Saranac Lake Red Devils — a big deal in bobsledding
The Saranac Lake Red Devils Bobsled Club was a big, friendly, boisterous group of fellows who used to hold their meetings at the Veterans Club on Broadway.
I happened to be going by the club on a couple of occasions when the guys were holding a meeting, and one could hear the “discussions” out on the street. They had more members than any club in the North Country.
The racing sleds can now be “weighted” to the legal limit, but back then the four-man bobs were manned by big guys who, together, would weigh as close to the limit as possible without being disqualified.
As you will see in the photographs, the Red Devils uniforms were topped with a red and white helmet embossed on the front with “SL,” a red-painted figure of a devil, and “RD.”
The Montreal Standard
There I go again backing into a story. What prompted those lead paragraphs? I have a copy of a 10-by-15-inch Montreal tabloid newspaper, The Standard dated Feb. 15, 1947 (I was still in high school), and on the cover page, blown up and in color, is the Saranac Lake Red Devils bobsled team.
The driver is Jim Bickford, No. 2 is Hugh Bickford (father and uncle, respectively, of Jim J. Bickford of Virginia Street), No. 3 is Lucien Miron (father of my great neighbor, the late Gil Miron), and brakeman is Bill Dupree. I am quite sure he is a relative of Thomas J. Dupree of Breezy Acres, but Tom could not be reached by press time.
Remember, the 1932 Olympic bobsled run on Mount Van Hoevenberg had only existed for 15 years; it was owned and operated by New York state (as was Whiteface Ski Center), so the employees were all state workers. The sport was relatively new, and then just maybe, just somehow, that great coverage was instigated by Mr. Miron, who was from Montreal.
Sizzling Olympic version, not kid stuff
“With Olympic Bobsled Trials currently being held February 12-16 down the famed run at Mt. Van Hoevenberg near Lake Placid, NY, the sport spotlight is being focused for the first time since pre-war days on one of the most thrillingly breakneck sports ever devised by man. Riding a 507-pound bobsled, the helmeted riders begin the mile course from a standing start and drop the height of a 75-story building at speeds reaching 80 mph around sheer ice curves as high as 35 feet in slightly more than one minute. Most amazing feature of the fantastic pastime is that no fatal accidents have happened on the run although one sled sliced off tree tops for 110 feet after jumping the worst curve, Shady, at the half mile mark. Ten members of the crack German teams competing in the 1932 Olympic Games were in the hospital at the same time.
“Although brakes are liberally applied in the passenger rides ($1.00 from mile start, 50 cents from the half-mile start) first time riders such as myself frequently ‘blackout’ nearing the screaming finish. Warily, New York State requires all passengers to sign waivers to release it from responsibility in case of accidents. It cost $11,000 to build, operation expenses hit $4,000 per winter.