Crater Lake National Park Centennial Oral Histories
Rex Neiger and Carol Wilcoxon, 1955-1958
During our college years, both of us worked at Crater Lake during the summers. The second summer Carol worked there, we started dating and were married in June 14, 1959. This summer we celebrated our 43rd Anniversary. We stopped at Crater Lake on the last night of our honeymoon and stayed at the lodge. Since some employees still knew us, someone had cut their hair that night and put all the hair in our bed between the sheets. Needless to say, we slept between the top sheet and the blanket. All the girls lived on half of the third floor of the lodge. The four bell hops had a room on the second floor.
As a Bell Hop, Rex worked seven days a week. There were four Bell Hops who worked on a rotating schedule. He remembers that they made $100.00 a month in salary, plus the individual tips they received. Guest’s room were on the first two floors and half of the third floor. At that time an elevator did NOT EXIST in the lodge so the Bell Hops “hand carried” the luggage to and from the rooms. By the end of the summer, arms, legs, and backs were definitely in shape.
Many visitors to the park came by bus. Therefore, they had no way of experiencing the beautiful drive around rim drive. The Bell Hops, with their own personal cars, often provided the transportation for interested guests for a fee. Basically, a guided tour was given with highlighted points of interest. I recall the guided tours took about and hour and included several stops along the way.
Most often, when the lodge opened for summer tourists in mid-June, much snow was still present, and nighttime temperatures were still far below freezing. Bell Hops discovered another opportunity for revenue by offering to drain radiators as needed and refilling them in the morning when guests were ready to leave. This, of course, was before cars were automatically supplied with antifreeze. We did not charge for this service, but could always count on a tip since the guest were grateful not to have to lie in the cold, wet snow to get under the car to drain the radiator. Most did not have a clue how to do this anyway.
Carol worked six days a week waiting tables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with time off between each meal. In the mornings, during our time off, the waitresses took blankets off our bed and went out to a snow bank and suntanned. We were supposed to wear hose in the dining room, but after a week the hostess gave up as she couldn’t tell if we had hose on or not because of our tan. We started papering the walls of the room I lived in with Smokey the Bear leaflets that were given to guests by the Park Rangers when they entered the park.
Pops Smith, the concession owner/lease, would take his Cadillac into Klamath Falls once a week on an alcohol run to stock the bar. He was short and always had a cigar in his mouth.
Girls could ride along to shop, and we often went into Klamath Falls with him. He dropped us off at the Klamath Falls hotel and told us what time to be there for the return trip. We often wondered what people who saw us thought about Pops and his “girls”!
The cooks in the dining room were Chinese and were hired in San Francisco. Pops Smith, the concessionaire, made all the pies that were served in the dining room and cafeteria. All the concession workers ate in the cafeteria, except the dining room staff ate in the dining room before we started to work. We could order anything off the dining room menu except steak and prime rib which we could have twice during the summer. On our day off, we ate in the cafeteria. The waitresses in the dining room pooled their tips and split them with the Hostess, Cashier, and Bus Boy.
Other memories….Each year about ninety college students were hired by the concessionaire. About seventy-five were girls and fifteen were guys. Students from many west coast colleges were hired for the summer. Interviews took place on college campuses. One of the key questions was “what is your talent”? Each night after the dinner hour, the lodge featured a talent show for guests. The student employees for the lodge concessions provided the talent. Off work hours for the student employees were consumed by hiking, reading, card playing, table tennis, sun tanning, swimming at Diamond Lake, hanging out with new found friends, writing letters, and trips to Klamath Falls.