Marvin Hershey, 1962-1969

Crater Lake National Park Centennial Oral Histories

 Marvin Hershey, 1962-1969

The Steel Circle development was completed in the early 1960’s under the NPS’s Mission 66 program. During the planning, the question repeatedly came up on how much weight the flat roofs would support. Some thought 300 pounds would be enough, while other encouraged the design of the building for 350 pounds.

One particular winter, in the mid-1960’s, the snowfall was unusually heavy. Chief Ranger Marshall (Buck) Evans suggested that he and I reduce some of the weight off the school/community building. It was mid-afternoon by the time we put up an extension ladder and began to shovel very wet snow.

After a few hours, it was clear that it would take many more afternoons to significantly reduce the amount of snow. Besides we were tired and sweating. Buck said he was going to reset the ladder, which would make our descent from the roof safer and easier.

He then took hold of the projecting end of the ladder, which extended about 3 or 4 feet above the edge of the roof, and “leapfrogged” one side of the ladder over the other until he had it in the desired position.

When he let go of the end, the sound that ensued was like that from the rapid bursts of a machine-gun, as the spring-loaded safety locks were automatically released. Suddenly the 40-foot extension ladder became a 20-foot one.

Tying our belts together, or the sleeves of our parkas, would not help us off the very high roof. Also, neither of us wanted to destroy our $100 parkas. Shouting for help would not work, since acoustics are poor in forested areas, and made more so with several feet of snow on the ground and on the trees. And while the snowplow crews were active until 8 o’clock, it was not likely they would again work the circle, since it hadn’t snowed since their last effort.

While it was not yet dark, it was getting there, when I heard a slow familiar “crunch, crunch, crunch,” coming our way. The little form was less than ¼ the height of the sheer, white bank next to him.

David Brown was the son of Chief Naturalist Dick and Ann Brown, who lived in one of the new duplexes beyond the community building. Perhaps four or five years old, David talked little, but wherever he went he trailed an old knotted, frayed rope, one end of which he held over his shoulder and the other strung out 6 to 8 feet behind him.

As he approached the building and didn’t look up, I called out his name. He stopped and looked around, but not up. “Up here, David,” I said. After a few moments, Buck in a sure to be heard voice, told him “to go home and tell your dad that there are two people on the schoolhouse roof and need help.” After some time had passed, the little un-speaking figure slowly continued on his way, casually and with no sign of urgency.

Buck wanted to bet if our message would or would not get to David’s dad. I said I wouldn’t bet either way, and Buck concluded the same, for after all “the boy is very young to be rescuing two grown men,” the park’s Chief Ranger and District Ranger at that.

Fifteen or more minutes later, a Park Ranger arrived, looked up at our predicament, and laughed so heartily that he was nearly unable to reset the ladder for our exit off the roof. As I recall, the Ranger may have been George Henley.

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