Early Vail residents grew up with the little town
Ryan Summerlin December 29, 2012
Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “Women of Vail,” by Elaine Kelton and Carolyn Pope. The Vail Daily is serializing the book as Vail celebrates its 50th anniversary. Books are available for purchase at www.bookwormofedwards.com, the Colorado Ski Museum, Pepi’s, Gorsuch, Annie’s and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
“I was born in the autumn of my twenty-fourth year … ” to paraphrase John Denver.
I left eastern Pennsylvania on Monday, Nov. 9, 1970, on a solo drive to Colorado in my brand-new red Mustang. No one told me it would be a terrible car in the snow. Fortunately, I didn’t run into snow until the section from Denver to Vail, and I had chains put on in Frisco. What a wuss.
On Friday, Nov. 13 (a lucky day for me), I drove into the parking lot at Vail East Lodgings, and my new life began. I knew this valley was where I was meant to be, and since that day, I have never felt otherwise. My college roommate, Barbara Wall, convinced me to move here with her. She left after six months, but I’m still here.
The following day, she and I began our jobs as “Gorsuch Girls,” and I met Maria Minick, Meredith Ogilby and Marty (Getz) Cogswell, who are still in my life – except for Marty, who recently passed away. The Gorsuch gang was a great group of young people, and Dave, Renie and her sister, Judy, were terrific bosses. Before moving here, I worked in the advertising field as an illustrator and designer. Renie allowed me to do a few fashion illustrations for ads in the Vail Trail, and I appreciated being able to continue to do that work.
The weekends at Gorsuch were special. A pot of Russian Tea was always simmering. Shoppers loved it because the store smelled like a spice shop. We Gorsuch Girls wore Roffe, under-the-boob jumpsuits that were more impressive on some than others.
The employees on “Main One” loved a vigorous game of charades, and the game became widely known among locals as an apres-ski event of sorts during the week. Many nights after work, Kathy (Hulbert) Penske, Barbara and I and others would go to the Ore House for the salad bar and a baked potato with all the good stuff. The Ore House was like a huge family gathering most nights.
Making the big bucks
I met Roger Tilkemeier on my first day of work. He and his family had a home here but lived in Denver and came up on the weekends. During our first conversation, he told me his wife, Jeanne, was a good tennis player. She and I ended up playing together for 20 years, and I bet in all that time I took three sets off her.
On Christmas Eve, Renie rounded up all the Catholics (and anyone else) who were at work, and we all went to Mass with her. Being my first Christmas away from my family, I appreciated that little bit of home. I was very impressed with Renie’s dedication to her three sons. It didn’t matter with whom she was talking, if one of the boys needed her, he became her focus.
In June, I started working at the Red Lion for the big bucks – 50 cents an hour and all the tips I could make. The first day, one of the waitresses, Sandy Pietz (the first Miss Vail), told me I’d make better tips if I shortened my skirt. So I did, and she was right.
Owners Marge and Larry Burdick were wonderful, and I think Marge was one of the “finest” people I have ever known.
After Barbara left, my friend from Gorsuch, Kathy Hulbert, moved in. She is from Salt Lake City and opened my eyes to cycling, hiking and all things Western. Coming from outside Philadelphia, I was a city girl but quickly tossed aside that lifestyle for the one embraced by most people in the mountains – a much healthier way to live. Kathy worked at The Clock Tower and was dating Roger Penske (after he and I convinced her that would be a nice idea), whom she ended up marrying.
Erik Steinberg became a good friend. Through him I met Paul Jankauskas, who had recently become a racer for the Hart Ski Team with Billy Kidd and Hank Kashiwa on the Pro Tour. All I knew about him was that he used to win most of the Vail Town Races and worked at the Gondola Ski Shop. The first time I ever saw him was at the Pro Race in Vail when he beat National Team member Scott Pyles. A big upset! Paul and I later married.
One winter, there was an article in Time Magazine about Vail, and it talked about restaurant employees not necessarily reporting all of their tips. That January, the IRS came to town and we were all expected to be “interviewed.” I remember hearing that Jean Naumann had gone into her interview and plopped down a tape recorder in the middle of the table. I guess that surprised the interviewer. Fortunately, I quit a week before the interviews began and started working with my good friend, Erika, at The Printery at Vail – Vail’s first print shop.
Paul and I lived in Chuck and Meredith Ogilby’s little cabin on Gore Creek for a time. It was like a big family actually with the Ogilby children, Kayo and Molly, growing up during those years, and many dogs and cats between us.
I lived in an apartment in Dr. Steinberg’s house for a while and got to be good friends with Flo. Her sister, Lill, came for a visit during that winter and called her Florie. I loved that and called her Florie from that time on. After work, I’d go upstairs and sit in the kitchen with her while she made their dinner – she always had a glass of wine and a bit of Swiss cheese to nibble on. To this day, I think of her cooking routine every time I make a real dinner.
Living in “this world” has made it possible for me to make wonderful friends sharing common interests. I took ballet class from Denise Briner, and she opened up a world that I left behind when I was a teenager. Through that involvement I met Sybill Navas, Jamie Allison, Annie Lauterbach and dozens more wonderful people. One who stands out is Henry Hill, who was the maitre d’ at Sweet Basil for several years. One of the funniest people I have ever known, his irreverence for just about everything was inspiring. Taking a ballet class with him was quite an experience on many levels.
I taught children’s ballet at CMC on my way to becoming “Miss Joanne, ballet teacher.” During that time, I met Lyn Morgan, now my husband of 21 years. He is a black belt in shotokan karate, and the classes he taught followed mine in the same studio at CMC.
I have to say that working at the Vail Trail was the best job I’ve ever had. I originally teamed up with Mitzi “Mouse” Johnson, who ran her advertising agency out of the Trail. I later took over her business.
I have come to realize that those people with whom you share your youth will always have a very special place in your life. We all grew up together along with the town of Vail.
“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.