We all remember our first time. Nervous and unsure, we sought to establish a foothold in our new hometown. Then, we all encountered one of two unforgettable mailroom characters. If you started as a Big Sky Resort employee, you met the legendary Charlie Davie. Jean “The Queen” Palmer oriented all other newcomers. Either way, they reassured us by giving us an address in Big Sky.
But then after we settled in, we found ourselves wondering, “Wait, why isn’t there mail delivery here? Why doesn’t UPS or FedEx recognize my physical address?” Until I began researching this column, I pondered the same questions. The answers are found in the stories of Palmer and Davie.
Davie has run the Big Sky Resort mailroom for 31 years and to describe the man as an institution is understatement. He now works alongside his wife Nyla and their son Jordan, and after only a few minutes in their mailroom, they make you feel like family, despite distributing mail and packages to approximately 1000 people. This includes international seasonal workers, convention attendees and Boyne staff. Their warm smiles greet parcels from Amazon.com and Argentinian mothers. If you’re having a bad day, visit the Davie family near the loading dock in the Huntley Lodge.
Queen Jean, as most locals know Palmer, developed her moniker via two converging routes. In 1999, our unassuming mail lady dominated the local ski-and-party scene, earning her crown in Big Sky’s “Dirt Bag” royalty. Ever since, she has been the queen bee in our local hive of mail activity. When I asked her if the reason we don’t have mail delivery is that she doesn’t want to do it, she giggled.
“No, I’d love to drive a mail truck!” Palmer said. Instead, her staff buzzes around 1661 post office boxes and roughly 800 “General Delivery” recipients. Jean knows basically everyone who lives in or has ever lived in Big Sky.
Predating Palmer and Davie, we have to go way back in time to find the logistical answer to the absence of local home mail delivery. The Gallatin Gateway post office originally serviced the few hardy souls whose addresses were on the precious ground we now call Big Sky.
In the mid-1970s, John McCulley with the Big Sky Owners Association recognized a need for a local postal distribution center. He cleverly struck an agreement with the U.S. Postal Service to pay BSOA to service its burgeoning community in exchange for providing mail collection and distribution. Thus, Big Sky’s “contract” post office was born.
Since then, all of the neighborhoods off of Lone Mountain Trail have been serviced by iterations of that contract. Neighborhoods in Gallatin Canyon continue to get their mail delivered by dedicated Gallatin Gateway postal workers—some routes surpass 100 miles round-trip, snowstorm or shine. Talk about hardy!
My friends back East snicker when I tell them that I love my daily visit to the Big Sky post office. Of course, there are bills, junk catalogues, and political mumbo-jumbo. But there are also care packages, handwritten letters, and invitations to weddings and retirement parties. Best of all, Queen Jean and the Davie family make the pilgrimage a memorable one. They’ve created a post office culture that’s part and parcel of our town’s identity.
Your first mail experience in Big Sky won’t make you “go postal.” It’ll make you nostalgic, fondly clinging to a time and place that hasn’t yet slipped through your fingers. You have, in your grasp, the best address in America.
Tell me, Tallie, are you wondering why something is particularly unique to our community? You want to know and I’m eager to learn. This column commits to answering your burning questions about why Big Sky exists the way it does. Ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tallie Lancey is a broker with Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty and spends her free time serving Big Sky on the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center board of directors and in other various ways.