In early October 1939, Henry G. Schmidt, “Hank” to his friends, reported for duty at a little known, seldom visited national monument in southeast Utah, just a few miles north of Moab. He was assuming the duties as “park custodian” at Arches National Monument, replacing Harry Reed, a local photographer who had served in that capacity for a couple years.
In those days, the National Park Service was practically like family—small and tight-knit. Arches fell under the administration of “Southwest Monuments” which was headquartered near Coolidge, Arizona. The superintendent, Frank “Boss” Pinkley, oversaw the operations of 27 national monuments, sprawled across thousand of square miles of mostly empty desert. “Boss” insisted that each of his monument custodians report to him every month, but he liked to keep it informal. He didn’t want just facts and stats, “Boss” wanted to know what it felt like to be living and working in these remote locations. Hank Schmidt was just the man to tell the tale.
In his first report, Hank introduced himself…
‘This report will introduce me as one of the new members of the Southwestern National Monuments’ family. May I take this opportunity to say “hello” to all of you, and with this greeting give my promise to help make the Southwestern National Monuments one of the outstanding members of the National Park Service
‘As a new arrival in this region, I should not be expected to expound freely on the weather, but I can not resist telling you that the Utah autumn is unique, both in color and mildness. There has been very little rain during the month of October, but the precipitation of last month was ample to materially aid the growth and vegetation, both in the valley and on the monument.
‘I wish here to acknowledge the splendid assistance I have received, from Harry Reed, Dr. J W Williams and L L Taylor of Moab, in lining out my work here. Their cooperation has been invaluable and very much appreciated by this custodian.’
Henry G Schmidt ,
For the next three years, Schmidt filed his “Dear Boss” reports and left a wonderful account of life at Arches before it was eventually ‘discovered, modernized and overwhelmed.
Here is Hank’s first complete report, after “settling in” at his new home. From 79 years ago…
* NOTE: Thanks to former Arches NP superintendent Paul D. Guraedy, who gave me access in 1988 to the old monthly reports..JS