Hoofer History Review, 1959 version
THE HOOFER HISTORY
This history was written by Bob Peterson, Hoofer president in 1952-53 probably around 1955 or '56 with assistance from Bill Thomas and a couple of others. Edited by Porter Butts; January 1959; Retyped January 2006
It all started with skiing. A group of Norwegian student ski jumpers supplied the enthusiasm leading to the construction of a wooden ski slide on Muir Knoll in the winter of 1919. This scaffold had fallen into disrepair by 1930 and was condemned (finally added to a Homecoming bonfire), whereupon jumping activity at the University was forced to cease. The desire to continue skiing was the impetus which led to the conception of the Wisconsin Hoofers.
In 1931, a committee consisting of Professor H. C. Bradley, faculty member of the Union Council (a member of the Sierra Club since his student days at the University of California and president of the Club in 1957-59); Porter Butts, Union director; Edward Thomas, Union staff; and three students, Henry Baker, Sally Owen Marshall, and Marilla Eggler, was formed to consider establishing a University Skiing and Outing Club. The club organized as part of the Union, was named the Wisconsin Hoofers. Beginners, or apprentice members were called “Heels” – the influence of the Dartmouth Outing Club (then the most active and best known college ski and outing club) which called its novices “Heelers.”
Henry Baker became the first president. Sally Marshall, the first woman skier to ride the new Muir Knoll steel ski jump, was responsible for the design of the first Hoofer patch – a black horseshoe superimposed on a red W, signifying that Hoofers go places under their own power (“they hoof it”), and a symbol of good luck.
The first projects were to get a supply of skis for rent and to replace the old ski scaffold.
At that time, skiing was virtually unknown in Wisconsin except among hardcore of hardy Norwegians and Finns who had brought their skis and skiing interest with them from the old country and built a few jumping scaffolds in the northern part of the state (plus the Miur Knoll scaffold and one at Stoughton). No stores in Madison sold skis, except for children (pine skis with leather toe straps). Bindings, poles, and ski boots were unheard of.
The Hoofers had to order skies through the Dartmouth Outing Club. They insisted on having bindings (leather in those days – which had a way of stretching and coming off) and poles, so that students could learn their skiing correctly. The equipment – 20 sets – was racked in the Union billiard room and rented from the billiard desk. This was the club’s initial source of income.
To raise money for a new ski scaffold, Porter Butts persuaded the Class of 1932 to give $700 as its class memorial; Dr. Bradley raised funds from friends and added a gift of his own; profits from ski meets paid the balance. Total cost of about $1700. Carl Houm, a Milwaukee engineer and ski enthusiast, designed the steel scaffold. It was erected in 1932.
[At the dedication ceremonies for the new jump, in February, 1933, Charles Bradley ' 35,'47,'50 (one of Doc's sons) flew off the scaffold in a purple tunic and baggy pants, with a false mustache and a long braid to which a firecracker had been attached. The Daily Cardinal called him "Wun Long Hop," saying that his jump displayed perfect Chinese form. Also at the dedication, Sally Marshall became the first woman to negotiate the jump. Says Butts: "She made it all the way standing up˜but I don't think she ever did it again."]
The jump was considered one of the best small jumps in the country at the time (hill record, 106 feet). The Hoofers began their annual ski tournaments in 1933, inviting both college and Central U.S. Ski Association jumpers. Touring and downhill skiing were encouraged near the campus and in the Baraboo Hills, and weekend trips to Northern Wisconsin were organized.
So, in a very real sense, Hoofers had much to do with establishing skiing interest in Wisconsin – long before it became the rage elsewhere.
From the beginning Hoofers sponsored other outing activities besides skiing (though skiing was the main focus of the club’s interest). In the ‘30’s a trip went out almost every weekend – hiking, climbing, archery, camping. (At this time Hoofers had a room in the basement of the president’s old home – where the theater now stands – as a place to keep gear). It became a tradition in the late thirties for Hoofers to hike the 25 miles around Lake Mendota in spring and fall. (An all time record of 4 hours and 2 minutes was set for this hike in 1941). Devils Lake also became a center of activity. Arrangements were made with the state park Commission for the overnight use of Kirkland Lodge at the south end on weekends.
The first concrete toboggan slide in the U.S., modeled after a slide in Canada and lined with frozen snow was built by the Union on Observatory Hill as a memorial gift of Class of 1933. It seems that Wisconsin students did not appreciate the 10 cent charge made by Hoofers to pay the cost of maintaining the slide. This ill feeling may have been behind the burning of the toboggan tool shack in 1934. But the slide kept going, on and off (weather troubles), until Elizabeth Waters dorm was built in 1937, spelling the end of the slide. Hoofers still rented toboggans, for use on Blackhawk Country Club hill, but there were so many accidents (people hitting trees of going over golf bunkers in the dark) that toboggans were finally abandoned.
The Hoofers ski team began to reach its peak in 1938. Lloyd Ellingson, a Hoofer, had made the U.S. Olympic team in the early ‘30’s and won the intercollegiate jumping contest at Lake Placid. Now the famous Bietila brothers from Ishpeming came to Wisconsin, aided by Dr. Bradley. Walter, Hoofer captain, made the Olympic team in 1936 and 1940. His brother Paul took third place in the International Ski Federation meet that year. In 1939 Paul won the National Intercollegiate Ski Championship. He made the 1940 Olympic team and was voted “the best American-born jumper.” While practicing for the Olympics in St. Paul he was killed in a jumping accident. A plaque was dedicated to his memory by the class of 1940, and it hangs in Hoofers Quarters today.
Hoofers moved in the present quarters in the theater wing of the Union in 1939. There almost weren’t any Hoofers quarters. Construction funds ran short and it was proposed that the outing quarters along with some other facilities be omitted. But again, Dr. Bradley and Union Director Butts held out for going ahead. With a place to work and plan and facilities for handling equipment, plus a permanent staff advisor (Charles Bradley, former Hoofer president), and a soaring ski team, enthusiasm hit a new high, and the years until the beginning of the war were red letter ones for Hoofers.
Winter and spring ski trips were arranged at Berthoud Pass in Colorado. Ski team members ranged from Lake Placid to Sun Valley and Alta, participating in national meets. A junior hill was built by Dr. Bradley at Shorewood Hills, and Hoofers began training future prospects from grade schools.
The ski team in 1940-41 took 85 places above the 10th in 20 meets, 15 places in national championships, and 8 places in Central, winning the National Intercollegiate Ski Team Championship. Famous members of this team were Walter Bietila, who was, incidentally, catcher n the Badger baseball team; Joseph Bradley, another of the seven Bradley sons; Jurgen Poly, Swiss Olympic team member in 1936 and 1940; Hubert “Stinky” Dickenson, winner of the intercollegiate Cross Country Championship after only 3 months of skiing (later, in the army ski troops he was assigned to the job of teaching Eskimos and Indians to ski in Alaska); and Reuben Silvola, intercollegiate combined champion and student coach of the Hoofer team.
Silvola had the Hoofer team train by rowing the crew training shell and by skiing on dry leaves before the snow fell in Madison. About the dry-leaves skiing he was quoted saying, “It’s mighty hard on skis, but excellent training for the legs.” With skis on, his skiers were said to be able to jump five-foot fences after his training course. Among other things, Silvola operated the snack bar in the Hoofer quarters each afternoon as a place to get a cup of coffee and hamburger after being out on the Muir Knoll hill.
Hoofers grew in other directions also during this time. The University Hunt Club joined Hoofers to become the Hoofer Riding Club. Hoofers sponsored its first horse show in 1940, in the Stock Pavilion; and the Club won many ribbons in intercollegiate shows.
Six bicycles were bought for rental by the Hoofer Store. Dr. Norris Hall of the chemistry department was appointed Hoofer faculty advisor to serve along with Dr. Bradley. Organized ice boating was sponsored by Hoofer for the first time. Winter Carnival and the administration of Blackhawk Lodge, the old Woman’s Athletic Association cottage at Eagle Heights, complete with resident chaperones, and a stopping place and warming and picnic spot for skiers, canoers, bikers, and hikers were taken over by Hoofers in 1939.
A group of intercollegiate sail-boat racing champions were responsible for the organization of the Sailing Club in 1940. Four hundred and sixty students signed up for a dry land sailing course at $1 per head to raise money for a dingy fleet. In 1941 eight class X Olympic cat boats were purchased with contributions from interested alumni, faculty, and townspeople. The first Yacht Club dance, called the “Commodore’s Ball,” was held in Great Hall that spring.
The war followed this prosperity and Hoofers suffered as a result of the lack of student leadership. But service men and women took an active part in campus affairs. Truax Field men held several positions on Hoofer Council during 1945. Some trouble was had with one Truax man, the Outing Club chairman, whose chief desire in life seemed to be rappelling down the walls of the Union.
The ski team placed third in intercollegiate competition in 1947. Dr. Bradley retired in 1948 after 17 years with Hoofers. He was benefactor, advisor, participant, and charter member. Blackhawk Lodge was turned back to the Young family (which bought Picnic Point and Eagle Heights) in 1949; cars had now come into general use and student outers wanted to go farther a field – the expense of the Lodge wasn’t worthwhile. And by this time the Hoofers had developed Twin Valley, near Cross Plains, as a downhill ski area, complete with a balky rope tow. (The Twin Valley area has now been taken over by the city YMCA, and Madison’s Blackhawk Ski Club, an outgrowth of the Hoofer Ski Club, has built a scaffold nearby).
Hoofers began to grow again in 1949. Hoofer Mountaineers were organized and Sailing Club began to sell its old Olympics and to buy Class X Cubs. By 1953 the club had accumulated ten Cubs. The Sailors went about winning, or placing high, in intercollegiate regattas from Massachusetts Tech to Michigan, Northwestern, and Lake Mendota. In 1958 Hoofers were Big 10 representative at the Rose Bowl regatta.
Canoe Club was organized in 1952; it purchased three canvas canoes with loans from members. In 1953 they added the first aluminum canoe to the fleet. Since then there have been innumerable trips down the Wolf, Wisconsin, and Lemonweir Rivers and through Canada’s Quetico lakes.
The last big Winter Carnival was held in 1956. Its discontinuation was due to the changeable Madison weather and to lack of snow. The use of Muir Knoll ski jump was restricted because of parking below the hill. The wooden planking began to go to pieces and it didn’t seem worthwhile to replace it because of its limited use. Finally it was condemned in 1956. The University agreed to reimburse the Union with $1000 to be used for another general outing facility. (The reimbursement from the toboggan slide was used to buy the kitchen equipment for the Hoofer Store).
In 1957, the ski jump was moved to Hoyt Park, under agreement with the city parks department whereby Hoofers can practice on it and hold meets there. This same year, “Canoe Club” became “Outing Club,” but with canoeing continuing to be a major activity.
1958 has already seen some marked changes in Hoofer organization. From the fall retreat there evolved a new proposal, the chief purpose of which is to encourage a stronger general Hoofer Club. The proposal was passed Sept. 29 by the Council. Because of enthusiastic publicity efforts and well-planned programs, interest in Hoofers has grown considerably. Weekly issues of Hoofprints are again in circulation, and the general Club in providing interesting all-Hoofer events. The Hoofer Store has a fine stock of equipment for sale and for rent. There are now 20 bikes, 43 pairs of skis, about 40 pairs of ski boots, sleeping bags, tents, and all kinds of camping equipment. The Store sells such things as cook kits, ski parkas and other ski items, manuals on numerous activities, goggles, jackets and sweatshirts, and mittens. These are only a few of the many items available to students through the Hoofer Store.
Outing Club now boasts 13 canoes, some for white water, and some for quiet water trips. Sailing Club has replaced the 10 Cubs with 5 fiberglass Interlakes. There are also 9 Teck dingies, also fiberglass.
Some day, if the University permits the Union to move its bowling alley s underground between the Union and the gym, the Union hopes to relocate the scenery and other storage items below the theater lobby in the present alleys, thus opening the way to develop this under-lobby area for boat storage and as equipment workroom, connected by tunnel with the lakeshore and greatly expanding Hoofers quarters.
Hoofers is fun, and with the love of the outdoors as a common bond, Hoofers offers unlimited opportunities for new experiences and for developing new talents and abilities.