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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Holtzer II

I learned that the USAir ground school was looking for several additional instructors to help introduce the Boeing 737 to the fleet.  I had remained in contact with my friend, Walt Holliday, at Flight International, in Atlanta.  This seemed like a match made in heaven.

I called Walt and asked him how things were going.  He said he had started working at a store that sold tile, because things had slowed at the school, even more than when I left.  Furthermore, a slow down of airline pilot hiring was the cause, so that escape was not available to any of us.

I told Walt about the openings at the ground school and asked if he was interested.  He was and got back to me with a question concerning our friend, Bill Shinnock, who was still there and another guy named Frank Ruba.  Frank was a medically retired TWA pilot and Walt wanted to know if these guys could apply also.  I checked with Ron Barnett, the manager of the ground school, and he seemed very pleased to have an opportunity to talk to three such highly qualified people.  They interviewed and were all hired.

This was great for me, because I had some of my old friends to hang out with and best of all, Walt was a skier.  He would join me frequently to drive to some of the resorts east of Pittsburgh.  

One day we decided to drive a little farther east to Blue Knob Ski Resort.

It was a bitter cold day.  As we were driving there, I remember seeing a crust of ice on top of several feet of snow.  I had read stories about how harmful this condition was to the deer population of the Keystone State.  They were post holing through the upper crust and breaking their legs.  This foretold of nasty conditions for skiers, also.

I think Blue Knob is the highest elevation of a ski resort in PA.  Another unusual aspect is that the lodge is at the top of the mountain.  You ski down then ride the chair back up to the top.  The weather was so bad, we were practically the only skiers there that day.  We had the mountain to ourselves, but who wanted it?

It was bitter cold and windy.  The ride on the lift chair was brutal.  The seats were covered with ice.  We talked about leaving, but wanted to justify the long drive and the cost of the lift tickets.  We gutted it out, by going into the lodge after every second or third run down the mountain and agonizing ride back up.  Coffee, hot chocolate, schnapps, were all on the menu.  There was black ice at every turn of the trails.  Lots of sliding, no carving.  While suffering on the lift, we entertained ourselves by planning to drag our friend and fellow employee, Joe Coates, out to a ski resort.

I always call Joe Couzzo, because that was his family name before someone Americanized it to Coates.  Joe was not much of an athlete and had never skied before.  We had then and still have a relationship in which we are constantly taking shots at each other.  Walt and I planned to convince him that skiing was easy and fun and that we could teach him how to get down the mountain in one day.  As we drew up our plans, we were giggling and forgetting about how we were freezing our butts off.  I think I know why they call that place Blue Knob.

When we returned to work, we moved from the planning stage to the implementation stage and started working on Couzzo.  Finally, we convinced him to join us at Hidden Valley.  We thought that this place was docile enough to avoid killing him.  We went through the ski rental phase and this was already providing us with all the entertainment we had anticipated.

Getting him on the lift was hilarious and his reaction when he first looked down the slope was priceless.  We were being rewarded for enduring the nastiness at Blue Knob.  I tried to explain the dynamics of turning, but I don't think he got it.  I went down the slope about 25 yards and told him to ski down to me.  He started down, but forgot the part about turning and headed for the tree line at the side of the slope.  The scream was the most fun we had all day.  Fortunately for Joe, the terrain began to rise a little just before the trees and he slowed enough that he was not seriously injured when he ran into one.

Joe's skis had released from the bindings and he did not want to put them back on, when I arrived to teach him how to get up from a fall with slippery boards attached to his feet.  He carried his skis down the mountain and learned how painful walking in ski boots can be.  He turned in his rented equipment and headed for the bar.  That is where we found him and it is a good thing he didn't have to drive home that day.

Now, to explain the title of this post and a previous one.

I mentioned a guy named Jim Oberholtzer in the last post.  He did go skiing with me that one time, but he was not a guy who was well liked by most of the other instructors.  He was smart, but he was obnoxious.  That is why I did not feel bad when I abandoned him while skiing with the young woman we met at Peak 'n' Peek.  

You may have noticed I have this thing about giving nicknames to people.  I think I inherited that from my grandfather, who gave such names to most of his 8 children and many of his  26 grandchildren.

Walt inherited a desk which had previously been Oberholtzers.  Walt's nickname, even before I met him, was Hollie.  It may have been his call sign in the Air Force also.  Anyway, I started calling him Holliholtzer and this was shortened to Holtzer.  So here we are in 2016, more than 34 years later, calling each other Holtzer every time we see each other or talk on the phone.

Holtzer is one of the people who knows just about everything there is to know about my long time struggle to land the airline pilot job of my dreams.


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