The Browns, Battans and Meyers helped invent Vail, too
When lot options were issued with investments in Vail, there was a stipulation in the first filing that those who chose lots on Mill Creek Circle had to build during the first year. The Browns built next door to their business partners, the Higbies.
Keith Brown, born in Sterling, Ill., received his law degree after getting out of the navy in World War II. He was practicing in San Antonio when George Caulkins persuaded him to join the Caulkins Oil Company. Harley Higbie became a partner about the same time.
The three teamed up and have been in the oil business and other enterprises ever since. With Caulkins’s skill with people, Brown’s legal background, and Higbie’s banking experience, it’s easy to understand why they were successful.
In 1962, Vail did not have a real-estate department, and Keith Brown was given the task of supervising lot sales. It was somewhat unorganized until the company, Bishop Perry of Denver, was appointed exclusive realtor for Vail. In 1963, Brown, having become interested in Vail real estate, built the first of several condos with Dick Bigelow, and thereafter with Caulkins and Higbie. They were the Vail Trails West, Vail Trails East and the All Seasons Club.
Brown left the board of directors in 1968. Later, he served as the United States Ambassador to Lesotho, in southern Africa, and to Denmark.
Like the others, Carol and Keith Brown enjoyed being pioneers from the beginning. They were an integral part of the building of Vail. The house that they built on Mill Creek Circle in 1962 for about $30,000 sold recently for a huge figure.
Gordon and Thelma Brittan visited Vail in 1963 and liked it so much they decided to move there the following year. Gordon had sold his electronics business to Spiegels in Chicago and was ready for a change in lifestyle.
Brittan became dedicated to improving the medical facilities in Vail when a member of his family was badly injured and was unable to get proper treatment. He worked closely with John Murchison, who was on the board of the Vail Clinic. Murchison was the first chairman, and Brittan was the second. They also had considerable help from Dr. Bob Drisko of Kansas City, who had built a home in Vail and had made tremendous contributions to help set up the clinic.
A man of strong convictions, Gordon Brittan provided the dedication and drive as chairman that allowed the medical facilities in Vail to grow and expand into the fine hospital that exists today.
Vail suffered a setback when a gondola accident occurred at Lionshead in March 1976. It was an unfortunate, ill-fated accident in which several people were killed and many were injured. The medical facilities were taxed to the limit. However, it did show the creativity and spontaneous action of the community. Brittan manned the phones, handling the frantic calls from family members inquiring about their loved ones.
So many people were injured that a triage was set up to sort out the badly hurt from the less-injured. To add to the complication, many people had no identification in their ski clothes.
Gordon Brittan was one of the principals in forming the Camp Robbers Club in 1969, a private luncheon club at the bottom of Game Creek Bowl, or Chair 7. He and Thelma Brittan were greatly missed when they moved to Rancho Mirage, Calif., a few years ago.
Charley Meyer was one of the top officers in Sears Roebuck and lived with his wife, Suzie, in Lake Forest, north of Chicago.
Caulkins had grown up with Suzie in Grosse Pointe. Her family was the Dodge family that eventually sold out to Chrysler. At the time Vail was being invented, Charley and Suzie lived in Dallas, where he was head of Sears – South American interests.
When Caulkins arrived at their house to promote Vail, Suzie Meyer said, “Charley is on a business trip. He’ll be home in a couple of hours.”
When Charley Meyer got home, Suzie Meyer said, “Charley, your president has just tried to reach you on the phone.”
And Charley Mayer said, “What does that old goat Croutus Baker want now?” (Baker was chairman of the board of Sears Roebuck).
But Suzie said, “No, it isn’t Croutus Baker – it’s your other president.”
It was John F. Kennedy.
Charley Meyer had become a national figure because of his work in South America. He later served in the Nixon Administration as deputy secretary of state for Latin America. He was also on the board of directors for George Gillette.
Caulkins felt that Charley Meyers should be on the board of directors at Vail because someone with his background was needed.
“Vail is alive when you can get a guy like that to go on the board,” Caulkins said to himself.
Several years later, when Charley Gersbach and some partners put in the first McDonald’s restaurant in Vail, Caulkins said, “Vail is really on the map now!”
Charley and Suzie Meyer built a house the first year on Mill Creek Circle. Charley died of a heart attack at age 75.
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 66th installment, an excerpt from chapter 10, “The VIPs and the Notables.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.
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