02 October 2009

Friday Belt - The Belt That Made The Park Service Famous

Apologies for the images but my belt is long gone

It was one thing to work summers in a small town during college as a GS-5. With cheap park housing and a uniform allowance -- I made enough money to buy contact lenses. However, working full time for the NPS after college, at the Statue of Liberty, where there was no housing available....man, that was a whole new ball game.

Lunch was a can of tuna fish. I could get a week out of a can of Dinty Moore by stretching it with rice from the corner bodega. And beer, a $2 six - pack staple, turned into a luxury afforded only on the 1st and 15th of each month. My first night in NYC, I held up a six pack of Schlitz to the owner of the bodega and asked how much - - since nothing had a price. "Six dollars," he replied. I put it back and thought, "Welcome to Manhattan" and grabbed a quart of Blatz for two bucks.

Schlitz was my pay day beer then but Strohs was the beer of choice among most rangers. I'm not sure if that's because they all seemed to be from the Midwest or not. Last weekend, I was patrolling the beer isle in one of those football field NJ liquor stores and found Schlitz for $5 a 12 pack. When I thought back to the price in 1984...it just boggled my mind.

That other belt is an NPS western tooled sequoia pine cone belt. It was always the 'secret hand shake' among NPS employees. Telling a ranger at another park that you were a ranger was far too vulgar. Instead, you wore this belt (which is hard to miss) and a ranger was sure to ask if you worked for the park service. This would lead to a conversation about whether their park was hiring seasonals, had housing and what a 6 pack of Schlitz might set you back.


Paul said...

Schlitz was the preferred beverage in the bar car of the Metro North from Greenwich to New Haven daily @ $1.00. Memories....

Anonymous said...

the Ken Burns thing's really bringing back memories eh? I have been watching online... he's so "stuff white people like' but the subject is interesting, he's just stinking it up with pc.

do you still have your ranger hat?

tintin said...

Anon- Check in tomorrow for a docu pre Ken Burns. Seen by few, I should know - I worked on it - it was produced in '84 and was the history of America through film starting with Tom Edison's, The Kiss.

I have an intense regard for Burns. It ain't easy keeping people's attention for more than 10 minutes. Hell, I nodded off half way thru the 2nd episode. But the cheesey sound effects, and the never ending 'Hawk Screams' are getting old.

tintin said...

And I still have my Ranger Hat. Lost the sumer hat but still have the winter felt. There's a summer hat on ebay that looks like it'll be going for a small fortune. Great timing on the sellers part.


I always have a 12 of Schlitz tallboys in the fridge. Sets me back like three and change. I started drinking "Just the Kiss of the Hops" once Schaefer vanished from the shelves. And Black Label before Schaefer.

Served ice-cold, with a plate of saltines and white cheddar, Schlitz provides a sublime fuel to boundless weekend - or weekday - degradation.

In a world obsessed with micro-brews, high gravity blah, and barelywine, domestic cans are as welcome as Van Morrison, prime rib, a semi-watchable VHS copy of Southern Comfort.

james at 10engines said...

out of the park... no pun intended. might have to fake it and look for that belt now. my "sierra oscar" worked for the park service one summer just down hill from me. lucky for me...

Anonymous said...

I'd still wear that pine cone belt. I'd still drink that Schlitz. But get me a glass.


~Tessa~Scoffs said...

If you've seen on Ken Burns film, you've seen 'em all. Except for the amazing content. Go figure. I worked at Yosemite on summer (cafeteria slog) and we college kids were required to attend a Park Service Career lecture.

LPC said...

The Secret Language of Belts.

Anonymous said...

I work several weeks as an information volunteer most years in a major western park. One day I was discussing the uniforms, particularly the belt, with a career ranger. She told me that every part of the uniform was for official use only and that it is illegal for anyone to wear the belt apart from being in uniform,

The traditional NPS "class A" uniform is derived directly from the U.S. Army uniform of 1916, the year the National Park Service and the current ranger force was created.

ADG said...

Schlitz was THE cheapest stuff we could find in high school and college. Drank so much of it that I can no longer drink any beer today.

tintin said...

Stew- Man, I haven't see a Schlitz tall boy in donkey years. I'm on the hunt.

"I'm more of a triscut guy but -- I do like the extra sharp cheddar.
The cheaper -- the better."

The pentameter is off but I'll work on it.

James- See anon 22:57's comment on the unauthorized use of NPS uniforms. Fair warning to you and a chief law enforcement ranger I know.

DB- I'm thinking a nice high ball with Sequoia pine cones circling the rim.

Tess- Sounds like a great summer. But the green and gray left you cold?

LPC- Good book title.

Anon 22:57- She's probably right. A couple points.

As seasonals, we did not receive health insurance, we were paid a minimal clothing allowance, we paid for our own moves, we did not qualify for COLA in NYC, and one job I was offered required that I provide my own snow mobile. Add to that, most seasonal positions were GS-4 and 5. Even 3 in some parks. That may explain why some rangers wore a uniform belt. They couldn't afford a surcingle.

Why the retired Chief Law Enforcement ranger of a large urban park still wears his ranger belt is unknown. I assume his retirement affords him enough for a surcingle.

ADD- Hence the 32 waist.

Cathleen said...

Once again, you've made me laugh out loud.

I have an idea - could a wrap around, uni-length polyester twill skirt count as a Friday belt? This was one of my past uniforms while working at a PGA golf tournament in the '80s. Yuck.

I returned to the tourney years later as a guest. Forget the golf -the first thing I noticed was that the temp. workers were now allowed to wear khaki shorts!

Life is not fair.

M.Lane said...

All of us old Wisconsin boys love Schlitz. I particularly like the expressions I get down South when I order one. I tell people it is a very rare microbrew only made in one gallon batches, once a year.

I really like these USPS posts!


~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Tintin, well NOW they don't (leave me cold, that is). But back then, I had other things on my mind. Trying to make amends by signing up Les Petits for Boy Scouts. First trip: rock climbing at J-Tree. Boy were they shocked to know I'd already been there, done that.

Anonymous said...

Missa TT,
U a photo-grapha. Ain't 'em solit dark hoomanoit silowets puched a top roks in 'em Burns-o-rama ventige naecha pitchers susspitchus?
Sittin' ona Dr. a tha bay, Ta'er.

ADG said...

Tincan....thanks boy but it's a 33 now.


Schlitz talls are the only medium avail here in the dirty south.

I was shocked to see a 12 oz can of Schlitz in NYC a few months ago.