Photo courtesy of Betty Bartlett
'Lassie' actor Jon Provost and Grand Canyon teacher Betty Bartlett discuss rocks and geography.
Pat Lauzon, a seventh grader at Grand Canyon School, was given the dignified position as serving as a stand-in for 'Lassie' actor Jon Provost.
When it comes to knowledge, there's hardly anyone better than a teacher. As part of their job, teachers often learn right alongside their students. Besides her teaching, former Grand Canyon schoolteacher Betty Bartlett also dabbled in writing, as she would often write about her experiences teaching at the South Rim. She wrote a story concerning Grand Canyon School for the Arizona Daily Sun and also wrote for the Lumberjack, the newspaper of Northern Arizona University. She said her favorite story was one she wrote about the mules at the South Rim.
"I had a lot of fun with that," Bartlett said. "I love mules. I actually had a mule named after me a few years ago. They are smart animals. They are very trainable. They're creatures of habit. A lot of important people have ridden those animals."
The daughters of Marie Curie, Mayor LaGuardia (SP), actor Jimmy Durante and a host of other famous names have enjoyed mule rides in the past, Bartlett said, adding that she's currently working on a history of the American mule, which she said has their roots in Mount Vernon.
Though she moved to Flagstaff years ago, Bartlett has continued to stay informed on news from the Grand Canyon. She's remained friends with a number of individuals from the area as well. Besides her role as a teacher at the school, she was also a member of the Grand Canyon Visitors Association and is considered the founder of the Grand Canyon Pioneer Society.
Her years spent teaching and living at the South Rim afforded Bartlett, now 84, the opportunity to meet a number of the area's notable residents. She grew to be friends with Emery Kolb, whom she met on one of her first trips to the area with her mother in the 1940s. It was at the Canyon where she also met a number of actors involved with the Lassie television series.
"That was priceless," Bartlett said. "We got wind of (the production), that they would be at the Canyon. With my previous experience in Hollywood, I made contact with the group, if it would be permissible that we could bring our students to watch some of the filming. Absolutely. No problem. We had carte blanche as far as the whole situation."
She also hit it off with the actor who played Timmy, Jon Provost, and actress June Lockhart.
"I had known her dad in Hollywood," Bartlett said. "She was real sweet about posing with the students and meeting with them, chatting with them and so on."
Provost was also invited to attend a 1920s dance held at Grand Canyon School, which Bartlett said he was thrilled to accept.
"His mother was a delightful person. She had been a home economics teacher. Child stars had to have so many hours of education, so Mrs. Dunning filled that," Bartlett said. She stayed in contact with both Provost and Dunning for years following the visit and laughs when she thinks of Provost, now working in real estate, wearing a mustache.
"It was just a wonderful experience," Bartlett said. "They also allowed us to bring some of the younger members of our student body to watch some of the filming. They were real quiet and I was real proud of them all."
The group also hosted a farewell party for the Hollywood production at the Bright Angel Lodge at the end of Lassie's visit, Bartlett said.
"Pets were not allowed in the Canyon, to own them, and for that reason, that was kind of a privilege to entertain such a delightful," Bartlett said. "There were four Lassies actually."
When the episode aired, Bartlett said a number of residents gathered to watch it.
"We didn't really have a television at the Canyon until about the 60s. Some people did have sets, so we got to see the program," Bartlett said. "I have the script. It was based on Jon and his mother, (who) meet this blind man. The blind man taught Jon how to see, or feel, the Canyon. They did have the mules involved as well."