Anne Enos grew up in the motel business. But for her mother, the family’s motel and trailer park was much more than a business.
“This is our home, and the people who stay here are guests in our home,” her mother would tell the young Anne.
It is an approach Enos adopted. “Anything you need, you just come and ask me for it,” Enos told my husband and me after we decided to stay the night at her Willow Springs Motel and Trailer Park, five miles south of Bridgeport, California, on Highway 395.
A rock fall had closed the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, our original destination, and other roads that might have taken us west were closed by snow. It was, after all, the beginning of October and a storm system accompanied by a sudden drop in temperature made it far too cold for tent camping. The motels in Lee Vining, the town nearest Yosemite, were beyond our budget.
Enos was true to her word. No sooner did we ask about boiling water for tea, she suggested we bring our thermos to her and she would fill it for us. Then she told us the history of Willow Springs.
Her parents, Guy and Louise Rasmussen, bought the land in 1952. They had been camping nearby, hunting and fishing (“they always did everything together”) but snow had collapsed their tent. So they rented a room with an elderly childless couple who took a liking to them and suggested they buy part of their 100 acres and build a motel and RV park.
“RVs are getting popular,” they said by way of encouragement.
So the Rasmussens bought 40 acres for $100 and opened Willow Springs in 1953. At the time, a room went for $4 and a room with a kitchenette for $8.
Louise Rasmussen fretted over the cost. “I don’t know how people can afford $4 a night,” Enos remembers her saying.
As a child, Enos attended a two-room schoolhouse in Bridgeport. But for high school she had to travel 100 miles, to a four-room schoolhouse.She married young; the first of her four sons was born when she was 19. They were brought up as hunters and fisherman.
“My parents hunted and fished, and I brought up all my sons hunting and fishing,” Enos said. “People from the city think hunting is terrible, but bears kill the deer, some of the deer die in the winter, some of them get hit by cars. I believe God gave them to us for food. I brought up my family on venison, pheasant, rabbit.”
And, she added, “I never had a problem with my kids: no drugs, no alcohol; they don’t even smoke.”
Enos is 68; her husband, Maynard, a former federal police chief, is 74. She laughed when asked whether her motel rooms, which have marble-topped cabinets and comfortable armchairs, have wi-fi.
“We don’t like change,” she said. “We just got satellite TV, and some of our customers complained. They said they like to come here because we don’t have TV and Internet and phones.” But the restaurant across the road has wi-fi, she added, “and if you sit down by the pond you may be able to pick it up.”
Enos’s oldest son, Mark, who does many of the repairs, hopes to take over the motel when he retires in a few months after working 32 years in a hospital. But Enos has no intention of giving up the helm.
How long does she plan to run the motel? Her answer was simple. “My mother did it until she was 87.”
Text and photo copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text or photo may be used without written permission of the author.