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Guardians of the Yosemite (1961) by John W. Bingaman


Chapter XXI

WHEN RETIREMENT COMES

Soon after Labor Day 1956, we planned our leave of absence. Having reached retirement age, I had applied for it through routine channels. The previous winter Martha and I had several severe attacks of flu which left its effects on us. Considering the long years of service we had spent in the Park, through all kinds of weather and conditions, we thought it best to take our retirement while we were still able to enjoy life. Thirty-four and a half years as a Park Ranger and a total thirty-eight years living in the Park. It had been a wonderful life, with many interesting experiences. We had made many friends and contacts with people from all over the world. If I were a young fellow and the clock could be turned back I would want to do it all over. I feel that we have given much of our lives and contributed our full share to the protection and furtherance of Yosemite National Park.

Thirty-four and a half years in Yosemite is a long time for a ranger to serve in any one Park and may well establish a record.

The National Park Service is now placing in effect the lateral transfer policy for all personnel. This gives the rangers more opportunities for advancement. Now after three years in any park or area a ranger will be eligible for transfer. This gives a broader concept and advantage for promotion and it makes room for others to step into higher positions. However, the service should hold back some experienced men to take charge and train the younger men. I feel that a promotion policy is a good thing for the service. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t keep going forward you soon slip backward.”

I would like to see the Park Service introduce a “Pre-Retirement Plan,” for its employees. Such a program would prepare them for the time when they retire. It should include consultation on matters as hospital, health and medical problems, insurance retirement benefits, investments, where to live and recreational pursuits. The Veterans Administration has started such a program. When an employee comes within a couple of years of being eligible for retirement he can attend pre-retirement sessions. There are six, two-hour sessions. Counsel is given on many important matters that would assist the retiree to adjust his way of living after retirement.

The rangers in the next decade will benefit a great deal from such a policy. The Ranger Training School will also give many opportunities to advance in the service. Unfortunately the old rangers did not have this opportunity. It certainly is a step forward to raise the standard and the salary of the park personnel.

The salaries of the “First Rangers” were $50.00 per month. In the early 1920’s it was raised to $1200 per anum, then $1440, then $1620. There were small increases up to the 1940’s. When we received $2100 per year that was considered big pay. It was not until after World War II that the salaries increased and then again in the 1950’s. If the old rangers looked to the money they took home I am sure most of them would have worked at something more remunerative. It was the love of the great outdoors, the living with nature, the exciting experiences of ranger life which attracted a particular type of man to the service. Today there is a vast difference in what the rangers have over the “First Old Rangers.” Today it is a modern career. It is unfortunate that the old rangers did not receive more benefits including medical coverage and annuity along with the up grading of employees.

I look back upon my experiences with feeling such as a great artist’s reaction after finishing his masterpiece. To me there will always remain an imprint like that of a beautiful picture.

A NEW ERA THE NEW YOSEMITE

We hear people say, “The Valley is spoiled, it is too crowded, too many modern buildings.” True, some may well complain about the heavy concentration of visitors and campers but by their own will they come back year after year in the crowded camps. So they are not really complaining about Yosemite itself but the fact there are too many people.

From my observation of over thirty-eight years I see very little damage to the Yosemite Valley. The trees look just as healthy; in fact there are many more of them, the waterfalls are just the same and the beautiful scenery has not changed. The Valley in all its grandeur and majesty remains.

Many of the old land marks have vanished and have been replaced to keep up with modem expansion. With the increase of visitors each year the Park Service has to expand and still strive to maintain the National Parks in their original idea of preservation. Lack of facilities is always a problem. Modem roads leading into the Parks makes them accessible to more people, and in another ten years super highways will lead directly into our National Parks. More camp grounds, trailer parks and rest rooms will be definitely needed.

Many changes have taken place from the pioneer to the modem era and the Park Service, I am sure, will continue to provide the services to accommodate the ever increasing number of Park visitors.


Next: HistoryContentsPrevious: Yosemite Indians

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