Longtime Wood River Valley resident Harold Drussel, 86, will ride as grand marshal in the 2013 Fourth of July Parade in Hailey. He will ride in a wagon pulled by a mule team driven by south valley rancher Pete Van Der Meulen.
Drussell is looking forward to the latest of many rides he has been on with his friend Van Der Muelen.
“Just don’t insult his mules by calling them horses. It will break his heart,” Drussel quipped.
Born in 1927 south of Burley, Drussel moved with his parents to the Wood River Valley in 1940, following his father into ranching, dry-farming and mining.
“Mining can be pretty interesting if you want to study it a little bit, but I preferred the ranch,” he said. “Dynamite is not dangerous as long as you are careful with it. You use a machine that digs holes, dig it out, put timber in and move up another 5 or 6 feet at a time.”
Working underground was more profitable than working a ranch.
“If you were making $5 a day on the farm you could move to the mine and make $10.55. That was good money back then in 1947 … a loaf of bread cost 10 cents.”
Drussel said there were 13 saloons and The Chinese Café open on Main Street in Hailey when he was a youngster, and houses of ill repute were all along River Street.
“I didn’t patronize too many of them [bars, that is],” he said.
Drussel later worked as a ticket agent at River Run at Sun Valley Resort, when ski passes cost $4 a day, $5 on the weekend. During winters, Sun Valley hosted Movie Star Week, which drew some of Hollywood’s finest, including James Arness, Anne Southern and Janet Leigh.
“For several winters, they all showed up and we hauled a great many of them out to Trail Creek Cabin for dinner. I have a picture taken with Marylin Monroe,” said Drussel.
“But I was more tickled when Esther Williams got on the sleigh. She just died at about 88. She sure did a bathing suit justice,” he said with a chuckle.
Drussel joined the Army in May of 1945. The war ended in August of that year. He spent his active duty along the West Coast, then returned to the Wood River Valley, where he served for nine years on the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission.
Chief among his duties while on P&Z was hearing testimony regarding Las Vegas banker Parry Thomas’ application to build River Grove Farm north of Hailey, which hosts equestrian events and produced the world-famous dressage horse Brentina.
“People gave Parry such a hard time about building River Grove, but it did nothing but improve the valley,” Drussel said.
Drussel will ride in the parade on Thursday, which is followed in the evening by the Hailey Days of the Old West Rodeo. Drussel has some history there, too. He was on the original work crew that built the Hailey Rodeo Arena in 1948.
“I still have blisters from digging the post holes,” he said.
Drussel has four children, nine grandchildren and 12 step grandchildren.
He lives with his wife, Carol, in Twin Falls.