Snowbirds Deke and Carol Morrison are taking a short break from the sun and warmth of Florida to return to Old Forge to serve as the king and queen of the Winter Carnival set for Friday through Sunday, February 15 to 17.
In spite of their long association with the local Polar Bear Ski Club and their assistance at the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Morrisons said they were surprised and honored to be asked to serve as the 2013 carnival royalty.
The Morrisons have lived in Old Forge since moving from New Jersey in 1968 with their four children, whose ages at the time were, Chris, 4, Lisa, 6, Tim, 8, and Steve,10.
“Skiing was one of the reasons we moved here. We got the kids into skiing and into the Polar Bear Ski program immediately. They earned their ski patches right in the beginning,” Deke said.
During their early years, Carol taught sewing in the Home Economics class at Town of Webb School and Deke, an airline pilot with US Air, commuted to New Jersey for his flights.
But despite their busy work schedules they always made themselves available to help out at the Polar Bear races. Deke eventually became Race Chairman at the events.
“During that time period we did hand timing with stop watches,” he said.
“It was very elemental—with pencils, etc.,” said Carol, who also helped with the timing.
Eventually Deke asked for $50 donations from various people in the community and they were able to purchase an electronic timing system.
“We strung the wires and that was the beginning of our serious technology,” Deke said.
During their racing years, the Morrisons loaded up their station wagon with kids and ski jackets, and travelled as far away as Vermont and Massachusetts for races.
Though Deke and Carol enjoyed skiing, they spent most of their time working at the races.
Because of their timing experience at ski races, the Morrisons were asked to assist with the timing at the National Champion-ships in Lake Placid in 1978 and again at the World Cup in Lake Placid in 1979.
“We started out with gatekeeping and timing and the net result was that we were asked to work at the Winter Olympics in 1980,” Deke said.
Carol was one of the backup timers at the finish line for the Olympic Alpine events. She sat at a television monitor where she watched every skier as they came from the top down to the bottom and monitored their recorded times.
“The Swiss timing company was not thrilled that three women were doing the timing because they didn’t think we could do it,” she said.
Deke was at the top of the mountain for all of the women’s alpine events.
“I began as the starter on the downhill event. They had 29 women and they ran from 1 to 45 second intervals. I was wearing my Old Forge Ski Team sweater and I always had my head stuck out giving them a ten-second warning,” Deke said.
At the time, a few local viewers recognized Deke on television at the top of the mountain as he was delivering the warnings.
It was a once in a lifetime experience for the Morrisons, who to this day, still have their Olympic blue jackets.
“It all evolved because of the training we got in Old Forge with the Polar Bear Ski Team,” Deke said.
Another memorable experience provided by the Polar Bears was sending the Ski Team to Chile.
“Our ski team went to Chile to ski during the 1970s and we hosted kids on the Chilean Ski Team that came here for the winter,” Carol said.
The following summer, during the Chilean winter, their son Steve, who was in the 8th grade, went to Chile to compete against the Chilean Ski Team, along with Jody and Missy Kashiwa, and several others on their team.
According to Deke, the opportunity was made possible by the Polar Bear’s Exchange Program for the ski team members.
What does Deke think of the Polar Bears’ support today?
“I think it’s wonderful. It’s a really unique system where the school and the Polar Bears are integrated. It’s great for the kids in our community.
“Elsewhere, you pay a lot of money to join a team and pay coaches and have races that are completely separate from the school.”
“Our kids were so into it. It changed their lives and they still ski—every one of them.
Sometimes I ask myself, what would it have been like if we didn’t move here? It was the best decision we ever made,” Carol said.
The Morrisons’ coronation will be held on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the McCauley Mountain chalet. It will be followed by fireworks and a community dance.