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Help Ken Burns Chronicle the Parks


    In the fall of 2009 PBS will air The National Parks, a major documentary film series produced and directed by Ken Burns and written and produced by Dayton Duncan.
   But now they are asking for your help. Their film series is not a travelogue or a “nature” film; it will tell the very powerful, human story of how the parks came into being and what they have meant to Americans for more than a hundred years.  It will be filled with major historical figures — from John Muir to Theodore Roosevelt to Ansel Adams — but it will also tell the stories of many lesser-known Americans, from cowboys to immigrant artists, wealthy philanthropists to dirt-poor  farmers who turned their passion for a part of the American landscape into crusades for their permanent protection. 
    And as it tells the story of this very uniquely American, very democratic idea of setting aside special places for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone, it will reveal a larger story of people passing on a love for these special places from one generation to another.
    To help them tell this story, they would like to collect home movies of visits to National Parks by families and individuals for possible use in the film. They are looking for home movies from the time period of the 1920s through the 1980s and are most interested in footage of families and tourists in the parks.

    If your home movies are used in The National Parks, you will receive a DVD of the series. If you happen to have footage of the Yosemite firefall and it is included in the series, you will receive the DVD, plus your choice of one other Ken Burns film. If you have home movies you would like to submit, please follow the criteria listed below.
    * Home movies from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s.
    * They are most interested in families and tourists in the national parks, not scenery without people.
    * Do not send original footage: VHS or DVD copies only, please. THE MATERIAL WILL NOT BE RETURNED.
    * Clearly mark the tape or disc with your name, address, phone number and e-mail (if available), so they can contact you if your footage is selected.
    * Include a brief description, e.g., the Smith family, George and Martha, Bill and Sally, in Grand Canyon, 1955.
    * Send to the address below by August 1, 2007:
    Anne Harrington
    2775 S. Quincy Street
    Arlington, VA 22206


My grandpartents camped in Yosemite with their children for a month every year back in the 30's. When Yosemite had the Firefalls a ranger started calling out to my Uncle and the Ranger's son at dusk to bring them to the Firefalls because the ranger thought my Uncle's name was funny. He would call "Elmer"! I'm told there is still a tradition to call "Elmer" at dusk even though there are no more firefalls. My Uncle is still alive. I've seen this story in writing as well. Pls contact me if this is of interest to Ken Burns and his footage about the firefalls.

My mother grew up at Hazel creek North Carolina before that area was established as the Smoky Mountains. Her father, Orson Burlingame was an engineer and managed the Ritter Lumber Company which was the major employer for that area until 1942 when all residence were required to leave. My grandfather and numerous relatives are buried at Bone Valley, the cemetary for that area. I first visited Bone Valley and Hazel Creek in about 1964 when my family took the tomb stone to my Grandfather's grave, with the help of the park service. Now the park service helps displaced families return to their relatives' graves and home sites every Sunday during the summer. The Hazel Creek Reunion is always the 4th Sunday of June. The park service meets us and about 100 other individuals at Fontana lake and ferries us to the mouth of Hazel Creek. We are met by various forms of transportation which will carry us to Bone Valley (sometimes we will walk the 6 miles). Along the way, the elderly people who spent their childhoods there, tell us stories of going to school, playing ball, working at the lumber mill. Few structures remain but if you know what to look for you can see where the homes were or the lumber yard. As for my grandparents' home, a small portion of a stone wall remains and the yellow iris still bloom. When we arrive at Bone Valley we have a church service, potluck dinner and decorate the graves. individually we will visit our families' homesites and talk with people who lived there or knew our relatives. My uncle is 86 and he made the reunion last year but for him many of his generation, the trip is getting too difficult. I have some very brief home movie footage of the family boat trip in 1964 and numerous photographs of my mother and her family at Hazel Creek in the 20's and 30's. If any of this is of interest, please contact me. thank you

I have 8mm film of our family's trip to Yosemite National Park in the Summer of 1954. What's intersting about this film is that while we were there Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and crew were filming scenes form their 1954 movie the Long Trailer. You can clearly see Lucy in this film (from a distance) you can't miss her red hair. Although only a few minutes of footage it was one of the highpoints of our vacation at Yosemite and one I always remember whenever the Long Trailer is on TV. My father shot lots of film at Yosemite and the beauty of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, the Mercer River are all captured on film. I also have film of our family vacation to Seqouia National Park in 1955. Many scenes of the giant trees (the General Sherman) and other scenes. Scenes of bears (fairly close) and people feeding a buck (four-pointer) from their hands. Lots of great stuff. Lots of footage of our family also (this trip was 3 families of relatives, 11 kids ages 5 to 13, 7 adults, including grandma). Is it too late to submit some of this film for consideration in Ken Burns upcoming documentary?

John Correia
9441 Winding River Way
Elk Grove, CA.


Sounds like you have some great footage. While the deadline was last August, you might try to contact the folks at WETA in Arlington, Virginia.

Good luck!

In Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, many old Hispano families claim their land grants were stolen and are now managed by the National Parks System. Will your documentary cover this? Latinos say you have a blind-spot to their history in this country. This seems like a good opportunity to make up for it.

Back in the early 1990s, I met a National Park Service ranger named Donald Scott. He was quite interested that I was the chapter advisor for the Sigma Chi chapter at UC Berkeley. It turns out that when Stephen T. Mather held the conference to write the National Parks Act, he did it at Cal and had the congressmen and other dignitaries stay at the fraternity house. Mather was an alumnus of the house and very proud of his association with both Sigma Chi and the Park Service. As it is told in the history of the park service, Mather wanted to have a collegial, symposia type atmosphere during the conference. At one point he had the undergraduate brothers do a football cheer, much to the horror of the conference participants.

The house still stands on the same spot today. The same place where Mather built it back in the 1910s.

One of the elements that might be considered when searching for who we are as Americans should look at who we first set out to be. In the preamble to our constitution for instance, we are betrothed to insure “Domestic Tranquility”....what does that mean?...what should it mean?...what does it currently mean to many? Is anyone really working to "insure" it?

Personally I feel that if we hold fast to who we have set out to be, and to include insuring domestic tranquility in that equation, it needs to be defined better so that we would all make sure that we protect it.

So this is the premise for what I think could be a great movie by Ken Burns. Maybe it is a documentary where Americans are asked to give their definition of domestic tranquility. Maybe it would include historic intentions and definitions. To me domestic tranquility is nature...protected...the ability to venture out and be a lone human in a vast, native, and natural landscape. It is a National Park...but it is more that that.

You (Ken Burns) would be great at presenting the “domestic tranquility” thing in some way. I feel that it could be a strong platform from which to launch nationwide support for the protection of wilderness, space.

PS...seeing the preview of your series last night at the Emerson inspired me to share this.

My GreatGrandfather, Senator John Conness, US senate 1863-1869,the Junior Senator from California introduced the Yosemite Grant legislation into the US Senate. The was the first preservation of Yosemite Valley and the Wawona Grove of Giant Sequoias. He was a member of Abraham Lincoln's "Kitchen Cabinet" and urged Linclon to sign this. It was signed in March of 1864. While this was not my greatgrandfathers original idea he did introduce, and lobby for it in the middle of the Civil War.
I hope you have acknowledged this in your film. Mt Conness is on the eastern boundry of the Currrent Yosemite National Park just north of Tioga Pass. It was named for John Conness by the Whitney survey party earlier. John Conness was a member of the California Assembly in the 1850's and responsible for the state legislation that formed and funded the Whitney Party to map the eastern boundry of California. Naturally Whitney named the highest peak for himself.

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