Personal History: Mickey Olson — On the road, on the trail

Mickey Olson is one of the few people around that has a trail named after him. We talked about his 89 years living in Revelstoke.

Mickey Olson holds up a photo of his logging truck fleet when it went up for auction in 1988.

Mickey Olson holds up a photo of his logging truck fleet when it went up for auction in 1988.

“I was born in a baggage car,” Mickey Olson tells me.

It was the winter of 1927 and Olson’s parents Andrew and Elizabeth were living on a farm in Malakwa. The road to the nearest hospital, in Revelstoke, wasn’t plowed, so they got on a train to get to the hospital.

Mickey was born not long into the trip, as the train was passing Taft.  “The train never stopped, it just kept going,” he said.

Olson is 89 now and he’s lived almost his whole life in Revelstoke. If you recognize his name, it might be because of the trail named after him at the Mount Macpherson Nordic Centre.

The middle child out of nine kids, his family moved to a small acreage just south of Revelstoke, which later became known as Nelles Ranch and is now the new home of Terra Firma Farm.

That’s where he grew up. His mother took care of the children while his father ran a grader during construction of the Big Bend Highway. His family had a large garden, raised cows and supplied lumber to the old Central School, which burned down in 1959. “We used to haul that in with the horses,” he said.

To make some pocket money, he earned 50 cents a week retrieving water from a creek and kindling wood for the fire. He bought a bicycle with his earnings.

Olson went to Mount Macpherson elementary school, a small school that served the rural area south of town. In the winter, he would ski the three kilometres to school and back. He and his friends would build little ski jumps around the school. “We would jump on moonlight nights,” he said.

On one jump, his bindings gave out on him, causing him to injure his ankle. “They had to haul me home on a horse and carriage,” he recalled.

He never did graduate to jumping on the big hills around Revelstoke.

Olson spent most of his adult life as a truck logger. He began working with the McInnes family before starting his own company with Dan McGee. He hauled logs in the Big Bend area, and south of town. He would drive the lumbering trucks up and down the old Big Bend Highway. On long hills, he would inch up slowly, enjoying his lunch. Once, a passing traveler ran out of his car to ask him to pull over so he could get by.

Another time, going downhill, his brakes gave out and he had to put his truck into the snow bank three times until it would stop.

Then there was the occasion he took the lights off the Big Eddy Bridge because his load was too high. He was still working for the McInnes’ family at the time, so despite their best efforts to hide the evidence from the police, they were still found out. “I think the fine was $65,” he recalled.

In 1972 he started his own truck logging company. He hauled for Celgar, south of Revelstoke, bringing logs from the bush to the Shelter Bay landing, where they would be dumped in the Upper Arrow Lake. When Celgar had to cut back due to over-logging, he went and hauled up the Big Bend. Over time his fleet expanded to include five big trucks and a handful of smaller ones that were highway-legal.

In 1950, Olson married his wife Betty. They were together for more than 60 years until she died of Alzheimer’s.

They had one child, a girl Anita, and he now has a great, great granddaughter — five generations of one family alive at once. A photo of the family sits in his living room.

Aside from his work, he was active with the Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club when it moved to the Macpherson area in the 1980s. He helped groom and trackset until he got too old. The Mickey Olson Loop, which is lit up at night, is the club’s legacy to his work.

Now, Olson lives alone in his house on Front Street that he had built in 1972. He enjoys coffee with friends and still gets out boating and fishing in the summer.