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Reference Guide to the Crater Lake National Park Oral History Series

 

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This guide was written by Stephen Mark, Crater Lake National Park historian, as a guide to the oral history series. It includes an introduction, an index, and a list of all the interviewees. Many of the interviewees are not included online at the Crater Lake Institute's oral history archives because notes have not been converted into full transcripts, the notes are incomplete, permission has not been given or obtained for publishing, and for other reasons.

However, we will continue to hunt for more transcripts, photos, and other documents to place online. If you would like to help in some way, please see our 'contact us' page and contact me. And, stay tuned for new additions.

Written and compiled by Stephen R. Mark with assistance from Kelli Bacher, November 2000

 

INTRODUCTION

This document is not only directed at making the Crater Lake National Park Oral History Series more useful to readers by providing an index for faster reference, but also to give some explanation about the program. The first section describes the origin and development of formalized oral history at Crater Lake in an operational context, concluding with suggestions for consulting additional sources of information. A summary of each interview in alphabetical order by consultant constitutes the second part and should convey the circumstances of how each consultant was interviewed. The third section begins with listing the abbreviations assigned to consultants and the various types of interviews as they appear in the index. Organized by topic, this index also includes people and places mentioned in the interviews as they pertain to the park.

Beginnings

Interest in doing oral history at Crater Lake can be traced to the 1970s when seasonal ranger Larry Smith informally discussed past events in the park with visitors and former employees. He used this information to compile and update the Smith Brothers Chronological History of Crater Lake National Park, a work that evolved from agency direction to generate "important event logs" at each park starting in 1967 (1). Concurrently, more formal oral history interviews gained popularity as part of a national trend toward greater interest in social history. Funding for oral history in places like southern Oregon increased in anticipation of the bicentennial celebrations in 1976, and coincided with the term "public history" gaining currency in academic circles.

While the field of history was undergoing an important change, the National Park Service drafted its first general management plan for Crater Lake throughout 1976. This plan was approved in December 1977 and issued without its resources management component, something intended to complement the visitor use interpretation and general development sections of the plan. A first draft of the resources management section followed almost four years later and included a number of project statements. They were aimed primarily at natural resources, but included several for cultural resources written by Ron Warfield, then chief of interpretation. One project statement articulated the need for taping and transcribing ethnographic and oral history interviews for permanent retention. This effort would "provide material for the Park administrative history and would give background for interpretive programs [intended] to enrich the visitor experience by emphasizing the life, culture, history of local inhabitants and park management." (2)

Although the RMP draft included a programming sheet that made a modest five-year budget projection needed to support oral history, none of the cultural resources endeavors listed were funded immediately. The RMP was updated in 1985, though the oral history project statement remained virtually unchanged. This time, however, the plan was approved by the acting regional director and began to attract greater levels of funding directed from NPS staff in Seattle. Bob Benton, park superintendent at the time, hoped that a permanent curator would conduct and then transcribe interviews for three years, beginning in Fiscal Year 1987 (3). Budget constraints limited the NPS to hiring a part-time museum technician who had to subsequently devote all of her time to dealing with a massive backlog of objects.

Program development

The NPS regional historian at that time, Stephanie Toothman, eventually persuaded Benton to hire a historian on a temporary appointment for the summer of 1987. My predecessor conducted several taped interviews during his short tenure at the park, though these interviews remained unprocessed for a number of years. The writer was hired in the spring of 1988 partly because of management's desire to continue conducting oral history interviews, though I little in the way of previous job experience with this method of gathering source material.

My first interviews (with Bob Foster and Ethel Wilkinson) were not taped and fairly unfocused other than centering on their experiences in the park. Taped interviews, however, demand a certain amount of structure and generally involved submitting questions in advance of the interview. In this way some focal points could be developed during the interview and it increased the chances of obtaining more in-depth information. My supervisor and other park managers could not express what level or type of information they desired, but this worked to some advantage as the number of consultants interviewed was restricted only by their geographic proximity.

Besides supplying interpretation and leads about documentary information that I found in any number of repositories, former NPS employees also provided me with a valuable (and probably very unusual) orientation to the agency. Many consultants donated photographs and archival material to the park, generally in conjunction with an interview. The oral history program thus gave management tangible results for funds expended in conducting interviews, well beyond the obvious public relations value to the NPS. More than a few of these consultants gave follow up interviews and research assistance to the writer. Many are or were quite elderly, and the lack of funds allocated for transcribing taped interviews hindered the program for the first several years. Interview transcripts began to appear in 1992, when the first funding was allocated for transcribing and has continued intermittently to the present. This allowed consultants to review what was on tape, sign release forms, and allow the writer to finalize transcripts for retention in the park's museum collections and library.

The lag in transcription furnishes one reason why more interviews are not freely available to library users. Several consultants died before transcripts were available and therefore could not sign a release. Interviews recorded through field notes remain lodged in the writer's biographical files established for many consultants, since releases were not obtained. Notes from shorter conversations with other consultants have been placed together in files labeled "Personages of CRLA." Correspondence containing oral history information is in either of these two places. The writer and/or curator should be contacted for access to these documents.

Without an index, most researchers have thus far expressed little interest in material obtained through oral history. There are only a couple of notable exceptions, but these interviews have never really been integrated into interpretive programs. It is hoped that this document will aid both research and interpretation, but the index will not allow readers to access ethnographic information. The latter is the domain of an ongoing traditional use study conducted under contract by Douglas Deur (4). Oral history pertinent to Crater Lake from other than NPS sources is not indexed, though interested readers are encouraged to consult interviews conducted by other institutions. Suggested sources are noted below (5).

Acknowledgments

The writer wishes to thank all of the people who labored to produce finished transcripts. In chronological order, they include: Darci Deschamais Gomolski, Anton Briefer, Amelia Bruno, C h s Prout, Cheryl Ryan, Renee Edwards, and Kelli Bacher. The laborious work of actually indexing the entries that follow can be credited to Kelli Bacher, who began her work on this document in 1999. Park curator Mary Benterou helped process interviews for retention in the museum collection. The work of other interviewers such as Royal Jackson, Pat Erigero, and John Morrison is included in the index because they were funded to conduct interviews in 1986-87. Consultants deserve the largest measure of appreciation since they made time for these interviews and gave their recollections freely. More than a few rendered ready assistance with editing transcripts, usually waiting months or years before each interview reached that stage of development. My sincerest apologies go to each of them for this inconvenience, as well as regrets about those consultants I could not reach in time.

Stephen R. Mark
October 20,2000

 

 

 

 

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