He was a short, stout, rough around the edges sort of guy…
There he stood in the old Judges Tower at Gunstock in February 1971. We were at the Gunstock Invitational 70 Meter Ski Jump. It was my first time to jump the “big hill”. On the trip over from Rumford, Coach Austin had kept our minds off the task at hand by loosening us up with a few stories from “the old days” (pre-60’s). My favorite was: “One day we was at Berlin, ya’ see. Gerald Brown asked me what the hammer, nails and marshmallows were for. ‘Give me about three minutes and I’ll show ya’, I says. So I proceeds to drive a nail through each of my old wooden Northlands. “Watch this, Gerald” I says and I stuck the two marshmallows, one on each tip, jumped into the track, yelled “Yee-Haw” and off I went. After nailing the end of the jump, I sailed into the air, over the knoll and headed for the K-point. In perfect form I reached out with my mouth and ate both those marshmallows… and landed with a perfect telemark to the roar of the crowd!”
Now it was my turn to jump at the Big Gunstock Hill. I was only about 4’2″ and 80 pounds (like I said it was 1971!). Anyhow Coach Austin looked up there and said “Look, there’s a mouse in the house.” He gave me the flag and away I went. On July 3, John “Gerry” Austin passed away. I am only one of the old ski jumpers who had the pleasure of being around Gerry. He was hands down the best story teller ever, in addition to being a coach, volunteer, father and grandfather of jumpers, preparer of hills and an awesome character. He was a part of the ski jumping scene for 50 of his 69 years. We’ll miss ya’, Gerry!
(editors note: Thanks for a great tribute “Mouse”. I bet some folks always wondered where that name came from. We’ll all miss Gerry and his contribution to not only the jumping scene but Rumford and yankee life in general. He was one of a kind! Our condolences to the Austins.)