Utah Parks Company Memories – Bob Higbee

Bob Higbee (1943) worked at Bryce Canyon in 1962. The following is taken from an interview recorded in 2004.

Bob Higbee circa 1962

Bob Higbee circa 1962

We’d plan what we call ‘gooping the loop.’ Now, this was a term that came from years before we worked there. A group of people had gone around Navajo Loop one night and they’d had a watermelon bust down there and they had just thrown the rinds everywhere. One of the rangers said, ‘They just gooped up the Navajo Loop Trail.’ So, whenever you went around the Navajo Loop at night, you were ‘gooping the loop.’

We decided we were going to ‘goop the loop,’ and all of the new kids were invited to go. Some of the instigators met in my room and one guy wasn’t interested in chasing anybody, you know, didn’t have his eye on anybody. I said, ‘I’ve got an idea. I’ll tell a ghost story but what you need to do is go down early. We will leave the lodge at a certain time, so you can count on us.’  He went down early and up this little side canyon he knew of and sat behind a bush. The rest of us got to the spot a little later. It was dark and we started telling this story about old scar face or something, you know the typical story. The cue for him was when I got to the point of the story where everybody thought old scar face had left the area but just last summer a housewife in Tropic was washing her dishes when she looked up and old scar face was standing outside her kitchen window. When I got to that point, Larry, up the side canyon started going ‘Grrr’ and began kicking loose rocks.

Navajo Loop at Bryce Canyon. Photo courtesy of takemytrip.com

Navajo Loop at Bryce Canyon. Photo courtesy of takemytrip.com

TOTAL CHAOS! This one girl, Carol Ann was her name, she had gone down with this guy named Brant Henry, they had kind of paired off a little bit. Brant had a brand new expensive rain coat. Carol Ann freaked out so bad that she ripped the sleeve right off at the shoulder, right down over his hand.  Then those of us that were in the know, of course, we took off running down the trail and we would hide behind rocks all the rest of the way around the trail and just jump out on them. So, for the next hour and a half there was just a lot of squealing and screaming and fun stuff. When people came out from ‘gooping the loop’ they would be kind of paired off and were ready to go out and date.

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.

Pick Your Park: A Southern Utah Watercolor Society Exhibit

suwsFrontier Homestead State Park Museum is pleased to announce a special exhibit by the Southern Utah Watercolor Society (SUWS).  The public is invited to an artist’s reception on Saturday July 23rd, from 2:00–4:00 p.m.  The reception is free to the public. Following the reception, the regular entrance fee applies.

SUWS encourages those in the community with a passion for water media painting, or a desire to learn to come meet the artists and learn more about the watercolor society.  SUWS-Cedar City Chapter has been busy this year working together to bring new and interesting programs, demonstrations, and plein air events to Cedar City.

Big Bend - Elizabeth Pickett watercolor

Big Bend – Elizabeth Pickett
watercolor

Bear Trap Canyon Fall- Ray Pittman - watercolor

Bear Trap Canyon Fall-
Ray Pittman – watercolor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To go along with the Centennial of the National Park Service, the theme of this year’s exhibit is “Pick Your Park.” Each artist was challenged to exhibit pieces reflecting their favorite places of natural beauty. The exhibit features the work of 17 local artists, with many of the works available for purchase. Additionally, there are a number of unframed prints offered for sale.

Biscuits in the Oven  Carol Stenger - watercolor

Biscuits in the Oven
Carol Stenger – watercolor

The exhibit will continue at Frontier Homestead through August 30.

 

Cedar Breaks Part IV

Throughout the years the Utah Parks Company operated the tourist concessions at Cedar Breaks, hundreds of young people called the Breaks their summer home. Following are some of their fondest memories:

Snow removal at Cedar Breaks

“We lived in the cabins when we were working at Cedar Breaks. They had metal roofs and I remember when it was raining there was nothing like it. The rain in those metal roofs just sounded absolutely like it was coming in the house. It was just beautiful. – Brenda Barrett Orton

cabins

Cedar Breaks cabins

 

“Working at Cedar Breaks, of course, we lived there. We lived in small cabins that were to the left of the lodge. There were four girls that lived in each cabin, and we shared one bathroom. I remember when my father helped me take my stuff in the first day I arrived. I can remember thinking how tiny these little cabins were. I am sure that they weren’t much larger than a 12 x 12 foot space, with a twin bed on each side and one chest of drawers and that was the sum total of our living space.”  – Murna Archibald

“Our experience began in a unique way. We had to dig ourselves into our cabins and the lodge. There had not been a winter like that in many years. In fact, when we left in September there was still snow on the north side of the lodge. When the tour busses came to the front of the lodge people could not see anything but snow. It looked like a maze leading to the lodge. Many of the tourists had never even seen snow.” – Garth Jones

Living at the Breaks

Living at the Breaks

ph18b01i01208

Cedar Breaks friendly faces

“There used to be a water tank that set to the left and up the hill from the Cedar Breaks lodge. It was a wonderful place to go when we were off work. We would all put on our swimsuits and in 70 degree weather we would climb to the top of the water tank and sunbathe. It gave us a glorious view, a glorious view of the meadows and you literally felt like you were on top of the world at 10,000 feet.” – Murna Archibald

Driver Ike Beem

Driver Ike Beem

“Driving the tourist bus down the canyon from Cedar Breaks you are really in that compound gear, your low gear. We were supposed to stop at the Rock Church in Cedar City.  I was still about four or five miles up the canyon and I was hitting my brake and no air. So, I started shifting and taking the emergency brake and pull it a little, ease off, pull it little. I was pulling on the emergency brake and slowing down. At Main Street, I went right by the church and sailed through the intersection and finally got stopped three blocks down. Then a passenger said, ‘Ike, I thought we were supposed to stop at the church.’ I said, ‘Well, there’s only one thing wrong. I haven’t had any brakes since we left Cedar Breaks.’ I made a lot of tips that day.” – Ike Beem

Cedar Breaks Part III

Ready to go - circa 1952

Ready to go – circa 1952

In 1923, Union Pacific created the Utah Parks Company in an effort provide guest services that would entice passengers from the eastern United States to travel west by train and visit the scenic parks. The National Park Service encouraged this enterprise. Rail passengers would arrive in Cedar City where UPC buses would provide transportation and tours of the parks. The Grand Circle tour included stops at Zion Park, Bryce Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Cedar Breaks.

Gilbert Stanley Underwood

Gilbert Stanley Underwood

In the early years of the Utah Parks Company noted architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood was commissioned to design lodges and cabins at the four stops on the Grand Circle tour. Underwood’s design of the Cedar Breaks lodge was of a simple but useful log building that matched its setting on the rim of the “Breaks.”  There was a lobby, a large dining area and a kitchen.  In the entrance lobby was a massive stone fireplace, which proved to be the focal point with a 6×6 foot opening and large andirons to hold the burning logs.

Early photo of the Cedar Breaks Lodge.

Early photo of the Cedar Breaks Lodge.

 

 

While the warmth of the fire was a welcome relief from the cool night air, the dining room certainly became the most popular part of the building.  The spacious eating area had 120 seats that were often all filled, with as many as three seating’s a night.

 “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 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.”

– Brenda Barrett Orton

The standards for the food served and the service were the same as at other Utah Parks Company lodges.  The serving staff of waitresses and bus boys maintained a spirit of professionalism and made visitors feel at ease as they enjoyed the scenery and the food. Former manager Gayle Snyder remembers: “One waiter as he carried his relish tray tipped it back and the olives and pickles rolled right down the back of a lady’s dress. She stood up and shook and the olives just came pouring out of her dress. But you know, the dudes didn’t seem to get really mad. We really didn’t have a lot of complaints about the things the kids did.”

Cedar Breaks Waiteresses

Cedar Breaks Waitresses

For nearly fifty years the Utah Parks Company transported and served the Dudes as guests were called at Zion, Bryce Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Cedar Breaks. In 1972 the Utah Parks Company ceased its operations and donated the lodges to the National Park Service. It was determined that the Cedar Breaks lodge was too costly to maintain and it was torn down in 1972.  The Cedar City community angrily protested the removal of the lodge, so much so that the Park Service halted plans to tear down other similar structures at Zion and Bryce Canyon.

Cedar Breaks Lodge - July 1949

Cedar Breaks Lodge –
July 1949

Although the Utah Parks Company and the Cedar Breaks lodge are gone, their spirit still remains as tens of thousands of visitors pour into southwestern Utah each year to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, hike spectacular trails, and maybe remember the great chicken dinners once served in the lodge on the rim of the Breaks. Next week, living at Cedar Breaks.

Cedar Breaks Part II

The clash between the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service over Cedar Breaks was rooted in a rivalry born from differing ideas of land use and competition for resources. In 1917, Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, had called the southern Utah region an “all year round resort” and began working to develop the area as an integral part of the nation’s new national park system.

NPS officials visiting Cedar Breaks.

NPS officials visiting Cedar Breaks.

Mather had spent years cultivating the American business and tourist community and by the mid 1920’s had built a powerful support network, especially with the railroad industry. Mather planned to link the development of National Parks to the accessibility of the railroads, and the sparsely populated Southern Utah region provided an excellent opportunity to establish these links.

By 1931, services or concessions at Zion Park, Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon were actively part of the Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of Union Pacific that brought visitors by rail to Cedar City and then by bus to the parks.  Mather’s successor Horace Albright felt the time was right to acquire Cedar Breaks as a protected area. Due to the stunning pink cliff formations and the large natural amphitheater, Albright argued that Cedar Breaks had enough scenic merit to be included in the National Park system and that the area would be so small that it would not affect the local livestock industry who used the meadows of Cedar Mountain for grazing. The Forest Service disagreed.

Charged with protecting the resources of the nation’s forests, the Forest Service administered the land around Cedar Breaks for multiple uses and felt threatened by the request of the Park Service.  Afraid that grazing rights would be limited, the Utah Woolgrowers Association and Associated Civic Clubs of Southern Utah petitioned their elected representatives to oppose any legislation creating a national monument at Cedar Breaks.

The Park Service argued that by adding Cedar Breaks to the national park system, Cedar City businesses would gain a huge economic benefit. However, due to a lack of support for the proposal in the local community, the idea for the addition of Cedar Breaks was put on hold.

Cedar Breaks visitors

Cedar Breaks visitors

Visitation at Cedar Breaks continued to increase and the Park Service decided to try and acquire the area again. Albright argued that the visiting public already thought the Park Service administered the site because of its inclusion in the Zion – Bryce Canyon scenic loop. He wrote to Chief Forester Robert Stuart; “If the Cedar Breaks area is most valuable to the pubic because of timber or grazing resources, administration would naturally come under the Forest Service. However, this area is scenic rather than industrially useful . . . and the public should be afforded a unified educational service such as the Park Service is equipped to supply.” Stuart agreed and against the advice of his field staff he withdrew his objections.

Early entrance to Cedar Breaks.

Early entrance to Cedar Breaks.

UPC bus during the dedication of Cedar Breaks

UPC bus during the dedication of Cedar Breaks

On August 22, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Cedar Breaks National Monument and charged the National Park Service with its administration. More about the Utah Parks Company and Cedar Breaks next week.

Cedar Breaks- Part I

The first anglo settlers of the Cedar Breaks region used the fertile meadows for grazing their sheep and cattle and the large stands of evergreens for lumbering. Many of these families came from the British Isles and the area soon became known as Little Ireland.  These families worked and lived together cooperatively establishing a thriving dairy operation.  Each housewife took one day to take the morning and evening milk and make one batch of cheese.  During the course of the summer, the women could produce 2000 pounds of cheese, which would be transported to San Francisco for sale.

Taking a chance at the Breaks

Taking a chance at the Breaks

As the knowledge of the spectacular scenery of southern Utah began to spread early in the 20th century, tourist camps were developed in the Zion and Bryce Canyon regions of the state. Although the beauty of Cedar Breaks was widely known, access proved to be very difficult. The terrain of Cedar Mountain was a challenge for the horses and wagons, but nearly impossible for the automobile. The first car reached the area via the wagon road up Parowan Canyon in 1919.

Cedar City residents Gronway Parry and Frank Seaman lobbied the Utah Department of Transportation to construct a road connecting Cedar City to the major north/south Highway 89 via Cedar Canyon. The state refused and in 1922 Parry and Seaman decided to take matters in their own hands.

Early Cedar Breaks Road

Early Cedar Breaks Road

Taking their wives, and Gronway’s car, Parry and Seaman began to blaze a trail through Cedar Canyon and over the mountain. Clearing away rocks, trees, and brush they slowly carved a road that would become State Highway 14. Once convinced that a road could actually be constructed, the State of Utah got involved and completed the project, and in 1923 cut a dirt road from the Midway point into Cedar Breaks.

Many families from Parowan summered in Little Ireland and in 1921 Charles Adams built a crudely constructed boarding house to provide workers with shelter and food. He placed his married daughter Minnie Adams Burton in charge and the structure became known as “Minnie’s Mansion.” The “Mansion” had a large dance floor and a kitchen and dining room in the rear. “Minnie’s Mansion” soon became the summer social center for the citizens of Parowan.  Some came by wagon or on horseback to enjoy a Saturday night dance with a local band providing the entertainment.  Rodeos and summer holidays were also popular in the cool mountain surroundings, sometimes with fireworks set off over the Breaks.

As the residents of Iron County began to promote their local tourist spots, the Federal government developed an interest in the area. Tensions between the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service had been growing throughout the 1920’s and centered upon differing ideas of land use and management.

Early motor tours to Cedar Breaks.

Early motor tours to Cedar Breaks.

The Forest Service adopted a multiple use approach that managed the land for its resources – wood, water, and grass as well as wildlife habitat and recreation. The Park Service viewed itself as the nation’s foremost custodian of American heritage – mandated by Congress to preserve, protect, and provide visitor services.  Both of these agencies, with overlapping missions and constituencies competed for land and resources and Cedar Breaks was caught in the middle. The story continues next week.

National Geographic comes to Cedar City

Angels Landing

Angels Landing

“Utah blazes with color.” This sentence opens the May 1936 article in National Geographic “Utah, Carved by Winds and Waters.”In early 1936, writer Leo A. Borah visited southern Utah and toured with local tourism booster Randall L. Jones. Thanks to local Cedar City resident Scott Truman, who recently donated this issue to the museum, we now have access to this forgotten piece of writing.  Borah notes many unique features of our community, especially the golf course:

“Cedar City, gateway to the southern Utah parks, has a golf course which symbolizes the Utah pioneer spirit. Several miles from town it lies, in an arid valley crowded by craggy hills. Its ‘greens’ are a mixture of sand, sawdust, and oil; its teeing places bristle doormats set in wooden frames; its fairways barren stretches from which sagebrush has been laboriously dug.

Randall Jones and I went out to the course with a club member, who explained with a chuckle as we jounced over the rough trail from the highway to the links that the jolts were ‘warming-up’ exercises for the game. In front of the ‘shake’ clubhouse beside a clump of scraggly juniper trees an iron mine owner and a West Point cadet were toiling in the hot sun to set an additional doormat for teeing.

The sand, sawdust, and oil putting "green"

The sand, sawdust, and oil putting “green”

The course lacks nothing in ‘rough.’ As if the hazards of cliffs, gullies, sagebrush, and thickets were not sufficient, there is an occasional rattlesnake for the player to kill with his club, or an inquisitive deer to chase out of the way with his shots.  That wild valley looks as little like a possible place for a golf course as the trackless desert the pioneers settled looked like farmland.”

Following is a sampling of the many photos from the article:

The rock church

The rock church

 

The aspens of Cedar Mountain

The aspens of Cedar Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zion singaway

Zion singaway

A 1936 Cedar Breaks view

A 1936 Cedar Breaks view

The Kolob Society visits Frontier Homestead

Frontier Homestead State Park Museum is pleased to announce a special exhibit by the Kolob Society, celebrating the National Park Service Centennial.  The public is invited to an artist’s reception on Saturday May 7, from 1:00–3:00 p.m.  Members of the Kolob Society will be painting on-site throughout the day, providing an opportunity for the public to observe the creative process and interact with the artists.

Plein Air painting

Plein Air painting

The Kolob Society is an informal group of plein air painters who meet on Thursday afternoons and Sunday mornings to go out on paint on location.  Plein Air is a French term which means “in the open air” and is used to describe painting outdoors. Members of this society enjoy being outdoors and immersed in their subject matter as they paint.

Painting winter landscapes

Painting winter landscapes

The Kolob Society was formed in June 2011 through Artisans Art Gallery, and started out with just a few members, but now numbers over 160 artists.  All artists are welcome to join the Society, using any medium.  Member artists represent all skill levels, from beginner to professional, who use a variety of mediums, including oils, watercolor, pastels, pencil, and photography.  After the paintings are completed, the group will meet to talk about them and offer critiques, suggestions, and encouragement.

Individuals interested in the Kolob Society can contact Debbie Robb via email at debbie-robb@leavitt.com.

The exhibit will continue at Frontier Homestead through June 30.

Kolob Society painting in the fall.

Kolob Society painting in the fall.