by Frank Hyde
January 24, 1952
Former Canadian Skiing Star Is Farmer Now;
Panama’s Ramsay Riddell Was Top Amateur Jumper
Canada’s former amateur ski jumping champion has come down to earth and gone in the cattle business - at Panama.
Ask him and quiet, soft spoken Ramsay Riddell tells you, “I don’t know. Always wanted to be a farmer and land was too high back home.”
“Back home” is Canada, cradle of strongmen and home of some of the world’s finest skiers.
So, Ramsay Riddell of Canada’s outstanding athletic family that includes a nationally known golfer, skier, hockey player and football coach, has become farmer Riddell - first of the Ridddells to turn to the soil.
Ramsay and Jimmy Jr., hit the ski lanes; Tommy played golf and pop, that’s Jimmy Sr., coached a pro football team. He introduced the forward pass to Canadian Rugby-football and was the first coach to lure an American college star to Canada.
But Ramsay always dreamed of being a farmer, so one day he and his charming wife, Eileen, nickname “Billy”, packed up, took their two-year old son and came to the United States.
Brother Played Fisher
They knew Jamestown’s Marion Fisher and he handled the legal phase of their transaction at Panama.
Why Fisher? Because brother Tommy had played and defeated his son, Robert C. Fisher, in the New York State amateur tournament in 1938. Robert, former president of Moon Brook and local insurance man, is one of the area’s most widely known amateurs.
Ramsay, now 32, knows his top flight competing days are behind him. But even the helter-skelter of making a living in these tax-riddled times can’t shut a man off from his memories.
Best Norwegian Jumpers
There was a time when Canadian newspapers were setting 60 temp streamers about the jumping Riddells. Ramsay and Jimmy, after the latter had pushed his way in among the grizzled veterans of the soaring runners and walked off with the Canadian Open title in’38, and Ramsay had cleaned up at the amateur meets.
Even hockey player Johnny, a fine star out of Montreal, and golfer Tommy, who beat Frank Stranahan in the amateur division of the Canadian Open at New Brunswick, had to take a back seat. Pop could still talk about the time he lured Warren Stevens, fresh out of Princeton, to Canada to play in the Big Four and how his Montreal team won 15 straight. Sure he could, but the press was talking about jumping Riddells.
Then there was the Eastern Canadian finals during the early days of the war, Ramsay went over to Toronto and filed his entry. The committee kept still. They didn’t want to scare him away. But after he signed, someone told him four of Norway’s finest stars, air force pilots stationed in Canada, had entered. They didn’t know the Riddell clan. Ramsay never batted an eye - just went out and won the thing.
In Meet With Tokle
There followed the Laurentine Zone championships then the St. Lawrence Valley meet before the Ramsay kid turned his eyes toward the grand daddy of them all in the East - the George Washington Cup jumps at Lake Placid.
If the Riddells scared easily, Ramsay would have had water on the knees that day. In the superlative field was the magnificent Torger Tokle, who held 24 records including the North American mark of 289 feet when he made the supreme sacrifice for his country with the U.S. Ski Troops in the Italian mountains, and Joe Perrault, the iron man from Mountain, Mich.
Tokle won that day, but he had to set a meet record of 232 feet that has never been surpassed. And when they posted the finals, up among the five leaders they wrote: “Ramsay Riddell, Canada.”
Ramsay made his greatest jump that day - over 200 feet - but this was the “major league.”
Farmer Riddle Today
There’s no money in being an amateur, so Ramsay turned to the Canadian Navy during the war, switched to the Canadian Merchant Marines when the shooting ended, them came home. His education at McDonald Agricultural College, a unit of McGill University, had fitted home for the life he wanted but a last fling took him into the Canadian Championships at Quebec City in 1948.
Today the friendly young man who greets you when you drive in at the old Horace Button farm is just plain Farmer Riddell.