The War Years
by Frederick W. Hawthorne
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 would ultimately result in the greatest challenge to an independent guide service at Gettysburg. Within months after the 1942 examination, the war effort was already having a strong impact on visitation. Even worse, was the fact that wartime shortages and the war-related rationing system, all impacted heavily on the guide service.
By the fall of 1942, a severe drop in visitation was cited as a factor in the closing of both the South and West End Guide Stations. Despite a Congressional inquiry (undoubtedly guide-inspired), Coleman stood behind the decision. In a letter to Associate NPS Director A. E. Demaray on November 23, Coleman reported that only eighty-nine trips had been made up to that date and of those, just twenty-eight came from the two stations. The balance were picked up from the Lincoln Square. One man who worked the West End Guide Station each day had gotten just seven trips in twenty-one days. It was not felt that the amount of business warranted the expense of keeping the buildings heated. By not having park guards make the trip to each station several times a day, Coleman cited savings in gasoline, rubber, and coal, all vital war materials. As the guides customarily parked their cars in front of the building and used them to solicit from, the Superintendent felt that with or without the use of the stations, guides could still conduct business as usual. Assistant Secretary of the Interior Abe Fortas, in responding to the inquiry stated, "...in view of the savings in critical materials, there would appear to be no justification for reopening these guide stations. I know that you will appreciate our efforts to make substantial savings in the use of these materials in behalf of the war."
In view of the situation, it is doubtful that even reopened stations would have helped the fortunes of the LBG's at this time. Coleman, in mid-December of 1942, reported that there had only been three guided trips during the first two weeks of the month, none of which had taken place since December 7. Although guides continued to be on duty at the square "...the guide business is virtually non-existent."
The following summer, the impact on visitation would be even greater as the controls of the various war-time agencies began to take hold. A memo to the still-active guides in June of 1943 informed them of an Office of Price Administration (OPA) ruling that under the existing regulations, touring of the field was considered "pleasure driving" and therefore was not permitted. The only exception was for soldiers on furlough. LBGs were also instructed to inform all visitors of this regulation. In anticipation of the use of the Guide's personal vehicles to transport visitors around, Coleman reminded them that this too was forbidden. Thus, to all intents and purposes, the war to an even greater degree than the Depression ten years before, had effectively brought to an end the profession of guiding at Gettysburg.
Officials of the National Park Service, tired of hearing about the 'guide problem' at Gettysburg for nearly a decade saw an opportunity in the situation to solve the problem permanently. In mid-December of 1942, Associate Director Demaray wrote to Coleman about the prospect. "If the war lasts for some time," he stated "...the present guide system at Gettysburg may be permanently wiped out. I believe you should be thinking about how you would like to supplant this guide system after the war on a government operated basis."
Most of the early groundwork for this proposal would develop between Washington and the Regional Office in Richmond, Virginia. Fred Johnston, the Acting Regional Director, was instructed to investigate the concept of a 'government operated guide or historical aide system." He promptly turned the matter over to Superintendent Coleman and his staff to work on. Surprisingly Coleman, a man who had certainly had more than his share of the 'guide problem' would turn out to be a fairly influential supporter of the independent guide system.
Almost two months later, in early March, 1943, Coleman reported back in a rather detailed memo, all the various pros and cons of the proposal. Although agreeing in principle that the NPS should operate all interpretive facilities, including guides, the memo warned that any attempt to modify the system rather than simply abolish it, would result in "serious difficulties." He then went on to a frank appraisal of the difficulties with a government-run system. Visitation was heaviest in the summer with little during the winter months. Trips were heavier on weekends and holidays than at other times. To attempt to accommodate those periods using salaried guides would be extremely difficult. Coleman also pointed out that during the summer, the guides were most active in the early morning hours. This, he felt, would be very hard to duplicate using salaried people. He also pointed out the "...serious criticism (that) would result from the appearance of salaried employees sitting idle while waiting for trips." In light of this he believed that it was far easier to arrange for guides using the existing system of supply and demand rather than relying on estimates of numbers and hours of work for salaried men.
The park staff, Coleman went on to report, were asked to reduce the current guide problem to its simplest terms: what was wrong with the system as it presently existed and how could it be corrected? Six major objectives were deemed of utmost importance. First and foremost was to provide a better quality of guides than in the past. Second - to make those guides readily accessible to the public while at the same time eliminating the difficulties brought about by solicitation methods. The fourth objective was to eliminate abuses such as 'short tripping' and the hurrying of tours. The fifth and sixth objectives were to allow for increased contact between the NPS and the public while insuring that guides gave visitors information on the other park facilities available to them.
Using the goals, Coleman went on to show how each could be accomplished using either the salaried or the existing fee system. Under a salary system, the problem of active solicitation would be removed as well as the incentive for 'short tripping.' Guides would continue to operate from the entrance stations and center square until an "Interpretive Center" could be constructed. Bonded employees would sell and collect tickets for the services of a guide. The suggested fee would be around two dollars for a complete trip of one and a half hours with fifty cents extra for each half hour over. Group tours with loud speakers mounted on a lead car, would be conducted at one dollar per car for a group of five or six vehicles. These would start on the first day's field at stated intervals throughout the day with identification furnished to each car involved following the guide car.
If he was to keep the existing fee system, Coleman believed that the policy of more thorough control, already embarked upon, would eventually eliminate the worse features of the existing system. He would limit the number of contact points to three (West End, South End, Lincoln Square) with all later being housed in a central Interpretive Center. One regular NPS employee would be assigned full-time to the guide service with additional personnel added during the heavy visitation months of summer. Active solicitation on streets and highways would be forbidden. To prevent cheating the visitor, each would receive a printed card aspecifying the rates, time of tour, etc. Finally, he would proceed to erect informational signs throughout the borough, a tactic previously blocked because of guide objections.
Coleman then estimated the cost of putting guides on the Federal payroll as salaried employees at approximately $60,000 (based on the $61,254 the guides earned collectively in 1941, the last normal travel year). This, he felt, was impractical to consider under any salary system.
The superintendent concluded by stating his belief that the next five to ten years would bring about substantial changes in the guide force whether or not changes were made. With just seventeen guides under the age of fifty, and numerous deaths having taking place just in the past few years, it was conceivable that fully two-thirds of the existing guide force probably would not be active in ten years. Even if nothing were done, great changes were in store and the National Park Service was in a position to control that change.
Over the next several months, a series of meetings and memorandum on the guide situation took place between Superintendent Coleman, and the Regional Office, in particular the Associate Regional Director, Fred Johnston and Regional Director Oliver G. Taylor. All attempted to refine the Gettysburg staff's proposed solutions. Apparently the idea of 'federalizing' some or all of the guides, despite Coleman's warning on the cost, appealed to those in the Regional Office. Several times throughout the year, the individuals involved attempted to use the only other comparable federal guide system, that at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, as a model around which to structure a similar system at Gettysburg.
By the summer of 1943, the park plans to improve the interpretation of the field in non-guided ways came back into the spotlight as the guide question receded temporarily. Coleman, in a memo to the Regional Director clarifying the park's interpretive objectives, mentioned that even then the age of the guides was beginning to solve the problem as he had anticipated. "...certain of the poorest guides are becoming inactive and several have died in the past two years. Among these were the most glaringly unfit physically and mentally." As plans were put forth to implement a "self-guided" tour route of the battlefield, one can sense that the Superintendent was hoping that those guides that remained were not the ones who would tend to protest such a plan loudest.
Initially blocked back in 1936 by such protests, the time seemed ripe for attempting to put forth this major improvement in the park. In late July of 1943, twenty-one guides (quite probably the bulk of those still actively working at this point in the war) were invited to a meeting showing the proposed interpretive and directional signs being developed for the change. Most expressed their appreciation for the courtesy of being shown the plans prior to their approval by the NPS. Although they agreed that the system would be of great benefit to average tourist not using the services of a guide, most felt it would only serve to cut into to their already slim business. Coleman attempted to alleviate their fears by mentioning that the decrease in the number of guides should more than compensate for any loss of business the self-guided tour would entail.
In a show of compassion for the existing guide situation, Regional Director Taylor recommended that restraint be practiced. In a memorandum to the NPS Director he said, "...under the present circumstances of reduced tourist travel I hesitate to recommend the immediate installation of the system as the guides may interpret the move to be an attempt to freeze them out." "Furthermore..." he continues, "...the installation of the system is considered to be a part of the future interpretive program, the success of which will be dependent upon a complete change in the present guide system."
The "complete change" that Director Taylor was referring to was, by 1944, clearly one of making the Gettysburg guides part of the Federal Civil Service system; what the NPS director termed "...the ultimate solution of the problem." The only point left to be ironed out was the myriad of small details on how to actually implement the plan.. Coleman hoped this could be accomplished as soon as possible.
In February of 1944, at a meeting in Chicago of Regional Directors, NPS Director Drury instructed the Regional Director to take steps necessary to implement the LBG federalization plan. In a confidential memorandum to Superintendent Coleman, Taylor expressed the wish that this be done "...with the concurrence of the guides, the community, and Congressman Gross." This, he admitted, would take considerable advanced planning and a clearly thought out proposal.
Within two months, such a proposal was forwarded to the Director's office. Citing the current solicitation practice as "...suggestive of a street carnival," the plan called for strict regulation of regularly employed individuals. Guides would be selected from among those currently active and place directly on the government payroll. Unlike most Civil Service jobs, this would be accomplished without these men having to take a competitive examination and without regard to age and physical shape. Mandatory retirement would be waived for the Gettysburg guides. Each would be employed, not on a permanent basis, but according to the dictates of the season with all guaranteed at least one month of continuous employment each year. In this way they would be eligible for accrual of annual and sick leave. Each day they worked they would be paid a wage of six dollars. A few of the guides would be employed full-time, on a salary basis, and assigned other duties such as fee collection and public contact. All future guides would be hired on the basis of the competitive Civil Service examination and all current and future guides would be required to wear the National Park Service uniform.
Visitors would be met by contact personnel or "...carefully trained and selected guides." All selling of tours would be handled by these individuals. The current fee ($3 / $4) would remain in effect with the park receiving all the proceeds. No money would be handled by the guides. Their working day would extend a total of eight hours with lunch included, commencing at 7 A.M. and guides would be available until 6 P.M. Visitors wishing appointments earlier or later than the scheduled hours could arrange for a tour in advance through the park.
Perhaps the greatest concern of the planners was exactly how the existing guides could be fit into the retirement system. A full fifteen years of service and participation in the plan was required in order to receive benefits. Because of that, none but the youngest of the existing guides would be able to enjoy the full benefits of retirement at the customary age of seventy. After consideration, this was not considered to be a great problem as "...guiding is an occupation to which these men often retire when they are too old for other work...They find the work congenial, it has a certain fascination for those who follow it for years, and it enables them to spend their time visiting and gossiping with their cronies while waiting for trips. They prefer to continue guiding as long as they are physically able, and they interpret physical ability very liberally."
Under the federalization proposal it was estimated that of the seventy currently licensed guides, at least sixteen would not choose to come in under the system due to extreme age or existing federal employment. Others on state, county, and local government payrolls were also felt not likely to give up their existing government job to take this one. Thus the actual number of guides was brought down to less than fifty. Of those believed to be interested, the average age would be fifty-six years old and the average 1941 earnings of those - $1,025.
After appropriate consultation with the various government offices involved as well as the borough officials, representatives, and the guides themselves, it was felt the system could be made operational by July 1, 1945. The Park Service believed that a majority of the guides would favor the system as some had appeared receptive to the proposal when discussed in informal settings.
The flow of world events connected with the ending of the war served to place such mundane problems as the Gettysburg LBG's on the back burner. It would not be until September of 1945 that Superintendent Coleman would call a special guide meeting to discuss post-war plans for the return of normal visitation. Although the actual proposal was not discussed, Coleman evidently hinted at the possibility of the guides being brought under the federal Civil Service system. At the Association meeting later in the evening, a vote was taken to change the guide uniform to that worn by the Park Service. Twenty-nine of the thirty guides present that evening were in favor of the change.
by this response, Coleman reported to the Regional Director with a
request that they proceed to contact the appropriate individuals to
receive clearance for the proposed change. By December, the draft of a
bill was sent to the Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, for his
approval before being introduced in Congress:
Relating to the employment of Guides for the Gettysburg National Military Park in the State of Pennsylvania, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that in order to improve and stabilize the condition of employment of guides at Gettysburg National Military Park, guide service in connection with the park shall be performed hereafter only by Federal employees, provided, that persons now licensed to perform guide service may be employed as guides without regard to age, physical ability, competitive Civil Service rules, or mandatory retirement for age.
The Secretary approved the proposal and the draft of the bill in late January, 1946, paving the way for discussion with Representative Gross and Senator Guffy.
The Superintendent discussed the actual proposal in early February, 1946, with a committee of guides and reported to the Regional Director that opposition immediately developed, primarily from those who worked only on weekends and holidays. However, Coleman considered them influential enough in the organization to block the proposal if they so desired. In most case their concern centered around the expected return to a normal visitation pattern now that the war was over. If that were the case they reasonably expected to earn up to twelve dollars a day, twice what they would receive from the federal payroll. The Guide's Association discussed the issue and agreed that any consideration of the plan should be delayed until they could see the results of the first post-war summer visitation season. Regional Director Allen reported that no encouragement from the guides towards the proposal would be forthcoming "...because of the control by the minority who work only part time as guides."
Despite the opposition, on March 20, Ronald Lee (Supervisor of Historic Sites), and NPS Director Drury met with Congressman Chester H. Gross concerning the proposed legislation and its introduction in Congress. The Congressman was receptive to the plan but cautioned that he would have to discuss the situation with the guides and receive assurances on precisely how employees would be chosen.
Realizing the need to overcome the opposition of the part-time guides, in early-April Regional Director Thomas Allen recommended changes to the proposed act. These changes would make it clear that the intent of the law would be to employ all currently licensed guides who wished to come along. "Any other arrangement..." he said, "...will result in local opposition." The reply from the Director's office substantially agreed with Allen's opinion but felt the existing legislation already offered that.
Even those assurances would not be enough to save the proposal from intense opposition. Congressman Gross, despite being informed by the NPS Director that most openings would be filled locally, met with the guides and warned them "...the plan is to throw the entire guide service open to competitive Civil Service Examinations which would...," as he put it, "...involve employment of persons from Florida to California." Why Gross chose to say this is not entirely clear but whatever his motive, the statements made to the assembled guides, and his release of the story to the local newspapers, effectively killed the plan.
On April 30, 1946, forty guides attended a meeting of the Association where the whole proposal was discussed. As a result of the discussion the committee formed to work with the Superintendent in the transition, was abolished. GBGA Secretary James Crouse wrote to Coleman that "It was resolved by overwhelming majority that the guide status remain as at present. The present system is an old, established tradition that has proven successful for many years." With the amount of potential political pressure that could be brought to bear, the Association's action effectively killed the federalization plan. In acknowledging receipt of this information from Superintendent Coleman, Regional Director Allen expressed disappointment towards the action of the guides. In reporting the news to Drury, the Director replied "It will be a long, uphill struggle to accomplish our objective, and at the present time there is little we can do. Our goal is a desirable one, and I think that, at some future date, we should try again."