While skimming through a few of our transcribed oral histories last week, I came across an informally indentified document containing interviews with several “31ers” conducted in 1992. One that stuck out to me was a piece from a man I had never heard of before named John Weston, a self-proclaimed smart guy because he didn’t come to Boulder City until 1938, “after all the hard work was done,” where he worked as a Reclamation Ranger and then a dam tour guide for thirty years. After cracking a few jokes and discussing the many changes made at the dam site since his employment there, Mr. Weston spoke a few words that I definitely took to heart as not only manager of Boulder City’s museum or an unofficial historian, but as a lover of history.
These are the last few lines of Mr. Weston’s interview: “…that was one of the most exciting and interesting jobs that I ever had. You could never learn all there was to know about it. It was a constant challenge… about the time you thought you were getting pretty smart, and had all the answers, somebody would ask you something that you never dreamed of. It kept you humble. It really did.”
As someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes the history of this intertwined town and project, it can be hard to have mere conversation with folks without spewing out stories or data that might not be welcome; especially when, over the last few decades, urban legends become, well, history. Discovering that, after working over thirty years memorizing facts, spiels, and tall tales surrounding the construction history, Mr. Weston was able to recognize that he didn’t “know it all” is very humbling.
I’m sure Mr. Weston dealt with another issue I can relate with as I interact with patrons and co-workers: it’s okay to say I don’t know the answer! At the Museum, we’ve become the unofficial go-to for all things (and some things not so much) town history related. When patrons start off their inquiry with “I was told you would know the answer to this…” and the words following can’t be easily answered, us “experts” internally cringe.
But, don’t let my new mission of awareness dismay you from stopping in to ask us for an answer to resolve your latest coffee-circle debate. Just be prepared for some research and an adventure into our archives!