Minneapolis Ski Club
AS IT USED TO BE
Jay Martin convinced me to try ski jumping in about 1953. We were taking downhill lessons at Theodore Wirth Park when he suggested that downhill was for wimps, or something to that effect, and took me over to the 30 meter jump. Jay Martin went on to become a world class jumper. I climbed the scaffold and eventually found myself in the track waiting to “creep off”, not kick off. Don Cassidy, an older jumper, excellent golfer and, as I recall, a one-time Yankee baseball player who was waiting beside me asked me my name. The next thing I recall is him saying my name and giving me a gentle shove in the behind encouraging me to have a good ride. I was using the same Northland wood skis with steel edges which I had been using to take ski lessons. The best part about them was the Ski Free cable bindings with the heels tight to the skis. I closed my eyes in the transition of the scaffold and didn’t open them until I was on the landing hill having bounced off the knoll. I did the same on my second “ride”, standing on both to the outrun. I opened my eyes during the third jump, fell upon landing and wondered if the secret to success was in the eyes. Later my dad, a finish carpenter, found a pair of old Northland 3 groove jumping skis with square tips and remodeled them into my pride and joy.
My younger brother, Mark, and I jumped for years in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. We were one of several jumping brother combinations in Minneapolis, including Jay and his brother Jerry who was an Olympian like Jay. I recall proudly wearing the red sweaters with the white V-necks and the Minneapolis Ski Club shoulder patch evident in the group picture of us above. We didn’t use helmets in those days and often skied without hats. We both competed in competitions in the Central US and Mark competed in the Junior Nationals at Squaw Valley. I became involved on the national level, so to speak, in an unusual manner. In fact, Jay and I both ended up in Alta, Utah in 1964 at the US team training camp, Jay being a team member and I and, Archie, another jumper from Minnesota, purely by accident. Archie and I had traveled to Winter Park, as we had in earlier years, to get the year started. Unfortunately, the snow was not adequate. We waited a couple of days for snow but since we knew Alta had jumps, we drove north to Alta only to find that the team was there. The thing that I remember most was the fact that it had rained and frozen resulting in the landing hill having turned to pretty much solid ice. So, Archie and I joined in with the team foot stomping the landing hill with our boots to make it useable. We followed this with several days of jumping and getting to know some of the team members better.
In the ’50’s we did not have electronic tablets or computers. In fact, few families even had a TV. I can remember coming home from school prior to the high school years and heading out into neighboring Theodore Wirth Park to one of many jumps we had constructed and even jumping under a street light crossing the street. The light also provided a minimal amount of light to the landing which allowed us to jump well past our bedtime. Drivers would often avoid the street or turn around so as to not destroy the track. We had a shovel handy if repair was necessary. Our jumps all had names, Baby 100 (our biggest with a partially artificial scaffold and severe transition in the landing hill), Death Valley, etc. We even built fires to keep warm at Death Valley. Each fall we couldn’t wait for it to snow.
My best year of jumping was in the late 60’s when I was of the belief that I might be drafted and going to Viet Nam. As a result, my mindset changed that year and I became much more aggressive. So much so, that I was regularly jumping to the bottom of landing hills. In one competition at our home hill, Bush Lake, I jumped within a foot or two of the hill record prompting, Ed Brissen, a Hall of Fame member and one the coaches from the Minneapolis club, to ask me what had gotten into me and why hadn’t I done this years earlier. Those were not his exact words. At the time, I kept my reasoning to myself.
I believe that ski jumping played a major role in my life experience. It played a large part in the development of my ability to pursue and achieve goals. I went on to the University of Minnesota and graduated with degrees in pharmacy and law. I remain a registered pharmacist and work part-time as a consultant to the Minnesota Department of Corrections. I remain a member of the bar although I have scaled back the law practice. My brother, Mark, practiced dentistry in New Richmond, WI until he went home to be with the Lord as the result of an automobile accident in 1984. I recall thinking there must be a God at the time of my first trip to Winter Park and seeing the Rockies for the first time. Years later, coming to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is the single most important thing that has happened to me.
Jay and I reconnected several years ago and have traveled west with Merrill and Merryl, our better halves whose names can cause confusion at times, to downhill ski in Colorado and California, something we both enjoy now that jumping is out of the question.
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