Crater Lake National Park Centennial Oral Histories
Pat Carroll Miller, 1959
Nothing like waiting to the last minute!! Gosh….do not really know where to begin my memories….there were four summer’s full!! Harry Smith Jr. hired me at Oregon State College (name had not yet changed to University) the spring of 59, to work in the cafeteria at Crater Lake and I was thrilled to have the job as my family all lived in Klamath Falls and on my day off, I might occasionally get a chance to run “down the hill” to visit them…. We employees were making about 60 or 70 cents an hour and they provided room and board….the rooms being the very top of the “old” lodge and fire traps they were…plus the showers left much to be desired and woe to the person assigned shower clean-up duties for the week…yuck and yuck again!! We were pretty much four or six to a room and of course there was a curfew to be kept along with rules and regulations about being in the bar and fraternizing with the park rangers, fellow employees, guests and others who appeared at the rim……..such as my future husband, Doug Miller, who worked at Union Creek for the U.S. Forest Service!!
Toward the end of my first summer at “The Lake”, some prominent visitors were obviously looking us all over and rumor was that Pop and Harry Smith were giving up the concession. Sure enough, the Peytons and the Griffins, (from the Portland area) were beginning to “check us all out” and make their presence known. One day, Mr. Griffin, (who reminded us all of Gentle Ben, the big friendly bear!) approached me and my cohort, Stevie Butler Harman (whose future husband, John, also worked at Union Creek!) and asked if he could meet with us in the lodge after we were finished in the cafeteria…..I can still remember sitting with him and Stevie at the big round table at the foot of the stairs as he quietly spelled out his offer of Stevie and I returning the following summer to be co-managers of the cafeteria to the tune of a whopping $350 per month!!…but…we had to promise not to tell “the others” what we were making for fear of a revolt amongst the employees!! Needless to say, the proposal took our combined breath away and it didn’t take long before we signed on the dotted line!!
An often un-seen segment of the concession personnel at the Lake were the Chinese workers who came from San Francisco by bus, to work in the kitchens of the cafeteria and dining room at the lodge. The head chef at the lodge in 1960 was a very portly Chinese man by the name of Henry, and “rumor” was that after a few too many nips from “the bottle”, he chased his subordinates around the kitchen with a huge chopping knife….hence we gave him wide berth on those rare occasions when he appeared in public. One day while serving lunch, a fellow employee said he had passed Henry who was slowly making his way up the slight hill to the cafeteria. Sure enough, shortly thereafter he made probably his first and only appearance in the cafeteria and shuffled my direction behind the pie counter (apple, berry, cherry, pineapple or mince!) “You cut hair?” he said to me, and I was so flabbergasted I could barely reply….”well, yes I did cut my boyfriend’s hair”….(the forestry guys got pretty desperate when stuck out in the woods for weeks at a time!) A man of few words, he mumbled something about “cut my hair, tonight, dining room…when closed” and shuffled away while we all stood speechless in disbelief…with me thinking to myself…what hair? He didn’t have much! So later that evening, with the dining room hostesses peering in thru the front doors from the lobby and the Chinese cooks giggling behind closed kitchen doors, Henry sat with a dish towel around his neck and I very nervously sheared his few locks by the sweat of my brow! When finished he very graciously thanked me repeatedly between portly bows and I escaped the dining room with no chopping knife in sight. About a week later one of the waitresses brought be a nice box of chocolates, compliments of the chef!!
The management provided weekly movies for all personnel and their friends and one evening I saw a good looking blonde young man walk in with one of the girls who worked at the lodge, and, in typical female fashion, I said to myself, “if she can get him…I can get him!” Now mind you, I already had a boyfriend at Oregon State, so I didn’t need another guy in my life, but it’s a girl thing to see if I could take him away from her. Well, a couple of weeks later, my roommate, who was dating a guy from Union Creek, said that he needed a ride up the hill and a friend would bring him up if she could get a ticket for him to see the movie. So, they rather set me up with….guess who….the good looking blonde I had seen several weeks earlier. The movie was “Paint Your Wagon” with Richard Widmark and “my date” told me he had a French sports car and would I be interested in getting together sometime to look at the stars out around the rim…..wasn’t that the name of the game! Several evenings later he showed up at the lodge with his French sport car??….have you ever seen a Renault Dauphine??? It is a tiny square box and I laughed myself all the way to the rim where he pulled over, stopped the car, pulled out a star chart and proceeded to show me Cassiopeia high in the sky! I don’t know if it was the French sports car or the constellations but we’ve been married 40 years this September 8th and in 1962 when we said “I do” at the Presbyterian church in Klamath Falls, Crater Lake ran on a skeleton crew because a good number of our co-workers were at the wedding with us, and no, we did NOT go to Crater Lake for our honeymoon!! This June we had a reunion with John and Stevie Harman from Pennsylvania, the couple who got us together for that memorable flick so many years ago, and they will be celebrating their 40th in Hawaii while the Crater Lake Reunion is in process. We chuckled and reminisced over old pictures and momentous of our years together “on the hill” and wondered how many trips “down the aisle” were instigated by those “good old summers” at Crater Lake National Park!!