Tracing Tracy Territory: Return to Squaw Valley
by Sam Matthews / TP publisher emeritus
Mar 26, 2010 | 4931 views | 2 2 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After the most recent heavy snowfall, my wife, Joan, and I decided to do something we had talked about for several years — head up to the Sierra to look at the snow and check out the ski areas of North Lake Tahoe. With the weather turning sunny after the storm passed, it was the right time.

Climbing over Donner Pass, we could see the snow that fell two days earlier still clinging to the trees and capping the rocks in the middle of the mountain streams. Yes, we agreed, our timing was right.

After an overnight stay at the Peppertree Motel in Tahoe City (originally Russell’n Pines, developed in 1959 by former Tracy elementary school Superintendent Wendell Russell), we headed up to Squaw Valley.

The mountain is the same, but everything about Squaw Valley looked a whole lot different last week than it did a half-century ago.

That 50-years-ago visit was a day in February 1960 I spent at the 1960 Winter Olympics with friends, including Nick Margaros and a local school teacher with whom I had struck up an acquaintance, Miss Joan Pflugrath. It was a last-minute trip taken despite warnings of massive traffic jams of people getting to Squaw Valley. Fortunately, it turned out there was very light traffic and plenty of places to park.

We didn’t have tickets for the hockey game under way in the Blyth Arena (since torn down), and it was a big one. The unheralded U.S. team was playing the powerful team from the Soviet Union — and the U.S. won on its way to the gold medal.

Meanwhile, outside the arena, we walked about at the bottom of the ski areas and watched some of the slalom races, but we had no idea who was winning.

More visibly interesting, though, was the 80-meter (large hill) ski-jumping competition on the hill just south of the main lodge. I was amazed by the daring of the ski-jumpers as they literally flew off the hill to the landing zone below. We were able to hear the announcement of the results, and I can still remember that an East German by the name of Helmut Recknagel won the gold. Why that name has stayed with me for all these years, I’ll never know.

Since 1960, of course, a number of lifts and other facilities have been added, and a whole new “village” created at the foot of the mountain. Over the years, I had seen some of the new elements of Squaw Valley, but the “village” was new to me. In the midst of all the development, the original Squaw Valley Lodge still stands as a reminder of the ski resort’s beginnings in the early 1950s.

We decided to take the cable car some 2,000 feet up the mountain to the High Camp facility. The 10-minute ride provided a great view of the ski runs and mountains capped with this year’s ample snowfall.

It was Monday, so the weekend crowds were gone, but the runs at the top were relatively busy.

High Camp has several restaurants, a sundeck, an ice-skating rink and even a swimming pool. On a cloudless February day, the whole snow-covered scene below and above our vantage point was impressive indeed as I gazed out the restaurant window, munching a hamburger and sipping a draft beer.

At one end of the High Camp complex, a room has been made into a 1960 Winter Olympics museum. We watched a black-and-white film on a TV monitor showing skiing, skating and hockey highlights of the 1960 Olympics. The scenes brought back memories of that day a half-century ago when Helmut Recknagel was flying through the air as Joan Pflugrath and I stood watching in awe below. Yes, the former Miss Pflugrath was there 50 years later watching the screen, too.

‘A huge success’

An e-mail message from former Tracy police Sgt. Danny Dunne reports that his book signing Saturday at Barnes & Noble “was a huge success.”

Danny, who signed copies of his novel, “The Blue Mexican,” said, “There were so many people that I was truly overwhelmed, gratified, flabbergasted, humbled and every other adjective I can think of to describe the event.”

The interest was so great, Danny reported, that Barnes & Noble sold out of his novel (published under the name Danny Thomas Ruiz), and for some reason, sales skyrocketed the next day at

I wouldn’t be surprised if Danny will be authoring another novel in the next several years. Saturday’s successful book-signing no doubt will help propel him in that direction.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at
Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 28, 2010
"The former Miss Pfulgrath," are Joan and Joan Matthews, one-in-the-same...

Congradulations on your 50th wedding anniversary.

That too is deserving of some kind of medal.

March 27, 2010
I remember Miss P. Senior Elementary School, PE teacher.

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