Continued Work on the Mountain: 1963-72
Similar to the very people for whom he promised to carve a memorial, Korczak Ziolkowski continued to persevere through a great deal of adversity in route to keep his promise. Evidence of this perseverance can be found in the years between 1963 and 1972. During this time period, Korczak experienced a great many ups and downs, but through it all worked to make progress on the mountain, improve and expand the visitor center, and further advance his promise to Chief Henry Standing Bear.
In the years between 1963 and 1972, there occurred a number of highlights for Korczak and Ruth, but the couple also faced a great many challenges. For example, during this time, the U.S. Post Office opened at Crazy Horse with Ruth as postmistress for $1 per year, while Korczak received an honorary Doctorate from Fairfield University in Connecticut. Also, during this time, for the first time ever, the project was out of debt. However, these same years saw eight of Korczak’s marble works of sculpture vandalized at the entrance to the studio-home. In addition, during this time, Korczak underwent a second spinal operation to remove a third disc, and soon thereafter the sculptor underwent a third spinal operation that removed his fourth and fifth discs. In 1968, Korczak had a heart attack, and soon after, suffered another massive heart attack. All the while, through this stretch of physical setbacks, the sculptor, who refused to quit, continued to carve Crazy Horse Memorial with the support of Ruth and his children.
In 1963, Korczak finished the first leveling above the outstretched arm of Crazy Horse. The sculptor also continued blasting toward the horse’s mane area. Then, he started a new road down across horse’s mane to clear the area for a planned tunnel under the arm. In the subsequent two years, Korczak built an impressively massive four-story, 26-ton scaffold, with a sign on it saying “Slow Man at Work” on tracks in front of Crazy Horse’s face in order to facilitate the ongoing work in that area. In 1966 and 1967, the carving on the mountain continued at the horse’s mane and in front of rider’s chest area. During 1968, tunneling into the mountain from the far side began to create access to the front of the mountain, and in 1969, the tunnel under the arm reached daylight on the other side. In 1971, Korczak enlarged the tunnel and began removing the right end of the mountain in front of the horse’s head.
Also, during this time, the sculptor and his family worked to improve and expand the visitor center. In 1963, the sculptor built the first visitor center theater. Over the winter of 1964 and 1965, Korczak created the 16-ton 1/34th scale plaster model of Crazy Horse that to this day sets on the viewing deck of the expanded visitor center. Also, during this time, Korczak drilled a 377-foot deep water well, and the entrance road and visitor parking lot was blacktopped.
Finally, during this time, the Ziolkowski children became increasingly essential to the progress of the project. In 1972, the sculptor, with the help of his sons, built the Indian Museum of North America, starting the educational initiative with the Charles Eder Indian Collection and Ebell Egyptian “King Tut” furnishings that had been donated to Crazy Horse in 1968. Also, in 1972, the Ziolkowski boys helped their father build new restrooms, an additional water system, and a new well and drain field. Likewise, during this time, the Ziolkowski girls become increasingly important to the ever-growing project – helping to build and manage operations at the visitor center. Consequently, subsequent years would see Crazy Horse Memorial, the genesis of one man’s promise, transform into a family’s promise and a non-profit Foundation’s mission. . .
This article is the sixteenth installment of a periodic chronology that will be published by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation on the history of the Memorial.
By: Dr. Jason Murray for the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation