Chapter 6 A job at last


I graduated from Brigham Young University in June 1949 and went to work as a sports writer for the Salt Lake Telegram. At that time the Telegram was the afternoon newspaper with the Tribune as the morning paper. In those years skiing was kind of a step child in the sports department, and in fact many newspapers still treat the sport with much neglect and sparse coverage. So again besides my other assignments, which was covering high school sports, I covered skiing for the Telegram. And when winter approached had a column called "Ski Daze".

I mentioned earlier in this chronicle that Salt Lake County Recreation Department had financed three Ski Huts in the Wasatch Mountains behind the City. That summer all three were complete except that the Hut about Alta, called the Alta Germania Hut, still needed to be supplied with the mattresses for the bunks. It was decided that the Utah Air National Guard could drop the bulky cargo from a C 47 transport to some volunteers below saving a long back carrying effort. The Hut was a long way from any road. They waited until the first snow arrived and then scheduled the flight one Sunday. I went with the flight crew as it was a good story for the newspaper. We dropped the mattresses on what seemed the right place but in fact they were scattered far and wide and the effort was not a success.

The Wasatch Mountain Club had taken on the task of stocking the three Ski Huts and it was some of its members who were on the ground that day watching mattresses scatter far and wide. I was now a member as well but wisely opted for the plane ride that day. However the Hut still needed mattresses so a few weeks later another group of volunteers were assembled. Each member would carry a mattresses, rolled tightly, backpack style to ensure delivery. This time I was on the ground as one of the volunteers. Some of us managed to find room in the mattresses backpack for some beer so when we reached the Hut there would be refreshments for the celebration. We always found a way to have fun.

My outlook on skiing did change once I got to Salt Lake City. I gave up racing myself to cover such events for the newspaper. This was certainly no great lost to racing. Also the Telegram was sponsoring junior racing events which meant we gave these races a good deal of coverage. My new job did give me much time to ski. At the Telegram we were at our desks at 7 a.m. so that in the afternoon I often could find time to go to Alta or Brighton for some skiing and to nose out some stories as well.

Monty Atwater was the U.S. Forest Ranger at Alta and in charge of avalanche control. I got to know him very well and often would accompany him when he was checking slopes that might present an avalanche hazard. At that time he was the leading avalanche authority in the U.S. Forest Service. Often this meant that we would be able to make first tracks on suspect slopes to see if the snow was actually stable. It was a great way for me to polish my deep powder skiing technique.

On my own time I skied with members of the Wasatch Club, generally at Brighton. I did not have the time for as many cross country ski tours as before. Sources for ski stories for the newspaper came from the established resorts.

Sometimes an assignment worked out to be fun but also a different kind of hazard. A boyhood friend from San Francisco, Gordon Brown came to Salt Lake to visit and ski with me. On an assignment to Alta Gordon went with me. The doctor who had treated Joe DiMaggio for a foot injury was on a ski vacation at Alta. I was sent up to interview him about the surgery and Joltin' Joe's chances for complete recovery. This took place at Alta Lodge and over the course of the interview the doctor was having cocktails and invited Gordon and I to join him which we did with enthusiasm. He was a very good host and Gordon and I left in a happy state of mind and continued with some cavorting when we got back to town. The result was I ended up with a very big headache and hangover the next morning when it was time to put the interview on paper. That was one time when the typewriter was silent for long periods while the clock ticked off our first morning deadline. This did not happen to me often but I had a bad case of writer block that morning. My boss at the Telegram was Bill Coltrin who was the Sports Editor. He was very tolerant and mostly overlooked my transgressions.

Occasionally I was still able to get together for some skiing with friends from Provo. Cal McAffee was still at school and we met at Alta a few times including a most memorable Christmas Day. We were both from California and had no family in Utah so we met at Alta that Christmas. When we arrived that morning the whole mountain had about 16 inches of fresh powder. The lifts were running but there were very few people. Which meant we had a fantastic day of deep powder skiing starting on the Face and Corkscrew and then moving up to Peruvian for the upper bowls. It truly was a day to remember.

They were not all happy times. I was driving a 1941 Ford Convertible. After a weekend of skiing at Brighton I could not get the car started. It had been very cold and all our efforts were in vain. I was up with some Club members so got a ride back to Salt Lake City. My roommate, Jack Schroeder, also wrote sports on the Telegram and had a 1946 Mercury convertible. One of the close friends I made through the Wasatch Club was Bob Goodwin who was from Salt Lake City. Bob was an outstanding mountain climber and later climbed Mount McKinley in Alaska and many other challenging peaks as well. At this time he was working on the Alta lift crew. During the week in an attempt to get my car out of the mountains I contacted Bob Goodwin who had a day off. I then borrowed Jack Schroeder's car. The plan was for Bob and I to drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon and retrieve my Ford which Bob would drive back to town.

Unfortunately, at least for our purposes, there had been a big snowfall the previous night and the road had not been plowed. We made it about half way up the canyon and got the Mercury good and properly stuck in deep snow. Another car came by and seeing our predicament the two would-be skiers wisely decided to turn around and head back down canyon. And Bob and I seeing no alternative got a ride back to town with them. Now I had two cars up Big Cottonwood Canyon which was most depressing. Bob had to be back at work the next day so he could give me no further help.

I then called on Cal McAffee at Provo and the following afternoon he drove up to Salt Lake City. Picking up a very depressed sports writer we tried again to get up Big Cottonwood Canyon. This time my idea was to retrieve Jack Schroeder's Mercury and leave my Ford till another day. The road was now plowed so we reached the Mercury. Some shovel work and a pull from Cal's Chevy got it out of the drift. The car ran o.k. except for a ominous clicking noise in the transmission. This later turned out to be a missing tooth in the cluster gear and a repair job. Considering all aspects Jack Schroeder was quite calm when I had to relate this news to him. I could do nothing about my car at Brighton until the following weekend. I got a ride with some Club members and then we towed my car for about two miles in gear until the motor finally turned over. It was one very cold car and a foot of snow in the back seat made it even more so. My convertible top was not a very good fit, being very worn, and the wind driven snow that stormy week found all the nooks and crannies with wonderful efficiency.

Once I had all vehicles back in Salt Lake City and back in operation my depression left. Philosophically I considered it all part of a sport that often required some suffering and pain, either physically or financially and sometimes both.

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Last Update:6/1/99

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