Saturday, March 8, 2014

Squaw Valley Skating Memories

I spent my summers as a kid skating in Squaw Valley, California.  I stumbled on these photos today and the memories came back!  I have decided to paste the Squaw Valley memory page I made in 1998 below.


Squaw Valley Memories

During the summer of 1966, I was 10 years old, and my family decided to take its first week long vacation. We all considered ourselves serious figure skaters, and decided on a skating vacation to Squaw Valley, California. My dad found a neat vacation package that included skating, food, and lodging at the Olympic Village Hotel. It was neat staying in a dorm and eating in a cafeteria with other skating families.

We fell in love with Squaw Valley and the beautiful rink there. It was the same rink that was used in the 1960 Olympics. It was called Blyth Arena. What was so neat that it was open on one full side. Seating was really different; a balcony area sort of overlooked the arena. I remember the rink being very cold because of the one open side.

The summer we arrived was a busy one. Skaters from all over came to train. I remember Canadian National Champion Karen Magnussen on the ice every day. (Karen used to skate with her thighs wrapped in cellophane to lose weight!) Juli McKinstry, also 10 like me, really stood out in a crowd that year. Juli took lessons from Skippy Baxter, a former star of Ice Follies. Juli's mom, Mary McKinstry had a house full of skaters that came to the rink every day. Eventually, Juli won National Junior Ladies, and was a World Team member.

Lots of kids from Northern California were there, but skaters from all over the country were there that summer too. I remember one girl from New York or New Jersey named Mary Beth Braun. Also, there was a family of 2 sisters from Tulsa, Oklahoma named Pam and Meg Keeling. They had fancy dresses and matching sweaters. I eventually saw Pam again when I attended Colorado College in 1974.

Besides the McKinstry house for girls, Charlie Tickner's family housed boys. Eventually, Charlie became a World Champion. I remember Michael Tokar stayed at Charlie's house.

The following summer my family returned for a 2 week vacation and rented a neat house that was a short drive from the rink. I remember the house since it was so much a mountain cabin and had a room full of 12 bunk beds! We kids were in heaven.

My brother, Billy, was a great little skater. He was so fast and cute. Everyone noticed him during both of our summer visits. He made friends either the first or second summer withMarion Ennis, who would eventually become my best friend, and lifelong friend.

All I knew was that I wanted to return again to Squaw after that 2nd summer, and stay all summer. It just seemed like the kids that stayed all summer had so much fun. They had shows every week, and the kids that stayed all summer got to be in group numbers and precision teams and do solos and take tests and do a lot of fun things besides just skate.

So, at age 12 during the summer of 1968, I spent the entire summer in Squaw Valley at the McKinstry House. Mrs. McKinstry made the summer an adventure and it was almost like going away to skating camp. We slept on bunk beds in sleeping bags. We woke up early (I think it was at about 6 AM). Every morning Mrs. McKinstry would go into our rooms, turn on the lights and announce, "Good Morning, Rise and Shine, Wake-up, Hustle Hustle Hustle!" We would all dress quickly and rush upstairs to drink hot jello. I was always too late to drink the hot jello, and I think deep down, I didn't think I would like it, and that might have been why I was always late!

Mrs. McKinstry drove us to the rink in time for an early morning patch session. I think it must have been from 6:30--7:30 AM. Then, we would all walk back home together for a big breakfast. Wow, did Mrs. McKinstry make great breakfasts! I remember all the bacon! Piles of it! I especially liked it when she made eggs. Everything was so good! I loved the fresh orange juice too.

After breakfast, we'd all walk back to the rink for a freestyle, followed by another patch, and another freestyle. I remember Mrs. McKinstry coming to the rink during the last freestyle, with snacks and watching us all skate. She would sometimes play our music, on records then, and clap when we skated well. After the later sessions, I sometimes stayed for public and practiced with my friend Pam McMurry.

Pam's family had a vacation home on Lake Tahoe, right next to the beach. Sometimes all the McKinstry kids would go out there and swim. I remember once everyone jumping off the pier, probably at least 15 feet above the water. Juli was so brave jumping off the pier over and over. Pam and her brother had their own beach house on the property; I was so envious! One of the days that we all went to the pier at Pam McMurry's house was the day that the U.S. Astronauts landed on the moon. I still remember watching the broadcast on black and white TV!

What I remember about Pam was that when she practiced on the publics she would skate around in circles over and over and over before she tried a jump. It was fun practicing with her.

I would get back home after 1:00 PM for lunch. Mrs. McKinstry allowed us to make our own lunch. I remember one of my favorite lunches was hot dogs covered with melted cheese on toast. Also, we loved to make milk shakes, thick ones in a blender. (I guess I didn't think about calories in those days!)

Mrs. McKinstry always made sure there were plently of snacks around. Her chocolate chip cookies were the best! She also made brownies. Bananas were always available too. She had plently of kool-aid and lemonade in the fridge. We all took her great food for granted.

We ate off paper plates all summer and threw our trash after each meal into the fireplace. We had no TV, and played cards everyday.

In the afternoon, after lunch, some of us napped, but others went out for adventures and outings. Mrs. McKinstry took all of us some afternoons, to a spot in Truckee River that we named Gilligan's Island. We would sit there on rock slabs for hours sunning ourselves. Mrs. McKinstry would swim hard right in the river.

Sometimes we would hike around Squaw or go swimming at one of the hotel pools.

That summer, I noticed a girl named Marion Ennis. Unlike some of the other kids, she didn't try to conform, and I admired her for just being herself and also working so hard at her skating. I decided I wanted to be her friend. We started walking together to and from the rink, and we also decided to become friends with the kids who weren't in the "in-crowd." One child we became friends with was Amy Brousseau. Amy was a little girl with long brown hair and she was really afraid of dogs. She would cry if a dog was even close. We decided to be Amy's friends and took her everywhere we went.

One thing we did as a threesome was to swim at the Squaw Valley Inn, rather than the Olympic Village Hotel or the Squaw Valley Lodge. We three would all sneak in and pretend we were guests. I think the Inn was on to us, but let us all swim anyway.

One summer, Juli and some of the older girls climbed the mountain to the top one afternoon. They all came back excited and dared me to climb the mountain. So, Marion and I packed a lunch, mostly grapes I think, and began our climb. It was really fun, took all day, and we were just too tired to walk down, so we took the tram back. That climb up the mountain became a tradition for me and Marion. We had to do it once during the summer, and never told anyone we took the tram back. Our last summer together, we got caught taking the tram back since we took a sign out of one of the ski rest areas, that said "Get Ready to Unload."

On many Sundays, Mrs. McKinstry took us all to one of the Lake Tahoe beaches for swimming and a bbq. She always made flank steak and watermelon and garlic bread. I still remember those afternoons to this day. I vaguely remember some kids having a watermelon fight!

We would all travel in a station wagon to the beach. I remember deciding to never laugh at a joke I didn't understand after one of our trips to the beach in her station wagon. Faye Talkov and Caren Davis were telling jokes that were not funny and laughing to see if they could get kids to laugh, and then would make fun of them for laughing. I noticed that Marion never laughed because she couldn't figure out the jokes. I laughed, and the joke was on me! To this day, I don't laugh at jokes and usually, I don't even listen to jokes because of that experience.

Also, on some weekends we would go to a place that we called "The Falls" and wash our hair in the cold water that ran down the mountain. Sometimes we would go to Tahoe City Beach, especially on the 4th of July.

Every Wednesday night we would have summer shows. Every week I did my program, and also skated in one or 2 group numbers. I remember being in a quartet wearing green satin outfit that was so tight! (I think it had been Juli's outfit the summer before.) I remember having to do a spiral on my left leg, my bad leg, in a foursome type-line, in that number. Thanks to that number I can do a good spiral on both legs to this day!

The next summer I got to be in the precision number. I remember being on the end of the pinwheel and running, that is skating as fast as possible. I really loved being a kid that stayed in Squaw all summer since I loved being in the group numbers.

At the end of the show, Juli would do as many russian split jumps as possible in a row and Charlie would do as many axels as possible in a row. We were all so thrilled to skate in the same rink as Juli and Charlie since they were both so good. I remember Deborah Lauer would also spend summers in Squaw. She was great too.

Others that came, but did not always come for the whole summer were the Burge family. Eventually, Wendy Burge went to the Olympics.

Another face I remember was little Caroline Guttman. She was the cutest thing, always dressed in white with a cap on her head. Her parents were always at the rink and loved her so much. Caroline is now a skating judge in the L.A. area.

After our afternoon acitivities, we would prepare to return to the rink for an evening patch and freestyle. I liked the evening freestyles since it was so much warmer in the rink. Some summers we would have dinner before evening skating, but most summers we ate after skating, and then went to bed. Since we didn't have a TV, we would play cards or board games or sing. I remember a guy named Slim (Jim Licklider) with a guitar who would sing to us. He sang many Glen Campbell songs. I remember him singing "The Green, Green Grass of Home," and also singing a parody verse: "On the road, there goes Mary, arm and arm with my best friend, Harry, I think, I'll smoke, the green, green grass of home."

Most of us took lessons from Barbara Wagner Grogan and Jimmy Grogan, who really ran the entire Squaw Valley Summer Skating School. Barbara was short and so bubbly. Jimmy was more reserved. I took from Barbara most summers and from Jimmy sometimes too. Barbara really made me work hard. When I became homesick, she figured it out, and made me feel better. I still remember the day she said, "What's wrong?" I burst into tears, and she said, "I know what it is, you miss your mommy and daddy, and hugged me." Between shows when I had to make a quick change, she would take me behind the bleachers and get me out of my red competition dress so I would be ready for group number. Barbara really cared about her students. I still have a video of her jumping up and down as I landed something!

Jimmy was famous for riding his motorcyle around Squaw, and gave me a ride on the back one day. It was and is my only motorcycle ride, and I was SO SCARED!

Jimmy and Barbara had a cute little boy named JD. Their house had a glass case that displayed Barbara's Olympic Gold Medal and Jimmy's Olympic Bronze Medal.

After the Wednesday night shows we would always have a party. Different houses would take turns bringing cakes. One week it was my turn to bake the cake. Little did I know that I had the beaters on too fast and I got chocolate all over the kitchen cupboards. I cleaned it up, (or so I thought), and then later that afternoon in the quiet house, I heard a scream! Mrs. McKinstry had come home, and saw chocolate all over the top of the cupboards and the ceiling. I hadn't thought to look up!

There were other faces that came to Squaw Valley during my years there: Lisa and Forrest Craig, Karen Cousineau, Dorean Tateoka, Debbie Jones, Lynnellen Schneider, Lisa Illsley, Daniel Henry, Russell Sessions, Gary Forman, David Mitchell, Mary Jo Turner, Lee Musick, Susan Bennett, Gayle Hahn, Tammy Gambill, Ricky Inglesi, Barbara Horton, Cindy Davis,Tom Simms, Tony Sims, Darlene Dyer Gilbert, a french guy named Jean-Pierre, Debby Cutter, Dorian Shields Valles, Barbara Ray, Joan Daniels, Cathy Carter, Kelly Burge, Julie Fraenkel, Shelley Robinson Homan, Betsy Ellington, Debbie Todd, Patty Staunton, Mary Jo Shields and many others.

I remember so many fun summers there, and hope that others can add to this memory page! To do so, just e-mail me with your memories, and I'll add them to this page. Any photos would be great too!


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