One of the toughest things to understand for some tour guides is that what we do can change lives. Or at least we impact them. People who are on our tours are open to learning new things, they want the local stories. They here to be entertained and educated. Sometimes what we show them is not what they were expecting to learn. I had that lesson taught to me again this past week when I had a really fun group of people on a Grand Canyon National Park Tour.
It’s nice doing small group tours because it’s fewer people and you can adjust the tour to better fit the people on it. Most were from Europe and Australia. The tour was going well on time and they seemed open to going a little deeper into the history of the structures in the National Park, more specifically the fact that the concessions were first operated by The Fred Harvey Company, employing the famed Harvey Girls. Then to add that a woman named Mary Jane Coulter was primarily responsible for the design and architecture for many of the older structures.
With a little more free time, I got to take them to the Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery. The cemetery is an often overlooked piece of Grand Canyon history as well as American Western History. In fact, I think I am one of only a handful of Las Vegas tour guides who even know the cemetery exists. While walking around and telling the stories of some of the people buried there, a National Park Ranger stopped nearby as we were both watching some talk to my side.
- Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery (Amazon)
As I was doing my narration about a couple of the Harvey Girls and Park Rangers buried there, I got a thumbs up from the Ranger. Taking it that he liked my narration. To some, that may not seem like a whole lot, but you usually don’t get positive feedback as a guide from a Park Ranger at the Grand Canyon National Park. They are usually wanting to bust you for something!!
From that expression, I’m taking it that he liked my narration. Now, to some, that may not seem like a big deal. However, you usually don’t get positive feedback as a guide from a Park Ranger at the Grand Canyon National Park. They are usually wanting to bust you for something!!
On trips like this that have a fair amount of women and especially young women, I like to play Alicia Parks documentary “Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound”. This documentary first played on many PBS stations across the United States.
Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound showed these young women that they can change their lives, that there are women who came before them who broke the mold, broke the rules and made a new life for themselves while helping to settle the American West at a time when most women had no rights, no future or freedoms as they know them today. It’s a purely inspirational and educational documentary that always get rave reviews from the women on my tours and even the men like it. Especially the parents who feel their daughters are not getting any motivational or inspirational messages coming their way from the world around them.
- Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound (Amazon)
Fred Harvey and his Harvey Girls are an important part of the story of the Grand Canyon National park as much as it is an important story of how we settled the west and made it livable for future generations.
- Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West (Amazon)
- Mary Colter: Architect of the Southwest (Amazon)
Kudos from a Park Ranger?
Something a tour director just doesn’t get every day. Especially at the Grand Canyon National Park. I know, I’ve heard other tour “professionals” try to tell just the simplest story of the Grand Canyon and wonder where they got that information from?? I have talked to other Rangers who have asked me the same thing about where we get our information? As if we all get it from the same source (NOT!). So to watch him watch me then walk away while giving me the thumbs up and smiling?? Yeah, I liked that!
The Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetary is filled with people who lived and worked on the Canyon or had a major impact on its creation and growth. From Harvey Girls to Park Rangers to soul mates to Senators as well as a memorial to those who died in the June 30, 1956, plane crash over the Grand Canyon that led to the creation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
I think I am one of the few tour guides who even know it’s there and even fewer who know any of the stories of the people who are buried there.Which makes the thumbs up from a Ranger even more impressive.
Enjoy the video and leave me your comments and questions.
- 11 Talking Harvey Girls with Katrina Parks
- 04 Stephen Fried Talks Fred Harvey
- Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery (Amazon)
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