A Look Back in History: Keeping Jobs in the Family

In 1959, major headlines included Fidel Castro becoming Prime Minister in Cuba, the Dalai Lama fleeing Tibet, the Barbie Doll reaching the marketplace, Alaskan and Hawaiian statehoods, NASA’s introduction of America’s first astronauts to the world (John H. Glenn Jr, and Alan Shepard Jr), etc. Though these were exciting times, things were a little bit more mundane for the San Francisco Water Department.

1959 Memo from Water Department Supervisor to Water Department General Manager.

In the above memo, Water Department Supervisor O’Marie was responding to a request for comments received from the General Manager. Evidently, a hostler for the Recreation and Parks Department was injured in some way and Rec-Parks requested a “disability transfer” on his behalf. The positions requested were for Ranger or Reservoir Keeper. The Supervisor was “unalterably opposed” to such a move and proceeded to lay out his considerable reasoning for arriving there.

His justification started out with a “keeping it in the family” position. There were already Water Department folks queued for these desirable positions which proved to have “slow turnover.” O’Marie went on to assert that displacing the Water Department employees from a place in the queue would be “wrong from a moral standpoint.”

Next, he allowed that Rangers and Reservoir Keepers from the Hetch Hetchy services ought to be the next in line for any openings of these roles in the “Alameda, Peninsula and City Distribution Divisions.” He noted that he believed these would be the logical “disability transfer.”

And finally, he commented on the jobs themselves, pointing out that the Ranger and Reservoir Keepers jobs were very active, including horse riding tasks, looking out for and even taking custody of trespassers, managing flume actions, operate line valves, etc. In other words, the role was not really one suitable as a disability replacement job. These workers “are the eyes and ears of th[e] Division.” So, what come through is loud and clear: let’s keep it in the family.