the club’s names, the listener gave very little information about Barry and his story, and as Barry is not a famous man, there was not much useful information that could really be gleaned from Google. At the time I was intrigued, but also juggling three or four other interviews which were in various phases of the process, so I didn't immediately follow up.
When the dust settled a little and I found some time to do a little cursory research into Rock Lodge and its long history, I started to understand that anyone who had been a lifelong member of this club probably had something interesting to say about nudism and nudity. Still, I didn't know anything about Barry's actual story other than that a random listener thought it might be interesting. His nudist story had never been told in writing in any other forms of media, so I felt I had to connect with Barry one on one and ask some preliminary research questions.
Of course, I wasn't disappointed. Barry was gracious and kind. He had plenty to say, a great voice and a compelling storytelling style, but didn't seem to have much of an ego about his experiences. He was just authentic and genuine, and a lot of fun to talk to. Barry was gracious to share his experiences with me. His involvement in Rock Lodge's operation in various roles throughout that organization's history gave him a super interesting perspective, and his time as president coincided with a pivotal moment in that club's history. When that event did not turn out the way he had hoped, it resulted in his turning away from nudism for ten years of his own life. When I learned that, I was floored. What a powerful story.
It was through Barry that I met Dorothy Coleman, his wife and resident historian at Rock Lodge Club. Dorothy has done a ton of work to unearth, collect, and share Rock Lodge's history, and she provided a wealth of materials and ideas to me for the research that went into this episode. I came to realize that while I would be focusing primarily on Barry's story and the story of Rock Lodge, Dorothy played an important role in both of those stories, and was an important person to interview as well. Not only did her knowledge and research help me tremendously in capturing the history of Rock Lodge, but her own story mirrored Barry's in some ways.
Barry was raised around Rock Lodge since birth due to the membership of his parents. Dorothy had raised her own kids at Rock Lodge some thirty years later, and now her kids are grown and are members with Dorothy’s grandchildren. Dorothy’s and Barry’s respective places in the Rock Lodge community drew them together, and as a family they represent more than four generations—over 70 years (and counting)—of membership at Rock Lodge.
It soon became apparent just how much history I would need to cover to tell the full story. Rock Lodge's roots go back to the very beginning of organized nudism in the United States, and while its specific history is not very well known at all, it all ties into some of the most written about facets of American nudist history, from the stories of Ilsley Boone and Kurt Barthel, to the writing of Maurice Parmelee. Ask any nudist historian about these figures, and you are likely to get an earful of information they've gleaned over the years. But ask those same historians about the names Katherine or Herman Soshinsky, and you're likely to get a less vociferous response. While they were very important to the movement, their stories did not become cemented as lore in the same way.
Which is why it felt important to tell this story. Dorothy and her predecessor, a historian named George Sellmer, had done amazing work to collect the great history of their club, and I wanted to help share their work and this history for posterity and for future researchers interested in the roots of American nudism.
Dorothy and Barry's generosity and openness in sharing their experiences and knowledge about Rock Lodge Club was truly remarkable. Their passion for the club's history and culture was evident in the way they spoke about their own personal stories, as well as the stories of the members who came before them. Their willingness to provide me with insight into the club's history helped me gain a better understanding of the club and its significance to the development of an American nudism movement.
Plus, they’re just cool people.
What I Learned
From my conversations with Dorothy and Barry, I learned the importance of preserving history and passing it down from generation to generation. The stories they shared with me illustrate the significance of Rock Lodge Club not just as a nudist club, but as a community that has stood the test of time for over 90 years. I am grateful for the opportunity to have spoken with Dorothy and Barry, and for the lessons they taught me about the importance of history and community. Their commitment to Rock Lodge Club and their willingness to share their experiences with others is a testament to the enduring legacy of the club and the values it represents. ◼️