Tales of the early days of Sierra Designs, from a kid's perspective

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The details of those early days at Sierra Designs, from a business viewpoint, are unknown to me. What I do know is that once my Dad, Bob Woodward, told us that we were going to visit his new job with him, a whole new fantastic, and sometimes tortuous world opened up to me.

Having grown up in toney Marin County, the divorce of my parents took me and my Brother, Charlie, by surprise. But in retrospect it's what everyone did in the late 1960's and early 1970's. After my Dad split for a while to Europe on a walk-about, he returned first to San Francisco, and then onto his digs in Berkeley. Weekend visitation to Berkeley during those turbulent times was already almost more than my prim-newly-divorced Mom could take, but now her two boys were being exposed to the gorp-eating, pot smoking, uber fit hippies at Sierra Designs! 

When my Dad showed me his office (actually just a desk overlooking the train tracks outside) we were impressed, because we thought he was just a guy at the cash register. Little did we know that he, and we by proxy, got complete run of the place. My favorite moment on the garment floor was when my Dad, who was only semi-serious most of the time, took me and my Brother to the sewing table to show us the magical air hose. Pulling it down, he gave it a squeeze and said, in a most-unlike-him way, "Whatever you do, do not shove this in your brother's butt, it will kill him..." Which made it even more interesting to a curious eight-year-old, and his devilish five-year-old brother.

Nights at Sierra Designs were fun filled; movies, lectures, slide shows, mountain climbers, and movies. Adults drinking cheap red wine by the flaggon, and kids all running around together. That's where Charlie and I met our brother-from-another-mother, Nathaniel "Nate" Giggins. It's also where I won a book on mountaineering, my first big win ever.

Weekends were spent either in Berkeley at Sierra Designs, or in the mountains. Tahoe, Kirkwood, Lassen, Colfax, Yosemite, or anywhere that struck Dad's fancy.  We were always well-attired in the latest gear, from 60/40's to Swix beanie caps, wool knickers, to Bonna ski's. All of our activities were fueled by a mix of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, Toblerone bars, Rye Krisp, and sardines. LOTS OF SARDINES. I remember one trip in particular where we skied into a remote frozen lake, dug-in, and camped for a long COLD weekend of testing the latest sleeping bags and tents. The days on the lake were spent playing hockey and doing jumps on xc skis. It was bitter torture at the time, but has since morphed to a sweet memory.

Those pot-smoking uber fit hippies actually turned out to be some of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure to know, many of whom I still see occasionally today. You hearing me, Bluefish?! The early days at Sierra Designs were wondrous, pioneering, and educational. Things you don't really see in companies much anymore. That ethos of discovery and fun made it that way.

by Author
Latham

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Story Copyright
08/25/14