Mount Hood Winter Festival ...

... a throwback to earlier times

Story and photos by Stringer D.R. Norris

Ah, the annual Mount Hood Winter Festival was carried in mid-Febuary, produced by both the Melrose Recreation and the Park Departments. While it was a highly successful event attracting mostly families, the oldsters remembered the days when skiers were yanked up the hill by rope tow, there was a slick lumber toboggan slide (without a single curve in it) and (get THIS!) a skijump that was absolutely frightening. Piece by piece, these facilities were dismantled for a number of reasons -- cost of upkeep, lack of takers, deterioration and a few broken legs; by 1950 they were all gone.

In February families of all sizes arrived in sleek modern cars; the parking lots were jammed with modern SUVs -- yet, with all that equipment, one could not find a single Flexible Flier. The equipment today is usually molded plastic: colorful tubes, pressed plastic in the form of rockets, even plastic chairs that require considerable lung power to blow up. It's pretty much the same material we now use to get to the moon.

When we were kids (over half a century ago), we grew up faster, we were pioneers, and parents didn't worry about our activities so much. At seven we guys would hike two miles, trailing our sleds to get to this rather steep hill on Montclair Golf Course. We hitch-hiked across the state of New Jersey to get to our Scout camp. Nowadays parents seem to watch over their kids  much more, worried about pedifiles and dope vendors. Even at the winter festival parents line up at the top of the hill, presumeably to see that their children learn to go down the hill safely. Hmmm.

There were a couple of semi-private cold-weather cookouts at the festival, which was nice. On the pond, near the beautiful main building, moms used the occasion to introduce their little girls to the fine art of ice skating. It was a pretty thing to see -- neighbors together, mothers with their girls, dads playing hockey with the youngsters. The current spat over building a football field at Mount hood seemed rather unimportant, perhaps rediculous.

We did see one lad with a skateboard, and he did well getting to the bottom of the hill safely. The balance of the kids were on basically unsteerable plastic transport -- but not a single Flexible Flier did we see.

The tenor of the folks that day was not for the proposed football field -- especially after the big dig fiasco.

It was a fine day, and the people again enjoyed Mr. Slayton's generousity of eight decades ago.

March 5, 2010

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