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Jaywalking

Jaywalking: It keeps giving

  • This photo from The Recoder archives shows a ski-jumper sailing off the Bingville jump during the 1962 Greenfield Winter Carnival. In the forground is the southern horizon encompasing Connecticut River-side floodplain in Deerfield, Montague, Sunderland and beyond.<br/>Recorder/File photo

    This photo from The Recoder archives shows a ski-jumper sailing off the Bingville jump during the 1962 Greenfield Winter Carnival. In the forground is the southern horizon encompasing Connecticut River-side floodplain in Deerfield, Montague, Sunderland and beyond.
    Recorder/File photo

  • This photo from The Recoder archives shows a ski-jumper sailing off the Bingville jump during the 1962 Greenfield Winter Carnival. In the forground is the southern horizon encompasing Connecticut River-side floodplain in Deerfield, Montague, Sunderland and beyond.<br/>Recorder/File photo

    This photo from The Recoder archives shows a ski-jumper sailing off the Bingville jump during the 1962 Greenfield Winter Carnival. In the forground is the southern horizon encompasing Connecticut River-side floodplain in Deerfield, Montague, Sunderland and beyond.
    Recorder/File photo

  • This photo from The Recoder archives shows a ski-jumper sailing off the Bingville jump during the 1962 Greenfield Winter Carnival. In the forground is the southern horizon encompasing Connecticut River-side floodplain in Deerfield, Montague, Sunderland and beyond.<br/>Recorder/File photo

    This photo from The Recoder archives shows a ski-jumper sailing off the Bingville jump during the 1962 Greenfield Winter Carnival. In the forground is the southern horizon encompasing Connecticut River-side floodplain in Deerfield, Montague, Sunderland and beyond.
    Recorder/File photo

  • This photo from The Recoder archives shows a ski-jumper sailing off the Bingville jump during the 1962 Greenfield Winter Carnival. In the forground is the southern horizon encompasing Connecticut River-side floodplain in Deerfield, Montague, Sunderland and beyond.<br/>Recorder/File photo
  • This photo from The Recoder archives shows a ski-jumper sailing off the Bingville jump during the 1962 Greenfield Winter Carnival. In the forground is the southern horizon encompasing Connecticut River-side floodplain in Deerfield, Montague, Sunderland and beyond.<br/>Recorder/File photo
  • This photo from The Recoder archives shows a ski-jumper sailing off the Bingville jump during the 1962 Greenfield Winter Carnival. In the forground is the southern horizon encompasing Connecticut River-side floodplain in Deerfield, Montague, Sunderland and beyond.<br/>Recorder/File photo

The beauty of writing local-history tales is that, while I’m sure last week’s ski-jumping piece evoked many memories, it also gave folks a chance to further school me on the topic. Call it a story that keeps on giving.

The phone and email has been blowing up ever since last week’s piece about the old Bingville ski jump, and others. I used multiple resources when studying up on the ski jumps for the initial piece, but the most valuable resource is people’s memories; folks like Terry Ruggles and Ralph Semb — men and women who either competed or played witness.

Needless to say, the story seemed to hit home for a number of other people I did not have the pleasure to speak to prior to last Tuesday’s article. The information served up by these folks is far too relevant to file away for the future.

One name I ran across in my research on Dottie Graves — a women’s ski-jumping pioneer from Greenfield — was Strand Mikkelsen, who was born in 1904 in Norway. Mikkelsen wound up moving to North America in the 1920s, first to Canada in the early 20s, then to Greenfield in 1929. Mikkelsen was a world-class ski jumper, winning the 1929 U.S. National Championship at Harris Hill in Brattleboro, Vt. He moved to Greenfield that same year and opened a Weldon Hotel basement ski shop. The Weldon also had a beginners jump on the north side of the building. Apparently it was a small manmade ramp that sat where apartments now stand.

Mikkelsen also served as a ski instructor in town. In 1932, the Olympic ski jumping trials were held in Greenfield and, according to an American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame press release, Mikkelsen broke a ski at the end of his jump but still held on to break the 179-foot record with just one ski. He was considered the best ski jumper in the United States in the early 1930s, then in 1951 moved to Worcester and opened a ski shop at Mt. Wachusett. He remained there until he died on Feb. 6, 1964. Mikkelsen was one of the people credited with promoting Franklin County ski jumping.

Another man I learned about this week was Ted Farwell, who I had never heard about but certainly should have known about. I received numerous inquiries about Farwell, who competed in the Olympics in 1952, 1956 and 1960 in the nordic combined event, which combines cross-country skiing and ski jumping. Farwell now lives in Longmont, Colo., but was born and raised in Montague Center. He began ski jumping in 1945 as a Turners Falls High School sophomore and began competing at the Berkshire Interscholastics in Pittsfield in 1946. By 1948 he was winning the meet, besting a man by the name of Vern Goodwin, who hailed from Pittsfield and later went on to compete in alpine skiing at the 1952 Olympics in Norway. Goodwin took second at the Berkshire Interscholatics in 1948, while Turners Falls’ Bill Burnham came in third that day, according to Farwell.

Farwell graduated from Turners Falls in 1948 and went on to attend Syracuse University, where he also picked up cross-country skiing. In 1950, he competed in the National Class B cross-country ski meet in Berlin, N.H., his first real competitive cross-country event. Farwell said that following the meet he was looking for his name on the second page of the results and he couldn’t find it.

“It was because I had won it,” he joked.

Farwell found that his time was on par with those winning the Nationals in the nordic combined, and so, following his sophomore year, he dropped out of college and moved to Steamboat Springs, Colo., where he began training for the Olympics. He went on to compete in the three Olympic games, including the 1952 Games, where he had his best personal-finish 11th-place showing. That marked the best finish by an American in the event until the 2002 Games, a span of 50 years. Farwell was elected into the National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Farwell said he narrowly missed out on carrying the American flag at the 1960 Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, Calif. At that time he was one of two U.S. Olympians appearing in his third Games. The other was Don McDermott, a speed skater, who had won a silver medal at the 1952 Games, and was thus picked over Farwell to carry the flag.

Turners Falls native Don Girard vividly recalls his 1948 Turners Falls classmate Farwell competing in 1952. Girard said he remembers watching the Olympics on television when it was announced that Farwell was going to be the next ski jumper. All of a sudden, the station cut away to a commercial and Farwell’s appearance went unnoticed.

“I wanted to throw a brick through my television,” Girard said.

Farwell’s brothers, Norm and David, were jumpers as well. David, the younger brother, was on the Olympic training squad for the 1960 Games and tried out for the team but did not make it. Ted said his brother could actually soar farther than him, but there was one problem.

“He would out-jump me, but he couldn’t land worth a damn,” he joked.

David wound up going into the Air Force following the 1960 Olympic Trials and never again jumped.

Speaking of the Air Force, I spoke with another gentleman who spent 21 years in the service before retiring from that branch. His name is Art Gilmore, a 92-year-old who lives in Millers Falls. Gilmore was born in Greenfield and grew up on Davis Street, two houses down on the left hand side from where you turn off Silver Street. He said “the Dadmun brothers” taught him to jump there. The Dadmuns lived on the corner of Silver Street and what is now Country Club Road (according to Gilmore, then Swamp Road). The Dadmun brothers built a small jump behind their house on the land that now houses condos. Gilmore said he became good enough to win the Class B event on Feb. 11, 1939 on the Bingville jump, and he still has the trophy to prove it. That trophy actually traveled with Gilmore during his 21 years in the service. He said he served in the Army during World War II, and then when the Army Air Corps became a separate branch called the Air Force, soldiers were allowed to choose which branch they wanted to join and Gilmore went with the Air Force. Unfortunately, 21 years of travel took a toll on the trophy and Gilmore said it is currently damaged. He has tried to no avail to have the trophy repaired. Maybe someone knows a way to help him.

And then there were the stories of some of the other jumps in town. Multiple people told me that there was a jump on the Beacon Field side of Poet’s Seat Tower that ran down next to the toboggan chute. You can still make out the area where those runs ended, and apparently they used to take down the fence in front of the tennis courts to allow the skiers a place to exit the hill.

Another story I discovered was that, as mentioned last week, the jump in Bingville was built by William Graves, father of Dottie Graves. Apparently Graves built the jump out of wood that was salvaged from the bridge that spanned the Connecticut River (now located at the bottom of Mountain Road) after that bridge was destroyed in the flood of 1938.

And even though I grew up less than a mile from Holland Farms (located on Colrain Road in Greenfield), I never knew about the ski and tobaggan runs that were there before my time. Many folks spoke fondly of it, and it sounded like a great spot its hayday. From what I understand, there was a warming hut on site as well. As for memories from back in the day, I got a phone call from Charlie Olchowski, a Greenfield native who can remember going to Holland Farms as a youth one night during a fierce snowstorm. Olchowski said the toboggan chute was closed that night, but it didn’t stop him from tearing down the hill, which he recalled as icy and fast. He was probably lucky to complete his run unscathed in the dark, hazardous conditions.

I also got an email from Phil Grise, a Greenfield native who went on to become a Florida State University Communications professor. Grise remembers hanging out at the Bingville jump as a youth, and he specifically remembered hanging out in the late 1960s when the jump had deteriorated. I had mentioned last week that the Bingville jump closed in the early 1970s, he thought it was maybe more like 1967. Maybe someone has the exact year. The last use of that jump was for dirtbike hillclimb, but the town apparently closed that in 2013.

Finally, and this is a little off the subject but something I thought was interesting, nonetheless. Perhaps few will remember, but if someone does, give me a call. One person I spoke with mentioned that in Turners Falls, 3rd Street used to be shut down back in the 1920s and 1930s after snow storms to allow kids in the town to fly down on sleds. Can you imagine that happening today?

Thanks for the memories.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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