30 September 2009

Paid in Sunsets - Living in a National Park

Johnson House - Ft Matanzas, Sumerhaven, FL

Huntington's Quarters, Valley Forge NHP
Lord Stirling's Quarters - Valley Forge NHP

In exchange for a low paying job, the NPS often, though not always, offered on site quaters for a small fee. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to live in each of the above as a park ranger. They have all been closed and are in serious disrepair as the Park Service focuses resources on the park's mission rather than living quarters.

The Johnson House in Summer Haven, FL faces the inland waterway at Ft Matanzas NM. Remote and gated, it was the most peaceful place I have ever lived. I entertained the retired news producer of The Today Show and his English wife on the flag stone terrace serving hor d'oeurves of Totino's frozen cheese pizza, a bucket of KFC chicken and Red, White and Blue beer. The producer's wife told me it was one of the most beautiful dinners she ever had.

Huntington's Quarters sits in the bottom of the valley across from the George Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge. Long closed, it was once host to frequent parties of the rangers who lived there. At one party, a NPS historian from Philadelphia offered up for sale a bayonet from the American Revolution. A ranger from Iowa inspected the bayonet for a couple of minutes and upon handing it back pointed to the barely legible stamp of the letters "a" and "n" just above the socket. A closer inspection with a loop revealed the word, "Japan." We never heard from the historian again.

Lord Stirling's Quarters sits on Yellow Springs Road just past the covered bridge on the far west side of Valley Forge. When I lived here, I always thought it would be the kind of house I would own one day. A Pennsylvania stone farm house from the 18th Century with fire places in every room. Sadly, the interior is gutted due to a termite infestation. It breaks my heart. Scenes from the television mini series, George Washington with Barry Bostwick, were filmed in my upstairs bedroom. Proof left by deep scratches to the wide plank floor from a careless camera crew.

Money and the making of it - will never come close to the memories I have of these unique homes. It's pleasing to know I can't spend memories.


ZZ said...

Spent a lot of my youth roaming the Ft. Matanzas area. Could not and would not sell those memories, just as you said. Very well put.

Anonymous said...

I have always been impressed with NP rangers. Do you still have your hat?

Preppy 101 said...

These stories are fabulous. What memories, you are so right. I especially found joy in the story about the historian with the bayonet. Was he one of those staid, proper, snobby historians? I have to chuckle at that event. Your posts about the NPS make me want to know more about our parks.

Anonymous said...

ahh, but what's always left out of these 'national park' stories, sunshine is that great state park that surpasses many...Adirondack state park.

also, I hate Canadians, but their parks blow away ours, far less crowded too.

M.Lane said...

This has been a great series of posts. This one is my favorite so far.


The Blushing Hostess said...

That second shot is just magnificent.

But remind me not to let you write my menus.

Beth Dunn said...

I love Yellow Springs Rd in PA. I had my engagement party there. I think you are so lucky!!! xoxo

ADG said...

The making of money and memories of unique homes. Damn Tin-ton...I'm zero for two.

Paul said...

Great story - sometimes I think memories are what bring us back to sanity when we're beat to death by work and our surroundings.

Anonymous said...

National park jobs are hard to get, no?

tintin said...

zz- A great area and at one time a little off the reservation. Summer Haven is a beautiful place.

Anon 9:32- "Don't touch the hat. Don't ever touch the hat." John 'Vicki' Johnson - Alcatraz Ranger

Prepp 101- Oh yeah, you hit the historian perfectly. In his defense, I always thought - he thought - it was authentic. That he'd buy an obvious replica speaks to some bigger issues.

anon 12:50 I've been to a couple parks in B.C. and they were amazing. Damn Canadians. They get all the good stuff. Great parks, Labatts Blue, Tim Hortons and national health care. It's so unfair.

M Lane- Thanks and I still have your BOOK.

Blushing- Everything has it's place. Including Fanny Green.

Beth- It's a beautiful area. There was a little restaurant and tavern a few miles west of Lord Stirlings. It was on a curve and parking was in a tiny lot across the street. Next to the Fitzwater Station (then - not today) in Phoenixville, it was a favorite.

ADG- You won't be impressed when I tell you how the 'Ranger' thing worked with women on the Main Line and in Manhattan.

Paul- Bingo.

Anon 11:30 - Yes, I mean no. I mean, they're hard to get. I was told many times, when I complained about how the NPS did some things, that if I didn't like it there were 20 people waiting for my job. I hope that's not how management is today but I kinda doubt it.

Anonymous said...

It's a little liberating knowing that for not much money you can see all the sights that rich people see: the Riviera, the Alps, Hollywood. Along with the memories. If you had money you probably wouldn't remember the hotels and the meals...only the visit. It goes a long way toward eliminating wealth resentment.