The Club was first organized in 1938. It was active until about 1942 when because of the war skiing was curtailed for the duration. Wooden skis, no edges and bear trap bindings with soft leather boots. That equipment was topped with wool "bagner" ski pants and cotton poplin parkas. Gloves were leather or canvas and were eaten up by rope tows. Activities were downhill and some telemark plus skating.
By 1946 civilian life was getting back to a semblance of normality. Club activities resumed for the Marin Skate and Ski club. Quarters were either rentals or in various lodgings: Ski Inn, Beacon Hill Lodge, Soda Springs Hotel, U.C. lodge, Sierra Club and Kiski.
By 1948 the Club was a going organization that at one time had about 200 members. It was also a time for formal organization. Superior Court Judge Faulkner drew up the Club By-laws and Articles of Incorporation. He was the father of member Doug Faulkner. Alan Best is the only present member who was a member then and as a Board member he signed the legal documents. At that time we became the Marin Ski Club Inc. Later it changed to M.S.C. Associates in hopes that taking ski out of our name might help with insurance costs. Nice idea but it didn't work.
We weren't the only club around. The dates when others started are unknown. There were:Viking, Oakland, Berkeley, Peninsula, Alpineers, Travis AFB, Cal Lodge, Sierra Club. Ultimately others too came along. And all the clubs wanted their own housing and all of the above clubs ultimately had their own buildings. Travis was near Oakland and Alpineers and burned a number of years ago but the others and MSC continue to this day.
MSC members always had the same goal--to have a cabin. In the middle fifties the rentals that were available in the Donner area were scuzzy at best and practically impossible at worst. One year we were so desperate that we settled for a place in Cisco. The men lodged in an old stone building that at least had a fireplace. The women had the attic of a small building. The main floor was the kitchen, eating and socializing area. But at least we had a place even though spaghetti from the kitchen sink tended to come up in the shower. Memorable!
This is as good a time as any to talk about travel to the lodge. Keep the roads in mind. In the 40's and 50's Highway 37 was two lane but really not awful. And we met Highway 40 in Vallejo. That road zigzagged across the valley towns: Suisun, Fairfield, Vacaville. There were break stops at perhaps the Black Swan, the Milk Farm or the Nut Tree. On through Dixon and Davis. A different way across the Yolo Bypass before the present causeway. Sacramento had its challenges. Go over the Tower Bridge and wend your way around the State Capitol or go up river to the I Street Bridge and the scuzzy warehouse district of Sacramento in pre redevelopment days. You might stop at the grocery store right by the bridge and pick up food for the weekend. If we were lucky Millie Dunshee's mom sent her brownies.
Meet Highway 40 again and wend your way through Roseville, Loomis and Rocklin before hitting Auburn. Watch out for the speed traps in Loomis. Maybe stop for fuel for car and body in Auburn. Onward up the mountain on the windy 2 lane road. You can still travel much of that road today. Keep an eye out for slow moving lumber trucks or truck trailer combinations. Pray there is no chain control. Finally arrival at the lodge but oops. After the storm the shoulders haven't been plowed. So quickly pull your shovel out of the car to dig out a parking place. Carefully please to avoid the cars and trucks whizzing by at 25-30 miles an hour. Be grateful if you could make it in 5-6 hours. If there was a storm heaven help you.
The vehicle of choice in the late 50's and early 60's was the VW bug. We did carpool both to save money and have a way to get there as many didn't have cars. Picture this if you will: 4 people with clothing, skis and boots plus their food in a bug! Even worse think about the same group heading to Aspen for a week in the same car. We frequently traveled as a group to various ski areas for a week or two of skiing--two weeks only if you were lucky or unemployed. Aspen was the big leagues as was Alta where people usually stayed at Alta Lodge. By the middle 80's 4 wheel drive vehicles were more common and the VW faded away.
In the early 60's a twenty dollar bill would cover the weekend. $3 for lodging, $3 to the driver for gas. Lifts were $3 or $5 depending on where you went. Then a few more dollars for weekend food. On the way home there had to be a dinner stop also. No one had a pass. Maybe you bought a 10 ride lift ticket at Sugar Bowl and prayed they forgot to punch your ticket. Whee extra rides. Money saved for another day.
By 1957-58 things were getting intolerable. We were lot/or house hunting with vigor. Ultimately we concluded that it was wise to be on Highway 40 west of the Summit so we wouldn't get trapped in a storm. Highway 40 was the main transcontinental highway--all 2 lanes of it. And watch out for PIE trucks--big truck trailer units. The Club had $2000. Judy Smith was President at the time and somehow found that our lot was available for just that sum. But if we spent all our money there would be no construction reserves. Dorothy and Henry Haberman were somewhat older than most of us and the lent the Club $1000 and Alan Best coughed up $500. So we had a lot and some cash.
Now what to build. First things first: good toilets, showers that worked, and heat. But plans were needed. Walt Stevens and Charles Massen came up with the present design. We were on our way. Serendipity stepped in around then. They were taking down the original wooden snow sheds. We descended on the discarded wood like little ants and we were as hard working. That was the source of the major timbers in the lodge today. And at about the same time we were clearing the trees from the building site and digging for the septic tank and leach fields. No sewer was available in those days. There were ROCKS! oh were there rocks! But many hands, levers and hard work got them out of the way.
Keep in mind that at the time the members were mostly single and in their 20's. Although there were no skilled construction workers in the group, we were very fortunate to have several members who possessed sophisticated carpentry, plumbing, wiring and stone masonry talents But everyone was willing to learn and others had basic skills. We were goal driven and didn't complain too much. We camped behind the lot, cooked over an open fire, swatted mosquitoes and used a primitive outhouse. Occasionally we indulged in a bath in Lake Van Norden. This was before the water level was lowered so the walk to the lake wasn't nearly as far as it is today. It was indeed hard physical work but we were young and eager and enjoyed the socialization and accomplishment.
Now how to finance this baby. What bank was going to lend money to a bunch of kids who wanted to build themselves a building? Actually we didn't even ask. We decided to borrow from ourselves and set a limit of $6000 of indebtedness. We paid 6%. Some loaned $50 and others $200 depending on personal finances. All were paid off in not too many years and we always kept to the $6000 limit. There was begging, borrowing and not quite stealing to get supplies. Plywood came from a trash pile when the Bon Tempe water treatment plant was built--look at the gussets in the ceiling for some of it. The Ross Post Office-- next to Henry Haberman's Ross garage--was coming down and contributed to our stash. Bleachers from a San Rafael ball field provided 2" boards. Later on the Antioch Hospital was coming down. The ants again descended and most of the pipe for our fire system came from that source. We thank Walt for that lead. Antioch was his home town. Today the nitrogen charged system is likely the most sophisticated system in the area. No problems with a freezing sprinkler system.
A comment fits in about how we managed to get the building up without sophisticated cranes and such. It was back to basics--ropes and pulleys. Lines went to major trees on each end of the building and then to the top of an A frame section. It was carefully raised into position. Oh watch those trees bend! And as the top came close to the peak be sure not to over pull and have it spring with the help of bending trees and go in the opposite direction. Experience was a good teacher. Fortunately Charlie was able to obtain the block and tackle.
The building was officially occupied in the winter of 1961-62 and the first sign in sheet is posted in the kitchen along with the deed to the property. At that time the west wall of the building was along the stairway: "Scotty's Wall." It was all old windows. The Lodge was basic but had the essentials that we had planned for. During the building process we "borrowed" our stove--a 1923 Wedgewood-- from the Boy Scouts. In return the women went down one weekend and shingled the roof of their lodge. The gals were good, careful shinglers. Eyebrows were raised when we broke for lunch and hauled out beer to go with our sandwiches. No comments were made and staff looked the other way.
In the next three summers we relaxed some and added finishing touches to the interior of the lodge. And after that period we were ready to work again and we built the living room addition. By then we were pro's and the job was accomplished in one season tho again it wasn't a finished product at the time.
Certain items are attributed to individual members. Former member Ropey Clark and a buddy did all the glass work in exchange for housing. John Yonkow did his magic with the stone work for the fireplace. The hood, chimney and old time locomotive smokestack for the chimney were designed by Walt Stephens. Danil Shillinger obtained the used water pipe for the chimney from an Underground Construction subcontractor.. The hood was fabricated by Darryl Moses and his dad and Barry Evergettis worked on the welding and assembly. The smoke stack itself was done by Henry Haberman Sr. with help from Henry Jr. Junior also built the ladder that goes up to the storage areas on the second level of the lodge. Norm Ginsberg was our cabinet-maker. The high living room light fixtures came from the old Independent Journal Building courtesy of Bob Dixon who worked there for many years.
A comment is in order about work weekends. In the first 3 years of construction we were all assessed 3 weekends of work. Real weekends--no late arrivals or early departures. The record of participation was kept by Charles Massen and is posted on the north wall of the basement by the ping pong table. Script was issued to those who worked in excess of the minimums. You receive 2 script for each day of work. Today you may still receive Script for necessary work done in excess of assessments. One Script is worth a weekends housing. There is still script outstanding and it is issued occasionally as needed. A few members worked far in excess of the requirement and they make up the esteemed Purple Thumb group.
Along the way there were modifications to the lodge. The old military surplus bunks and mattresses were discarded in favor of our present bunks. A new furnace replaced the floor furnace in the kitchen and at the time new cabinets were added. The original old bar refrigerator was updated and the large frig in the kitchen was added. Finally in the 90's I think the shingled roof was giving up the ghost. The present roof was installed professionally. The cost exceeded the original cost of the building. The stove lives on with frequent repairs handled by Barry Evergettis. Tom Thornton was a "jack of all trades" and did a masterful job with the fire escape system--fabricating, welding and painting. Much is owed to him.
So time was passing. Lift tickets and expenses went up but so did salaries. Then there were marriages and we were no longer a singles group. And you know what follows marriage. In the '60's the Lodge was almost a nursery school. 1968 was the year of the Marin Ski Club Babies. 8 children arrived: 2 Martins, and one each to Best, Gifford, Greenstreet, Wittenkeller, Yonkow and one more I can't recall now. All turned into nice skiers. And over the years there were a few divorces but surprisingly few. Members came and went but for the most part the nucleus remained active unless age/debility/ or death came along. On work weekends a couple of ladies took on the task of herding the kids to keep them from under foot.
The 1980's brought one surprise. Some of the support members on the original deck gave out and the deck made a big oops downward. Again the concept of an addition to the lodge rose its head. How about a big dining room and perhaps some bedrooms. It turned out not to be feasible. Instead the present locker and shop area was built with a replacement deck as a roof. At the time the additional lockers were vital as need far exceeded supply. Now with a declining membership the situation has reversed.
Ski equipment was changing too. Metal skis started to appear with Head skis in the late 50's. Boots were still leather. Stretch pants appeared and insulated nylon parkas. Goretex was many years in the future. Skis went from 6'9" / 215 cm down to 155-180 cm in the present day. And they went from skinny to fat. Bindings originally were leather. In the late 50's releasing toe bindings appeared. Gone were bear traps. Ski Free was the creation of Barney Berlinbach from Mill Valley and many of us bought them. Barney and Barbara enjoyed many of our parties. Releasing heels came later and replaced the old cables.
We always enjoyed a good party whether it was in Marin or in the mountains. Summer meetings were and still are picnics. The September/October event started out as a beach party--Stinson, Drake's Bay, Muir Beach, Tomales Bay State Park were popular locales. Dick Kure lived for a while in Sleepy Hollow and his landlady had spacious gardens and a pool that we also enjoyed. Halloween parties in costume were popular too. Oh were the costumes creative!
The club race was always a big weekend and most members participated. A party always followed. The Berkeley race was often on the same course. We alternated hosting the post race dinner. Berkeley was host in their Tahoe City cabin on the weekend of Scott Watterworth's 40th birthday. Phillis surprised him with a bus trip with many members aboard. It was a raucous ride in a storm. And some of the guys had to help the driver install the chains. On party night fortunately none of us had to drive. Not many would have been capable. Actually after some of our parties it is amazing that there were no accidents. Driving while drinking wasn't really an issue we generally considered. The Berkeley Race ultimately was discontinued when one year we just didn't do anything about the race. End of topic and we still have the trophy.
An annual event was the New Year's Eve party. In the 70's there were zillions of kids. They had dinner around 6 with proper trimmings and festivities--cross rib roast for them. We prepped our dinner and enjoyed cocktails while they were eating. Then it was our turn. There were up to about 30 on occasion. And for the adults there was rare prime rib or later on New York roast and more trimmings that we could possibly eat. Usually hot fudge sundaes were for dessert. A friend of Don Neumann's provided a gallon of delicious sauce. New Year's was celebrated starting in New York and we worked our way west. Oh did the kids enjoy confetti and serpentine thrown from the balcony. Memory says one year there were two empty cases of champagne. And most skied the next day. Cleaning the living room the next morning was a group giggle party and most participated.
In about 1987 we started to discuss a 50th Anniversary party. Lots of thought went into the concept. All the old scrapbooks were reviewed to get names of former members and memories were scratched. The post 1950 list wasn't too hard to develop as we had some old membership lists and fresh memories. About 65 members were on the pre-1950 list and there were contacts for most of them. Most were still in the area. One member from 1938 arrived: Fred Hines a long time PE teacher from San Rafael High and a tennis buddy of Alan's. About 10-15 of the old timers arrived to enjoy the party.
The logos at the beginning of this history also headed up the invitation to the Anniversary party. The event was held at the Mill Valley Tennis Club--great venue for a casual affair. There is a scrapbook at the Lodge with pictures of the event. It was the usual delicious repast with wine and no host bar for $20. The crowning decoration was the cake! Bonnie Kerby-Miller arranged with a local baker to have it made--there were wooden skis and bindings all done up in frosting. It was absolutely amazing. No simple rectangular cake for us. The party was an outstanding reunion of present and old members who appeared out of the woodwork. Hard to believe that in 2013 we will celebrate our 75th year.
I hope that this history gives newer members an understanding of the club's frugal ways. From day one we watched pennies both for the club and ourselves. We were all getting started in our personal lives and didn't have a significant amount of discretionary money. Times and finances have changed but our ways not so much.
By Joy Best, April 23, 2012… to be continued!