‘Women of Vail’ excerpt: At Vail’s social center
Ryan Summerlin July 7, 2013
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 completed my baccalaureate in Sweden and came to the USA to study at the Institute of Finance in New York City. After work that included modeling, being a registered stockbroker and working in investment banking at Bear, Stearns & Co., I found Vail.
Bill Whiteford was building Casino Vail and asked me to come out for a weekend. He offered me a job as a “disceuse” for his new venture, and I accepted. During 1964-65 I ran the disco at Casino Vail. I also did accounting and anything else that was needed. I married him in 1966.
I loved the small town atmosphere, the beautiful surroundings, the “pioneer” spirit, the friendships, the skiing and other sports, and all the cultural offerings.
Most of the social life took place at Casino Vail from 1964-1969 (we could seat 500 people), where we had European-style tea dances most afternoons, many times with a live band. During dinner, we showed movies (mostly Warren Miller and Roger Brown ski films), and then at night a full-out disco or live acts. To name a few, we featured acts like The Hustlers, The Wilshire Boulevard Buffalo Hunters, Odetta, the Irish Rovers, Dizzy Gillespie, Ethel Ennis, James Cullum Dixieland Band, the Queen City Jazz Band and Dick Gibson’s Jazz parties. We also gave dance lessons to the ski school and ski patrol so they would know the latest dances when the tourists were here.
The Casino also served as Vail’s church, and Father Stone said mass there every Sunday. We had weddings and conventions (Colorado Sheepherders, Miss Tall America and Airline Week, among others). We had shows like Bill McHale’s “Highlights of Broadway” starring lovely Pam Zarit. One summer “The Sounds of Ireland” performed with the Irish Rovers, the Pattersons, Irish dancers and harps. We were the movie theater in town and showed older 16-millimeter films and ski movies. Other favorites were turtle races, upside-down Christmas tree contests and other funny, crazy inventions that Bill came up with. The Casino was the place to be.
I loved skiing and tennis (I believe the first courts became reality in 1968), hiking, hunting and partying. Bill and I married and had two children. We divorced, and I married Tom Laughlin. We were together until his death in a plane crash. I really didn’t have any expectations about Vail since I hadn’t planned to come here. I just thought it would be a great way to spend the winter, working, skiing and having fun.
Vail has changed dramatically from the small Bavarian-style village of the ’60s where everyone knew each other, but didn’t know if the resort would survive.
It is very special to have been part of its development and growth into a world-famous, successful mecca. I loved the place in the beginning, and I still do.
“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.