Jan Walters and Clare Walters Interview, September 23, 2021


Beth Hodder



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This interview covers lookout experiences for Clare Walters in 1963 and Clare and Jan Walters in 1967. Clare Walters describes his first lookout job on Johnson Lookout, Flathead National Forest, in 1963. From the Star Meadows Guard Station, Clare said he hiked into Johnson Lookout while a pack string took his belongings. Clare tells of the lookout being a ninety-foot steel tower next to a cabin on the ground. He recalls duties such as maintaining a helipad, chopping wood, and going into the tall tower through a trap door to look for fires. He remembers two times helicopters came in, one of which may have been testing a thermal scanner for fire detection, and one for a man collecting soil samples. He said that man encountered a bear, shot it, and had to have people look for the bear the next day. It was dead. Clare experienced St. Elmo’s Fire frequently, and remembers only reporting one fire. Jan Walters tells of growing up in Seattle and never seeing a moose, bear, or gun until 1967, when she and husband, Clare, became lookouts on Whitefish Lookout in Montana. She recalls being intimidated by her first moose, which was in the middle of the road. Jan talks about being one of only two girls sent to guard school, which taught her skills for being a lookout. Jan remembers a harrowing experience when she was driving, and a man in the middle of the road pointed a rifle at the car. He told Jan he was waiting for people from a hotel on Whitefish Lake who were dumping raw sewage on his land. After 1967, Clare describes going to graduate school in Washington DC, while Jan taught elementary school. They moved back West forty years later.


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Document Type

Oral History


Jan Walters; Clare Walters; Johnson Lookout; Whitefish Lookout; Star Meadows Guard Station; Pack sting; Ashley Lookout; Tally Lake Ranger District; Flathead National Forest

Original Date


Time Period

Twentieth century

Geographic Coverage




Original Collection

Northwest Montana Lookout Association Oral History Project, OH 453, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula

Digital Publisher

University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library


Copyright to this collection is held by the interview participants and by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula. Permission may be required for use. For further information please contact Archives and Special Collections: (406) 243-2053 / library.archives@umontana.edu

Oral History Number

OH 453-017

Media Type

Moving Image; Sound; Text

Digital Format

video/mp4; application/pdf; text/plain

Run Time

00:52:33 minutes

Local Filename

OH_453_017.mp3; OH_453_017.pdf; OH_453_017.srt

Jan Walters and Clare Walters Interview, September 23, 2021