Friday, November 24, 2006

Here?s to ?Jumpin? Jack Flash?

Jack Corrock expounds on matters at hand

Express Staff Writer

Jack Corrock basks in family life in the Wood River Valley. Photo by Willy Cook

Jack Corrock is a family man, the kind of dad who is always there for his kids, the kind we all wished we'd had. As such, the Corrock family is a playful group—three kids, six grandkids—all anchored by Lila and Jack.

Though the couple lived in Seattle, they were ski buffs. In 1960, they decided to take a year off and take the kids to Kitzbühel, Austria, to ski. The adventure proved fortuitous. Skiing oozed into the kids' blood, so in 1970 they moved to Ketchum, and everyone was pleased.

Sun Valley had become the Corrocks' ski destination of choice by 1947.

"We came every year that Lila wasn't pregnant," Jack Corrock said. "We stayed at the Knob Hill Motel. It was $6 a night for two couples and $35 a day to ski. A spaghetti dinner at the Alpine was $1. It was paradise."

A Boeing man in Seattle, Corrock thought he was retiring but instead took to Ketchum like a dog with a bone. He kept working, as a contractor, and spreading his one-of-a-kind good will.

The offspring of this lively couple are Kenny, Anne and Susie Corrock, who each became local and national ski sensations. They were all on the U.S. Ski Team. Susie won a bronze in the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. She was the first U.S. female medal winner in downhill skiing who lived—as opposed to trained—in Ketchum, Corrock said.

The interview took place in the Corrocks' homey kitchen in their house in Warm Springs, where they have lived for 31 years.

The first lot they bought and built on in Warm Springs was owned by Owen Simpson. It was on a street that is now called Corrock Drive. Corrock talked about his past, how he built a few condo units, some houses, and, by the way, got involved in city politics.

"Appointed twice, elected once," he said about his 11-year tenure on the Ketchum City Council.

"I just have to tell you this one thing," Lila Corrock said, while gathering her belongings. "When he ran (for a seat), a woman told him she didn't vote for him because he was a contractor—"

"A crooked contractor," he chuckled, though his wife didn't pause in her story.

"—but afterward (he'd served on the City Council), she supported him."

And with a nod and a wave, Lila Corrock was gone.

Jack kept talking.

First thing he did on the council was encourage the city to put a moratorium on building until regulations could be clarified. There were no codes. People put up anything, which of course was part of the charm of this once-cockeyed town. Needless to say, this move and his natural bonhomie endeared him to the others.

"I was OK!" he said. "It was so fun in those days. I feel strongly about zoning now. It was so simple then, no overlays. Most of the building was done by guys who lived here, but now a lot of (developers) have probably never been to the Wood River Valley. They don't know it. But that's America; it's going to happen. When I ran for the seat I'd been appointed to, my slogan was, 'It takes one to know one.'"

Corrock, 80, was part of the regime in Ketchum of good old boys, locals who trusted each other, made the deal to buy what is now Ketchum City Hall and created parks. Corrock remembers most of his City Council colleagues with admiration and has nothing bad to say about anyone, no matter what disagreements there may have been.

"I don't think the playing field is level anymore," he said. "Laws should apply to everyone equally. That's what we had in my era. There shouldn't be sweetheart deals. The minute you use waivers you open yourself up."

His sensibilities were honed in what seemed like a small town at the time—Seattle. He can reminisce about empty beaches, woods in the middle of town, no sprawl, and safely playing in parks at night. His parents were both English, and his father was a postman.

Corrock was in the Merchant Marines in World War II.

"I was in Guam when the atom bomb was dropped," he said, and then pointed at his head. "It's tough up here."

Despite a hard head, he still loves his skiing but prefers deep, natural powder. "Man-made snow is like kissing your sister," he said. "I'm a powder skier. I've gotten real good at the falling."

The Corrocks also have had a place in Mexico for 30 years. There, their sport is windsurfing.

"Lila quit at 75—said it was about time to go back to knitting," Corrock said. "She's a darn good skier for a woman her age. We're staying up here this year longer."

No matter what path Corrock takes in conversation, and he takes many, he returns time and again to the state of the city of Ketchum. People have said he doesn't want change—wanting to close the gate behind him—but he disagrees.

"All these people are good people," he said. "I'd like the cities to work better with the county, the recreation facilities, bike path, the parks—and look closer at (building) height.

"A friend of mine, a Boise businessman, said 'we lose Boise to over-development and traffic, we lose another American city. If that happens to Ketchum, we lose a natural treasure.'"

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