A Letter from 1912

Elizabeth Doyle ‘16

Many Olin grads pursue a bit of adventure immediately following commencement and before starting  ‘real world work.’  In Elizabeth’s case, this meant returning to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico to try her hand at something different at a place where she had loved working each summer.  I was thrilled to receive an old-fashioned, hand-written letter from Elizabeth earlier this month, describing the unusual  life she is living this summer at Philmont. 

Sally Phelps, Director of Post-Graduate Planning


Hi Sally,

Sorry for the delay in response.  I’ve been on a computer about 10 mins every 2 weeks.  I am working this summer and will then be looking for full time engagement.  There was one posting you sent out that I talked to but they needed someone immediately.  I forgot the company’s name but it was pneumatic breast pumps.  

This summer I’m back at Philmont in a job near impossible to describe.  I work with 6 other staff at a back country historical interpretive camp.  We live as if it is 1912 and we are a Mexican Homestead.  My official job is Cantina Manager, so I run a cantina complete with ordering , training the other staff, accounting, etc. All in 1912 dress and speech.  Our main task overall is to make sure each scout has a stellar, authentic experience.  Other homestead activities include a welcome orientation to camp, adobe brick making (complete with the option for scouts to leave their faceprint – surprisingly popular. I guess it’s the manly way to get a free spa treatment), chicken catching, goat milking, burros, gardening, baking in our horno  (adobe oven).  Then we also are in charge of any medical situation in camp, or within our area of responsibility, of watching for forest fires and minimal first response to those, and for ensuring all who stay with us follow bear procedures.  We have usually 16-22 groups through a day I’d guess, and 3-7 a night.  For those staying the night we have a Mexican dinner (burritos). 

As you can see, it’s one of those jobs not easy to succinctly explain but it’s crazy fun.  We are constantly making fun of scouts (in a good way) and encouraging them to have new experiences as most have never milked a goat or held a chicken.  Another activity I forgot to mention was showing our visitors our home where we explain more history in depth than we do in the welcome, and show them things like our courting candle. One thing we hear from others is that everyone is impressed (or frustrated and impressed) that we never break character.  The people we interpret actually lived on this spot, so that’s pretty cool. 

A few more stories from life on the homestead. Living as a historical interpreter, we do 1st person interpretation meaning where we take on the character and live as if we were them. I am the lady of the house, Gertrude Brown Abreu and my husband Ramon Abreu and I own the homestead. Our brothers and sisters and in-laws are living with us for the summer, helping to get our homestead up and running. Never breaking character can lead to some interesting interactions. It’s always fun when a scout gets stumped and just cannot come up with a reply.

               Scout: “So how do you learn everything about yourself?”
               Me: “How do you learn everything about yourself sir?”
               Scout: “I mean, do you have a cheat sheet at the beginning?”
               Me: “For what?”

The scout just didn’t know where to go from there.  On another occasion, another girl, Nellie, was working in the cantina when I walked in to switch places. She turns to me

               Nellie: “These children just asked me to ‘break character.’ Do you know what that means?”
               Me: (after a moment of thought) “I think they’re asking you to become morally corrupt! (Then I turned to the scouts and in an outraged tone) Gentlemen!! How could you ask a lady to do such a thing!!”

Needless to say, they just stared back with no idea how to respond.

To keep our level of engagement and excitement up all summer, we are constantly coming up with new comebacks as crews come with new questions and just to keep ourselves on our toes.

I hope everything is going well at Olin!




Posted in: A Different Path