1962 – Building the dream
There were no grocery stores or laundry facilities, electricity was at a premium and our only phone was an eight-party job that worked best after 10 o’clock at night. No doctor, no pharmacist and no veterinarian served the valley.
In fact, there were only four occupied houses. One was an old farmhouse at Red Sandstone Creek that Earl Eaton and his family lived in. Another was a new chalet built by our corporate architect, Fitzhugh Scott, and his wife, Eileen. The Scotts had constructed their house as a symbol of faith in the Vail idea, and now they shared it with the company for office space and for access to a flush toilet and hot-water shower. They were considered saints by even the most confirmed atheists among us.
Such generosity and selflessness wasn’t an isolated act, however. Almost everyone who came to live and work on the cold, wet construction sites of Vail Mountain and Vail Village seemed to possess a natural concern for others.
“There was a very strong community spirit among the locals,” says Bob Parker. “Everyone knew each other and participated in every event. If there was a fire, everyone responded – the men worked to put out the fire and the women supplied sandwiches, coffee, moral support.”
Heavy snow fell time and again that spring, well into late April and early May. When it melted, the runoff was so torrential the U.S. Forest Service shut down all construction on the mountain until the ground at least partially dried. Even when we went back to work, water plagued us at every site, from a giant quagmire at the village sites to an oceanic overflow of ground water that hindered construction of the gondola terminal.
Without the strength, calm, and inventive know-how of our local heroes – for example, ex-miners turned bulldozer drivers, former cowboys doing iron work, snowplow drivers manning concrete trucks, realtors turned carpenters – we might have been mired in melting snowbanks and knee-deep mud for months. There were no set job descriptions; everyone stepped up to do whatever was needed, working from dawn to dark, and even into the night by the glare of floodlights.
The iron workers building the lodge would complete their day’s work, charge into the mess hall to wolf down huge helpings of food, then hurry outdoors to be transported by bouncing truck up a deeply rutted mountain road. Then they would work under lights until midnight, tying reinforcing bars into the concrete forms that supported the gondola towers.
This arrangement, however, did not meet with the approval of the union officials sent from Denver to cover our job. Their assignment was to unionize everybody working on the Vail construction. This caused some heated discussions. I felt it would be risky for a brand-new business venture that would only operate on a seasonal basis to get involved in union membership.
Editor’s note: This is the 40th installment of the Vail Daily’s serialization of “Vail: Triumph of a Dream” by Vail Pioneer and Founder Pete Seibert. This excerpt comes from Chapter 8, entitled “Building the Dream.” The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.