• Steam rises off of the colorful Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. Photo courtesy Jacob W. Frank


    National Park ID,MT,WY

Current And Former Yellowstone Area Residents And Employees Asked To Share Holiday Memories

YELL 20111 SNOWBALL22222
Snowball dancers at the Mammoth Canteen, 1959
NPS Photo

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News Release Date: December 14, 2011

National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior

Yellowstone National Park
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
December 14, 2011     11-120   
Al Nash or Dan Hottle (307) 344-2015


Current And Former Yellowstone Area Residents And Employees Asked To Share Holiday Memories

The Oral History Collection at Yellowstone National Park contains recordings made by people from all walks of life who have visited the park, or worked or grown up in the area.

However, there is very little material in the collection about the holiday season.

Once again this year, the project is reaching out to current and former area residents and employees, inviting them to share their special memories by participating in the third annual "Holidays in Yellowstone" oral history project.

People of all ages are encouraged to share their special holiday memories involving Yellowstone; whether it is about a special wildlife sighting, Santa on a snowmobile, or some holiday tradition that involves the park.

Those interested in the project are encouraged to interview friends and family members regarding their favorite Yellowstone holiday memories, and then submit copies of the recordings for consideration as part of the park's permanent Oral History Collection. 

Technical information about recording interviews, and even some sample questions to help you get started, is available on the web at http://www.storycorps.org/. StoryCorps is a non-profit organization which works to preserve oral histories on a wide variety of subjects, some of which have aired on National Public Radio.

Completed interviews should be sent to the Holiday Oral History Project c/o Charissa Reid, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190. Submitted interviews must include a complete address.

Those with further questions are encouraged to contact Charissa Reid, the park's Oral Historian, by calling 307-344-2260, or by email at Charissa_Reid@nps.gov.

Examples from this year's submissions include:

Eldon and Karen (Garrison) Reyer of New Mexico will never forget Christmas time in Yellowstone in 1959. They had met and fallen in love a year and a half earlier in the park. Eldon had recently returned from serving in Korea, and was spending the summer as a fire control aid in Yellowstone. Karen was a clerk at the Mammoth Post Office.

In the personal history Eldon wrote for the park archives, he recalls that Karen originally told him that her father was "in charge of trash collection" but he later found out the truth - the her father was the Yellowstone Superintendent. "Yes, her father WAS in charge of trash collection - and everything else that went on in the park," said Eldon. "She always told the boys that because if she said her father was the superintendent they would not ask her out."

A sudden and unexpected transfer the following summer to West Yellowstone made him wonder. "Did Superintendent Garrison make my assignment as far away as he could so I would not be able to court his daughter?" They were not deterred. "Karen and I worked out a plan to meet at Norris Station where we cooked our dinner after work during the week. I drove to Mammoth on weekends."

Over the next year and a half they only saw each other over two summer breaks from college. "We shared our thoughts, love and frustrations, being apart. Karen insisted on a December wedding during Christmas vacation. My parents and my brother (best man) drove to the park for our December 28th wedding. ..We had our formal wedding in the Mammoth Chapel. All of Mammoth was in attendance."

Eldon explained that their marriage license was issued in Montana so they drove out of the park after the reception and reinstated their vows at the church in Gardiner, Montana. He notes that "This unusual circumstance has been a standing joke for Karen and I. We have been known to tell people we meet that we have been married twice and they assume we mean to different people!"

"Yellowstone Christmas in 1959 was the start of the Karen and Eldon Reyer's life in the National Park Service Family, " said Eldon. He retired from the NPS after 30 years of service in 1989 and now ranches near Lamy, New Mexico.

Eldon closes his history with holiday wishes. "For Karen and I our hearts are in Yellowstone and thank all of you that give it your best loving care. Hope to see you on the trail someday."

Another personal history was recorded by Sequim, Washington storyteller and 17 year park resident Alice Susong. Alice reminisces about Christmas Eve services in the Mammoth Chapel during a 30 degree below zero cold spell.

"Finally the last note died away but all just stood there not wanting the magic of the moment to disappear. Finally one person blew out their candle and then we all did likewise. We turned to leave the chapel, no one speaking a word, and all you could hear was the soft shuffle of feet going out the door. When I got to the outside, there had been a group of elk bedded down in the front yard and they got up and moseyed off. The moon was so bright and the air was so cold I could see ice crystals floating in the air. There wasn't a breath of wind and I could look across the parade grounds over to the Mammoth Terraces and I could see the columns of steam raising straight to the heavens." 

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