Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “Women of Vail,” by Elaine Kelton and Carolyn Pope. The Vail Daily is serializing the book, which is available for purchase at www.bookwormofedwards.com, the Colorado Ski Museum, Pepi’s, Gorsuch, Annie’s and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
Born in Denver, I moved to California at age 6. Dad had always paid taxes in Colorado, so I was eligible for in-state tuition, about $72 per semester in Boulder in 1952. My friends thought I was coming out to the Indians; it took three days by train, then a bus to Boulder. In 1956, I met Mauri, who was from the Vail area, and we married after graduation. He then taught at the University of Colorado-Boulder until we came to Vail.
We built the Talisman Lodge in Vail in 1968 and could not have done anything we did without our 31 partners. We bought land on Forest Road in 1964, borrowing on life insurance, and used it to entertain prospective clients. It was to fulfill Mauri’s dream of having a ski lodge; by coincidence, this wonderful ski area was located next to his parents. It was an adventure, being on the ground floor of the growth of Vail. We worked really hard and did things like picking up the rock for the fireplace along the highway outside Georgetown. We opened the Talisman with 26 rooms on Christmas Eve 1968.
I remember one evening when I was pregnant with our youngest, Shelley, and the phone rang. We had adopted a kitty from the Laziers because of mice in the mountains, the cat was bouncing from mattress to mattress, and I answered, “Good evening, Talisman Lodge!” It just seems so silly, remembering that.
It was the first year of the rummage sale, and that’s where I met Vi Brown. She said, “You’ve got to come over to the story hour, so the kids can get together.” Celine and Ben Krueger had just moved up. That’s how I met most of that first group of friends, through Brown and Celine Krueger. We started playing bridge together, and we still get together for Christmas bridge, but we don’t play bridge. Our bridge group solved each other’s problems, did babysitting and shopped for each other. Most of us were up here because we’d gone out on a limb to be here, and we were going to do everything possible to make it work. I remember all of those early friends — Annetta Dixon, Willie Benway, Marka Moser and Ann Holland from the telephone company. Brown and Celine Krueger developed into deep friendships. Brown was especially strong; she had been here three years at that point. She really got me through the early times in Vail.
I’m adventurous, and I think you need to be that; you need to be self-sufficient. I think we all had that streak. I don’t know if it was self-confidence, but I knew, “You can do this.” Helga Pulis and I had girls the same age, and that made all the difference. You had to be resourceful; basically, we had no money. I would shop in Leadville, then I’d buy milk and bread at The Rucksack before Village Market. At home, we had a birthday box, and the kids picked gifts for their friends from there. We lived in the Talisman until we sold it. In the meantime, we had added onto it. Chuck Ogilby and Fred Gold were our first night staff. My mother and sister moved up for a year and lived in Sandstone; Mauri’s sister Claire moved up and did our continental breakfasts for us. There were two bedrooms on the lower floor and a swimming pool. The Tannery and Ichiban restaurant were in The Talisman. We had employees who were here to ski who lived in the laundry room and helped with our kids; I worked full time in the hotel. Having family around was a real resource. The first real Christmas was in 1969.
Shelley was born in June ’69. Mauri read all the books on how to deliver the baby, and we went to Denver a week before she was due. There was a Fireman’s Convention in Vail, and it snowed in June. My doctor decided I’d better stay in Denver for the birth. I had Tamara, and Mauri had Kim. I was sure Kim was going to be hit by a drunk fireman, so I told the doctor he had to induce the baby, because I was so worried, “I have to go home.”
The morning after I came home, I woke up and one side of my face was paralyzed. It was the 4th of July weekend, and I called Tom Steinberg — “You’ve been under some stress, you have Bell’s palsy.” He gave me a shot of Vitamin A, and that was it. It took me a week to get back. I credit him for that.
We were entertaining our prospective partners and living on Forest Road when Sue Rychel knocked on the door with two kids in the car. She was looking for a place to live and had all her belongings in the car. Our main problems were being on call 24 hours a day, working the front desk and hoping the maids showed up. The best Christmas present was in 1969. It had been a hard year, and guests hadn’t used their bathtub on Christmas. It was the best present, because the next guests were due at 4 p.m.
Good friends and freedom
The girls made good close friends and had a freedom in town that you can’t have now. The Kindel girls lived nearby. When Marka Moser arrived, she and I decided we needed to do something club-wise for our girls; we debated between starting a Girl Scout troupe or 4-H. Ella Knox taught knitting for us at 4-H; she would invite the girls to her house and serve tea and teach them to knit. Linda (Gundell) Jones had a softness in her heart for 4H, and she offered to teach sewing. Karola McMillan helped us. They could ice skate on the pond by the chapel. The girls had a good situation with the public school above the clinic. We took the kids skiing one day a week. Marka taught a PE program, and the kindergarten was in the basement of the chapel. Through Vi, I got involved in teaching Sunday school. I also thought it was important to get to know downvalley kids. Halloween was great. Gordon Brittan always wore this rubber Indian mask, and he’d come down the outside stairs and scare all the kids. Kindels had big decorations. It was all locals.
‘You could do it’
I do remember standing in the middle of the kitchen one time after I’d had Shelley and said, “I am so damned tired of being flexible.” And I wasn’t normally one to cuss. I don’t remember being isolated as a woman in Vail, and I was very involved in the beginnings of the schools. Brown and Celine Krueger had boys that age. The girls and I talk about what it would have been like if we hadn’t moved up here. They all felt very positive. They probably would not have been involved in sports elsewhere. Kim got involved in 4-H government and went to D.C. twice. The girls came through public schools and got an excellent education; they worked very hard. It was a good place to raise the kids. Since there was no TV those first years, they did home plays. I don’t think I ever felt trapped. You could get ahead here if you worked hard, and there were people supporting you to help you work hard. You could do it. After selling the Talisman, I managed children’s programs for 31 years. In all, we moved 27 times in our marriage.
“Women of Vail” was produced by a team that includes Elaine Kelton and Carolyn Pope, publishers; Joanne Morgan, designer and production; and Rosalie Hill Isom, writer-editor.