We Step Back in Time at Our Western Montana Lodge
A visit to Cody, Wyoming produced some nice photographs and a few good stories from a nearly forgotten era. As some of you know, I am always searching for stories relating the history of Elk Lake Resort. A couple of years ago, the second Resort owner, Erlene Mercer, graciously offered me a chance to view her photo album from their time here. So, fearing to wait too long, and thus loose the opportunity, I finally made the trek to Cody.
Erlene kindly opened her home to me; we spent a couple of hours perusing her photo album. Beginning with a few photos from when the original owners, Faye and Edna Selby, owned the place, we worked our way to the early 70's when Hank and Erlene sold to Bill Green.
Erlene's photos showed how much things change - and how much they stay the same. For example, early photos of the ranch house and resort show the cabins similar but different. The roofing material, at this time, was 3 tab. The siding appears to have been some kind of cement board - painted white until the 'boys' decided red would look better. Cabin 3 used to sit closer to the road, and Cabin 7 was the 'tack room'. No porch existed on Cabin 1, Cabin 2's porch looks to have been changed, and Cabin 3's porch has definitely taken on a new look in the passing years. Another fact I'd been told, but had not seen, none of the cabins had bathrooms. In addition, the lodge didn't have a front porch (and was sided and roofed similar to the cabins).
As I knew before going, the addition onto the dining room was still in the future. Also, the interior of the lodge, although still retaining familiar impressions, looked quite a bit different. In fact, the current sitting room and bar were basically one big room with a small bar against one wall, an oak roll-top desk where business was conducted, and a piano in one corner. The rest of the room could easily be cleared for the regular dances which were held here. (One brief story Erlene told was of the big quake in the 1950's. Apparently the Selbys were in the lodge at the time. They reported the piano rolled clear across the room and banged against the far wall. Other damage occurred, I'm sure, but the self-motivated piano made the biggest impression, it seems.)
However, the general layout of the Resort remains the same - except - the entrance used to the to the south of the Resort. Unfortunately this meant a great deal more traffic (at least as years passed) traveled by Cabins 1, 2, and 3. Therefore, during Miller's time, the entrance was moved to the West side.
I also saw photos of the boats, and boat docks. The dock at Elk Lake was similar to that which we now have. However, at the North end of the lake a dock also existed (although by Mercer's time it was looking a bit worn out). This dock, however, continued to serve a purpose until late in the Mercer's ownership. According to Erlene, even after a road was put in to allow access to Hidden Lake, it was very rough and often dangerous to use early and late in the season. Thus the Mercers continued to ferry people across the lake and then drive them on up to Hidden Lake for much of their ownership.
The boats, at Hidden Lake, were wooden - and there were quite a few. The lake produced nice trout (as it does today) and was popular with quite a few. In fact, a very old copy (probably 1940's) of 'Click Magazine' had an article on Jane Russell - and it contained several photos of her 'frolicing' around Hidden Lake.
Other photos Erlene had to share were (obviously) of fish which had been caught. Another photo taken during Selby's time showed a young black bear on the back porch of the Ranch House. According to Erlene, this bear took a liking to the Selby's and hung around quite a bit. Another interesting series of photos from Selby's time were of a young elk calf being suckled by a Hereford cow. In fact, this calf elk continued to suckle that cow until it was so large it had to lay down to access the milk. The photo Erlene allowed me to copy of Edna Selby shows her standing beside a full grown bull elk (this youngster all grown up).
I also obtained several photos of the Resort showing things as they used to be. Other photos show guests enjoying their stay - something which hasn't changed! Erlene told me of one group which came annually from California. This group stayed a week and had a continuous party. Oddly enough, a few days after I returned from our visit, two gentlemen and their families stopped by. And, who would have guessed it, but they were some of the children who came with this group years ago.
Well, I guess, the more things change, the more they stay the same. One way or another, every time I hear another story of people and events which have occurred here in the last 72 years, I feel increasing blessed to be making a piece of my 'own history' here at our Western Montana Lodge.
Lady of the Lake