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Meet Elmer Buehler, BPA Hero

2017 Associates Scholarship Memorializes Mr. Buehler
Meet Elmer Buehler, BPA Hero

Elmer Buehler in 1972

BPA History:  Elmer Buehler, a BPA Hero

by Libby Burke, Archivist Librarian

We love Elmer Buehler.  He served BPA from 1939 - 1972, mostly in what we now think of as Communications, performing duplication and mailing of press releases, production and distribution of BPA motion pictures, and PUD campaign support - all behind the scenes.  He was a go-to guy:  when a young folksinger named Woody Guthrie came to BPA on a month-long assignment in 1941, Elmer was assigned to drive him around Washington and Oregon and show him the landscape, the people and the dams.  Inspired by what he saw, Woody wrote the 26 Columbia River Songs.

Due to a RIF (reduction-in-force) after his WWII service, Buehler was reassigned to Ross Complex where he was groundskeeper and head custodian.  In 1953 during his tour at Ross, an order came through to incinerate all the copies of the BPA files Hydro and The Columbia, as well as pamphlets that explained and promoted public power.  Buehler's pride of association and his belief in the value of the two films lead him to stash a couple of prints away in his basement despite the order.  According to his daughters Heidi Burgoyne and Trudi McDonough, who visited the BPA Library & Visitor Center on March 9, 2017, he would bring out the projector and show those films to them every year, despite their protests, so they would understand the importance of public power.

Buehler was eventually reassigned to the public relations group and spent much of the rest of his BPA days working with exhibits. In the early 1970s, a graduate student found his way to Elmer in his search for The Columbia, the film that used the Guthrie songs, and this gave Elmer a reason to bring out his prints, which were eventually presented to the Library of Congress.

It was such a privilege to meet the daughters of one of our pioneer BPA “communicators”. Heidi and Trudi shared great stories of the camaraderie that existed among the BPA artists and creative staff, which they observed throughout their childhood years. According to them, Elmer had a wonderful retirement as well, with interests such as fishing, gardening, bee‐keeping and Native American art. He was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in 1973, and appears in books and films about the BPA‐Woody Guthrie story. He lived to be 99. We sing his praises and are so happy to welcome his daughters to the BPA Library & Visitor Center family.

For more Elmer Buehler information and photographs, please see this slide presentation.

NOTE:  One of this year's Associates Scholarships bears Elmer Buehler's name, in recognition of his years of service to the agency, to The Associates, and to his community.



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