Norm Nicholls: Olympic memories … and chickens in the patrol house | SierraSun.com
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Norm Nicholls: Olympic memories … and chickens in the patrol house

Norm and Alan Nicholls
Caring About Truckee

Last week’s question and the responses received brought back a lot of memories and thoughts about the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, and how it affected so many lives then, now, and all the years in between.

As a 13-year-old boy living in Oakland, I watched the Olympics on ABC, narrated by Jim McKay and the other “Wide World of Sports” commentators. At that time I was watching on a black-and-white TV that was only slightly bigger than my current computer monitor at work. I believe, even then, that most the events were tape delayed to be played in the evenings and weekends, so I made every effort not to listen to the radio or news channels during the day.

I wanted to watch the competitions and see the results for myself. The highlights of the Olympics for me were the figure skating and ice hockey events.

My wife, Alice, was also 13 and lived in Lincoln at the time. She remembers when her Dad drove the family up to Squaw Valley for the day. She remembers that there were several outdoor ice rinks for practice and the speed skating oval was also outside. She could also see ski jumpers practicing on the Olympic Ski Jump and some skiers on Exhibition and KT-22.

“We didn’t have any tickets for any of the venues, but we were able to see many of the athletes practicing just by walking around the vicinity of Blythe Arena.”

One of our “Question of the Week” winners, Larry Ford, shared the following:

“I was just a kid when my family and I went to the Olympics at Squaw. We went to see the USA/USSR hockey game but couldn’t get tickets so we took in what else was going on. We watched some ski jumping as well and a slalom off KT-22.”

“My most vivid memory came later in the day. The USA/USSR hockey game was nearing the end and we joined hundreds if not thousands of people gathering on a little knoll west of Blythe Arena. From there all you could see was the scoreboard with a tied score and the time winding down. Suddenly there was a huge cheer from inside the arena, and we all held our breath in anticipation of what had happened. The score changed, and the U.S. took the lead by a goal with not much time left.”

“As the time ticked away, we were all glued to the scoreboard. Less than a minute. 10 seconds. Everyone was counting down, 3 … 2 … . USA had beaten the unbeatable Russians! Hundreds and hundreds of us were cheering and jumping up and down. It was a great moment I’ll always remember.”

Thanks Larry for sharing this memorable moment in your life and that of millions of other spectators around the country and around the world. To this day I believe old folks like me cherish the outcome of that game even more fondly than the “Miracle on Ice” victory decades later by the USA hockey team at Lake Placid.

The 1960 Olympics were memorable to many Baby Boomers like me. It introduced winter sports to many of us that had never been in the snow before. It also brought more recognition to the Lake Tahoe area.

The completion of Interstate 80 opened the gates to the High Sierra for many of us that were curious about winter sports, particularly snow skiing. We tried it, we liked it, and we spread the word.

As new ski areas opened and old ones expanded, the rush to the mountains continued. In the 1970s the introduction of snowboarding ired many of us, but soon opened an opportunity for many others to enjoy our winter playground in a different way.

Some of us liked it so much that we decided that the Lake Tahoe/Truckee area is where we wanted to live, work and raise our families. Ample jobs existed to keep us employed and housing was relatively affordable in the scheme of things. We learned we could work hard, play hard, and find balance.

In the past couple of decades we have seen a lot of changes as our population (both primary and second home owners) has increased substantially. For better or worse, more people have sought out their niche in the mountains, and you really can’t blame them. The roots to this rush to the mountains can definitely be attributed to the 1960 Olympics and the construction of I-80!

Epilogue to “Larry Plywood” … Bob Cushman, former Ski Patrolman at Squaw Valley writes from Buenos Aires, “There is some truth to the sign being kidnapped and held for ransom. The sign was returned. However, the Alpine Patrol had the last laugh as they snuck into our patrol house and left us with about a half dozen live chickens, which we discovered the next morning. Yes, it was quite a mess!”


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