Unless you saved a copy of the September 9, 1981 Times-Journal, or know someone who knows someone, or you’ve driven past the small green road sign at the bottom of a long driveway off the Carlisle Road, you wouldn’t know it was there:
The Full-Tan Sun Club, a family-oriented nudist campground where everyone’s welcome; just leave your clothes at the gate.
Full-Tan is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018 and though it’s come a long way from what Richard and Marie Roberts began in 1968, there’s also a lot about it that remains the same.
“I’ve never liked wearing clothes—even when I was a kid,” said 80-year-old Norm Varin, who with his wife Evelyn Freer, started going to Full-Tan about six or seven years ago; now Ms. Freer helps owner Bunk Bingham—only the campground’s second owner—run the place.
Ms. Freer, 60, said she was always interested in the nudist lifestyle—“It’s not what you think,” said Mr. Bingham—but it wasn’t until a phone call from her sister—“Guess where I am?”—that she visited Full-Tan to try it out.
“And we never left,” she said. “We get a lot of that.”
Mr. Bingham, 70, grew up in Worcester; his Full-Tan story goes back to 1989 when he and his wife, Carol, moved from California to Warnerville, where he runs his own general contracting business, R.E. Pair Co.
“I always slept in the nude,” he said. “We visited a couple of places and then spent a weekend here and we were sold on the lifestyle. Really, naturists is a better word than nudist. It’s about being comfortable outdoors and treating people decently,” not things the Binghams necessarily found camping their way cross-country, when they were usually judged by what they wearing or how big their camper was.
In his 1981 Times-Journal interview, Mr. Roberts, said much the same thing:
“I know that nudists find that without the crutch of clothes and other status symbols, people are much more open and honest. They are concerned with what’s inside and not out.”
“It’s also a matter of body image,” said Ms. Freer. “There’s so much pressure on people to look a certain way, on what they wear. Here that doesn’t matter.”
The Binghams bought Full-Tan in 2001 after Mr. Roberts, looking to retire, threatened to close it down instead of selling it to someone interested in turning it into just another campground.
“It was to be the last year,” Mr. Bingham said.
Instead, Mr. Roberts held the mortgage, which they paid off in 10 years, building a home on the property and then moving there fulltime.
Since they’ve owned it, the Binghams have expanded Full-Tan twice; there are now 30-some sites for motor homes, plenty of space for tent camping, a clubhouse and snack bar, an in-ground pool, 40 acres of woods, and 100-some members.
Mr. Roberts in 1981 and Mr. Bingham 37 years later, both spoke to the fact that nudist campgrounds aren’t free-wheeling hot-spots where anything goes.
“We run a tight ship with no nonsense,” said Mr. Bingham, who spent 24 years in the military and 20 more in law enforcement. “Anyone who gets out of line…I show them the gate.”
There’s a “story” for nearly all of Full-Tan’s 50 years.
One of Mr. Bingham’s favorites is of the older couple who showed up at the gate looking for a summer home for their travel trailer because they hated the campground they were at.
“We said, ‘You know this is a nudist camp right?’” he said.
They didn’t, but in the end they didn’t care either; they figured it still had to be better where they were—and it was.
“They were here for a couple of seasons and then we didn’t hear from them again,” Mr. Bingham said. “It happens, people move away…We still have an ‘original’ here, but people die. Lives change.”
Full-Tan is open to both members and as a day-use campground; singles and families are welcome.
Full-Tan will celebrate its 50 years June 11-16, wrapping up with a spaghetti supper, DJ, and dancing on Saturday the 16th. Gate fee for non-members; call (518) 673-2886 for more information, to RSVP, or to request a tour anytime; just remember, you have to leave your clothes at the gate.