Gifford Pinchot and the Old Timers, Volume I
By Bibi Gaston
In 2005, six tattered blue boxes were unearthed at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Inside were 5,000 pages of letters, photos, music, poetry, and vivid descriptions of the work carried out by early natural resource conservation professionals. The boxes were labeled simply "The Old Timers." Penned between the years of 1937-1941 by 225 men and women who served under President Theodore Roosevelt and the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Gifford Pinchot, the narratives offer a mirror to the America we once were and a guidebook for the road ahead.
The Old Timers Collection describes the birthing of an agency through the training of individuals with a virtuous vision of public service. The narratives contain tales of extreme hardship, on-the-ground problem solving, interactions with cattlemen, miners, and loggers as well as first-hand descriptions of challenges in which the Forest Ranger turned confrontation into cooperation, gratitude, and respect. The lives of the Old Timers were not easy but to the men and women of the U.S. Forest Service, a life of service to the American public and to the natural world was the best life one could imagine. Each was grateful for the opportunity to find meaning in a time of struggle.