William & Mary

Tribute to George Albee

In 1988 Joe Galano and his colleague John Morgan convened the Prevention Institute and invited Joe's role model, practitioner George Albee, to attend as keynote speaker. In his introduction of Albee, Joe recited the anonymous poem "The Ambulance Down in the Valley" and contributed his own addition (Part II, below), written in Albee's honor.

"The Ambulance Down in the Valley"

Part I

Twas a dangerous cliff, as they frankly confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to done,
But their project did not all tally;
Some said, "Put a fence 'round the edge of the cliff:"
Some, "Put an ambulance down in the valley."


Well, the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, so they say,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who have slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And dwellers on highway and in alley,
Gave pound and pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.


"For the cliff is all right, if you're careful," they said
"And even if folks slip and are dropping,
It isn't the slip that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they're stopping."
So day after day, as those mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would the rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff
With their ambulance down in the valley.


Then an old sage remarked, "Tis a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they'd much better aim at prevention."
"Let us stop at the source of this mischief," cried he,
"Come neighbors and friends, let us rally,
If the cliff we would fence, we could almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley."


"Oh, he's  a fanatic," the other rejoined;
"Dispense with the ambulance? never!
He'd dispense with all charity, too, if he could,
No! No! We'll support them forever.
Aren't we picking up people as fast as they fall?
Shall this man dictate to us - shall he?
Why should people with sense stop to put up a fence
While an ambulance waits in the valley?



Part II

The tide finally shifted, the ignorance lifted,
The old sage had carried the day.
The fence was erected, and as he expected
The ambulance rusted away.
Prevention, not cure, was the answer it seemed,
To end ambulance rides and repair bills.
The town cheered for the fence that was making life safe
for their children who played on the hill.


A few years passed, and then one summer's day
A man of vision came to town,
Not wholly persuaded to accept on blind faith
The fence that earned such renown.
He saw unbruised children whose faces were sad,
And they confided to missing the thrill
Of risking and daring, when they were still free,
To climb up and play on the hill.


So that very night, while the whole town slept,
He dreamed of a brand new resource.
When the children awoke, they saw not a fence
But a wonderful obstacle course.
"Come here," he invited, "your challenge awaits,
I can help you acquire some new skills,
For I haven't forgotten the pride that I felt
From mastering life's difficult hills."


Now fences protect but they also confine,
Our man of vision preferred to empower.
His science was helping to create a world
Where children can blossom and flower.
This story ends well, but the kingdom is vast
There's work for all of us still.
Our man is here with us, his vision to share,
We'll teach others to play on life's hills.


–Joe Galano, 1988