Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Verona "Ronnie" Budge

Verona "Ronnie" Budge was interviewed on September 11, 2015 by Barbara Cellarius at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park district ranger station in Slana, Alaska while Ronnie was back visiting the area for a few weeks from her home in Whitefish, Montana. In this interview, Ronnie talks about her husband, Chuck, being the first superintendent of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park from 1980-1984 and their life in the Copper River Basin during that time. She talks about settling into Kenny Lake, dealing with local animosity towards the Park Service, making connections in the community, and developing friendships with locals as well as other park employees at the time. She also talks about her frequent return visits to the area and changes she has seen in the region and with the national park.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-14-21

Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Sep 11, 2015
Narrator(s): Verona Budge
Interviewer(s): Barbara Cellarius
Transcriber: Sue Beck
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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Personal background

Meeting and marrying her husband, Chuck Budge

Various places lived and national parks Chuck worked for

Coming to Alaska and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and local reaction to the Park Service

Integrating into the Kenny Lake community

Other Park Service employees, and keeping busy in the winter

Life in the Copper River Basin

Memories from time at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and connecting with local people

Early park office and staff

Dealing with the murders in McCarthy, and personal safety

Friends with the Ellis family and Thelma Schrank

Coming back to visit the Copper River Basin and old friends

Changes in the Copper River Basin

Importance of making connections with the community

Importance of time at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park to her and Chuck, and life in Whitefish, Montana after retirement

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BARBARA CELLARIUS: All right, so we’ll get started. And this is Barbara Cellarius from Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and I’m gonna be talking to Verona Budge today, who goes by the nickname of Ronnie.

And it is Friday, September 11, 2015 and we’re at the Slana ranger station.

And we’re gonna be talking today about Ronnie’s recollections of the Copper Basin and Wrangell–St. Elias National Park in the early 1980s when her husband was the first park superintendent.

So, Ronnie, thank you for agreeing to talk to you today, and we’ll be completing both a Park Service and a UAF release form for the use of the interview.

And I wondered if you could just talk -- start by telling us a little bit about yourself, when and where you were born and where you grew up.

VERONA BUDGE: Well, I was born in Draper, Utah, which is just now a suburb of Salt Lake. It was a farming community. And I was born October 7, 1928.

And I lived a lot with my grandparents. My parents were in the restaurant businesses, so they moved around a lot. We lived in California some.

And then I got measles and I was quite ill so we moved back to Utah. And I stayed with my grandparents and started first grade there.

And my folks moved around with jobs. Like people did in the Depression, wherever there was a job, that’s where you went.

So -- And then my folks moved to Jackson, Wyoming in 1936. So I started school in Jackson, and my folks had restaurants there.

I went through eighth grade there, and then my parents were divorced. And then I went to girls school a couple of years in Salt Lake and Laramie, Wyoming.

And then I graduated from high school at seventeen and went to school one year. And Chuck and I were married 'cause he was a local boy.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: So, yeah, I was gonna to say, how did you meet your husband, Chuck?

VERONA BUDGE: Well, he -- he lives at Moose. His mom had a grocery store and she was the postmaster, but Chuck’s dad worked for the Park Service. He was a foreman, shop foreman, at Teton.

So he and his brother used to drive into high school and they ate at our restaurant every day, so -- And the world of Jackson or Teton County's full of Budges, so you’re bound to meet one of them.

And then, I don’t know, he went into the Service. He was four years older than I was so, I don’t know, we just kind of wrote to each other during the war.

And he went to school in Laramie and I went to school in Salt Lake, and then we got married.


BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay. And so it sounds like pretty much most of your adult life you were -- had some kind of affiliation with the Park Service.

VERONA BUDGE: That’s right. That’s right. First one was in the Badlands, South Dakota. It was a monument in those days. Has park status now.

And Chuck hadn’t finished college, so he worked for a -- about a year and a half, I guess, and the Park Service gave him leave to go back and finish his degree from -- with Utah State Agriculture College. It’s, you know, Utah State University now, so.

And that was a good move really to get that degree behind your name.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: And what -- what was his degree in?


VERONA BUDGE: I guess -- I guess it was just plain forestry. It might probably have a longer title now. It’s probably forestry and la-la-la-la-la.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: And what were some of the other places that you lived and parks that he worked at?

VERONA BUDGE: Oh, well, we moved -- we transferred to Yellowstone from there. And we were there for three and a half years.

And then we transferred to Shenandoah and lived at Front Royal. I loved Shenandoah. It was a beautiful park, but we were not there at an ideal time because integration was escalating.

And being in -- being from the West, we didn’t -- I still don’t quite understand it, but the high school closed while we were there, and we didn’t know from week to week if the elementary school was gonna close, so it was kind of unsettling.

But we only lived there twenty-two months and then we moved to Organ Pipe, and we were there for a couple of years.

And then we moved to Glacier. Chuck was district ranger at St. Mary, and our daughter went to high school in Browning. There were -- that was a thirty-five-mile bus trip twice a day.

And then Chuck transferred to the west side as forestry and fire control and -- Let's see, fire control and they did the bug thing. Bug protection.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Like some kind of pest control?

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. And, let’s see, we were in Glacier for four years.

And then we transferred to Padre Island, and we were there for a couple of years.

And then we transferred to Canyonlands, and then we were there for four years. And then transferred to Bryce Canyon as superintendent, and we were there for four years.

And then we transferred to Santa Fe and he was in the regional office. He was chief of visitor protection and resource management and something else.

And he traveled an awful lot there because he was in charge of camps that they had for kids. I can't -- what was -- Anyway, wherever they had a camp he went and helped set those up.

So he was -- he traveled an awful lot there. And then we moved up here.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: So when did you first come to Alaska?

VERONA BUDGE: In 1979. And Chuck was in the regional offices. Something. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay,

VERONA BUDGE: And then we spent -- he was just supposed to be up at Denali like six weeks, but we were there six months waiting for a new superintendent. And that was great, because he went up in April. I think I went up in May, and so we were just there through the summer and into the fall and then we came back into Anchorage.

And, you know, the wheels were starting to turn.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: So this was the fall of 1980?

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. And so, then we were getting ready to -- for the big move for here.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: So ANILCA was signed in December of 1980 establishing Wrangell–St. Elias.

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. And so it was a different world to come over here. Mostly because every park we ever lived in, they loved the Park Service, or at least tolerated us.

It was very difficult to begin with, because they wouldn’t rent us a new place to live and sell us gas, wouldn’t sell us food. And Tastee-Freez had a big old sign up saying, you know, do not come in.

And finding a place to live. Chuck did find this ancient trailer down at Willow Lake that they were willing to rent to us. And it was hysterical. It must’ve been probably forty years old.

But he came out first and he did a little work on it. Cleaned it up a little bit. But there wasn’t -- there was a bathroom in it, but there wasn’t a toilet on the hole in the floor. We didn’t get one. But at least we had a place to live.

And in all the moves we made, I guess I have to say and be honest -- I did tell Chuck, I said, “I’ll live out here for the summer in this trailer but I will not live --“ 'cause we had really a nice condo in Anchorage.

And I found us a place to live. It was by Grizzly Pizza. It was a downstairs apartment and an upstairs apartment. It wasn’t elegant, but we were very comfortable. It was a kitchen and a living room and a bedroom and that’s all we needed and --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: How did you find that?

VERONA BUDGE: Well, both Shirley and I kind of integrated ourselves in Kenny Lake, and I got involved in volunteer work and helped with the fair. And Marge Britton had told me about this apartment.

So we got the wheels turning and it was empty and they were willing to rent it to a Park Service people.

So it was -- I enjoyed the Kenny Lake community. I made some friends down there and it was fun working for the -- at the fair time.

And I think that really helped cement relationships down there, especially because the community building there was for the most part closed up all year long, you know. And so it was pretty dirty and dusty, and mice and squirrels, and all their leavings.

And Shirley and I got in, and rolled up our arm -- you know, got in and scrubbed and cleaned, and cleaned toilets. And I -- I always had the feeling that they thought, "Well, they are human after all. They’re not afraid to get dirty." BARBARA CELLARIUS: Uh-huh.

VERONA BUDGE: And so -- and I don’t know, the Kenny Lake community thing, I did some typing one summer for ‘em and I just -- I made some nice friends down there.

And so I’ve never been sorry that that’s where we were.


BARBARA CELLARIUS: Shirley was Shirley Hannah. And she was the wife of Jim Hannah, who was another park employee?

VERONA BUDGE: Right. Hm-mm. And so -- And, of course, they stayed forever and really integrated in the community.

And, of course, Shirley worked for Ahtna Corporation. I think she worked for the school system, too.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Uh-huh. Yes. She was a teacher.

VERONA BUDGE: And it was fun to re-acquaint our -- you know, knowing them from Bryce Canyon. ‘Cause that was like -- we moved from there in ’76, and they came --

I think they were maybe there about a year before we transferred. And, of course, the girls had grown up -- and were growing up different than being like two and five or three and five.

I think -- I think Cinnamon was in the first grade maybe when they moved there and Sherry was three or four years younger, so it was fun to, you know, renew friendships, which is what you do most times in the Park Service.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: And were there other Park Service employees out here or just Chuck and --

VERONA BUDGE: Well, Bill Paleck was here. And he came from Anchorage, too. He was the chief ranger. They lived in Glennallen, though, so I didn’t see a whole lot of Marcy.

It’s like I told some of my friends. They said, “What’d you do in the wintertime?” I said, “Well, first of all I cooked a lot.” I gained a lot of weight.

But I said you have to be self-motivated. I said it isn’t like you, you know, get in your car and meet somebody for a cup of coffee.

I said, in the wintertime it was darn cold, so you didn’t drive however far it was from our apartment to Kenny Lake. And, of course, Shirley went to work, so she wasn’t there so --

But I like to do crafts so -- I’m a terrible knitter. But I can knit and I liked to sew so I sewed a lot, and I did crewel embroidery. Anything to keep -- keep busy.

And having the condo in Anchorage, I’d go in and stay sometime if I was gettin’ cabin fever.

And one of the park employee’s daughter, who worked at Alaska Native Arts and Crafts, so I got to know Karen, and I just said one time, “Oh, I’d like, you know, crafts like that.”

And when we lived in Moab I’d worked part-time at one of the trading posts. But in Anchorage it was -- if I was comin’ in -- they always said, “Let us know if you’re coming in ‘cause somebody always wants --"

They offered to, so I worked on and off at Alaska Native Arts and Crafts. And I loved that, because when the Natives would bring their wares in, if Mary Lou, who was the manager, didn’t buy them then we could buy ‘em. So I ended up with a nice collection of things simply because they were there. And it was fun to have that extra money to blow, so.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: So what was life like in the Copper Basin back then? You’ve talked a little bit about the winters but --

VERONA BUDGE: Well, I’d lived where it was cold before but not cold like it is up here. Bryce Canyon got cold, and we lived at West Yellowstone two winters and we had fifty below zero there.

And it’s sort of like here. They didn’t have bus service, but the kids, if it was really very cold, one of the dads walked with the kids, but they always walked just part way and then made sure they didn’t flop down in the snow and make angels.

The kids had gym class inside of -- You know, instead of playing outside they played in the gym, but they always had to have a special pair of tennis shoes to play.

But my daughter had one dress that she loved to wear. It was in the laundry all the time and the belts were always -- I had to sew the belts on -- the little tie things.

And I finally said, “I have to sew these on every week. Why -- what’s going on?” Well, she got to be the horse because those were the reins.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Now was that in Moab or --?

VERONA BUDGE: No, that was in West Yellowstone.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: So not here. Not here in Alaska?

VERONA BUDGE: Oh, no. She was married when we lived up here.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay. So it was just you and Chuck when you lived -- when you moved up here?

VERONA BUDGE: Yes, uh-huh. More people think that she lived up here with us, and I said no, they came to visit once is all.

So, and nope, didn't have one -- I mean, she -- she graduated from school in Bozeman. Taught school one year. Actually, she wasn’t in a school situation. She tutored a girl who was on dialysis.

So, and then she -- she and Doug were married then. He was from Calgary and he went up before she finished.

But it was like a school contract, you know, so she taught her every day.

And then she taught in one school and her husband taught in another school, and then they were divorced. And so she quit teaching school because she’d moved away and it was a long ways. And she ran off the road a couple of times, and so it wasn’t worth it.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well, coming back to Alaska, how long were you here at Wrangell–St. Elias?

VERONA BUDGE: It was about three and a half years. I think we came over and then Chuck retired in ’84.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: So that -- this was his last Park Service position?

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm, hm-mm. He retired from here.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: And do you have any particular memories of your time here that you could share with us? VERONA BUDGE: Oh, just --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Or significant events?

VERONA BUDGE: Not really. Except that I think as we were getting ready to leave, people realized that we lived here. It wasn’t really an event, but I had to come into Glennallen to do laundry and, of course, they all knew who I was. And somebody said, “When are you leaving?” And I said, “We’re not. We live here now.”

And I think that -- I don’t know whether that made them feel better or worse. But to know that, you know, we were interested in the community and what was going on and wanted to make sure that we were making good inroads.

And I -- I made it a point to introduce myself to people. Jean René, who’s the artist, I called on her ‘cause I like art and we became kind of halfway friendly.

And I used to get stuff from her all the time. Bought some of her artwork.

And I did -- you know, a lot of people would try to question me about the Park Service and I was always very nice. I said, “I’m not in the Park Service.” I said, “If you have any questions, check with Chuck or Bill Paleck and they’ll feed you in what you need to know or want to know.” I said, “I don’t have any part of answering questions.”

There were really no real big significant things because we all kind of lived too far apart. We’d have, you know, somebody transferred or had resigned, but the staff was so little in those days, we didn’t really have any staff, and just one maintenance person,

Tom Waters -- left the Park Service. And, but, we had known them. He was a seasonal up at Denali, so we had known them. And he was quite talented.

And ironically, he and Cathy moved to Whitefish (Montana). And Tom is one of the premiere builders for, you know, million-dollar homes. And so I do see them once in a while.

But their kids are grown now and they’re grandparents and they don’t have time just to come and have a cup of coffee.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right. So when you -- when at the very beginning in 1981 when the park was first getting started, was there an office?

VERONA BUDGE: Well, to begin with, the kind of the office in that lovely trailer we had, I said the first office was me. I had a kitchen table and a Xerox box and a old electric typewriter.

And a few letters or something had to be written, I did it. And then we had a little office space in Ellis Air Taxi.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Uh-huh. Up at the Gulkana airport?

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. Hm-mm. And then Churches had that building. So that was just gettin’ right uptown, havin’ a real office.

And, you know, people started realizing that we were here to stay, so they started being a little bit more receptive to our being here and --

And, you know, some of the Natives were hired and, I mean, I got to know Alice Craig really quite well, and whenever I come up, I always call her. I had a nice visit with her the other day.

And -- and René was expecting a baby, so we had a baby shower in the office. And I always check on René when I come up. And it doesn’t seem possible René’s a grandmother.

So and, of course, she’s lived in a lot of wonderful places. And Alice has been fortunate. She’s been able to go all these places to visit her. I think they live in New York now, so that’s kind of fun, so --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: And how about when Chuck retired? Were there more staff at that point in 1984?

VERONA BUDGE: No, I -- Well, they did get an office besides -- I can’t even remember her name now. She came from Rocky Mountain, I think.

And the apartment where we were had a little cabin behind, and she -- she lived in that. And I kept in contact with her for a few years and she resigned from the Park Service and married a fisherman, and so I haven’t heard from her for years and years.

But we had, you know, several seasonals. Sean McGinnis was one of them, and so I’ve always kept in touch with -- with Sean.

And maybe one of the things that was kind of memorable, we had a seasonal party and a permanent -- down at our apartment, except it was nice so it was outside and in kind of in the garage.

But I cooked a couple of briskets and I made homemade ice cream. And it was hysterical ‘cause these kids, you know, were not cooking for themselves so to speak, and they were literally licking the stuff out of the pan for the brisket.

And the ice cream was certainly a hit, homemade ice cream. But they were about the same way. They would have licked the canister, I’m sure.

And then, you know, then we tried to get together in the summertime. But, you know, there was -- it was such a big area. People were scattered hither and yon, so it didn’t get --

And -- and one of the -- a couple of the other things, we’d only been here just a little while and Palecks and I don’t think Hannahs were here yet.

Anyway, we went down to Chitina and right after we left, we had -- we walked into the communt -- or place to park. Right after we left, somebody was murdered down there. And, of course, then we --

Chuck was here when the McCarthy thing -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.

VERONA BUDGE: And he had just left to go to Moab because Bates Wilson, who had been superintendent all the time we were there, passed away, and so Chuck wanted to go to the funeral.

So, John Cook gave him leave to go as a representative, kind of, of the Park Service.

And he heard about it right there, and he didn’t even spend the night in Moab. Somebody drove him back to Salt Lake and he flew right home.

So that was probably one of the worst scenarios that we had while we lived here. And a scary thing.

I don’t know, you always hear these rumors after, that Chuck’s name was in that guy’s computer, too. And that was never verified, so whether it really was and what --

I don’t know if there were any other Park Service, but I think the mayor of -- I think it was Tony Knowles, who was the mayor, and, you know, some of the people that maybe had a vendetta against? I don’t -- you don’t know.

But it always kinda made you -- I -- I don’t like guns, but I did keep a gun at our apartment, and I wouldn’t have hesitated to -- but Chuck always laughed.

He said anybody that’d come in and see a woman waving a gun around would have to be pretty desperate.

But we were always told that they would never hurt a woman. Now whether that was true or not, again, I don’t know. But better safe than sorry.

But I did -- I did keep a gun. Chuck traveled some when we lived over here, you know, going out. And --

But I never had any oppor -- I never had anybody knock on my door and try to give me a bad time. So I always felt fortunate about that.

And we made friends, you know, with the Ellises. And have remained friends. Especially Lynn because I was around him more and I was only up at Nabesna a couple of times.

But Chuck and I used to come up to have dinner with Thelma and Bill, and, of course, it would maybe be fifty-five below and we'd leave so a lot of times we’d end up by spending the night because Bill would say, “You’re not driving home!”

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Better not to drive when it’s that cold.

VERONA BUDGE: Yeah. And Thelma and I, you know, I wouldn’t see Thelma very often, but we’d talk every day for probably hours on the telephone.

And I first met Thelma at Club Paris. BARBARA CELLARIUS: In Anchorage?

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. Hm-mm. So we came -- you know, we came -- and, of course, when she had her cancer thing I came up, and I don't know, I guess I was up here about six or seven weeks maybe.

So we had a lot of fun. Even before she had her surgery, we'd -- I went to all her doctor's appointments with her, so --And so, you know I was in on the ground floor.

And a lot of times it’s better to have two ears listening to something than one.

But we went to a lot of movies and we ate a lot of ice cream, and ate out a lot. And of course, Cleo was here for her surgery, too. And I think she felt good to know that I was on tap.

And, you know, there really wasn’t anybody to help her. I mean, she’d got the cousins, but they’re all boys and they all work, and -- and Jenny was busy and -- with her family and her business and -- and Lorene certainly wasn’t capable of doing it.

So I was -- I was just glad that I was free to come. I didn’t have any encumbrances.

My daughter had moved down then and she didn’t have any qualms about me coming up. And she took care of my house and my plants and what little garden I had. So, yeah.

So, and that -- that’s -- I said that’s what friends do for friends. You don’t worry about -- you know, what's -- you’re taking care of them.

And it was, you know, except after the surgery that wasn’t so much fun really. But still it was good, you know.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: You spent time together. VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. Learned how to clean the tubes that have to come out and measure it and --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: So you’ve been coming up pretty regularly since Chuck retired?

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. I used to come, like, every other year. And I’d only come for, like, ten days or two weeks.

And then I thought, "Well, now that’s kind of silly. You spend all that money and you’re really only up out here ten days."

So then I started coming for three weeks. And I think I only did that -- and then I started comin’ up every summer. I didn’t have anything to keep me home. I mean, my daughter’s there, my granddaughter, my grandkids, the great-grandkids. But they’re grown. They take care of themselves.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: So we’ll see you come and visit Thelma Schrank who’s our -- the institution here at the Slana ranger station.

VERONA BUDGE: Yes! She was laughing last night with her family that is comin’. She said people come into the office now and say, “Are you still here? We thought you’d be retired now.”

And, of course, she got her thirty-year pin the other day. That was really quite -- I think she was very touched over that.

Somebody said, “Well, you’ve been there thirty-two years.” And she said, "Yeah, but I've been permanent." That makes a difference, so --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: And what keeps you coming back here?

VERONA BUDGE: Thelma and the Wrangells. And if -- somebody said, “What do you do when you go up there?” And I said, “Nothing. I don’t answer the telephone or go to any meetings.” So --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: It’s a vacation.

VERONA BUDGE: Yeah. Not that I’m really that busy in Whitefish. But, you know, you get involved in things.

And I do volunteer work at our hospital and I've been doing that for eons. And I belong to a couple of social clubs. And I exercise at the senior center twice a week.

And I’ve been havin’ lunch with a friend for two years every Thursday since she retired and we eat at different restaurants. And now we’re having to start over because --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: You’ve eaten everywhere once?

VERONA BUDGE: Yeah, so -- No, I guess I like just being laid-back and not having to do anything.

And I know we went to the Princess Lodge and met Hannahs and Jim Baker and Mary Beth. And I hadn’t seen either one of them since we left, so that was fun to renew acquaintances.

And first of all, Thelma said something about going to Valdez. And I thought, "I don’t have anything to go to Valdez for. We went last year when Harold and Cleo were here."

And, I mean, I like Valdez and I was amazed at the sea of motorhomes, trailer houses, pickups, and campers and whatever. It wasn’t -- it didn’t ever seem that crowded when we lived here before.

But it -- so it was fun goin’ down and we had lunch and it was a beautiful day. And so -- so that was fun to go down. So we just decided not to --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Not to do it this year?

VERONA BUDGE: Well, that’s a long trip.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: It’s a long drive from Slana.

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. So -- And it was a beautiful day to have lunch, and we stood out in the parking lot for probably half an hour or more before we all decided we’d better get in our cars.

And so, yeah, I just -- I just like comin’ back and reminiscing and visiting with people.

And goin’ to Tok. Always have to go to Tok, and go to the gift -- hit the gift shops and Fast Eddie’s. And the grocery store, and always visit with George.

And it’s always fun to -- to meet new employees. I’ve known Tiffany before, but I had not -- I haven't met Diane yet. And just to take a drive up the road.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Hm-mm. Like up the Nabesna Road?

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. I haven’t been too far up.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Have you been to the new campground?

VERONA BUDGE: No. I have to go see that before I leave, but I’m leaving Sunday, so the times goin'.

It seems like to me it’s gone faster this year than it usually does, but it’s the same length of time. So I don’t know why.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well, that happens sometimes.

VERONA BUDGE: Well, I think when you’re havin’ fun and enjoying yourself, time always seems to go faster. If you’re bored, it seems like it’s never going to end.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: I wanted to ask what kind of changes you’ve observed here in the Copper Basin since when you lived here.


BARBARA CELLARIUS: You talked a little bit about Valdez. VERONA BUDGE: Wonderful visitor's center and administration building and -- And Princess Lodge and --

I haven’t driven around enough to see how much growth there is, but when we lived here before, Parks built a new grocery store and the Hub has gotten bigger.

You know, other than that -- And, of course, I haven’t been down to Kenny Lake, so I don’t know too much about what’s happened down there.

And, you know, so many little homes are built back in the woods so --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: It’s hard to see them.

VERONA BUDGE: You wouldn’t see them. But how the staff has grown. One year when I was up here, it was the beginning of the season, so I went to the seasonal orientation.

I couldn’t believe it, you know, from famine to feast so to speak. I mean there was a sea of seasonal employees -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: A lot of people.

VERONA BUDGE: -- and permanent employees. And, you know, that’s wonderful.

I've always thought Chuck would never believe how this transpired from the early days when, you know, when we were threatened and fires and all that good stuff.

And one of the first meetings was at Duffy’s. And usually there’s not Park Service meetings right in bars, but close by.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Did you go to that meeting? VERONA BUDGE: I did not.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: You just heard about it after the fact?

VERONA BUDGE: Yeah. That was when he -- yeah.

But, you know, you have to make inroads. I don’t say that you’d take chances doing that, but I think you have to initiate friendship.

And that old saying, "Bloom where you’re planted." I certainly believe that here.

Because, you know, you can’t just hole up and pretend that things don’t exist, 'cause they do. You have to face reality.

Like my saying in the laundromat, “Well, we live here!” BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.

VERONA BUDGE: So -- but we just have a washer and dryer at that apartment. It’s out in the garage.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Made -- made life probably a little bit easier.

VERONA BUDGE: I didn’t -- I didn't like having to go in there, ‘cause the washing machines were always filthy. It took me twenty minutes to clean them up so I could put my clothes in.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Oh, going to the laundromat.

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-m. Because I was never sure what had been washed in them.

But that was an experience, too. Didn’t hurt me. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.

VERONA BUDGE: Made me appreciate having a washer and dryer at home. So --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well, those were the questions that I had had. Is there anything else that you can think of that we didn’t talk about today, that -- about your time here in the Copper Basin that you’d like to add?

VERONA BUDGE: I don’t think so. I have told a lot of people though that being here and Chuck being the first superintendent is something I wouldn’t trade for any assignments we ever had.

And I know Chuck always felt like that. And I know I wrote that in his obituary, that he felt like that was a wonderful way to end a Park Service career.

'Cause you don’t get to be that in our nation’s largest park. And so, you know, that was a wonderful experience.

And I know he -- I had a bulletin board up in his room at the veterans’ home and lots of the things like that I kept posted on that for him.

And, of course, he had a -- Bill had him trained as a -- I don’t know what they called it, associate guide?

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Oh, uh-huh. Bill Ellis?

VERONA BUDGE: Yeah. So they had a T-shirt made for him and -- so that happened and somebody else had given him one, a "Visit Chuck’s Park."

And so I put those up on his bulletin board, and those always made comments with the nurses, “What’s all that all about?”

But he spent five years in the veterans’ home in Columbia Falls (Montana) before he died, so --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: And that’s where you went after you retired

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. To Whitefish (Montana). Yeah, the veterans home was in Columbia Falls. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay.

VERONA BUDGE: We went back there simply 'cause I guess living in Glacier we used to ski over in Whitefish on Big Mountain, and we own a lot in Jackson, Wyoming.

But the whole complexion of Jackson’s changed since we were kids growin’ up there. And -- but there was everything in Whitefish that Chuck liked to do. Huntin', fish and ski and hike and float the rivers.

And besides that, it was closer to our daughter living there. And Jackson is, you know, three thousand feet higher than Whitefish and --

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Seemed like a good place to go, it sounds like.

VERONA BUDGE: It just seemed like that. And we knew a lot of Park Service people retired in that area. So we had friends already there, and it just seemed like the logical place for us to be. And I’ve never been sorry that we’re there.

It’s like any other place that’s growing and changing and -- It’s progress. If it’s done properly it's okay.

Whitefish is an old, old railroad town. Used to be called Stumptown because -- Sometimes on street corners they used to have just real stumps there just so people -- would remind people. But Whitefish has sort of become a -- it’s been found, and so there’s a lot of wealthy people that live in that area now.

And they kind of -- a lot of ‘em kind of keep to themselves, because Iron Horse is the place where the people, the moneyed people go.

But some of those are real great people, too. I’ve met some people that live in Iron Horse, and it’s -- you know, they’re okay.

And those people are ones that live there mostly the year around. The ones that I think you have problems with are the ones that have spent Christmas and Easter and then go to Florida wherever they got one, and -- you know.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Move around a lot.

VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. Yeah, so -- And Big Mountain has really developed since -- even since we moved there.


VERONA BUDGE: Hm-mm. It’s -- it’s just filled with condos and stuff now. But they’ve put a lot of other -- new lifts in and --

But they have waterslides and all that stuff, which I’m not opposed to them, but when you’ve got all that scenic beauty, why do you need those and casinos? I’m just -- I’m old-fashioned, I guess.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well, thank you so much for talking to me today. It was great to learn some more about your time here in the Copper Basin and --

VERONA BUDGE: Well, thank you for having me. It’s been fun doing it.

BARBARA CELLARIUS: Good. Good. Well, thanks so much.