I remember my mother getting an early Polaroid camera – quite the novelty, of its day. Leave it to me, I accidentally knocked it over, as it was mounted on the tripod and cracked the view-finder lens – one spanking delivered with enthusiasm.
I remember some of mom's music on records, such as "Heart of my Heart;" add some barbershop quartet.
And, I remember a unique winter night sky - a solid red, from the Aurora – that lasted for two nights! (Red is awfully unusual, for the Aurora.)
I remember the concerns about a Russian nuclear attack. But, the thought was that if it happened, Curry was too distant to worry that much.
The hotel hosted a rather constant bunch of transient railroad crewmen, of different sorts. These usually stayed at the basement level, below the 'bridge' section, of the original "T."
The ACS crew stayed in the basement rooms of the old annex section.
Given my December birthday, I wasn't 'legal' to start school, when we first moved to Curry, but the teacher, Mrs. Rouse, didn't care, she enrolled me anyway. She was quite the inspiration; I was reading and counting to 100 so fast, I was thrilled, myself. Over time, the 'reading' took hold, math never did that well.
Oh, for the memories of Dick and Jane; and their dog "Spot!"
I got almost straight As, but I'm not that sure I actually earned them. Dad pledged one dollar per "A," but resorted to the statement that only readin' and 'rithmetic counted, when I produced my report card. The 'Norwegian' in him had its ways.
The next year, Mrs. Pine, the new teacher, decided that I would be put back in the first grade – that was 'war.' The days of the good report card were over.
A major event was when the PHS nurse would come through, everybody got 'shots,' or so it would seem. The polio vaccine was rather new. Along with that came the fold-over red-cross buttons and the slotted "dime" cardboard presentations, for the "March of Dimes" money collection. I think they had a lot of people still in the pneumatic "iron lungs."
Eventually, the PHS "TB" team came through, with their X-ray gear and the 48-pin BCG "shot," boy, did that hurt! The "needle" was a one inch square plate with 48 short pins – appearing to be 1/8 inch long. The nurse used a square magnetic block to pick up the plates, then pressed the plate onto the person's arm. The pins were just long enough to penetrate the skin – with a rocking motion – ouch! Yeah, there was a lot of swelling, similar to the smallpox immunization.
The TB team set up in the old dining room storage room, which would later be converted into the bar. (I think it was originally a cocktail lounge, built in 1945.) The 'mass' of people coming through required the standing space and easy access.
The hotel had a respectable infirmary room, in the old annex portion. I remember the infirmary striking me as a mad-scientist's lab, as a row of hypodermic syringes and needles were set up – nothing which represented a sterile 'norm.' I suspect that impression came from a scene in the movie, "The Tarantula." Quite a movie, in its day. Mom wouldn't let me watch it, but I sneaked in about half an hour of it, anyway.
Then, dad bought a gas-driven lawn mower to take care of the hotel grounds. That produced a brief audience.
While I'm thinking about it; I might mention that it was common for people to have their own medicines, to the extreme of a syringe and bottle of penicillin. Such was the Alaskan 'bush.'
During the summer, 'tourists' would briefly get off the train and explore what there was of Curry. Occasionally, my sister, Karen and I would sell strawberries that we picked. The parents got all the money; we never quite broke the code on the low profit margin. Probably something about dutiful children, or some such.
Then, Talkeetna's Cliff Hudson, the local "Bush Pilot" came to town. A great guy and my personal hero. He'd take me flying when he could, in his Mae West yellow Piper Pacer, with the red trim. Man alive, did he accidentally get me started on a dubious career! (I eventually became a commercial pilot, Army aviator and airline pilot.)
Cliff was quite the hero and local legend in his own right. He didn't come to Curry all that often, but he always took me for a ride, if he had room. Most of the rides were in concert with taking someone for a local air tour of the region. On one occasion, I went with him on a moose hunt. He had the plane on skis. Talk about a kid freezing his feet, I thought that trip would never be over – but I didn't complain. I spent most of the time in the plane, memorizing every detail.
I can remember one particular 'charter' that Cliff attempted. He'd landed on the frozen Susitna River, on skis, trying to take some of the ACS guys for a flight. The snow was new, deep, wet and 'sticky.' Unfortunately, even with the GIs trying to push-start the plane; the flight ended up getting cancelled. It was quite a drama to watch. Cliff was fortunate to be able to take off empty!
Then, one day, the word came that Cliff had gone down! As he told the story later, the oil dip-stick had come loose and destroyed the interior of the engine. Fortunately, the landing was safe, requiring an engine replacement. If I remember the stories correctly, Cliff borrowed the money for the new engine from Dad and Al Yakasoff. Those kinds of things were common, in those days.
In hindsight, I was probably a pest to Cliff, but he didn't seem to mind. For novelty, he took me to Talkeetna for an overnight stay, a couple of times. That was a short flight, but great adventure, anyway. In hindsight, possibly Cliff was trying to demonstrate his paternal tendencies, as he was courting Ollie, at the time.
The sociology of the 'bush' was rather unique; probably typical of frontier societies. Many people stood taller than others, because they could. Cliff was one of those. A kinder and gentler soul couldn't be asked for. Not from my memories, certainly.
In those times, people were measured by their deeds, particularly when it came to their nobility. "Giving" was the norm. In frontier societies, you don't reap what you sow – you eat it! Scripture may have it that it's more blessed to give than to receive, but it may be reasonably be said of human nature, that giving is generally more thrilling than to receive. The 'giving' wasn't a cultural obsession of Alaska; it was just very common. Part of the 'giving' was decency, part of it was hedging on a bet that one day, you might need something – desperately.
Such were the proverbial "…good old days."
The 'big' name of local pilots was Don Sheldon; yet many thought Cliff was the better pilot. They were rivals, but there seemed to be a way of keeping peace. It's not particularly fair to compare the two, as they were both highly admired and respected pilots – deservedly so. If any difference can be cited, it may be said that people knew, respected and admired both; but Cliff was loved by all. Anyone who knew the two were amazed that no one did a biography of Cliff, as was done in the case of Don Sheldon. Certainly, they both deserved a glowing biography, but Cliff's mild-mannered character probably cost him a deserved spotlight, of his own. As I remember Cliff, that's the way he wanted it, though.
Page 7 | Index | Page 9