Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Fun Story!

Katie Thielman and her family

Yesterday Katie brought this vintage 1960's water ski to the counter which was in our summer window display. She was very excited to see it because her grandpa Don Ibsen had manufactured the ski in Seattle and also had invented the water ski. We sadly told her that it wasn't for sale at this time and that we were borrowing it from a friend but we might be able to work something out... It was great fun to hear her story about her grandpa and all his adventures.
Here is his story:

Don Ibsen co-invents water skis on Lake Washington in 1928.

In 1928, Don Ibsen, a graduate of Seattle's Roosevelt High School and an avid sportsman, co-invents water skis in a series of experiments on Lake Washington. He is one of three inventors of the sport, who were unknown to each other. Ralph Samuelson invented water skis in 1922, on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota, and Fred Waller thought he was inventing the sport on Long Island in 1924. Ibsen, a showman and entrepreneur, was a leading enthusiast and popularizer of the sport.
Inventing the skis was Ibsen's preoccupation during the summer of 1928. As Adam Woog writes in his Sexless Oysters and Self-Tipping Hats, Ibsen tried attaching himself to motorboats with a rope and standing on boards made of wooden boxes, which didn't work terribly well, then snow skis, which didn't work either. Finally he carved two slabs of cedar, eight inches wide and seven feet long. He bent, sanded, and shellacked them and spent the summer on various Seattle beaches bumming rides from people with motorboats.

For the next few years, while working as a hardware salesman, he made numbers of pairs for friends and in 1934 sold his first pair of water skis for $19.95. He married in 1935, and he and his wife Dottie pooled resources from their day jobs to make skis in their basement.

He was a master marketer and an entertainer. He quit the hardware business and thereafter devoted himself to Ibsen Water Skis and related equipment and water-entertainment events. He was the first to use costuming in his act, and in 1954, Life magazine featured him waterskiing in a business suit, with a hat and briefcase, commuting to work.

1 comment:

Katie Thielman said...

Thank you for posting this! It was so neat to see those pictures! It was especially neat to see grandpa's ski, called "Psychedelic" in your beautiful window display! I wanted to give you a few more pics of Grandpa in his hay day! (I will email them to you.) Enjoy! Katie Thielman