Today, daily life at Holden Village follows predictable patterns, most of which were established during the 1960s and 1970s. A bell suspended from a tree outside the east entrance of the dining hall calls the residents to meals, bus arrivals and departures, and evening worship services. It is also used to announce the beginning of other activities open to the whole community, such as games, lectures, and film viewings.1 Most residents take all or nearly all their meals in the dining hall, though they are free to eat in the chalets or dormitories where they are housed. They are expected to be present for bus arrivals and departures so they can greet and say goodbye to guests and staff members, both of whom are very transitory populations, especially between May and September. All staff members commit to doing certain community chores on a weekly or monthly basis, among them washing dishes after each meal in the dining hall and sorting the village garbage into containers for items to be burned, recycled, or sent to a downlake landfill.2 All staff members are required to be present for Vespers services, which generally take place about an hour and a half after the evening meal concludes. In keeping with Carroll Hinderlie’s vision, these are short services, 20-30 minutes long, and typically consist of a brief sermon or personal history, the singing of hymns, meditation, or group prayer. Eucharist services, held on Sunday evenings, more closely resemble traditional Lutheran church services. During the summer, worship is held in the rec hall, while it is held in Koinonia’s Fireside Room throughout the rest of the year.

The staff still consists predominantly of young people, generally middle-class Lutherans who are either between college semesters or recent graduates. Many come from families that have been associated with Holden for decades. Residents who stay for a year or more as work area supervisors are considered “long-term,” which entitles them to live in one of the chalets, a monthly stipend of about $500, health insurance, limited reimbursement for travel expenses to and from Chelan, generous vacation time, and a certain number of “guest days,” which allow them to invite friends or family members to stay in the village for free during the off-season. Long-term staff members include five to six lead cooks, two to four utilities team members (one of whom is often an electrician), two staff coordinators, a bookkeeper, one or more publications coordinators, an administrative assistant, a contributions recorder, one or two information technology specialists, a crafts coordinator, a potter, a resident artist, one or two carpenters, a fire chief, a medic (usually a Registered Nurse), a laundry person, a mechanic’s apprentice, a head housekeeper, a labor crew leader (the head “maverick”), a waste management supervisor (the “garbologist”), a worship assistant, a registrar, a postmaster, a bookstore coordinator, the village pastor, the managers, and the directors. The managers currently include a Business Manager, a Public Works Manager, an Operations Manager, and a Hospitality Manager. As of this writing, there are two directors, a married couple who previously occupied the positions of Operations Manager and bookstore coordinator, respectively. The managers and directors, most of whom stay for more than two years and have families to support and permanent residences on the outside to maintain, are entitled to larger stipends. The mechanic is a salaried employee, and the two school teachers and a teacher’s aide are paid by the Chelan school district.

Those who stay for less than a year are considered “short-term” staff members. They are divided between summer “area heads,” who receive stipends, and true volunteers. Area heads include such seasonal positions as trails coordinator, barista, head gardener, Hike Haus supervisor, Narnia (children’s program) supervisor, Junior Miners (youth program) supervisor, and snack bar supervisor. These staff members typically live in the chalets. True volunteers, who stay from a few weeks to a few months, typically work as laborers, cooks, housekeepers, trails workers, gardeners, or Narnia workers. Their numbers also include many skilled workers and specialists who come to work on such projects as updating the village fire suppression and detection systems. Volunteers typically live in Dorms 1 and 6.

As the number of paid positions has increased, so have the resources available to the village. The village fleet, which originally consisted of a lone 1961 International flatbed truck, now includes eight buses, three bombardiers (tread vehicles) for winter transportation, several vans and pickup trucks, and a variety of large trucks and heavy equipment. Each year, several long-term staff members volunteer to be on a professionally-trained fire brigade, which is outfitted with professional-grade protective gear and breathing equipment. All other staff members are trained to support the brigade in one capacity or another when the fire alarm goes off. There is also a professionally-trained team of first responders who support the medic and search for missing hikers. The village has a satellite telephone and satellite Internet access, available to all staff members who stay for more than three weeks. The satellite phone is generally reserved for emergencies and business purposes, but the managers occasionally allow other staff members to use it for interviews and other important calls. Holden Village accepts guest reservations via Internet, and also includes staff application packets on its website. Since 2006, a large new chalet for guests has occupied the space that once belonged to the original Chalet 2, which burned down in 1969.

In recent years, an important development has been the initiation of a large-scale mine remediation project, supervised by the international mining company Rio Tinto, whose subsidiary, Intalco, inherited responsibility for the byproducts of the Howe Sound operation through a series of company purchases, and is paying for the project. The project’s aims include stabilizing the lower tailings piles by building a underground barrier where their bases meet the creek (partly to prevent the tailings from spilling into the creek in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster, and partly to prevent the polluted groundwater under the tailings from leaching into the creek), diverting a section of the creek to a course further north (nearer to the village) of that to which Howe Sound originally diverted it to make room for the piles, the installation of a water-treatment plant on the creek, and the scrapping or burial of what remains of the mill structure. The pollution that the project seeks to remedy is not thought to be a threat to the village residents, as the toxic stream coming out of the mine portal does not empty into the domestic water supply, which comes from Copper Creek, a tributary of Railroad Creek whose ultimate source lies in the snowfields on the east flank of Copper Peak. However, for the several hundred yards where Railroad Creek flows past the tailings, there is a dead zone, devoid of aquatic plants and invertebrates. The water-treatment plant will be installed downstream of this zone.3

Not everyone is entirely pleased with some elements of Holden Village’s modernization and expansion, or with the remediation project, which some residents have deemed unnecessary because (as they see it) the pollution levels involved are relatively insignificant, chiefly affecting one small section of the creek. During the summer of 2011, the directors asked three summer staff members to leave the village for underage drinking. A significant percentage of the residents felt that the directors had not acted fairly, as the three staff members in question had not been caught drinking in the village, but rather at a party in Stehekin. The dissatisfaction generated by this incident also brought out latent feelings that Holden was assuming a more commercial aspect as a result of its catering to the companies involved in the mine remediation project, which had begun in earnest that summer. At a meeting between the directors and a large group of disgruntled young staff members, one of the three who had been asked to leave expressed the opinion that Holden was no longer a community, but rather a business.

In fact, it is both, and has been for a long time. Holden is a community whose sole business is hospitality. True, it remains a non-profit religious organization, and probably always will. But without guests and donors to pay for virtually all its operational expenses, including staff stipends, it would shut down as certainly as the mining community shut down when Howe Sound decided that operating the mine was no longer desirable from a commercial standpoint. All its residents would have to leave. Holden Village, Inc., may not be a company in the true sense, but, insofar that living at Holden is tied to the success or failure of a single enterprise, and in other important ways discussed in this chapter, it is a company town.

Granted, to label Holden Village a company town is to make creative use of the term. The fact that it is not a commercial enterprise works against this characterization, as all historical company towns (and the modern corporate super-campuses highlighted near the end of Hardy Green’s book) have been run by for-profit enterprises, sometimes immensely powerful companies. However, most scholars have not defined company towns by the exact nature of the entities that run them, but, primarily, by the fact that they are towns where there is one employer that usually controls all business and property, including housing. Except in the fact that the federal government owns the land the townsite stands on, and in the fact that some of its workers are not paid employees, Holden Village generally meets these criteria, in some small ways more so than its predecessor community.

The rest of this chapter consists of several sections describing certain parallels between the Holden and Holden Village communities. Those that are most supportive of the argument that Holden Village is a company town are listed first, followed by others that highlight similarities that can be attributed largely to the shared location.

I. Parallel: Employment & Residency

Arguably the most important defining aspect of life in any company town is the close relationship between employment and residency. It is this which makes company towns different from small communities that may be similar in many other regards. In most company towns, if the company dismissed an employee, that employee had no choice but to leave town, because his housing was company-owned, because there was no other business in town from which to secure employment, or for both reasons. This was certainly true at Holden during the Howe Sound years. Employees who disturbed the peace, or who committed criminal acts, could generally count on being fired, which was equivalent to banishment from the community. Most of those who left Holden in this fashion landed on Howe Sound’s blacklist, which was kept at the company office in Chelan. Those on this list who came seeking reemployment could expect to be told that there was no work to be had at the moment. (It is interesting to note that dismissal did not necessarily mean that a worker’s family had to leave the community with him. Gary Bannister’s father quit, preempting dismissal, after striking a fellow employee, but the rest of the family was allowed to stay until Bannister finished the eighth grade in 1949).4

Alcohol was a factor in several dismissals. Though Howe Sound banned the sale of alcohol in town, and did not allow it to be served at public functions, Holden was not a dry community. Men drank at and presumably brought alcohol from the tavern in Lucerne, brought it or had it shipped from Chelan, or home-brewed it. In 1949, a miner was jailed for the illegal possession and sale of $2,500 worth of liquor. In September 1947, an accusation of theft at one of the card tables sparked a drunken brawl that began in the basement of the recreation hall and continued on Main Street. Chief Engineer Wellington Phillips fired most of the men involved in this incident and sent them “down the mountain.” One man, however, successfully pleaded his innocence to Phillips, who let him become eligible for rehire after one month.5

Dismissals and less direct invitations to leave Holden Village are not typically the result of brawls, but they sometimes involve violations of the village policy on the use of alcohol or illegal drugs, and they sometimes have the same effect of forcing a person or persons to leave a place where they have been living for several months, if not longer. It is true that many dismissals have involved volunteer staff members, who are not, strictly speaking, employees. During his year as director, Fritz Norstad addressed the mounting use of marijuana in the village, which was (and is) forbidden by Holden Village policy. He essentially asked those residents who were users to choose between quitting and voluntarily leaving Holden; at least 12 staff members decided to leave, though some later returned.6 This being before John and Mary Schramm began negotiating stipends with staff members, most or all of those who left must have been unpaid volunteers. However, over the last 30 years, a number of paid staff members, including a few who had been or were planning to be in the village for at least a year, have been dismissed. Of the three who were dismissed in the summer of 2011, two were paid summer area heads. A few years previously, a long-term staff member was dismissed for supplying alcohol to a minor. The slang term for having to leave the community in this way is being “NBO’d” (Next Boat Out).

There were and are obvious differences between being NBO’d from Holden and being NBO’d from Holden Village. The men who were dismissed during the mining years were making a hard living before they were fired, and some had families to support. By contrast, most (but certainly not all) Holden Villagers who are forced to leave are young people without dependents, who do not view their work at Holden (paid or unpaid) the same way as they would a full-time job; rather, their time in the village is a pleasant interlude in lives that often lead them back to school or to other church-related non-profit work. Moreover, with a few exceptions, those who were dismissed during the mining years did not have the option to return one day; theirs was a permanent exile. Holden Village generally permits those it asks to leave to come back after a few months. As of this writing, two of the three who were NBO’d in 2011 have gone back.

Nonetheless, in both eras, one of the immediate effects on the individuals being dismissed and on the rest of the community was and is to highlight the fact that Holden residents live where they live, for however long or short a period, at the discretion of the management. This applied to virtually every member of the mining community, and it applies to every Holden Villager. The managers and directors themselves are obliged to leave if their superiors decide to remove them, as happened to Carroll Hinderlie, and as may have happened to J.J. Curzon toward the end of the mining years.

II. Parallel: Housing

The relationship between employment and residency is a function of Holden’s isolation, as are most other parallels between the two communities. However, there is one parallel that cannot be completely explained by the remote setting. This is the way in which the community has been segregated. Certain chalets tend to be inhabited by managers and their families; similarly, certain chalets were assigned to particular Howe Sound positions during the mining days. At least at present, the chalets toward the top of the hill are mostly inhabited by managers and their families, while those lower down, especially 1 and 3, are inhabited by single people or young couples, most of whom are long-term staff members or summer area heads. The community’s more transitory population, which includes short-term volunteers and guests, lives almost entirely in the dormitories, as did those Howe Sound workers who were least likely to become long-term members of the community. While there are sound practical reasons for this arrangement, it contributes to the existence of a loose social hierarchy within the community.

Whether intentionally or not, Howe Sound planned the community in such a way that the management and several other salaried employees were segregated from the rest of the population by virtue of higher-quality housing and physical location within the townsite. The allocation of certain chalets to men who held certain high-ranking staff positions emphasized the importance of those positions. The arrangement of the other “neighborhoods” created rough segregations between well-educated professionals who had not yet become salaried employees (Honeymoon Heights), and other workers from more modest educational backgrounds (Winston Camp, the dorms). Staff housing and employee dormitories were owned by the company.

However, the segregation should not be overemphasized. No significant man-made or natural barriers separated the chalet residents from the dorm residents. The managers did not live much further away from the noise of the mine than the rest of the employees. Some of the better-educated employees, including many of the engineers, did not live in the chalets or in Honeymoon Heights, but alongside employees from more modest educational backgrounds, whether in Winston or in the dormitories. The chalets were not vastly larger or more luxurious than some of the privately-built homes in Winston. Compared with other, more famous company towns, the housing division at Holden was fairly unremarkable. Earlier in the twentieth century, in the lumber town of Potlatch, Idaho, Weyerhaeuser built employee housing on two hills, which were separated by the town’s business district. Laborers lived in cottages or bunkhouses on the north hill, while the managers lived on the south hill in comfortable homes built around a grassy park. The managers’ homes had the indoor plumbing that many of the workers’ homes lacked, and they were heated by heaters or water boilers, while the workers’ homes were heated by stoves. In the World War II research community of Los Alamos, which resembled a company town, similar conditions prevailed: the top scientists and other project managers lived in a cluster of houses that had indoor plumbing, while other workers were housed in cruder accommodations.7

At Holden Village, too, while housing assignments create some division, it only goes so far. Without the sub-communities of the mining years, the town’s population is entirely concentrated in the townsite, and is united as one community by meals and daily worship. Most relations between the managers, other long-term staff members, short-term staff members, and guests are generally quite casual. Moreover, the housing division that does exist is not completely fixed: while guests and short-term volunteers almost always stay in the dorms, the chalets may be put to different use from one year to the next. A chalet that has been used to house four or five long-term staff members may eventually be assigned to a manager and his or her family, or vice-versa. Also, there are some units, including Agape, the former hospital building, which have been used to house managers and other staff members at the same time.

III. Parallels & Differences: The Company Store

As previously noted, Holden did not fit the stereotypical company-town image in that it lacked the kind of company store that occupied a domineering role in the community, an important feature of other company towns in the West. In extreme cases, shopping at such stores was a condition of employment by the company running the town, the goods sold at them were overpriced, and the workers became so deeply enmeshed in debt to the store that they became virtual slaves of the operation, unable to leave because they could not pay what they owed. More typically, the company store played a central role for the simple reason that the town was too remote for the store to have much competition from other businesses. This situation became less common as the West grew more settled, and was no longer the norm by the time the Holden mine began operation. In larger company towns, such as Phelps Dodge’s copper-mining Bisbee, Arizona, the company eventually permitted numerous private businesses to set up shop.8 The presence of independent businesses at Holden, such as the grocery store, was not so unusual that it set Holden apart from other company towns of the same era.

In this small and relatively unimportant regard, Holden Village may fit the company-town image more neatly than its predecessor, but only at a superficial level. In 1975, the village opened a bookstore on the basement level of the Hotel building. Initially, it carried textbooks for the Lifestyle Enrichment program, Bibles, books for pastors, books authored by guest speakers and summer faculty members, children’s books, books on environmental topics, and hiking guides. It expanded to sell clothing marked with the Holden Village logo, a wide range of fiction and non-fiction literature, pottery made in the village, postcards, knitting supplies, snacks, and other small items. It resembles a company store insofar that it is the only store in town, it is part of the Holden Village operation, and it is where many residents buy certain necessities, such as basic toiletries. However, today’s long-term residents are not dependent on it, both because they have fairly frequent opportunities to shop during downlake excursions, and because they can order items online. A few still order goods from a grocery store in Chelan. The bookstore might be considered a company store, but it may not significantly enhance or diminish the argument that Holden Village is a company town, because the presence of a company store has not been a key element in the historical definition of what constitutes a company town.9

IV. Parallels & Differences: Public Utilities

Like most company towns, both Holden communities were self-reliant with regard to public utilities, with the notable exception of power in the case of the mining community. In the mining years, the company also provided services that included garbage collection, limited law enforcement, limited medical care, and limited fire protection (the latter three are discussed in the next section). While this is not a key parallel in support of the argument that Holden Village is a company town, it does serve to illustrate the relative independence of both communities, and how far that independence extended.

Unlike the mining community, the village has become somewhat less self-reliant over time with regard to waste management. Like the miners, the villagers originally dumped their waste in a pit in the tailings. For a time, they also used the large Howe Sound incinerator, which had been left intact at the end of the mining days. At some point during the 1980s, however, Holden Village presumably lost its Forest Service permit to use the tailings as a landfill, and began sending its garbage and recyclable items out to Chelan, as it does today. In response to bear problems associated with the food waste in the tailings dump, the villagers also began a composting program. These two developments presumably led to the creation of the current “garbologist” position; previously, waste management had been among the responsibilities of the labor crew (the “mavericks”). While the existing waste management program is probably more friendly to the environment than the practices that preceded it, it has caused Holden Village to become dependent on a private barge company for transporting its garbage and recyclables downlake, and on the county transfer station in Chelan. Between transportation and disposal fees, each shipment of waste (of which there are 5-6 throughout the year) that goes to the transfer station costs the village more than a thousand dollars.10

Although Holden Village is self-reliant with regard to electrical power, as its predecessor community was not, the generation of that power has involved ongoing challenges. In 1960-61, when the LBI feasibility committee was taking a long look at Holden and the problems it presented, Gil Berg recognized that by far the greatest hurdle to bringing the townsite back to life was finding a financially feasible way of powering the buildings. Howe Sound had removed the local substation and transformers in 1957. (The transmission lines from Manson were later removed by salvagers). In Berg’s assessment, there were three options: repair the lines and replace the substation, which would cost $18,000 and $1,000 per year in maintenance fees; generate hydroelectric power on site; or install diesel power generators capable of supporting the town load requirement of 260 kilowatts.11 Initially, the village went with the third option. In 1961, the board purchased two reconditioned 50 kilowatt diesel generators from a fishing village in Alaska for $15,000, which Wilton Bergstrand and the Forerunners installed at a point on the road roughly halfway between the townsite and Winston. However, they proved an inadequate solution; while burning as much as 10,000 gallons a year, they still fell short of generating enough power to effectively heat the village. To save money on fuel, they were shut down every evening at 10pm, and not fired up again until 5am the following morning.12

The wilderness held another potential source of power. In 1963, the village began working on what was envisioned as a permanent solution: a hydroelectric dam harnessing the waters of Copper Creek. The board purchased two 1900s-vintage turbines from an irrigation company in Lewiston, Idaho, which were installed in a facility roughly halfway between Railroad Creek and the remains of the mill structure. Werner Janssen, volunteer Mark Bjerke, and a retired hydro engineer from Wenatchee were among those who took part in this project, which was completed in 1965 with the installation of a new diversion dam at a point over 600 feet uphill from the turbines facility. This final phase could not have been completed without the aid of a 1943 Navy bomb service truck for moving the individual sections of pipe up the steep hillside. Once completed, the dam became Holden’s primary source of power, while the diesel generators were relegated to backup units.13 Although the dam has remained operational since that time, it requires periodic repairs, and the power it provides is not always reliable or abundant. This is especially true during the winter, when reduced flow in the creek severely limits the amount of power available to the community and sometimes causes outages. In most winters, the villagers sacrifice the use of certain appliances in most buildings to compensate for this, such as dryers, and, during especially cold spells, refrigerators. During the winter of 2011-12, an avalanche cut off the stream above the diversion dam, depriving the village of power for the better part of a day. However, at least as far as they affect daily life, outages such as these are nuisances (especially to the small utilities crew and the cooks), rather than serious threats to the continuing operation of the village. With regard to electricity, the mining community enjoyed a more reliable source, but, as J.J. Curzon made clear in his correspondence, it also had greater need of uninterrupted power because the mine simply could not operate without it.

V. Parallels & Differences: Environmental Challenges & Emergencies

An obvious parallel between the two communities, and one that can be almost entirely explained by the remote location, is the way in which they have responded to environment challenges, medical situations, criminal behavior, and, above all, fire. In this regard, those differences that do exist are mostly due to the differing resources that have been available to the respective communities. Perhaps the most visible difference is Holden Village’s lesser ability to respond to avalanches, a hazard of living in the valley that has not diminished since the beginning of the mining years. At least during the early years, the retreat center had very limited resources for clearing snow. In 1966, Holden’s vulnerability was emphasized by a huge avalanche that hit the fringe of the townsite, destroying a couple of parked vehicles and damaging a few structures. Tom Ahlstrom remembers another slide that buried a section of the road for about a week at some point during the 1970s, cutting off all traffic to and from the village. Without heavy equipment, all the villagers could do was dig their way out.14 Today, Holden Village has a plow and a grader among its resources, but there are times when the snowfall is such that these machines alone are not sufficient to keep the road open for buses or other large vehicles to be used between Holden and Lucerne. During the mining years, while snow slides did sometimes isolate the community, keeping the road open was of critical importance to the operation because it was the only way to get the concentrate out, and a transportation crew of 10-12 men was responsible for doing so.15

While Howe Sound’s ability to keep the road open was probably superior to that of Holden Village today, the existing community’s ability to speedily evacuate seriously sick or injured individuals is on par with or better than that of the mining community during its later years, when helicopters came into service in the area. Over time, Holden Village’s ability to communicate with the outside world, and therefore to call in a helicopter evacuation when necessary, has improved. In the early 1960s, the village lacked even the indirect telephone connection with Chelan that the miners had used. However, the village established radio contact with the Chelan County Sheriff’s office through Stehekin in 1966, and Werner Janssen also began operating a ham radio set during the mid-1970s. In medical situations not serious enough to warrant a helicopter evacuation, Janssen occasionally used his personal boat to transport sick or injured individuals from Lucerne to Chelan. Today, as noted, Holden Village has a satellite phone to call in emergency situations. While the retreat center does not employ a full-time doctor, there is at least one nurse or EMT on staff nearly all the time, who is supported by the first response team, most of whose members are trained on site. Fortunately, these individuals rarely have to respond to serious medical situations. Village women who become pregnant typically leave Holden ahead of their due date and give birth in Chelan or Wenatchee, as did most of their predecessors during the mining years. Prior to the mid-1980s, there were no fatalities at Holden Village, though it is possible that there may been fatal climbing accidents in the surrounding mountains. The writer is aware of at least one death that has taken place since then, which may have been a suicide.16

Holden Village’s experiences with fire have largely mirrored those of its predecessor. As in the mining community, there is a strong culture of vigilance against fire, based partly on the memory of past building fires, and partly on the awareness of the danger that forest fire poses to the village. Chalet 2 burned down in January 1969; the fire could not be put out in time because the nearest hydrant failed to produce any water for the hoses. It was only after Terry Sateren opened a bypass valve to divert water from the hydro dam into the domestic supply system that the small contingent of volunteers in the village at that time was able to hose down the neighboring chalets, preventing the fire from spreading. In 1977, a second major fire destroyed the maintenance garage on the south side of the creek, another building dating back to the mining era; this fire was started by a welding torch. There have been a number of forest fires in the general area over the last 50 years. Holden Villagers have aided the Forest Service in its firefighting efforts on at least a few occasions, most recently in 2007, when a major forest fire near Domke Lake forced the evacuation of the village. A skeleton crew of long-term staff members remained behind to protect the buildings from cinders and to support the professional firefighters who worked to contain the blaze. The fire came within several miles of the village before its advance was halted on the southern side of the access road, not far from the top of the switchbacks above Lucerne.17 Since the early 1960s, there has been a fire chief on staff, the first of whom was Forerunner John Hill. The fire chief works with a professional firefighter who visits the village periodically to train new brigade members and update the fire detection and suppression systems in the buildings. When the alarm goes off, regardless of the time of day, all able-bodied staff members respond. While the brigade members don their gear, the fire chief or his/her lieutenants direct other staff members to search the building indicated by the alarm system for flame, smoke, and occupants, and other staff members stand by the nearest two hose-houses, ready to deploy the hose in the event of an actual fire. (This is quite similar to the fire response in Potlatch during its years as a company town, “where virtually every man in town became a volunteer fireman. Some, the first-line regulars, were more active than others and had periodic, specialized training. But officials directed everyone to drop everything if the fire siren…sounded.”)18 While the response tends to be rapid and relatively well-organized, the brigade’s training emphasizes containing building fires and rescuing their occupants, rather than taking possibly risky measures to save the building.

Mainly because criminal acts invariably led to dismissals, crime never prospered at Holden during the mining years, and it lacked any kind of formal law enforcement until Niles Sims was sworn in as town constable. Sims’ duties in this capacity were light. Holden Village has never had anyone on staff with an equivalent title or set of responsibilities. If a felony were committed in the village, the management would presumably respond to it by calling in sheriff’s deputies, or by escorting the guilty person or persons to Field’s Point Landing or Chelan, where officers would be waiting to arrest them. On one occasion, Werner Janssen contacted the Chelan County sheriff’s office in response to someone outside the village telling him that the community had a serious drug problem. The sheriff’s office actually went to the length of sending up a couple who posed as staff members in an effort to determine how much drug use was taking place. The couple reported that a few staff members were marijuana users, but not as many as Janssen had been led to suspect.19 This episode forms a rough parallel to the time when J.J. Curzon contacted the FBI to request help in identifying the author of a letter that he deemed subversive to the operation. In both cases, the management turned to professionals to aid in investigating behavior that it saw as a potential threat to the community’s peace and stability.

VI. Parallels & Differences: the Holden School, Recreation, & Religion

The role that the small school occupies in the life of the community illustrates another parallel between Holden and Holden Village, and a few differences. Today, of course, annual enrollment at the Holden school is much less than it was during the mining years, when there were sometimes hundreds of students. The student body typically includes five to six elementary-schoolers and an equal number of high-schoolers, one or two of whom are boarding students sponsored by a long-term staff couple or family. Often, there is only one graduating senior. Unlike its predecessor, the Holden Village school is part of the Chelan district. It is termed a “remote and necessary” school due to the fact that it is located in a “nontransient” community more than an hour away from the nearest regular school; as such, the state supports it financially. Other Washington communities that feature remote and necessary schools include several small islands in the San Juans. Holden is the only one that offers high school courses. One of the two teachers takes charge of the elementary-schoolers, while the other teaches the high-schoolers. As was the case during the mining years, other members of the community contribute as official or unofficial teacher’s aides, which allows for fairly specialized instruction. In 1975, when there were 22 students, a newspaper article characterized 33 residents as aides, including two individuals with doctorate degrees and three with master’s degrees.20 Graduation from the eighth grade was a festive occasion during the mining years. At Holden Village, graduation from the 12th grade has similar importance as a social event. The typical presence of one senior has led to a number of tongue-in-cheek graduation ceremonies, at which the graduate has done such things as make two separate speeches – one as valedictorian, and one as salutatorian. The first day of school has also become something of a Holden Village holiday. It is a day characterized by jokes and antics, which include the village children riding a bus from Chalet Hill to the area outside the mine portal (the “third level”) and then back to the school.

The school was one cornerstone of social life in the mining community. The array of recreational activities supported and encouraged by Howe Sound formed another. The rec hall became the community’s main gathering space, as did similar buildings in other company towns, such as Roslyn, Washington, where the Northern Pacific Coal Company built an athletic facility for its workers that included a gym, a dance hall, meeting rooms, and a bowling alley; and Potlatch, where the gym became a center for dances, plays, and other social events.21 Organized sports such as softball, basketball, and bowling were all highly popular activities that the whole community took part in. At Holden Village, many guests and residents play basketball, table tennis, floor hockey, and pool. They hike, fish, and ski, as the miners did. July 4 and Labor Day are both major holidays in the village – the first involves a parade of vehicles and makeshift floats representing the different work areas, the singing of patriotic songs, speeches, games, and generous meals of all-American food; Labor Day usually involves a large outdoor meal and a softball game, either next to the school building or on the overgrown field. Both holidays held similar importance in the mining community; the company sponsored the July 4 festivities, while the union sponsored Labor Day. July 4 typically involved a variety of games, including foot races, relays, a tug of war, and a baseball game, as well as more bizarre competitions, such as chicken chasing and cracker eating contests.22 It is probably fair to say that worship gatherings play a more central role in uniting the village community on a daily basis, as worship lies at the heart of Holden Village’s mission and purpose. However, as during the mining years, the rec hall (now called the Village Center), is the site of most of these gatherings, if only for the simple reason that it is the largest indoor space in the village.

VII. Parallels & Differences: Community Government

Neither community was or has been a democracy, nor a dictatorship. In the mining community, while the management or the company president had the final say in most matters, the workers and their families were not without a voice. The Community Club, which organized most recreational activities, was not run by the company, but by officers elected by the workers. The workers were unionized, and the union representatives did not only speak for the working community during strikes, but also in such matters as the official complaint about the conduct of the company doctor, Theo Gallup. Granted, J.J. Curzon chose not to respond to that complaint by removing Gallup, as the workers would have preferred. However, it is likely that the complaint spurred his subsequent efforts to replace Gallup with a less abrasive doctor. When Gallup resigned (apparently of his own free will), Curzon found a successor, Dr. Jack Carleton, who proved much more amenable to the community.

At Holden Village, while there is, of course, no union, and the management makes many important decisions without consulting the community as a whole, staff members have the opportunity to add their voices to certain decisions affecting their daily lives, mostly through the forum of weekly or (depending on the time of year) bi-weekly meetings of the entire staff. At one such meeting in the fall of 2011, the main topic of discussion was a housing problem: a family of four was joining the long-term staff, and there was limited space in the chalets at that time. The two options being discussed were opening one chalet that was not typically used during the off-season because it was not fully winterized (which would have put additional strain on the already limited power supply) and asking two long-term staff members to move out of the first floor of the chalet they were living in to make room for the family. One of these two expressed the opinion that it was better for him and his neighbor to move than to increase the village power needs, and, ultimately, this is what happened.

VIII. Parallel: Racial Diversity

As a final parallel, it is worth noting that Holden has never been a place of strong racial diversity. A 1948 Holden Miner article noted the presence of a black girl at a children’s basketball game, but did not say whose child she was. There were at least a few Mexican workers present during the later years of the operation, but no non-whites listed in the 1940 census. None of the managers belonged to racial minorities. This was often the case even in company towns that were racially or ethnically diverse, such as Potlatch, which had a sizeable population of Japanese, Greek, and Italian workers, but they always occupied the lowest rung of the social and economic ladder in the community; the managers were always Americans of Northern European extraction.23

Holden Village’s guest and staff populations have always been largely white, but not because non-whites have been deliberately excluded from the community. On the contrary, at many times in the past, the village staff has included individuals from non-Lutheran, non-white backgrounds. A 1967 Chelan Valley Mirror article noted that the kitchen staff included volunteers from Korea and New Guinea, as well as Osage and Cherokee Indians from Oklahoma. The first black faculty member arrived at some point in the late 1960s; after a Chelan motel refused him lodging, Carroll Hinderlie went downlake to have a “come to Jesus” conversation with the motel owners.24 For a period during the 1990s, the village pastor was a black man. Today, the summer program regularly includes a week, called Abriendo Caminos (“Opening Ways”), during which Hispanic residents of the Wenatchee area form the entire guest population, and the worship services are in both English and Spanish. For each of the last few summers, the short-term staff has included a small number of Japanese students. However, the membership of the Lutheran church remains predominantly white, and most guests and staff members discover Holden Village through the church. (The website promotes the village as “an ecumenical retreat center rooted in the Lutheran tradition.”) Partly for this reason, the long-term community typically features little racial diversity.

IX. One Key Difference: Length of Residence

One difference between the two communities that should not be ignored in any comparison is the fact that most long-term residents of the Village community would probably not have been considered long-term in the mining community. The mining community was much more of a town in the sense that it had a stable population; some of its residents stayed for more than decade. Few have done so or been able to do so during the Village era. This could be a limiting factor in the argument that Holden Village is a company town. However, by contrast to the residents of Honeymoon Heights and Winston, many of the employees who lived in the dorms were transient residents. Likewise, the population of Holden Village is constantly changing, but it features a core group of managers and other long-term staffers who stay for two to five years at a time.


1 According to Wes Prieb, this bell once crowned a steam locomotive, and was donated to Holden by a former employee of the Great Northern Railroad.
2 There is a story about an English bishop with two PhDs who came to the village as a summer faculty member. The bishop considered “dish team” beneath his dignity, but Hinderlie said that no one was exempt from community chores, and insisted that he take part in it. This story may be myth; Werner Janssen believes that faculty was not required to wash dishes until John Schramm became director.
3 Brent Diamond, email correspondence with author, 22 December 2012.
4 Gene Starcher, interview with author, Chelan, Washington, 27 March 2012; Bannister, “Memories of School at Holden, 1941-1949,” Audio Archive.
5 Sartain interview, Audio Archive; Paasch interview, Audio Archive; Linda Powell Jensen, guided tour; “Man jailed, fined on liquor charge,” Wenatchee World, August (?) 1949; Wellington Phillips to J.J. Curzon, 10 September 1947. This incident was one of the primary catalysts for the creation of Niles Sims’ position of town constable. In a memo to Curzon, Phillips wrote: “This whole affair has stirred up the camp to a very great extent…I highly recommend obtaining someone from the sheriff’s office to keep the peace. Some means might also be had for obtaining notice of large purchases of liquor in Chelan.”
6 Janssen interview; Werner Janssen, email correspondence with author, 30 November 2012.
7 Petersen, 88, 91-92; Carl Abbott, “Building the Atomic Cities: Richland, Los Alamos, and the American Planning Language,” in Bruce Hevly & John M. Findlay, eds., The Atomic West (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998), 94.
8 Allen, 132; Margaret Crawford, Building the Workingman’s Paradise (London: Verso, 1995), 130.
9 Deane, 70; Weber, 42. At some point during the 1970s, the village also set up the Hike Haus for the purpose of lending hiking and fishing gear to guests and residents. It shared space with the bookstore before moving to its current location at the west end of Dorm 6. The post office and guest registration were also located in the Hotel basement; while the post office remained there, registration later moved upstairs to one of the two offices outside the northeast corner of the dining hall.
10 Hinderlie interview; Janssen interview; Bjerke, Audio Archive. On one occasion, one of the cooks accidentally burned a large quantity of flour, causing an explosion that knocked him flat and blew the top off the incinerator.
11 Gil Berg, “Initial Report of Survey Group by Gil Berg,” Portal Museum document; “Electric Power Biggest Block in Holden Transfer,” Wenatchee World, 13 July 1960;
12 Wilton E. Bergstand, “Holden Village,” Portal Museum document; Berg and Phil interview, Audio Archive
13 Wrick Dunning, “History of Holden Hydro,” 2005, Audio Archive; Bjerke, Audio Archive; Hinderlie interview; Gil Berg to “All Holden Village Volunteer Workers,” December 2, 1963; “Lutherans Developing Retreat in Cascades: Given Ghost Town in Alpine Setting,” Tacoma Sunday Ledger-News Tribune, August 6, 1961; Werner Janssen, “Holden – Part 1: Past, Present, & Future,” 1984, Audio Archive; Werner Janssen, “Interview of Werner Janssen by Chuck Lutz,” 1987, Audio Archive; Rieke, Audio Archive. The bomb truck is functional today thanks to mechanic Terry Sanderson and his predecessors.
14 Bjerke, Audio Archive; Ahlstrom interview.
15 Phillips, “Holden 1940 Census.”
16 Janssen interview; Lundholm, Audio Archive; Prieb, Audio Archive; Deane, 45.
17 Janssen interview; Starcher interview; Bob Hewitt, interview with author, 23 April 2011; Sateren, Audio Archive. The only object in Chalet 2 to survive the fire was Mary Christman’s Bible.
18 Petersen, 125.
19 Janssen interview.
20 Terry Bergeson, “Remote & Necessary Schools Report,” 30 December 2008, accessed 26 December 2012, http://www.k12.wa.us.gov; Wenatchee World, “Holden has 18” of snow now,” 28 October 1975; “School visit is overnight trip,” 19 March 1975; Martha Sirguy, “Holden School: Glimpses Past & Present,” 1998, Audio Archive; Hinderlie interview.
21 Jaymi Trimble, Images of America: Roslyn (Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2008), 11; Petersen, 131
22 “4th of July Celebration – 1944. Morning & Afternoon Program – July 4th. ‘At the Ball Park’,” Howe Sound Company files, Special Collections, Allen Library, University of Washington.
23 The Holden Miner, 15 March 1948; Petersen, 121
24 Deane, 46; “Holden Village has international staff for summer season,” Chelan Valley Mirror, 29 June 1967


Holden Village Copyright © by highline and Mattias Olshausen. All Rights Reserved.

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