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Alaska Tour, 1947


Pioneer Alaska Bus Companies

    This lengthy article about a 30-day tour of Alaska by bus, plane and cruise ship appeared in eleven issues of The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California) between August 12 and September 23, 1947. Mrs. Barkow was the editor of the Banning Record, and her husband, Carl Barkow, was co-publisher of the The Desert Sun. The article has been reproduced completely, and exactly as originally printed, with spelling and punctuation errors left intact. The most amusing of the spelling errors is when, in the first paragraph of the narrative, she calls the Canol oil project the "Chanel oil project".

    We think that the article was worth reproducing not only as a look at conditions in Alaska in 1947, but also a look at the views of a presumably well-educated woman at a fairly high social level, on subjects such as wildlife, the economy, and Native people.

    The tour began on July 23rd when Mrs. Barkow flew out of Los Angeles, but the trip report begins in Whitehorse on July 31st.


Alaska

By Mabelle F. Barkow
Part 1: August 12, 1947

    Mrs. Carl Barkow, wife of the co-publisher of The Desert Sun, is a special correspondent of this newspaper in Alaska. She left by airplane from Los Angeles on July 23, and will return the first part of September. Her tour will take her into the Arctic Circle.


2500 PEOPLE--AND DOGS

    Whitehorse, Yukon Tr., July 31

    Because of the bus schedules, we are still here at Whitehorse. This little town, which has 2500 population, not including the hundreds of big dogs, skyrocketed to between 45,000 and 50,000 during the war with army personnel and workers on the Alcan highway and Chanel oil project, by which oil was piped from the northern part of Canada to Whitehorse to be refined and then piped on to Skagway and Fairbanks.

    This afternoon I called on Horace E. Moore, publisher of the Whitehorse Star. He gets out a neat little eight-page tabloid on bookpaper and received the National award for excellency for newspapers under 500 circulation. He is a member of the Whitehorse Kiwanis club which is the only service club in town and has 47 members.

    This afternoon we went up the Alaska Highway, formerly the Alcan Highway, to see the Whitehorse rapids of the Yukon, from which it derives its name, and the Yukon canyon. The latter, Dr. Lobeck says, is of volcanic origin. It reminds me of the Grand Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado.

    En route we stopped at an Indian cemetery and saw a combination of paganism and Christianity. Many of the graves had little houses built over them with a pot or pan and dishes inside so that the spirits would have something to eat when they return. Some were protected from the weather by low tents. The fact that they were Christian Indians was indicated by small crosses on the tiny houses.

CONFIDENCE

    Among other things about this far north country, which I shall never forget, is the people's trust in everyone. The first night here in Whitehorse, we tried to get keys for the doors to our rooms but were told there aren't any. Nor were there any at the hotel in Skagway.

    This evening we celebrated with a birthday party for our youthful guide who is 36 years old today. The landlady's daughter engaged him in conversation while the rest of us gathered at one large table in the dining room leaving the place of honor for him. In front of it was a large decorated birthday cake, which we ordered specially for the occasion from the local baker, and a billfold in gift-wrapping which we had purchased at Skagway. Fastened to the package was a small totem pole and an appropriate birthday card.

FLOODS

    Santa Claus Lodge, midnight, August 3 - Floods seem to follow me around while on vacations. Last year it was in Mexico and this year in Alaska. Friday morning, at Whitehorse, we were delayed four hours during which time the bridge over the Donjack river, which had been damaged by floods, due to warm rains, was repaired. However, it turned out to be an over-night delay. The bus which had been ordered to come from Fairbanks to meet us at the bridge, failed to arrive at the appointed time, so back we went to Lake Kluane, where there is a very nice lodge.

    At 3 a. m. Saturday morning, we fell wearily into bed for five hours or much-needed sleep. The next morning we crossed the bridge, which was damaged only in the middle and was then being repaired by Canadian Army engineers. There was no risk involved as the bridge was perfectly safe for pedestrian, possibly not for cars, but the engineers were not taking any chances. The bridge over another river, which had gone out in the floods, was repaired by the time we arrived. We had to walk over it, too.

    The trip Friday was near the rugged St. Elias range of mountains with its tall peaks, dotted with glaciers. I was interested to hear Dr. Lobeck, the geologist, tell one of the members of the party the peaks are partly of volcanic origin. They were too far away from me to ask whether the volcanoes or the glacerial action came first, but I would like to know.

LAKE KLUANE

    The lodge on Lake Kluane is a very pleasant place to spend a night. Located in the heart of the big game country, the lodge affords comfortable lodging and excellent meals for hunters and fishermen. The lake is 90 miles long and is 800 feet deep in places.

    Saturday we continued on to Santa Claus lodge. We arrived at 12:30 a. m., Sunday morning. Although the sun slipped below the horizon in the north there was never a time durlng the night when the northern sky did not look like our Southern California sky shortly before dawn. To the south the moon was skimming along the horizon above the lofty Wrangell range.

    Suddenly in front of us loomed a perfect giant of a mountain, so high that I thought my eyes must be deceiving me and that what looked like a snow-capped cone poking its top far above the clouds was really clouds. A lady on the bus, who had made the trip through here many times, told us it was Mt. Sanford and that it is 16,200 feet high. We watched it for miles, and after a time another mountain, still higher, came into view. It is Mt. Drumm.

SALMON RUN

    On the way up to Santa Claus lodge, we stopped by a small stream to see the salmon run. They are coming up the streams now to spawn, and then die. The salmon, as many of you know, come back to the very stream in which they were hatched. These were red salmon about 18 inches long.

    We had been told the Alaska highway was rough, but found the part we drove over in excellent condition. It is a gravel road, but smooth, and the Canadian and American governments are making every effort to maintain it in good condition. Now the Canadian government requires that a certain number of auto parts must be carried before a car can start the trip north. This is because garages are few and far apart. If one could take care of his own car or could afford to take a mechanic with him, I can't imagine a more enjoyable vacation than one in the virgin area opened up by the highway.




Part 2: August 15, 1947

SANTA CLAUS LODGE

    Spending today. Sunday, August 3, at Santa Claus lodge instead of taking trip to Valdez because of washouts. It will be four days before the highway will be open and we can not wait because of reservations at other places.

    This afternoon we drove out too see an Indian fish wheel which is operating on the Copper river near this resort. The wheel, a home-made affair, is so constructed that the two troughs, which catch the fish, are facing upstream. The fish swims into the trough, which is partially surrounded by wire netting, slides down an incline into a box, and there he is when the Indian comes around to see if he and his family are going to have fish for dinner. He also catches fish for his dogs. These he dries and stores to be fed as needed.

    Ken O'Hara owner of the bus line which serves much of this area and on which we are traveling from Fairbanks to Anchorage, also raises very fine Alaskan dogs. His dogs carried off the first prize in 10 consecutive races until last year. We visited his kennels this morning here at Santa Claus Lodge. I did not count the dogs but he must have 25 or 30. His two lead animals are intelligent creatures. One is shaggy and of the right coloring to have some shepherd ancestry. The other looks very much like our German police dog but more powerful: they are extremely nervous, and Mr. Wallace, our guide, had difficulty taking his photograph. I could get him to post but when Mr. Wallace would start adjusting his camera, Mr. Dog would begin to wiggle. The man in charge of the kennel pointed out one which is part wolf and another part coyote. The beautiful leader was quite tame and friendly. Some of the others snarled as if they would attack us it they were loose. The dog races are run in three heats of from 12 to 27 miles and are held in February and March. Lead dogs sell for as much as $1000.

    Last night our guide pointed out the North Star to me; and after I located it almost overhead, I realized why l hadn't seen in before. Only a very few stars are visible in the sky here because it is never really dark. At the present time, the light from the sun to the north and the full moon to the south make the sky at midnight as bright as ours in Southern Calilornia shortly before dawn. The lights went out in our bus as we rode in last night and someone wanted to know the time. Mr. Wallace, with out any artificial light, read his watch at 11:40; just 20 minutes before midnight. Through the clouds, the sky to the north was blue with a yellow glow near the horizon.

    From employes at this hotel I learned something about prices here in Alaska. Fryers cost $1.10 per pound; butter is 90 cents wholesale; milk 35 cents a quart with 15 cent deposit on bottles. Some of us have been wanting milk ever since we left Vancouver. Now I know why it is never served. We get canned milk everywhere. One night Dr. Lubek asked for milk to drink and was given a glass of powdered milk. On the other side of the price picture, a common laborer on the Alaskan railway earns $80.50 a week. Prices on everything went up 41 per cent about three months ago when all the dock workers and workers on the boat received a raise. With so much of what Alaska uses shipped in by boat from Canada and the states, the unions certainly have a strangle hold on this territory.

GENERAL EISENHOWER

    There was big news broke in Alaska today. Monday, August 4, only a few miles from where we were but General Ike Eisenhower failed to notify this newspaper woman he was going to land at Guleana uirport so I wasn't there to greet him. Guleana airport is within walking distance of Santa Claus Lodge where we spent Saturday and Sunday nights. I understand he is here on a big game hunting trip.

    How isolated this part of Alaska is is illustrated by the fact that none of us has seen a daily paper since leaving Vancouver, except the little paper from Anchorage which deals mostly with Alaskan news. From it I learned that the bill to establish a pulp and paper mill in Alaska was turned down because 10 per cent of the money was to got to the Indians. What a short-sighted policy with American newspapers shouting for newsprint. With such nn industry here, the United States could be independent of foreign countries, except our good neighbor Canada, which somehow seems almost like a part of United States. With Alaska's vast forests, it seems that the United States would have an inexhaustible supply of newsprint, once the factory was in operation, and Alaska a very profitable industry even with the 10 per cent the Indians would receive.

    From the air one get; the impression of a carpet of various shades of green, a light green for the grass, birch, aspen and a dark green for the forest lands disected by lines of blue which are the wide rivers, little blue dots for the lakes, and white for the glaciers which cap many of the peaks. From a bus or train, one sees the individual trees, the lakes on which mother duck and her brood swim about and beaver build their dams, the magnificent mountains with glaciers that feed hundreds of streams which seem to be in great haste as they flow swiftly by to the ocean.

FLOWERS

    Today we found some flowers we had not seen before. All over this part of Alaska, the roads are lined with orchid-colored fire flower. Today we found Queen Anne's lace, a deep blue lupine, larkspur, michaelmas daisies and a flower that looks very much like goldenrod; and great patches of wild raspberries. At one spot in the midst of a wild raspberry patch the driver stopped the bus and we jumped out and feasted on delicious berries until we had our fill.

    Our trip today was to Chitina, an old abandoned copppr mining town with a population of 10 white people and some Indians. Once 2500 people made their homes there. That was when the rich copper mine was in operation. Labor trouble closed it in 1942, during the war, and it has never been opened. There is a government Indian school there operated by a woman who certainly must have a missionary's love of the poor and unfortunate, for she has labored there for twenty years giving the Indians much more of her time and energy than she ever could be paid for. She and her husband have a large garden which they use to teach the Indians how to grow vegetables, then the wife teaches the girls how to can so they can have the benefit of plenty of vegetables during the long Alaskan night.

    In my study of Alaska before coming on this trip, I never learned that the Russians went far inland. Still they must have had a settlement at Chitina for there is a small church over which is the inscription "Greek Orthodox Russian Church of America." The church, built of logs, is now abandoned.

    Chitina has mail service by auto once a week and by plane once every three weeks. In winter the planes land on the ice on a nearby lake. There is a representative of the company, serving this area. living there.

COPPER CENTER

    Tonight we are at Copper Center, which is really just a trading post, with an excellent inn constructed of logs. During gold rush days there were 2000 people living here and the town was a stop on the way from Valdez (which we didn't see because of washouts) and the Klondike. Gold seekers came over the mountains to Copper Center, then by land and water to the Klondike gold fields. The lady who operates the inn, Mrs. Florence Barnes, is quite charming. For the sum of $2.00 each she served a family style dinner of fresh green salad, fried chicken, fried red salmon. mashed potatoes, green peas, bread, butter, canned peaches, a real home-made orange cake and tea or coffee, all very delicious and more helpings if one wanted them.




Part 3: August 19, 1947

GLACIERS

    Anchorage, Aug. 5 - Early this morning, Tuesday, our party left Mrs. Barnes' lodge at Copper Center, bound for Anchorage, about 200 miles away, still traveling by O'Harra Bus Lines, which have the franchise for this part of the Territory. All of us took a long last-look at snow, and glaciers-covered Mt. Drum, 12,002 feet high and Mt. Wrangell, 14,005 two of the highest peaks in this very rugged range. Mt. Wrangell is a volcano and smoke rises constantly from its crater. However, it is not cone-shaped, as are so many volcanoes, but more round with the crater near the enter of its mound. Many of the high peaks we are seeing are of volcanic origin, Dr. Lobeck informs me.

    Farther on our panorama included two other magnificent peaks in the Wrangell range, Mt. Sanford, 16,208 feet high and Mt. Blackburn, 16,140. The picture of these four giant snow-capped mountains outlined against the horizon will long remain in my memory. The Californians used up all their Hollywood superlatives trying to describe the view, and still felt inadequate to do them justice.

MOUNTAINS

    As we left the Wrangells, we found the Chugach range south of us not quite as high as the Wrangells but very impressive, with one peak thrusting its head up into the skies for a distance of 13,250 feet. We were much closer to this range than we had been to the Wrangells and consequently could get a better view of the huge glaciers extending, in several instances, to the very foot of the mountains, and one, the Matanuskee, for some distance along the floor of the valley. Cameras clicked as members of the party tried t take pictures. I hope the guide's Kodachromes turned out alright as he is giving members of the party an opportunity to buy any or all of them.

    Three glaciers, or rather glacial systems, were especially spectacular, the Taglina, that Natchina, and the Matanuska. I wish I had Dr. Lobeck's voluminous notes so I could really tell something about them. Then again, his notes are probably so technical I wouldn't understand them. He usually tries to get a seat by himself and writes as he goes along. If I had as many notes as he has taken, my labors from this trip would result in a series of books.

    He avoids me like the plague since he discovered how much I talk. There is one lady on the trip who likes visiting as much as I do. She is a Mrs. Boren, retired high school teacher from Long Beach, and surely a very delightful person that I hope to continue the acquaintance when the trip is over. We naturally pair off. It is a stroke of good fortune that we are not rooming together or I would get less sleep than I do.

MIDNIGHT

    After everyone else is in bed, about 10 p. m., that is everyone except the guide and Mrs. Paas, I start in on this column and is is nearly always 12 o'o'clock before the light is turned out. The guide is up early and late ironing out the kinks in our trip and making sure everyone is satisfied and happy. He has everyone on the trip sold on Sita, the travel agency which arranged it. And Mrs. Paas, from near Milwaukee, is a movie fan. She hasn't missed a picture show in any town we have been in, even thogh she had seen them at home.

    En route to Anchorage, the dusty little town of 12,000, which boats the largest population of any city in Alaska, we stopped at Matamuska Valley, As for Anchorage, I almost feel like one member of our party who, laughingly remarked, I vote we give it back to the Russians."

MATANUSKA

    Take the mountains away from Matanuska Valley and it could be northern Iowa or Wisconsin. This colony, which was started as an experiment in agriculture in Alaska, seems to be quite prosperous. In 1935, 200 families were sent from the States and were colonized at and near Palmer, in the Valley. Within a year, one-fourth had deserted. After learning more of Alaska, I am convinced they were not the vigorous, determined type of people, such as went by ox-team across the plains of the United Sates to my own beloved California. The land is fertile, the location beautiful, and temperatures go no lower than in the middlewestern states. One historian wrote that many "returned to the United States to get on relief." This should explain why they failed.

    The Indian of Alaska are a pitiable lot. They are exploited by traders but are too poor and ignorant to do anything about it. One trader explained this group's views when he said, "They (the Indians) make plenty of money; and they don't know what to do with it, except to spend it for liquor."

INDIANS

    The Indians' viewpoint was expressed to a member of our party by an Indian whom he managed to engage in conversation. The Indian told this man that the Indians are poorly paid by the traders for the articles they make; that the traders there sell these articles for a big profit, that the Indians can do nothing about it because those who are old enough to make their predicament known do not know how to read or write; so they just spend the money they make for liquor.

    Mrs. Boren, the guide and I got up around five this morning and went out to the airport to say goodbye to one member of our party who was leaving us. We, that is Mrs. Boren and I, both liked her very much. We had bought a little gift for her and she seemed very happy that we liked her enough to do it.




Part 4: August 26, 1947

BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

    Seward, Aug. 7 - I wrote too hastily yesterday about Anchorage for, after I had mailed my letter, I discovered something that made the stay there worthwhile in addition to knowing what Alaska's largest city is like. It has a beautiful owner-planted-and-maintained garden. The most beautiful I have ever seen. Mrs. Boren, Mrs. Wilkie (by the way, proof-reader I wrote three, not ten children, but it is possible no one could read my writing) and I came upon it while on a walk and wanted so very much to open the gate and walk in. That evening, about nine o'clock, our guide went down with some of us who wanted to see it and requested permission for us to view the garden, which was very graciously given.

    The entire 75x150-foot lot is planted. There is a green lawn and so many different varieties of flowers that I could not remember all of them when I arrived back all the hotel. The delphinium grows nine feet high along the full length of the garden. Among the other flowers I can remember are bleeding heart, dahlias, columbine, sweet peas, sweet william, forget-me-nots and pansies.

KENAI LAKE

    This afternoon we drove out to see one of the local characters, Nellie Neal Lawing, who has quite a museum on the shores of Kenai Lake, which is about 17 miles from Seward. Mrs. Lawing, a widow for many years, came to Alaska in the early days, from Missouri, married, and, after her husband's death, stayed on. She is very proud that she saved the life of a mail carrier, also, that she had the contract to carry the mail for several months.

    There is a rainbow trout derby being run in one of the streams above Seward. The largest fish caught so far this year is 32 inches. A 42-inch trout was caught in a former derby the driver of our car stated.

    Another reason this day has been an unhappy one for me: at 5:30 p. m., my room wasn't ready for me and I wanted to freshen up a bit belore dinner. It seems that there is a big construction project underway here at the present time and the contractors have made no provision for sleeping quarters for the men, so the hotel has been renting each of its rooms to four men, two of whom sleep at night and the others during the day. With this situation, the hotel owner allowed the Sita tour to make reservations. The two men in our room had not awakened and I don't know what they are doing today.

BIG GAME

    After two days in Anchorage, the place looked like everything one might dream about. lt is located at the tip of Resurrection Bay with the bay as one boundary and green mountains as the other. It is the gateway to Kenai Peninsula, home of the world's largest moose and the Kodiak or Alaskan bear. On the peninsula also are found mountain sheep and goats and many varieties of fish. There is considerable mining on the peninsula.

SEWARD

    Curry, Aug. 9 - Seward is the first Alaskan city we have seen to which I would care to make a return visit. The scenery throughout the territory, that is the part we have so far visited, is magnificent and my vocabulary falls short of enough superlatives to describe it. The towns and cities, however, are little western towns with apparently no effort having been made to beautify them.

    Seward is a clean little community despite the fact that it has no paved streets. The people seem to be nice, too. I broke down and had my hair shampooed this alternoon. From the operator, whose home is in Washington state, I learned that work along the docks is the principal means of support. There is also a salmon cannery and Seward is the terminus of the Alaskan Railway which runs inland to Fairbanks. I had read before I came to Alaska that the Alaskan Railway ran all winter, but I learned this is not true, that the trains can only run about half way to Fairbanks during the worst part of the winter.

SALADS

    The ladies on the tour are all missing the green salads we were accustomed to in the States. There are very few restaurants that serve them at all and those that do charge as much for salad alone as for a complete dinner. In Anchorage I paid $1.75 for a combination salad. Orange or grapefruit juice out of a can costs 35 cents a glass and fresh milk 50¢ a glass. Few restaurants list it on their menus.

    Today, some of the ladies in desperation bought salad ingredients, took them to a restaurant and requested that the cook make salad for them. He charged them 25 cents each for his labor and when they counted up the cost it was over one dollar each.

ALASKA RAILWAY

    Curry, Aug, 9 - Another 200-mile hop from Seward this morning put us back in Anchorage for about a three hour wait before starting on our way to McKinley National Park. We are about half way there tonight at Curry, a stop on the Alaskan Railway which runs from Seward to Fairbanks. This is a very nice hotel operated by the government as is the railway. This seems to be the jumping off place for fishermen and big game hunters. On the way up, wherever the train stopped, fishing or hunting parties climbed off prepared for a trip into the wilds. The train from Anchorage followed along an arm of Cook Inlet, on which Anchorage is located, then along the Susitna River which empties into Cook Inlet.

    Rain started falling in this part of Alaska yesterday and when we returned to Anchorage the store buildings and houses had all the dust washed from them and the streets were still wet so there was none of the dust to which I had objected when we came in from Copper Center.

    The airplane trip today was made in the same plane and with the same pilot that we had flown to Seward two days previous. Clouds were hanging low over Kenai Peninsula, Cook Inlet and Anchorage and at one spot we could see nothing but fog. However, after the previous trip with the pilot, whom we had found was extremely cautious, I felt no fear.

            (to be continued)




Part 5: August 29, 1947

CURRY HOTEL

    Aug. 10, 1947 - I want to write more about this really fine Curry Hotel way out here in the wilderness, 200 miles from Anchorage, and practically nothing except forests and rivers in between. It is constructed almost against the tracks like a depot; and when we stopped here last night, that is what I thought the building was at first until I discovered it is a combined hotel, depot and postoffice.

    The hotel has a large lobby with a huge brick fireplace and comfortable over-stuffed furniture. The dining room uses good linens, including napkins. I think it is the first place since leaving the Empress at Vancouver that we have been given linen napkins. All others used paper. The rooms are spacious.

    The hotel is named for Charles F. Curry, now deceased, representative from the Sixty-third Congressional district in California from March 4, l913, until his death in Washington. D. C., Oct. 10, 1930. From 1919 until the time of his death he was on the Committee on Territories of the House. He made a report to Congress on which legislation was finally based authorizing the construction of the Alaska railroad over which we are traveling from Anchorage to Fairbanks. He took much interest in other legislation looking to the development of Alaska.

FISHING, HUNTING

    Last night the hotel housed 175 which is the maximum it can accommodate. It is in the center of a fishing and hunting paradise. Moose have been seen almost at its door and the bear come into the garbage pits to forage. One was killed near here recently. With all these wild animals in the woods around us it seems that we should see some, but so far luck has not been with us.

DEFENSE NEEDED

    Anyone who studies the map of North America, visits Alaska, or just sits down and thinks about it, must realize the strategic position of this vast Territory and the need of adequate defense of it. I hope the men we send to Washington do. Only a road, which is a thin ribbon in comparison with our broad highways in Southern California, the Alaska Railway, and the slow river routes lead into the interior of Alaska.

    I don't know enough about construction to say what the roadbed of the Alaska Railway requires, but I noticed while on a hike up the track this morning that an approaching freight did not seem any too secure on the rails as it rounded a curve - and it was not traveling fast. In fact because the road bed is not what it should be, all trains including the small deisel engine passenger trains make no attempt at speed.

    With this territory a vast storehouse of wealth, far beyond the billions in furs and precious metals that already have been taken out of it, and its vulnerableness to attack, I would like to shake much of the United States out of its lethargy about it. I wish every American could see Alaska, not becnuse it is beautiful beyond description, but because only then would they really appreciate it - even Anchorage, which isn't so bad in retrospect.

REAL FRIENDS

    There isn't in member of our party that I do not think I could learn to care for as a real friend if only the time were long enough. The four from Southern California, or rather five, for I must include our super-nice young guide, I shall probably meet again, but the others will be only pleasant memories, once this trip is over. I shall, without doubt, say quite proudly that I know Dr. Lobeck and have already told the Monsignor that I shall brag about knowing him after he becomes a Cardinal. I keep wishing some of my Catholic friends in Banning could meet him for I know how much they would enjoy him.

SOURDOUGH

    On the trip from Curry to McKinley National Park, where we are spending tonight at the lodge, I met an old Alaskan sourdough, who came to Alaska in the early days, learned to love it and remained to make his home in Fairbanks. In the course of our conversation, I learned he had come to Alaska from San Bernardino and that he is Frank McGarvey, member of a pioneer family of San Bernardino, as is my family.

    I was interested to learn that he knows Mary Ann Davis, who wrote "America's Attic," which I read and enjoyed in preparation for this trip. Mrs. Davis' husband was chief of the division of mines in Alaska with headquarters in Fairbanks. They were living there during the flu epidemic of World War I and Mrs. Davis, as one of the volunteer nurses, cared for Mr. McGarvey. He told me the address of their home in Fairbanks and I hope to see it during my short stay in that most important inland Alaskan city. The office of the Division of Mines in Alaska was abolished 15 years ago and Mr. and Mrs. Davis now live In Washington, D. C.

HIGHEST POINT

    I was surprised to learn that the highest point on the Alaska Railway is 2363 feet - less than Banning. Also that the U. S. Government, represented by the Department of the Interior, claims that Mt. McKinley is the highest peak, from its base, in the world. Banningites have for many years been making the same claim for Mt. San Jacinto which I admire every morning when I go out to pick up the newspapers.

    Tomorrow we start on a two-day trip to near this highest peak on the North American continent. It is clearing tonight and the park management advised our guide to take advantage of good weather as the peak is hidden by clouds much of the time.

McKINLEY PARK

    Aug. 11 - Now I have seen everything, including an Alaskan summer storm in all its fury. This morning we came over from Mt. McKinley Park Hotel to Camp Eielson, a distance of 65 miles, hoping to get a good view of Mt. McKinley, which is not visible from the hotel. We were fortunate enough to get a glimpse of both peaks (there are two), one 500 feet higher than the other. We were so far from this highest of all peaks on this continent that it was not nearly as impressive as other high peaks we have been close to. The sky was cloudy and we saw the peaks as the wind blew the clouds from in front of them, but never both at the same time.

    We arrived here at Eielson about 1:30 p. m.. had a delicious dinner, then I went for a walk, as did the doctor and the younger of the two padres. The doctor said he wanted to investigate to determine whether or not this camp is built on a landslide, and found that it is. I just wanted to walk, after a heavy dinner. They went one way, I, the other. I didn't learn until this evening that it isn't sale for a person to go walking alone here because an old mother grizzly and her cubs have their den nearby. She has already chased one of the women employees into camp.

            (to be continued)




Part 6: September 2, 1947

RAIN AND GALE

    It looked like rain when we set off on our hikes so I wore a raincoat and covered my head. Before I could make my way back to camp, I would see the storm was going to break at any minute, but none of us envisioned this gale which has whipped the rain against the buildings in a constant stream, with no indication that it will stop for many hours.

    We are billeted in small cabins on the edge ot the mountain but the management assures us they have withstand even worse storms than this. I could imagine someone pulling me out of the river at the bottom of the hill in the morning.

    The road maintenance crew came in a few minutes ago and calmed our fears about being stranded here because of washouts or landslides. They promised the buses will carry us back to the hotel in the morning. After being held up by floods outside of Whitehorse, we did not want again to be thrown off schedule.

GRIZZLY BEAR

    The trip over would have been an eventful one for me, even without the peek at Mt. McKinley, because of the number of animals we saw. Seeing the peak while on a short stay at the park seems to be the unusual, rather than the usual thing. The park employee, who drove our bus, told us that a park official had kept a record of 110 field days during which he had seen the peak only on 14 days.

    En route from the hotel, we came upon a mother Toklat Grizzly with two cubs. They were feeding about a quarter of a mile from us, and through field glasses we could see them perfectly. The golden brown mother, the bus driver estimated, weighed about 1200 pounds. The two cubs were darker brown and all had dark faces.

DESTRUCTIVE BEAST

    We stopped at a ranger station and saw how much destruction a grizzly will cause to get food when it is hungry. As a defense against grizzlies, the rangers had driven long nails from the inside through the thick door and through the shutters over the window. Mr. Bear, however, seemed to consider this precaution of mere man as a challenge to his own ingenuity. He chewed around the bottom of the shutter until he had in hole big enough for a part or his huge paw, which he pushed into the opening and then proceeded to pull off the shutter, break the window and climb in.

    Once inside, he devoured everything that was pleasing to his taste and scattered the remainder over the floor. The driver said there are none of the smaller varieties of bear in the park.

CARIBOU

    The bus driver also spotted a lone caribou, probably a straggler from a herd of 10,000 which had crossed the highway near that spot a few days previous. We also saw two mountain sheep high up on the range we were following. Last night, just as we arrived in the hotel, our attention was called to a herd of about 50 mountain sheep making their way up to the crest of the mountain. With field glasses we brought them near to us and watched until they disappeared from sight over the top.

    A colony of hoary marmot sat up and watched us as some of the tour members set their cameras for photographs. They, like the bear, hibernate during the winter. We saw several eagles in flight and ptarmigan, which belong to the grouse family, flew along by the bus to look us over. This bird wears protective white when the ground is covered with snow. By the way, my rubbers, purchased at Whitehorse, are reposing in my bag at the hotel. "Be Prepared" is my motto.

TEKLANIKA

    Here at the park I have learned a new descriptive word for our Southern California rivers. It is the Indian word "Teklanika," meaning "Big river, little water," and given to one of the rivers in the park. All the rivers we have seen in the park are "Teklanika."

    A short distance from the hotel, as we journeyed to Eielson, we emerged from the growth of scrubby conifers and traveled through valleys covered with low grass and other vegetation which grows only a few inches high. We saw a few new flowers that I could not catalogue even as to family. I might have made a guess could I have seen the foliage.

HUG THE STOVE

    August 12 - Members of our tour, the eight hardy ones who stayed over, are all sitting around the big stove here at Eielson after a hearty breakfast. It is too cold in the recreational hall and too cramped in our little cabins.

    We had considerable excitement in camp this morning when one of the cubs I wrote about yesterday appeared on the scene. It is being attracted to the camp by a cache of bacon and other food so delectable to grizzlies.

    How small this word is! The hostess, in reading the register, noticed that one of us came from Banning. She asked which one it was and then told me she lived in Banning in 1914. She was Mrs. Tupper Sanders at that time and was there with a sick husband who died in 1917. She then came north and is now Mrs. Louis Corbley. Her husband is one of the officials here at the park. Our bus arrived for us at the scheduled time. The clouds had not once parted, so we could not see Mt. McKinley, the object of the trip, 26 airline miles away. Dr. Lobeck and the younger padre decided to remain one more day, hoping for clear skies. I should like to have stayed with them but the other ladies were all returning, so I packed my bag and climbed into the bus, greatly disappointed, for Mt. McKinley was one of the things I most wanted to see in Alaska.

WE SEE McKINLEY

    Luck was with us, as it has been all through this trip through beautiful Alaska. About 19 miles from Camp Eielson, 45 airline miles from Mt. McKinley, the driver stopped, and there in the distance was this snow-clad giant mountain, framed in fleecy clouds, and nothing to obstruct our view.

    McKinley rises abruptly from a plateau which is only 2500 to 3000 feet elevation so you can realize how high this 20,300-foot peak looks in the distance. Last night here at Mt. McKinley hotel we saw motion pictures of the scaling of Mt. McKinley by an expedition in 1932 of which Mr. Corbley wns a member.

            (To be continued)




Part 7: September 5, 1947

CAN'T SCARE MR. BEAR

    Nine grizzlies were seen on the way home - some near the road, others so far away that it was necessary to use field glasses to see them well. We startled a mother and two cubs which went lumbering up a small hill and down on the other side. They were busily engaged in digging a supper of roots when we caught up with them again. Another shaggy old grizzly was so engrossed in digging roots that he didn't notice us when the bus stopped about 90 feet from him. Mr. Wallace and another young man wanted very much to make him raise his head so they could take photographs. They were the only two who got out of the bus and were warned by the driver not to go far from the car for the grizzly doesn't have the best disposition imaginable and, despite its size, can run 45 miles an hour. They threw rocks which hit near Mr. Grizzly but did not deter him from continuing with the business of getting his dinner. Finally others in the bus made sufficient noise to cause him to move. He crossed the road and disappeared down a gully.

    Seven mountain sheep were seen on this trip and numerous eagles and other birds. We picked up a fisherman who had fished all day by a stream with never a bite.

MT. McKINLEY HOTEL

    August 13 - This beaulitul hotel, owned by the United States, is operated by the Alaska Railway, which is also owned by the National government. The buildings are constructed of lumber with beaver board and birch for inside finish. The price for double room is $4.00 per person and for a single, $5.50. Meals are extra. The two-story hotel will house 170 people. There is also a two-story annex.

    The hotel was constructed in 1939 and was only open two seasons before the war broke out. The army then took it over for a rest camp for all men stationed in Alaska. Previous to this time the hotel has been open only during the short Alaskan summer. However, it is remaining open all this winter. It opened June 9 this year and up to today has entertained 3500 guests. These are divided about 50-50 from Alaska and the States, with many of the Alaskans being weekending Anchorage or Fairbanks folk. Many are men in uniform. Westerners predominate among the visitors from the states with many coming from California. I hope all are carrying back with them the same kindly feeling for Alaska that I am.

STATEHOOD

    From what 1 have read and learned here, there has been too much thought of what can we get out of Alaska, rather than a willingness to put back into the territory some of the wealth that has poured into the States from it. Alaska has voted two to one for statehood. It seems to me it should be granted to her, and the rest of us should remember then that she is the baby state and lend a helping hand.

    This evening we heard a man who is tops in the field of geology give a talk on glaciers. The speaker was Dr. Lobeck and the lecture was given in simple language that even a person who knew nothing about the subject could understand. It has been a rare privilege to be on a tour with him. He is very modest, as are most brilliant people, and thought only our group would be interested in hearing him. It turned out that practically every one in the hotel was there.

NORTHWARD BOUND

    August 14 - Today we again turn our faces northward and will not about-face until we are well within the Arctic Circle. Our destination today is Fairbanks, Alaska's greatest inland city.

    En route we saw the bridge over the Tanana at Nenana, which marks the place the ice breaking bets on the Tanana are decided each spring. The prize for the person guessing the time the ice will break is several thousand dollars. Mr. Mr.Garvey, the former San Bernardino man I met on the way to the park, told me he had missed it by seconds, twice.

    Here in Fairbanks we were lucky to get rooms at all. Mrs. Issenhuth has a single room in a very lovely home and the rest of the ladies are sleeping all over a large two-story house. Two of the ladies are in a double-bed in one bedroom, another in a single and two of us on cots in the dining room. The house is immaculate, also the beds, so we couldn't ask for more.

    The Chamber of Commerce has a lady who stays on the job every night until every one who wants a bed has one. People, who are willing to take visitors into their homes, leave their names with her and she telephones around until she finds a place for everyone.

WORLD'S RICHEST SOIL

    August 15 - Two more northward hops and then our plane will turn around and head back toward home.

    Today has been a free-day in Fairbanks. This afternoon most of our group went by taxi out to Ester where gold is being removed from the soil by hydraulic mining and dredging. We were told by one of the men working there that was the richest soil in the world. During the preceding 24 hours, $270,000 worth of gold had been washed out of the soil. There was a huge dredging machine at work and we were told it is the largest in the world.

    Returning, we stopped at the University of Alaska to see the museum. This school specializes in mining and agriculture, as it applies to Alaska. Three hundred students were registered last year.

    The taxis then took us out to Ladd field, the U. S. Army Airfield near Fairbanks, where extensive improvements are being made.

    Back in bed early tonight because we leave at seven in the morning.

NOME AND KOTZEBUE

    August 16 - This morning, about 10:15, our C-47 plane set down here at one of the three Nome airports. It was a perfect flight from Fairbanks. The rain started falling yesterday afternoon and was still dropping off the eaves at 3 o'clock this morning when I awakened. But, when we finally arose at 5 o'clock, in time to have breakfast and board the plane by a little after 7, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining brightly. This was what all of us were hoping for since, if it is clear tomorrow, as we wing our way farther north, we shall be able to see the coast of Siberia.

    The plane in which we are flying this circle trip - Fairbanks to Nome to Kotzebue and return to Fairbanks - is a re-converted Army Air Forces plane belonging to the Lavery Air Service Company at Fairbanks. There are seats on one side that were used by the officers and an bench along the other side for enlisted men. In the rear of the plane is room for a jeep or a MM Howitzer.

CROSS DATE LINE

    Before taking off we set our watches back one hour to Bering time. We have turned our watches back three times on this trip. We gained an hour in the hop from Vancouver to Whitehorse which put us in Yukon time. From Whitehorse to Anchorage, we gained our second hour and were then on Alaskan time. Today between Fairbanks and Nome we gained our third hour. Tomorrow, for a short time, we will be ahead a day since we cross the international date-line in Bering Straits at which point we will be between little Dlomede Island, belonging to the United States, and Big Diomede Island, belonging to Russia. They are only a few miles apart. The mainland of Russia is only 35 miles distant at that point.

    Shortly alter leaving Fairbanks we could see the muddy Tanana river below us and followed it until it joined the mighty Yukon, which is just as muddy. Then our plane flew down the valley of the Yukon for a long distance; and not so long after we left it, we saw the Bering Sea to the south of us and the Seward peninsula on which Nome is located to the north.

100-MILE VISIBILITY

    On the flight from Fairbanks, the pilot picked up a radio message on weather conditions in Nome which were to the effect that it was the best day in months with visibility 100 miles and a three-mile wind. All the way over fleecy clouds floated inland below us but, with the exception of about 10 minutes over the Seward peninsula, were so far apart that they did not obstruct our view of the tundra below, dotted here and there along the Yukon and Tanana by tiny villages, many with emergency landing fields.

    I went over to the Nome Nugget, the semi-weekly newspaper here in Nome, hoping to meet the editor, Mrs. Emily Boucher, but she was out to a tea and I missed her.

GOLD MINING

    Nome started with a gold rush back in 1898 and mining operations are still going on here. The hotel manager said every one is so busy mining during the summer months that there are no social activities. Much of the waterfront was undermined last winter by storms off the Bering Sea. Hugging the shoreline of Bering Sea, this little city of 1500 people, including local residents, army personnel and natives, is the headquarters or all government activities in Northwestern Alaska. The coming of the airplane brought the people of Nome near to the rest of Alaska. Previous to that time, it was a journey of several weeks by dog team from Nome to Fairbanks, the nearest city of any size. In the winter the Bering sea freezes for 10 miles out from land.

NATIVE ARTISANS

    In the afternoon most of our tour walked out to the native village to watch the native artisans making jewelry and other articles of ivory. The men were working under a boat of hide and between the odor of the hide and of the natives, one had to come up for air between questions.

    I asked Mrs. Wallace, owner of the hotel where we stayed, where Rex Beach had lived when he wrote "The Spoilers" and other stories of Alaskan life in gold rush days and was told the cottage had been destroyed by fire. However, about 12 miles out of Nome, another cottage in which he lived is still standing.

            (To be continued)




Part 8: September 9, 1947

DIOMEDE ISLANDS

    August 17 It doesn't seem possible that our luck could hold out, but it has. Today is clear. We took off at 9:30 this morning from the Nome airport, where our plane had put down yesterday. The plane followed around the edge of the Seward peninsula and for some little distance along the narrowest part of the Bering Straits we could very plainly see the coast at Siberia, without the use of binoculars.

    South or Big Diomede Island, which belongs to Russia, and Little Diomede Island, which belongs to the United States, the pilot crossed over the international date line and for a short time we were flying over Russian waters. Before we came to the Diomedes, he turned west and we were west of the Little Diomede when we passed them. We didn't want Uncle Joe's men sending up some planes to force us to land on Russian soil. Russia has an airbase on her island but ours is inhabited by only a few natives. By the way, three days before we arrived in Nome, a party of Siberian natives had left in their little boats, after a visit with the natives in Nome. Flying over the Bering Straits we were farther west than Hawaii and almost as far west as Midway island.

ARCTIC CIRCLE

    The pilot gave us a little bump when we crossed over Ihe Arctic Circle near the north tip of Seward peninsula as we entered Kotzebue Sound, a part of the Arctic ocean. Shortly afterward we landed at the little village of Kotzebue. There is a government radio station and hospital at Kotzebue. The village is inhabited largely by Eskimos, whose miserable little homes, or tents, line the waterfront with their dogs staked in front along the beach with possibly a dog sled or boat, also.

    The Eskimos are members of the yellow race while all other natives are members of the red race, as are our Indians. They are very oriental looking, friendly, and many of the women good looking. The women and girls wear on the outside of their other clothing, bright calico print dresses, made perfectly straight from the shoulder with a full ruffle about eight inches deep stitched around the bottom. There is always a bit of fur around the head piece which is attached to the dress. Unlike the Indians, they were willing to have their pictures taken, and smiled and said, "hello," when they met us. They were not very clean, but I wonder who would be under the same conditions.

    The Natives of Alaska, Indians and Eskimos, are not wards of the government as are our Indians in the States. When Russia deeded the territory to the United States, it was stated on the deed that the natives should have the full privileges or citizenship. Thus they can purchase all the liquor they want at any place where it is on sale The white people of Alaska did not divulge this provision to the natives; but a lawyer, who certainly did not have their interest in heart, did.

    All the men at Kotzebue were busily engaged in unloading a large freighter which was anchored about 12 miles out in the Arctic ocean. This ship had brought the winter's supplies for the little settlement and was the last ship expected until the following spring. Supplies were being stored in two large warehouses.

AURORA BOREALIS

    Mrs. Baron and I have been telling everyone to call us if ever they saw the Aurora Borealis and I had been hoping we would see it on the night trip back to Fairbanks from Kotzebue.

    The orange sun streaked the sky with crimson and the whole western horizon was aglow as the sun sank in the west. I looked at my watch as the sun dropped below the horizon. It was 8:12. The glow remained and was still there, but not so high, when about 11 o'clock the pilot sent back word that the northern lights were appearing in the north for the first time since June. We watched through our windows and each of us had the opportunity to go up front and look. When we climbed out of the plane at Fairbanks, the lights were putting on a magnificent display across the entire northern sky. They reminded me of rippling theatre curtains of light with the hem of the curtain a brilliant color and the remainder white.

    Seeing the shoreline of Russia as we did and the gorgeous sunset combined with the display of northern lights has made this trip worth, to me, all it has cost.

            (To be continued)




Part 9: September 12, 1947

   

MURDERS

    August 18 - We are held over in Fairbanks today because of a change in airplane schedules since our tour was arranged. There was considerable excitement in this little city of 9000 during our weekend trip to Nome and Kotzebue.

    Two married men shot out their dispute over a girl, in the Nordale, the biggest hotel in town. One was killed, the other wounded. During the same period there were two murders in Anchorage. Some one in our group remarked that Los Angeles isn't so bad after all.

    I learned sumelhing interesting about the pilot of our plane on the Nome-Kotzebue trip. He is William Lavery, a young Fairbanks man, who was awarded a Russian medal by Stalin for rescue of cargo and men from a disabled Russian freighter which ran into an iceberg on the north coast of East Cape in 1940. The Russians purchased American planes; Mr. Lavery, then a very young man, coached the Russian crews in operating the planes and then directed rescue and salvage operations. He was invited to Moscow where Stalin pinned the decoration on hom. The story was told to me by Chuck West, owner of the Arctic-Alaska Travel Service, which arranged the Nome-Kotzebue trip.

REINDEER DINNER

    I forgot to mention that at Kotzebue we were served a reindeer dinner. I couldn't eat my meal, so fed it to a pour half-starved Husky pup that was hanging around for a handnout. I had read somewhere that the Indians and Eskimos are not very kind to their dogs and, I can believe it, for I have never seen one pet a dog or speak affectionately to one as we do to our pootches. I saw two Eskimos kick a poor dog that was walking along the beach and not bothering anyone. When the dog slinked away, both laughed heartily. Later I saw a boy, about nine, amusing himself by twisting a young Husky's ears while the dog whined from pain, but made no attempt in bite the child.

    I also forgnl to mention in the description of Kotzebue about the lines of fish drying in the sun. Every Indian and Eskimo hut all over Alaska has these lines with fish for their dogs. The fish are halved and the bones removed. I was told each of the dogs is fed one fish a day.

DELAYED BY RAIN

    August 19 - Rain started falling again last night and it is still storming this morning. We kept the radio on for the 9:30 a. m. weather and airplane departure news. Not so good. But when we met Mr. Wallace at breakfast about 11 he said the plane was still planning to leave at 1 p. m. About noon, he came out to the house where all the ladies are staying, with the disappointing news that our plane cannot land at Juneau so now we are delayed until 1:15 a. m. tomorrow. He invited us out to dinner at the Log Cabin, a nice place near Fairbanks.

    The temperature fell to 28 degrees Sunday night and the maximum is running around 65 so we Southern Californians are going to notice the heat when we get back.

    August 20 - At 1 a. m. our alarm clock sounded an insistent order that we get out of bed and prepare for our next step back to the states and our various homes. We sneaked around like ghosts so as not to awaken the Fairbanks lady who had opened her home to five ladies of our party. At two the cab called for us. It was still cloudy but not raining. At the airport we boarded a big Pan-American airship which had carried construction workers to Alaska. The 10 of us and two additional passengers had plenty of room to move about in a plane which seats 54.

SUNRISE ABOVE CLOUDS

    We flew up and up until we looked down on a sea at clouds without an opening anywhere. The takeoff was at 3:20 and already the northern and eastern skies were aglow with the light from the sun which appeared above the clouds at 3:45. Shortly afterward, the two little stewardesses brought us breakfast of fruit juice, fried ham, French toast, jam and milk or coffee. The plane was flying high, I knew, but I did not know it was too high for me, for any length of time, until I began to feel as if I were going to faint. Mrs. Boren from Long Beach, who was sitting next to me, noticed I was ill, summoned one of the stewardesses, and from that time on for much of the 800-mile trip I was under an oxygen mask. We were traveling at 12,000 feet, I learned from the stewardess, who came to remove the mask as we came down out of the clouds over Skagway, which we had visited on the way north.

    What a view we had from there on as we flew along toward Juneau, capital of the territory! On both sides, as far as we could see, were lofty snow-capped mountain peaks, slate color near us, changing to blue in the distance - sharp peaks, scraped by glaciers, until they have the appearance of having been sliced off by a knife. Down their steep sides, and in the valleys between peaks, slowly move immense glaciers from which milky streams tumble in their rush to the sea.

            (To be continued)




Part 10: September 19, 1947

THE CAPITAL

    Juneau, Alaska, August 20:

[The following paragraph has been heavily edited from the way it was originally printed, as lines were out of order and even upside-down - see a scan of the original.]

    At 8:25 a. m. we stepped from the plane at Juneau and could readily understand why we had been forced to wait for a plane that could land there during daylight hours. Juneau is built on a narrow strip of land against an almost perpendicular mountain which towers to an elevation of 6200 feet above the city, which is only a few feet above sea level. When we saw the city, we regretted more than ever the storm which had delayed us in Fairbanks. Juneau is by far the most beautiful of all Alaskan cities; not alone because it has the prettiest setting, but the city itself is one of well-kept homes, a business district with a metropolitan air and clean, paved streets. It is a comfortable city in which to live too, since, even in the dead of winter, the temperature seldom goes below 10 degrees above zero; and I have seen the thermometers drop to 18 degrees in Banning. At the Baranof Hotel, we picked up Mrs. Issenhuth of Hollywood, who had been my roommate part of the time. But for the delay at Fairbanks, we would have been guests for two days at this hotel which competes with the one at McKinley Park for best in Alaska.

FAMOUS MADONNA

    Most of us wanted to see Sitka, the capital of Alaska when it was under Russian rule, so we boarded a small sea plane for the 300-mile round-trip to the island on which Sitka is located. The trip to Sitka was delightful. Below us small fishing boats skimmed along, the salt foam high in front of them and an ever widening silvery wake trailing behind. On each side, were small spruce-covered islands, dotted with tiny lakes, as clear as mirrors in the sunlight.

    Due to the delay in Fairbanks and the absolute necessity of making the Canadian Pacific steamship, Prince Rupert, at Ketchikan, the following morning, we had little time in either Sitka or Juneau. At Sitka, which was founded in 1799 and named Arkangelsk, we visited the forest of totem poles and St. Michael's Cathedral, old Russian church, built in 1799, in which we saw the priceless Sitka madonna. The original painting, with the exception of the faces of the mother and babe, is now covered with silver as are parts of many of the paintings. J. P. Morgan, several years ago, offered $30,000 for the madonna and expressed willingness to raise his price when the offer was refused. There is also an exquisite chalice, used only at Christmas and Easter, a silver crucifix, decorated with three lovely porcelain miniatures, wedding crowns, studded with Siberian crystal, and many other antiques for which a collector would give a fortune. A young priest of the Russian Catholic faith conducted us about the church which is still used regularly. There are no pews and worshippers must either stand or kneel.

    When we returned to our plane, the fog was settling fast. We boarded it and the plot attempted the flight to Juneau but was forced back by poor visibility. Two more of our precious hours were wasted in impatient waiting for the fog to drift away so we could make the hop hack to Juneau.

MENDENHALL GLACIER

    Dinner at the Bnranui and a quick trip to the foot of Mendenhall glacier completed our short stay in the territorial capital, which in addition to being the seat of government, has large salmon canneries and spruce mills. The population is 7500.

    Much of the 300-mile airplane trip south to Annette Island, on which the airport serving Ketchikan is located, was made after dark. It was late when we landed so, instead of making the boat trip to Ketchikan, where we had hotel reservations, we bunked in the Pan-American Guest house, which is quite comfortable.

    August 21 - After a substantial breakfast in the Pan-American dining room, we flew the 18 miles to Ketchikan in an amphibian plane. Ketchikan, salmon capital of the world, a little city of 5000, is perched along the side of a steep mountain with the street nearest the ocean from partly paved and partly of boards, with the board part over the ocean. It is the farthest south city in Alaska. Some or our party went to visit the canneries and brought back souvenirs or freshly packed salmon.

            (To be continued)




Part 11: September 23, 1947

    I took time to see Jessica Bird, sister of my good friend, Sue Coombs, and a former resident of Banning. Miss Bird was war-time editor of the Riverside Press. When the editor returned, she accepted a position with University of California at Berkeley and had been spending the summer at Ketchikan while working on The Alaska Sportsman, well-known publication, published in that city. She was planning on leaving for the states two days later.

    Ketchikan was the last place we saw the beautiful Alaska flag, the Big Dipper in gold on a field of blue; very appropriate. The Big Dipper is almost directly overhead in Alaska.

INLAND PASSAGE

    At 11:15 a. m. we boarded the S. S. Prince Rupert for the trip down the beautiful Inland Passage to Vancouver. It was on the Prince Rupert that I and my family made the trip down from the city by the same name, several years ago, after a vacation at Jasper National Park.

    At 7 p. m., our ship tied up at Prince Rupert for a four-hour stay which extended to almost six hours since the rain from Jasper was late. It so happened that the day was Port Day and a ship from the British Navy and one from the Canadian Navy were in port. They put on a fireworks display that was very beautiful over the water.

    August 22 - Sleeping space was at a premium on this boat last night and some of the passengers who boarded the ship at Price Rupert were forced to sleep in the lounge. Our staterooms, mine and Mrs. Issenhuth's were sold twice and at 1 a. m. this morning there was an argument over who was to sleep in the second stateroom allotted to us. Inn the first place, when we boarded the boat at Ketchikan, our baggage was placed in a stateroom already occupied by a man who was supposed to vacate at Prince Rupert. He changed his mind, however, decided to continue on, and refused to budge, so we had to move. At 1 a. m., a lady, who had been sold the lower berth of the stateroom, which we were occupying, tried to enter with all her baggage. When we told her there were already two ladies in the room, she went away, only to return and insist that we let her in, which we were quite positive we were not going to do. Then she summoned half the ship's crew to oust us. Our explanation satisfied the crew and we were left to continue an interrupted sleep.

    In the middle of the day, a stop was made at Ocean Falls, where is located the Pacific Mills Limited paper mill, the most northerly-located pulp and paper mill in North America. The mill and town, which hoses 1300 employees and their families, are built on a narrow piece of land hemmed in by the ocean on one side and high mountains on the other. We toured the mill, which produces 140,000 tons of paper annually. The company is a subsidiary of Crown Zellerbach company from which the Banning Record receives much of its news print.

GOODBYES

    August 23 - Last day of tour and time for goodbyes. All the men of the party except the guide left us at Vancouver, B. C., after a farewell dinner. Three of the ladies left us at Seattle were we spent the night.

    August 24 - About 9:15 a. m., the four remaining members of the party. the guide, the lady from Long Beach, the one from Hollywood and myself boarded a United Airlines plane for the 1100-mile flight back to Los Angeles. It was a perfect day and we had a wonderful view of Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier and other snow-covered peaks in the Cascades range. Mr. Wallace used his last film on Mt. Shasta and soon afterward the brown and tan sunbaked hills of California came into view below us. At Los Angeles, there were more hasty farewells as we had all been met by relatives. Our 10,000-mile Alaska tour had come to an end.

AS I SEE IT

    Is Alaska all that you expected it to be and what do you think of its future, are the two questions asked most often of me since my return. The answer to the first is easy. It is a very positive "yes." The scenery of Alaska is magnificent, the summer climate delightful, and the people friendly. At the present time it is no place for the tourist who must travel de luxe. One must become accustomed to toting bags, rooms without running water, one bath to a floor, 1898 furniture, planes, trains, and buses, which, while perfectly safe are not luxurious, few vegetables, no milk, and weather which often interferes with schedules.

    I can not help but believe, with ever increasing air travel, Alaska will become the summer playground of many who live in the states. Its vast store of gold, copper, coal, and silver has scarcely been scratched. The forests of Alask are fourth in rank in merchantable timber standing in the states today. Over $150,000,000 worth of furs have been shipped fromm the territory; government reports show 5,796,000 acres of farming land; and millions of cans of salmon are shipped out each year. With this in mind, I am sure Alaska will become the permanent home of thousands of ambitious young Americans who will find there the security they have been unable to attain in more populous areas.

    An afterthought and apropos to something I said in one of my letters about Alaska being treated like a stepchild, in that most people in the states think only of what they can get from the territory, not what they can put into it - I noticed in a press dispatch that irate merchants of Ketchikan had taken matters in their own hands in connection with the CIO Longshoremen's Union's over-month-old strike and had tied a ship up to the docs and were unloading it. I said before the unions connected with the shipping industry have a strangle hold on Alaska. It seems to me our government should use Navy ships, if necessary, to see that its citizens get the food and clothing they need for a long hard winter.