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Doctor's photo albums give glimpse into Kalispell's past

by JEREMY WEBER
Daily Inter Lake | March 14, 2021 12:00 AM

Like a time capsule, the two delicate, leather-bound albums sit in the home of Kalispell’s Al Weed.

Filled with dozens of aging photographs from as far back as the 1910s and accompanied by books containing the original 120mm negatives, the photos taken by Al’s father, Dr. Vernon A. Weed, are a glimpse into Kalispell’s past.

“It was a hobby really all of his life,” Al recalled about his father’s photography. “He always had his camera with him and also started making home movies as far back as the 1930s.”

Born in Minnesota in 1902, Vernon Weed and his family moved to the Flathead Valley in 1905 or 1906 to join Vernon’s grandfather, who owned a garage in Bigfork.

A 1921 graduate of Flathead County High School, Vernon was working at Finch’s Drug Store when he decided to save up the money for a Kodak No. 1-A pocket folding camera around the age of 17.

He may not have known it at the time, but the images Vernon was capturing with his camera would help document the history of Kalispell and other areas around the valley and beyond.

Preserved in the photo album are buildings long gone from Kalispell’s past, images of mining operations west of town, town events, family photos and even images of Going-to-the-Sun Road in its first year of operation.

When Al saw an entry in the Daily Inter Lake’s “100 Years Ago” column about the Army’s Battle Tank Ermentrude making a visit to Kalispell in 1920, he knew his father’s photo albums contained several photos of the tank. It was then he decided to share his father’s images.

Documented in one of the photo albums is the Ermentrude, a tank also known as the “Heroine of the Argonne,” for its heroic performance in the WWI battle. The tank was sent by the U.S. Army to towns throughout the Northwest to demonstrate the military’s mighty new weapon. News articles show that the tank visited Spokane, Bellevue, Kalispell, Great Falls and beyond.

Turn the page and there is a photograph marked as “Air Mail 1920” affixed to the page. If accurate, the image displays some of the earliest airmail, which began delivery in the United States in 1918 and made its first transcontinental deliveries in 1920.

While Al feels the image is more likely that of a barnstormer who landed his plane in town and offered rides to the public, the image remains quite unique. Vernon did pay to take a ride in the barnstormer’s plane and captured an early image of Kalispell from the air.

VERNON WORKED around the Kalispell area for a year after graduating high school before attending college at the University of Minnesota for his undergraduate degree and medical school. The albums contain several photos of the campus as well as scenes from his time with the ROTC program there.

Vernon returned to the Kalispell area for a short time after having stomach surgery in the early 1930s, when he was able to capture images of the opening days of Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park in 1933.

After graduating from medical school, Vernon opened a practice in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, where he met his wife, Marjorie Kundert.

The couple moved to Kalispell in 1940, where Vernon’s plans to open a practice here were put on hold by the outbreak of World War II. Vernon served in the European theater of the war with the Army Medical Corps and returned to Kalispell to open his practice as an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist in 1945, which remained open until a few years before his death in 1964.

Vernon spent much of his free time with a camera in his hand, and his images help keep the history of Kalispell alive. Al is excited that others get to share in that history.

“We keep several of his images on display at home, along with some of his medical instruments, but it is nice to be able to share his images with others,” Al said.

Reporter Jeremy Weber may be reached at 758-4446 or jweber@dailyinterlake.com

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Dr. Vernon A Weed

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Dr. Vernon A. Weed takes a rest at the top of Logan Pass.

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Kalispell as seen from the air in 1920. (Vernon Weed photo)

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A car makes its way up Going to the Sun Road in the 1930s. (Vernon Weed photo)

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Echo Lake, long before the tourists and shoreline homes. (Vernon Weed photo)

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A view of Kalispell's West Side School, which burned in the 1940s. (Vernon Weed photo)

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A baseball game on a decidedly uneven field near Kalispell in the early 1920s. (Vernon Weed photo)

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Curious Kalispell residents gather around a visiting barnstormer and his plane in 1920. (Vernon Weed photo)

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A photo marked "Air Mail 1920" could show some of the earliest airmail being delivered to Kalispell. (Vernon Weed photo)

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More than 200 feet underground in the Flathead mine west of Kalispell. (Vernon Weed photo)

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A view down Main Street in downtown Kalispell in the early 1920s. (Vernon Weed photo)

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A pre-game parade down Main Street before a high school basketball game between Kalispell and Havre. (Vernon Weed photo)

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Vernon Weed's high school classmate and later Kalispell accountant Carl Bue. (Vernon Weed photo)

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The inside of the powerhouse of the Swan River dam in Bigfork in the 1920's. (Vernon Weed photo)

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The Flathead County High School Senior Picnic to Lake Blaine in 1920. (Vernon Weed photo)

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Curious Kalispell residents gather around a visiting barnstormer and his plane in 1920. (Vernon Weed photo)

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The Army's Battle Tank Ermentrude visited Kalispell in 1920. (Vernon Weed photo)

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An early image of Kalispell's Federal Building. (Vernon Weed photo)