Humility, gratitude, and graciousness were among the defining characteristics of the Old Timers and Gertrude B. Olds was no exception. She wrote her Old Chief Gifford Pinchot in August of 1940, apologizing for her tardy reply to his letter received in June of that year. Her alibi: it seems that she had been trying to put to use some of her "knowledge of forestry" by trimming up her plum tree when she fell and broke her ankle. "Now I have plenty of time to write letters," she wrote, "and I will try to give you what information I can about the early days in the Forest Service."
Mrs. Olds served in the Missoula, Montana headquarters of the United States Forest service as a stenographer-typist. She recalled her first days in the service: "I was a youngster just out of school and it was my second job. It was the first time I had been away from home and I was very homesick and lonely at first. Mrs. Bill Greeley, however, was very kind to me, helping me to find a place to board and room and looking after me until I got acquainted. She is a charming woman and I certainly did appreciate her kindness. Because Missoula was a small town, we were all more or less dependent on each other."
In her narrative of just two pages, we learn that Gertrude Olds had worked for every one of the Chief Foresters. Her work did not often allow for time in the field to observe the work of the forest rangers, but she recalls "many horseback trips up into the hills around Missoula, where the country is very beautiful," where she "was soon filled with the enthusiasm for our work which characterized all of the Forest Service. Nobody seemed to consider their work as just a means of earning a living but as a very special mission."
Like so many of the first US Forest Service employees, Gertrude Olds awaited Pinchot's forthcoming book on the Forest Service. "I am very much interested in your book," she wrote, "and I hope I shall have an opportunity to read it when it is finished." She recalled that "nearly all of the men whom I have known in the Service were men of fine character and high ideals."
From the narrative of Mrs. Gertrude B. Olds, sent from Denver, Colorado August 28, 1940.