Reminiscences, Charles Padilla

Reminiscences, Charles Padilla, November 2015

I have fond memories of the School of American Research. I began working there when I was Junior in High School, and worked as a mail boy for both Doug and Carlotta Davies, his executive assistant. The early Morning after my graduation from Santa Fe High School I was on the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I remember arriving there very late at night, and sleeping on a cot in the North Rim Parking Lot.  Imagine my surprise when my first look, as I awoke, was into the vastness of the Grand Canyon.

That summer, I worked with Selvin Banner, but mid-summer Ed Crocker and I went to Unkar Delta to do surveys between the North Rim and the River. We found many grain bins, including some that still had corn. I remember it being very hot, but dips into the River were a welcome relief.

One memorable experience on the North Rim was the daily film of an excavation digging itself. A movie camera was tied to tree and we would remove all evidence of shovels, wheelbarrows, and run the film for a few moments. You have likely seen these films, generally about bread baking in an oven. As we removed the over burden of rock, we began to construct an identical ruin to the left of the real one that was being filmed. We were disappointed to learn that we had unintentionally ruined the good film, as the fake ruin rose up as the real one dug itself, all in the same frame.

At summer’s end, I washed Grand Canyon pot shards with Rosina Thornburg and Larry Linford at Garcia Street.

The following summer, I was at Arroyo Hondo. Ed Crocker had brought an ancient Grader to take off the top layer of dirt that hid adobe walls below. It was harder to start the grader than to do the work, and as Ed came close to the Arroyo, we feared that the grader would pitch itself into the abys. Selvin Banner and I spent many days sweeping the top of the walls to prepare them for aerial photos.

Selvin Banner was a native of Guatemala, a good friend of Ed Crocker’s, and I found him to be a patient and steady worker.  Later, I began working with Mike Hancock, digging out rooms, sifting dirt, bagging pot shards and hoping that we would not find a burial hidden in the corner of a room, as that would require a few hot days of very patient work.

I was in my third year of field work when I was asked to be the Camp Supervisor of Arroyo Hondo. This was difficult because Arroyo Hondo was different than the high pines of the Grand Canyon. It was hot and dusty and windstorms would periodically take down the dining fly, and leave the tents a mess. Rain storms could be violent. Showers were served by a long black pipe that drained into an open shower from a large tank set on the hillside. One of my management decisions came when the women in the camp complained of cold water showers after the men used all of the hot water. I decided that showers would be first come, first served. This decision led to other problems not needing discussion here. 

One of the principal problems that I had in l972 was deciding whether to buy steak at sixty nine cents a pound, or roasts on sale for thirty nine cents.  Mrs. Fergusson, our cook, could do equally well with either and I enjoyed the economy, however, I am sure that the camp employees would have opted for steak more often. Kit, our dishwasher along with Mrs. Fergusson enjoyed many afternoons preparing our evening meals.  


I knew that it was time to leave SAR at summer’s end l972, as my jobs there needed to go to young men and women working in Archaeology.  Still, there is not a day, today, when I take up a shovel, or pick that I don’t remember the fond memories either working at the Grand Canyon, or Arroyo Hondo, and the almost six years that I spent working at SAR.