Reviewing the years 1927 to 1940

January 29, 1977

The Celebration of the Obsidians’ 50th Anniversary Year at the Lodge could not have been more fittingly observed than it was Saturday night when Charlotte Lemon and her committee re-lived its fascinating history before an appreciative audience of approximately 92 members and friends.

I would like to express, on behalf of all Obsidians, the highest praise for the work and performance of this committee. They spent hours planning the program, calling and writing letters to Charter and other early members (Cliff Stalsberg took on this job), preparing special name tags and preparing their own accounts of the early years. They are:

Charlotte Lemon, Princess Meadowlark, Chairman
Ed Johnson, Chief Skyhook, Master of Ceremonies
Cliff Stalsberg, Chief Spread Eagle
Hazel Stalsberg, Princess Silver Wing
Thelma Watson, Princess Pine Tree
Glen Sims, Chief Little Brother
Florence Sims, Princess Blue Waters
Elsie Dotson, Princess Dawn
Dot Dotson, Chief Kodak
Ray Sims, Chief Smoke Turner
Myrtle Smith, Artist

The Committee spent several hours on Friday, mounting old time pictures on the walls, along with samples of ski clothing and equipment used back in the 1930s (skis without harness, etc.). There was also a display of Summer Camp “Prospectuses” for the early years. The Charter Members’ names were displayed on the wall written in large script. Table tops were appropriately decorated with pieces of Obsidian, camp lanterns and old camp equipment to create atmosphere. Sketches of Summer Camp activities—climbing and hiking—and certain questions on Obsidian happenings appeared on the table tops, such as “Who was the first Princess?”

After this traditional opening song, led by Bob Wilson, Chief Kiyi, and Chester Pietka on his “squeeze box,” Ed Johnson asked that everyone present stand and give their name, and Princess or Chief name, after which he introduced “Mr. Obsidian” himself, Ray Sims, Chief Smoke Turner, who recounted the story of the Ferry and Cramer search which set the stage for the formation of the Eugene Outdoor Club (later renamed Obsidians).

This comment tells much about the times—in 1927 it was a 5-hour trip up the McKenzie to Frog Camp in Ray’s Model T Touring car on a rocky and rutted road after leaving Springfield. Ray’s story began with the report that Guy Ferry and Henry Cramer, two U. O. students, were missing in the Three Sisters area. Then followed the story of the search and the founding of the Obsidian Club. The tale was very well told by Chief Smoke Turner, and the complete account is available in the Club library. (The bodies of Ferry and Cramer were not found ’till 1929).

Ed introduced Florence Sims as the Princess with the highest rank as she was initiated by the Chiefs in 1929, and in turn initiated the next two, Elsie McHoes (Dotson) and Elizabeth McMahan the same year. So began the Princess organization, which now numbers 114. Quoting from Dr. John Bovard’s History, “Under the clever direction of Henry Korn, this ‘inner’ organization was worked out and Mr. Korn became the ‘rankest of the rank’ or Chief Horsefeathers.” (The first Chief’s initiation took place at the foot of Collier Glacier.)

Florence’s story described the earliest Obsidian climbs of the Sisters, during the 1928–29 camps. On one such climb she was the only girl, climbing with 12 men. The 1929 Hinton Creek Camp was reached by a 5-mile hike across Wickiup Plains. Campers were transported to the take off point in six new cars, provided by Morris Chevrolet Co. in Eugene. Hinton Falls was a popular point of interest in this camp, because it quit flowing at night, then fell with a rush as the sun thawed it out each morning.

Florence described her own initiation, in the 1929 camp: “as the embers of the bonfire were beginning to fade, the four ‘rankest’ Chiefs sprung a ‘surprise initiation.’” Dressed in her costume, Florence was forced to kneel, or be scalped. An eagle feather dipped in water from the South Sister crater was flipped beneath her nose, and the title Princess Blue Waters bestowed.

Ed introduced Hazel Stalsberg (who has climbed each Sister twice) who presented some clever comments on some of the well-known romances occurring in the early years. Quoting from her speech “This afternoon I said to my husband—talk about women’s lib—we girls had the same qualifications as the men to become a member, and he responded “but some of you had to be pulled up.” Anyway if the girls were pulled or pushed, 114 of us made it . . . then as the trails became more frequented Princess Dawn let Chief Kodak coax her to be ‘his’. . . and as the story goes Chief Hooey Hooey (Ed Turnbull) tried to keep them apart before going into camp, because he hadn’t heard, supposedly, of their marriage, but Dawn, in tears, said ‘You can have the horses and their hobbles, but let me go to my Kodak’—who were they—Elsie and Dot Dotson.”

Quoting again, “Princess Blue Waters later married Chief Little Brother—Florence Ogden and Glen Sims. . . Princess Meadowlark (Charlotte Winnard) singing the Indian Love Call (by Horseshoe Lake) had Chief Wet Wash (Bob Lemon) in mind. . . I can’t end without getting a Chief in this—Chief Sky Hook (Ed Johnson) in 1936 said au revoir to all his other hopefuls and married my good friend Nellie Johnson.”

Ed read letters from Frank Bouck and Sid King, Charter Members, and relayed a telephone message from Gilbert Sprague in Mesa, Arizona. These were in answer to many letters sent out by Cliff Stalsberg (just found out that Cliff and Henry Cramer had been classmates at U. of O.—they used to run the 100 together and were the fastest—about 12 seconds). Another of Cliff’s accomplishments—he climbed the South Sister on all four sides.

Again Bob Wilson and Chester Pietka led the singing for “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’” and “Obsidian Song.”

Calling attention to the Summer Camp brochures on the wall, Ed was reminded of the 1932 Camp at Mt. Rainier, when he helpfully informed the hikers headed for camp that the trail was practically level all the way in. They never forgot the phrase and it became an Obsidian tradition. Also, the words “We take a look and sign the book and then we rest a week,” from the Obsidian Song written by Dave Faville in the 1929 Camp. This was so true, Ed said, in summer they climbed mountains every weekend, and in winter they skiied every weekend, and they found great pleasure in the fun and good fellowship.

Two weeks at Green Lakes Camp in 1931 cost only $35—there were 52 in camp. It was during this camp that Ed, Don Woods and Cliff Stalsberg were the first to climb all Three Sisters in one day, (16½ hours), a memorable event then and now. Painter Cy Fulton was in this camp and recorded many beautiful scenes. Ed congratulated the Obsidians on their enviable safety record—no fatal accidents in 50 years.

Dot Dotson, Chief Kodak, whose Tam O’Shanter precedes him on every mountain, dressed in his old time hiking clothes, described early day skiing at White Branch and Hand Lake, and some of the first Winter Outings. One long remembered feat was turning the ski bus around at Lost Creek—it took two hours. At the 1931 New Year’s Outing directed by Cliff Stalsberg, the Liars’ Contest was started; Roland Burkhardt (if he was around—you knew it!) won the Horse feathers Trophy (a standard army canteen presented by Henry Korn). Probably the best remembered winter outing was in 1933 at the old Lewis Cabins when two feet of snow fell quietly during the night and the 25 cars and 100 people were snowed in for four days.

1929 was the year the Obsidians placed register boxes on the Three Sisters, at the request of the Portland Hazamas.

In 1933, Dot, Ed Turnbull and Bill Tugman (Register-Guard Editor) and Judge Sawyer of Bend, hiked up Horse Creek and Separation Creek, following the red water all the way and discovered a broken moraine on the northwest corner of the South Sister (Skinner Glacier). A few rocks as big as houses were tumbled by the rushing water.

On August 30, 1929, the Ferry and Cramer episode came to an end when a party on horseback discovered the body of Henry Cramer. Dot and Glendon Dotson and Cyril Ball hiked to the area on their own and participated in finding Guy Ferry’s body.

For several years, three Obsidians were well known for their roles as established leaders of certain climbs. Ray Sims, North Sister; Cliff Stalsberg, Middle Sister; and Ed Johnson, Mt. Washington.

Ed asked members of the committee to stand and thanked the kitchen committee and Glen and Ray Sims for bringing the Obsidian rocks from which the club’s name evolved, as “Hard as Obsidian” became a popular metaphor.

Charlotte Lemon, dressed for hiking the trails as she had 40 years ago, mentioned the authentic ski equipment on the walls and Ed Johnson’s knickers, and expressed her appreciation of the enthusiastic help she had enjoyed from members of her committee and others.

Dot was asked to tell the story of the “Bengal Bicycle Riders.” He responded with a twinkle in his eye, “It’s a very interesting story and best told only while hiking the mountain trails, and takes five miles on the trail to tell the whole story,” and promised to tell it sometime on the trail.

A perfect ending for this delightful evening was the singing of “Taps” and “Goodnight Ladies.”

Six Charter Members were present: Ray Sims, Dr. Fred Miller (with Marian), Sid Jenkins (with Mrs. Jenkins), Florence Ogden Sims (with Glen), Ed Thurston, Dot Dotson (with Elsie).

Some of the very early members attending: Bailey Castelloe (with Mary), Gene Pearson (with Edyth), Earl and Bernice Britton, Florence Parvin Montgomery (with Martin), Cliff and Hazel Stalsberg, Elsie Dotson, Glen Sims, Charlotte Lemon, Thelma Watson, Bob Wilson (with Marjorie), Chester Pietka (with Betty), Ed & Nellie Johnson, Marian Hayes Miller, Helen Weiser, Bertie McKee Mansell (with Frank), and Bertha Deckmam Anderson (with Rolfe).

There is so much more to tell of this fascinating history. The dramatic opening lines of Dr. Bovard’s “History of the Obsidians, 1927–1933” have always echoed through my thoughts over the years. And those pathetic last words, written by Ferry and Cramer, “We are up here in such a blizzard we can’t find the register box.”

by Mary Castelloe
Pr. Orange Blossom

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