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Polly Patraw

Polly Patraw


Honored February, 1988

Pauline 'Polly' M. Patraw

"It was my engagement present," Polly Patraw said of the Navajo rug displayed on the couch in the living room of her Santa Fe home. A painting of the Grand Canyon's North Rim hangs above the couch, a reminder of special times in Polly's life.

Polly was staying at the VT Dude Ranch in 1928 and collecting plants to study for her master's thesis, a "general ecological description of the Kaibob Plateau." Riding horseback, she had "a bedroll, a canteen of water, and a plant press." One day an invitation awaited her when she returned from the field. "I was invited to attend a dinner for the dedication of the Grand Canyon's North Rim Lodge. I dug in my trunk, got out a dress, and got myself down to the North Rim," Polly said. "I ate dinner with Stephen Mather, the founder and first director of the National Park Service; Mormon Church President Hebert J. Grant; and Carl Grey, president of the Union Pacific Railroad."

Born in 1904 in Longmont, Colorado, Polly was the sixth child of Paul and Ariet Mead. "My father and mother founded the town of Mead in 1906," she said. "They were very religious, straight-laced, and stipulated that no alcoholic beverages be sold in Mead. We later moved to Berthoud. I attended a little one-room schoolhouse. I loved working on the farm, and I loved the flowers and fields of daisies. I used to ride a bicycle three miles to take my music lessons. I loved the piano." Her father had a cattle ranch near Lyons, where Polly spent her summers in the mountains. Her mother was a teacher.

Around 1920 Polly traveled by train to Chicago to live with an aunt and uncle while she attended the University of Chicago High School. There, she became friends with Stephen Mather's daughter, Bertha. Polly graduated from "U High" in 1924.

Later, she received her bachelor's and master's degrees in botany from the University of Chicago. "For my graduation present, my aunt offered me a trip to Europe, or I could go to the Grand Canyon and work on my master's. I've never been to Europe," Polly told us, without regret.

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes