Friday, June 4, 2010

Phyllis Stelma recalls 8 decades in valley

Lions Club honors hairstylist to the stars

Express Staff Writer

Phyllis Stelma reads and re-reads articles written by her many friends in the “Words of Wisdom” columns of the Wood River Journal newspaper. Photo by David N. Seelig

Second in a four-part series.

Lifelong Bellevue resident Phyllis Stelma will ride in a horse-drawn carriage in several parades this summer, from Ketchum to Carey. She is one of four women being honored by the Blaine County Museum 2010 Heritage Court for their efforts to preserve the history of the Wood River Valley.

After living eight decades in Bellevue, Stelma is a walking, talking piece of the history of the valley. She spent her early years "down Broadford," where her father, James Ivy, mined the Minnie Moore for silver and lead.

There were lots of kids, families and farmers around the Minnie Moore Mine. Stelma's grandfather was a government trapper, hunting coyotes and big cats in the early 1900s. On Labor Day, ranching families such as the Purdys, Brownings and Peaveys would provide lamb and beef for free barbecues in the Bellevue City Park.

"It took the whole town to do anything back then," Stelma says. "The men would burn fires all night long. Women would season the meat in cheesecloth and in the morning we would bury it under the coals and covered in sand. It smelled so good, there would be people lining up all around the block.'

In 1940, the Ivy family moved to Birch Street in Bellevue, where Stelma lives today. Tiny wooden skis adorn a shop building in her backyard. All four of her children, now living from Oregon to Colorado, were ski racers. Stelma has three grandsons and one great-granddaughter. She and her husband were instrumental in creating Rotarun ski hill in Croy Canyon near Hailey.

Stelma keeps in a drawer by her reading chair dozens of "Words of Wisdom" articles clipped from the Wood River Journal newspaper over the years. The stories feature life lessons and advice from many elders in the valley.

Some have passed away—others Stelma visits with at the Senior Connection in Hailey for lunch, games and occasional dances.

"I don't get out and mingle much anymore, except at the senior center," she says. "We are having a sock hop this Saturday night, so grab your poodle skirt and come along."

Stelma went to her first USO dance at the Sun Valley Lodge when she was 17. During World War II, the lodge was transformed into a convalescent hospital for the Navy, serving more than 7,000 men and women of the armed forces who were wounded at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and in other battles.

"Many of the guys married local girls and stayed on here, but I didn't much care for dancing with the sailors." Stelma says.

But she did marry a military man. On Saturday, June 12, Stelma's husband of 60 years, Glenn Stelma, will be laid to rest in the Bellevue Cemetery with military honors. He served in the Army in Okinawa and Korea as an engineer.

On the following day, June 13, Stelma will join the coronation ceremony for the Heritage Court in Hailey.

"Time passes so quickly," she says with a smile. "I can't believe I am an old lady already."

As the very first graduate of the Marinello Beauty School in Hailey, Stelma found work at the Sun Valley Lodge beauty salon, doing the hair of actress Janet Leigh and Mary Hemingway.

"Jamie Lee Curtis does remind me of her mother, Janet Leigh. She was such a sweet lady."

Stelma worked for 50 years as a beautician at three shops, the last of which was at her home on Birch Street so she could tend to her children.

"I was a good listener. Doing hair is like being a counselor."

Glenn Stelma served on the Bellevue City Council, Blaine County school board and Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.

He also ran a stone crusher for Phyllis Stelma's uncle, Mike Ivy, who installed the first lifts on the Warm Springs side of Baldy and built the dam that forms the Sun Valley Pond.

Ivy was the first to lay oil on the dirt streets of Bellevue in the 1950s.

Phyllis Stelma has cut the hair for five generations of some of her customers' families.

"I liked working in the shop. I miss it. And I have secrets I will never tell."

For a few years, Stelma took her scissors to Blaine Manor, volunteering her services at the skilled-nursing facility.

"Those poor ladies' hair was a disaster," she says.

Stelma says she reads and re-reads the "Words of Wisdom" articles written by her friends of many years, whose lives are now filled with memories. When her friends fall ill, she visits them at Blaine Manor.

"When I visit them, I like to remember them how they were when they were young and active," she says.

Tony Evans:

Heritage Court

The Heritage Court is presented by the Blaine County Historical Museum. Each year, one lady is nominated from each Blaine County community. The lady is selected by a different community service organization for her participation in or efforts to preserve the history of the Wood River Valley. They must be at least 70 years old and have lived in the Wood River Valley for at least 30 years.

The 2010 Heritage Ladies to be honored are:

· Sally Donart, 83, representing Ketchum and Sun Valley, nominated by The Community Library board.

· Phyllis Stelma, 81, representing Bellevue, nominated by the Wood River Lion's Club.

· Fern Stephenson, 81, representing Hailey, nominated by the Hailey Masonic Lodge.

· Jean Pyrah, 90, representing Carey, nominated by the Carey Senior Center.

The ladies will be honored at the Heritage Court Coronation Ceremony on Sunday, June 13, from 3-5 p.m, at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey.

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