Ryan Chartrand

Speech communications professor Jeffrey Schultz spends his weekends and summers among antiques, beautiful gardens and hundreds of strangers. He is in his 10th year as a Hearst Castle tour guide, and works at the castle part-time and teaches at Cal Poly part-time.

“It’s a state job – nobody’s getting rich. You do it because you love it,” Schultz said. “The place is so unique and so remarkable. And people have such a ‘wow’ factor, and you get told every two hours what a great job you just did. There aren’t many of those kinds of jobs around, believe me.”

The state historical monument gets about 750,000 visitors a year, and during busy summer days, can have 70 guides working. Publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst had the estate built and entertained many guests there over the years.

Though many other guides have been working there longer than he has, Schultz has had the desire since he graduated from Cal Poly.

“I nearly went to work there the summer of ’71 before I went on to get my master’s in fine arts,” he said. “If they had hired one more person that year, I would have worked that summer, so it was kind of implanted in my mind.”

If he had worked back then, he would have been able to swim in the gorgeous pools every night if he wanted too; employees today get to swim in them once a year.

The estate’s many tours include a handicapped-accessible tour, Schultz’ favorite to guide, which visits a guest house, the gardens and the kitchen.

While the job is a performance, the guide is not supposed to be the center of attention; “the place, the stuff and the stories, that’s what it’s about,” he said. Guides are responsible for dispensing the information, but have no set script. Being open to questions also helps shape a tour, he said.

Schultz teaches public speaking, and realizes that his other job has a different approach than that his students are learning.

“It’s a type of public speaking that’s very unusual in that it’s not at a podium and certainly not with a microphone,” he said. “And you’re talking to groups ranging from as little as two people to 56, indoors and outdoors, in all weathers.”

One extreme situation was during the 6.5-magnitude earthquake in 2003. He was giving a tour when it hit.

“It shook the house so much that all the bells started clanging at once,” he said. However, only 11 out of around 22,500 antique pieces were damaged.

He credits the estate’s survival of the quake to the genius of Julia Morgan, the first female architect in California who was in charge of the project. She worked with Hearst for more than 20 years, while working on 300 other commissions elsewhere.

In fact, Schultz is working on a master’s thesis right now dealing with “the synergy between Julia Morgan, the architect, and William Randolph Hearst through three decades,” he said. “The roaring ’20s, the Depression, through the period of World War II . despite all the things that were going on in the world, they kept the other project going. No other people, I contend, could have done that.”

Much of his research has been done in the Robert E. Kennedy Library, which has a large amount of Morgan’s original personal and professional documents in its Special Collections department, including letters exchanged between Morgan and Hearst. According to the library’s Web site, most of the material is from the late 1890s when Morgan studied architecture in Paris, to the mid-1940s, when her practice started to wind down.

To add to his list of Hearst-related activities, Schultz, once a professional actor, researched, wrote and performed a one-act play about George Hearst, the father of William Randolph Hearst.

“I just like that time better than the future, where it’s going. I’m more comfortable,” he said.

Of Hearst Castle’s existence, he attributed it to the rare qualities of Hearst’s era.

It was an “unique opportunity with the availability of the antiques because they desperately needed money in Europe, and the availability of craftsmen because there was no work for them in the 1920s,” he said. There was “a rich man with the imagination and the perseverance and the willingness to spend and spend and spend. And the genius lady architect who not only knows how to look pretty but make it stand through a 6.5 magnitude earthquake 80 years later.”

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