My father in law, Hollis Barnett died on March 22nd 1990. He was a unique and wonderful man. You can read about his extraordinary wife Betty Barnett and more about this couple who I grew to love very much. 

On the anniversary of Hollis's death I offer these remembrances. Hollis Hall Barnett died in Puyallup, Washington on March 22, 1990 at the age of 83. Hollis  was born in Buckley, Washington on May 3, 1907 and spent his younger years at Mt. Rainier National Park where his father, Herman "Herm"  Burke Barnett, was a ranger. Herman was born in 1882. He lived in Marysville for a time and moved into the Big Bottom County to work on Packwood's coal mining claims. Herm held various jobs as a surveyor in the summer and a trapper by winter, and established a homestead near Packwood. In 1915 , Herm became a Park Ranger at Mount Rainer Nation Park. Herm and his wife Ethel  resided at various places in the park until Herm's retirement in 1945. His Mother, Ethel Mae Hall Barnett had one other child. Her name was Zelma Devlin.

Hollis had grown up in the park where his father, Herm, worked. Hollis  worked as a temporary ranger in the park while growing up. After high school he went to Spokane to attend Gonzaga University.

Hollis and Betty met when she as a senior at Holy Names High School in Spokane and he was at  Betty revisedGonzaga University. Hollis was staying in a boarding house run by Betty’s aunt and they met and married November 16, 1931 in Seattle where he had found work operating a gas station to support them. Then, in 1937, Hollis was offered the operation of a small gas station located at Longmire inside Mount Rainier National Park.

While working at the gas station in 1937 Hollis learned that land owned by the Park Commissioner Edward Hall was for sale. He decided to buy property located right at the entrance to the park as an ideal location for a gas station and restaurant. Hall had a 160 acre homestead which is where Nisqually Park is now located and agreed to sell 14 acres out of the SE corner of his property to Hollis and Betty.

Hollis talked a number of their friends into helping them construct the first Gateway Inn. Their friends also helped them construct the initial motel units. The units were cheaply constructed and there was a common out house for use of the motel guests, until bathrooms were later added. They lived in a small Betty resort revised room in the back and the log cabins were added later to rent to travelers.

Their son Devitt was born in 1933, followed by young Hollis in 1939 and then Barbara in 1940. With a growing family the began to build a small house next to the restaurant in 1941. Monica was born in 1943 and Lita in 1950.

This was a family run resort that served food, sold gas and provided small log cabins for overnight guests. They also rented ski equipment and had a small store inside as well. Everyone in the family worked at the resort. Later the Texaco Company agreed to allow them to sell gas.

A major flood destroyed the cabins and they had to be replaced in the late 1960's. There was a French Canadian in his late 60's named Jean Baptiste Cote who Hollis hired to build the log cabins. All of the logs were cut down from the property in the back and hand peeled and skidded with a pickup to the site where the cabins were constructed.

Hollis Barnett, son

Some of the memories his son, Hollis, relates include these:

When the movie "Track of the Cat" was made they shot the location in the Paradise Valley. The stars were Robert Mitchum, Tab Hunter and Dianna Lynn, along with others. The log cabins were new as this was in 1953. Looking back on it, it is amazing how well mom and dad got along with the stars and the director and the staff. They made special meals and went out of their way for them. They loaned Tab Hunter their car so he could see an old girlfriend that he knew in Tacoma.

One day the actor, who was Robert Mitchum’s double, caught a raccoon and put him in a box. He then turned the raccoon loose in the cabin where Mitchum and he were staying. It brought laughs along with a lot of shouting and running to get the Racoon out of the cabin. Mitchum loved to play poker all night, and there were high stakes poker games at Paradise that he attended almost every night. At age fourteen, they hired me to watch their movie equipment stored at Paradise and every night I drove my brother’s 1941 Chevrolet to Paradise to watch the equipment, although I didn’t yet have a driver’s license. While at Paradise I would see Mitchum driving back at four or five in the morning to get a few hours sleep before going to the set.

Glenn Frayed had a small motel below us and also worked construction. He was somewhat of a local character. One night he created an interesting scene at Gateway. Glenn was about 6' 3" and extremely strong, and liked his alcohol, and was known as a fighter. He came into Gateway one evening half drunk and wanted to talk to Mitchum. Dad intercepted him knowing that Glenn might cause trouble. Glenn told dad he just wanted to have a drink with Mitchum. Glenn wasn’t going to leave without some contact, so Dad then talked to Mitchum in private and he agreed to meet with Glenn. Mitchum and Glenn then went out to Glen’s car where Glenn had a bottle of bottle of booze. Both took long pulls from the bottle and no fight happened.

While dad was a seasonal ranger for the Park, he was called to help rescue a hiker that had been injured by a rockfall near the Nisqually Glacier, about a mile above the upper bridge. The person was badly injured and died while dad was helping to bring him down. While I was working construction on the Nisqually Bridge , less than a mile from where Dad’s incident occurred, another worker on the Bridge fell 100' from the bridge to the water, and I was the first one to reach him in the river and pull him out. I then went with the Rangers and stayed with the injured worker traveling out of the park to meet an ambulance . On the way the worker died before we reached the Park Entrance. It was ironic that dad and I should have the same experience in the same locale.

It became a tradition for the guide service to have dinners at Gateway after a successful climb with some of their clients. The Whittaker twins, Jim and Lou, were working for the guide service when they were at Seattle University (1948-52), as well as later. They would always stop at Gateway on the way to Paradise. After the first successful American accent of Everest with Jim Whittaker, Jim and the other climbers had a reunion at Gateway.Dad always did the books and looked like he ran the show, but Mom was always the rudder that made things work. If there was any problem that popped up Dad would let Mom help resolve it if possible. One day a the wife of a prominent Doctor on the east side of the state showed up. The doctor and his wife had stayed at the Inn on several occasions. But, this time her husband had brought a girlfriend over to stay at Gateway with him. Outside the Inn she confronted her husband and began berating him. There was an Army bus full of passengers parked in the lot. They all rushed to the side of the bus to watch and listen. It looked like the bus was in danger of tipping over.

Then the wife confronted Dad with an angry statement " What kind of place are you running here?" Dad immediately went to the door leading upstairs where Mom was at the time and yelled to her "Mom, what kind of place are we running here?" Mom came down and to some extent calmed down the distraught wife.

Lita Barnett Luvera, daughter

At Mt. Rainier, there was a lot of wild life including deer, coyotes, mountain lions, wolves, and black bear.  Whenever dad walked out the door of the Gateway Inn, animals, ravens and birds would come out of the woods and fly from trees to come to him. He would talk to them in the noises they instinctively made. It probably also helped that he always had food in his pockets for them. All of this was good for business at the resort because tourists driving by would slam on their brakes to photograph the animals. Once they were stopped dad  would start a conversation and before long they were inside buying souvenirs, having breakfast, lunch or blackberry pie as well as renting a Log cabin.

Sometimes a bear would break into the back of the kitchen porch and force open the refrigerator door that was on the back porch. The bear would pull out trays of porterhouse steaks and run with them to woods. Finally, dad wired the step with an electrical charge to keep the bear away. It worked but, one day a mother bear arrived with cubs and she pushed one of the cubs up the stairs. Apparently testing to see if it was safe for her.

Herds of deer roamed the property and most of them Hollis had named. During hunting season Dad would grab the males and saw off their antlers to look like a doe instead of a buck with a rack of horns. He would also attach red hats to his favorites so hunters wouldn’t shoot them.

There was a pet deer the family named Sniffles that my brother Hollis saved from drowning in the Nisqually River. This deer lived on the property. The family raised him as a fawn and bottle fed him. He would come right into the house and even slept there as a baby. When I was a small child the deer was so tame dad would sometimes put me on Sniffles back and I would ride him like a horse.

I remember in particular dad's love of animals and his uncanny ability to "talk to the animals." One  time when he took my nephew Devitt and me to The Point Defiance Zoo. Hollis loved going to the zoo and once there he would walk around making animal sounds and talking to the animals. He had the lions roaring, the monkeys all chattering and all the caged animals BETTY.6_Page_2growling and huffing and in a complete uproar. A Tacoma News Tribune reporter happened to be there that day and saw all of this. Without saying anything to dad he wrote an article in the News Tribune about the amazing man who could talk to the animals and they all talked back. He labeled Hollis "a modern day Dr. Doolittle." However, for Devitt and me it it was just another day with dad.

One time dad took Devitt and me, during summer school vacation, to Tacoma to buy groceries for the restaurant. Young Devitt had a great singing voice and dad loved to harmonize. Devitt and Ionly wanted to listen to KJR radio. The reception at the mountain doing the daytime hours was terrible  and we wanted to listen to KJR Rock and Roll music, but couldn't get a clear signal. Besides dad hated that music. So when we were on our way to Tacoma reception became clear and we wanted to turn on KJR . Dad, who was a Laurence Welk and Mitch Miller fan wanted to listen to his kind of music. So Devitt and I would negotiate with him. They reached an agreement that if Devitt and Lita sang with dad for thirty minutes he would allow them to turn on KJR afterwards.

Dad was very entertaining because he knew so many poems and limericks by heart. He would recite them all the way from Mt. Rainier to Tacoma and back. He knew almost all the Robert Service Poems as well as classic English and American poetry. My  personal favorite as a child was a poem called " Sugar Tooth Dick" that he could recite, but I've never found a copy of the poem, so perhaps he made it up.

Dad had pet names for every one. If you were in trouble… he would call you a " little polecat" His name for me was "dolly bug"… when I wasn't a"polecat." I remembers him singing to me as a small child and that he would often times would make up songs like "Lita Lou losing her shoe."


When I think of Lita's dad I think of him with a twinkle in his eyes. They would literally crinkle up and get a smile when he was about tell a joke and he had hundreds of jokes he loved to tell. He had you ready to laugh before he even told the story or joke and he was a wonderful story teller. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was fun to be with.

After many years of working long hours at Gateway Hollis and Betty sold the business and retired to Puyallup where they enjoyed reading and traveling. They had spent their whole married life working together and enjoyed each other’s company in retirement as well. When Betty died Hollis was devastated and really never recovered from losing her. She was a very special woman and so was he. I miss them both and wish I could be half the decent and good human being Hollis Hall Barnett was during his life.

4 thoughts on “MY FATHER-IN-LAW – HOLLIS H. BARNETT 1907 – 1990

  1. I learned “Sugar tooth Dick” as a child from my elocution teacher, Miss Mary Synon in Chicago. She also taught dramatic art and public speaking at Mercy High school Chicago. I remember the first few lines and would enjoy reading the rest if anyone knows them.
    Sugar tooth Dick
    For dainties was sick.
    So he slowly stole into the kitchen’
    Snatched a cup from the pantry,
    Unnoticed by mother or Gretchen.
    Gail Hayes McDowell Chicago

  2. thank you very much for this reflection and memories regarding Mr. Barnett. I was researching the history on the Gateway Inn in Ashford (I live 3 miles from the Gateway Inn) and there is minimal information regarding the inn until I came upon this site. I was very moved by these personal memories and reflections on Mr. Barnett and now the Gateway Inn will have a total new meaning for me. I grew up in the area and learned how to ski as a kid at Paradise when there were rope tows. I have bookmarked this site so from time to time I can revisit Mr. Barnett and his wonderful family. Thank you so much for sharing!! Pat at the mountain!

  3. Sugar Tooth Dick for dainties was sick & he slyly crept into the pantry.
    He snatched up a cup & darted out quick, unnoticed by mother or Gretchen.
    Said he “there’s no cake,for tomorrow they bakc, but this custard looks smooth & delicious”.
    How they’ll scold at the cats, the mice & the rats, but of me I don’t think they’re suspicious.
    They might have filled up such a stingy mean cup, but for the want of a spoon I must drink it.
    It’s easy to pour, hark, who’s that at the door & the custard went down ere you’d think it. …

    ’til the terrible din brought the whole household in. He had swallowed a cup full of mustard!

    as best as memory serves. I have missed some.

  4. Sugar tooth dick for dainties was sick
    so he slyly stole into the kitchen
    he snatched up a cup and darted out quick
    unnoticed by mother or Gretchen
    said he there’s no cake for tomorrow they’ll bake
    but this custard looks fine and delicious
    How they’ll scold at the cats, the mice and the rats
    but of me they won’ be suspicious
    they might have filled up such a mean little cup
    For the want of a spoon I must drink it
    it’s easy to pour, hark, who’s at the door
    and the custard went down ere you’d think it
    With a howl he sprang up
    to the floor dashed the cup
    as he howled muttered spluttered and blustered
    such a horrible din brought the whole house hold in
    from he’d swallowed a cup full of mustard

    Between the two of us I think we have it all. My Dad remembered part of it that his uncle Dick
    kept reciting. I never met Uncle Dick. His sister, my Grandma came to BC in1957.
    She was a great one for making me memorize things.

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