Friday, June 22, 2007

Mistress of Weyyakin to be crowned

Petra Morrison comes from pioneering stock

Express Staff Writer

Petra Morrison is still at home on the land her grandfather bought. Photo by David N. Seelig

2007 Heritage Court

The Blaine County Museum will honor a quartet of ladies as its fourth annual Heritage Court. Each lady was chosen for her longevity in and commitment to her town. The new court will be honored from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 24, at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey. Entertainment will include emcee Chris Millspaugh, Footlight Dance Centre with selections from "Cinderella." The Company of Fools will give a sneak preview of their upcoming summer season with selections from "Spitfire Grill" and there will be the vocal stylings of Cindra Walbert with Dorinda Rendahl on the keyboard.

There will be a reception after the event, at which the ladies will "hold court" to meet their public.

After the coronation, special docent tours will be offered of the Blaine County Museum. The four ladies will ride in a vintage carriage in Hailey's Days of the Old West Independence Day Parade, Carey's Pioneer Days Parade, Ketchum's Big Hitch Wagon Days Parade and Bellevue's Labor Day Parade.

Sponsors for this year's event are Zion Bank, DL Evans Bank, Power Engineers, Sun Valley/Ketchum & Hailey Rotary, Lois Heagle, Connie Proctor, Mike and Irene Healey and Anderson Asphalt.

Petra Morrison looks out over the land that surrounds her home just south of Ketchum. Her house sits high above the highway on which traffic flows north in the morning rush. But she is removed from it. This hilly, sagebrush-strewn land is where she has lived her entire life. Not many people can make that claim, nor still love the views despite the changes time has wrought.

A Heritage Court lady representing Ketchum and Sun Valley, Morrison was born on this land in 1924. Her grandparents immigrated from Scandinavia in 1894, settling in the Wood River Valley. Four years later, they bought the Warm Springs Creek Ranch. But she grew up on ranchland that her grandfather, August, owned just south of Ketchum in what is now Weyyakin.

"I was born and raised right here in a four-bedroom house," she said. "We had little running water, just a faucet in the corner, no indoor bathroom and heat that only came from the stoves.

"Dad's parents were the Farnluns, though his sister and brother were Johnsons. I don't know where he got the name, Farnlun. My aunt married Fred Pothier who lived on the Weyakkin land but he had a job with Union Pacific so grandfather bought this ranch too. Dad's parents were educated people. He went to high school and college in Pocatello by train."

Morrison, and her younger sister Ella Marie, who now lives in Smiley Creek, attended the Ketchum School where Giacobbi Square is now. It was a two-room schoolhouse with a gym on the second floor. After Union Pacific moved in to build the Sun Valley Lodge and resort in 1936, the school expanded to include four teachers and four schoolrooms. Morrison went all through school with other long-time locals with whom she remains close, Mary Jane Conger (a 2004 Heritage Lady) and Betty Bonning Anderson, as well as a cousin, the late Edward Smith.

All that remains of the original ranch, besides the incredible views and location, are a couple of rustic sheds and the frame of the original barn, which was bought and completely remodeled by Morrison's neighbors.

Ranch life was hard work, she said.

"Mom and Day started a little dairy. They milked early in the morning and then Dad delivered the milk. In the winter, there were no snowplows so he'd be the first to break a trail. Kids hooked their toboggans to his sleigh when he was delivering."

Morrison graduated from Hailey High School and attended the Boise Business University. She met her husband, Frank Morrison, whose family were neighbors of the folks with whom she lodged in Boise. They married in 1944.

Her husband was on staff at the U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital, located in the Sun Valley Lodge, for sailors wounded in World War II. He was in charge of food services and was the chef at The Ram Restaurant in Sun Valley.

"When he retired he fired me from our kitchen," she said with a laugh.

He managed the cooking from then on, until his death in 1994.

"My dad gave us some land for a wedding present and we built a log cabin on what we called Log Cabin Row," across the highway from her parent's ranch. Her husband was sent to the South Pacific for a time, returning home a week after their first child, Wayne, was born in 1945. A daughter, Christie, was born in 1947.

Morrison worked for Union Pacific in the personnel department in Sun Valley, at the First Security Bank and the Ketchum Ranger District for 14 years.

She is the past president of the Ketchum PTA and was a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, the Ketchum-Sun Valley Historical Museum, the Community Library and several other organizations. She is also a past Noble Grand of the local Rebekah Lodge and past president of the Rebekah Assembly of Idaho. In 1983, Morrison and her husband traveled around the state of Idaho for a year in her capacity as president of the Rebekah Assembly, visiting all the lodges.

"When we sold our lodge in Ketchum we were able to endow our scholarship fund," she said. "It's really important to help the future of the deserving (student)."

Though the growth of Ketchum isn't entirely to her liking, she still believes this area holds on to its giving past.

"There were always a lot of community projects, cooperation, sharing and support," she said. "When we were branding, fellows took off work to come help. It was a party. There was always a lot going on and everybody worked together. Mom and Dad worked hard. Bless their hearts. Good parents.

"It's such an interesting area. I love it. That's why I've lived here my whole life. I love to look out my windows and see the mountains and the cliffs.

"When I was a kid I had a dog and if my parents couldn't find me they'd look up on this hill and see me bouncing around with my dog. When we sold the ranch we kept this lot. Frank said, 'Let's build you a house on your hill.'"

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