Monday, June 20, 2011

Gay El Rancho 1965

When I graduated from high school in 1963, I went to work for a large insurance company, which was just about the only place in town that would hire someone just out of school, with no previous work experience. Because of that, a large number of their employees were young single women in their late teens and early twenties. It made for a work environment that was more like a girls' day out.

The pay wasn't great, but the lunches in the company cafeteria were subsidized. I remember that, when our state implemented a tax on food, the first penny of tax came into play at a food cost of 25 cents. So I always made it a point to keep the cost of my cafeteria lunch to 24 cents or less. For that, I could have an entree, dessert, and beverage. We would usually eat our lunches as fast as we could, then retreat to the large lobby to join other employees in a fast game of Euchre, a card game that enjoys great popularity in our area of the country.

The cafeteria would also be open at break time, offering fresh fruit and ice cream. I rarely partook of that, though, because there were "candy drawers" located in the individual departments. There were no vending machines, but individual employees would take it on themselves to stock a desk drawer with candy bars, which could be purchased by other employees on the honor system for a minimal price.

With that sort of working environment, friendships easily grew between employees. I don't remember which of these fellow employees first conceived of the idea of a joint vacation at a dude ranch, but the idea took hold and quickly became a reality.

The location chosen was the Gay El Rancho, located in Gaylord, Michigan, not exactly the first place one thinks of when considering dude ranch locations; but it worked for six young women who didn't make very much money. There were five of us from one department at the insurance company, plus one friend that the other four knew from their Catholic Youth Organization.

The year was 1965.

Gay El Rancho Sign

Thunderbird Lodge

The six of us stayed in two adjoining rooms on the first floor of the Thunderbird Lodge. One room had two double beds, and the other had two single bunk beds. There was a large lobby area outside our rooms where we could sit in the evenings and read or write letters.

Carole, Dar, Kathy, Mary, and Judy walking from the lodge to the Ox Yoke Building. Dar was the only one who didn't work in our department and the only one that I didn't know before the trip.

Linda, Mary, Kathy, Carole, Dar, "Uncle Frank", and Judy at the bar.
(Notice that five of us managed to sit on three bar stools.) 

Judy was the only one of us old enough to legally consume alcohol, but "Uncle Frank," the bartender, obliged us younger ones with "Shirley Temple" drinks. At first, we were confused when Frank offered Judy an alcoholic drink but not the rest of us. Then we realized that the name tag Judy had been given was slightly different than ours, signalling that she was "of age."

Judy, Carole, Dar, Linda, Kathy, and Mary on the second-floor balcony of the Thunderbird Lodge

Carole, Linda, Mary, Dar, Kathy, and Judy
Notice the old Brownie camera hanging around my neck.

Clockwise around the table: Carole, Kathy, Dar, Mary, Judy, and Linda

Carole, Kathy, Judy, Mary, and Dar surrounding Linda and her Ride-Off trophy.
Times were different then, weren't they? We're all wearing dresses for the occasion of "Awards Night." And don't you love the eyeglasses?

Linda and Dale (one of the guys on staff) on Lucky on our last day at Gay El Rancho.
Lucky was my horse for the week because he was the only one they used a flat saddle on, and I was the only guest who was willing to ride in a flat saddle. He was a big, not-especially-handsome brute, but I loved him. I kind of liked Dale, too, if we're being honest.

The six of us had such a great time on this vacation, that we took another dude ranch vacation together the following year...but to a different ranch. But that's fodder for another post.


  1. That's great that you scanned all these photos and shared the experience. It was clearly a very fond memory. Six girlfriends don't need a fancy resort to have a good vacation! And YES, I love the eyeglasses! I have a pair of sunglasses that style and I wear them all the time! :)

  2. Elizabeth - As you can see, the photos were fading. I wanted to archive a few of them and decided to go ahead and do a blog post about the experience. Actually, I think those eyeglasses are coming back into style again. It doesn't pay to throw anything away. :)

  3. I just loved seeing all those photo's, what wonderful memories ... and yes it's true, if you keep things long enough they'll always come right back into fashion! :o)

  4. What wonderful memories to share Linda.I always like ranches like this to play at.If it clears up we planned on renting a few ponies this week.
    Steve, OOTP

  5. What wonderful pictures AND memories too!

  6. Deborah - It's fun looking at vintage photos, isn't it? It doesn't really matter whose memories are recorded in them, if we've lived long enough, we'll see something in them at evokes a memory of our own.

    Steve - I hope you get a break in the weather so that you can go on that trail ride.

    Bossy Betty - Thanks so much for letting me share them with you.

  7. Wonderful photos, Linda. You sure brought us back to a place and time.. and glasses.

    OK, that's enough typing. I'm going back to look at Dale, now. ;)

  8. Thanks, Hilary. I'm glad you enjoyed that little look back in time. You made me laugh out loud with the comment about Dale.

  9. What a coincidence! My first job was with the same company. It was in June of 1956. I was still 17 yrs. old when I graduated. It really bugged me to see my name on the bulletin board under the listing of “Children working here”!

    What similarities to our experiences! I loved the cafeteria, also. And there were 5 of us that hung out together at meals and breaks. And we rushed to get back to one of our desks to play “Oh, Heck!” It was a game where everyone played at the same time…sort of like “Dutch Blitz.” Sometimes one of us would get scratched with a fingernail as we would be trying to put a card on the same pile. It was really fun.

    Then that September (just a couple weeks before I met my husband,Gerald) four of us went for an overnighter to Turkey Run State Park. (The 5th gal was married.) We stayed in a motel in Connersville. We rode horses on a trail…my first time to ride a horse…and by Monday back at work, I had sore spots in places I didn’t know I had! :-)

  10. Welcome, Penpalpat - Oh, how I enjoyed hearing about your experiences at the same company, just a few years earlier. Working there really was like spending a day with "the girls," wasn't it?

  11. It's so much fun to read this and see the pictures. It's great that you were already taking pictures then. And I'm glad you didn't fall into the trap so many photographers do of always being the one taking the pictures, so never IN any pictures. And, yes, I DO love the glasses. :)

  12. Sandra - We didn't seem to have too much trouble finding someone to take group pictures of us. I'm glad you enjoyed the memories. It was fun sharing them. And now some of the photos can be preserved digitally.

  13. What a FUN time you and your friends had! Loved the old pics just as they are :) Keep the memories coming! By the way, I had those same glasses and used a Brownie camera to capture lots of fun times back in the Good Old Days!

  14. I remember these days as well, our own senior class from High School went there on our Senior Trip...we all had a blast...enjoyed the many activities that they offered, 3 legged race, boat race (with one person blind folded and the other directing the way...we came in first--no prizes but it was lots of fun..I also remember the building that resembled 4 attached cabins, I stayed in one of them with 3 other gals, and every time we turned around had to go behind the building and turn back on the electricity after blowing the circuit. LOL..and yes this does bring back memories, I'm happy that you had the opportunity to enjoy it was 1968 for me...thank you for sharing..

  15. Hi, Diane! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment on this post. What a fun senior trip that must have been. Such a great idea for a class trip. I wonder if any of your classmates still look back on that time with fond memories. Our little group still gets together once a year or so.

  16. Our class of 1968 Pontiac Northern High, Pontiac, Michigan, went there for our Senior trip. Some of us couldn't go because we were still playing baseball for the school team. The cost was $35 for 3 days and 2 nights.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this memory, Anonymous. What a great place for a senior trip. I hope you had some memorable basketball games to ease the pain of missing the trip to Gay El Rancho. :)

  17. By any chance was Mary's proper name Marion?

  18. Oh well. I recently found several items from the ranch at an estate sale of a lady name Marian and it piqued my interest. She resembled your Mary, too.

    1. Oh my. What fun it would be to come across those items at an estate sale. I wonder if Marian had just been a visitor at the ranch or if she had, perhaps, worked there. Either way, I'm sure she treasured those items during her life.

  19. I would guess that she was a frequent visitor but she just as well could have been a worker at some point. I'll post links below to a few of the treasures if you don't mind:

    gift certificate:

    wooden name tag:

    There's other Gay El Rancho ephemera on my blog, too, if you're interested.

    1. Thanks for the links, the. I enjoyed looking at those "treasures" and the other Gay El Rancho items. You have an interesting collection.

  20. 1965

    1. What a fun video clip, Graham! Thanks so much for linking it here!


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