Working

From Delta Air Lines to the National Park Service

Meet Gerry Allen, who became a park ranger in his late 50s.

Listen to Working via Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Play.

In a special five-episode miniseason of Working, we talk with people who have had “second acts,” that is people who made a dramatic career pivot at some point in their working lives.

Gerry Allen always dreamed of becoming a national park ranger, but by the time he graduated from college, family obligations meant that he needed to take a different career path. He went to work for Delta Air Lines, eventually focusing on the company’s environmental programs. In 2001, when Delta offered him an early retirement package, Allen decided to make his youthful ambitions come true. At 56, he sent out between 60 and 80 applications, eventually securing a position as a “fee collector” at Vicksburg National Military Park. “That’s the guy who sits at the gate and takes $5 as the cars come through,” he explains. After stops at three other parks in the South, he landed at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

Now retired, Allen talks about the challenges of making his career move, what he enjoyed about being a park ranger, and why everyone should visit the Andersonville National Historic Site.

You can email us at working@slate.com. Podcast production by Jessamine Molli.