Occupation: Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau Information Specialist at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and Snowshoe Mountain Resort
Education: Graduated from Pocahontas County High School in 1984
Family: Step-son, Drew Caloccia, a student at Glenville State College
Hometown: Grew up in Mace, now lives in Cass
Hobbies: Walking, hiking and photography
Favorite Author: David Baldacci
Favorite Movie: “I don’t watch movies enough to have a favorite movie. I’d rather read all the time. I’m always reading.”
Philosophy of Life: Before you move into the future, you have to look into the past. You have to know where you’ve been to know where you are going because they combine. You have to know one with the other.
Like most people who grew up in Pocahontas County, Tammy Shoemaker began her career in the tourism industry in high school when she got a job at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
After graduating, Shoemaker knew she wanted to stay in the county and really enjoyed working with visitors, so she got a job at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.
“I’m one of those people that, I love talking to people – especially here [Cass] and Snowshoe,” she said. “You get to meet all different types of people, so it’s not just the people you grew up with. I like visiting with everybody. It doesn’t matter where they’re from. I like to know their story, and I want them to know my story.”
Combining her love of meeting new people and talking about Pocahontas County, Shoemaker found her niche as an information specialist. After many years with Cass, Shoemaker was hired by the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau to work at its visitors centers at Cass and Snowshoe.
“I like talking to people about Cass,” she said. “I like talking about Snowshoe and about Pocahontas County. It’s what has kept me here. There’s always something to learn about this place [Pocahontas County]. It’s so big, and it’s got so much history to it, and with all the different places that we have to visit here, there’s never a time when I’ll know everything, which is what makes it exciting.”
When Cass opens Memorial Day weekend, Shoemaker can be found in the former Cass Post Office where she greets visitors and provides answers to a plethora of questions. Then in the winter when Cass closes for the winter and snow begins to fall, Shoemakers heads to The Village Depot where, again, she does what she can for the visitors.
What makes Shoemaker unique is that she goes above and beyond to help visitors find the answers they are looking for, even if it means doing research and sending them a letter, weeks after their visit.
“I’ve never actually done just my job anywhere, I don’t think,” she said. “I’m just not that type of person. If there’s a guest here that needs help, I’m going to help them. That’s just me. I’m going to direct them to where they need to go to or explain to them whatever they need to know about. I’ve given tours up through [Cass] before. I’ve given tours through the [Cass] Company Store because there’s so much history in the Company Store that you miss unless you know what you’re looking at.
“Even at Snowshoe, I’m outside a lot and helping a guest, directing them, telling them where to go,” she continued. “If they can’t find this building or that building, I’ll walk them up to that building.”
Along with offering assistance, Shoemaker is always ready to answer any question, even if it requires a little research.
“There’s always someone asking questions that you don’t know,” she said. “I’m one of those people that absolutely hates the answer ‘I don’t know,’ and leave it at that. I’ve actually taken people’s name and address and went to someone to find an answer for them, and I’ll send them a letter, or an email to get the answer to them.”
To Shoemaker, there are no “dumb” or “stupid” questions but from time-to-time, she gets silly questions.
When she was solely employed at Cass, Shoemaker recalls a conver- sation she had with a guest regarding Cass barber the late Lefty Meeks. The visitor’s question, of course, was “how did he get his nickname?
“So I told him that one day Lefty was cutting this guy’s hair and cut his left ear off by accident,” Shoemaker said. “I said he kept the ear in a jar of formal-dehyde at his barbershop.”
Not long after, the visitor went to see the ear – and Lefty came to see Shoemaker.
“Lefty came in and said, ‘so, a jar of formaldehyde, huh?'” she recalled. “I asked him what he told the guy and he said, ‘I told him the jar had a crack in it, so I took it home to get a new one.'”
While there are times Shoemaker jokes around, she takes her job seriously and strives to leave a lasting impression on visitors.
“I have several copies of On Beyond Leatherbark, because I get a lot of people coming in to look up relatives,” she said. “I actually told one guy his dad’s real name. He told me his story and I said, ‘I’m sure he’s in this book.’ We looked it up, and he was there. He said he only ever knew him by his nickname. ”
Shoemaker’s efforts have greatly paid off. She gets many repeat visitors who stop by specifically to see her.
“I get a lot of people who come back that recognize me, and I’ll recognize them,” she said. “I may not know their name right off the bat, but I know them. There are people coming back that I’ve known since I started here at Cass. They’ll always look me up. There were a couple years that I was not here, I was just at Snowshoe year-round and they would come to Snowshoe and track me down just so they could say ‘hi’ while they were in town, which is always cool.”
Many families who annually stay at Cass stay in touch with Shoemaker through the year to check in on the town and how things are going with the trains, as well.
“We have one family that’s here in town – they come back every two years,” she said. “Their grandfather was one of the first engineers here at Cass and they have a family reunion here every two years. I’m like their contact person. They always want to know what is going on with Cass. I was ‘adopted’ by them years ago. I’ve been ‘adopted’ by a lot of people.”
Shoemaker also has a familial connection to Cass which she happily shares with visitors.
“My grandfather work-ed on the railroad for fifty years, but he was up in the Mace area,” she said. “He was actually a gandy dancer, so he was one of the men who worked on the train tracks. He put the tracks in and helped maintain those tracks. I grew up listening to stories from Grandpa about the train and what all they did that day. Whenever you’re a little kid, it doesn’t make sense, but as you grow older, and he’s still telling those stories to you, then you listen to them. You pay attention to them. That’s probably the reason I ended up in Cass.”
One year for a family reunion, Shoemaker made a poster about her grandfather, Edgar Doyle, including stories he shared and photos from his time working for West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company and the Western Maryland Railroad. The poster is now on display at the Cass Visitors Center.
“It’s just another connection from the old days that I can bring in to the guests,” she said. “They can’t see it any other way. They can look at the picture, but they don’t know what it is unless I can explain to them what it is. It’s just one of those things that you can add for the guests. You can make their visit a little bit better for them.”
When Shoemaker is at Cass, she is either in the visitors center helping people or standing on the porch, watching the trains and people. Whether busy or not, Shoemaker has never considered her job anything less than enjoyable.
“I stand out here unless there are guests here and then I’m in there helping them,” she said. “People will say, ‘don’t you get bored here at all?,’ and I’ll say, ‘no.’ How could you get bored? There’s so much going on. You’ve got the trains coming and going. You get to talk to the folks about the trains and the history about the trains, the history of the town. There’s just too much to do to get bored here.”