History of Colter's Lodge
An early history of The Valleon Hotel, as told by Marie Pead Call, deceased:
About 1934, Evan and Reuel, Spencer’s brothers, and Marius Call made plans for an elegant, spacious lodge to be built in Afton, the likes of which the valley had never seen. First, $75,000 had to be raised. So, before there was a lodge there was a lovely open-air dance hall directly east and joining west….here the lodge would be built. This dance hall opened July 3, 1935 and became a popular spot for week-end and holiday activities. Evan and Marius Call were professional craftsmen in concrete, so the floor of the open air dance pavilion was smooth and beautiful. It was often paste-waxed and polished. As the customers danced, fine ground corn meal was sprinkled on the floor making it easy to glide. It was at these dances where the word was passed that a new lodge with four stories, 35 rooms, an enormous indoor dance hall, as well as an indoor swimming pool, would be built. The spot had been chosen. Now there was a promise of better things yet to come. Dance tickets for the Valleon, when it was built, were 25 cents for men. Ladies were free, except for special dances when 10 cents was charged and 25 cents for the big-time bands. The Royal Serenaders orchestra was the popular group who played for most of the dances from the beginning and for many years to follow. The orchestra was composed of the following: Lee Call – accordion, Eldon Torbenson – cornet, Ronald Allred – piano, Bryce Allred – drums, Stanley Bennion – trombone, O.J. Holdaway – saxophone. On July 7, 1939, Wyoming’s Governor and his party from Cheyenne, Wyoming, were special guests for the Grand Opening of the Valleon Lodge. They stayed overnight and the town celebrated. If the open-air dance hall had won hearts and influenced people, the enormous inside ballroom was yet a bigger hit! The two dance floors were separated only by large sliding doors. Never again would a dance be influenced by bad weather. The new ballroom, as well as the hotel, was painted a soothing vanilla, or off-white. Coarsely woven lined cotton drapes hung at the windows. They were slightly darker in color than the walls and woodwork. The girl’s restroom was near the ballroom. The boy’s room was in the basement.
In the summertime when crowds were large and the weather warm, we loved to have the sliding doors opened so we could dance both inside and out. The open-air dance floor was enclosed by an attractive, nine foot, painted, solid board fence. I don’t recall anyone trying to climb over it during a dance.
A beautiful three foot high bandstand was erected along the south wall of the ballroom. It was in the shape of a half circle. There were some overstuffed chairs at the back of the bandstand where the wives of the orchestra members or other guests might sit. Each member of the orchestra had an attractive ‘blind’ to hide his music stand. In front of the piano was a wooden framed stand about 12 x 16 inches. This frame held the cards that announced the number of the particular dance being played. The piano player changed the cards after each dance. Three tunes were played for each dance. The cards were numbered one to 15. There were also three extras. The cards read: 1st extra, 2nd extra, and 3rd extra. Attractive dance programs were given to each patron. A very small two-inch pencil about an eighth of an inch in diameter was fastened to the dance program with a twisted cord. On special occasions the dance programs were quite fancy. We didn’t dance with the same partner all evening as is now the custom. We would usually dance with our date the first dance, once again about midway in the dance, and again toward the end of the dance with perhaps the 3rd extra also. Some might have their dance program all arranged before arriving at the ballroom. Ladies were allowed the opportunity of going stag and enjoying the company of as many as 18 different companions during the evening. To dance with the same person all evening would have been terribly boring. As was always advertised, drinking or smoking was not allowed in the Valleon. The few who didn’t want to abide by the rules were escorted outside. Dances were sometimes held on Friday as well as Saturday nights. They were also held at fair time, Christmas Eve, and Christmas night, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s night. Dancing at the Valleon was a big thing! High school prom and commencement dances were held here each year. The decorations for these affairs lasted a year and were elaborately done. Each class tried to do as well as those who had gone before. In 1939, the bedrooms at the Valleon Lodge were more elegant than any I had ever seen. The windows were large, the walls and lined draperies were subdued in color. The bedspreads were elegant, the stairs and halls were carpeted, spacious, and beautiful. The rooms have all been remodeled and enlarged since. Our good friends, Gale and Eileen Burton lived and worked there for possibly three years; we visited often. Our dear friends Morgan and Fern Greenwood lived there in apartment 4. In 1945 the Calls sold the Valleon and many have owned it since then. It has never regained its original glory. In 1991 I went to the Valleon to reminisce. It had been an eye-sore for at least fifteen years. I went to Gail and Eileen’s apartment on the fourth floor where they lived as newlyweds. I was prepared for it to seem smaller than it did fifty years ago, but it was even smaller than I remembered. I pulled down the stationary ironing board. I opened closets, drawers, and wondered where they put all their wedding gifts. Perhaps they didn’t get any more than we did. Ours didn’t take much room. The kitchen sink was a riot. I believe our playhouse in the backyard has a kitchen that is as big as that one.
At this period of time, the Valleon had become the ‘hub’ or center for dancing fun. Almost three times each summer different big name bands were hired to entertain in the ballroom. Tommy Dorsey’s band was a favorite and returned each summer until World War 11 broke out.
T. Texas Tyler and his orchestra probably returned more than any other. Five members of the Lawrence Welk Orchestra came once. Guy Lombardy’s group, Floyd Ray and all his black musicians, Euzane Rich, and other bands I don’t remember also played at the Valleon. The Big Bands were great fun but our loyalty was always with the Valley Royal Serenaders. They were always up to date on the weekly song ratings from the Hit Parade. They were prepared to play and sing the very newest songs for us as well as the oldest. Special requests for tunes were willingly given. Lee Call – accordion, Eldon Torbenson – cornet, Ronald Allred – piano, Bryce Allred – drums, Stanley Bennion – trombone and O.J. Holdaway – saxophone were the local band members. When the war came and there were not enough men around to make a dance interesting, and the gasoline shortage restricted travel, dancing, as we had known it, was halted. After the war was over, the depression, and the hard work involved in trying to rebuild our economy prohibited enthusiasm for bringing back the dancing craze.