During a recent perusal of The Park Record, I became hooked and reeled in by a piece concerning the lack of employee housing and how the current crop of seasonal workers are searching out roommates as a way of dealing with the issue. It jogged memories from an earlier time.
The overall transient ski-bum economy, then as now, depended upon a roommate component to make ends meet. In many ways it’s not all that different, although the housing options may have been a bit more offbeat back in the day. You don’t hear of a couple of locals sharing a milk truck or a garage as much as you once did.
Buck and Ward shared some rather quaint digs on upper Main Street that featured a walk-in safe where they kept their peanut butter. This wasn’t your normal jar of ground-up roasted peanuts like you would grab off the shelf at your local market but, rather, something more akin in size to a Space Shuttle external fuel tank.
They would hold tours every Sunday and, as the heavy door creaked slowly open, jaws would drop and there would be a chorus of growling stomachs among the faithful. An old canoe paddle stood in the corner patiently waiting to fulfill its function of remixing the oils. It was either that or allow the plot to thicken.
Up the street a ways sat a larger edifice known simply on the street as the "red house." Somewhat more complex architecturally than most of its counterparts back then, when old miner’s shacks dotted the landscape, this structure served as base camp for Dumbwaiter and Sidewinder.
The former managed the Rusty Nail Saloon upstairs in the lodge out at the Treasure Mountain Resort while, two floors down, the latter rented out boots and skis he wouldn’t be caught dead in. Some things never change.
For a while, McGee hunkered down with Rabbi and Les on lower King Road in a house you often had to dig a tunnel to access. This was around the birth of Park West and finagling season passes for your roomies didn’t involve rocket science – or even George Bush science for that matter. A true free-market economy is what it was!
While others flaunted their "Dynamic VR-17s" and "Rossignol Stratos," this bunch would make turns in hiking boots nailed to barrel staves. Nothing kept them off the slopes. If they were to begin upgrading their shtick, it would involve new guitar or banjo strings before anything related to alpine leisure – save for the sporadic damsel in distress, of course.
Across the way up on Marsac Avenue, in what became a grand mathematical experiment to see if three mountain pilgrims could "go halvesies," Henry, Miguel, and "The Penguin" sliced up their overhead with fractal geometry. Not that it was all that difficult to proportionately divvy up brown rice and oatmeal.
This somewhat eccentric pad also served as yet one more guitar enclave in a community brimming with homemade music. In fact, many were the roommate combinations that transpired through little more than chord changes, harmony vocals, and whether or not you knew the words to the missing verses of "This Land is Your Land."
Near the turnaround at the top of Main Street there were a mess of miner’s shacks with roommates, virtually and actually, coming out of the woodwork. Monk, obviously quite the piece of work, once shot off his Springfield Hawken .50-caliber percussion muzzleloader straight down Main Street from his front porch to announce an impending vacancy. History had taught him that such activity usually made a room available in a hurry.
Bulldog and Plummer were another pair that beat a full house back in those days. They roomed together all over town – from the place behind the Miner’s Hospital with the big bay window that one blew out with a shotgun, to the one up on Sand Ridge where the other was discovered "napping" in a snow bank while attempting to solve a late-night orienteering problem.
Another "roomie-infested" environment blossomed out at the old Marcellin place, a fair-sized spread along Old Ranch Road. "The ranch," as it came to be known, played host through the years to an ever-revolving assortment of tenants with not much more in common than a wholesome attraction for decadence in its more spiritual forms.
But back to the milk truck and the two free-wheelin’ roommates and operators who ran it as a mobile psychotherapy center when they weren’t using it to deliver the odd pressurized container of malted barley and hops concoctions.
If Big George and Jawbone wanted to move into your "hood," they would knock at your door and negotiate a coefficient with which to split up the power bill and off they’d go dragging their extension cord behind them.
Nobody actually really kept score, however. They’d have you over for a dinner of rabbit-on-a-hot-plate every now and then when hares and mushrooms were in season and you’d return the favor whenever a shipment of chorizo arrived.
One morning you’d look out and the milk truck would be gone and later on up at the Alamo, our Internet café of the day, you’d hear that someone saw it behind the "Utah Coal & Lumber" or down near "Street’s" service station. You might want to keep your eye out for them. Without their kind, there’s absolutely no way to keep this joint a-jumpin’.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.
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