If I Could Do It, So Can You!
Fifties & Sixties
How is it possible that a person who has never read a book could write one — especially one worth reading? Despite losing my dad at age three stuttering my way through grade school, cheating my way through junior high and high school and not being able to comprehend the written word until well into my 20s. Here is my story. It begins in one of the best places for the soul of a skier to arrive on earth…Born in Colorado Springs on February 28, 1950, my father died when I was three years old. At the time of his death my older brother Bill was six and my younger sister Sandy was only a year old. My father was a World War II veteran who enjoyed hunting. He owned and operated a feed and grain store just outside of Colorado Springs. While on his way to go hunting, he died from a gunshot wound to the neck. He had placed his gun on the back seat of the car with the clip in his pocket unaware of a cartridge in the chamber. The car hit a bump and the rifle bounced off the back seat onto the floor causing a round to discharge, ricochet inside the car and land in his neck, killing him instantly.
Being a young boy at the time, I don’t remember much about my dad. The few things I do remember were things that got me in trouble. I once shot him with a rubber band from a toy gun he had made for me out of a clothespin. Another time I was sitting in his lap shooting a target with a 22-caliber squirrel gun rifle. I wasn’t a very good shot and I imagine he got frustrated with me.
My mom was beautiful, young, and now single. After my father passed away she raised the three of us without accepting much help from our maternal grandparents Moey and Bop. I don’t think they were very happy that Mom had married our father, but our lives would have been a lot different without them. They were such a big part of our lives and always there for us. My mom was a very proud woman who worked extremely hard trying to make the best life possible for us. She worked for the local newspaper, The Gazette, in Colorado Springs and later became a ski instructor at Ski Broadmoor.
She raised us much like all single moms did, we went to school and she went to work. I remember coming home from school each day and Moey would always be there with donuts, our “afternoon treat” as she would call it, usually leaving just as Mom would be coming home from work. We lived at the base of Cheyenne Mountain in a small area called Skyway Park. It was very close to the Broadmoor Hotel in a modest neighborhood. On Sundays we would travel to Moey and Bop’s house on the outskirts of town for sit-down Sunday dinners. After dinner Bop would always take us to do something. He lived on a non-working ranch and didn’t raise livestock or grow hay, most likely because he was busy working as a prominent securities broker in the Springs. Despite his busy schedule, he always had time for his grandkids, taking us fishing, exploring around the ranch or to the nearby toy store.
A year or so after our father passed away my mom dated guys from The Tenth Mountain Division and Fort Carson, an army base near the Springs. That’s when we started doing lots of outdoor activities. We learned to ski in Aspen, Colorado on Aspen Mountain. I remember meeting for our ski lessons at a gazebo in a field called Paepcke Park. From there we would ride a horse drawn carriage to the ski lift at the nearby hill called The Little Nell. The ski lift was a T-bar that you would sit against as it pulled you up. I was too little to ride it like that so I would just hang on as long as I could and let it pull me up the hill about a couple of hundred yards. The next year a double chair lift was put in. At the end of the day we would ski down the street to the Hotel Jerome to meet our mom for après ski at the Jerome bar, the “J-Bar”. In the evenings we usually ate at the Red Onion restaurant, located out in the middle of a field about a block or two from the gazebo in Paepcke Park.
We visited Aspen during the summers as well, driving over Independence Pass on winding dirt roads. We spent most of our winters skiing at Pikes Peak and other nearby ski areas (Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Ski Cooper and Climax). Once Ski Broadmoor opened we spent most of our weekends there. It was close by and Mom worked there. There was also night skiing, so when I began ski racing I would train on the weekends and a couple of times a week at night, eventually becoming a pretty good ski racer finishing in the top three of my division in most of my races.
In 1960, Ski Broadmoor had lost the bid for the Winter Olympics to Squaw Valley. However, its curiosity between snowmaking and night skiing attracted skiers from all over the world. I had the opportunity to ski with Stein Eriksen, Buddy Werner and Hans Peter Lanig. Hans stayed in Colorado Springs and coached me for a year. At the end of my early ski-racing career I placed second in a four-state competition at the Rocky Mountain Ski Racers Association at Arapahoe Basin. There were hopes I’d compete in the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble if I kept with it.
I remember when I first took swimming lessons at six years old. Mom took my brother Bill and me to the pool at the Broadmoor Hotel. When we came out of the locker room I jumped into the pool right behind Bill. He had taken lessons the year before, but I hadn’t. I almost drowned. The swimming instructor rescued me and I didn’t get back into the pool until I was nine. Mom bribed me by telling me she would give me a dollar when I could jump off the diving board without a life jacket, or someone holding a pole at the side of the pool to pull me out. It worked, because by the age of ten I was competing in springboard diving competitions. The men my mom dated would take me to diving exhibitions in Denver, Fort Carson and the local YMCA. I was very impressed with this incredibly beautiful sport, but I felt I was a much better ski racer than a diver.
My mom remarried in the spring of 1961 to a wonderful man Dave Maytag, heir to the Maytag washing machine fortune. I had a wonderful childhood and was blessed to have been brought up with such a great mom, new dad and wonderful grandparents, who did so much for us. I was really looking forward to this next chapter of my life. I now had the dad I missed so much while growing up. Even so, it was difficult for Sandy, Bill, and me to call him dad so we all decided “Dave” was fine and he was totally okay with it, despite this being his first marriage. After the wedding they sat us down and asked us if it would be okay to move to California.
I think the first thing out of my mouth was, “Do they have snow?” We were so happy to have a dad that it didn’t matter where we moved, although we did have a lot of questions.
Dave satisfied our curiosity by taking us flying in his P-51 Mustang. A few years later, that same airplane won a transcontinental race from Clearwater, Florida to Reno, Nevada in the annual Reno air show, which people from all over the world competed in. Dave also took us shopping for things we needed for our new house in southern California. Because it had a very long driveway, he felt we had to have a go-kart. We had definitely gone from rags to riches. Our prior life was hardly rags but we thought that going to a new place called “McDonald’s” for a coke was spoiling us! This was going to be wild!