"I Remember When . . ."
Part 22 or Tamarack Stories

Ken and Valle Demmons, with son Sandy, while skiing in the Blanchard Flats area of he Blackfoot Valley in 1936. Photo courtesy of Monte Turner, Pel and Joyce Turner's son.


April 12, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Stories From Long Ago About The Tamaracks of Seeley Lake Compiled by Jack Demmons.

This is Part 22 of a series of articles about The Tamaracks of Seeley Lake. Contrary to what was mentioned before, there will be one more part later - 23 - concerning The Tamaracks.

In part 21 mention was made of the fates of Henry "Bud" Turner, Pelham "Pel" Turner, Ruth Broderson Turner and Maude Turner after The Tamaracks reverted back to being a beautiful quiet lake resort, instead of a dude ranch, following World War II. In this issue the "trails" traveled by Ken and Valle Demmons after leaving The Tamaracks will be revealed.

Valle and Ken, along with their first four children, Sandy, Ann, Tom and Turner, moved back to Missoula in 1948. Ken returned to the Missoula Mercantile Company, where he had worked before marrying Valle Turner - in 1934. While back in Missoula, they had two more children, Dave and Debbie.

The family moved to Kalispell in 1956 and Ken worked for the city three years. Valle operated the Magi Import and Gift Shop. The family returned to Missoula on Redwood Street in the Rattlesnake in 1968 and Ken died there Nov. 7, 1969 at the age of 57.

Ken was an outstanding fisherman and fished many streams in the West. One of his favorite spots was along the North Fork of the Salmon River, approximately 100 air miles south of Missoula and 20 miles north of Salmon, Idaho. His wish was to have his ashes scattered over the North Fork branch. Accordingly, two of his sons, Tom and Turner, chartered an aircraft at Missoula and flew to the area and dropped his ashes along the river several miles from the small town of North Fork.

After Ken's death, Valle went to work for the Philosophy Department at the University of Montana, an institution she had attended after graduating from Missoula County High School. She was still employed at the University when she died April 21, 1978 at age 62. Four years after Ken passed away she married Frank Anderson, who had managed the Seeley Lake Post Office and Kenny Freshour's store during part of World War II. (Frank's wife, Allie Demmons, passed away in October, 1967). Valle had expressed the desire to have her ashes scattered along Water Works Hill, just north of Missoula, where she had spent so many happy days as a youngster and the family honored her wish. [Compiler's note: In the Missoula Sentinel paper, dated Feb. 12, 1915, I found this article, which related to Valle: "'A beautiful, golden-haired girl,' is Dr. G.T. McCollough's description of his grandchild, born this afternoon to his son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Turner." It was that same golden-haired youngster who so frequently ran and played about on the hills north of Missoula.]

Five of Ken and Valle's six youngsters still reside in Western Montana. (It was mentioned before that Sandy, a former U.S. Air Force pilot and commercial airline pilot, died in a light plane crash at Polson in August, 1982). Tom was a long-time high school educator and is now retired, but keeps very active with a business he formed in Missoula. He and his wife live in the Redwood Street residence once occupied by his mother and dad. Turner, a former Air Force pilot, and his wife reside at Somers. Ann and her husband are retired and live in Kalispell after working for years at Havre. Dave was a juvenile probation officer at Hamilton for many years but is now retired. He and his wife live in the Hamilton area. The youngest, Debbie - who looks much like her mother - is married to Mike Dillon and they have two children, Emmy and Joe, who go to the Bonner School, as their grandfather Ken Demmons and his brothers and sisters did years before.

Debbie, like her father, is an accomplished musician and through the years has sang and played the guitar at many functions and for various establishments. Debbie also has a business that she conducts from her home at Piltzville, near Bonner. (Debbie and her husband bought their home from Aafje Demmons - Jack's mother. Aafje and Herb Demmons purchased the home from Frank and Allie Demmons Anderson during World War II, after those two moved to Seeley Lake.)

[Compiler's notes: There is an interesting story relating to Ken Demmons and his musical ability that was told to me some years ago by Johnny Toole, former historian and once mayor of Missoula. The account is also in his book The Baron, The Logger, The Miner and Me.

"I had gotten together a little hillbilly band. In addition to myself there was the drummer, Ken Demmons; the guitarist Henry Turner; on the mandolin, Hank Pennypacker; and the banjo player, Warren Skillicorn. We played for some dances at Ovando, others at Seeley Lake and Helmville. But there was one at Salmon Lake that topped all the others.

"When W.A. Clark, Jr. died, the great estate on Salmon Lake, called Mowitsa, was sold to Al Werheimer, a member of a gambling ring...His headquarters were in Detroit; he headed a nefarious outfit called the Purple Gang.

"He was a tough guy, but he was friendly and also rich. He liked the people in Montana and gave many festive parties at Mowitsa. He cultivated the big shots from Anaconda and one night he arranged for our band, which was variously called 'Demmons and His Demons,' or 'Toole and His Tooters,' to provide the music. Present at the affair were: Carlos Ryan, the son of John D. Ryan...Ed McGlone, the superintendent of the Butte mines; their various wives; and a galaxy of W.A. Clark's granddaughters..."

Johnny related how his father, Howard Toole, "got intoxicated and had a great time...bumping other couples with his rear end while dancing. He also did a god-awful dance called the monkey dance, in which he imitated a baboon, and he danced this solo terpsichorean exhibition with complete abandon...I was shocked.

"Carlos Ryan asked me to play a song that I didn't know and declined to attempt. He became angry, grabbed Henry Turner's guitar, swung it above my head, and brought it crashing down on my skull, splintering it to pieces. Strangely, I was not injured...Then Carlos settled down, dug out a $100 bill and handed it to Henry with instructions to buy a new guitar..."

Johnny told me, "when the guitar came crashing down on my head everyone kept right on dancing and the band - including Kenny Demmons, kept playing as if nothing had happened...but Kenny was watching closely, ready to jump in and help me. That would have been a scene. He probably would have cleaned out the entire house if necessary."

Johnny, a decorated World War II infantry combat veteran, was a good friend of mine and we spent a number of hours talking about the history of the Blackfoot and Swan Valley areas. Tragically, he died later after being hit by an automobile while walking along a Missoula street.

In the closing account about The Tamaracks, the final years relating to the old storyteller, Frank Anderson, will be told. Also, there will be concluding remarks made by Tom Demmons, Ken and Valle's third oldest youngster, and one of four of the children who were born while The Tamaracks was still in operation.]

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