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Chapter Six:
Fort Davis and The Living History Initiative, 1966-1980

As with environmental and museum programs, Fort Davis' living history venture began with the tenure of Frank Smith, whose role in museum development and the music of the retreat parade fit well with the later impetus for full-dress reenactments. The 1966 dedication ceremonies had included the appearance of James Cage, an El Paso schoolteacher dressed in military uniform and talking with visitors to explain his outfit. In October 1967, Smith suggested to the Southwest Region that policies had to change about engaging the visitor more closely than before. "With modem attitudes," said the superintendent, "of maintaining a distance between them [the visitor] and the cashier who is the first uniformed employee they meet, we have to go to special lengths to get away from the barriers which so many travelers erect around themselves." Smith discovered that the large crowds that descended upon Fort Davis in the summertime made personal contact by rangers difficult if not impossible. His solution was "period dress," which he found to be "an automatic ice-breaker." "Apart from the air of authenticity which the period dress brings to the area," the superintendent noted, "this opening for contact is alone worth the extra expenditures and the effort in acquiring the appropriate items." [1]

Another foray into recreation of the historic past that Fort Davis addressed was the printing of a book of recipes by the wife of Colonel Grierson. The idea took shape when Mary Williams sought help from other NPS staffers throughout the system to test the ingredients for both their authenticity and edibility. The Fort Davis Historical Society had tried in the late 1960s to publish a book of western recipes, but was not able to organize the project in good time. Williams, who was among the NPS' first women rangers and first to promote the role of women in Park Service interpretation, approached SPMA in 1972 to determine the feasibility of a 72-page publication with both historic recipes and their contemporary renderings. "We really are sure the book will sell," Williams told SPMA's Earl Jackson, as "we have already had numerous inquiries from people and dealers concerning the book and when it will be available for purchase." The book would later appear in print, marking a significant contribution of Fort Davis to the story of family and community life on the far western frontier. [2]

These endeavors could not satisfy Frank Smith in the spring of 1971, as he sought an ambitious living history agenda at Fort Davis not unlike that undertaken a decade earlier to restore the structural identity of the frontier Army post. Times had changed, however, in Washington, with budget cutting the central feature of the administration of President Richard M. Nixon. "The living history program at Fort Davis," Smith told the regional director, "is stalled at this time, and further development must simply wait for the provision of physical facilities, as per our last five-year program." Smith and his staff promised "to continue the use of period uniforms for summer patrol and contact work . . . hoping that on some future date we will be able to acquire the horse which will enlarge upon this facet of the military life." In addition, Fort Davis awaited the "embarrassingly slow effort for the refurnishing of the Commanding Officer's Quarters (where living history will be quite elaborate)." Smith could report that his park would contribute to the NPS' "American Folk Culture" venue that summer by joining with the Fort Davis Historical Society to celebrate Independence Day at the park. "The utilization of the full range of games and contests," said the superintendent, "with selected foods to be available, and the general atmosphere of the nineteenth century celebrations should combine to present visitors and participants with a bit of interesting nostalgia." The staff, however, were "unanimous in their opinion that period refurnishing is a prerequisite of successful operations in this part of the country." [3]

To Smith's surprise, "the First Annual Grand and Glorious Fourth of July Celebration proved to be an outstanding success. " Nick Bleser, Fort Davis ranger-historian, reported to the superintendent that the event "began as an outgrowth of a make-shift celebration held a year ago in the town of Fort Davis, where a barbecue was held and many of the townspeople participated in old-fashioned costume." The festivities drew some 600 attendees, and the local sponsors asked for permission to hold the 1971 event at Fort Davis. "We have sought methods of re-awakening local interest and participation in the fort, " said Bleser, and "this was not only a good opportunity but it also sounded like it would be a lot of fun." With the coordination of the historical society, the park hosted food booths, "an art show, silent movies, a barbecue, horseshoeing demonstration, games, races, mule-drawn wagon (Army escort) around the playground for the kids, and an excellent concert by the Mount Locke singers." Of special mention was the local response to the call for period costume, "some of which had been worn by mothers or grandfathers in the 19th Century." Bleser joined the staff in old-fashioned outfits, and "the N.Y.C. boys were dressed as pretty passable Apaches," who engaged "a couple of passing soldiers" in sniper fire from the rocks surrounding the fort. The park hosted upwards of 2,000 visitors on that day, and "the main lesson [seemed] to be that next year more of everything is needed." "It is hoped that this can become an annual event," concluded Bleser, as "this year's success has inspired everyone concerned to continue the program and expand it." Smith concurred, hoping that the success of the July 4th commemoration "will establish a precedent for a variety of living history which will continue indefinitely." He also praised Nick Bleser and Mary Williams for the outcome, and asked the regional office to place in their files "a copy of this memorandum . . . as a commendation for an outstanding and ingenious effort in restoring a nineteenth century public use activity to the area." [4]

The staff knew that it alone could not take credit for the success of the 4th of July venue, and that future celebrations would require closer collaboration with the local community. To that end, the park decided to nominate the Fort Davis Historical Society for the recently established "National Park Service Appreciation Award." The park service in late 1971 had begun planning for the 1972 centennial of the creation of Yellowstone National Park, and as part of the overall public relations campaign sought to "recognize the efforts of individuals and organizations that were instrumental in helping to preserve many of the outstanding examples of natural and historic areas that we enjoy throughout the country today." In their nomination of the society, the Fort Davis staff cited the long relationship between local interest in a park site and the financial and political support they offered the NPS. Superintendent Hambly singled out for consideration the society's "efforts on the preservation of local history," as well as their contribution to "added knowledge of fort history." Rounding out his recommendation to the NPS was the staffs declaration that "the Society is also largely responsible for the friendly cooperation, community good will and warm relationships that exist between the citizens of Fort Davis and the National Park Service employees." NPS officials in Washington concurred, bestowing the appreciation award on the historical society on July 18, 1972, with society president Harold Schaafsma, a former superintendent of Great Sand Dunes National Monument who had retired in town, accepting the commendation. [5]

As both the NPS and Fort Davis had now embraced the idea of living history, 1972 offered them the chance to experiment with new ideas and strategies. Derek Hambly discussed with his staff the most pertinent activities that could be staged that year at the park. Their first priority was the July 4th celebration, followed by "personnel presenting programs, either on-site or off-site," that referred to the Yellowstone centennial "at least once during each presentation." Lesser initiatives included stamping letters at the park with a centennial symbol, listing the birth of the Park Service concept on interpretive literature given to visitors, and the staff's suggestion that "the Centennial Commission consider supplying a plaque of some kind to be set up on information desks to remind the visitor of the celebration." Reflecting the prevalent attitude in the NPS about women's roles in the parks, Fort Davis was asked to develop a program for "area wives." Superintendent Hambly suggested that spouses of the park staff could distribute posters to area businesses and organizations. They could also sell medallions of the centennial at special park occasions. Hambly did ask the wives of his staff what activities most interested them, and learned that "the wives of this area would like very much to correspond with their counterparts in other countries if they can be supplied with the names and addresses of such people." The Fort Davis area women could invite women of foreign nations to visit the United States, and "could possible arrange accommodations for them either at nearby accommodations or in our homes." [6]

Momentum gained through the living history venues and park service focus upon its own past spurred the Fort Davis staff to examine other means of reaching visitors with programs and activities. At the same time, the emphasis of Fort Davis on military life often precluded adoption of broader based interpretation that would include issues of race, gender, and family and community life as these played out in the nineteenth century. Yet the park attempted more than its peers in the region to show the larger dimensions of western history. Albert Schroeder, regional interpretive specialist, visited Fort Davis in the summer of 1973, and offered to Derek Hambly and his employees "our congratulations on the development of your new living history programs on cavalry equipment demonstration, army health and sanitation problems, the role of the frontier army wife, and the making of adobes. " Schroeder also noted that "you are very fortunate in having so many active VIP's (Volunteers in Parks) and EEA's to help you put on these living history programs." The region's chief of interpretation worried that Fort Davis might have to drop some of their activities, and asked Hambly to "please let us know so that other fort areas in our region might consider using some of your ideas." He made special mention of the staffs "two skits on tape," which he called "excellent presentations;" "the one on horse gear," and "the one on troop and Indian life." He praised the imagination of the park employees, and suggested that "you submit these skits, particularly the one on horse gear, for the [regional] interpretive training kit program." [7]

The journey of living history at Fort Davis was not always as smooth as reflected in the plaudits of Albert Schroeder. Doug McChristian contemplated the strengths and weaknesses of the past summer's programs in a memorandum to Derek Hambly in November 1974. The supervisory park ranger judged that season's activities as having gone "fairly well, but did not approach the degree of success for which I had hoped." McChristian cited three reasons for the mixed of living history that year, the first being his own lack of organization and "being tied to a desk too much." He promised Hambly that both he and Mary Williams "will be spending more time out on interpretation and first-hand supervision." McChristian hoped that this would "have the benefits of boosting morale and allow us to quickly correct any problems which may arise." Related to the issue of supervision was the amount of time the ranger spent in "construction and repair of Living History equipment." "Better planning, an early start, and more delegation of duties," he believed, "should make a more smoothly running operation next season." [8]

McChristian's candor and self-criticism did not preclude more searching analysis of the difficulties awaiting Fort Davis in light of limited budgets, staff training, and visitor understanding of history. "Lack of experience on the parts of our interpreters," he informed Hambly, resulted from the fact that "last summer was the first year, I understand, that Living History was done on a full-scale basis at Fort Davis." "Only two of our people had any prior experience in this type of interpretation," said McChristian, and "that was primarily with the campfire programs." This could be corrected with more training, which McChristian hoped to initiate with the upcoming "Camp of Instruction" the following June at Fort Laramie. The ranger, however, saved his most pointed criticism on the "visitor himself," whom McChristian described as "unprepared for Living History and was, quite often, too lazy to walk to the program site." McChristian suspected that "visitors would like to ask more questions and have more discussions with our interpreters, but lack the knowledge (in the visitors' opinion) to ask us 'worthwhile' questions." His solutions to the passive patron began with having the staff "draw out conversation pertinent to our theme;" a situation that would improve when the interpreters "become more sure of themselves." For his part, McChristian would develop a "photo display at the visitor center to introduce people to our programs and prepare them for the meeting of an 1880s soldier or lady." He could recommend less for the "reluctance of visitors to walk around the fort," with the best option "to have various demonstrations occurring at points around the post in order that the visitor will be 'enticed' to go from point to point, taking a tour of the Fort without being aware of it." [9]

The realization that visitors needed more dramatic interpretations of the frontier military post led McChristian to identify areas of improvement. His first suggestion for living history was to "extend our VIP service in interpreting our furnished officer's quarters." The ranger had noticed the need "to get some of our ladies trained to tell fact instead of fiction and to do more real interpretation of the frontier army family." McChristian found "no great difficulties" in the park's "picket line demonstration at the cavalry corral," and looked for "better training [of] the interpreters" to make them "more knowledgeable of their subject." He spoke highly of "the cooking demonstration performed by Margaret Ellis," which McChristian admitted "came about primarily through her own initiative." The ranger promised that "next year we will have a rudimentary kitchen fixed up in our one remaining original." He wanted the demonstration moved into an indoor kitchen because of the "safety factor of cooking over an open fire." McChristian expressed some chagrin, however, at the public reaction to "our roving 'Apache,'" because he was "often mistaken for a hippie." The park should provide "an established camp scene" to give the employee "better identity and a better opportunity for interpretation of the Indian life-style." McChristian concluded by recognizing the importance of involving the staff in changing the direction of the living history program, and he planned "to write our more distant seasonals and ask for their comments and suggestions." [10]

As Fort Davis worked in the winter of 1973-1974 to advance the cause of living history, the staff again offered ideas that would raise the profile of the park within the community and the park service itself. Derek Hambly received word in November 1973 that the NPS would join other federal agencies in planning for the 1976 event known as the "Bicentennial" of the American Revolution. While far west Texas had little to offer the larger historical agenda focusing upon the events along the Eastern seaboard in the late 18th century, the superintendent suggested instead programs germane to the story of the frontier. His staff wanted to work with Fort Bliss to develop an exhibit "showing 200 years of military activity with emphasis on the western areas." Hambly also hoped to "do something to illustrate the black history with emphasis on the black troops that were stationed at Fort Davis." Finally, the park thought that the July 4th celebration could be expanded to include the towns of Alpine and Marfa. Their goal was "to make this big enough to attract attention from the entire Permian Basin area," thus ensuring more focus during the nation's birthday on the importance of the park service to the citizens of west Texas. [11]

Increased momentum regarding living history required the park to cast its net more widely for advice and information that would render its interpretation distinctive. Doug McChristian asked William Haneman of the Texas state health department for his opinion on Fort Davis' plans for food demonstrations. The staff wanted to show "the preparation of food by the army, by Apaches, and by an officer's servant," with the diet consisting of "coffee, hardtack, beans, biscuits, and dishes concocted from native plants in the area such as mesquite beans, berries, and prickly pear." The issue of sensitivity to American Indian culture led Mary Williams to inquire of the "tribal historian" of the Mescalero Apache tribe for help "in verifying the type of shelter, clothing and tools we should have and use." Williams wanted to evoke "the 1870-1880 period - a temporary camp such as one that might have been set up in the Davis Mountains for a short period of time." The park staff would construct "a brush ramada rather than a wickiup," with materials consisting of "cottonwood or mesquite poles set in the ground and connected at the top by crosspoles and covered with thatched grass or hay." The park technician also asked for guidance on the dress of the male and female interpreters who would interpret Apache life (the former a "part Mescalero Apache," the latter a "veteran seasonal . . . [who] has never portrayed the role of an Indian before"). Williams strove to integrate Mescalero opinion into the park's historical program, and did not mind if the Mescaleros "corrected" this venture into Native life (the tribe, however, did not respond to these inquiries). [12]

Doug McChristian's promotion of training for better interpretation of the story of Fort Davis led him to attend the 1974 "Camp of Instruction" offered by the park service staff at Fort Laramie National Monument in Wyoming. The Fort Davis ranger sought not only ideas for better historical programs, but also thoughts on developing a similar gathering of NPS rangers the following summer at his own park. His report upon returning from Fort Laramie in July indicated that the experience was valuable, even if it also highlighted shortcomings in the operations to be avoided at Fort Davis. He noted that fatigue affected many attendees, and that alcoholic consumption disturbed those who tried to get sleep in the evenings. "The firing on the range," thought McChristian, "could have been conducted in a more orderly and strict manner for the sake of increased safety;" a condition for which the Fort Davis ranger took blame "as this was my responsibility." As for his colleagues, "it seemed to me that many of our would-be cavalry troopers knew little or nothing about horses and did not really care to learn." McChristian recommended that the next camp assign "stable duty right off," so that attendees "would learn that horses were the first concern of cavalry soldiers and not just a disagreeable detail to be put off until someone else decided to do it." [13]

It was McChristian's suggestion about limiting invitees to the next instruction camp that reveals much about the challenge facing the Park Service in matters of social and cultural sensitivity. The ranger's peers included women, most of whom McChristian described as having "no purpose in being there." The Fort Davis employee was quick to qualify his remarks to the Fort Laramie supervisory historian: "I realize that this sounds quite discriminatory, but that is not my intention." What bothered McChristian was that "women should not be portraying soldiers in Living History interpretation." Presaging an argument about gender and military service nationwide in the 1980s, McChristian offered as his rationale: "Since this particular course is concerned only with military interpretation I can find no justification for sending female seasonals to do it." He conceded that "a female supervisor in charge of such programs would be a legitimate participant. " The problem at the Fort Laramie camp was that "none of the six females . . . occupied such positions." One operated the visitor's desk at her park, and McChristian wondered: "How she was going to benefit from a military Living History course is beyond me." The ranger blamed superintendents who sent to the camp "on the opinion that 'any training is better than none.'" McChristian preferred the gender segregation found in the "very appropriate course, 19th Century domestic Arts," which he said "is offered specifically for female interpreters." Compounding the unfairness of uninterested women at the camp was McChristian's supposition that "some male seasonals in real need of this training might have been turned down because the class was already filled." If women could be excluded from the next year' s program, the NPS could then drop such classes as "baking . . . in favor of such topics as: the relationship of privates, non-coins, and officers, the uniform and how to wear it, life on a post, and life on campaign." Baking, McChristian concluded, symbolized the weaknesses of the Fort Laramie experience, and the culinary sessions were "too time consuming for the benefit derived." [14]

McChristian's positive experiences at Fort Laramie outweighed the negatives, as he recommended to Superintendent Hambly that Fort Davis conduct a cavalry "patrol" as part of its Bicentennial activities. This would take a group of riders dressed in period costume and carrying only authentic food and gear, on a route to Van Horn Wells. Many details had to be addressed, such as the need for permission to cross private lands between Fort Davis and the termination point. The superintendent liked the idea, and invited as participants the 3rd Cavalry of Fort Bliss, which would represent the "pre-civil war era," while the "Tenth Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, Inc." of Los Angeles, could provide both the post-1865 drama and the link to the black units who made Fort Davis prominent in military history circles. Training for this and other Bicentennial venues could come from Fort Davis' own camp of instruction, which McChristian proposed for June 1975. His goal was "to instruct permanent and seasonal employees in the basics of Indian Wars military Living History." The group should consist of no more than 25 NPS and other agency employees who were "planning or are already doing this type of interpretation of the 1865-1890 period." "As a word of caution," McChristian reminded the regional chief of interpretation that "a few people were sent to the Fort Laramie session with, in the opinions of the instructors, little or no justification." While he did not specifically call for the exclusion of women, McChristian believed that "by sending such employees to the Camp, . . . we would be defeating our purpose of upgrading frontier military Living History, and would possibly prevent a person with a real need from attending." [15]

Potential employees of Fort Davis needed to prepare for this massive program of reenactments and historical research, and Superintendent Hambly's letter of November 16, 1974, to Michael Tibbs of Texas A&M University revealed how much the concept of the living past had suffused the work of Fort Davis employees. "At Fort Davis," said Hambly, "there were no great battles or other historically memorable events." This had required the staff to examine "the everyday drudgery of life in a frontier fort." Anyone interested in employment at the park would need a familiarity with "activities such as the operation of a frontier kitchen; drill and fatigue duties of an enlisted man including stable duties, adobe manufacture, wood cutting, and care of livestock; demonstrations or discussions of post medical problems; and the reconstruction of an officers house of the 1880 period." Hambly took pride in the exquisite attention to detail at Fort Davis, where "the post garden supplies vegetables to the kitchen, wood cutting details supply fuel for the kitchen stove, the manufactured adobe brick is later used to replace eroded adobe from the various ruins, . . . and food service was always a sanitary problem for the post surgeon." If all of this work came together into a cohesive dramatization, Hambly assured Tibbs that the visitor would "come away with a better appreciation and knowledge of the hardships, customs, and complexities of the human experience during this segment of American history." [16]

This latter concern about accuracy and realism affected both McChristian's camp of instruction and his cavalry patrol in the spring and summer of 1975. Derek Hambly must have received some comment on his ranger's disapproval of women's participation in the camp, as he told the Fort Union superintendent that "we realize that some of our female interpreters could benefit from such training even though they are not directly involved." Yet Hambly bowed to the wishes of McChristian and other male attendees by limiting the scope of the program to "those actively engaged in interpreting the life of the frontier soldier." For female employees of the federal agency, Hambly noted that "we are working on plans to have a frontier women's course during the bicentennial year of 1976 which will be somewhat discriminatory towards the male interpreters." [17]

Nineteen seventy-five witnessed the maturing of the Fort Davis living history concept, as both the cavalry patrol and camp of instruction met the expectations of McChristian and Hambly. On March 25, McChristian and Joe Garcia of the park staff set out with two members of the Hollywood black soldier stunt unit to traverse the 80 miles from the post to Van Horn Wells. Described by Hambly as "a bicentennial event designed to commemorate the role of the cavalry in the West," the trip proved so successful that McChristian received NPS authorization to repeat the journey that September. On this occasion, he was accompanied by seven additional park service employees from Forts Davis, Laramie, Bowie, Union, and Larned. Regional photographer Fred Mang joined the group to record the occasion for the park service, and McChristian considered the experience "invaluable . . . for any interpreter who is involved in the explanation of military activities of the 1880's." This, coupled with the equally successful camp of instruction, offered NPS employees fortunate enough to attend such "wonderful experiences" as "saddle sores, bad food, heat and wind, and a score of other sensations that these men experienced if only for a week at a time." [18]

With so much attention paid to Doug McChristian's military history venues, it would have been easy for the Fort Davis staff to overlook the central feature of America's 200th birthday: the 4th of July celebration. Indeed, Derek Hambly had learned that "many small, local communities were sponsoring their own Bicentennial celebrations." Yet the attachment of locals to their own festivities at the park brought 2,038 visitors on that day; "a new one day record for the area," said a pleased superintendent. A breathtaking array of events kept the patrons busy all afternoon, from the noon parade that stretched three-quarters of a mile, to the barbecue feast served to 800, guests to the youth rodeo. "Visitors to the Fort," reported Hambly, "ranged in age from a few months to ninety-nine years." "Despite the advance ages of many of the visitors," which when "combined with the heat, and altitude," made health conditions less than ideal, the crowds poured through the restored buildings and visitor center. Hambly's only regret was that the recently refurbished post commissary could not be opened to the public "because of the need to use personnel from that area for traffic control." [19]

Whether through ancillary features like training camps and horse patrols, or community-wide gatherings like the 4th of July, by 1976 living history had become a critical feature of the success of Fort Davis as a unit within the park service. David M. Brugge, chief of the region's division of interpretation and visitor services, came to the park after the July festivities to learn that "Fort Davis has a well-rounded interpretive program with personal services, museum exhibits, demonstrations, wayside devices, publications, and an audio program." "Living history," Brugge further reported, "is emphasized." He noted the departure of Doug McChristian from the staff, and praised Mary Williams, who "has been supervising the interpretive program alone for several months and doing a very good job." The Santa Fe official observed that the "Indian camp, used as a living history project last year, is no longer in use." He recommended the "re-institution of this portion of the program," with "more research and planning" to ensure its accuracy. He also mentioned that "a good paperback book on the Mescalero Apaches is needed, but I know of none to fill this gap." Brugge had similar thoughts on the museum exhibit of the buffalo soldiers, which he believed needed "up-dating to take into account more recently published research." This process of revising the Fort Davis story would also have a salutary effect on the staff, as new ideas and concepts would "help keep up interest and morale, so that the presentations do not become routinized." [20]

As often happens upon completion of some major national historic occurrence, public attention shifts back to more private concerns, leaving those who had devoted time and money in promotion of the American story without the patronage or resources to maximize the investment. Such was the case for the NPS and Fort Davis in the remaining years of the 1970s. In March 1977, the NPS' Denver Service Center asked Kenneth Hornback, chief of the DSC's statistical section, to craft prescriptive attendance figures for the Park Service's two units in the Big Bend/Davis Mountains area. Despite all the attention garnered by living history, Fort Davis could anticipate only modest growth in its patronage. Hornback speculated that, based upon visitor totals from 1967-1976, the old military post would welcome only 70,200 people in 1981, and some 77,000 five years later. These numbers could also plummet to 31,300 (1981) and 19,000 (1986). Part of the problem with Fort Davis was the statistical aberration of the 1966 dedication ceremonies, compounding the national trend downward in visitation due to the mid-1970s gasoline shortages. "It is believed that the local population accounts for a sizeable proportion of the park's visitors," Hornback reported; a situation to be monitored in light of census data showing Jeff Davis County decreasing in numbers. The Denver statistician explained the decline of visitation as the fact that "the novelty of the park has worn off for local visitors." In addition, "the competition resulting from the opening of state parks near Fort Davis during this period" could have played a role, as did the general economic recession. Hornback did offer some good news: "The downward trend is about to bottom out and a slow increase will be seen." He used as his rationale the logic that economic times and energy constraints would eventually improve, as well as the data from the first two months of 1977, where there had been "a four percent increase over the same period for 1976 in cars entering the park, and a two percent increase in visits." [21]

Fort Davis tried in the last years of the decade to sustain the momentum witnessed at the peak of living history's dominance in Park Service historical interpretation. When Robert F. Nichols, regional interpretive specialist and archeologist, came to the park in July 1978, he found that the staff in general maintained enthusiasm for teaching the public about daily life at a frontier post. He judged the quality of the cooperative students that summer "outstanding," and reiterated David Brugge's praise for the work of Mary Williams as supervisor of the seasonal employees. "My personal reaction," Nichols told his superiors in Santa Fe, "was that the living history program at Fort Davis is by far the best such program I have encountered." All this could have been improved, however, if the supervisory park ranger would take more responsibility for the daily management of living history. "The overall program does not have the sort of overall direction it needs," wrote Nichols, resulting in "a natural tendency to slip into the rut of talking about things (naming items) rather than using them to discuss activities, functions and roles." [22]

This situation did not improve as the decade drew to a close. Doug McChristian, now working in the regional office as an interpretive specialist, in conducting the 1979 review of the post's historical activities reiterated Nichols' complaints against the supervisory park ranger. This left the seasonal staff suffering from "a lack of direction and general support." From this, in McChristian's estimation, came "generally low morale and, in some instances, rather mediocre performances by frontline interpreters obviously having high potential." The latter condition was especially evident with those reenacting the life of soldiers, who were "left pretty much to their own devices as to what is worn and used." McChristian was surprised to find that the park had not numbered the various structures and ruins, leaving visitors unable or unwilling "to try to locate themselves and a particular site on the map in the guide." He also echoed Robert Nichols' lament about the "object oriented" nature of the seasonals' presentations. He did extend praise to Mary Williams' strategy to make living history understandable to-children, which she also offered in area schools. Unfortunately, the park did not have suitable reading materials for sale to young people, while it offered such marginal publications as Arizona Highways. "Perhaps SPMA could look into the possibility," said McChristian, "of contracting a designer who could produce something [for children] on frontier military/Indian history which could be sold at several outlets." [23]

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Last Updated: 22-Apr-2002