Oral Histories Reference Guide

Reference Guide to the Crater Lake National Park Oral History Series

 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



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.


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.