Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The National Mall: World War II Memorial

Last week I spent one day at the new WWII Memorial.  Although the day started out sunny and balmy, by the end of the day I was wet and cold from the rain.  Such is the life of a park ranger.  I really enjoyed the day and here follows some photos and my impressions of the day.

The Memorial is at the opposite end of the reflecting pool from the Lincoln Memorial.

The preexisting Rainbow Pool was incorporated into the design of the Memorial.  Also the Memorial was designed in a manner so as to not obscure the line-of-sight from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.
The Monument was dedicated on May 29 (my birthday) 2004.

There are numerous water features to the Memorial. which I like a lot. Moving water adds animation to any space. also its a very nice white-noise generator to block out the ever present noise of jet airplanes, helicopters, and sirens.

Among the visitors are always numerous veterans including those from the
 "Greatest Generation" of WWII.

Two massive gates bookend the Memorial, one inscribed "Atlantic"...

and the other "Pacific".  Looking from the Washington Monument the Pacific theater of war is commemorated on the left and the Atlantic on the right.

Twenty-four bronze bas-reliefs provide illustrative scenes of combat, industry, and agriculture. Homefront and battlefront are both interpreted.

 each star represents 100 Americans killed in the war. There are 4,048 such stars ; a tribute to the sacrifice of more than 405,000 American lives


Within each gate are four enormous eagles suspending the laurel wreath of victory...

and on the floor is a large medallion showing Nike, the goddess of victory, breaking the sword of Mars, the god of war.

Forming the oval shape of the Memorial are granite pylons for each US state, possession, and territory.  Alternating wreaths of oak for industry...

and wheat for agriculture, decorate each.

and states...

are all bound together by bronze ropes representing the unity of the nation in the great struggle against European fascism and Japanese militarism.

Quotes abound, lauding the efforts of the military...

but also those of civilians,,,

men and women.


"Honor Flights" fly in large groups of WWII veterans from across the country.  Here a large group from the Chicago area is assembling for a memorial program.

The event opened with a color guard presenting the colors.

Nearly a hundred WWII veterans were in attendance.  All of these former GI's of "the good war" are justly proud of their monument, built to commemorate their service and sacrifice and to remain long after they are gone to remind future generations of the price of freedom.
And each one of  these men an women are tickled by a phenomenon unique to their time of service...

their old buddy Kilroy, immortalized in granite.
Drying out and warming up, just north of Boonsboro,
Ranger Mannie

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A week of training at Ford's Theater

This was a week of training at Ford's Theater; my head's still spinning.  Does 9:00 entry include the ranger program?  Does a 9:30 entry include the museum?  is the 3:45 a ranger program in the theater or a walk-through? Can visitors re-enter the museum after the program? What time do you "drop the rope" and at what time does the rope go back up?,  How can you tell who gets Acoustiguides? What are the stacks of extra Petersen house tickets for?  Where do your store the stanchions?

Its a million details that come together to make it all a smooth-running operation, fortunately there is a group of Ford's Theater rangers and Ford's Theater Society visitor services people who were all very patient in showing me the ropes, and answering, and answering again, my numerous questions.

To the left of the historic theater is the modern facility housing the Ford's Theater society; that's the group which, among other good things, continues the tradition of the theater being a live performance stage will a full season of programming.

The theater is pretty gorgeous with plenty of seating.

The presidential box is still festooned with bunting just as it was on that fateful evening.

Here's a glimpse of part of the backstage area with some of the wardrobe for Driving Miss Daisy - the current production at the theater.

The steps to the balcony...

reveal some of the beautiful detail in this place.

The museum on the lower level is very good.  Here is a depiction of the constant flow of favor and office-seekers who continually plagued Lincoln. 
 I'm here to lobby President Lincoln to make me a GS-9.

The box office is located in the adjoining modern building.

There is always a long line of people waiting to get in to the theater, but the line moves very quickly.  The partnership of people from the Society and park rangers creates a choreography which flows visitors through the theater efficiently.  And as I already mentioned its a pretty complicated affair.  They make it look easy and its all quite seamless for the visitors. 

Across the street is a 6' x 6' island of free-enterprise. This is typical for nearly every street corner off the mall.  There's something for nearly everyone at the souvenir stands that set up in the morning and vanish in the evening.

In the museum is the instrument that produced one of the greatest tragedies in American history.

Put Ford's Theater at the top of your list for your next trip to our nation's capital.

Now that my Ford's theater training is complete, I'm eager to see where next week will find me.

See you on the mall.

Ranger Mannie
(from just north of Boonsboro)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A very crowded week

Holy moly what a week!  Let me preface this entry with a factoid: I leave the house at 5:15 am, I get home at 9:30 pm.  I spend a lot of time being sleepy or tired.

That being said, let's take a look at my first week of rangering on the Mall, Wednesday through Sunday.

Every day starts with roll call at the Survey Lodge; this is where all the rangers and guides get their assignments for the day.

Muy first morning on the Mall found me working the Washington Monument.  WAMO is pretty labor intensive with five rangers or guides working.  Two of us work inside alternately operating the elevator. Outdoors another person assists visitors at the entrance, one person works the line, and one person is a rover - chatting up visitors and providing breaks for the rest of us. 

This is me at WAMO getting photo-bombed by a cute dog. 

On Wednesday the weather was great and it was a lot of fun working there.  The audience is very different than that at Antietam.  I met more international visitors in the first thirty seconds than I had in eight years at the battlefield, its a reminder that when people from other countries want to experience America on a time budget they come to Washington DC

During my 70 second "elevator talk" I inform visitors that if they look out the western windows of the monument they'll see a temporary art installation entitled "Out of Many, One" (e Pluribis Unim).  Its a huge face, a composite of over thirty individual faces.

Using satillite technology, sand, topsoil, and four miles of string the giant face resides along the reflecting pool and will remain for much of the autumn.

On Thursday I was assigned to the Korean War Veterans Memorial (KOWA) with Ranger Ted, who, you may remember, was one of my trainers.

Here's Ted having a conversation with visitors about the meaning of the memorial.

As with all sunny days on the Mall, there was no shortage of visitors.

While Ted was doing the program I was in the kiosk giving out visitor information, the most commonly asked question being "Where is the bathroom?".  Fortunately, I know the answer.

"Honor Flights" provide WWII veterans the opportunity to visit the Mall and to see the monuments erected to commemorate their service and sacrifice in the defense of our nation. Large groups of veterans, many in wheelchairs are a frequent sight on the Mall.  Often they are willing to share their stories with visitors and rangers alike.

Friday found me back at KOWA with Erik and Tom. Tom's a great guy who is heading of for a year on an Americorps appointment.  He's also my connection for high-grade chocolate

On Sunday I was back at WAMO.  It was cold, rainy, and windy. I was wearing a raincoat over a parka over a jacket.  It was pretty miserable, and didn't lend itself to photos.  Working outdoors 365 days a year will take some getting used to.  Fortunately I have the wardrobe to see me through all four seasons.

By Sunday the weather had cleared considerably and I began a five-day stint at Ford's Theater which will continue into the coming week.

Ford's is still very much an active theater and is operated by the Ford's Theater Society (go here) in partnership with the National Park Service. They put on four shows per season and currently are staging "Driving Miss Daisy".  The theater society people are really nice and a pleasure to work with.

There are also ranger programs every day; here an audience gathers in the balcony to hear a program about the murder of Abraham Lincoln by the scoundrel Booth.

The fateful derringer resides in the lower level museum, a museum which is a must-see when in our nations's capital.

Across from the theater is the Petersen House.  An NPS site, this is the place where the mortally-wounded president was taken to live his final hours, he died on April 15th 1865 scant days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

The Petersen house was a boarding house, and just happened to be across the street from the Theater.  A light was on and a lodger shouted for the medical party to bring the wounded president hence. This is one of the rooms upstairs where visitors aren't allowed to go.

This is the view of the theater enjoyed by the occupant of that room.

And this is the room where Lincoln breathed his last breath.

Ford's theater is an evocative place for its history and a very exciting place for its current role as an active theater venue in downtown Washington DC.  I know that I'm really going to enjoy the coming week as I learn the ropes at this historic gem of the National Mall.

 I'll save you an aisle seat.

Recovering on my couch, just north of Boonsboro,

Ranger Mannie