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 1936They 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.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.