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Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Dedication for the Carlsbad Caverns History Blog: To CAVE Retirees Peggy Justice and Bob Crisman

This blog would not even exist except for the efforts of two people: caverns retirees Peggy Justice and Bobby Crisman.

Peggy Justice retired from CAVE as a Personnel Management Specialist in 1995. In her NPS career, she served 34+ years. When I was a supervisor (1986 - 1992), before being the cavern's historian, she often helped me to make sure that I was complying with federal personnel laws as they applied to decisions that I made about the employees. Under her guidance, other caverns supervisors and I never had to go to jail even once. :)

During the 1998 CAVE Employee Reunion, Peggy put together a biographical collection of entries written by the former employees . The employee reunion book itself is a great source of historical materials, with interesting stories of our employee predecessors, as they remembered themselves and each other and the work that they undertook with each other.

Peggy was an outstanding National Park Service "Volunteer-in-the-Park for the caverns Cultural Resources program. Besides the huge amount of work that the 1998 CAVE reunion "book" entailed, he took on the prodigious task of researching and compiling a list of chronological events from caverns' primary historical sources dating back to the 1920s. In addition, she typed a number of caverns primary historical sources so that we could share parts of them with interested park employees and researchers. Finally, she worked on compiling and organizing cavern library records for us.
Peggy is a very, very nice, and easy going person and an extremely well-organized and hard worker. She calls me Robert. I won't tell you what she calls me when I mess up. Her daughter Kathy Elmore is Superintendent John Benjamin's right (or left) hand.
I remember a day when our newly arrived division chief decided to try his hand at selling tickets just to see what it was like. He did just fine until a shabbily dressed man wearing overalls, a straw hat tilted low over his eyes, and big sunglasses, appeared at the ticket window. The visitor jabbered in Spanish and dropped several Canadian coins on the counter. The cashier tried to explain in English that he couldn't accept foreign money, but the visitor just kept jabbering away in Spanish, and neither one could understand the other. After the ticket line got quite long,the visitor picked up his coins, walked away, and disappeared in the crowd. As my partner-in-crime (initials MEJ)(I don't know who this was--Bob) and I hid around the corner laughing at the little prank we had set up, we overheard another visitor say how sorry she felt for the man and thought about going back and paying for his ticket. By then, the visitor had gone to his work place, took off his disguise, and finished his normal NPS work day. Yes, we did have fun.
Thank you, Peggy.

Like Peggy Justice, Mr. Bobby Crisman was another very important employee at the caverns. To "set" him in historical context, I want to quote his employee reunion entry written on February 14, 1999:

Overview of Mr. Crisman's National Park Service Career)

Prior to joining the NPS I was one of the original explorers of the Caverns of Sonora in Texas, and I worked on the Texas Cave Survey.

I began my NPS career as a Tour Leader at Carlsbad Caverns NP in 1957 and transferred to Montezuma Castle NM in 1960 as a Supervisory Park Ranger. From 1965 to 1970 I was a Supervisory Park Ranger at Fort Davis NHS and then returned to Carlsbad Caverns where I remained for the next 26 years.

 I wore several hats during this second tour of duty at the Caverns: Park Naturalist, Interpretive Specialist and Management Assistant (also served Guadalupe Mountains NP), and Acting Superintendent. I served several long term Acting Superin­tendent assignments: 11/3/80-2/7/81, 9/1/85-3/29/86, 3/8/88-9/26/88, and 8/16/92-9/15/92.

I served as principal assis­tant to five Superintendents, worked under a total of seven Superinten­dents, and received the Department of Interior Meritorious Service Award and several other awards during the course of my careerWhile at Carlsbad Caverns I helped with the opening of Slaughter Canyon Cave, planning and development of Guadalupe Mountains NP, wilderness and master planning for both parks, and drilling of the utilities shaft into the Caverns.

I helped initiate the cave management program and establishment of the first cave resource specialist position, handled news media relations, concessions management, safety program oversight, and special permits and tort claims.I retired from the National Park Service November 3, 1996, the exact date I had started my NPS career 39 years before.

My wife, Pauline, and I have two grandchildren.

What Mr. Crisman didn't write is that for many of his years at the caverns, he keep and preserved historical documents at the park that might have otherwise been destroyed. He was always a strong advocate of the interpretive program, visitor services, the NPS mission, and the park library as well as many other park resources. In his tenure in the different jobs that he performed, he became a walking encyclopedia of the par's history. At the time that I was park historian (1992-2005) he helped me greatly, directing me to sources, helping me to discover ideas, and patiently assisting me to connect many of those ideas.

Mr. Crisman--a caver, park guide, manager, administrator, historian, resources protector, and human relations practioner (and for me, a mentor in my job as park historian)--truly a man of many talents, skills, and abilities. One of the many things that he accomplished was being in large part responsible for the designation of our park as a World Heritage Site in 1995.

Thank you very much, Mr. Crisman

1 comment:

Alacrity said...

Jul 11, 1979: Carlsbad Caverns:
I occasionally think about a specific date July 11, 1979 when my 79 year old dad & I visited the cavern taking the long walk down and just starting into the lunch room when people came running frantically out yelling to get back, turn around and go back.

I had a new car and so I parked it way in the back of the parking lot. It seemed strange to me that 3 men wearing casts on their legs & using crutches should park way back where we were parked, but, I have to admit to not giving much consideration to such strange behavior as I'd had radiator problems that were nagging me, and I took off for vacation before my dealer got a new one in stock.

Back to our plight; the ever polite and patient young lady ranger told us we would have to return the way we came in, but wouldn't tell exactly what the problem was. By this time I was aware that it must be something serious, but I figured that the problem I had climbing back out with a 79 year old man was serious enough. So I asked if there was anything worth seeing this side of the lunchroom, thinking maybe this "thing" would resolve itself if we killed some time. The ranger doubtlessly realizing my plight with my dad volunteered to go with us and gave us a royal tour never to be forgotten.

After an enjoyable leisurely 1:30 minute tour, we decided to head out. My dad who had been brought up in the mountains of Germany knew enough about walking in the mountains to "stay on your feet, and never sit down to rest." About half way up we started passing young people and teenagers who were lying on the side of the trail gasping for breath. Several asked me how old he was which when I cheerfully told them, shamed a huge crowd of them to follow us the rest of the way out. Despite leaving 1:30 later than the bulk of them we were some of the first out of the cave.

Arriving at the parking lot we found an armada of police cars and almost got hit head on by a cop drifting a curve in my lane as we were leaving. On the motel TV we followed the excitement going on in the damp and drafty cave while FBI agents negotiated with the three hijackers who had barricaded themselves in the underground lunch room with shotguns, rifles and hostages. After several hours the FBI negotiated to release all but one hostage, a female ranger. While the hijackers demanded millions, and all kind of foolishness, the FBI conducted whisky negotiations by making sure they had lots of alcohol to further soften their already soggy brains.

As I recall the worlds only cavern hijacking ended some 10:30 later with the arrest of the perps, a couple of them claiming by that time that they were doing it for indian rights or some such thing, as I believe a couple of them were part indian.

Anyhow, I write this not only to record the tail of the worlds only cave hijacking but to find if there are others from that period that recall what happened from their perspective and what happened to the three hijackers.