I’ve met some amazing people over my 86 years.
There was six inches of new snow on the windshield of my car as I loaded the skis in the back for a trip to Beaver Creek from our house in Vail. I stopped by Jack’s condominium and blinked my lights. Jack came out with his skis and poles in one hand and a cup of coffee and the latest Wall Street Journal in the other.
It was a 15-minute drive to Beaver Creek. There we disappeared into the bowels of the parking garage and at this early hour it was almost vacant. We climbed the stairs to the ski shop to meet Dick Hauserman and his two guests. There were only three inches of snow on the concrete walk.
In the ski shop Jack and I were introduced to Scott and Alan. Both were tall and athletic looking. Dick had decided we would eat at the restaurant at the top of the first chair as we anticipated a powder snow day. Everyone seemed to know Jack very well as if they were old college buddies. After breakfast and a few ski runs in the powder snow I finally put the entire group’s background together in my mind.
Jack Kemp would later run for vice president with Bob Dole. Fortunately for Laurie and me he was defeated because we got to continue skiing together every day he spent in Vail, and without bodyguards. On the fourth or fifth ride up the same lift with Jack Kemp leading the conversation I finally figured out who the other two skiers were. They were astronauts, Alan Shepard and Scott Carpenter.
For the first time in my life I was speechless because of their accomplishments. I remember watching Alan Shepard’s launch on TV as he was being bolted into the spaced capsule sitting atop an eighty-three foot tall Redstone rocket. As I watched it, I remembered what my college astrophysics professor taught us: “In your lifetime nothing will ever escape the gravitational pull of the earth.” Yet that first flight of Alan Shepard was only 17 years later, went 116 miles into space and flew for 15 minutes before splashing down 1,000 miles southeast of where it left Florida.
I was digesting the fact that I was sitting on a chairlift next to such an incredible celebrity when I realized that Scott Carpenter was sitting on the other side of me with Jack Kemp alongside of him. I am not an autograph collector but I sure wished I had been one then. I was at a loss for words because I knew anything I would ask them about their space flights would be the same question they had been asked 20,000 times. These two astronauts were in my opinion ranked right up there with early explorers, many who still thought the earth was flat and set sail to the west anyway. Jack, of course, had no fear of asking anyone any question or to express his opinion about anything. He was secretary of housing and urban development under George Bush Sr. at that time in his life.
Dick Hauserman, who had gotten us all together for this ski day, was a real celebrity as well. He was one of the original investors and creators of Vail, Colo. He built the first big commercial building in Vail on the west side of Bridge Street, leading to the old gondola building. All I had done by then was make some 16mm ski movies. On this trip up the lift Dick was riding the chair ahead of us with a ski instructor on his day off.
On our fourth trip up the same ski lift the lift operator opened his door and said, “I have to get a picture to send to my mother.” Dick Hauserman and his instructor were already in the flat at the bottom of the ramp. When Scott Carpenter, Alan Shepard, Jack Kemp and I skied down the ramp the lift operator shut off the lift and ran down the ramp with his camera. I figured that he wanted me to take a picture of him with these three world famous people. He ran right across the flat and up to our group and said, “My mother is never going to believe this! You’re riding my chairlift. Your ski films changed my life when I quit college because of them. Will one of you guys take a picture of Warren and me so I can send it to her?”
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