Hello fellow Berlinites. The city of Berlin has produced many fine athletes in different fields and I have written about its different high school state championships in the years that I have been doing my history research. Occasionally, I do read about high school neighbors in Gorham producing some fine young skiers today (2017) and that sport is the subject of this week's story.
Berlin High School no longer has a scholastic ski team and it has been a long time since our local youth has strapped the boards on their feet to compete in high school events. I would have to research the year, by now it's been at least 45 years since high school skiers competed here.
In the early 1940s, and specifically 1940-1941 and 1941-1942, Berlin High skiers won two New Hampshire state championships and other prestigious awards. They were led by coach Norman Haweeli and young men like Reginald Batchelder, Robert Keroack, Kenny Fysh, Donald Henderson and Paul Kailey. These athletes were the “Barney Laroches” of the skiing world locally. My research into Leo Cloutier's sports columns back then can attest to the ability of these boys, some of whom became men quickly because of World War II.
It all got going with a super coach by the name of Norman Haweeli, who started coaching skiing in 1938 at Berlin High School. In February of 1941, Berlin High winter sports cohorts hadn't tasted defeat since Haweeli took charge of the coaching reins. Mr. Haweeli was former University New Hampshire ski ace, a Berlin native and BHS graduate of 1934.
The 1941 addition the Berlin High School Mountaineers winter sports stars got their first taste of action on Saturday the beginning of February 1941. In this year they had five veterans who were readying for duty. The list was headed by co-captains Reginald Batchelder and Robert Keroack. The other seasoned skiers were Donald Henderson, Downing Nelson and Kenneth Fysh.
Mentor Haweeli had all wealth of material on hand in 1941 and also high expectations for the upcoming ski meets. The skiers had been drilling for over a month to get ready for this competition.
In their first meet of 1941 on Feb. 1, in New Hampton, the BHS ski team showed the opposition exactly what they had and amassed a grand total of 384 points of a possible 400. This gave the locals first place laurels in this interscholastic contest.
The Mountaineers placed first in the ski jumping and cross-country, second in downhill and third in slalom. The other schools that were involved were: Laconia High School, Plymouth High School, New Hampton Prep School and West Lebanon High School.
Later in February the BHS ski team traveled to Keene, and garnered a total of 376 points out of 400 taking first place laurels in the huge scholastic snow meet held there, thus winning the New Hampshire state championship.
This time, Berlin ended Lebanon's five-year reign over New Hampshire interscholastic ski sports. The teams here along with Berlin, were a field of eight, to include Plymouth, Dow Academy of Franconia, Laconia, Lebanon, Keene, Hillsboro and Newport.
The big point getter for Berlin's snowbirds was the youthful Kenneth Fysh who copped first place in ski jumping, cross-country and the combined event. He was the first schoolboy to lay claim to three individual championships in a long time.
On March 1, 1941, the BHS ski team added more frosting to the cake, when they got a total of 496.4 points of a possible 500. It was here in Laconia that they won the Eastern International Ski Championship in a two day classic staged in the Lakes region back then. That was like becoming the New England Schoolboy Champion in skiing.
The red and black ski birds as Leo Cloutier called them back then, who were triumphant in two major meets held within the past month, had returned to the wars to overshadow all competition in class A ranks. No less than 77 great schoolboy skiers from Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire vied for honors in this title event.
Mentor Haweeli's charges scored a grand slam in four different contests. They were the cross-country, slalom, jumping and combined, for a perfect score of 400 points. Then they tallied 96.4 points in the downhill fray.
The skiing Mountaineers led the complete field with 496.4 points. They were followed by Lebanon High, Laconia, Dow Academy of Franconia, Springfield, Vermont, Plymouth, York High from Maine, Lincoln and Melrose, Massachusetts.
Don Henderson was the big star of this meet, as it was his sensational performances in the downhill, slalom, combined, jumping and cross-country which enabled to the Berlin warriors to place high in the final standings.
Berlin High School skiers won no less than nine out of fifteen medals that were awarded at this prestigious meet. Henderson alone was the winner of five of them, Ken Fysh had three and Robert Kerouac took one.
The Mountaineers made a clean sweep of the three-mile cross-country run, with Ken Fysh, Robert Kerouac and Donald Henderson finishing first, second and third in this race. Henderson placed first in the downhill, Downing Larson finished ninth, Reginald Batchelder tenth and Downing Nelson twelfth. In the slalom, Henderson finished first and Downing Nelson came in sixth. Jumping honors were won by Ken Fysh, with Henderson coming in second, Mickey Dubeau fifth and Reginald Batchelder sixth.
Sadly, the 1941 and 1942 yearbooks did not have all the names of the boys in the pictures listed, but I am sure somebody probably knows them all. The co-captains for the year 1941 were Reginald Batchelder and Bob Kerouac, who were an integral part of this great ski team.
With several graduates, Berlin High's 1942 ski team was not diminished. The following year, Berlin's great skiers were going to beat their performance of 1941. Even though Ken Fysh had a great year in 1941, he was destined to have a greater one in 1942 . He, along with great skier Don Henderson brought more accolades in this sport to the citizens of Berlin.
A glance into the family album for Ken Fish revealed that he started skiing at four years of age in his own back yard. When attending junior high, he participated in Nansen Ski Club meets for youngsters, making his initial leap off the old Nansen Ski Jump when he was 12 years old. At 15 he conquered the big jump for the first time. Ken, along with many others did the same things all winter as youngsters and were now members of an elite high school ski team.
I will tell you about the ski team of 1942 at Berlin High School, who were state champions once again, in my next writing.