Hoover Dam, Servant of the People

Lissa found a treasure for me at Sam Weller’s in Salt Lake City – the March 1956 issue of Arizona Highways:

Arizona Highways, Lake Mead, March 1956

Arizona Highways, Lake Mead, March 1956

Among the gems within is Ak Akvik’s Servant of the People (tribute to Hoover Dam). An excerpt:

stilled forever
the red rage of the angry river.

in blue serenity,
as docile as a week-old lamb,
the fever and boiling fury of the flood.

I helped win a war.
I bring light to a million homes.
I turn countless wheels in numberless factories.
Because of me, hundreds of thousands of acres
of useless land now grow green and nourishing crops.

I’m a shining and triumphant chapter in the epic of America.
I’m a servant of the people.

By a useful coincidence, the spring of 1956, during the heart of the drought of the 1950s, was the month at which Lake Mead hit what remains its historic low since it was filled in the ’30s. There’s no mention that I can find of drought in the Arizona Highways paeans to Mead’s recreational beneficence. But in some of the pictures of happy water skiers and fisherpeople, you can see a bathtub ring in the background.

The lake surface level ended the month of March 1956 at 1083.57 feet above sea level (historic monthly data here), which I’ve been calling the historic low. But the fine folks at the USBR in Boulder City recently fed my obsession with this historic milestone by pointing me to some more fine grained data, based on daily and in some cases hourly readings. The numbers show that Mead dropped further, down to 1083.19 by April 26, 1956, before beginning to rise again with the spring snowmelt.

As I write this (midday, Sept. 18, 2010), the lake level is at 1085.42, a bit over 2 feet above the historic low. The latest forecast numbers show Mead dropping past its April 1956 low some time during the third week of October.

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