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An approximate recollection



BG Bob "Earthquake" Titus


According to some of the original Aspenauts, the ski group, which eventually became "Aspenosium", had its genesis in 1957. John Moore, later president of Autonetics and still later, president of North American Aviation together with Dick Horner decided on a ski trip to Alta, Utah. Horner, a former colonel and Air Force pilot at Wright Field was Asst. Secretary of the Air Force for R&D at the time. He later became a Sr. VP at Northrop. He and Moore were experienced skiers, but the other chaps, Bob Hoover, Dan Darnell and Jim Brooks were novices. Jim told me their flight test experience as North American test pilots failed to prepare them for the perilous slopes at Alta. The first day at Alta, Horner and Moore took them to the top of the mountain and skied off leaving the neophytes to fend for themselves. "It took us two weeks to get down", said Brooks. At one point, while flailing around in the snow, and asked what in hell he was doing, Darnell snapped, "I lost my damn watch." The group made another trip to Alta in 1958 where Hoover broke an ankle. He still doesn't like to talk about it.


In 1959, Art DeBolt, an AF Reserve Brig Gen was the Special Asst to Lee Atwood, the Pres of NAA. He invited me to join the group for a week of skiing in Aspen. We departed from Palmdale in an Aero Commander owned by NAA. Jim Brooks, Dan Darnell and J.O. Roberts filled out the manifest. At Aspen we checked in to the Blue Spruce, a bed and breakfast guesthouse on the east side of the Roaring Fork. Brooks took the bird down to Denver and picked up Guy Stever, president of Carnegie Tech and chief scientist of the Air Force, MG Bill Fisher of Legislative Liaison, MG Ken Berquist, head of Air Defense Systems Integration at Hanscom, and Bob Christie, RCAF.


Darnell arranged ski lessons with Stein Eriksen at Aspen Highlands and we all suffered through the "reverse shoulder" technique. That had to be the most convoluted effort to replicate the remarkable form of Eriksen ever devised. None of us mastered it and really never wanted to try again. There were memorable evenings at the famed "Red Onion" and other watering holes in Aspen and the Copper Kettle out in the meadows. As luck ordained we were snowed in for a couple of extra days, but finally departed in the Aero Commander and got all the way to Grand Junction where J.O. was elected to tend the airplane and the rest of the party flew on to LAX via commercial air.


In 1960 the small contingent of Darnell, Brooks, Roberts, et al journeyed to Sun Valley. Robin Olds was enjoying some leave there and recalls the occasion with amusement. Hugh Elkin probably went along about that time although he refuses to remember.


Bill Fisher became Commander of Eastern Transport Air Force at McGuire in that era and arranged a couple of trips to Wengen and Garmisch. In those days a lot of gratuitous reciprocity between the active duty honchos and industry went unnoticed. Who cared if worthy guys from industry flew on AF airplanes? Bill Fisher's Air Force career is a wonderful story that deserves your attention. He was a terrific fellow who provided marvelous conviviality to every social scene. You all would have loved him.


In 1963, the now growing group met in Vail. "It was in a big white house on the edge of town." Of course Vail was quite small then, so to locate that place today would be to start from the fire station and search about a hundred yards in any direction. Most likely its ghost resides in the parking structure of a condominium. K.G. Freyschlag, a Col. Spgs. banker joined the group that year as a guest of General John Gerhard, then Commander of NORAD, as did BG Ben Cassiday USAF. With a few subsequent stops at Arapahoe Basin/Keystone, and nobody can remember where else, the venue became Aspen. They settled into the Aspen Alps Club, a nice condo complex at the foot of Little Nell (Aspen Mtn.-now known as "Ajax").


Sometime, about 1966 Gen Gabe Disosway, then Commander TAC; Paul Thayer, LTV; Hunter Harris, PACAF; Generals Terry Terhune, Bob Ruegg, Dude Hanes joined in, as did Welko Gasich, Pres of Northrop Aircraft, Ward Dennis, VP, Northrop Corp; MG Dick Cassidy, US Army. There were many others and for the life of me I can't track them all, but it was a wonderful crowd of fellows, all tied in to airpower and its related interests.


I managed to become re-involved in 1968 while stationed in the Pentagon. Robin Olds was there, as was Gabby Gabreski, Brooks, Darnell, Gen. Disosway, and his friend Roane Lacy, the "turkey nut man"; MG Hank Thorne, Pete Everest, Paul Thayer, George Douglas, Col. Al Kelly, Don Hillman, Hilly Paige and a host of convivial champs. Dan Darnell continued to run the program and keep everyone in high spirits. He put out a letter each year, assigning rooms and charging cocktail hour tasks. He was the driving and organizing force from the gitgo. Tommy Knowles and Dave Blankenship were brought in to balance the character equation, thus avoiding confusion with the PTA and DAR.


By 1970 some of the polish grew thin, as the government put out restrictions on corporate behavior. A zealous columnist, Drew Pearson and his minions conducted an investigation, and the printed column produced a reduction in enthusiasm by formerly generous industry attendees. The annual romp in Aspen waxed on at the Aspen Alps Club. In order to make the affair acceptable to the IRS, guest speakers were invited for a number of years and some were excellent. This helped the industry guys to breathe easier. Ward Dennis of Northrop continued to attend, as did Bill Fisher, Terry Terhune, Paul Thayer, Pete Everest, Phil Kout and. . . . . . . . . . . ..


I was asked to help recharge with new blood and in '71 I made the egregious error of bringing Fire Can Dan Walsh and John Lisella. Now as we know, Lisella is a benign chap, but Firecan is a fuse that is tough to extinguish. Despite those obvious discontinuities the program flourished under Robin's guidance for a number of years. Don Madonna joined us in the 70's, as did Buzz Lynch, and a number of other notables. John Harper and Garry Willard popped in around '82. In '83 Suitcase took over from Dorr Newton with the expressed vow of convincing those of us who preferred to lodge at Snowmass to move back to town and the harbor of Aspen Alps Club. Along about 1985, I got the stick and decided that rejuvenation required a move to less expensive digs. Hence we repaired to Summit County with Copper, Keystone, Breck and A-Basin for downhill joy. After that, Firecan got the nod and that brings us up to recent trips to Steamboat. New blood and new ideas helped the growth curve even with the loss of a few dissidents who now form up elsewhere as Det 1. We surely should work to convince them to rejoin the main body that has become quite a group with FNG's arriving each year.


Now, I know there are a lot of holes in this and many opportunities for informed modification. Perhaps I may be even able to assist, but my brain is expunged for the nonce.

Hope this helps to start a useful record.


With kind regards,

EQ (aka Titus)

Growing up is giving up!