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A gathering of the Cave people
Tour guides get immersed in their work during a rain event at Natural Bridge Caverns in 2000.
For the first time ever, Natural Bridge Caverns is hosting a reunion of everyone who has served as a tour guide for the last 50 years.
The reunion, open to former tour guides and their families or a guest, will be Saturday, June 7. Participants are invited to visit the attraction from 3-7:30 p.m. and to attend a special reception beginning at 7:30 p.m.
“Our tour guides have been an essential part of our operation since we opened July 3, 1964,” said Brad Wuest, president and CEO of Natural Bridge Caverns. “Since then our tour guides have taken more than 10 million visitors through the caverns.”
The event will include time to explore the new additions, along with a display of vintage uniforms and photos.
Many of the tour guides worked while in high school and college to earn money for college expenses, clothes, or cars.
News of tour guide openings travels by word-of-mouth and personal referral so in many instances, working as a tour guide has been a family affair with mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers working there. Romance often blooms among tour guides, too, and several have met their future spouses while on the job.
Tina Lindeman, 69, of New Braunfels was a tour guide during the early years.
“We used a tent for ticket sales, instead of a building,” she said. “There was only one way into the Caverns and one way out, so you had to be in good condition because the way back was uphill. It wasn’t unusual for the entire group to have to make a short stop to allow a visitor to catch his breath.”
Lindeman was a tour guide the summer that she graduated from New Braunfels High School, and many years later, her son, Wade, followed in her footsteps as a tour guide between high school and college.
Tricia Anz was a tour guide from 1989 to 1994, starting when she was at Canyon High School and continuing through college at Southwest Texas State University.
“One of the things that I remember the most is the bond of friendship among the tour guides and how many Sunday nights we spent together after work,” she recalled.
Anz’s husband, Bill, and his family are longtime friends of the Wuest family. Bill’s sister, Monica, and his brother, David, worked as tour guides; his sister, Madeline, worked in the gift store.
“Natural Bridge Caverns was my first job and was a great foundation for the rest of my life,” said Mrs. Anz. “Working for a family business added a special feeling of caring and friendship that you don’t always get with every job.”
Gerald Goodridge was a tour guide from 2003-06. He started while a student at Samuel Clemens High School.
“I loved seeing the look of awe and discovery in the faces of the children and their parents when they entered the Castle of the White Giants,” he said. “As tour guides, we were well trained and I could answer any question related to the geology of the Caverns. However, one of my biggest challenges was learning to walk backwards and talk at the same time.”
He said that working as a tour guide taught him how to relate to people quickly during a first-time meeting. This talent serves him well today in his role as pastor at Peoples Church in Oklahoma City.
Register by Friday, May 30, for the reunion at http://NaturalBridgeCaverns.com/Reunion.
Information is also available on Facebook or call Natural Bridge Caverns at 210-651-6101.
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