The kittredge bow hut.
The storefront displayed bows, arrows, quivers and assorted leather goods, causing my head to spin in wonder. I had never imagined an archery shop existed, much less finding one about to open in my hometown. I could hardy wait.
I was not an archer then, at least in the proper terminology of that description. However, I did have and shoot a bow, albeit in a totally incorrect manner, grasping the arrow on the string between thumb and forefinger and releasing it over the thumb of my bow hand. I was totally in love with an arrow's flight and not too infrequent hits, mostly on Dad's duck decoys (bad mistake!).
So, it came to pass I met Doug Kittredge when the store opened, and we had a nice little visit. He seemed like a really good guy, sporting a full, red beard, which was quite unusual for that time.. Doug was 10 years my senior and, small world, lived only four blocks from my house. The next time I stopped in, I asked him about a job. After short negotiations I was hired. Thus began my career in the archery industry. But this column is not about me; it's about Doug.
As expected, I developed an intimate relationship with a broom at first. Boxes containing 1,000 Port Orford cedar shafts came next. spined, weighed and grouped every shaft; tedious, but fun.
Doug was a hard-working, intelligent and committed man, fun but firm in his handling of me and my fellow employees. We got along well as he straightened out my shooting mistakes and fixed me up with proper equipment. Doug and his lovely wife Sally fought through all the hurdles inherent in a young, growing business. It started in a garage, like so many young entrepreneurs have done. His custom-crafted arrows were highly regarded by archers across the land, but it was his growing mail-order business that cranked his ambition. In that era, mail order was the fluttering pulse of an industry taking baby steps. There were few outlets for archery equipment. It was a far, far cry from today's mega industry, and while I have witnessed it all from near the very beginning, I still think those early years were the most fun of all.
In a matter of scant years, Doug's mail-order business became a national leader. He moved the manufacturing to Altadena, Calif., and left me to revamp the retail operation to a 500 square-foot facility
Over the years, Doug, Sally and I backpacked all over California's magnificent Sierra Nevada Mountains. We fished lakes, rivers and streams that then saw only a handful of anglers annually, if that many. Part of our tongue-in-cheek agreement at my hiring was that I'd teach Doug about fishing if he'd teach me about archery. In spite of his deep love for the beautiful mountains, Doug knew precious little about its waters and fish. He has since became highly expert in all forms of angling, from trout to billfish, though it irks him I'm sure that our frequent bets of steak dinners for the biggest fish were always won by me. We never bet on saltwater though, where I am sure he'd have cleaned my clock!
Doug became not only an icon in the archery industry, but in the bow-hunting world as well. We made many hunts together, mildly competitive and always fun. Mule deer, mountain goat and a huge cougar were just some of the critters that fell to his arrows, and in 1975 he took the Pope and Young Club's first-place American elk, a 380%-inch monster. "Put that on your steak plate," he said with a grin.
My stories of adventures with Doug Kittredge can go on for hours. From fishing to varmint calling, deer hunting to ducks, dear rushing streams to deep blue saltwater, we were seriously in love with it all.
I remember the time in a high mountain pass when we shared a small can of peaches (a reward for all of us making it). There was the deadly treacherous, snow-covered chute of a pass to a secret golden trout lake. I don't know how, but we made that. Then there was the time Sally taught me just enough about gin martinis to make me throw up. I remember her squealing with delight every morning as we set out on another leg of our backpack journey.
Many people ask me about Doug and Sally, old-timers mostly. Few of today's archers have a clue who they are, but I could say the same about Fred Bear, Earl Hoyt and many others! Well, I'm happy to report they are both doing pretty well. Both are in their 80s, and Doug is still going strong, though a bit slower he says.
Guys such as Doug Kittredge (and many others) fanned the flames of archery's small fire through the 40s and 50s, keeping it warm for future generations. I thank each and every one for their efforts.