Stories From Yellowstone National Park Employees

Jenny Lake-south of Yellowstone National Park

Jenny Lake-south of Yellowstone National Park

I’m an old lady now, but was fortunate enough to work at both Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim–and what an experience that was!

Started working at the Grand Canyon at age 15, went back for 8 summers, and that last summer I was married. Raised 4 children and then after they all graduated from college my husband and I went to work at Yellowstone National Park

We worked in Yellowstone National Park during the summers of ’88,’89,’90 and ’91. Worked with other teachers, lots of college kids from all over the US and a lot of retired people.

So I worked in those two national parks for a total of 12 summers. Not many people get to do that.

I made some wonderful friends that we’re still in touch with.

I understand that now the bulk of the employees are young people from other countries. Is that true?

Utah Parks Co. operated the North Rim, Zion and Bryce in the 50’s and they (Utah Parks Co.) were a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad. Consequently, part of our employment agreement was free tickets out to Utah and back home before school started. Riding the train was an adventure in itself……would meet other young people going to the parks to work.
Also have to add……I hiked across the canyon twice. The first time I went with a group of about 6 and the second time I hiked it with my brother. We hiked from the north rim to the bottom, across and then up on the south rim and we did it in 11 hrs….think that was close to record time back then. Flew back across the canyon in a little 2 seater. Would love to hear from people who worked there way back when. 🙂

Comment from Rosaleen (Gallagher) Gianakos

Utah Parks Co. operated the North Rim, Zion and Bryce in the 50’s and they (Utah Parks Co.) were a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad. Consequently, part of our employment agreement was free tickets out to Utah and back home before school started. Riding the train was an adventure in itself……would meet other young people going to the parks to work.
Also have to add……I hiked across the canyon twice. The first time I went with a group of about 6 and the second time I hiked it with my brother. We hiked from the north rim to the bottom, across and then up on the south rim and we did it in 11 hrs….think that was close to record time back then. Flew back across the canyon in a little 2 seater. Would love to hear from people who worked there way back when. 🙂

Comment from Perry

Hi Rosaleen,

You must have had such an amazing adventure!

I’m so impressed that you’ve continued pursuing this lifestyle throughout your life.

~ Perry

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Working in Yellowstone National Park – Roosevelt Lodge 1965-66
John

I worked at Roosevelt Lodge in Yellowstone Park during summer breaks of 1965-66 from the U of Oregon. I’ve visited there many times over the years since then and took my kids back in the summer to camp (numerous trips including x-country skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer).

Oddly, Roosevelt lodge in (the north of Yellowstone National Park) and its environs haven’t changed a whole lot since that time – the bare-bones cabins with wood stoves (we used to see how red hot we could stoke them with presto logs for laughs – lucky we didn’t burn anything down – I did have a guitar explode from the heat once, though).

I lived in a cabin, dubbed the “Animal House” directly behind the lodge– (I won’t get into details about why).

Many of the wranglers back then were the ‘real deal,’ cowboys who came in for the summer from working ranches and actually drove horses down from Montana.

Pretty salty characters – one of the guys would put away a quart of Jim Beam on a Saturday night.

That was when they still had garbage dumps in various locations throughout the park. We would drive up to the garbage dumps late at night and watch the grizzly bears fight over garbage (a fairly dangerous and stupid thing to do since I drove a Brit Sunbeam at the time – must have looked like a can of sardines to a grizzly bear).

Life was good… some really fun parties, but all in good spirit. I wonder if they still have a summer Christmas party on July or Aug 25th? (old saying… ”Christmas comes but twice a year – once at home and once up here”).

On days off when I wasn’t hiking up to catch a sunrise on Mt Washburn or going to Cooke City Montana to rent horses and ride through the mountains with a girlfriend, I would drive around the park with a co-worker or give rides to other park employees hitchhiking through the park. A lot to see.

Back then, the infamous “bear jams” in Yellostone National Park were worse then nowadays by far.

Folk music was a rage at that time. We had some good singers and musicians working at the lodge (I’m an old time banjo player). We would drive up to Gardner Mont. on Saturday nights to do our laundry and played folk music at a coffee house there – what a blast.

It was an interesting mix of kids and older folks from all over the country. Some were Ivy League students, a fair number of kids from the South, some high school kids. Some older folks including school teachers. A great cross-section of people.

I worked my first summer in Yellowstone National Park in Roosevelt Lodge’s kitchen and lodge (Porter, pot washer, etc.), the following summer I worked in the dining room, lit the fires in the lodge in the morning, assisted at the bar, bussed tables (sometimes a waiter).

We worked split shifts and sometimes long hours. We didn’t make much money but we had a lot of fun.

I had to drop back into real life after that – college, the artillery in Vietnam, 30+ year career with the state (journalist then bureaucrat), raised a family, eventual retirement (back to music), yadda yadda – but have never forgotten those great summers at Roosevelt Lodge.

It was a small location that promoted fast friendships, riding horse trails, partying, hiking and fun.

Comment from Perry

Thank you, John. That was one of my favorite summer job stories that I’ve ever read.

I’m glad you still cherish your Yellowstone National Park memories to this day. I know I cherish my Glacier National Park summer memories on a daily basis.

All the best,

Perry
Comment from JiggsMaden

I was there 63-64 from Auburn Universtity surveying and building roads for the Bureau of Public Roads. Lived in Canyon, Mammoth and Cooke City. Wintered in Jackson Hole. Surveyed for the installation of Guard rail across the Beartooth Pass and Several bridge inspections and repairs. Anybody remember the Hells Angels riot in West Yellowstone July 4th 1964? West was still wild back then.

Comment from Anonymous

I worked at Old Faithful the summer of 1965–summer break from U. of Tennessee (Knoxville). It was the best summer ever. I still keep up the the girls I lived with in a cabin near Old Faithful. I have been back 2 times with my husband and each time I am so impressed with the beauty of Yellowstone.

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Best Summer Ever: Yosemite National Park Job – ’81
Mark Zeitlin

In the fall semester of ’80, my roomie and I were at a keg party. We found out that night that two of our suite-mates were seriously considering going to work at Yellowstone National Park the following summer.

We said to ourselves that if Peter and Victor can do it, then we sure can.

We woke up the next day on a Saturday and headed straight to the campus library. We made a list of about twenty National Parks and then headed straight to the post office to buy generic post cards.

I remember what it is we wrote: ‘Book knowledge isn’t enough. Kindly send us any/all information on possible summer employment in your park.’

Well, after all is said and done, we were hired at Yosemite National Park. Although not assigned to any job in-particular, we were guaranteed employment.

The spring semester of ’81, my buddy Doug went to go study in England and I was left in charge of all correspondences and list making of all that we would need. We needed to cross the country in order to get there and had no problem roughing it.

Our moms took care of our itinerary and after a flight, a bus ride, a night of sleeping behind the Merced train station for a night, we finally arrived at Yosemite National Park.

As luck would have it, we weren’t yet assigned to park jobs for a week.

We had tent accommodations and a meal ticket for a week. Finally we were assigned to work in Curry Housekeping Camp and we lived in Boystown.

I remember that we were the only tent that had shag carpeting.

We were known as The New Yorkers. My buddy Doug is from New York and I am from Jersey and originally from New York. We made a lot of friends and lucky for us, we were given the same two days off and we would usually hitch-hike to San Francisco for those two days.

One of our jaunts was to visit a friend of a friend and we went to Sequoia & Kings National Park and saw the Sequoias. Man, those are some trees!

We knew all along that our stay in Yosemite National Park would not last the whole summer. Our intention all along was to eventually send half of our stuff home and then hitch-hike the California coast and that’s exactly what we did!

We ended up working a Yosemite job for about six weeks or so and then, we were on our way.

We each carried a backpack, had the same Walkman that had just come out (it was like carrying a brick). My buddy Doug carried a folk guitar with a case and we were off.

We first hitch-hiked to Sacramento to visit a friend we had made at Yosemite National Park who left to go back to school at UC Davis, which is where we had pizza with pineapple and bacon.

From there, north to Reno, north to Lake Tahoe and from there, northwest to Eureka. From Eureka, we hitch-hiked south to Encinada Mexico via Highway 1 and The Pacific Coast Highway.

One of our favorite experiences was seeing the Jerry Garcia Band twice at The Stone in San Francisco. We saw the band America at The Greek Theater in Los Angeles with my four girl cousins who I love dearly.

Along the way, we literally slept along sides of roads In Lafayette, just outside of San Francisco, we slept in a little league field dugout.

We had some rides that kind of scared us, but all in all, we traveled well and did it right, and met some really kind folk along the way.

For me, that summer Americanized me. Working in Yosemite National Park was both a great job, and also a vehicle to do what Doug and I wanted to do during those years of our life.

During our employment at Yosemite National Park, we were part of the parks bodily movements. In return, it gave us back ten-fold. The universe, the planet, the earth, the country, the park, the beauty…the meaning of life!

I consider myself lucky to be an American who was able to enjoy Yosemite National Park’s beauty. I believe that my country gave us that summer of ’81 as a gift.

Yosemite National Park was a place to go and the experience there catapulted us to go further in our lives. Thanks Yosemite! Can’t wait to see you again!

Thanks, Perry, for giving me this venue to share my stories as a former Yosemite National Park employee!

Warmly, lovingly and sincerely,

Mark Zeitlin

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Yellowstone National Park Jobs – Southern Belle goes West
Donna Gordon Haywood

After my freshman year at Meridian, Ms. Community college in 1965, I got a job in the cafeteria as a server at Lake Lodge in Yellowstone National Park.

All of the girls and guys lived in dorms there. It was so much fun. We met great people during the day and went on awesome adventures on our off days.

It was legal to hitchhike in Yellowstone National Park. All the tourists seemed more than happy to give us a ride.

For weekend entertainment we created our own version of the “drive-in movie”. For those who had wheels and those of us that could catch a ride, we would go to the garbage dump in West Yellowstone after dark and wait for the grizzlies to come down from the mountains.

Yes, we knew better than to get out of the cars but, when we would see any movement we would all turn on our headlights and watch them go through the garbage. What amazing animals. So big!!

I remember a mother Grizzly Bear and two cubs searching for food. She must have sniffed something under an old mattress because she threw it aside like it was a piece of paper.

The friends I made, the places I was able to visit. Oh, what a wonderful part of my life the summers of ’65 and ’66 were.

I got lucky my second year and was a waitress at Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park.

I wish I had paid better attention to detail because we had a gentleman, a recluse that stayed at the hotel all summer, that had fresh raspberries flown in for his breakfast.

As I grew much older I have often wondered who that was. Howard Hughes maybe? I treasure the summers I spent working in Yellowstone National Park.

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  1. Tom Warning says:

    Worked at Canyon Villiage, Yellowstone summer of 1964. As employees we called ourselves Savages. My job was cooking for the three dinning rooms of Canyon Villiage. We had beer mugs made up that labels us as “Spat-Kings”.
    Great times because of the great staff that all worked together there. A few of us traveled to West Yellowstone to ride horse in full gallop with no fences. Oh, what a feeling. Speaking of West Yellowstone, who remembers the July 4th celebration there, This is difficult without spell check.
    I remember fire-hole, big skies, upper and lower falls, bears in the garbage, animal traffic jams, hitch-hiking, etc….
    Thanks for the memories…
    Tom Warning would be interested in hearing from anyone, the Memphis Frays, the Florida Hotel & Restaurant crew

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