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Galen Craig Gonser

As of 2006, Galen was living in Grandview.

Written by Galen in 2007

I have several interests at which I spend my time: fixing, building and improving scale model trains; collecting a wide range of interesting artifacts; participating in the re-enactment of Civil War battles in Ohio (approximately fifteen years of that); and photographing the changing scenes around Grandview and Columbus. Besides these, Dave Handel, Pete Taylor and I regularly travel together to places in Ohio that intrigue us. And last, but not least, Ruth and I have two Border Terriers which we love very much.




In case you've forgotten, here is what I looked like in Fifth Grade.

During my school years (and later) I worked as a farm hand on relatives' farms in northeast Indiana. Often for no pay since I liked it so. That area is still a place dear to my heart.




In July of 1956 I joined the Army Reserves. On June 20, 1957 I traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky where I took basic training. After that I had combat engineer training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, getting out in December of 1957.




I attended OSU after that, but dropped out in the spring of 1961. Then I worked at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. I cleared trails, fixed back country telephone wires and controlled fires. I did most of this with horse and pack mule. I also put up boundary signs from a back camp.




In Colorado, in September, 1961, I had the thrill of riding a narrow guage freight train east from Durango to La Boca where the two steam locomotives took on water. It was fun to photograph the train from the empty flatcars as it snaked its way through the mountain prairies.


I returned to OSU for one quarter, then I dropped out for good. Later in 1962 I worked for the Boy Scouts of America at Camp Lazarus near Delaware, Ohio. Later still in 1962 I worked in Arizona for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a fishery aid. I was on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. This involved travelling over the reservation, interviewing fishermen for a creel census, maintaining road counters, and taking the pH of lake waters. Some of the Apaches at this time still lived in Bear Grass wikiups (I remember seeing one of scrap iron though) and a lot of the women still wore the two-piece dresses of the 1880s. I haven't been back since and I sometimes wonder if those conditions still exist.



Later I worked for a short time in Yellowstone National Park with the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads. This was a stake-and-rod-man position. 1963 found me in Lassen Volcanic National Park where I lived alone in a large tent. I mostly cared for our horses, cleared trails, maintained campgrounds and split a lot of firewood, but I also had to trap beaver for wildlife control.

This is me on "Blue" with a 34-year-old pack horse at Sifford Lake, Lassen N.P., California.



Upon returning to Ohio, I got a job with the Ohio Division of Geological Survey as a geologist aid. The location was handy; it was at the corner of Grandview and First Avenues.

Later I discovered and joined a group that practically changed my life - the American Youth Hostels. They did all the outdoor activities that I yearned for - bicycling, white water canoeing & rafting, backpacking, cave exploring, rock climbing & rappelling, horses, cross country & downhill skiing, and I even had a weekend of survival living off the land. We almost always camped and traveled in whatever the weather was all year round. Rarely did we cancel a trip due to weather.




Becoming restless in 1967, I got a job in Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks, again as a fire control aid. This is me on top of "Big Baldy" there.

I sure had fun flying to fires in those Bell Model 47 helicopters - like the kind you see on M.A.S.H. We also did search and rescue (two boy scouts, man with a broken leg). We dragged rivers for drowning victims. I also worked six days in a fire lookout. I returned home in December of 1967.




In 1968 I got a job at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus. This was in the reports and graphic arts department. In the meantime, I met a young woman in American Youth Hostels who was later to become my wife, the former Ruth Gant. We were married June 1, 1971.

Being bored with the assembly line type of work, I resigned from Battelle and went to Northern California. This was one last fling before settling down; the place was Lava Beds National Monument, again as a fire control aid. In that job I experienced some large grass and brush fires. We lived in a dorm that was said to have housed the Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. On my days off, I used to visit and hike other parks, see native American dances & ceremonies, explored old military forts and ghost towns, etc.

Sometimes after work we would rappel off high bluffs and into several of the some 300 caves in the Monument. There were often ferns growing near the entrances plus perma-ice. It was pretty crawling under the ice - like a glass cave.

Both at Sequoia and Lava Beds I did some road patrol, especially at Sequoia. This was to look for violators and also poachers during hunting season.

It was interesting to see those WWII planes used as tankers dropping their load of red borate on fires. I got "plastered on" twice by a B-17. Along with B-17's, PB4Y2, A-26, TBM, F7F, P-61, and PBY types were used. I didn't see all of them in use, some only at bases. Most of these have since been retired to museums for restoration.

At the end of the fire season, Ruth joined me. We honeymooned touring the West since Ruth had never been in the West before. After returning to Columbus, I got a job at K.A. Menendian Rugs Company. I picked up and washed rugs. There, I injured my back badly, causing the partial loss of the use of my right foot. I also lost about two inches in height. Later being layed off and not wanting to return, I waited for a better job. This led to the Ohio Department of Transportation in the microfilm section. I enjoyed this work and retired June 1, 1996.

Excerpted from Christmas letter, 2006

Galen is continuing to enjoy getting together with friends who share his interest in railroading and historical subjects on a weekly basis. Depending on their schedule and the weather, they travel throughout Ohio, photographing railroad depots they find and researching old railroads. ...They have...visited the Carillon Park and the Wright Patterson Air Force Museum in Dayton. They have researched old railroads on the Internet and purchased model railroading equipment on eBay. Galen has finished restoring five TT gauge locomotives and over 20 cars, including several styles of cabooses.

Message to classmates in 1997

Galen is out of town for this reunion. He is sorry to miss it. Galen has been retired from ODOT for a year now. He continues to collect antiques, rare books, old electric lamps, radios and has a 3" working TV from 1947. He would be pleased to show his collection to anyone interested--stop by.


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