The next time you visit Silver Dollar City, you might want to stop and admire Delma’s Shack.
Delma McCauley gave 50 years of her working life to Silver Dollar City. For every five years, she received a handmade gift from the park as a gift of appreciation. On her 50th anniversary of employment, she received a miniature version of a building now named in her honor. The model of the shack stands in a place of honor in the living room of her Nixa home. She officially retired from Silver Dollar City in October 2019.
McCauley shared how the Fall Festival of 1970 beckoned her to get her start working in the mill. Her father-in-law had a steam engine on display at Silver Dollar City and had some connections. McCauley’s first job was to run a cash register in the mill.
The next January, Silver Dollar City executives have McCauley a choice to continue working with the Fall Festival or take a job in the merchandise division. She opted for the festival because she loved experiencing a bit of 1880s life.
“We were making cheese,” McCauley said.
McCauley had no background in dairy work or cheesemaking, but she tackled her new job of entertaining guests at the theme park.
“I didn’t really make the cheese, I was just there to tell people about the cheesemaking,” McCauley said.
Cheese arrived at Silver Dollar City from Wisconsin in 100-pound blocks.
“We took a big knife and hacked off whatever people wanted,” McCauley said.
She later moved on to making rope. Years later, she was promoted to the title of “area assistant,” which entailed covering for people on their lunch breaks, running supplies and doing whatever the craftsmen needed to make their jobs easier.
McCauley went on to become a bookkeeper. Once again, she had no background in accounting, but she learned Silver Dollar City’s accounting system and worked at it for years. She also became an assistant organizer of the Fall Festival, which allowed her to travel.
“We went on the road and looked for craftsmen, and then I started helping set up the booths in the fall and did that clear until the end,” McCauley said. “It just kind of grew. Each year there would be something new, and they would say, ‘Here, Delma, you can do this.’”
She could do it. When the Fall Festival needed a leader, Silver Dollar City called on McCauley to plan it and set up the event.
“My boss called me in and said, ‘You’re going to be in charge of the Fall Festival,’” McCauley said. “I remember going back into the office and the lady that I shared the office with, you know, and i said, ‘Janice, did he say what I thought he said?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Janice, I don’t know if I can do that,’ and she said, ‘Delma, you’re already doing that.’”
It wasn’t just the Fall Festival. McCauley was involved in the crucial planning of the Spring Festival, World-Fest, music festivals and all sorts of special events for the final 10 years of her time at Silver Dollar City.
“Each festival is different, so my duties were always different,” McCauley said. “It was one of those things that you get up and you like going to work. Now, not a lot of people can say that. I never got up and thought, ‘Oh shoot, I’ve got to to go work today.’”
Delma and her husband, Jim, lived in NIxa throughout her 50 years at Silver Dollar City, so Delma commuted to work at least five days per week, if not more.
Even though she spent more time doing office work in the latter portions of her career, McCauley still enjoyed dressing in one of her costumes and heading out into the park to mingle with craftsmen and guests. She made her own dresses and had each one approved by the authenticators in the park’s costume shop. It was important to provide a fun experience for the people who weren’t there for the rides. McCauley confessed to having ridden only one of the Silver Dollar City roller coasters, Thunderation, in her time there.
“There are people who come just for the rides, there are people who come just for the shops and to watch the craftsmen, and there are people who come just for those festivals,” McCauley said. “It was never a boring place to go.”
McCauley doesn’t anticipate much idle time in her retirement. She’s looking into finding places to volunteer her time. She and Jim are also heavily involved in the Christian County Agriculture and Mechanical Society and the Ozarks Steam Engine Association.