1946 - 1966
by Frederick W. Hawthorne
With the return to the 1920's level of visitation and the defeat of the proposal to bring the LBG's under some form of Civil Service, licensed guiding at Gettysburg entered its fourth decade. Visitation was returning to normal and indeed began to explode as the year 1947 (witnessed more than 22,000 guided trips.
Along with the visitors the post-war period marked a re-emergence of some of the old problems plaguing the service, although not as frequent as before the war. In June of 1946, a guide became the first to be suspended since 1941 for deceiving the visitor into thinking he was a police officer and failing to make known the charge for his services. Another was suspended in September for "short tripping". Still another, when told by visitors that he was blocking traffic by stopping cars responded by telling them to "Get the hell out of here."
The heavy visitation coupled with the steady decline in the numbers of active guides forced Coleman to alter the regulation concerning the number of trips per day. In April of 1947, he authorized guides to take one additional trip on heavy visitation days after all available guides had completed three trips. To try to head off an even greater problem of "short tripping" to get in their four tours, he also required all to place their starting and ending times on the slips deposited in the Cemetery box. The Guide's Association, recognizing that a small number of guides would take advantage of it during periods of slow visitation, recommended that this policy be ended as of Labor Day. This increased visitation experienced by the guides in the late 1940's brought along with it a new form of competition--commercial tour bus traffic. Increasing numbers of these came to Gettysburg after the war and some preferred doing their own narration rather than hire a guide. One director informed Coleman that he would just as soon stop scheduling the field on his tours if he were forced to hire a guide.
In addition to the tour groups, secondary school teachers and college professors were bringing their classes to the field regularly. Usually they were conducting their own trips. The Guides Association protested that each of these was in clear violation of the licensed guide regulation yet the park staff took the position that as these "guides" were unpaid, they did not fall under the regulation. As such, they were to be encouraged to enlist the services of a government guide, but were not forced to be required to take one. The Regional office concurred in this position and this was relayed to the Guides Association. The problem of defining exactly what constituted a "guide" and a "guided tour" would be one that continued to plague LBG's right up through the present.
In 1949 , the park decided to finally establish the self-guided tour route first proposed in 1936 and approved six years earlier in 1943. The acting Regional Director Elbert Cox in authorizing the move stated "In the interest of the public, regardless of what the guides may think on the matter, it seems to us that everything that can be done to help direct visitors about the park is not only justifiable but highly desirable." A meeting of all guides was held on May 26 for the purpose of discussing the marking of the route with stops and signs. For the most part, it was accepted as a necessary evil.
Even though complaints of guide's actions were still present in the post-war period they were becoming increasingly more infrequent as Superintendent Coleman, the Guide's Association, and the guides themselves began to keep an eye out for violations. As the 1950 season approached, Coleman took aim at the physical appearance of the guides. "There should be no excuse for anyone working as a guide and not having his clothes cleaned and pressed. It is also very important that all guides should be shaved and have clean hands, faces, neck, and ears." All guides were asked to wear the complete uniform at all times.
Obviously, some lingering resentment and mistrust concerning the recent federalization proposal was still present on both sides. In March of 1951, Senators James H. Duff and Edward Martin, and Congressman James Lind, all received petitions from the Guide's Association and the Gettysburg Chamber of Commerce, charging that the park was refusing to deal with the guides in any way. The Association believed that this was due to the fact that they had opposed the Civil Service plan resulting in the NPS adopting a policy of allowing the guide service to simply die a natural death. In support of this contention, they brought up the park's apparent indifference towards maintaining the guide force at a strength of fifty-five (a level set several years earlier). They also cited the establishment of the self-guided auto tour route, the publication of a "tour book" (Frederick Tilberg's "Gettysburg" booklet), and the employment of "highly paid historians to sell these booklets," as evidence of this goal. The request was made of Martin, Duff, and Lind to ask the Department of the Interior to investigate the situation. Apparently nothing came of this and the whole thing eventually blew over.
In the spring of 1951, the Guide's Association requested that the NPS raise the rates for battlefield tours. The previous rate of $3.00 per car and $4.00 per bus had now been in effect 23 years and unofficially before that in 1916. In order to ascertain the feeling of all guides towards the proposal, a survey was sent out asking each individual whether they would or would not recommend changing the rates to $4.00 per car and $7.50 per bus. It was particularly upsetting to the members of the Association as it appeared to mark a drastic change in the park's dealing with the organization. In the past, even back through the War Department days, the Association had been viewed as the official voice of all guides--members and non-members. Walter J. Reynolds, the organization's president, protested to Congressman James F. Lind that the proper approach would be to contact the officers directly. Coleman's motives in bypassing the Association may have arisen out of memories of the Guide Civil Service vote years before or simply a desire to find out the feelings of all guides.
In hindsight he may have been better off dealing with the Association directly as twenty two were in favor, twenty two opposed and two voted to keep the rate the same for cars, increasing the fee on buses. The matter was not brought up again until the following year.
On the same survey a question was posed as to the feeling of the guides towards increasing the number of active guides. As of 1951, just 55 active guides remained of the nearly one hundred licensed thirty-five years before. The most recent test, given in 1929 had yielded few new guides and most of those had given up their licenses during the slack times of the 1930's. The results of this survey revealed nearly the same results with twenty four in favor and twenty two against. Regional Director Demaray reported to Congressman Lind that the NPS was willing to add guides but required a new exam. This 1952 examination would be the first one the NPS would administer for the purposes of expanding the guide force. When it was announced, it was stated that the exam would be open to persons over twenty-one years of age, bresiding within a radius of fifty miles of the park. Superintendent Coleman added that while the regulations did not specifically state otherwise, he felt that licenses were to be restricted to men. The exam was administered on August 15, 1951.
Coleman and his staff also incorporated their own examination and quality-control feature. Those passing the written test would be assigned as an opening occurred, based on written test scores. Each candidate, when called, had to pass two final tests. The first was an inspection of the candidate in full uniform which must have met the Superintendent's satisfaction. Second, the park historians had to take the candidate over a portion of the field.
The testing process aside, the question of a rate increase was once again taken up in December of 1951. A meeting, open to all guides, was held in order to discuss the issue. On this occasion a resolution was passed, unanimously, to authorize the Association to petition for a rate increase, effective the following spring. Fifty guides, constituting eighty-eight per cent of the existing guide force, recommended approval. This was granted effective May 1, 1952. Although the new increase set aside a separate rate for the long and short tour, constant abuse of the short tour concept by certain guides led the Association to recommend the elimination of the service. Again a survey was sent out to all guides - sixty responded with all but nine agreeing to the change. The park management notified the guides that as of November 18, 1952, the short tour would be abolished. Visitors wishing less than a two-hour tour would be required to pay for a acomplete tour. Even that did not last long as a form of the short tour would apparently survive well into the early 1960's.
Superintendent Coleman was in his fifteenth year at Gettysburg in 1953 when the violations of regulations and complaints about guide tactics again became frequent enough to cause him concern. In late September he sent a memo to all guides, apparently in consultation with and agreement by the Association:
"I recently met with a committee of Guides and had a long and serious discussion regarding violation of your agreement with the National Park Service. It was clearly the opinion of these Guides that violations are numerous and widespread, and that it would be in the best interests of the group if more severe measures were taken to correct these situations. It appears that four or five guides are consistently speeding visitors through the park, bypassing some of the main points of interest, and charging four dollars for trips lasting less than an hour. I recently saw coming off Little Round Top, a guide who rarely stops there with his parties. I commented on this to another guide who happened to be there, and he said that he probably had to stop to let the motor cool off. This is a kind of sorry joke, but there is no excuse for hurrying visitors in a rude manner. I was informed that one guide, riding beside the driver of a car, has more than once reached over and honked the horn in order to pass a slow moving car ahead."
"The number of complaints which are being written in to the Director leads him to question whether this guide system is ever going to work or ever can be made to work. Last week a visitor complained that two guides refused to accompany her to the 6th Michigan Cavalry monument. This morning we received a complaint, routed through the Director's office, stating that a guide in the North End had beckoned for the party to stop, and when they did so, gave them the impression that they had to take a guide in order to see the battlefield. I fell that this habit of creating such an impression is wide spread. It is absolutely inexcusable. Obviously, any visitor can see just as much without a guide as they can with one, although they might have trouble in finding what they want to see. Beckoning, or making any motion for a car to stop should certainly be grounds for revoking a guide's license permanently. The people who visit here are taxpayers and are entitled to receive polite information whether or not they employ a guide.
I do not feel that it should be my obligation to spend my time chasing around after the guides and disciplining them as though they were a bunch of school boys. I feel definitely that the time has come to start permanently revoking the license of guides who do not fulfil their contract. There are plenty of men on the waiting lists who would like to have the opportunity to show that they are trustworthy."
Yet despite Coleman's concern and frustration, the overall quality of the guide force was steadily improving based on efforts from both inside and outside the ranks of the LBG's. In 1957, for example, Dr. Frederick Tilberg, Dr. Harry Pfantz, and Colonel Jacob Sheads, organized a group called the Gettysburg Civil War Round Table. This was designed to give the LBG's a "...broader spectrum of knowledge concerning the Civil War beyond that required by their positions." Originally open only to licensed guides, within a few months, the group was opened up for membership by the general public. A number of the guides quickly became members and participated in the monthly educational programs.
The establishment of the Round Table epitomized a period of relative calm in Guide / Park Service relations. Few severe confrontations sprang up over the decade. The guide force remained relatively constant at a level of fifty-five, more or less active guides. During times of peak visitation, a number of 'temporary' guides could be called upon to pick up the slack. The very character of the guide force was also undergoing a complete make-over. Fewer of the old original guides were left as the 1950's came to a close and the centennial of the American Civil War approached. Of the thirty pre-1920 guides still active as the decade began, only fifteen were left still taking trips in 1960 - fifteen out of the original ninety-one. Of the 197 individuals granted guide licenses by the War Department prior to the last guide test administered under their jurisdiction (1929), just twenty-nine were still active. By 1960, twenty-seven newly licensed guides had joined the ranks of their older predecessors. Exams given in 1958, 1962, and 1964 were used to provide a pool of candidates from which to draw in order to fill vacancies in the full-time list of fifty-five.
Just prior to the Civil War centennial in 1960, the licensed guide force at Gettysburg encountered its first real outside competition with the founding of the Gettysburg Tour Company by three entrepreneurs. Skirting around the edges of the guide regulation, this company began offering taped van tours of the field to visitors. Backed by a fairly substantial advertising budget, and an aggressive marketing plan of selling tickets through a variety of motels and restaurants, the company grew rapidly. Little action was taken to stop the use of these vehicles as the Park Service interpretation of their activities drew a clear distinction between a true guide and a taped narration.
What clearly was a violation, however, was the practice of the van, and later bus, driver 'personalizing' the taped tour by taking over from the tape to provide little side-stories. By all definition of the word, that practice constituted guiding and the Association immediately began to protest these practices. Little could be done to stop this illegal activity from taking place but ways were explored in which to combat the advertising of the "Tour Centers."
At one point in the summer of 1962, a Dr. John Knox approached the organization with similar concerns over the quality of this new business. Knox's plan was to obtain a P.U.C. license to conduct his own bus tours of the field. Having undertaken a survey of many visitors who had participated in both the guided tour and the tape tour, Knox discovered opinions were twelve to one in favor of personally guided tours of the field. He wished, therefore, to staff his busses with LBG's and approached the Association with the plan. This idea eventually fell through when the P.U.C. turned down the licensing request.
Other methods to combat and compete with the Tour Center evolved around the establishment of "Goodwill Committees" made up of groups of LBGs. These groups were assigned the task of going around to the various businesses in town, asking each not to become involved in the selling of tickets for the taped tour. Many businessmen were asked to place signs in their windows advertising the presence of licensed guides at various locations throughout the park. All of this would prove to be a losing battle as competition was here to stay. Visitation to Gettysburg had far exceeded the amount that could satisfactorily be handled by the licensed guide force. The new competition simply offered economical, mass tours designed to accommodate those visitors unable or unwilling to employ a guide. Yet protests over the methods and practices of this organization would continue. "Guides are under regulations and restrictions; it seems that the bus company is operating under no regulation. The bus drivers are regularly using their microphones and guiding the public." It was a refrain that would be heard over and over again through the coming years.
Reports on the number of guided trips in the early Sixties illustrated the constant growth in visitation that was attracting the added competition. In 1950, $68,361 was collected in guide fees. Figures for the centennial year of 1963 related a total of 13,049 long auto tours, 1,432 short ones, and 2,174 bus tours made by a total of fifty guides. This represented an income of $86, 933 (and this in just the first eight months of the year). Visitation continued rising in 1964 with revenues of nearly $97,000 from nearly 18,000 trips.
In the 1964 "Report on Guide Operations", Guide Supervisor Milton E. Thompson noted that despite the increase in visitation, guide services were somewhat hampered due to the continued aging of the guide force and the fact that social security limitations hindered the ability of retired guides to work. As such, increasing numbers of visitors were being turned away. Thompson noted that some method of increasing the availability of guides, particularly in summer, was needed.
summary of the park's overall objectives for the guide force in the
early 1960's clearly indicates a desire to continue the efforts begun
by J. Walter Coleman twenty years earlier:
1. To maintain a guide force adequate enough to provide the services demanded by the public and limited enough to provide incentive for full time guiding activities on the part of those who may choose to engage therein.
2. To provide a guide force capable of offering the public a comprehensive and dignified presentation of the Battle of Gettysburg in a friendly and courteous manner.
3. To make the services of the guides a definite contribution to the interpretive program of this park.
4. To bring about a realization on the part of the guides that they are a part of the program at Gettysburg National Military Park so long as they are licensed by us and to promote a feeling of the responsibility they must have for good public relations and the maintenance of the National Park Service image of dedicated public service.
5. The systematic elimination from the guide force of all persons unwilling to abide by the regulations and the principles of fairness to the public, their co-workers, and the National Park Service.
6. To provide assistance to the guide force in building an organization of which each member may be proud and that such an organization be encouraged to police its own members in matters pertaining to good public relations.
7. That attractive convenient points of contact between guides and potential customers be provided and that means be devised to appraise customers when guide services will be available if not immediately so.
8. That collection of guide fees be made on a more formal and businesslike basis so that good performance by guides can be better publicized and that the public may be made aware of their right to protest poor performance on the part of the guides.
The very tone of these objectives made it clear that certain members of the NPS were becoming aware of the great benefit that Gettysburg derived from the LBGs. Where earlier park goals had centered heavily around cleaning up and upgrading the guide force, these dealt more towards the visitor's experience with a guided tour. In order to deal with the problem of guide availability, Thompson suggested amending the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Chapter 1, Part 25 (the LBG section) to establish two classes of guides - those available for service full time, and a part-time license of approximately 120 days during peak visitation period of summer. To replace the old reporting form dropped in the cemetery box, he suggested adopting a multiform receipt, sequentially numbered, with copies going to the visitor, the NPS, and the guide. Because of continuing problems with short tripping and route variations, the suggestion was also made requiring all trips be made from regularly established stations, along prescribed routes, with scheduled stops. Two mandatory annual training sessions were also suggested. Many of Thompson's recommendations for achieving his goals for the guide force would actually be implemented over the next several years.
The year 1965 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the start of licensed guiding on the field. A "Golden Anniversary Committee" composed of Ken Johns, L. Hartman, Ken Cole, E. F. Rosensteel, Ed Longanecker, and Clarence Swinn, was set up to plan a suitable commemoration. Ever with an eye towards the public relations and publicity of such an event, it was decided to hold an Anniversary Banquet at the opening of the 1965 guide season "...so that any publicity might have an added effect." The dinner meeting was held at the Peace Light Inn in April of 1965. Singled out for special recognition that evening were two of the original 1915 guides still active: William Shealer, and Charles Haines. Ralph Butt, who received his license the following year was also singled out for recognition. Colonel Jacob M. Sheads, a high school history teacher, ranger historian, and holder of his own guide license since 1953, wrapped up the evening by reciting a history of the Gettysburg LBG's, what he called "Gettysburg's Peculiar Institution." Many a frazzled War Department and National Park Service employee looking back over fifty years of dealing with many of the individuals holding licenses, would certainly have underscored that!