Author Mike Impero blends history, fiction in 'The Boys of Glacier'

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 17, 2014 

 2 14 mag Impero PAD

Author Mike Impero at Graham's Restaurant in Glacier Monday , Nov 18, 2013.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Michael Impero knew almost all of the colorful characters in his new book, "The Boys of Glacier," but the lifelong Whatcom County resident also created two characters to help tell his tale.

The rugged individualists of Glacier, circa the late 1920s through the early 1950s, are revealed through the eyes, thoughts and actions of a boy, Stuart McKenzie, and his mother, Liz, after they arrive in the legendary logging village.

Impero, 72, knows whereof he writes. He grew up in Kendall, attended grade school in Maple Falls and graduated from Mount Baker High School in 1959. He owned Impero Construction Co. for 35 years, starting in 1972.

His first two post-retirement books, "The Lone Jack" and "Dreams of Gold," are filled with factual accounts of the history of local mining. But, recalling the men he sometimes viewed with awe in his youth, he yearned to write what might be called "creative non-fiction."

"'The Boys of Glacier' centers around two families, the Bottigers and the Bournes, and every person in the book except Stuart and Liz is real," Impero says. "I knew them all except for Frank Bottiger and Charlie Bourne. All the incidents in the book actually occurred, but the timeline is not exact and, of course, the conversations and thoughts are those I figured could have happened in those days."

Impero purposely doesn't list exact dates, because Stuart lives in Glacier only from age 12 - when his mother brings him there to help him grow into a man - to age 18, when he joins the Army.

In fact, the only date in the book (other than those in photo captions) is July 22, 1939, on a brass plaque memorializing six college students who died in an avalanche on Mount Baker.

With more than 100 photographs, the book will have special meaning for Whatcom County old-timers who grew up in the locale the book covers.

Impero opens the book with a long, emotional introduction by bringing the now-75-year-old Stuart back to Glacier for the first time since he left at age 18. The author masterfully reveals through Stuart what is still there and what is long gone, as Stuart drives from Bellingham to Glacier, using the author's own research and memories of how much the area has changed.

There is a particularly touching meeting between Stuart and 92-year-old Jake Steiner, who died a few years ago.

"Jake was a great guy," Impero says of Steiner, who is the handsome young man on the right side of the five "Boys of Glacier" pictured on the cover.

Impero is now working on his fourth book, "The Grand Lady of Mount Baker," covering the history of the original Mount Baker Lodge.

BOOK AVAILABLE

"The Boys of Glacier," $24.95, by Mike Impero, is available at:

Village Books, 1200 11th St.

Henderson Books, 116 Grand Ave.

Baker Bear Grocery, 1706 Mount Bakery Highway

Maple Fuels in Maple Falls

Grahams Restaurant in Glaicer

Lynden Pioneer Museum, 217 Front St.

Dave's Sports Shop, 1738 Front St., Lynden

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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