Stories From The Tamaracks: Part 17

'I Remember When...'

January 4, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

The summer of 1948 at The Tamaracks. From left: Turner and Tom Demmons, sons of Ken and Valle Turner Demmons, with their uncle Pel Turner, Valle's younger brother. The name of the cook at far left is unknown. The hailstones are about the size of small eggs. Photo courtesy of Monte Turner, Pel's son.

A cartoon depicting Pel Turner after buzzing Kenny & Betty Freshour's home along Seeley Lake in 1947, and almost crashing into their place.

Stories From Long Ago About
The Tamaracks of Seeley Lake
and Surrounding Area
Compiled by Jack Demmons.
This is Part 17.

In Part 15 mention was made that Pel Turner, Maude and Henry "Heine" Turner's youngest son, had enlisted in a U. S. Navy Air Corps flight program in 1943, but the Navy suddenly had an adequate supply of pilots and the program was discontinued. He returned to The Tamaracks for a short while and then enlisted in the U. S. Marines and was assigned to the Marine Corps' V-12 program at the University of North Carolina, which would have led to flight status, but World War II ended prior to his graduating and that program was also terminated.

Pel once again returned to The Tamaracks, but he was determined to learn how to fly and took lessons at the Johnson Flying Service in Missoula. His chief instructor was Jack Hughes, one of the finest pilots in the United States, who became the first rated helicopter pilot in Montana, and later was chief pilot for that flying service.

Under Hughes' instruction, Pel soloed and began flying around parts of Montana, to include the Seeley Lake area. On one occasion in 1947 he rented a Piper Cub from the Johnson Flying Service and headed for Seeley Lake. Once there, he flew the Cub with the wings vertical to the ground, from Seeley Lake, along the highway, to The Tamaracks, flying between the tall timber that lined the road. This created something of "a stir" among local people. [Compiler's Note: I remember hearing about that escapade when I was in high school.] He then landed in front of the Double Arrow Lodge and went in to have a chat with the owners.

One other time, Pel again headed for the Seeley Lake area and proceeded to buzz some places - flat-hatting. Banking over the lake, he pointed the nose of the Cub towards the south end, where Kenny and Betty Freshour (owners of the Log Cabin bar) had their home. Pel told me, "I started pulling back on the stick, but there wasn't any response for a moment. I finally cleared their house by a few feet. I could see them watching me through a window. I said to myself, it is time to head back to Missoula!"

The picture of Pel with his two nephews, Turner and Tom Demmons, was taken several years after Pel returned from military service. The Tamaracks had a number of different cooks through the years, and one - not the one in the picture - chased the owner, Henry Turner, around and around the lodge with a knife, Pel said. Henry was shouting "bloody murder" and someone finally came out and took the knife away from the cook.

Tom grew up to be a long-time educator and coach. He is still with the Missoula County High School system and looks much like his father.

Turner Demmons became an Air Force pilot, earning his wings at Randolph Field, Texas in April, 1969. He, like his older brother Sandy, also flew in southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, piloting the large Sikorsky CH-53 "Jolly Green Giant" helicopters on rescue missions. He was later transferred to Eielson AFB, south of Fairbanks, Alaska, and was instrumental in saving the lives of two crew members of a McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom fighter that crashed shortly after takeoff. For that action he was awarded a citation - one of many Turner was presented during his Air Force career.

After leaving the Air Force, Turner continued to fly helicopters, and at one time was a pilot for St. Patrick Hospital's Life Flight operation in Missoula. Today, he and his wife live in the Somers area near Kalispell.


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