From the Recollections of Life and Events in Wawona series

by Norm Serra


We all surely have something in common: our love for Wawona. I have enjoyed reading your well-written histories. We discovered Wawona in a roundabout way.

In July of 1960, Janet and I decided that it was time to show our four kids, ages 2 thru 8, the beauties of Yosemite. We had each seen Yosemite Valley only once and knew we had to return. We tried to get reservations in the Valley, but were disappointed because there was nothing available. We were living in the San Fernando Valley at the time and Janet spotted an ad in the Valley Green Sheet for cabins rentals in Wawona.

It had been placed there by Mr. Kessler, a local English teacher who owned Yosemite Pines, the group of cabins across from the Pine Tree Market. He was a wonderful man. He spent his summers in Wawona, renting out his cabins and working on a history of Wawona (I don’t think he ever finished it). We made a reservation, but the night before we were to leave I had a crippling arthritis attack and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Janet called Mr. Kessler to cancel. He said that if he could rent out the cabin he would return our $10 deposit, however the following week it arrived with a note saying that since I was in the hospital he was sure we needed it more than he did.

I spent a month in the hospital, but the following year, after I had recovered, we tried again. We contacted Mr. Kessler and rented the old brown house on Chilnualna Falls Road, now #80, the Chatterton’s cabin. Mr. Kessler had swings and slides for the kids and he directed us to the swimming holes, the falls, the swinging bridge and all the sights. We had a wonderful time, familiarizing ourselves with Wawona, swimming, hiking, catching our first fish in the pools above the falls and of course visiting Yosemite Valley. We even have pictures taken at Mirror Lake when there was water in it.

Six years later, in 1967, now with five kids, we decided to do it again. We rented the same cabin. Again we had a great time and fell more in love with the area. At that time Mr. Kessler was ready to sell and we offered to buy the cabin, but he was hoping to sell his entire property as a package and didn’t want to break it up. We didn’t know at the time that The Redwoods next door, much smaller then than now, was made up of private cabins. We thought they were government owned. By sheer luck, however, we met Dick Moore the day before we left. He told us he had two cabins for sale, cabins 10 and 11. He wouldn’t show us cabin 10 because he didn’t want to disturb the renters. That impressed us. So we looked at number 11 at the end of Woodpecker Way, a little 800-square-foot log exterior cabin with a decent living room, but just two tiny bedrooms, a tiny bathroom, a tiny kitchen, a small dinette, no deck, and a little front porch. By this time, we were so enamored of the idea of a cabin in Wawona that we made an offer and closed the deal over the phone the next night with the owner, Bill Morrin, who was moving to a larger cabin. It is the best thing we ever did.

The rest is history. We have spent so much time in Wawona that it has become a home away from home for our children and grandchildren. I have so many pictures of family and friends year after year at the swimming holes and skiing at Badger that I don’t know what do with them. I have pictures of two carloads of us driving through the Wawona Tunnel Tree the September before it fell.

Passenger wagon passing through the Wawona Tunnel Tree

Wawona Tunnel Tree (NPS archives)

Over the years we met other cabin owners and regular visitors, great folks who have become very dear long term friends, and we have introduced other friends and relatives to Wawona who have become regular visitors, coming up year after year and renting cabins for their own families and friends.

In 1969 we added a bedroom and bath and a small deck. Still as the family grew it got more crowded.

Finally, in 2002, after I observed my granddaughters, now young ladies, sleeping in sleeping bags under the dining room table, we finally added a fourth bedroom and another bath.

We followed that two years later with a big deck and last year with an extension to the dinette.

The love that our family members have for the cabin and their desire to be there together made these changes imperative. Wawona has brought joy, closeness, great family fun and even tranquility into our lives. Just sitting on the deck at night and looking at the stars is a spiritual experience. I am so grateful.

Like I said, it’s the best thing we ever did.


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