Creating the National Park Service: The Missing Years, By Horace M. Albright and Marian Albright Schenck, Foreword by Robert M. Utley
Chapter 9: Wonderland and Beyond, 1915
Early the next morning, after the dedication of Rocky Mountain National Park, we ate a quick breakfast, drove to Loveland, and climbed on a train bound for Cody, Wyoming. I had never been to Yellowstone and was terribly excited about seeing “Wonderland,” as the magazines called it. Although Mather had made his first trip earlier in the year with the House Appropriations Committee, he had not come in through the eastern entrance. At that time, though, he had met with men from Cody and had organized the Cody Sylvan Pass Motor Company to carry visitors from Cody to the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone.
Now Mather decided we would travel from Cody by stagecoach even though cars had been permitted in the park since August 1. The purpose of this trip was to see how the mix of car and stagecoach was working out. Well, we were traveling right along, bumpy and uncomfortable but moving at a pretty good clip, when we came on a string of autos. They were having a terrible time, trying to get up a steep grade; the road was just one big muddy mass of ruts. Our stagecoach was passing them neatly when Mather suddenly shouted to the driver to stop. He had recognized our friends from the Park-to-Park Highway Association, the ones who had driven all the way from Denver.
We in the stagecoach were bent over laughing at the situation, but when Mather got back in and we were on our way again, he gave us quite a lecture on the humiliating mess. He fretted and stewed over it, taking it all personally that he had pushed for autos to be allowed into Yellowstone, that he had encouraged the Denver group to come to the park, and just think of it, the roads were absolutely impassable—or impossible.
When we got into the park itself, we found conditions vastly better. Mather perked up and slipped back to his usual cheerful frame of mind. An excellent road system had been laid out many years before by army engineer Hiram Chittenden, the same one as at Mount Rainier. Colonel Lloyd Brett and his road man, Major Amos Fries, had been doing a wonderful job of maintaining them. We also found that the rigid schedule set for autos and stagecoaches was working well. Stagecoaches left early and proceeded about ten miles; then the automobiles were allowed to go and the coaches were drawn off to the side of the road.
We stayed in Yellowstone for only a few days, but it was long enough to make a thorough inspection. We covered the so-called Grand Loop, now traveling by automobile, as one day on the stagecoach had been quite enough. Mather was in and out of the car at every hotel, geyser, camp, cascade, garbage dump, and ranger station. I was right beside him with my ever-present notebook and pen, taking dictation.
I certainly did remember that magnificent park. This year of first experiencing Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, and Rocky Mountain had not prepared me for the kaleidoscopic wonders of Yellowstone. It had most of the sights the other parks had, plus extra marvels.
We left from the north entrance of Yellowstone at Gardiner to go to Glacier National Park, on the Montana-Canada border. We arrived on September 11 at Belton, on the western side of the park.
Right away Mather became agitated and unusually upset when he inspected the park headquarters, which was at the end of a terrible road up Fish Creek, not far from Lake McDonald. He stamped his feet and shouted that this situation would never do. Poor Samuel Ralston, the supervisor of Glacier, tried to explain that all the land between the railroad and the lake, about three miles plus the shoreline, with a good road running through it, was privately owned.
Mather instantly quieted down and said, “Well, if that’s the only problem, I’ll buy it myself.” It was not for sale. As luck would have it, however, another tract nearby was to be sold on foreclosure. Through Ferris White, a brother of his attorney in Chicago, Mather bought that tract for eight thousand dollars. But there was one hitch. It was subject to redemption. A year later, when the man who had the right to redeem was going up the courthouse steps to exercise that right, he dropped dead. So Mather’s luck held. Eventually he acquired the property and later gave it to the government.
This discussion took most of the day, so we weren’t ready to leave on the trip across the mountains to the east side of the park until about 3:00 P.M. We crossed Lake McDonald to the John H. Lewis Hotel on the east shore, where our horses and pack outfit were waiting. It was already snowing very hard and piling up fast. Ralston, several rangers, and the packers all protested our attempt to start the trip.
Mather had just about been persuaded to call it off when Ralston mentioned that he was deeply concerned about a party that had started over the pass that morning, a Mr. Frederic A. Delano, vice-governor of the Federal Reserve Board, and his two young daughters. Well, Mather knew him in Chicago and was afraid he’d be ridiculed if it became known that he was too afraid to tackle a snowstorm that hadn’t stopped Delano and the girls.
In ten minutes we were on our horses and off for the Continental Divide and East Glacier. As we began to climb up toward Gunsight Pass, the intensity of the storm was frightening. We could barely see a trace of a trail, and we were numbed by the slash of the snow and the biting wind. Frankly, I was scared to death, but we made it. When we reached Sperry Chalets, it seemed unbelievable that we had only traveled seven miles from the hotel. It was pitch black, the blizzard continued unabated, and everyone, even Mather, was ready to call it quits.
The Great Northern Railroad, under Louis Hill, had been the most powerful force behind the creation of Glacier National Park in 1910. The following year the company began an explosion of visitor accommodations in the park. By the time we made our first trip there in 1915, they had built two huge, luxurious hotels, Glacier Park and Many Glacier, as well as nine chalets, at Sperry, Gunsight, Going-to-the-Sun, St. Mary, Many Glacier, Granite Park, Belton, Two Medicine, and Cut Bank. Hill had been impatient about government appropriations for roads, so he had road construction begun to link the hotels.
When I awoke on the morning of September 12, I was almost afraid to open my eyes. Another day like yesterday was almost too much to contemplate. But, lo and behold, the sun was smiling out from a blue sky. The storm had worn itself out. I found my clothes had been dried out and even ironed, so I rushed outside. What a dazzling sight! It seemed impos- sible that every new national park appeared more spectacular than the last—or at least more unusual.
Sperry Chalets consisted of a lounge-dining chalet and a large threestoried dormitory chalet for fifty to seventy-five overnight guests. The buildings were constructed of local rock in the Swiss chalet style. They were perched on the wall of Sperry Glacier Basin at nearly seven thousand feet, surrounded by towering Mount Brown, Edwards Mountain, and Gunsight Mountain.
As I stood gaping at the awesome beauty, Mather joined me. Neither of us spoke for some time. Then I heard him say, “Horace, what Godgiven opportunity has come our way to preserve wonders like these before us? We must never forget or abandon our gift.” One in spirit, we never did.
After a hearty breakfast, our packers had us ready to tackle Gunsight Pass. Working our way upward through snow and ice three feet deep on the dangerous, narrow, rocky trail, we reached the pass around noontime. From this notch in the Continental Divide between Mount Jackson (10,023 feet) and Gunsight Mountain (6,900 feet), we surveyed an incredible panorama—waves of peaks to the east and the valley of the St. Mary, whose waters flowed to Hudson’s Bay. To the west could be seen the Lincoln Divide country and Lake Ellen Wilson, whose waters ran to the Pacific Ocean.
Prom here the descent to Gunsight Chalets was particularly treacherous, a series of switchbacks along sheer cliffs and over tilting snow fields. No one spoke. Our hands gripped the reins more from tension than from necessity. When Gunsight Chalets finally came into view, lying far below us at the base of Mount Jackson, someone let out with a lusty cheer. We all war-whooped along with him.
We reached these lodgings, resembling the other rocky Swiss-style chalets, around 2:00 P.M. Hugging the shore of Gunsight Lake, deep in the shadow of Mount Jackson, was a large, rambling, one-story lounge and dining chalet and a two-story dormitory that could accommodate fifty guests. Part of one chalet was being restored, as a grizzly bear had practically torn it apart the winter before. During the following winter the chalet units were wiped out by an avalanche and never rebuilt.
It had been a rugged day, but magnificent. The Sierra Nevada, the Cascades, the Absarokas, and now the Rockies of Glacier—all so breathtaking, so different. Though not as high in general as some of the other ranges, Glacier’s peaks somehow seemed especially awesome. Whether it was the unusual tilt of the layers of rock, the giant flowing glaciers, or the deep valleys filled with dark blue lakes, I didn’t know. But Glacier always remained one of my favorite national parks.
The following morning we rode the nine miles out to the Going-tothe- Sun Chalets at the head of Upper Lake St. Mary. It was a beautiful, restful boat trip ten miles down to the foot of the lake at St. Mary Chalets. The glimmering lake was enclosed by towering mountains, rocky promontories, and fingers of glaciers, its waters a brilliant emerald green.
One of Louis Hill’s big touring cars waited here to drive us the thirty-two miles south to Glacier Park Station. The road was not finished yet, but the views of the Two Medicine and Cut Bank valleys were marvelous. Two or three times our car got bogged down, and the driver had a hard time extricating it from the mud. Finally, about eight miles from our destination, it got hopelessly stuck. Fortunately, some Blackfeet Indians came along on horseback. They hitched us to their horses and dragged us to where it was possible to drive once more.
While being pulled along, we came on another car equally mired in mud, with just one man in it. Mather went over to the gentleman and said: “My name is Stephen Mather. I’m assistant to the secretary of the interior and in charge of the park. Could I be of service?”
The gentleman came up snarling: “Just the man I’d been waiting to find, the one who has the responsibility for this horrible mess passing itself off as a road. My name is Burton K. Wheeler and I am United States district attorney for Montana.” (He was later U.S. senator from Montana and candidate for vice-president in 1924.)
Well, of course, Mather soothed him down immediately by explaining about the lack of a central park management as well as bare bones appropriations. Being a politician, Wheeler caught on fast and apologized— though somewhat grudgingly. The Indians hauled him out too, and his lighter car could get along by itself while we followed, horsedrawn. What a mess. Typical national park roads!
We spent the night at the Glacier Park Hotel, completed only a few years before. How does one even describe the “Great Trees Lodge,” so called by the local Blackfeet Indians? First, there was a lobby four stories high with twenty-four giant fir-tree pillars ringing it, huge Indian-design carpets, a buffalo skin tipi, great Japanese lanterns, shops, and other wonders. Then came a dining room to seat two hundred hungry people at a time, waitresses in Swiss costumes, not to mention a swimming pool, a sun parlor with afternoon tea, outbuildings with laundry, a power plant, a fire station, and an eighteen-hole golf course (yet to be constructed). It was a thousand feet from the railroad station, with real Blackfeet tipis nearby and real Blackfeet Indians who greeted the trains, danced on the lawn at regular intervals, and posed for endless picture-taking by the tourists (for a few pieces of silver, of course).
Mather was fascinated. Here was the perfect hotel for a national park. And he loved the chalets too. He would contact Louis Hill right away to get plans and specifications for the Glacier hotels and chalets. He’d have Daniels get to work adapting them to specific national parks: a luxurious one for Yosemite, one at the rim of Crater Lake, etc.
“Wouldn’t these resort hotels be just right, Horace?” he enthused. I didn’t say much, just admitted it was all pretty awesome, but somehow this particular one seemed awfully big, too ostentatious for the lovely natural setting. We agreed, though, that Glacier certainly had the jump on the other parks in accommodating the tourists, but its roads, trails, and personnel were just as woefully inadequate.
On September 14 Mather and I parted company. He went west to California and I headed east to Washington. Leaving Glacier in the ice, snow, and subfreezing temperatures, I hit Chicago two days later on the hottest day of the year.
Back at the office on Friday, September 17, I found my desk completely covered with paperwork that had piled up during the nearly three months away in the West. Furthermore, there were four telegrams from Mather: problems and instructions on Daniels, the Desmond Company, the Powell memorial at Grand Canyon, and other issues.
Late Monday afternoon my appointment with Secretary Lane lasted two hours while I related our trip in detail and presented problems, evaluations, actions taken or proposals for urgent consideration. He was quiet, thoughtful, and extremely interested.
It also turned out he was not all that pleased. He questioned me minutely on the Yosemite concession situation and Mark Daniels. Even though I skirted Mather’s personal financial involvement with the new Yosemite company, Lane was uneasy about the other actions Mather had taken and agreed that top legal men in the Interior Department should review them immediately. In the meantime, until Mather returned to Washington to confer on the entire Yosemite problem, Lane felt that Desmond should be allowed to operate a monopoly. Curry and the other Yosemite concessioners would give half their net profit to the Desmond Company, and in turn Desmond would give fifty percent of its net to the government. It wasn’t my place to argue, but, knowing Curry, I felt the secretary would have an explosion on his hands.
This turned out to be true. A few days later I received a letter from Mather in California: “Curry is acting up very badly, trying to make as much trouble for Desmond as he can and the situation is somewhat complicated in view of the fact that the Secretary had taken it up.”
I replied to him: “The Secretary believes that all hotel and camp concessions should be under one management ultimately, but Desmond has not gone about his end of the proposition properly … and has been directly the cause of Curry’s determination to carry his case to Washington. He is dubious about your being able to get Curry in with Desmond under any circumstances.”
In the same letter I pointed out that Lane was almost more disturbed about Mark Daniels. “The Secretary is pretty sore at Daniels,” I wrote. There were two immediate headaches. First, Daniels had gotten an architect, Mr. Multgart, to work up plans for Desmond’s new accommodations in Yosemite. Second, apparently while Daniels was in Denver, he solicited work for his own architectural firm to do a lucrative job for the Park Commission, a real conflict of interest.
I was relieved to be able to tell Lane that both of these had been settled. Mather had written me: “Multgart had prepared a perfectly impossible lot of plans for Desmond involving an expense of $300,000 and looking more like a fine piece of architecture in the Court of Abundance than a mountain hotel. I told Daniels I would not even submit it to the Secretary and was surprised that Multgart had been working along those lines. It is such an ornate scheme that it would not harmonize with Daniels’s plan for a village. It’s finished.”
And I contacted the people in Denver, informing them of Daniels’s conflict of interest. They assured me that the San Francisco firm would be given no further consideration for their work. Lane was relieved but said: “Why the fellow has no conscience, has he? Anyway, no conception of the relation between his private and official positions.”
At this point Mrs. Lane, who had come into the room during our conversation, spoke up: “Frank, I have for a long time thought you should get rid of Daniels.”
As it turned out, Lane decided to leave the entire matter to Mather when he returned. I wrote my boss: “I am sure that whatever you suggest about getting Mr. Daniels out, he will act upon your advice. However, I am not away from my opinion that it is going to be a little difficult to work the ‘Chief [Robert Marshall] in.”
The two problems of Yosemite concessions and Daniels consumed an inordinate amount of time for the next few months for Mather and me. Fortunately, both were settled, Daniels permanently and Desmond-Curry temporarily.
Mark Daniels was young, handsome, intelligent, a fine architect, a good conservationist, a great storyteller and after-dinner speaker. But he couldn’t establish authority over the tough, independent supervisors of the parks. Next, his bookkeeping system was driving everyone crazy, as it was impossibly complicated. As pleasant a fellow as he was, he somehow kept putting his foot in his mouth and making enemies of important people. Lastly, this matter of carrying on his Daniels &Wilhelm architectural firm in San Francisco and at the same time conducting all kinds of government business—sometimes in conflict—well, it was borderline at best.
Finally, Mather had decided Daniels just wasn’t the kind of a man he wanted to become director of a park service once it was officially created. He had become very fond of Robert Marshall and felt he was the sort who could run it once Mather and Albright had pulled out. So Mather began to look for ways to slip Daniels out and Marshall in.
Knowing that Daniels and Marshall didn’t like each other and had broken out into open rivalry on the mountain party in the summer, Mather planned to make things just a little difficult for Daniels and at the same time hand out important work to Marshall. When Mather asked me to set up some assignments for Marshall, I offered an alternative. Being afraid that jealousy and open warfare between the two men would be harmful, I suggested that Mather speak openly and honestly to Daniels: give him a chance to leave quietly, letting him tender his resignation.
It happened just that way. Mark Daniels, with utmost goodwill, resigned as of the end of 1915. He was really relieved to give up parks and return to his lucrative architectural work. Afterward he remained a fine friend, often rendering good advice and unpaid work. His San Francisco park office was closed.
Mather organized a new office in the Interior Department, a miniature model for his future park service, with Bob “The Chief” Marshall as general superintendent of national parks. From the Geological Survey, Marshall brought along his secretary, Isabelle Story, and his chief draftsman, Arthur Demaray, both of whom became real stalwarts of the Park Service for the rest of their lives.
Now, as to our other problem: Yosemite concessions. Things went from bad to worse. Curry went to Desmond’s San Francisco office, where the two men got into hand-to-hand combat. The newspaper account said Curry got the worst of it all with, among other things, a black eye. Secretary Lane swore he had had enough of these fellows and telegraphed all concessioners in Yosemite to attend a meeting in his office on October 15. Before going to Washington, Curry launched an intensive advertising campaign against the “Desmondizing” of Yosemite, advising people to write or telegraph Lane to get rid of Desmond. Of course, this only infuriated Lane more.
Along with Mather, Albright, and the secretary, David and Mary Curry, Daniel Joseph Desmond, and representatives of other hotels, stables, and the meat market were present in Lane’s office on the morning of October 15. Mather explained his desire for improved facilities and his belief in a monopoly to handle all services. For two days the discussions went on, with most of the concessioners agreeing to sell out to the Desmond Company. Harry Best’s photography studio and a couple of others were exempt, as Mather didn’t think them important enough. Both Curry and his wife absolutely refused to sell and said they’d see everyone present, as well as the rich San Francisco backers of Desmond, in hell before they’d change their minds.
Actually, Lane had come around to feeling a great deal of sympathy for the Currys and was toying with the idea of giving them the monopoly. That is, until he lost his patience with David Curry’s ranting. Then he cut them off and arbitrarily granted Desmond a twenty-year franchise. However, out of respect for Mary Curry or because of the numerous letters and telegrams resulting from Curry’s ads, Lane held off on a monopoly for Desmond. He granted the Currys a single year lease. Nothing was really settled, as a barrage of events the following year demonstrated.
When Mather had returned from California, after taking his wife and daughter home to Chicago, he gave up his suite at the Powhatan Hotel. Marshall and Secretary Lane had jointly sponsored Mather for membership in the prestigious Cosmos Club on Lafayette Square, and he was duly elected during the summer. This gave him the opportunity to move over there. Members, chosen for distinguished professional and business accomplishments, formed a sort of fraternal organization and a gentlemen’s club. Mather thoroughly enjoyed this convivial atmosphere and opportunity to find interesting (and usually helpful) people from many walks of life.
Without women in our lives, Mather and I would often eat dinner together, usually at the Cosmos Club. At the end of one long November day, he said: “Let’s have dinner at the club. We need to have a long talk. We have our futures to think about.”
We had a leisurely dinner in the Cosmos dining room, known for its fine food, spacious view of Lafayette Square, and, I might add, the lack of women, who were not allowed inside the sacred compound. Afterward we went up to Mather’s rooms and talked until nearly 2:00 A.M. He took his shoes off, sank into a comfortable chair, and put his stockinged feet on a low table, waving his hand to me to settle into the matching chair opposite him.
He began by saying: “Well, Horace, we said we’d give it one year to straighten out the parks and get a bill through Congress authorizing a bureau for them. That year is almost up. Get a piece of stationery over on the desk and let’s make a list of what we think we have accomplished.” I still have the list I made that night.
1. STM is satisfied that we have covered a vast area of the country (he about thirty-five thousand miles), accomplished some worthwhile things, and learned many important lessons from our travels and the people we got to know. He feels that our inspections of most of the larger national parks have taught us both a great deal. He added that he hadn’t caught up with me yet in knowledge of the Interior Department and the Congress, but what difference did it make as long as I attended to these matters! (He laughed at that.)
2. STM recognizes that his principal task was to obtain authority for a park bureau in the national government and find a director to lead such a bureau. “I bow to you on this score, Horace,” he said. “You always put this first, and I’ve been putting the condition of the parks first. The focus was off just a bit as I was genuinely so appalled at their condition. So much worse than I had thought when I took this job. But by working on the problems of the individual parks, I think we’ve gotten them ready to be put into a unified system. So that’s a plus.”
3. STM thinks we have appreciated the problems arising from the advent of the automobile and have begun taking steps to accommodate them—improving and adding roads, etc.
4. STM feels his greatest accomplishment was in the field of concessions, instituting the idea of monopolies, planning new construction, and interesting people in investing in accommodations, transportation, etc.
5. STM says we can’t take much credit for the superb job of publicity. Yard has accomplished miracles in that field and made Americans very conscious of their national parks.
6. Most of all, STM says that we have made a marvelous team! And I did keep him out of jail! (More laughs at me.) I add my agreement. He’s the dynamo, the enthusiast, the public relations man, I the detailer, analyzer, pragmatist, and suspicious lawyer!
“Read your list back to me now and let’s see if we’ve used our year well or whether we’d better high-tail it out of Washington,” he jokingly said. So I read it all.
Suddenly he switched topics and moods as he was prone to do. “Now what are we going to do in the future? I’ve pretty well decided we’ll have to extend our stay for another year, as we didn’t reach the primary goal of getting the park legislation through. That will now have to take precedence over all other matters. Now we’ll…”
I interrupted him at this point: “Mr. Mather, you’re using the word ‘we’ when you should not be including me. I am adamant in holding to my promise to my fiancee and even to Secretary Lane that I would not stay longer than one year. I’m almost twenty-six years old and have got to get going on my legal career. It’s my chosen field of work, although I have loved every minute of this past year and the national park work. We can discuss the future of the parks, but please leave me out of it.”
Mather remained quiet, staring straight into my eyes and obviously doing a lot of thinking. I met his gaze. This lasted maybe three or four minutes. Then he spoke softly and told me that he couldn’t take exception to anything I had said, that he understood my feelings. Especially about “your most charming Grace.”
But he gave me to understand that if I wouldn’t stay, neither would he, that I was that essential to his making a success of setting up this National Park Service. I don’t believe I had ever been so proud, but I reiterated that I had to leave at the end of this year.
More silence. He suddenly, vehemently, barked out: “I simply must stay and finish up this job—and you can’t leave me. Now I’ve been bitten by an idea. Here’s my proposition to you. Go out to California for the Christmas season, see your family, marry your lovely girl, have a nice honeymoon, and then bring her back with you to Washington and stay with me for another year, or until we get the park service created and organized. Of course, I’ll keep up your supplemental income of two hundred dollars a month. How’s that sound to you?”
I thought about it for only a few minutes and then told him I’d contact Grace and give him an answer as soon as possible.
Again came the mercurial switch in mood as he jumped to his feet and said, “Now here’s another thing. You know, we’d hoped to inspect Hot Springs Reservation and never made it. Let’s go down there right away for a few days, take the baths, rest up and work all this out.”
That was fine with me, and as soon as I agreed to this Mather typically ordered, “Get another piece of paper, Horace, and let’s make a list of what we have to do in the future.” I inwardly groaned, feeling he hadn’t taken me seriously, that he was already assured of getting his own way. Actually, of course, he understood me well enough to know I’d already capitulated. But out came paper and pen once more, and here is the second list, which I also saved:
1. STM says the national park service, a bureau to administer the affairs of the parks and monuments as a system and under uniform policies, must be created from the Smoot and Raker bills then pending before the Congress. An interim organization must be set up in Washington to take the place of Daniels’s field office, which is to be discontinued. This would be headed by Marshall, giving him the authority and responsibility to test him for a possible future directorship as well as relieving both of us from some of the detail work. Also, a program for the permanent bureau, when created, must be set up which would include policies for development and protection of the parks, improvement of roads, encouragement of business enterprise for public accommodation, and for rounding out our existing parks—internal private holdings as well as exterior boundaries—and securing worthy additions to the system.
2. STM thinks we should only ask for modest increases in appropriations to take care of needed improvements in roads, mainly widening them and eliminating hazardous curves, etc., for automobile safety.
3. As to improvement and extension of facilities in the parks—not to be just roads and trails, but telephone lines and power and sewage installations. Use the authority given the Secretary of the Interior in 1883 to grant concessions. STM says that, from his experience in the City Club of Chicago, he learned about the public responsibility of utilities and service companies and what controls they should have and what they should pay. Above all, we should find men who would consider making investments in park enterprises.
4. STM says that, aside from the Sequoia extension of the Kings and Kern Canyons, the restoration of the Minaret and Devils Postpile areas to Yosemite, the addition of the large southern area eliminated from the Rocky Mountain organic act at the last minute on objections of cattlemen and miners, and the Grand Canyon of Arizona, we should temporarily forget additions to the park system.
Here we came to a halt on the list. Perhaps because I thought I might not be involved in future operations or maybe because I felt I could always speak freely to him, I openly disagreed with Mather on this last proposal. I said that I honestly thought we shouldn’t limit the acquisitions. Lassen, Hawaii, and the great Alaska park should be pushed in the Congress too.
I also thought we shouldn’t overlook the East. I told him I had become acquainted with a Mr. Dorr, who was trying to create a national park along the coast of Maine at Mount Desert Island. Eastern parks seemed a very practical idea to me, for most of the American people lived east of the Mississippi, so they were represented by most of the Congress. Therefore, if these constituents had some parks too, it would mean more consideration for the national park idea and more appropriations for the whole system. And anyway, didn’t the people in the East deserve some parks without having to travel thousands of miles to get to the great western ones?
Mather gave me a steely eyed look and sharply said, “Nonsense! The wonderlands are in the West. Once people hear about them and more roads are improved, they’ll make the trip.”
Nothing more was said at this time, but it was one of only a few basic policies that we never really agreed on, although he never stood in my way.
I wasn’t able to write Grace the next day, as Mather and I went to Baltimore for an all-day conference with some railroad people and then to a dinner party that night. I decided to say nothing further to Mather until I had consulted with Grace. But time was getting short and, as frugal as I was, I splurged and telegraphed her on November 24—a night letter, of course.
It must have been a real shock to her because I had never suggested that I might stay more than the year with Mather. I’m afraid I simply hadn’t much experience with my fiancee—or for that matter, any experience with any women. I just didn’t think past my own plans.
Imagine, as a young bride-to-be, receiving the following telegram with no prior consultation: “Will remain with Secretary M. Can you set date at Christmas or few days afterwards. Can be away from Washington December I2th to about January 5th. Reply tomorrow night. Am leaving Friday afternoon for Arkansas. Address letters Arlington Hotel, Hot Springs. Serves you right for paying attention to a whirlwind. Lovingly, Horace.”
Back came her telegram—not stingy. It was a day letter. “Telegram received. Everything satisfactory. How about December 23rd and remain in vicinity for X’mas. Otherwise 27th but prefer 23rd. Both of us wanted for big family dinner X’mas day in San Francisco. Will write to Arkansas. Lovingly, Grace.”
Her telegram gives the whole picture of this remarkably thoughtful girl: agreeing to my wishes with no questions asked, no protests, no complaints, and thinking of our families at Christmas.
We didn’t get away to Arkansas as fast as we thought we would. Lane had already told me to assemble all the national park data for the annual report of the Department of the Interior. Now he had me coordinate the reports of all the bureaus in the department as well as extraneous information and assemble them for the finished product. I’m sure it would have been impossible without the knowledge and help of W. B. Acker. He stayed long hours many a night with me, getting that report in shape.
At the same time, Lane instructed Mather and me to learn how to estimate appropriations and other routine obligations. Again Acker did most of the teaching. He was always patient, good-humored, and endlessly knowledgeable. We used to say the whole Interior Department could be run with Acker and a few secretaries.
Another reason we stayed around in Washington was a banquet in honor of Stephen Mather. Gilbert Grosvenor and the National Geographic Society were the hosts. It was given on November 17 at the Cosmos Club.The Mather Mountain Party was the focus of the evening, and most members of it were present. We had a great time reminiscing, singing songs from the campfire evenings, and best of all watching a few movies taken on the trip. They were marvelous and brought forth more laughter and storytelling.
When the evening drew to a close, Grosvenor presented Mather with a special enlarged photo of the three of us when we hiked up to the notch where we could see the Kaweah Peaks spread out ahead and Rockslide Lake below. Everyone in the Sierra party was given an envelope of Grosvenor’s pictures of the trip, a marvelous memento, for he was a superb photographer.