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1959-60 - Memories of Yakutat, Alaska in the years of 1959-60 by young man who was treated kindly.
I went first to Yakutat on a contract setting out mining claims South of Yakutat at Latulia Bay (SP), worked there for about four months. Very rugged, very in touch with nature. This area had been previously mined at about the turn of the century. Back off the shore was an overgrown road, just a moss trail then. We use to walk the road out to where we would start setting out claims. The brown bears also used it and steeped in their own tracks so that their foot prints were etched in the moss. I next went to work for Ed Voss who was the Standard Oil Distributor at Yakutat. The next year Arnie Isrealson became the Standard Oil Distributor and I worked for him. The pay wasn't much but it was a good job. If I was to go to work 6 am I would step out of the little cabin I had use of at the airport and drive the fuel truck over to the office and was given a list of deliveries for the day which pretty much matched eight hours work. I could work hard and get done in 6 hours or spend some time at the Coast Guard playing pool and maybe eating some pie. The Federal Aviation Agency ran he airport and had family quarters at the airport. Between the FAA people and the people in the village of Yakutat I believe I was always invited to dinners on holidays and many other days besides. In those days at Yakutat there wasn't any TV and only at night would you get radio but what reception the from as far away as California and Hawaii. But most of our entertainment was each other. In the form of formal entertainment the Coast Guard and the FAA each had a movie once a week and the FAA had a dance once a week. At the FAA dance you were thought best of if you danced with everyone of all ages and once you got use to dancing with a 12 year old one dance and a 87 year old the next it was great fun with a very homey feeling. Sure missed it when I went back South and you only danced with the woman you brought if you didn't want to risk starting a fight. The Indians at Yakutat were (I believe) Klinket Indians who in the old days were fierce fighters and very proud in my days in Yakutat. I was told to be careful when I went to town but I found you could find trouble if you were looking for it but they treated me very well. I remember the old Post Office were the Post Master lived in the back part while the front part was used as a Post Office. This man and his family treated to some fine dinners and conversation. I was only 18 at the time and surely was much of a conversationalist. The two commercial flyers at the airport where Dick Nickles and Dale Firestack who I got to know fairly well as I was an Airframe and Powerplant licensed mechanic. I remember one time with Dick at the mouth of one of the rivers South from Yakutat with the tide out and the sand all ripply, we loaded the back seat of a Cessna 170 with cut up moose meat and tried to take off across the bay banging and crashing until we came to a lagoon were Dick skidded to a stop and we quickly taxied back and he took off one haunch of meat and somehow we staggered out of there. Dick had one short leg and stiff at the knee also from a previous auto wreak. Just before I left Yakutat for the last time he had a aircraft wreck pulling a heavy jack of beach. An Indian who saw the wreck said Dick hit so hard it looked like dust came off the wings. I was told if it wasn't for this Indian Dick would have died as the wreck was rolling up and down the beach in the surf. I was told that Dick's knee freed up from all this although he broke both legs. Dick later died, how or what from I don't know, maybe Dale is still flying around up there. A new car at Yakutat in those days was one that hadn't gone through a winter yet and gotten it's sides mangled. The main road to town was snowblower cleared and the side would be snow 14 feet high and frozen. The road was gravel and crowned so you drove down the middle of it in the winter and stayed on top of the crown and when you met another vehicle coming from the other way you got off the crown just enough to share the crown with the on-coming traffic. Sooner or later you went sliding into the frozen snow and ice on the shoulders and with dented sides you car was not now new to Yakutat. I remember hearing a car that sounded real funny, kind of hissing as it went along. I figured out what it was, it was new. The sides weren't dented and it had a muffler, that is why it sounded different. I loved Yakutat so much that I claimed it as my home town for years. I only once got back to Yakutat as I got a job, married and then the long struggle to provide but I still remember them and wish them well. Submitted by: Michael A. Woody
This page is for perpetual written accounts of historical events that have occurred in the city. Anyone who feels they have pertinent information may submit it. This includes all people in or out of Yakutat and could involve any interested adults or children with events or items that are of interest. Items may be submitted for publication on this page where they will remain as part of a historical archive for the city. Items of interest may include noteworthy events, special events of historical importance, information about area growth that pertains to the history of the city, and other pertinent notes. We hope to establish a large data base of information about the history of each city. Historical Societies are encouraged to open their own page on Key to the City for more extensive historical information.
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