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A Parallel Universe

Posted on by Mike Pelchat, Manager of Mt. Washington State Park

I had the pleasure of exchanging several e-mails this past week with Roger Ahlgren who currently resides in Nevada. Roger, who retired from the State of New Hampshire long ago, worked for NH State Police in the Radio Maintenance Division which takes care of all the state police mountain-top radio transmitters including those on Mt Washington. In the 1970′s, he also handmade many of the fiberglass antenna protection covers, called radomes, which are still in use today on the Yankee Building rooftop.

Radomes on Yankee Building Roof

Prior to that Roger worked for WMTW TV-8 in their summit transmitter building, maintaining the diesel/electric generators and radio transmitters (much of the same work I’m doing today on the summit for NH State Parks). During the 1960′s, when Roger was working on the summit, the US Air Force was also operating its icing research laboratories here. All these buildings were removed in early 70′s to help restore the summit to a more natural look after the Air Force left the mountain.

Air Force Icing Lab on Mt Wash 1964

The Air Force had winter snow traveling equipment called Weasels and Tucker Snow-cats. These machines did not have snow plows so labor crews were needed to shovel in front of the machines to level the snow drifts whenever they made a trip up the Auto Road.

Early Tucker Snow Cat

TV-8 purchased a new Bombardier which had a manually operated snow plow which Roger said didn’t work very well.

Early WMTW Snowtractor

At the time, the Tip Top House still had a stone tunnel connecting it to the old Summit House where he said the summit crews kept their ice cream!

Dec 1970 Tip Top House

People who grew up in the NH White Mountains tend to have many things in common even when separated by different time periods.  Many of the people I knew when I started working on Mt Washington in 1976 as a kid shortly out of high school, Roger knew or hired when he retired from State Police in the early 1970′s. One of Roger’s high school teachers in Holderness NH was none other than Wendell Stephenson who worked for the Mt Washington Observatory in 1934 and helped to measure the April 12th 231mph world’s record peak wind gust. I bet having Professor Stephenson as an instructor helped to steer Roger’s career towards Mt Washington!

Wendall Stephenson

Another coincidence Roger and I have in common is we both grew up skiing at Cannon Mountain home of North America’s 1st Aerial Tramway.

1st Aerial Tramway in North America built 1938

Roger was taught to ski race in the 1950′s by Roger Peabody whose family ran the ski area and Franconia Notch State Park for many years.  In 1982 I was hired onto the Cannon Mounain Ski Patrol and eventually took over as Ski Patrol and Trail Maintenance Chief from Mickey Libby who directed the Ski Patrol for 30 years after Cannon’s first Patrol Director, Sonny McCauley retired. These were some of the same Cannon skiers like ‘Bear Claw’ Bob Finn that Roger grew up skiing with and who taught me their skills later in life.

1950′s Cannon Mt Ski Team

It has been an honor and privilege to talk with Roger about the mountains and what is happening today and what was happening when he was on the scene. It is very interesting to compare how our careers in the mountains have been similar. While our paths through the White Mountains never crossed, we have so many shared interests and experiences it’s weird that its like some 15 years later I have been following Rogers footsteps in a parallel universe!

 

Couple of Roger’s e-mails below:

 

Greetings from the past:

I used to work for the NHSP under Bruce Cutting in the Radio department and designed and installed lot of the antenna radomes for State Police, Fish & Game, FBI, and others. I noticed in close-up picture of the Yankee Network building that the antennas were still there after all these years…Also in the 1960′s worked for WMTW-TV and helped maintain the equipment and the old generators. Do any of you know what the power consumption is now with the line going up to the ROCK PILE? We ran 575 KVA with our generators.

 

Mike…..The following are :

1. a pix of the old jet climatic lab and fuel tank farm..Aeronautical icing research labs….Gorham NH office

2. Tip Top house where we stored our ice cream

3. A Bombadiar worthless snowplow…

4. ETC…

George Sobloris took my job with NHSP when I came

My mentors were Roger, Mickey Libby, Sonny Macaully, Bob Finn, and Jimmy Dudley…All patrol skiers and also ran the Tram…I thot as a kid, go ski, come down, run the tram, cool man!!!Roger Peabody told me that if you come to work for Cannon you had to do all jobs other than night watchman!!!

Polly’s Folly was named after Polly Hannah after she got hit with Polio….I worked on the Ski Hearth Farm as a kid….Joan Hannah and her dad Sel were the first Father/Daughter USA Olympians in skiing.

What an honor to think back knowing those people and picking potatos with on their farm……

End

 

 

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About Mike Pelchat, Manager of Mt. Washington State Park

I've been working atop Mt Washington for past 30 years so you can guess I like it above the tree line! After all these years I still never tire of the beauty of our NH White Mtns and consider my employment an extreme honor and privilege to work for the State Of NH and serve its visitors. When not on the summit you can find me enjoying the rock & ice climbing one of the many beautiful granite cliffs we have in Franconia, Crawford or Echo Lake State Parks. I have taken these climbing skills learned at our NH State Parks to climb in Alaska, Andes, Canadian Arctic and Himalayas. I live in Gorham NH with my wife Diane Holmes. View all posts by Mike Pelchat, Manager of Mt. Washington State Park →
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6 Responses to A Parallel Universe

  1. avatar Guy Huse says:

    Interesting.. I climbed with Jim Collins, who is the first and ONLY winter 111′er; all subsequent climbers have had to do 112 climbs. Jim bivouacked in the AF labs in a storm on the hill! Would like to correspond with Roger Ahlgren on Radomes; I’ve made some that weren’t successful!
    Guy Huse MIT/LL retired

    • avatar roger ahlgren says:

      It brings me to my knees to have Mike publish this younger year experience encompassing MOUNTAIN survival, Electronics, and all the beauty of 40 below, quiet, taking pictures of rime ice….and go back in the TV station and have the camera go CLICK…..DUH In nevada the humidity average is 21%…Mt. Wash is 100 allthe time. I live at 4400 feet…Yerington. Out my back door is MT. Grant…11400 Ft…Neat to wake up to….Happy New Years

  2. avatar roger ahlgren says:

    Mr. Guy Huse…the MIT stuff scares me. I went to Lowell Tech…..Got lot’s to share.

    Mountain Rog from Franconia…Mountain people never die. They just stand for a long time.

  3. avatar Terry Wilkins says:

    My dad was Bill Norton who took over as manager of Franconia Notch when Roger Peabody moved on to USEASA in the 1950′s. Would love to know who’s who in the ski team picture!

    Terry (Norton) Wilkins

  4. avatar roger L. Ahlgren says:

    Terry; Picture as follows: 1958, Reno, NV nationals…Top left. Myself, to my left, Joan Hannah, her left, Roger Dionne, next John and Bill Clough. Bottom, Below me, Roger Peabody, Al Merril, Dartmouth coach, William Clough, Dr. and Photo. My Dad ran the Franconia and Littleton Reed ski shops and I remember your Dad…Regards, Roger Ahlgren

  5. Roger, it’s winter, so I happened to think of you. Remembering Cannon skiing, times at your house( with Dottie and Len’s hospitality), camping at the UNH cabins with Clary and Ellen (my godparents), Dottie driving me in her VW bug from St. Mary’s to Holderness as your date for a winter weekend. Long way back. Seems you had an invigorating career. Cheers,
    Sue


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