I am on my way to Southern California for a week of seeing my three kids and some old friends. I know it will be a time for nostalgia and catching up with people, but sadly a lot of my old friends are now gone.
For many years Mammoth was the ski resort of choice for all of us on Thanksgiving weekend. Rope tow tickets were $2.50 a day and Dave McCoy (the founder of Mammoth) was working everywhere. Dave’s wife Roma had a cigar box with a lid on it, keeping all of the $1 bills from blowing away. Most of the weekend skiers slept in the campground, skied their brains out and then had a very sleepy 350-mile drive home Sunday night. The cars were so slow in those days that you could fall asleep while driving and not end up very far off the road.
By 1959, my ski film business had grown to where I was doing almost 100 personal appearances each year. At that time, I narrated my shows live from the stage. For the greater part of the ‘50s, it cost $1 to see what I had spent a year creating. I think my audiences averaged somewhere around 500 people per show. Some shows higher and some shows lower, but about 50,000 people saw my film in one year. As a side note, Beta and VHS would not appear for 15 or 20 years.
To show a film in that many different places involved a lot of airplane, bus and train rides and a lot of sleepless nights behind the wheel of a rented car, not to mention a lot of motels.
My 40 percent of the $50,000 from the ticket sales was enough money to care for my family, make the next movie and finally give up carpentry work at $2.50 an hour.
I am enjoying technology today and the fact that I can share my creativity with more than 50,000 people through Facebook with a single keystroke. People can also read my column full of my skewed view of things in a ski resort newspaper in almost a dozen ski resorts.
In today’s “instant everything,” sometimes the “thrill of the chase” for information is almost lacking. There is no reason to telephone someone I once was in the Jantzen International Sports Club with, such as Frank Gifford, Bob Cousy, Ken Venturi or Bud Palmer, because when I want to write about them, I simply Google their name and everything I need to know about them is there before my eyes. The same kind of information about me is there for anybody who wants it. I am sure glad I followed my grandfather’s advice when he said, “Never tell a lie, because you don’t have a good enough memory.” Even with that there are mistakes I made that are coming to life as I write my autobiography. If you did not make any mistakes when you have lived as I have, you just were not trying hard enough. I say this because there was always a lot of guesswork in many of the things that I did. I did not have sufficient knowledge to know whether I should climb that far out on a limb and not have it break under my weight.
Gratification, for me, has always been greater when the “time clock” was working against me. The only people who told me I could not become a filmmaker were other filmmakers who had done it for a long time. In my gut it seems as though that was the only thing I ever wanted to do, until I came to the realization that all I really wanted to do was tell and write the stories, such as the one you are now reading.
There are over 300 million people in America, so what are the chances of me having you reading what I have just written on a small island north of Seattle? Slim to none, but wine and stories take a lot of experience and a long time to ferment and be enjoyable.
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