Snowboard story brings back memories
January 28, 2022
There was a wonderful article in the Pine Knot (Jan. 7) that prompted me to write a little bit of history to pass down.
This particular article really touched home. My grandparents on my father Wallace Johanson’s side were Swedish emigrants — along with other family, the Bergquists and some Berglands — who chose this wonderful town of Cloquet to settle and raise their families.
After the 1918 fire my grandfather, Wilhelm Dahl Johanson, who had moved into town from his little log cabin on Brevator Road, purchased land from John Johnson, my grandmother Anna (Hultberg) Johanson’s brother-in-law. Wilhelm built a fire shack at 421 10th St., between Selmser and Prospect avenues. In a few years he built a larger home on the front part of the lot. On the south portion there was a small hill that was a gathering place for kids, especially in the winter.
At one time there was a small hockey rink and I was told that sometimes frozen horse droppings were used as hockey pucks. A lot of creativity went on in this area, as there was a large number of children. They also had Johnny White’s forest on the end of the block on 10th Street.
I started my childhood in the Red Cross shack that my grandfather Wilhelm built after the 1918 fire. My father Wallace had just returned from his time in the Navy in the Pacific Theater, married a local gal (former “Rosie the Riveter” Lucille Latulip) and needed a place to live. My father and his siblings had moved to the new house to live, so now he and his new bride moved into the shack.
When my mother became pregnant with me, a little room was added for me, using materials from the old Cloquet dump. At that time, Conwed (now USG) would put materials aside for people to use. A toilet was also stuck in the corner of the bedroom with a little door for privacy. We had running “cold water” that had to be heated on the stove and put in a tub for my bath after I came along on Sept. 9, 1946, at the old Raiter Hospital downtown. We lived in the “shack” until I was to start kindergarten at the Jefferson school. We moved in 1951 to 402 Sixth St. at Selmser Avenue to live in a home built by my French great-grandparents Maxim and Emma LaTulip.
From the time I was little, and as I grew up, we still continued to gather in the old 10th Street neighborhood to enjoy that great little hill.
Each winter we would slide and build ski jumps just as our parents had done. Somewhere around the age of 10, when I started skiing on the Pinehurst Park hill, my father Wallace decided he should share one of his old traditions. He built a type of “snowboard” like the one he had when he was young. (He was born in 1923.) It was made of three barrel staves with a leather foot holder, a rope on the front end, and a stick to steer. It looks just like the one pictured in the Pine Knot article.
Wallace then used some of my grandfather Latulip’s paint and painted it “park bench green.”
I will never forget the day he took me to Pinehurst to try it out. We took it halfway up the hill for the first run. Bear in mind that this man had not been on one of the old snowboards for many decades. Wallace made it down just fine the first time. He was now the proud father who had just passed down something from his past to his daughter. I also managed to do OK, listening to his instructions, the most important being “always remember to hold the rope tight and keep the front end up.”
My father Wallace was a man who loved a challenge and couldn’t leave well enough alone. He decided we should now go for a full run down the hill. Up he went, a proud father ready to show his daughter what he could still do. Unfortunately, partway down the hill there was a dip and he dropped the rope. I watched in horror as my father tumbled down the hill.
I ran over to him as he sat up and said, “We better go back and sit down a bit.” As we sat on this beautiful sunny day watching others enjoy the hill, I noticed that he was looking a little pale. A suggestion was made that maybe we should visit the emergency room. Being a stubborn Swede, this was not happening at this point.
Pain beats out pride and we eventually did make a trip to the hospital. He had torn ligaments in his shoulder. He was now not the superhero father he had wanted to be, and also had to go home and face my mother, who did the “What were you thinking?” routine.
So goes the story of my snowboarding experience and a day I will always cherish and remember. I do wish I knew what happened to our snowboard.