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volume 2                         July 1991                            number 7
Living History
Fun for Everyone

Barb & Ron as Nona and George Faber
The Pioneer Yosemite History Center (PYHC) in Wawona officially opened on Wednesday, June 23 after a week of intense preparation.History had to be researched and learned so the players could portray real people from Yosemite's past. This is living history. 

Except for the covered bridge and the gray barn, all of the buildings in the center were moved from their original locations. This collection of buildings represents different years in the evolution of the park and more importantly the people who lived, worked and made a contribution to Yosemite. 

Just before crossing the covered bridge to actually enter the PYHC there is a big gray barn originally owned by the Washburns who also owned the nearby Wawona Hotel. Wawona was the largest stage stop in Yosemite in the late 1800's. Today, as in the past, the barn is used to harness and repair the stage. Now it is also used for the Saturday night barn dances. 

The structure that literally bridges 1991 to the past is, in fact, the covered bridge. Nearly lost in a 1955 flood, its restoration was the first step in preserving the other buildings. Originally built as an uncovered bridge by Galen Clark in 1857, it was used by all Yosemite bound traffic. Clark had built a way station for visitors in Wawona. Later he sold his station and land along the river to the Washburns who were from Vermont, and they covered the bridge. 

As one walks across the bridge, hearing the rush of the river underneath, other sounds come in to play. Chickens cackling, a rooster crowing, a hammer hitting iron at the blacksmith shop, and the clomp of the horse's hooves as they pull the stage, bring one back in time. 

Visitors from all over the world are greeted by either Barb Hofmeister or Julie Schuller at the first cabin after the bridge. Barb or Julie is dressed in 1915's fashion complete with black high top shoes, black stockings, long skirt and long sleeved, high neck blouse while the tourists wear shorts and carry cameras and camcorders. The visitors are asked to stop for a few minutes and listen to a short orientation before going on. They are informed that the PYHC is not a village, that the buildings came from all over what is now Yosemite National Park, and the people who lived and worked in them did not know one another. �How would you like to  actually go back in time,� the hostess asks. Barb continues: 

"We'd like for you to pretend that when you enter each building, you are in the original location and in another time as well. For example, here at the artist studio it is 1900 and we are in Yosemite Valley, not Wawona. This is the studio of Christian Jorgenson. No one lived here, but lots of artists worked here; and if you had entered this building in 1900 it is very likely that it would be empty of people just as it is today. On such a nice day as this the artists would be out painting. I hope that this empty building will remind you that a building without people isn't very exciting. It is people that bring them to life. There are real people living and working in the rest of the buildings, and you get to meet them because you will be going back in time. Is anyone afraid of time travel?" 

"The next cabin is the home of George Anderson. When you walk in the door it will be 1881. In case you have never heard of George, he is the first person to have climbed Half Dome, and, in fact, built the trail that is still used today. Now, perhaps, you'd like to know how he did that or how he lives, why he prefers a dirt floor to a wood floor, how he happened to come to Yosemite from Scotland ---anything at all that you want to know about him---just ask him. Now is your chance to find out first hand. By the way, George intends to build a hotel on top of Half Dome. I think you'll agree that that would be quite a feat. Go ahead and ask him how he expects to accomplish that or why?" 

"Next, you will go to the Hodgdon cabin and be back to 1889. Lots of good aromas come from this cabin because she is always baking cookies or bread. Mary Kay Hodgdon (a homesteader who came to California from Vermont in a covered wagon) and one or two of her grandchildren will be there. Now is your opportunity to ask all those questions you have always wanted to ask of a homesteader. Perhaps you don't remember your history and forgot what one had to do to homestead; or you'd like to know what that trip across the United States was like. Better yet, ask her what she thinks of the National Park idea because 1889 is just one year before Yosemite is to become a national park, and her family is going to lose their land. But maybe you'd rather know how often they take baths, where the children go to school, or what kind of toys they have, and what kind of chores they have to do." 

"From there you can visit the blacksmith shop. The time will be 1900, and many visitors are coming into the park. Glen, the smithy, has a lot of work to do. He repairs stages, household items, and shoes horses. Ask him about his job. How much does he get paid? How many hours does he work? Where is he from? Oh, and he does have some of his fancy iron work for sale at 1991 prices." 

"The Cavalry office is the next stop in your time travel, and when you enter that building it will be 1905. You will meet Captain Devine and be able to ask him anything you want to know about the Cavalry's job in the park. From 1890, when Yosemite became a national park, until 1914, when they needed to prepare for World War I, 150 men from the Presido of San Francisco protected Yosemite. Their primary goals were to keep sheep, cattle, prospectors, poachers, and lumberman out. You might want to ask him just how they managed all that and what their life was like here." 

"When the Cavalry pulled out in 1914 there were only 15 civilian rangers to take their places. The National Park Service was not created until August of 1916. These civilian rangers had an even greater responsibility than the Cavalry because the automobile was allowed to enter the park in 1914, and they had to collect the fee to enter. When you go into the ranger patrol  cabin, it will be 1915, and you will meet one of the ranger's wives (the rangers are all out on patrol). Again you will have the opportunity to ask about their life and work in Yosemite at that time. Pretend you have just entered the park in your automobile and see what all is required of you. The fee in 1915 was $5, the same as it is today. If you think that it is outrageous, tell her so and have her explain why the fee is so high. Is their life here a lonely one? What do they do for entertainment? What are their wages? These are just some of the questions you might ask." 

"The Degnan Bakery was originally connected to the Degnan's home in Yosemite Valley. Bridget started baking just a few loaves of bread, and now in 1915, at the height of the tourist season, will bake as many as 400 loaves a day in her remarkable oven. Be sure you look inside. In just a few minutes you will know that she is from Ireland. You might be interested in why she left Ireland and choose this part of California, how many children she has, and what their life is like in the Valley." 

Ron at the stage office
"The last stop on your time travel is the Yosemite Transportation Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. Express. Again, the time will be 1915, and you will be in Yosemite Valley. George and Nona Faber are the first agents to work and live in this new building. Their two-room apartment is behind the offices. It is a very modern building with electricity, and telephone, and they no longer use horse drawn stages. Just last year (1914) they sold the last of the horse equipment when they purchased their second auto stage. Their stage runs from El Portal to the Valley and back, but if you want to go to Wawona they can sell you a ticket and have the Wawona Stage and Turnpike Company pick you up. That company is still using horse drawn stages, but it will be the last year for they too will completely switch to auto stages in 1916. You might want to ask them why they came here from Pennsylvania, what business they conduct from this building, how much it costs to stay in the Sentinel Hotel or make pretend arrangements to travel out of the park. Ask about what is going on in the world too---a war is brewing in Europe." 

"We hope you enjoy your visit with us here in the Pioneer Yosemite History Center and remember to ask lots of questions---that is---except for 1991 questions. You see they haven't been there yet, and they simply won't know the answers. If you have any 1991 questions please come back and ask either Julie or myself. Oh, and one other thing. If some of the pioneers ask you why you are wearing your night clothes or underwear please do not be offended. You do see that you are just not properly dressed for these times." 

From this introduction, the visitors go visiting at their own pace. Most of the actors in the PYHC are volunteers. All had to learn as much as possible about their cabin times in order to answer the many questions which range from "Who is the president of the United States" to "How is the electricity generated?" Some had to learn how to operate equipment. Ron who plays the part of George Faber (Wells Fargo agent, telegraph operator, etc.) was supposed to learn the principles of the telegraph, how to repair telephone lines, fix telephones, and operate the letter press so when visitors asked how they work, he could portray the man effectively. Pat had to learn the complexities of the oven in her bakery, John had to learn the Cavalry equipment, and Mike had to learn how the cables were attached to Half Dome and how to make cedar shakes. Everyone had something complex to learn. Occasionally someone will ask a question that the actors do not know, but they do a remarkable job of covering up with a quick ad lib. And everyone is constantly learning. 

Ron has had a unique situation here. He has two wives. Julie and Barbara take turns working as Nona in the stage office. Each also works half a day as hostess. He says that's why he hasn't learned about the telegraph yet. "Two women keep him too busy," he says. Truth is he wastes a lot of time arguing with the stage driver---part of the act. 

All of the PYHC staff agree that it's most fun when the visitors ask good questions and really play along. It is a painless way to learn a little bit of history. And the visitors aren't the only ones learning. 

My Visit to Yosemite
by Liisa Paunonen
How many kids could live two weeks without TV or radio and be happy just listening to the birds and watching deer and coyote here in Yosemite National Park? Well I am and really enjoying myself. 

I flew from West Palm Beach, Florida to Fresno, California on June 18, 1991 and my grandparents picked me up at the airport. Then we drove an hour and a half to get to the park where they have their motor home parked. 

Besides studying our parts for the Pioneer History Center, we took a hike to see the big Sequoia trees (the largest living things on earth). Boy are they ever! We also hiked eleven miles to the Chilnualana Falls and back down. What a hike!  The waters were so rough there. Two people died there last month because of the big rocks and fast waters. Some people just get too close and slip but they are the stupid people. 

Then on Sunday, June 23rd, we had dress rehearsal. It was fun!!!  I could hardly wait till that next Wednesday when we would really start work everyday. 

We also had campfires every night but some nights we just sat and played games. I saw lots of deer. They come right to you and even in your campsite.  I also saw some coyotes. They just walked right by our camp site. 

I think I better tell you more about my part in the Pioneer History Center and what it is. Well you can read my grandma's article to see what it is about but I'll tell you about my part in it. 

The time for my cabin is 1889. I am eight year old Minnie Hodgdon.  My father (Tom) is a cattle rancher and a stage coach driver. As a driver, he never made one mistake. He is famous around here. But we have some bad news. Mr. Muir wants to take our one hundred and sixty acres (homestead) away from us and make it a preserve and if they take it away then we won't have land to graze our cattle. 

I love my job here and I have met so many interesting people that come into my cabin. They were all interested in talking to me. I also want to thank all the people I worked with like Mike. He's real great as George Anderson and I learned most of my ways from him. Then Barbara --She is playing the part of my grandmother Mary Kay Hodgdon. I love to have her around. Then there is Julie who is a really fun person and Glen (he is the black-smith). He helps eat all the goodies my grandmother and I bake in our cabin. John tells the silliest jokes.  David is another one that likes to help out and eat all the goodies. I won't forget Pat, Jason and Rebecca in the bakery. I always enjoyed visiting them. I liked coming around to the ranger cabin and saying "hi" to Jean and Marie. Marshall let me feed the horses carrots and I liked riding the stage. Then of course I always enjoy visiting my grandparents in the Wells Fargo Office. But then there is Paul. He is nice and really is great at telling stories and making people understand things. But the ones I really want to thank most of all are my mother and father for sending me to Yosemite. I really had a great visit. 

 Oh No!!! Not Again 
by ron 
Since the early days of Yosemite Park automobiles have been controversial.  Many claim that autos destroy the ecology of the park and even today ecologists are insisting that in the near future, automobiles must at least be banned from Yosemite Valley.  It's apparent to us that all of this talk has hurt our Plymouth Horizon's feelings because it has become extremely temperamental and unreliable since we arrived in Yosemite. 

In the last newsletter you read our tale of woe about the need for a new clutch, transmission linkage repairs (not transmission), and a catalytic converter replacement, along with a new muffler. Since we had replaced the starter and had our second carburetor rebuild job the month before, we felt that this Iaccoca product was sound for a little while. Little is right. Just two hours after mailing the last newsletter, while on my way to pick up our mail, the transmission completely came apart. On the front wheel drive Horizon this also includes the front axle. They're made that way to save money -- right Lee? Good Sam road service came to my rescue and in no time I was towed into Gordon's Automotive Service in Oakhurst (they know our car personally). 

Now a word of advice. If you are driving an American car to California, bring your own parts with you, because everyone here drives Japanese cars except for the very rich and they drive luxury German cars or English Jaguars. To make a very long story short it took four weeks to finally get parts in order to fix the American made Horizon. Gordon's called in another transmission shop and they couldn't solve the problem either. Several times the transmission was assembled only to discover that fifth gear wouldn't work. More parts -- more waiting. Of course, after the second week Gordons was dealing with a very irate customer and during the third and fourth week they asked the second transmission shop to talk to me directly. After the fourth week I calmly asked them to return the &*%#@*$#@ car back to me and to forget about the fifth gear. 

If anyone would like to buy a completely rebuilt car without fifth gear please contact me. I am going to buy a Toyota. Footnote to this story: In all fairness, Gordon's did their very best, did not charge for work they did and the car is drive able without fifth gear. 

by Ron

This year, as in other years, I got some smart-alecky birthday cards. They may kid about my age, but this old accountant likes the senior discounts that I get. 

Did you know that in 1915 (the year that I play at the stage office) women could not vote. No wonder some people like the good old days -- just kidding. 

I am sure that I am now on one thousand video films and in at least as many photos. Autographs anyone? 

You know that you are in for a bad day when you start out with two Japanese tour buses and no one speaks English. 

Granddaughter Liisa sure caught on fast to pinochle.  I think that she could now give her Uncle Robert a lesson. 

I love our camp site here in the woods near the History Center. It's our retreat away from the tourists when we need a little peace and quiet. 

We thought that we had a lot of rain this Spring, but it was only a fraction of what this state needs. Outside of the mountainous park area it's like a desert. 

Now that are we are wearing heavy bulky pioneer clothes, the temperatures are in the high 80's and 90's.  It figures. 

It was a pleasure to see cousin Karen Krenz when she visited Yosemite. It was one of those few times when it was rainy and cold, but Karen toughed it out in a tent. Karen is a neat gal and I wish we could have spent more time with her. 

an honest to badness ghost town

One of the many places I wanted to show Liisa was the real ghost town of Bodie. In fact, I wanted to see it myself. Thanks to the loan of Jim and Barb's car, we took off late one sunny morning. From Wowana, we had to drive to Yosemite Valley then west until catching the Tioga Road east. That road goes across the "high country" of the park and exits the park at the Tioga pass which is nearly 10,000 feet (see the map on page 4 in the June issue of Movin' On).  The scenery was exciting and Liisa was electrified when she saw old snow still on the ground. The real thrill came when the dark clouds let go with new snow.  Yes, snow and this was the end of June. Our little girl from Florida was finally able to feel snow as it fell - she was in heaven catching flakes on her tongue. 

We arrived in Bodie late in the afternoon and those dark clouds stayed right over head - ever threatening and it was eerily cold and dark which somehow   seemed appropriate for a ghost town. 

Bodie was named after Waterman S. Body (also known as William S. Bodey) who discovered gold there in 1859. The change in spelling of the town's name has been attributed to an illiterate sign painter. 

The town of Bodie boasted a population of about ten thousand by 1879 and was second to none for wickedness, badmen and "the worst climate out of doors."  One little girl, whose family was taking her to the remote and infamous town, wrote in her diary:  "Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie."  The phrase came to be known throughout the west. 

The remains of Bodie represents only about five percent of the buildings it contained during its heyday. Today it stands just as time and the elements have left it - a genuine ghost town.  It is designated as a State Historic Site and is maintained in a state of "arrested decay." 

At one time, killings occurred often -- as often as once a day and the town's 65 saloons were the entertainment for the miners. Robberies, stage holdups, and street fights provided variety. Even in its prime there were only two small churches so it is obvious, the devil and sin were king. 

The streets are quiet now. The only sounds are the wind as it whips around and through the buildings. And there are no tours, no souvenirs to buy, one cannot even buy a soft drink. A nice pamphlet offers information for a self guided tour. 

Liisa and Ron in Bodie
We followed the printed guide and walked the streets - reading about the 60 plus buildings that remain. They are weather beaten, but still full of character.  Walking up and down the streets, seeing these houses and stores as they were left (many still contain furniture, clothing and merchandise) and reading about the real people who lived and worked here, I wondered about their lives.  For example, the brochure talks about James and Martha Cain and their house and shows their wedding picture. Such a lovely young couple. How did they survive as long as they did in such a God forsaken place? 

Bodie's reputation for the "worst weather out of doors" still holds true today.  Extremes are normal and range from 30 or even 40 below zero with strong winds to 100 mph and snow as much as 20 feet deep in winter to 120 above in the summer. 

I want to go back and spend more time. We weren't dressed for the cold (are we ever?).  This is without a doubt the best of all the ghost towns.  It is genuine and uncommercial. If you are ever out this way, search it out. You'll find it on your California map if you look east of Yosemite - near the Nevada border - off route 395.  At the Bodie sign, turn east and travel 13 lonely miles to the town.  The first 10 are paved but the last three are of the washboard variety.  It is well 
worth the effort to go out of your way. 

This 'N That
by Barb
I hope that you didn't think that we dropped you from our mailing list when you didn't get your July issue of Movin' On on time. Liisa was here over the period of time that I normally work on the newsletter and I just didn't want to give up any of our time with her. I knew you would understand. There will be no August newsletter this year- it is almost August anyway. We will be back in your mailbox (God willing) the first of September. 

I think that I am one lucky grandmother and I owe it all to my daughter Glenda and her husband Pekka. They have allowed Liisa to fly alone to visit me since she was six years old. A lot of parents would not do that and I really appreciate all the strength that it took to put her on that first plane. We have had great times with her in the past but this trip will be one I will remember forever. It was so exciting to see her eyes light up when she first saw snow (especially as it was falling), Half Dome and El Capitain. Her performance as Minnie was super and her endurance during the 11 mile hike to the falls and back was great. Thanks Glenda and Pekka. 

That month without the car was awful and I thought that we were not going to be able to show Liisa all the sights. Big Big thanks go to Jim and Barb Bohn who generously loaned us their car for at least five different days. We couldn't have even picked Liisa up at the airport without their car. In fact, we didn't get our car back until after we had taken Liisa to meet her Uncle Mark. I just hope that blasted thing lasts till we get out of California. Ron refuses to buy a new car here. "Too expensive", he says. 

Do you remember the article last month "So Near Yet So Far"?  The last lines were "...I'll get the newsletter out in the mail by the 4th and we will...go to San Francisco. We are going to make it Robert." Can you imagine my reaction when after we were all set to finally go to San Francisco, Ron goes to get mail and doesn't come home with a car? We did postpone leaving for San Francisco one day then took off anyway without towing the ole car. Instead of staying at a Coast to Coast park out of the city, we stayed right down town and it was great. We had a week of fun and Robert was able to spend a lot of time with us. 

Robert took us to his ship, we visited Fisherman's Wharf, did lots of shopping (found a great computer store and bought a mouse), rode the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), visited Chinatown, and Ron's old stomping grounds - the Presidio (Army base). We looked for the signs commemorating his having served there but couldn't find them. I like San Francisco and of all the things we toured, I enjoyed Alcatraz best. The National Park Service does a wonderful job there. 

When we returned from SF, and checked in with Paul, he had everything all set.  We have a beautiful site here in the woods and full hook up. It is a little bit of heaven here - no a LOT of heaven. 

There is a lot of talent here at the PYHC and we are having a ball. This is like one big family and each day brings us closer to each other. We all play such different characters too. 

It is fun pretending to live in the past as long as it is just eight hours a day and then we always know it is not for real. Some of the people who come in to our building just shake their heads. They wonder why we don't know what they are talking about when they mention such things as planes, TVs, computers etc. We joke that they must be drinking some funny water to dream of such things. 

Sometimes too when we talk of what is happening in the world like the war brewing in Europe, they will say - "Oh yes, World War I" and we come back with "We are not going to be involved in that war, sir. President Wilson promised that we wouldn't."  Then they look at us strangely. It is all part of the fun. 

I felt like a pioneer for a while there - without the car. I did our laundry in the bathtub three times.  How long has it been since you have hand wrung out such things as jeans?  That cured me of ever really wanting to go back in time. 

We get a lot of foreign visitors in the PYHC and I have to commend the Germans because they make an honest effort to speak English. The Japanese and French do not even try. They move in and out and will not even stop for a minute to say that they don't speak English. 

Did you read about Bodie, the ghost town?  That was really some place and I want to go back again. Hopefully on one of the few remaining days off while we are here, we can go back. We also want to see the Devils Postpile (National Monument) nearby. So much to see and so little time. 

Our last day here will be July 28th (Sunday) and we will be on our way by Monday morning the 29th. Our first stop will be in the Napa Valley area at a Coast to Coast campground. From there we will head north but don't know any specific places yet. 

A parachute shop at the Presido army base 
Try jumping without us
An optometrist in San Francisco 
Site for sore eyes
A Storage tank company in Tulare, California
Tanks for your business

National Park Quiz
1.  Name the one state in the country in which there are no National Park Service sites. 

2.  Of the ten highest waterfalls in the world how many are in the United States and where are they? 

3.  The North Rim and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon are 21 miles apart by way of the Kaibab trail. What is the distance by automobile? 

4.  Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the coterminous United States, is in what national park and in what state? 

5.  The first automobile entered Yosemite in 1900 but were banned from entering shortly after that. When were automobiles finally re-admitted to the park? 


1.  Delaware 
2.  Four and all four are in Yosemite National Park - Yosemite Falls, Sentinel 
     Falls, Snow Creek Falls and Ribbon Fall 
3.  200 miles 
4.  Sequoia National Park; California 
5.  August 5, 1913 

Copyright © 1999, Movin' On with Ron & BarbTM- All Rights Reserved

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