No regrets about pioneer lifestyle
Ryan Summerlin September 24, 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.
We heard about Vail when Joe was working in the family lumber business. Dick Hauserman appeared with all kinds of plans about a ski resort, and it sounded great. We watched his movies, and Joe decided to go out to look it over. He came back very enthusiastic. Of course, there was nothing to see but beautiful scenery; nobody was there. Betty Seibert told us how to get there. We decided to get involved and went to Aspen first, rented a house, and lived there a year and a half. I tried to learn to ski better. It was 1961. Blanche Hauserman was an old friend of ours, and that’s how we had met Dick. The arrangement Dick made with Pete Seibert was that he’d open a ski rental and ski shop. Blanche and I did the retail. She had skied in Sun Valley and knew all the retailers. I didn’t know anything. I was along for the ride. We were all doing things we’d never done before. I was very mediocre, but was enthusiastic and wanted to learn how to ski.
When Vail was to open, we realized we should be living there and rented a house at the foot of the mountain. It had no water, but we could get water from Mill Creek. At the same time, the Hausermans rented one of Jack Olson’s houses across the highway, with water and electricity. We had our meals over there with anybody else who came along who needed to be fed. Our kids were grown up. Charlie was living in the east; Jane was in high school and went briefly to college. The kids thought it was great in Vail; Jane had so much fun. Charlie moved here eventually, and he has never looked back. I think the men involved with opening Vail took a dim view of the shop. Our effort to make it a cozy place with a fire going and serving cookies, tea and hot chocolate made it a little more unusual. We did our buying in Aspen when some of the reps came there; we would meet them and order: Bogner, White Stag and Meggi sweaters. She designed the Vail ski instructor park. We opened when Vail opened the mountain at Christmas. They had to put newspapers in their ski boots it was so cold. The U.S. Ski Team was there, and business was great. At the end of the year, we’d sold just about everything we’d bought. We started collecting a few things so we could keep the store opened; we had a three-year exclusive. We gathered flat rocks from the creek and painted the Vail logo on them and tried to sell them as souvenirs. Idiotic things we did. And I think people bought them.
The nicest part of all for me was in the summer when we explored the mountains in our four-wheel-drive Scout. We had a Labrador and hiked up the mountain for picnics. One of the things I remember from early summer days was a weekend when the Bishops were up from Denver, and we had a handicap tennis tournament in Minturn. Another weekend, men from Denver were shooting guns off our balcony at cans across the creek. There was nobody there, of course.
Beaver Dam Road went just beyond our house and stopped. They were doing roadwork and had to close it. We put our Scout across the creek, and Joe put planks across, we walked across the planks, got the car and drove to Minturn to grocery shop. Then we carried the groceries across the creek to our house.
I was interested in flowers and remember collecting all the flowers that were new to us. I kept a five-year diary and never put much in it except what the weather was and what was growing. I don’t know where those diaries are. In winter, I’d walk down to the village and open the shop. If we had extra help, we’d go skiing. I must admit that I was more interested in skiing than shopkeeping. Hausermans gave Joe and me a birthday party in the ski shop – and broadcaster Lowell Thomas was there.
Most evenings we were exhausted, and we collapsed. Joe would have a drink and go to sleep in the armchair. No TV and no radio. Unless there was a party going on, then everybody went. Leonard Bernstein came in the shop once. Ted Kindel was in town skiing before he moved here; he came in and said somebody had stolen his ski poles; I loaned him our ski poles. He said that people were so hospitable he and his family would stay in Vail. The interest of the whole community was more on Vail succeeding than on the individual businesses. It was just a great community spirit. Pete Seibert had serious doubts that we women could succeed in our business. We felt he kind of wished we would go away.
We found friends very easily because there were so few of us. My best friends were Marge Burdick and Barbara Parker. We had a little tent, and we’d camp overnight. It was a wonderful thing for me to come here; it opened up so much for me. In the off-season, we would drive and see the rest of the country. I feel that life in the East was very limited and boring; I’d do this again in a minute. Women were seen as equal in those early days. One of the things I remember is how formal everything in the East seemed in comparison. I was used to formality, white gloves and going to the city. In Vail, kids were calling me Bunny, and I was 50 when Vail opened. There was the time Gordon Brittan asked me to collect money for the hospital – Renie Gorsuch and I did it, but she did most of the work. Kindels had a surprise birthday party for Joe and me at the St. Moritz restaurant. Musician Peanuts Hucko played the “Happy Birthday” song. They gave Joe a helmet to wear in a downhill veteran’s race, with poems on it. Morgan Douglas painted it and then borrowed it; I don’t think he gave it back.
The first Christmas we were working so hard we hadn’t had a chance to put our Christmas tree up. I remember Ed Talmadge was up from Denver, came in the shop and asked where he could get a Christmas tree. We said, “Take ours, we don’t have time.” We would have Christmas Eve dinner with the Hausermans or with our niece Nancy, who married Gaynor Miller, and people who lived in Vail and didn’t have family would gather. We’d move furniture and have our table in the living room. Barbara Parker was wonderful. Nancy Kindel and I used to talk for hours. Generally, I don’t feel there was much difference between the women and the men.
Blanche and I got out and let Dick have the store; after that, he was in charge. Then I went skiing. I really loved skiing and was anxious to learn powder skiing. I remember going down the bowls in deep powder and having Blanche yell, “Turn, turn, turn.” I had an awfully good time, and I was no kid.
The first year, there were no telephones. The Lodge had six lines, and we were given one of the lines. Then it was taken away from us; I was told Roger Brown needed it. I don’t often get upset, but I was wild. I got in the Scout and drove down to the Lodge and went in Bob Parker’s office and screamed, what was he doing taking the phone away from us? Not having a telephone at that point absolutely killed me. I was so anxious because a dear aunt was dying, and I felt so out of touch. I won that battle.
I just felt great pleasure in the fact that we’d done it and had the opportunity to stumble into this Vail opportunity. It was because of the Hausermans, and we enjoyed every bit of it. No regrets.
(Bunny Langmaid passed away last month at the age of 100.)
“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.