River to River Trail and Shawnee Forest Exploration
River to River Trail Hike
The story of Ken Sallee’s Hat

The story of Ken Sallee’s Hat

I was in Salem IL and decided to drop in to an Antique store on the South side of town and see what was there. I was looking for some props for our upcoming VBS that summer at the Church. It was to have a construction theme, so I was looking for hard hats, vests, tool belts, and the cheaper the better.

I found this old hard hat and another aluminum one at a stall, for $5 each and bought them. The other was a pretty dented up old wide brimmed hard hat that was used in the forestry service in the ’40’s and ’50’s but this one had been customized by its owner with stick on red reflective tape. When I went to pull up the black rubber band around it, I uncovered “Ken Sallee” on one of those stick on label maker labels.

The name was unusual, so I googled the name and found his obituary. What was very cool was this newspaper clipping on the page.

I should mention that he lived in Mcleansboro and the Funeral was in Mt. Vernon. That explains how it got in this vicinity.

I thought Wow, this guy was one of the pioneers of forest fire fighting! He jumped off of one of those old MASH style bubble copters! Maybe someone would want his helmet?

So I wrote an email to the Black Hills Forest Service to see if they knew him and would want his old helmet? To my surprise they wrote back!

I am a Forestry Technician on the Hell Canyon Ranger district where Ken used to work. His family still owns land in the area. I am also on the local 1881 museum board here in Custer South Dakota. We would defiantly be interested in this Hard hat as we are working on setting up a room at the Museum to tell the history of the Black Hills National Forest. This would fit nicely within our display. You can let me know what you have plans on doing with the hard hat and we can go from there. It is a great find for sure. Thank you Tim

So I emailed him I just needed an address and I would send the hard hat and another unmarked older one that was sold at the same antique store booth and might be related.

We got the hard hats. They look great. I sent it around the office and showed everyone that knew Ken Sallee and they thought it was great. We are going to contact the Sallee  family that still live near Newcastle Wyoming and let them know about the hard hat also. We are setting up a forest service display at our museum here in Custer South Dakota and plan on using the hard hat and article you sent as part of the display. The Black Hills National Forest and I would like to thank you for the gift and we will display it proudly here. Thank You Tim

So if you are at the Black Hills at Custer South Dakota, you can stop in and see Ken’s Hard Hat at the museum there. (We had called off the VBS because of Covid, so we wouldn’t have used it anyway.)