Daily Olympian – January 25, 1954
By Mike Contris
It was the persistent thought of the reports of buds and flowers showing up back home in Olympia that caused him the greatest concern. That’s what Swede Olson, wrestling promoter, said as he returned to Washington’s fair Capital City the other day after eight weeks in the snowy reaches of Canada. Yep, he piloted his jalopy some 2,400 miles from a spot where the weather gadget was hitting 28 below zero to what he thought was the land of prematurely blooming springtime flowers.
Hah! Those of you who have braved the snow, ice cold, slush and rain of recent days surely realize his utter, complete surprise as he drove into Olympia. There were no flowers blooming in the Spring, tra-la. No buds that one could see, either. Nothing but more of the same of what he had left behind in the North: snow, drifts, freezing weather and slipper highways.
But those eight weeks in Canada, sub-zero weather and all produced some of Swede’s top thrills, chills and driving. Oh, yes, he wrestled, too, about three nights a week. And thereby hangs our yarn for today. Imagine heading out of Calgary for Regina, some 500 miles away and then heading back to Calgary after the mat show! You imagine it, if you like; we’re content to report it. Anyway, Olson had to cover some 1,100 miles for such a show, and he did this three times a week, going to Edmonton and Regina among other places.
He drove these distances alone, on roads that were in no way kept up as they are here, along lonely stretches where there were no gasoline stations and an accident to a car would leave a person stranded to freeze to death.
His chilliest – outside of the weather – situation happened on his way home, near Cranbrook. Olson was driving cautiously along a slick, icy highway when he noticed a car turn into the road from the left and then stay in the left lane. Without warning, the car ahead of him then made a sudden right turn. Olson tried to stop his car on the icy road but to no avail, ramming the other car. The two vehicles came to rest at the side of the road. Cliff said he was more frightened than he had ever been in his life. On the other side of the road was a 500-foot drop-off.
As it was, Olson pried the bumper off his front wheel and then kept on for Spokane. The accident had happened about two-thirty o’clock in the afternoon. On the way from there to Spokane, Swede battled a blizzard, with but one of his lights on. He guided himself along the road by shining his spotlight on the ditch alongside the road. There was no other way to tell where the center of the highway was located.
He hit a snow drift well over his head in height. The impact threw snow against the windshield and fogged it up. He had to stop because he had no idea of what had happened. When he lifted the hood of his car, he found the motor compactly stuffed by the snow that had been forced through the broken grill. Only the carburetor air filter was showing. But he arrived in Spokane at midnight, with the nightmare blizzard behind him. From Spokane to Olympia the roads were good.
But then there was Olympia! Enough said!
To go back to the Canadian wrestling, Swede said he had planned to head for Saskatoon to do some promoting. It was 26 below in Calgary where he was stying, and when he learned that Saskatoon was hitting 30 below, he picked up his wife’s letters that told of the flowers reported blooming here just before the Christmas holidays – and he thought of the lonely, treacherous 1,000-miles-plus of driving for the mat shows – so he chucked the idea and headed for home.
In the eight weeks in Canada, Olson drove his car for more than 10,000 miles and traveled some 5,000 miles by other means of transportation.
On one of those lonely rides at night, Olson saw something coming at him in the night. He pulled up and suddenly realized it was a cub airplane, some 50 feet in the air, apparently lost and following the strip of highway.
“Never had an airplane spin in the mat ring to rival that plane’s effect on me that night,” Olson said. “I wonder if the pilot ever noticed my car below him?”
In all that snow driving, Olson did not use chains. He kept his regulation tires considerably deflated, about 25 pounds. He had but one flat tire in all, and that happened to be right in the city fortunately.
When asked by Canadians where he lived, he would answer them: On the highway! True enough, because most of the time he was behind the wheel of his car driving to or from a wrestling show.
Most of the time he drove 1,600 to 1,800 miles a week. It was 2,900 one week. All of it was difficult driving because of the snow and ice.
Wrestling is good in Canada, Olson opines, but that terrific driving would soon break you down. A tough way to earn a living.
“Glad to be back, flowers or no flowers,” Olson said, “and a belated happy new year to all.”