By: Harold Kayser as told to Lowell Hanson (September 1999)
"The Pines" was the dream and goal of Mae Kayser. It was her desire to build and operate a restaurant where families could come for a good meal and dine with their children in an atmosphere free of the liquor influence.
The Kaysers, Russell and Mae, owned a farm in South Dakota. In 1941 they with their children, Harold and Bob were forced to give up farming due to grasshoppers, as a result they moved to Missoula, Montana. It was after this move that Mae began the plans to open a restaurant the family could own and operate. After Harold, age 21, had returned from serving two years, 1947 - 1948, with the U. S. Army in Japan the planning became a reality.
Russell and son Harold began construction of the building in the spring of 1948. They purchased milled logs from Milco Mills on River Road in Missoula. A small cement mixer was used on site to mix the concrete for the foundation. The construction continued until the family ran out of funds. When construction stopped, Harold became burned out, moving to California to seek employment. He found a job he really liked with Safeway Grocers. After about six months, he received a letter from his mother requesting him to return and help complete construction of the building. She felt the project would never be completed unless he returned. It was a difficult decision as he really liked his job. Harold consulted his boss for advice about his responsibility to return to help finish the construction. His boss advised him to return to Missoula to help his family complete the project. However, he would hold a position for him for a year. He returned to Missoula and the construction was completed. The restaurant was opened in October 1949.
The Kayser family were all involved in the daily operation of the restaurant. The mother, Mae was the cook, son, Harold was the chief waiter, with brother, Bob assisting with waiter duties on weekends. Russell, husband and father providing the maintenance for the operation. Harold was married in in 1952. Wife, Darlene became involved as a waitress and assisted with the cooking. Mae was firm in her desires to provide good food and quality service. Food was to be served hot and with good portions.
The menu offered a choice of a 16 Oz. New York Cut steak for $3.00 or a 1/2 chicken of $2.50 and served with a shrimp cocktail, dinner salad, mashed potatoes, vegetable, baking powder biscuits, pie, coffee or hot tea. The hours of operation were, by reservation only, on Wednesday - Saturday: 5 - 8 pm, Sunday: noon - 8pm and closed on Mondays. The busiest days were Mother’s day and Easter each year with people standing in line outside the building waiting for their reservations. The majority of the business was on Sundays. Reservations only allowed for accuracy in ordering and planning so they would have enough food available for each serving. Banquets were the source of a least half of the overall business conducted by the Pines. A family that owned and operated a Missoula catering business assisted with the preparation and serving of the banquets.
The building also provided a home for the Kayser family. The restaurant main dining area now serves as our present lodge meeting room, two bedrooms and the restaurant bathrooms were located in our present antiroom. Another bedroom and a recreation room were located in the basement. A garage with a bedroom was also located on the site. In 1952, Russell and Harold built the family log home on the thirty acre site and in 1959, constructed a second log home for Harold and Darlene. The Rayser family operated "The Pines" until 1960. Harold and Darlene took over the restaurant from 1960 to 1962. They sold "The Pines" in 1962. The fire occurred about a year later. The Kaysers repossessed the building and offered it for sale with smaller acreage site in 1963. Normanden Lodge purchased the burned out building.