(Editors note: No Local Life feature during all of 1999
elicited so much response as the July 21 article about Dora Schlunegger. So well
publish it one more time, in case you couldnt find it last summer)
The life and good times of Dora Schlunegger
Enjoy some bear stew with Beaver Creek Stores proprietor
By JEFF CORDES
Express Staff Writer
Schlunegger, 92 years young, has lived a long life because of her hard work ethic, sense
of humorand a little luck! Express photo by Willy Cook
The celebration of Ernest Hemingways 100th birthday comes to its
climax today in Ketchum, with retrospectives, salutes, toasts and all sorts of hullabaloo.
Quite fitting, indeed. He wrote brilliantly, lived with the volume turned
high and inspired generations of wordsmiths at the writing trade.
Turn away from Hemingways long shadow for a spell and enjoy some
Escape with us.
In the full bloom of summer, were going to make a visit to Beaver
Creek Store in the Stanley Basin and enjoy some delicious bear stew with Dora Schlunegger.
Were going to be so bold as to make some comparisons between the man
they called "Papa" and the woman they still call "Dirty Dora."
For Papas birthday on July 21, theyre pulling out all the
stops and the city lights are burning bright.
For years, the girls in Ketchum like Glenda Nicol celebrated Doras
Schluneggers May 27 birthday more simply, sending a pizza from sophisticated Ketchum
over the summit to Doras more isolated Beaver Creek Store.
Papas will be 100 today, his memory at least, but Dora is still with
us at the young age of 92. Not much difference in age, really. As Dora would say, putting
her thumb and forefinger about an inch apart"a little tiny" difference.
Dora came from Switzerland, Papa from Illinois. They roamed the world and
ended up in Ketchum.
this family photo taken 80 years ago in 1919, the Fluckiger family poses in its native
Switzerland. There were five daughters and one son in the family. Front, from left,
daughter Alice, mother Rosina, daughter Trudy "Gertrud," youngest daughter Olga,
father Johann Ulrich Fluckiger-Beyeler, who died in 1948, and son Willy. Back, from left,
12-year-old Dora Fluckigeralready showing the determination shed need to take
on the American Westand her sister Hedy. Dora was the second oldest daughter. Willy
eventually came to America and is still living in the south central Idaho farm country.
Photo courtesy of Trudy Swaner, Doras daughter who lives in Bellevue with her
Papa was known for his machismo. Lets face it. He took the whole
male thing pretty seriously.
Likewise, "Dirty Dora" has always been a big fan of machismo.
With a smile.
From the stage of her Beaver Creek Store along the lonely road in the
Sawtooth Valley, Dora elevated machismo to high art using ribald props and a sharp sense
For the price of a beer, she showed you her collection of peters. Big
ones, little ones, crooked ones, fat onesfigurines of the male organ.
A collection of peter paraphernalia. Boyfriends brought in girlfriends to
see the peters. They came from as far away as Utah to see the wooden "Peter
Men," natures naughty leftovers outside the store.
Once upon a time they held a bachelors party at Beaver Creek Store,
complete with full peter regalia, Doras narration and a nightful of hilarity. I know
because I was there.
Nowadays, the peters are segregated in the X-rated room at Beaver Creek
Store, dusty but still ready to rise. When Dora reigned supreme, the peter paraphernalia
was within easy reaching distance, behind the counter, a dollar bill and an aromatic sniff
away from the bear stew in the kitchen.
In the days before crude language became commonplace, before movies and
television made big bucks out of mainstream indecent humor, "Dirty Dora" was
way, way ahead of the curve.
Always with good nature.
"She loves people. Anything that gives you a thrill, tickles
her," said her son Bill Schlunegger, 51.
Dora Schlunegger has always made men laugh at themselves. Good medicine.
Shes a trickster. She likes to play jokes. Her son Bill said,
"She loves to give people a hard time."
Rarely ill during her long life, Dora Schlunegger suffered some health
setbacks in recent years and reluctantly visited a doctor. The doctor leaned towards Dora
and asked, "How do you feel?" Dora peered and looked him straight in the eye and
said, "With my fingers."
Shes had some memory loss. Who hasnt! Nevertheless her wit
remains as lively as the Stanley Stomp on a warm July weekend.
Schlunegger takes a little walk in the back yard of son Bill Schluneggers Hailey
home, and stops for a photograph by some lilacs. Dora likened the smell of the lilacs to
some barnyard fragrance, and Bill got a big laugh out of it. Express photo by Willy Cook
Recently, we sat with Dora and Bill in the living room of Bills
house in Hailey, with conversations veering in various directions, and Dora, 92, piped up
with no prompting and said, "You know my mothers still alive because I
havent heard from her."
They talked about the old days.
Bill asked his mother, "Did you ever find any gold?"
"Im not telling you," she barked back.
Jokes aside, lets cut to the chase.
After you wade through all the myths and truths of Ketchums mining
and sheep herding and skiing history, it all boils down to people.
People in two different camps, dependent on each other. There are those
who "come and go." And those who "stay and survive."
Hemingway came and went. Dora Schlunegger stayed and survived and nurtured
a terrific sense of humor.
"Shes a wonderful person, so good-hearted, and a very hard
worker," said Doras daughter Trudy Swaner of Bellevue. "Shes
definitely the kind of person who always lives in the present.
"My mother and father were interested in money. They didnt
collect it, though. They needed it to survive."
An independent woman
A young bride, barely 21, Dora came to America after the first wave of
immigrants and headed west.
Dora Gertrud Fluckiger was born May 27, 1907 in Rohrbach, Switz., the
second oldest child in a family of five girls and one boy. Her mother Rosina was a
seamstress. Father Johann Ulrich Fluckiger-Beyeler was a knife sharpener.
Trudy Swaner said, "My mother only went through the tenth grade, but
she was probably more educated than some of the kids today. She had language skills. She
spoke Swiss, French and Spanish even better than she spoke English."
She was restlessand in love.
At a Swiss ski resort, Dora met a skiing and skating instructor named
Conrad Franz Schlunegger. They were married March 2, 1928 in Rohrbach and left immediately
for a honeymoon in Canada.
For the next 10 or 11 years, the Schluneggers led a nomadic life in North
America. "My mother has been all over," said Bill Schlunegger.
Doras new brother-in-law, Alfred Schlunegger, was a foreman on a
farm in Saskatchewan. He wanted Conrad to help him farm. And thats what Conrad did
for a while. Then the couple left for New York where Dora worked as a dental receptionist
and Conrad a chauffeur.
The Roaring Twenties city life didnt have lasting appeal to two
young Europeans who came from the Swiss mountains. Within a few months they moved to Ohio
and bought some property. They sold that and headed out to Arizona.
Dora has always been particularly fond of her time in Arizona, and not
only because her first child, Bellevue resident Meita Wilson, was born in Chandler, Az.
Daughter Trudy Swaner said, "My mother liked the people in Arizona
and was friendly with the Indians."
They tried gold mining and some farming in Arizona.
Within a couple of years, they moved north to Albion, Idaho, near Burley
and Declo, where Conrad started working for J.R. Simplot.
Over the next four years Dora had three more childrenConrad and
Alfred, and Trudy.
Hearing of the beauty of Idahos mountains, Dora and Conrad made an
effort to visit the Wood River Valley. They fell in love with the Ketchum area because it
reminded them of "the old country."
They arrived in Ketchum in 1938, two years after the Sun Valley resort was
born and about the same time Hemingway first came to Ketchum.
Dora worked as a maid at the St. George Hotel near the current site of the
Western Café in Ketchum.
And Conrad found a job teaching skating and skiing at Sun Valley. He
worked in many movies, including Sun Valley Serenade in which he doubled for skater
Eventually they purchased the upper Lake Creek Ranch north of Ketchum and
later the lower part of the same ranch. On their 120 acres, probably worth millions now,
Conrad farmed and raised livestock and kept horses for dude riding. They raised alfalfa.
They were good, productive years for the Schluneggers.
The whole family, kids and all, worked the ranch. "We had one of the
first custom balers around," said Trudy Swaner. "We baled for many people. My
parents needed the money to survive."
Conrad Schlunegger had a wild streak, however.
He was a gambler. Its not hard to imagine him in one of
Ketchums gambling dens during the 1940s, playing the games of chance alongside
Hollywood celebrities and wealthy folks and possibly even Ernest Hemingway.
The marriage fell apart.
Shortly after their fifth and youngest child Bill Schlunegger was born in
1948 in Hailey, Dora filed for divorce from Conrad. At that time Dora and the children
lived in Hailey, in a Main St. house that is now a vacant lot just south of the Bank of
America. Conrad built the current KSKI building north of Ketchum and raised chickens
Dora went to work supporting the family. She cleaned private homes in
Hailey, scrubbing floors and polishing silverware.
She will joke about it now. Shell sit there in the living room of
Bills house, and, when asked how she ended up in the valley, shell say,
"I dont know why I came to Ketchum. Washing floors and taking care a bunch of
Bill will laugh.
Things were never easy.
But Dora, daughter of a seamstress, kept her hands busy.
She knitted homemade sweaters, mittens, hats, afghans and blankets for the
entire family and, eventually, for her grandchildren. She made Rams head sweaters
for Sun Valley people, trying to make ends meet.
Bill said, "She knitted until her shoulders and hands gave out."
And Bills words, of course, always draw a reaction from Dora these
days. Shell point to her fingers and say, "All these things are not there. I
should cut them off and throw them away."
In 1954, she obtained her certificate of naturalization and officially
became a U.S. citizen.
Beaver Creek Store
The rest of Doras life started in 1958 when she acquired the Beaver
Creek Store and its 10 acres of property located 37 miles and about 50 minutes north of
It is hard, cold country. She and Bill lived there year-round, and Bill
went to school in Stanley.
They loved it.
"After you got up there, it was hard to come back down," she
Bill said, "It seems like I spent a thousand winters over there.
Ive seen it 50 below. Sometimes you couldnt start a car for two or three
"I cooked a lot of potatoes," said Dora.
"And a lot of elk and deer," said Bill. "We never really
knew what was cooking, probably something illegal. Thats why we called it bear
"Hey Bill," said Dora after a pause, trying to remember.
"Were you there when they had a lot of salmon?"
Bill said, "There always was salmon. You could fly it with a plane
and look down and see the fish. And there was always whitefish. I think the limit was 75.
We smoked them."
"The kids had a good time," said Dora, quietly. "We went on
snowmobiles all over.
"You sawed a lot of wood for a pretty cheap price," she added.
Bill said, "I remember we sawed 50 cords for Redfish Lodge, for
$12.50 a cord. And we sold a lot of it for $22.50. We thought that was pretty good."
At the store, Dora sold groceries and other merchandise like the kind you
find at convenience stores. She started collecting her peter paraphernalia and, like any
enterprising businessperson, noticed that more people came into the store because they
wanted to see peters.
She started acquiring the reputation of "Dirty Dora."
Bill, who graduated from Hailey High School in 1965, admits that he was a
little sensitive when the other kids made remarks about his mothers propensity for
ribald jokes. But there was nothing, really, he could do about it, so he let it go.
"Everybody knew her as Dirty Dora," he said. "I realized it
was a merchandising tool, that the price was a beer or two to see something."
Over the years, the Dirty Dora reputation became a kind of persona, one
Dora was willing to shed for a more normal existence.
Most of Doras winters over the last 15 to 20 years have been spent
in northern Idaho, at a house she bought in Hope near Sandpoint.
One year, Bills wife Peg Schlunegger made the long drive with Dora
up to Hope. About Challis, she noticed a change in Dora, one that grew more pronounced as
they went through Salmon and headed farther north.
Dora became more conservative, concerned about what people in Hope thought
of her, and how she dressed, and how she was regarded, Peg said. In essence, she became
the antithesis of "Dirty Dora."
She doesnt spend much time at Beaver Creek Store these days. But
Dora is there during the summer, thanks to her children.
Bill, an independent electrician, devotes most of his time these days to
caring for his mother.
"My job is my mother," he said. "She keeps my head going.
Questions me a lot.
"She gets real antsy. She wants to walk. She wants to work. She wants
to help me get wood. Shell help me in one of the cabins we have behind the store.
Shes a worker, and its hard for her not to do that."
Bill said Dora wanted to fly for the first time in an ultralight plane.
"Im old enough. Might as well try," she said.
"We didnt make it for her birthday," Bill laughed.
"Maybe well do it for one of the fly-ins at Sluders. Shes a little
worried about crashing."
Tuned in to the conversation, Dora said, "When the son-of-a-#@% goes
poof, you know you aint."
Over her single bed in Bills Hailey home is a drawing of sad-faced
clown Emmett Kelly.
And this year, her friend Glenda Nicol sent her a birthday card with Mr.
Bean on the front.
The refrigerator has photos of Dora helping stack wood in the summer of
1998; of Dora sitting in a hot tub; and of Dora with a child on her lap at Beaver Creek
"She loves any child," said Bill.
As we left Bills house, Dora said, "Well, maybe Ill see
you again, if I live that long."