The White Grass Heritage Project has captured over 70 hours of oral histories. These oral histories have been captured in film and/or audio formats and some have been transcribed and made accessible here. Only a sampling of the oral histories collected are presented in the section below.
The materials shared here cannot be reproduced in any form without written permission. If you have an inquiry about an oral history, or a suggestion to expand the collection, please contact us.
Oral History Index:
White Grass Ranch Pre-1985
–Peck, Cynthia Galey
–Leach, Bill & Clare
–Schmitt, Judith Allyn
–Tompkins, Patsy Hobbs
–Verney, Liz Thayer
Western Center for Historic Preservation Post-1985
–White Grass on NPR (2008)
–White Grass on Wymoing Public Radio (2016)
White Grass Ranch Pre-1985
Cynthia Galey Peck was the daughter of White Grass Ranch owners, Frank and Inga Galey. Cindy’s in depth interview includes: Inga’s parents leaving Germany during WWII and living at the ranch; her adoption and coming to the ranch at age three; the stresses of a family business/finances; developmental experiences with Dad and Mother; surviving difficult winters; local schooling and boarding schools; seeing the world with and without eye glasses; being a hand on the ranch but no pay; the central role animals/horses played in her character development and the mountain refuge; Rachel Trahern being like a second mother; blindsided that Dad sold the ranch to the Park when she was a teenager; not being a dude but not really staff; pack trips and being a kiddy wrangler; the dude ranches’ rodeo, gymkhansas and Sunday polo games; struggles from a challenged marriage, living in a tent with children, a divorce and being a single parent; being pushed off the ranch by Frank’s second wife, Nona; dad’s faults but everyone loved him; females could be wranglers too; ranch/Park relations; a new life in Arizona with Bill Peck, M.D.; mid-life working as a wilderness ranger for the Forest Service; how White Grass changed lives; the ranch’s legacy and presently a training center; and “The only constant in life is change.”
Part 1 of the Frank Galey interview.
Part 2 of the Frank Galey interview.
Frank Galey’s interview was conducted by Jo Anne Byrd from the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum. Topics included: early White Grass homesteading history; Frank’s mother’s involvement at the BAR BC and later marrying Harold Hammond, owner of White Grass; Frank leaving Princeton University to run the ranch after Hammond died in 1938; ranch expansion for dudes beyond 3 cabins and a tent; poker earnings to pay the ranch mortgage; gambling in Jackson; impact of WWII; and selling the ranch to the park in 1955.
Harold Hammond and Tucker Bispham homesteaded White Grass in 1913. While Harold served in WWI, his brother Arthur (and wife and four children), lived on the ranch as caretakers from 1917-1919. Three of Arthur’s children talk about their time on White Grass and area ranches. Topics include: ranch layout, chores and crew members; winter activities, learning to read in Geraldine Lucas’ cabin; fishing, hunting and food; Cissy Patterson (Countess Gizycka); homesteading in Gros Ventre Canyon; and life in early Jackson.
Graduating college roommates, Liz Thayer Verney and Patsy Hobbs Tompkins wanted to do something adventuresome for their summer. So, Liz wrote Frank Galey about position openings and he hired the two of them to be ‘cabin girls’ responsible for cleaning the guest cabins, 1969-70. Arriving by plane, they expected to be met by some ‘old guy in a cowboy hat’ but instead were met by three ‘gorgeous’ young men literally from Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Their interview describes in detail their experiences being cabin girls working from the bath house where staff showered and they did ranch laundry; how the wages we low but they were paid with room, board and fun; being part of the ranch family; the struggles at the ranch under the leadership of Frank and Nona Galey; interesting stories about some of the guests; and the decline of the ranch though the allure and value for them transcends time.
Pam Holtman, historian for the National Park Service, worked for Grand Teton National Park from 2001 to 2006 during which time she was involved in doing an initial cultural assessment of White Grass and facilitating all the documents needed to forge a partnership between the NPS and the National Trust for Historical Preservation. In her oral history, she further documents how a new park superintendent broke precedent and began protecting park historic sites including White Grass. She further details the struggles across divisions within the NPS, working with local preservation boards and state preservation officials, White Grass Alumni and preservation architects to successfully: (1) rehabilitate White Grass as a NPS training center teaching historic preservation skills and (2) establish the Western Center for Historic Preservation (NPS) which managed the rehabilitation and now oversees the training program. On a personal note, she speaks to her professional satisfaction working on such a project and being present for the ribbon cutting ceremony at the ranch in 2016.