O’BRIEN’S IRISH CHALET’
Charles Warner Kennedy ‘Charlie’ O’Brien, was the Inn Keeper, ‘Chief Cook and Bottle Washer,’ as well as a, Part-owner, of an absolutely gorgeous mountainside resting place; for freezing cold, very weary, and ‘eat anything’, hungry skiers.
It was named, the “O’Brien’s Irish Chalet.” And it was located on the mid-slope of the lovely and very picturesque Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, which was located halfway between the quaint and peaceful town of Bishop, California and the world-famous tourist attraction, Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
The quaint and lovely, City of Bishop, is a small town in the spectacular Eastern Sierra region of the great State of California. The High Sierra area is about in the middle of the State, along its Eastern border with Nevada, and halfway between Yosemite, and the Death Valley National Parks.
It was incorporated on April 24, 1903, as a full-fledged City. It, however, had been a local community for over a hundred years. The population way back then, was only 540 very hardly people and cowboys.
Also, there were several American Indians living on local Reservations, and also among the Bishop, town itself. They were very artistic and talented people, and they provided a lot of guidance and assistance to the newly settled easterners who had make the trek to the ‘Gold’ and Borax, Country.
Charlie had grown up in Bishop, his mama and dad owned and operated, the Resort at ‘Convict Lake,’ California.
He just loved it there and when he was not running errands for his folks, he would go horseback riding, fishing on the quaint little lake, and or hiking the dozens and dozens, of trails that roomed the area between their Resort, and Lake Tahoe.
Their resort was named “Convict Lake,” due to the fact that back in the 1800’s a Sheriff posse chased down some low life stage coach robbers and murders, and after a long siege and shoot- out, they captured, and then summarily hung them right beside the lake. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as Charlie always says.
Convict Lake, the city, is a Lake located in Mono County, California, and it is situated in the Sherwin Range of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. It is known for its turquoise-blue water, the dramatic mountains that surround it, the outstanding trout fishing it affords, as well as its quite unusual history and origin.
There have been several big-time movies made about this tiny little resort Lake and town. One was, “The Secret of Convict Lake,” made in 1951 starring the great actor, Mr. Glenn Ford, Gene Tierney, Ethel Barrymore, and the great actor, Zachary Scott.
Another one was, “The Border Region,” produced way, way back in 1924 which was one of the first silent movies ever made in Hollywood. It stared Antonio Moreno, and Helene Chadwick. It was based upon a novella written by an early pioneer in the silent film industry, Mr. William K. Howard.
The “Convict Lake Resort,” was owned and operated by; Ivan ‘Whitey’ White, and his wonderful wife, Marguerite ‘Rete’ White, from 1940 to about 1960. Charlie knew them from the Bishop area, and always said that they were two of the most generous, caring, and gracious people he had ever met, in his entire life time.
Mr. Paul Martin and his spouse, Fern Martin, were also part owners of the lovely little resort, however, they live in Inglewood, close to the newly built in 2021, L.A. Rams and the L.A. Chargers football stadium.
Charlies beloved mama, Vivian Lee Dickinson, always said that Fern was the saintliest woman that she had ever met, during her entire lifetime. She also always said very complementary remarks about her other sister, Rete. She, Ina Martin, had helped raise her as her mom, Ina Martin, was always working her fingers to the bone.
Charlie said that during the winters, they would be snowed-in for about three long months and could not get out the resort, even if they wanted to. Charlie’s mama, Vivian or Vi as she preferred, felt the same way. She was a Saint, Charlie always said, a real live Saint!
His dad, on the other hand, did not mind at all because all he had to do was drink, play poker, Gin rummy, or pinnacle, with some of the workers, the ones whom stayed over the winter.
Most of the cowboys and cowgirls, moved back down to Bishop, Big Pine, or the little bit bigger community of Lone Pine, until it all blew over. Charlie still had lots of childhood friends living in, or around Bishop and Lone Pine.
Lone Pine is located in the Owens Valley, near Alabama Hills, and the famous ‘Mount Whitney,’ between the peaks of the majestic ‘Sierra Nevada’s’ to the west and the statuesque ‘Inyo Mountains’ to the east.
It became an out-post on the very busy stage route to quite large city of San Bernardino, in 1864. Its population was 2,035 at census time in 2020. Sadly, the great earthquake of 1872 killed 27 of its only 250 residents.
The big Hollywood movie studios have made over 400+ plus films, 100 T.V. episodes, and countless commercials in the lovely little city of Long Pine.
Do you happen to recall the terrific movie “High Sierra,” staring Mr. Humphrey Bogart, circa, 1941? Or, “Nevada Smith,” made with one of the best actors of all time, in Charlie’s opinion, Mr. Steve McQueen in 1966.
Or, “Blue Steel,” made in 1936 with Hop-along Cassidy (Mr. William Boyd). Or, “The Gunfighter,” with the late great Mr. Gregory Peck made in 1950.
Almost every western movie made in the past almost 100 years, were made in or around, the quaint and very friendly city of Lone Pine. It has those early days of the settlements of the area we call the High Sierra, and White Mountain ranges.
One was ‘big’ Jim Comontofski, he was not really big but he came across that way. He was Polish, and was one of the toughest men that Charlie ever new. Every time a new Polish joke would come out, he had to listen to it several, several times. He was very gracious about it, and would pretend that he had not heard the joke before.
He had moved down to L.A. after high school, and had a good job working for Bank of America, in the San Gabriel Valley, for over twenty years. Then he missed the majestic High Sierra mountains, and returned to his ‘roots.’
He was a great friend, but he had type I [Childhood] Diabetes. He drank a lot, I mean a lot, and that made his Diabetes worse, much worse. Charlie lost his buddy to his severe Diabetes illness, when Jim was only 60 years old. Sad, very sad!
The very cute little town of Lone Pine, was where they use to make all of the Western movies back in the Day. Mr. John “Duke” Wayne, made most of his cowboy movies there, as well as many other western movie stars.
They filmed a lot of the indoor scenes back at the big Hollywood Studios, but most of the outdoor stuff was filmed right here in the canyons of Lone Pine. By the way, the Dukes real name was, Marion Robert Morrison!
He lived in one of the nice little hotels in town, and eat and drank at the local restaurants, while he was filming his pictures. The bars and restaurants that he frequented, still have autographed pictures of him hanging from their walls.
Other movie starts like, ‘Roy Rogers and Dale Evans,’ Gene Autry, Jack Palance, the Lone Ranger and Tanto, Chief Dan George [Areal American Indian], Cleavon Little, Robert Duvall, James Coburn, Robert Mitchum, and Woody Strode, little unknown, albeit a wonderful actor.
James Gardner, Glenn Ford, the great, Joan Crawford, William Holden, Joel McCrea, Walter Brennan, Burt Lancaster, Gary Cooper, and one of the Magnificent Seven, Steve McQueen. Charlie really liked Steve McQueen.
Also, there was Maureen O’Hara, Randolph Scott, Alan Ladd, a favorite of Charlies, Lee Van Cleef, Dean ‘Dino’ Martin, Lee Marvin, Gregory Peck, Marlene Dietrich, Joanne Dru, and Henry Fonda, the great actor.
They have lots of real live American Indians, in the area, as there are several very large Indian Reservations located in that area. The movie studios used them as ‘extras’ in most of their western movies.
The main highway connecting us all together, was the 395 and it ran all the way from the county line at, San Bernardino, California to Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Charlie also said that he would almost go ‘stir-crazy’ by the time Spring arrived. His beloved mama, said that she felt the same way, as while my dad was drinking and playing cards to the late hour, she would have to keep cleaning and getting the twenty (20) rental cabins for the next season.
Bishop also was about half-way between L.A. [Los Angeles], and Las Vegas [or ‘Lost Wages,’ as our Irish Ladd, Charlie, likes to call it]. There was a back way into Vegas out of the back side of Bishop, for the travelers whom did not live close to the I-15 Interstate Highway.
Charlie had also worked in Los Angeles for a spell, before he just like ‘Big’ Jim, returned to his roots, and purchased his ‘O’Brien Irish Chalet’ on Mammoth Mountain.
The purchase price for the lovely Chalet’ was a Million dollars, $500,000.00 upfront non-refundable, cash down payment, and $500,000.00 in payments spread out over twenty years at a very reasonable interest rate of five (5) percent.
The former owner was named ‘J.J. Hernandez,’ or by his nickname, Sarge, he was also a high school friend of Charlies. Sarge, had decided to sell out after 10 years of doing business on Mammoth Mountain, and move back to Buena Park, California.
He told Charlie that the freezing cold in the winter time, was causing havoc with his arthritis, and he could hardly move during the winters without have excruciating pain.
Sarge said to Charlie that he would come up and visit him at the Chalet’ every year, but during the winter, during the summer time, when they could go fishing at the several lakes, creeks, and steams, in the area.
Sarge was a great fisherman, and when younger, he was also a world class skier and snowboarder. He had caught some of the biggest fish ever caught in that area, and he was quite famous and renowned as an avid outdoorsman.
One of Sarges favorite sayings, that he said he had gotten from his precious and saintly spouse, Yvette Marie Murietta, was, “Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future, and faith is the courage to dance to it today.”
Sarge misses her every single day, he lost her not to long ago, to the demonic and vitriolic disease, Cancer, still, and I know he always will. Also, Charlie knew her very well too, and he misses her bright smile, her positive outlook on life and the future and wonderful laugh, yes, he truly does.
At Charlie’s, new purchase, the O’Brien’s Irish Chalet,’ the major improvements and upgrades were almost done. Charlie put in a swimming pool, and a small tennis and basketball court.
Sarge had wanted to do them years ago, however, he just never had enough extra working capital. He told Charlie that it made the little Chalet’ look better and more appealing from the main highway, the State highway 395.
O course, the first thing that he had done, was to erect a larger and new neon sign. And it spelled out, “O’Brien’s Irish Chalet.” He called it his ‘Neon Moon.’ After the big hit song by the famous country western duo of; ‘Brooks and Dunn.’
During Charlies first week, of his first winter, at his newly acquired Chalet’, there was a little, and or big, if you will, very frightening event. An avalanche had hit the little Chalet, and it had hit it hard, real, real hard!
By a” Twist of Fate,” there were some skiers, close to his nice and sturdy Inn, and they had made a mad dash for it. He had had a very calm life, up here, half way up Mammoth Mountain, that is until, just now!
He then, encountered a little ‘Twist of Fate,’ the weatherwoman, at the local R & B Station, Charlie just loved R and B and Motown Music, he had a good friend, Mr. Elmer O. Armstrong, Jr., whom now owns the best Motown group of them all, “The Platters.”
Charlie always tells people that Elmer was one of the best all around entertainers in the history of Motown. He was extremely talented, very out-going, funny, and also, the most consummate performer Charlie has ever seen.
The weatherwoman on Station 95.9 F. M., with the sensual and very sultry voice, had not predicted any heavy snow, nor even heavy rain, for this whole week. Alas, she was wrong, very, very wrong!
The avalanche hit the mountain like a fast-moving container hauling, freight train. Charlie immediately ducked for cover under a huge dining room table, that was made out of a very old and solid giant oak tree.
He then heard some cries for help, outright screaming, and abrasively banging on his heavily enforced front door, and to his surprise there were four (4) mountaineers desperately looking for shelter.
They had been hiking close to the Chalet’ and it had been fine. There was a little snow on the ground and the trees, but not enough to prevent them from taking a nice hike, before they went back into Mammoth City to their lovely hotels.
First was Lee, and Inga, Martin, and they had been on lots of snow-covered mountains, skiing and or mountain climbing, in Germany where Inga was born and raised. They had met there when Lee, was in the Army, way, way back in the day.
Inga, told Charlie after he let them into in cozy and quite warm little mountain side Inn, and also after she had thawed out, a little bit, that Mammoth Mountain was real, small, compared to the mountains back home, much smaller. She was a very smart as well as hardworking woman.
Lee said that he has climbed mountains all over the world. From Europe to the tallest ones in the Himalayas. Plus, lots in South America as well. He was a very accomplished mountain climber, and quite intelligent, Charlie could just tell.
Inga was raised skiing the very tall mountains around her home in Frankfort, Germany. She also had hiked and mountain-climbed, all over many of them during the summers. She could speak, German, English, and several other foreign languages.
Next, was a nice couple from very close by, Lake Tahoe, or Carson City, I forget which it was, anyway, their names were; Rich, and Maria White. Rich had grown up in and around Bishop, way back in the day. He as it turned out, he knew a lot of Charlies friends, and relatives.
Rich had moved to L.A. [La La, Land] just like most of the folk up here did, right after graduation, but he came back when he retired from his job in the too busy and bustling, city.
Rich had at one time worked in the high security Vault at one of big Casino’s in Tahoe, Harrah’s, I think he said, and he was in charge of the Millions of dollars of gambling money, that came in every day.
He was like a banker except he worked for a casino, in-lieu of a bank. He told the group in Charlies Chalet’ that the casinos in Tahoe, took in Tens of millions of dollars, every year, yes millions!
They make out every win is a great big deal, in the casinos when someone wins big (a fist full of dollars), but what they pay-out is a very tiny amount compared to the amount they take it. Gambling can be an addiction, if not very, very careful; therefore, people need to be very careful not to get carried away.
Rich never gambled at his casino it may look suspicious to the paying customers. Also, he said that the casino management did not want to see their employees hanging around after their shifts had ender.
Charlie likes to gamble, if he is being honest with you, and his favorite is Blackjack, and they say that that is the best game with odds that you may, just may, win a little bit of manna [cash] without losing you the shirt off your back, at the same time.
Also, Charlie likes to play Poker, draw poker, and also, five card stud. He usually wins a little moola, or loses a little cabbage, but he gets up and walks away from the table, when he had lost enough.
Charlies old man, his nickname was Dick, was quite accomplished gambler, and, he usually won whenever he played poker, the reason being that he had a great ‘poker face.’ He taught Charlie to place poker and blackjack, and his beloved mama, taught him how to play pinocle.
Maria was from a beautiful little beach enclave, Ensenada, Baha California, Mexico, which was one of Rich’s, his parents, and old Charlie’s and his wife’s, favorite places in the whole wide world. She was quite intelligent, just like Inga.
Also, she could speak Spanish, English, and many other foreign languages because, she had worked for some time, in Ensenada, where they have tourists from all around the Globe.
Our man Charlie O’Brien, the handsome and feisty, Irish Lad from Dublin, Northern Ireland, ran an Inn for resting mountaineers, hikers, as well as skiers and snowboarders on the slopes of Mammoth Mountain, California.
And he was leading a very quiet and calm life, that is, until he encountered a twist of fate, a horrific and potentially fatal, avalanche to be precise.