A recent post on the Milford NH Residents Facebook page includes a picture of a sign reading: “I’m a wooden spoon, lead paint, no car seat, no bike helmet, garden hose drinking survivor.” And while such a comment on our over-regulated, over-litigated modern society certainly makes a point, it’s also true that even the most casual survey of old newspapers will uncover a seemingly endless supply of child drowning, electrocution, and accident reports.
Nevertheless, our modern society would likely exclude some of the most charming spots of Milford’s past. Such a place was Twin Tows, the rather informal downhill hangout on which a generation of Milford kids learn to ski.
Situated atop Dram Cup Hill on Savage Road near the current Market Basket location, Twin Tows was just that – two 500-foot ski “tows” that pulled skiers up the small hill – and for a buck or two, allowed them to go up and down all day. Originally opened by Arthur Hodgen and John MacDonald in 1946, back in the days when skiers took to the slopes on bear trap bindings, Twin Tows was later managed by the Milford Lions. Never a big money maker, the pint-sized ski venue was perhaps the downhill version of riding without a helmet or drinking from a garden hose - lots of fun and just a little bit wild.
But the rudimentary conditions and cheap prices proved popular. Writing in the Cabinet in 1967, Wilton sports editor Francis Gros Luis summarized a common sentiment: “So the hill doesn’t go straight up for three miles, but does it really matter as you long as you don’t have a long wait in line and get in plenty of skiing?” And the Cabinet’s “Rambling Reporter” found himself feeling poetic at Twin Tows “with what looked like hundreds of youngsters and quite a few adults. The skiers were spread out all across the wide hill, a scene of fantastic activity, one which should be captured by an artist and recorded for posterity, even as famous as ‘Central Park in Winter’ of Currier & Ives.”
The smell, however, was apparently not what one would associate with a Currier & Ives painting. Mark Peikarski described it as “much more offending than the foulest two toes.” Apparently, cows used the area for summer grazing and left behind various hazards for the skiers to avoid come winter. In addition, moles had a habit of popping up along the course, further testing the pack coming downhill. Furthermore, skiers with long scarves could become entangled with the rope tows and a common refrain on the slope was “Keep your scarves tucked in!” One girl with braids apparently was caught and actually lifted into the air by a runaway tow. Former Lion Dick D’Amato told the Milford Cabinet that on his first night working the hot dog stand, a kid came “walloping down the hill and broke his leg” crashing into the structure. Apparently, it was not uncommon for beginning skiers to sail well beyond the slope and out into the parking lot, or even the street.
Even into the 1970s, 100 junior members of the Wilton Ski Club were taking lessons from professional instructor Art Taylor while newly installed floodlights allowed adults on Tuesday evenings to learn “plow turns and how to get up after falling down.”
But eventually, the realities of economics, growth and potential lawsuits meant the end for Twin Tows, and indeed, it seems unlikely that such a casual environment could exist these days. When Dick D’Amato was asked if that skier who crashed into the hot dog stand ever sued, he simply said, “People weren’t so lawsuit conscious back then.”
The hill where Twin Tows once sat.