Friday, August 20, 2004

Gold Mine fetes volunteers

Express Staff Writer

Trudy Brohan, left, and Celia Freilich sort clothing in the basement of the Gold Mine Thrift Shop.

Down in a basement in the middle of Ketchum, women toil away, working for no money, and rarely seen. Alas, it?s not a scandal. Instead, they are tireless and generous volunteers folding, marking and sorting donations for the Gold Mine Thrift Shop on Walnut Avenue.

The volunteers have always played a huge part in the Gold Mine?s success since it was started in order to help support the fledging Community Library. In 1955, the founding members of the library--Clara Spiegel, Mary Ellen Moritz and Elnora Seagle--opened the Gold Mine Thrift Shop in an abandoned miner's shack.

In 1957, the Community Library opened in the Walnut Avenue building that today is home to the Gold Mine. The library was then moved to its current Spruce Avenue site in 1976. Its main support continues to be contributions from the community, fundraisers such as last weekend?s Tour of Homes, and do-nations to the Gold Mine.

The Gold Mine, people will tell you, is where almost anything you need or want can be found. From bikes, books and clothes to sports equipment and furniture, chances are this Ketchum institution has it.

But none of it would be possible without people like Trudy Brohan. A resident of Sun Valley since 1947, Brohan, 82, has volunteered at the Gold Mine since 1959. Her dazzling smile, finely tuned sense of humor and warmth can be found in the store?s basement five days a week.

She and the many other volunteers who work at the Community Library and at the Gold Mine are being feted today, Friday. Aug. 20, at an annual lunch-eon at the Library.

A Belgian, Brohan met her husband, William K. Brohan, during World War II when he was stationed in Belgium and then Germany in Counter Intelli-gence. When he returned to Sun Valley, where he was living, he asked Trudy to join and marry him.

Bill Brohan was born in Germany but had moved to the states and become an American citizen at 17 years old. He eventually became the well-known maitre d? at Sun Valley, and was in many of the movies filmed at the Lodge in the late 1940s through the 1960s. The couple also owned and ran the Jack Frost Motel in Ketchum on Fourth Street. They lived next door in a log house they built that is now where the store Burnsie?s Boca is located. In 1959, their daughter Frances was born and they moved to a home just south of Ketchum. Later, they were part owners and proprietors of the Tamarack Inn.

?When I first came I couldn?t speak English. We lived in the Lodge and I got a job as a food checker in the Inn,? Trudy said. The cooks and bakers she worked with taught her some slang English, she remembered laughing.

?They used to tease me and tell me when I got home to ask Bill for a double sawbuck.?

Egged on by fellow volunteer Judy Milazzo, who said, ?And four letter words!? Brohan recalls one night when a man called room service and asked for a Moscow Mule.

?I said, ?The front or the back?? He came down to the kitchen. He wanted to meet me.?

Brohan remembers Clara Spiegel coming to her home looking for contributions when they were just trying to start the library. ?I gave her $20. It was a lot of money in those days!?

She started working at the Gold Mine as a cashier in the original miner?s cabin, but with running the motel, she ultimately didn?t have the time. She be-came a regular volunteer, working when she could.

Years later, Spiegel asked her to join the Library Board. ?She said, ?You know some people consider it an honor to be asked.??

Brohan laughed while reciting her response to Spiegel?s invitation to join the all-women board, ?I like men better.?

?It takes a certain kind of man to take on all those women,? Milazzo agreed, from her table where she was marking jackets.

Brohan?s speech retains a lilting accent and she?s apt to spell things phonetically. For instance, her daughter came to visit and noticed a sign, clearly writ-ten by her mother, over a pile of pillowcases (sometimes called pillowslips) that read Pillow Sleeps.

?I?m down in the basement now, where the next season items are,? she said looking around at piles of blankets, jackets, turtlenecks and sweaters waiting to be marked. ?We do have some humor here,? she said while helping fellow volunteer Celia Freilich fold flannel sheets. ?Never a dull moment!?

It?s clear that Brohan, who also lives in Seal Beach, Calif., in the winter, loves what she does.

?I think the library is so important, more now than even years ago. The population has grown and there are so many more young children now,? she said. ?It was a wonderful idea to start it, now look. I?m very proud that I am part of supporting the library. It?s been a long time.?

On taking leave of the busy elves in the basement, I got an invitation from Trudy Brohan, accompanied by a mischievous and very devilish smile.

?You come more often, we tell you more stories.?

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