"I Remember When..."
Last chapter in Stories
from the Tamaracks


July 3, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana


This scene was taken at The Tamaracks, looking to the northwest, around 1935. It speaks of the quietness and loneliness that befell The Tamaracks when it ceased being a dude ranch shortly after the close of World War II. The voices, and the laughter, of most of the guests who spent so many happy, joyous times there have been stilled. Of those who owned, maintained and operated The Tamaracks during the period we have covered in our series of articles, only three are still alive: Pel and Joyce Turner, and Ruth Turner, Henry "Bud" Turner's widow. Photo courtesy of Tom Demmons.


Stories From Long Ago About the Tamaracks of Seeley Lake and Surrounding Area
Compiled by Jack Demmons. This is Part 23, the final part.

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Frank Anderson, the "Old Storyteller"

 

Many of the stories that have appeared in the Seeley Swan Pathfinder paper about the history of The Tamaracks were told by Frank to his nephew, Tom Demmons, who still lives in the former home of his parents, Ken and Valle on Redwood Street in Missoula's Rattlesnake Valley.

Frank, who was originally from Pentoga, Michigan, came to Montana in 1910 with his parents. He had worked for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company at Bonner for a number of years, and then moved into a clerk's position at the company store. Later he managed the old Fleming Texaco station at Piltzville near Bonner.

He and his wife, Allie Demmons Anderson (Ken's sister), had purchased the old Peterson house at Piltzville, one of the oldest homes in that community. They, along with their son Frank Jr., were in the process of renovating it when World War II came along.

In 1943 they sold their home to Herb and Aafje Demmons - Jack's parents. [Compiler's note: Mom, original from Holland, would kid people about the pronunciation. "It rhymes with 'Mafia,'" she would say. My father, a life-long logging riverman, was the Bonner mill river foreman at the time.]

As mentioned in previous issues of the Seeley Swan Pathfinder, Frank and Allie moved to Seeley Lake during 1943 and managed Kenny Freshour's store and the Seeley Lake post office until the end of World War II. Their son enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in the South Pacific. (He was later recalled for service during the Korean conflict.)

Following World War II Frank and Allie moved back to Piltzville and built a house and a new Texaco station one block east of their previous home. Frank Jr. lived there also after returning from the service and helped with the station. It was quite a gathering place for youngsters who came to purchase soda pop, candy and ice cream bars.

The Andersons operated the station for a number of years, and then on Wednesday, October 25, 1967, Allie passed away at a Missoula hospital at the age of 59. (She and Frank were married May 24, 1924 at Wallace, Idaho.)

Frank decided to get out of the service station business and took over the franchise for the Potts fly-tying operation. Working out of his home, he employed local women to help with the fly-tying.

In the end, he married Valle Turner Demmons in 1972, four years after her husband Ken died. He moved into Valle's home at Redwood Street in the Rattlesnake area of Missoula and worked for a while at the Grizzly Lincoln Mercury car dealership in town, which was owned by his brother-in-law, Pel Turner.

Frank retained his sense of humor to the end, and had continued with his role as a "storyteller." Then, on September 6, 1993, he died at the age of 92.

There is a mystery concerning Frank's death. He was cremated, but no one knows what happened to his ashes. Frank Jr. and his wife both passed away before we could find an answer. Frank was truly a legend and he is remembered by some folks who still live in the Seeley Lake-Swan Valley area today.

AN EPILOGUE

by Tom Demmons

"These stories of The Tamaracks and Seeley Lake are just a few; there are hundreds more, told by other narrators with other points of view. Most of these storytellers, moreover, are caught by the nostalgia of looking backwards. It's very easy for these folks to recall the 'good times.' Why, even the 'bad times' - the anger, the frustration, even the fear - take on a softer, lighter perspective which time often gives to the past. It's easy while telling the stories to forget that during this period of time there was a major depression, a world war, and that these and other historical occurrences were grave concerns for the people who lived then. Too, it is easy to forget staying up most of the night to stoke the fire during one of the many cold snaps. It is easy to forget the terrible drudgery of digging new cesspools, or the misery of repairing old ones. It is also easy to forget the tedium of changing beds, of sweeping cabin floors, or cleaning mantled, kerosene lamps. And it is easy to forget the anger and frustration that came with repairing and maintaining the old gasoline water pump, so that all of the cabins would have water. Time erases many of those stories, or it softens the recollection of them.

"Listening to and reading the stories about The Tamaracks made me want to return there. (I was very young when we left and moved to Missoula.) A visit there finds many things pretty much the same. The huge tamarack and fir trees still tower over the area - most of them anyway. The roads are still unimproved needle-covered, one lane, muddy kind that twist and wind their way among the trees. Undergrowth and greenery still flourish. Even the horseshoe pit is where it always was. The lake itself still shimmers with the same effervescence that the early snapshots captured and the mountains across the lake pose their same, striking horizon.

"But things HAVE changed - technology does that to everything. On the mountainsides across the lake, for example, are the geometrical planes of many shapes from logging through the years. Each summer day you can see shiny fiberglass boats equipped with high speed motors, such as Chevy 292's, racing across rippling waters; in the winter, snow is plowed off the ice and you can see and hear screaming snowmobile races - if you want to. But if you listen closely, you can still hear the wind in the aspen trees - if you listen very closely.

"You talk to old-timers who saw how it was once and have seen how it is now, and they'll tell you of the change. Even some of the cabins at The Tamaracks have television antennae. Paved roads and electricity have brought comfort and ease to much of Seeley Lake, old-timers say. Things ARE easier, but not better."

[Compiler's note: Tom collected and wrote the stories about The Tamaracks, including the epilogue, more than ten years ago. He later gave me a copy and said to do whatever I would like to do with it. This part - number 23 - is the final chapter about The Tamaracks. I added several stories, but the collection is basically Tom's. He did a great job in saving much of the history of The Tamaracks, as did his uncle, Pel Turner.

There will be more historical stories later from long ago about the Blackfoot and Swan Valley areas - tragic as well as humorous.]