Hip and Homespun
Photography: Timothy Thimmes
Oh, but the state of affairs was “far out” hereabouts back in 1977, when in an attempt to capture some obscure discretionary-income demographic and, at the same time, give local street scribes an opportunity for yet another byline, “Lodestar — A Guide to Park City” first appeared upon local newsstands.
Although much ballyhoo accompanied the new magazine’s arrival on the collective cultural and self-promotional plate, the ski town itself had only just crawled — ever-so-sheepishly — into the New Year. The driest season ever recorded in the West had settled upon the mountains and valleys. Scant snow and fewer prospects dotted the landscape.
Without the normal insulation factor provided by sufficient snowpack, then-Park City Resort discovered frozen pipes mountain-wide and found itself hauling water to on-hill restaurants and portable toilets in order to facilitate a very limited January opening. The resort and the town would limp through Easter Sunday with business down almost 60 percent — the only upside being the shots in the arm it gave both the snowmaking and cross-country skiing industries.
But, in hindsight, even without snow on the slopes, we were a pretty damn cool town … so the thought was to let everyone else in on it. In retrospect, Lodestar, while certainly not flaunting cutting-edge production values, comfortably combined the same hip and homespun elements many of us saw in our communal mirror.
We were making it up as we went along back in those days. The “Holiday Inn,” (now the “Yarrow”), following a few initial false-starts, finally received the go-ahead for construction while our city fathers mulled the possible creation of a municipal golf course on the pastureland where the links-style Park Meadows Country Club now plays out.
Park City, drought notwithstanding, confidently cavorted through 1977 with a spirit of out-of-the-box creativity and its eye somewhat unblinkingly upon the future. For starters, those who had arrived over the previous decade or so — expatriates from nearly everywhere — knew they had found paradise and put the upcoming summer directly in the crosshairs.
Utah actually sported a fishing season with a beginning and an end back in those days. Although stream runoffs and lake levels were low that mid-May, the festive atmospheres of both the preparatory all-night poker parties and the follow-up fish fries proved that participants were none the wiser.
Those were heady times for locals with an artistic bent. The debut of Park City’s very own literary quarterly, Silver Vain; a small summer jazz festival in Swede Alley; initial mutterings about putting together a local radio station; and the first couple of issues of Lodestar all combined to massage the collective creative sensibility.
Such involvements as “Transcendental Meditation” seminars and grass roots gatherings to promote environmental awareness were also players in what, in many ways, remained post-’60s turf.
But what most brought the community together were cross-cultural happenings such as the “First Annual Chili Cookoff,” the “First Annual Park City Gong Show,” and “Ernie’s Rodeo” out on Rassmussen Road. And then, of course, there was the ever-so-zany April Fools “Clown Day” up on the slopes.
1977 also saw Park City continue its Hollywood-in-the-hills relationship with “Sunn Classic” Pictures. As a follow-up to the filming of the full-length feature “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” during the previous summer, the production company, with a 22-week television series contract in its pocket, hired additional locals of various stripes and buffed-out “Griz’s cabin” up at Smith Morehouse to use as one of the film locations. Then, as now, there was no business like show business.
A few of these fine film folk ended up on the Park City Rugby Football Club, the “Muckers.” It was rugby’s golden age hereabouts and the lads continued their seven-year loose ruck through opposing sides and into our hearts. As a sidebar, they provided a trickle-down economic boost to saloons and barkeeps alike.
The live music scene of that time didn’t exactly flourish, but, with venues both in Park City and Salt Lake City always on the lookout for talent, a few regional bands, most notably Utah’s “Cow Jazz” and Idaho’s “Tarwater” came into their own. Bluegrass, blues, old-timey, and progressive country were all the rage on Main Street. Radio-wise, however, it was the year of “Margaritaville” and “YMCA.”
1977 also busied itself producing milestones, both locally and nationally. It would see the final class to gradu-ate from the old Park City High School, which now houses the City Library, the Jim Santy Auditorium, and Park City’s University of Utah campus. The brand spanking new high school, (which is currently undergoing a complete make-over), would open in the fall.
It would also be the year that the United States got back into the capital punishment business with the execution by firing squad of convicted murderer Gary Gilmore at the Utah State Prison. Gilmore’s refusal to appeal his sentence opened the door to the first such execution in a decade.
It was a year during which we would lose Elvis Presley to substance abuse; three members of the southern rock band “Lynyrd Skynyrd” to a plane crash; and poet Robert Lowell to a heart attack. The “Son of Sam” shootings in New York City would claim six random victims and, on the final day of the year, Ted Bundy would escape from jail in Colorado. The Apple II personal computer opened up individual cyberspace when it became the first to hit the market, and by the middle of June, Seattle Slew had wrapped up the Triple Crown of horse racing.
Back in our little world of Park City, Newtonian physics would once again came to our recreational rescue when Park City Resort’s Alpine Slide opened for the first time in early August. Whisking down the slopes during the summer quickly became the next big thing for locals and visiting thrill seekers alike.
“Lodestar,” now “Park City Magazine,” first saw print during a year when changes came to our world at the speed of light. That model, seamless and complex, continues. Both the magazine and our once small-town selves have become a bit slicker, but through it all, in our communal mirror, we remain loyally hip and homespun.
Jay Meehan spent 1977 at the very bottom of the disc-jockey food chain playing “adult contemporary” music at KPRQ-AM radio in Salt Lake City. Learning to cross-country ski, fly-fishing the upper Provo, downing brews on the Mucker sideline, writing a music column for The Newspaper, and playing a rather comical second-base for The Outlaws softball team also helped keep him off the streets.