Lee Haroldson was involved with the early history of ski jumping in the Iola area.
He presented his memoirs and old movies at the June 24 meeting of the Iola Historical Society (IHS).
Around 1850, Norwegians settled in the Iola area and most had ski jumps in their backyard, Haroldson recalled.
Ski hills were located in Scandinavia, Rosholt, Peru and Iola.
“They nailed Copenhagen boxes on fence posts so you could find your way to Peru ski hill,” he said.
“I remember they made skis in the water tank with white ash boards,” Haroldson said. “When (the boards) were soft, they would bend them down and they dried that way.”
He recalled watching his father, Leo, jump off the old wood scaffold at Hogsback Hill, one of the Iola jumps.
When he started to ski jump, Haroldson’s first jump was off the garage roof, landing on flat ground.
“That wasn’t so good,” he recalled.
When he was about 10, him and his friends, including Al Morey and Tom Hoyord, built a 25-foot ski jump out at the old slaughter house in Iola. It became the hill used by the area’s young jumpers.
Eventually a new scaffold was built at Hogsback in 1945. Haroldson recalled they used material from 20 windmills to build the steel jump.
“At the same time (the young people) were building a wood scaffold at the school house behind the Scandinavia bank on land owned by ‘Old Man Wiff’,” Haroldson said.
In the early 1950s, the National Junior Ski Jumping Tournament was held at Hogsback Hill, drawing a crowd of 1,000 to 2,000. Elsie Louison was the queen.
At about that time, Lee Haroldson started jumping competitively and won several medals.
Around 1955, they were no longer able to ski jump at their hill.
“They locked the gate on us,” Haroldson said.
During this time, he joined the Waupaca club and competed every week.
“We had the club and the money, but we didn’t have a hill,” Haroldson said.
They considered several spots, but nothing was for sale.
It was several years before he and his friends – Jim Helgeson, Jim Wasrud, Terry Oligney, etc. – found the present site on County Road MM north of Iola.
Helgeson immediately cut down oak trees for the landing, even before the land was purchased.
Vernon Wasrud, Malcolm Lien and other farmers worked hard to move the trees Helgeson had cut.
“They couldn’t get those trees off the hill,” he said. “They were so mad at me. But I wanted a ski hill.”
The land was purchased in 1957 and a new scaffold was built by volunteers. Over the years, they built five more jumps and a cross country trail.
Today, the Iola Winter Ski Club (IWSC) is the oldest ski jumping club in Wisconsin, established in 1910.
In an area where 17 ski hills once existed, only the IWSC complex at Norseman Hill remains.