December 8, 2010
Share Your Yellowstone Holiday Memories
The Yellowstone National Park Oral History Collection contains recordings from early Park rangers, former U.S. Presidents, and just ordinary people who have visited Yellowstone or grown up in the area. They are a treasure trove of information and insight on the Park’s colorful history. However, there is very little in the collection about the winter holiday season.
Yellowstone area residents, former Park employees, or any visitor who has spent a holiday season in Yellowstone are invited to share their special memories by participating in the “Holidays in Yellowstone” oral history project. This project is being funded by the Yellowstone Park Foundation through the Yellowstone Archive Fund.
Oral histories are important because they allow the people who made and experienced history to pass along that history, through their own words, to future generations.
This project needs people of all ages to share their holiday memories involving Yellowstone; whether it is about a special wildlife sighting, Santa on a snowmobile, or some holiday tradition that involves the Park, Yellowstone wants to hear your story!
Oral Histories Make the Past Come Alive
Eldon and Karen (Garrison) Reyer of New Mexico will never forget Christmastime in Yellowstone, 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.
Eldon recalls in the history he shared for the Yellowstone archives that Karen originally told him that her father was “in charge of trash collection” in the Park, but later found out the truth – that her father was the 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?” But they were not deterred. “Karen and I worked out a plan to meet at Norris Junction 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 -- in Yellowstone -- over the course of 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…One couple at our reception had been married in the Mammoth Chapel many, many years earlier and had over a dozen grandchildren.
“Yellowstone Christmastime in 1959 was the start of 'the Karen and Eldon Reyer life' in the National Park Family,” said Eldon. He retired from the National Park Service, after 30+ years, in 1989.
Have a Story to Share?
Interested individuals are encouraged to interview friends and family members regarding their favorite Yellowstone holiday memories, and then submit copies (not originals) of the recordings for consideration as part of Yellowstone National Park’s permanent Oral History Collection.
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 return address.
For More Information:
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.
To learn more about the value of oral histories, to get technical information about recording interviews, or even to access some sample questions to help you get started, visit StoryCorps online. 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.