Glacier National Park had some very high-profile visitors in August 1983 when then Vice President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara spent a short vacation in the park, staying two nights in a four-person tent.
Bush, who served as vice president under President Ronald Reagan and then was elected president in 1988, called his 36-hour stay in Glacier “sheer pleasure,” Daily Inter Lake staffer Mark Brunson reported on Aug. 8, 1983.
President Bush, who died Friday at age 94, said his visit to Glacier Park “was designed to symbolize the importance of recreation in America,” the Inter Lake reported.
“He said he particularly enjoyed the opportunity to fish at Hidden Lake, despite the fact that he only caught one ‘tiny’ fish (on spinning gear),” Brunson wrote. “Noting that someone had asked him the day before whether he had taken flack on his brief vacation, Bush said ‘I work pretty hard. I think I earn the salary I get, and if I want to take a vacation I’ll take one.”
The Bushes camped two nights in Loop D at the Apgar campground. Their Glacier experience included fly-fishing on Lake McDonald, a boat ride, marshmallow roast and breakfast on what the Coleman Co. called “the largest camp stove in the world,” the newspaper reported.
The entourage included Rep. Ron Marlenee, R-Mont. and U.S. Forest Service Chief Max Peterson. Then U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson and his wife of Wyoming also spent time with the Bushes, taking in a scenic boat tour of Lake McDonald.
The vice president’s trip to the Flathead Valley meant all hands on deck for the Daily Inter Lake. Staff photographer Brad Hagadone, who now is president of Hagadone Corp., photographed Vice President Bush getting off Air Force 2 upon his arrival at Glacier Park International Airport. The photo caption noted the “working vacation” would include discussions with park officials and a press conference.
The couple spent one night at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, where Delbert Brenneman remembers being part of the security squad. Brenneman was a deputy with the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office at the time.
“I was one of the officers assigned to stay there all night,” Brenneman recalled. “In the morning he (Vice President Bush) went jogging. He had a lot of security officers, but I didn’t jog with him.”
Brenneman recalled that after most of the entourage had left, and Brenneman was still on assignment, the vice president “slipped down to Bigfork and had a hamburger,” while Brenneman kept watch in his vehicle.
“He was a wonderful person,” Brenneman said.
Bush’s trip to Montana was a mix of business and pleasure, the archives show. Prior to arriving in Glacier Park, Bush was in Great Falls for a pair of Republican fundraisers, “which had all the sounds of a campaign rally,” the Inter Lake noted.
“President Reagan will run for re-election and will win because of the administration’s record on improving the economy,” the vice president predicted in an Aug. 7, 1983, Inter Lake article.
He didn’t know at the time that he’d become the 41st president, following President Reagan’s two terms in office.
Bush’s Glacier vacation, rural as it was, didn’t shield him from the tough questions of the day. During a press conference that wrapped up his stay at the national park, Bush defended the Reagan administration’s policy on human rights as the press grilled him.
“That’s a myth about (our) only supporting dictatorships on the right and only coming down on dictatorships on the left,” Bush said in response to a question about the government in El Salvador, as reported by the Inter Lake. “We do not condone violence or denigration of human rights on the left and we don’t condone violence or denigration of human rights on the right.”
News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or email@example.com.