In his 1937 call for narratives, Gifford Pinchot implored the "Old Timers" to send him "anecdotes," remembrances that might serve to illuminate the past or fill the gaps in the historical record. Over and over, Pinchot received more than he could have imagined. The narrative of J.B. Lippincott sent to Pinchot in January of 1938 was a particular delight. Pinchot wrote, "I have read with keenest interest the two incidents you have so graphically described, and I am particularly delighted to have them. The details of both had gone out of my head, although the general outline was clear in my memory."
In two and a half pages, Lippincott, an early Forest Service hydrographer, recalls a decisive moment in the Oval Office in 1903 when President Theodore Roosevelt turned to Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot and said, "Gifford, is this all right?" Pinchot replied that it was. "It" was the decision to grant rights-of-way for water storage sites on public lands in the Hetch Hetchy Valley, at Lake Eleanor, and for power canal rights-of way down Cherry Creek (the outlet of Lake Eleanor) and in the main canyon of the Tuolomne River below the Hetch Hetchy dam site. These rights-of-way provided a new water source for the city of San Francisco.
While subsequent generations debated and continue to debate the flooding of Hetch Hetchy, we learn from Lippincott's narrative that by 1903, San Francisco had outgrown its water supply and was seeking an additional new source "adequate in quantity and quality" to meet public demand. Lippincott writes, "The city was then being served by a private water company which naturally did not favor bringing in a new and superior water supply. Their opposition was by the indirect process of stimulating protests of "Nature Lovers" to the "desecration" of the Forest Reserve for utilitarian purposes."
Rarely a dull moment in the narratives of the Old Timers, Lippincott describes Roosevelt's reaction to Pinchot's approval of the memorandum that provided a new domestic water supply for the city of San Francisco, "It is all right with me," said the President, "except there are two r's in Cherry."