Writer Recalls His Career as ‘Yogi Bear’
Editor’s Note: Kevin N. Hume wrote this first-person account for the Lake County Record-Bee, Lakeport, Calif.
The first time I heard someone mention Jellystone Park as a real place, I thought they were joking.
Upon consulting Google, I smiled reading that Jellystone Park was a series of RV parks around the country, including one here in Cobb.
And, when I was taking photos at the Pear Festival parade Saturday and saw Yogi and his pals, I felt oddly at home.
You see, my very first job I was Yogi Bear.
In 1999, when I was 15, Paramount Parks owned the Great America theme park in Santa Clara and the rights to Hanna-Barbera characters. As summer vacation approached, one of my friends said he had gotten a job there as a character-escort.
I was instantly intrigued. He told me about the job, which sounded awesome and I asked if he’d put in a good word for me. He did, and a few weeks later I was working there. What followed was one of the most interesting summers I’ve ever had.
The job was fairly simple. If you were an escort for the day, you dressed in the park-issued uniform of a white polo, tan khakis and a name tag.
You walked with your character for the day, supervising both your costumed co-worker and all who approached.
Forgive me if I’m destroying any parts of your childhood here.
Mostly, you took pictures for the guests and made sure no one bothered your co-worker. You did a lot of talking and had to be friendly, occasionally hard concepts for teens.
If you were in costume, you had to be silent, sweat like you were running a marathon and wear a “uniform” of ratty shirts, shorts, socks and a bandana to soak up all the sweat. A lot of sweaty clothes were laundered daily.
Your “walks” were for 30 minutes with a 30-minute break.
If temperatures outside were really hot, walks were shortened to 15 minutes with a 45-minute break. We all felt we had the best job in the whole park.
The Character Department consisted almost entirely of teens, ages 15 to 19. We all got along; we shared stories of our lives, occasionally dated each other and got into some teenage drama, all while getting paid. It was almost always fun at work.
That summer I was battered a few times as Yogi, insulted a few times when I was escorting my character, bought tons of stuff on breaks and bonded with many of my co-workers.
I continued working into the school year when the park was open on weekends. The last weekend in November, we had teary goodbyes and said we’d see each other next season.
My friend and I returned in February 2000 for training. There were some new faces, but many returnees. The new group bonded well and prepared for another awesome summer.
But in July, I broke my arm. Being in a cast meant I couldn’t be in costume. After that, the job became less fun. I quit in August.
I did eventually work one more year at the park, but as a theater attendant, a much less fun job. It was a kind of lame way to end my time there, but I’ll never forget that first summer when I could proudly declare that I was Yogi Bear.