The Creative, Intense, Funny, Unique Journalist Will Be Remembered As One-Of-A-Kind.
by Michael Maginn, originally published in seniorskiing.com
April 30, 2018
Ski journalist John Henry Auran was the kind of person you could never forget. I worked for John Henry, or JHA, as he was known to some, in the early 70s at SKIING Magazine, then located at One Park Avenue in New York City. Despite different life paths since then, we kept in touch, even as his declining health brought him farther and farther away from the sports he loved.
John Henry was always interested in delving into new products, new racing results, new personalities on the ski scene, new ideas for connecting the reading public with the outdoor winter sports industry. His enthusiasm was uncontainable for finding, thinking, analyzing, reporting, and watching the world for news.
I will never forget when he and I went to a ski boot manufacturer somewhere in New Jersey who promised to show us a then new development in boot fitting. This was the first foam-fitting demonstration ever, as far as I know, in the business. Since John Henry was SKIING’s boot expert, he went for a sneak preview, and I tagged along to take pictures.
At the manufacturer’s “plant”, John Henry was seated in a high chair, like the shoe polishing chairs you see at airports or train stations. His foot was placed in a plastic bladder which was gradually filled with foam and placed in a boot shell. I distinctly recall him reporting all the sensations that involved: “It’s getting warmer, I feel some pressure,” while a big smile crossed his face. “I’m getting foamed!”
After that, John Henry couldn’t resist asking people if they’ve been “foamed”. Since no one had, that gave him license to launch into describing the experience complete with gestures and enthusiastic and dramatic commentary. “Everyone should try it.”
He was also an innovator in what created a new genre: the industry show newsletter. At the time, the ski business had three regional shows for equipment and clothing manufacturers and wholesalers to meet retailers run by Ski Industries America. John Henry had a terrific idea: Publish a daily newsletter at each show that reported news, gossip, personnel moves and the like every morning of the show. Sounded like a great idea.
JHA enlisted the staff of SKIING to do some reporting, bring it to us in our editorial corner where he and I would create columns by typing copy into an IBM Selectric. We then pasted the columns to a piece of oaktag with a pre-designed masthead and logo and brought it to a printer where we waited until the job was done. We picked up the edition and distributed it throughout the show venue. Did I mention this process took almost all day AND all night? Trial and error was the name of the game. Despite being exhausted, we knew we had a hit when we saw the show people reading the Show News over coffee. That was true journalism.
John Henry always had a story ready whenever we talked over the years. One of his favorites was about his hometown where he was born in Germany. As a young boy, he was a witness to Kristallnacht in November 1938. A few years ago, the town government had a commemorative event marking that dark past and invited JHA to come back to join the few other surviving town residents to bear witness and tell their stories of what happened. Despite his disability, he went all the way back to Germany with a companion, all sponsored by the town. It was a remarkable and touching journey.
John Henry was also an enthusiastic member of SeniorsSkiing.com’s Advisory Board.
John Henry lived in a nursing home in upstate New York for the past decade or so. When I called, the nursing staff would chat while John got to the phone. They would tell me he enjoyed being taken to nearby Hunter Mountain where he would sit in the base lodge watching the skiers and the lift traffic. I can see him there, in my mind’s eye, reminiscing to himself about the equipment, the racers, the dramatic places, the deadlines, and the great writers he knew. Watching the lift go around and around.
Rest in peace, John Henry.