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A little Bit of History and a Dream!
Story behind Seeley Lake airport
(See related story on airport status today.)


Above, a Beech Staggerwing, one of several that flew in here annually at the
invitation of the late Bud (Lindey) Lindemer who founded the well-known "Lindey's
Steakhouse" in Seeley Lake and was for many years the manager and promoter
of the Seeley Lake airport as well as the seaplane base by his restaurant on the lake.


December 2, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

 

Photos courtesy of
Mike Lindemer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From left, Bud Lindemer with Staggerwing pilot and friend Bob Vanesdale, and Lindey's wife, Marge.

 

(Editor's note: Ron Talcott and his wife, Gigi, live in Seattle where he is an instructor pilot for the Boeing Company. They own property at the airport and plan on retiring here. He was in Korea on assignment when we contacted him by email and received the following account covering a lot of history of the Seeley Lake airport.)

X-From_: Talcott@compuserve.com Wed Oct 27 01:32:55 1999
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 03:31:04 -0400
From: Ron Talcott <Talcott@compuserve.com>
Subject: Seeley Lake Airport Story Information
Sender: Ron Talcott <Talcott@compuserve.com>
To: Gary Noland <pathfinder@montana.com>

 

Dear Gary:

This information is in response to your email inquiry about the history of the Seeley Lake Airport. I am on a business assignment in Inchon, Korea (the site of the famous Korean War Marine Corps landing) teaching Korean Air Lines pilots at their training center.

I first became aware of the airport in 1973 when I was looking for property in the Seeley Lake/Placid Lake area. My grandfather, Burt B. Talcott from Great Falls, had property on Placid Lake and first brought me to the area in 1956 when I was 12. I spent most of my childhood summers in Montana and much of that time at Placid Lake. When I had my own family and was serving in the US Air Force, my wife and I wanted to have a "place with continuity"for our sons while we were moving around the country and the world with the Viet Nam War ongoing.

When we were looking for property, C. B. Rich had his little real estate office (now I think the chamber of commerce uses the tiny building) and we met him there. He mentioned property near the airport, and because of my interest in flying, we looked it over and bought Lots 5 and 6 of Block 1 of the Seeley Lake Sky Park in 1973. We decided to build a cabin in 1976, the Bicentenial Year. In that time frame, I contacted the Missoula County Airport Authority (they were responsible for the Seeley Lake Airport at the time) and asked them how I would get access to the airport as promised in the brochure C. B. had given me when I purchased my property. Their response was that there would be no access. I wrote to the county commissioners and sent them all the information I had, including the brochure, and after about a year's time, the county determined that the Sky Park would have access to the airport. I can document that process when I get home.

My understanding is that the Sky Park, airport and surrounding Seeley Lake Estates were all developed in the early 1960s. I think the date on my Sky Park platt is 1962. The developer deeded the roads, all in Missoula County, to the county. The runway is in Missoula County and Powell County.

The developer deeded the airport property to the State of Montana. The state gave operational control of the airport to Missoula County. Western Montana Properties of Missoula was the developer. I think the original owner/manager of the development is dead now, but his son may still be in real estate in Missoula. I have that information in my home file.

Don't know what transpired at the airport in the 14 years before I built my first cabin. When I came to build my place in 1976, Bob Holley has built his "Condon" cabin in the previous six months, so my cabin was the second built on the Sky Park. Bob would be an excellent resource for your article as he was building a Bede 4 kitplane in his garage and lived next the the runway for at least 12 to 15 years. You probably already know that he was a writer for a Chicago newspaper.

The airport runway was not in very good shape, with lots of ground squirrel holes in it and small trees growing in the fenced area. Signage was minimal. But it was a functional rural airport. The county did not want to spend any money on maintaining it. It seemed to be a nuisance to them.

I used to meet every airplane that landed while I was at my property. As a result, I met Bud and Margi Lindemer in one of their beautiful Beech Staggerwing airplanes. The Lindemers built their restaurant and the county gave Bud the supervising responsibilities for the Seeley Lake Airport.

Mike Lindemer could probably give you an accounting of the dates the Lindemers were involved. When I was at my property, I would help Bud smoke bomb the squirrels, fill in their holes and cut trees. He went through a long process of establishing the Seeley Lake seaport, but that is another long story in itself. His boys and Margi were always involved in working at upgrading the quality of the airport. The county broke their agreement with Bud Lindemer over airport management in the year or two before his death. He wanted to do more to upgrade the airport and the county wanted to spend less money. In fact, I think the county wanted to sell the airport or at least get rid of it. Bud put together a proposal to buy it and operate it privately. He discussed that proposal with me, and I was willing to be an initial investor. The county did not go through with Bud's proposal. Mike could give you more insight on that story.

Bud (Lindey) Lindemer was Seeley Lake's airport manager and promoter for 18 years and hosted an annual fly-in of Beech Staggerwing owners and pilots. Lindy was killed tragically on July 4, 1994 when the Piper Cub he was piloting in a ping-pong ball drop for July Fourth games crashed in windy conditions in a Seeley Lake tennis court. His son, Mike, now carries on the same duties.


Staggerwings and other antique planes made Seeley Lake their destination for an annual reunion of Staggerwing owners and other pilots in years past.
   

About 20 years ago, the small, brown hanger/garage was built on the east side of the runway near the south end. Although the property was not in the Sky Park, the property owner was able to get access to the airport and put in the still existing airplane taxi access to the airport. The original builder died within several years, and I have not seen an airplane there for over 15 years.

About 10 years ago, Bud Lindemer and Doug Mood built the large metal, 3 bay hanger on the Lindemer Sky Park property. They were able to put a second airplane taxi access gate in the airport perimeter fence on the east side. Doug would be another source of information on the airport's history. He uses it regularly.

In recent years, the last 7 or 8 is my guess, several other homes have been built on the west side of the airport property. Bob Thorn's is one of them. All of the property owners petitioned for access to the airport and were granted it.

In the last 5 years, the flying club was formed and the county allowed the club to maintain the airport. The club members can give you more accurate information on the dates and their involvment and the access process.

Over the years, we have had many neighbors in the Sky Park. We always hope they will be pilots, or at least like airplanes and aviation. The Sky Park roads are actually designed to be taxiways. They are 80 feet wide with large cul de sac turnarounds at the eastern ends to allow airplanes to pass each other during taxi and to make a turn around. The road on the east side of the airport (the west side of the Sky Park) actually extends west to the airport boundary fence to allow north south taxi. None of these roads have been brought up to county standards or maintained to any extent.

So most of the residents think the road is where the wheel tracks show.

In fact, the power company put the power poles in the middle of the north south taxi area.

But we have faith that in the future, the airport will make the Sky Park properties value and use change to vacation or weekend home sites for pilots, the original purpose of the development back in the early 1960s.

Things have a way of changing over time. We can still see the reminants of the old logging camp that stood on the Sky Park property in the early 1940s.

In 1978, my wife and I bought Lot 2 of Seeley Lake Estates on the east side of Trail Creek. In 1991, we built our second, smaller guest cabin next to our first building. In my retirement ahead, I hope to spend most of the summer in Montana and to own my own airplane and fly in and out of my property to fulfill my over 25 year old dream.

The recent extension of the runway to the north and the expected further developent to the south on the airport property are great leaps forward in the value of the airport to the community. With continued care, it can become a beautiful grass/gravel landing strip. With the extended runway, it will be much safer for aircraft operations.

The flying club is considering having associate memberships for people like me who want to help maintain and develop the airport but are not interested in having an airplane to fly locally. The club needs encouragement from the community to continue its good work.

Gary, that is about all I can remember to put down at this sitting. I will be looking forward to the story as a subscriber to the Pathfinder.

Warm regards and thanks for the opportunity to make my input,

Ron Talcott

(See related story on airport status today.)

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