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Portland, Oregon, USA
June 07
She Who Must Be Obeyed
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Froggy's Links
JUNE 19, 2010 11:55AM

My Dad, Skiing, and the Beer Truck

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My dad  grew up in Alameda, California during the war years, with a single mom, an elderly father who died when Dad was thirteen, and no money. 

He skied for the first time in about 1958 or 1959, and  found his lifelong passion. I think Dad would sell his soul to ski. He's never missed a season.

He joined a low-budget co-op ski club with a lodge in the Sierras, because being a skier in the Bay Area meant staying overnight in the mountains, and it needed to be cheap. They spent their winter weekends skiing and folk-dancing, and their summers hiking and hammering the lodge back together for another season. Half the club were European immigrants--Austrians, Germans, Swedes, and Finns--working the postwar boom in America.

 In 1960, the year of the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics, my Dad was 20. And Squaw Valley was tantilizingly just down the road from the budget co-op ski lodge. He wanted to go, but everything cost too much. Being a blue-collar guy, he knew a lot of other blue-collar guys--roofers, truck drivers, carpenters, and electricians. A friend-of-a-friend drove a beer truck. From Oakland, up into the Sierras, right into the Olympic Village in Squaw Valley.

They hatched a plan.

Early one morning, Dad and six or eight of his ski club friends waited by the highway about 20 miles outside Squaw Valley, and the beer truck arrived. The kind with roll-up doors on the sides. The  guys climbed inside, draped themselves over some very cold kegs of beer, and rode twenty freezing miles through the snow to Squaw Valley. This was long before passes, badges, or security checks. Of course they weren't allowed in the Olympic Village, but no one checked the beer truck. The driver dropped them off behind a hotel service entrance, and they had the day to sightsee.

The actual skiing events were too far away from the Olympic Village to see, but he does remember watching the skaters practice at an outdoor rink. There was only one ice arena, and the hockey matches were played during the day and figure skating at night, so the figure skaters practiced outdoors. He said the girls were very pretty. (My mom laughed. Of course they were.)

I think he watched ski jumping, but what he remembers most was hanging around in a parking lot, drinking beer with a bunch of ski jumpers. They were impressing each other by jumping flat footed from the ground up to the tailgate of a pickup truck, then down again, then up--ten or fifteen times. Boing, boing, boing. They dared each other how many times they could do it, in Norwegian, German, and broken English. Dad just watched, amazed.

Then at the end of the day, Dad and his buddies got back on the beer truck, and rode back to the parking lot where they got on in the morning. Then they did it again the next day, every day for four or five days, until they all had to go back to work.

I grew up in a house full of remnants of skiing--Dad's racing trophies, an antique pair of skis with cable bindings on the wall in the family room, used gear from the ski swap, jackets from the sale rack at J.C. Penney, goggles and mittens and boots and zip-up pants that had always had a previous owner. Some of my earliest memories are from that same co-op ski lodge. I remember my parents' friends--laughing people with names like Sven, Inge, Gerhart, and Gudrun. People who played the accordion and danced the polka with ski goggle sunburns. My brother and I played with their kids, all of us dressed in wool pants with lederhosen suspenders and scratchy sweaters. Our faces smeared in  Sea and Ski lotion, we drank strawberry Crush from the ancient machine in the basement and fell in the snow and listened to The Irish Rovers on the jukebox.

When I was six, we left California and that ski club, and moved to a ski resort town (of course) where I grew up. My parents still live there.

My dad turned 72 this year. He's still skiing.

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Bump. Or perhaps mogul.
Such a GREAT story! I love how they got into the village. I wish for those good old days again, when people didn't try so hard to kill each other.
Wonderful, sweet, story.
Thanks Lunchlady! I just found out about this story a year ago. We had a good laugh listening to Dad tell it.
I'm glad you dad finally told you that story -- it makes you realize how times have changed. It could never have happened today! (Security has made us safer, and necessarily so, but it has also limited our experiences in ways we will never know.) It's great that he still skiis.
Ho boy, if he snuck in on a beer truck today he would be SO in jail! And lucky to be only there! Oh man oh man.

I am an awful skiier. I mean really terrible. And I just love it. Thanks for this post -- money is so tight I have to start making plans now.
Bellwether--I'm also glad that my dad told that story. I had no idea. I knew all about the ski club--I grew up there, but nothing about the jaunt to Squaw Valley. My kids especially loved the story of Grandpa and the Beer Truck.

DB--I know. It's sad, kind of--everything surrounding an olympic games is an International Event of the highest order. He'd probably be in federal prison or Gitmo or something. At that time, the worst that would have happened is they would have been thrown out and missed their ride back.

There are lots of cheap ways to ski, depending on where you live. Used gear, hostels, etc. I still ski too (cross-country) and I love it.