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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Garald G. Parker, Sr.
Interviewer: David McCally
February 27, 1992
M: This is David McCally, and I am interviewing Dr. Garald G. Parker, Sr. at his home
at 3414 Reynoldswood Road in Tampa, Florida. Today's date is February 27, 1992.
Garald, please tell us when and where you were born.
P: I was born July 2, 1905, in a sawmilling town in southwestern Oregon. My father
worked in a lumber mill. My father and mother were both college people, having
graduated from the Oakland, Oregon, Academy, which is a two year college. When
my dad finished, there were no jobs available except working on the railroad or
working in sawmills. So that is what he did for the first two years after I was born.
But that did not satisfy him, so he moved to Yoncalla, which was the biggest town
in the county. The Indian word means "valley of the eagles."
M: Was the name appropriate at the time you lived there?
P: Oh yes.
M: Did you begin your education there? How long did you live there?
P: We lived there only five years. In the interim, my dad had gone into real estate. He
did real well; he made a lot of
money in real estate. [He] advertised in Minneapolis newspapers, for the
Scandinavian people who settled that area were anxious to come out to Oregon for
some reason or other. So he sold a lot of land and did so well that he bought a big
new automobile, and loaded us all into that one summer, the summer of 1910. We
started south; he had going to the Los Angeles area in mind. He actually wanted to
go to Long Beach, [California]. Some tip he had gotten told him that was the place
where he could do well in real estate. There is a little bit of a story in connection
with this. We stopped in Ashland, Oregon, which is just at the foot of the Siskiyou
Mountains separating Oregon from California. We got there in September and we
stopped there; he did not know how long he was going to stay there, but he wanted
to look that area over before he went on south. He put me in a kindergarten there
for about a month, before we finally started out over the Siskiyou Mountains.
Ashland, to this day, is famous for hot mineral springs that bubble up out of a
fountain in town. They are not actually hot; they are warm. The water is laced with
M: Do they market that water?
P: Yes they do. In those days, and even to this day, the fountains still bubble out this
lithium water on the streets of Ashland.
M: Your father continued on to California from there?
P: In those days, the highways were not even highways; they were just dirt roads. The
route that we followed is the route that eventually became U.S. Highway 99, which
now parallels Interstate 5. But it was just a trail above the 9,000 foot high pass that
you had to go over to get into California. It was only a wagon-rut of dirt; it was a
wagon road. This was 1909.
The automobile was a great big nine-passenger car, with jump seats between the
front and back seats. It was a big, long touring car, equivalent to the Cadillacs of
today, called the Kissel Kar. One of the things that distinguished this car was that
it was on the cutting edge of the automobile manufacturing of the day. Instead of
having an engine cooling system that ran by gravity, like almost all the others, this
one had a water pump on it.
M: That was in those days an advance.
P: Oh yes, but that was the car's achilles heel. The water pump was made of cast iron,
and it broke as we were going up that mountain. So the engine was not designed for
gravity feed. Therefore, you could not keep that engine cool. He had to take a
bucket (which fortunately they had) and scoot down the side of the hill to a little
creek at the bottom. In some places, we found springs along the side of the road,
and he could get water to put in the engine. Eventually we got over the mountain,
and got on down to Redding, California. We still were in dirt roads, although we got
into sand in the San Joaquin Valley. But he had to do something about the car; he
could not keep running it. The garage was not even a garage; it was a livery stable.
There was a blacksmith there, [who] was the automobile mechanic. But the guy had
a franchise to sell automobiles. I remember the name of this one: the Flanders
Studebaker. It was a little job, smaller than the Fords, but it had the advantage of
having a gear shift. So my dad traded this big expensive car for that little Flanders
Studebaker so we could go on. I do not know if he got something to boot on it, or
But we started out from town then with my father, my mother, my sister, and my
brand-new baby sister. We got to the south end of town, where we had to cross the
Southern Pacific Railroad. In that area, the railroad track is elevated. I would guess
it is eight or ten feet high. The thing that I remember about that was that my dad
came up to this incline slowly and put [the car] into low gear and started up. He
could not go up that steep slope. So he had the family get out, took the car back
some distance, and took a run at it. He finally got it over; he made it that time.
He eventually went on down to Long Beach and took out an option to buy a block
of land in what would now be nearly the center of Long Beach. There were four or
five rental houses on the block. It was up for sale, so he took an option on it. We
stayed there for several months, and then he decided that he and his younger brother
(who had followed along behind my dad) were going to look into the possibilities of
making a lot of money in real estate over in Arizona. So my dad and my Uncle
Clarence got into the little Flanders Studebaker, and somehow or another they got
up over the pass and down into the desert on the other side. Along that road, near
Needles, in places you will see parts of an old board road that was made of planks.
There were two planks side by side, the way my dad described them. (I have seen
them since.) They were the width of a car, or of a wagon, and laid on crossties, just
like a railroad. There are places along the highway yet that I have seen those; the
wood just does not rot. There are a few places that parts of that old track are left
Well, they got over to Phoenix, and my dad and he stayed there. But they decided
that things did not look good. The economic times then were pretty much like what
we are going through right now, apparently.
M: What year was this?
P: This was 1911, and the depression came full in 1912. Anyway, when he came back
he decided that he was not going to take up the option on that property. [So] we
took the old George W. Elder steamship--which was a famous iron steamship in its
time--from Los Angeles, up the ocean to the Columbia River, and back into
M: [You went] back to the Northwest then?
P: [We went] back to the Northwest. Portland is the entrance to the Willamette Valley,
which is a north-south valley about 200 miles long and maybe forty to eighty miles
wide. It was the target for the 1847 (and later) overland pioneers, of which my
mother's folks members of the 1847 wagon train; my dad's folks came in 1852.
M: Your ancestors were in what became the American portion of the Oregon region as
well, from the very beginning.
P: Yes. We can trace my father's family back into Connecticut in the 1760s. And [we
can trace] my mother's family to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia in the 1620s.
They were slave holders [who] got the bug to move West. They first moved as far
as Missouri, where they stayed there for several years building up a big herd of cattle
and horses. And then in 1847, they went West in one of these big wagon trains.
There were 500 families in this wagon train.
M: What were you doing at the time your family returned to Portland?
P: I was in the first grade.
M: Did you stay in Portland through high school?
P: No, my mother and dad--my mother particularly--had in mind for her son to become
either a doctor, a minister, or a teacher. I knew right from the time that I was a
little kid that I was destined to go to college. I went through the eighth grade there,
and graduated from Rose City School in Portland. At that time, my dad had the idea
of starting up a dairy business. He bought property over across the Columbia River
in Washington state, and developed a dairy farm. He put up all modern equipment
for steam heat and hot water for sanitary purposes. He developed a wholesale and
a retail milk route in Portland. That was a very successful venture, and paid off very
M: Did you work at the dairy?
P: Oh yes. My mother did, my sisters did, and we had several hired hands that helped.
I worked there, too. We moved over there in June 1920, and I had just finished
grade school right at that time. I guess they waited for that time to move. I started
high school in the fall of that year in Vancouver, which is a small city just ten miles
south of our new dairy farm.
M: This is Vancouver, Washington?
P: Yes. I finished my sophomore year there, and then we got word that we were
actually in the Ridgefield school district, and I could no longer go to Vancouver. So
my dad had to buy me a Ford touring car to drive back and forth to Ridgefield high
school, which was eight miles away in the little town of Ridgefield.
M: So high school students had cars long before the 1950s?
P: I did, anyway; I had to have it because no school buses were available. My dad, of
course, had bought a Dodge delivery truck for the milk route. We had a Buick for
the family car, and he bought the Ford 1914 Model T for me to drive back and forth
to school. I had been a rather small kid, and I probably did not weigh more than
130 pounds when I was a sophomore. But I grew pretty rapidly my junior and senior
years. In my senior year I weighed 155 pounds; I was a pretty good-sized kid. I was
an athlete; I could run faster and jump higher than anybody in school. I lettered in
everything except basketball. I was on the second team in basketball. They had
several kids a lot taller than I was, so I did not make the first team.
M: What year did you graduate?
P: I graduated in 1925 from Ridgefield high school. Now, I lost a year in there.
Between my sophomore and junior year of high school I came down with
mononucleosis. It went on and on. They did not call it mononucleosis; they did not
know what it was in those days.
M: Did they attach a name to it? Or did they just say you were sick?
P: I was sick, and they did not know what the trouble was. Later on of course, they
found out I had mononucleosis.
M: From your graduation from high school, did you go right on to college?
P: Yes. In the meantime I had fallen in love with a girl in high school, and I just
wanted to get married. She did too. I went away to school that first year, and I went
to what was then called an Oregon Normal School. Now it is Western Oregon
M: What city is that in?
P: Monmouth, Oregon. I went there on a type of athletic scholarship that they had in
those days. About all it meant was that the school did not charge me for my books
They furnished a minimum of athletic equipment. I suppose you have seen pictures
of what it looked like--the football equipment was just a tight leather helmet with a
thin, three-eighths of an inch thick felt pad on the inside. The shoulder pads were
felt; there was no leather in them. There was a groin pad on either side to cover up
the kidneys and the liver; they were made of felt, and laced.
M: The uniform must have gotten awfully heavy when it rained.
P: It did. And the ball got even heavier. [laughter] In those days footballs were kind
of round, instead of the nice, sleek passing ball that you have now. I played
quarterback and halfback. In those days, football players played both ways; you
played both offense and defense. There was no such thing as what we know
nowadays: teams of specially trained guys coming in [each time the ball changed
sides]. So I generally played safety on defense, and quarterback or halfback on the
offense. I stayed there at Monmouth for two years, and then we got married. At the
end of that second year I started teaching. In those days, you could teach in the
grade and junior high schools with a two year certificate, provided that you could
pass an examination of all of the subjects that you had to teach. That did not bother
me; I passed it easily. I spent ten years teaching in public schools.
M: Where did you teach?
P: In four different cities in southwestern Washington.
M: And you spent ten years in the public schools teaching?
P: I started out in what was a logging city. The Long Bell Lumber Company established
the town of Longview for their mills. And then they bought up thousands of acres
of coastal range mountains with all of the timber on them. In the midst of that area,
they established a logging town. Now, it was a model village of about two thousand
people. It had a high school and a grade school.
M: Did the company own the real estate?
P: The company owned everything. They had to turn the school over to the state of
course, to meet the state's standards. But they paid all of the salaries that we earned
as teachers, and the expenses all came out of taxes that Long Bell Company paid on
the timber holdings. They were the whole show. And I stayed there from 1927 to
1930. I went there in 1927 as a mathematics teacher. It was a small-town school, but
nonetheless, the teachers had specialties. I taught mathematics and history, and I
was a grade school coach. Two years later, they made me the grade school principal.
From that time on, every move I made was to get more money and a better job.
M: Do you recall what your pay was as a teacher?
P: Yes, it was $80 a month to begin with.
M: What was it as a principal?
P: It was $100 as a principal. As a highlight on that, the times were so tough. We were
getting into the big Depression. In western Oregon and Washington, the
[Depression] hit in 1928 instead of 1930. Anyway, times were so tough, that some
of the teachers on my staff were only getting $40 a month. We learned that in other
places in the state, some young teacher graduates were taking jobs for nothing, in
order to get the experience and in hopes of getting more later on. Those were very
difficult times. I moved on up until I eventually ended up as a high school principal.
I had my bachelor's degree, [because] in the meantime I had been going back each
year to summer school. I took the year 1930-1931 off, and took a year of pre-med
at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. I thought ..
M: Maybe doctoring would pay a little bit better?
P: Yes. After my year of pre-med I decided I did not want to do that; I liked the
outdoor life too much.
M: What year did you get your bachelor's degree in?
M: And from what school?
P: Central Washington State College.
M: And that is in what city?
P: Ellensburg, Washington, [which] is over in the desert side of the Cascade mountains
of the state of Washington.
M: Did getting your degree in any way change your career? Did you stay with the school
P: Yes, I stayed. That was in 1935, and I stayed for three more years. The last three
years I was a high school principal in Woodland, Washington.
M: Do you recall what your wage was as high school principal?
P: Yes, it was $1,800 for the year; it was $200 a month.
M: After you earned your bachelor's degree, what did you do in the summertime? Did
you get a job?
P: I got particularly interested in science. When I was in high school, I thought I was
going to become a historian. I was just so interested in history. I have had some
good teachers, and that was great stuff. I got up there at Ellensburg, and took my
first course in geology there. Gosh, it just opened up new horizons to me. The
paleontology was, in a sense, a kind of earth history. So I went for that. And each
summer after that, I went to the University of Washington and took graduate courses.
I entered the graduate school at the University of Washington in the fall of 1937.
I spent the summer of 1937 and the scholastic years 1938 and 1939 there. The last
two years I was a teaching fellow.
M: And for these years you were taking essentially geology and paleontology?
P: Yes; in fact, I took everything they had there. They accepted me as a Ph.D.
candidate when I transferred there; my grades had been so high. No, it was in 1938
that they gave me an examination. At the end of the examination they took me as
a Ph.D. candidate. My thesis was entitled: "The Stratigraphy and Paleontology of the
Blakely Formation in the Puget Sound Lowland." I spent two summers doing my
mapping with the plane table.
M: What is the Blakely formation?
P: It is an Oligocene sand-and-gravel formation. It is twisted up, and stands about forty-
five degrees, and underlies most of the islands out there in the center of Puget
Sound. It is also on the shores in some places.
M: How is it turned up on end? Is that plate tectonics? Was that the theory at the time
you were in school?
P: Yes. Professor Alfred Wegener listed his thoughts on plate tectonics in 1923. But it
was not accepted; people just laughed at him. It made sense to me, though. Our
professors at the University of Washington gave Wegener full credit for his theory,
but said that it remained to be proven.
M: But it was taught as a theory?
P: Yes, it was taught as a theory at that time.
M: Was it unusual for it to be taught as a theory? Was the University of Washington
at the forefront?
P: Yes, actually, later on when I was back with the USGS [United States Geological
Survey] in Washington and was on the committee that wrote up the civil service
examinations for geologists, we had the records for all of the schools: if the students
took the examination, those who passed the masters or the Ph.D., and which school
[they came from]. Over a period of years, Washington was right at the very top; they
had more graduates pass that examination than even schools like Harvard and Yale.
I was just fortunate in that respect. We had a young faculty at that time.
(Incidentally, they are all dead now.) It was a great faculty. I took that examination
in the spring of 1939, and I was one of sixteen in the United States to pass the
examination and be hired by the USGS.
M: This was when you went to work for the USGS?
P: Yes, and there is a funny little story in connection with that. It sounds like I am
doing a lot of bragging here, but all I am doing is trying to tell you that I was very
successful as a student. The Standard Oil Company became interested in me through
one of my professors who recommended me. In June of 1940, Standard Oil
Company asked me to come down to their headquarters in San Francisco for a
conference. They were considering me for a $1,500 fellowship.
M: Which must have been pretty good money if you were only getting $1,200 as a
P: It was. Anyway, December came. I had taken this USGS examination in the past,
and only sixteen out of the one hundred or so who passed it were hired that year by
the United States Geological Survey.
M: So you were in the top sixteen?
P: Right. Anyway, I went down to visit the Standard Oil research people in San
Francisco. When I went in there and identified myself, the secretary said, "We have
just received a telegram for you." I could not imagine what it was. Maybe my dad
had died, or my mother; something bad had to have happened. But it was not. It
was a telegram from the Washington office of the USGS telling me that they wanted
me to go to Miami, Florida, as a junior geologist.
M: You accepted right away?
P: Oh yes. I thanked the Standard Oil people, but I told them my real goal was the
M: Why did you prefer to go to work with the Geological Survey, rather than Standard
P: There were two reasons. One, is that the U.S. Geological Survey had the reputation
at that time (and I guess it still does) as being the top earth-science research agency
in the world. The finest geologists; some of the best work that has ever been done
in geology has been done by the United States Geological Survey. Most of the
research books that I had read, and the pamphlets that we studied, were USGS
publications. So I was bent in that direction on that account. But when I first went
there, I did not have this idea about the USGS, and I had thought about becoming
a petroleum geologist. The courses that I took led to petroleum geology. What I
took in the engineering courses, and the math, physics, chemistry, plus the geology
and paleontology gave me a very well-rounded background. I could have passed in
almost any subject that they could have thrown at me. Anyway, the second reason
for wanting to go to the USGS was that that same summer, in 1939 and 1940, a
petroleum war had developed in California. The Depression was not over yet. The
Richfield Oil Company had just come in, and Standard Oil and Union and Shell and
all decided to run this new upstart into the ground. They all started dropping prices.
So price wars started in that summer. By the fall they were not hiring geologists
anymore; nobody was hiring geologists. The bent toward USGS had developed while
I was there. Then this depression in the petroleum industry caused me to go with
M: Do you think Standard Oil was offering you this fellowship to put you on the back
burner? That you were someone they wanted, and they just wanted to put you in
P: Yes, that is what it was. With that $1,800, I would have been on easy street finishing
up my Ph.D.
M: How much did the USGS pay?
P: It was $2,600.
M: You did not complete your Ph.D. at this time?
P: Not at that time. In fact, I never did get to finish it, because World War II came
along, and I was considered essential to the civilian effort as a water-supply geologist.
I went directly from Seattle down to Miami. They had a small staff that they had put
together there. There were four engineers, [including] one young fellow who had
been unable to pass the geology examination, but was hired by the city of Miami.
The USGS was able to get him as a city geologist. They could not hire this guy
because he had not passed the examination. His name was Nevin D. Hoy; a finer
young man I never knew. He was an excellent help to me. He and I were the
geological staff at the time.
M: Could we drop back for just a minute? Could we talk about how you made the trip
from Oregon to Miami?
P: I did not tell you that after the dairy got going real well, in 1924 Oregon passed a
law that outlawed any raw milk from outside the state being sold in Oregon. So my
dad had to sell his business, and he had a big auction sale, and sold everything off.
He started up a little store then. We had a beautiful big home, and he built the little
store on the left hand (north) side, right next to the highway. That little store, to
begin with, was not any bigger than my study. It did have an ice cream counter in
there, and an ice cream fountain. It sold tires, and had gasoline pumps. It repaired
automobile tires; a mechanic was hired to help run the gasoline and tire end of it.
When I was home, I had to help with that too. And I had to help milk the cows.
After Dad sold the dairy, this little store grew and grew and grew, until pretty soon
he had people's work clothes, boots and shoes, and a meat department. It was a
good sized general merchandise store. That is what we had in 1927; it had grown to
be that size. My family remained in the store until my dad died, and my sister and
her husband took over the store.
M: What year did your father die?
P: He died in 1937.
M: He was gone by the time you received your job offer from the USGS?
P: He never knew anything about that.
M: How did you come cross the country?
P: At the store, there was a mechanic who made little and big trailers.
M: Residential trailers?
P: No, package trailers. He built a travel trailer too that I had. He built a travel trailer
for another family, and I bought that in 1938, and my wife and kids and I lived in
that trailer just off the campus at the University of Washington one summer.
M: How many children did you have by this time?
P: I had the girl in 1928. My boy came in 1935. Here is a picture of my daughter. I
have some younger pictures. This is when she was a teacher in Bethesda, Maryland.
She turned out to be a very fine student, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in
fine arts, and a bachelor's degree in biology at the same time. She taught biology in
high school for about five or six years. She was then offered a job with the
University of Maryland Medical School, where she became a medical illustrator.
M: She made the trip with you from Oregon to Miami in 1940?
P: Yes. At my dad's store [there was] a mechanic who built trailers and did all kinds
of repair work. I had him build a package trailer for me: a two wheel trailer with
a stake body on it. The stakes were about eight feet high. We put all of our
household goods that we loved in that trailer to take with us from Seattle. We sold
the rest of the stuff there, so we did not have anything to move all the way down that
we could replace just as cheaply in Miami. We threw a tarpaulin over it, bound it
down, and took off. [We] went right down the Williamette Valley, over the Siskiyou
Mountains, and down into California. We visited my grandfather, who lived in
Livingston, California and had an irrigation farm there at the time. And then we cut
across the mountains, through the desert, and out at Needles, [California]. We
followed all the way across to New Orleans, Tallahassee, and then down the Gulf
of Mexico coast to the Everglades, where we cut eastward on the Tamiami Trail and
came out at Miami. We made the trip in two weeks; we did not hurry really. We
had a very nice, pleasant ride.
M: This was in 1940, is that correct?
P: 1940. I had bought a brand new Dodge sedan before we left Seattle.
M: It was yourself and your wife, and ..
P: [We travelled with our] two young kids.
M: Two young children?
P: [My daughter] Avonne, who was nine, and my son, Jerry Jr., who was five.
M: Travelling through the West in those days, did you stay in motels every night?
P: Yes, we stayed in motels [almost] every night. We stayed overnight with my
grandfather in Livingston on the way down.
M: But there were enough facilities available, that you did not have to do any camping?
P: They were pretty crude for the most part; most of [the hotels] that we found
(especially out in the desert country) had wood-burning stoves to cook your meals.
M: No fast food?
P: No, I should say not. But we made that trip without many problems at all, except
when we came into California [and encountered] the man at an agricultural
inspection station. We had this trailer stacked eight feet high with household goods--
that is all that we had in it. [The inspector] was going to make us unpack that whole
trailer full of household goods to see if there were any groceries or any fruit in it.
I refused, and I demanded that he call his supervisor out to get him to change his
mind. The supervisor took one look, and he said, "Go on." [laughter]
M: After your arrival in Miami, you say you and Mr. Hoy ..
P: Nevin Hoy was my geologist's assistant. There were three engineers in the office at
the time. That office had been set up as a Water Resources Division office. This
may be hard for you to understand, but the Water Resources Division had three big
branches in it. One was the surface water branch, which had been everything at one
time; [this was] before they even had groundwater geologists working for them.
People in the Midwest, in some places in the South, and also out in California and
Arizona had streams to be gaged before they had asked for any geologists to do any
geology. The very first agency that developed in the Geological Survey's Water
Resources Division, were the stream gagers. They started that program back in 1887,
[and] by the time the 1940s rolled around, the surface water branch had offices with
district engineers in almost every state in the Union. The only thing that differed
there was up in New England, [where] all of those little states (everything except
New York) were put into one district. And on the west coast, California, Oregon,
and Washington were just one district. But the rest of the states in the interior and
in the South had single districts with ten, twelve, or sometimes only three or four,
employees. They had a district engineer in the surface water branch. In those days,
surface water was the whole bit. Shortly before World War I, in 1907 or 1908, a
groundwater section or branch was established. A geologist was in charge, and half
a dozen geologists worked for him out of his Washington office.
M: What prompted the interest in groundwater at this time?
P: In the central part of the country, there were so many wells put down that they
ended up as dusters with no water, or many of them ended up in saltwater. They
had to have some guidance.
M: When you say the central part, are you talking about the Ogallala Aquifer [in
P: Ogallala is just a part of it. I am talking about anywhere in the region from the
Mississippi Valley [to] west of the Rocky [Mountains]. In many places there are salt
springs and oil seeps. There are all kinds of problems in getting fresh groundwater.
So, there was a cry for geologists to be able to figure out what the configuration of
the subterranean is in which water occurs. Geologists [came to be] in great demand
after World War I. In 1940, when I joined the survey, I was number forty-one of the
professional men in that branch.
M: Of the geologists?
P: Of the geologists, engineers, and chemists; there were two physicists. That was the
staff. There were about thirty geologists; the rest were engineers, chemists, physicists,
M: When you say thirty geologists, [does] that mean nationwide?
P: Yes. And [out of] those, almost all of them were stationed in the Washington, D.C.
office. Each field season, each guy would take the train and go out to wherever his
field season was, and hire a horse and buggy. Toward the latter part, after World
War I, the Model T Fords became available. Even then, up until about 1940, most
of the geologists worked out of the Washington office.
M: Why were you hired to work in Miami, detached [from the others]?
P: The way the survey had developed, the quality of water branches were the ones who
did the chemistry of the water. In those days they did not do anything with the
biology of the water; [they were] just [concerned with] the chemistry. So we had the
quality of water branch, the groundwater branch, and the surface water branch. The
surface water branch was the big one. In the 1940s they were just starting the
groundwater district offices. We had one man, an engineer named Hilton Cooper,
in the Tallahassee office in 1939. In the fall of 1939 the USGS had agreed to
establish a research team to find out what is the matter in Tampa, Miami, Ft.
Lauderdale, and other places near the coast where the wells were turning salty.
M: Do you mean the municipal city water wells?
P: Yes, and thousands of private wells, too, because the streams down there are not
used for water. So wells were the whole thing. In the fall of 1938 something more
than a thousand privately owned wells in the city of Miami had become salty. They
noticed that the wells were gradually becoming saltier farther inland, but there was
nobody down there who could help them determine what was the cause. Dr. A. P.
Black was their city chemist. He developed their water treatment plant. They had
already decided that they had to be nine miles in from the ocean to get away, the
way the salt seemed to be moving in. So they put some well fields out there, one in
Hialeah, and the other directly across the Tamiami Canal in Miami Springs. Some
of the wells were on one side of the canal, [and] some on the other side. In the fall
of 1939, the Miami canal had saltwater in it up beyond the well fields. The salt
seeped out of the canal, [and] into the wells. The cities were in dire straits. Dr.
Black was a chemist; he did not know what was happening. All of the water
engineers down there were guys who knew how to run water through pipes, but they
did not know how to develop water, or anything about it. So, the USGS was called
in; Dr. Black recommended that they get the USGS in. The USGS people in
Washington recognized that this should be a division team, a Water Resources team.
The engineers, the geologists, and the chemists should all work together on this to
get the answer. So, they moved an engineer from Ohio named Bill Cross, who
headed the team. He came down there as an Engineer Three (third class engineer).
They run in five classes: Engineer One, Two, Three, Four, Five. The district
engineer for Florida was an Engineer Four. Well, you know that guy was not going
to take any part of this new team that was being developed. He was not going to
serve under this Engineer Three, when he was a Four. Nor did he seek any reason
that they should really take part in this program as a team; they would do what they
wanted to do. And then, of course, the quality of water had only one chemist on
assignment; he was all that they assigned to it until late in 1943. But the surface
water engineer rented a house out in the outskirts of Miami for his engineers who
were assigned to work on this project.
We (the Ground Water Branch) had our offices in downtown Miami. The city was
short of space, but they had a little office that was about the size of my study and
Bernadette's study. [We were] on the seventeenth floor of the Dade County
courthouse. Surrounding us was the women's prison of the county jail.
M: Your office was in the county jail? [laughter]
P: It was the county courthouse, but the upper floors were jails. Of course the
uppermost floors were women, and the other ones down by the offices were men.
M: It must have had a marvelous view of Miami.
P: Our view was on the east side of the building, out looking across the bay and on to
the ocean. During the war, we could see the convoys of ships come down there.
Every now and then we would even see one get blown up. The next morning, or
almost any day during the week, we could go down, and things would have washed
up on the beach. There would be sacks of flour, corpses, and all kinds of stuff.
M: When you say blown up, [do you mean] blown up by German submarines?
P: Yes. About two miles off the coast of Miami, the ocean bottom just drops
precipitously nine hundred feet. These subs would lie right in tight against that deep
wall, where they could not be seen. Then they would come up and shoot the hell out
of the convoyed ships. We could also see the little P.T. boats go skittering out, and
drop their depth bombs. Now and then, a big plume of water would spout up, and
parts of the submarine would come up on the shore the next week. Those were
Anyway, this attempt to make a unified team out of these three different USGS
branches just broke down. The war came on immediately, and Bill Cross, as a major
in the reserve, went in early. So he and the three engineers went, leaving me in
charge. I had to pick up a crew of people who were not psychologically or physically
able for military duty. We put together a pretty decent crew, but I did not have any
M: When did you assume your position in Miami with the USGS?
P: February 16, 1940.
M: So by December, 1941, you were essentially in charge?
P: No. Actually, I think it was in March.
M: So it was March of 1942?
P: The war began on December 7, 1941, so yes, that is right.
M: To solve the city's saltwater problem, how did you all pursue it?
P: Miami had a period of saltwater problems even before this batch of trouble had
developed in 1939. Back in 1918 or 1919, the city had a golf course that was known
as the Spring Garden Golf Course. It was about three miles from Biscayne Bay, and
a little creek ran up through it. And the wells were alongside that little creek. All
of those wells flowed in those days.
M: You mean they were artesian wells?
P: Yes, they were shallow artesian wells. There was a thin layer of clay (but tight,
dense clay) over the top of the limestone. There was just enough head to allow this
water to flow.
M: When you say they were shallow, how deep were the wells?
P: Eighteen, twenty, thirty feet. They were just deep enough to get into the limestone.
Those wells became salty then, and the USGS sent a geologist John Braun, down,
and he wrote a short report on them, saying it was saltwater encroachment coming
up the creek at high tides. Actually, it was not only that, but the saltwater was also
coming in at depth. After I had been there a month or two, the pictures began
taking shape in my mind. Here, people's wells in Coconut Grove and Coral Gables
were going salty. Houses on the highlands between those places were the ones that
were going salty. I knew then that the saltwater was coming in at depth.
M: From below.
P: So, fortunately they had given me a $350,000 account for a test well drilling. I was
able to hire test well drillers. I put in mostly two-and-one-half inch wells, put in at
$1 per foot, to various depths. I started with wells at full depth of the aquifer at the
shore, and drilled lines of wells inland. That way, I quickly drew up the
M: What you did was choose various vectors, and you drilled wells in a row, farther and
P: At right angles.
M: How far were they spaced?
P: About a quarter of a mile.
M: How deep were they?
P: The deepest ones went clear down to the bottom of the aquifer there, which was
about 180 feet deep at the deepest [point]. In some places it was only ninety feet
deep. It was an undulating depth, becoming shallower away from the shore.
M: How could you tell when you hit the bottom of the aquifer? Was it a hard strata?
P: [It was] green clay. Just as soon as you get out of the limestone, you hit this heavy,
thick, sticky green clay.
M: The green clay came up with the drilling mud?
P: Yes. Then, I wanted to know how thick that clay was, to know whether or not salt
water could migrate upward or laterally through the clay, or at any depth through the
clay, each with eight-inch casing. I think we put in twenty-two deep wells. Some of
them were more than 800 feet deep. The deepest one was 862 feet deep. The ones
out in the Everglades did not have to go so deep. What we found out was, due to
the earth's crustal movements, the land surface at the Big Cypress Swamp, where
limestone is at the land surface everywhere, dips down at an almost uniform gradient
to the east and to the southeast.
M: The Big Cypress Swamp is kind of the peak of a limestone crest?
P: That is exactly what it is. The Everglades itself is a very shallow trough, with a
coastal ridge along the Atlantic coast, and the higher Big Cypress swamp area has
elevations of about fifty-two feet. The Big Cypress Swamp has the highest elevation.
Off toward Ft. Myers, you go over a crest, so the wells were deepest to the east.
And the farther west we went toward the Big Cypress along the Tamiami Trail, the
shallower the wells became. We put in the deepest well out at the Forty Mile Bend.
As you go west on the Tamiami Trail, it goes almost due west, until all of a sudden
it takes a bend. That is the Forty Mile Bend. Off on the left there is a little park.
In this little park, there is an eight-inch iron casing of a well that is leaking water.
That is my deepest exploratory well.
M: That is the one that was 862 feet?
P: Yes. It is flowing a little bit right now. They do not let it flow a lot, because it is
salty water. [laughter] But I put in enough wells not only on the east-west lines, but
up along the coast [as well]. Then [I put in] wells up along Route 27, which goes
through Hialeah, and then heads north toward Lake Okeechobee. Then we took
drilling equipment on airboats, and went out and put in wells on some of the island
decks in the Everglades. When we got through with our exploratory drilling, I had
the underground pretty well mapped out all over South Florida, as far west as the
west side of the Big Cypress.
M: What you are saying is that the green clay layer that separates the saltwater from the
freshwater is in the vicinity of 400-500 feet thick?
P: That is true. That green clay is the same green clay that is near the land surface up
here, east of Tampa. The phosphate beds that are at the land surface up here are
part of that same layer. It is called the Hawthorne formation.
M: The phosphate is what makes it green?
P: No, the phosphate is not what makes it green. The greenness is probably
disseminated ferrous iron oxide; it is a marley clay. In places it is grey-green. In
other places, it is a deep green.
M: After you had completed the survey of the strata underneath the area around Miami
and South Florida, what were your recommendations for the city of Miami? What
did you tell them to do to maintain their freshwater supply?
P: Well, we used the Ghyben-Herzberg principal of the differences in density and the
specific gravity of the saltwater versus the freshwater. Ghyben was Dutch, and
Herzberg was German. These two guys were working in the coastal plane of
northern Europe where saltwater encroachment had taken place back in the Middle
Ages, when they first began putting in wells. They came up with this forty-to-one-
ratio, where if you have a water table height of one foot above sea level, it will be
forty feet down to the saltwater at depth. If you have two feet of freshwater, it will
be eighty feet down to the saltwater.
M: That is regardless of what the substrata is?
P: Well, it has to be open and permeable. Also, it only holds good for a distance of
maybe a mile or two from the coast. When you get farther inland, it no longer holds;
it is just in the zone where seawater and fresh water are in equilibrium, due to the
differences in the density and specific gravities of the two fluids.
M: So the freshwater floats on the saltwater, just like oil floats on water?
P: That is correct.
M: What did you recommend?
P: Well, I named that water bearing formation that all of the wells are developed in
above the green clay the Biscayne Aquifer--Biscayne after the Biscayne Bay, into
which all of the water discharges. Its average depth under most of the city of Miami
is about one hundred feet. One hundred feet divided by forty gives you two-and-one-
half. Two-and-one-half is the average height of freshwater above mean sea level,
which gives you an aquifer full of freshwater. The seawater could not penetrate
beyond that two-and-one-half foot elevation. We had cooperation with Miami,
Miami Beach, Coral Gables, and Dade County. So I recommended to these
governments that they put in saltwater control dams in each of the canals, as far
downstream as they could possibly put them, [and] preferably right at the mouth of
the stream. But they could not do that. To put these dams in with a spill threshold
of two-and-one-half feet would be holding water upstream of each dam at two-and-
one-half feet, or higher.
M: Two-and-one-half feet above sea level? That would be when it would spill over these
P: They were able to put [the dams] in most of the canals at an effective depth.
Unfortunately, Miami is a banana seaport [and is] also for general trade with the
Caribbean Islands. That seaport is generally [used by] boats that are less than one
hundred and fifty feet long, and drafts of maybe ten to fifteen feet deep. They use
the Miami Canal, the mouth of what used to be the Miami River. Some of these
wharfs were as much as two-and-one-half or three miles inland from the bay, [and]
the city could not interfere with this traffic farther downstream. So they put it in this
path at 36th Street. There is a bridge there, and they put the dam right in there on
the Miami Canal. That was the main one for Miami. The Coral Gables Canal,
which goes right through Coral Gables, is a deeper canal than the Miami [Canal].
It was used for the most part by the wealthy. Coral Gables was a place where the
wealthy people lived in those days, and most of them had sea-going yachts. They had
to have dockage right in front of their houses which, in some instances, were four
miles inland. So that is where the dam went in down there. As a result, there was
a bulge of saltwater inland in Coral Gables. We were able to maintain a lesser
encroachment in Miami itself and north of Miami.
M: So they were able to maintain a satisfactory supply of water for the city [by]
following, in essence, the map that you made for them?
P: That controlled the freshwater in the Miami area itself, but they were in need of
more wells. At that time, they were putting out about ninety million gallons of water
a day, 100 percent of that taken from the Miami Springs and Hialeah well fields.
They are seven miles inland from the coast. At times, extremely high tides overrode
that two-and-one-half foot dam. Salt water got in, went way up by the Miami Canal,
[and] up past the well fields in Hialeah and Miami Springs. That saltwater, being
heavier than the freshwater, seeped down and out of the bottom. The cones-of-
depression are caused by the well fields on either side of the river, caused the
saltwater to move down, out, and into the well fields. For a while, they had to pump
that water out and discharge it in a long pipeline over the dam. People drank salty
water there in Miami for a while, until that big slug of saltwater got out of the
system. But I was able, from observation wells that we had in there, and by taking
samples of the water from our observation wells, to monitor that whole episode,
starting with freshwater at the beginning to the slug of seawater that got up in the
canal and then got into the aquifer and over into the wells. Until, finally, it was all
pulled out, and freshwater once again replaced it. It is not very often that you have
a situation like that. That happened a couple of times. In 1947, two hurricanes
about two weeks apart hit Miami. They were wet hurricanes. We had the wettest
conditions in Miami that they had had since before the canals were built. The
Everglades were once again a river of grass. The water level got up to seven to nine
feet above sea level, whereas now it is four or three feet [above sea level]. In places
out in the well fields, it is down below sea level at times. So I recommended how
to control the freshwater in the canals, and they put these dams in as far south as
Homestead, in that highly-developed agricultural area there. The line of canal dams
in coastal canals extended north past Ft. Lauderdale. Anyway, the dams were put
in the coastal ends of most of these canals and they are set at two-and-one-half feet,
and that has been the salvation of that coastal strip.
Now with respect to getting more water for Miami, I selected two areas south and
west of Miami for the development of the well fields. We ran a pumping test out
there to get the transmissivity and the storage coefficients of the aquifer so we could
forecast what pumping 90,000,000 gallons a day out of each of these two well fields
would do. With canals passing through these two well field areas, fresh water leaked
out of them as pumping took place from the wells, beneath the aquifer, which was
being recharged by leakage out of these canals. We were able to say, "Yes, you can
take at least 90,000,000 gallons a day out of each of these well fields." They have
served Miami up until two or three years ago, when they began putting in new well
fields north of the Tamiami Canal, about ten miles west of Miami.
M: Your major study, The Water Resources of South Florida, with Emphasis on the
Groundwater in the Miami Area, was published in 1955. Was there additional
research? Was this ongoing?
P: It is still ongoing. It is a maintenance problem now. The fact that Miami has had
to put in new well fields, and Ft. Lauderdale has put in new well fields, and all the
rest of the cities up the line have had to put in new well fields, has put a
tremendous stress on the shallow aquifers. The Biscayne Aquifer is a shallow
aquifer, even though it is over 100 feet deep in some places. North of Ft.
Lauderdale the highly permeable limestone of the Biscayne Aquifer gives way to
sand. The farther north you go, the finer the sand is, until you get up to St.
Augustine and Jacksonville. There, the shallow aquifer is almost nonexistent.
M: Did you have any particular trials or tribulations along the road to publication of
your water resources study?
P: Our biggest problem was with Senator Bob Graham's father. Back in the early
1900s, the Pennsylvania Sugar Company had purchased large holdings in the
Everglades just west of Miami, reaching as far as the boundaries of Hialeah and
Miami Springs. They owned all of that land immediately west of Miami. They
founded a little village out there, Pennsuco, and put in a great big sugar mill, and
planted several hundred acres of sugar cane.
But the muck soil of the Everglades is rich in everything except some of the trace
elements. In this area, the muck was not over two feet thick to begin with, whereas
up at the south border of Lake Okeechobee it was as much as sixteen feet thick. It
gets thinner and thinner as you come south through the bed of the Everglades, from
Lake Okeechobee down to the coastal marshes bordering the Florida Bay. The
thickness, once they started working it, became less and less. Finally, they had to
give up. They named this place Pennsuco, and Senator Graham Sr. built a fine, big
home [there]. The present Senator Bob Graham's father was Senator Graham in the
state legislature. He also ran for governor at one time.
M: What was his first name?
P: I have forgotten. We called him Senator Graham. He was a political power in this
area. When they could no longer raise sugar, Senator Graham switched over and
made a dairy of it. Now, in order for his dairy cows to keep their feet dry and
prevent hoof rot, he had to have dry land. If you raise the water level two-and-one-
half feet, that raised his water level out there by backing the flow up. A lot of his
land was no higher than two-and-one-half feet above sea level anyway. So that had
the effect of keeping his lands wet. That did not allow the dairy to thrive, so he gave
a lot of opposition.
In those days I did not have the halting speech I have now, and I had developed
some big show cards about thirty-six by forty inches. You know the big placards that
the artists use? [I demonstrated the necessity for raising the water level two and one
half feet] by depicting the underground, geologic conditions in a series of these cards,
using brilliant colors (gaudy colors, really), showing the Ghyben-Herzberg effect, and
then [showing] what happens when you raise the [water level] to two-and-one-half
feet, and showing [its necessity] if we were going to save Miami's water supply. I was
in demand as a public speaker. I spoke in front of the Ladies' Garden Club, the
Kiwanis Club, and you name it. Everybody was anxious to know about the water,
and I was glad to be able to tell them as a public service. Finally, the day came in
1944 when Senator Graham called for a showdown. He wanted me to give my
discussion out in Hialeah to a crowd of people who lived in that area. These people
were anxious to keep their feet dry too, so Senator Graham made a big mistake. He
was unable to show what he had hoped to show; that it was not necessary to hold the
water at two-and-one-half feet.
We had this hearing at Hialeah, with Senator Graham, which Senator Graham had
sponsored. Most of the people in attendance at that meeting were folks who lived
in that general area. They liked to keep their feet dry too. So Senator Graham's
crowd was easily persuaded by my lecture that we had to maintain at least a two-and-
one-half foot level of the water table in order to save Miami's freshwater supply.
Senator Graham, who had been a thorn in my side up until that time, admitted his
error after the lecture was over. From that time on he was my friend. I had a lot
of help, too, with the newspapers. There were several writers down there. One of
the foremost that I recall is Jeanne Bellamy, [who] is still an active conservationist.
Her father, Bellamy, established The Miami Herald. Jeanne may have been either
a journalism major or an English major. I am not really sure. But when she came
down there as a young woman just out of college, her dad made her a writer on his
newspaper. And she turned out to be an excellent writer. She is a person you will
want to look up when you get back down there. There were a number of other
writers also. Some [were] on The Miami Times, which was The Miami Herald's
opposing newspaper. I had good supporters.
Another interesting person down there was the grand old lady of the Everglades who
wrote River of Grass, Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
M: As I understand it, she may not have been as environmentally aware then as she is
now. Perhaps she came to you for some instruction?
P: Yes. She had published several books prior to this, [and] they dealt with Florida
aspects, but they had never been greeted as successful books. At that time, there was
a series of books being published on the rivers of America, called The Rivers of
America Series. [It contained] a number of publications like The Hudson River, The
Delaware River, The Mississippi, The Columbia. There were a number of other rivers
of that nature that had been published, [and] she was asked by the editors of this
series if she could write one on a river in Florida. I do not know where she got a
hold of the idea that the Everglades might be called a river, but the idea came to her
that maybe she could write about the Everglades. So, she came to me one day and
we sat and talked, just like you and I have been doing. She took a great interest in
what we were doing. She wrote several articles that were published in the
newspapers about what the United States Geological Survey was doing down there.
She actually took time to go out into the field with me. Jeanne Bellamy had done
the same thing. I had taken them out, and they had seen the test well drilling, and
I pointed out the different kinds of rocks that were involved, that had been thrown
up by the dredging. [I also pointed out] the different kinds of rocks that we were
bringing up out of the well cuttings. She was kind of like a pupil; she came maybe
twenty or thirty times out to my office before she finally wrote this. But she asked
me if I thought [The River of Grass] would be a suitable title for it, and I agreed.
M: So between the two of you, you more or less created the ..
P: Yes, and she had given me credit for that in the first publications that came out. In
the last two or three reprints her acknowledgements have been deleted. In the early
ones she gave me credit. The book that I had, The River of Grass, there is a personal
acknowledgement to me. It is now in the USF [University of South Florida, at
M: [Is it] in the general collection, or the geology [collection]?
P: Did I tell you that the geologic group out there, in the department of geology, has
plans when they get their new quarters to put up a geology study room for their
geology majors? The several thousand books that I gave them from my library will
be the core for the students's hands-on library in that room. The room is to be
named after me.
M: That must be quite an honor.
P: Yes, it is, I think. They do not have the money yet to establish the room, nor really
to do anything with the books, other than to store them. They have got them stored
in a laboratory, that has some glass shelves with sliding doors, that can be locked.
They have those books mostly around this room, in the locked cabinets. They are
not doing anything with them at all; they are just sitting there right now.
M: To get back to the Everglades, it is my understanding that, as well as an
understanding of the substrata, you possess a good deal of knowledge about the
mucksoils of the Everglades?
P: Oh, yes indeed. When you are working down in the Everglades anywhere, you
always had to dig through them to get down to the rocks underneath. As you might
have learned from our earlier conversations, I have a wide interest in the
environment itself, and since my graduate minor is biology, there were several
courses of botany in this. I had one course in soils mechanics. My environmental
interest is very, very broad. It was not just in the geology; it was as much in the
environment itself, and in doing what we could to protect it.
One thing that I learned about the decrease of the elevation of the surface of the
soil, was while drilling out there in the Everglades, in the morning, with the skies
about like what they are now, with no indication of a storm. All of a sudden, a
sudden change in the weather took place, and black clouds started to roll in. The
lightning flashed around even before the rain came. Lightning struck a number of
places around. And each place that it struck, a fire broke out. I think that is maybe
the one that you were thinking about, that happened. It was just west of Hialeah.
We of course got in the car, and got as far away as we could from that rig with its
steel tower pointing up to the sky. We stopped drilling for the day, and got out of
there. That is how easily fires can get started. The thing that I discovered while
Nevin Hoy and I actually dug several pits out in the Everglades to develop a soil
profile, was noting the various soil elements. We discovered in several places, at
depths in the soils of four and five feet of muck that we dug through, several layers
of ash. One layer was about four inches thick. A four-inch thick layer of ash is
probably the result of burning several feet of muck. That, of course, meant that
there were times in the past when the Everglades had dried out, and when the soil
was a third or less than half of its present thickness. It was a dry land surface. An
electrical storm came up, fires developed, and the muck burned. You cannot trace
these layers very far. However, the ash layers are wide-spread throughout the glades.
A few hundred yards would be as far as one individual fire would burn before it
would burn itself out.
M: Approximately, what is your estimate for a time frame on this?
P: We got the carbon-14 data on the deepest muck, up near Lake Okeechobee, and it
was 5,800 years (plus or minus 200 years) old. [When an organism dies, the
radioactive carbon-14 decreases at a measurable rate of one half every 5,760 years]
[Initially,] the Everglades floor had only a white marl layer over the underlying Fort
Thompson Limestone; there was no muck. The muck began to be deposited about
5,800 years ago. So we know what that is, but I have no way of knowing that a layer
of ash that is halfway between the top is also halfway in terms of chronology. We
could have taken samples of the muck right underneath the ash, but I did not think
to do that at the time.
M: To move on with your career with the Geological Survey, how long did you work in
the Miami area?
P: I worked there steadily from February 16, 1940, to June 1, 1948. At that time, I had
this big Water-Supply Paper, 1255, written. But it took about seven years to get it
through the review process, and printed. The Survey was low on funds in those days,
and they did not have publishing money. So it lay there for some time before they
finally got it published. You notice that is an offset printing; that is not typeset. So
it was delayed, but I had actually finished the writing in 1946. Because of the long
delay, I was able to make some additions to this book as late as 1950.
Anyway, out at the Hanford Atomic Energy Works in the State of Washington,
several plutonium spills had taken place. The Atomic Energy personnel managed to
keep this very quiet; nobody around knew about it. They did not want to bring in
a commercial geologist's help, so they asked the Geological Survey for expertise to
help them find out what had happened to the plutonium waste that had gotten below
the land surface. The Survey picked me to go out there and head a team of
geologists. I had two engineering geologists as assistants. We put down test wells,
to find out where the plutonium was, and to work out the hydrology of the aquifer,
hoping that the plutonium had not reached the aquifer. [However] if it did, [we
needed to see] what had happened to it. So I had that as an assignment. We
supervised the drilling of those wells for twelve hours every day, every day of the
M: There must have been a great deal of haste and concern.
P: Hanford management knew that plutonium is one of the most poisonous of the heavy
metals, yet they had been so careless in handling its wastes. When we found out that
some of this plutonium was lost, [we learned that] they had actually dumped [fluid
wastes] in sand pits, right beside the processing plant. Of course that was the source
of some of the plutonium loss, but most of it took place at or near their storage site.
This storage site was about half of a mile away from the plutonium processing plant
where they made the plutonium. They transported the waste fluids through
underground pipes to big storage vats that were buried in the ground. These vats
were about as big around as this room. They were about twenty feet in diameter,
and they were about the same depth. [They were made of] concrete encasing steel
encasing lead. They knew that those vats could not leak. Yet, when they first
noticed that there was something wrong out there, there was not as much fluid in
some of these vats as they knew went in. It had to be going somewhere, and they
finally discovered [the cause of the missing fluid]. Over a period of years, the added
weight of this heavy fluid in the [already heavy] vats, caused the compaction of the
earth underneath. The vats actually settled into the ground. In fact, they knew they
were settling because they had to come by and take the bulldozers to level the
ground off again. When they did that, they were not even thinking about leakage.
What was happening was that some of the pipe joints broke, and these fluids were
leaking that way.
M: What did you find as far as the plutonium in the water table?
P: They never told us where the plutonium is; I never knew that. Such information was
obtained in the labs from the samples of the cuttings we sent them in quart Mason
bottles. Everything is so secret out there. We drilled all the way down through
about 800 feet. First, there is silt, [also called] loess, a German word meaning
"loose". [Like] the loess hills of Spokane, Washington.
M: That is associated with glacial activity, is it not?
P: Yes. During a glacial period, these huge dust storms transformed the dust out there,
and filled in the valleys. In some places it is 200 feet thick. In other places, it may
be ten feet thick.
M: Were these winds generated by the difference in temperature between the land and
the glacial ice mass?
P: When these winds were blowing that dust, the glacier was not locally present. The
glacier had not ever covered this area. It reached the Columbia River to the north.
The Columbia and the Snake flowed around the edges of the ice mass. The
prevailing winds are out of the west, off of the Pacific and over the Cascades and
swooping down the West. But north local winds would come off the ice and blow
down pretty strong winds. We had two strong directions to move the silt, but most
of it came from the west. Anyway, you have this layer of silt, and the silt is often
mixed in with the glaceally derived river gravel that was being discharged and filling
in that deep trough of the Columbia River. That trough was about 800 feet to begin
with, and blocked to the south creating a glacial lake at least 800 feet deep. It was
filled with sand, silt and gravel, and sand, silt, and gravel, until finally, near the top,
it is mostly gravel. Pretty soon you get into boulders. Some of the boulders are
twenty feet in size. Some of them you can see marked around on the hills at an 800
foot elevation. That was at the height of the lake before this whole thing drained.
Anyway, the valley filler is this mixture of glacial sand, silt, clay, boulders, and gravel.
Down at the bottom it is mostly gravel. Some of it is dry as dust, to depths of 100
feet or more. Even when we get seven inches of rain a year, that rain does not
penetrate very deep through that soil; it only goes deep enough to supply water needs
of the sage brush, the rabbit brush, and the grass that is on the land to begin with.
M: So, this was 180 degrees opposite from the surface in Miami where the rain mostly
soaked in; [on] this soil it all runs off or is lost by evapotransperation.
P: Right, or it evaporates. Or the soil uses it all up; there is very little runoff in the
area at all. Surrounding the Atomic Energy Commission holdings on the south in
there, is a group of high, basalt mountains called Horseheaven Hills. Those are a
big pile of basalt that slopes right down underneath the Columbia River. The
Columbia River is in here, and the mountains are up here. The AEC, and the towns
of Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick, and the Columbia River are running on that
land surface. The basalt mountain may be over 1,000 feet higher than the plains.
So, you are working in a partially-filled syncline.
M: You had drilled down about 800 feet, and then you would hit the basalt?
P: Right, and then we would stop. I do not remember how many wells we put in before
I left; it was over thirty. On some of those wells, before I left, I installed water-level
recording devices. We took water samples for chemistry. The only information that
I got out of that was the hydrology of the area, and the geologic history. I wrote it
up in a report that was [about] 200 pages thick, with several diagrams showing the
depth to the bedrock and the types of rocks. [They were] similar to things that I
showed you here yesterday. They had only twelve copies of that report made. I, as
an author, got one copy. But, it was classified as top secret. Of course, that was
ostensibly so that the Russians would not know what we were doing. But actually,
it was to deceive the local people as to the danger of the plutonium. Over the years,
most of those books have somehow disappeared. Somebody stole mine, and I do not
know just what happened to the others. After I came back from working out there,
I moved into Washington D.C. directly. I went down to Miami, sold my house, and
moved back up to Washington, starting my administrative work there.
M: You do not have any working notes?
P: No, I was allowed to take none of the technical or scientific information out of the
M: What did you do in Washington?
P: Well, they brought me in there as Assistant Chief of the Ground Water Geology
Section of the Ground Water Branch.
M: That must have been quite a promotion for you.
P: Yes, that was a full grade promotion. I had gotten the grade promotion, and then
went out there and got [another] grade promotion. It put me right up among the top
administrators in Washington. I came in there in early 1949, and by 1951 I had
discovered, through review of some of the reports that came through, that we had
people in the field that needed help. It happened that some of our field offices at
that time had only two or three people in them, whereas I had had twelve people in
In some of these groundwater offices, particularly the Arkansas district, they did not
have a single groundwater recorder measuring water levels automatically. In Miami
we had more than fifty in operation in 1945. They were still running around with
tapes and measuring the water level with a steel tape. Down in Miami we had
developed a sophisticated system--as sophisticated as it could be, but in the office we
were still using a big Burrows calculator; the age of the computers han not yet
arrived. I think there were eighty-seven or eighty-eight buttons on that calculator.
Most of my calculations were made with a thirty-six inch slip stick. [laughter]
M: Did that Burrows calculator have vacuum tubes?
P: No, it was purely mechanical. You could calculate in billions, but that was as far as
you could go on that machine. In fact, after I moved from Washington up to the
Delaware Basin project, we still had these big Burrows calculators and no computers.
That was in 1956. The only computer was in the Washington office.
M: So you served in Washington D.C. between 1949 and 1956, essentially as an
P: Well, as I was saying, I noticed that we had people in the field who needed training.
Some of them had inadequate equipment. Some of them had never been in the
Washington D.C. office. In fact, during the war period, the Geological Survey's work
had expanded so rapidly, and so many of our top people had been taken into the
military, that the bars were let down, and no longer was it mainly a Ph.D. program.
Earlier, almost all of our geologists were Ph.Ds. The engineers, of course, were
mostly B.As. A few [had] master's. We had two Ph.D. engineers. But to begin with,
the Geological Survey had been, almost from the outset, a Ph.D. organization. But
during the war, in order to get warm bodies anybody who had a bachelor's degree
in geology was taken and given a job in the field. He was supposed to be doing
professional work, but most of them were learning on the job from people who did
not have time to help them, or who could not even do professional grade work.
Besides that, from 1949 to 1951, when I first came in, we were getting foreigners
from all over the world coming to take Geological Survey training. The State
Department was taking them and handing them over to us. It became my job to
indoctrinate these foreigners, most of them civil engineers, in Washington, [and] get
books out of our publication [division] to serve as textbooks for them. In those days,
there was only one textbook in the late 1940s that had been put out as a groundwater
book. That was by Dr. T.F Tolman, of Stanford University (1937). But there were
no general textbooks available, and this book by Tolman was good for California and
the arid West; it was not good for the whole United States. So we had to do
something about training these people. I convinced our bureau chief that we needed
to establish some training courses. He agreed and financed it, so we set up
groundwater short courses. [They were] two week-long intensive courses. I modelled
them after the ninety-day "wonder courses" that the Navy put up to make naval
officers during World War II. The kids worked six days a week while they were
there, for two weeks. They got Sunday off for a field trip, which was geology-
oriented. They became acquainted with equipment that we used in the field
laboratory and office. But most of all, they were indoctrinated into the techniques
and methods that we used in the Geological Survey. They learned for the first time
the origin of the science [of groundwater geology]. Actually, the science of
groundwater geology grew up in the Geological Survey; that is where it all started.
There had been some workers in Europe, but there were no degrees in geology of
groundwater, or groundwater hydraulics, or anything of that kind anywhere. So we
established these groundwater short courses, and held them in cooperation with
various selected universities. We scheduled them in the spring at the Easter break,
so that we could have access to the university facilities while the kids were gone.
Our students had access to restrooms, laboratories, the library, and the school
cafeteria. And then the fall sessions were scheduled in August, just before school
started in September. The September schools were held in the South: the University
of New Mexico, Louisiana State University, and the University of Texas. During the
cool weather in the spring, we had them at the Universities of Wisconsin, Michigan
State, Wyoming, Colorado State, and Michigan. We took in thirty kids for each one
of these, and we ran everybody through it. Everybody in the Ground Water Branch
[had to go through it]. At that time, we had 800 people.
The success of my Ground Water Schools rubbed off on the Surface Water [Branch].
They decided that they had to teach their guys [in the same manner]. And then the
Quality of Water guys decided they had to have their schools [as well]. So when I
saw what was happening there, I suggested in 1956 that we discontinue these schools
and establish a central training place at the Denver Federal Center, where we could
have schools run all year round, just like a university. That was done, and it is
operating to this day. So out of the need for our own training, and the training of
foreigners, we established this central training facility out there.
M: Did you teach the courses as well as design the curriculum?
P: I did not try to teach all of the courses, but I taught several: the USGS history; how
to set up an operating office; the public relations that you need; cooperating with the
States; and that general kind of thing. We had a number of top-notch people in the
field, men who were internationally known. I became internationally known too, as
a matter of fact. But I spread it around, and had our top geologists, our top
engineers, our top mathematicians, and our top physicists give the technical lectures
that we needed. I know that at the end of two weeks, these kids did not know
everything that we had presented to them. But every lecture was handed out to
them, in printed form, at the time they left the school. They had big two inch thick
notebooks that they took home with them. At least they had been over the path and
through the woods. They knew all of the landmarks, and many of them were smart
enough that they caught on and were able to function as professionals when they left
those courses. I am quite proud of them. They gave me and several of the fellows
who were regular faculty members grade raises and outstanding evaluations.
M: In 1956, you changed jobs again?
P: Yes, in 1956 the Geological Survey decided that they wanted to do more of the kind
of thing that I had done in Florida. Don Wallace, the engineer who would not
cooperate with the Miami study, was eventually moved out in the late 1940s. When
he was moved out, a younger fellow [named] George Ferguson came in, and he did
not try to fight us; he worked with us.
M: Don Wallace was the grade four engineer that did not want to work for a grade three
P: Yes. [laughter] So he left, fortunately. He was replaced by Ferguson, a younger
fellow about my age. He had just been assigned from work in Hawaii, and he came
there under totally different circumstances. He recognized the need for treating
water as a unit, instead of water as groundwater, and water as surface water, and
water as quality water. Water is a unit. So he worked with me on this, and so did
Quality of Water people under Kenneth Love. So the three authors of that book are
Parker, Ferguson, and Love.
M: That is one [person] from each Branch?
P: Yes, [they were] the three most responsible people from the operation. Anyway,
when I pulled into Washington, Ferguson also came up there (in the Surface Water
Branch) and Love was already there. Here we had three of the people who had
worked together, treating water as a resource. So by 1956, they decided that they
wanted to do that from here on out. It was almost impossible to break down this
resistance that had developed between the guys in the different Branches; especially
surface water guys and ground water guys were always butting heads. Even today,
there is still some resistance of the guys who were in commanding positions in upper
levels in the Survey back in the 1960s and 1970s. [They] still feel that it would have
been better to leave it the other way.
M: The title of this report is "Water Resources of the Delaware River Basin."
P: And the publication is The US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 381.
M: Did you work with the same two men on this, that you did with ..?
P: No, these two fellows were still assigned to their units in the Geological Survey as
administrators. I left the Washington office, moved up to Delaware, and opened an
office in Upper Darby, a suburb of Philadelphia. I had two professional helpers: a
ground water man from California named Frank Olmstead, a surface water man from
Arizona named Alan Healey, and a quality of water expert, Dr. Walter Keighton.
We made up the team that ran this project. Olmstead and I worked out this fence
diagram to get a feeling of what is underground in the Delaware River basin.
M: A diagram of the strata?
P: Yes. The blue layers are the granite-type rocks. The greens and the browns are
clays, sandstone, and limestone (sedimentary rocks). So that is the first time that this
kind of a study had been made in this area. I had earlier used it successfully in the
M: How long did it take you to complete this study?
P: [It took] two years. Ordinarily, it would have taken a lot longer, but we were
dedicated people. We put in Saturdays and Sundays, [which] became picnics for the
families while we did our field work. This is the geologic report that we turned out,
showing the different kinds of geology involved. This area in here, this northern
area, is all glaciated and deep with valley-fill gravel in all of the river channels.
These are ridges and valleys, limestones and shales, that make this crenullated land
surface in the area. The rivers all flow on limestone, because limestone is soft, and
the sandstone stands up as ridges.
M: So what we are looking at are the ridges and river valleys in Pennsylvania and New
P: When you get farther south in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, then we get into basalt
beds, and that is what these red layers are. Basalt is a deep, black, volcanic rock that
wells up and flows out on the land surfaces as big thick layers. The Palisades in New
York City are this kind of rock.
M: The Palisades are basalt?
P: They are basalt. And all of these red streaks are as well. This map is still
considered the best geologic map of the region.
M: After completing the project on the Delaware River, where did you go from there?
P: They called me back into the Washington office and made a permanent job offer as
Assistant Chief of the General Hydrology Branch. When I went up to Delaware I
transferred out of the Ground Water Branch to the General Hydrology Branch. The
General Hydrology Branch is kind of an elite group of people who had become
specialists in some aspect of hydrology. I had been a leader in bringing river-basin
hydrology together and working out the water budget for the availability of water for
use and development.
When I finished the Delaware Basin project in record time, I was offered the job of
Assistant Chief of the General Hydrology Branch. They had allotted us three years
for it, and we finished it in two years. The fellow who was chief of the Branch,
Charles McDonald, was due to leave for field duty on a big project out West, and I
was to become chief when he left. So I said, "I'll take this job for about a year, and
then I want to be transferred to Denver."
M: That is to the training center?
P: No, not to the training center. I wanted to be transferred out there and take charge
of the program that the Geological Survey had been running for years on the
hydrology of the public domain. This dealt with water for sheep farmers, and water
for irrigation users from wells.
M: Would this be the land that was under the jurisdiction of the bureau of land
P: Right, and of the Forest Service as well. So they agreed. We had lived in the Chevy
Chase area, which is probably the most desirable area to live in Washington. We
lived out there for twelve and one half years. My first wife had died of cancer while
we were there, and I remarried.
M: What year did she die?
P: 1954, and I married Bernadette in 1955. She and Bernadette knew each other; they
both worked in the Geological Survey. I knew Bernadette through my wife Martha.
Anyway, we sold our Washington D.C. house, and on January 1, 1961 I reported for
duty in the Denver office as Chief of the General Hydrology Branch. I stayed in that
long enough to get it organized and get some reports going, and then I asked if I
could be released from administration for research work. They gladly did that. It
was something that I had been wanting to do for a long time. So, at the end of that
first year, I relinquished the job to a fellow who had been my assistant, and I became
a research hydrologist. [Initially], I had held the title of Research Geologist, [and
then I became a] Research Hydro-geologist, and I [finally] became Research
The problem that attracted my attention was a phenomenon that escaped the general
notice of geologists, and especially of geomorphologists. They were the guys that
studied land processes, [such as] why a river valley is here, and why a mountain is
there. [They also study] stream-flow processes, the erosion of land, and the building
up and tearing down of mountains. I had become interested in a phenomenon that
I observed years ago, and did not know how or why it occurred. I researched all of
the geology and geomorphology books. The phenomenon deals with a rivulet that
may start on the side of a hill in the dry lands. The water will come running down,
hit the flatland at the foot of the hill, dive into the ground in a hole of its own
making, run underground, and discharge into a nearby arroyo or gully. Why does
that happen? What geochemical processes are involved?
M: Why does it go underground rather than across the surface?
P: Why does it not behave like a normal stream? Nobody had looked into that, so I
decided that I would make that my topic of investigation. I worked on that off and
on, until I finished my work, and my main study was finished in 1967. In the
meantime, I published five different reports on it. The first report I gave to an
International Society of Hydrologists meeting at the University of California at
Berkeley. I showed slides of the process, and explained what I had seen, and the
chemical analysis that we had made of the soils to determine what the geochemical
processes were that caused this process to develop. That attained international
attention; it became widespread.
At that time, the subject was not in a library book, a reference book, or any of the
geology books. [And] of all of the books it should have been in, it was not in any of
the geomorphology books. [The rivulet] not only dives underground creating a
tunnel, but over time that tunnel grows bigger and gets to a point where along the
tunnel's route places cave in. And then you have a sinkhole up above, a land bridge,
and you have a brand new gully started. Before long, that little gully becomes a big
gully. And then that big gully gets more little, lateral gullies leading into it, and a
little gully grows into a big gully, and it has little gullies, and the little gullies get big
gullies, and they grow little gullies. And pretty soon, the entire basin is wiped away
by this piping process.
M: Did you coin the name "the piping process"?
P: No, it turned out that I did not know where to look in the soils literature. There
were a few reports that the USDA agriculturalists had noted and called attention to,
but they were in station papers, available only to the people at that station. They
had never been published in any scientific report. Well, some of those authors made
reference to some minor reports in European literature. From that, I was able to get
leads to the European literature. I found a few reports out of Poland,
Czechoslovakia, and Russia, but there was nothing in the American literature about
it. So when my University of California-Berkeley report was published worldwide,
people in Africa, Asia, and Australia began saying, "Oh, we have that same thing
over here; we wondered what it was." Now there are reports from all over the globe
on it; it is in all [of] the books.
My last report is in that blue book right there. It is a 1990 report on the
underground erosion that causes surface phenomena. That was published in 1990;
I actually wrote it in 1988. That is my last publication. This is the last on a series
of five reports on this process of piping.
M: You say worked in the field up until 1967? Well, it was not long after this that you
P: I retired in 1969.
M: You retired the first time in 1969.
P: I retired from Denver after I had finished the field work on this and [I had] written
the volumes of the reports preceding this one. Incidentally, that work that I did on
the piping, along with all of the other stuff, got me inducted into the National
Academy of Sciences. At the time that I became a National Academy of Sciences
hydrologist, I was the only one in Florida. Now we have three or four. Anyway, I
finished up that work out there in Denver, and the Geological Survey asked me to
take over the New York State W.R. District. In its State districts, the Geological
Survey carries on cooperative work with the state organizations. State road
departments, for instance, need the flood reports. The water supply authority
requires quantitative hydro-geologic reports. These studies that the Geological
Survey makes are funded half by the State and half by the USGS. When a project
is over, the geologist-hydrologist writes his report, and it is published. But there were
twenty reports up there in the New York State District that had [not] been
completed. Twenty studies had been completed, but no reports were written. So in
1967, Bernadette, the kids, and I cranked up the old Pontiac station wagon and
twenty-six foot airstream trailer that we had used out west, and we moved to Delmar,
New York, which is a bedroom community of Albany. I stayed there two years and
got all the reports published. Then I said, "I'm through." The snow, the ice and the
hot humid summers were to much for me and my family. But we got it done, and
I retired. I came down here.
At a geological society meeting in Pittsburgh in the spring of 1969, I ran into a State
geologist, Dr. Robert O. Vernon of Tallahassee, Florida, down here and we knew
each other personally and socially. He said, "Well, why don't you come back down
to Florida? There are plenty of jobs that they need to have filled. There is a water
management district down there; the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
They are a water management district in name, but they are only a flood control
district in practice. They need a hydrologist there who can come in and make them
a water management district. I think you are the guy for it. When I go back, I will
look into it, and give you a call." Within a week he said, "They want you down there;
they want to interview you." So I called the fellow in charge of the water
management district, a civil engineer, Dale Twatchmann. He said, "Well, get on a
plane, and bring your wife. If we like you and you like us, you have got a job." So
we came down, and they had a water management guy meet us at the plane, [they
had] a car for us, and [they had] a hotel for us to stay in. We had the meeting the
next day. We concluded that we liked each other. So I came on down here as the
first hydrologist that they had. They gave me the title of Chief Hydrologist and
Senior Scientist, because I had this biology in my background, and they knew that
someday they had to do something in biology and the environment. So I had two
hats to wear.
So I immediately got busy and wrote every state in the union to ask if they had water
management. If they did not, [I asked] if they had water laws in the state.
Everybody had water laws; most of them had water laws. We gathered the water
laws from all of the states, and the few that had water management districts
(California had several). I wrote the first water law that was written in the eastern
United States for a water management district. Of course I had to have a district
lawyer work with me to transfer my non-legalese into legalese. It became the first
water management district law in the state of Florida.
M: What year was that?
P: That was in 1969.
M: You turned it right out.
P: I got busy right away and cranked it right out. I had already written some reports
when I was in the Geological Survey on water use and water law, so I did not have
so darn far to go. I had a lawyer right at hand there to help. I did not use him at
all until I drafted what I knew the hydrology demanded. Then he and I worked it
over until it was adopted by the state legislature. When four other water
management districts were established the water management districts covered the
entire state. This became their regulations to begin with. Subsequently, it was
modified from time to time. Nonetheless, it was the tree from which the whole thing
M: How long were you with them?
P: I stayed with them from March 3, 1969 until May 1, 1975. Then I quit to go into
private consulting. To begin with, in order to learn the consulting game, I went with
one of my old friends, Phil LaMoreaux, who had a consulting business out here in
Lakeland. He was glad to have me. I stayed with him for a year and one half and
learned how he managed his business. I had another friend [named] Jim Geraghty
who had an office right over here in the Carollwood district in Tampa. He was [also]
glad to have me; I stayed with him for a year and one half. And then I established
my own business.
M: So between the two friends, you learned actually how to run a business.
P: Yes, that is right. I had a very successful business; I had more to do than I could do
myself. I had to have associates who could help me. Most of my business turned out
back in the Miami area where I was so well-known. I spent about half of my time
down there. Bernadette got tired of it. She said, "You've got to quit that business
down there." [laughter] I [would] fly down early Monday morning, and come back
late Saturday night. I would be here Sunday and then back again.
M: So you opened your own consulting business in 1978?
P: Yes, and it lasted through 1988. In the meantime, I did my first foreign work. For
years and years, when I was in the Washington office from 1949 to 1951, they
established a separate training section called Manpower Training Section in 1951.
After that time I was the chief of that section. I handled all of these foreign trainees.
Of course I had handled them earlier.
M: This section was designed to train foreigners?
P: This section was designed not only for the training of the foreigners, but also for
training our people. I not only designed a training program, but I also designed a
personnel career program.
M: Those were the short courses, the personnel career program?
P: That was a part of it. The personnel career program was more [involved in] keeping
track of a man's professional progress, and giving him recognition by promotions.
Prior to that, promotions were initiated by the man in the field and not by the
Washington office. So each man operated as a unit, and promotions became a
sometime thing. One guy would be gung-ho on promotions, and the other guy would
not give a guy a promotion unless he was made to. It was a necessity to gain
uniformity. So I got the branch chief to agree to this, and we established a system
of personnel accountability. If a guy comes in with a Ph.D. we start him out as a GS
9 level. At the end of the year, if he has done good work and his reports are all
good, he becomes a GS 11. Two years later, perhaps, he becomes a GS 12, etc.
Eventually, what we are doing is recognizing the competence of the man doing the
job, as reported by their supervisors. And as compared with other men that I knew,
one of the things that I did is that I visited every field office, and I knew every man
that we had in the branch. I knew many of the wives and the kids, even. I got to
know them, because I made trips to the field offices. But the best place to get
acquainted with these fellows was as the groundwater short courses. I knew all of
them by name. So I instituted this personal accountability, and we got things moving
as near as can be, without prejudice one way or another, trying to gauge a man's
M: This experience led you later into doing your first foreign work?
P: Yes. When I was doing all of this work, I had no time to do any foreign work. I was
sending guys to do jobs that I would have loved to have gone on. But I could not get
away from the Washington office.
M: So after you got your own consulting firm, you decided to go to some of the places
that you had always wanted to [go to].
P: Well, the first job that I took was in Saudi Arabia. They had a number of different
consultants in there doing groundwater work. There were some Germans, Swedes,
Swiss, Japanese, and USGS guys. They had all of these reports that these people had
written, but they had not really been able to do anything much with them. They
needed something done to tie them all together, and to get some of their own people
involved in training. Every bit of scientific work that they had in hydrology was done
by foreigners. So, they asked me to come over there and see what had been done,
what should be done, and how to do it. So I spent six months on that job. I wrote
my report and got them started on sending their brightest young men over here. I
recommended certain universities here in the United States, particularly those in our
desert areas like Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California, Montana, and Wyoming.
[Here], they could first send their man over to the USGS and the Denver training
center. After taking basic training there, he would be assigned to one of the field
offices for actual hands-on operations. So that is what I did. And that operation is
still going to this day.
I came back and did work in the valley in Mexico City. [I] also [worked] in the
Yucatan Peninsula. Everybody likes to go down there, in the peninsula of Yucatan
and in the island of Cozumel. Cozumel had recently become a tourist attraction.
They have fine, big hotels there, and azure seas and sea diving. In the mainland of
the Yucatan, there are many great big sinkholes. These were areas where the rituals
were held, and maidens were sacrificed after being brought up to a certain age. They
were thrown in to drown in these big, deep sinkholes. Of course, many pyramids and
other ruins have been opened up recently, so a large tourist industry has developed
there. But this island Cozumel is the place where most everybody goes. They used
to go to Yucatan, and now they go to Cozumel. They do not get on the mainland
M: In 1988, about the time you were ready to retire for real, you received an honor.
Would you tell us about that?
P: The University of South Florida had asked me to become a visiting professor. I said,
"No, I do not want to get engaged in full-time work, but I will be glad to give
occasional lectures and come out here and give you advice and help as you need it."
Out of that came an offer to give me a doctoral degree, which was done on May 1,
1989. It was a doctorate of humane letters (H.L.D.) degree. The University of South
Florida does not give Ph.D.s in geology, so they could not give me a Ph.D. in
geology; it had to be in humane letters. But they said, "That is all right. We will
qualify you for the humane letters." [laughter]
I have been active in the Geological Society of America, particularly in the water
end. In the American Water Resources Association, I was national president in 1978
and 1979. I have done committee work and all kinds of supportive work in the
Geological Society of America. I held a district chairmanship one time, but most of
my work has been supportive work in the various societies. I am a member of three
engineering societies, as well as geological societies; here is the Society of Mining
Engineers, the Florida Engineering Society, and the Albany Engineering Society of
New York. Those are certificates of my membership is as a professional
hydrogeologist, [and as a] professional hydrologist.
M: Looking back over your long and fruitful career, is there any one project or any one
job you had that holds a special place for you?
P: The Miami job will always stand out as a large accomplishment. The Delaware
River Basin job, I probably did a better job as a hydrologist there than I did in
Miami. Of course [there are] the piping studies that I did.
One thing that I did not mention in connection with my work in the national domain
out there was that the Geological Survey wanted to establish a system of permanent
measuring points where erosion could be measured. These consisted of iron spikes
driven to refusal, [until] they could not drive them any deeper. And then [they were]
cut off a tenth of an inch above the land surface, and [one journeyed] a few feet back
from the edge of a retreating cliff, [where] measurements would then be read. We
established these in the national parks.
We established them there for two reasons. We learned early, when I established
some in state parks in New Mexico and Oregon, that people in state parks would pull
them out or bend them over; they trashed them. So I quit using state parks
altogether, and put them only in the national parks of the West. That was largely
done throughout that secure, almost seven year period that I was there in Denver.
Those pins in the national parks are continually measured by national park
personnel. The geological survey puts them in, and the national park keeps track of
them. This gives them an interest in the project itself. That was a good thing. That
is to go on for at least 100 years. They may keep going on with that forever and
ever, as long as the pins stay in place.
So the southeastern Florida investigation, the Delaware River Basin investigation,
and the investigation of the hydrology of the public domain in the West were my
three high points. It is hard to leave out the accomplishments of the Washington
office and what I did for personnel [there] and for the training process. They have
all been highlights. I have received numerous medals and citations; those are nice
M: Any specific medals or citations that you would like to mention?
P: The citation for outstanding achievement by a geological survey, after the Delaware
River Basin project stands [out] in my mind. The Mexican government gave me a
medal for my work down there. The Geological Society of Florida gave me the gold
medal for this report here.
M: The Florida Geological Survey?
P: Yes, and that also led up to my election into the Cosmos Club, which is a very
choosy organization; most people could not have gotten into it. I think I am one of
the youngest initiated into the Cosmos Club.
M: That is quite an honor. Do you have anything you would like to add?
P: I guess I would like to say that I started out as an educator, and I have always been
an educator since. I started out teaching grade school children, high school children,
and then I taught in the university [system] to the postgraduate [level]. I guided
[students] in professional programs. Perhaps one of the most useful things I have
ever done was my development of an understanding of the geology of the state of
Florida, and particularly of the two big aquifers, the water-bearing rock units that
supply Florida with its water.
M: Is this the Floridan and the Biscayne Aquifers?
P: Yes. The Floridan [Aquifer] extends into the coastal plain of Alabama, and there
up into the coastal plain of South Carolina. The Biscayne Aquifer is what the people
in southeastern Florida depend on as their sole water supply source. Those are
things which I did in the course of my work. The welfare of the people of the state
depended upon those studies.
M: I guess water really is life.
P: Water is life; without water, we have nothing. Without water, we die. Food we can
live without for a month sometimes, but [we can only live without] water for a few
days. In the hot desert, [one can not even live] a day without water.
M: Well Mr. Parker, thank you very much for your time, and your work, and your
P: You are quite welcome.