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Saturday, February 21, 2009

A May 1932 Picture from Mr. Jim McGuire; the story of "Lucky" Leslie Thompson and his Really Giant Step; NM Governor/Elevator Boy Arthur Seligmann

Caverns, May 1932

Hello, Friends.

Perhaps you remember in my last post about Dave Mitchell I mentioned that the Grandson of Superintendent Tom Boles, Jim McGuire, is donating some very valuable photographs and other materials to our park's historical archives, administered by Dave Kayser. Note that in the May 1932 picture above, that the lady sixth from the left is Mr. McGuire's Mother, Margaret.

My apologies to Mr. Jim McGuire whose name I have been misspelling as McQuire. Sorry.

When the caverns elevator was was opened to the public In June 1932, Governor Arthur Seligmann, appointed "honorary elevator boy" for a couple trips became so delighted with his job (the elevator boy one, not NM Governor one) that he kept on taking the public down and up and no one could get him to surrender his "honorary" position.

Several weeks ago one of the ladies from the town office called me, saying that she was going to a training. She was being required to get up and tell the rest of the class something unusual about her park.

Ranger Leslie Thompson, who survived an elevator shaft fall in January 1939I quickly scanned the historical database that I imagine that I have up in my well-used, yet not even nearly worn-out brain, and up pops Ranger Leslie Thompson. In January 1939, the 25th if I recall correctly, Leslie seemingly vying for the "Caverns Oblivious Award" that year, backs into the elevator shaft, and free-falls about a hundred feet or so before grabbing onto a greasy and slippery elevator cable, timely arresting his plunge to death at the bottom of the 750' elevator shaft.

Now in my 19 year stint working at the caverns I was once (or twice?) involved in elevator rescue training in which we CAVE employees took turns standing on the top of an elevator peering down the shaft. What happened the day Ranger Thompson involuntarily took the leap was that an elevator car on an adjacent cable went down to fetch him back to the surface.

Seems his uniform was ruined, he was badly shaken as any of us would have been, he took a few days off, not many since being a Ranger, of course meant he was made of "sterner stuff" than your ordinary mortal.

Eventually Robert Ripley, of Ripley's Believe it or Not, made it to the caverns to investigate and even hosted his radio program from the underground, along with the park's Superintendent Tom Boles, famous early guide/explorer Jim White, and the Governor of New Mexico.

The destiny of one of the clumsiest, yet luckiest employees of the caverns, was to die of a heart attack in 1953, a heart attack that I am surprised he didn't have on January 25, 1939. I am pretty sure that in a similar accident I would have. Pretty dang sure.

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