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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Caverns History, 1954 - 1959

(beginning 1954; compiled by Peggy Justice, retired Personnel Management Specialist, from Monthly Narrative Reports)
011211 Update comments made by BH


  January    Construction began on shaft for elevators Nos. 3 and 4.Elevators (1 & 2 were installed in the early 1930s)  Boyles Bros. Drilling Company was successful bidder.

Seating project at Bat Cave (in the main caverns about a mile from Natural Entrance) was completed.

  February    Dr. Willis Lee’s original manuscripts concerning the (6 months, day trips) exploration of Carlsbad Caverns sponsored by the National Geographic Society in (March – September)1924 with $16.000, along with maps and photographs, were received from the Washington Office.Jim White guided and Lee’s son Dana and daughter Elizabeth took part as working members of the expedition.

  March    The Southwest was in its fourth year of drought and travel was greatly reduced from 27,257 in March 1953 to only 19,997 in March 1954, for a decline of 26.6%, the greatest decline in any month following the last war.

  April    Elevator shaft excavation was 46.8% complete; a strike of Shaft and Tunnel Workers Local No. 162, A. F. of L. on March 29 caused a 12 day delay.

Heavy rain and hail, 4.55 inches of it, caused damage to several portions of the Walnut Canyon entrance road on April 24 and 25 and closed the road to travel for several hours.

The new elevator shaft was logged to a depth of 156 feet and the first recog-nizable fossils, gastropods, appeared at 153 feet.

Tax on Cavern entrance fee was reduced from 20¢ to 10¢ effective April 1.

  May        Another heavy rain storm occurred May 16, stranding 300 visitors in the park until 10:15 p.m. when water had subsided enough for safe travel out of the park.

The Big Room seating project was 95% complete and construction of the entrance sign was 75% complete.  Both projects were completed by July.

A report on the Carbon 14 dating of the bat guano taken from New Cave (park cave in Slaughter Canyon, sometimes called Slaughter Canyon Cave))was received; it was deposited during Wisconsin epoch during the Cary substage 17,800 to 23,000 years ago.

A Spanish translation of the park informational leaflet, in mimeograph form, was distributed to Spanish speaking visitors, with very favorable reactions.

Movie actor Harold Lloyd visited the park May 17 through 20 and took many photographs within the cavern.

Uranium was discovered 20 to 25 miles from the park in Rocky Arroyo and 350 mining claims filed.  Prospecting at Rattlesnake Springs was not allowed because the use of Geiger counters is prohibited in National Park Service areas.

  June    Low bidder for the new elevators and installation was Pacific Elevator and Equipment with a bid of $208,619.

  July        The Soil Organic Service mined a total of 11.87 tons of guano from New Cave for the period April 1 through June 30, 1954.

Low bidder for the 100 KW generating plant was the Alvin Hall Machinery Company of El Paso, Texas, with a low bid of $9,849.

Rain in surrounding areas kept the bat colony at its highest peak in four years.

Three hundred and sixty-four feet of one inch pipe was installed for hand rails in the Main Corridor.

  August    An additional 150 feet of hand rails were installed above the Baby Hippo and in Devil’s Den.

James Eden transferred to Organ Pipe Cactus NM as Superintendent, and Richard Prasil transferred to Mount McKinley NP as Park Naturalist.

Mrs. John Hopkins, the former Elizabeth Lee, daughter of Willis T. Lee of the National Geographic Society, visited the park August 7.

  September    The elevator shaft project was officially completed September 4, and the elevator installation project began.

  October    A 3.56-inch rainfall the night of the 6th caused wash-outs in seven places on the entrance road and closed it for 11½ hours.

  November    Lynn Coffin entered on duty as Chief Park Ranger October 28, transferring from Glacier NP.

  December    Low bid of $138,901.50 for Parking Area No. 2 - Walnut Canyon Entrance Road, was received from Mr. H. C. Longenbaugh.

The underground telephone system project was progressing with one-half of the pipe in place and some pull boxes installed.


  January    A bus transportation charge to transport employees between Carlsbad and the park commenced on January 30. Still in effect January 2011

  March    During cleaning of the Rattlesnake Springs pond, over 175 large mouthed bass and numerous perch were observed.

  April    Seventy-five feet of guard wall was built at the Totem Pole above Iceberg Rock.

The Soil Organic Service removed 13,000 pounds of guano from New Cave on April 23 and 24.

  May        The seating area at Top of the Cross was completed with a total of 1555 feet of rock wall being built along the trail.

A small twister outside the park disrupted power service from 10 p.m. on May 31 until 9:30 on June 1.

  June    Construction of Parking Area No. 2 was completed, as was the installation of elevators 3 and 4. Elevator tower_ first addition_Nov_1954_src_cogdill_elevato

The park was host for a “Show-Me” day program on June 24 inaugurating the first day of use for the new elevators.  One hundred and four visitors attended this program from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. and enjoyed riding up on the new elevators.

  August    The guano rights in the park held by Myrtle Blakely were appraised at $4600.

Chief Ranger Lynn Coffin transferred to Grand Canyon as Chief Ranger on August 13.

Several bats were observed falling during the flight on August 22; 12 were found on the trail that night and an equal number the following night.  They were shipped to a virologist at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.  Deaths continued, with 47 found the morning of August 25, 33 on August 28, and only a few after that.  No knowledge as to cause was found.

  September    The King’s Palace, the Papoose Room, and the Queen’s Chamber (except for one small area) were changed over to fluorescent lighting during the month.

A number of stricken but not yet dead bats, along with some bat parasites, were taken from beneath the roosting area, for study of possible causes of death.  No findings were received but a report from the State Public Health Department indicated that none were infected with rabies.

  October    On October 15 the seven millionth visitor entered the park.

  November    The first snow of the season fell the evening of the 6th and the road was closed for the night.

On the 21st the Carlsbad Caverns segment of the Wide, Wide World program was telecast at 4:00 p.m. EST by the National Broadcasting Company, the first time in the history of television of a live television show from underground.

A study was still being conducted on the bat problem.  Plans were made to carry out research on the presence of virus in the bat colony and the possibility of its transmission.  About 200 live bats and 200 dead bats were taken.

Reconstruction of a portion of the cavern trail from Iceberg Rock to Green Lake was underway to eliminate 400' of stairs.

  December    Assistant Superintendent Thomas Whitecraft transferred to Hawaii NP in the same position.

Work was continuing on the cave lighting project with additional fluorescent fixtures installed.

U.S> Senator Clinton P. Anderson visited the park December 20.


  January    The new Assistant Superintendent, Thomas C. Miller, arrived in the park, transferring from Grand Teton NP.  He was a former ranger at Carlsbad Caverns from 1926 to 1932 and a native of Carlsbad.

  February    Wallace B. Elms (who would become Superintendent of the park many years in the future) was given a career-conditional appointment as a GS-4 Tour Leader on February 20.

Tom Ela, the new Chief Ranger, entered on duty February 12, transferring from Yellowstone NP.

  March    The new trail in the Green Lake area was complete with the exception of a 13-step concrete stairway; it was completed in May.

  April    Construction of a small patrol cabin at Putman Springs was begun to facilitate trail maintenance and patrol.

  May        Establishment Day was observed on May 14 with about 100 people present for this open house.  A special tour was provided so the visitors could view all the recent improvements along with a slide program on Mission 66 at the end of each trip.

Construction work on the Visitor Center began on May 24.

Mining activity was noted on May 20 in New Cave.

  July        A report from the U.S.G.S. indicated that the flow of Rattlesnake Springs fell from 2.43 second feet to 1.89 second feet in a month indicating a serious problem in the Park’s water supply.

  August    Director Wirth visited the park August 7 to inspect park facilities and discuss the development plan and project construction proposals.  He also conferred with the park concessioner regarding their proposed construction within the park.  A barbecue was held for Mr. Wirth’s party which was attended by approximately 400.

Dr. Constantine continued research on the bat colony.  In mid-August die offs began but not as spectacular as last year.  Again heavy spraying(DT) was noted in the Pecos and Black River valleys at the time the die offs began.

Considerable difficulty in the performance of elevators 1 and 2 was being experienced and an inspector from the elevator company was in the park three days concerning the problem.  The contract provided for a one-year guarantee for workmanship and materials.

Approximately 30 multi-lamp fluorescent fixtures were installed from just above the Bat Cave and extending down the Main Corridor to the Whale’s Mouth.

  September    The driest September recorded back to 1931 and most of the springs and seeps were dry.

The Soil Organic Service mined 75.66 tons of guano from New Cave during the year to date.

Measurements by the Ground Water Branch of the Geological Survey made it evident that the water supply at Rattlesnake Springs was diminishing.

Trouble with elevators 1 and 2 continued.

Two meetings were held in Carlsbad for the purpose of organizing a Natural History Association with 21 people indicating interest.

  October    Horace Albright, former Director of the National Park Service, visited the park on October 13.

A Natural History Association(Today’s CCGMA bookstore) was organized with 22 prospective members.  Mr. Black was Executive Secretary, Tom Ela was a member of the Board of Directors for a one-year term, and Carlsbad resident Frank Kindel was Chairman of the Board.

Visitor Center construction was 26% complete.  A portion of the existing elevator building would include nursery and kennel facilities operated by the concessioner in conjunction with their restaurant and curio sales.


  January    Drought conditions still existed; only 0.12 inches precipitation since last August.

Harvey P. Benson, WODC, was in the park on matters relating to landscaping of the Visitor Center and other landscape development problems.

Pacific Elevator Company representatives were in the park for final inspection of elevators 1 and 2 and inspection of elevators 3 and 4.

Chief Architect Sutton was in the park for inspection of the Visitor Center and to study the nursery and kennel portion of the Visitor Center.

Park Naturalist T. Homer Black transferred to Glacier National Park.

Fifty-five feet of hand rail installed above Iceberg Rock.

  February    Paul Spangle, Platt NP, entered on duty as the new Park Naturalist.

  March    Two car break-ins occurred on March 27 and 28; estimated value of $500 worth of property; thief apprehended by Carlsbad police and all property recovered.

A 14.05-acre fire occurred near Rattlesnake Springs with 2.6 acres inside park boundaries.

  April    Forty-two signs within the cavern and on the surface were replaced with new ones made from redwood.

Low bidder for the nursery and kennel ($79,372.) and also the concession building ($144,433.) projects was Lembke, Clough and King.

  May        A tornado warning was received about 2:30 pm on May 31 from the El Paso Filter Center, Ground Observor Corps, and all visitors and families were taken underground until the alert was over.

VC Completed, May 1957. Hewitt. 0873The Visitor Center opened for operation on May 6.

On May 2 the Superintendent designated the Natural History Association as a cooperating society within the park. Forerunner of today’s bookstore/video and other items to help visitors understand the park’s resources/history better. Not connected to the Cavern Supply Company that accommodated visitor food, nursery, kennel, and souvenir needs. CSC started in the late 1920s and was  important part of the caverns history and operations.

  July        The remaining four paintings by Will Shuster were hung in the main lobby of the Visitor Center along with some large photographs.

  September    Will Shuster, Santa Fe artist, visited the park on September 23 and appeared to be pleased that the pictures he had donated were framed and hung.

The Soil Organic Service had stripped New Cave of all machinery and mining equipment, thus terminating guano mining in the park.  Negotiations were underway to deed the mining rights back to the United States.

  November    Two snow geese, never before reported in this area, were seen on a pond near Rattlesnake Springs.

Bobby L. Crisman received a career-conditional appointment as a GS-4 Tour Leader on November 3.  (Many years in the future, Bobby would become the  Management Assistant and serve as “Acting” Superintendent at the park on several occasions.)

  December    A Christmas party was held for all personnel on December 17 in the Visitor Center which was attended by approximately 100.

Samuel Mitchell, pump operator, retired on December 31.  He had assisted Jim White on a number of exploration trips.  His park career covered over 20 years but his association at the caverns dated back about 35 years as he had been employed by the guano mining operation prior to his NPS career.

A “Visitor of the Week” program was started, in cooperation with the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce.  This included a photograph of the visitor, along with a press release, sent to the visitor’s hometown paper, and free tickets provided by the Chamber of Commerce.

Enlargement of the water system was completed on December 5; remodeling and addition to the old elevator building was completed on December 31; and work on the concession building was progressing satisfactorily.


January    Cavern Supply Company’s new restaurant opened the first of the month.  Only fountain service was available due to a delay in delivery of some kitchen equipment.  The new nursery and kennels were put in operation on January 11 and the new First Aid room was also put in use on January 6.

An eight trip cavern schedule was approved for the summer to start May 26.

The park’s future Superintendent, Wallace Elms, transferred to Lake Mead.

A quit claim deed from Myrtle G. Blakely was recorded on January 20 at the Eddy County Courthouse in Carlsbad for forty acres of land, which included Bat Cave.

  February    The wettest February in 27 years with 1.54 inches, exceeded only by February of 1932 with 2.00 inches.

Assistant Superintendent Miller suffered a mild coronary thrombobis.

  March    Former Director Horace Albright and his wife visited the park on March  9.

The park’s 8 millionth visitor took the 11 a.m. tour on March 22. Since the establishment of the of the park on October 25, 1923. These were approximate publicity numbers, not dead-on counts of 7, 8, 9, 10 million visitors etc. Someone in authority would judge that it was “time”” to announce that the next “visitation level” had been reached and a family would be selected at random for the honor.

A 100 gallon water tank was installed at the Putman Canyon cabin spring.

  May        Planting around the Visitor Center was completed with a wide variety of desert plants brought in and planted.

          Assistant Superintendent Miller returned to work after suffering a heart attack on February 4.

  July        Installation of museum exhibits was completed and the exhibit room opened.

Supervisory Park Ranger Paul Steel transferred to Lehman Caves as Superintendent.

A new flagpole was installed on the 26th; the new pole is swivel-tipped, has two pulleys at top and is turned aluminum with lightning protection.

  August    Park Naturalist Arthur Hewitt transferred to Yellowstone NP.

The Russian Sputnik III was sighted on August 15 ascending in the north across the sky between Ursa major and Polaris at 9:20 p.m.

Superintendent Hoskins transferred to Shenandoah NP after spending over seven years at Carlsbad Caverns.

  September    The new park Superintendent, O. W. Carlson, transferred from Mesa Verde September 7.

Mapping of the Left Hand Tunnel area was completed, and preliminary mapping of Ogle Cave was also accomplished.

William J. Gray entered on duty as Assistant Chief Ranger, transferring from Acadia.

  October    A conference was held with Wallace Pratt in connection with his proposed donation to the park of 5,000 acres of land in McKittrick Canyon.

  December    The annual Christmas Party for employees and families was held December 19.

Park naturalists assisted in the Audubon Christmas bird count in the park with 58 species noted.

The old comfort station near the cavern entrance was removed.


  January    Ruth Woodman, writer of the TV series “Death Valley Days” toured the Cavern with Colonel Tom Boles, as she did in 1936.

Progress continued on removal of the old concessioner building  near the natural entrance. First Cavern Supply Company facility on the surface.

  February    Former Director Horace M. Albright visited the park February 10.

The Big Room portion of the tour was reversed to proceed around the right side, thus affording the visitors a better view of the Hall of Giants.

Forty feet of handrails were installed on the trail in the Big Room.

  March   Vandalized Cave was added to the cave survey, which brought the total of plotted caves within the park boundary to twenty-two.

Removal of the old concessioner building was completed and the site restored.

  June    The new Visitor Center was officially dedicated at special ceremonies on Friday, June 12, at 5:30 p.m. with Director Wirth as principal speaker.  Over 500 people attended the dedication.  The James L. White memorial plaque was unveiled by Mrs. White which was preceded by introductory remarks of Colonel Thomas Boles, former Superintendent of Carlsbad Caverns.  Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Pratt were introduced and praised for their donation of 5,500 acres in McKittrick Canyon, Texas, to the NPS.

Twentieth Century-Fox began filming parts of their motion picture “Journey to the Center of the Earth” June 19; the filming lasted a week and was done during the night when no tours were in the caverns.

  September    James M. Stagner, President of Cavern Supply Company, died September 27.

  October    J. D. Hubbard of Farmington, New Mexico, was elected President of Cavern Supply Company.

  December    The Possessory Rights Report on McKittrick Canyon and Donation No. 1, McKittrick Canyon, accepted as part of Carlsbad Caverns NP December 30


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