“The Ants Go Marching…”

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Taken in the summer when the snow pack has withdrawn to the mountain, this photo shows me at the base of Mt. Hood, the 11,250 foot mountain which towers over Portland, Oregon, fifty miles away. Later in my life, I climbed it to the top with a group of friends, but today I am thinking about skiing on it.

In seventh and eighth grade, everyone in my grade school took skiing lessons at Ski Bowl on Mt. Hood. We met up at Riverdale Grade School , loaded our skis in the back of the school bus and were driven to the slopes. skibowl.jpeg

In the late 1950’s, skiing was not a particularly expensive hobby. We mainly used row tows to get up the hill as pictured above from a 1930’s photo. Every year our school had a ski swap sale and you could sell your outgrown equipment and buy the next size up. Nothing was aerodynamic; boots were clunky; skis were fat; we all wore a lot of wool.

But about the singing–the purported focus of this post! We sang all the way up to the mountain, but unlike the camp bus, this one had boys and girls. There were no sentimental songs. Instead we tried, usually successfully, to drive our chaperones crazy with our singing. Our two favorites were “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on The Wall.”(children say pop, not beer!) and “The Ants Go Marching.” Perhaps you were spared learning these ditties. They share a trait of going on forever. In the first case, singing down one by one from 100 to 1. In the second case, singing up from 1 to however high you could count before someone yelled, “Shut up!”

We did this every Saturday throughout the winter, from November through March. 40 kids, singing two insane songs over and over. Somehow we loved it. Of course, there was nothing much else to do on the ride except make plans about who to sit with on the ride home. We girls liked the boys, but we still rode with each other on the way up. We rode with each other on the way back, too. But we had enjoyed the delight of plotting who we MIGHT get to sit with coming back. And that was almost as much fun as pestering the chaperone.

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