Hall of Fame Class of 1974
Information submitted in a nomination letter to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame by W.H. Tealor.
James E. Flaa was an exceptional athlete who loved skiing and had a deep interest in the contributions Norwegians made to the sport.
I was pre-ordained that James E. “Leave it to Jim” Flaa would become involved in winter sports, particularly skiing. He came from sturdy Norwegian stock, the product of the great American melting pot. His father immigrated from Trondheim, Norway and a few years after his arrival he sent for his bride-to-be. They were married in the new country of America, settling in Ishpeming, Michigan. Its hills, sturdy Norse population and winter season reminded them of their native Norway. Their son, Jim, was born September 17, 1894, fifth in a family of six. An outstanding athlete in school, he was a football and basketball star, played semi-pro teams, enjoyed skiing and was intrigued with the great contributions Norwegians skiers were making to the American variety of ski sport.
A hitch in the navy interrupted his enjoyments of the sport but he returned to his native city and opened an insurance office with the slogan “Leave it to Jim.” It was more than a business slogan; it became a personal creed and one which the community adopted. Many things were left to Jim and he discharged his responsibilities flawlessly.
Jim became a member of the Ishpeming Ski Club. It was a small association bound by Norse traditions. Jim’s influence as a member became apparent and he was named its secretary. This was at a time when then office was the brain center of an organization – the secretary actually ruled the club. Jim brought pride and prejudice together, welding members into an effective team and the Ishpeming Ski Club was on its way to greatness.
For 17 years, Jim Flaa remained its secretary. Ishpeming became the mecca for skiers in the Midwest at that time. The Flying Bietilas, among so many others, went out from Ishpeming under his direction.
He witnessed the formation of the National Ski Association. Jim was the man behind the scene for Harold Grinden as national historian. He was responsible for the resurgence of the Central Ski Association and served as its vice-president. At its 25th anniversary Jim Flaa was honored with a specially struck gold medallion in recognition of his services to “Central“ and to the sport of skiing.
Jim Flaa was responsible for the development of junior skiing and from those ranks came skiers who mastered the challenging slopes of America. It was initiated in Ishpeming and followed elsewhere.
When other clubs faltered, they looked to Jim who did not disappoint them. Many small, struggling organizations in the Central Ski Association looked for assistance from Ishpeming. Master skiers could look back on their junior years and know it was Jim Flaa and the enthusiasm he engendered among his contemporaries that was responsible for the development of their junior ski programs.
As he glided among the pines of his beloved ski country in the quiet of the forest, breathing deeply of the pine-scented air he loved, Jim could recall with deep satisfaction his memories of skiing and club activities. His reward was in the knowledge that he had been a part in the development of a great sport by displaying a forward-looking attitude and helping develop the demand for recreational skiing as well as its competitive forms. Thousands of people had taken him literally, “Leave it to Jim”, and he never let them down. Whenever the socks are drying on the line in front of the fireplace and ski chatter is upbeat, the memory of Jim Flaa lingers.
James E. Flaa was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1974. How appropriate as Jim was the first chairman, named in 1945 by Roger Langley, then National Ski Association President, of a committee to establish this ski hall of fame.
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