"We took the solemn ponderosity out of business," Nash says. Not to be outdone by larger corporations, Nashe decided Dovre Ski Bindings should have a coat of arms (popular in the day). He went to the Yale Classics Department in search of a translation of his corporate philosophy. The scholars let him down. Finally he came up with his own translation, emblazoned on a plaque which hung over Nashe's favorite chair. "Non Hokum Sed Veritas." the motto reads. Nashe's English translation is "No Bull Shit".
Nashe denies his company was like a big happy family. It was "like a sandlot baseball team." he maintains. But despite the unusual management techniques, Dover Ski Binding was a full-time operation by 1938.
When World War II broke out, Dover Ski Binding was drafted. A 1943 article on the front page of the Boston Traveler featured the company in a column on "War Production Triumphs." as the Scandinavia-bound Army skied on Dovre bindings. But Nashe notes "they spelled out names wrong."
Born in Norway in 1901, Nashe arrived in the United States "just before Christmas" in 1912, living in North Sudbury for a while before moving to Concord the following year.
Nashe and Overgaard built a jump on the Middlesex School hill, where they coached local children until it was blown down in the 1938 hurricane. Nashe also taught tennis. In those days, good equipment was hard to find. "There was so much phony, baloney stuff on the market" Nashe says.
Concord was not an illogical place for the ski industry to flourish. It was here that the first skis sold in Boston were made. In 1873, according to Nashe, several Norwegian families moved to town. When heavy snows fell during the winter of 1876, most Concordians donned snowshoes. But when one of the recent immigrants, Lars Petersen stepped out on skis he made from local ash, a new fad was born.
Nashe and Overgaard rented part of a building in West Concord and began production, with Overgaard taking charge of production and Nashe overseeing sales and distribution. The first year, they marketed what they called a "release" binding. But realizing that much depended on the adjustments made by retailers, they changed the description to "releasable."
By then, they needed the whole building and later moved to the three story building which housed the business ever since. Technically, Dovre bindings were a triumph. And according to a 1965 feature article in the "Ski Business" magazine, they were made in "the most informal factory in the capitalistic world." [interesting to note that now in the early 21st century horizontal company heirarchy tends to dominate over the old and now outdated vertical structure; perhaps Nashe was quite ahead of his time] This magazine article appeared in a 1965 issue of "Ski Business." published in New York City titled "Leif, Odd and the Dovre Saga." The author, John Hitchcock, wrote about the irreverent attitude of Leif Nashe and his partner, Odd Overgaard, but also said "few are aware of the depth and range of Leif's scholarship."
Entering the building a visitor was faced with an inner door on which a sign warned "Keep the hell our of here -- office is upstairs." Up one flight a second sign ordered "Keep the hell out of here too -- office is on the third floor." Upon reaching the third floor office, the employee lounge offered a menu which included not only coffee, but also beer on tap and Virginia ham. And the work schedule was flexible enough that when it snowed, owners and employees together dropped their work and headed out of the plant to ski.
In 1966, Nashe was 65 years old and Overgaard 66. They had been reading a lot about mandatory retirement, Nashe says, and the two decided to go along with it.
On May 17 of that year, Norwegian Independence Day, Dovre Ski Bindings was sold to Joe Collins and Konrad Ulbrich, who kept it in West Concord until its sale to Shelburne industries which later moved it to Shelburne, Vt. In the 17 years as a spectator, Nashe says he has seen "fantastic" changes take place. "Small business is not what it used to be" he says. During those years, Nashe says he has been "doing nothing and resting afterwards."
Nashe's claim that his memory is slipping is contradicted by his recitation of dates, sites and winners of Olympic competitions. Until 1936, he recalls, there was only Alpine skiing competition. On that year, in Germany it was a Norwegian jumper who easily walked off with the gold medal in downhill even though he fell in the slalom.
A devotee of the sport, Nashe often traveled to winter Olympics. When they were held in Norway in 1952, he had the opportunity to make his first trip back to his native village.
Despite his interest, Nashe says he was "just an average skier" who released his bindings for the last time on his fortieth birthday. A ski outing on that day landed him in the hospital with a broken ankle and rheumatic fever.
While he may have given up skiing as a sport, he retained his skis as a mode of transportation long afterwards and was seen downtown on them until the early 1980's.
© Vintage Winter