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SunnyDay's Message Board

Hi! Welcome to my message board! Use it to contact me or others or to post questions and share ideas and experiences. The topic should always be related to nudism / naturism. Feel free to respond to posts from others in a respectful way if you have something helpful or meaningful to contribute. Let's keep it light, lively, and most of all, fun! Thanks!

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A Book Review

I don't recall where or when I first heard of nudism. That is, nudism as opposed to simply being nude. By the time I was in high school I was already doing nude hiking, something I've done ever since (and I'm 70) whenever it was remotely possible. And hiking nude is pure nude recreation. Somewhere along the way, though, probably when I was in college, perhaps earlier, I discovered that "nudists" existed. I was fascinated and still am. I'm also fascinated by monasticism but we won't talk about that. This is about early nudism.

As you all know, nudism as we think of the term began in Germany well before WWII. It wasn't long before it was introduced in the United States. I think the very first nudist club or lodge is still in existence. It's almost hard to believe there were books published on the subject of nudism in the United States in the 1930s, though actually getting a club off the ground was more remarkable.

One of those books was "Among the Nudists," by Frances and Mason Merrill, first published in 1931. I think it must have stayed in print for a couple of decades. By the way, this is not going to be a review suitable for an English class in school but more of a brief review of the book, which I recommend.

Most of the book is devoted to nudism in Germany and covers their visits to a few places where people could do without clothing, both in the countryside and in town. Nudism as the Germans saw it was definitely health-oriented and not exactly nude recreation as we would use the term. Instead, you might say it was re-creation, though they would not agree. Anyway, they were physical fitness oriented with daily exercises virtually required. This was all accompanied by typical German food, though.

They praised what they saw but did not fail to point out that it was manly city people who took part in nudist activities. Presumably the country folk saw no need for it, given that people who were farmers not only spent more time out of doors than city people, they were usually more conservative. They even pointed out that some clubs, and apparently there were many, would not accept Jewish members. The movement was apparently doing very well until after the Nazis took over. Hitler thought nudity was shameful for women. Although suppressed, it was not entirely banned, but that all happened after this book was published.

It has been said that German nudists are proud of their nudity and dares anyone to complain. But Americans and the French nudists are always looking over their shoulders. The rest of the book is devoted to the French, who seemed to have had a great deal more difficulty with the authorities than the Germans. The Germans nudists were supposedly tolerated very well by everyone, although all their activities took place in their parks, referred to as "free light parks." The writers pointed out that the same response to nudity existed in France as in Britain and the United States. Chances are, nothing has changed. But they also pointed out the hypocrisy present in those places, especially in Paris, where complete nudity was on display in the Follies and pornographic magazines were for sale in kiosks but legitimate nudist publications were banned and only with great difficulty could a club be established.

The book, all 247 pages of it, ends with a brief chapter of the possibility of nudism in America. The authors were hopeful and suggest that it would be among the young that it would be embraced and more so in the home than in clubs. But it would be another 20 years before much really happened in that regard. The question is, is the golden age of nudism in the past, the present or the future?

There were other similar books published around the same time, all hopeful in outlook, and none like the more recent publications that are more in the nature of where to go for nude recreation. Some parts are hopelessly naïve, other parts dated but much is still of use today, I believe.

I hope this has been an interesting glimpse into the distant past for all of you.