Prairie Village News 5/21/19

Faron Wahl, Manager.

You might think an organization whose stated purpose is to preserve the past wouldn’t do much in the way of active preparations day to day. After all, what’s to prepare when history has already happened?

Not so. If there’s anything we spend most of our time accomplishing here, it’s preparing for the next day, the next big event, a large group of campers or other guests arriving, etc. It’s an endless loop.

Even in the fall, when most folks assume we simply close things up and every one of us exits for the autumn and winter, it takes until Thanksgiving to wind everything down from the season. By December I’m fully into major preparations for the year to come.

By the time our seasonal employees start up in the spring, we have a great deal on our plates. Staff spend much of the season learning dozens of inside aspects regarding how we prepare to handle all our guests and the events they roll in for. In fact, many of our staff express fascination by mid-summer at how much there is to learn here, and that it takes most of one season to really begin to digest it all. The large end of that amounts necessarily to a state of constant preparation.

I’m reminded this week of one of recent history’s most underrated and easily forgotten acts of preparation: the Apollo 10 mission. Fifty years ago, as of the day this column goes to print, astronauts Thomas Stafford, Eugene Cernan, and John Young were bolting through space carrying out the ultimate dress rehearsal, a critical trip to prepare for a moon landing two months later by a different NASA crew whose names we more readily recall.

This was heady stuff, all carried out in a vacuum of unknowns, and riskier than any of us will ever fully grasp. But the world-famous Apollo 11 trip, the one we’ll be celebrating at its 50-year mark this July, wouldn’t have happened were it not for those who carried out the gutsy final preparations only weeks prior in a command module named Charlie Brown and a lunar module named Snoopy.

In the case of Apollo 10, blasting off from Launch Complex 39B in a Saturn V rocket just before noon on May 18th, their route-paving trip included doing nearly everything the next mission would do, short of actually landing on the foreign, foreboding lunar surface. It was fully about preparation, but all that most of us tend to remember is the landing itself in July, not the readiness for it created largely in May.

My hat is off to our staff, who spend most of their days not abiding in what has happened here but rather preparing for what will. There’s so much more to their jobs than what is visible. When you visit us, I hope you’ll see that handling acres upon acres of lawn and historic structures, as well as steady camping, a bulky list of events, and thousands of visitors each season only happens with tons of preparation. And they’re on it.

Also, a giant shout out to volunteer Marty Warns, who labored over two days’ time picking up by hand – and then hauling by himself – load after pickup load of branches and sticks after our late ice storm. Here again, we see the example played out: organized, planned, and selfless volunteerism is effective and marries up well to the work our staff perform here. It takes both to make this all happen.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the myriad details of planning and preparation. That’s how we manage to preserve the past.