Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reminiscing with Roger, 35 Years at PGM

This month, Museum Director Roger Lidman celebrated his 35th year at Pueblo Grande Museum. How could he have known that what started out as a part-time summer job would lead to one day becoming the Museum Director and a distinguished 35 year career at the Museum. Over the past 35 years, Roger has witnessed many changes, not only here at PGM but in the surrounding area. In this blog article, Roger shares with us some of his first and funniest memories of working at Pueblo Grande Museum.

Congratulations Roger for a remarkable achievement and your continued dedicated service to not only the Museum, but also to the staff, Auxiliary and museum community!

In the 1970s the ride into work took me through Papago Park and past the cattle feedlots just south of the Tovrea Castle. Since my Volkswagen beetle didn’t have air-conditioning the window was open and the earthy, slightly sour, smell of the stockyards was inescapable. While waiting for a red light at the intersection of 48th Street and Washington, a hint of the sickly-sweet smell of the rendering plant that processed the remains from the nearby slaughterhouse and meat processing plant, joined the warm air outside my window. The slaughterhouse and meat processing plant had been a landmark at Van Buren and 47th Street since 1918 when it was opened by the Tovrea family; the Cotton Producers Seed Company just east of the museum and other agricultural purveyors were unlikely neighbors for Pueblo Grande Museum a National Historic Landmark.

Museum driveway in 1983

In the 1970s, Washington Street was a two-way road and there was no left turn lane to pull into to wait for traffic to pass. It was always a good idea to keep an eye in the rear view mirror for approaching cars to make sure that they saw your turn signal and didn’t rear end you. The sign at the Pueblo Grande Museum’s entrance was small, very easy to miss and very difficult to see, almost as if it was meant to be hidden. I always looked for the “Willys Automobiles” sign, painted on the side of the old red-brick dealership building housing the Universal Camper Manufacturing and Sales Center on the south side of Washington, as my signal to get ready to turn. When I was almost parallel to the Gilbert Pump and Equipment Company - “Serving Arizona’s Farmers”- on the north side of the street, I needed to be ready to turn.

As I headed south along the entrance drive to the Pueblo Grande Museum building, quail ran alongside my Volkswagen beetle darting around the whitewashed river cobbles (about the size or a person’s head) that lined the entrance drive. The adobe walls that enclosed the drive for its 400 feet length wouldn’t be plastered with concrete for another year. The drive to the museum was bumpy and uneven – it was originally a gravel road built in 1938 - and it only had a thin, haphazard coat of asphalt checkered with potholes and low spots that filled with rain after a storm. I pulled into a parking space at the foot of a tall eucalyptus tree that I knew would shade my car in the afternoon so it wasn’t as hot for my ride home -- the same majestic eucalyptus tree still stands today at the entrance to the Pueblo Grande Museum’s walkway.

Exhibit Gallery 1979
In 1976, the “new” museum building was only two years old and had replaced the first adobe museum building which was built between 1933 and 1935. The museum’s one exhibit gallery contained a series of twelve glass-fronted display cases. There was a replicated ramada in the center of the room with a saguaro fruit harvesting pole leaning against the ramada as if it was forgotten by someone and a large granary basket topping the saguaro ribs of the ramada like an off-center hat. Three of the exhibit cases were empty with “coming soon” signs announcing that exhibits would be installed in the cases in the future; the barely discernable cobwebs on the signs hinting that there wasn’t any real hurry.

When visiting the outdoor areas of Pueblo Grande Museum the uneven steps that climbed the side of the mound gave the impression of an odd unmoving escalator, spaced at irregular intervals of length and height. Climbing the steps left you feeling disoriented and wobbly when you’d climbed to the top. The wooden observation tower looming over the ruin was the highlight of the mound. A fence made of sagging wire, strung between metal posts of the style that ranchers used, enclosed the paths that lead off at sharp angles from the base of the tower. The posts were leaning at angles (none of them parallel to each other) like some phantom earthquake had moved each post in its own separate dance.

Stairs leading to the top of the mound, mid 1960s

 I ran into a high school buddy in a restaurant during the first year I worked at Pueblo Grande Museum and we caught up on what we had been doing in the years since we had graduated. My friend was working in a nursery and he said he really liked working with the living plants. I told him I was going to college and had a summer job at Pueblo Grande Museum. A slightly puzzled look crossed his face, then recognition – “Isn’t that the Mud Castle on Washington Street?” he asked. With a smile and a touch of pride I answered “Yep, that’s the place!”

Posted by Roger Lidman, Museum Director

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