Remembering the ’95-’96 Government Shutdown

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Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park, Condemmed Following Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Photo Taken in 2008.

Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park, Condemmed Following Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Photo Taken in 2008.

If you’ve been living under a news-free rock, there’s talk of a federal government shutdown which would be really, really bad for the country. If it happens and the same agencies who were impacted during the ’95-’96 shutdown are closed, the tourism industry is going to take another economic hit along with other sectors of the economy and possibly public safety.

I remember the 1995-1996 federal government shutdown because I was working at Flamingo Lodge & Marina in Everglades National Park then. For those who don’t know, no, I wasn’t employed by the National Park Service but by the concession company TW Recreational Services (now Xanterra Parks & Resorts).

Because the park is well, a national park, it was closed down to car visitors. Park Service couldn’t prevent visitors by boat and a few visited then. Since the park was technically closed, most hourly employees of the resort were laid off because there wasn’t anything to do (other than man reservations and the switchboard) and we salaried people had the pleasure of working line jobs.

Living in a national park, I had no idea the overall impact the shutdown had on the national economy. It was on the cusp of Internet news and honestly, we lived in our own world with little awareness of what was happening in the real world.

What I specifically recall about this time between Dec. 16, 1995 and Jan. 6, 1996:

  • Flamingo Lodge & Marina made most of its money for the year during that week between Christmas and New Years. Because of the shutdown, it was very, very quiet.
  • While I worked, I remember seeing employees playing Frisbee and football on the lawn in front of the Flamingo Visitor’s Center. Yeah, I was jealous.
  • Our General Manager at the time, Julie Fondriest, had the pleasure of appearing on CNN’s Larry King to discuss the negative impact of the shutdown. During that same appearance, a horse sleigh rider from Colorado was also interviewed and featured. I think Rush Limbaugh still talks about that interview.

What I Really Remember…
I was the manager of the marina store and needed to dip the shrimp which meant taking out the dead bait shrimp from the large live well. Although I used a net for this, some of the “decaying shrimp juice” soaked into a hangnail opening I had on a finger. A few days went by and I noticed a pink streak started to move up my hand from my finger.

My finger was a bit swollen and hurt. A couple of days later, the pink streak was running up my arm and hadn’t quite reached my armpit. My finger hurt and puss was oozing out. I finally visited the clinic in the Keys on Dec. 23 and the nurse practitioner freaked out. Apparently, I had a serious blood infection caused by the “juice” of the decaying shrimp!

I received a $75 shot of antibiotics where the sun doesn’t shine and antibiotics prescription. I had to return the next day and thank goodness, the streak was going away. The nurse told me if I had waited another day, it would have reached my heart and I would have spent Christmas in the hospital. Three cheers for modern medicine!

What do you think a federal government shutdown would mean today? What do you remember about the shutdown of 1996?

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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4 Comments

  1. Hey, I found this by doing a random search for the lodge;I was there as well. I worked first in the marine and then I was relief night security as well as the truck driver who went into town to get supplies. I have lost contact with anyone that I knew there, so it’s nice to find someone out there who was there when I was. I remember Julie very well. I also remember at driving around at night as I did my patrols and how incredibly quiet it was there with no one around. I loved that place and I worked in a few of the parks, but The Everglades was my favorite.

  2. Hi Tim!

    Thanks for dropping by and reuniting with another Flamingo-ite 🙂 Your name’s familiar and I’m pretty sure I remember you! You probably heard about Peter’s (Hulse) passing in Jan. 2008. Julie is still down in Key West managing several properties. There are a couple of Flamingo Facebook groups – if you’re on Facebook, check ’em out – I’m sure you’ll find lots of folks worked with.

  3. Hi Tim. One of the groups is “Flamingo Friends” and the other is something like “I too worked in Flamingo”. I’ll look for the URLs tonight.

  4. Thanks, I appreciate that. I found the second one but still cannot find the first, so if you have the URL, that would be great.

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