Ted McKee's Retirement Party

February 20, 2004, Menlo Park, California

Cartoon of Ted with rollerblades, computer models, and popcorn
Rick Blakely drew this cartoon and presented it to Ted as a gift at the party. (Image #ted_cartoon_new)

On Friday, February 20, 2004, over a hundred of us celebrated Ted McKee's retirement from the U.S. Geological Survey. We will gathered at Little House in Menlo Park at 5:30 PM, right after work on Friday. Little House is located in Nealon Park on Middle Street behind Safeway off of El Camino Real.

There was a Toast-And-Roast with several folks from different decades of Ted's life and career to tell stories. Tom Hildenbrand headed the committee that pulled this thing off. Jim Calzia was the M.C. Speakers included Kurt Servos (Yale days), Jack Stewart, Marvin Lanphere, Jim Rytuba, Ted Theodore, Bill Glen, Tom Hildenbrand , Geoff Phelps, Bob Morin, Rick Blakely, and, with a perspective, Peggy McKee.

Photo Album of the Party


Mike Diggles ran around with a camera shooting his strobe into everybody's faces. Click here for the photo album. This 126-photo collection consists of six Web album pages with 21 shots in each and a navigation bar at the bottom. If you want prints or print-quality TIF files, email Mike with the catalog number that is shown in parentheses.

Peggy McKee's Comments at Ted's Retirement 02-20-04

Thank you to everyone who came here tonight to celebrate Ted's retirement, and especially thank you to Tom Hildenbrand, Jim Calzia, Mike Diggles, Rick Blakely, and the rest of the committee who made this evening possible.

Ted came out of the army and joined the USGS in 1964 and, as they say, the rest is history. It's hard to believe all that's happened to him, to us, to the Survey, to the country in those 40 years, but I'm just going to talk about the Survey as I knew it and the "us." In the mid-late 60's, the "lunch bunch" consisted of Ted, Bob Castle, Tom Ovenshine, Joe Ziony, Rob Foster, Fred Miller. A little bit later, along came Jim Smith, Ted Theodore, and others, but these are the ones I remember most and people that we went back and forth with.

Central to our lives for the first fifteen years or so was "the field season," complete with Air Stream trailer, and lasting from approximately Memorial Day to Labor Day. I remember the summer of 1968 in the Battle Mountain Post Office learning about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, in 1969, still in Battle Mountain, discussing Chappaquiddick and the Moon landing at a Survey picnic at Mill Creek. Three of our field summers stand out in my mind and in McKee family lore as particularly memorable. In 1970, with 3 year old Marion and 1 year old Barbie we set off for Stoneberger, in the middle of the nowhere of the Toquima Range of Central Nevada, about 60 miles from the thriving metropolis of Austin (pop 500) and 40 miles from the slightly larger Eureka. This was before Pampers, the first disposable diapers. Ted hauled the trailer behind the Survey truck and I drove the Rambler (that we had bought second-hand from Bill Silberman.) We (or really Ted) chased the cows out of our campsite, ran a line from the spring nearby for water, dug a latrine out back, built a campfire outside and cooked something or other over it, and we hunkered down for the night and the summer. The next morning dawned cloudless and with a promise of warm sunshine, and Ted set off for Day One in the field. We continued to chase the cows away from the spring and our little area. Then, it began to snow, and it snowed and snowed and snowed. Fun at first for two little girls who had never seen it, but the large wet flakes became a blizzard as the day darkened and the temperature dropped.

Where was Ted? Ted was a push-pin on a topo map of indecipherable--to me--squiggly lines. We had the Rambler and a 4-wheel drive bright orange jeep, one of a fleet of field vehicles leased, if I remember correctly by Cy Creasy. Will Blair had delivered ours to Nick's Shell Station in Austin, along with a miniature motorcycle to facilitate field work. All three of the vehicles were useless to an increasingly terrified me. I bundled the little girls into their jammies, folded up the table and brought down the bed, and we climbed in. It was pitch dark at 2 in the afternoon. I was nervous about turning on the lights or heat because everything ran on batteries fueled by butane tanks. I thought of all the blizzard tales I knew, from Laura and Mary in Little House in the Big Woods to the Donner Party. About 4 Ted came back, lighted all the lights, and we turned the disaster into an adventure. The next morning, bright and sunny, we built a gigantic snowman and watched him melt for the rest of the summer, which continued to be filled with adventures, such as miles of diapers strung along the barbed wire fence, our friendship with the Youngs (descendants of Brigham,) skinny dipping in Diana's Punchbowl, a family reunion of 16 relatives camped in tents about our front yard, visits from Survey geologists and friends from the Bay Area, care packages of books, and so on and so on.

The next summer was in Kingston Canyon in the Toyabe Range and then several camped at Willow Creek in the Roberts Mountains. Friends and relatives with teenaged sons thought a summer with Ted would be a perfect coming-of-age experience so we hosted a parade of 13-14 year old boys, providing them with a "wilderness experience." One of them commented to me, "Ted seems a lot bigger out here than he does at home." Visiting geologists such as John Dunham, Joel Bergquist, Will Blair, Mike Murphy, Jonathan Matti, and many others joined Ted for geology--and the McKee girls for horse shoes, Memory or other board games, trips to Sadler Brown Hot Springs, Nancy Drew, hunting for arrow heads, etc. One evening in the summer of 1974, we couldn't get radio reception during the day, we turned on John Dunham's transistor radio and listened to President Nixon resign.

The last full, family field season--1980--was markedly different from the early years: no trailer, for one thing, no isolation, no long drives for groceries, and of course, no diapers. This was during the Wilderness Program and Ted, et al. were mapping the John Muir Wilderness. Imagine, with two pre-teenagers, the fun of a condominium in Mammoth Lakes, California, complete with TV (this was the summer of "Who shot JR?"), swimming pool, hot tub, tennis court, not to mention the delights of the boutiques and a movie theatre within walking distance. What was the field like? Ted and crew--Mike Diggles, Robert Howe, Dave Dellinger were in a condo near by--went off in a helicopter each morning, and he would radio me in the afternoon when to put the beer in the freezer. On off days we hiked to Devil's Post Pile or other spots of geologic or scenic significance, camped, went horse back riding, fished, swam at Red Lake and a local hot springs. Every night, whatever geologist--Rick Blakely for example--or geologists were in town participated in the activities of Camp McKee: this meant hide-and-seek before dark and endless games of Boggle after dark. That summer, our last as a family in the field, was a magical time.

In the 1980's, the money began to dry up. No more full summer field seasons, for one thing. The Survey was changing, and you all know more about that than I do, and I think we won't revisit the mid-90s at all. We've had a lot of fun. The fat lady hasn't sung yet, so it's not over.

gift certificate with Goodwill Industries logo for $200
Gift certificate we made for Goodwill

cartoon showing three guys in the field
Ted, Rick, and Bob

Here are a few photos we gathered ahead of time to the flavor of the event.

When Ted was in Germany in the '60s, he was put in charge of the tank-unit's mascot: Duffy the Lion (Image #Teddy_lion_(Duffy))

Friends don't let friends drink Coors, 1980 (Photo by Mike Diggles. Image #8007E-06)

Photo of Ted with a field pack
Ted in the field, 1980 (Image #8008A-19)

Teddy and Peggy in the Bishop Tuff, 1980 (Photo by Mike Diggles. Image #8008A-33)

Ted at Mammoth Lakes, 1980 (Photo by Mike Diggles. Image #8008C-09)

Good Cookin' - Good Eatin. Mike, Davie, and Ted in Mike's thesis area in the White Mountains of eastern California, 1980 (Photo by Robert. Image #8008C-24)

Ted with Mike Diggles; the job description reads "will assist geologist in the field." (Photo by Peggy. Image #8008E-13)

The Project Chief (Photo by Peggy. Image #8008E-14)

1986 group photo of the Branch of Western Mineral Resources of which Ted was Branch Chief (Image #Branch_Combo_1986)

Earth Surface Processes picnic (Photo by Carter. Image #Ted_etal_0894)

Jon Glen and Ted (Photo by Carter. Image #Ted_Jon_0885)

Bob, Tom, and Ted (Photo by Carter. Image #Ted_Tom_Bob_0932)

Ted on the beach at Pescadero in August of 2000 (Photo by Carter. Image #Ted_at_beach_0878)

cartoon showing two vultures.  One says to the other:  Sure, I'd LIKE fresh meat, but it's hard to argue with carrion's convenience and affordability'

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The URL of this page is
Date created: 01/26/2004
Last modified: 6/1/2018

Web page by: Michael Diggles

U.S. Geological Survey, MS-910, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025. (650) 329-5404. email Mike (