Kate Bulkley

Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Kate Bulkley. My parents first met Charlie Paterson, and his father Steve Schanzer, on their second visit to Aspen. It was 1963. My father had read about a lodge in town that had recently opened a swimming pool with — of all things, a window in it — so people at the bar downstairs could watch all the underwater swimmers. He told my mother that this place — the Boomerang Lodge — that’s where they had to stay. My parents, Jim and Kit, then a young married couple, would leave Detroit and move permanently to Aspen, a year after that fateful stay at The Boom. I was six years old, my brother Jim was newly born.

So I guess our family has more in common with Susan’s than I knew. I wonder if Charlie was getting a commission to recruit people to move to Aspen? (NB: Susan Weissberg was the first speaker)

Why Aspen? My father loved to ski and be in the big outdoors. But what Aspen also had in the 1960s was a plethora of interesting characters; people with a zeal for life. And top among these most fascinating people was Charlie. Staying at The Boom, those 55 years ago, was in fact the start of a great and enduring friendship between our two families — one that has spanned the decades and the generations for both families. It has influenced our lives — so much so that, it’s safe to say that the Bulkleys and the Patersons feel like we are really part of the same family.

What my parents loved about Charlie was how excited he always was about life; he was always looking for the next project, or the next powder run. My mother says that Charlie could never sit still, because he wanted to find whatever that next new experience was going to be: a new line down a ski run, or figuring out how to make the lodge run even better or chronicling his family story or more recently, painting. Throughout he always had an energy and an endlessly positive view on life. Charlie was also dashingly handsome. In his youth, like a movie star — with his thick dark hair and athletic physique, and that accent, European by way of Australia — and it was captivating. Charlie was a ski instructor extraordinaire; an immensely stylish skier — he was beautiful to watch, and he had a large following. Including, it must be said, many women eager to attract his attentions. Actually, I think my father was a bit envious of Charlie’s skiing abilities. It’s because my Dad skied big stem-christie, loopy turns — he called it struedeling, Yes, like the Hungarian cake. Meanwhile, Charlie could carve through anything — he made any run, no matter how steep or mogul strewn, look like a breeze. When I skied with him I wasn’t always so sure I was going to make it down as fearlessly as Charlie. One phrase I remember him saying a lot was:  “Come’on. Let’s try.”

Charlie at the Cliff House on a ski day with Kate and Carrie, 2009. Photo by Kate Bulkley.

Charlie was one of the faces of Aspen skiing at that time when the town was making its mark as a destination hotspot — at 23 years old in 1952, he was also the youngest ski instructor working for Friedl Pfeifer at Ajax. It was a time when dreams could be realized, in a place far from the Hitler-occupied Europe that had forced Charlie, his sister Doris and their father Steve, first to leave Vienna after the Anschluss in 1938, and then to flee Europe entirely. The extraordinary story of Steve’s escape through France on a bicycle and Charlie and Doris’ adoption by the Paterson family and their move to Australia is documented in Charlie’s memoir Escape Home written with his daughter Carrie. The title of the book itself says something I think very profound about Charlie — Escape Home — he did escape, and he did find home, and it was here. Aspen is where Charlie put his energy and his vision for a better community, and that was such a big part of his civic contribution to this town from the Aspen Resort Association to the Aspen Music Festival and School. And, of course, Escape Home has some lovely moments, like the story about his first visit to Aspen during the FIS races weekend when an unexpected encounter with a naked woman convinced him that Aspen was indeed the place for him — page 171, if you haven’t read it.

Charlie had some other great passions beyond being a powder hound and a consummate hotelier — and that was his passion and talent for architecture — his time at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin was a highlight of his life. Many of you will know the Boomerang’s iconic design was Charlie’s own, inspired by his appreciation of what he learned studying at Taliesin. But what many of you will not know is that the Bulkley’s guest house — next to our main house up in Maroon Creek — is also Charlie’s design. Built in 1966, it’s a wonderfully unique and special place for us, particularly because Charlie worked on it with my father. Truth be told, they did argue a bit about all the Wrightian angles and where the fireplace should be, but it was a defining project for them both and the house would soon have even more significance for the Paterson family. That’s because in 1969, Charlie made what was probably the best decision of his life: he married Fonda and their wedding ceremony was held in our guest house, the house that Charlie had designed. And the newlyweds also spent their honeymoon night there as well.

Bulkley guest house designed by Charlie.

By the time of Charlie and Fonda’s marriage, a tradition was also well underway between the two families. It had started, first with the Bulkleys plus Charlie and Steve, then with Fonda and soon their two daughters Carrie and Jenny and later with all of our husbands, Evan, George and Ross too. The tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve together — begun in the original Boomerang cabin and migrating up to our Maroon Creek home — has continued uninterrupted for over 50 years. They are times of great storytelling and we all know that Charlie could spin a tale with the best of them. Listening to Charlie tell stories was a huge part of my growing up. With Steve, my father and Charlie, we were never short of a few fascinating tales at those meals. Charlie’s Escape Home memoir was a Paterson family project — everyone was involved — and it unearthed other connections and passions, all of which have helped turn the DoppelHouse imprint that was co-founded by Charlie with Carrie into a specialized publishing venture. My husband Ross and I have really enjoyed being part of the European portion of the project, including when RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, showcased a new DoppelHouse English translation of a book about the renowned modernist architect Adolf Loos, written by Charlie’s aunt about Charlie’s uncle. So many connections.

Let me finish by returning to those Christmas Eve Dinners with the two families coming together to eat turkey and cranberry sauce followed every year by a photograph of all of us in front of the Christmas tree. Charlie was always in charge of carving the turkey and took that job very seriously —donning an apron and sharpening just the right knives. Of course, over the years the group has contracted: first when we lost Steve, then my dad when he died six years ago, and now we’ve lost Charlie, too. This last Christmas together Charlie decided he would supervise Carrie in how best to carve the turkey. Thinking of that now it becomes even more poignant. 

We know that life moves on, but that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. On that topic I think that Dr Seuss – maybe an unlikely source – has something relevant to add here:Seuss says: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I’m sure that Charlie would agree. He had an appreciation for life that was infectious. Here’s a recent example, which Carrie has already mentioned in her opening remarks, when Charlie made an impromptu appearance in the 4th of July parade this past summer by steering  his motorized scooter into the parade to lead a conga line of scantily clad young men on roller skates! Charlie was in his element, his grin from ear to ear. He was caught up in the moment of his latest adventure. I can just hear him saying, “Come-on, let’s try.” So, I smile that Charlie was a big part of my life and our families’ lives and all of our lives. We love you, Charlie, and we will miss you.