Mitchell author takes part in Rushmore memories projectJean Patrick edits ‘Mount Rushmore Memories,’ a compilation of pictures, letters and short stories on the national memorial.
By: Jennifer Jungwirth, The Daily Republic
The story of South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore is told through the words of its creators and admirers in a new book edited by a Mitchell woman and featuring submissions from area residents.
“Mount Rushmore Memories,” published by Mount Rushmore Bookstores, is a compilation of memories, photos and postcards of the national monument in the Black Hills, which was carved between the late 1920s and early 1940s.
“The story of Mount Rushmore is not just a story of the monument and Gutzon Borglum. It’s a story of the people,” said Mitchell author Jean Patrick. Patrick edited the book and helped compile memory submissions.
Patrick had written books for the Mount Rushmore Society prior to this project, so she jumped at the opportunity to work on the other side of publishing.
“It’s one story when it comes from the history books,” Patrick said of the project. “But when you have real people recounting their personal memories, it’s an entirely different story.”
“Mount Rushmore Memories” is available at The Reader’s Den in Mitchell or online at www.mountrushmoresociety.com.
The “Mount Rushmore Memories” project began in December 2010. A nationwide request was sent out asking for submissions on what Mount Rushmore means to people who have visited it. About 100 people responded with letters, photographs and blurbs about the national monument.
Submissions came from all across the country and from state officials including Gov. Dennis Daugaard and U.S. Sens. John Thune and Tim Johnson. “There are very early memories of the carving days and from tourists when they could climb up the mountain and sit in the eye. The memories are wonderful from that era,” Patrick said. “There are also stories from those who grew up in the area while Mount Rushmore was built.” Other submissions include memories from family vacations, celebrations and even a shared first kiss. Deb Weitala, of Mitchell, submitted her favorite memory for the project.
It’s my mountain,” Weitala said of Mount Rushmore. “We’d go camping there as kids. And since I was young, it was pretty phenomenal.” She recalled when the government shut down in the mid-1990s due to a budget conflict. She was in the Black Hills at the time and wanted to visit the national monument, but it was closed. She was greeted by ropes pulled across the walkway and a parking lot covered in snow. “I wasn’t going to let just a rope keep me from seeing it,” Weitala said. So she hopped over the rope and proceeded up the walkway to the viewing area. “The sound of the wind … the snow … the pine trees. No one else was there, and it was so peaceful,” Weitala recalls in her submission. “I can still feel all my senses when I think back about it.” Sandy Entringer, of Corsica, also submitted. She described her family’s visits to the national monument over the years, browsing the souvenir shops and getting a quarter to drop in the pay-binoculars for a closer look at the famous faces. As a result of the project, Patrick said she’s developed a passion for Mount Rushmore’s story. “You just can never get to the bottom of (Mount Rushmore’s history),” she said. “It’s multifaceted. There are so many different points of view, and so many memories.”