The new millenium brings fresh leadership to Glacier. Suzanne Lewis became the parks superintendent in April. She has managed several Park Service sites in the South, including the Chatahoochee River Recreational Area near Atlanta, two different sites in the Virgin Islands, and an ecological/historical preserve near Jacksonville, Florida.
Lewis follows David Mihalic, whose tenure saw fierce battles followed by eventual consensus in forming the Parks General Management Plan. Mihalics planning team initially proposed sweeping shutdowns of auto campgrounds and low-cost lodgings in Glacier. Nearly unanimous opposition led to a plan which honors the publics desire to "keep Glacier as it is." Since the plan was released last summer, Mihalic had managed mostly in absentia, pursuing executive training. He is now the superintendent of Yosemite National Park.
Guarded optimism surrounds the future of Glaciers fleet of red buses. The 33 "jammer buses" (15-passenger White Motor Co. convertibles which were built in the 1930s) were pulled off the road abruptly last summer after flaws were found in the chassis. Glacier Park, Inc. (GPI), the concessioner, purchased a fleet of modern white Dodge vans as a temporary transportation measure.
GPI at first expressed interest in building new red buses, rather than renovating the old ones. Much of the public, however, favored refitting the historic fleet. The Ford Motor Company then became interested in helping restore the buses. Bus No. 98 was driven from Montana to Detroit for mechanical evaluation.
Fords analysis showed that the antique bus bodies could be remounted successfully on modified Ford chassis. Extensive work would have to be done on each bus, however, to meet federal motor vehicle safety standards. Among other matters, the buses require replacement of seat covers, glasswork, mirrors, door hinges, lights, and wiring systems. The overall cost per bus would average around $140,000 (close to the cost of building a new bus) or about $5,000,000 to refit the whole fleet.
The first bus, No. 98, will be the most costly to repair, at a price of some $202,000. Ford recently offered to donate all but $25,000 of this cost (which will be paid by GPI). No. 98 will be refitted by mid-August, at which time the bus will be restored to Glacier and road-tested with passengers there. Decisions then will be made with regard to renovating the rest of the fleet.
The past few weeks have seen troubling developments with regard to Glacier Parks lodges. The quest to preserve Many Glacier Hotel and Lake McDonald Lodge (both formally designated as National Landmarks) is off to an inauspicious start. Key figures in both political parties have played disappointing roles.
First, Democratic Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt remarked that Many Glacier Hotel "ought to be torn down" or fixed with "a can of gasoline and a match." Babbitt added, "I realize that I cant do that," and may have intended to speak tongue-in-cheek (although observers at the Senate hearing where one remark was made contended that "it was not a joke"). However intended, the remarks were a failure of leadership in the struggle to preserve a national landmark.
Second, Montanas Republican members of Congress (Rep. Rick Hill and Sen. Conrad Burns), introduced bills which are favorable to the interests of big business in expanding the Glacier concession. The Hill/Burns legislation provides $220 million for Glacier (for road and utility repair) but no funds at all for lodge renovation.
The Hill/Burns bills would put the Park Service under great pressure to accept proposals made by Glacier Park, Inc. (GPI), the hotel concessioner. GPI is owned by Viad, a conglomerate with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues. Viad proposes to renovate Glaciers hotels with private financing on the scale of $100 million.
The problem is that Viad (or other corporate investors) would want a market rate of return on their investment. This would require an enormous increase not just in the average room rate, but also in the number of lodging units and in the visitor season length.
GPI has proposed an ambitious building program, including completely new lodges at Many Glacier and Lake McDonald, convention facilities, and health spas. It also proposes to gut and rebuild Many Glacier Hotel with larger, more elegant rooms to market to wealthy travellers. Room rates easily could average several hundred dollars per night, shutting out the bulk of the middle class.
The Hill/Burns legislation implicitly promotes this program by offering the Park Service little alternative. The bills, moreover, would authorize a 40-year concession contract (double the present maximum) so the concessioner could take historic tax credits.
We strongly oppose this program. The park exists for all the people. Its facilities should not be converted into jet-set resorts. We also think that it is bad policy to give a corporation monopoly rights in a national park for a period of almost half a century.
Parks Canada recently rejected a GPI proposal to undertake large-scale development at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Park on the same lines that it proposes in Glacier. Parks Canada stated that plans for a ballroom and major expansion of the hotel were "not appropriately scaled to the park and its culture."
We commend Parks Canadas action, and we urge the National Park Service to stand firm against development pressure in Glacier. The Interior Department (which oversees the Park Service) opposed the Hill/Burns approach in a Congressional hearing in June. The Department endorsed alternative legislation by Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
Baucuss bill would allow the lodges to be rented to a third party (possibly a real estate investment trust), which would renovate them in exchange for tax credits. The concessioner would rent from the third party under Park Service supervision.
We prefer Baucuss bill to the Hill/Burns legislation. It avoids the extra-length concession contract. It also would place the Park Service under less pressure to authorize new development (insofar as the concessioner would not be the investor).
There may be better approaches to lodge renovation, however, than the tax credit plan set out in Baucuss bill. An issue of tax exempt bonds may be the best way to raise private investment capital without a huge increase in room rates. (The federal tax code would have to be amended to authorize such a bond issue, but the law would have to be changed for the existing options as well.)
We hope that Montanas Congressional delegation will work together to pass the best possible bill for Glacier Park. Such a bill would allow the Park Service ample flexibility to choose the most effective fund-raising strategy without undue development pressure.
We urge a bipartisan approach. We believe that most members of both political parties want to see Glaciers lodges restored and accessible to the middle class. Democrats, Republicans, and independents need to work together with good will to promote this goal.
by Ray Djuff, Prince of Wales 1973-1975, 1978.
The smooth run of Glacier Park Transport Company out of the Depression was disrupted by the Second World War. The company was able to operate during the summer of 1942, despite fuel rationing and a rubber shortage, but, like the hotel company, did not open in 1943 and remained closed until the summer of 1946. It could not justify using young men as drivers for tourists when they were needed for the war effort.
After the war, the bus company was forced to revise all its schedules due to the closure and eventual destruction of several Glacier Park Hotel Company chalet groups. There had been noticeable drop-offs in bus and saddle horse traffic to Two Medicine, Cut Bank, St. Mary and Going-to-the-Sun Chalets during the Depression and prior to the war. Great Northern had little cash to spare for their upkeep and by the end of the Second World War, most of the facilities were in such a state they could not be rehabilitated. When faced with the options of pouring cash in to restore the buildings, constructing new facilities or abandoning the properties, the railway chose the latter.
In a reflection of changing tastes, Hays began updating the touring car fleet of the transportation company, going from convertibles to closed sedans. The first purchase was made in 1939, with more added in 1947. The new sedans replaced eight specially designed 1927 Cadillac touring cars that had a stretched wheelbase and could carry seven passengers. Also in the old touring car fleet were Lincolns and LaSalles.
In 1948, Hays began talking of getting out of the bus concession. His lease with the railway had expired and he wasnt interested in signing on for another 20 years. The following year, Hays offered the railway right of first refusal to buy the bus company. The initial reaction of railway officials was they werent interested, since they wanted out of their Glacier hotel concession, figuring on leaving when their hotel leases expired at the end of 1951. Although he was hesitant, Hays signed a new, 20-year lease with the hotel company in 1951.
Talks between Hays and John Budd, then president of Great Northern, about the hotel company taking over Glacier Park Transport Company continued off and on over the next few years. Rail arrivals in Glacier had stagnated after the Second World War, replaced by vacationers arriving on tour buses and private motor cars. The independent tour business that Glacier Park Transport Company had built dwindled. By the 1950s, the bus company had become little more than an extension of the hotel company, ferrying tourists on pre-packaged tours arranged by independent agencies.
In October 1955, Hays signed a deal to sell his stock in Glacier Park Transport Company to the hotel company. The assets of the company were listed at $190,000, The deal also included turning over the Motor Vessel DeSmet to the hotel company and for the railway to buy out the stock of the remaining bus company shareholders, including the trust company holding Walter Whites shares and those of Roe Emery, now in the hands of his son, Walter, following Roes death.
Early on in the hotel companys ownership, it appeared the bus company might be in for some big changes. In 1956, officials were sent to Banff to check out Volkswagen vans being used by Brewster. They were being considered for use at the Prince of Wales Hotel to take tourists to Cameron Lake and Red Rock Canyon. Although the engine noise was bearable for short runs, on long trips people "complained bitterly" about the noise, bus company officials reported later. The lack of air conditioning and what were deemed weak engines ("the kids (in Banff) burned out eight motors last year.") helped nix the idea.
Railway officials understood that taking over Glacier Park Transport Company was a temporary measure. The hope was that a package deal that included the hotels and bus company would be more attractive to potential buyers than separate entities. Thats not to say the railway, in its frustration over being unable to find a buyer for the concessions, didnt consider splitting up the assets. In 1960, Robert Downing of Great Northern had a discussion with representatives of the Brewster-Gray Line about buying the bus company and Prince of Wales Hotel for $400,000. A potential deal fell through when the two sides could not agree on a price. Brewster was only willing to pay $300,000 -- $125,000 for the bus company and $250,000 for the Prince of Wales Hotel. Great Northern eventually found a buyer for all the hotels and the bus company in Don Hummel.
Like Emery and Hays, Hummel was an experienced national parks concessioner. A decorated war hero, lawyer and former mayor of Tucson, Ariz., he had built the first concessions in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, in Mount McKinley in Alaska and Yosemite National Park in California. Hummel and a group of associates formed Glacier Park Inc. and, in December 1960, took over operations from Great Northern.
In the 1960s, Hummel attempted to build convention business at the hotels that had been started by Donald Knutson, who had leased them from Great Northern from 1957 to 1959. More buses, tour models, had been added to the transportation company fleet to bolster its carrying capacity. Tourists, however, preferred the quaint Whites and eventually the larger buses were sold off. Hummel only partially realized his goal of building a booming convention business, particularly on the "shoulder" periods of June and September, at the beginning and end of the summer tourist season. He was frustrated in part by the National Park Service, which nixed or put restrictive curbs on many of his ideas. Hummel, who had had running battles for decades with the service, became frustrated and disillusioned. He eventually sold the bus company and other concessions operated by Glacier Park Inc. to Greyhound Food Management Services. Glacier Park, Inc. has gone through some corporate shuffles and is now a division of Viad Corp.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the red buses were upgraded to modem specifications. The engines with manual transmissions that required double clutching were replaced with fuel-injected engines attached to automatic transmissions, power steering replaced "armstrong" steering and brakes are now power-assisted.
In the 1990s, Dale Scott, head of Glacier Park, Inc., which operates Glacier Park Transport Company, decided to break down two previously unalterable facts. For the first time, women were admitted into the rarefied ranks of gear jammers and no longer were drivers exclusively college-age men. The bus company began hiring drivers who ranged from 21 to retirement age and beyond. As Scott frankly admits, women and older people tend to be more cautious and caring drivers, improving the companys safety record and reducing maintenance requirements for the red buses.
Today, the red "jammer" buses remain on Glaciers roads as a proud legacy of the long history of wheeled transportation in the park. While there was some question about the durability of the red buses when they first came into service in the 1930s, their hardiness, at the hands of caring drivers and maintenance staff, was quickly recognized. A decade later, when the buses had hit 70,000 miles each, one official remarked: "It does not appear that these units will ever actually wear out." The words ring as true today as they did 50 years ago. They give hope to the wish that the buses will be on the road in Glacier for many years to come and that new generations of drivers will have an opportunity to earn the distinguished title "gear jammer" for their excellence in showing Glaciers beauty to future tourists.
by Vera Daly, Many Glacier Hotel, 1960-1976.
[Editors Note. Vera Daly was Many Glaciers grandmotherly seamstress and linen room attendant. Her diary of the flood of 1964 was preserved by another former employee, Galen Maddy.]
Saturday June 6. Started to rain about 11 p.m. Rained all night, all day Sunday drifting across like snow, kept on steadily all Sunday night until around 2:30 p.m. Monday, when it began to ease off. By then the lake had risen so high the boiler room was flooded. The lake level rooms and hallway (main building) had 8 to 10 inches of water on the floor. The mattresses had been put up on the furniture in case it rose higher. The employees in these rooms moved up to first floor. We had only one guest, Mr. Adler, restaurant man from Chicago. The St. Moritz & Lucerne rooms had water above the stage which is 25" high. The boys wading through it to keep on working. The folding chairs floating around, did not come into the annex rooms, but up to the level of the threshhold - a drop more would have put the water right into the Lake Level of the annex.
Monday, June 8th. The storm ended around 2:30 this afternoon. This evening we ate supper in the twilight. The electricity had been turned off in the hotel as the water was reaching the danger zone on the transformers. The boiler room flooded with over 3 ft. of water, the boilers had to be shut down. There was no heat now, so we worked with jackets over our sweaters. Candle light in the kitchen - the meal cooked on the dorm range. At the peak of the storm this afternoon the lake water was pouring over the bridge railing which is 31" high, washing away the edges of the bridge. The water brown from the washed down earth.
Tuesday, June 9th. Water system in the hotel & dorms was off. The men brought big trash cans of water in from the lake and rooms 62 & 64 were assigned for toilet facilities, using the water in the cans for flushing. A group from the dorm this evening formed a bucket brigade, bringing water up from the falls to put on the big oil range in the dorm kitchen for washing - poses, boiled for drinking. This a.m. the electricity was on again (had not been off in the dorm), the lake now down below the bridge and away from the hotel.
Wednesday, June 10. The water & heat still off in the hotel. All employees from Marv & Swift Current were given typhoid shots by the Red Cross flown in by copter. We hear there is no water at East Glacier nor in the village and that this is a disaster area. We cannot get outside nor anyone come in account of a bad washout near Babb. A section of the highway across from the horse corral has a 5 deep washout on one side by rushing overflow of Appekunny Creek which changed its course, rocks all over the hi-way, a rock and land slide covers part of the hi-way in several places. The brown mud is like clay. The shovels cleared it later. We hear by radio the damage is widespread.
Thursday, June 11. Water & heat not on yet. A copter with a plumber aboard flew up Wilber Creek checking pipe which feed the water into Swift Current lake and found 120' of pipes washed away. Big trash cans of water were brought up to the dorms for use in bathrooms from the spring below the chalet. At suppertime it was raining again, & chilly!
Friday, June 12. Conditions the same, boilers ready for operation as soon as the water comes in. Copter flew in with 2 lengths of pipe tied onto the sides; 10 men now working on the repair job. Later this afternoon Mr. Hummel, our boss, and the Secy. of the Interior Udall came in by plane to view the disaster.
Saturday, June 13. The heat on this a.m. in the hotel. Copters flying over with repair material, an airplane later. At 4:30 p.m. a copter with Pilot Capt. Ester & Cy Stevenson, our Chief Engineer, crash-landed on Boulder Ridge near Babb.
Sunday, June 14th. The 1st vehicle came thru today since the 6th - supply truck from E. Glacier. Hiway this side of east Glacier washed out - Mike Buck, the driver, also brought the mail. A light sprinkle of rain, men still working on water line.
Monday, June 15th. The water system working but hot water not available at the dorm today. Thirteen guests expected for lunch and they turned back to East.
Tuesday, June 16th. Road repaired enough to let traffic thru. Rained most of the day and this had us all worried. No hot water in dorm today - Two of the Girls took a bath in a cold spring! They were so full of Goose pimples when we saw them they couldnt straighten up.
Wednesday, June 17. Busses brought employees who had been waiting at East (Glacier). Swift Current has hot water. East Glacier water system ok. Dorm had hot water the next day and the girls came up to use my bath.
Friday, June 19. Rainy & cloudy all day. Had our 2nd typhoid shot today and a 3rd next week.
by John Hagen, Many Glacier 1970-1980.
The past years crisis surrounding the future of Glaciers red buses has evoked many vivid memories for me. The "reds" were a constant source of interest and fun in my summers as a bellman at Many Glacier Hotel.
The buses arrivals from the other hotels were difficult to predict. The bellmen developed sharp ears for the sound of buses driving up the hotel front. It was a point of honor for us to pop out the door and whisk up the parking cones to greet incoming tours without being prompted by honking horns. Decades later, I still remember vividly the sound of the "reds" arriving the "R-r-r!" of the engines and the creak-and-squeal of the ancient brakes.
I have droll memories of arrivals in rainy weather in the mid-70s. At that time, the canvas tops of the buses had gotten very old, and were in dire need of replacement. They leaked so badly that passengers sometimes would arrive with umbrellas hoisted over their heads inside the bus!
Unlike the haphazard arrivals, departures of the buses were ceremonious and highly choreographed. The red-coated transport agent would oversee a "lineup" of buses sometimes ten or twelve of them at a time pulling onto the portico at fixed intervals to load luggage and board passengers. Then the agent would bid the tourists adieu and send them on their way.
The bellmen often sought to enliven the departures of the tours with little touches of their own. Some liked to step into the role of the transport agent and send buses down the road with fantastic tales about the driver ("Your driver today is a student from Germany! Lets greet him with a chorus of Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles!").
The buses running boards lent themselves to a ritual known as the "bellman sendoff." Four to six bellmen would leap on the running boards, grip the roof, and energetically rock the bus from side to side as it was just beginning to roll, while waving and grinning at the passengers. We would leap off again after 20 or 30 feet, as the bus slowly gathered speed on the uphill grade near the Annex.
These "sendoffs" occasionally were elaborate. Sometimes a bellman would fly dramatically off the running board of a bus and roll down the hill to the Annex, while rescue workers rushed out with a stretcher. At other times, bellmen would sit on a luggage cart impersonating the Three Wise Monkeys as the buses set out.
Another harmless prank was repeated hundreds of times across the years. As a jammer rolled on or off the portico at about 5 mph, a bellman would slap a rear fender and then hop around on the tarmac holding his foot, as if the bus had just run over it. Sometimes, the tourists would hear a "whump! whump! whump!" and see multiple bellmen hopping and hobbling around behind a departing bus which had seemingly mangled them all.
The single most memorable prank that I can remember involving the buses occurred in 1976. That summer, one of our former room clerks, Carl Bentley, had gone to work for a tour company as an escort. One day, when Carl and his group arrived at Many aboard the "reds," they received a Wild Western greeting.
The buses with Carls group made the usual stop on the frontage road to await removal of the parking cones. Just then, a party of wranglers dramatically came riding over the hill (photographic evidence shows that one wrangler was actually brandishing a rifle, in defiance of park regulations). At the same time, several Boston Tea Party "Indians" rushed upon the scene, dressed in colorful Hudsons Bay blankets and Taiwanese headdresses from the gift shop. One of these warriors was Chip Smith, a 290 lb. football player from the University of Nebraska. Chip ripped open the door of the lead bus, snatched Carl out like a sack of potatoes, and tossed him onto the back of a horse. Then the whole party of cowboys and Indians rode madly over the hill again, leaving the drivers and tourists agog.
Its hard to imagine such colorful scenes taking place with the white Dodge vans which presently drive tours around the park. All Glacier veterans look forward to the day when the storied "reds," with their wonderful canvas tops, running boards, grills, and other antique paraphernalia, once again will grace the Park.
Love Among The Pitons
One of the worlds great faulted blocks"
The ranger explains with lucidity.
Meanwhile, Dunning, high on the rocks,
Who is swinging with intrepidity,
Forgets he hasnt shaved for days, nor washed his socks.
Hes too engaged in rapt assaults on peaks.
Out in all weather, but no bronchitis yet,
Bewailing the fact hes only here three weeks,
He compensates with an extra dash of pluck.
Dunning came down last night all dripping, soaking wet,
To share with his pal a meal of T-bone steaks.
That sudden storm might well have pushed his luck,
But here he was, still safe, still wonderstruck
By what a siren a tilted fault block makes.