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We, the undersigned, wish to nominate _______________________
Who has accepted our nomination for the position of __________________
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NAME: (Print or Type) SIGNATURE:
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Petitions must be received by the Nominating Committee at least 15 days before the election date.
Please remember that written petitions are invited from the membership, designating a person as a candidate for an office or directorship, signed by no less than five (5) members, and submitted to the current OSC Nominating Committee Chairperson no later than fifteen (15) days prior to the election
Origins of the ONONDAGA SKI CLUB
Syracuse, New York
By: Mike McCabe, OSC Historian
Paperwork we have indicates an Onondaga Ski Club in the Central New York area, back in the mid 30’s.
It started with a bunch of fellows at Bellevue Jr. High School, continued through high school and college right up until 1944, except for WWII. A small group used to ski on Woodlawn Reservoir around 1934. They used to make their own bindings!
There were no official areas to ski around here except Turin, NY, so they often just took a drive out into the country looking for places to ski. One area is now known as Toggenburg. They also claim ‘discovering’ what became known as “Little Tuck” in May of 1936. The area near Labrador (Lake) Pond was investigated, and inquiries made to the State to see if they would be interested in starting some trails in the area. This was passed on to the C.C.C. for future consideration.
Other areas where there were trails were the Drumlins here in Syracuse, in the DeRuyter area, in the Chittenango/Chittenango Falls area, and Highland Park (I’ve heard stories about how some people would take canoes down the snow covered slopes in the early days at Highland!).
They often drove to Lake Placid and Tuckerman’s Ravine in New Hampshire to take part in big-time downhill races. Often they found themselves racing against big name European skiers. An unofficial Syracuse University team would often participate.
Gene Beckman was with the club, and also a flyer with the military. I’ve been told that he would fly around the area, and when he spotted snow still on the slopes of Turin, as soon as he touched down he would call the members to arrange a trip north to ski. No, he didn’t fly them there. He still hangs out at DeWitt Sports.
It has been thought by some that the club may have been the unofficial start of the National Ski Patrol.
After WWII and interest waned, the club’s charter/bylaws were given to the GE Ski Club, which was referred to as GE-OSC by Bob Bliss, the president then.
Ernie Hirschoff can be considered the person that got the ball rolling for this edition of the Onondaga Ski Club. Ernie (owner of the original Liverpool Sports Center) asked the audience at one of his Center ski shows if there was any interest in forming a club. A number of hands went up, so Ernie asked this group to meet the following Monday night at the Center. 15 to 20 people showed up, amongst them Bruce Bolton (who went on to draft the first legal documents for the club amongst other things), and Bob Wall who became the first president of the club. Bob wrote many a column on skiing for the Syracuse Herald later on. I think he still is writing ski related items, and skiing at Labrador Mountain sometimes.
Because Ernie was in the business of selling skiing equipment and such, he removed himself for consideration as an officer, but continued on as a valuable member of the club, arranging many a ski trip here and there.
Another original member was George Earle, a professor at Syracuse University. At his home in the LaFayette area, he had a rope tow and conducted the club’s ski school there for many a year. It is thought that he convinced the university to acquire some land south of the city thereby creating what became widely known as “Little Tuck”. He was the coach of the Syracuse Ski Team, and was able to open up the Trophy Room in the old Archbold Gymnasium for meetings of the Onondaga Ski Club. The first meeting took place on Monday December 7th, 1953. The original minutes of this meeting are attached, giving you the actual sequence of events that led to the formation of the ONONDAGA SKI CLUB.
Some interesting items I’ve come across as I’ve been slowly reading all the historical data I’ve been able to find:
Over the early years, members of the club spent many an hour working at Little Tuck. Unlike most of today’s areas, skiers had to take care of the hills they skied on themselves. Trees had to be removed, brush cut, rope tows purchased, then installed and kept in running order, etc. Members even built a ‘chalet’. Syracuse University was very benevolent to the club because the “rent” for the use of the area was $10 a year, on yearly bases. OSC owned the equipment, and S.U. was happy with the arrangement. This was the closest ski area, and as time went on, the club wanted to make costly improvements such as t-bars and such. This would have required a long term agreement between all concerned parties, something that could not be worked out. By 1963, the other areas we ski on today (plus others now gone) were dominating the local scene, so “Little Tuck” was abandoned.
Dues for club membership the 1st year was set at $5.00. In today’s bucks, that’s $29.55, if you work with the calculated inflation rate of 591%.
Snowfall that year was 85.9”, all natural coverage on the hills back then.
The club sent a letter of endorsement to then Governor Dewey in mid 1954, on the States wish to create a state park at Whiteface Mountain, to include a chairlift. Maybe we provided the last piece of encouragement for the State to create the Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort.
Later on, the club rented ‘lodges’ in the Whiteface Mountain area. It also rented a ‘lodge’ in the village of Turin, NY for usage by the members during the ski season.
Meetings were initially held at the Archbold facility, then the T. Aaron Levy School, then Maxwell Auditorium on the campus of Syracuse University.
The first skiing column in the Syracuse area papers was penned by a member of the Onondaga Ski Club, Jim Agne.
This club was the only one in the area that had membership open to anyone interested in skiing. All the others had requirements such as you had to be employed there, or a student or graduate of a given school.
OSC started the first ski conditions hot line in the Syracuse area. The areas would call in the report to a person the club paid to be available, and this lady would be ready for any members inquiry. It’s written that this woman was visually challenged, and the club was more than eager to offer this position to her so she would have a small source of income.
The SchussBoomer (the clubs newsletter) was started in the fall of 1957. Gordon Phillips was the first editor. Fred Thrane did the art work. Before that time, postcards were sent out to members telling them of meeting dates and such.
The original logo was drawn by member Tom Parker. There was another logo that appears on the first issues of the SchussBoomer, again showing a skier imposed upon the background of the head of an Onondaga Indian, but with more detail. Jack McManus may have been the artist here.
I believe it was Fred Thrane who modified this design to what many consider the Indian Head logo, with the city/state shown.
This was later modified making the background look like a map of Onondaga County. This is what is currently in use.
Fred also drew Chief Keeponaskion, a character that was a mainstay of the SchussBoomer for years.
A typical week for the board or committee people during the ski season in the late ‘50’s/early ‘60’s:
Monday was spent on getting the ‘Boomer’ together.
Tuesday was either a board meeting, or a general meeting (in the early days, meetings were held every three weeks).
Wednesday was ski school.
Thursday was a day off.
Friday was always a party somewhere.
Saturday was spent skiing all day, then going to dinner or having another party.
Sunday was a repeat of Saturday.
The first discussion on the club purchasing their own lodge took place in 1965/66. In 1967, this topic was placed on the table until future president Art Zimmer grabbed the ball and ran a zigzag pattern for a touchdown in January of 1971. As a results of Art efforts, we have today a lodge in Lower Granville, Vermont, allowing Onondaga Ski Club members inexpensive lodging (and lift ticket prices too) amongst some great places to ski and glide. An article by Art Zimmer can be found in our Lodge section or by clicking on: ..LODGE/HISTORY.
This was also the start of what has become known today as the Annual Syracuse Ski Sale, now in its 32nd year (2003).
The club has always needed a fund raiser of one type or another. There were internal auctions of ski equipment, a public screening of a John Jay or Warren Miller ski movie, producing summer stock theater in the community, even having club dances.
The club recorded a Certificate of Incorporation in August of 1961. This was undertaken in part so the elected officials of the club could take care on many decisions without having to have the question settled by the entire membership at a general meeting. The meetings were getting lengthy. In 1963, a certificate for Not-for-Profit Corporation was filed.
Also in late ’63, the club undertook the first Winterfest in Syracuse. Many hours were spent by a few core members putting the whole thing on, much like the ski sale now. The first Winterfest was held in February of ’64.
This, in a nutshell, is a short, short history lesson on the beginnings of the Onondaga Ski Club. May it continue for at least another fifty years.
The Onondaga ski club first got into the lodging business in the late 1950s. The club leased, on a seasonal basis, a lodge near Snow Ridge for several years. The OSC lodge was later purchased by Otto and Ann Frey and became their home as well as a bed and breakfast inn called Friehof lodge. Otto and Ann are the ones who have run several European ski trips for OSC. For many years Otto was ski school director at Snow Ridge.
In the early 1960s ski club members wanted a bigger challenge and leased a lodge for a few years at Whiteface Mountain. About 1965, for one season, OSC leased a lodge in Vermont on the back side of Mad River Glenn. This lodge was owned by Fred Gruner, owner of Dewitt Sports Shop.
After many years of leasing the various lodges, OSC members decided the "way to go" would be to purchase its own lodge. The club was doing very well; membership was over 1500 members; the sport of skiing was booming. In 1965 a lodge purchase committee was formed with Bob Baxter (a past OSC president) as chairperson. After a full year of careful planning a detailed plan of action was mapped out. The cornerstone of the plan was the selling of lodge bonds to raise the money for the purchase of the lodge.
The plan was presented to the Board of Directors and rejected. Many people in the club did not think OSC should be in the real estate or hotel business. Another major problem was that many board members would support a lodge purchase only if the lodge was located at their favorite ski area. So the era of OSC having a lodge came to an end, including no more leasing of lodges.
Two years later I became vice president of OSC. I had been a member of Bob Baxter's committee. Most of the members of the previous lodge purchase committee were so disgusted with the action of the board, seeing a year's worth a volunteer work go down the drain, that they did not want to get involved in another major "lodge battle." I then recruited about five club members who had not been involved with the previous committee. These five OSC members were all in strong favor of having OSC purchase a lodge. We worked quietly behind the scene for a year and a half. I felt that in order to succeed we needed to, in advance of going to the board, select not only the location area but the specific building to be purchased as well.
Each of the committee members were assigned a specific area to scout out the possible lodges available. We selected five areas: Whiteface, Gore, southern Vermont, central Vermont, and northern Vermont. Each person made many trips at his/her own expense to a specific area, working with real estate agents, scouring local newspapers and just driving around looking for For Sale signs. Some committee members even spent their own money to place "lodge wanted" ads in local newspapers.
During all this time, the committee received NO funds from OSC for any expenses. At each committee meeting all the lodges found were reviewed in detail. After a year the one best prospect in each of the five areas was selected. The committee as a group visited each one. Committee member Tom Conley had located one prospect in central Vermont that was finally selected as the lodge to try to purchase. A detailed plan was formed to sell lodge bonds to OSC members to finance the down payment and the initial cost of renovations and equipment necessary. It would be a big undertaking and no club in central New York had ever done this before (or after). The plan was presented to the board and hotly debated, then tabled. For the next three months, at all club meetings and events, the lodge purchase was the primary topic of discussion.
During that year I had become president of OSC. After two board meetings of hot debate I announced that next month a final vote would be taken on the purchase of the lodge. I pretty well knew where each board member stood on the issue, and it was going to be a close vote. The outcome could be decided by who was absent at the next meeting. After I called the meeting to order, the lodge purchase motion was made. I asked for a show of hands in favor, quickly asked for a show hands opposed, and quickly said, "Motion passed, next order of business please." There were no questions or protests. Soon the meeting was over and that was it.
At the next board meeting, the question was raised on what the actual vote was. I said it was a tie, and in case of a tie, the president votes to break the tie. Of course I voted for the lodge purchase. The question of the vote never came up again. For many years only a few of my close friends knew the motion actually went down to defeat by one vote.
Now the work began in earnest. First order of business was the sale of the lodge bonds. It even surprised lodge committee, that had now been expanded. Sales were brisk and on target to our original projections. Then one day Tom Conley called me. He had been to Vermont that weekend, and Floyd Bagley, the farmer from the we were purchasing the lodge, had changed his mind on financing. In those days no bank in New York would finance a lodge in Vermont. No bank in Vermont would finance a lodge purchase for a bunch of New York skiers. So one of the prerequisites of a possible lodge to purchase was an owner willing to hold the mortgage. Lodge bonds sales were going well, but the most we could hope for was to raise a good down payment and do immediate renovations necessary to make it over from a private home to a club lodge. I had grown up on a farm so it was decided at an emergency lodge committee meeting that I should go to Vermont and try to change Floyd's mind.
I put on my oldest work clothes and planned my arrival in lower Granville for milking time. I sat on a bale of hay in the barn at Floyd's son's farm, a half-mile south of the lodge, and talked "farmer to farmer" to Floyd for two hours. All of Floyd's friends and family were telling him he was crazy to hold a mortgage for a group of wild skiers from New York. After two hours Floyd was unconvinced and the deal was dead. On an impulse I made Floyd an offer: I would personally guarantee the mortgage and back it up with a pledge to put one of my apartment complexes up as collateral. Floyd said okay.
Several more months passed and lawyers in Vermont just weren't doing much. They were used to moving at a snail's pace. After the third report to the OSC board from the lodge committee that no closing had taken place and none was scheduled, a motion was passed to cancel lodge purchase if it were not completed in thirty days. It was getting close to the end of the thirty days so I called Bob Gang, a lawyer and OSC member and asked him what we could do. He said "Let's drive up there tomorrow and do whatever it takes to get the deal done." So we did. We went to the barn, and Bob "lit a fire" under Floyd. We went to each lawyer's office, and Bob "kicked some legal tail." We made two trips to the state capitol to get necessary papers, and the next day the final closing was done!
Now the big problem was beginning-- how to sustain the lodge financially. Lodge usage fees just about covered the mortgage and taxes. There were the lodge bonds that had to be paid back with interest and major expensive renovations to make the place usable for a club lodge, such as electrical systems, heating, plumbing, hot water, bathrooms and furnaces. I conceived the idea of having the lodge committee sponsor a major annual fund-raiser to support the lodge and payoff the bondholders--> the birth of the OSC Ski Show and Sale (*see note below).
The first several years the ski show was a function of the lodge committee. It eventually grew so big that it was spun off into a separate committee. The ski show profits paid off the mortgage to Floyd early, repaid the bondholders with interest ahead of time, and paid for major improvements to the property.
Now twenty-five years later here's an update on the three key players who made the lodge a reality. Tom Conley died several years ago from a head injury he suffered from a fall off a ladder at his home. Bob Gang is retired but still an active member of OSC. I am still a member of the club (35 years of continuous membership), retired from active involvement in a leadership role for several years. My last major role in OSC was 16 years as Director of the Ski Show, along with serving on the Board of Directors for 21 years.
I feel that a large part of the continued success of OSC over the past twenty-five years has been due to the lodge and ski show, probably the club's two most important projects.
I wish Onondaga Ski Club continued success and hope for a long, successful lodge operation.
Best of luck in the future,
P.S. The lodge and ski show were not the first mega-projects that OSC undertook. Check this footage out. In the mid 1950s OSC operated their own private ski area for club members only. It was called Little Tuck and was located on the highest hill in Onondaga County, about five miles north of Song Mountain. At that time most of the current local ski areas were nonexistent. You either skied at Drumlins or Snow Ridge.
By 1960 commercial ski areas were open and had new, modern high-tech equipment like J Bars, T Bars and indoor bathrooms. Little Tuck could not compete with these modern marvels. In 1961 to club decided to raise a lot of money (equivalent today to about $600,000) and do a major upgrade At Little Tuck. Ski area bonds were sold to club members to raise money. The land was owned by Syracuse University and OSC leased it. A long-term lease was necessary before such big money was invested. SU would not give a 10 year lease and as a result, the entire area was abandoned by 1963. The land remained abandoned and unused for 20 years. Finally SU sold a building a lot at the bottom of the hill. To this day the rest of the area lies unused. You can still drive along Woodmancy Road and see where some of the old trails were cut through the woods.
As you have read above, the Onondaga Ski Club over the years undertook the tasks of organizing, arranging for sales items, entertainment, location, and staffing with volunteer club members for the annual Ski Sale. Over time, economic conditions have changed, and so has the club. While we enjoyed putting on the Ski Sale each year, it took a lot of time and energies that we now are utilizing in different ways. The club has moved on to other things now and the void has been filled by "for-profit" organizations. As they say, "It's been fun." For more information about the Ski Sale you may want to read SYRACUSE SKI SHOW
Something of interest has happened to me recently that I wanted to share with fellow members of the Onondaga Ski Club. I took on the task of Historian, keeper of all things about the club through the ages. In 2003, the club celebrated its 50th year, and I wrote a piece about the club’s history that was placed on the club’s web site for the world to view.
The next year I was contacted via email by a photographer from Brooklyn that had come across a painting of a skier done by a Fred Thrane. I had mentioned Fred’s name in the article because he was an early member of the club that did the art work for the first Schuss Boomers back in the fifties. He also did work on the club’s Indian head logo. This dealer found us by searching the Internet using Fred’s name, and up popped our web site. I ended up purchasing the painting (see attached).
While this was going on I received an email note from then club president Scott Severance that he received from a Chris Thrane, Fred’s nephew. He too had spotted his uncle’s name on the club’s web site. I contacted Chris and let him know what was happening. He and his uncle Fred were thrilled that the painting was “coming home” so to speak.
Jump ahead to just recently. I received another email from a book dealer in Chestertown, Maryland that had come across a sketch book in a box of papers he obtained that had Fred’s name on it. Again a search of the Internet led him to our web site and the article. In his note to me, he indicated the sketch book was done in 1944 during the “D” Day allied movement to take back Europe. He wanted this book to get back to Fred if still alive, or his family. I got goose bumps reading his note.
I got a hold of Chris again with the latest news and passed on the book dealers email address so they could “talk” directly. Chris let me know that he too was spooked and would let me know what was happening. He contacted me again with an Internet link to a television station in Vermont near where his uncle now resides. I went there and was moved to tears while watching a short piece they did about Fred for Veteran’s Day. I finally “met” Chris and his uncle Fred, and learned more about the man who was there at the beginning of the Onondaga Ski Club.
The link opens with a short advertisement, then gets to the main event, Fred Thrane and the notebook. http://www.wcax.com/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?clipId1=3128070
The power of the Internet…….. Michael McCabe
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SYRACUSE SKI SHOW
Art Zimmer, past-president
Onondaga Ski Club
In 1970-’71, I pushed the purchase of the Vermont Ski Lodge through a reluctant board of directors. As president of the club, I promised the board that the lodge would not become a financial drain on the club.
To provide club members with low cost lodging in Vermont, the lodge would not be able to sustain itself financially and pay off the mortgage as well as pay back the lodge bonds that had been sold to club members to raise the down payment and do initial remodeling of the lodge.
It would be necessary to have an annual fund raising event to keep the lodge afloat.
At that time, there was an annual winter leisure sport show. This show had been held for many years in the Center of Progress building at the (New York State) fairgrounds. The name of the show was a little misleading as it was primarily a snowmobile show. In those days snowmobiling in central NY was a bigger and more popular sport than skiing.
Colonel Bill Hartman was the owner of the show and also manager of the Center of Progress building. Today a big stink would be raised about a conflict of interest, that he rented the building for his own show from himself as building manager. In those days things were a lot more informal.
The lodge committee decided that trying to have a sale of used ski equipment could be a good fundraiser. We would have people donate their used equipment to the lodge. The equipment would be sold, and the lodge would keep 100% of the money. The sale could be conducted right at the regular monthly club meeting as the program for that night.
I thought that to generate enough sales we would need to bring in the general public in addition to club members. I knew Colonel Hartman quite well from my years at the Brown Newspapers (now part of the Eagle newspaper chain). The Colonel agreed to donate an 8’ x 8’ booth in the corner by the men’s bathroom at his winter sport show.
The show was in November, and we would auction off any leftover equipment at the December club meeting. Half the booth was a display promoting the lodge and the club while the rest of the space was for the sale. So was born the 1st ski show and sale.
Its success was way beyond our most optimistic dream. We signed up eight new members and sold out all the equipment making almost $300 profit. In 1971 dollars, that would be equivalent to about $1000 today. In those days a night at the lodge cost $2.00. The profit from the first ski show and sale was a big boost to the lodge budget. The next year the Colonel gave us a double booth, and we more than doubled our profits.
At this time in history, skiing was a fast growing sport while snowmobiling was leveling off. The ski lodge booth and sale was the only ski related booth at the snowmobile show. The Colonel desperately wanted to expand the show into the area of skiing, but had been unsuccessful in that effort.
It is hard to imagine today, but back in the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, there was a lot of animosity and ill feelings between skiers and snowmobilers. The ski shops and ski areas would have nothing to do with a snowmobile show.
Colonel Hartman decided that the ski lodge committee and its little sale would be his way to draw the rest of the ski community into his show. The Colonel called me to a meeting in his office at the Center of Progress building and proposed that I rent one half of the building from him and in turn rent that space out to all the ski areas, shops and clubs. He would consolidate the snowmobilers into the other half and truly have a winter sport show. He felt that as president of the ski club I could easily pull all the ski businesses into the show and sell the space at a higher price than he was charging, thus creating a profit that I could personally keep or donate to the lodge.
The only catch was that if I did not sell out the space, there would be a financial loss and his full rental must still be paid. I personally or the ski club would have to make up the difference. I felt it would take 2 – 3 years to build booth sales up to the point of filling half the Center of Progress building and neither I nor the club could afford to pay the losses for those years. The Colonel would not compromise. It was all or nothing. If we did not rent half the building, we could not be in his show at all.
During those two years the cross-country ski club had been running a little but very successful cross-country ski fair at Drumlins. There was no sale and not really a show. It was three hours with a movie, fashion show and some demonstrations on waxing.
In those days Drumlins was the winter sports capital of Syracuse. They had downhill skiing, night skiing, cross-country skiing on the golf course, a big skating rink and several bowling alleys plus the grandest ballroom in the area. Drumlins had skiing for many years before Song Mountain, Labrador and all the other areas were ever conceived.
I had a meeting with the cross-country club’s board about joining their ski sale and co-sponsoring a real ski sale. They were not only opposed to the idea, but they voted to drop the ski fair completely as it was getting to be more work then they wanted.
That is when I proposed to the Onondaga Ski Club that we jump in with both ski booths and do a combined cross-country/downhill ski show and sale. The idea was overwhelmingly voted down.
At the next lodge committee meeting it was decided to do the ski sale on our own and move it to Drumlins as we could not work out any agreement with the Colonel. I resigned as chairman of the lodge committee to become director of the ski sale. In the back of my mind I planned all along to turn it into a full fledged ski sale. In part I wanted to “show” Colonel Hartman we could do it without him, as he told me we would fall flat on our face and come begging back to him. After all he told me, “You are not a professional show promoter like I am.” A few years later Hartman’s winter show was defunct while ours grew bigger and more successful every year, eventually taking over the entire Center of Progress building.
That first year at Drumlins we rented the ballroom, filled half of it with ski sales and half of it with tables for the shops and areas and showed a ski movie. We changed the sale from all donated equipment to selling it for people and the lodge keeping 10% plus a registration fee. We were overwhelmed with people and equipment, packing Drumlins all afternoon. The show and sale was on Saturday from noon to 5 PM only. Our profits shot up to several thousand dollars. With the growth it was decided to split the show off from the lodge committee and run it as a separate program with a separate committee.
The next year we rented all of Drumlins, which consisted of several meeting rooms, a large hallway and the stage area. The sale was in one room, the exhibits in the ballroom, in other rooms were movies and demonstrations as well as a fashion show on the stage. We packed the entire place, sold out all the exhibit space, and for the first time attracted an exhibitor from out of state (Mt. Snow Ski Area in Vermont). The hours were extended into the evening. We made so much money that we did not know what to do with all of it. I remember Gary, who was in charge of all the finances, told me he was so excited when he announced the profits of $8,000.00 (the equivalent of about $25,000.00 today) that he almost wet his pants.
The next year at Drumlins was almost a disaster. We were so jammed with booths, equipment and people that you could not move in the building. The parking lot overflowed, and it really was not a fun show because of such a crowded mass of humanity. We knew we had to move to larger quarters, but where? A search committee was formed right after the show, the most profitable ever at $12,000.00. After six months of extensive searching, nothing could be found. All the alternatives were much too large or way to expensive.
In May, I went to the big annual boat show at the Center of Progress building. As I left, I noticed a little sign that said “Craft Show” with an arrow. I followed the signs to what was called the Women’s building. I took one look around and said this would be the perfect location for the ski show. I spoke with the lady in charge of the show and was informed that the Women’s building was available exclusively for women’s events and women’s clubs.
Early Monday morning I went right to the office of the director of the Women’s building. There I met Mrs. Elizabeth Crowley. We hit it off immediately, almost like a magic chemistry sparked between us. I’m happy to say that to this day Liz is a close friend with whom I stay in contact. Liz loved the idea of hosting the ski show in her building. She was also an avid skier. Over the next several years Liz’s help and cooperation were major factors in the continued growth of the show and sale.
The first year at the Women’s building, now called the Art and Home Center, we rented the entire center section. That doubled our space from Drumlins. Once again the space was filled to capacity.
Each year for the next three years, we rented more and more space until we had the entire building, including the adjoining banquet hall, now called the Empire Restaurant. Every year we filled to overflowing the space we had.
We were now back to the situation we had at Drumlins. We were so packed with people that the show was not as much for the ski club workers or the general public. The search was on for a new home, but nothing bigger was available except the War Memorial and the Center of Progress building. The War Memorial was out because of downtown, parking, and the unions… especially the unions. The Center of Progress was out, not only due to the expense, but it was one big space, four times bigger than where we were with many restrictions that Liz did not hold us to. So, we just stayed where we were and made the most of it. After all, we were making lots of money. After another year of jamming the Women’s building I decided we must move, but the entire committee and the club’s board were opposed.
We had at that time monthly ski show committee meetings all year long in the Women’s building, another advantage of being there with the show. At the May meeting the committee showed up at the door of the Women’s building and the door was locked. Liz always just left it unlocked for us, and we locked it up as we left.
There was a light rain, and we all huddled under the small porch. I told Stu Sturman to run over to the nearby end of the Center of Progress building and see if it might be unlocked. It was and by coincidence there were two picnic tables just inside the door.
Several people objected that we might get in trouble, trespassing in this building, and suggested we go to a nearby bar for the meeting. I said “No” and started the meeting. I said “Look around carefully. You are now in the new home of the Syracuse Ski Show. I signed the contract this afternoon”.
After an hour of hysterics and screaming, I ended the meeting. At the next Board of Directors meeting, a motion was made to remove me as director of the ski show, cancel the contract and revoke my membership in Onondaga. When the motion was defeated by only one vote, another big squabble broke out over whether I should have been allowed to vote.
Most of the committee, somewhat reluctantly, continued to work on planning that show which turned out to be the biggest and most successful, as well as most profitable ever up to that time. The biggest surprise to everyone was that we filled the entire building.
The show and sale continued to grow and prosper, becoming more profitable. After a couple more years in the Center of Progress building and sixteen years at the head of the show and sale, I decided it was time to retire and move on to new challenges.
The Syracuse Ski Show had become the largest pure ski show in the United States. Colonel Bill Hartman had passed away, and on that Monday night as I left the Center of Progress building after my last show, I looked up into the sky, smiled and said “Well Colonel, how did I do, not being a professional?”
Over the years there were many near disasters. I look back on them with less than fond memories. There was what I call the Joe Charles fiasco. In Fairmount Fair there was the Joe Charles Sport Shop. It was primarily a golf shop. Joe decided to expand into the ski business and was an exhibitor at several ski shows.
Each year they ran a golf-o-rama. It was a big sale of golf equipment and a little mini golf show to attract people to the sale. The sale grew bigger each year, and it eventually moved to the New York State Fairgrounds. After expanding into selling ski equipment, Joe decided to run a ski-o-rama, a big sale of new equipment with some ski movies designed to attract more people. The ski-o-rama was at the fairgrounds for a couple of years, the week before our ski show, and really didn’t affect us.
Back in those days New York State had what was called Sunday Blue Laws. Religious groups had gotten several laws passed to make Sunday more of a day of rest. The laws outlawed the sale of most merchandise on Sunday. Most stores just closed on Sundays. I can remember many times going into a Fay’s drugstore on Sunday, and most of the aisles were blocked off with signs, “Keep out, Sunday Blue Laws.” They could only sell essential medicines and food.
Well, somebody complained about the soon to be held Joe Charles ski-o-rama on Sunday, to the District Attorney. Joe was told that if he had the sale he would be arrested and put in jail. Of course he was very upset. I don’t know why, but he decided if he could not have his ski-o-rama sale, then we could not have our ski sale on Sunday. Back then the Sunday part of the sale was over 50% of the total sale.
On the Wednesday before the show I was served with a court ordered injunction forbidding the Sunday sale. The police told me if we sold anything on Sunday, all officers and directors of the club would be arrested and put in jail.
In a panic I called Howie Kallash. Howie was a lawyer from DeWitt and a member of the ski club board of directors. He spent the day researching the law and found it did not cover the sale of used items, only new merchandise. In those days, 99% of the ski sale was used equipment. I always resisted the sale of new items. It was after I retired that the club started to sell a lot of new equipment. Friday morning Howie got a court order lifting the injunction and the show and sale went on as planned. A couple of years later Joe Charles Sport Shop went bankrupt and closed.
Then there was the year of the fire marshal. It was the third year we were in the Center of Progress building. About 11 AM Saturday, a new fire marshal came wandering in. He walked around, asked who was in charge, and told me we could not open the show. He said all the booths were set up wrong. The aisles and traffic flow was wrong. It was 45 minutes before show time, and it had taken10 – 12 hours to set the place up. I told him it was set up the exact same as last year, and last year the fire marshal was happy with it. He replied “I don’t care, I don’t like it, and you can’t open.”
There were 1000 people lined up at the door waiting to get in. I called over Roger Mayer, who was in charge of the Center of Progress building for the State Fair. He argued with the fire marshal on our behalf, but to no avail. Then Roger said “I’m sorry, Art. The fire marshal has the final word.”
A group of ski sale workers had gathered around and I thought they were ready to lynch the marshal. Some started a very nasty argument with him. I asked the marshal “What don’t you like?” He sketched out on a piece of paper a whole new configuration that would require a complete disassemble and reassemble of the show, probably a 3 – 5 hour job at best. It was now 11:15.
I got on the loud speaker system and told every ski show worker and every exhibitor to report to the fashion show stage. I stood on the stage, held up the sketch and said we were going to rip apart and reassemble the show in 45 minutes. Everyone flew into the task with vigor the likes of which I’ve never seen before, but it was too big a job to do in 45 minutes. When the show opened at 12:06, the general public never knew what happened.
Then there was the snow making year. I thought it would be great publicity to actually make snow at the ski show. I got Greek Peak to bring up a snow gun, and we hooked it up to a fire hydrant. Fortunately the fire marshal was not around.
We got all three TV stations there plus a newspaper photographer and several radio stations. It was part of the Friday night press party, the night before the show opened. About 3 PM a warm front moved in and no snow could be made.
About midnight it got cold. Unbeknownst to me the two Greek Peak snowmaker guys who were now home in Cortland got up, came back and started to make snow, a big pile of it right in front of the ski show entrance, the first snow of the season that year.
When I arrived about 7 A.M., I got on telephone and called all the news media. Then it started to warm up fast. By 11 A.M. when most of the media showed up, almost all the snow had melted. As people lined up for the show, they were standing in puddles of water. All the snow was gone, and no one believed that three hours earlier it was all snow.
Long ago there was a chain of ski shops in Rochester called Muxworthy’s. They decided to take over the Syracuse ski market and quickly opened up four ski shops around Syracuse as well as taking over the ski shops at several ski areas. They wanted all the biggest and best locations at the ski show and had money to spend.
I met them at the Center of Progress building. They wanted the first booth space right by the door. They would buy six booths and pay a premium price. That space, from day one, had been the Liverpool Sport’s location. Liverpool had been an original and always strong supporter of the show.
The owner of Liverpool Sports was Ernie Hirschoff, one of the original founders of Onondaga Ski Club. The very early meetings of the club were held at his Liverpool Sports in the mid fifties.
I told Muxworthy’s “No”. All of last year’s exhibitors would have first choice on keeping their spots. Muxworthy’s went to a couple of board members and told them I was turning down several thousand dollars of extra profit for the club. At the next board meeting a motion was made to accept the money and give Muxworthy’s the spots they wanted. I told the board they had no authority in the matter. I ran the ski show. My decision was final and it did not matter what they voted. After a long, hot debate, the motion was tabled and never did come up again. Within a couple of years all of Muxworthy’s shops were closed and out of business.
Over the years we had to deal with some very extreme weather problems. The Syracuse Ski Show was the last weekend of October for over 18 years. One year, at the end of October, we had a heat wave that set all time record highs, almost 90 degrees and bright sun for three days. I kept thinking who is ever going to come to a ski show in this weather like this, but come they did for another record show attendance.
The there was the year we caught the tail end of a hurricane. Torrential rains, flooding, high winds, trees down, and power outs. The radio and TV kept telling everyone to stay home except for emergencies. It was yet another record year.
Twice the first snow of the season fell on opening day of the ski show.
The biggest weather mess was the third or fourth year. We had a major blizzard the day after the show, the day everyone was to come and pickup their equipment that did not sell. Almost no one came, most of the roads being closed. We had to have all the skis moved out as the place was rented for a big event the next day. I had a four wheel drive truck with a plow, so I took arm loads of skis to the truck, about five truck loads, and put them in a garage I owned on the north side. It took over a month of sorting and calling to finally get most of the equipment back to its owner.
Over the years there was a lot of discussion at the ski show committee as to whether major conflicting events would affect attendance at the ski show. Just about every other year a home S.U. football game would be on the ski show weekend. It never seemed to affect attendance. I always felt that people had three opportunities to attend the show, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening or Sunday. If they had a conflict on one of those time slots, they would just come to one of the other two opportunities. If people wanted to come, they would find a time slot and attend. It was our job to give them a quality, interesting and fun show so they would want to come.
A couple of years the World Series finals fell on ski show weekend. We set up one booth with a large screen TV and put in our ads and publicity that you could watch during the Series at the ski show. A lot of people did, and the attendance was not affected.
There was always a lot of controversy over the date of the show. All winter long, when I was skiing, the ski area owners and managers would harangue me about making the date later. They wanted the show at the end of November, as they were hopefully opening for the season by that time.
Every time I went into a ski shop, the owners would get on me to have the show earlier, around mid to late September. They felt that skiers held off buying equipment and getting “fired up” for the new season until the ski show and sale weekend.
I had set the date on the last weekend of October as a compromise and kept it there for continuity for 18 years. People everywhere, even out of state exhibitors, just automatically knew that the Syracuse Ski Show was always the last weekend of October and would plan accordingly.
One of the reasons for the growth and success of the ski show was a very extensive public relations campaign each year during the ten days just before the show. By the third year, a separate and very active PR committee conducted a wide variety of marketing events, thus publicizing the event and allowing us to keep the actual paid advertising budget low.
One year a fairly new member came “charging in” with her stories of her marvelous PR/marketing skills and experiences. She took over the committee and seemed to want to do everything herself. At PR committee meetings in August and September, a very ambitious marketing plan was designed, and she kept saying “I’ll do that.”
About twp weeks before the ski show, I went up to the lodge for a little R&R and to do a remodeling project in one of the rooms. When I returned, I called each ski show committee chairperson for a report. In those days there were about 8 – 10 separate ski show committees, each with 6 – 10 members.
I started to get nervous when after three days and six messages on her answering machine I had not heard from the PR chairperson. So, I called her at work and in a very few sharp words, she told me to never call her at work, that she was very busy and had not had any time to do anything at all on the ski show. She hung up with the words “’after all I have a life beyond your dumb ski show.”
It was only a few days before the ski show, and no time to resurrect the marketing plan. I was not about to let attendance drop because of this. I called the media and ordered a lot of extra paid advertisements.
The show went off with another record attendance and all was fine until the next month’s board meeting when the board discovered that the advertising was about $10,000.00 over budget. I explained what had happened. Up until then I kept quiet about it as I did not want to embarrass the PR chairperson.
A couple of close personal friends of the PR chairperson who were on the board made a motion that I be required to pay the advertising bills out of my own pocket. After a hot debate and a lot of criticism heaped on me, the motion was narrowly defeated. No, I was not the one that did the vote count this time.
For many, many years, Liz Crowley gave us free storage all year long for all the ski sale equipment in the basement of her building even after we moved to the Center of Progress building. Then the State Fair front office heard about it and demanded we pay a very substantial rental fee for the storage space. Ever since then, I’ve stored all the ski racks and other equipment in my barn for free.
The ski show for many, many years became the biggest ski event of the year in Central New York. It was the “official” opening for the ski season. More importantly, it was a major good will community service gift from the Onondaga Ski Club to the skiing community of CNY.
The ski show was a project all were proud to be a part of and happy to work long hours all year long to help make it a success. Regularly over 300 people would toil each year to bring about another successful ski show.
Over the past 25 years, the ski show became the financial anchor of the club. In the early years the ski show profits paid off the mortgage on the lodge several years early. It paid off the lodge bondholders early too. It provided money for many major improvements to the lodge. The ski show provided thousands and thousands of dollars each year to many non-profit ski programs such as the US Olympic Team, CNY junior racing programs, handicapped skier activities, and many others.
For the past years eight years, ski show profits have funded most club activities, allowing committees to overspend and not cut programs or raise dues.
There are many more stories I could tell about my 16 years with the ski show and 35 years as an Onondaga Ski Club member, but enough for now.
Retyped by Michael P. McCabe
Historian, Onondaga Ski Club
Are you interested in who has led the Onondaga Ski Club since 1953? Clicking on the link below will give you all that information.
Thanks to Michael McCabe for putting this information together!
Officers listed here