February 11, 2016 / Comments (40)

A Many-Storied Mountain

Did you know that there used to be a fire lookout on the summit of Mount Hood?

Did you know that Meier & Frank used to run a ski shop in downtown Portland, called Timberline?

Did you know that early Mt. Hood photographers on huge wooden skis pioneered twin-tips? To shoot while sliding backwards?

Lloyd Musser can tell you those mountain stories and quite a few more. Like the one about the flying bus that once served as an aerial tram (sort of). Or the couple in Government Camp that used to make packs and boots out of seal skins. Or the thousands of people who used to pay 50 cents apiece to drive up from Portland and watch the crazy Norwegians risk serious injury to out-yump each other at Multorpor.

Musser, a retired forest ranger, is Volunteer Curator of the Mt. Hood Culture Center & Museum. His main focus is on the collection and exhibits, but he also does living history events like Ski the Glade Day, Steiner Cabin tours, and lectures.

Musser has been interested in mountain heritage for a long time. When he got an opportunity to help Government Camp stalwarts Betsy Valian, Lucille Davis, Nancy Spencer and MaryAnne Hill to preserve that heritage, he joined the board on the spot. At that point they just had a few artifacts and would meet and plan occasionally upstairs from Charlie’s Mountain View Restaurant.

Then they received a donation large enough to fill a museum. It came from the family of Everett and Ida Darr, the couple who ran the Mountain Shop in Govy for many years and owned all sorts of property around the mountain including Multorpor, the Golden Poles condos, Summit and part of Skibowl.

Musser saw the Darr material and he couldn’t believe how deep it went: boxes and boxes of historic photos, organized and clean, buttons from local ski clubs, literature going back to 1898, news clippings from the 1920s.

“They kept some of everything that passed through their hands,” recalls Musser. “I took a semi-load of stuff out of there, and that was the foundation for the museum.”

Now all they needed was a building.

Betsy Valian got a grant to look into the cost of a building and came back with the rather daunting price tag of $4 million, not including land costs. That wasn’t going to happen, so they kept their eyes and minds open, and before long the Mt. Hood Manor came up for sale.

A Farmer’s Contract

The Mt. Hood Manor was a successful bed and breakfast right on the main road through Govy. The owner Mary Swanson, a recent widow, was ready to sell it and move on. She was so happy to deal with the community instead of a developer anxious to “tear it up into condos” that she offered to sell at below-market. They closed the deal with a “Farmer’s Contract,”  meaning basically pay when you can.

Lloyd and his museum allies recruited Bing Sheldon of SERA Architects and got to work converting a B & B into a new history museum and gathering place. They set up a “Clubhouse Room” showcasing longtime mountain clubs like Skiyente and Mt. Hood Ski Patrol and started holding lectures with titles like “When will Mt. Hood erupt next?” Funding came through from Clackamas County as part of the Government Camp urban renewal project that also brought new streetlights. The Darr artifacts shared museum space with mountain photos by Hal Lidell, a Forest Service fire lookout, a classic ski shop bench rescued from a nearby burn pile, and of course the late, great, Fuzzy Snowsurfer, which sadly did not withstand the test of time.

Six Galleries

It adds up to a fascinating six-gallery museum for Mt. Hood buffs. If you haven’t explored inside, I highly recommend visiting. You can become a member at levels ranging from $20 to $1,000 if you want to support the museum’s mission, or you can check out the annual Ski the Glade fundraiser and other events. Read all about it at the museum’s new website, created by board member Zeb Yaklich and his Off the Wall Media team in Portland.

Musser also will be hosting a series of “Social History Happy Hours” scheduled for the last Saturday of each month at the museum. Topics will range from ski fashion to volcanoes, and each session will feature local beers and wine for purchase with a $5 admission.

For more information about the lecture series, Ski the Glade or the Mt. Hood Museum, you can call the museum at 503-272-3301, like them on Facebook, check out their website or stop by any day between 9 and 5, at 88900 Government Camp Loop, Government Camp, OR 97028.

Also, for anyone interested in reading more about Mount Hood culture and history, I recommend these six books.

We also have compiled a timeline for Mt. Hood history buffs that you may enjoy. It is worth skimming to be reminded of just how many firsts have been inspired by this mountain and its culture.

Last modified: February 11, 2016

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