Adirondack Daily Enterprise, February 17, 1944
Robert W. Demers, carpenter's mate 3rd class in the U. S. Navy Sea-Bees, had arrived in Saranac Lake after 13 months of service with the armed forces in Trinidad.
Most folks don't know that skiing, pretty much as we know it today, particularly in downhill and slalom skiing, is not much more that 50 years or so old in the U.S.A. The first professional ski coach in a college was in Dartmouth in 1935 when they brought over Otto Schneibs from Austria. In 1939 Otto was hired to make a survey of some peaks above the ghost town of Aspen, Colorado in view of making an alpine type of ski development there. I believe Saranac lake's Olympic contender in skiing, Bill "Moe" Distin accompanied Otto and his crew. Otto later opened his famous American Ski School in Lake Placid.
I also believe that in 1939 the Saranac Lake High School had its first formal organized ski team. I am enclosing a photocopy of this team of which I was the manager, and I have identified those that I can recall.
During my high school days, from 1935 to 1939 skiis [sic: skis] were sold at hardwares [sic: hardware stores] and at Cheesemans Sporting Good in the old Berkeley Hotel, but in 1939 the first exclusive ski shop was opened in the lobby of the Hotel Saranac by Homer Gramlin, who was a musician in the dance band that used to play in the Hotel Saranac. It was in this shop that I first got my experience in mounting harnesses, doing base wax jobs, repairing ski poles and etc. and I was the first person in Saranac Lake to mount steel edges on skiis. It was several years before skiis came from the factory with steel edges on them.
It was in the winter of 1940-41 that Tom Cantwell and I put up and operated the first ski tow in Saranac Lake. Tom Cantwell was the prime mover in this effort, putting up the money and equipment required while I supplied the labor. On a separate sheet I am describing the tow and some of its construction along with some photocopies.
Tom had been in the ROTC in college with a reserve rank of Major, so when Pearl Harbor was bombed Tom was called up immediately, so I operated the ski tow thru the rest of the winter then dismantled it in the Spring of 1941. Shortly after that I went into the Seabees for the duration of the war.
In those years immediately following WWII Tom Cantwell, myself and the Saranac Lake Ski Club pushed hard and continuously for the village to put a ski tow on the south east slope of Mt. Pisgah. I do not remember the exact year but the village fathers finally did place a rope tow on the familiar Pisgah slopes and the concession in the warm up hut was first operated by my Mother and sister Alice.
In the winter of 1947-48 the ski school at the Marcy Hotel in Lake Placid was taken over by Carter Lockwood of Turtle Pond and the instructors with him were Gordon Rascoe, Dick Davis and myself. The following Winter I operated a ski repair shop in the rear of the Hoffman-Hess Sport Shop on Main St. in Saranac Lake. Hoffman had left and Lloyd Hess remained as the owner and I planned to use my GI loan and buy into the business. At this time was courting the girl who was to be my wife when the Korean debacle opened up and the specter of WWIII was on the horizon. Hess was forced to shut down the business and as a reservist Seabee I was called up and by Feb. 1, 1951, I was on my way to Japan and Korea. Following my 18 month tour of duty I took a discharge in California where my wife and I remained with her Father. I never returned to Saranac Lake until the Fall of 1969 for a short visit with my Father and brothers.
Along with the above piece was a photocopy of a page from the 1938 Canaras titled SKIING, with an unlabeled photo of the ski team. Bob Demers supplied the names:
Demers added this note: Bob McCrum, early in 1940, when Britain entered the war after Poland was invaded by the Germans, volunteered for ambulance service with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and was killed in Europe just before the Dunkirk fiasco, long before the U.S. was "officially" at war.