60 years at Little America celebrated
May 20, 2021
Sixty years is a long time for anyone.
For some, that amount of time can nearly fit an entire lifetime. However, for one housekeeper working at Little America, it's the length of her career.
Mary Morin celebrated her 60th anniversary working for the hotel and travel stop Tuesday with a celebration featuring family, friends and coworkers. Morin, an 83-year-old resident of Granger, has worked at Little America since May 18, 1961. Her starting wage was 90 cents an hour, making $7.20 a day. At the time she received her first raise to $1.25 an hour five years later, Morin's husband was making $1.60 at the FMC trona mine.
"That's the kind of history Mary has seen here," Spencer RIggs, Little America's general manager said.
Morin lived in Granger since she was 10 years old and originally went to Little America to help her younger sister get a job. Morin was 23 at the time and after speaking to Earl Holding, the hotel chain's founder, Holding offered a job to both Morin and her sister. Morin's only condition was she would receive Sundays off. She started the next day, cleaning rooms in Lodge 1.
"He needed the help," Morin recalls.
Over the years, Morin would become known for her impeccably clean rooms, her high work ethic and the smile she wore while she worked. Stephen Holding, Earl's son, worked as Little America's general manager in the late 1980s after finishing his college degree and recalls how he would seek out Morin sometimes while she worked her rooms. Stephen said he was isolated from family and friends while living at Little America and Morin would cheer him up when he would speak with her.
"If she can do her job for 30 years, I can do mine for a few more days," Stephen remembers thinking.
Another former general manager, Scott French, who now manages the Little America and Grand America hotels in Salt Lake City, remembers when being told about the longtime housekeeper working at Little America after starting there. He remembers being told she can work there until she wants to retire, with French initially thinking he would find a old woman only cleaning a few rooms a day. After meeting Morin, she surprised him by working harder than a lot of the other employees.
"The biggest problem was trying to keep her from moving furniture," French said.
French said he offered to help move beds for her, but she turned the offer down, saying she didn't have the time and needed to vacuum. French, who worked in housekeeping for four months, said an eight-hour day cleaning rooms is hard work.
"A lot of people can't hack that," he said.
The amount of walking Morin does during a shift is itself more than most people do in a week. Morin wears a purple Fitbit her neighbor, June Nichols, had recently gave her. At noon Tuesday, six hours into her shift, the device logged 13,563 steps -- roughly 5.3 miles. Nichols said Morin logged more than 19,000 steps the first day she wore it to work.
"I can't imagine Little America without Mary," Carol Holding, Earl's wife, said.
Carol described Morin as a "tough taskmaster" when cleaning rooms with her, saying Morin would point out things she missed.
"She was very particular in how her rooms were," she said.
Carol said she trusted Morin's work so much that she would show off her rooms to guests, knowing they would be spotless.
Riggs said the company gives gifts to employees to celebrate employment anniversaries and had to create a celebratory gift for both her 55th and 60th anniversaries. Aside from the party and a certificate of appreciation signed by Carol, Morin was given a ruby necklace. A billboard leading to Little America also features a photo of Morin and a message thanking her for her years with the company.
While Carol jokes about Morin having another 60 years in her, Morin said she is preparing to retire in August. She said she's enjoyed working for Little America and the Holding family as well, describing the owners as good people to work for. She also said she likes the job she has.
"I like it. I like working and to feel proud of what I've done," Morin said.