Region III Quarterly

Volume 2 - No. 2

April, 1940


Superintendent Frank Pinkley suffered a heart attack and died almost immediately after concluding the following splendid talk at a conference of Southwestern National Monuments Custodians, in Casa Grande, Arizona, on February 14:

I think you will all understand that this is one of the red letter days in my life. It was in December, 1901, that I started down the lonesome trail which has finally led to today and this room and these (60) co-workers. Until 1916, the Casa Grande was a lone post. Then came the formation of the National Park Service, and, while it was still a lone post as we speak of them today, at least I could feel that I was part of an organization and that there were other men elsewhere with whom I was working along the same lines and handling somewhat similar problems.

The gradual expansion of the early 20's brought George L. Boundey to work by my side, and several additional monuments for us to worry about. Then came the hectic 30's with their financial floods and their sudden expansion. We grew by leaps and bounds, always undermanned and prayng for more help; always getting more work before we got more men to do it; always thinking that in another six months or another year we would work our way out to where we could begin to look around us and take things easier. That time has not yet come.

Always there has been before me the mirage or the dream of all the Southwestern Monuments personnel getting together and sitting down where we could talk over our problems and try to find how to do our work in the best possible way. That time is now here and with it comes a great responsibility on your shoulders and on mine. If this meeting should end with no great amount of good done; if we should go home with no more information or esprit than we had when we came together; if we cannot build in the next three days a better team spirit; then I must sit down and write the Chief that my plans and dreams of the last 20 years are shattered; that we have wasted several hundred dollars of our funds in coming together and that our whole theory of the Southwestern Monuments' administration has been wrong through all these years.

The idea behind our organization has been that twenty-seven individual areas, each struggling along in its own individual way, each using its own plan, each meeting its own problems as they arise; can be welded into one compact group where every man will have benefit of the experience of every other man to start with when a problem arises and the same mistake need not be made twenty-seven different times. We also have a very definite theory that national parks and national monuments are different types of areas, and, because of this difference, require a different type of handling which can better be done by a man and a group of men specialized in monument needs. If these basic propositions be true, then there has existed for many years a need that we who deal exclusively with monuments should get together and go over our common problem, working out the best methods of dealing with the various angles and phases of our work.

The present moment is the culmination of long years of absolute belief in and hope for just such a meeting as we have now opened. We want to make it clear at the start that this meeting is not called for the same purpose, nor will it operate the same as the superintendents' conference which meets from year to year. The name, "school of instruction", was given with some forethought, and represents the purpose of the meeting. You are here to learn.

We have long hoped that some day we could have a handbook for custodians. We plan some day to got out a book which will become the textbook by which a new custodian can become thoroughly familiar with all the details of his position whether or not he may have had a "breaking in" period at headquarters. This dream, as you knew, has never been realized. We have simply never been able to find the time to do it. For lack of such a handbook, many things are being done in the field which should not be done, and a lot of things are being left undone which by all means should be done. We want to talk over with you in the next few days a few of those things. As proof that we do not contemplate a one-sided conversation you will note that we have, in our tentative program, left liberal time for your questions and arguments, and we want you to utilize this time to the full.

I need hardly tell you that we want no "yes" men in this meeting and that you need pull no punches; and knowing you as I do I am not much afraid of any of you on either score. I am just telling you this so you will feel at home and be your usual selves in the arguments.

My personal greeting goes to the park service wives who are present, and I am sincerely glad to see you here. No one knows better than I that the wife is a large half of a firm, both members of which are working for the interest of the government. One of the most interesting features of my work as I sit here at headquarters is watching the play and interplay of the man and wife and the job at some of these field stations. It gives me pleasure to welcome you wives here and to tell you that I open these meetings to you, not as a superficial courtesy, but because I want you to attend any or all of them as a right which you have well earned by the excellent service you have denoted to us in your field work.

You are to feel free, to come and go as you please. I well know that many of you will not be interested in bookkeeping and purchase procedure and may want to skip those parts of the meetings. None of you is under any order, or even any moral pressure to stay, and the moment the proceedings get too dry for you, feel free to walk out. Many of these talks, however, you will find intensely interesting and I especially wish that you would feel free to enter into the discussions which fellow the talks. You women will see those things from a slightly different angle from the men, and for that reason your viewpoint is very important to me. Aside from this official side of your visit, we want also to welcome you into our homes here at headquarters. Please feel at all times free to use them when you want to read or lie down, or just rest and relax, or to hold little meetings of your own. We want you to feel really at home.

To the men I might say that we want this to be a working meeting. Our three days together will be all too short for the things we want to say and we have provided a full program. I will be a little tough on you and may grow tiresome at times, but we hope you will be able to look back on these days and consider the work a job well done. I am well aware that half the good you will get from this trip will be the pleasant contacts you will make in the odd hours before, between, and after the official sessions when you will be able to find out what fine fellows we have in the Southwestern Monuments. I am depending on these contacts to broaden your knowledge of our work and give you an understanding of the multiplicity of our problems. You will find that the problem which you thought was yours alone is shared by half a dozen other men, and they will have solved some of the things which may be bothering you and can offer you short cuts which may not have occurred to you. It is my opinion that the hotel lobby sessions and the little group sessions which gather here and there during one of these meetings will contribute nearly a third of the good which will result from our getting together.

To our own headquarters office force this will be a great opportunity. Here you will have a chance to meet in the flesh the many men and women with whose names you hove so long been familiar. Hereafter, as you handle the 7,000 pieces of mail which flow across your desks each month, these names will have a significance which you have not heretofore been able to give them. And you from the field will hereafter be able to direct your blasphemy at some real individual, whom you can materialize in your mind's eye, instead of the unsatisfactory blast you have heretofore had to send toward those so-and-so nitwits down there in the headquarters office. We want as many of the office force as it is possible to spare to attend those meetings. I realize that the mail and telegrams must be kept moving, at least after a fashion, and that the office jam cannot be allowed to accumulate beyond a certain critical point but I wish Parke would see that you are with us as much as possible and of course you will be in attendance at the night sessions.

We would like for the visitors from the field to have a chance to look through the offices, and some short recess may be taken for that purpose if and when we can squeeze it in. I would like you to realize how much work these boys are doing. Most of you have been through the ruins and the museum. Al will arrange a special trip for those of you who wish to go, or you may, if you wish, join a standard trip and thus see how Al and the boys handle their visitors. Arrangements will also be made to take the ladies on either the standard or special trips as they may desire.

In closing, let me speak for a moment of those who are not here. It was impossible to withdraw all our forces from the field and we have left a skeleton force to keep things running. We will miss these men and women as they will miss being with us. Some of the wives could not come because of sickness or household duties which forbade the journey. I hope you will, in their case, understand that the girls we have here are a typical cross section of our organization and that the others, who could not attend, are just as nice.

There are others who are not here. Hosteen John and George Boundey are examples of those who have fought a good fight and are now wishing us well from the sidelines of retirement. They were with us when the going was tough and helped to put us where we are today. Let us not forgot them. And there are yet others, like Jack and Hilding, who have gone "Over the Divide" but who did yeoman work while they were with us in a time when things wore not as easy as the present, who must be included in our thoughts along with all those here present when we say, "Our Outfit."

To my great glee, one of the very correct and formal writers of the Service once hauled me hither and yon over his bed of coals for using that term, but to me it is a very natural expression and rather covers our case. We speak not alone of our men in uniform; not only of our men and women here present; not only of our forces not living; but of all these and the areas under our charge with all that we have therein, the twenty-seven finest national monuments in the United States, when we say, "Our Outfit." No other term suits me quite so well and no other is so all-inclusive. It is ours to make or ruin. Some of our mistakes may hurt not only ourselves but may go on down through the years hurting those who come after us. Let us try hard to make ourselves worthy of these obligations which have been placed upon us. May we leave this meeting three days hence with a bigger and broader comprehension of our work and a fixed determination to do it better this year than it has ever been done before.

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Date: 17-Nov-2005