CHAPTER 4: Young Professor Ytterboe
ALTHOUGH Father was brought up and educated in the classical manner of the times with emphasis on Greek and Latin, he was not the usual professor type. He was a sportsman in the days when sports were not widely practiced among the Norwegian Americans in the Middle West. However, at Luther College baseball was the great game of the day. There were two baseball teams there, and Father played on the first team all through his college years. At the University of Iowa he was on its football team and played every game.
He started a baseball team at St. Olaf School and was criticized by many ministers and laymen of the newly organized United Norwegian Lutheran Church, for they thought that sports had no place at a school. Uncle Mohn, many years older than Father, stood by him in this.
Many people have told me that my father was the most graceful man they had ever seen. He was tall and slim and was a fine baseball player, a good skier, and enjoyed skating. In baseball, he played first base man for many years on the St. Olaf team. He was a real homerun hitter, the ball flying down into Norway Valley.
My sister Evelyn told me that many times after a game with either Luther, Carleton or Faribault Colleges, she would cry over Father's hands, because they were bloody and bruised. In those days they didn't have the padded mitts of today's ball players.
Skiing was a favorite pastime on The Hill, and I learned to ski standing on father's skis and holding on to his coattail as we went down a not-very-steep incline. He loved skiing, and I presume he inherited that from his family who came from the district of Telemark, Norway, said to be the place where skiing originated.
Father also enjoyed skating, and I can see him now putting on his skates on the bottom steps at the east side of Ytterboe Hall and skating down the steep hill and icy pathway near what is now the Rölvaag Library. He would race down to the rink below. No one else at the college was able to do that, and all the skaters would stop and watch him as he tore down the hill.
It seems to me that I learned to skate as soon as I learned to walk. I am sure that is not really true, but I cannot remember a time when I didn't know how to skate. Those were great days and lots of fun.
Father was a great one for the healthy life and for taking care of the body as well as the mind. He often used to tell us " --- take care of your body and respect it, for it is the covering of your soul."
Father never let the college boys play football. I am not too accurate as to the exact reason for this, but I seem to remember that one of the students at St. Olaf was playing football and sustained a very serious injury, maybe resulting in death. Father thought it was too dangerous a sport. He was probably right, for in those days the players did not have helmets or padded shoulders as they do today. Father loved sports for the sake of good, clean, healthy exercise and competition. He used to tell us after we had taken a bath to rub ourselves vigorously with a rough towel until our skin was pink and we tingled all over with a healthy reaction.
He embodied within himself, and inspired the idea, that college students should be trained in body as well as in mind. Truly, he was ahead of his time.