Bea and Gerald Marlette work summers at Glacier park

FEATURE ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 11-12-00, By NORMA HIGGINS, Morning Journal Correspondent

"Avon couple work summers at Glacier park in Montana

AVON -- Twenty years ago Gerald and Bea Marlette and their children, Linda, Kenneth and David, took a family vacation to Oregon. On the way, they fell in love with the spectacular scenery and the great expanse of Glacier National Park in Montana.

Since then, the couple have returned to the park again and again, but for the past four years they haven't exactly been tourists.

When Marlette retired in 1996 as a math teacher, he and his wife became summer workers at the park's camp stores, becoming part of the thousands of people who arrive in mid-May to dust off the shelves, check the stock and equipment for another summer of helping hikers, answering questions, directing newcomers and thoroughly enjoy themselves.

''Twenty years ago, I saw a picture of a big hotel with a lake behind it, and I said, I'd like to see that place,'' said Marlette.

Marlette read many books about the area where the Blackfoot Indian tribe lives and said, ''We fell in love with the area.

''In fact, the first time we worked out there, we worked on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation, not in the park,'' he said.

Marlette
Bea and Gerald Marlette of Avon spend their summers working at Glacier National Park in Montana. Photo by Douglas A. Khrenovsky.

''One of the important facets of the park are the 1,000 miles of trails that were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the thirties,'' he explained. ''And, some 750 miles of them that are still maintained. You can go for a 20 minute stroll or a six day hike,'' he said laughing.

There are two old stone buildings in the park which are still in use. One is a dining hall turned into the Two Medicine General Store, where the Marlettes stay and work.

''This year, we worked from morning to night,'' Marlette said of their work at the camp store.

''We sold groceries, no produce, to supply campers. We had gifts and souvenirs, shirts, jackets and hats, beverages. We had a hot dog machine with hot dogs, deli sandwiches, French fries, frozen yogurt,'' said the Marlettes ...

''When we got there this past spring, there were still 5 1/2 foot of snow drifts, in the middle of May. There is a pass up there called the Big Drift, and the normal height of that drift is 65 feet,'' he said.

''Our first year in 1997, Big Drift was 84 feet, they had to clear the road, survey it, then dynamite it and push it off.''

An interesting way to get to the park is by train. There is an Amtrak stop right at the campsite area, so people can get off and hike to adventure, said the Marlettes.

''They have little red buses called jammers that were brought in the 30s, built by the White Motor Co. in Cleveland, to get visitors throughout the area,'' said Mrs. Marlette.

The nearest supermarket to the park is an IGA located on the Indian Reservation, 13 miles away from the town of East Glacier, which has a population of 300, said the Marlettes.

At age 62 and in good health, the Marlettes said they are looking forward to another season at the park.

''I'd like to continue,'' working at the park, he said. ''I like what I'm doing, and I'd like to drive to Alaska.''

Marlette hikes sometimes 10 or 12 miles a day, and has been known to take a 125 mile trek ...

Though there were many forest fires in some of the western states this summer, the Marlettes said where they were was not greatly affected, though the area was dry.

''We had two days when we had smoke in our valley and we couldn't have camp fires,'' said Marlette.

''We couldn't afford a vacation every year to Glacier, but while we don't make a lot of money, working there makes living there possible five months of the year, and that's what we love to do,'' said Marlette ...

When they are home, they are active with their family and volunteering with the Lorain County Metro Parks."

Avon to 1974

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