Ups and downs

As a gentle, pleasant, improbable semitropic salubrity wafted into the Pine Tree State even past the middle of January, the lamentations of our ski-slope people were heard in the land. So they came in a body to our state house at 'Gusty and demanded that our governor shake a leg and do something to assuage their sorrows in this snowless winter of discontent. Governor Brennan said he would do what he could, and I assumed he was about to r'ar back and pass off a mackerel in the amount of about two feet of snow. But the weasled and said Uncle Sam would have to pick up the tab, and I realized he meant assistance a la Chrysler. This should prove to be the ultimate absurdity in America's passionate infatuation with Federal Aid, and if Uncle Sam is about to lend money to the ski slopes, I want equal treatment for my little snowshovel business, a sideline but also in distress.

Some years ago I assisted in the financing of ski slope, and as things turned out it was venture capital well placed. In relating the details, possibly to aid Uncle Sam as he comes to the rescue, I should speak briefly on the broader aspects of Maine's outdoor business.

Time was that families with money to spend would come to Maine on the steamcars for at least a month, and often for the whole summer. Some had cottages or camps, even estates, and others came as summer boarders or stayed at one of our resort hotels. We had hundreds of them, and for a generation they flourished. Our Rangeley Lakes Region, for example, was prosperous from ice-out through the all-too-short-summer into November. Everybody and everything was geared to "the season." Some operated lodgings, and this made jobs for choreboys , waitresses, chambermaids, and guides. Then came to automobile, and the overnight guest was something else again. The older kind of prosperity was lost , and there had to be an adjustment to a new day. One by one the resort hotels faded, and today even the Registered Maine Guide lacks "sports" to keep him busy all summer and fall. And in the Rangeley Region the idea of developing a ski slope caught on, with hopes of making "four season" recreation. At first the usual hasslin' the comes with small-town programs amused some of us, but then the plan jelled. Leases could be had on Saddleback Mountain, Maine's seventh highest, along with access. Things progressed until the time came to sell stock , and the Rangeley-Saddleback Corporation was formed.

Most everybody in Rangeley put up some money and a number of the businessmen put up a good deal. A roadway was swamped, and chopers cleared the trails. And it was tactfully suggested that non-resident "friends of Rangeley" might subscribe as a gesture of interest. Many did, and so did I. We owned no property at Rangeley, and had no intention of acquiring any, but in a couple of hours we could motor there from home, and we frequently went for a weekened, and sometimes just for a day's outing. Pausing one evening to sit a spell with the Johnsons, old friends, we learned that Flint was working "on the mountain." So we were thus doing that much of a kindness to Flint and his comely wife. And Saddleback came along just fine. People came to ski, and that was the whole idea. But something didn't mesh just right, and new management seemed wise. Things were reshuffled, reorganzied, refinanced, and while Saddleback resurged, I learned my stock was now worthless.

But I didn't explain -- when I got my four shares, I found I had jumped to an erroneous conclusion. The price was not one hundred dollars a share; it was only ten dollars a share. I paid forty dollars, and thus saved $360, which is not a bad profit. Particularly on a ski slope in Maine.

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