Berkeley Backpacking Biz - Old School, New School, No School

Susan Castner - First Days in the Outdoor Industry

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Alan Tabor: So, Yeah! So, you said you went to Berkeley High.

Susan Castner: So, I went to Berkeley High.  My family moved from Cambridge Mass to Berkeley in 1972 and I went to Berkeley High.  In the mid-70s at Berkeley High there was a school within the school…well several of them…and I went to one called Model School A and they had for their PE class Outdoor Experience which included everything from trying to learn how to sail in at aquatic park at 8 a.m. in the morning to going out backpacking and rock-climbing at the Pinnacles…and I started to kind of fall in love with the outdoors.  It was especially beckoning to me because I had come from living in an apartment building in Cambridge.  So here I was in California and the great outdoors…and I'm thinking that somewhere right after high school I actually went to work for Granite Stairway Mountaineering for a couple of months.  Guntram [Jordan] was the store manager and then, of course,  there was the Peter Benjamin / [Bill] Simon connection.

Alan: Right.

Susan: With Granite Stairway I was dating a fellow who worked at Snow Lion right and then I took…

Alan: So, this is 70s?

Susan: …this is this is 70s, let’s call it ‘76…and then I went to work for North Face in customer service between high school and college because Diana Woodward's father owned my parent’s house. So I somehow made that that connection and she said, “Oh, we have this customer service job.” And it was actually like a file clerk or something in the mezzanine above shipping back in the day…and I think Eileen [Woodward] was the department manager at the time. So, I worked for a year, call it ‘77-ish, 1977.

Then I said, you know there's got to be more to life than this! So, I went to school at UC Berkeley and while I was at school I worked part-time retail at Sierra Designs with Paul Kramer.

Alan: Okay. So, he was a retail manager at that point?

Susan: And Paul was the retail manager. So, I did that while I was in school. The highlight would be, of course, working with Paul…Frank Gretch…Mark Nadal. And Mark letting me join him on his ski trips that he led up at Royal Gorge.

Then right after I graduated from college I ran into…it was probably Diana Woodward again…and she said well if you feel like coming back there is a job opening and customer service.  And I was like, “Oh no, not again.”  So I went and I interviewed with Lee Turnlington at the tail end of 1981 and he hired me.  So, I had a customer service position there starting in 81 and then I spent just about ten years at North Face leaving in the end of 1990.

Alan: Okay

Susan: And so during that 9-10 year period at North Face I was with I was in customer service for a couple of years, then worked as John Kirchner's assistant in skiwear sales, and then ended up as the Uniform Sales Managers.

Alan: Okay

Susan: Uniform sales included both Ski Resort uniforms…so, more marketing… and then we were also a subcontractor for government agency uniforms…Forest Service, Park Service, BLM, etc.

And I met Susan [Smith] and Nancy [Eisen] there in the early 80s talking it over.

Alan: So, just a quick question. So, you said you hung out at Ski Hut was would that be in high school?

Susan: Ski Hut would have been that high school and then the year between high school and college. So, that ‘77-‘78 period

Alan: This was kind of a climber hangout or something?

Susan: Climber hang out…I think that the fellow that was a really good friend of mine, Mark Joseph before he went to Snow Lion might have been at Ski Hut and we used to pal around a lot together. Go do things like to skateboard on campus at midnight. There might have been some buildering in there too.













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