The Snow Bowl

By Barbara F. Dyer | Feb 11, 2021
Courtesy of: Barbara F. Dyer The lodge at the Snow Bowl was constructed by volunteer labor.

Camden — Since the mid-1930s, during the third week in February the town of Camden hosted a winter carnival at the Camden Snow Bowl. The date was chosen because people were sure that Mother Nature would send lots of snow and thick ice on the ponds. It was a big event, and something that people anticipated, for it broke up the long dull winters.

The lodge house, complete with a large stone fireplace at each end of the rustic building was constructed by volunteer labor, and many men and boys worked hard. The men and boys went up every evening, as well as weekends, to work on the building, until it was finished. A kitchen was built in a building at the foot of the ski slope, where volunteer labor served hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. The whole place was created by a labor of love: the love of winter sports, with Hosmer Pond chosen for the location. It was only three miles from the business district of Camden. The lumber was generously given by local businessmen, primarily Harold Corthell (who owned clothing stores for every man, woman, and child), and Gilbert Harmon, an attorney in town. A skate house was also built and was just a small building, very close to the pond.

Sadly, the lodge built by all those volunteers burned to the ground in 1967. An A-frame lodge at the base of the ski slope is what is there now.

There was a slope on the north side of the pond, where everyone skied, when the Snow Bowl first began to operate. Later, the ski slope was across the pond, where a tow-rope was installed, after a few years of all skiers climbing under their own manpower. There was also a "bunny" slope for beginners, and it is still available to use.

The pond was always cleared of snow for skating, and winters came earlier back then. A toboggan chute was constructed on a hill near the skate house. When someone pulled the lever, the platform dropped, and before you knew it you were on the ice. They would have contests for the fastest time for a toboggan, and some trips had anywhere from one to five people on the sled. People are still using the chute today, as it was kept maintained. For more than 30 years, the Snow Bowl has hosted the U.S. National Toboggan Championships. This year, due to the coronavirus, the event has been postponed to February 2022.

Then, there was royalty taking part. A queen was chosen to preside over the carnival. Tickets were sold that had a stub on the bottom, where you could choose a name of one of the girls running for queen. Many tickets were sold by the families and friends of the young women who wanted to be chosen queen, and the one who received the most votes ruled over the event. The five runner-up girls were ladies-in-waiting. The queen also had torch bearers, and someone to play drums and the bugle. A friend of mine ran for the title, and the number of votes was listed each day in a store window of one of Harold Corthell's shops. My friend was always in the top six, and the committee had even measured her for a robe. However, at the last minute one girl, who was holding back some votes she had gathered, won. My friend lost to her.

 

The girl who was chosen queen received many gifts from several shop owners, such as a pocketbook, silk stockings, box of chocolates, jewelry, and whatever the various shop-keepers wanted to donate. Also on the ticket was a list of the prizes you perhaps might win, and that enticed people to purchase one or more tickets.

A large throne was made with blocks of ice, and was usually built at the Hosmer Pond location, but some years they used the Camden Public Library Amphitheater for the location of the coronation. There were also ice sculptures made by anyone who wanted to participate, and there was a prize for the best one, plus a second and third prize. A group from the local residents judged the contest. Quite often stores would have someone make an ice sculpture, as it also was advertisement for the stores. It took a lot of imagination and patience to have it happen.

During the Winter Carnival, there would be many races on skis and skates, and prizes for the winners. A Camden High School pair, a fellow and his girl, did a fancy figure skating performance. The Committee had records played in the lodge house and amplified outside, so people could have a dance on the ice.

Among my souvenirs (and probably in my attic) is an 8 1/2 by 11 booklet that was printed and sold for about 25 cents. It showed a picture of the queen on the cover and a program of the events. That was paid for by advertisements from businesses, most of which were from Camden but some from Rockland, Rockport, Warren, etc. It had a few pictures but there were only a few in order to keep the price of the booklet low.

Those were wonderful days, but seasons have changed and the winters are milder with less snow, generally. It seems that once we could count on a blizzard for George Washington's birthday. We can still count on old memories. They always said that when you grow old you live on memories.

Me, I write about them.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived all her life, so far, in Camden and is the official town historian.

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