Sheila Morrison’s memories of Whitefish are preserved in black and white, tucked away in various albums of photographs taken by her father, Marion Lacy.
Some photos depict Morrison posing for a portrait in front of Whitefish Lake or the mountains of Glacier National Park. Others show her and friends in ski gear on Big Mountain, laid back in the snow and trying to soak in some sunlight.
While Morrison never really liked having her picture taken, she said she always appreciated her father’s art.
“He really did beautiful portraits,” she recalled recently from her home in Missoula.
Morrison and her family moved to Whitefish from Moiese in 1944, where her parents set up the Lacy Photo Studio. When World War II ended the following year, Morrison got to watch soldiers coming home on the railroad.
“I remember the troops coming through and all the soldiers waving out the windows. They were on their way home,” she told the Pilot. “It was the major railroad town at the time.”
Marion Lacy was known for photographing Big Mountain taking hundreds of promotional pictures for the mountain, even though as resort founder Ed Schenck noted, “We didn’t even have the money to pay him.”
“Marion Lacy was one our greatest promoters,” Schenck told the Pilot in 1993.
The photo studio was a joint effort by Morrison’s parents when they ran it until 1978.
Marion took the photos, generally making portraits of community members for their primary income, though he was also one to drag a 4x5 large format camera around Glacier for his scenic landscape shots.
The park was Lacy’s true passion, Morrison said, noting that in addition to a photographer, her father was also an avid mountaineer and climbed the difficult Mount St. Nicholas with some friends on his 50th birthday.
Lacy also worked in fire lookouts in the park, including Huckleberry Lookout.
“He loved Glacier Park, that was a major reason we were there. He spent whatever time he could. Portraits were his bread and butter, but his love was the park,” she said.
Her mother, Etta, would run the studio, taking care of business matters while hand-coloring her husband’s prints.
It was a humble living, Morrison said, and her parents worked hard.
“I always grew up hearing, ‘Are we going to make it another day?’ And of course, as a kid, I took it very seriously. I thought we were going to starve. But then as time went on they did well, and once they got us kids through college, then they bought sailboats and went to Mexico in the winter,” she said.
“They worked six days a week, long hours, and then they were tired for some reason, I can’t imagine.”
Marion Lacy died at age 70 in 1980 and Etta Lacy passed away at age 71 in 1987.
Morrison said she loved growing up in Whitefish, especially as the town grew with the ski resort.
“It was small enough that everybody knew everybody, but it was big enough where there was enough of an influx of tourists to keep things livened up a little bit,” she said.
She remembers walking everywhere, from their home on Dakota Avenue to Central School and all over downtown. When they were a little older, she said, they’d also find ways up the mountain to ski.
“My brother [Robert] and I would just go carry our skis to the base of the viaduct and hitchhike to the ski run,” she said with a smile. “And there was never a time we didn’t get a ride.”
Her father’s photographs also documented the early days of Big Mountain and the ski resort, and many of those photos line the walls of the Ski Heritage Center Museum of Skiing in Whitefish as well.
“He was really thrilled to have a real ski run, and he really became friends with Ed and Mully and was pretty much committed to making the ski run a go,” she said.
Morrison started skiing as soon as the mountain opened — the only girl in her class, she remembers — and was a part of the strong women’s ski racing team that racked up trophies across Montana, Canada and other Pacific Northwest locations.
Along with Kaye Simons, Sharon Hileman, Fay McKenzie and Jane Solberg, Morrison and company notched some big accomplishments, including a first-place finish in the Montana State High School Championships and a trophy-sweep in Rossland, Canada.
One race she remembers all too well was the Doug Smith race in 1952 on Big Mountain, when she raced well but broke her leg in the process.
“I did really well, I beat everybody, and I fell just before the finish gate,” she recalled. “I fell and I could see this bend in my leg that shouldn’t be there, and nobody moved. And I said, ‘Somebody help me!’ Mike [Muldown] says I hollered. I probably did.”
Big Mountain played other roles in Morrison’s life too. She worked different summer positions at the resort, spending one season in the cafeterias, another as a hostess in the chalet and even spent a summer working as Ed Schenck’s secretary.
The mountain is also where she met her husband, Gary.
The two married in 1957 and have two daughters, Andrea Mahn and Carnie Evans.
Morrison recalls one date-gone-wrong with her to-be husband.
The two were out skiing together when Morrison decided to try some new lines down the mountain.
“I said, ‘Oh, enough of this, let’s just go down from the top of Mully’s Mile and go down the Hellroaring Ravine and come out at the lake,’” she remembers.
“He thought I knew what I was doing — I’d never done that before. So we did, and I didn’t know this until after the fact, but we got into these miniature cliffs — it wasn’t really skiing, we ended up carrying our skis a lot .”
“He tore the seat out of his ski pants, so he had to hide his torn ski pants all the way down,” she added with a laugh.