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Museum Chatter: On The Mountain 50 Years Ago

By Lloyd Musser

Museum Chatter: On The Mountain 50 Years Ago

Fifty years ago, in 1974, my wife Maureen and I were living in Government Camp on Mount Hood. We were living full-time in a cabin on Blossom Trail, just two blocks off the business loop road. We had purchased this 1937 era cabin in the previous year for $25,000, fully furnished. I sold my sports car for the down payment and financed the mortgage with the Oregon Military Veterans Home Loan Program. I worked for the U.S. Forest Service at the Bear Springs Ranger Station, 21 miles southeast. Maureen was selling real estate for S & A Realtors, in Rhododendron. We had a small black & white TV with an antenna that picked up three or four Portland channels on a good day. We tried to heat the cabin with wood as the electric baseboard heat was quite expensive. We cut 10 -12 cords of firewood each fall to fuel the fireplace and wood burning furnace.

One had to be physically fit to live in Government Camp, especially when there was no snow removal on the side streets. Prior to the late 1990s the only snow plowing of roads was by ODOT on US 26, the business loop and the street to Multorpor Ski Area, now Skibowl East. Everyone, both full time residents and weekend cabin folks, parked along the business loop. On weekdays we parked on alternating sides of the street, so ODOT could remove the snow efficiently. The parking rules were strictly enforced by the State Police, who would ticket your vehicle if it was not moved by 6:00 PM, and Joie Smith would tow it to her impound lot in Rhododendron where it would cost $175.00 to retrieve it. Vehicles parked along the business loop were vandalized. One time someone needed a fan belt for a VW Beetle, so they helped themselves to the belt from our VW. Another time someone took the battery from my pickup truck by cutting the cables and breaking the holder, which complicated the replacement of a new battery. Today vehicle parking and vandalism are a non-issue for cabin owners as we pay contractors to plow the snow from the streets and our driveways.

More people live full time in Government Camp today than did in the 1970s. Only eight people lived full-time on Blossom Trail in 1974. We tried to minimize what we packed into the cabins as it was a one-half mile trek on snow to the cabin. The snowpack in 1974 in Government Camp was over twelve feet: we had to climb up several feet to exit our cabin, duck under the power lines, walk on top of the snowpack to the highway and then somehow get down the twelve feet drop. Sometimes we had a ladder chained to a telephone pole for that purpose.

It is interesting to compare the price and availability of goods and services in 1974 and 2024. Gasoline cost about $0.50 in 1974 and today in 2024 it’s $3.75 per gallon. There were four sources of gasoline in Government Camp in 1974 including Darr’s Chevron at the west end, Union 76 fuel at Huckleberry Restaurant, Richfield fuel at the Village Store (now Glacier House), and the Shell station at the east end of the village. Today the only source of gasoline is Chevron at the east end of the business loop. There were also two gas stations in Rhododendron in 1974.

The Huckleberry Inn was a busy restaurant as Hill’s Place had burned down in 1969. Albie West operated a small café in the Summit House at the east end of the village. The Ratskeller served pizzas, but was mainly a tavern. Eating and drinking places were limited in 1974, but today there are six dining establishments that serve both food and drink.

The major difference in Government Camp between 1974 and 2024 are the housing options and the price or value of goods and services. That $4.00 Skibowl night lift ticket now costs $64.00. Our $25,000.00 cabin in 1974 is now worth at least $750,000.00. Condominium was a new word in 1974, but today there are hundreds of condominiums in Government Camp. Today there are no vacant building lots available and builders are now buying lots with older cabins, for about $200,000.00. The old cabins were then replaced with large modern dwellings and sold immediately for about 100,000.00. The depth of the annual snowpack in Government Camp has dramatically changed in fifty years. A snowpack of six feet is more the norm now than the 12 feet in the past.

Another new thing related to Mt. Hood is a podcast dedicated to the mountain. Andy Poorman just started a podcast titled Mt. Hood Podcast. He has three episodes posted so far with many more to come. His first podcasts are interviews with a geologist, a historian, and a meteorologist. Search for Mt. Hood Podcast and you will find this new source of information about our favorite mountain.

Lloyd Musser is the volunteer curator at the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum. The Museum is located at 88900 E. US 26, Government Camp, Oregon. Open every day, 9-5 ph. 503-272-3301.

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