A.O. Waha served in the U.S. Forest Service from 1901-1940 in various capacities in Maryland, Tennessee, Maine, Texas, New York, Alabama, West Virginia, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, and Oregon. He recalls his first days as a forester trainee at the Atlantic Building, the Forest Service's first headquarters, (shown here), located on F Street in Washington D.C.. Waha also describes meetings at 1615 Rhode Island Avenue, Gifford Pinchot's home, also in Washington, of what was known as the "Baked Apple Club."
A.O. Waha sent his Old Chief a 79-page narrative filled with just the sort of detail Pinchot had requested. Sent from the Terminal Sales Building in Portland, Oregon on February 7, 1940, his submission is entitled "Early Day Reminiscences." Ranger A.O. Waha wrote:
"It was in the year 1900 when I first became interested in forestry, after reading an article in the Saturday Evening Post which discussed the work of the Bureau of Forestry under the leadership of Gifford Pinchot, and as I now recall it, very specifically encouraged young men to take up forestry as a career. Subsequently, I learned that many of my associates had been inspired by the same article in taking up forestry as their profession. At that time I was 19 years of age and working as a pattern maker apprentice. While working with my hands and especially with wood appealed to me, it was not long before I found that I should never be satisfied with spending my life in or near a factory. (I shall always be thankful that I learned to work with my hands--every forester should be able to, but aside from this, working in wood is now my favorite hobby which gives me much pleasure.)"
A.O. Waha also recalled the early days of the "Baked Apple Club," in which young forest trainees met to discuss the latest developments in forestry and conservation. On occasion, President Theodore Roosevelt would present a "bully talk" to those present.
“The student assistants were a most congenial set, all of whom were very much interested and eager to learn. Weekly meetings after work were held, at which various topics were discussed. I recall that the first topic assigned to me was on the characteristics of bark of various trees and their uses. Then the Thursday evening meetings of the so-called “Baked Apple Club” at G.P.’s house on Rhode Island Avenue were indeed a bright spot in our lives. The best talent available was brought in to address us after which there would be formal discussions, followed by a feed of baked apples, cream and gingerbread. Our most notable speaker was President Theodore Roosevelt who gave us a “bully” talk in March 1903. What a crusader he was-enthusiasm fairly oozed from him!”
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Building Survey (HABS, Reproduction number HABS DC, WASH, 655A-1.)