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Ford only president to serve as a park ranger

1/6/2007

WASHINGTON — Feeding the bears at Yellowstone National Park is a thing of the past. But in the summer of 1936, it was one of former President Gerald R. Ford's jobs as a seasonal park ranger.

Ford's stint at the park that summer 70 years ago, when he turned 23, makes him the only U.S. president ever to have served as a park ranger in the National Park Service, the service said.

Ford, the nation's 38th president, died Tuesday at the age of 93.

He was "a darned good ranger," his supervisor, Canyon District Ranger Frank Anderson recalled. Ford himself called it "one of the greatest summers of my life."

While at Yellowstone, Ford was assigned as an armed guard on the bear-feeding truck — a job that Ford often enjoyed recalling when telling stories to his family, according to the National Park Service.

Among his other duties that summer was to welcome arriving dignitaries at the park's Canyon Hotel and Lodge. He once told his supervisor that it was "undemocratic and un-American to give special attention to VIPs."

But in those days before World War II, long before Ford became a VIP himself, the future president enjoyed "everything we rangers had to do," said Wayne Repogle, his roommate that summer.

One aspect he particularly liked, Repogle recalled, were the daily checks for the make, model, state and license number of every car around between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.

It took most of the rangers about two hours of running around to list the 150 to 200 licenses parked there. Ford, who played football, saw it as a great opportunity to keep fit.

When he became president, Ford added 18 new areas to the national park system.