Print, Photographic
Print, Photographic

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Record 13/45
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Object ID 2004.10.08
Object Name Print, Photographic
Description Photograph, b/w, original. Joe LaPorte helps adjust a woman's bindings.

Joe LaPorte was born May 1, 1921 in San Francisco and moved to Tacoma in 1929. He graduated from Bellarmine HS in 1941 where is was a member of the ski team. His Dad took him skiing at Paradise in 1938 and they would hike from Narada Falls up to the lodge at Longmire and then ski down Devil's Dip.

Joe began to work for the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1941 and in 1944 he went into the Army and was stationed overseas in Europe with the railroad battalion. He approached the Special Services Division to see if they could get some skis, poles, and boots from Italy for recreational purposes and the division was successful in getting this equipment shipped to them in Frankfort, Germany. Special Services then was successful in finding an area for the officers, enlisted personnel ,and WAC's to ski and so Joe spearheaded the installation of a ski tow, ice rink, and bobsled run for everyone. While in Europe, Joe participated in the Army-sponsored European Skiing Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany before returning home in the summer of 1946.

In 1944, a 20th Century-Fox Movietone crew, headed by Jack Kuhne, boss of the Movietone short subjects department, headed for Longmire to film a Technicolor ski picture on the slopes of Mount Rainier. Twelve northwest skiers were involved in the movie, called "Ski Slopes" including Dottie Warter, Elaine Solum, Joe LaPorte, and Howard (Oscar in the movie) Clifford, TNT staff photographer on assignment. (see photo).

Joe first started up the Totem Ski Club on American Lake in 1950 (or 1951) which served the needs of both water and snow skiers. Arnie Forsberg put the money down and the club purchased a clubhouse and dock on Silcox Island in American Lake. They would then raise monies to pay back Forsberg by sponsoring dances or putting on water carnivals and shows throughout Pierce County such as at the annual Browns Point Improvement Club's annual salmon bake or at the TAC's annual water carnival. Joe became very accomplished in performing various water skiing maneuvers and tricks for the crowds. Other key members who participated in the water ski shows included Lloyd Gammersvik, Bob Hentze, Charles Schuler, Harold Seaberg, Dale Andahl, Howard Clifford, and Don Gasaway. These eight were granted life memberships in the American Water Ski Association which was also affiliated with the International Water Ski Union of Geneva, Switzerland. Ladies who took part in the water shows included Norma Holt, Lucille Fleischmann, Karen Peterson, Ethel Compton, and Junise Nelson.

(Note: back to snow skiing)
In April of 1958 the Totem Ski Club hosted the Daffodil Cup Giant Slalom at Paradise Valley with competition over the mile-long, mile drop course in A, B and Open classes for both men and women. At the time Roy Fisk was president of the Totem Ski Club, Ron Gilmore was race chairman, Joe LaPorte was chief of the course, and Glenn Tegen served as assistant chief of the course.

Certified by the Pacific Northwest Ski Association as an advance instructor, Joe LaPorte served as the Chief Instructor for the Tacoma Ski School which was sponsored by the Tacoma News Tribune and the Metropolitan Park District. Cam Haslam was the Ski School Director for the Metropolitan Park District while Tom Cross was the Assistant Supt. Of Recreation. Joe served in this capacity from 1952-65, with Don Gilsdorf serving as his assistant. Stan Olsen then took over the reigns for ten years before turning it over to Dennis LaPorte.

Unique about the ski school was that the ski lessons were free to participants who only paid for their transportation and insurance. Another unique program offered by the local PTA's, Tacoma Police Department, and the Tacoma Athletic Commission were high school ski parties held on Sundays. The program initially was offered Tacoma high school and junior high students and later expanded to include others in Pierce County.

The first year the ski school was held at Paradise Valley but it later moved to such locations as Snoqualmie Summit, Ski Acres, and Crystal Mountain. According to LaPorte, "We'd make the kids get their gear on and then sidestep on the side of the hill to pack down the slopes first. Our goal was to introduce youngsters to skiing-not to develop hotshot champions."

After leaving the Tacoma Ski School Joe started up the Cascade Ski School in the late 1960's which was geared to adults who wanted to ski during mid-week to avoid the crowds. He started the school with Dick and Mary Lou Johnson who owned Johnson's Sport Shop in Lakewood. Joe subsequently sold the business to Shirley and Martin Fopp who ran the highly successful school for many years.

Over the years a core group of highly qualified and certified instructors provided the instruction to thousands of youngsters starting in the 1930's through the 1970's. Some of these instructors included Marshall Perrow, Wade Perrow, Merritt Cookingham, Joe LaPorte, Shirely Fopp, Martin Fopp, Les Gilsdorf, Don Gilsdorf, Stan Olsen, Dennis LaPorte, Larry LaPorte, Dick Vanderflute, Mary Monroe, Jim Monroe, Jack Tangney, Janine Tangney, Joanne Torgerson, Neil Skelton, Wally Minor, John Toynbee, Bob Hentze, Eddie Aylsworth, Tom Hermson, Bob Mick, Rick Myers, Benny Robertson, Dick Johnson, Dinah Effinger, Dick Kilham, Sepp Kuehnlenz, LeRoy Ritchie, Mary Ambjor, Don Hermsen, Rom Bloom, Dave Shaw,Gordon Bostwick, John Ditter, Chuck Howe, Jane Howe, Lindy Aliment, Buster Arenes, Dave Cookingham, Bud Holt, Nancy Creswell, Richie Nelson and many others.,

NOTE: Joe LaPorte was also involved as an active member of the Tacoma Outboard Association which was formed around 1949. They hosted the Fox Island Race for inboard/outboard classifications.

Search Terms Skiing
People LaPorte, Joe

Shanaman Sports Museum of Tacoma Pierce County 2727 East D Street, Tacoma, WA 206-627-5857
Last modified on: March 14, 2010