Tag Archives: Sports History

Skiing in Sullivan County in the 1940s


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A publicity shot of the Christmas Hills ski area in Livingston Manor from circa 1950.It was in October of 1948 that what local newspapers called “Sullivan County’s first commercial ski slope” began to take shape.

It was Christmas Hills on DeBruce Road in Livingston Manor, and despite the claims, it was not the first ski operation in the county, as Liberty Winter Sports, Inc. had operated the Walnut Mountain ski hill in Liberty more than a decade before. Continue reading

Jumping The Alleys: The Age of Pinsetters


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The Historians LogoThis week on The Historians Podcast, Dave Greene and Bob Cudmore discuss bowling and pinsetting during the twentieth century. Pinsetters were boys and girls who manually set up bowling pins in commercial alleys before the advent of pinsetting machines. Fifty years ago a typical wage was ten cents a game, about the cost of a soda from the soda machines of the day. Pinsetters often “jumped alleys,” handling two bowling lanes at a time. Listen to the podcast here. Continue reading

Skiing Comes to the Sullivan County Catskills


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walnut mountainLong before the opening of Davos in Woodridge ushered in a new era in skiing in Sullivan County, before the Concord and Grossinger’s pioneered snowmaking techniques to service their rudimentary ski hills, and even before the Miller brothers operated Christmas Hills in Livingston Manor, skiing made its local debut at Walnut Mountain in Liberty.

In October of 1936, a corporation known as Liberty Winter Sports, Inc. purchased most of Walnut Mountain from Frank H. Mauer with plans to create a skiing facility at the site of the old Walnut Mountain House. Dr. S.W. Wells was president of the group, which also included B.K.J. Eenberg, Thomas P. McNamara, Albert T. Decker, Joseph E. Fersch, Paul H. Allen, and Gunnar Bjorgstrom. Joseph G. Dowling handled the publicity. Continue reading

Dr. Brad VanDiver’s Cliffside Brush with Death


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longspeak2005wikiResearching Dr. Bradford VanDiver’s life and telling his full story isn’t possible in this brief format, but if you read last week’s account, you’re at least privy to the amazing and varied highlights. There remains one stunning and frightening event that he failed to mention during published interviews about various achievements and key moments in his past.

While plumbing for details that might have occurred prior to his professional career, I encountered reference to VanDiver’s participation with the National Speleological Society in exploring several new caves in the Howe’s Cavern area of Schoharie County in 1948. Some of the underground sites there involved drops of more than 100 feet, for which the spelunkers’ group called upon Brad VanDiver and his close friend, Ernest Ackerly, to handle the rigging of ropes, ladders, and other safety equipment. They also joined in the exploration of new passages. Continue reading

Chateaugay Olympian Karl Frederick: Literally A Shooting Star


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1KTFred1920St1The 2016 Summer Olympics have ended, and as usual, they were quite the spectacle. Folks in the Adirondacks and North Country are perhaps bigger fans of the Winter Olympics, for obvious reasons: the games have been held twice at Lake Placid, and a number of area natives have attained lifelong dreams by earning a place on the podium. But a man born in this region achieved summer Olympic glory long ago, one of many highlights in a very accomplished life.

Karl Telford Frederick was born in 1881 in Chateaugay (northern Franklin County), where his father was a Presbyterian minister, which required a somewhat nomadic existence (five relocations in 14 years). Before Karl was three, the family moved to Essex on Lake Champlain, remaining there until 1888—not a long time, but sufficient to establish a lasting connection between him and the Adirondacks. Continue reading

A New Biography of Basketball Legend Bob Davies


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bob davies a basketball legendOne of the most influential basketball players is remembered in Barry S. Martin’s new book, Bob Davies: A Basketball Legend (RIT Press, 2016). Davies’s contributions to modern basketball include the introduction of the behind the-back dribble, the penetration and transition styles of play, and several innovative passes.

The book recounts Davies’ time with the Rochester Royals, today’s NBA Sacramento Kings. Sports Illustrated named Davies as one of the eight most infuential players in the frst century of college basketball. The NBA selected him as one of the ten best players in its first quarter century. Author and Rochester native Barry Martin narrates the Davies story and the athlete’s impact on the sport from experience watching Davies play. Continue reading

Olympic Museum Speed Skating Exhibit Opens


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Visitors to the Quest for Speed exhibit try the Skate to the Beat activityA new permanent exhibit has sped into the Lake Placid Olympic Museum that celebrates one of the original Lake Placid winter sports—speed skating. “Quest for Speed” features various displays explaining the history of the sport and its origins and impact in Lake Placid.

Skaters profiled included local Olympic stars Charles Jewtraw and Jack Shea, and of course Wisconsin-native Eric Heiden, who won an unparalleled five gold medals at the 1980 Olympic Games. Museum director Alison Haas interviewed several champions in the sport to research the exhibit, including traveling to Salt Lake City to interview Eric Heiden. Continue reading

New Biography of Playboy, Yachtsman Gordon Bennett


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gordon bennett book coverAfter a drunken evening in New York’s lavish Union Club, three of the richest men in America made a bet that would change the course of yachting history. Six men died in the brutal first race across the Atlantic, turning the perception of yachting from gentleman’s pursuit to rugged adventure. The $90,000 prize (about $15 million today) helped to herald the “gilded age” of America.

Sam Jefferson’s new book Gordon Bennett and the First Yacht Race Across the Atlantic (Bloomsbury, 2016) tells the tale of James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the playboy son of the New York Herald multi-millionaire. Continue reading