Sisters recall years of memories working at the CCC Lodge restaurant

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Shown is a picture of the CCC Lodge Hotel at Roaring River State Park, then a resort, which looks much the same as it does today. On the second floor, the screened-in porch leads into where the restaurant sisters Ann Baker Lassiter and Kay Baker worked in the late 1950s and early 1960s, waiting tables to put themselves through college. On the third floor were hotel rooms for resort guests, which opened in 1938. Fields Photo courtesy of Barry County Museum

Baker girls spent summers waiting tables, swimming in pool

A rustic restaurant, a popular resort in a beautiful setting, a pool, good fishing, great food, good money and "park boys" over several summers equaled one great time and lifetime memories for two local sisters.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, sisters Ann Baker Lassiter and Kay Baker, daughters of the late Truman and Mary Frances Baker of Cassville, waited tables at the Restaurant at Roaring River Lodge, in the building known to locals today as the historic CCC Lodge at Roaring River State Park.

In the 1950s, the CCC Lodge Hotel looked nearly identical as it does today. The structure was built by hand by CCC workers in the 1930s out of native stone and timber. Sisters Ann Baker Lassiter and Kay Baker, daughters of the late Truman and Mary Frances Baker of Cassville, waited tables in the restaurant on the second floor of the lodge in the late 1950s and early 1960s, back when the park was a resort. Photo by Genoa Williams courtesy of Barry County Museum/Special to the Cassville Democrat

This spring, the newly-renovated lodge is opening its doors to the public for lodging again, which it hasn't offered for over 40 years.

"We had a great time," Lassiter said. "I started at 14 and worked until after my sophomore year of college. It was quite a resort at the time, and the pool was right there by the falls. It was spring-fed, and you cold float ice cubes in it, it was so cold.

"The restaurant was not air-conditioned. There were French doors across the front of the building, and we had fans going all the time. The lodge had a huge, screened-in porch and was lined with rocking chairs. We had a jukebox. It was really a lovely place."

The restaurant was on the middle floor, hotel rooms on the top floor, and the bottom floor were offices and restrooms. Fishing tags and tackle were sold on the lower level.

"I'd go down at 5 a.m. and do the breakfast shift, which didn't tip very well, [or lunch], so I'd go swimming until 3:30, and the people who ran it were nice enough to have one room upstairs where waitresses could change clothes and go swim with the park boys and tourists, then go back on duty and work the dinner hour, which tipped great," Lassiter said. "Breakfast was huge. I mean, those fisherman came in to eat. It was biscuits and gravy and sausage and eggs, and dinner was the same way -- it was steak and trout, or hamburgers if you wanted one, or grilled cheeses for the kids.

"Our noon rush lasted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Sundays, buses pulled in. And these women and men were dressed to the nine. It was hard work, but it kept me going to college. I couldn't pass up the money. The tourists were very generous at that time. On the 4th of July, we'd have to empty our pockets in the changing room two or three times a day, they'd get so heavy."

Guests swam in a man-made pool between the falls and lodge, or in a lake where the nature center now is.

"They had paddle boats and a dock where you could jump off," Lassiter said. "It was a resort destination at that time. It was a 15-and-16-year-old girl's dream summer with all the handsome young park boys there. That's how we spent our summers."

Lassiter remembers specifically how the lodge looked back then.

"It had a lodge look," she said. "The walls were knotty pine, wood floors, fish hanging on the walls, pictures of fisherman and mounted fish over the fireplace. The tables and chairs were cut thick, and there were no booths. The rustic setting appealed to the city people. It was different to them."

Along with the lodge, service was also very different compared to today.

"We waited tables very differently then," Lassiter said. "We would start with the oldest lady at the table, then stand at their right and take their order. Then, we'd go around the table and do the same. Anyone that ordered fried trout expected you to filet it at the table. You'd cut down the center of the trout and roll back the skin on both sides and with a knife and fork, lift the white backbone out in one piece and they would all applaud. You also never handed anyone anything. You put it on the table."

Her younger sister, Kay, was just the opposite. She did not like the split shift.

"I started waiting tables when I was 14," Baker said. "I worked breakfast and lunch because I was a morning person. I was there every morning, because the fishermen wanted to come in and have coffee and eat. Sometimes, we worked the split shift -- that was awful. But on Sundays, tour buses came in from Springfield. It was hot, and we wore white uniforms. We had to wear hose and white tennis shoes, and a colored apron. The hotel rooms were pretty basic. I'm talking the 1950s and early 1960s. Things weren't luxurious like they are now. But it was just a camaraderie. It was just such a different time."

Baker said part of the park's attraction was not necessarily the restaurant, fishing and other activities.

"There were park boys that came from all over the state, and it was a big deal to date the park boys," she said. "They'd be cleaning cabins and mowing and when everybody got off work, it was very innocent and a lot of fun. I dated a park boy on more than one occasion. There was no smoking and no drinking. You didn't do that then."

The restaurant managers, Hazel and Bill Edmondson, were Lassiter's and Baker's neighbors, had children close to the same ages and always invited them back to work each summer.

Both sisters graduated from Cassville High School in the early 1960s, then graduated from the University of Arkansas with degrees in education, and both became teachers.

"We come from a family of teachers," said Baker, who taught science and speech. Lassiter taught home economics. Both had two children, a boy and a girl each, and both returned to their roots in Cassville.

"I brought my children home to be in a smaller atmosphere," Lassiter said.

"I moved back to Cassville three years ago," Baker said.

Now, so many years later, both sisters want to see the renovated lodge and relive their summer memories there.

"We're wanting to go tour when they get it open," said Lassiter, now 72. "I'm more interested in the main area where the restaurant was because I have so many wonderful memories and am wanting to see how they recreated any part of it."

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