Ann Wendlandt: A conversation with a former editor of the Mazama Bulletin

Ann and Jim Wendlandt at the Mazama Lodge
circa 1953. Photo: Unknown. 
by Jonathan Barrett

When Jim Wendlandt recounted how he met his future wife, it always began, “I saw you sitting by the fireplace…” He and Ann, his wife of 65 years, met at the Mazama Lodge, raised their daughters at the Mazama Lodge on their regular visits, and welcomed guests to the Mazama Lodge as if it were their own home. Daughters Wendy and Nancy recall learning to ski on the slopes outside. The intervening years have obscured who their instructor was, but it is very possible it was Frank Kalec, the lessons costing only ten cents apiece. As the girls kicked about on their used skis, their parents took the shuttle bus up the hill to Timberline before carving their way back down for lunch, which they had to eat in the basement because it was not prepared in the lodge’s kitchen but brought from home. Ann Wendlandt’s life was deeply intertwined with that building for decades. I recently had the opportunity talk with her and listen to her narrate a series of vignettes that arced across a lifetime of experiences and relationships.

Ann Wendlandt at NcNeil Point in 1976.
Photo: Unknown. 
It was a blustery December day as I sat across from Ann Wendlandt at Jennings McCall, a retirement community in Forest Grove. Mostly I just listened to these stories, one folding over into the next. With the aid of her daughters, she wove an account that was both intricate and beautiful. It was punctuated from time to time with, “If you had only come last year, I would have remembered more.” I was stunned by how much she does remember at the age of 88 and how the life she described is peopled by the who’s who of Mazama history. For example Ann’s aunt Abigail Choate was married to Fred McNeil, after whom McNeil Point on Mt. Hood is named. As a matter of fact, it was likely Fred and Abby’s son Malcolm who introduced Ann to Jim at the lodge in 1952 when she was visiting as a guest and still a year away from becoming a member.

Our conversation zigged and zagged. Ann’s eyes, though only narrow slits as she wrestled with her inability to recall, were still bright. She peered intently at the yellow legal pad of names that had been drawn up before I arrived as a tool to jog her memory. Bob and Martha Platt. Vera Defoe. Nick Dodge. That last one drew out a clear line. She told me about the book that he wrote and that she edited for him, A Climber’s Guide to Oregon, which was published in 1968. Editing? Yes. Our conversation turns with the flexibility of a water-born otter. For a dozen years she edited the Mazama Bulletin. Articles were delivered to her by members who had authored them, and in her own home she worked on the layout. This was the late fifties and early sixties after all. Each month she drove the final copy to John Arbuthnot on Sandy Boulevard who was the printer. These details poured out clearly but then came to a dead end.

Ann Wendlandt accepting the Parker Cup in 1967.
Photo: Unknown.
We returned to the list again. Bill and Margaret Oberteuffer. Joe Leuthold. Jim Craig. Everett Darr. I asked her about the club. What was it like? How was it different than it is now? She smiled and stated simply that things got done because people made them happen. She cited as an example Don Onthank, “Mr. Mazama”. If you wanted a ride to the Mazama Lodge, you called Don; he would give you a lift. This was the spirit of the club, she recalled. The conversation rolled slickly into novel territory. She told me there were only two paid staff: the lodge caretaker and the cook. That was it. Guests and members signed up to do the dishes and care for the building. In that moment we were back at the beginning of our conversation, but covering new territory too.

I asked how the club has changed in the intervening seven decades. Without skipping a beat, she said, “Without staff you need the volunteers to step up to make things happen.” The portrait that she painted next surprised me. Once a month, there was a membership meeting where it was common to have a hundred people in attendance. Committees made reports about the goings-on and their events. Then, rudely, the grandfather clock in the corner of the alcove where we were chatting interrupted us as it tolled eleven times. The line of thinking was disrupted.
Ann Wendlandt in the foreground on the 1953
anniversary climb of Mt. Hood in 1953

The slippery otter that was this tete-a-tete rolled deftly over despite the turbulence of sound. She recalled Martha Platt who was the club president in 1954 and Bob Platt, her husband, who served in the same role seven years earlier. Their son, Bill, would eventually go on to marry Fred McNeil’s daughter, Judy. In a sense they were just a branch of Ann’s extended family. Then out of the fog of memory emerged Betty Parker, who served on the Executive Council in 1954, and Jack Grauer, who was Wendy’s Basic Climb School teacher when she was just a mere freshman in high school. Wendy chuckled as she told me that it was a bit scandalous at the time, as young as she was. The web of names kept coming and bits of storytelling for each one. I listened to Ann weave the narrative with the assistance of her daughters until, finally, it seemed we had come to the end at last.

Jonathan Barrett and Ann Wendlandt.
Photo: Wendy Wendlandt.
“I’m sorry. If you had just come a year earlier, I would have remembered more,” she said again. I wondered what there was to apologize for. I was stunned by her memories, thrilled by her life, and charmed by her presence. This woman, who is still a dues-paying member of the Girls Scouts of America and who belongs to a troop called the Elles Gantes, needs no excuses. An hour and a half after starting, we hugged in the hallway of Jennings McCall, and Wendy took our picture. Ann’s eyes shone brightly, and I, a guy who doesn’t smile much, couldn’t stop grinning as I walked away transformed by her storytelling. I got in my car still thinking about a young woman sitting by the fireplace, only twenty-two and totally unaware of how the Mazamas would one day become entwined with her life.

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