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Cardwell, Montana

Calendar Boys: Old-timers Flash Long Johns for Fund-raising Effort
By Leslie McCartney of The Montana Standard

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November 19, 2002

Al Torgersen - one of Cardwell Montana's Calendar Boys During some of the coldest days of winter last January, 14 Cardwell area guys, ranging in age from 50 to 85, bared it all for their fellow man. 

Or in this case, for a family who lost their home to a fire about two months before. Grinning from the pages of a 13month calendar, each pin-up shows off his special style and flair -- and his long underwear. 

Mr. June wears white long johns and displays a bottle of Schnapps and a chainsaw. Mr. September flashes his red long underwear, worn beneath leather chaps, from under a calf-length duster. And Mr. March? Perhaps the bravest, he poses by a frigid stream and wears only briefs -- and hip waders. 

"He claims he didn't know we were supposed to wear long underwear," said Al Torgersen of Mr. March, also known as trapper Bill Stewart. "I think he did." 

The fund-raising calendar idea came about -- over a few drinks -- as a way to help the Steve Wendell family. Their home burned to the ground in December 2001. Wendell also happens to be the proprietor of the men's favorite watering hole. The men often joked about their long johns -- they quipped about waving at friends from their yards while wearing the specialty attire. 

"It sort of took on a life of its own," said Torgersen, who works for the Forest Service. Eventually, ranchers, a retired mechanic, a potato inspector and a retired chemical salesmen found themselves featured on the calendar's glossy pages. 

Integral to the effort was local photographer Janet Lane, who donated her time to snap the men in the altogether during several frigid January days. 

"We didn't linger long out there," said fellow calendar boy Walt Shaw. 

For Lane, a photographer -- "it's a hobby that pays" -- the calendar was a way to help friends. "I lost my own house four years ago, and knew how they felt," she said. "Taking the pictures seemed like a good thing to do." 

Lane's interest in the volunteer project piqued when she found out what her subjects were to be. The concepts of the "studs of LaHood" or "old men in underwear" convinced her to join the project. 
"That's what really sold me," she said. She also liked the offbeat notion of such a calendar, noting good-naturedly that it was dreamed up by men who probably "spend way too much time" at Wendell's establishment. 

The timeframe for the project was ambitious, and on a normal job, it could have taken up to three weeks to complete. With only a few days to shoot, there was no time for shyness, Lane said. 

Each month has a different theme. The calendar begins in December 2002 and ends December 2003, with a white-bearded red union-suited Santa, complete with cap and toy bag. 

"We wanted to make it as goofy as we can," Torgersen recalled. 

Shay and Ike Gilstrap, both south Boulder ranchers, agreed. Shay, 66, is July's contribution, featuring him wearing gray long underwear, shoeing a horse. Gilstrap, 69, wears a white union suit, a beaver hat and is pictured with his favorite mule. 

The calendars debuted Jan. 27 at a fund-raiser for the Wendell family. Five calendars reaped $500 and many requests for more. The men's enterprise, called Montana Cabin Fever, printed 1,000 calendars that begin appearing in local stores and events. 

The calendars have become a novelty in Jefferson County -- and abroad. They've reached such places as Switzerland and Eastern Europe, where they have been given with glee by relatives and friends. 

ArtCraft Printers of Butte printed the calendars -- as the men were adamant that the project be produced locally, even if slightly more expensive. 

And how did their families react to husbands and fathers featured on the pages of a calendar? "My son in Portland thought it was a great idea," Torgerson said. 

"I never heard any complaining," said Shay. "I thought it came out real well." 

The men's names are not on the calendar, but everybody knows them in the area. They have become minor celebrities with people asking them to autograph the pictures. 

Ann Smith, who helps the men with distribution, mailing and book keeping, said she has gotten amazing feedback from people buying the calendar, especially those who have left the area. "They say, `I just love these guys,'" she said. "It brings back old memories." 

Copyright Leslie McCartney and the Montana Standard, reproduced by permission.

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For purchasing information, contact Montana Cabin Fever PO Box 19, Whitehall, MT 59759, phone: 1-866-307-4399 or email Ann Smith at ann1060@quixnet.net.


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