The magic of John Muir lives today in our public parklands and wilderness areas, the orchards and vineyards of Contra Costa County, sunsets atop Mt. Wanda, and in writings and teachings that spread the word about nature and our place in it.

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George Swain
1919 - 2000

by Pat Mosley

George Swain, 1919-2000 George Swain was known as Walking, Talking George in and around his stomping ground of Boron, California.

He worked forty-four years at the Borax factory, earlier known as 20 Mule Team Borax Co. as a chemist. He referred to himself as the 29th mule. He began there on April 4, 1944 and retired on August 8, 1988 (4/4/44 to 8/8/88) significantly planned.

He began his formal education at Stanford University under the tutelage of Don Tressider, son-in-law of Mary and David Curry who were founders of the Yosemite Park and Curry Co., and served Yosemite visitors for 97years.

George's father was a military career man, his mother a lover of music and taught him piano and organ.

George had three passions, John Muir, Conservation, and Classical music, particularly operas and especially Wagner. His favorite historical movie was "Patton", of which he could recite almost every line.

One year he personally financed the Seattle Opera Company who were almost forced to close the season. He was also very generous to whomever he was with and often helped the helpless and hopeless.

George had no home, no wife or family, slept outside in the Mojave desert. His life has been documented on the TV series "Real People".

George may best be remembered as a man walking, dressed like a tramp, picking up trash and recyclable materials with long fast strides.

He became a member of the John Muir Memorial Assn. twenty-five years ago and never missed the annual dinner. He was given a Lifetime membership award in April 2000 only one week before he passed away.

George was often a guest of Ben and Pat Mosley. Pat met him as the annual dinner in 1989 at which time she asked him to be a volunteer at the LeConte Memorial Lodge for the Sierra Club in Yosemite National Park where she was curator for eight years.

Pat reintroduced George to Carl Sharsmith in 1990. They immediately recognized each other. Carl took George for his first saunter in 1938 (fifty years before) Carl served at Tuolumne Meadows some 50+ years. They both shared the love of nature and classical music. On several occasions they sang and played opera selections at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and Tioga Pass Resort arranged by Pat. She and Ben often had them both to their home in Clayton to entertain volunteers. They all often enjoyed German cuisine at local restaurants.

George often referred to himself as a 16th Century gentleman set adrift in the 20th Century.

In his home town he is recognized as their home town hero. He used his musical talent to teach children and played almost every Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Boron and also the Catholic church. He is well remembered at the 20 mule team Borax museum with displays of his pictures and his size 14 old Boots.

George passed away a week after returning to Boron from the Muir dinner while house-sitting at his friends home (Gloria and Bob Willis) They had been friends since High School.

A memorial service was given in mid-May in Boron, a town that if you blinked as you traveled Highway 58 you would completely miss.

George was truly a character and those of us who knew him can only say it was a pleasure to have known him and all the joy he brought to our ordinary lives.

Exerpted from The View From John Muir's Window, September 2000, Newsletter of the John Muir Memorial Association.

 

 
 
 

 

 

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