Stories From Glacier National Park Employees: Memories From 1980s

I actually saw the job posting on a college bulletin board in the spring of 1988 and thought it sounded like a great adventure.

I was finishing my sophomore year in college and was looking for the “not so usual” summer job. I had lived briefly in Montana in grade school and knew how beautiful it was there.

I talked a friend into applying with me, but she eventually backed out and I decided to go anyway.

That summer was incredible!

Waking up across the road from St. Mary’s Lake, hiking and camping all over the Montana and Canadian Rockies, campfire nights with other National Park employees from all over the US, and exploring the other lodges made for a very exciting and carefree summer!

I worked at the Rising Sun Motor Inn in housekeeping. We spent the better part of the day cleaning cabins and rooms and spent two days/week hiking and camping.

We hiked all over Glacier National Park and saw incredible scenery, walked where very few people walked and saw wildlife that very few people get to see. W

e saw big horn sheep, mountain goats, bears, eagles, marmots, moose and deer in their natural habitat.

Often after our work day was done, employees would meet at the lake by a bon fire and share stories and build friendships.

We also took boat tours on St. Mary’s lake or rode one of the red tour buses to another lodge to hang out with other employees. One of our favorite things to do was trade rooms with the Waterton Park employees in Canada.
My favorite memory was an all day hike to Gunsight Lake where we camped over night. A grizzly bear had traversed our path about six miles into the hike, but we proceeded anyway. Little did we know that would be the least of our worries!

We spent the night scaring the mountain goats away. A whole family of them seemed to be intent on chewing holes in the tent. This was just one of many, many adventures.

I’d recommend a National Park summer job to anyone who’s looking for an adventure.

Comment from Perry

I had a similar experience this past summer with a Mountain Goat family on the Gunsight Lake Trail.

My girlfriend and I were climbing over Ellen Wilson Pass and a family of Mountain Goats stopped us. They were very aggressive and we had to maneuver around them, which was quite frightening to do because it was such a steep drop off.

Anyway, we made it safe and sound, but those mountain goats can be dangerous!!

Thanks for sharing!

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Working at Glacier Park Lodge – Summer 1980

It was the summer between my Jr. and Sr. yr of college.

I asked my dad if I was nuts to go to Montana alone–a nearly 20 year old female? He said no, I had to do what I had to do, so I headed from Pittsburgh to GPL on Amtrak on May 17,1980.

My summer adventure started early on May 18th when the train came to a halt and we were told that Mt. St. Helen’s had erupted and the train could go no further.

We were in Mynot, ND train station and it seemed like we were there a long time before we boarded buses and continued. Every 3 hrs, we stopped for a snack where one of the our busmates would go and buy a case a beer for our bus.

Needless to say, the bus ride was long but lively. When we landed at East Glacier train station at 1:00 AM, it was me and two other workers. The ash was so thick that we didn’t know the lodge was right across the street, so we slept on the floor!

Everyone who worked that summer will remember that the ash fell for a week or so and the water in our faucets came out gray and gritty for at least a month. I had friends who got eye infections. That was back before bottled water was popular. We had no choice but to put up with the grit.

My job was as a reservation clerk…our team was about ten of us. I was from PA, there was one from UT, one from HI, One from IA, one from MN, one from NYC, and then there was a married woman from MT, and the returning leaders–Mimi, Marty, and Randi. We were on the phone all day, every day, but it was fun because we talked to every park hotel every day. The advantage was that whenever we ventured out on our days off, we always had some friends to visit and to share stories and fun.

I wanted to see as much of the park as I could, so I would venture out every chance I got, with whoever else had a day off too.

I saw my first bear and moose when I hiked near Lake MacDonald Lodge, I had lunch with the ground squirrels on numerous hikes at Many Glacier. (we put 6 girls in a single employees room with 1 twin bed–cost $10.)

I ended up staying in the boys dorm (one of my friends gave up his room for the night)at Prince of Wales Hotel because I got stranded and had no place to stay. I woke up with a Big horn sheep braying outside my window in the morning.

I hiked on the railroad tracks by GPL and saw a place where the bears came to snack on corn mash from a train wreck 10 years before.

I saw at least 6 bears in 3-4 family groups in one spot. It was fun, they seemed to get drunk on the corn mash.

Other favorite memories include sleeping on the golf course…How smart is that in an open range state? But I found out why it’s called Big Sky country! Best food was the homemade sweet rolls at the dinner in East Glacier.

Biggest shock was the number of bats that lived in the laundry area. The reservation girls hung out with the gardners. They were handsome and nice. Also, met the most interested guy named Griz who used to be a Hell’s Angle. It snowed on my birthday–May 25th which was the first snow that the clerk from HI had seen.

I left at the end of the summer on the train with the girl from MN. I cried for a couple of hours when she got off and I realized that my adventure was really over.

I got Glacier fever every summer for at least the next 5 or six years but never made it back. I alway wished that I would have kept the addresses of the wonderful reservations team, but I didn’t. Of course this was back in the day before the internet or facebook was ever imagined.

That summer changed my life and gave me confidence to pursue new jobs and adventures.

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Glacier Park Lodge Job in 1980s – East Glacier Montana

Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier MT…

Summer time 1980 and 1981. Wow, things were certainly free and easy being surrounded by all that natural beauty.

Great times were had…

I would encourage everybody to work in Glacier National Park for a summer and enjoy a place as special as this.

Comment From K Miller

I spent the summer working and hiking in Glacier National Park. All these years later it holds a special place in life filled with wonderful memories!

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My memories of working at Glacier National Park
Thomas J Pidgeon

I have so many favorite memories from working at Glacier National Park back in the 80s.

Here’s one of my favorites:

Hiking with one of the many friends I made there, a Jammer driver.

We were hiking towards the evening, and it was raining a little bit, and I heard this noise, like grass ruffling.

“It sounded like a moose,” I said.

“I’ll bet that was a bear,” said my friend. I turned around, always wanting to see a bear up close, and we seen the prettiest brown bear, it was almost blonde. It was really cool.

Another favorite memory:

Hiking with my friend Larry from Utah we saw Jack Nicholson, as he was motorcycle touring.

Jack was one of his favorite actors, and he had asked me, “What do you think, should we get his autograph?”

I said he probably came here to be left alone, let’s not attract attention.

Jack then smiled at us and Larry said he was sure that was him, smiling almost as if he were saying thanks for not attracting attention.

If it wasn’t Jack Nicholson, then it was definitely his twin!

All the many friends I made there, from Russia, Chechnya, Germany, Africa, people from all over the States and the world.

Hiking Avalanche Trail, so, so, beautiful.

It has been awhile since I have worked there, but I want to go back.

It was a wonderful time in my life.

Comment from Tim

Tom did you work there in the summer of 1988? And you were a boxer? I think I remember you. I served in the employee cafeteria, if that was you.


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My Summers Working at Many Glacier Hotel

Well, I am 43 years old now. I always hated it when people would say “that was the best time of my life,” because…really. Why put the best time in your life behind you?

But I have to say that the 3 summers I spent working at Many Glacier Hotel/Swiftcurrent were for sure the HAPPIEST times of my life…SO FAR.

I hiked over 200 miles one summer. It is breathtaking scenery.

You never get enough of it–ever.

I was studying religion as an undergraduate at the time, and I had experiences outdoors that changed the way I looked at God, the Church, and life in general. It sort of gave me a new focus to my life.

By the end of the summer I felt more sure of what I wanted in my life and of how I wanted to live. It was definitely an experience that molded my life.

Also, I have never been so in shape and in harmony with my own body, before or since.

Also, I have never been around such a variety of people as my fellow workers, for better or for worse, before or since.

But don’t get the idea that it is Paradise. People are there, and bears, and Paradise…well…it doesn’t really exist here.

But there are bits of it in the natural world around Many Glacier, and I’d say go expecting the regular world with all its flaws…and a little bit of the “Best You’d Ever Experienced” tossed along with it.

As long as you hit the trails.

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  1. Hi Perry
    Thanks for this very cool site.
    I was out there in 84. My little brother Paul 6′ 10″ was out there in 86,87 and 88. Paul got to be the Transportation Manager. A lot of you jammers from that era knew Paul and the blue 67 Impala. Some of you remember Paul, and I hope fond memories too. He was a straight operator. He played no favorites, but he was fair. I ‘m speaking for Paul now because he passed away about 8 years ago. To all of you that worked with him, and got to know him as a friend, I say thank you. That Place became a deeply loved place to Paul. He was planning on retiring out there . Well he did I guess. We shared stories over the years, and I’d like to know if you people got any good ones to share.
    I remember one Paul told me about, which if you were a jammer this would be epic.
    There was a guy named Ted. I think he was from Chicago. He was a Black guy. Anyway Ted takes a whole load up the road, and for some reason he has to turn around. He does a three point turn , in a loaded Red, I think at the loop. Paul nicknamed him Wrong way Ted.
    Do Any of you remember Tom Marty. He was the Patriarch of All Jammers out there for about 10 years I think. Did you know besides being a Matchmaker and a pretty good partier, Tom was also a carpenter and a pretty good artist. Yup
    Paul told me once he was at Lake MCD and had to pick someone up at the RR station in West. And they forgot about it. So he took his , NO The Impala to go pick them up. I think he told me , he got to the station in like 8 minutes. That car could fly. I know, because I built the motor and I put the 2:56 gear ratio in it. I believe that Impala could top out at about 160 mph. We both loved that car. I bought it from GPI the summer I was there 84. It was one of two Yellow Impalas that the accounting Dept. used. That car went to Montana from Wi many times.
    Does anyone remember in 84, the girl Jammer named Marge, who took a Crown into the trees, when she was coming back from Many empty. It was just before Kiowa Junction She ripped up about 200 feet of scrubby trees. Bud O Neil blamed her for loosing the brakes. She kept it upright, though. She was a pipsqeek of a little thing. Those Crowns did not have power steering. So that was a pretty noble feat.
    Ok , now I”ll tell you my harrowing story. I took the laundry truck to Many. I came back over Looking Glass. Buy the way. There is a car in that pond at the bottom of that hill, by Kiowa jungtion. I got pictures to prove it. Looks to be a 50 something chevy 54 maybe. Side note. Anyway, I’m Loaded to the back doors, I get to the top of the grade, and right at the top I loose my power steering, power brakes, and the engine quits… So I can stop. and wait for someone, No cell phones in 84. I can walk, NOT, or I can ride it down. I’m a 25 year old kid from the city, On a really dangerous road, But I know a little something about trucks. So I ride it down all the way to the Two Medicine bridge. About 20 minutes later one of the guys who drove the Flexibles comes up and I ask him to tell Bud O Neil to come and tow me in. Bud gets there, and asks What’s wrong, I tell him , He says where did this happen, I say right when I topped the hill. He looks at me, Kinda cocks his head, and says You drove this thing down the hill with no power? I said I thought it would be easier than trying to tow it down the hill. And if it weren’t for this hill here, I could have coasted right to the garage. He laughed, Towed me back to East. And I still made it to dinner on time, Thimbleberry for fry bread with the girl from Alabama. Oh, It was a broken distributor shaft. No spark, no oil pressure, So It was not my fault. Bud had a habit of blaming the drivers for stuff, Jack Sayjack too. How many of you guys had a blown alternator or a flat tire , and got blamed for that. I think GPI was a place to retire for Bud and Jack, and the summer time was an inconvenience for them. All these collage boys, driving my busses. Good times, See ya’ll again. I got some more good stuff to share, How about you.

  2. To K Miller.
    K your name sounds very familiar. Did you work at East in 84 With Alisa Brown. She was the night auditor , and I believe she was the auditor at Swift the year before 83 I think. Give us a shout out.

  3. John Barker says

    I worked at the Many Glacier Hotel as a waiter in the summer of 1984. Looking back at this time which was too many years ago I can say without a doubt this was the best summer of my life. To be sure, it was not perfect. I LOVED living and working in this incredibly beautiful place, and spending time with a variety of employees from all of the the United States, the down side was undoubtedly the management at this beautiful place. It was run by Greyhound which is the WORST company I have ever worked for, bar none. The entire summer I was on pins and needles not knowing if I was going to be the next person fired for one reason or another. I worked there the full summer and SEVERAL people were fired at the drop of a hat. People use to make fun of a man named Schultz who was the head honcho down at Glacier Park Lodge which is where all of the upper management gestapo types lived and hung out. When making fun of this piece of work they would walk down the hall saying, You’re fired, you’re fired, on and on.
    So much more to say, but it would take hours. The faults of the management aside, this was a fantastic place to work and get to know others and even myself. I remember taking a boat ride on Swiftcurrent Lake with other employees and enjoying a chocolate milkshake from the snack bar
    downstairs in the hotel. The Monday night hootenanny’s were also wonderful. I couldn’t believe how really talented some of the employees were. One guy named Tony did a spot on impersonation of Chef Julia Childs. It was hilarious and ever so accurate.
    Absolutely loved spending this summer at such a wonderful location. I hope when my own children are of age they are able to repeat this experience. It was so very rewarding.

  4. Hey all. John, I got a good management story for ya’ll.
    I was done for the day, and very hungry. I parked my truck, and went to dinner with the girl from Alabama. Upon getting my plate, I noticed something was amiss… Chef Leo, was serving beef enchiladas that night. Well 2 of those things, one scoop of peas, the infamous bread pudding, to round out a perfectly balanced meal. and all should be right. Right? Not. The enchiladas had a 1/4x 3″ piece of cheese as the beef. The scoop of peas were a scoop of peas. So now I’m pissed. I go up to Mr bourn, (VP) and plop my plate down, and say, ” this is supper?” Mr Bourn was a tiny man, to which he says, in his best VP voice, Well Dave we can’t be responsible for your size. I promptly responded, and said, I ate this much when I was 5. So now you all know why the Thimbleberry was such a popular place. Half of my money went there. GPI management was lousy, for sure. But it was the changing point in my life. Because you see. I fell in love, met great people, fell in love with Montana. And I got the girl from Alabama. How cool is that. I’m hoping one of my kids works out there, just for the experience. The moral of the story? Never trust a skinny Chef…. He’s up to something, Like getting a big bonus…
    Take care all

  5. Well, Perry,
    Not to many people know this site. To bad, lots of great stories of glacier to be sure.
    I ll tell ya ll the best one yet.
    I m in collage, want to get out of town for the summer. So, I go to the library, at MU and somehow find glacier park. We didn t have the internet yet. May 15 th I m on a greyhound for GPI. The first week there, I m the only guy at GPI no other employees yet. I drove 900 miles in 5 days running supplies to all the hotels. On, Friday, I go down for breakfast, about 6 people there in the cafeteria. I m done driving at 11 00
    So the boss asks me to wax the gift shop floor. Having that life experience behind me, it s a welcome change. I go to lunch, and now there s about 150 people in the cafeteria. I notice this blonde French brayed girl sitting there talking to old friends. Whatever, I take a seat and eat, then go to wax the floors. About 1/2 way through the job, Tom Marty comes strolling by . Hey, you got an admirer , he says. Oh? I say. Yah, you want to meet her. Sure I say, About 2/3 s of the way done, I decide to go get my ID picture taken who do I meet. The French brayed girl, with the southern accent. She s from Alabama. And that freinds is , as they say all, she wrote… 32 years now, we re still together. How cool is that. So Tom Marty did some very good work that day. He had some help from above, I think. That s what glacier park can do to a person. My two great loves. All wrapped up in a time and place in my life. Life is good.

  6. Hello to all,
    Not to many comments. To bad, come on y’all, I’m not the only guy who loves this place and has great stories. And I’m getting a little embaressed, being the majority of them.
    Here s something cool. My daughter 22 yrs old is planning on working at the park upon graduation. You won t miss her, she s 6ft 3 in. And beatiful, and at this point gentleman, she s single… So a second generation will work at glacier. I suspect the food will be better. Hope so. She s plannig on being a jammer. I’m so proud of her. Any of you guys make a move on her or try to commit crimes on her, I’ll find you… It will be harsh.. Take care, be good , god bless all of you. Dave

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