Utah Parks Company Memories: Brenda Barrett Orton

Brenda Barrett Orton (1944) worked at Cedar Breaks in 1962, The following is taken from an interview recorded in 2004.

Brenda Barrett Orton Circa 1962

Brenda Barrett Orton circa 1962

We lived in the cabins when we working at Cedar Breaks. They had metal roofs and I remember when it was raining there was nothing like it. The rain on those metal roofs just sounded absolutely like it was coming in the house. It was just beautiful. The first year I went up there, outside the back door of the lodge was this huge snow bank. We were there to help get the kitchen and snack bar ready for the opening of the lodge. We would have to go outside and I’m 5’ 10” and the snow bank was way over my head. I remember it was almost intimidating. From the very first we had kids working there from Salt Lake and all over Northern Utah. We even had a young man from Chicago.

That was so fun. He was interested in our culture and so forth. That’s how I heard the word “Cowabunga.” This man, he was well known for saying that. He had us all saying that by the time we left. There were really, really fun people.

The tourists always had one meal at Cedar Breaks, usually lunch or dinner. The dinners were well known. The only thing they had on the night menu was the chicken dinner. They had fried chicken, country gravy and mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, biscuits, and for dessert they had a strawberry sundae with little wafer cookies on them. They had the same menu seven nights a week and they were well known for that meal! We had people come up from Cedar City just for dinner.

Cedar Breaks Lodge. The dining room is on the right.

Cedar Breaks Lodge. The dining room is on the right.

You know when you worked as a waitress for the Utah Parks Company there was a certain way you were supposed to hold your tray. It was up above your head and you had to learn to keep it balanced. That’s how they wanted you to carry every item out to the dining room, up over your head and you got so you could really carry your tray well. Once I had a full tray of desserts and I don’t know if this was on purpose, but this gentleman put his leg out in the aisle and I tripped over it. I went down on my knees and I slid the whole way down the rest of the aisle with this tray over my head, and I didn’t drop one dessert! I was very proud of myself.


Utah Parks Company Memories: Elaine Robb Smith

Elaine Robb Smith (1911-2007) worked at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 1936, The following is taken from an interview recorded in 2004.

Elaine Robb Smith 1936

Elaine Robb Smith 1936

They had a fire that happened years before I was there and the lodge burned down [1932].  They had started building the present lodge, but it had not been completed during my first year at the North Rim [1936].  When we lived there, we had a temporary building [on a hill].  I’ve forgotten the exact floor plan, but in one end on the first floor was the boy’s dormitory and on the second floor the girl’s dormitory, and on the other end was the dining room.

We went along that way for a while and then one of the boys from the kitchen took a nap in the afternoon with a cigarette in his mouth. It started a fire right by his bed. That floor was in so much danger.  All the fire drills we ever had didn’t really do us an awful lot of good because we couldn’t do anything that we’d practiced during the drills. This boy, his room was blazing before they knew it. My brother lived down there too, and he ran upstairs on my floor to try and save anything he could save. He was there on the hill throwing my clothes and my costumes, any kind of pictures, anything that belonged to me, throwing them out the window. That hill was covered with our clothing, all kind of just miscellaneous uniforms, and everything you could think of. Some [girls] didn’t get any shoes back, didn’t have any shoes to wear until they got help.

The original lodge at the North Rim.

The original lodge at the North Rim.

Of course, after that the building just went like that. It was all burned. I guess they got us out of there before the fire got to our room, but it was still burning. So, we ran down and waited in front, or wherever we could wait. Of course, we were cheated out of our place to sleep. We had no rooms to go to sleep in; we had no dining room to do our work in. Everything was gone.  So, they put us in cabins until they could figure out what to do with us.

Then we had no dining room, so they let us do substitute work in the cafeteria, but that wasn’t real easy for us because we had been trained to be waitresses.We had to go in there and figure out what to do.  Anyway, we got through the season that way, and they started sending us, one by one, home where we belonged.

SUU-BNS: First Graduates

First Graduating Class 1900 Standing: Joseph T. Wilkiinson jr. and J. S. Dalley Sitting: Emma Gardner, Alice Reed , Amelia Dalley, and Ella Beny

First Graduating Class 1900
Standing: Joseph T. Wilkiinson jr. and J. S. Dalley
Sitting: Emma Gardner, Alice Redd , Amelia Dalley, and Ella Berry             Photo Courtesy of SUU Sherratt Library Special Collections


In 1900 the first class of the Branch Normal School had completed the necessary course work required for graduation. The first graduating class consisted of six graduates, each of whom received scholarships to proceed to the University of Utah to complete the fourth year of the normal course work. As per requirement of the scholarship, each of the six students agreed to teach for at least three years upon completion of their studies at the university.

It is impossible to grasp the educational impact of the Branch Normal School upon the entire region as you study the lives and service rendered by each of the graduates. However it is possible to see the BNS left an indelible mark upon the region as its first graduates went on to serve in public education. The graduates helped to realize and validate in a remarkably short time the vision of the founders. The first six graduates were Emma Gardner (Abbott), Joseph T. Wilkinson, Alice Redd (Rich), Ella Berry (Leigh), Julius Sylvester Dalley, and Amelia Dalley (Green).

Emma Gardner was one of 13 children of Royal Joseph and Chloe Louisa Snow Gardner of Pine Valley. She completed her elementary education at Pine Valley and Central schools then attended the BNS for her secondary training. Emma fulfilled her scholarship contract by teaching for 25 years in Mesquite, Nevada. She became principal of the school and served in numerous civic capacities. Emma married David Arthur Abbott of Mesquite on September 16, 1909 in the St. George LDS Temple.

Joseph T. Wilkinson Jr., was the fourth of five children born to Joseph T. Wilkinson and Elizabeth Emily Wells of Leeds. Joseph began his education at the local elementary school in Leeds, but when he was nine his family moved to Cedar City where he completed elementary school. He worked with his father and brothers publishing the Iron County Record. When the BNS opened in 1897 Joseph was one of the first students. After graduation from the University of Utah, Joseph fulfilled his scholarship contract teaching at schools in Hurricane, Rockville, Springdale and Moccasin and Cane Beds, Arizona. His normal schooling framed a teaching career that extended over many years.

Alice Redd (Rich) was the 13th child of Lemuel Hardison Redd and Keziah Jane Butler of New Harmony. After her graduation she taught for a year at Pioche, Nevada, then on to Paris, Idaho to teach at the Fielding Academy. It was there that she met and married fellow teacher Abel Sargent Rich. They settled in Brigham City, Utah and three of their seven children became teachers.

Ella Berry (Leigh) was the seventh of eight children born to William Shanks Berry and Rebecca Rocena Beck of Kanarraville. Ella attended the Parowan Stake Academy and entered with the first class. After her graduation from the University of Utah she taught just three years in the Iron County School District before marrying Harry Leigh. Harry was a young businessman and through the years his business prospered as did their family of nine children.

Julius Sylvester Dalley and his twin sister were the eleventh and twelfth children born to James and Johanna Bollette Bertelsen of Summit. Julius loved to learn and attended school through the fifth grade. Because there was no advanced school work available he attended this highest grade three consecutive years. He then attended the Parowan Stake Academy for a year before in the fall of 1897 he entered as part of the first class of the BNS. After his graduation Julius fulfilled his scholarship contract by teaching for a year in the basement of the tabernacle in Parowan. He then spent his life teaching all over southern Utah and Arizona. He taught in Summit, Monticello, Utah and Moccasin, Arizona and finished his career in Kanab, Utah. He was a strong civic leader, involved in education his entire life.

Amelia Dalley (Green) was a half-sister to Julius. She was born to James and Petrine Berleson Dalley. She and her twin sister Minnie were the ninth and tenth kids of fourteen children. Amelia was educated in the elementary schools in Iron County and enrolled at the BNS in the fall of 1897 at age 20 to complete her secondary schooling. Amelia fulfilled her scholarship contract by teaching for a year in a one-room school teaching 1-8th grades in Summit. She then accepted a position teaching 5th grade in Cedar City’s elementary school. She married George Bernard Green in 1907.

This group of six friends moved to Salt Lake City together for their obligatory year at the University of Utah. They rented a small house and all lived together with Petrine Bertlesen Dalley acting as their chaperone and house-mother. The number of lives these six graduates either directly or indirectly impacted is astronomical. And just imagine – the same school that graduated these six students over 115 years ago graduated 1,643 students in 2015. It’s difficult to comprehend just how much these six graduates influenced the future of not only SUU, but the entire region.

Southern Utah University: A Brief History

The history of Southern Utah University has been one of constant evolution and perseverance. The school began as a Branch of the State Normal School under supervision by the University of Utah who acted as its mother-institution. Normal schools were created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Their purpose was to establish teaching standards or norms; hence its name. In essence it was a teachers college. The institution was known as Branch Normal School from 1897 to 1913.

1914 Branch Agricultural College Journal

1914 Branch Agricultural School Journal

In 1913 after much lobbying on behalf of Cedar City the Branch Normal School changed to the Branch Agricultural College. This transfer to the BAC meant not only a change in mother-institutions, but also a change in purpose. The Utah Agricultural College located in Logan became the new supervisor and the school was able to offer classes outside the field of teacher education. Agriculture, domestic science, commerce and engineering courses were now offered in addition to the normal school coursework.  The institution retained the title of Branch Agricultural College for 40 years.


The "A" on the mountain for BAC.

The “A” on the mountain for BAC.

The college had experienced expanded influence over the growth and development of southern Utah.  It had become more than a community colleg; it was a regional educational center. There were many people who had been bothered that the name of the institution was simply the name of the school that governed it. The college needed a name that would more accurately reflect its history and mission. In June 1953 the Board of Trustee’s approved the name change and the Branch Agricultural College officially became the College of Southern Utah. The change of the name did not signify any change in status. In fact, the full official name was College of Southern Utah, Branch of the Utah State Agricultural College. But that title was so cumbersome that it was known simply as the College of Southern Utah.

Royden C. Braithwaite, 1976

Royden C. Braithwaite, 1976

The school kept growing and progressing. In 1961 the athletic department moved into competitive athletics with four-year schools. It was receiving accreditations and recommendations from governing bodies to move to an independent four-year institution. In each department there were evidences of progression and each was an incremental step in strengthening the petition for expansion. In 1965 with the efforts of Senator Dixie Leavitt, President Royden C. Braithwaite, and Hazen Cooley, the College of Southern Utah became an independent four year liberal arts college. For the first time in its 68 year history the school would have a governing Board of Trustees whose sole concern was the well-being and progress of the institution. The school was now officially a state school and many people believed the name should reflect the school’s status. In 1969 the College of Southern Utah changed its name to Southern Utah State College.

The school grew in size and prestige. After a re-imaging campaign in 1989 the student population grew 22 percent to 3,612 students. It became clear that this state college in the South had become a force in higher education. The mission and role of SUSC aligned with the mission and roles of other institutions nationwide that were operating under the title of university. Research had shown that more credibility was associated with diplomas that said university, which in turn made graduates more marketable. SUSC wanted and deserved that prestige. There was some opposition in the state with people saying that there would be too many universities, that SUSC was too small, or

Former SUSC and SUU President Gerald R. Sherratt

Former SUSC and SUU President Gerald R. Sherratt

that their focus wasn’t enough on research, thus not deserving the university title.  However with the diligent efforts of Regent Michael Leavitt, Senator Dixie Leavitt, Representative Haze Hunter, Institutional Council Chair Kay McIff, and the untiring efforts of President Gerald Sherratt  the mission was accomplished. At 11:15 on February 14, 1990 Governor Norman Bangerter signed legislation into law which changed SUSC to Southern Utah University. The change in name officially took place at midnight on January 1, 1991. A New Year and a new era for the school began in style with community festivities filling the night and the following day. A new age had dawned. After years of sacrifice and service, Cedar City was now home to a university – to the one and only, Southern Utah University.

Southern Utah University today.

Southern Utah University today.

Sandstone, Silver, and Time: An Exhibit by Michael Plyler

Michael Plyler

Michael Plyler

Frontier Homestead State Park and photographer Michael Plyler present “Sandstone, Silver, and Time,” an exhibition of black and white photographs celebrating the beauty of Zion National Park during this centennial anniversary year of the creation of the National Park Service. This exhibit is made possible by the support of the Cedar City-Brian Head Tourism Bureau.

Springdale resident Michael Plyler works with a 4 x 5 large format film camera to interpret the beauty of his backyard, Zion National Park. His prints are traditional “wet” darkroom prints individually hand-crafted by the photographer. The title of this show is a meditation on the constituent elements that contribute to the imagery. Just as erosion over time shapes the sandstone, time and silver conspire to sculpt the film’s emulsion and bring Zion’s beauty to the fore.

Ponderosas' Guardian

Ponderosas’ Guardian

Michael Plyler is the Director of Zion Canyon Field Institute in Zion National Park. He has been making photographs and exhibiting his work since 1982. In 1983 he received a commission from the Guatemalan Tourist Institute for his portrait work of the highland Maya, resulting in his first international exhibition. In 1993 he was awarded a prestigious Visual Artist Fellowship from the Utah Arts Council. In 2013 he had the distinct honor of having 56 pieces from his Mayan portfolio added to the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. His work has been exhibited widely here and abroad, and is held in numerous public and private collections.

In 2010 Utah State University Press released Plyler’s and writer Logan Hebner’s book “Southern Paiute: A Portrait.” The book was the culmination of a ten year project wherein Hebner interviewed, and Plyler photographed, Southern Paiute elders from Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. The show will run from September 1 through October 31 at Frontier Homestead.

Last Light II

Last Light II