Many Glacier Hotel 1963, where the fantasy began

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In June, the management of Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park figures out a way to pose the entire staff in front of a photographer for the summer picture. I no longer remember how many takes it took to make the photographer happy. And, though I thought I would always remember the names, home towns, and colleges of all the students in this picture, the details have long since become hazy.

We came from all around the country during the last week in May and spent the summer in the fantasy land of  the Swiftcurrent Valley working as cooks, waiters, desk clerks and bellmen until mid-September. A lot of us came back the following summer, and some the summer after that, as has been the custom with the concessionaire’s summer help since the days when the Great Northern Railway (now, BNSF) owned and managed the facility.

For a Florida boy who had always wanted to see the mountains, Glacier Park’s horn-shaped mountains, stair-step valleys, cool summer nights, and old Swiss-style hotels were a fantasy land in spite of the hard work. We carried luggage, cleared dining room tables, mopped the floors, made the beds, and told guests yarns about the mountains.

Our summer included bridge games, long hikes, fresh fish, romances, twisted ankles, mountain climbing, boating, broken hearts and a lot of pictures more personal than this old black and white that doesn’t quite fit on my scanner.

I studied writing in high school and college and the craft I learned there was well worth the time. While I spent less time in the park, my total of  seven months there over the span of several summers shaped my life and work more than any college course. Perhaps I was more impressionable than most or perhaps it is a writer’s natural focus on experience that has made this place loom larger than life.

For a writer, time neither steals away old joys nor heals old wounds, and I came away from the park with my fair share of both. For better or worse, they have sustained me and defined my outlook, while becoming the setting for my magical realism (Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey) novel and two contemporary fantasies (The Sun Singer and Sarabande).

Virginia Woolf once wrote that all of a writer’s secrets loom large in his work. I think that might be true because this setting impacted me just as much as Hogwarts impacted Harry Potter and “The Land” impacted Thomas Covenant. So it is that this faraway place flows out onto the page in my storytelling as a true love of mountains, wildflowers, bears and all the events that did happen or might have happened in the shining mountains.

–Malcolm

TSScover2014Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of paranormal short stories and contemporary fantasy adventure novels, including “The Seeker” and “The Sun Singer,” both of which are set in Glacier National Park.


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7 responses

  1. I have always thought that the fact that you were so taken with the Park speaks well for it and the management of the hotel. It must have had a great impact on many people’s lives.

    • Long-time hotel manager Ian B. Tippet ran a tight ship. He was widely known for providing wonderful hospitality for his guests and a great environment for his seasonal workers and professional staff. He was the catalyst for many things that made the hotel “work.”

      Malcolm

  2. I spent three summers at the many glacier hotel….it is larger than life.
    and i know many, many people for whome the ‘fantasy land’ of swiftcurrent valley has been instrumental in the shaping of their character and the guiding of there lives. Many Glacier has built me as a person, given me a family, and educated me as to my place in this world. though i spent a total of 1 year there, i remember it emotionally and chronologically in a way that superseeds almost all other stages of my life.

    Mr. Campbell, thank you for the above insight. I was led to it through the recommendation of a friend who also holds Many Glacier dear. Your summary of the experience…the work, hikes, inspiring and transendental climbs, the parties, the romance, and the very best of fleeting friends..gave me a very pleasurable moment of reminiscence.

    Lucas Vecchio
    summers of 2006, 2007, 2008

    • During Glacier’s centennial, many of the hotels had reunions in the park; had I not lived so far away, I would have enjoyed being there and meeting others not only from the time I was there, but from other years. It’s fun sharing experiences, and that includes talking about how the summer(s) as a seasonal employe impacted our lives ever after.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      Malcolm

  3. Pingback: Many Glacier Hotel, 1964 « Malcolm's Round Table

  4. Malcolm R. Campbell was indeed one of my countless brilliant summer employees in the early 1960’s. I myself managed the property from 1960 – 1983 and am now in my 62nd year with Glacier, now in semi-retirement summers only. Dealing then, with 25,OOO college student applications annually, and being in the glorious position too of Company Personnel Director – I had the joy of selecting all my own employees. Many Glacier Hotel had many physical deficiencies, so I specialised in the hiring of Music/Drama majors nationally, to provide renowned Guest Entertainment Programming in the evenings including full hotel orchestra, an annual Broadway/London Musical, and the well recognized Many Glacier Singers. Malcolm – what a joy it was to have YOU on board. I am getting the layouts ready of MY OWN Book on a lifetime working in Glacier, currently being started in England, in privacy, peace and quiet.

    • I had hopes of finding a way to attend some of the park’s bicentennial events, including the reunion at Many. It would have been nice to say hello to you–and so many other old friends–after all these years.

      One needs peace and quiet to write a book. I’ll look forward to seeing yours!

      Best Wishes and happy writing. I know you have a good many stories you can tell about my favorite valley.

      Malcolm