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Doug's Diggings: More information about Coon's Hill

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On Feb 19 I put together a package about Coons Hill. It included a few historic pictures and some historical information, but, as I told our readers, we do not have much history about the hill.

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I've had a couple of calls, however, in the past few weeks with more information regarding Coon's Hill.

Former Hudson businessman Dick Mueller said the land was donated by Harry Stewart.

"Harry is still alive and lives in Menomonie," Mueller said.

Jay Livermore concurred with Mueller.

"It was part of Harry Stewart's pasture," Livermore said.

The original Coon's Hill was nestled in an area now surrounded by residential homes just off Knollwood Drive, near Wisconsin Street. It still lies somewhat east of the Willow River Cemetery and is owned by the city of Hudson, but it is much smaller than what many old Hudsonites may remember.

As we reported, the huge sliding hill once covered about 10 acres of land and offered a wide expanse for sleds and skis. The current facility covers about 2 acres and offers just a single, narrow sliding hill.

And, it wasn't just a sliding hill in the old days. There was a version of a ski jump, or ski slide, for many years and in 1949 a new jump and rope tow were installed. The hill was used for skiing, tobogganing, sliding, etc.

The Junior Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the 1949 project that included the construction of a ski jump at the site. Unfortunately neither the tow nor the jump survived too long - probably a bit more than a decade. There is also some dispute as to whether 1949 was the year the improvements were installed. Some old Hudsonites think the construction took place more in the early 1950s.

Mueller said the material for construction of the ski jump came from the old North Hudson railroad shops.

"Another bunch of it also came from Local Lumber," Mueller said. "Don Tulgren was the manager at the time."

Mueller said that Ken Ostby donated the car that provided the power and equipment for the rope tow on the hill. Ostby owned a service station on the corner of Fourth and Vine streets and also had the Oldsmobile dealership at that location (now Valley Services, 403 Vine St.). He said Everette Chilgren, who worked at NSP, set the poles.

Livermore, a 1963 Hudson High School graduate, said he ran the rope tow in the early 1960s.

"I remember the rope tow and ski jump very well," Livermore said. "The jump was actually toward the middle of the hill. There was a scaffold on top that got the skiers up to speed quickly, and the jump came in the middle. There were actually some pretty good jumpers. I remember Bruce Penman was a great ski jumper."

Livermore said the Hudson Boosters actually ran the tow in the later years of its existence and they'd pay him a few bucks to operate the facility.

"Al Weitkamp was the official rope splicer," Livermore said. "He lived nearby and if the rope broke, he'd come over and fix it."

Livermore said the hill also had some lighting, because people skied there in the evening. He said there would typically be 12 to 15 people on the hill during the week - more on the weekends, like 25 to 50.

Coon's Hill in Hudson has provided many youths with spills and thrills, probably going as far back as the beginning of Hudson history. In fact, it was known as Coon's Hill, probably even when Harry Stewart owned the property. There was a reference to Coon's Hill in the Dec. 15, 1932, edition of the Star-Observer and former Publisher Willis H. Miller reminisced about sliding on Coon's Hill as a child - he was born in 1919.

As reported earlier, many Hudsonites describe their first venture down the hill with words ranging from "fun" to "sheer terror."

Correction

In last week's column I reported that Richard Phillips was captaining the USS Bainbridge when his ship was captured by Somali pirates. Of course, that is incorrect. Richards was captaining the Maersk Alabama. The Bainbridge is a Navy Destroyer that was used in the rescue of Richards.

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