Today’s blog combines a column written in 1967 by long-time General Manager Jim Campbell with updates and additions from me.
By the way, we aren’t anywhere near closing yet. We’re open until the end of the year.
Those of us who work here all year around frequently hear this question come fall: ”S’pose you’re all set to loaf for the winter? You are closed now, right? All your animals hibernate don’t they?”
Well, what do we do all winter? Loaf? Travel? All fun and games? I’ll admit we do take it a bit easier in some ways. We get to travel to some exotic places, take more time off. But none of our animals hibernate and there are fewer of us to take care of the hundreds of animals and all the plants we have here at the Gardens.
And, in the winter, we do get to work shorter days and we take a full half hour for lunch, luxuriating in the knowledge that nothing demands our instant attention as soon as we’ve gulped down a sandwich. Right at first this self-indulgence makes us feel a little guilty, but before long we get used to a life of ease.
After all, winter is a long time. And each fall, secure in this knowledge, we draw up a list of all the projects we’d like to get done. We vow to do things differently this winter and actually get it all done. Even by mid-winter we’re still blissfully optimistic, though we go over the list and chop off many of the non-essential items. Then suddenly one day, even as the snow flies, comes the stomach-tightening realization that the long, lazy winter is gone and opening time is only a few brief weeks away. The list is forgotten, the eight-day week returns, and the frenzied painting, cleaning, mopping-up, waxing, and polishing starts.
If we have time to look back there are small satisfactions. By ignoring how short the winters really are we did manage to get a few pet projects done. But the rest will have to wait. And we start to feel that perhaps there may be some justice in the assumption that we loaf all winter. After all, where did the time go, and why did we get so little done?
Of course we did spend two weeks selling New Guinea artifacts at the Tucson Gem and Mineral show, added some flowerbeds, and built some new reptile exhibits. We spent days and days using up 50 or 60 gallons of paint, many pounds of nails and screws, and hundreds of board feet of lumber on repairs. We hired a crew for the summer. We got in, priced, and shelved over a million dollars’ worth of merchandise. We designed all the flower plantings for the summer, ordered a year’s worth of caladium bulbs, bromeliads, and orchids. And we…but there’s no more time for that, we’ve got to git to gittin’.
Once the first of January comes we’ll have to be ready to open again in only 3 months. Then…oops…it will be down to a couple of weeks. We’ll be wondering once again, like every spring for the past 74 years, where all the months went. But, like always, we’ll be ready for our Guests when the doors open on April 1. But for now, come see us before we’re knee-deep in snow and we get busy on our projects for next year.