A Browns Christmas

Familiar faces attend annual holiday dinner at scenic park

For the past 10 years, the Browns Hole Homemakers Club has been putting on Christmas dinner at Lodore Hall in scenic Browns Park.

In that decade, a lot of familiar faces have shown up.

"We've been a club since 1955," said Mara Molloy, the club's newly elected president. "We have about 30 members and it's free to anybody that wants to join."

The club hosted its annual Christmas dinner Saturday. Forty-five people attended.

Thelma Whicker, 91, whose parents homesteaded in the area, has been coming for to the dinner for the last five years. She said she likes the event because it reminds her of get-togethers at Great Divide when she was young.

"We would go to dances in the winter that would last until dawn," she said. "Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, we would dance to local music and eat midnight lunches. In the morning, the horse teams would take us home on the sleds."

Lodore Hall has served that same purpose for the past century, acting as meeting hall, gathering place and socializing headquarters for this remote part of Moffat County.

The historic building has been in a state of remodeling for the past four years, and the Browns Hole Homemakers Club considers themselves the stewards of the hall.

"A cooperative effort with the National Wildlife Refuge led to the restoration of Lodore Hall," club member Bob Molloy said. "The Refuge sided the exterior of the building after insulating the walls and replacing the roof."

The club contributed the floor and bought the pot-bellied stove that heats the old building.

The club hosts fundraisers each year, such as their quilting projects, that support Saturday's turkey dinner and the spring and summer dances.

It's the history associated with the building that brings some visitors to the annual Christmas dinner.

After a career working for Caterpillar, Chuck Schillie began coming to Browns Park 14 years ago. Schillie and his wife, Nedra, came from Morton, Ill. to attend their sixth or seventh Christmas dinner at Lodore Hall.

For a number of years they have volunteered at the Browns Park wildlife refuge in the summer and at the bureau of land management in Vernal, Utah, each winter.

"I absolutely love it," said Chuck Schillie as he carved Saturday's turkey. "My father got me into the history of Browns Park. He was a big history fan."

Also a history buff, Schillie grew his hair and beard long eight years ago to become the storyteller at the historic Jarvee Ranch nearby.

Although the Browns Hole Homemakers Club receives much of its accolades for putting on the Christmas dinner event, they also support the surrounding community in other ways.

"After reading a letter in the Daily Press about the veterans in a Rifle nursing home needing Christmas gifts, we decided today to donate $200," Bob Molloy said.

The organization also agreed to donate $100 to a widow to help with an outstanding debt for funeral expenses.

"We're here for the community," Mara Molloy said.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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