The case of the missing sled
LAKE PLACID — Living in an Olympic region, you’ll never know what you are going to find in a pile of junk. You might come across a small piece of history.
While outside an antique shop more than 10 years ago, Geoff Hewston, of AuSable Forks, saw a trailer come by with what Hewston described as “junk.”
Upon further inspection, he noticed a red bobsled with the name “Jim Morgan” on the front. While Hewston was familiar with the name — Jim Morgan grew up in Saranac Lake — he didn’t know Morgan personally.
The sled also had a decal with the name, “Lagree’s,” which Hewston knew referenced Jack Lagree, who had owned a body shop where Hewston worked in Dannemora. The sled also had the number one on it.
For a few days, the sled ultimately sat at the antique store.
“Some guy from New Jersey offered to buy it,” Hewston said.
But Hewston didn’t think the sled should go to just anyone. So he bought it — for not that much money — and hung it up on his wall.
For years, Hewston wondered about the backstory of the sled, but didn’t find any answers.
That was until he recently made a Facebook post about the sled. Through Facebook, Hewston was able to get in touch with John Morgan, a Saranac Lake native and the brother of Jim Morgan.
John told Hewston that the sled was made in honor of his late brother, Jim, who was tragically killed in a four-man bobsled accident in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, in 1981.
The sled was actually a pee wee bobsled used to help youngsters get into the sport. They were purchased with a memorial fund following his brother’s death.
“All of a sudden there was a bunch of people sending us checks from around the country for a memorial fund for Jim Morgan,” John Morgan said on Tuesday. “We didn’t know what to do. So someone said, ‘Hey, let’s build some pee wee sleds.'”
John said they reached out to Lagree, who was involved with bobsled at the time, to create the sleds.
“If you had a sled that was wrecked or a sled that you want to be redone — which was normal back then — people used to take them to Jack Lagree to get them fixed up and painted,” Morgan said. “He did some nice work.”
Morgan said Lagree’s built one sled first and tested it in 1983. Once the sled was ready for sliding, they built eight more. Each sled was labeled, with the first one tested labeled number one.
As years went by and newer sleds were built, the pee wee sled was likely left out at the bobsled run.
Both Hewston and Morgan weren’t sure how the sled ended up on the back of the trailer.
“I think someone just saw that sitting in a field or on the bobsled run and just put it in the back of their pickup truck and drove off one day,” John said.
John said that he has seen some of the other sleds at local restaurants in Lake Placid, including the Dack Shack and Big Slide, but he hadn’t seen the number one sled.
“We never saw it for 30 years,” Morgan said. “I kept on checking whenever I had seen one because that was number one. It was the first one built and that was the day we tested it.”
After all these years, the sled has been found and Hewston, who recently turned 75, said it’s time for the sled to go somewhere else.
Hewston decided the sled should be donated to the future bobsled museum, which is in the works to be built at the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
“I’ve been talking to (the Olympic Regional Development Authority) and they are going to create a bobsled museum out there,” John said. “They’re not totally there yet, but that’s where it belongs, not hanging in a bar.”
“If it weren’t for him the sled would be hanging in New Jersey hanging in somebody’s back porch,” John said.