Museum Chatter: The ‘Cool’ Collection of the Ski Museum
By Lloyd Musser
Last month the subject of this column was the Museum’s historical objects collection. We described the photographs, books, and paper archives in the collection. The largest part of the Museum’s Collection is the three-dimensional items that have a historical significance to Mount Hood history. The pieces described in the following paragraphs are just a sample of the items in the collection. Deciding which ones to include in a list is sort of like a child in a candy store trying to select a few items. It is nearly an impossible task.
A wooden Curd Knife is likely the oldest item in the collection. This hand carved wooden butcher knife shaped tool was used in the cheese making process. It was made around 1840 and came to Oregon in 1860 over the Oregon Trail and Barlow Road by immigrants. Another Barlow Road related item is a 24 inch horseshoe. This item was found many years ago, along the historic road where it likely was discarded by an immigrant to lighten his wagon before descending the treacherous Laurel Hill. It is an advertising symbol for a blacksmith.
The Museum has been recognized as a Ski Museum by the International Skiing History Association – therefore we have many snow skis and related equipment. The oldest skis in the collection were made locally about 1912. They are made of cedar with a leather toe strap and are 9 feet long. Walter Creighton, a Rhododendron homesteader, made them to hunt cougar on snow. Several skis in the collection have Saf-ski bindings. These bindings are the world’s first releasable binding, and were invented by Hjalmer Hvam, a Mount Hood champion ski jumper and racer. One set of skis with the Saf-ski binding are US Army issued to the 10th Mountain Division in 1940. Saf-ski bindings, however, were not US Army issue. The Saf-ski bindings were purchased privately by a soldier and installed at his expense. The collection includes many snow skiing -related items that could be referred to as accessories. One such accessory of dubious value are the Ankloons. Ankloons are inflatable tubes worn on your ankles to get a tight fit in ski boots. This 1960’s product was not a big seller. Ski clothing is a major part of the museum’s collection. Sweaters and skiing have always been a natural association, and we have a large collection of sweaters made by White Stag and Jantzen of Portland that are popular worldwide.
The chairs of Mount Hood are an interesting collection of chairs unique to the area. This collection includes: a prototype dining room chair made by the WPA carpenters while building Timberline Lodge, a dining table and chairs manufactured by the Barlow Trail Furniture Co. of Rhododendron, a child’s rocking chair made by homesteader Walter Creighton, a chair from the gone-but-not-forgottenS wiss Chalet and a wood reclining chair made locally from plans in a magazine in the 1940s.
Historic signs with local significance are very popular with Museum visitors. The Mt. Hood National Forest had a sign shop at Zigzag Ranger Station during the CCC era (1935–45) that handcrafted carved wooden signs for the entire Forest. These signs were functional as well as works of art. The larger signs included a carved scene related to the physical site of the sign. The signs were designed and made under the direction of Larry Espinosa, an artist and the sign shop foreman.
The Museum Collection also includes natural history objects such as wildlife taxidermy and geology specimens. Lucy the black bear and Bucky Beaver are mounted taxidermy specimens that are popular with visitors.
Most of the objects listed are on display in museum exhibits. We hope this short introduction will inspire you to visit the Museum. Anytime is a good time, but the holiday school break is a very good time to visit the Museum. Entry to the Museum is free but donations are accepted. The Museum will be open every day in December except Christmas Day. Come see us at the Museum soon.
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 everyday, 9-5 p.m. www.mthoodmuseum.org ph. 503-272-3301