Ma Moriarty and the Moriarty Hat

Marvin Moriarty racing at Aspen in the 1950’s

I am finishing up my book (now I have 193 pages of 208 written and designed) and noticed in The Stowe Reporter a new group was inducted in the Stowe Ski and Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame. I looked to see if Ma and Marvin were in and no! They weren’t. So I called the Museum and the director said it takes a while and eventually she pushed for them to be in the next group.

“It’s up to the board,” she said. Sounded dark, crumbly and sniffy to me so I wrote a letter to the Stowe Reporter, which they published and here it is:

Ma and Marvin Moriarty. Did they live on the wrong side of the Mountain Road?   A Lifetime of Vermont People.  A project I talked myself into. A new book. 60 Vermonters, over a half century of words and photographs and people from rural Vermont. A legacy I am leaving behind, or it is leaving me behind, for it has taken all of this year, no I am not finished yet. 60 portraits, 60 interviews, 208 pages, 200 photographs, much more text. A lavish book to be printed in Italy. It will be finished and presented before the summer solstice of next year.

I’m sure you know some of the people who live locally and vibrate within this book’s pages.  Paul Percy and his Rube Goldberg sugarhouse—so practical, so ingenious. The telescope maker and comet finder Arden Magoon. Willis Hicks, a revisit of that wonderful auctioneer who sold the cows of the last farm on the Mountain Road. 1968 was it? An update of the Lepine sisters, retired now, still active, inquiring minds. Bambi Freeman, “Don’t let obstacles ever bother you and your goals.” should be her motto. George Woodard had a dream of turning his farm into a movie location and creating a feature film and so he did, and milked the cows everyday too. And Rusty Dewees, that logger with the ripped shirt, better known to Vermonters than the Governor. Wonderful people.

And Ma and Marvin Moriarty. I’m just finishing a profile on the hat maker and her son the ski racer. Ma knitted the first Moriarty hat and it became viral in the ski world. Thousands were knitted by Vermonters, neighbors of Ma and if they did not have the money to buy a knitting machine, Ma bought them one, told them to pay for it when they could, and never thought of charging interest.  She was that type of person, sweet but tough enough to deck a demanding, pompous customer in her Mountain Road shop.

And Marvin. On the United States Olympic Team when he was 16, won just about every major race in America, retired Mt. Tremblant’s Ryan Cup he won it so many times. Perhaps he was the most talented of all American skiers, save for Marilyn Shaw, another Stowe ski racer, her record eclipsed by World War II. Few know that Marvin designed the racing pants with the racing stripe down the side on stretch cloth, to allow more movement. He also put the Moriarty logo on the outside of the hats as other companies were ripping off the design. It was such a good idea that Nike and other large clothing manufacturers followed by putting their logo all over their sport goodies.

So I am finishing the Moriarty story and the Stowe Reporter publishes the names of the 2012 Hall of Famers chosen by the inner circle of the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum. (They added the word “Snowboard” for what reason I can’t imagine.) And who is elected to the Hall of Fame? Minnie Dole, who started the National Ski Patrol and worked Mt. Mansfield top to bottom. Deserves to be in. Then there is Jack and Donna Carpenter who made a fortune with snowboards; Trow Elliman, a former editor of the Stowe Reporter and was in a bunch of ski associations; Tiger Shaw, who did well on the World Cup in the 1980’s.  And the ski journalism awards were given to ski editors of the Stowe Reporter. But no  honors for Ma and Marvin. Like they never lived in Stowe, or came from the wrong side of the Mountain Road, or even existed. For ten years the museum has ignored them. Hey, what gives? I’ll take bets that Marvin could ski circles around Tiger Shaw, if they raced in the same era, and that’s not taking anything away from Tiger. Well, Marvin grew up poor. His first skis were boards and the bindings were Mason jar rubbers, used ones that his grandmother gave him to ski on the hills near the Stowe school.  He made friends with the Mt. Mansfield ski patrol and copied the style of the Austrian ski instructors Sepp Ruschp imported. When he raced in Europe he trained with the Austrian ski team. He skis with ankle power. Still does.

Well, Marvin is a gifted athlete. We could fill a book about his life in Aspen and Stowe. He lives in Stowe, with Beth McMahon, his sweetheart of 36 years, and has a place in Florida. He’s in super shape, teaches tennis at the Stowe tennis club. Hikes and bikes. At 74  he’s doing great for a man who went through a bypass and inherited the family diabetes.

Marvin was close friends with Max Marolt, a racer not on Marvin’s level, but up high enough to be on the US Ski Team. There’s a statue of Max in Aspen. Marvin saw it and said what an honor for Max and his family. Stowe has Helen Day, a bunch of fund raisers, some with big change hanging heavy in their pockets but you won’t find any statues in Stowe of Charley Lord, Sepp Ruschp, Marilyn Shaw, Billy Kidd (According to one book, he never lived in Stowe) or Ma and Marvin Moriarty. Why not, huh? If you think the people of Stowe and the ski museum should honor Ma or Marvin send a vote in to the Stowe Reporter or to me on Facebook. It’s wrong to ignore them.


Well a bunch did. After all, Ma and Marvin are, outside of Billy Kidd (more Steamboat than Stowe) are nationally known, Marvin for his ski ability, and Marvin and Ma for the outstanding success of the Moriarty Hat.  Here’s my favorite letter:

To the Editor:

Thanks to Peter Miller (Oct 18 column in the Stowe Reporter) for bringing to everyone’s attention the oversight regarding the Moriarty’s. Following are some of the facts of their legacy. Anabel not only provided a cottage industry for many in Lamoille county but was like a second mother to many of us. Some thought we were uncontrollable but Anabel always saw things in a different light. She truly was one of a kind, for which I’ll always be grateful.

Just a few facts regarding Marvin’s achievements: At age 16, he was the youngest American male to make the U.S. Olympic Team, followed two years later by the U.S. FIS Team. During this period, he was the first American male to win a slalom in Europe. He was also a three-time winner of the Kandahar series, for which he is still waiting for his diamond Kandahar pin. He was a back-to-back winnter of the Jay Peak trophy, and so retired that trophy, which is now residing in the Vermont Ski Museum, along with many other items. After winning the first time, he was relegated to start last (28th) behind all the A racers. Marv was an “Elite A”. Don’t make him mad; he blew the field away.

What an athlete. Catcher on the Stowe High School baseball team. Took up golf, and within a month broke 40 for nine holes. Certified tennis and platform instructor. Was also one of the first members of the international Professional Ski Racers association. I would hope that the powers that be would see fit to enshrine Anabel and Marvin in the Hall of Fame. The truly deserve the honor.

Frank Lamphier, Morrisville, VT.

As the saying goes, the record speaks for itself  but perhaps there are contingencies with the board at the museum. They may not even know who Ma and Marvin are.

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