Lodge employees plan reunion in September, recall life at Lake McDonald

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The Lake McDonald Lodge in this file photo.

In September, former Lake McDonald Lodge employees from the 1960s and 1970s will reunite, drawn back to Glacier by the scenic beauty and fond memories.

With the help of Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the group will tour the historic Lake McDonald Lodge and the buildings where they worked, socialized, and lodged.

Male employees lodged at Snyder Hall, which was built in 1911 for dances and gatherings.

“It was more picturesque than comfortable,” recalls Jim Griffith, who spent three summers in Snyder Hall while working as a houseman and bellman. “We fellows tended not to make beds and store clothes properly. For free time between shifts, a better bet was to hang out at the Recreation Hall which had a piano and juke box.”

Female employees lodged at Garden Court, built in 1927, or Cobb House, which was originally called Cobb Cottage.

“Cobb Cottage was the crème de la crème place to live,” noted Kathey Dunias Wylie, who worked as a motel maid in 1967 and as a dining room waitress from 1968-1971. “Everybody coming from a pow wow or any other activity on the beach would gather on our porch.”

Snyder Hall and Cobb Cottage were renovated into public lodging in 2013.

The reuniting employees, who called themselves “emps,” will also enjoy a private cruise aboard the historic DeSmet. The 70-passenger wooden vessel also evokes many memories.

“Getting out into the middle of the lake was a good way to put your life into perspective,” said Griffith.

The “emps” spent their one day off per week on hiking trails, despite “how poorly prepared we were for such hikes: no sun protection, no water bottle, no rain protection but just a cotton sweatshirt for warmth, no first-aid kit except an Ace bandage and a few Band-aids,” explained Griffith, now a retired professor of forestry at a university in Brazil.

Getting to the trailheads and back was a tricky endeavor, since college students were not allowed to have motor vehicles. The employees made signs that said “Glacier Park Employee,” stood on the side of the road, and hoped for the best. Most of the time, tourists picked them up.

The former employees have powerful lasting memories, noted Gary Shaye, who worked as a kitchen storekeeper in 1967 and managed the coffee shop the following summer.

“Having the privilege of working at Lake McD changes your life forever and becomes part of your DNA, part of your soul and who you are,” Shaye said.

The reunion will take place in Whitefish Sept. 9-12.

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