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The Thompson-Ames Historical Society writes a
weekly column for the Gilford Steamer.

A recent article is shown below.
You may view and / or download previous articles here...

2-17-05          "Ski Jump Staged in Summer Heat"

That is the headline of Katharine Toll's July 20, 1952 article that is included in Thompson-Ames Historical Society's 1952 Scrapbook.

It caught our eye the other day and we thought you'd get a kick out of this aspect to Gilford history.

The article's subhead, which reads as follows:

Half Acre Hay, 140,000 Pounds

of Ice Enable 39 Contestants

to Hold Winter Tournament

sets the scene for the news release which we'll cite in part.

"Coolest sight in New England this week end was undoubtedly here at the Belknap Mountain Recreation Area in the heart of New Hampshire, where 29 skiers gathered to hold a mid-summer ski jump.

"While more than 5000 spectators wearing white yachting caps and dark glasses, and consuming case upon case of ice cream sticks and pop, crowded around the grassy green outrun at the base of the 40-meter hill, these jumpers held a sanctioned tournament amid all the rites of winter.

"The temperature was 85 degrees.

"There was a trestle covered with a thin thread of glittering ice, 70 tons of it.

"There was a take-off, landing hill, packing crew, measuring team, and judges stand, with two judges, Vern Erickson of Berlin and Ken Boothroyd of Laconia.

'There was also a half acre or so of hay piled up at the bottom of the hill, into which each contestant barrelled at the end of his jump.

"'You're judged on style points until you hit the hay,' the public address system announced at the start of the meet. 'After that you're on your own.'

"There were also Queen Anne's lace and early goldenrod blossoming six inches on either side of the ski track. And jumpers waiting their turn at top tossed their skis in the grass and picked blueberries while they rested. And as soon as the meet was over, all contestants were heading for a beach picnic and swim on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee.

"There were, in short, several new touches added to the wintertime routine. But snow is snow, and they had it here today.

"The Winnipesaukee Ski Club and Weirs Ski Club, indeed, are getting to be old hands at manufacturing arctic elements in a heat wave. This was the fourth annual meet here, and according to every indication already a permanent institution.

"'We'd like to try it on our big 65-meter hill, but the air pressures and reactions make us think we'd still better stick to the 40-meter,' says Fritzie Baer, area manager, who sported a new fire-red felt hat for the occasion, and a President Truman type sport shirt.

"'The boys from the ski clubs lay the straw all over the hill two or three days early, then run coal chutes down from the top, truck up ice cut from Lake Winnipesaukee ex months earlier, send it through a crushing machine, and shovel it down where they need it.'

Use 140,000 Pounds

"'It took 140,000 pounds of crushed ice to cover the strip today, and you can imagine how long it's going to last in this sun.'

"Cooling as the thought of a summer ski meet may be, it was not invented here in Laconia (Gilford), but back in Boston at the Garden where Walter Brown worked out the idea 15 years ago for a preseason winter-sports exhibit for Hannes Schneider and a dozen jumpers way back when skiing was first becoming popular.

"And now Lake Placid and Bear Mountain, NY, have both adopted the idea as enthusiastically as Laconia (Gilford).

"'Boy, do these boots feel funny,' one skier remarked, lacing on the heavy boots essential to buckling on skis and harnesses.

"'Nothing like heavy wool socks right next to your skin,' another remarked, taking time out to wipe his steaming brow.

"'Right clothes, just wrong season,' remarked another.

"'Right temperature, just wrong cover on the ground,' said a friend. 'You can take as lopng as you want taking off today, and I won't swear as you that I'm freezing to death.'

"'You putting on a WOOL shirt?' another asked.

"'Gotta look respectable. This is Sunday, remember.'

"Most of the men wore heavy boots and winter ski pants as usual, but white cotton shirts or light jersies 'topsides.' Common to them all, however, were still their gloves -'If you fall that ice really cuts!' - and their little jumpers' caps, symbols of their clubs and their event.

'Soaring Style'

"The Boy Scout camps and Girl Scout camps that literally came out of the New Hampshire woods today to watch, got a look at some exotic summer touches when they saw
Charlie Tremblay, Dartmouth College ace, take the Class A summer or straw hat crown. Charlie jumps with the 'soaring style,' perfected at Obersdorf in the Austrian Alps.

"Ted Farwell who placed third, brings a new Norwegian style, acquired last winter over at Oslo as a member of the U. S. Ollympics teams. Ted, now with the air force at Lsampson, N>Y> was, incidentally, only one of several jumpers now in military service who seized this hot July week end to get back to the mountains. Rqy Roy, up from Signal School at Fort Monmouth, N. H., had three days' liberty, but some tougher luck. Hit a rock under the hay and had a deep gouge take out of his arm. 'Too much book learning and not enough training,' was his only comment.

"Oldest of today's jumpers was also second place winner, 35-year-old Ernie Dion of Lebanon, who score the afternoon's longest jump, 109 feet. But records run in the Dion family. His son, Dougie, age 9 and a polished exhibition jumper if ever there were one, stands at the other extreme as the day's youngest jumper.

"With his brother, Roger, 12, and his cousin Bernie, 11, he for one was in excellent trim. 'We go swimming every day,' he said. 'But I'd like a ski meet every day. I'd rather jump than eat.'

"The crowd liked to eat, jumping or no. They made away during the afternoon with 75 dozen 'dogs,' 500 cases of tonic and enough ice cream cones to cover another jump. But they like to look at that snowy jump, too. They came from New Mexico and Montreal, from Washington and New York city. 'But just think,' breather one spectator, 'what we could do with some of that crushed ice back on Boston Common!'"

This article is one of many evidences of Gilford's long-lived love of skiing,

It's articles like this that Lloyd Ekholm likes to find in one of the old scrapbooks when he comes to Grange Hall for a meeting of T-AHS's Board of Directors. Being a long-standing skiing enthusiast, he'll probably leaf through the 1952 scrapbook until he finds this item and then carefully scrutinize the contestants' names and achievements. - If you'd like to see this article and its accompanying photos, just drop in to visit at the Grange Museum building and we'll be glad to share it with you.

Other aspects of Gilford's cultural heritage are also available for your perusal by visiting Thompson-Ames Historical Society's website www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org or visiting in person. Also, you can telephone us at 527-9009 or e-mail us at thomames@worldpath.net to arrange a visit. A warm welcome awaits one and all!