My Forty Years Scribblin's
Allen and Mildred Chaffin

Montana Magazine January/February 1999

Allen, 81, and Mildred, 91, celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary last August. They moved to Seeley Lake in 1953, and their first project was community activities, which were sparse at the time. "People were so hungry for entertainment that even bachelors were showing up at PTA meetings because of the social hour that followed," Mildred said, laughing. So the Chaffins started square dancing lessons in their living room. The need grew for a building to hold activities. The estimate for a community hail came in at $20,000, and the idea was put on hold. But Mildred was a member of the Home Demonstration Club and those women fueled the fire to build a hall, spending countless hours baking, cooking, and sewing to raise money. The money they raised, added to donated materials and the labor of Allen and other residents, helped build the hall that still serves the community today.

Mildred and a few other women worked very hard to gather beautiful rocks for the fireplace. They stored those rocks at the hail and waited patiently for the day the rocks would be displayed as a functional work of art. But the women were absent the day the fireplace was started, resulting in all those hand-picked rocks being thrown in the cement base for filler. Ouch!

Over the years both Allen and Mildred took the reservations, collected rent, and worried about the details of running the community hall. Many residents say that when the hall didn't make enough to cover the costs, the Chaffins helped cover the bills.

Allen was the first Community Hall chairman. Several residents say that Allen adopted the hall and treated it like his baby. Fortunately for the whole community, he didn't let go of his baby until the spring of 1998 when he and Mildred officially retired.

In 1986, the Chaffins took on another project: a cemetery for Seeley Lake. They and several other residents met every month, sometimes twice a month, to form a district, gather signatures, and find land. Many of the meetings were hosted at their home. They broke ground in 1997, helped pick up rocks, rake, pull trees, and plant grass. Allen worked several weeks at the cemetery with his tractor. They planted shrubs, roses, and other plants from Mildred's beautiful selection at their home. Allen is still on the board of directors. Today, the gate on the cemetery north of Clearwater Junction reads "The Best Last Place."

These days, Allen tends his horses and he'll tell you story after story about their days in the South Fork of the Flathead. Mildred still writes and sells stories about the twenty years she and Allen spent horsepacking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Her latest book, My Forty Years' Scribblin's is available at local stores. It's a fine way to spend some time, soaking up reminiscences of the early days from the Chaffins.