A series of ten public television oral history documentaries.

In 2004 extensive interviews were conducted with all of the remaining living delegates of the Alaska Constitutional Convention, those who worked at the convention, and other notable Alaska figures. These interviews were conducted by historian Dr. Terrence Cole of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and public television producers in preparation of the Creating Alaska project and the upcoming celebration of the 50th anniversary of statehood.

These pioneer Alaskans tell about their contributions and involvement in forming the state. They also tell about their lives, their lives in Alaska, and reminisce about the early days of Alaska as a territory and the journey to statehood.

The programs were produced by 360 North in collaboration with the Alaska Film Archives at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Funding was provided by the Alaska Humanities Forum, The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Alaska Committee.

Episode 1: The Constitutional Convention and Statehood

Alaska Statehood Pioneers: In Their Own Words
The Constitutional Convention and Statehood

Vic Fischer: When I came to Alaska in 1950 I was completely shocked to find that I was no longer a full-fledged citizen of the United States. I had fought war to save democracy. I had already voted for President and US Senate in Wisconsin before and came and all of a sudden I’m in Alaska. I’m deprived of right to vote for President, right to have voting representation in the US Congress, the old cry of taxation without representation. And I was in this federal enclave of colony of the United States Government. And so I was outraged and there were quite a few other young people, veterans mostly, who were coming to Alaska at that time and we all felt very dissatisfied with the situation.

Opening Titles

Narrator: Alaska experienced major growth and change in the 1940s and 1950s, fueled largely by the territory’s militarization during World War II and the onset of the Cold War. Territorial status left many of the of new residents, like Vic Fischer, indignant. A diverse and growing number of Alaskans, from career politicians and bureaucrats to shopkeepers and missionaries in the bush, joined the statehood movement that culminated in 1959. Fifty-five delegates from across the territory met in Fairbanks during a frigid winter in 1955. They wrote a state constitution from scratch and charted a course to turn Alaska into the 49th state.

In this episode, eight key figures from state history will describe how it all came together. In later episodes, they’ll share personal stories and talk individually about how their lives intersected with history.

Intertitle: Before Statehood

Vic Fischer: We had a number of congressional hearings on statehood committees would come up to Alaska aside from committee hearings in Washington …

Those hearings were fascinating. I remember Mildred Kirkpatrick testified at that particular hearing also, which was held in the Carpenter’s Hall at Fourth Avenue and Denali. And she was the Republican National Committeewoman and she told about the – working and being enthusiastic about the Republican President being elected Eisenhower becoming President and how she received a formal invitation to the inauguration and she was excited and she got on a plane and flew down to Seattle to go to Washington, DC. And in Seattle she had to go through immigration just as if she were coming from Japan or France, she had to go through immigration to prove that she was an American citizen. And she broke down with the ignominity of the situation that my president was being inaugurated and I’m treated like a foreign and not an American citizen.
Vic Fischer: The territory had very limited authority. The governor of Alaska under the territorial government was appointed by the President. The highway department was run by the federal government. The court system was run by the federal government. The communications system, long distance telephone system, was run by the Army. Essentially everything all around. Management of resources, fish and game, lands, forest, everything was federal.

Vic Fischer: And the main argument that I advanced then was that with statehood we could control over resources, control over transportation, control over other aspects of the infrastructure and that we would be able to manage our own affairs and move things forward rather than depending on decisions made in Washington by people who really didn’t care about what happens in Alaska.

Vic Fischer: Late 1954, it became very clear that congress again hadn’t acted on Alaska statehood bill and that something more needed to be done, some kind of a push was needed and Wendell Kay and others suggested that well the time has come to go ahead and write a constitution for the future state of Alaska. Hawaii had already adopted a constitution in 1950.

Tom Stewart: As a territory if we wanted some official expression to the President or the Congress we had to write a memorial asking them to do something and it isn’t very long – maybe I should read it. It is House Joint Memorial Number 1 passed by the House January 25, 1955 and by the Senate February 8th. It is addressed to the Honorable Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States who was not especially in favor of statement and to the Congress of the United States.

In memorial of the legislature of the Territory of Alaska in 22nd Session assembled respectfully submits that:

We representatives of the citizens of Alaska again appeal to you the duly constituted representatives of all the people of the United States that you may recognize us and our constituency as equal citizens under the democratic flag of America. We remind you again that the people of Alaska have demonstrated with all their history their territorial status, their inherence to the principles upon which the government of the United States was founded and remind you by referendum and by acclamation through our land an overwhelming majority of our people have declared unequivocally their desire for statement and the right of a free people to govern themselves. We recall to you that your own electors through the platforms of the major political parties and by their popular accord have given you a mandate for statement for Alaska and therefore we ask that you collectively and as individuals dismiss all partisan concerns, look only to the merits of our cause, recognizing correctly injustice we suffer in not being allowed to govern ourselves or participate in the election of the President or having voting representation in the Congress, all of which may be cured by enabling immediate statehood for Alaska your memorialists ever pray.

I wrote that – that’s the way I felt at the time.

George Rogers: Tom is the one who sort of went into local and territorial politics in order to promote statehood and he did it very systematically and very thorough and he worked very hard on this. He worked up the idea of the convention. He also worked up the idea on staffing it and bringing in a consulting firm that was top flight to tell us. He was determined to have what he considered to be a model constitution. We could learn from what mistakes had been made in the past. So he had devoted a lot of his time to that. When he was in the legislature he worked very hard to get the legislation for the convention, the appropriations, all those sort of things. And it was almost a single-handed job.

Tom Stewart: And we decided on a convention of 55 members because that would give us an opportunity to have better spread. Forty-eight of those members were elected from those 22 – from those districts, but there was one district at large. So seven of the members ran at large over the whole territory. They were people like Ralph Rivers and his brother Vic Rivers, who were well known. Ralph had been the Attorney General elected territorial wide and Vic had been the President of the Senate. And there were four or five others that ran at large, but the net result was that the convention was the most representative body that had ever been assembled in a governmental function in Alaska. We had people from Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, Haines, Valdez, Cordova, Kodiak, Seward, Dillingham, Palmer, Unalakleet, Nome, Kotzebue, far and away – the most representative group that had ever assembled for a governmental purpose. Today you couldn’t do that because the Supreme Court decision in Baker vs. Carr determined that for an election to state legislatures one man – one vote. The districts have to have drawing of equal populations within a small percentage and it would not be possible to have that kind of a body assembled, but at that time it was and that was a critical function – a critical aspect of the success of the convention because the people at large knew that they had representatives participating in the decisions that were made there.

George Rogers: Not everybody at the convention was in favor of Alaska becoming a state but they went along with this idea because it was an opportunity to examine what was possible here and I got some very interesting feedback from some very conservative people on that. That was what that whole experience was just marvelous.

Intertitle: Choosing Where to Convene

Tom Stewart: And I was elected to be the secretary of the convention so I resigned as executive officer of the statehood committee and served as the secretary of the convention in charge of all the administrative aspects – getting these consultants to come, arranging their travel, arranging all the physical space, all the details and structure of that convention.

Tom Stewart: And everywhere I went I said how do you set up a convention? How do you get qualified advisors to help you work on the substance of a constitution? And I got some excellent advice from Mrs. Katzenbach, …

…who was a Vice President of the New Jersey Convention of ’46, which was a very successful convention.

…She said hold your convention at the State University. I said we don’t have a State University. We have something called the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. Well hold it there instead of in the capitol. Because the capitol has entrenched lobbying interests and they will be lobbying for their pet projects. If you go to the University you will have a library facility. It is a much better scene. …

Katie Hurley: Commons, it was the Commons. It was a very new building. And the bookstore was there and they just gave the bottom part over to the delegates. And they had made a stage so that Bill Egan was one level above, but he was the only person up on that level and I was right below him. I have a picture. It is very primitive. It is not fancy. It is just this table and everybody smoked who smoked. Can you believe it? You can see everybody smoking during the session. Bill Egan was a chain smoker and I never smoked, but I certainly breathed enough smoke during that convention.

Tom Stewart: It was an unpopular decision in Juneau because there were a lot of people in Juneau who were concerned even in those days about the possibility of moving the capitol. And I remember going to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and Curtis Shattuck, whom I already described to you, was an anti-Gruening Democrat, sitting across the table from me . Underneath the table he kicked me severely in the shins because I had promoted the idea of having the convention at the University.

Jack Coghill: The thing is that Juneau, and of course there was big push by a lot of the heavies in Anchorage to move the legislature to move the capitol and all of that was a part of it, so Juneau and southeast Alaska didn’t want anything to do with Anchorage. And so Fairbanks, we became the neutral ground. And so the Fairbanks delegation, the Nome delegation, and the Southeastern Delegation ganged up on them and said we’re going to have the Constitutional Convention in Fairbanks.

Jack Coghill: And so you didn’t have organized groups. You didn’t pressure groups coming out there to the University and sitting. And a lot of times a lot of school groups were out. I had school people from Nenana come up and we had one of the gals that was a senior that gave a talk to the Constitutional Convention. We had a lot of visiting firemen that spoke to us and one thing or another, but pretty much left us alone to do the things that we had to do.

Tom Stewart: The only organized group that came and lobbied the convention. …

The education lobby. The school superintendents came to represent their representatives to Fairbanks and they had a three-page detailed article on education.

The constitution says about education there are three sentences. The legislature shall by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the state and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.

That’s the whole constitution on education. Fundamental basic concept. The details are left to the legislature.

Jack Coghill:
In fact the ordinance that we put in abolishing fish traps. We didn’t get the fishing industry out of Seattle or the pressure groups from the fishing industry that were Nick (inaudible) and all of those that were the big fishmongers. They didn’t show up because nobody thought we were serious. Thought we were just a group of people going through an exercise.

Tom Stewart: It was the remoteness, the middle of the winter. It was a cold winter – 50 below zero.

George Rogers: When I first saw the University it looked like a Siberian penal institution. We had these wooden structures with a water tower which had a clarion was tape playing up on top there and just reminded me of pictures I’ve seen in Siberia of these buildings. And this was this territorial days so they couldn’t go into debt.

Vic Fischer: I remember the first day I tried to move the car and the car didn’t want to go. And then I forced the car forward and it sort of went ga-plunk and I got out and looked and couldn’t see anything and didn’t have a flat. Then I went and pushed it again and it went ga-plunk and then looked out. Anyway, then I learned that tires froze flat at least in those days. I’m not sure they still do. But it was quite an experience to be in this cold Fairbanks all of a sudden. And that of course was a continuing theme through the convention.

Intertitle: Electing a Convention President

Vic Fischer: The most active one in pursuit of the presidency was Vic Rivers of Anchorage. He had been a territorial senator, very strong politician and engineer by profession. A very, if you look around you’d identify him as a powerful politician. And he was lobbying actively to be selected for that post. Many of us novices, younger ones, who had not been involved in politics were suspicious of anyone of that sort who was actively lobbying for the position you might say wanted it.

Vic Fischer: Our concern basically was that some of those older establishment types were going to control the convention and try and push the constitution in some direction that we didn’t know but that there might be some hidden agendas

Vic Fischer: And on Sunday morning, the day before the opening of the convention, Egan arrived having hitchhiked on a truck from Valdez and he was confronted with the proposition and he was agreeable and Burke Riley was one of those who was very strong advocate for Bill Egan. And so then there was sort of an agreement among this group of younger rural types, the nonpolitical types that Bill Egan ought to be president, but no one was skilled enough to make a count really and know for sure.

George Sundborg: I didn’t vote for Bill Egan, which I should have done. Bill Egan proved to be a wonderful presiding officer. He was so thoughtful of everybody there and all of his decisions were right and I was so impressed with him. But even though I hadn’t supported him for president, he appointed me chairman of the committee on style and drafting. And I’m sure it was because I’ve had a journalistic background and could put words together.

Katie Hurley: He didn’t care about being a star himself I guess is the best – the reason why he – and he was so willing to look at people individually and not be judgmental. And yet you know there were people who he had worked with and I think were on opposite sides but he saw his role, just did it, and much more – much better than anyone could have imagined that he had a very you know just a gentle way.

Maynard Londborg: You hear from ex-delegates now they’ll all – that’s about the first thing they mention is how fair Egan was as a chairman, president of the – there was a lot of us that didn’t know the fancy Roberts Rules backwards and forwards and he could cut us off and just you are out of order you know and you’d stand there bewildered. But he would just like a good schoolteacher he would just draw it out.

Katie Hurley: My favorite is when he would stop – he’d see somebody who was inexperienced, hadn’t been in a legislative body or hadn’t served on a city council or had any kind of experience and he could tell that they wanted to make a motion or make an amendment and he’d stop and call a recess and motion to them to come up and he’d say yeah. Cause I could hear him cause he was – they were right beside me and he’d say did you want to have – say something or did you want to make a motion. And he’d help them write it and that’s a real gift in a presiding officer. And of course it was informal enough that you could do that too.

Vic Fischer:
It was as democratic with a small “d” as it could be. It was totally without partisanship and Bill Egan insisted on that. That was the agreement of the convention, but Egan insisted on it. A couple of times when a delegate would refer to something political, Egan would just cut the delegate off. And so Egan made sure that the convention worked as a group, that everyone marched together and votes were of course taken where divisions occurred on specific issues, but it was own man issues. It was never in personalities, it was never on partisan politics.

George Rogers: He had this phenomenal memory. He would meet you in a crowd and come back 10 years later and say he remembered oh you had kids and how is so and so doing. He could remember these details. He didn’t have somebody prompting him. He was just incredible. When he was governor he would dress up like Santa Claus and go down to the supermarket and greet everybody. Things like this. He was the common man. He had a lot of good common sense and on the whole he was very trustworthy. He was just right for the job. He had his shortcomings too. We all do, but they weren’t – he was not corrupt in any way, just a – that to me is the bottom line with this guy. Real, this guy is honest, and he is ethical and he met all those things.

Intertitle: Committees and Consultants

Jack Coghill:
I think we went from November until the 20th of December or something like that and then we took a three week break and we came back in January and we finished up in February.

Maynard Londborg: I went there and had some good advice from a fellow that was running the trading post. He said well, be sure you pick up a good copy of Roberts Rules of Order. And he said another thing I think you will find most of the work done in the committee, in the various committees. So it’s real important that you get on the right one and that is where the work is done. Otherwise it is brought into the session as a whole and first reading, second reading and final reading.

George Sundborg: The committees that were set up were a committee on the legislature, committee on executive, committee on the judiciary, committee on public lands and so on.

Tom Stewart: Virtually all the committees got expert academic people to come and consult with them for a week or two or three as the case may be.

George Sundborg: They all met as committees for several months and drew up an article for that part of the constitution. And they would bring it before the plenary session when it was finished.

Katie Hurley: I was the Chief Clerk. And that meant that I was the person who took the minutes of the plenary sessions. Plenary I guess everybody knows that that is when everyone was together and all 55 delegates were there. …

And I had – I was in charge was what they call the boiler room which was where the stenographers and typists took care of committee reports and so forth, but we had a very small staff I think of about six people.

George Sundborg: And we would discuss it upstairs and downstairs and all around and finally pass it. And we – after we had passed all of the articles. I think there are 12 of them of the constitution, they turned the whole thing over to the committee on style and drafting.

Jack Coghill:
The only reason why we got through the constitution and we made the constitution as brief as we possibly could, that was part of the – Bill Egan’s thrust with his committee chairmen was keep everything simple. Don’t get legislative intent into the middle of the constitutional structure. And of course that followed through and so we actually in my estimation and a lot of other people that this is out still the best state constitution in the 50 states.

George Sundborg: The fault of many state constitutions, and they have suffered from this, is that they have locked into place provisions that the people have never been able to change. They say in states – a state constitution is of the quality it is quite as much as from it is left out as for what is left in. And it should be just a basic document for the formation of a state so that the state can change its provisions without having to get a two-thirds vote of the people and so on, as is required in most constitutions to get through an amendment. And so we kept away from all of those traps and it is really just a really great basic document.

Jack Coghill:
Territorial law, state law, and the things that you got done or amended are molded or twisted to accommodate contemporary time. Constitutional law is something that should be short, sweet, and direct.

Intertitle: Closing the Convention

Katie Hurley: They were long days at the end.

And I had an apartment in Northward Building and they provided me a typewriter there because there was only one bus a day out and one bus a day back and I didn’t have a car and we all rode out most – a lot of people didn’t have cars. So I would bring my notes back that I wasn’t able to do while we were still at the University back to my room and type away. And sometimes until four o’clock in the morning towards the end, but I was always up and ready to go at eight o’clock.

George Sundborg: I remember one weekend when our committee met practically night and day to finish up some – on some of the articles of the constitution.

Jack Coghill: We had good debate, but see when the constitution when we had a lot of votes that were split but when we finished the document and the Style and Drafting Committee, which was headed by George Sundborg, when they got done putting it all together everybody, all 55 of us, signed the document.

Maynard Londborg: Oh I learned a lot of things while I was up there and that is that you can debate. You can passionately debate but it doesn’t have to ruin a friendship and it is kind of interesting we started talking about missionary work and that but how many churches do not know how to do that. I mean they’ll end up in a bitter fight or something like that, but I learned a lesson there. There were two delegates who were just passionately debating on each side of an issue. And this went on for a long time, long speeches and they were debating back and forth and I had something that I wanted to inject and I thought well if I can go to this one fellow and get on his side then you know he might be on my side because he is against that other fellow. And we had a little recess and I went out in the coffee shop and here the two guys were talking about their next hunting trip they were going to take together. And I thought boy oh, you don’t take anything for granted on the way they debated you know.

Jack Coghill: The thing that I remember the most about the Constitutional Convention was the camaraderie that happened after we decided that the document was the best we could do.

Jack Coghill: And when we got done arguing there was no minority reports, no majority reports, except what was done by the committees. …

George Sundborg: We finally succeeded and signed the constitution in February of 1956.

And it was quite unified. It was like something that had been written by Thomas Jefferson you know?

The leader of the consultant was a man named John Bebout – B-E-B-O-U-T and he was on the staff of the state governors. They have a governor’s council or something that works for all the states and he was great. He made a statement that the Alaska Constitution is by far the best of all state constitutions.

Jack Coghill: When we signed the constitution in Signers Hall it was not the elaborate structure it is now. We had to kick the basketballs out of the way in order to put the seats in for the general public to come and watch us sign the document. …

It was the University gym.

Tom Stewart: And when it came time to sign it, over a 100 copies made, identical copies. There were 55 delegates and each of the delegates wanted to take a copy home with them, but there were five copies that were intended for the President, the senate, the house, the Governor’s office, and archives.

And so I lined 60 signature pages on long tables in the planuria – in the hall where they held the plenary sessions. And the delegates lined up alphabetically and walked down the line and signed their names 60 times, actually 61 times because the paper that it was printed on was a very high quality paper, but they wanted a copy done in calligraphy on sheepskin parchment. So we had this signature sheet for that copy as well. And signed their names 60 times.

George Sundborg: It was very special. And I think everybody who had served as a delegate was emotionally moved by it. We were all crying you know as we went up to sign the constitution. It was a great victory.

Jack Coghill: Now one fellow got a little bit upset. He was from southeastern Alaska.

Robertson. And he went home, but he did sign the document afterwards when they got down to Juneau why they got – Tom Stewart and the guys got him to relent and to sign the document – the constitution. So different than the United States constitution, which had 55 delegates, only 30 what – 38 of them signed the United States constitution. So there was a lot of dissenters.

Katie Hurley: After that They went back over to close the thing, sine die, you know, and that when I called the roll the last time I got so choked up saying their names that when I looked up there are these guys that I never would think that they had tears in their eyes, the ones that were sitting like Steve McCutcheon and Herb Hilscher. I mean those are hard-nosed guys and I had – oh, it was – it’s on the tape, the official tape and somebody sent me that from I couldn’t believe how choked up I was.

Maynard Londborg: Nobody seemed to want to leave after it was all you know the final gavel went down they just – there had been built up such a close friendship among the delegates.

Katie Hurley: It was so emotional at the end.

Because it was like we had been through – I mean starting out with 55 different individuals who had such – so many of them such wide backgrounds and that they could – they did come together so well.

I felt that I had witnessed statesmanship that I’ve never seen since.

Intertitle: The Alaska Tennessee Plan

George Rogers: The statehood proponents were looking at the history of how other states came in. Tennessee, what they did – they didn’t wait for Congress to act. They wrote a constitution. They elected their delegation to congress, sent the delegation to Washington, DC and demanded that they be seated.

George Sundborg: This man named George Lehleitner from New Orleans he had the idea and he got it first when he was a Naval officer stationed in Hawaii.

Tom Stewart: And he had gotten to know Joe Farrington, who was the delegate to Congress from Hawaii as Bartlett was from Alaska and become friends with him.

Tom Stewart: He knew that Hawaii was aspiring for statehood. He didn’t know anything about Alaska.

Tom Stewart: He got the legislative reference service of the Library of Congress to research the history of the admission of states and he found that the last seven territories on the way to becoming a state each of them had elected a provisional delegation to the Congress – two senators and a representative to go to Washington sponsored by the territorial government to lobby for statehood.

He recognized that the process by which legislation gets enacted is – especially in the senate but also in the house is one in which somebody has something they want to do and they contact other members who are their friends and say now if you’ll vote for this proposal for me, you can be sure that I’ll support what you want. And that’s he envisioned these people would do. And he tried to persuade the Hawaiians when they wrote their constitution their convention of 1950 to elect a provisional delegation, then send them to Washington. They could call in every senator and every house member and say I am the duly elected provisional senator or house member from my territory and if you vote for statehood for us, you can be sure that I’ll be back here as a full-fledged member and I’ll support your cause. Vote trading. He tried to persuade the Hawaiians and they determined not to do it.

He never had anything to do with Alaska, but he heard that Alaska was going to have a constitutional convention.

He got acquainted with Bob Bartlett and he said to Bartlett I’d like to go to Alaska and try to persuade the Alaskans to do that. And so Bartlett gave him an introduction. He gave him an introduction to me in Juneau and I had – I collected all the people that were running to be delegates to the convention in this room.

Tom Stewart:
So when the convention sent questions to the people to be voted on there were three questions. The first one was shall the constitution as drafted by the convention be adopted? The second one was called the Alaska Tennessee Plan because Tennessee was the first territory to use this device and shall we elect provisional senators and a house member and send them to Washington as official lobbyists of the Territory of Alaska? Number three shall fish traps be abolished? Because the fishermen involved in the convention, a fellow from Petersburg particularly by the name of Elder Lee, who was desperate that – to get rid of fish traps because the fish traps had been mismanaged and were seriously damaging the fishery.

Those three propositions went to the voters in April of ’56 and I don’t remember it was something like 65 to 35 the vote in favor of each of them. And then there was an election.

Jack Coghill: We got Ernie Gruening and Bill Egan were our Tennessee senators and Ralph Rivers was our Tennessee representative. We sent them back to Washington with the explicit instructions to go demand a seat on the floor.

Tom Stewart: It was a mandate to the legislature of ’57 to appropriate the money to send them. So they did and about April those three went to Washington and set up shop and did exactly what Lehleitner contemplated.

Jack Coghill: And they went around and they lobbied and they took material to every legislator, every senator and every staff person, every house member. And they lobbied the statehood thing.

Tom Stewart: They called on all the senators, some of them more than once and all the house members and said you give us statehood and you can be sure that I’ll vote for what you want.

Intertitle: Statehood Opponents

Tom Stewart: In territorial days the major resources were indeed controlled by nonresidents. Salmon industry, canned salmon because the salmon was marketed by being canned. It was before the days of the freezer ships and sending fresh frozen materials out.

And the same with the mining industry. The mining industry if it is going to be large it requires a lot of capital and the capital basically was not very much available to Alaskans, still isn’t today. You have to go outside the state to get big money by and large.

There were more people supporting statehood by far than were opposed. The opposition came mainly from the canned salmon industry because they feared local control of the fisheries. They had had a favorite position with the federal agencies in the fisheries field and they were opposed and the gold mining industry was opposed because they feared that statehood was going they forgot it was going to bring more taxes and make their operations more difficult economically. And so the newspapers here in Southeast, which was the center of the fishing industry, except for Bristol Bay, the local paper in Juneau opposed and one of the two papers in Ketchikan was opposed.

Vic Fischer: As usual there were those who testified that Alaska cannot afford to become a state. That we can’t support statehood and Senator Clinton Anderson of New Mexico said well that sort of makes me think of marriage. Can people really afford to get married if people approach that on strictly the financial basis? Most people might never get married, but there are other issues involved and he was wonderful in sort of taking care of that argument that we cannot afford it

George Sundborg: Frank Heintzleman of course when he was governor he was in a very difficult position because there was a large group at Anchorage, which had most of the population of Alaska. It was all for statehood. And they were just beating the drums for it you know. And Frank was trying to soft pedal that. And Eisenhower, the President, came out with a proposal to partition Alaska and only let certain part of Alaska be admitted as a state. And people blamed Heintzleman for this and so on.

George Rogers: I worked for him briefly for about two or three years. That’s another story, but he said that he was afraid that we couldn’t afford to support statehood. I said I agree with you, but that we are not going to be able to afford statehood until we get it because we don’t have control over our own destiny. So the legislature absolutely everything they did had to be approved by the congress. We couldn’t incur any indebtedness. There were lots of things we couldn’t do and you were in a straight jacket. You had to get rid of that. We had no lands that we could draw upon to get revenues from. So statehood would bring those things in. So I tried to argue with him that statehood would make it possible to afford statehood. He didn’t quite buy that. …

But of course he was Republican and the Republicans as a whole were anti-statehood. Although during the Constitutional Convention they – very conservative Republicans worked very well on that.

JAY HAMMOND:
Actually I had voted against statehood.

My reasons were simply this that with our tiny population – I don’t know it was only about 70,000 people and we had no economic potential immediately on the horizon, fishery, timber, mining, trapping all gone down hill. And I felt with our tiny population and first our ability to finance and administer were very dicey. And I said that with our small population virtually any idiot that aspired to public office is liable to achieve it. And a lot of folks subsequently have said yes and you proved it on more than one occasion. I did not oppose it idealistically, but I also was affronted by the fact that you couldn’t even look at such things as commonwealth status, which seemed to have some interesting aspects worthy of examination, but the very suggestion of looking at alternatives branded you as a crackpot or communist or some sort of loathsome creature. And very few openly opposed statehood. It was kind of the kiss of death to do so.

But one time I had an interesting experience subsequent to my service in the legislature when a number of us were standing around some unanticipated expenditure had crawled out from the rocks and there were eight legislators there. And one guy said huh, we almost went bankrupt the first – more people left the State than arrived by any other means other than the birth canal and the economy was going downhill badly. We were on the edge of bankruptcy and something as I saw crawled out of the woodwork unanticipated and some guy said well I never really was too hot on this statehood business and the other guy says no neither was I and matter of fact I voted against it. Six out of the eight legislators voted against it. But I was the only one stupid enough to publicly announce it.

Now was it a mistake, no. I was wrong. We did have and do have the ability to finance and administer, but the jury is still out as to whether we’ve succeeded in doing so.

Intertitle: Statehood

Katie Hurley: During the convention I don’t think anyone had any conception that it would happen so quickly. Looking back it is amazing the it was just two years and they thought – that’s why hardly anybody of the lobbyists came to the convention. They thought it was an exercise in futility. Too bad those guys are so carried away that they are spending all that time writing it – the constitution.

Vic Fischer: Statehood was inevitable. I mean we all felt that. Gallop polls showed time and again and again that more than two-thirds of the people in the United States supported statehood. Across the board editorial policies of major – with newspapers and local newspapers around the United States supported statehood.

Vic Fischer: The frustration became so horrendous when Congress would come right up to the edge and not act to grant Alaska statehood, grant Hawaii statehood, because it was always these political arguments. There will be more Republicans versus Democrats and the division being close Alaska or Hawaii could make a difference. The same thing on the civil rights issue. It was a matter of the majority of the US senators supporting statehood but the filibuster power was with the southern anti-civil rights senators and on the house side they controlled the Rules Committee so that statehood bills just couldn’t successfully move through both houses.

Jack Coghill: Hawaii had had their Constitutional Convention and they were getting ready and they wanted to have statehood. Well the thing was that the reason why we’re the 49th state and they are the 50th state is that in those days Hawaii was very Republican. It was the Dole Company and the big farmers and stuff like that.

Maynard Londborg: At that time the territory was very strong Democrat, which was kind of interesting because that was one of the blocks that we thought we’d have a hurdle with the United States Senate was the Republicans didn’t want Alaska in because that would give another solid Democratic candidates that would be in there and senators and representative and it would just add that many more.

Vic Fischer: It was just sort of a phenomenal victory when finally in 1958 the house approved and then finally the senate approved. And senate action probably came thanks to Lyndon Johnson who, thanks to Bob Bartlett was convinced to move the senate in that action.

Katie Hurley: Bob Bartlett had called to let me know that this was going to be the day, some time that day he was sure it was going to be the vote cause they had been arguing it and he was quite sure. …

And we dashed in. I parked the car and ran up the steps, two at a time, I was so excited to get up there.

To me that was the day that we became a state because there had been no much work and we had been so long. I had been in Washington in 1950 when the house had passed the state – I was in the gallery. I was with Mary Lee Council. Bob had seen to it that we were there when they passed the statehood bill in 1950. So this is like eight years later. So that was very exciting to be there.

George Sundborg: The statehood act was signed by the President on January 3, 1959 and by that time I was in Washington, DC and we were in business.
And I think that statehood sort of lifted us from the colonial status because we had rights, we had things that we could enforce, we could control our own destiny.

George Sundborg: If we go broke it is going to be our own fault. And that’s very good for a democratic society.

But I believe just on its – the grounds of self-government, statehood was a tremendous worthwhile goal and had they not discovered petroleum up there, we would have made it by somehow.

George Sundborg: It was a great time to be in Alaska. Things were improving. Statehood was coming, it was in sight you know. We were winning.

Closing titles.

Jack Coghill – Recorded January 26, 2004, in Nenana.
Vic Fischer – Recorded September 26, 2003, at Vic Fischer’s home in Anchorage, Alaska.
Jay Hammond – Recorded January 4, 2004, in Anchorage. Died August 2, 2005.
Katie Hurley – Recorded February 4, 2004, at Katie Hurley’s home in Wasilla. .
Maynard Londborg – Recorded March 31, 2004, at Maynard Londborg’s home in Denver, Colorado. Died September 5, 2004.
George Rogers – Recorded September 22, 2003, at George and Jean Rogers’ home in Juneau. Died October 3, 2010.
Tom Stewart – Recorded September 23, 2003, at Tom Stewart’s home in Juneau, Alaska. Died December 12, 2007.
George Sundborg – Recorded October 7, 2003, at George Sundborg’s home in Seattle/Magnolia, Washington. Died February 7, 2009

Interviews conducted by Dr. Terrence Cole, UAF Office of Public History

Episode 2: Vic Fischer

Alaska Statehood Pioneers: In Their Own Words
Episode 2: Vic Fischer

Vic Fischer: When I came to Alaska in 1950 I was completely shocked to find that I was no longer a full-fledged citizen of the United States.

Opening titles.

Narrator: Vic Fischer was born in Berlin in 1924 with dual U.S. and Russian citizenship. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin and masters in community planning from MIT, but was drawn to Alaska. After arriving in 1950, indignation over his newly limited citizenship overlapped with professional frustrations in municipal planning under Alaska’s territorial status and drove him to the statehood movement. As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, his work shaped how city and borough governments developed across Alaska after statehood.

Intertitle: Coming to Alaska

Vic Fischer: Well, I had this dream of coming to Alaska, which came to me while I was on the troop ship during World War II and going from New York over to France and I was thinking about my future and what I would do professionally and where I would like to end up and I started thinking about going west because I was going to the University of Wisconsin and I thought well I like Wisconsin so the further west I go the better I might like it. So I started reading a – looking at a series of books that was in the ship’s library on the different – all the states and territories. And read about the bustling states and they kept talking about Seattle, Tacoma, and others being jumping off places for Alaska. So I got the Alaska volume in that series and I thought hey that’s the place where I want to end up. And at the same time I had been studying electrical engineering and I decided I wanted something more socially conscious, social – more with social purpose. So I ended up thinking and studying and city planning became sort of my professional goal.

After Wisconsin I went to MIT for my graduate degree in planning and it was a two-year program and when I was finishing there were lots of job opportunities from Nashua, New Hampshire to Cleveland Regional Planning Commission to Assistant Planning Director in Greensboro, North Carolina and various others. And none of them were really appealing and then all of a sudden notice came up on the jobs bulletin board at MIT of new planning position with the Bureau of Land Management in Alaska. So I went down to Washington, DC and knocked on doors and got right up to the Director of Bureau of Land Management and he thought that it would be great to have this young veteran from MIT go to Alaska, which was the frontier and to work as town planner for BLM. So I managed to get the job and came to Alaska.

And so I came to Alaska and that was in 1950 and I’ve been happily in Alaska ever since.

Vic Fischer: The job of town planner was something brand new and in a way was exploring, but BLM was developing townsites, some new locations, plotting, new townsites, and so that involved selling off lots. For instance, they had laid out the townsite at Tok Junction and one of the things I did was stand in the back of a pickup truck just as the olden day’s pictures. I stood in back of a pickup truck holding an auction for townsite lots, outcry and I had never done anything like that in my life, but it was fun. Others involved townsites that were Native townsites and federal and townsites in Kenai and Dillingham, Kotzebue and various places. So it was a marvelous job to start with to get know all of Alaska.

Intertitle: “Director of Annexation”

Vic Fischer: I worked for BLM for a year and a half and it was interesting that the day after I arrived I went to dinner at Ed Quitenan’s house. He was the only person I knew in Alaska at the time and he had been doing graduate work at MIT also and so he had Elmer Rasmuson and his wife over and I – when Elmer found out that there was a planner in town he said well I’m the chairman of the Anchorage City Planning Commission and why don’t you come to work for us. And I said I just came to work for BLM I can’t just turn my back on that. A year and a half later I did go to work for Anchorage’s – it’s first planning director.

When I became planning director, the City of Anchorage consisted of what today would be referred to as the central business district. The city limits were on 16th Avenue on the south and then on the east they went up to C Street and then sort of jogged around. But basically it was a very compact area and much of what is today called downtown was outside the city limits.

But mainly the work had to do with manage; helping manage the growth of Anchorage because in the 50’s, early mid-50’s there was a tremendous spurt of growth with the defense buildup in connection with the Cold War.

It was also interesting from the standpoint that when I became planning director, both the Anchorage Times and the Anchorage News at the time had editorials saying this is a great day. We now have a professional planner, an MIT graduate, which sounded like a real big thing. And we can now go ahead and build a city that is not going to make mistakes that cities in the old states have made and so on. And at the same time whenever any kind of zoning issue came before the public or a subdivision issue came before the public, you’d hear these angry shouts of no one can tell me what I’m going to do with my property. I have a God given right to do whatever I want to do. And so you had a clash on one hand and the community wanted to move ahead and build this city, build a community that was “good to live in” and good for business and so on. And on the other hand you have the individualistic Alaskan who really feels he/she has a God given right to live and act the way the individual wants.

Also we didn’t have the ability to solve many of the problems. We tried to get home rule authority. I talked to a delegate to congress, Bob Bartlett, about getting legislation through congress to authorize home rule for cities in Alaska so they could solve some of these urban problems and we just couldn’t get that.

Home rule government essentially means that the people in a community decide what the functions will be that will be carried out by the government and what the restrictions on the government would be given whatever state limitations there would be. There are different levels of home rule throughout the United States and different laws and this is something that we addressed within the Alaska Constitution.

The alternative to home rule is what is called general law. General law cities where the legislature, where the higher authority says what a municipality, what a local government can do rather than the people themselves through charter deciding what will be done and this is exactly the same situation as we had in Alaska when we had a territory which was a creature of the federal government and the federal government determined what could be done, what could not be done in the territory of Alaska.

Alaska, the territory of Alaska, did not have the right to have – to establish counties. So you had cities and then no general government outside the city. And the population in Anchorage and Fairbanks and other places grew way beyond city limits. And so the legislature, territorial legislature, authorized the establishment of school districts and that sort of took care of the provision of school services. But then people needed water and sewer and these basic services and utility districts, public utility districts were authorized.

And then there was Chugach Electric Company that was in conflict with the Municipality of Anchorage over provision of electric power. The utility districts were in conflict with the city over who was going to serve and get subdivisions and people started wanting to be annexed to the city. There were others who didn’t want city regulations. So there were constant fights and going into court over annexation issues and we had very, actually very important cases at the time in federal court. There were no state courts of course and I was acute called the director of annexation rather than director of planning by Ed Boyko, who was a very prominent feisty attorney, always fighting the city on every issue that came up.

There were vehement fights about annexation and about city reaching out and grabbing territory and some areas like Airport Heights that you might say were civilized areas were glad to become part of the city. In other cases there was strong resistance because people didn’t want to be regulated. They didn’t want to – there was some interests that didn’t want to have police. In what is now Fairview there was Eastchester, the area it became an island within a city because annexation other areas annexed but there was an area with nightclubs and various other types of not necessarily legal operations behind them that resisted to the end. They hired lawyers. They fought all the way, but the city always prevailed in the courts.

Insurance rates were horrendously high outside the city because the fire department wouldn’t serve and water supply wasn’t available and not adequate so that while people had to pay taxes when they became part of the city, they usually saved more on insurance than their taxes cost them.

If you’re outside the city, you had no government that you could address about local issues. The territorial government had no way of dealing with anything you might need. The federal government had jurisdiction. They couldn’t care less about what is happening at the local level. So essentially you were out in so-called no man’s land and that was it.

Vic Fischer: The territory had very limited authority. The governor of Alaska under the territorial government was appointed by the President. The highway department was run by the federal government. The court system was run by the federal government. The communications system, long distance telephone system, was run by the Army. Essentially everything all around. Management of resources, fish and game, lands, forest, everything was federal.

Intertitle: Operation Statehood

Vic Fischer: When I came to Alaska in 1950 I was completely shocked to find that I was no longer a full-fledged citizen of the United States. I had fought war to save democracy. I had already voted for President and US Senate in Wisconsin before and came and all of a sudden I’m in Alaska. I’m deprived of right to vote for President, right to have voting representation in the US Congress, the old cry of taxation without representation. And I was in this federal enclave of colony of the United States Government. And so I was outraged and there were quite a few other young people, veterans mostly, who were coming to Alaska at that time and we all felt very dissatisfied with the situation.

Shortly after I first came to Anchorage there was a meeting announced of bringing together Alaska cities and so I dropped in at the meeting that was held in the Fourth Avenue Theater. And that was the first coming together of communities in Alaska to discuss common issues and out of that came the League of Alaskan Cities, which later became the what is now the Alaska Municipal League. And I was asked to become the Executive Secretary of the League of Cities while I was Anchorage Planning Director and to move down to Juneau and be a lobbyist for the League of Alaska Cities, which gave me a chance to learn a little bit about territorial politics. And I spent part of the 1953 session in Juneau and then spent the entire 1955 session in Juneau as a lobbyist.

Statehood movement had of course been ongoing already. The territorial legislature had established an Alaska Statehood Commission – Committee and some very prominent people were on that. Delegate Bartlett had introduced statehood bills in the US House and there was consideration being given and those of us who were new to Alaska were very supportive but not organized until I believe it was in 1952 or so there was a hearing held on one of the bills in the US Senate.

And the Chairman of the Interior Committee holding the hearings at the end of the hearing said that well we’ve heard from the leaders of Alaska – Bob Atwood, the publisher of the Anchorage Times and from politicians, we are going to take the committee to Alaska to hear from the little people – what the little man thinks. So very spontaneously a bunch of us got together – Roger Cremo, Cliff Groh, Barry White, and others and formed a group, not an organization, just a group called little men for statehood.

And made up placards I’m a little man for statehood. And they were plastered all over Anchorage and they were in every store window up and down Fourth Avenue, which was then “the street” in Anchorage and when the delegation they arrived by ship from Seward they came to Anchorage by train and a map of Anchoragerites turned out at the railroad depot in the rain holding up signs “I’m a little man for statehood”. So real citizen enthusiasm was created…

A group called Operation Statehood was formed. In those days everything was called operation this, operation that, operation petticoat and whatever. And so we had Operation Statehood and we became activists for statement supporting the Alaska Statehood Committee by being totally independent, raising money, and holding rallies, having campaigns to send – to have citizens in Alaska send letters to their home newspapers from whence they came to their families to have their families write to their representatives in the US Congress for them to support statehood, placing ads, sending whenever hearings were being held in congress, in the senate, sending the messages with forget-me-not’s on them and we had a Gimmicks Committee …

…and then whenever there would be hearings we would participate and various others. I would give the pitch why Alaska could afford it economic development would be promoted through statehood and so on. Others would talk about political values and whatnot. We helped organize a flight, a chartered a DC4 and flew on Alaska Airlines to Seattle and on to Washington. Plane full of lobbyists, who worked with a similar delegation from Hawaii, to walk the halls of congress to lobby for statehood and just – I got very involved.

We had a number of congressional hearings on statehood committees would come up to Alaska aside from committee hearings in Washington and there was one in particular where I was testifying in behalf actually of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and making the argument of that statehood would further economic development and the main argument that I advanced then was that with statehood we could control over resources, control over transportation, control over other aspects of the infrastructure and that we would be able to manage our own affairs and move things forward rather than depending on decisions made in Washington by people who really didn’t care about what happens in Alaska.

Those hearings were fascinating. I remember Mildred Kirkpatrick testified at that particular hearing also, which was held in the Carpenter’s Hall at Fourth Avenue and Denali. And she was the Republican National Committeewoman and she told about the – working and being enthusiastic about the Republican President being elected Eisenhower becoming President and how she received a formal invitation to the inauguration and she was excited and she got on a plane and flew down to Seattle to go to Washington, DC. And in Seattle she had to go through immigration just as if she were coming from Japan or France, she had to go through immigration to prove that she was an American citizen. And she broke down with the ignonimity of the situation that my president was being inaugurated and I’m treated like a foreign and not an American citizen. This was one of the big issues that we had. It was the principle of having to go from a part of the United States into another part of the United States and go through immigration.

Statehood was inevitable. I mean we all felt that. Gallop polls showed time and again and again that more than two-thirds of the people in the United States supported statehood. Across the board editorial policies of major newspapers and local newspapers around the United States supported statehood. It was – it was just something that was accepted by the public generally and the inevitability was there and that is why the frustration became so horrendous when congress would come right up to the edge and not act to grant Alaska statehood, grant Hawaii statehood, because it was always these political arguments. There will be more Republicans versus Democrats and the division being close Alaska or Hawaii could make a difference. The same thing on the civil rights issue. It was a matter of the majority of the US senators supporting statehood but the filibuster power was with the southern anti-civil rights senators and on the house side they controlled the Rules Committee so that statehood bills just couldn’t successfully move through both houses.

Late 1954, it became very clear that congress again hadn’t acted on Alaska statehood bill and that something more needed to be done, some kind of a push was needed and Wendell Kaye and others suggested that well the time has come to go ahead and write a constitution for the future state of Alaska. Hawaii had already adopted a constitution in 1950.

The Constitutional Committee of Operation Statehood actually drafted a model constitution that – for Alaska – got it used as a tabloid as an insert to newspapers throughout Alaska and just to show people what a constitution might look like just as an educational tool. First of all for ourselves, but secondarily for the general public to see here is what it might look like, here are the pieces that make a constitution and this was derived in part from the model state constitution of the National Municipal League and other sources and it was nothing compared to the final constitution that was adopted, but at the time it was the only thing that most people in Alaska had seen in terms of what a constitution might be like.

Then, of course, came the election of delegates to the Constitution Convention and Operation Statehood was beating the drums for getting people out to the polls and quite a few members of Operation Statehood themselves came forth as candidates.

Intertitle: Becoming a Delegate

Vic Fischer: For me the decision to run was in a way easy and in other ways difficult. I was Planning Director of Anchorage in order to run I had to resign my position. So I decided statehood was more important – this opportunity to participate and the Constitutional Convention doesn’t come very often in one’s lifetime and so I quit City of Anchorage and hung out a shingle Planning Consultant. And picked up a little contract here and there, but devoted myself mainly to getting elected. I was one of the delegates who ran at large in the south-central division. At that point we had four divisions in Alaska…

Anchorage was electing one delegate and there were 12 to be elected in south-central at large. And I decided to run at large because I was well known in Anchorage being Planning Director and being in the news quite a bit, but also through my League of Alaska Cities and early BLM experience I had been out within the election

There were more than fifty candidates running for the 12 positions that Anchorage had in the Constitutional Convention and I was one of the 52 or so who were running. It was sort of new for most of us. There were some who had run at large, run politically. I had never run for office before and as I mentioned I was known in Anchorage but I figured I need to do something to get the word out to other areas. And I also felt I needed to go door to door. So and that was very difficult for me at the time. I was real hesitant and finally got in a car with Gloria and drove out to the butte near Palmer and passed by the first house, didn’t quite have nerve enough and then stopped at the second house and knocked on the door. And this lady came out and I introduced myself and I said I’m a candidate for the Constitutional Convention. And gave her a few words and turned out she didn’t really know anything about the forthcoming election of delegates. So I explained to her what the basis of the election was and what the Constitutional Convention was about and we had a very nice conversation.

Then I drove back home and wrote a letter to Dear Alaskan, I have been going door to door in the district and here are the questions. And then I had this short letter introducing myself and the Constitutional Convention delegate election. Then I added a resume, just a brief resume with education and work experience, listing all the communities from Kotzebue to Ketchikan that I had worked in, especially the ones within the district and I got a very good vote as a result and was elected to be a delegate.

Intertitle: Welcome to Fairbanks

Vic Fischer: I remember the first day I tried to move the car and the car didn’t want to go. And then I forced the car forward and it sort of went ga-plunk and I got out and looked and couldn’t see anything and didn’t have a flat. Then I went and pushed it again and it went ga-plunk and then looked out and then I learned that tires froze flat at least in those days. I’m not sure they still do. But it was quite an experience to be in this cold Fairbanks all of a sudden. And that of course was a continuing theme through the convention.

Arriving in Fairbanks we settled into an apartment and started talking with other delegates about president, who is going to be president and found that people from the rural areas, in particular, were suspicious of anyone from Anchorage and also from Fairbanks and would rather have Bill Egan.

To that point Bill Egan hadn’t even arrived in Fairbanks yet.

The most active one in pursuit of the presidency was Vic Rivers of Anchorage.

He had been a territorial senator, very strong politician and engineer by profession. A very, if you look around you’d identify him as a powerful politician. And he was lobbying actively to be selected for that post. Many of us novices, younger ones, who had not been involved in politics were suspicious of anyone of that sort who was actively lobbying for the position you might say wanted it.

Our concern basically was that some of those older establishment types were going to control the convention and try and push the constitution in some direction that we didn’t know but that there might be some hidden agendas.

On Sunday morning, the day before the opening of the convention, Egan arrived having hitchhiked on a truck from Valdez and he was confronted with the proposition and he was agreeable and Burke Riley was one of those who was very strong advocate for Bill Egan. And so then there was sort of an agreement among this group of younger rural types, the nonpolitical types that Bill Egan ought to be president, but no one was skilled enough to make a count really and know for sure.

And the sort of the fact of how inexperienced we were came out in the first opening day of the Constitutional Convention when arrangements had been made to have an opening by Governor Frank Heintzleman and certain other welcoming statements and then to elect a president pro-tem. And so Mildred Hermann was nominated as president pro-tem.

We just didn’t understand that until later that the role that Mildred Hermann was to play was to conduct the proceedings until such time as a new president was elected. And then of course once that was clarified we were at peace…

The beauty of Bill Egan was that he brought people together. Everybody felt that they were listened to, that they were part of the convention that they could be heard, that their view can be expressed and considered. It was as democratic with a small “d” as it could be. It was totally without partisanship and Bill Egan insisted on that. That was the agreement of the convention, but Egan insisted on it. A couple of times when a delegate would refer to something political, Egan would just cut the delegate off. And so Egan made sure that the convention worked as a group, that everyone marched together and votes were of course taken where divisions occurred on specific issues, but it was own man issues. It was never in personalities, it was never on partisan politics

Intertitle: Local Government Committee

Vic Fischer: Each delegate after we opened it was given an opportunity to give a choice of committee assignments. There was a list of committees. Each delegate chose one, two, three. And I chose local government as my number one. I think it was executive as number two and style and drafting as number three. And I didn’t at that point know much about style and drafting but one of the consultants had urged me to be on style and drafting that that is a crucial committee.

And it turned out in most cases people got one and three, first and third choices and I became the Secretary of the Local Government Committee keeping the minutes. This was something I had learned long, long ago that if you’re the secretary and you keep the record you keep the minutes. You establish what – how the future judges the actions of the particular group that you are reporting on. And in this case Supreme Court of Alaska has a number of times cited the minutes of the Local Government Committee.

It was an interesting group. John Rosswog of Cordova was the Chairman and Egan specifically wanted somebody from a small town rather than from Anchorage or Fairbanks to be chair of local committee. Again just to make sure that there was no perception of the big guys trying to force the constitution in any particular direction.

We first looked at what the Public Administration Service had prepared, which was sort of very general. We looked at local government structures around the United States, looked at Finland, looked at Swiss Cantons – Yule Kilcher was a delegate from Homer urged us to follow the Swiss example of independent Cantons. And we looked at local government systems everywhere, read on theory and so on and then started discussing principles and we had a consultant who was working with us and with whom we could have conversations but mostly it was amongst our group. And the thing of course that we started with was the existence of cities as authorized by the Organic Act and then the blankness of the rest of Alaska. We had these special districts and we saw from our own experience in Anchorage that we didn’t want the multiplicity, separate jurisdictions, but more than that we looked at Chicago with 2,000 taxing jurisdictions and the rest of the United States and other countries experience.

And then we started talking about principles. What is it that we want to achieve? And so gradually out of that concept evolved that there should be area wide unit, as well as cities and there should be no other taxing jurisdictions so that you don’t have conflicts.

In the states you have cities, you have counties, you have school districts, you have mosquito abatement districts, you have road improvement districts, you have fire districts, you have district for almost anything and they will overlap and each one will tax separately so that no one – none of them look at the overall tax burden on property owners or on in terms of fees for services. And the decision was made that there will be only two taxing jurisdictions and that would be the city and the area wide unit. And they would be the general governments. And there were some serious conflicts on the discussions on the floor of the convention about whether school districts should have independent taxing authority. And debates went on at great length, but in the long run those prevailed who argued that only a general government, that includes all other functions as well as schools, should be able to tax so that they could balance the needs for various purposes rather than have them independent taxing jurisdiction.

In structuring this area wide unit, one of the realities that we faced was that Alaska never had counties as other states had and the county was not allowed in Alaska because the mining interests and the fisheries interest did not want to have a jurisdiction that could tax their properties – their canneries, their mining properties outside of cities. So therefore congress specifically prohibited territorial legislature from establishing counties.

But at the time of the Constitutional Convention counties were in pretty bad repute in the United States because they were not created for the current era. They were poorly administered. They created conflicts with cities. There was the suburban versus urban type jurisdictions. …

The metropolitan jurisdictions were sort of sewn together but didn’t function well.

And so decided that what we needed in Alaska was a flexible form, which came to be – has come to be known as the borough and there were lots of arguments over the term borough itself. Some to the end argued that we should just call them counties and let it go at that and just define them for Alaska to be something different. The majority felt we out to have a different name and borough was agreed on.

The borough was conceived as a very flexible unit. In talking about this area wide notion. We looked at different parts of Alaska and we actually thought – looked at how it might do for the Anchorage region. We looked at southeastern Alaska. We looked at the Kotzebue area and the Lower Kuskokwim. And sort of tried to see how it might adapt itself. But we knew that we shouldn’t draw boundaries as had been done in other states for counties. We should leave this unit to be flexible and adaptable to future conditions to much deeper more thorough study than could be done in the context of Local Government Committee deliberations.

And so the principles were set forth in the constitution and implementation as in so much of the constitution was left to the legislature. Among the principles that boundaries would be flexible but also that it would be commission at the state level that would have jurisdiction over boundaries so that if conflicts existed in the future that a state level body would be able to deal with those and resolve those rather than have abutting areas or cities versus boroughs get into these struggle to the death kind of situations that we had between the City of Anchorage and utility districts.

Looking back from the present situation with respect to developing of local government in Alaska since statehood I would say that most of the local government article is very properly, very appropriately written. It has been thorough lack of proper implementation. The legislature took early steps that were completely wrong. As a result of that we didn’t start off as intended by the convention, by the committee and the convention that would be a deliberate look at Alaska in terms of regionalization of areas and then a logical movement forward as to which ones would be organized, which ones would be unorganized. And instead of that the legislature essentially did nothing and then when confronted with the need to have organized boroughs moved ahead in a way that didn’t deal with the rest of Alaska only certain urban areas where organized. The rest were left in the unorganized borough.

There has been over the years an adaptation more along the lines that had been initially conceived and establishment of the North Slope Borough, the Northwest Arctic Borough, some larger boroughs that incorporated on their own, follow the principles set forth in the constitution, both in terms of what a borough should be and the concept of home rule. So that the areas themselves had a greater say in being organized and how they’re organized.

The concept itself is workable. The state hasn’t seen it all the way through. We still have not you might say rationalized the whole state in terms of what would be the logical areas, but I think we’re moving, slowly moving in that direction and I hope we’ll get there without becoming a burden on rural people, on people who are not ready to be fully organized.

Intertitle: Looking Back

Vic Fischer: To me participating in the Constitutional Convention is a highlight of my life I mean. It was emotionally a tremendous high. It was intellectually a phenomenal achievement in terms of working with a group of people who came from all different parts of Alaska from all different directions and creatively worked together. It was such a marvelous experience because it was not just mutually reinforcing in terms of coming together but sort of reaching a higher and higher level. …

The respect that one gained for fellow delegates for Bill Egan as a presiding officer was something that was incomparable to serving in the legislature. After I served in the Constitutional Convention I was elected to return to the legislature. Later I served in the state senate. There is just no comparison to the – between legislative process and the constitution writing process. It was truly a highlight and nothing else could come close to it.

The constitution serves a higher purpose and it deals with the totality of what you’re creating of the state or a municipal charter you know deals with the totality of what a municipality is. You look at all aspects. You have a common goal.

In the legislature you are dealing with a lot of different pieces. You’re coming at it in partisan fashion. You have the Republicans. You have Democrats. You have your caucuses. You have lobbyists who are constantly after you to do this or do that. There are – you have a governor who is harassing your department heads and special interests. The budget is to be divvied up here and there and so on. …

In the Constitutional Convention you are not trying to get ahead of anybody. You’re not trying to – you’re not thinking for the next election. You’re just creating something in common.

Closing titles.

More recently, Fischer served as the director of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute for Social and Economic Research. He lives in Anchorage and is a professor emeritus with UAA. He published an autobiography in October 2012.

Credits:

Recorded September 26, 2003, at Vic Fischer’s home in Anchorage, Alaska.

Vic Fischer
Interviewed by Terrence Cole

Terence: Okay, it’s September 26, 2003 and we’re at the home of Vic Fisher and Jane Anvik in Anchorage. So Vic, welcome and I mean thanks for welcoming us into your home. And actually maybe we should start with a story how you came to Alaska in the early 1950’s. What – how did you end up here?

Vic: Well, I had this dream of coming to Alaska, which came to me while I was on the troop ship during World War II and going from New York over to France and I was thinking about my future and what I would do professionally and where I would like to end up and I started thinking about going west because I was going to the University of Wisconsin and I thought well I like Wisconsin so the further west I go the better I might like it. So I started reading a – looking at a series of books that was in the ship’s library on the different – all the states and territories. And read about the bustling states and they kept talking about Seattle, Tacoma, and others being jumping off places for Alaska. So I got the Alaska volume in that series and I thought hey that’s the place where I want to end up. And at the same time I had been studying electrical engineering and I decided I wanted something more socially conscious, social – more with social purpose. So I ended up thinking and studying and city planning became sort of my professional goal. So after the war I went back to Wisconsin and then went on to graduate school and received a degree in city planning. And just as I received that degree the first full time professional planning job opened up in Alaska. And so I came to Alaska and that was in 1950 and I’ve been happily in Alaska ever since.

Terence: I was just thinking, could you hear that plane, Tim? I was just wondering if it was going to get louder that’s all. Just starting right now.

Tim: I was speculating on the thing. Yeah, it’s getting louder. Let’s stop for a minute.

Terence: Okay. Here’s this headline. That looks so different from what he does now, isn’t it? It’s very interesting, Byrdsog’s work. Where did you go to graduate school and how – what was the job – it was a BLM job right, wasn’t it – how’d you hear about it?

Vic: After Wisconsin I went to MIT for my graduate degree in planning and it was a two-year program and when I was finishing there were lots of job opportunities from Nashua, New Hampshire to Cleveland Regional Planning Commission to Assistant Planning Director in Greensboro, North Carolina and various others. And none of them were really appealing and then all of a sudden notice came up on the jobs bulletin board at MIT of new planning position with the Bureau of Land Management in Alaska. So I went down to Washington, DC and knocked on doors and got right up to the Director of Bureau of Land Management and he thought that it would be great to have this young veteran from MIT go to Alaska, which was the frontier and to work as town planner for BLM. So I managed to get the job and came to Alaska.

Terence: So was the job as town planner for BLM is that right, Vic? What kind of stuff did you have to do for them? What was the –

Vic: The job of town planner was something plan new and in a way was exploring, but BLM was developing townsites, some new locations, plotting, new townsites, and so that involved selling off lots. For instance, they had laid out the townsite at Tok Junction and one of the things I did was stand in the back of a pickup truck just as the olden day’s pictures. I stood in back of a pickup truck holding an auction for townsite lots, outcry and I had never done anything like that in my life, but it was fun. Others involved townsites that were Native townsites and federal and townsites in Kenai and Dillingham, Kotzebue and various places. So it was a marvelous job to start with to get know all of Alaska.

And then the first pulp mill was announced in Ketchikan so Frank Heintzleman asked that I come down to Ketchikan and look at the possibility of a new town being established in connection with the pulp mill at Ward Cove and so I spent a week in Ketchikan and so it was a great opportunity to see Alaska.

Other aspects were some townsite addition and plotting in the Anchorage area. Lot subdivisions at Indian as the road was being opened up. Worked in Soldotna and various other places. One of the things I did was lay out a plan for Cantwell, for a townsite at Cantwell, which was subsequently surveyed. Also developed a plan for a new townsite at Kasilof, which never did materialize. Then sold lots for a townsite at Portage, which was then already pretty swampy and after the earthquake that sank completely, so there is hardly a trace left of what was there once. So it was very interesting job that took me all over Alaska.

Terence: Let me think now. I just lost my train of thought. It’s all so interesting. If during that time so you did that about a year Vic or a year and a half or how long did you work for BLM before you went over to the City?

Vic: I worked for BLM for a year and a half and it was interesting that the day after I arrived I went to dinner at Ed Quitenan’s house. He was the only person I knew in Alaska at the time and he had been doing graduate work at MIT also and so he had Elmer Rasmuson and his wife over and I – when Elmer found out that there was a planner in town he said well I’m the chairman of the Anchorage City Planning Commission and why don’t you come to work for us. And I said I just came to work for BLM I can’t just turn my back on that. A year and a half later I did go to work for Anchorage’s – it’s first planning director.

Terence: Yeah, what were the challenges? Was Elmer still the city planning I guess it was a small volunteer commission or something? Was he still chairman and then what were the challenges that Anchorage in particular faced sort of from the planning?

Vic: When I to work as planning director for Anchorage, Elmer Rasmuson was the chairman of the city planning commission and there were all sorts of things to do. One of the things the planning commission wanted was a new zoning ordnance because the one that was ineffective and copied from some town in Oregon and actually had references to county and other things that were irrelevant to Anchorage and they wanted something more adaptive to a growing city. But mainly the work had to do with manage; helping manage the growth of Anchorage because in the 50’s, early mid-50’s there was a tremendous spurt of growth with the defense buildup in connection with the Cold War.

And so there was a need to extend roads, new subdivisions being developed over sewer and water lines being extended and so on the one hand we’re trying to do some long-term planning and at the same time I had the opportunity as a planner to participate in day-to-day decisions. And so it was a very exciting time and there were annexations to expand the service area of the city and it was a time when there was interest in planning.

It was also interesting from the standpoint that when I became planning director, both the Anchorage Times and the Anchorage News at the time had editorials saying this is a great day. We now have a professional planner, an MIT graduate, which sounded like a real big thing. And we can now go ahead and build a city that is not going to make mistakes that cities in the old states have made and so on. And at the same time whenever any kind of zoning issue came before the public or a subdivision issue came before the public, you’d hear these angry shouts of no one can tell me what I’m going to do with my property. I have a God given right to do whatever I want to do. And so you had a clash on one hand and the community wanted to move ahead and build this city, build a community that was “good to live in” and good for business and so on. And on the other hand you have the individualistic Alaskan who really feels he/she has a God given right to live and act the way the individual wants.

Terence: This is the old we want a town where I can do anything I want just that you know I don’t want anybody else to do it. Well what were some of the challenges with annexation particular and the service district problem that you faced in those years, you know the competing service district areas how you phrase it?

Vic: It was a very interesting era. Alaska, the territory of Alaska, did not have the right to have – to establish counties. So you had cities and then no general government outside the city. And the population in Anchorage and Fairbanks and other places grew way beyond city limits. And so the legislature, territorial legislature, authorized the establishment of school districts and that sort of took care of the provision of school services. But then people needed water and sewer and these basic services and utility districts, public utility districts were authorized. So you had outside of Anchorage you had Mountain View Public Utility District, you had an East Chester Public Utility District and what is now Fairview Spenard Public Utility District. They had vested interest that I’m going to have to stop.

Terence: That’s okay. That’s fine. No that’s great.

Jane: Ask him what the outer bound is?

Terence: That is what I was asking.

Jane: It’s 15th Avenue.

Terence: That is just what I was going to ask.

Jane: And ask him about the park system. Because what he did then was set up the whole Chester Creek Green Belt to the site of the University, all the stuff that was out in the woods.

Terence: Yeah, can you keep us on track here about what the things, okay. Let’s see we’re right in the middle of service districts.

Vic: So we had these service districts outside the city.

Terence: Oh, before you say that cause it is also roads, sewer.

Vic: No, there were no roads.

Terence:Were the roads –

Vic: It was water and sewer.

Terence: Just water and sewer, okay. All right go ahead, sorry. We had the service districts.

Vic: Right, service districts. And then there was Chugach Electric Company that was in conflict with the Municipality of Anchorage over provision of electric power. The utility districts were in conflict with the city over who was going to serve and get subdivisions and people started wanting to be annexed to the city. There were others who didn’t want city regulations. So there were constant fights and going into court over annexation issues and we had very, actually very important cases at the time in federal court. There were no state courts of course and I was acute called the director of annexation rather than director of planning by Ed Boyko, who was a very prominent feisty attorney, always fighting the city on every issue that came up.

Man: The plane is going to cause a problem here.

Jane: We have a visual aid.

Terence: And so why wasn’t the territory allowed to have counties? What was the thinking behind that?

Vic: The territory couldn’t have counties because –

Terence: Boundaries and the parks.

Terence: Did we have idea you finished? I think you finished the service district. What about tell us a little bit about the at that time when you became planning director what were the extent of the city limits?

Vic: When I became planning director, the City of Anchorage consisted of what today would be referred to as the central business district. The city limits were on 16th Avenue on the south and then on the east they went up to C Street and then sort of jogged around. But basically it was a very compact area and much of what is today called downtown was outside the city limits. The areas of Mountain View and Fairview were all outside the city –

Vic: It was very small and you could sort of take the city and the city of Anchorage itself the Anchorage area had by then already grown to this kind of an extent. And so in a way Anchorage was moving toward the problems that cities in the states had by not having any kind of a unified jurisdiction and conflict developing, being in court all the time, services not being adequate and that was one of the issues that was constantly bedeviling municipal administration. Also we didn’t have the ability to solve many of the problems. We tried to get home rule authority. I talked to a delegate to congress, Bob Bartlett, about getting legislation through congress to authorize home rule for cities in Alaska so they could solve some of these urban problems and we just couldn’t get that.

Terence: What does it mean, what is a home rule government? What does that mean?

Vic: Home rule government essentially means that the people in a community decide what the functions will be that will be carried out by the government and what the restrictions on the government would be given whatever state limitations there would be. There are different levels of home rule throughout the United States and different laws and this is something that we addressed within the Alaska Constitution.

Terence: Okay, good.

Jane: People who live there decide (inaudible) imposed on them from far away.

Terence: Right. And in a way the home rule issue is symptomatic of the bigger territorial statehood issue isn’t it to an extent, a reflection of it. Is that fair to say it’s a local reflection of the bigger issue.

Vic: Very much so. The alternative to home rule is what is called general law. General law cities where the legislature, where the higher authority says what a municipality, what a local government can do rather than the people themselves through charter deciding what will be done and this is exactly the same situation as we had in Alaska when we had a territory which was a creature of the federal government and the federal government determined what could be done, what could not be done in the territory of Alaska.

Terence: And so it wasn’t the people in the territory of Alaska making that decision, it is imposed on it from the federal authorities on top, right?

Vic: Right. The territory had very limited authority. The governor of Alaska under the territorial government was appointed by the President. The highway department was run by the federal government. The court system was run by the federal government. The communications system, long distance telephone system, was run by the Army. Essentially everything all around. Management of resources, fish and game, lands, forest, everything was federal.

Terence: Okay, good.

Jane: Including you had to have a passport to get into Seattle.

Terence: Yeah, we should talk about that as far as the general issue, but before we finish this, how about the parks in Anchorage and then we will go on to the statehood issue, the park issue that Jane mentioned, your consensus about that?

Vic: One of the things that we tried to do as we were dealing with problems of growth of Anchorage was to look ahead and do some planning for the future regardless of what the jurisdiction was. And one good example is parks and recreation in 1954 we established a citizens committee on parks and recreation and developed a long-range plan for park development in Anchorage everything from play lots, playgrounds, up to regional parks. And as part of that we laid out the Chester Creek Park system and the Campbell Creek Parks and set aside areas like Goose Lake and Russian Jack Springs for future recreation. We took land that the city owned that might be regular lots here and there such as Elderberry Park at the end of 5th Avenue by the Inlet and designated that as parks and so laid the basis for the park system that exists today. And this is a good example of where planning pays off because by having laid out something that was logical and would serve the community in the future others came along and implemented that over the years and today we have a fabulous trail system around Anchorage and great parks.

Terence: How – what would it have been like – we should wait for the siren.

Man: I think we should wait for the emergency vehicles to go by.

Terence: Vic, what would it have been like if you hadn’t have done that? Was it possible –

Terence: What would the park system have been like if you hadn’t have been able to sort of plan ahead that way?

Vic: Well a lot of the land that is now in parks might have gone for other uses, might have been developed, might not have been acquired for public purposes or set aside. In the years shortly afterward there was some urban renewal projects to clear up some of the slum areas that were evolving for instance along Chester Creek and while that was being re-developed land was set aside in accordance with the plan to preserve that land and that became part of the Chester Creek green belt. So we might have had some of the development but it certainly, the plan certainly facilitated setting aside and acquiring – times when Alaska and Anchorage were at a very low economic level. We had to have bond issues of a few hundred thousand dollars here and a few hundred thousand there to acquire land in accordance with this plan along Chester Creek to complete the green belt.

Terence: It does seem to me it is like the green belt is no good if it is broken up.

Vic: Right.

Terence: It’s like a highway system you know it doesn’t matter if it leaves off the last mile or mile in between it doesn’t help you get from one spot to the other. That’s really fascinating. One final thing about that issue about the service districts and the city. What was the level of government service, if you lived let’s say south of 16th Street then? Let’s say you lived at what is now 18th Street where was your – who did you talk to – who was your government, if any? What was your government?

Vic: If you lived in Spenard at the time for instance, you had your public utility district board, which was an elected board and that was about it. Well you could also vote for school board member. The school board had limited authority. Their budget had to be approved by the city and public utility district had very limited authority. There was another health district established at some point, which wasn’t really very effective, but you had no policing authority. There was no police. There were volunteer fire departments and there were problems of jurisdiction for the city fire department go across the line and fight a fire outside the city limits and the answer was often no because the taxpayers had to pay for fire service and the people outside didn’t. So it was in a way a no man’s land out there in terms of government.

Terence: And really –

Terence: So did you live outside the city or live on the border of the city, where was your house?

Vic: I lived just outside the city limits when my wife Gloria and I came to Anchorage in 1950 there was no housing available. There was simply nothing. We looked at something in Mountain View for $25,000, which was big money, far more than we could afford. And it was a one room nothing. And so then we found a lot just on the south side of 16th Avenue that had a cabin on it. The cabin was a converted garage that somebody had skidded over there, closed off the garage and cut a door into it, the door-door. Put a picture window on the side, so-called picture window, put an oil cook stove in one corner and chemical toilet in the other corner and ran some electric wires over. There was no running water or anything like that. And so we bought that and lived in that for a year and then built a house ourselves. Took us four years. We got in while it was still – while we were still working on it. Some windows weren’t in and so fixed one room and lived in one room, but this house was outside of the city limits and it was wilderness beyond us. So 16th Avenue and C Street wasn’t through. There were no lights to be seen. Our kids later used to go down to Chester Creek and catch salmon down there. And anyway we were at the edge of the wilderness. There were trees all around, beautiful view of the mountains, but now that would be called part of downtown. But it was outside then.

Terence: And so for you if you had a problem I mean cause you’re in this sort of no man’s land, cause you’re outside the city limits and you take away the issues of the utility districts, the school districts I should say, essentially the next stop for you I mean your government, your representatives are either legislature, right? But they are very weak so in one sense it is congress, right? Isn’t that kind of what – there is really nothing between you and the capitol in Washington, DC, is there? I mean besides the utility district stuff. I wonder if you could talk about that and say something.

Vic: Well in terms of the individual if you’re outside the city, you had no government that you could address about local issues. The territorial government had no way of dealing with anything you might need. The federal government had jurisdiction. They couldn’t care less about what is happening at the local level. So essentially you were out in so-called no man’s land and that was it.

Terence: Did that answer – okay. That’s fascinating – people don’t really realize that, that’s right here on the ground in Anchorage you have this where your house was on 16th Street that because of the problems with the local government and the weakness of the territorial government that issue. And now police, if you needed the police to come to your – they might cross the street, right? On a good neighbor basis but if they were busy somewhere else I mean and you needed police. I don’t know if you really didn’t have the city police wouldn’t respond, would they? I don’t –

Vic: No.

Terence: So it’s like the federal marshal I guess, right?

Vic: I can’t remember. Somebody must have had some jurisdiction.

Terence: I think it’s federal marshal’s

Jane: But the federal marshal was in Valdez.

Vic: No, we had a marshal here too.

Terence: But it was very limited I think that’s the main thing that they’re – because when they came and made reports I remember I read a few of them in the Truman Library and stuff, very minimal. They just didn’t have the manpower to do anything so. I think this theoretical jurisdiction but practical jurisdiction.

Vic: One of the reasons that many of these areas wanted to be annexed was to get police protection, get fire protection and insurance rates were horrendously high outside the city because the fire department wouldn’t serve and water supply wasn’t available and not adequate so that while people had to pay taxes when they became part of the city, they usually saved more on insurance than their taxes cost them.

Terence: But is it fair to say Vic that a lot of people resisted annexation because there were bitterly contested fights, weren’t there, about when the city wanted to annex something that some people just were stubborn about that, isn’t –

Vic: There were vehement fights about annexation and about city reaching out and grabbing territory and some areas like Airport Heights that you might say were civilized areas were glad to become part of the city. In other cases there was strong resistance because people didn’t want to be regulated. They didn’t want to – there was some interests that didn’t want to have police. In what is now Fairview there was Eastchester, the area it became an island within a city because annexation other areas annexed but there was an area with nightclubs and various other types of not necessarily legal operations behind them that resisted to the end. They hired lawyers. They fought all the way, but the city always prevailed in the courts.

Terence: That wasn’t admitted, what was the – what’s that called when the annex – I mean they have the right to do it under territorial days, I mean is that something you addressed – I don’t know if that is different under the constitution but it is not eminent domain, what is it called? Is there something – a legal term for that, that the city has a right to annex stuff, I don’t – well that’s okay, it just occurred to me? Let’s see anything else? Jane, can you think of anything else we should ask about this time in Vic’s career? Or anything else Vic that you think we should say before we go on to talk about the convention?

Jane: It was also the beginning of the Municipal League and you were one of the founding fathers of the Municipal League getting city governments around the rest of the state together.

Terence: Okay, you want to say something about that.

Jane: The league.

Vic: Yeah, when shortly after I first came to Anchorage there was a meeting announced of bringing together Alaska cities and so I dropped in at the meeting that was held in the Fourth Avenue Theater. And that was the first coming together of communities in Alaska to discuss common issues and out of that came the League of Alaskan Cities, which later became the what is now the Alaska Municipal League. And I was asked to become the Executive Secretary of the League of Cities while I was Anchorage Planning Director and to move down to Juneau and be a lobbyist for the League of Alaska Cities, which gave me a chance to learn a little bit about territorialtics. And I spent part of the 1953 session in Juneau and then spent the entire 1955 session in Juneau as a lobbyist. It was interesting being a lobbyist for a small group of cities that had no money because generally I had legislators buy me meals rather than as a lobbyist and treating legislators. So it – in a way it wasn’t too hard a job because many of the territorial senators and representatives had been local city council members and a number of them had been mayors of their cities and so I happened to know them and worked with them. They had municipal experience so it was an interesting phase but sort of part of my politicization.

Terence: And that really gave you a perspective of what the other cities were suffering right, throughout the territory or the other problems that they had. Is that – what were some of the common problems that all the cities had?

Vic: Well the common problems that cities had were lack of authority to do what needed to be done and of course they all had inadequate tax revenues because the economy was pretty slow at that time, especially outside of Anchorage and Fairbanks and it was mostly matter of jurisdiction and much of the work of me as a lobbyist then was to keep legislators from imposing restrictions on the ability of cities to meet local needs. Then there were additional authorities such as trying to get the authority to establish parking – downtown parking districts, tax districts, and various other steps toward meeting local needs.

Terence: What was the tax base of the cities and stuff. What did they rely on in general?

Vic: Generally it was a combination of property taxes and sales tax. There were business license taxes of various sorts and, but those were the main ones as they exist today in most cities.

Jane: And how did the territory get its money?

Terence: Did you hear Vic what Jane said? She was raising the question of how the territory got its territorial tax base I guess?

Vic: The territory had an income tax at that point and which had been voted in back in the latter 1940’s as part of a fiscal reform package to meet territorial needs. Then the state had various business licenses, liquor licenses then other fees. The main source of territorial income was income tax. There was no territorial sales tax and there was no territorial property tax.

Terence: When you went to Juneau, was Heintzleman governor then in ’53 or was Gruening still in office, what –

Vic: In – Gruening was in office when I first came and I had been to Ketchikan and I stopped by to see Gruening visited him in the capitol. Things were very informal in those days. I just went up to the third floor and said I would like to see the Governor and I went in and saw the Governor. And we had a good time. He actually had known my father. My father had been a journalist and wrote for a journal – The Nation that Gruening was editing back in the mid-1920’s. So we had a real nice visit, but by the time I went down to Juneau to lobby was 1953 when President Eisenhower had been elected and he appointed Frank Heintzleman to be Governor.

Terence: Let’s talk a little bit about the first meeting too, go ahead and take a drink if you want.

Terence: You were talking about when you first met Gruening and you said he had known your dad. Maybe talk a little bit about that, about if he had anything to say about your dad, do you remember or just say something sort of briefly about that, your first meeting with him, impressions of him, things like that.

Vic: Yeah.

Terence: When you first met Gruening you went up to the third floor of the capitol and introduced yourself. What was your evaluation of Gruening both at that time and later as sort of a leader and as governor and you know?

Vic: I found Gruening very personable, very interested and wanted to know all about my father and all about what I was doing. He was interested in the planning I was doing, particularly since I had just come from Ketchikan and looking at the pulp mill site and wanted to know how the community felt about that and how different interests were involved and what my impressions were. So it was interesting and then from then on I got to know him personally and saw him quite a bit, especially throughout the whole statehood fight and then afterward when he was senator and always had a personal relationship and he was very admirable guy in terms of being totally committed to what he believed in, just totally, as we all know from his fight for statehood, his leading role in the fight for statehood and the Vietnam situation, the Tonkin Resolution, where he and Senator Morris were the only ones in the senate who voted against the Tonkin Resolution which caused the great escalation of the Vietnam War.

Terence: Just a little bit off of it, but how did Alaskans respond to that vote in 1964, what was that, do you know?

Vic: I would say that Alaskans were pretty war oriented. There was a strong minority of people who felt Vietnam was all wrong, but at that time I would say that overall there was support for the Johnson’s and the Nixon’s fighting in Vietnam.

Terence: Is it fair to say that a lot of people in fact were outraged at Gruening’s – for Alaska and stuff?

Vic: Yes. People were very upset with Gruening and that probably was a factor in his being defeated not too long afterward.

Terence: That’s right, in 1968, that’s right. Okay. Well, you know you traveled around the territory, first for the BLM and then later you worked in Anchorage and then in the League of Alaskan Cities and then actually being in Juneau, you sort of developed more of a territorial-wide perspective it sounds like. What were the big territorial issues at that time and let’s talk about how maybe that led into the convention and the issues? What were the crying needs of Alaska as far as you felt at that time in the mid-1950’s?

Vic: I’d rather –

Terence: Go ahead, do it however you want.

Vic: Sort of from how I got involved.

Terence: Yeah, do it that way, yeah, okay.

Vic: When I came to Alaska in 1950 I was completely shocked to find that I was no longer a full-fledged citizen of the United States. I had fought war to save democracy. I had already voted for President and US Senate in Wisconsin before and came and all of a sudden I’m in Alaska. I’m deprived of right to vote for President, right to have voting representation in the US Congress, the old cry of taxation without representation. And I was in this federal enclave of colony of the United States Government. And so I was outraged and there were quite a few other young people, veterans mostly, who were coming to Alaska at that time and we all felt very dissatisfied with the situation. Statehood movement had of course been ongoing already. The territorial legislature had established an Alaska Statehood Commission – Committee and some very prominent people were on that. Delegate Bartlett had introduced statehood bills in the US House and there was consideration being given and those of us who were new to Alaska were very supportive but not organized until I believe it was in 1952 or so there was a hearing held on one of the bills in the US Senate.

And the Chairman of the Interior Committee holding the hearings at the end of the hearing said that well we’ve heard from the leaders of Alaska – Bob Atwood, the publisher of the Anchorage Times and from politicians, we are going to take the committee to Alaska to hear from the little people – what the little man thinks. So very spontaneously a bunch of us got together – Roger Cremo, Cliff Groh, Barry White, and others and formed a group, not an organization, just a group called little men for statehood. And made up placards I’m a little man for statehood. And they were plastered all over Anchorage and they were in every store window up and down Fourth Avenue, which was then “the street” in Anchorage and when the delegation they arrived by ship from Seward they came to Anchorage by train and a map of Anchoragerites turned out at the railroad depot in the rain holding up signs “I’m a little man for statehood”. So real citizen enthusiasm was created and after the visit by this group and the chairman by the way was very anti-statehood so it was a way of showing that this wide support.

Then a group called Operation Statehood was formed. In those days everything was called operation this, operation that, operation petticoat and whatever. And so we had Operation Statehood and we became activists for statement supporting the Alaska Statehood Committee by being totally independent, raising money, and holding rallies, having campaigns to send – to have citizens in Alaska send letters to their home newspapers from whence they came to their families to have their families write to their representatives in the US Congress for them to support statement, placing ads, sending whenever hearings were being held in congress, in the senate, sending the messages with forget-me-not’s on them and we had a Gimmicks Committee that would think of –

Terence: Was that called the gimmicks?

Vic: Gimmicks Committee, think up gimmicks like sending forget-me-not’s and doing various things and then whenever there would be hearings we would participate and various others. I would give the pitch why Alaska could afford it economic development would be promoted through statehood and so on. Others would talk about political values and whatnot. We helped organize a flight, a chartered a DC4 and flew on Alaska Airlines to Seattle and on to Washington. Plane full of lobbyists, who worked with a similar delegation from Hawaii, to walk the halls of congress to lobby for statehood and just – I got very involved. And it was a very exciting time and at various points we considered asking the legislature to call a Constitution Convention because Hawaii had one and Operation Statehood had a Constitutional Study Committee. So we studied what the constitution ought to be when we get to it. And then at one point there was a feeling that things were stymied again in the US Congress because what they would do is the house would move it – statehood bill but the senate would sit on it or it would get stuck in a Rules Committee in the house. The Senate Committee, Interior Committee will take up a bill and they will even pass it and then it would get stuck in the house. Hawaii statehood bill would come along and President Eisenhower, who said statehood for Alaska would prove to the world that America practices what it preaches. He said that before he was president and President of Columbia University, but when he became a Republican president he favored Hawaii statehood but said Alaska wasn’t ready for statehood. So then the Hawaii bill would move ahead of Alaska and the Democrats in the congress would say whoa, you can’t do that and so they would nullify each other and we of course tried to get the Alaska and Hawaii connected, but congressional politics stymied that and of course then there was the whole civil rights issue that worked against both Alaska and Hawaii. And so –

Terence: Let’s talk about that for a second because there really is three –

Robert: You were saying that you talked about economics why we could afford to be a state. We have heard from some people that were lobbyists on the other saying hey that’s a cockamamie idea we can’t afford it. Could you talk a little bit about your arguments for – I mean the economic arguments for statehood and against it were?

Terence: Well we should talk about this too, but I think really Anchorage was the center of this wasn’t it? I mean it wasn’t Juneau or Fairbanks or any other place, it was here, so.

Terence: Economic question that’s right.

Vic: We had a number of congressional hearings on statehood committees would come up to Alaska aside from committee hearings in Washington and there was one in particular where I was testifying in behalf actually of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and making the argument of that statehood would further economic development and the main argument that I advanced then was that with statehood we could control over resources, control over transportation, control over other aspects of the infrastructure and that we would be able to manage our own affairs and move things forward rather than depending on decisions made in Washington by people who really didn’t care about what happens in Alaska.

Those hearings were fascinating. I remember Mildred Kirkpatrick testified at that particular hearing also, which was held in the Carpenter’s Hall at Fourth Avenue and Denali. And she was the Republican National Committeewoman and she told about the – working and being enthusiastic about the Republican President being elected Eisenhower becoming President and how she received a formal invitation to the inauguration and she was excited and she got on a plane and flew down to Seattle to go to Washington, DC. And in Seattle she had to go through immigration just as if she were coming from Japan or France, she had to go through immigration to prove that she was an American citizen. And she broke down with the ignominity of the situation that my president was being inaugurated and I’m treated like a foreign and not an American citizen. This was one of the big issues that we had. It was the principle of having to go from a part of the United States into another part of the United States and go through immigration.

An interesting aspect of that hearing also was as usual there were those who testified that Alaska cannot afford to become a state. That we can’t support statehood and Senator Clinton Anderson of New Mexico said well that sort of makes me think of marriage. Can people really afford to get married if people approach that on strictly the financial basis? Most people might never get married, but there are other issues involved and he was wonderful in sort of taking care of that argument that we cannot afford it after Mildred Kirkpatrick made this very emotional statement of what it means to be a United States citizen and that you want to have full citizenship rights aside from economic development and other issues.

Terence: Yeah, maybe we should say something more about that. It isn’t a completely irrational issue, I mean is it? It’s more than that isn’t it. The whole idea of the desire for statehood in a way.

Vic: Well the, excuse me, frame it –

Terence: Okay, the question. Drawn along the lines of that issue by Clinton Anderson that you know you can’t – if people decided to get married strictly as a financial situation they wouldn’t get married and so that in this case it really has to do with the bigger issues of freedom and democracy that the Second World War had been about, especially for veterans I’m guessing.

Vic: Yeah. The feeling was very strong that we are entitled to statehood as US citizens. That we earned the right. There was no reason for us not to be full-fledged citizens and it just – it was unfair and Alaska was in a state – status of a colony and ruled from above, ruled from outside and we just want to be a soverign state just like everybody else since the majority of Alaskans at that point had already come from other states. They had been US citizens and it just seemed totally unfair. And this is aside from all the practical issues of being dominated by federal bureaucrats both distant and local and the desire to actually get management of our own resources.

Robert: Since so much of it was governed by outside politics and there was a southern – strong southern contingency that didn’t want to see Alaska statehood can you imagine it not happening? If it had been delayed for some reason and other pressing events had dominated congress, do you think it was inevitable?

Vic: Statehood was inevitable. I mean we all felt that. Gallop polls showed time and again and again that more than two-thirds of the people in the United States supported statehood. Across the board editorial policies of major – with newspapers and local newspapers around the United States supported statehood. It was – it was just something that was accepted by the public generally and the inevitability was there and that is why the frustration became so horrendous when congress would come right up to the edge and not act to grant Alaska statehood, grant Hawaii statehood, because it was always these political arguments. There will be more Republicans versus Democrats and the division being close Alaska or Hawaii could make a difference. The same thing on the civil rights issue. It was a matter of the majority of the US senators supporting statehood but the filibuster power was with the southern anti-civil rights senators and on the house side they controlled the Rules Committee so that statehood bills just couldn’t successfully move through both houses. And it was just sort of a nominal victory when finally in 1958 the house approved and then finally the senate approved. And senate action now became thanks to Lyndon Johnson who, thanks to Bob Bartlett was convinced to move the senate in that action.

Terence: Well let’s pursue this for just a second. It’s a little bit off then we will get back to your own involvement, but if everybody in Alaska believed it was inevitable and the mean the justice of it and the fairness of it and yet it had been stymied pretty near after the war for – let’s see there was a referendum in 1946, so 13 years from ’46 to ’59. You know and I think I’ve mentioned this with you, well, let’s just suppose that in an alternate world that it had been delayed, and because the issue – the opposition that has occurred to me you know in thinking about this a little bit is that is the rise in environmental groups that had been nationwide environmental costs (a) and then also the Native sovereignty movement sort of as a modern time. Because if we imagined the current political climate, let’s say it was automatic – it was just 2003 and the state had never have it – state had never been occurred, can you imagine this enormous opposition to giving the people of Alaska control of 103 million acres. I’m an environmentalist let’s say, what would an environmentalist say we’re going to give away one-third of Alaska to these developed hungry guys based in Juneau. And this is a hypothetical question and in a way you really don’t have to answer it. It was a set up to the idea of we were thinking and doing this program of – let’s just suppose the state hadn’t happened for whatever reason, what would Alaska be like today if there wasn’t a state? Just imagine this was not 1953 but 2003 and we weren’t a state.

Vic: Would oil have been discovered? You’ve got to give me –

Terence: Let’s just say oil is discovered.

Robert: Hold on. That was a great thing. Would you repeat that and kind of go with that thought.

Terence: He was asking me the question, but go ahead.

Vic: With oil.

Robert: No, but was that a rhetorical question? I mean I liked that what you were saying? So would you mind repeating that?

Vic: Just the question?

Robert: Well the question and then speculate?

Vic: Well it’s really hard to speculate about what might have happened if Alaska had to date not received statehood.

Terence: Meant I think anyway that residents could retain a greater share of natural resource wealth than nonresidents, you know, that was the thing where he was going with that. So maybe if we – what did you Robert? If you just say it is hard to speculate that if oil had been discovered and then maybe venture into this – like the Permanent Fund we wouldn’t have had that, something like that.

Vic: It is really hard to speculate as to what would have happened if to date Alaska had not become a state. The main question is would oil have been discovered? Very possibly not because it was on state land that the leasing took place and the discoveries occurred. But even if oil had been discovered, it would have been all federal money and it certainly wouldn’t have come to the benefit of Alaskans. It would have all gone to the federal treasury. There would be no Permanent Fund. No state expenditures for roads, for schools, for health facilities, and for everything else that our oil money had gone. So that we simply wouldn’t be where we are today. So…

Terence: That’s perfect. That’s good, yeah. That’s the overall idea that we were at least thinking of by thinking about in that way just the way you so articulated stated. It puts the achievement of the statehood in perspective I guess is what we could get out of it. This is not some academic exercise. You know that was very well put. Can you think of something else on that very point, Robert, or –

Robert: Well, no, I think again I just backup what Terrence was saying that was great. That is exactly. Cause you know I mean as Terrence and I have been reading it really at the time of statehood it was people really pegged their hopes on pulp. Oil wasn’t even like a blip on the screen.

Vic: Right. Cook Inlet was already in the works, but it was a hope. It wasn’t significant as we found out after we became a state and were broke.

Terence: Vic, let’s go back then to that issue of you telling your story and I think you were at the spot where the you know you were going through the various sort of the issues. I think that’s where you were getting at. I forget now exactly where you ended, but. Do you remember, Robert, where?

Vic: I think was getting to –

Robert: You talked a little bit –

Vic: Operation Statehood.

Terence: Oh, right, right, a little bit.

Vic: Moving towards Constitution Convention.

Terence: Okay, good, yes.

Vic: I assume that’s where you –

Terence: Exactly, that’s where we wanted to be.

Vic: Excuse me, I’m going to cough, so.

Terence: They can take it. I don’t think they have any hearing left anyway. Constitution Convention.

Vic: Okay. In late 1954, it became very clear that congress again hadn’t acted on Alaska statehood bill and that something more needed to be done, some kind of a push was needed and Wendell Kay and others suggested that well the time has come to go ahead and write a constitution for the future state of Alaska. Hawaii had already adopted a constitution in 1950 and so that’s when the legislature decided to –

Man: That’s all right, no problem.

Vic: Sorry about that.

Terence: That’s all right, take your time. This is very efficient doing this with you cause actually get right to it so don’t worry.

Vic: The legislature –

Terence: Wait just a second, the noise is that all right?

Vic: I assume by the way that Tom Stewart gave you a lot of detail about what the legislature did, so I’m not going to get into that.

Terence: He did, lots of detail. Over five hours.

Vic: So I don’t need to go through all of that.

Terence: Okay. So we were talking about the –

Vic: The legislature decided to go ahead and issue a call for the Constitution Convention and on the local sort of home front Operation Statehood.

Vic: The community and got people as excited as possible. The Constitutional Committee of Operation Statehood actually drafted a model constitution that – for Alaska – got it used as a tabloid as an insert to newspapers throughout Alaska and just to show people what a constitution might look like just as an educational tool. First of all for ourselves, but secondarily for the general public to see here is what it might look like, here are the pieces that make a constitution and this was derived in part from the model state constitution of the National Municipal League and other sources and it was nothing compared to the final constitution that was adopted, but at the time it was the only thing that most people in Alaska had seen in terms of what a constitution might be like.

Then, of course, came the election of delegates to the Constitution Convention and Operation Statehood was beating the drums for getting people out to the polls and quite a few members of Operation Statehood themselves came forth as candidates. Barry White was President of Operation Statehood at the time and he ran and was elected to the Constitutional Convention. I was Vice President and I was elected to the Constitutional Convention. Helen Fisher, no relative of mine, was Secretary of Operation Statehood. She was elected and a number of other members of the group were elected. And it was –

Terence: Excuse me. Is it fair to say that most of the delegates were pro-statehood? Were there any that were adamantly opposed you know going in to this?

Vic: Most of the candidates running for the Constitutional Convention were for statehood. The drumbeat of the candidates was I’m for statehood. I have no ax to grind. So if they’re not lobbying, they didn’t have an agenda they just want statehood. They want to further –

Terence: That’s okay.

Vic: I’m sorry.

Terence: That’s all right.

Vic: Bad day.

Terence: No, it’s just dry, all that flying too.

Terence: Okay, we were talking about –

Vic: Yeah, I know what we were talking about. The drumbeat of all the candidates was I’m for statehood. I have no ax to grind. Statehood was the issue. The convention was being called to promote statehood. That was really the thing. Writing the constitution became the matter afterward but at the time the election and at the time of convening of the delegates it was statehood and the role of the Constitutional Convention to promote statehood. There were some candidates who were not for statehood. Orie Robertson of Juneau. There were a number of – probably one or two others, several were not enthusiastically for statehood. They weren’t beating the drum I’m for statehood, they just sort of elect me I’ll represent you, but I would say the overwhelming majority ran on the statehood platform and then secondarily I have no ax to grind.

Terence: Okay, good. Okay. So I forget where we were when I interrupted you with that question. I think you were at –

Vic: Well we can go on to –

Terence: Well no cause you were saying and I called you back because I wanted to ask about this thing about the delegates, but talking about the election or cause you mentioned all the people in Operation Statehood and stuff who were members. So why don’t you go ahead about the decision to run and stuff like that.

Vic: You mean my decision?

Terence: For you that’s right.

Vic: For me the decision to run was in a way easy and in other ways difficult. I was Planning Director of Anchorage in order to run I had to resign my position. So I decided statehood was more important – this opportunity to participate and the Constitutional Convention doesn’t come very often in one’s lifetime and so I quit City of Anchorage and hung out a shingle Planning Consultant. And picked up a little contract here and there, but devoted myself mainly to getting elected. I was one of the delegates who ran at large in the south-central division. At that point we had four divisions in Alaska and as Tom probably described the election basis, so I won’t go into that.

Anchorage was electing one delegate and there were 12 to be elected in south-central at large. And I decided to run at large because I was well known in Anchorage being Planning Director and being in the news quite a bit, but also through my League of Alaska Cities and early BLM experience I had been out within the election district in Kodiak and Dillingham and Cordorva and Palmer and Valdez and so I was known – had people who could speak for me in all those areas. And so I was able – I’ve got a little whistle going –

Terence: Any time because we can always fix this. You ran at large.

Vic: Right. And well I really finished that.

Terence: Okay.

Terence: So you didn’t actually run against anybody. It was just a slate. It wasn’t like A against B was it or no?

Vic: There were more than fifty candidates running for the 12 positions that Anchorage had in the Constitutional Convention and I was one of the 52 or so who were running. It was sort of new for most of us. There were some who had run at large, run politically. I had never run for office before and as I mentioned I was known in Anchorage but I figured I need to do something to get the word out to other areas. And I also felt I needed to go door to door. So and that was very difficult for me at the time. I was real hesitant and finally got in a car with Gloria and drove out to the butte near Palmer and passed by the first house, didn’t quite have nerve enough and then stopped at the second house and knocked on the door. And this lady came out and I introduced myself and I said I’m a candidate for the Constitutional Convention. And gave her a few words and turned out she didn’t really know anything about the forthcoming election of delegates. So I explained to her what the basis of the election was and what the Constitutional Convention was about and we had a very nice conversation.

Then I drove back home and wrote a letter to Dear Alaskan, I have been going door to door in the district and here are the questions. And then I had this short letter introducing myself and the Constitutional Convention delegate election. Then I added a resume, just a brief resume with education and work experience, listing all the communities from Kotzebue to Ketchikan that I had worked in, especially the ones within the district and I got a very good vote as a result and was elected to be a delegate.

Terence: Okay. So you actually went door to door.

-break-

Vic: Federal official who voted for a position created in his da, da, da cannot serve in office created or whatever and the court ruled that – I’m going to take time out.

Terence: Okay.

Vic: The court ruled that it was legal.

Man: Okay. Any time Terrence.

Terence: Okay. So you got elected and this was a huge commitment on your part obviously Vic cause not only leaving your job, doing this venturing out into this elective office. So then and you knew by this time of course it was going to be held in Fairbanks?

Vic: Right.

Terence: So what was your – what were you thinking as you approached this event? What was it like?

Vic: Well it was a very exciting time. It was a matter of preparing oneself, reading the materials prepared by Public Administration Service, talking with others, and of course at the same time there was discussion of who was going to be president of the Constitutional Convention and several individuals were lobbying for that and it was –

Man: Airplane is really going to cause us some problems.

Terence: You mentioned who were –

Man: Okay, Terrence we’re ready.

Terence: So Vic who were the folks who thought they should be president?

Vic: Well in Anchorage the key candidate for president was Vic Rivers. He had been a very active politician, territorial senator from a very political family and he was a candidate and his brother from Fairbanks Ralph Rivers was a candidate also. So he had kind of gotten the word out.

Terence: But go ahead you were mentioning –

Vic: Various names cropped up for president of the Constitutional Convention. The most active one in pursuit of the presidency was Vice Rivers of Anchorage. He had been a territorial senator, very strong politician and engineer by profession. A very, if you look around you’d identify him as a powerful politician. And he was lobbying actively to be selected for that post. Many of us novices, younger ones, who had not been involved in politics were suspicious of anyone of that sort who was actively lobbying for the position you might say wanted it. And there was quite a discussion going on about Bill Egan among a few delegates and then we arrived in Fairbanks it was horrendously cold. It was quite the reception for those of us from the south.

Terence: The scene in the Gold Rush Charlie Chapman of eating the spaghetti 70 times.

Terence: What was the weather like when you got to Fairbanks?

Vic: The weather was horrendously cold. For those of us who came from the south it was quite a shock to arrive in Fairbanks. I remember the first day I tried to move the car and the car didn’t want to go. And then I forced the car forward and it sort of went ga-plunk and I got out and looked and couldn’t see anything and didn’t have a flat. Then I went and pushed it again and it went ga-plunk and then looked out and then I learned that tires froze flat at least in those days. I’m not sure they still do. But it was quite an experience to be in this cold Fairbanks all of a sudden. And that of course was a continuing theme through the convention.

But anyway arriving in Fairbanks we settled into an apartment and started talking with other delegates about president, who is going to be president and found that people from the rural areas, in particular, were suspicious of anyone from Anchorage and also from Fairbanks and would rather have Bill Egan. To that point Bill Egan hadn’t even arrived in Fairbanks yet.

And on Sunday morning, the day before the opening of the convention, Egan arrived having hitchhiked on a truck from Valdez and he was confronted with the proposition and he was agreeable and Burke Riley was one of those who was very strong advocate for Bill Egan. And so then there was sort of an agreement among this group of younger rural types, the nonpolitical types that Bill Egan ought to be president, but no one was skilled enough to make a count really and know for sure.

And the sort of the fact of how inexperienced we were came out in the first opening day of the Constitutional Convention when arrangements had been made to have an opening by Governor Frank Heintzleman and certain other welcoming statements and then to elect a president pro-tem. And so Mildred Herman was nominated as president pro-tem. And we who didn’t know anything about the rules were being undercut. Mildred Herman is being pushed for president to the Constitutional Convention and so somebody nominates Bill Egan. And so then this hurried consultation takes place to explain to us that this is only for temporary session.

Vic: So somebody nominates Bill Egan and then it took a while for those of us to realize – oh, and then the votes went for Mildred Herman and we were very upset thinking that things had gone awry and some of the people we thought were for Egan had voted for Mildred Herman. We just didn’t understand that until later that the role that Mildred Herman was to play was to conduct the proceedings until such time as a new president was elected. And then of course once that was clarified we were at peace and –

Terence: That’s good. That was fine. She was such a strong –

Man: Okay.

Jane: Mildred, as you told the story before, was those special interests were hijacking the process and you didn’t know who they were, but they were all old guys.

Terence: So something like that the fear that these old, entrenched –

Vic: Our concern basically was that some of those older establishment types were going to control the convention and try and push the constitution in some direction that we didn’t know but that there might be some hidden agendas and we were just uncertain and Bill Egan was from a small town of (inaudible). He had the reputation of fairness. He had been speaker of the territorial house of representatives, served in the territorial senate, and just a very fair person and just very likable and not a forceful person. So that one could feel very comfortable with him and the convention of course proved out the wisdom of Egan’s election because all the way through fairness was the hallmark of his presiding over the convention and it is really thanks to him that the Constitutional Convention worked as effectively and produced the kind of document that it did.

Terence: Excellent. Can you just sort of we’ll add contrast to that, what would have happened if like Gruening had been the president, not that he was going to, of course he wasn’t even a delegate, but that you know how would that have played – what was the difference in their personality say Gruening versus Egan? I mean can you put – cause they both went on to become in the Tennessee Plan so I’m just wondering what –

Terence: Anyway, so you comment on it if you want. They are not rolling, but the only reason why I think things about Gruening are important is that both Tom and George both said this that in a way Gruening was such a divisive figure that you know even more than whether you were Republican or Democrat, that meant for you in the Gruening’s camp or not.

Vic: Right.

Terence: And that in a way I think one of the beauties of the constitution is that it surpassed this built-in fault line in the statehood movement. Cause it was built in from the beginning because this guy was the foremost advocate – articulating position, so that’s why I asked the question. So if you want to say something about it you can and if not it’s okay.

Vic: Yeah, the beauty of Bill Egan was that he brought people together. Everybody felt that they were listened to, that they were part of the convention that they could be heard, that their view can be expressed and considered. It was as democratic with a small “d” as it could be. It was totally without partisanship and Bill Egan insisted on that. That was the agreement of the convention, but Egan insisted on it. A couple of times when a delegate would refer to something political, Egan would just cut the delegate off. And so Egan made sure that the convention worked as a group, that everyone marched together and votes were of course taken where divisions occurred on specific issues, but it was own man issues. It was never in personalities, it was never on partisan politics.

Terence: Okay. So he’s elected. He is president. Your work was divided up. What was the committee that you – cause you were already the Chairman of the local government?

Vic: No.

Terence: How did you divide the work let’s put it that way?

Vic: The – each delegate after we opened it was given an opportunity to give a choice of committee assignments. There was a list of committees. Each delegate chose one, two, three. And I chose local government as my number one. I think it was executive as number two and style and drafting as number three. And I didn’t at that point know much about style and drafting but one of the consultants had urged me to be on style and drafting that that is a crucial committee.

And it turned out in most cases people got one and three, first and third choices and I became the Secretary of the Local Government Committee keeping the minutes. This was something I had learned long, long ago that if you’re the secretary and you keep the record you keep the minutes. You establish what – how the future judges the actions of the particular group that you are reporting on. And in this case Supreme Court of Alaska has a number of times cited the minutes of the Local Government Committee.

It was an interesting group. John Ruswog of Cordova was the Chairman and Egan specifically wanted somebody from a small town rather than from Anchorage or Fairbanks to be chair of local committee. Again just to make sure that there was no perception of the big guys trying to force the constitution in any particular direction. Vic Rivers was on that committee from Fairbanks. Jim Doogan was on the committee. John Cross of Kotzebue was on it from Unalakleet. You had Maynard Lundborg, Eldon Lee from Petersburg. It was all of Alaska pretty well covered, including big cities. We didn’t have anyone from Juneau, but it was very interesting, diverse group. And it was an interesting process. Do you want me to get into the process?

We first looked at what the Public Administration Service had prepared, which was sort of very general. We looked at local government structures around the United States, looked at Finland, looked at Swiss Cantons – Yul Kilcher was a delegate from Homer urged us to follow the Swiss example of independent Cantons. And we looked at local government systems everywhere, read on theory and so on and then started discussing principles and we had a consultant who was working with us and with whom we could have conversations but mostly it was amongst our group. And the thing of course that we started with was the existence of cities as authorized by the Organic Act and then the blankness of the rest of Alaska. We had these special districts and we saw from our own experience in Anchorage that we didn’t want the multiplicity, separate jurisdictions, but more than that we looked at Chicago with 2,000 taxing jurisdictions and the rest of the United States and other countries experience.

And then we started talking about principles. What is it that we want to achieve? And so gradually out of that concept evolved that there should be area wide unit, as well as cities and there should be no other taxing jurisdictions so that you don’t have conflicts. And gradually –

Terence: Maybe talk about that Vic, no taxing jurisdictions so you wouldn’t have the school district leveling taxes plus –

Vic: In the states you have cities, you have counties, you have school districts, you have mosquito abatement districts, you have road improvement districts, you have fire districts, you have district for almost anything and they will overlap and each one will tax separately so that no one – none of them look at the overall tax burden on property owners or on in terms of fees for services. And the decision was made that there will be only two taxing jurisdictions and that would be the city and the area wide unit. And they would be the general governments. And there were some serious conflicts on the discussions on the floor of the convention about whether school districts should have independent taxing authority. And debates went on at great length, but in the long run those prevailed who argued that only a general government, that includes all other functions as well as schools, should be able to tax so that they could balance the needs for various purposes rather than have them independent taxing jurisdiction. So – I don’t know how much detail.

Terence: That’s good. The issue – maybe you could say a little bit how this was in the forefront of the municipal nationwide really cause this was the general trend, wasn’t it, to try to simplify or try to create metropolitan governing bodies?

Vic: Yeah.

Terence: And then also maybe a little bit about the idea that how during territorial days that the counties, remember we were going to come back to that, couldn’t have counties because of the fear of the taxing authority, so.

Vic: In structuring this area wide unit, one of the realities that we faced was that Alaska never had counties as other states had and the county was not allowed in Alaska because the mining interests and the fisheries interest did not want to have a jurisdiction that could tax their properties – their canneries, their mining properties outside of cities. So therefore congress specifically prohibited territorial legislature from establishing counties.

But at the time of the Constitutional Convention counties were in pretty bad repute in the United States because they were not created for the current era. They were poorly administered. They created conflicts with cities. There was the suburban versus urban type jurisdictions and there were efforts in various parts of the United States that we looked at for city county consolidation for metropolitan governmental organizations for metropolitan unification and so on. And in most cases they did not effectively move ahead. They just created more conflict. The metropolitan jurisdictions were sort of sewn together but didn’t function well.

And so decided that what we needed in Alaska was a flexible form, which came to be – has come to be known as the borough and there were lots of arguments over the term borough itself. Some to the end argued that we should just call them counties and let it go at that and just define them for Alaska to be something different. The majority felt we out to have a different name and borough was agreed on.

The borough was conceived as a very flexible unit. In talking about this area wide notion. We looked at different parts of Alaska and we actually thought – looked at how it might do for the Anchorage region. We looked at southeastern Alaska. We looked at the Kotzebue area and the Lower Kuskokwim. And sort of tried to see how it might adapt itself. But we knew that we shouldn’t draw boundaries as had been done in other states for counties. We should leave this unit to be flexible and adaptable to future conditions to much deeper more thorough study than could be done in the context of Local Government Committee deliberations.

And so the principles were set forth in the constitution and implementation as in so much of the constitution was left to the legislature. Among the principles that boundaries would be flexible but also that it would be commission at the state level that would have jurisdiction over boundaries so that if conflicts existed in the future that a state level body would be able to deal with those and resolve those rather than have abutting areas or cities versus boroughs get into these struggle to the death kind of situations that we had between the City of Anchorage and utility districts. Let me stop there.

Terence: Vic, I wonder if looking back given that the borough concept proved to be so controversial. I mean the legislature in many ways really fell down probably in (inaudible) or something. You know would you think if you could go back down to 1955 what in that issue would you have done different or could you – was there anything that could have been done different you know that would make it better, what do you think?

Vic: Looking back from the present situation with respect to developing of local government in Alaska since statehood I would say that most of the local government article is very properly, very appropriately written. It has been thorough lack of proper implementation. The legislature took early steps that were completely wrong. As a result of that we didn’t start off as intended by the convention, by the committee and the convention that would be a deliberate look at Alaska in terms of regionalization of areas and then a logical movement forward as to which ones would be organized, which ones would be unorganized. And instead of that the legislature essentially did nothing and then when confronted with the need to have organized boroughs moved ahead in a way that didn’t deal with the rest of Alaska only certain urban areas where organized. The rest were left in the unorganized borough.

There has been over the years an adaptation more along the lines that had been initially conceived and establishment of the North Slope Borough, the Northwest Arctic Borough, some larger boroughs that incorporated on their own, follow the principles set forth in the constitution, both in terms of what a borough should be and the concept of home rule. So that the areas themselves had a greater say in being organized and how they’re organized.

Terence: And Municipality of Anchorage, isn’t that sort of a fulfillment in the way of what you thought – I know it was hard to get there, but.

Vic: Right. The concept of the local government article in principle concept underlying local government article was adaptability to different conditions in the state of Alaska and the fact that the borough concept is working in Anchorage as well as in the Kotzebue area shows that the concept itself is workable. The state hasn’t seen it all the way through. We still have not you might say rationalized the whole state in terms of what would be the logical areas, but I think we’re moving, slowly moving in that direction and I hope we’ll get there without becoming a burden on rural people, on people who are not ready to be fully organized.

Terence: But Vic you know the one thing that is really fascinating about it –

Terence: The current problems with the borough –

(Overtalking)

Terence: The problem you faced in Anchorage in the early days of how you incorporate –

Terence: Okay. Vic, maybe let’s sort of summing up, cause we’ll have a chance to do this again cause I know there is lots more we could talk about the convention, all kinds of details. But you know basically I think we need a full day with you some time to go over this – a lot of this

Vic: Sound proof.

Terence: Yeah, that’s okay or maybe even when you come up to Fairbanks. We’ll just see. We’ll leave it up to these guys, but sort of overall how do you look back on the convention as an episode in your life, of the whole thing, a big part of this?

Vic: Well to me participating in the Constitutional Convention is a highlight of my life I mean. It was emotionally a tremendous high. It was intellectually a phenomenal achievement in terms of working with a group of people who came from all different parts of Alaska from all different directions and creatively worked together. It was such a marvelous experience because it was not just mutually reinforcing in terms of coming together but sort of reaching a higher and higher level.

Working on Style and Drafting Committee was very creative part of the constitutional drafting process because there the group under George Sonborg pulled together each part of the constitution to make sure it fits with every other part, that every single word, that every comma is appropriately placed, that meanings are examined. So if it says the legislature shall or the legislature may – that it makes a difference. One is a mandate. The other is permissive and words like that were very carefully crafted. We couldn’t of course anticipate everything that would come along such as subsistence priority for rural residents or anything of that sort. But in terms of creating a document. It was a real achievement.

The respect that one gained for fellow delegates for Bill Egan as a presiding officer was something that was incomparable to serving in the legislature. After I served in the Constitutional Convention I was elected to return to the legislature. Later I served in the state senate. There is just no comparison to the – between legislative process and the constitution writing process. It was truly a highlight and nothing else could come close to it.

Terence: Let’s talk about that more. Why was it so different from the legislative process? What was it? Was it purpose? Was it the willingness to compromise? Was it the tone of the level of the debate?

Vic: The constitution serves a higher purpose and it deals with the totality of what you’re creating of the state or a municipal charter you know deals with the totality of what a municipality is. You look at all aspects. You have a common goal.

In the legislature you are dealing with a lot of different pieces. You’re coming at it in partisan fashion. You have the Republicans. You have Democrats. You have your caucuses. You have lobbyists who are constantly after you to do this or do that. There are – you have a governor who is harassing your department heads and special interests. The budget is to be divvied up here and there and so on. And it is totally a different purposes are served and in a way different people serve there. In the Constitutional Convention those who had been in the legislature took off their hats, their legislative hats, they became different people. They became part of a group rather than factions. When the republic was formed you know there was real concern about factions and fractions and parties and so on. Well that has become part of our existence that we have parties, we have factions and they’re at each other and they are trying to get ahead of the other side. In the Constitutional Convention you are not trying to get ahead of anybody. You’re not trying to – you’re not thinking for the next election. You’re just creating something in common.

Terence: Well that’s very great, very eloquent too. That’s wonderful. Do you think that the location in Fairbanks sort of really helped as far as being away from the political process and being located at the University?

Vic: Ah.

Vic: Tom Stewart and others who laid the basis for the convention in terms of timing, in terms of the election and location. It helped create the convention that wrote the constitution that we have. The location in Fairbanks at College, Alaska on the University Campus was – let me start again.

Terence: Sure, go ahead.

Vic: The decision to locate the convention at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks was one of the factors that contributed to the success of the convention. For one thing, it took the delegates away from the capitol where the bureaucrats sat, where the legislature ordinarily sat, where the lobbyists usually congregated, where things were done in the conventional way. Instead of that the atmosphere was one of University academia. It was divorced from politics from the every day aspects of government so that one could rise above the daily concerns. The physical setting being away from Juneau created the atmosphere for unity again rather than divisiveness. The fact that it was cold in the winter I think was in fact we all stayed close together. We stayed indoors. You didn’t go wandering off climbing mountains or even going skiing. It was too cold for that. And so it was very good. The fact that students could come and observe the workings of the convention. Those were factors that really made – helped make for the success of the convention. And in part the situation where the convention met, the basement room with high windows with just delegates sitting at long tables instead of legislative desks, just tables. It was all sort of make shift. It was temporary. It was for this purpose assembled. So the setting at the University was very appropriate and very good.

Terence: Okay. All right. If – let’s see there was one more thing I was just thinking of. So one more question Vic and then they’ve got to do this cover thing we’ve got to shoot which is sort of the narrative frame for this little mini-documentary in November. But what about this issue of the 10-year, every 10 years put it to the vote of the people to reconvene and could this be duplicated or what’s different now then back then?

Vic: The 10-year call?

Terence: Right, exactly, yeah, yeah. I mean how do you feel about that cause every 10 years we face this question whether or not we do it again I guess or call it so. So my third question is what do you think about that provision in the constitution now? Maybe you want to speculate on why that was added and then (b) could it be done if we did vote last time – you know this last election to do this, would that have been a good idea?

Vic: That’s a big subject.

Terence: Yeah, is that too much?

Vic: Yeah. If we want to get into that I defer that one.

Terence: All right.

Vic: I think.

Terence: Yeah, it’s complicated I know.

Vic: Well there are strong arguments on both sides of holding the convention and I just don’t think you have time.

Terence: Time to do it, okay. All right.

Vic: To get a decent response.

Terence: Okay, that’s fair enough. That’s good. So I don’t think we should worry about that the names and stuff. We got enough stuff though.

Man: Yeah.

Robert: He mentioned several during the course.

Terence: Yeah, exactly.

Terence: Okay, one thing might be about – do you have any memories of Ted that you first time you ran into Ted Stevens?

Vic: Stevens?

Terence: Yeah. Yeah, cause that’s something –

Vic: Not in the context of this though.

Terence: Fine, okay. All right. Okay. Thanks Vic

Episode 3: Tom Stewart

Alaska Statehood Pioneers: In Their Own Words
Tom Stewart
Tom Stewart: But the net result was that the convention was the most representative body that had ever been assembled in a governmental function in Alaska. We had people from Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, Haines, Valdez, Cordova, Kodiak, Seward, Dillingham, Palmer, Unalakleet, Nome, Kotzebue, far and away – the most representative group that had ever assembled for a governmental purposeOpening Titles

Narrator: Tom Stewart was the fourth of five children born in Idaho, who found his was to Alaska through his father, a mining engineer who worked the gold mines in Juneau. As a young man he was a ski bum, but because of his role later on in turning the territory of Alaska into the 49th state, friend and fellow judge Walter Carpeneti once likened him to “Alaska’s Ben Franklin.”

Intertitle: Growing up in Juneau

Tom Stewart: My father was a mining engineer and a graduate of the first class at the University of Montana Missoula. And worked initially for the US Geological Survey. …

And he came here in 1910 engaged by Fred Bradley. Mountain across the channel is named Mt. Bradley.

Tom Stewart: Fred Bradley had been the Superintendent of the – he was at the time the Superintendent of the Treadwell Mines which was the big operating mine, but they were about to develop the Alaska Juneau Gold Mine.

And he contracted with my father to come up here and spend a year or two and re-survey their mining claims to prove the claims that they owned against competing claimants at the Perseverance Valley.

In 1919, governor at the time I think it was Riggs I’m not sure appointed him to be the Territorial Mine Inspector and for the next 30 years until 1949 that was the position that he held.

Intertitle: “Chief Engineer on a No. 2 Shovel”

Tom Stewart: Well I had a scholarship to the Colorado School of Mines, but I decided I didn’t want to be a mining engineer. So the State of Washington offered Alaskans from the Territory of Alaska the same terms going to their state school as residents of Washington. So it was a much more developed facility than the school at Fairbanks and so I went to the University of Washington and I took a degree there. I started out in ’36, but I didn’t have enough money so I came home and I worked in the mine here, not underground but in the mill. I had – my father distinguished my job as saying I was chief engineer on a number two shovel – I moved muck. I lost my hearing working along side the grinding machines. And I was graduated finally in April of ’41 I took the little extra credit hours and finished a quarter early.

I took my degree at the University of Washington in April, late March early April and in the meantime the last two years my grade average rather dropped. I had a pretty decent grade average. Because I took up skiing and I would go skiing right after five o’clock on Friday and come back at eleven o’clock Sunday night and skied at Mt. Baker and I had a wonderful life skiing, but my academic record suffered.

Intertitle: Ski Bum to Ski Trooper

Tom Stewart: When I got my degree at the University I went to Sun Valley. I got a ride with a friend. And I stayed until I had ten cents left to my name.

It’s 3500 feet up there and I used to ski it 10 times a day, that’s 35,000 downhill feet, but vertical feet. I got back to Seattle and walked down the street to the draft office and said I’m ready to go. This was in April of ’41 about eight months before Pearl Harbor. So I joined the Army and sent me over to Fort Lewis and got basic training.

So I was chosen for this detail. There were three of us. A sergeant, a corporal, and buck private Stewart. And we were guards on a secret shipment on a little freighter that sailed out of Tacoma for Sitka where the new Naval base was being built. I later learned that that secret shipment was the first radar machine coming to Alaska. And we stood 24-hour guard, four on and eight off on the bow of that ship. It took 14 days to go from Tacoma to Sitka cause we went on the outside and run into a big storm, rolled 40 degrees, made four knots an hour, but we got to Sitka and that was a casual and I was assigned to the West by God Virginia National Guard, which was guarding – the assignment was to guard the base shore units to protect against the Japanese invasion.

I decided I really didn’t belong there for the war. We were in the war after Pearl Harbor and a cadre of officers came through examining soldiers for officer candidate school. And I was selected to go with a master sergeant and a buck sergeant and we went to Fort Benning, Georgia and I became a 90-day wonder. Second lieutenant in 90 days. And fortunately I had a shirttail relative, a colonel who was second in command at Fort Benning, was a nephew of a woman who was married to my uncle and she wrote him and he and his wife invited me to their home when I came and he said this is a tough program but if you make it you tell me where you want to go and I’ll see that you get there. And I did make it and I said I want to go to the ski troops. There was one battalion called the First Battalion 87th Mountain Infantry Reinforcement at Fort Benning, I mean at Fort Lewis and that is where I was assigned and I spent the rest of my career in what became the 10th Mountain Division. …

I was seldom on the front line. I was usually about 300 yards back cause I was a company commander of First Battalion Headquarters Company. …

My job was to protect, to provide parameter defense for the battalion headquarters which was the communications central and the battalion headquarters was usually about 300 yards back of the actual fighting front. I got into some pretty hot action, especially crossing the Po River, a lot of shrapnel splattering around. My communications sergeant was lying in a ditch next to me and the shrapnel was – the shells were exploding in the trees above us and he gave a yelp and a piece of shrapnel just about severed his wrist. And his wrist – his hand was about a foot from my head. If it had been another foot, it would have gone – that would have been the end of me.

And a lot of them when they came back from the war became instructors at Sun Valley and many other resorts. The 10th Mountain people set up a lot of ski areas like Aspen, Vail, a lot of the Colorado resorts had their background in the 10th Mountain Division.

Intertitle: And in Alaska?

Over on Douglas Island. The bridge had been built in 1935 and right behind the knoll that we’re seeing across the channel from where we’re sitting there is something called the Douglas ski bowl.

And we – I bought a rope tow. When I got out of the Army in the fall of ’45 I had never been in the interior of Alaska. I wanted to do that. I was still in uniform on terminal leave. I was a Captain at the time and I met my brother who was the head of the Valdez District of the Road Commission. We drove up to Glennallen, down the new Glenn Highway into Anchorage, took the train to Seward and on the dock in Seward I found sort of a homemade ski tow that some soldiers had developed. They had a Dodge truck engine and several hundred feet of one-inch rope and wooden wheels for the pulleys. I bought the whole outfit for $50 and shipped it to Juneau. And we manhandled it up the hill and set up the rope tow there and it operated for 25 years.

Intertitle: Red Flag

After I got a Masters Degree of the School of Advanced International Studies, I was aiming for Russian studies. I went to Yale Law School and I was graduated from the Yale Law School in 1950 and I went to the State Department to present my credentials. I had the summer of ’49 in Middlebury College in the Russian School and I could speak Russian, not fluently but acceptably. And they said we loved to have somebody like you but we don’t have any money for Russian Studies. This was at the very beginning of McCarthyism. Anybody involved in Russian Studies was suspect. And the man that interviewed me for a position in the State Department on the Russian Desk, which I was aiming for, said if I were you I’d go back to Alaska.

So I did. I came home, lived in this house with my father and my stepmother.

Tom Stewart: And he [DAD] was a very close friend of Ernest Gruening who was the Governor and just lived down the street and his son – he had three sons; Ernest, Jr. who was killed in the war, Peter who was the youngest son who committed suicide out in Australia, and the middle son was named Huntington – Hunt Gruening. And he and is wife were living in the mansion and we were contemporaries and got to be very dear friends. So I used to spend a lot of time with the Gruenings and my parents spent a lot of time with the Gruenings and of course Bob Bartlett the delegate to Congress, lived right in the house next door and was a very dear friend of mine and of my parents.

Intertitle: Adlai Stevenson and Alaska

Tom Stewart: In the meantime I became very active in the Democratic Party and I became the chairman in southeast Alaska. Adlai Stevenson had been the candidate for president. And after he lost to Eisenhower the first time he made a highly publicized trip to the Soviet Union, spent about six weeks over there getting acquainted with the Soviet leadership and making up his own mind about what that was all about.

And when he returned there was a meeting, a national meeting of the Democratic National Committeemen, Committeewomen, and the state chairpersons of the party at each state. It was held in Chicago in the fall of ’43, no ’53. And I learned that nobody from Alaska was going.

So I got proxies from all of those people and I went to Chicago on my own. And Gruening was a good friend of Stevenson’s, so I had an audience with Stevenson after the meeting was completed. I was supposed to have 15 minutes with him and he was quite interested because I was talking to him about statehood trying to enlist his support to support our move. And I had a whole half an hour with him and invited him to come to Alaska and see for himself. I couldn’t officially authorize the trip cause I was an Assistant Attorney General and didn’t have any position in the government to do that, but I had some good friends in Gruening and Bartlett and told them that I had made this invitation and they needed to make it official from their positions as Governor and of course Bartlett was the delegate to Congress.

So they did and Stevenson came here the summer of ’54, stopped in Juneau and I met him in Prince Rupert and came on the ship with him.

There were more people supporting statehood by far than were opposed. The opposition came mainly from the canned salmon industry because they feared local control of the fisheries. They had had a favorite position with the federal agencies in the fisheries field and they were opposed and the gold mining industry was opposed because they feared that statehood was going they forgot it was going to bring more taxes and make their operations more difficult economically. And so the newspapers here in Southeast, which was the center of the fishing industry, except for Bristol Bay, the local paper in Juneau opposed and one of the two papers in Ketchikan was opposed.

…In territorial days the major resources were indeed controlled by nonresidents. Salmon industry, canned salmon because the salmon was marketed by being canned. It was before the days of the freezer ships and sending fresh frozen materials out.

And the same with the mining industry. The mining industry if it is going to be large it requires a lot of capital and the capital basically was not very much available to Alaskans, still isn’t today. You have to go outside the state to get big money by and large, unless your name is Elmer Rasmuson or something like that.

There was a man named Allen Shattuck who was a Democrat but he was an anti-Gruening Democrat and he was an insurance man, retired, living in a beach home across the airport. And so when I got to Juneau I got – and he had written a pamphlet called the Case Against Statehood. I arranged for Stevenson and a couple of the men that were with him to sit down with Allen Shattuck and his son Curtis Shattuck, who was a Democrat also but anti-Gruening. And they had a visit with him and then Stevenson went to Anchorage and gave a speech to 5000 people present. They had it at the ballpark, Mulcahey Stadium, largest crowd ever assembled for a political event and gave a rousing speech in favor of statehood.

Intertitle: McCarthyism and Whiskey

Tom Stewart: But in any event that’s how I got in the business and in 1954 the 53 session of the legislature was a debacle. It reflected what was happening in the nation, McCarthyism. They formed a legislative investigating committee to search out Communists in the government. They found one Communist. He was a longshoreman in Skagway and he had an idealistic view of Communism as something that was good for the common people.

And those years there was no such thing as the Legislative Affairs Agency. So the Assistant Attorney General served the legislature by writing bills for them. The legislators would come to our offices and say we want a bill on such and such a subject and here’s what we – the idea of it and so I and my compatriot who was John Dimond, the son of Tony Dimond, a very dear friend, wrote legislation. And I spent a lot of time in the legislature.

The last night I was down just outside the chamber, went into the men’s room and there was a wastebasket about three feet high and a foot and a half in diameter, filled to the brim with whiskey bottles. The Speaker of the House, it was a man from Fairbanks named George Miscovich, had his coffee cup in his desk and full of whiskey. And the house never did adjourn, they just walked off. It was a debacle. It was – there were I think about 20 Republicans and 4 Democrats in the House. The Senate was evenly split. There were 16 members on the Senate – 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats. It took them three weeks to organize and choose a President of Senate when they finally compromised.

That session was a debacle. And the people of Alaska sensed that and so in the next election, which took place in 1954, there was a complete shift. There were I think 21 members of the house were Democrats and three were Republicans. In the senate there were about 12 or 13 members who were Democrats and three Republicans.

And right after the election when the new complex of the legislature was known there was an assemblage of Democratic leaders in Fairbanks in the home of a man named Alex Miller who had grown up in Juneau. I had known him since he was a child. And we kind of parceled out functions for the upcoming session. We were going to reorganize the legislature. Cut down the number of committees, have parallel committees in the house and the senate so they could communicate better, and we assigned jobs to various people. Some of the people from Fairbanks were assigned particularly to the reorganization of the body and I drew the job of preparing for the holding of the Constitutional Convention.

So when the legislature convened in January of ’55 I was the chairman of the house committee on statehood and federal relations. And a fellow named Bill Egan was the chairman of the senate committee on statehood and federal relations.

Intertitle: Memorializing the Territory

Tom Stewart: As a territory if we wanted some official expression to the President or the Congress we had to write a memorial asking them to do something and it isn’t very long – maybe I should read it. It is House Joint Memorial Number 1 passed by the House January 25, 1955 and by the Senate February 8th. It is addressed to the Honorable Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States who was not especially in favor of statement and to the Congress of the United States.

In memorial of the legislature of the Territory of Alaska in 22nd Session assembled respectfully submits that:

We representatives of the citizens of Alaska again appeal to you the duly constituted representatives of all the people of the United States that you may recognize us and our constituency as equal citizens under the democratic flag of America. We remind you again that the people of Alaska have demonstrated with all their history their territorial status, their inherence to the principles upon which the government of the United States was founded and remind you by referendum and by acclamation through our land an overwhelming majority of our people have declared unequivocally their desire for statement and the right of a free people to govern themselves. We recall to you that your own electors through the platforms of the major political parties and by their popular accord have given you a mandate for statement for Alaska and therefore we ask that you collectively and as individuals dismiss all partisan concerns, look only to the merits of our cause, recognizing correctly injustice we suffer in not being allowed to govern ourselves or participate in the election of the President or having voting representation in the Congress, all of which may be cured by enabling immediate statehood for Alaska your memorialists ever pray.

I wrote that – that’s the way I felt at the time.

Intertitle: “How do you set up a convention?”

Tom Stewart: But in the meantime after that meeting I resigned my job as Assistant Attorney General and on my own, spent my own money. I was not married. I decided that there wasn’t really anybody in Alaska who knew much about how to set up structure and operate a Constitutional Convention. So I made a six week long trip across the country. I went to the University of Washington. I went to the University of Chicago. I went to Public Administration Service in Chicago. I went to the University of Illinois, Evanston I think it was. I went to Harvard. I went to Yale, which was my school. I went to Columbia. I went to Princeton and then New Jersey I went to Trenton and met with Mrs. Katzenbach who was a Vice President of the New Jersey Convention of ’46, which was a very successful convention. And I met with her and some other people that had been delegates. I met with a professor named John Sligh at Princeton, who was a distinguished figure in the academic world in state government, state constitutions. And I went to Washington, DC and I met with people at the legislative reference service of the Library of Congress. I met with the officers of the American Political Science Association.

And everywhere I went I said how do you set up a convention? How do you get qualified advisors to help you work on the substance of a constitution? And I got some excellent advice from Mrs. Katzenbach, whose son Nick Katzenbach had been in the law school a year or so ahead of me and later became the Attorney General of the United States under Johnson. She said hold your convention at the State University. I said we don’t have a State University. We have something called the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. Well hold it there instead of in the capitol. Because the capitol has entrenched lobbying interests and they will be lobbying for their pet projects. If you go to the University you will have a library facility. It is a much better scene. …

It was an unpopular decision in Juneau because there were a lot of people in Juneau who were concerned even in those days about the possibility of moving the capitol. And I remember going to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and Curtis Shattuck, whom I already described to you, was an anti-Gruening Democrat, sitting across the table from me. Underneath the table he kicked me severely in the shins because I had promoted the idea of having the convention at the University.

When we organized it because of the background that I had acquired on this trip across the nation Bill Egan and I met. We had been good friends politically and otherwise and decided that I should be the chairman of the joint house and senate committee. He was the chairman of the senate committee and that we would meet together rather than separately to build a bill to call the convention. And that’s what we did. We wrote this bill. This is just Chapter 46 of the session laws of 1955. And it was critical to the success of the convention.

For one thing in that 53 session of the legislature in the First Judicial District, Southeast Alaska, I think there were six members. Five of them were from Juneau. One was from Petersburg. Nobody from Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Haines, Skagway. Second District they were all from Nome. Nobody from Kotzebue. Nobody from Unalakleet. Third District there were 10 members of the house. All ten of them were from Anchorage. Nobody from Kodiak. Nobody from Cordova. Nobody from Valdez. Nobody from Palmer. So we determined that there should be representation from every community in Alaska that had about a thousand people or more.

And so we created special election districts, 22 of them.

Intertitle: “The most representative body that had ever been assembled”

Tom Stewart: And we decided on a convention of 55 members because that would give us an opportunity to have better spread. Forty-eight of those members were elected from those 22 – from those districts, but there was one district at large. So seven of the members ran at large over the whole territory. They were people like Ralph Rivers and his brother Vic Rivers, who were well known. Ralph had been the Attorney General elected territorial wide and Vic had been the President of the Senate. And there were four or five others that ran at large, but the net result was that the convention was the most representative body that had ever been assembled in a governmental function in Alaska. We had people from Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, Haines, Valdez, Cordova, Kodiak, Seward, Dillingham, Palmer, Unalakleet, Nome, Kotzebue, far and away – the most representative group that had ever assembled for a governmental purpose. Today you couldn’t do that because the Supreme Court decision in Baker vs. Carr determined that for an election to state legislatures one man – one vote. The districts have to have drawing of equal populations within a small percentage and it would not be possible to have that kind of a body assembled, but at that time it was and that was a critical function – a critical aspect of the success of the convention because the people at large knew that they had representatives participating in the decisions that were made there.

In light of this bill and I basically wrote it, I was dealing with a man named Ken Johnson. Ken Johnson was the chairman of the house committee on finance. We had to get money and I worked closely with him. And he said we can get you $350,000 and there was $80,000 left in the coffers of the statehood committee.

So he went to Bob Atwood and said look I’ll give you $350,000; you can use the $80,000 that you have, if you make Stewart the Executive Director of the committee and let him set up the pre-convention studies. So I became the Executive Director of the Statehood Committee and my office – I say my office, I had one secretary, oversaw the preparation of the pre-convention studies. I wanted to go out and hire people that we selected from this University or that University, people that we – I could feel were going to work with Alaskans. Atwood had a different idea.

And I had a telegram from him, representative from Public Administration Service in Chicago will be in Juneau next week and they are going to do the pre-convention studies. Well in retrospect Bob Atwood was right and I was wrong cause we would have had the time and the expertise together with that group of people. PAS was in the business of doing this kind of thing. They had done it for states. They had done it for cities. They had done it for other nations.

And the man they sent was a man named John Cochran, who was very experienced. And John and I immediately hit it off and he assembled a staff, some people from Brookings, from various Universities. For example he had a man named – I don’t remember the name at the moment. I’ll think of it in a minute. And set them to work July, August, September, October drafting this three-volume set of studies of state constitutions. In the meantime they wrote articles to newspapers detailing what the convention was going to face so that the populace in March would have a better idea of what a Constitutional Convention was about and how they would function.

Intertitle: Alaska Constitutional Convention, November 1955 – February 1956

Tom Stewart: When it came to the organization of the convention in November I had not anticipated – I of course was executive officer of the statehood committee and I hadn’t anticipated being an officer of the convention. I was not a delegate. My father was a delegate, but I was not. And Cochran came to me and he said you should be the secretary of this convention, in charge of its administration.

And I was elected to be the secretary of the convention so I resigned as executive officer of the statehood committee and served as the secretary of the convention in charge of all the administrative aspects – getting these consultants to come, arranging their travel, arranging all the physical space, all the details and structure of that convention.

Looking back on it and I don’t think it had been seriously talked about having the convention in Fairbanks. When I came back from New Jersey and after that discussion with Mrs. Katzenbach I was quite convinced and I took to the committee let’s have the convention in Fairbanks at the University.

It was the remoteness, the middle of the winter. It was a cold winter – 50 below zero.

There were no lobbyists in Fairbanks, except one and what do you suppose that was? I’ll show you – the only organized group that came and lobbied the convention Article 7 – Health, Education, and Welfare. It is one, two, three, four short paragraphs. The education lobby. The school superintendents came to represent their representatives to Fairbanks and they had a three-page detailed article on education.

The constitution says about education there are three sentences. The legislature shall by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the state and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.

That’s the whole constitution on education. Fundamental basic concept. The details are left to the legislature.

Tom Stewart: And when the convention assembled we had published this three volume set of studies and it was done on an old A. B. Dick mimeograph machine, bound in a paper cover.

There was a question about consultants. On the way back from Hawaii I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder. There was a national meeting of the American Political Science Association. And I had the names of several of the leaders of that organization. And I said I would like to find the names of people that can be consultants for natural resources, for elections, for the executive branch, for the legislative branch, for the judicial branch and so forth. So I canvassed about 30 or 40 people at that meeting. And said now I don’t have any authority to hire you, but would you be willing to consider coming to Alaska in the middle of winter and spending a week or two or three or more as a consultant to the committee in your specialty. And I got a list of about 30 or 35 names. And I brought back and was able to give that to the committees and let them take their choice from people that had promised yes they would come if the convention decided to hire them.

Virtually all the committees got expert academic people to come and consult with them for a week or two or three as the case may be.

Intertitle: Article 8, Enshrining Sustainability

Tom Stewart: Common Use. Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use. General authority. The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the state, including land and waters for the maximum benefits of its people.

You won’t find that in any other constitution.

You know the consultant to that committee was a professor from – I have forgotten what school he was from then. He is now had a career in Indiana State University named Vincent Ostrum. And because my father was a member of that committee and dealing with him on especially the mining aspects of it – mineral rights. They were having a tough time putting together an article, so they had a Sunday session. It was in the basement of a church in Fairbanks and I went to it just as an observer. I think I was the only person other than the committee members who were there. And Ostrum was up at a blackboard and getting suggestions from various delegates, people that represented Alder Lee in the fisheries and I can’t remember his name now, the fellow who ran the F. E. Company, the Fairbanks Exploration, ran the big gold dredges. My father of course who was the – who would have been the mine inspector, Commissioner of Mines for years.

They all had a lot of background in the management of the resources that their professional lives had been concerned with and kind of pooled together their thoughts and helped that in an outline of this article, which he did on the blackboard that day. …

Ostrum told me that working with that committee to him was almost a spiritual experience. The depth of understanding that they expressed about the use of the resources remained through his life impressed by that as one of the unique experiences professionally that he has ever had.

Intertitle: The Alaska Tenessee Plan

Tom Stewart: There was an unlikely individual by the name of George H. Lee Lehleitner. George Lee Lehleitner had been a Naval commander in World War II assigned in Hawaii and he had gotten to know Joe Farrington, who was the delegate to Congress from Hawaii as Bartlett was from Alaska and become friends with him.

He knew that Hawaii was aspiring for statehood. He didn’t know anything about Alaska.

He got the legislative reference service of the Library of Congress to research the history of the admission of states and he found that the last seven territories on the way to becoming a state each of them had elected a provisional delegation to the Congress – two senators and a representative to go to Washington sponsored by the territorial government to lobby for statehood.

He recognized that the process by which legislation gets enacted is – especially in the senate but also in the house is one in which somebody has something they want to do and they contact other members who are their friends and say now if you’ll vote for this proposal for me, you can be sure that I’ll support what you want. And that’s he envisioned these people would do. And he tried to persuade the Hawaiians when they wrote their constitution their convention of 1950 to elect a provisional delegation, then send them to Washington. They could call in every senator and every house member and say I am the duly elected provisional senator or house member from my territory and if you vote for statehood for us, you can be sure that I’ll be back here as a full-fledged member and I’ll support your cause. Vote trading. He tried to persuade the Hawaiians and they determined not to do it.

He never had anything to do with Alaska, but he heard that Alaska was going to have a constitutional convention.

He got acquainted with Bob Bartlett and he said to Bartlett I’d like to go to Alaska and try to persuade the Alaskans to do that. And so Bartlett gave him an introduction. He gave him an introduction to me in Juneau and I had – I collected all the people that were running to be delegates to the convention in this room.

And I was at the, I think you might call it a smoke-filled room but it was the session that really decided on specific things to do and there were about 20 of us in that room. Most of them were delegates but I was there. I was an elected officer of the convention. And we discussed it back and forth and we decided yes, let’s do it.

So when the convention sent questions to the people to be voted on there were three questions. The first one was shall the constitution as drafted by the convention be adopted? The second one was called the Alaska Tennessee Plan because Tennessee was the first territory to use this device and shall we elect provisional senators and a house member and send them to Washington as official lobbyists of the Territory of Alaska? Number three shall fish traps be abolished? Because the fish – involved in the invention is a fellow from Petersburg particularly by the name of Elder Lee, who was desperate that – to get rid of fish traps because the fish traps had been mismanaged and were seriously damaging the fishery.

Those three propositions went to the voters in April of ’56 and I don’t remember it was something like 65 to 35 the vote in favor of each of them.

And then there was an election. An Ernest Gruening was elected as provisional senator and Bill Egan was elected a provisional senator. He in the meantime had been the president of the convention and Ralph Rivers, former Attorney General and former member of the legislature was elected to the house.

It was not a foregone conclusion. And there had to be a lot of persuasion. The southern senators of course were like Stevens.

The south was Democrat and once they got in office they stayed there. And their power in the senate derives from tenure. The longer they are there, the more powerful they become. And they were jealous of that power and they were suspicious of it being invaded by people rom a new entity. Well it had an obvious effect of making each vote a little bit less effective cause there were more votes in the senate. No, I don’t think it was a foregone conclusion. I don’t think it would have happened if it hadn’t been for the energy of the likes of Ernest Gruening and Bob Bartlett and people that worked on it.

Intertitle: Unconventional Heartache: Marrying Jane

Tom Stewart: I met her [Jane] probably in about 19 – late ’53 or early ’54. I was interested in renewing the ability to play the piano a little bit and she was the most prominent piano teacher in Juneau. So I talked with her about taking some piano lessons and I got some other lessons. I had not been married before. She had been married previously and she had four children. So for the next year or so we dated and did things with the children and I enjoyed the children and they seemed to enjoy being with me.

A doctor in Fairbanks told me that he thought that I might have a heart problem because I was working long hours, a lot of stress, and I began to get pains in my chest. I had a very dear friend, a first cousin, at the Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.

And so I went to the Virginia Mason Hospital and they did a lot of tests and my cousin said to me your heart problem is that lady. So I came back and I asked her to marry me and she decided that she should consult with the four children. And she had been dating another fellow as well, as a matter of a fact a couple of them. One of them is the fellow who did the Stewart bowl. So she asked the children if she were to remarry, she’d already accepted me basically. If she were to remarry, should it be I or the other fellow. And the oldest girl said Tom, the second girl said the other fellow, and the third girl said Tom. Those three girls were 9, 7, and 5. And the three-year-old boy, when she asked him, said Gene Autry.

So I came down, I was in Fairbanks of course for the convention and Ernest Patty, the President of the University, who had been an old friend, I had worked with him closely in getting the physical arrangements for the convention in that building, which is now called Constitution Hall. It was built to be as kind of a student union building. And so we planned to be married at the convention while it was still in recess and he gave us the use of his home, beautiful home of the President, because he was very well to do and he had a similar home in Seattle and he and his wife were going to go to Seattle where they had a son for the Christmas holidays.

So I came down here and spent Christmas with my – with those children and Jane and then she and I traveled to Anchorage. And we were to be married by a man named Fred McGinnis. Fred McGinnis had been the Pastor of the Methodist Church in Juneau, very, very competent, bright fellow.

So we got on the train, went to Fairbanks and our friend Fred McGinnis was stuck in Kodiak. And I don’t remember the name of the man that did the wedding in the President’s home. My parents were there and my sister, a very dear friend from here that I had been skiing with and had been living with me before Jane and I courted. That was the wedding party and we stayed in the home for a week. And she came back to take care of the four children and shortly after the convention ended I arranged with the ex-husband to adopt them and he didn’t object. So I adopted them in the spring of ’56. And reared from that point.

Intertitle: Closing the Book on Statehood

Tom Stewart: Well this is the book called The State of Alaska and on the dust jacket it says a definitive history of America’s northern most frontier by Ernest Gruening, Governor of Alaska 1939 to 1953. …

I believe that he gave me this copy. And I was moved by his inscription, which says For Tom Stewart. Who has done more than any other of Alaska’s young men to bring the state of Alaska into being. With high esteem and affection and regard the author Ernest Gruening. So I rather value that book.

Credits:

Recorded September 23, 2003, at Tom Stewart’s home in Juneau, Alaska.

Died December 12, 2007.

Judge Tom Stewart
Interviewed by Dr. Terrence ColeTerence: Okay today’s September 23, 2003 and we’re had Judge Tom Stewart’s house in Juneau, Alaska on a nice sunny –Judge: Pleasant day.

Terence: – day in Juneau. But anyway Judge maybe if we just start sort of talking about your mom and dad and growing up in Juneau and tell us a little bit about that.

Judge: My father was a mining engineer and a graduate of the first class at the University of Montana in Missoula. And worked initially for the US Geological Survey. One of his major projects he was the Assistant Chief of a party that spent two summers in Death Valley and determined the depth of Death Valley (inaudible) was a desert and he went to work as a mining engineer for the Sunshine Mine. It was a famous coalmine between Wallace and Kellogg, Idaho. And he lived in Wallace and my mother, who was from north central Missouri, a little place called Fayette. She had been a Professor of English at the college there, was spending the summer with one of her sisters who was married to the county physician in Wallace. My father had a room in their home and that’s how they met. And married I’m not sure some time around 1908. And he came here in 1910 engaged by Fred Bradley. Mountain across the channel is named Mt. Bradley. Fred Bradley had been the Superintendent of the – he was at the time the Superintendent of the Treadwell Mines which was the big operating mine, but they were about to develop the Alaska Juneau Gold Mine.

And he contracted with my father to come up here and spend a year or two and re-survey their mining claims to prove the claims that they owned against competing claimants at the Perseverance Valley. And he did a very successful job for them until they kept him on to engineer the main tram tunnel to which the ore was going to moved from the mining site to the mill which was on the side of the mountain above the beach. It was a major project that the tunnel had to have double track that were 40-car trains 10-ton cars so there were 400 tons an hour moved through that process. And they surveyed that. It is about a three-mile tunnel and they surveyed it from both ends, drove it from both ends simultaneously. He told me that he – in order to establish that survey he had to chain level, that is the measuring tape, steel tape, called a chain always had to be level. And the land was so steep they were going up that he would get three feet of chain and eight feet of plump bob to the last marker. And he went over the mountain, back, and over again three times. And in that distance they had to take account of the curvature of the earth among other things. And he told me more than once I guess that the drilling superintendent called him about two o’clock one morning and said we’re going to break through. And they did and the floor was only an inch apart, three-mile tunnel.

So he did a very successful job for them and until 1919 he was – after he had left working for the AJ on contract, he was a private mining engineer who went around the country and did geological and mining surveys as a – for hire for people that wanted that work done.

In 1919, governor at the time I think it was Riggs I’m not sure appointed him to be the Territorial Mine Inspector and for the next 30 years until 1949 that was the position that he held.

And they – my family had five children, actually there was a stillborn child at the beginning of the marriage and then I had an older brother Ben, Ben Jr. My father was Ben who went to Reed College for a year and then to the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, now the University of Fairbanks. And made a career, a lifetime career as an engineer for the Alaska Road Commission during territorial days and then we became a state he worked for the federal government and was the US Aide Mission Chief in Laos to teach the Laotians how to build roads and to build a road that would serve the American military needs in the Vietnam War and he retired from that.

My second brother also went one year to the school in Fairbanks. I don’t know whether it was because his older brother who was a little big bigger or bully tossed him out in the snow at 70 below zero.

Judge: – where the bursar when he came to borrow some money asked him for his passport cause he was from the Territory of Alaska and he was graduated from Harvard Medical School and about a three or four year medical career technically in the Navy but serving the Marines. And when he came back he went back to Boston and became an orthopedic surgeon training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Harvard and at Peter VanBrigham.

And I have an older sister who is still alive. My oldest brother died. My second older brother who is now 90 lives in the Seattle area, but he is no longer practicing of course at age 90. As a matter of fact he’s crippled. He has to move on crutches. My sister is 89 and she is an interesting lady. She had a terrible illness when she was 14 years old. She hasn’t heard a sound since then. Destroyed the auditory nerves, both of them. And she got a degree in botany, but couldn’t make a living because she couldn’t teach and eventually got a degree in librarianship and was a catalog librarian for the Library of Congress and then moved out and became a catalog librarian for the Oregon Historical Society and had a full career there and wound up her professional work as a librarian for the Portland School District as catalog librarian.

Terence: All without being able to hear. I mean she couldn’t.

Judge: And she doesn’t sign. She lip reads. She is an expert lip reader. She can read a shadow. And she can read across a big room. So if people have private conversations she knows what they’re talking about.

Terence: Better now talk about her.

Judge: And then I was the fourth child born to that family. And I had a younger sister who had a very interesting career. She –

Terence: And what’s her name, Judge?

Judge: Mary.

Terence: Mary.

Judge: Mary Elizabeth. She was about three and a half years younger than I. And she eventually – she married a man named Robert Fellows, who was the head of the Alaska Branch of the US Geological Survey. And in the summer of ’48 and ’49 they were living in what was still called Mt. McKinley Park and he was doing the geology of the park. And one day in the summer of ’49 they had a suspenseful female child. He didn’t come home. And they went looking for him and they found his body lying alongside the railroad track at the age of 35 he had a heart attack and collapsed and died. So she came back here and lived with me for a year with a child and traveled in Europe for a year with her parents.

And then eventually she was hired by a (inaudible) Stephenson, the Arctic explorer to – he sold his collection of 20,000 of Arctic literature to Dartmouth College and his wife was to be the librarian. And they hired my sister, who was working at the library in Swarthmore College outside of Philadelphia to be the assistant librarian. And so she moved to Hanover and with her baby who was about four years old by that time and worked there and lived with the Stephenson’s for two or three years.

And she met a very prominent British Antarctic explorer by the name of Charles Swidenbank and Swidenbank whose career stemmed from the Antarctic studies at Cambridge University came to Dartmouth to research in the Stephenson Collection and met and married my sister and took her back to England and she lived the next 40 years of her life in Cambridge and died about three and a half years ago of breast cancer. Had two more children and so that’s where my family history.

My mother –

Terence: Before we go there – so she worked with Stephenson for a couple of years or at least-

Judge: At least, yeah. I got to know him well in addition and –

Terence: And what your impressions of him?

Judge: Well he was a very intelligent perceptive man and of course he had vast experience in the Arctic not the Antarctic. He wrote the book called the Friendly Arctic in 1911, in I think, which documented the year that he spent living as an Eskimo in an Eskimo family in the Arctic. And the first time I met him I was a young lieutenant in what was known as the Ski Troops, the 10th Mountain Division and we were – this was after we had – my regiment had made the landing on Kiska to drive off the Japanese. And we came back to Camp Hale in Colorado to retrain to go into the war in Europe. And he came and showed us how to build an igloo. It was the first time I ever saw an igloo, first time I saw one built, and the last time also.

And then I got acquainted with him a little bit further after World War II I went to something called the School of Advanced International Studies, SAIS, which is now the Graduate School of International Studies for the John Hopkins University, but its campus has always been in Washington, DC. And Stephenson wrote a book in collaboration with the professor I had in political geography named Hans Likert. They wrote a book called Compass of the World that outlined their theory that in generations to come the polar route, air route, was going to the main commerce potential between the countries of Europe, including the then Soviet Union and America. And it has fairly much developed that way. I’ve read recently that FedEx is establishing their main base in Anchorage because they can fly their planes there and service them and take them onto Asia or Europe.

Terence: Yeah, actually I love that book Compass of the World.

Judge: Hans Likert wrote it and Stephenson collaborated with him on it. It is a – as you know, it’s a symposium of articles by a variety of people who have had experience in the Arctic.

Terence: And it has that good map. I show it to my class he has several maps in there but one of the short line distance between Seattle and Tokyo is going through –

Judge: Dutch Harbor.

Terence: – Dutch Harbor. So I always ask the students well what harbor – and they always of course Pearl Harbor you know. I say no it was bombed by the Japanese during World War II and it’s the shortest –

Judge: My mother died of an infectious ailment in 1933 when she was about 55 years old. I was a freshman in high school and my younger sister was grade school year. Five of us were at one time the largest family to go through all the grades of the general school system. And my father remarried in 1935 about two years after my mother had died. A very interesting woman named Doris Scott and her father was a man named Temple Scott, who was a dealer in rare books and she had been reared with her sisters in London and never went (inaudible) to school but was a very well read individual. And when my father married her in ’35 she was acquainted with his sister and her daughters in New York City and he was visited there and she had never been west of Philadelphia. She came and spent the rest of her life in Alaska in Juneau.

Man: Sorry to cut you guys off, but we got a reel change here.

Terence: Okay. She really did it when she decided to go west.

Terence: Judge, you were talking a little about your sister who went to work for the Stephens, the collection.

Judge: She married as I told you Charles Swidenbank who still today although he’s retired is one of the best known Antarctica British Antarctica explorers at the British Antarctic survey at Cambridge University. He wrote four books. One is the first one was called an Alien in Antarctica. The second was called Forty Years on Ice. The third was called A Foothold on Antarctica. It was his first trip. He went with the first joint expedition, the Norwegians, the Swedes, and he represented the British. And they’re the people that proposed and promoted British – the Antarctic Treaty by which all the countries that have research stations down there said they would not make any territorial claims. So that no nation claims land as their own. They have their own research stations, but they don’t claim that land. And that was that trip that established that principle. And then his final book was called Vodka on Ice. He spent a year with the – as the only non-Russian with the Soviet Russian expedition to Antarctica.

So she had quite an experience. For example, he was honored and she went with him and they guests of the King of Sweden. And she described the party she went to at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip and where they were, some private guests. And a little anecdote of that experience she and other ladies went to the ladies rest facility which was a bench with 13 holes and a stream of water running beneath it, right out about the fifth century or something.

She had a little conversation with the Queen at the top of the stairs and she said to the Queen I saw you on the tele, which is a British label of the television, and you looked and it was your birthday, your official birthday party aboard the battleship and you looked a little bit upset. And the Queen said indeed I was. I wanted to take some pictures and my husband wouldn’t let me.

Terence: What’s the use of being Queen then.

Judge: She said to the Queen I understand that you keep a daily journal. How in heaven’s name in your busy life are you able to manage that? And the Queen said it’s true. I do keep a daily journal. When we retire in the evening my husband reads and I write in my journal. At least I can keep things straight instead of the way the newspaper puts them.

Anyhow she had a very interesting life and their youngest child was a Down syndrome victim and she spent the last years of her life promoting care facilities for Down syndrome people in Cambridge where she lived.

Terence: Judge, did she have anything that comes to mind about working with Stephenson, ever say what that was like at all or anything comes to mind?

Judge: Well they were very dear friends, but no. I visited there in Hanover with the Stephensons and my sister in their home, but I don’t have any per recollection.

Terence: Sure, okay. Well let’s get back now to your sort of experience. You went to school here in Juneau, the high school. What did you –

Judge: Well I had a scholarship to the Colorado School of Mines, but I decided I didn’t want to be a mining engineer. So the State of Washington offered Alaskans from the Territory of Alaska the same terms going to their state school as residents of Washington. So it was a much more developed facility than the school at Fairbanks and so I went to the University of Washington and I took a degree there. I started out in ’36, but I didn’t have enough money so I came home and I worked in the mine here, not underground but in the mill. I had – my father distinguished my job as saying I was chief engineer on a number two shovel – I moved muck. I lost my hearing working along side the grinding machines. And I was graduated finally in April of ’41 I took the little extra credit hours and finished a quarter early. They were on a quarter system there.

Terence: What was your degree in, what field did you study?

Judge: Well I suppose you could say pre-law, although I had no intention to go to law school at that moment. It was literature and history.

Terence: Had your dad wanted you to become a mining engineer or was that you know –

Judge: He never pushed in that direction so I didn’t do that. I had a good friend, for example, Earl Beistline, whose father was the chief carpenter for the Alaska Juneau Gold Mine and he grew up here. We have been dear friends over the years. And he of course became a mining engineer and taught at the University for many years and is still active in it – in the field.

Terence: We are going to talk to him and I know him pretty well so.

Judge: But in any event I took my degree at the University of Washington in April, late March early April and in the meantime the last two years my grade average rather dropped. I had a pretty decent grade average. Because I took up skiing and I would go skiing right after five o’clock on Friday and come back at eleven o’clock Sunday night and skied at Mt. Baker and I had a wonderful lift skiing, but my academic record suffered.

Terence: How did you get up to Baker, was it a – could you get a train up there – how did you?

Judge: No, we drove. I had friends and we belonged to the Mt. Baker Ski Club, which was a Bellingham organization. Took us five hours in the road systems in those days to drive up there.

Terence: Was there any lift or how did you get up the mountain?

Judge: There was a rope tow, but we did a lot of climbing and skiing back down.

Terence: Had you ever gone skiing – did anyone ever ski in Juneau when you were a kid?

Judge: As a matter of fact the way I got into skiing I had come home to work for a year to save money to go back to school and there was an Austrian ski instructor and a German ski instructor and they had been part-time instructors at Sun Valley and there was some Juneau people oh when it first opened in about ’36, ’37 and there was a couple of Juneau people with the means took a ski vacation at Sun Valley and met these two fellows and urged them to come to Juneau. And they did and they spent that winter and a friend, who is still a dear friend here of mine, had become a skier and we skied with those two fellows. And they taught us the Arborg technique. We were the only people in Juneau that knew the Arborg technique.

Terence: Could you describe that, what was that?

Judge: It was developed by a man named Hanna Schneider, who taught in the Arborg Country in Austria. And it is what enabled modern skiing. You bend your ankles and your knees, thrust them forward so that your balance is towards the tip of the skis and you can turn. You can make beautiful flowing turns. There are many refinements of it but nowadays but basically it is what is known as the Arborg technique because it was in the Arborg Region that Hanna Schneider developed this anyhow.

Terence: What part of – where did you go down, what hill or what was the spot here in Juneau?

Judge: Over on Douglas Island. The bridge had been built in 1935 and right behind the knoll that we’re seeing across the channel from where we’re sitting there is something called the Douglas ski bowl. And we – I bought a rope tow. When I got out of the Army in the fall of ’45 I had never been in the interior of Alaska. I wanted to do that. I was still in uniform on terminal leave. I was a Captain at the time and I met my brother who was the head of the Valdez District of the Road Commission. We drove up to Glennallen, down the new Glenn Highway into Anchorage, took the train to Seward and on the dock in Seward I found sort of a homemade ski tow that some soldiers had developed. They had a Dodge truck engine and several hundred feet of one-inch rope and wooden wheels for the pulleys. I bought the whole outfit for $50 and shipped it to Juneau. And we manhandled it up the hill and set up the rope tow there and it operated for 25 years. But then that’s getting ahead of the story.

Terence: But that’s over on Douglas where you used to ski – I mean before it was there.

Judge: Not where it is now. There’s a developed facility called Eagle Crest and there’s a road up to it and there are three chair lifts over there or two chair lifts and a pomolift (?), but that’s all much more recent.

Terence:In the early days you just bushwhacked up there and then skied down basically, right?

Judge: We had this rope tow and it went up the mountain about 900 feet and it was a very good facility.

Anyhow when I got my degree at the University I went to Sun Valley. I got a ride with a friend. And I stayed until I had ten cents left to my name, but I had bought a ticket to come back on the train. I came back on the train after about two weeks at Sun Valley.

Terence: You mean you skied your life savings away?

Judge: A lot of skiing.

Terence: On the big mountain –

Judge: Mt. Baldy.

Terence: Baldy okay.

Judge: It’s 3500 feet up there and I used to ski it 10 times a day, that’s 35,000 downhill feet, but vertical feet. I got back to Seattle and walked down the street to the draft office and said I’m ready to go. This was in April of ’41 about eight months before Pearl Harbor. So I joined the Army and sent me over to Fort Lewis and got basic training.

Terence: Did you expect that – cause you were drafted – cause the draft was just instituted like the year before I guess so.

Judge: October of ’41.

Terence: Yeah.

Judge: The original draftees were told they would be in for a year. Had a saying Ohio – Over the hill in October. I wasn’t quite in that group but I expected to be in for a year. Then it lasted closer to five. Anyhow.

Terence:So from Fort Lewis you had basic training and where did you –

Judge: Well I had read that General Simon Bolliver Buckner, who was the head of the military services in Alaska was going to develop a ski area at McKinley Park. So I wrote him – I was a buck private, so I wrote him a letter, General Buckner. I understand you’re going to develop a ski area and I’m a certified ski instructor of the Pacific Northwest Ski Association and I’d like to help you develop that and teach. I got a nice letter back, Dear Private Stewart. I had in writing to him I mentioned my father’s name because I knew that they were acquainted. My father persuaded him and the powers at be in the military to develop electric power for the military bases being built – Elmendorf, Richardson, Ladd Field in Fairbanks with coal fired steam plants because of the coal resources available on the railroad and the lack of oil resources and the lack of sufficient shipping to move oil up here. And so they did. They developed the coal plants at all those places and they’re still operating. They are still developing power for those bases from the Healy River coal primarily.

Anyhow I mentioned to him and he said well the letter that he wrote back to me he said I would like to have you up here for that but you’re not in my command. General DeWitt’s command on the Pacific Coast and you get yourself transferred up here to Alaska and then let me know. So I saw a notice on the bulletin board at Fort Lewis volunteers wanted to go to Alaska and I turned up for the interview. It was a Major what became to me to be known as the West by God Virginia, National Guard. And this Major was a West Virginia coal miner and he was interested in what I could tell him about coal mining in Alaska. And so I was chosen for this detail. There were three of us. A sergeant, a corporal, and buck private Stewart. And we were guards on a secret shipment on a little freighter that sailed out of Tacoma for Sitka where the new Naval base was being built. I later learned that that secret shipment was the first radar machine coming to Alaska. And we stood 24-hour guard, four on and eight off on the bow of that ship. It took 14 days to go from Tacoma to Sitka cause we went on the outside and run into a big storm, rolled 40 degrees, made four knots an hour, but we got to Sitka and that was a casual and I was assigned to the West by God Virginia National Guard, which was guarding – the assignment was to guard the base shore units to protect against the Japanese invasion.

Terence: Is that the Naval Air Station at Sitka, right?

Judge: Right. It was being built at the time. Well Pearl Harbor came.

Terence: Where were you at the time of Pearl Harbor? What were you doing that morning? Do you remember that what happened that day?

Judge: I don’t particularly. I remember there was a very dramatic incident a few days before that right around Thanksgiving. There was a dynamic storage shed and it was a Sunday and I with some others had volunteered to go out and do some work on a machine gun in placement. And the first sergeant of the company was up in the front of the truck and there were eight or ten of us in the back and pulled up alongside of this dynamite shed and it was on fire on the inside. And we stopped the first sergeant thought maybe we could fight the fire but we didn’t have any tools so fortunately we drove on and around the point of a little ridge got out of the truck and the fire department from the Army Base at Alice Island on the south end of Japonsky where the base was being built before the bridge to out there, came and started to fight the fire. And the captain who was in charge of the unit maybe he was a major, I’m not sure, realized that they couldn’t stop it and ordered them to move out of there but before they could move it blew. So he and the other men were killed, except one who got down under the truck and was protected, shielded by the fire truck, but it was a pretty traumatic time. Every window in Sitka facing the shore was broken by the force of that blast.

And anyhow I decided I really didn’t belong there for the war. We were in the war after Pearl Harbor and a cadre of officers came through examining soldiers for officer candidate school. And I was selected to go with a master sergeant and a buck sergeant and we went to Fort Benning, Georgia and I became a 90-day wonder. Second lieutenant in 90 days. And fortunately I had a shirttail relative, a colonel who was second in command at Fort Benning, was a nephew of a woman who was married to my uncle and she wrote him and he and his wife invited me to their home when I came and he said this is a tough program but if you make it you tell me where you want to go and I’ll see that you get there. And I did make it and I said I want to go to the ski troops. There was one battalion called the First Battalion 87th Mountain Infantry Reinforcement at Fort Benning, I mean at Fort Lewis and that is where I was assigned and I spent the rest of my career in what became the 10th Mountain Division.

Terence: How did you first hear the ski trip – because of the ski did you, was that well known to you?

Judge: Well at that time most of the people in it were volunteers. They had to get letters of recommendation about their experience as skiers or mountain climbers and the battalion was about a thousand men roughly. It was heavily peopled with people with that kind of background and eventually as the organization enlarged ours was the first battalion of the 87th. It grew to the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment. Then they cadred the 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment and then the 85th in that order chronologically and they took specialists from our unit and made them the core of the next unit and so forth. So eventually the people that had the mountain background were spread out through the whole division which is about 10,000 men.

Terence: Were a lot of those early folks, the ones from Sun Valley. Did a lot of those you must have known?

Judge: There was a very prominent ski instructor ran the Sun Valley Ski School named Freda Fifer and he was in our organization. The last push that we had in northern Italy I went to the aid station and he came in with a piece of shrapnel in his lung. I had known him but not well but quite a few ex-patriot Austrians, anti-Hitler people, anti-Nazi that were in the outfit. And a lot of them when they came back from the war became instructors at Sun Valley and many other resorts. The 10th Mountain people set up a lot of ski areas like Aspen, Vail, a lot of the Colorado resorts had their background in the 10th Mountain Division.

Anyhow in June of 1942 the Japanese Navy wanted to destroy the American Navy and the tactic that they had determined was to send a task force to the Aleutians. What they didn’t know was that the Americans had broken the Japanese code and knew what the Japanese were up to and so the Navits and Hawsley, the admirals in command of the American Navy engaged the Japanese fleet at Midway and that was the turning point of the war in the Pacific. They were not fooled by this diversionary fleet which had one or two carriers, couple of cruisers, and some destroyers. And they went to Dutch Harbor and bombed Dutch Harbor in June of ’42. And then they had a troop ship or more than one with them and they went out and established bases at Attu and Kiska. Well the American military was not very happy about their taking American soil. They didn’t make much publicity about it. A year later almost a year, late April or May of ’42 I mean of ’43 they sent a unit out to take Attu. And some of our advisors on equipment and clothing and footwear advised them to equip those men with the proper foot gear for the conditions they would meet out there on the snow, wet snow, rain and wind, not severe cold but severe conditions. And there were more casualties at Attu from trench foot then there were from Japanese action. When I say casualties I mean people that were injured, not necessarily killed. And men lost their toes, lost their feet because they would spend three weeks in wet shoes and socks, never changed them.

Well of course they wiped out the Japanese garrison, about 3000 men, but Kiska was their major base. Kiska they had three missions. They had men who trained in submarine warfare. They had two man submarines. They were going to intercept American ship traffic along the Alaskan coast. They had engineers. They were building an airstrip so they fly planes off Kiska and they had radiomen and they were jamming American radio signals. I had a good friend who was in the Alaska Communications System, the old ACS, which was the only communication – long distance communications that we had in Alaska. And he said they had a lot of trouble. He was based in Nome and the Japanese on Kiska were quite successful in jamming their signals.

Well the Americans blockaded the island. They had two cruisers, five destroyers that circled around the island for that whole year from ’42 to ’43 to keep any resupply from occurring. One Japanese ship attempted to resupply and it was detected by an American PPY, sent a message to American submarine and sank it off of Amchitka with a thousand men on board.

Anyhow because of the tragedy at Attu for lack of proper training and equipment to be in snow and cold and rough country away from roads, they determined to send our regiment, the 87th to spearhead the attack on Kiska, which we did. We landed on Kiska on the 15th of August 1943. It was kind of spooky because the landing fleet had two battleships, six heavy cruisers, and about 50 destroyers and DE boats and all those ships were firing big guns on the island and as we went ashore and moved up the mountain. Ridge is about 3000 feet high. These big explosions were taking place right in front of us, but we were not getting any small arms fire. No ground resistance. And it was about 36 hours before we finally determined that there were no Japanese on the island. They had gone. And the Americans had not seen them go. Writings about it have indicated that the high command were suspicious that this might have happened, but made the deliberate decision to land our Regiment anyhow. They thought maybe they had retreated into the tunnels that they had built on Kiska. They had their headquarters in a tunnel, hospital in a tunnel, as many as possible men underground because of the American (inaudible) there.

And anyhow it is kind of an interesting story how they escaped. There was a sergeant in my company by the name of Sherman Smith and he was an (inaudible) souvenir hunter. And when we landed he went into the Japanese tunnel after we knew they were gone looking for souvenirs. He didn’t even have a flashlight. He had a plumber’s candle. And he detected trip wires on the floor of the tunnel so he knew it was booby trapped, but he saw a Japanese sun flag three or four feet long, two or three feet high with some writing on it. So he took it off the wall and folded it up and put it in his gear, brought it back to Seattle and left it there when we sailed for Europe.

Terence: Okay, have to change tape. Attu either committed suicide or whatever that had some relative or something in San Diego. I never did see this program. I don’t know if you had seen it.

Judge: No.

Terence: They had called me up. It was NBC

Judge: We got this sun flag and in the meantime we went back and retrained at Camp Hale and then I went to Italy and fought the war against the Germans (inaudible). That was a bloody war. We had a thousand men killed and 4000 wounded out of our regiment or our division of 10,000 men.

But anyhow when he got back from Germany, I mean from Italy, 1983, 40 years after we got left Kiska, he took the sun flag out of his gear back home and it had writing on it and it said it belonged to a man named Carl Kassucarba, who was a mountaineer. So he wrote to a mountaineering organization in Tokyo and asked if they knew the man and they got an answer yes, that he was the secretary of the organization and he spoke good English. So Smith and his wife went to Tokyo, went to Japan and gave him back his flag. And he was so enamored of this process that they had six presentations. They went to his original village. They went to another village, gave him back the flag and gave it to him again.

And then there was a reunion of our 10th Mountain Division in Seattle in 1986 and I spotted Smith. He had been transferred to another unit after Kiska so I hadn’t seen him during the war in Italy. I saw him in the crowd and I walked up to him and I said, hi, you’re Sergeant Smith. I’m Tom Stewart and stuck out my hand. And he gave me a steely look and he said I hated all officers. Turned on his heel and marched away. Didn’t want to talk to me.

But we had a banquet at the non commissioned officers club at Fort Lewis in the course of that reunion and I told a little funny story about our commanding officer who was in the crowd and Smith walked up to me afterwards and he says Stewart you’re all right. We became very good friends after that.

But anyhow he invited Kassucarba to this reunion so I got acquainted with him and in 1992 my wife and I were in Seattle and we went to a banquet of the American Alpine Club. Kassucarba spoke good English and Smith after this banquet – at that banquet sat – which was in the fall of 1992 said what do you think about our return to Kiska. And I said oh that sounds like it might be interesting. Well he said it has to be organized in Alaska and you live in Alaska and so we need your help. Well it turned out that we got 10 veterans from the 87th Mountain Infantry and I led the operation. And we got two Japanese veterans, Kassucarba and another man named Toroterra Sudano. Then we had a Japanese photographer to take pictures of the operation and an American newsman and a medic from Adak because people at Elmendorf that were supporting our effort it wasn’t a good idea for 12 men over the age of 75 to be out on the island without a medic. So they assigned a young hospital corpsman from Adak to go out with us on the Coast Guard cutter. And I had asked them for handheld radios so when the Coast Guard cutter came back to get us it was going to be a different ship than the one that took us out there. I could talk with them and tell them where we were and they called me and said we don’t think that’s a sufficient communication. We’re going to send a tech sergeant with portable satellite equipment you can talk anywhere in the world.

So there were 16 of us went out to Kiska in August of 1993. And Kassucarba told me what happened, how they got away. He was manning the radio and radar equipment up on top of the ridge above Kiska harbor. And they were desperate to leave. This was late July and that time of year they have lots of fog and rain, bad weather. And the skippers of all of the seven American blockade fleet, two cruisers and five destroyers spotted moving targets on their radar between their position down at sea and the island and they fired hundreds of rounds of ammunition, rushed over there because it was over the horizon, not in their line of sight but within radar range and found nothing. They communicated in English between among themselves and Kassucarba was sitting up on top of the island listening to the communications and we’re going to withdraw for 12 hours to rearm and resupply, we’ll be off the blockage for 12 hours. So they went back to an American base back down the Aleutian chain to do that and they had a Japanese rescue fleet, two cruisers and four destroyers standing about 300 miles off shore. They sent them a coded signal. They rushed in at full speed into the harbor at Kiska and in 55 minutes they moved 5500 men from the beach onto those ships. They had landing craft and they dropped them over the side, went ashore and got the soldiers who had their rifles, went back out and they boarded ship by clambering up a cargo net, tossed their rifles in the bay, sank –

Terence: We have a couple of – I mean it’s all essential but they referring to is that for a short-term in November by sort of launching of this project there are a couple of questions that we’re asking sort of everybody about the sort of overall thing of the convention and stuff.

Terence: Are we ready, okay. Well let’s just finish this first Judge.

Judge: Kassucarba heard this communication, sent a coded signal just two letters A B something like that to the Japanese fleet. They came rushing in at full speed, 55 minutes they took 5500 men off the beach, loaded the ships, and left. And this was actually about 10 days or two weeks before we got there, but the high command Admiral Kincaid I think was the ranking officer. He and Buckner determined that they would land us anyhow, not tell us if the Japanese might be gone. They thought they might have gone into their tunnels and be laying in ambush. So that’s what happened.

Terence: What was it like then going ashore? Did you guys go down in cargo nets or how did you go ashore?

Judge: We went down cargo nets into the landing craft. Nowadays they have marine assault landing vessels that can open up the stern and the water comes in and they have the landing craft inside the ship and you can board them inside the ship and drive them out to the ocean. But they didn’t have that we went down in cargo nets and came as close to the beach as we could and jumped out of the ship and waded ashore up to our chest level in the surf with full gear. Took us a week – took us a full day to get dried off after we got on Kiska.

Terence: Was a lot of guys sick in the landing craft or how did that –

Judge: I don’t remember that. It was you know a heightened anticipation of this battle because they had estimated we would be 75% casualties, the first wave, which we were. And I was a platoon leader and the platoon leader is the ones that get it first, but fortunately the Japanese were gone.

Terence: Did any of the guys in your platoon get hit by friendly fire – I know there was some casualties?

Judge: Well that was in another battalion. There were three battalions in our regiment. I was in the First Battalion and the Second and Third Battalions had landed a few hours earlier, a little bit down the shoreline and they were told don’t move at night. They were told not to move at night. If it moves, it’s a Jap, shoot it. Well some poor kid got up to take a leak and somebody else in the other unit saw him and shot him and the major who was in command of that battalion at the time decided there must be Japanese out there so he sent out a patrol. I had a captain friend who tried to dissuade him from doing that because of this order from higher headquarters. Sent out the patrol and they got into a big firefight between the two battalions. They killed 15 or 16 men fighting amongst themselves in the middle of the night and the fog and the rain. That didn’t happen in my battalion, but I am very well aware of it.

Then we had casualties from booby traps. The Japanese had some crude booby traps. They had a 75-mm Howitzer in a tunnel, a cave up near the top of the mountain. You could bore sight that gun on the beach that we had landed on. That would have been tough because the tunnel wasn’t much of a target unless a shell landed right in the opening and wouldn’t take them out.

And that first night it was wet and rainy and cold and windy and miserable and the communications squad of my battalion went in there and the colonel said don’t touch that gun. Well there wasn’t enough room to be their sleeping bags down in the cave to stay dry so someone grabbed a hold of the spooks of the wheel and had a pressure release type booby trap underneath the wheel and it blew and killed two of the men and shell shocked the others. So we had – it was kind of a bloody mess, but that’s the story of the Kiska operation.

Terence: How long did you stay on the island?

Judge: We were there from August to December because they didn’t you know those landing ships that they took us in there with didn’t stick around. They needed to use them elsewhere in the Pacific. So they left and I think the first ship that sailed was probably a month after we got there, a ship that came in, one of the old Alaska steamship vessels. They had some liberty ships; two or three of them came and took out some specialists that they wanted for other assignments. But we came back in December and went back to Camp Hale, spent about three weeks at Camp Carson in Colorado Springs and then went back to Hale and retrained up there. And then in the fall of ’44 we were assigned over to Italy.

Terence: Okay, well we’ll talk about that later about the Italy cause I do want to ask you about the over there. But now let’s skip ahead. One thing maybe you could tell us a little bit about the – is this sort of statehood movement the desire in general and the people who were pro and con about it, just sort of set the scene.

Judge: Well my own role devolved initially from the fact that I – after I went – after I got a Masters Degree of the School of Advanced Interactol (?) Studies. I was aiming for Russian studies. I went to Yale Law School and I was graduated from the Yale Law School in 1950 and I went to the State Department to present my credentials. I had the summer of ’49 in Middlebury College in the Russian School and I could speak Russian, not fluently but acceptably. And they said we loved to have somebody like you but we don’t have any money for Russian Studies. This was at the very beginning of McCarthyism. Anybody involved in Russian Studies was suspect. And the man that interviewed me for a position in the State Department on the Russian Desk, which I was aiming for, said if I were you I’d go back to Alaska.

So I did. I came home, lived in this house with my father and my stepmother and before long I got involved in Democratic politics. Went to the local meeting and got involved in the statehood issue.

Terence: Now had your father been a Democrat, had he been involved at all?

Judge: Yes.

Terence: Okay.

Judge: And he was a very close friend of Ernest Gruening, who was the Governor and just lived down the street and his son – he had three sons; Ernest, Jr. who was killed in the war, Peter who was the youngest son who committed suicide out in Australia, and the middle son was named Huntington – Hunt Gruening. And he and is wife were living in the mansion and we were contemporaries and got to be very dear friends. So I used to spend a lot of time with the Gruenings and my parents spent a lot of time with the Gruenings and of course Bob Bartlett, the delegate to Congress, lived right in the house next door and was a very dear friend of mine and of my parents.

Terence: Bartlett lived right next door to you, right down here, that one there?

Judge: White house about 20 feet from mine.

Terence: Did he own it or did the –

Judge: No. He was the Secretary of Alaska, secretary which is what is now called the Lieutenant Governor. And he was a newspaperman, as well as a gold miner. And he came there to live while he was the secretary. It was an elected position and he was very much involved in the statehood movement, as was Ernest Gruening. And I became involved and I –

Judge: There were more people supporting statehood by far than were opposed. The opposition came mainly from the canned salmon industry because they feared local control of the fisheries. They had had a favorite position with the federal agencies in the fisheries field and they were opposed and the gold mining industry was opposed because they feared that statehood was going they forgot it was going to bring more taxes and make their operations more difficult economically. And so the newspapers here in Southeast, which was the center of the fishing industry, except for Bristol Bay, the local paper in Juneau opposed and one of the two papers in Ketchikan was opposed.

The governor before Gruening was John Troy and he owned the Empire. And Gruening came here when they fired Troy because he was a lush and had trouble with drinking. And Gruening – this was an interesting story I got from Stephenson. I drove him from his farm in Bethel, Vermont to Peterboro where I was in school, studying with the migrant (?) and coming back on that drive he said did you know how Gruening got to be the governor of Alaska? And I said oh he was director of the Division of Territories and Island Possessions in the Interior Department and they had to fire Troy so they sent him here. And that’s not quite the story.

The story that Stephenson said was that of course Harold Ictcos (?) was the Secretary of the Interior and Gruening was the head of the Division of Territories and Island Possessions, which he had persuaded Roosevelt to establish. He wrote a very well known book called Mexico and Its Heritage and he was very familiar with the Caribbean area and so of course Puerto Rico was a principle territory. And so Ictcos came to Roosevelt and said he is insubordinate. Three times Ictcos discovered that Gruening had been in Roosevelt’s office. What Ictcos didn’t know that he was going there. He said I can’t tolerate this SOB. Got to get rid of him. And Roosevelt was friendly towards Gruening so they compromised. They sent him to Alaska to be the governor.

Anyhow he was a very active proponent of statehood and he got the first legislature, see he started in ’39 as governor and the legislature, either the House or the Senate, had been Republican and he couldn’t get the legislation passed that he thought was needed. For example an income tax. The ‘49 session of the legislature was the first time that he got a favorable legislature and they passed this bill, Chapter 108 of the Session Laws of ’49 establishing an Alaska Statehood Committee. And it had some 14 members I think. They had 11 residents and ex-officio of the governor and a delegate to Congress. And the committee was directed to get a necessary qualified person to do research, act as executive to represent the committee, have ready in preparation for a constitutional convention, other detailed studies and so forth.

Well the chairman of the committee was Robert Atwood, who was the editor and publisher of the Anchorage Times. And Bob Atwood was a publicist and his view of what the committee should focus on was to advertise statehood. They chartered a D-6 sent about 65 people to Washington to lobby the Congress for a week. They had a very active organization in Anchorage called Operation Statehood and they promoted this trip. They did hire a professor I think at the University whose name I have forgotten in Anchorage, I mean in Fairbanks, to do the job as the executive of the committee, but they didn’t follow through on that. So they did none of the studies in preparation for a convention.

In the meantime I became very active in the Democratic Party and I became the chairman in southeast Alaska. Adali Stevenson had been the candidate for president. And after he lost to Eisenhower the first time he made a highly publicized trip to the Soviet Union, spent about six weeks over there getting acquainted with the Soviet leadership and making up his own mind about what that was all about.

And when he returned there was a meeting, a national meeting of the Democratic National Committeemen, Committeewomen, and the state chairpersons of the party at each state. It was held in Chicago in the fall of ’43, no ’53. And I learned that nobody from Alaska was going. The National Committee man was not going, the committee woman was not going, the state chairman, a fellow named Frank Marr in Fairbanks was not going and I thought it was a shame that we wouldn’t have some representation at that meeting.

So I got proxies from all of those people and I went to Chicago on my own. And Gruening was a good friend of Stevenson’s, so I had an audience with Stevenson after the meeting was completed. I was supposed to have 15 minutes with him and he was quite interested because I was talking to him about statehood trying to enlist his support to support our move. And I had a whole half an hour with him and invited him to come to Alaska and see for himself. I couldn’t officially authorize the trip cause I was an Assistant Attorney General and didn’t have any position in the government to do that, but I had some good friends in Gruening and Bartlett and told them that I had made this invitation and they needed to make it official from their positions as Governor and of course Bartlett was the delegate to Congress.

So they did and Stevenson came here the summer of ’54, stopped in Juneau and I met him in Prince Rupert and came on the ship with him. And interestingly enough it was in July as I recall, nice weather, and he and I were out playing shuffleboard with some of the people he had with him. And he said let’s sit down and talk. So we went over and propped our feet up on the rail and we talked for two hours. And among other things he said you know I have only heard proponents of statehood. I’ve talked with you and with Bartlett and Gruening. There must be somebody opposed. I said yes, indeed there are. Would you like to talk to somebody that is opposed? Yes I would.

There was a man named Allen Shaddock, who was a Democrat but he was an anti-Gruening Democrat and he was an insurance man, retired, living in a beach home across the airport. And so when I got to Juneau I got – and he had written a pamphlet called the Case Against Statehood. I arranged for Stevenson and a couple of the men that were with him to sit down with Allen Shaddock and his son Curtis Shaddock, who was a Democrat also but anti-Gruening. And they had a visit with him and then Stevenson went to Anchorage and gave a speech to 5000 people present. They had it at the ballpark, Malkey Stadium, largest crowd ever assembled for a political event and gave a rousing speech in favor of statehood.

So that’s sort of when I got started in the statehood effort. And there was a committee from the Senate interior I believe. The Senate was Republican and the chairman was a man named Butler, a senator from Nebraska and several other senators. And I testified before that committee. Butler had been up here previously and determined that we weren’t ready for statehood for reasons A, B, and C. So when I testified I said here’s how we have satisfied A, B, and C, we’re ready. You’re the chairman of the Senate Committee. You have tremendous influence in what the committee says. Unless you change your mind we’re not going to get it. So I’m here to tell you, you’ve got to change your mind. And I had sort of a confrontation with him.

Terence: Did he – what were like the basic you know the pros and cons, I mean it was largely on taxes is that the main issue you’d say, I mean?

Judge: I think so. I don’t really remember that detail. That’s a good many years ago, 50 years ago, but I don’t retain that detail.

Terence: Okay.

Judge: But in any event that’s all I got in and in 1954 the 53 session of the legislature was a debacle. It reflected what was happening in the nation, McCarthyism. They formed a legislative investigating committee to search out Communists in the government. They found one Communist. He was a longshoreman in Skagway and he had an idealistic view of Communism as something that was good for the common people.

And those years there was no such thing as the Legislative Affairs Agency. So the Assistant Attorney General served the legislature by writing bills for them. The legislators would come to our offices and say we want a bill on such and such a subject and here’s what we – the idea of it and so I and my compatriot who was John Dimond, the son of Tony Dimond, a very dear friend, wrote legislation. And I spent a lot of time in the legislature.

The last night I was down just outside the chamber, went into the men’s room and there was a wastebasket about three feet high and a foot and a half in diameter, filled to the brim with whiskey bottles. The Speaker of the House, it was a man from Fairbanks named George Miscovich, had his coffee cup in his desk and full of whiskey. And the house never did adjourn, they just walked off. It was a debacle. It was – there were I think about 20 Republicans and 4 Democrats in the House. The Senate was evenly split. There were 16 members on the Senate – 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats. It took them three weeks to organize and choose a President of Senate when they finally compromised.

Terence: Three weeks –

Terence: So I think we were talking about the –

Judge: The political scene in the legislation. That session was a debacle. And the people of Alaska sensed that and so in the next election, which took place in 1954, there was a complete shift. There were I think 21 members of the house were Democrats and three were Republicans. In the senate there were about 12 or 13 members who were Democrats and three Republicans.

And right after the election when the new complex of the legislature was known there was an assemblage of Democratic leaders in Fairbanks in the home of a man named Alex Miller, who had grown up in Juneau. I had known him since he was a child. And we kind of parceled out functions for the upcoming session. We were going to reorganize the legislature. Cut down the number of committees, have parallel committees in the house and the senate so they could communicate better, and we assigned jobs to various people. Some of the people from Fairbanks were assigned particularly to the reorganization of the body and I drew the job of preparing for the holding of the Constitutional Convention.

So when the legislature convened in January of ’55 I was the chairman of the house committee on statehood and federal relations. And a fellow named Bill Egan was the chairman of the senate committee on statehood and federal relations.

But in the meantime after that meeting I resigned my job as Assistant Attorney General and on my own, spent my own money. I was not married. I decided that there wasn’t really anybody in Alaska who knew much about how to set up structure and operate a Constitutional Convention. So I made a six week long trip across the country. I went to the University of Washington. I went to the University of Chicago. I went to Public Administration Service in Chicago. I went to the University of Illinois, Evanston I think it was. I went to Harvard. I went to Yale, which was my school. I went to Columbia. I went to Princeton and then New Jersey I went to Trenton and met with Mrs. Katzenbach, who was a Vice President of the New Jersey Convention of ’46, which was a very successful convention. And I met with her and some other people that had been delegates. I met with a professor named John Sligh at Princeton, who was a distinguished figure in the academic world in state government, state constitutions. And I went to Washington, DC and I met with people at the legislative reference service of the Library of Congress. I met with the officers of the American Political Science Association.

And everywhere I went I said how do you set up a convention? How do you get qualified advisors to help you work on the substance of a constitution? And I got some excellent advice from Mrs. Katzenbach, whose son Nick Katzenbach had been in the law school a year or so ahead of me and later became the Attorney General of the United States under Johnson. She said hold your convention at the State University. I said we don’t have a State University. We have something called the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. Well hold it there instead of in the capitol. Because the capitol has entrenched lobbying interests and they will be lobbying for their pet projects. If you go to the University you will have a library facility. It is a much better scene. So –

Terence: And did that help? Could you say that using the University sort of as the forum? I mean did that really help do you think in a way in the tone and tenor with the way it actually –

Judge: No question. I’d say no question. It was an unpopular decision in Juneau because there were a lot of people in Juneau who were concerned even in those days about the possibility of moving the capitol. And I remember going to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and Curtis Shaddock, whom I already described to you, was an anti-Gruening Democrat, sitting across the table from me. Underneath the table he kicked me severely in the chins because I had promoted the idea of having the convention at the University.

When we organized it because of the background that I had acquired on this trip across the nation Bill Egan and I met. We had been good friends politically and otherwise and decided that I should be the chairman of the joint house and senate committee. He was the chairman of the senate committee and that we would meet together rather than separately to build a bill to call the convention. And that’s what we did. We wrote this bill. This is just Chapter 46 of the session laws of 1955. And it was critical to the success of the convention.

For one thing in that 53 session of the legislature in the First Judicial District, Southeast Alaska, I think there were six members. Five of them were from Juneau. One was from Petersburg. Nobody from Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Haines, Skagway. Second District they were all from Nome. Nobody from Kotzebue. Nobody from Unalakleet. Third District there were 10 members of the house. All ten of them were from Anchorage. Nobody from Kodiak. Nobody from Cordova. Nobody from Valdez. Nobody from Palmer. So we determined that there should be representation from every community in Alaska that had about a thousand people or more.

Terence: What happened to the Fourth Division? Was that similar as well?

Judge: All Fairbanks.

Terence: Fairbanks.

Judge: And so we created special election districts, 22 of them.

Terence: How did you decide those Judge? How did you draw those boundaries and how did you?

Judge: We had to use in order to mechanically operate an election we had to have governmental representatives. So we chose them according to districts. We had number one was the Ketchikan and Hyder. Number two was Wrangell and Petersburg. Number three was Sitka. Number four was Juneau. Number five was Haines and Skagway and so forth, 22 of them, blanketing the state.

And we decided on a convention of 55 members because that would give us an opportunity to have better spread. Forty-eight of those members were elected from those 22 – from those districts, but there was one district at large. So seven of the members ran at large over the whole territory. They were people like Ralph Rivers and his brother Vic Rivers, who were well known. Ralph had been the Attorney General elected territorial wide and Vic had been the President of the Senate. And there were four or five others that ran at large, but the net result was that the convention was the most representative body that had ever been assembled in a governmental function in Alaska. We had people from Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, Haines, Valdez, Cordova, Kodiak, Seward, Dillingham, Palmer, Unalakleet, Nome, Kotzebue, far and away – the most representative group that had ever assembled for a governmental purpose. Today you couldn’t do that because the Supreme Court decision in Baker vs. Carr determined that for an election to state legislatures one man – one vote. The districts have to have drawing of equal populations within a small percentage and it would not be possible to have that kind of a body assembled, but at that time it was and that was a critical function – a critical aspect of the success of the convention because the people at large knew that they had representatives participating in the decisions that were made there.

And then other critical aspects of this bill and if you want to understand the convention you really need to be familiar with Chapter 46 of the session on (inaudible). And compare its terms with terms of the bill for statehood that had been pending in the congress and had been written by staff people in Washington that didn’t really understand political situation in Alaska.

This – well for example that bill that had been pending in the congress would have had the convention only 60 days. No opportunity for a recess to go back and talk with the constituents. And it would have convened in about three months. There wouldn’t have been time for pre-convention studies. There wouldn’t have been time to assemble a staff of consultants to sit with the delegates and help to educate them on possibilities. Not on what they should do but what they could do, what had been done in other jurisdiction. And we scheduled the convention to convene in November after this bill became law in March. So there was about eight months to do the preparation.

In light of this bill and I basically wrote it, I was dealing with a man named Ken Johnson. Ken Johnson was the chairman of the house committee on finance. We had to get money and I worked closely with him. And he said we can get you $350,000 and there was $80,000 left in the coffers of the statehood committee.

So he went to Bob Atwood and said look I’ll give you $350,000; you can use the $80,000 that you have, if you make Stewart the Executive Director of the committee and let him set up the pre-convention studies. So I became the Executive Director of the Statehood Committee and my office – I say my office, I had one secretary, oversaw the preparation of the pre-convention studies. I wanted to go out and hire people that we selected from this University or that University, people that we – I could feel were going to work with Alaskans. Atwood had a different idea.

And I had a telegram from him, representative from Public Administration Service in Chicago will be in Juneau next week and they are going to do the pre-convention studies. Well in retrospect Bob Atwood was right and I was wrong cause we would have had the time and the expertise together with that group of people. PAS was in the business of doing this kind of thing. They had done it for states. They had done it for cities. They had done it for other nations.

And the man they sent was a man named John Cochran, who was very experienced. And John and I immediately hit it off and he assembled a staff, some people from Brookings, from various Universities. For example he had a man named – I don’t remember the name at the moment. I’ll think of it in a minute. And set them to work July, August, September, October drafting this three-volume set of studies of state constitutions. In the meantime they wrote articles to newspapers detailing what the convention was going to face so that the populace in March would have a better idea of what a Constitutional Convention was about and how they would function.

Cochran went to Atwood and said I think you better send Stewart to Hawaii because the Hawaiians had written a constitution in 1950 when they thought they were going to be admitted that year. They did get their bill did pass the house, but it got stymied in the senate. But they had a convention. So I went out there. They had an old fashion wire recording. Some of their leading delegates critiquing their convention. I met with those people in Hawaii.

When I got off the plane the whole committee, Hawaiian Statehood Commission it was called, was out on the tarmac to greet me. And their first question was you’re not trying to get ahead of us are you? They expected to be the 49th state.

Terence: And Judge just to let you know it is about twenty-five to one so we will 15, 20 minutes and then we will. Okay.

Judge: Well, as I say, they sent me to Hawaii and I was out there for about 10 days meeting with the leaders of their convention. And I learned some useful things. I learned for example don’t establish a committee except for a major element of the constitution. If you have committees that don’t focus on the basic structure of the constitution you get material in the document that doesn’t belong there or be left to legislation. I was able to come back and tell the delegates don’t create too many committees. Anyhow –

Terence: And that probably helped keeping it trim, I mean, right?

Judge: It did.

Terence: That’s the basic goal.

Judge: And when the convention assembled we had published this three volume set of studies and it was done on an old A. B. Dick mimeograph machine, bound in a paper cover. And the committees – I’ll say one other thing

Cochran was a very perceptive, knowledgeable man. He is no longer alive. And he and I went to Fairbanks about a week before the convention because one of my responsibilities was to see that the facilities were there and I had been dealing with Ernest Paddock, who was a mining engineer and worked for my father and I had known him for many years. And they were building what was a student union building that seemed to be well adapted to the convention and open space on the ground floor and second floor it had the food serving facilities and it had small offices upstairs so that those were committee rooms and office of the president and my office as the secretary.

So Cochran and I had a room together downtown in Fairbanks in the Polaris Building. And he said you know we should – the convention should have a whole set of rules. I said well John I don’t have any time and the ability to sit down and draft the rules. So he sat down and drafted a proposed set of rules. And he drafted 11 motions elected a temporary president, temporary vice-president, forming a committee on committees and various additional motions. And we passed them out to people that we knew among the delegates so they quickly organized. They organized very rapidly. And then when the committees were determined each committee took the volume – those three volumes and focused on the material in them that dealt with the subject matter of that particular committee. So the delegates got a good overall view of what they had to do instead of coming in there wringing their hands and saying I want to talk about this in a very disorganized fashion. It was well organized and within a week the whole convention was organized, structured, and ready to go.

There was a question about consultants. On the way back from Hawaii I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder. There was a national meeting of the American Political Science Association. And I had the names of several of the leaders of that organization. And I said I would like to find the names of people that can be consultants for natural resources, for elections, for the executive branch, for the legislative branch, for the judicial branch and so forth. So I canvassed about 30 or 40 people at that meeting. And said now I don’t have any authority to hire you, but would you be willing to consider coming to Alaska in the middle of winter and spending a week or two or three or more as a consultant to the committee in your specialty. And I got a list of about 30 or 35 names. And I brought back and was able to give that to the committees and let them take their choice from people that had promised yes they would come if the convention decided to hire them.

I ran into opposition from a man named George McLaughlin. George McLaughlin was a lawyer that I had known for years in Anchorage, prominent lawyer. The McLaughlin Juvenile Center is named for him. And he was the chairman of the committee on the judiciary and one of the members of the committee on the judiciary was a man named Irvin Metcalf, who was a man he and his wife had a small mom and pop grocery on the outskirts of Seward.

But Irv had been the United States deputy marshal and as an Assistant Attorney General I had some business out in that part of the world, Kenai Lake. And Irv and I got well acquainted. He had gone two years to the University of Washington Law School, but he didn’t complete the program. He had to come back. And he came to me and he said our committee on the judiciary is discussing whether we should have a consultant, what do you think? I said well Irv would you read a book about judicial administration and the organization of courts? And he said of course I would. Well I said the man who is listed here whose name is Shelton Elliott co-authored with the Chief Justice Arthur T. Vanderbilt of New Jersey a book called Modern Judicial Administration. How would you like to have the author of the book here to tell you why he wrote this instead of that? And he said well you put it that way yes. And McLaughlin had come with a draft judicial article and he thought he knew it all and was objecting and he knew that I was promoting bringing in a consultant. The committee voted four to three to hire the consultant. So I got in touch with Joe Donnelly and told him to come ahead at such and such date.

And when he was coming I went to George McLaughlin and I said George you don’t know Shelton, but I do and he is a lovely man and he is a fine gentleman and why don’t we both go to the airport and I’ll introduce you. We got there and I said – I introduced them and I said I’m sorry gentleman but I’ve got something else I’ve got to do and so you two can talk and I’ll leave. So I left George with Shelton Elliott and within the hour they were like that.

And Shelton had a great deal to do with the ultimate structure of the judiciary, which is modeled basically after the New Jersey system that Arthur T. Vanderbilt had engineered when they had their convention in 1946. And that sort of broke the ice and virtually all the committees got expert academic people to come and consult with them for a week or two or three as the case may be.

Terence: And all in addition to the PAS reports, right. I mean this additional to that?

Judge: Yes.

Terence: I mean you had your PAS report on this?

Judge: Oh, yes.

Terence: That’s right, yeah.

Judge: But these were not the people that had written that document. These were other people that came to deal with it. And one of the leaders was a man named John Bebout. John was a specialist in local government. And I took him and there was another specialist in local government named Welton Cooper from the University of West Virginia. And I traveled around the territory with him in the summer of ’55. We went to Kotzebue. He wanted to go to a village to see how they operated local government there. at Nome; of course Anchorage and Fairbanks, and talked with the majors and members of the city councils, got an idea of what was in their minds about local government. And Bebout stayed for the whole convention and he had with the national organization for local government. I’ve forgotten the title of it now and was very influential. Talked to Vic Fisher and I think Vic was the chairman of the committee on local governments and Bebout was his right-hand man.

So all of these factors which we put into this bill could happen in my judgment were critical to the ultimate success of that convention, which was a smashing success. We had given them 75 days instead of 60 days, so they could have a 15 day recess over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday, go back to their home communities and talk with their local constituents about what they were doing and it met an acceptance of the ultimate work product that might not otherwise have happened as successfully.

When it came to the organization of the convention in November I had not anticipated – I of course was executive officer of the statehood committee and I hadn’t anticipated being an officer of the convention. I was not a delegate. My father was a delegate, but I was not. And Cochran came to me and he said you should be the secretary of this convention, in charge of its administration.

Well another person also ran, a woman named Kathryn Payly Hurley. She wasn’t Katie Hurley. She was Katie Alexander at that time. She had been the secretary of the senate and so she ran too. And I was elected to be the secretary of the convention so I resigned as executive officer of the statehood committee and served as the secretary of the convention in charge of all the administrative aspects – getting these consultants to come, arranging their travel, arranging all the physical space, all the details and structure of that convention.

Maybe this is a good time to take a break.

Terence: Okay.

Judge: You might be interested in this Terrence, this over here.

Terence: Yeah I think Judge we were talking about the organization of the convention and you mentioned that Katie Hurley – what exactly then was her position?

Judge: I had hired her to be the chief clerk and basically what the chief clerk did was sit at the plenary sessions where everybody was there and kept a record of their actions. What propositions were submitted. What the votes were on them. About like what the secretary of the senate would do which she had experience at that. She wasn’t Katie Hurley. She was married to a man named Joe Alexander and then Hurley was one of the delegates to the convention. He was from Palmer and they romanced and she might have been divorced from Alexander and married Jim Hurley.

Terence: Now you know just to sort of backtrack just briefly. Maybe you could just tell us a little bit too when you met your wife cause you got married about that time, right? What the time of the convention?

Judge: Well, during the convention. I met her probably in about 19 – late ’53 or early ’54. I was interested in renewing the ability to play the piano a little bit and she was the most prominent piano teacher in Juneau. So I talked with her about taking some piano lessons and I got some other lessons. I had not been married before. She had been married previously and she had four children. So for the next year or so we dated and did things with the children and I enjoyed the children and they seemed to enjoy being with me.

When I asked her to marry me, which was probably in well maybe George Rogers told you, that a doctor in Fairbanks told me that he thought that I might have a heart problem because I was working long hours, a lot of stress, and I began to get pains in my chest. I had a very dear friend, a first cousin, at the Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. His name was Caleb Stone and when I was at the University I had spent a lot of time with him and his wife. And he had a doctor friend who was a heart specialist. As a matter of fact he had come up here and taken the electrocardiogram of a whale as part of his research on hearts and stayed with me.

And so I went to the Virginia Mason Hospital and they did a lot of tests and my cousin said to me your heart problem is that lady. So I came back and I asked her to marry me and she decided that she should consult with the four children. And she had been dating another fellow as well, as a matter of a fact a couple of them. One of them is the fellow who did the Stewart bowl. So she asked the children if she were to remarry, she’d already accepted me basically. If she were to remarry, should it be I or the other fellow. And the oldest girl said Tom, the second girl said the other fellow, and the third girl said Tom. Those three girls were 9, 7, and 5. And the three-year-old boy, when she asked him, said Gene Autry. Anyhow –

Terence: So I guess she didn’t married to Gene Autry?

Judge: No, not to my – she might have been better off, certainly would have been far better off financially.

Terence: You won the election, that was good.

Judge: So I came down, I was in Fairbanks of course for the convention and Ernest Patty, the President of the University, who had been an old friend, I had worked with him closely in getting the physical arrangements for the convention in that building, which is now called Constitution Hall. It was built to be as kind of a student union building. And so we planned to be married at the convention while it was still in recess and he gave us the use of his home, beautiful home of the President, because he was very well to do and he had a similar home in Seattle and he and his wife were going to go to Seattle where they had a son for the Christmas holidays.

So I came down here and spent Christmas with my – with those children and Jane and then she and I traveled to Anchorage. And we were to be married by a man named Fred McGinnis. Fred McGinnis had been the Pastor of the Methodist Church in Juneau, very, very competent, bright fellow. And he and his wife were good friends of Jane’s and he was a good friend of mine too. And made the arrangements for him to do the wedding. Flew to Anchorage, there was a big snowstorm, and he was isolated in Kodiak. So we called the Methodist minister in Fairbanks and said there is this couple that I would like you to perform the wedding for them. And the man said well I haven’t had any opportunity to counsel with them and the woman has been divorced. I’m the Superintendent of the Church, you perform the wedding. So we got on the train, went to Fairbanks and our friend Fred McGinnis was stuck in Kodiak. And I don’t remember the name of the man that did the wedding in the President’s home. My parents were there and my sister, a very dear friend from here that I had been skiing with and had been living with me before Jane and I courted. That was the wedding party and we stayed in the home for a week. And she came back to take care of the four children and shortly after the convention ended I arranged with the ex-husband to adopt them and he didn’t object. So I adopted them in the spring of ’56. And reared from that point.

Terence: And what are the names of the kids?

Judge: Rebecca was the eldest and Donna and Elizabeth and Stephen – S-T-E-P-H-E-N. And he lives in Anchorage. He was chief pilot for Rust Air Service and then he wanted to get with the FAA as a flight inspector, but he had to have the qualifications that flying Beavers and Otters didn’t give him. Instrument rating, multi-engine rating. So about four years ago he went to work for Northern Air Cargo. He was co-pilot on a DC-6 and got an instrument rating and a multi-engine rating and about a week after September 11, 2001 the FAA offered him a job and he has been a flight inspector since then.

Terence: What about Donna? I went to school with her just briefly. She was in school at Fairbanks, right, wasn’t?

Judge: Yes, she used to play a flute in the orchestra up there and she was kind of a perennial student. She was there for about six years. She and I are quite close. She lives in Mill Valley, California and I – every summer she comes up and I take her on little trip. Let’s see three years ago we went to Glacier Bay. Two years ago we went to – down to Petersburg and to the Laconte Glacier. Went out on a boat with a former principal of a high school down there who was well known for his productions of Shakespeare plays and he had a trawler and he trawled for shrimp and he – the boat was also rigged for gill netting. We went out on the boat and hauled his traps and trawled for a load of shrimp and then cooked them on the boat and ate them right out of the sea. Donna and I had a good time there.

And then this last year, this last June, I gave her an alternative. We could – I have begun a good friend of Jay Hammond, former governor. We were different political parties so we weren’t that friendly when we were both in the legislature, but the man next door here – his name is Kent Dawson. He’s a former chief of staff for Hammond when Hammond was governor and Jay would come down and stay with him. Well the general symphony was doing a production of Copeland’s Portrait of Lincoln. You know what that music is?

Terence: No.

Judge: Well, it’s music and – but there has to be a speaker who recites writings of Lincoln’s and they wanted Jay –

Terence: Is that Carl Sandberg, is that?

Judge: Pardon.

Terence: Is it Carl Sandberg? Does he use some of Carl Sandberg’s biography? I think I’ve heard that recited though. I think I’ve heard it on the radio or something similar.

Judge: Anyhow the symphony here wanted Jay Hammond to do it because he has a resonant booming voice and makes a good recitation. They wanted to rehearse with him and my neighbors who were good friends ordinarily house him but they were doing some renovation and so she called me – Mrs. Dawson – Jennie Dawson and said can you house the Hammonds for a week? And I said sure I’d be delighted. So they came and we became great friends.

And so I’ve been out there and stayed with him at their house at Lake Clark. He has a magnificent layout there, 11 structures, including a beautiful home, all log structures that he built with his own hands. And so whenever he comes to Juneau now he stays here. And I gave Donna the opportunity of going to Lake Clark and spending a few days with the Hammonds or going to Dillingham cause I had not been to Bristol Bay and she had not been. And she opted for the Dillingham. So we went to Dillingham for – and the trip from here was five days up and back.

And we – I have a good friend – you might know him – Mike Davis. He represents the University in Dillingham. But he also has a set net and fishes for sockeye when the run comes in and he brings adult classes here and he asked me and other people to talk about government and I talk with him about the constitution and about the court system and so – and to his class. And so he invited me to come out to Dillingham and stay in a home next to one he has, which we did. And I chartered a plane and we flew all around the Dillingham area, which is pretty scenic to the northwest from it. And the flight around Bristol Bay with where all the seine boats were out. And then she went out fishing with him one day in his boat and helped him haul in sock – fresh sockeye. So we had a good visit in July.

Terence: Well that’s wonderful – that’s great. You’re so lucky with the kids too, that’s really.

Judge: Yeah.

Terence: That’s pretty much of a great blessing in your life I guess.

Judge: I have the oldest daughter here right now because my youngest daughter, who was born to our marriage, Jane and I had three children. The oldest of them is my youngest daughter. Her name is Mary and she is clerk in the governor’s – personnel clerk in the governor’s office for many years. And she has – she lived in Manfriend. She is divorced from her husband by whom she had two children. And he is moose hunting out of Anchorage right now and my oldest daughter came to stay with her while he was away. And our second child is the boy who built this stairway. He is a fine, fine carpenter. He went to law school for one term and he didn’t like it. He liked carpentry. So I encouraged him to stick with carpentry.

Terence: Did you tell him to get an honest trade – that’s not what you told him was it?

Judge: He and I are going to rendezvous in Paris this coming Monday and travel through – we’re going to spend two or three days in Normandy and then go down to northern Italy and tour through the Northern Apennines, across the Po Valley and up into the Alps on the route where I fought in World War II. And –

Terence: Will this be Judge – will this be the first time you’ve been back there since the war, the part –

Judge: No, actually I wanted to take my wife there. It’s beautiful country and I was very interested when I was there for six months in the war and so I rented a car from the Budget people here to pick up in Florence. This was 1989 and we arrived in Florence and I called the Budget office and the woman said, yes, sir, we have your car. So I went down there and she said may I see your license, driver’s license and I said of course. And handed it to her and she got a funny look on her face, walked over to her compatriot, came back and said I’m sorry we can’t rent you a car. I said what’s the problem? She says you’re 70 years old and our insurance only goes to 69. She said but there is a place down the street where you can rent a car for $15.00 a day more for insurance. Well $15.00 a day wasn’t bad for what we’re going to be four or five days, so I went down there and I told them I wanted to rent the car and drive it up to Bologna over to Venice, up to Lake Garda and through the hill country in the Apennines and end up at Milan. I wanted to take my wife to LaGasla and turn in the car in Milan. The man said you can’t do that. You have to bring the car back to Florence. Well, I didn’t have time for that. So we had Eurorail passes that I had purchased so we went by train, which was not very satisfactory because in the Northern Apennines the trains go through tunnels. You can’t see the countryside and you can’t stop where you want to stop.

Then about six years ago the Justice of a Supreme Court, who is a resident in Juneau, his name is Carpanetti, Walter Carpanetti and he practiced in my court before he went on the

Judge: I had opportunities to do that but I didn’t like that kind of work. I much preferred working with live people, live cases, rather than sitting up in an office writing opinions. Too much like going to law school. So – but he and his wife are dedicated – they’re devotees – they’re of Tuscany of Northern Italy. He did – about 10 years ago he did a sabbatical there. Took his family and spent a whole year and the children went to their school and learned Italian and he perfected his Italian. He is very fluent in Italian and he wanted to go over the battleground.

Well I had a journal that was written by a very bright corporal in my company named Oliver Andrews. Ollie Andrews taught Latin and French in a girl’s school back East. He didn’t want to be an officer. He wanted to be an enlisted man, but we got to be good friends and he kept a daily journal. And when we – when the hostilities ended on the 2nd of May of ’45, we spent a week or two there and then we moved over to what is called Venezia Giulia. That’s the region between Venice and Trieste. And it used to be Yugoslavia. But in World War II the Yugoslavs were our enemies and the Italians were our allies and the settlement after the war the Italians acquired Venezia Giulia. But Tito’s troops were on the boundary, which was called the Azonzo River. And we were sent over there to keep Tito from coming across the river and taking back that land.

But in the treaty after World War II where the Italians were are enemies, along with the Germans, and the Yugoslavs were our allies, the new treaty gave that land back to Yugoslavia. Anyhow we settled in a little village there called Pudzo to hold off, which is right on the edge of the river, to hold off the Yugoslavs from coming across it. And this corporal sat down and got a hold of a typewriter and typed up this journal, complete journal, very well written, very detailed. So Bud Carpanetti, Justice Carpanetti and I went back there about six years ago. I had the journal in my lap and he was driving the little car that we rented and we followed day by day the route that we fought through northern Italy. And he wants very much to show that to his wife and his daughters.

At the same time there’s a lieutenant from my company named Rocko Sacilliano and you can make some evaluation of Rocko’s status. He lives on North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, been very successful in his career. He was a personal assistant to Eisenhower when Eisenhower was the President and he was the Assistant Secretary of Labor in the first Eisenhower administration and then he was the Undersecretary of Commerce in the first Nixon administration, but he got out before Watergate and became Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of a company called Tycor – T-Y-C-O-R, which was a nationwide title insurance company. He ran that company and did other successful things, but he has never gone back.

And so we made an agreement to go back in May when the Tet Mountain Veteran Association made its every third year return to Italy and just about the time we were ready to leave his wife became seriously ill and he had to cancel so I canceled. And now he is going to join us on this trip. He and his son, my son and I, are going to meet him in Paris and spend three days in Normandy, driving around the scenes of the landing there, then rendezvous with the Carpenetti party in Milan – fly from Paris to Milan and spend six days driving again the routes that are battalion fought through the North Apennines, across the Po Valley. My battalion was the first unit to cross the Po River, just shortly before the surrender. We got across the river and there were 250,000 Germans behind us and we were going up the highway to the Brennar Pass to seal off their escape route. And we got up to the head of them, along with the Guard, Lake Garda, which is a beautiful alpine lake and that is where the surrender came.

Terence: When did you arrive Judge – when did your unit arrive in Italy in December of ’44, is that right at the time of the –

Judge: Yeah, it was either the last two or three days of December or the first two or three days of January.

Terence: And where did you ashore I mean lower Italy had been sort of pretty well controlled by then, right, I mean, where did you go?

Judge: Oh, yeah, yeah. The Germans had after they gave up the line in Rome they pulled back to the Apennines and fortified the Apennines all the way across from the Adriatic to the other sea and very strong fortifications. And the Americans tried two or three times unsuccessfully to break that line and then we came in there and we did break the line. We had an excellent general, won the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War I and –

Terence: What was his name?

Judge: Hays. George Hays – H-A-Y-S. And one of the key points that the Germans had fortified and twice the Americans took it and the Germans counterattacked and took it back from them. There is a feature called Mount Balvadere and it sets athwart two of the main routes from south of the Apennines through the Apennines to the Po and of course the Germans were using the Po because it was great farmland and they were getting a lot of their food supplies from there. And Mussolini had gone up and had a new capitol as it were in a place called Salo, on the west bank of Lake Garda. And so that – it was controlled by the axis powers and Mount Balvadere sits here and over here there’s a ridge called Riva Ridge. It is very steep and rocky on the face of it. And the Germans occupied that ridge and it had perfect observation of the face of Balvadere. So when the American troops went up Balvadere, the Germans could call down there artillery, seeing exactly where the Americans were. And Hays recognized that situation and we had some pretty good rock climbers. So in the middle of the night they climbed the rocky cliffs of Riva Ridge and totally surprised the Germans that were on top and wiped them out; 75 to 100 men up there – Germans. And this battalion from the 86th Infantry Mountain Men Regimen of our division climbed that rocky face, which the Germans thought was impossible. Climbed it at nighttime quietly, fixed ropes so that the troops that weren’t climbers could make their way up and secured it and the next day we went up Balvadere without that observation. And the Germans counterattacked again, but we were successful in driving them off.

Judge: You asked me if I had been back. I went back with my wife, with Carpanetti and now he wants to show his wife and his daughter and my son wants to see it and my lieutenant friend and his son, who is a bank president in San Diego, want to see it, so.

Terence: Well I can understand why. It sounds like it is going to be really great. You guys –

Terence: So Judge so what does it feel like though going back I mean you must view with really usually emotions isn’t it, in a way, seeing that and stuff is that?

Judge: Well, it is of course I was seldom on the front line. I was usually about 300 yards back cause I was a company commander of First Battalion Headquarters Company and I had a communications platoon that maintained our communications out to the rifle companies in the battalion and I had a weapons platoon that had had 75-mm Pack Howitzers that you could break down and load in pieces on new packs that could go where they couldn’t take cars and that was the platoon that my friend who was the lieutenant commanded and then I had a supply – we distributed the supplies to the units- food, ammunition, and so forth.

My job was to protect, to provide parameter defense for the battalion headquarters which was the communications central and the battalion headquarters was usually about 300 yards back of the actual fighting front. I got into some pretty hot action, especially crossing the Po River, a lot of shrapnel splattering around. My communications sergeant was lying in a ditch next to me and the shrapnel was – the shells were exploding in the trees above us and he gave a yelp and a piece of shrapnel just about severed his wrist. And his wrist – his hand was about a foot from my head. If it had been another foot, it would have gone – that would have been the end of me.

But I didn’t – I was not like a platoon leader who was out in front of his platoon on the front line. I saw a lot of blood and gore in the course of our progress, but I wasn’t in as bloody a situation as the rifle companies.

Terence: Did – is it easy or difficult to talk about it with like your son and stuff? I mean do they – I mean how is it –

Judge: It’s not difficult for me but I haven’t talked with them a great deal about it. They haven’t asked about it.

Terence: I bet they will after this trip.

Judge: My son might yeah a little more.

Terence: So did – I don’t know much about your – the mountain divisions operations in Italy so did you – wasn’t there some part that did involve some skiing in high up?

Judge: Only one action on skis. It is a place called Gratigliano and there is a fairly steep wall narrow valley kind of like the Gold Creek up here, but not quite as steep as Mt. Juneau. And at the head of it there is an area called I’m not certain whether the correct pronunciation in Italian is Abitone or Abitone’ and it’s rocky mountainous countries. As a matter of fact it is where the Duke of Abruzzi (?) – The Duke of the Abruzzi was a famous Italian mountaineer in the early part of the 20th Century, who made the first climb of Mt. Saint Elias. That book there is about him. And he did a lot of his climbing in the region of Abitone. And the Germans occupied the high ground and our operation was what you call a combat patrol. That’s to be distinguished from a reconnaissance patrol.

Reconnaissance patrol is usually about a squad of men, 8 to 10 or 12 men, who go out at night and crawl around or sneak around and try to locate enemy positions close at hand and spot them so that efforts can be made to eliminate them with artillery or whatever, mortars. Combat patrol is a patrol in strength, a whole battalion is – goes out prepared to fight in the daytime and approaches the area that the enemy is known to occupy and probes that strength with strength on our side too.

Well this was in February, early February of ’55 and the mountain side was pretty well covered with snow, about three feet of snow and the troops moved out, battalion close to a thousand men in white uniforms, on skis, and moved up this valley on this slope. I was on the opposite slope. There was a villa over there, four story villa, privately owned structure, and the regimental commander was there, full colonel and my battalion commander or lieutenant colonel and numbers of the staff officers from the battalion and from the regiment. There must have been a dozen of us up on the top floor of that building with field glasses watching this operation.

The Germans had observers dug in the snow. Our people skied right over them and they called down artillery fire from behind. They could tell exactly where the – by radio they could tell exactly to the artillery people – their artillery people where their shells were landing, what they needed to do to adjust their range. And we got the pants beaten off of us. We found out where the strength was, but we didn’t take it.

Terence: And then in operation was that the only one really on skis that –

Judge: The only one I ever saw on skis.

Terence: I see.

Judge: The more spectacular one was that night climb of Rever Ridge, which was – went down in the annuls of mountain fighting.

Terence: Well let me ask you this Judge, switch gears a little bit. How did this – these experiences in the war shape your feelings about you know life and what you wanted out of life, you know when you came back I mean?

Judge: Life is fragile. It can end at any moment from an accident. If you’re in war from the metal flying around in the air. I don’t worry about death. I saw lots of death. Happens to everybody. Not long from now it’s going to happen to me and it doesn’t bother me. I don’t grieve. My youngest son was killed in a skiing accident in 1986 down in – he was going to Southern Oregon State College at Ashland skiing on Mt. Ashland. He was a good skier, powerful skier, 24 years old and he came down a north facing slope in the springtime in March and the sun was warm but it wasn’t hitting directly on that slope, so it was fast, dry snow. He got to the bottom and there was a road that led back to the lift. And it was in the sun and the wet heavy spring snow. He came to the mountain too fast – came down the mountain too fast, swung his turn and couldn’t quite make it and went off into the trees and it killed him. Not instantly, he was – he skied off the trees.

I was there the next day and I could see the marks where his skis had cut the tree bark. When he hit (smack) tremendous force that his brain was shaken inside the skull and bruised throughout. I had seven neurosurgeons look at him, independent neurosurgeons, all said no chance; he’ll never come out of the coma. I spent the next month trying to persuade the hospital to let – to take the life support away and let him go. And I had a hard time persuading. This was before the Karen Quinlan case before the Supreme Court ruled that it was legitimate to do that and the hospitals were afraid that we might sue them or something, which we didn’t have any intention of doing. Then after they finally agreed to – of a regimen that would let him go, he was so young and strong that it took three weeks before he died. So we sat there almost three months and watched him die.

You know and it is not easy but I saw so many people die and it wasn’t that bad. I watched my wife die. She was seven years, almost seven years in the Pioneer Home and I fed her every day lunch and at supper. She didn’t know how to use a fork or spoon. She had dementia and so I watched her go. And it doesn’t disturb me. It’s a natural part of life to die.

Terence: But it has certainly given you a different perspective on valuing life when you have it, so right, that’s the – how did your wife take your son’s death? That must have been really tough for her.

Judge: I think she took it harder. That’s about the time that the dementia began to develop.

Terence: Yeah, well I guess the experience like the war obviously changes people doesn’t it though? I mean you were a different person when you came back weren’t you, is that fair to say?

Judge: Why sure. I’m sure.

Robert: I’m wondering to kind of going back you know how it is has been said World War II Veterans are the greatest generation, but it seems to me that some of the spirit, can do spirit that informed the war effort must have gone into the statehood effort as well that the people involved there maybe had seen so much but had realized they had the can do attitude to make a state.

Judge: Could be you know. I guess it could be said I threw myself into that effort. And as a result you saw what Gruening wrote. I wrote something.

Terence: Tom, could we have you – let me.

Judge: You know we used to as a territory if we wanted some official expression to the President or the Congress we had to write a memorial asking them to do something and it isn’t very long – maybe I should read it. It is House Joint Memorial Number 1 passed by the House January 25, 1955 and by the Senate February 8th. It is addressed to the Honorable Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States who was not especially in favor of statement and to the Congress of the United States.

In memorial of the legislature of the Territory of Alaska in 22nd Session assembled respectfully submits that:

We representatives of the citizens of Alaska again appeal to you the duly constituted representatives of all the people of the United States that you may recognize us and our constituency as equal citizens under the democratic flag of America. We remind you again that the people of Alaska have demonstrated with all their history their territorial status, their inherence to the principles upon which the government of the United States was founded and remind you by referendum and by acclamation through our land an overwhelming majority of our people have declared unequivocally their desire for statement and the right of a free people to govern themselves. We recall to you that your own electors through the platforms of the major political parties and by their popular accord have given you a mandate for statement for Alaska and therefore we ask that you collectively and as individuals dismiss all partisan concerns, look only to the merits of our cause, recognizing correctly injustice we suffer in not being allowed to govern ourselves or participate in the election of the President or having voting representation in the Congress, all of which may be cured by enabling immediate statehood for Alaska your memorialists ever pray.

I wrote that – that’s the way I felt at the time.

Terence: Now that’s very eloquent too cause that sort of – cause that’s an idealistic cause isn’t it, I mean it really was.

Judge: It was.

Terence:It was a great sense of mission.

Judge: Right.

Terence: That you obviously felt too.

Judge: But you know there are some aspects of what the convention did. There was an unlikely individual by the name of George H. Lee Lehleitner – L-E-H-L-E-I-T-N-E-R. George Lee Lehleitner had been a Naval commander in World War II assigned in Hawaii and he had gotten to know Joe Farrington, who was the delegate to Congress from Hawaii as Bartlett was from Alaska and become friends with him.

And after the end of the war, World War – I say the war, World War II, he decided that his country had been very good to him. He was a successful businessman in New Orleans. He was a board member of the Armstrong Cork Company and had a kind of a monopoly on the distributorship of Armstrong flooring products through the whole state of Louisiana. And he was a friend of the Long family. Huey Long and his brother who was a -I’ve forgotten his first name, member of the senate.

Terence: Is it Russell Long, is that?

Judge: No. No. You’re thinking of Senator Russell.

Terence: Yeah.

Judge: I’m sure he knew him too.

Terence: Yeah.

Judge: It slipped my mind for a moment what his first name was. But so when he got back to Louisiana he wanted – he knew that Hawaii was aspiring for statehood. He didn’t know anything about Alaska. And he through – it was Earl Long – through Senator Earl Long he got the legislative reference service of the Library of Congress to research the history of the admission of states and he found that the last seven territories on the way to becoming a state each of them had elected a provisional delegation to the Congress – two senators and a representative to go to Washington sponsored by the territorial government to lobby for statehood.

He recognized that the process by which legislation gets enacted is – especially in the senate but also in the house is one in which somebody has something they want to do and they contact other members who are their friends and say now if you’ll vote for this proposal for me, you can be sure that I’ll support what you want. And that’s he envisioned these people would do. And he tried to persuade the Hawaiians when they wrote their constitution their convention of 1950 to elect a provisional delegation, then send them to Washington. They could call in every senator and every house member and say I am the duly elected provisional senator or house member from my territory and if you vote for statehood for us, you can be sure that I’ll be back here as a full-fledged member and I’ll support your cause. Vote trading. He tried to persuade the Hawaiians and they determined not to do it.

He never had anything to do with Alaska, but he heard that Alaska was going to have a constitutional convention. So through Joe Farrington, the delegate or rather Farrington had died and through his widow who became the delegate for Hawaii after his death. They were the publishers of the major newspaper in Honolulu. Through her he got acquainted with Bob Bartlett and he said to Bartlett I’d like to go to Alaska and try to persuade the Alaskans to do that. And so Bartlett gave him an introduction. He gave him an introduction to me in Juneau and I had – I collected all the people that were running to be delegates to the convention in this room. There were about 12 or 14 people throughout the northern part of southeast Alaska that came here and he outlined this idea. Well, it was a very novel idea. And people were interested but not particularly persuaded but when the convention assembled he went to Fairbanks, rented quarters and stayed at the convention and promoted this plan. And I was at the I think you might call it a smoke-filled room but it was the session that really decided on specific things to do and there were about 20 of us in that room. Most of them were delegates but I was there. I was an elected officer of the convention. And we discussed it back and forth and we decided yes, let’s do it.

So when the convention sent questions to the people to be voted on there were three questions. The first one was shall the constitution as drafted by the convention be adopted? The second one was called the Alaska Tennessee Plan because Tennessee was the first territory to use this device and shall we elect provisional senators and a house member and send them to Washington as official lobbyists of the Territory of Alaska? Number three shall fish traps be abolished? Because the fish – involved in the invention is a fellow from Petersburg particularly by the name of Elder Lee, who was desperate that – to get rid of fish traps because the fish traps had been mismanaged and were seriously damaging the fishery.

Those three propositions went to the voters in April of ’56 and I don’t remember it was something like 65 to 35 the vote in favor of each of them.

And then there was an election. An Ernest Gruening was elected as provisional senator and Bill Egan was elected a provisional senator. He in the meantime had been the president of the convention and Ralph Rivers, former Attorney General and former member of the legislature was elected to the house.

Well they didn’t have any money to do that so they had to wait for the 57 – this was in April of ’56 the people approved the Alaska Tennessee Plan, but it was a mandate to the legislature of ’57 to appropriate the money to send them. So they did and about April those three went to Washington and set up shop and did exactly what Lehleitner contemplated. They called on all the senators, some of them more than once and all the house members and said you give us statehood and you can be sure that I’ll vote for what you want.

After we became a state I asked Bob Bartlett one day how effective was the Alaska Tennessee Plan? He had never been very enthusiastic about it because those fellows were kind of treading on his toes. That was his territory was to work with the congress and so here came a contingent of three men doing what his job was. He was never very enthusiastic about it. But I asked him the question how effective was it? And his reply was very interesting. He said the Alaska Tennessee Plan neither helped nor hurt the statehood cause. Alaska got statehood when Sam Rayburn changed his mind. Well Sam Rayburn was a very, very powerful Speaker of the House, a southerner, and the southern senators listened to him.

Truman was the first president to advocate statehood for the territories. When he was elected in his own right to be the President in 1948 his State of the State address to the congress included give statehood to these territories. He was a good friend of Sam Rayburn’s and they worked closely together. And I, you know I can’t evaluate it but it is an interesting little aspect of it.

Terence: Well so that’s really fascinating. He was just telling me to stop shaking, not making the camera shake. I didn’t shake it that much did I?

Man: No.

Judge: Let me tell you a couple of little –

Terence: Oh, great, go –

Judge: Let me tell you a couple little anecdotes about the convention that aren’t terribly significant to the substance of it, but they’re kind of interesting.

You know there is no single original copy of the Alaska Constitution. The way – there was a committee, which I sure the legislature had, on style and drafting and after each proposal was adopted by the substantive committee that proposed it, that proposal went to the committee on style and drafting. And they had a wonderful man who was a professor from the Louisiana State University. His name was Kimbrough – K-I-M-B-R-O-U-G-H Owen.

Terence: Maybe if you could just say that again because we might have lost that on with the car.

Judge: His name was Kimbrough Owen and he was the consultant to the committee on style and drafting and the chairman of the committee was a delegate named George Sunborg, who had been the editor of the Fairbanks News-Miner. And he had published a paper of his own here. He was a journalist and (inaudible) books. There is a couple of them up there. He wrote a book about Bonneville Dam and about the biggest dam –

Terence: Grand Coulee.

Judge: Grand Coulee. And he was an expert with the language. So they polished the language and made the language of each article consistent. Where you were talking about a similar kind of action you got the same language in each article. And I can hear him now in his southern accent, the language of the constitution must sing. And so what they did was they worked over these proposals and then they would hand them to me and I would take them to the News-Miner and the News-Miner would print them in galley proofs. And the next morning I would pick up the galley proofs and take them back. So the whole constitution was prepared in print by galley proofs. And when it came time to sign it, over a 100 copies made, identical copies. There were 55 delegates and each of the delegates wanted to take a copy home with them, but there were five copies that were intended for the President, the senate, the house, the Governor’s office, and archives.

And so I lined 60 signature pages on long tables in the planuria – in the hall where they held the planaria sessions. And the delegates lined up alphabetically and walked down the line and signed their names 60 times, actually 61 times because the paper that it was printed on was a very high quality paper, but they wanted a copy done in calligraphy on sheepskin parchment. So we had this signature sheet for that copy as well. And signed their names 60 times. And then I went through all the signature pages –

Terence: That’s – this is great. Copy Judge.

Judge: I’ll tell you about that.

Terence: And I thought one thing too if we get a chance I’d like you to read this too, just read the inscription to Gruening’s book and we might talk a little just more about him too as the –

Judge: Okay.

Judge: Signed copy plus the 61st that sheet genuine sheepskin. And there was a little bit of money left over from the budget and they approved spending $10,000 to have that sheepskin calligraphic copy made. And so I went to I think it is Concord, California right next to Walnut Creek and there was a man whose name it slips my mind at the moment but he was the retired chief calligrapher for the United States Government. And he used to do the Christmas cards for the Roosevelt family. And I took the copy of the constitution and he did the whole thing in calligraphy on sheepskin parchment and it’s in the State Museum here.

And then there were I guess this is good – there were a 100 copies run off. Is there another one down there? There were a 100 copies run off.

Terence: Go ahead and start.

Judge: And so.

Terence: Say how many of the copies are run off.

Judge: I went through all of the signature pages and picked the best one because as they wrote their signatures – there were smudges and blotches of ink and things like that. I picked the best one and the News-Miner ran photocopies of that and so there are 40 copies of the original constitution like that, identical to the ones that were signed except that the signature page is a photocopy page. My signature is on it down there. My father’s signature is on it.

There was some (inaudible) warfare going on in the Democratic Party and the chairman of the committee on administration was Jack Coghill. And we were good friends. We did a lot of work together during the convention, but they decided that only delegates should get the constitution.

One delegate Ralph Robertson, R. E. Robertson, senior partner of the law firm known as Robertson, Monagle and Easton was unhappy with two or three provisions. He was unhappy with the fact that they didn’t put the designation of Juneau as the capitol in the body of the constitution. It was in something called the Schedule of Transitional Measures and he is unhappy with the abolition of fish traps because he represented the companies that processed the fish and he was unhappy with the provisions for direct action, initiative and referendum. He thought initiatives made bad law. They don’t get the consideration that legislation does. In the legislature they don’t have committees that study it, that suggest changes, improvements. None of that happens. Some Joe Blow comes up with an initiative, goes out and gets the signatures and that’s the way it goes if it is adopted. He was unhappy with those things. So about three days before the convention adjourned he wrote a letter of resignation and left town. Came back home to Juneau where he lived.

And the committee on administration made the decision that only delegates should get original copies even though my signature is on it. They didn’t want to give Katie Hurley one, who had worked with the plenary session every day while I was up in my office and they decided not to give me one. The convention adjourned and I stayed on for three or four weeks to wind up the affairs and set up the mechanism for the election, the votes on the propositions, the three propositions. And I said to Bill Egan, Bob Robertson’s copy is here, do you suppose I could have it? He said sure. So I took it and brought it home. And about two years later one of the delegates from Juneau came to my door and rang the doorbell. She said do you have Bob Robertson’s copy of the constitution? And I said yes, the president said that I could have it. She said well he’s going to sign it, which he did. He signed several copies. Several delegates were in town. I think he signed the parchment copy and he signed the copy that I didn’t – the Robertsons were good friends. I didn’t want to anger them so I gave it to them. But my father gave me his. So this is the original signatures.

Terence: That’s beautiful. That’s great. It really is.

Judge: Well that’s the story of why there is no single original constitution there. There are 61 signed copies and there were 40 that were put together that photocopy page.

Terence: Judge, did Robertson sign your dad’s? Did he sign that one?

Judge: I don’t think so, no. I didn’t have it in my possession then and my father gave it to me after that incident occurred.

Terence: What was it like having your dad in the – on the – you must have been very proud of you for sure but –

(Click)

Judge: If I could find it, but he – Bill never presented it to the delegates and they never acted on it. The delegates never voted on whether his resignation should be accepted so I was pleased that the family had brought him around.

Terence: So what was it like with your dad was that –

Judge: Well it was very nice to have him there. He was elected from Sitka. He had – after he retired I think I told you my brothers and I gave him some money.

Terence: Tell that story though that’s really a great story. So that was after he – in 1949 he retired, right?

Judge: He retired in ’49 and as a matter of fact I wrote – I was an Assistant Attorney General in the summer of ’47 I think it was. I came home from law school and worked for the Attorney General’s office, I guess it was probably ’48. And I wrote a piece of legislation creating the first retirement system. And one of the commissioners, head of one of the departments, fellow by the name of Hank Harmon wasn’t very happy about the way it was financed and got another one. My father retired under the first one and when the second one came out, he and about a dozen others were listed in a bill passed by the legislature that they got X dollars for retirement. Wasn’t very much, like $150 a month or something.

Anyhow my father retired and I came home from law school and lived with him and my stepmother here. I sensed that he was vegetating. Didn’t have something constructive to do. And so I got together with my two brothers. My sisters were not in a situation to be involved and went down to the bank and got a thousand dollar bill and put it on the Christmas tree with a note from my brothers and me saying this is for you to make a trip to Europe. He had never been to Europe.

And so in March of ’51 he and my stepmother went to Halifax and got on a ship and went to Liverpool and they swore they would be back in six months. I saw them the week after they returned and it was two and a half years later. They had a wonderful time. They traveled all over Western Europe. They spent a winter in Spain in a villa that they got for $75 a month which included a couple that cleaned and cooked for them. It was cheaper to be in Spain than it was to be here in this house by far.

And then when he came back it was ’51, ’52, it was the fall of ’53 and the apartment house over in Sitka – one of those apartments that were – there was one built here called the Mendenhall. There were a couple in Anchorage. One is L Street Apartments and one is a building that has been kind of a derelict building down on Fourth Avenue.

Terence: McKay Building?

Judge: McKay Building, yeah Neil McKay bought it at one point. And there was a building like that in Sitka not quite as big. And the people – they got RFC money, that’s the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, federal money, and they defaulted. And they had a year’s opportunity to try and go out and raise the money to pay it off. And so a judge appointed my father to be the receiver on that apartment building in Sitka. So he and my stepmother moved over there in 1954 and he ran the apartment for a year and oversaw a sale of it to different owners. They liked in Sitka so they bought a house and they lived there for the next 12 years, until they (click) at the age of 80 something he was tired of shoveling snow and they moved to Sequim and he lived out his life in Sequim and died at the age of 97-½. But the mind was still functioning.

When he was 95 there was a feature story about him in the local paper in Sequim cause every morning he would walk five miles at the age of 95 and this story featured Ben the walker. Well he got a cancer of the prostate and it rendered him not only incontinent but it disturbed his ability to walk and my stepmother couldn’t handle the situation alone and so she put him in a little nursing home. And it was a neighborhood home not far from their little house in Sequin and my son was taking his flying lessons. The one who is with the FAA now in Anchorage, at Snohomish. And they had a cross-country trip. They flew from Snohomish to Port Angeles, which is about 15 miles north of Sequim. And he drove down to that nursing home and he told me my stepmother was wheeling my father down the corridor in a wheelchair and a rather hefty nurse came from the other direction. And when she got opposite him she made some teasing remark and my son said my father hauled off and whacked her on the bottom. And she said you got pretty good aim and his reply was how could I miss. If you’re doing that at 97-½ there’s still a bit of life there.

Terence: Boy is there ever. That’s great. That’s wonderful.

Judge: Anyhow.

Terence: So he what was – there was a couple other anecdotes you wanted to tell about the convention too besides no single copy, there was –

Judge: Well I wanted to tell you about that and I wanted to tell you about handwritten telegraphic copy.

Terence: I wanted to ask you too though Judge what date did you get married?

Judge: December 30, 1955.

Terence: And was the ceremony in the president’s house, is that where it was, did they have the ceremony?

Judge: The president’s home.

Terence: Okay.

Judge: In front of his fireplace and my wife and I had memorized our vows. The preacher didn’t have to read it off to us. And as I say it was quite private. It was just my father and my stepmother and my sister, my older sister. My younger sister was in school at Mount Holyoke College. It was too much of a trip for her. And my older sister was living in Portland and she came. And then I had a best man who was a dear friend here, still a dear friend here, and –

Terence: Who was the best man, who was that?

Judge: His name is Arthur Kimball. And my wife’s what do you call it – not the best lady, there’s another name for it.

Terence: Maid of Honor.

Judge: Yeah, that was Doris Ann Bartlett, Bob Bartlett’s daughter, who I had hired to be the librarian for the convention and she was maintaining the library collection for the use of the delegates.

Terence: Where was the library located – that was in Constitution Hall?

Judge: Yeah. Uh-huh. It was just a small library but it had materials that we had assembled about state constitutions.

Terence: Have you been back to the President’s house since then? Have you been –

Judge: I think so and I think there’s a new one now. I don’t think it’s the old –

Terence: He has been up there in Fairbanks.

Judge: He’s retiring now (inaudible).

Terence: Are you going to be in the state in November, are you going to be –

Judge: I’ll be back the 31st (inaudible) of October.

Terence: As (inaudible) mentioned you’ll get this letter from President Hamilton and if you’re able to come on up they’ll pay for the trip and stuff. It would be really – we should do something.

Judge: What will be the event?

Terence: Well essentially it is an advisory group for this project that we’re working on with commemorating the passage –

Judge: I probably would arrange to do that if they paid my way.

Terence: They will, no doubt absolutely.

Judge: I don’t want any money but I don’t want to spend it out of my pocket.

Terence: Absolutely. We’ll hit President Hamilton up for special events, but we’ll maybe we can arrange something at the Jamper’s house too.

Judge: Excuse me.

Terence: Judge, one thing I wanted to ask you was about D. A. Bartlett, George, or Sam, what kind of things, cause we were going to talk to her and she teaches of course she still teaches English up at the University. I don’t know if you’ve seen her in recent years, but she –

Judge: She was a very dear friend of my wife’s and of course she married Burke Riley, who was one of the delegates to the convention and the marriage didn’t sustain. As a matter of fact I think I processed the divorce as a judge. I haven’t seen her for many, many years, but she grew up in the house next door in some of her formative years. And she had a younger sister named Susie. I don’t know where – what has become of Susie, but as I say I haven’t seen her. But if I were to come to Fairbanks I would make it a point to have lunch with her or something.

Terence: We’ll set that up. We’ll make sure. One thing you know we’re going to try to talk to George Sunberg in Seattle in a couple weeks, so did he help. I guess he was the head of you said the which committee was he head of the –

Judge: Well on drafting.

Terence: So, and did that help a lot with his –

Judge: Oh, it helped greatly. It was a very important function and it improved the language I’m sure materially that I think some of the other committees were a little concerned about their making changes, but they attempted never to make substantive changes, only in the matter of expression so that stylistically the constitution came out much better.

Terence: And so everyone sort of appreciated him as a wordsmith I guess?

Judge: I think so.

Terence: Yeah. Let’s talk about Gruening just for a second. And I thought Judge if you might want to read that inscription and –

Judge: Well this is the book called The State of Alaska and on the dust jacket it says a definitive history of America’s northern most frontier by Ernest Gruening, Governor of Alaska 1939 to 1953. One of the last – no not the last – one of the last circumstances that I dealt with him while he was still governor. It was right at the end of the legislative session of ’55. In those days the session was only 60 days long. It was limited by the Organic Act. And they used to have a curious practice of stopping the clock so that the clock didn’t show that 60 days had passed, but usually it would only occupy a day or two.

Well Ernest Gruening wanted to address the senate, make a farewell statement to the senate because Eisenhower had been elected, excuse me. Hinzeman had been appointed and was about to take office and as I say I was an Assistant Attorney General and writing legislation and he got in touch with me and he said would you let me know when I might be invited to speak. Well as I say there was this schism in the Democratic Party. And one of the anti-Gruening Democrats was a man by the name of Howard Lyng – L-Y-N-G from Nome. And he was allied with Helen Monson, the daughter of John Troy who was publishing the Empire and a note was passed to the president of the senate who was a lawyer named Paul Robinson to the effect that Gruening wanted to give a farewell address to the senate and Howard Lyng got up and objected, didn’t think we should do that.

Robinson saved the day. It was about eight o’clock in the morning. They had been meeting all night long. So I called Ernest and said the senate had just voted to ask you to come and speak to them. And so he did. And that was his final message. Anyhow –

Terence: Well –

Judge: After he left office he and his wife had a home which is now a state park. It is about 23 miles out the highway from downtown, a place called right next to what is called Amalga Landing. There is a boat launching facility there. And they had built what was a summer home really. It didn’t have insulation, didn’t have running water, didn’t have central heat, but they lived there for about – they lived there until he became – until he went to Washington as a provisional senator under the Alaska Tennessee Plan. And that had to be in –

Terence: ’56 or ’57.

Judge: ’57 I guess it was yeah, ’57. And he wrote this book out there. He was a scholar. He was a real student and if you read the book you will see it is fully annotated with many references that he studied. But when – I believe that he gave me this copy. And I was moved by his inscription, which says For Tom Stewart. Who has done more than any other of Alaska’s young men to bring the state of Alaska into being. With high esteem and affection and regard the author Ernest Gruening. So I rather value that book.

Terence: Can you tell us Judge why do you think that people hated him so much – I mean the people who did you know?

Judge: Well he was a very outspoken individual you know. After he published this book he published a book which is titled Many Battles because he had many battles with people with a differing political persuasions not necessarily different parties because there was a strong core of anti-Gruening Democrats in Alaska. He was viewed as a – having been sent here by Harold Iccus. When the Stephenson story was true, he wasn’t Iccus wanted him the heck out of town. But he was – he fought the steamship companies, he fought the canneries, and people that were allied with those interests hated him. He was a fine, fine speaker, extemporaneously or when he prepared it, very literate, extremely well read, great command of the language. And if he became your opponent, watch out.

Terence: Well, do you think that you know cause he was obviously in a way a man of modest means wasn’t he you know. When he left the governorship –

Judge: I’ll tell you how he got some of his money. When he went to Washington he lived in a very interesting, not elaborate, but interesting and beautiful stone home in Rock Creek Park, which is a replica of the house in which Corwallis surrendered to Washington, built no nails, dowels, put the wood together with dowels. The way he got that home was when he wrote Mexico and its heritage, which portrayed the revolutionaries in Mexico in a very good light. He was an outspoken liberal and the revolutionaries you know might have had some relationship to communists in the Soviet Union, I don’t know, but his book treated them favorably and the Chicago Tribune, owned by Colonel McCormick, accused him of being a communist sympathizer and the Hearst papers where they were published across the nation also accused him of being a communist sympathizer. And he sued them for libel and he won $50,000 from the Tribune and he won $75,000 from the Hearst papers. But he told me one time that he couldn’t – a lot of that he didn’t collect because he had to have lawyers in every town where the Hearst paper was published and the legal bill was pretty horrific. But this was in the early 1930’s when that kind of money was – meant a lot more than it does today.

Judge: He –

Terence: Oh he kind of got his –

Terence: Judge, if – maybe we could talk a little bit about the natural resources article and the impact that becoming a state has made – you know the difference of our control, maybe the issue of resident versus nonresident control of the resources too if that’s relevant, I’m not sure.

Judge: Well that has been a very significant change, that thing that you mentioned, the resident versus nonresident control because in territorial days the major resources were indeed controlled by nonresidents. Salmon industry, canned salmon because the salmon was marketed by being canned. It was before the days of the freezer ships and sending fresh frozen materials out.

And the same with the mining industry. The mining industry if it is going to be large it requires a lot of capital and the capital basically was not very much available to Alaskans, still isn’t today. You have to go outside the state to get big money by and large, unless your name is Elmer Rasmussen or something like that.

So there have been many, many changes and of course one of the significant ones is senior status of our delegation in the Senate and in the House. Although I’m a Democrat and have been I believe in the two party system being at the root of our democracy, it is undeniable that the seniority that a fellow like Ted Stevens has gained has been tremendous economic boom to Alaska.

Terence: Do you recall the first time you met Ted Stevens when –

Judge: Oh, not specifically, but he was here as a member of the legislature and I didn’t know much about him. I’ve gotten to know him better because after the airplane accident in which his long-time wife and mother of his children was killed, not the mother of all of his children, he married Kathy Bittner and the Bittner family, Bill and Ellie Bittner, were very dear friends of ours. Jane and I and our family lived in Anchorage for about six years, from ’61 to ’67. My wife operated a bookstore there and I was the state court administrator before I was appointed to the bench here. And we made a lot of friends in Anchorage and the Bittner’s were among our very dear friends and still are and I’ve gotten to know Ted better because of his marriage to Kathy Bittner. You know, he was appointed by Hickel when Bob Bartlett suddenly died and been there a long time.

Terence: Do you – could you ever have imagined something like that during territorial days, having a guy like Ted Stevens with the influence that he has gained could that have been imaginable?

Judge: No, but that’s why I wrote that memorial. We need statehood. We need to have representation in the congress.

Terence: I heard one person, one of the other congressmen, once said of Bartlett they said well that’s got a voice, Bartlett’s, but no vote. So was that –

Judge: Well that’s kind of interesting. When I was at law school at Yale, I met a professor in the undergraduate school who – I’ve forgotten his name now, but he wrote a book about the House of Representatives. And he told me that Bob Bartlett was probably the single most popular member of the House of Representatives, 435 people. And it was a good measure due to Bob’s personality. He was a very likable individual and a very capable individual.

He and Gruening really didn’t get along very well. See he was the Secretary – elected Secretary of Alaska, which is tantamount to what is now called the Lieutenant Governor. But he didn’t have power like the Lieutenant Governor now doesn’t have power. Runs the Office of Elections, that’s about it. But I don’t think he and Gruening hit it off very well when he was Gruening’s second in command. And I don’t think he hit it off very well when he was the Tennessee Plan provisional senator invading Bartlett’s territory. And I don’t know after he became a senator you know he was pretty independent of Bartlett. He and Wayne Morris were the only two senators that voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that authorized Johnson to go into Vietnam. And he elegantly opposed that, Gruening did. He was hugely able man, but feisty and ready to take on a battle if he didn’t agree and was effective at it too.

Terence: How did you sort of feel about when after Heintzleman replaced Gruening, I mean as a Democrat. I mean I always wondered was it – remember the people opposed the statehood. I mean is it fair to say that Heintzleman was opposed to statehood or lukewarm or how would you character –

Judge: He certainly was lukewarm, no more than lukewarm.

Terence: And what sort of rationale behind the people who sort of were opposed to it or were lukewarm, what was their sort of feeling you know?

Judge: Well, as I said, quite a bit of the opposition stemmed from the independence of the canned salmon industry from local control and the mining industry that was financed from outside. The Alaska Juneau Gold Mine, one of the principal financiers was – I can’t remember his name. He was a famous New York stockbroker. The money behind the mining was outside money. The profits left Alaska.

Terence: Would it be any possibility of anything like the Permanent Fund obviously under territorial days there really wouldn’t –

Judge: No. Gruening had a big battle with the Alaska Steamship Company. He felt that their rates were overcharging and it made the high cost of living in Alaska because of the cost of shipping food and finished goods that had to come from outside the state, outside the territory. He details that in his book. I’m sure you know that.

Terence: You know what about the – we’re going to talk a little bit about the natural resources article you said that was unique that talk a little bit about that one.

Judge: Article 8. Common Use. Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use. General authority. The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the state, including land and waters for the maximum benefits of its people.

You won’t find that in any other constitution. Sustained yield, fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands and other replenishable resources belonging to the state shall be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle subject to preferences among beneficial uses.

Now that language was the subject of Supreme Court decision in State versus McDowell where the court outlawed –

Terence: Rural preference?

Judge: The rural preferences which guaranteed that rural peoples, who are largely Native peoples, subsistence. Look at that last clause. Subject to preferences among beneficial uses. And Jay Rabinowitz was no doubt the finest judicial presence Alaska has ever had dissented in that case. Saying that that clause subject to preferences among beneficial uses was justification, constitutional justification, for the legislature to establish a preference for rural peoples for the uses of fish, wildlife, so forth.

I don’t think when the court made that McDowell decision they sensed the division between the whites and the Natives that was generated by its impact. And if it were to be considered again today, I think they might take a look at Rabinowitz’ dissent and hang the decision on that clause.

Well I don’t know that I need to go through the titles of the sections – State Public Domain, Leases, Sales and Grants, Public Notice. No disposals or leases of state land or interest therein shall be made without prior public notice and other safeguards of the public interest that may be prescribed by law.

Mineral rights, mineral leases, water rights, access to navigable waters.

Terence: Do you think the experience of Alaskans in territorial days is what helped energize that language and make that –

Judge: No question. You know the consultant to that committee was a professor from – I have forgotten what school he was from then. He is now had a career in Indiana State University named Vincent Ostrum. And because my father was a member of that committee and dealing with him on especially the mining aspects of it – mineral rights. They were having a tough time putting together an article, so they had a Sunday session. It was in the basement of a church in Fairbanks and I went to it just as an observer. I think I was the only person other than the committee members who were there. And Ostrum was up at a blackboard and getting suggestions from various delegates, people that represented Alder Lee in the fisheries and I can’t remember his name now, the fellow who ran the F. E. Company, the Fairbanks Exploration, ran the big gold dredges. My father of course who was the – who would have been the mine inspector, Commissioner of Mines for years. I can’t remember whether Bert Riley was on that committee too. And he had been in Gruening’s office and worked with natural resources. I don’t remember whether George Sonborg was on that committee or not. I could find out, not in here.

They all had a lot of background in the management of the resources that their professional lives had been concerned with and kind of pooled together their thoughts and helped that in an outline of this article, which he did on the blackboard that day. And he has told me – I saw him when they came up. He was honored by Hickel’s big banquet for the Institute of the North about six weeks ago. He told me it was virtually a spiritual experience for him to see those men sit down and make his expressions that got codified in the article.

Terence: Judge, can you tell us that again, how Ostrum was describing the experience a little bit.

Judge: Ostrum told me that working with that committee to him was almost a spiritual experience. The depth of understanding that they expressed about the use of the resources remained through his life impressed by that as one of the unique experiences professionally that he has ever had.

Terence: And since natural resources were –

Judge: Hard core –

Terence: – hard core of the state right weren’t they? So in a way I mean I don’t know is that fair to say that in a way that article is at the core of the state?

Judge: I think that’s a fair proposition, yes.

Robert: With all the work you guys did and you were talking about that idea of sending you know proxy representatives to the senate, US, do you think Alaska statehood was a foregone conclusion? Do you think it just had to be or were the political –

Judge: It was not a foregone conclusion. And there had to be a lot of persuasion. The southern senators of course were like Stevens. The south was Democrat and once they got in office they stayed there. And their power in the senate derives from tenure. The longer they are there, the more powerful they become. And they were jealous of that power and they were suspicious of it being invaded by people from a new entity. Well it had an obvious effect of making each vote a little bit less effective cause there were more votes in the senate. No, I don’t think it was a foregone conclusion. I don’t think it would have happened if it hadn’t been for the energy of the likes of Ernest Gruening and Bob Bartlett and people that worked on it.

Terence: How about Judge what do you think would have happened if we hadn’t have gotten statehood? Can you imagine what Alaska would be like to today? I mean what would –

Judge: Puerto Rico is still a territory.

Terence: And how do you think for the average Alaskan, cause of course for now we take it for granted.

Judge: The people by and large I think the bulk of the Alaska population doesn’t have any sense of the limitations of territorial status. I was in a position as – in the Attorney General’s office to perceive it day by day. And vicariously by knowing people like Gruening and my father and Bartlett and I knew Tony Dimond well and his son John Dimond was my contemporary and a very dear friend. We were in law school at the same time. He was at Catholic University in Washington and I was at Yale, but I was – the year that I was taking my Masters in International Studies in Washington, John and I saw a lot of one another.

Terence: What would you say of all those men and yourself, what was the thing that probably was the most grading limitation of territorial life versus now? I don’t know was there any one thing or a couple of things that seem to be lacking, you know, what would it be?

Judge: Well, there is in my view there is considerable lack of depth of understanding of the political process. Failure to recognize the history of American government and how it has been dependent upon basically the two-party system. You have only to look at France before DeGalle, the South American countries, multi-party systems. They can’t summon a majority to govern the country. To get a clear-cut majority if you have a two-party system. It’s a failure to understand that people like the Ralph Nader’s of the world. They would be more effective if they operated within the framework of the party system then trying to establish an independent party that doesn’t command anywhere near a majority.

I once wrote a paper for the use of party members and Bartlett particularly on improving the party system, on making the drafting of platforms a more studied effort to be done by professional people and then to be considered by the party delegates at large for amendment, change, agreement, disagreement. But the drafting process ought to be in the hands of professionals. It doesn’t men you have to be persuaded by their end product but it does mean that the end product is a quality product. And I recommended to them that the party should be reorganized better to produce quality products so that the parties could establish a more independent identity. We stand for A, B, and C and the other party stands for D, E, and F. And distinguish it and the people rather than voting for the popularity or personalities can depend upon the party going to execute this policy, vote on policies rather than on personalities.

Terence: And in a way that is what you were able to achieve with the way the convention was set up?

Judge: That’s right.

Terence: Isn’t that basically that you were able to make the policies more than the personalities cause obviously Gruening with the personality offended so many people, just rubbed them the wrong way obviously you know. I think that is very well put. Judge, what about with Mr. Smeden, C. W. Smeden, did you run into him at all in –

Judge: Yes, I knew Bill Sneden because he owned and ran the Fairbanks News-Miner and they produced this document so I dealt with him and people in his office in getting this printed day by day the gallery proofs to take back to the committee on style and drafting that they could polish up and correct so that when they finished their job there was a finished product. And I worked with Bill and Bill became a very avid proponent of statehood. And he got to be a very good friend of George Lehleitner, the fellow that proposed the Alaska Tennessee Plan. To the end of their days they were good friends.

Terence: Did – that brings up another – Lehleitner did – were you convinced by him right away when you first had that meeting?

Judge: No, the meeting here I was interested but I wasn’t necessarily convinced and when we had that meeting in the smoked filled room in the Polaris Building in the apartment of Barry White, who was a very strong advocate of statehood, used to the President of a group in Anchorage called Operation Statehood that did a lot of work promoting the statehood cause. One of the people there was Hugh Wade and he Hugh Wade was the last Democrat – Secretary of Alaska and he was a very close intimate friend of Bob Bartlett’s. And he spoke against the proposal at that gathering. He was not a delegate. This was not an official body. It was just a group of gathered leaders. What the heck should we do? And he thought that it was kind of a cheap shot like the Hawaiians did and didn’t use it. I suspect myself that it had more effect than Bartlett gave it credit for.

Robert: Do you think your generation in some ways values citizenship more than you know for a lot of Alaskans we don’t even show up to the polls and for us probably the most driving interest is the Permanent Fund dividend check.

Judge: Yeah.

Robert: Talk – can you just talk a little bit about that tie of the responsibilities of citizenship and –

Judge: Well, I think in our education system there isn’t enough focus on the political process. People have become enemies of government instead of accepting their individual responsibility to make it work better. You know I think our public today doesn’t really understand government and the suspicions of actions of people that hold office.

Robert: Do you think we would have fought as hard for statehood today?

Judge: Peg you pardon?

Robert: If statement had been delayed let’s say. Let’s say the southern senators had had their way delayed Alaska’s entry, do you think our generation would have been up to the task – I mean we wouldn’t have a Prudhoe Bay would we and I mean what would we have fought as hard for statehood?

Judge: Cause we didn’t have a Prudhoe Bay. We were skating on pretty thin ice on how we were going to pay for – pay the bill. Well, I don’t whether I want to make a judgment about that. You know I can’t quote to you the individual, but many people say basic decisions come about because of leadership of an individual here or there who stands out and pursues a cause. Like Gruening did and Bartlett did too. And effective government is – effective governmental action is dependent upon leadership and we don’t have really very good examples of it I don’t believe in our political life today. There is a lack of strong leaders.

Terence: Well in that –

Judge: Well I told him I would give it serious consideration.

Terence: I hope you do.

Judge: Maybe do it next fall. I don’t have – I’m not in a situation to do it before then. I’ve made commitments for the winter and the spring and the summer.

Terence: But you know he’s absolutely right. I mean I honestly don’t think anyone has thought about this as much as you have. Anyone, no I’m serious about that and they just have not and so I think that would be really valuable.

Judge, if we could talk a little bit about the idea in the Convention of the every 10 years in the Constitution every 10 years – how about that?

Judge: Well, the origin of that concept came before Baker vs. Carr. You’re familiar with Baker vs. Carr? Well, I mentioned it before. That’s the Supreme Court decision that voting for representation in bodies has to be based on one –

Terence: Yeah one – yeah. Yeah, okay, right.

Judge: And the history of the states prior to that and the history of the states at the time that this provision for 10 years was one in which, especially in the senatorial bodies of the bicameral legislatures. The rural population with the geographic representation rather than one man one vote dominated the legislatures and prevented constitutional conventions that would change the apportionment or the rights of members of legislatures. And the large populations of the cities oftentimes were frustrated by the inability to get legislature to go along with what the interests of the majority of the people was and the inability to have a constitutional convention and rewrite their constitutions to enable better representation.

And so our delegates, thanks much to the work done by the consultants saw that they didn’t want our state to be bound up with an impossibility of rewriting a document if it became necessary because of the shifting populations and so they put that provision in there that that problem might not reoccur in Alaska. But one of the big differences is they didn’t have (inaudible) like this one.

California, a thousand pages in their constitution, impossible. California has almost been destroyed as an economy and as a political entity. By Proposition 13, they eliminated their tax base. Now they’re faced with this circus of recall because of the failure of the budget, they can’t tax adequately. This is the danger of direct legislation of initiatives that don’t – that if promoted by money interests, special interests and the people don’t have a chance to contribute.

Terence: Well what would the danger be today if – because it is every 10 years we face this question of having another convention, do you think if we had voted last time to have a convention, what would have been the outcome of that? What do you –

Judge: I’d be very concerned. You couldn’t get the rural representation because of Baker vs. Carr. You go back to just having people just from Anchorage and Fairbanks and Juneau and Ketchikan and Nome.

Terence: Which essential model that to the legislature, almost?

Judge: Yeah.

Terence: Right.

Judge: And the significance of the constitution to the operation of the government would be I think more widely recognized and acted upon by economic interests. Nominating economic interests. Ours didn’t have that domination. There were no lobbyists in Fairbanks, except one and what do you suppose that was? I’ll show you – the only organized group that came and lobbied the convention Article 7 – Health, Education, and Welfare. It is one, two, three, four short paragraphs. The education lobby. The school superintendents came to represent their representatives to Fairbanks and they had a three-page detailed article on education.

The constitution says about education there are three sentences. The legislature shall by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the state and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.

That’s the whole constitution on education. Fundamental basic concept. The details are left to the legislature. The educators who came there would have a three closed typed pages and you can imagine the problems that you would run into if that kept the legislature because it was in the constitution from being able to address the changing scene in the educational world.

There is a separate one and this is partly because of the fact that the convention was sitting in Fairbanks entitled State University. The University of Alaska is hereby established as the State University and constituted a body corporate, shall have title to all real and personal property now or hereafter set aside for or conveyed to it. Its property shall be administered and disposed of according to law and provides for a Board of Regents.

Terence: Why did you say that that sort of way because of it being held there, that gave more –

Judge: Yeah, there were Fairbanks people that were really concerned about the future of the university and wanted to get it written into the fundamental law.

Terence: Like the Juneau people with the capitol, right.

Judge: A little bit like that.

Terence: Judge –

Judge: At that point that was the only higher education institution in Alaska.

Terence: I’m surprised that the miners weren’t there though. Wasn’t the Alaska Miners Association – there was no – they didn’t come?

Judge: Not visibly, nothing like happened with the legislature. Didn’t have high paid lobbyists walking the halls and entertaining the figures.

Terence: But there was no rule against it?

Judge: No, no rules.

Terence: Just –

Judge: It was the remoteness, the middle of the winter. It was a cold winter – 50 below zero. My father walked out – he walked – he was living downtown and he walked to the campus every morning.

Terence: He walked all the way, is that right?

Judge: Yeah.

Terence: No, kidding. Well, that’s right, he’s walking –

Judge: He had a big parka and I don’t know that he was waring mukluks. In 1933, when – just about the time my mother died, maybe it was ’34. He was in Nome and the town burned and they didn’t have any other engineers so he had a woman that came and stayed with me and my sister, my younger sister, cause we were in high school. She was in grade school I guess. And he stayed up there and re-surveyed the whole town. And Nome was now laid out with straight streets, wide sidewalks, wide streets, and the people there got together and contributed their old property lines. They drew a whole new map and everybody got a squared off block and more room and the design of Nome stems from that engineering job that my father did after the fire. People contributed their properties and made the community a better place.

Terence: I know you can still see where the fire ended because the streets go down back to 10 feet wide.

Judge: Yeah.

Terence: What do you – we’re actually going to go talk to Jim Walsh, Mike Walsh’s son.

Judge: Yeah.

Terence: Do you have any memories of Mike at all at that?

Judge: Oh, I certainly do. Mike was a very dear friend of my father’s as a result of my father having been out there for several months and helping them. And you know Mike was elected by a write-in. There was a man out there that was running as a recall for the – to be a delegate to the convention and some how or other he dropped out and I think Mike was elected by about five votes. Something like that. I don’t – that’s not an accurate description but it is accurate as the general happening.

Terence: By a landslide. What did the role of Bill Egan have as far as the president? How would you talk about him?

Judge: Bill was a kind of – Bill was not an intellectual, although he did a lot of reading. He did not have a college education. He was a small town grocer, but he was kind of a consummate politician in a sense. He had an amazing memory for personalities. And he could meet somebody just once and he’d remember. The next time he saw, well hi Jack you know. He was in that sense a consummate politician and he was a very effective presiding officer. People got recognized and heard. He was fair. And occasionally where he had some strong feeling about a proposition I guess he would go down and turn the chair over to somebody else and speak to the proposition in a way that appealed to people. He was a very fair-minded understanding leader and he knew the parliamentary process because he had gone through several legislatures. He had that background in operating within parliamentary rules.

Terence: Was he president of the senate, was that – was he president?

Judge: He was never president of the senate that I know of. He served in the house, then he served in the senate and we were good friends. As I say, we sat down together and decided because of the background I had accomplished traveling to universities and finding out how you structure, how you should run a convention. He was quite amiable to my being the overall chairman of the joint committee, house and senate joint committee on statehood and federal relations. And we had a good working relationship during the convention, but I was seldom downstairs in the plenary sessions. My job was administrative, in the office, organizing as I say bringing in the consultants and getting committee space and getting printed up and so forth.

Terence: Did you ever consider when talking with Dean Patty holding it any other place on campus? Did you think about other buildings or was that the only –

Judge: No, this building was being built. It was brand new and there was a question of whether or not it was going to be ready in time for the convention. But the fact of it was Patty had it clearly in mind that this was where that thing should take place and it was quite admirably suited to a group operating in that way and of that size.

Terence: Whose – who had suggested that it be held there. Do you know? I mean in Fairbanks. Was it Patty? Was it your suggestion?

Judge: I was – I went to Trenton and talked with that delegate, that woman.

Terence: Tell us again cause when you said it before you called it Alaska Agriculture – it was that. It wasn’t that anymore, so you might tell us that again though just –

Judge: Well she said hold your convention at the state university. And I said we don’t have one. We have Alaska Agriculture College and School of Mines. Well she said we had our 46 convention, we had rewrote the New Jersey constitution specially completely reorganized the court system, made a far better –

Judge: Court system then they had had before. And it was a very successful convention and rewriting their constitution and she said it was because we were at the university we were at Rutgers, which is the State University in New Jersey. Instead of in Trenton where they’re entrenched lobbying interests. It should be operating in a more intellectual atmosphere away from those special interest groups.

Terence: Almost like a retreat in a way, wasn’t this?

Judge: Yes.

Terence: I mean in a way.

Judge: Yes. An extended retreat.

Terence: Was this one of the most interesting intellectual challenge in your career would you say I mean in a way or satisfying or is that –

Judge: Looking back on it and I don’t think it had been seriously talked about having the convention in Fairbanks. When I came back from New Jersey and after that discussion with Mrs. Katzenbach I was quite convinced and I took to the committee let’s have the convention in Fairbanks at the University. And they bought it.

Terence: They didn’t complain that it would be in the middle of winter and fifty below, huh?

Judge: Well the delegates weren’t the one that did it. It was the legislative session.

Terence: They were glad to send them up there. Let’s see we did talk with George Rogers yesterday. Would you tell us a little about him and your experience with him in this stuff? What –

Judge: Well George and Jean and I have been very dear friends – see they came here in 1945 when he came as an economist for the Office of Price Administration. It was administering the price controls during and immediately after World War II. And when I came back from the war the fall of ’45, I immediately became acquainted with them and we got to be good friends. They were also very good friends with my wife before I ever knew her. Cause her husband, her first husband, had come here also for the Office of Price Administration and they had social times together. But George has always been a very good friend.

At one point when I was in private law practice he shared my office with me because we were – we had a year long large project, the reorganization of the plywood mill that had been operating here and had gone broke. Henry Roedin, does that name mean anything to you? Well, Henry Roedin was the senior lawyer and he was technically the attorney for the trustee in bankruptcy, but I did the detailed work. And George and Henry shared my office and George and I have had a mutual I would say regard and respect for many, many years.

An interesting incident twice – two different summers, the summer of ’48-’49 and the summer of ‘49-’50. I hiked the Appalachian Trail along the Presidential Range from Canon Mountain over Mount Lincoln, Mount Jefferson, Mount Adams and to Mount Washington. It’s about a 75-mile hike. And one of those two trips my brother was with me and we met two young women on Mount Washington, you know that trail has a hut system and you don’t have to carry food and supplies. You can just take a change of underwear and a swimming suit and 15 pound pack and go off for a 75 mile hike cause every night you arrive at one of these huts that are manned and they have hot food and beds and they send you off with a hot breakfast in the morning and a trail lunch.

And anyhow we went there and my brother and I went off into the woods with these two young ladies. He went one direction and I went another. Well the woman that I was with was a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and she was putting together the New York Herald Tribune Forum. It was held every fall by the Ogden Reed Family that owns the Tribune. They would get maybe 3,000 people at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York to come to this forum. And this particular year the forum was on America and Its Resources and Ernest Gruening was going to be one of the speakers talking about Alaska as a great resource of America. And so she and I conversed about this out there in the brush and so she invited me to come down. And she said is there anybody else from Alaska. And I said yes there are two people. There is a lawyer, a woman lawyer named Mildred Herman, who was the Vice President of the convention and she used to go to New York every year for the America Cancer Society. She was there and George was a Litar Fellow at Harvard. And he and I had become good friends before and I told this woman about George.

So George and Mildred and I were invited to the forum to ask Gruening some challenging questions. They were written out in advance. They weren’t spontaneous. It was an interesting gathering. John Forestal, he was First Secretary of Defense was there. And John Weinen, the former Ambassador during the war from America to Britain was there. And Carl Sandburg, the poet, was there. We were all up on this platform, sort of little bleachers arrangement on it. And Gruening spoke and I asked him a question. And George asked him a question, a challenging question about statehood cause this was while I was in law school about 1947, 10 years before statehood.

I had a little interesting experience with Carl Sandburg. There was a party that the Ogden Reed Family gave at the Waldorf Astoria for the distinguished guests like Sandburg and Weinen and Gruening. And Rogers and I and Mildred Herman and a couple of other people that were with us went across Lexington Avenue to a waffle shop. I had to go back to the hotel to get a little check that they were going to give me to pay for my trip on the trip from New Haven to New York and back.

Well as I walked out of the hotel here was Carl Sandburg and we had met when we were on the platform and he was in his (inaudible), feeling no pain. And he was headed for Grand Central Station and so was I. So we walked down the street together and he said what do the people of Alaska think about Ernest Gruening? And I said well there is divided opinion. There are those like I who admire him greatly and they are great supporters, but there are other people that cordially dislike him. And there was silence. And he said here’s the great poet – I think the people of Alaska love him. I get vibrations. I get vibrations. The great poet getting his vibrations all the way from Alaska about Ernest Gruening.

Anyhow George and I have had a long association and I have a lot of respect for him. He is a fine economist and a fine mind. Unfortunately he has had health problems and he is failing as we all do when we get older.

Terence: I thought that it interesting you mentioned Mildred Herman because she is really important isn’t she, I mean as far her role. She was Vice President of the convention?

Judge: She was, yes. She was – I think she was the First Vice President, either she or Frank Barockovich, the Tlingit from Klawock. I practiced law with her. By appointment I was appointed by the court to assist her in the defense of a Native woman in Wrangell who had been accused of murder, murdering her boyfriend or husband or someone. And so I worked very closely with Mildred. She lived just a block down the street here, in that house up on the – above the top of the big wall down by the Governor’s, that was Mildred’s home. She was the first woman admitted to practice law in Alaska. She was a very persuasive person on her feet. She could sway a jury. I wouldn’t say that she was a great legal mind, but she was an effective courtroom lawyer.

Terence: And she was a member of the statehood committee, wasn’t she?

Judge: She was the secretary of the statehood committee and got to be a great friend of Bob Atwood, who was the chairman and they had a lot of cordial regard for one another.

Terence: Now did – what about the role sort of affording statehood? Did that ever –

Judge: Well, that’s –

Terence: Of affording, being able to pay for statehood you know. Was that something that what was sort of your view on that or how did that?

Judge: That didn’t worry me. Gruening had been responsible for getting an income tax passed in 1949 and it was a very modest rate. We could up that.

Telephone rings

Terence: Judge, we were talking about the first state senate you –

Judge: First state senate I was elected in the election of 1960, I’m sorry 1958 to the first state senate and I became the chairman of the committee on – the senate committee on state affairs. And what we did primarily was to organize the executive branch with the help of people from Public Administration Service who wrote the legislation that established the executive branch of the government. And I was I would say probably a fiscal conservative, although my general political stance was liberal, I was in that session a fiscal conservative.

In that first session we had commissioned a group and I can’t remember whether – I think George was one of the economists on the group to give us advice on basic policies. Should we bond ourselves? And if so, to what extent? What can we expect to be the source of income for the state to pay for capital expenditures? In the territory we couldn’t bond ourselves? It was prohibited by the Organic Act and capital construction was done through the Public Works Administration, which was a federal office that could approve public works and could issue federal bonds and then they could lease the facility to the territory to pay off costs, but as a territory we couldn’t do capital financing, debt financing.

So as I say, I was a fiscal conservative and the commission came back with a report. For example, not to build a ferry system. And I was a strong proponent of building a ferry system, but I voted against the proposal when it came before the legislature because we had the support of the specialists that said until you have a better handle on your sources of income, you should not bond yourselves for building $60M ferries. And as a result of that and another similar situation I had gone to Seattle on my own and gotten a draft of legislation in support of the labor effort for – what’s the program that pays off people when the job market is down –

Terence: The unemployment – the –

Judge: The unemployment security. And I had gotten new legislation and set up a new program for unemployment security, but the labor leaders – Lou Dystrom particularly, wanted to boost the payment and I and a couple of other leaders in the senate voted against it because we didn’t know where the money was going to come from. It wasn’t that we didn’t think it was a justified increase but how were we going to pay for it?

Terence: And in fact wasn’t it true Judge that the territory had gone broke on the unemployment security administration, right?

Judge: Close to it.

Terence: There was a federal loan I think to cover the –

Judge: Anyhow, I lost a re-election. I won by one vote. And there was a recount and I lost by two. And it stemmed from several things. Number one, I didn’t campaign for myself. I campaigned for John Kennedy. He was running against Nixon and I thought it was much more important that Kennedy should get Electoral College votes. So I campaigned for Kennedy, whom I knew slightly. He’d been up here and I had escorted him around and I lost, but it was because of fiscal conservatism.

Terence: Who did you lose to?

Judge: Alvin Engstrom, not the current Alvin Engstrom, his father, who was a drunk and a whoremonger. He was a friend. I got along with him. We weren’t enemies.

Terence: Was he a Democrat though? Did you lose in the general or the primary?

Judge: This was the general.

Terence: Okay. But I think George was on that committee and we were talking about –

Judge: Yes.

Terence: – yesterday and it said fiscal crisis impending was the headline in the Anchorage Times and Dick Fisher had told us about. He said Egan raised hell with him after this came out, this report. I mean that’s not what Egan wanted did he or he wanted to hear good news you know.

Judge: Yeah. And Egan, the whole ferry system proposal that required bonding to build those ships came out of the last two weeks or three weeks at most of that session, which was a lengthy session and didn’t have 60-day limit. And we met from January to May in order to structure the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch and we framed the Judicial Branch, although we didn’t anticipate it was going to happen that soon, but there were big questions about how we were going to make it and it was long before the discovery of oil. Didn’t have any oil money.

Terence: Yesterday George was telling us he thought the absence of oil lobbyists at Fairbanks, because that was before Swanson River.

Judge: Yeah.

Terence: That that was crucial in getting a sound, does that –

Judge: Yeah. That was the fiscal picture.

Terence: Then just the truth is I forgot to ask you about Dick Fisher, but he was crucial with the local government article, wasn’t he, cause his –

Judge: Yes, he was.

Terence: Could you talk about him a little bit and how the little government articles that you know?

Judge: Well local government article has had a large misunderstanding, especially at the beginning, using this term boroughs and having overlapping city and borough governments, which was kind of a political necessity. But it wasn’t understood that that article is a very important one and what it says – Article 10. Vic and I always been close to it and – Section 1. Purpose and Construction. The purpose of this article is to provide for maximum local self-government with a minimum of local government units and to prevent duplication of tax levying jurisdictions. A liberal construction shall be given to the powers of local government.

Now minimum of local government units is one not two. And we had the example of terrible patterns of local government across the nation where there were multiple tax levying jurisdictions, water districts, sewer districts, school districts. In a metropolitan area you’d have 11 separate taxing authorities and no unification on it. And the example of that being corrected was Greater Miami and the people were advising at our convention about local government were warning us that we have to take steps to prevent that happening.

Well they didn’t want to abolish cities per se so they provided for boroughs and that term didn’t have a clear connotation of experience. They knew they didn’t want counties yet they wanted effective local government. So they rather than abolishing cities they created boroughs so that the boundaries of local government would reach beyond the narrow boundaries of the old cities and where a lot of people had moved outside that boundary and got the benefit of city services without paying for it.

Juneau, for example, is the largest municipality – about the largest municipality in America. It is 100 miles long forty miles wide. There is only one government in that area, which makes sense. It takes in power generation, takes in the end of the road, and you meet the objections of the tax people by having service districts. A different tax rate if you’re outside the downtown area and don’t have all the services. Maybe you don’t have sewers or something and they’re taxed at a lower rate. And that’s accommodated. But you look back to that purpose. Maximum local self-government with a minimum of local government units, governmental units.

Terence: Judge, was this an example of trying to chart a new course for the state?

Judge: Yes. And it did, but the people didn’t understand it. For example, in Juneau should they have a borough and a city? And I went to the City Council meeting and said no. Just have a borough because you have a city and a borough you have two government units with competing and they didn’t follow my advice and they created a city and a borough and each of them had an attorney. Those attorneys spent their time fighting the other unit.

And when I came to the court in 1966 a major case I had was between the city and the borough. And I could see that the people were sick and tired of the fighting between the two governmental units. And there was a proposition to consolidate and so I sat on the case, didn’t let it move until after the election and they voted to consolidate and Juneau was the first local area to make sense of local government and eventually Anchorage followed suit. Fairbanks still has it. Ketchikan still has it. They have a big fight about consolidating but it is the only thing that makes sense. It’s maximum local self-government with a minimum of units and the minimum is one not two.

Terence: How would you summarize overall the local article? Has it been a success or a failure, I mean among the articles does that stand out as –

Judge: Well it was misunderstood for a long time and as a result you’ve go this failure to consolidate local governments like San Francisco the city and borough of San Francisco – city and county of San Francisco is one government. And Dade County in Florida, Miami, one Greater Miami. And people in reading this thought that somehow they were getting something if they had both the borough and a city. And what they were getting was a great big headache. And I think there was a failure to understand that at the beginning.

Terence: How did – what was Vic’s role in that article? Was that important what he –

Judge: Oh, it was very important and Vic was the real leader in getting it established and he worked closely with John Bebout and with the consultants that came on local government and he was a major figure.

Terence: You know and then still we have the problem with the unorganized boroughs still I mean right?

Judge: Yeah, and that’s they have understood that and the legislature hasn’t exercised the leadership that it could. They can tax the unorganized and you didn’t have to extend the boundaries of the North Slope Borough clear out 200 miles to Prudhoe and left that one little local government become hugely wealthy. If they had taxed the unorganized borough and had some sort of local government to run it, which is the legislature. It has never been adequately understood nor applied in my judgment.

Terence: Well then one more thing, Judge, and this a little bit off but it is not Judge Wickersham. You said you had met him. I guess you met him when you were a kid, right?

Judge: Well, yeah, I never knew him as an adult really. When I was in high school I used to stop and visit with him on the street corner. And I didn’t have any grasp of his significance in the history of Alaska until I read of it after he died. He was something of a controversial, (sneeze) excuse me, figure. Probably because he was a strong Republican and Alaska had become a Democrat province as it were for the years of the Gruening and Bartlett and their associates.

Terence: In a way I found a letter Gruening once wrote and he said Wickersham was the leading and I think he saw himself in Wickersham a little bit too you know. They had some similarities I would think but there was a letter from Gruening to Bartlett or somebody – no that’s right he was saying Bartlett wasn’t worth a biography. It was an application – it was (inaudible) application for a grant and Gruening wrote this. This is after Bartlett died.

Judge: Oh, really.

Terence: It said yeah, I think Wickersham was the guy so they really had that thing sort of going.

Judge: Well as I say those two fellows were not the best of friends.

Terence: Right, yeah.

Judge: That it?

Terence: I think so. Okay. I want to thank you Judge very much for putting with us.

Judge: You welcome.

Terence: This has been very fascinating.

Judge: I hope it met your expectation to some degree.

Terence: More.

Episode 4: Jack Coghill

Alaska Statehood Pioneers: In Their Own Words
Jack Coghill

Opening Titles

Narrator: Jack Coghill has spent decades in public service in Alaska as a school board member, a territorial legislator, a constitutional convention delegate, Nenana’s mayor, a state senator, and most recently four years as lieutenant governor during the Hickel administration.

Born in 1925, he had humble beginnings as the youngest of three sons of Scottish immigrants who settled in Nenana. His father opened a general store in Nenana in 1916, which the family still runs today.

Intertitle: Growing up in Nenana

Jack Coghill: Three of us boys and we were raised right here in the store. We – all of us went to high school here. Bill went to the University of Alaska and Bob went to the University and I went in the Army.

When I was four years old I used to go into the fur room and I learned to count to five. …

My first job was counting muskrats. And dad would – because you know I remember that in those days why everything was barter. Up until 1939 dad’s general store was 95% barter. I mean the cash register would only probably ring in maybe $20 a day because it was only the floaters, the people that worked for the railroad that came by that had any money.

These people were all trappers you know. And dad would buy their furs.

So he had three notches in the floor. This was for small, for medium, and this was for large. And you’d sit there and put them in between the lines and if it was one put it over here. Once you got five then you would put another five this way and another five this way, and when you got five bundles of five then you would wrap them up and bundle them. And that’s how I learned to count …

See I was raised in the 20’s and the 30’s, different. Different than it is today. And of course we didn’t have electricity. We had – our power plant would go off at midnight and would start up in the wintertime, start up at six in the morning.

And of course you didn’t have all of the modern equipment that you have today. You didn’t have coal stokers or electric furnaces or electric motors that drove all of our furnaces. We were coal or wood and everything was stoked that way. Nothing was automatic.

But we were a modern town. You went down the river to Tanana or you went down to Ruby and places like that they didn’t have that. It was all log cabins and stuff like that. So you know a lot of the convenience that you and I nowadays are – just take for granted didn’t happen in those days.

See when we were growing up here there were not very many white kids in town. So most of our chums – most of kids were Native kids. And so we all knew how to and learn how to understand and speak the Athabascan Pokatan Native language that was here. Well old John Evan, the Chief came to dad one day and says you know the Elders had a big conference and we’d like to have your kids stop talking our language because the Elders kind of think that you’re mimicking them. So dad says knock it off kids. No more talking about – no more talking, but see we all understood it.

So when these people would come in Toklat or from the Wood River or from their trapping lines, why dad would always make sure that one of us went over and listened to them doing their bargaining. And I’d go over and they’d say Alex Fowler is going to give us little bit more than Coggy is going to give us, so maybe we ought to go to Alex Fowler. Alex Fowler is giving us about 50 cents more on the skins. So we’d go back, dad you ought to raise it up 50 cents. So there was always good ways to be able to use your talents.

Intertitle: Caught Greasy Gloved

Jack Coghill: Dad was a hard taskmaster. I mean he was a Scot. And you could always tell when his patience was – when his patience was taxed why he started rolling his R’s and when he started rolling his R’s why you knew that you were in deep, deep trouble.

One time we at Halloween why we went up to the railroad Marine Ways, which is up there by the bridge and we stole a couple 35 pound pails of wax grease that they put on the track – the ways to pull the ships up. And we went up and we greased the track. And the coal train the next day couldn’t get up over the bridge. And Jim Hagen was the marshal and we could hear this train chug, chug, chug, chug, urrrrr – and they finally had to send another train and a flatcar with a boiler on it to come down and steam the track.

So Jim Hagen, he come into the – in the afternoon to the schoolhouse and of course this was the old Franklin Kaleen School. It was a two-story building.

He come and he says that any of you lads know anything about how the grease got on the tracks on the bridge? Everybody’s halo was out, no, no, nobody knows anything. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a pair of gloves and he says whose gloves are these? And somebody says those are mine. Full of grease. Second pair of gloves he pulled out were mine. Whose gloves are these? Oh, God, mine.

Guess who got the chores for the next three weeks all by himself. My two brothers got off Scot-free. And they thought that was great and I would have to get up and go do this. And I’d have to sweep the store floor and I had to do all of those things, but you know when you play like that I guess you got to take the consequences. And out of all of that came a good lesson as you grew up and of course when I raised my family of four boys and two girls why I always remembered when they got into trouble I always remembered that. Well now if I were that age when I was that age what was I doing?

Intertitle: Another Undertaking

Jack Coghill: Well, because I was raised in the store, up above the store, I was always helping dad. …

And old French John was the local undertaker at the time. And of course he wasn’t a mortician or anything like that, it was just an undertaker. Come in the store one day and he says Coggie, they called my dad Coggie. Coggie, old John Lunds passed away and I need somebody to help me. He’ll help you. …

So off I went with John Lund – my mom wasn’t very happy about that, but I helped old French John – his name was John Orlette. I helped him two or three times and then he moved away. And when he moved away why the next thing I know old C. C. Hyde came to the store one day. C. C. Hyde was the commissioner. She was the niece of Judge Hyde from the First Division and then she had her little office right here in town. Come in and said to my dad where’s Jackie? Dad thought that kid is in trouble again. Got to be in trouble. And – Jack Devaral has just passed away Jack and you’ve got to go take care of him. ….

And that was the start of my career as the local undertaker and 37 graves later why I ended my career when they passed enough laws that you couldn’t do that any more. You had to be a mortician.

Did a lot of things when I was 15 you know. I had to witness when old Bill Mosher died, Ms. Hyde had to have witnesses and of course I’d already been the undertaker two times when Bill Mosher died. And we went up to his house and took an inventory and I was writing down the inventory for Ms. Hyde.

And she says now I understand there’s a still downstairs. Silence. So there was a trap door. One of the old trap doors opened up like this. Went downstairs and sure enough here was a great big vat and a still right next to it. About a 500-gallon wooden vat and it had foam and yucky stuff on top and Ms. Hyde says, “Boys, destroy it.”

So they went down to the fire hall and they got a couple of the old fire axes with the pick nose on it and stuff like that and started hammering away on this wooden vat. And finally it broke and (pish) – and of course everybody was kind of halfway in tears because they had been drinking out of that for a long time. And down in the bottom of the vat was old shoes and a couple of skeletons of a couple old cats and just all kinds of garbage that had fallen into this vat over the years while it was cooking because all of that stuff didn’t make any difference cause it just went through the still you know and once they got it going. But those guys would come out of there and throwing up and saying, God, to think we’ve been drinking out of that damn thing for five years you know. All of that stuff was just terrible.

Intertitle: “Learning How to Be an Entrepreneur”

Jack Coghill: I remember one time talking about that dad used to right after prohibition was over in 1937, ’38 when we had moved into the new store where we’re at now or not into that new store but in that location. And dad used to get three casks. He’d get a cask of apple cider. A cask of port wine and a cask of Muscatel wine. And a cask was 557 gallons, a cask. …

Well we noticed that when they put these casks in and put them on these bunkers that there was a bung on the other end and the other end was in dad’s warehouse where he kept all of the cigarettes and what we called it a kind of a security room, where he kept shoes and shelves and stuff like that because in those days there was no self-service. Everything was across the counter.

So in the back of the liquor store we noticed that there was the same amount of bungs in the back end as there was in the front end. So being ingenious red blooded American boys we noticed how they pounded those bungs out with a great big mallet and then they’d take and put the bung or the wooden bung right next to the – and drive it in and in would go the plug and the wooden bung would catch and wouldn’t spill a drop. …

So I went back in the back of the store in the warehouse and got a number three washtub, stuck it underneath the cask and we hammered away at it and we got it finally started and of course it got enough pressure that once you got that bung a little bit while it started (swish) like this so you had to really work. So you had your hand over it and you pounded away and we got it in.

We got – we have an old spigot that had been used before. Well they use new spigots each time because you know we have got that thing. We had three gallons of wine in this number three tub. So we bottled it all up and got it all squared around. Got it all cleaned up and we had to take a couple of buckets of water and of course no plumbing in the store. So we had to go get water and so that was no stench of wine or anything. Got the cigarettes back up there and had our spigot in there.

So we took this wine and we had it. …

And that went on all that winter.

Well about the end of March dad’s port wine cask ran empty. It shouldn’t have. He couldn’t figure it out so he went a looking and he moved those cigarette cases away from the back end there and there was a spigot. Guess who was on restriction for six weeks? Cause I was the one that went down to the store and I was the one that banked the store and stuff like that. Well anyway that’s what you call learning how to be an entrepreneur.

One of my first businesses that I had here was I owned the Northland Theater. And when I was just in school why Mr. Fisk, who had bought the machinery from a guy by the name of Gross, whose brother had the theaters in Juneau I believe. And he had a movie house here and he had a movie house in Talkeetna, two or three places and he’d bounce back and forth and bring these films in. They were pretty scratchy and everything, but. So Mr. Fisk bought it out and he was a schoolteacher. Then he went to the FAA in 1939 when they – so I bought the equipment. My dad financed me and it took me about four years. I never seen a penny of the take. My mom was the doorkeeper and I ran the theater until by golly I had her all paid off. And then I had a few pennies in my pocket. And then my brother Bob could see that I was making some money so then he talked me into putting him as a partner and we ran the theater oh up until television became pretty prevailing in the first part of the 60’s.

It was interesting, but it was part of the opportunity of a young person raised in a small community.

Intertitle: 1943, Drafted into the Army

Jack Coghill: When we got done with our basic in Anchorage why they shipped us off to Whittier to be a port battalion and from there why some of them wanted to go on to other things and Major Wakefield, who was from Kodiak knew my dad and he asked me if I was a Coghill from Nenana and I said yeah. And they associated through the Masons.

And he said well I’m going to get you to go into the Tanana River and because that was when they were shipping all of the barrels down – barrels of fuel for the lend lease to Galena and they were rafting it from Nenana down the Tanana River and they were going to a slough just below Tanana. And that is where they would gather the single rafts from the Tanana and they’d bundle them up into several big rafts. And then the people would float them down from there to Galena on the Yukon River.

And so I was taken – I was a supply clerk in Whittier and they said well we’re going to ship you off. So they shipped me off to Galena and I landed in Galena in a Norseman. And the flood had come and I taxied up to the second story of the hangar and they said well there’s no more lend lease coming through Galena. So what are you going to do with us?

So they shipped me off to Nome and from Nome I went up to Project Nan and from Project Nan they shipped me back to Nenana. And Major Wakefield says well I guess we’ll just have to keep you here until we close the river season. So from July until September why I was in charge of the PX here. And then when they got done with that why Major Wakefield says well now you’re going to pay for your being stationed home. They sent me off to Adak.

Cog: They sent me down there and by the time I got there I was a staff sergeant and so I was the head of the motor pool that we had. And we had jitneys, which are little tractors that they use on the dock. And the big push for building Adak had been over with.

And I was on the Aleutians Islands and did the rest of my service there and came back and got out of the service in ’46.

I had learned to fly. I learned to fly when I was in the Army. Of course that was the thing to do in those days and everybody flew. But I found out early in life that was not – that was lots of work, not much pleasure.

Intertitle: Back in Nenana

Jack Coghill: When we got out of the service why I was going to head for school and my father passed away and so Bob and I started to run the store and we’re still partners in the store and we still got it. Still got it running and my brother passed away several years ago.

In fact I was on my way to college in Washington State when my dad passed away and I turned around and came back. And so we, both Bob and I that took care of any higher education, so we became both of us became colleges of the hard knocks.

So after the war when I got out of the service, I met Frances at one of the school dances in Fairbanks and two years later we were married and 55 years later why – I got out of that marriage why we had six children, we got 24 grandchildren and now at the last count I think it was 18 great grandchildren. So we are helping populate the state.

Frances and I got married in 1948.

After Frannie and I got married there was a lady here by the name of Mrs. McNavish and Opal McNavish. And she was married to the roadmaster and his name was Joe McNavish. …

And she was on the School Board. And so when her husband, when Joe died in 1949 they said – they came to me and Billy Monroe was the – had the section, he was the section foreman. Harry was on the School Board and he came up to me in the store and says well Mrs. McNavish is going to leave and we want you to go on the School Board. So they appointed me on the School Board. And I says I’ll go on until the next election. Well the next election nobody ran so here I was and I ran for the School Board and I stayed as a member of the School Board for 10 years until 1959, from ’49 to ’59.

And in those days why you didn’t have a restriction that you couldn’t hold a local seat like you can today. So when I was in the territorial legislature, I was still on the School Board. When I was in the Constitutional Convention they called me Schoolhouse Johnny in those days. In fact the School Board Association bill is one of my bills that I sponsored, wrote and sponsored, got put through the territorial legislature.

I won the ice pool in 1951. I won $18,000. That’s a lot of money in those days. And so what we did was we decided well there was not a good roadhouse or a good hotel in Nenana so I bought a sawmill. And we bought a sawmill and I think we paid $1,800 for it. And we shipped it in and we set it up right here next to where dad’s old store was where the place had burned down. And yarded all of these logs in from Poggie Slough, which was six miles up the river and set them in here and we three sided all of the logs, set them up, let them dry for a year and so we poured the cement foundation. …

We hand mixed all of the cement for the foundation of this building and it is still just as solid as can be so.

Then we had a roadhouse. We had 20 rooms.

Eventually, why we had a restaurant up front.

Then as the world turns and as things evolve why now I’ve got the state court system in the front end of the apartment where the dining room and the kitchen and the lobby used to be. We have over on the north side we have a hairdresser outfit and we have an apartment and we have a Laundromat.

And then over on this side we have part of the judge’s chambers and my little apartment. And I decided that after Frannie had died why I’d sell the house at North Pole and move back here.

Bob passed away and his daughter now is our manager of the store. I – because of families and all the rest of it why my interest in the commerce was that I started what we call Nenana Fuel Company. It was a Union Oil distributor and I started that in 1957 and ran it up until 1988.

We shipped propane bottles up and down the river. And that – the Union Oil Company came in and built – Standard Oil was here and Union Oil came in and built a terminal. And the third year why they said would you like to be our consignee distributor. And so I became their consignee distributor in 1957 and I ran that whole fuel business. And of course in ’57 was just right because Clear started in ’59 and I was – then Anderson came into being, Lehora and Browns Cork and several places out around Clear.

What I would do is I followed the same basic principle that I did when I was in the political arena is that in most of your villages you find that the last person in the village with the bubble gum usually got the votes. So I was the last person in the village with bubble gum to get their orders for their winter fuel. And I got real good relationship with lots and lots of people.

And of course that just blossomed and I had – when I sold it to Earth Resources why I had 39 employees.

Intertitle: Territorial Legislature

Jack Coghill: When I ran for the ’53 legislature, I had my own airplane. I had been a family of traders on the Yukon River and the Kuskokwim River, so my name was known. People didn’t know me but they knew Jack Coghill was Bill Coghill’s son and so he must be all right.

Why I have one of the placards of my original run in the territorial legislature, which was, it said, “A Golden E in ’53″ which was my motto and one with education and economic development. And I had five E’s. I forget what all of them were down here. But the idea behind it is like I say everybody and when I got into the legislature in ’53 why of course the Republicans followed – took over because we came in the wake of Eisenhower, which only lasted that one year. I mean then the D’s came back in the next year. But the idea behind it was that so I became a chairman right off the bat. So I was chairman of the Educational Committee.

It was the Eisenhower sweep as we used to call it when in 1952 when Eisenhower was running for president and so a lot of our people were on the bandwagon and they were getting elected. And the legislature and some of those people that were elected to that first legislature in ’53 should never have been there really, but they came in with the sweep.

You ought to remember that in those days you prayed an awful lot because you had no authority. So every time you wanted some authority you had to right a memorial. And the memorial – the end of the memorial was we the Alaska Legislature on behalf of the people of Alaska pray that you will enact this piece of legislation for our benefit because you had to ask for it you know.

About the only authority we had was around trails and so we had what we called the Alaska Highway Commission, but we had in territorial days we had about five different commissions and the commissions had authority, but the legislature didn’t have any of that authority. The governor didn’t have any of that authority.

There were several reasons why statehood was becoming very imminent. And of course I was an advocate of statehood right off the bat because I felt that we needed to have our own authority.

I had run for the ’55 legislature but the swing was so great, an anti-Eisenhower swing, that everybody that was a Republican or a Conservative had lost in that election.

And I didn’t get elected to the ’55 legislature and I learned an awful lot from that too. That you have to have new and aggressive programs and you have to know your homework. You just can’t try and work off of a rhythm. So then I took that lesson to the Constitutional Convention.

Then in 1955 the legislature nominated – they established the Constitutional Convention bill which created the election of the Constitutional Convention delegates.

I’d spent six weeks – I’d go out eight weeks ahead of the election and I’d spend six weeks flying around in the old Fourth Division and then the last two weeks I’d spend just rent a hotel room in the Nordale Hotel and I’d just spend it all right there at KFAR and KFQD were the two radio stations at the time. And I’d go in and talk to the publisher of the News-Miner all the time.

Well I served and I ran for the Yukon Kuskokwim Tanana River District and I won. And I went – and I served in the Constitutional Convention.

Intertitle: 1955-1956 – Constitutional Convention

Jack Coghill: The thing is that Juneau, and of course there was big push by a lot of the heavies in Anchorage to move the legislature to move the capitol and all of that was a part of it, so Juneau and southeast Alaska didn’t want anything to do with Anchorage. And so Fairbanks, we became the neutral ground. And so the Fairbanks delegation, the Nome delegation, and the Southeastern Delegation ganged up on them and said we’re going to have the Constitutional Convention in Fairbanks.

And of course at that time in 1955 we already had the Tote Road between here and Fairbanks and it would take us five hours to drive from here to Fairbanks. And you had to take a chain saw with you because it was only a Tote Road was just the width of a D8 cat. And as you well know the root system of your Arctic trees is only about six inches deep so every time there was a wind why you’d have a couple more. So we had one of the normal things that we took with us when we traveled to Fairbanks was a chain saw. And the idea if you didn’t have a chain saw you took a bucksaw because you would have to saw a tree out in order to keep going.

I think we went from November until the 20th of December or something like that and then we took a three week break and we came back in January and we finished up in February.

I was second to the youngest and I was 36 years old

A lot of old geezers you know. I was young and still had that drive – I was still the insurrectionist what they called me you know and in the territorial legislature they called me Coghill, the insurrectionist. Cause I didn’t believe in all of this government and I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. I was from the old school, the old prospectors. What they found, they kept you know and that sort of an attitude about it.

And Bill Egan in the committee on committees said well we need to have one conservative so one conservative they picked me as the Chairman of the Administration Committee.

He says I’d like to recommend you to be Chairman of the Administration Committee and it’s kind of a work haul type committee.

You didn’t have staff people like you have today. I mean I think in the Constitutional Convention we had only five staff people and they were all consultants, basically consultants from different organizations.

Well we had $350,000 to run the Constitutional Convention.

As Chairman of the Administration Committee, my target was to make sure that we didn’t spend over $300,000, that we had $50,000 left, that we could give then to the Statehood Committee and the Statehood Committee then created the lobbying group or the group that went out and told everybody about the constitution.

I had to make sure that these guys were wanting to spend all of that money on publicity and stuff like that, that they weren’t going to get away from it. He always said well the only reason why the Constitutional Convention got through the way it was is because they couldn’t get through that hardheaded Scot, Coghill. And it was a lot of fun. It was fun.

We set it up where that they got $20 a day for their subsistence and that was about the size of it. And there were a lot of them – Herb Hilscher was one of them I can remember always wanted to have new promotional things within the constitution.

He wanted to promote the constitution. He wanted to have more things of what we were doing up at the University. He wanted to have PR going and of course we didn’t want to do that. In fact if you’ll see in the constitution itself we have – there is none of the intent is in the constitution, and in the document …

… was to not have speeches or not — just have the yea’s and nay’s and who voted for, who spoke for, who spoke against, that type of thing, but not any of the rhetoric that was put into it, except for some of the amendments and the amendments were put in. But that was to keep people from getting up and talking for hours and hours on things. So once they knew that it was not going to be recorded, it didn’t happen.

Plus the fact is that the media … they didn’t have any negative or positive side to what was going on in the Constitutional Convention preliminary sessions. I mean it was straightforward type. And I think the reason for that is because Bill Snedden from the News-Miner and Bob Atwood from the Anchorage paper were supporters and so you didn’t have organized groups. You didn’t pressure groups coming out there to the University and sitting. And a lot of times a lot of school groups were out. I had school people from Nenana come up and we had one of the gals that was a senior that gave a talk to the Constitutional Convention. We had a lot of visiting firemen that spoke to us and one thing or another, but pretty much left us alone to do the things that we had to do.

In fact the ordinance that we put in abolishing fish traps. We didn’t get the fishing industry out of Seattle or the pressure groups from the fishing industry that were Nick (inaudible) and all of those that were the big fishmongers. They didn’t show up because nobody thought we were serious. Thought we were just a group of people going through an exercise.

And you could always tell when Bill Egan disagreed with ya because he would frown. Whenever he frowned, you’d say oh Christ I’m in trouble now. I’m in trouble now you know, but – and two or three times. One of them was during the article on education that went into the constitution. I was the one that see I was at that time I was Chairman of the School Board Association. And public education was very, very strong with me. Well also there was a tremendous amount of parochial schools going on in the state. And Monroe had just started, but most of them were mission schools. And I was not opposed to them but I was opposed to domination of sectoral attitude and I was a real firm believer in free public education. I have arguments with my son right now John, who is a teacher in his Baptist church school, and there was a teacher over there and he always questioned me as to that because that’s a part of our American way. And it was one of the arguments that we had at the Constitutional Convention.

We had good debate, but see when the constitution when we had a lot of votes that were split but when we finished the document and the Style and Drafting Committee, which was headed by George Sundborg, when they got done putting it all together everybody, all 55 of us, signed the document. Now one fellow got a little bit upset. He was from southeastern Alaska.

Robertson. And he went home, but he did sign the document afterwards when they got down to Juneau why they got – Tom Stewart and the guys got him to relent and to sign the document – the constitution. So different than the United States constitution, which had 55 delegates, only 30 what – 38 of them signed the United States constitution. So there was a lot of dissenters.

And when we got done arguing there was no minority reports, no majority reports, except what was done by the committees. …

The only way we could keep these people like Herb Hilscher and some of the other orators from expounding and expounding is that if you had a proposition and you put it up and it failed, you couldn’t put it up again. There was no parliamentary procedure. We blocked all of that so that there was no delaying.

The only reason why we got through the constitution and we made the constitution as brief as we possibly could, that was part of the – Bill Egan’s thrust with his committee chairmen was keep everything simple. Don’t get legislative intent into the middle of the constitutional structure. And of course that followed through and so we actually in my estimation and a lot of other people that this is out still the best state constitution in the 50 states.

When we signed the constitution in Signers Hall it was not the elaborate structure it is now. We had to kick the basketballs out of the way in order to put the seats in for the general public to come and watch us sign the document. …

It was the University gym.

Intertitle: Statehood

Jack Coghill: The fish trap issue in my estimation was the thing that created the biggest push for statehood, push for ratifying our constitution. See our constitution was ratified in ’58 before we were a state. It had to be ratified by the people of Alaska and then we took it and we sent it to Washington.

Economically the big structure in Alaska was the Guggenheims, which had the mining interests and the FE Company and all of the rest of them. And it was – the only reason why we became a state to be real frank with you was because of World War II and because there was enough people that were coming in from Washington and Oregon and California and Ohio and all of the Lower 48 that saw the great opportunities in the north country that finally we got enough that we had more people in Alaska from those states that were not beholden to the special interests of the fishing industry or the mining industry. And it was out of that you know because the people in Nome, a lot of the people in Fairbanks that were part of the institution of the FE Company. And it was tough. It was tough. And you just had to and finally that measure of percentages started creeping away from them and by the mid-50’s, by the end of the 50’s when we had our first vote on statehood why it was two to one.

The thing that really promoted our constitution and promoted the statehood was the other articles that were put in in the transition when we endorsed and put into the program the Tennessee Plan where we elected a house member and two senators and we sent them back. And the reason why it was called the Tennessee Plan is because back in 1832 I believe it was Tennessee cut away from Virginia and became a state and when they became a state they went down to or up to Washington, DC and moved onto the floor and said we’re here, we want to be admitted. And they were admitted. So we thought well we got Ernie Gruening and Egan were our Tennessee senators and Ralph Rivers was our Tennessee representative.

We sent them back to Washington with the explicit instructions to go demand a seat on the floor. Well they got themselves bounced pretty fast. So what happened in 1830, didn’t happen in 1950. So we set up offices for them and they went around and they lobbied and they took material to every legislator, every senator and every staff person, every house member. And they lobbied the statehood thing. Well it was coming that Hawaii was doing the same thing because Hawaii had had their Constitutional Convention and they were getting ready and they wanted to have statehood. Well the thing was that the reason why we’re the 49th state and they are the 50th state is that in those days Hawaii was very Republican. It was the Dole Company and the big farmers and stuff like that. And we were a very strong Democrat state at the time. So we became the 49th state. That’s how and the next year why Hawaii became – was elected and they became the 50th state.

Intertitle: 1959-1964, State Senator Coghill

Jack Coghill: Jack Wise and I were the only two Republicans. And in the first session why Bow Smith from Ketchikan and Tom Stewart from Fairbanks or from Juneau and the people they organized state government and they’d kick us out of the assembly and they had their caucuses in the senate chambers. And it just shows you that that’s a good lesson for people in this democracy. The next year they split nine/nine. Guess who had balance of power? Neither one of their sides could do anything unless they had Jack Wise, who was a Republican from Bethel and myself. And we kind of worked that to our advantage.

In 1959 I have a picture and I’ll show it to you. We had during statehood because we were working off of grants and we didn’t have much money and we had to keep it down. We spent $87M and we called it the $87M Committee, cause it was unheard of that we spent that much money.

And I think it was the third session of the legislature or something like that. I’ve got a picture of it. Frank Chapados was the Chairman – the Co-Chairman and he was from the house side and Bill Noland, yeah Bill Noland from – was the Chairman from the senate side. But it was interesting and what we’d do is every time somebody increased the budget they had to put a dollar into the pot. And we had a big jar in the middle of the table and at the end of the session we took that money and we had a party for just the Finance Committee. It usually was pretty (inaudible) because at that time why there was a lot of drive to increase that and increase that.

Oh, we were struggling. We were struggling I mean and with all of the requirements and you see during statehood we had $400,000, no $4 million was given in what they called transitional grants from the statehood and that went on for six years.

The federal government was pretty stingy, but it was taking over the Johnson O’Malley Schools. Johnson O’Malley was the act that took Bureau of Indian Affairs schools and put them into the public school system you know. And you had that and so you used all of those transition type funds to keep things rolling, keep things going you know. And it was tough, it was tough.

I was on the Finance Committee and I could show you where you know we really had some knockdowns and drag outs, but we had a joint committee between the house and the senate, which after I got out of the senate why they broke away from that because they didn’t want the unicameral type system. But we had to do that in order to keep things going because we had it down where I think the first session of the legislature we adjourned it in 87 days or something like that. And then it just kept creeping up and creeping up and it got to the point where they had to put a trigger on it because it was going way beyond 120 days.

Intertitle: Looking Back

Text: Coghill served as Nenana’s mayor from 1962 to 1985, becoming the longest serving mayor in Alaska history.

Jack Coghill: That was probably and I think that probably the most satisfying time was my tenure as Mayor because it was local, because you were affecting people on a local basis and I think that my most frustrating time was being Lieutenant Governor.

You couldn’t get anything done. I mean bureaucracy had gotten to the point where it was – if, you know, I had dot charts put together. The first year I was in there when I was still in favor you know we put these dot charts together to reorganize state government.

And the charts were color-coded so that it showed the different categories of people and how you could cut through all of that and where you could take. And I figured that we could take 25% of government structure tomorrow and I still believe it in today’s structure. You could take 25% of government and do away with it if you had the will.

Territorial law, state law, and the things that you got done or amended are molded or twisted to accommodate contemporary time. Constitutional law is something that should be short, sweet, and direct. And that’s the reason why the people that put the amendment in for the Permanent Fund Dividend and the Permanent Fund Account really got out of their element when they started getting too wordy. They could have put that document together with 10 or 12 paragraphs or sentences, not 10 or 12 paragraphs.

The thing that I remember the most about the Constitutional Convention was the camaraderie that happened after we decided that the document was the best we could do. And so when we signed those documents we had a hundred of them. The first five copies of the constitution went to government, went to the United States Government. And then the next 60 went to the Constitutional Convention delegates and then the others were distributed to the different archives. And – if you go into the Signers Hall at the University of Alaska in the hallway that goes from Signers Hall into the next building you will see a whole series of pictures and those are my pictures that I have collected of different delegates and all of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. I think I had a copy of the constitution and the whole bit there.

Closing titles

Recorded January 26, 2004, in Nenana.

Conducted by Dr. Terrence Cole, UAF Office of Public History

John B. “Jack” Coghill:
Conducted by Dr. Terrence Cole, UAF Office of Public HistoryCoghill: Single family owned store in Alaska now.Terence: Is that right? No kidding, oh wow, okay.

Terence: Okay. Am I all right? Can I slide over tiny bit? I was just thinking that way.

Terence: So that was the only question is if they’re up to it, you know Jack.

Coghill: Well it is just like when we had the with the interview we had with the court group you know Buckalew, he just got up and said hello, I’m Buckalew and sat down because he just can’t bring things in.

Terence: Yeah. Yeah. So I don’t know, well we’ll see. I think we are going to get people to talk about them and –

Coghill: Get a hold of Tom Stewart.

Terence: Yeah, yeah.

Coghill: And see how Burke Riley is doing.

Terence: Is doing, yeah.

Coghill: And Tom can – will give you a good assessment.

Terence: Right and just ask Tom to give us the thing. Well let me say today is – make sure we have it for the record is January 26th and we’re here in beautiful windy Nenana, where it is 20 below down here Jack. What’s your temperature down here, are you guys warmer?

Coghill: No, it’s only about five below.

Terence: Five below. Okay, so it is actually.

Coghill: The wind chill factor is probably about 40.

Terence: Yeah, right, that’s exactly right, yeah, probably easily a 40 below wind chill. But anyway Jack Coghill: in Nenana. So Jack, thanks for letting us come in and bug you today.

Coghill: Anytime.

Terence: And so basically maybe we’ll start out talking a little bit about your dad coming over here from Scotland. How did that happen? What was his –

Coghill: Well dad when his father passed away why he went into an apprenticeship program as a printer in order to provide money for the family. And when he graduated from his apprenticeship, then he took – he was assigned to a print shop. This was in Shrewsbury in Shropshire County in England. And he wanted to get away from the family so he took a job down in Swansea in the lower part of Wales. That is where he met my mother. In fact, he found an advertisement in the paper where they were advertising for an extra room for somebody. So dad applied for it and my grandfather was a train master for the railroad system and dad was – let’s see, dad was about 12 years older than mother and this was now we’re talking about 19 – probably 1905, ’05 I think it was. And mom was 11 or 12 years old and they got a friendship and started writing to each other.

And when dad decided that the print shop that he was in and assigned to that the person across the table from him had been at the same shop for 30 years and he said this isn’t the end of the line for me. So he saved up his pennies and shekels and went to Liverpool.

And in 1907 why he booked passage from there to Canada. Then he worked his way across Canada and got into Vancouver in the fall of ’07 and went down to – it’s a long story, but went down and three of them – three Scots got together in Seattle and decided that the news was the big strike in Fairbanks, Alaska. And so off they went. He booked storage to Valdez and it took them 18 days to go from Valdez to Fairbanks. The three of them they had their rucksacks and their stuff and they put it on a double ender. You know what a double ender is?

Terence: Why don’t you describe –

Coghill: The double ender is a sled that is pulled by a single horse and the reason why they call them double ender is because it has got the sloped skis on the front, just like it has on the back. So then you can hook two or three of them together. And every night why’d they’d stop at a roadhouse and unload the stuff.

Well they got into Fairbanks and the next day why he said – (clock bong) that in his memos he says it took him four different steam baths to get rid of all the lice that he had picked up on the road going from Valdez to Fairbanks. But – he landed in Fairbanks and went to the print shop and it was the Miner-News. It was a fellow by the name of Swarthout. And he went to work immediately because he was the only union typist that came in – all of the rest of them were kind of roughnecks. And he said the one thing they liked about it was that when he threw his type and you’re a printer so you know what I’m talking about.

Terence: Well let’s describe that –

Coghill: Throwing your type – well we know type – the problem with type is that you have your easel and you do everything backwards. And you start from the end and you come across and then you come across and then you come across. So in other words you read everything backwards and you print everything backwards in throwing your type. Well a lot of people would make an awful lot of mistakes doing that and but because of his perfection why he was really good at it and Swarthout had just really enjoyed that quite a bit. Well then –

Terence: And that was – was that Roy Swarthout.

Coghill: Swarthout.

Terence: Right, yeah, yeah.

Coghill: Swarthout and Roy Swarthout and he – Roy Swarthout and he had the Miner-News. Well then a printer that was working for him by the name of W. F. Thompson. Huh?

Terence: Oh, yeah he was drinking my water. That’s okay.

Coghill: Well we can get you another one.

Terence: It’s all right, baby, I know who comes first in this house. I know that. I’m going to watch my plate. That’s like the whole thing though isn’t it Jack about the mind your P’s and Q’s. Always heard that’s where that saying came from. I don’t know if it did or not but that they –

Coghill: That’s right.

Terence: Because they’re backwards and stuff.

Coghill: Yeah, everything is backwards.

Terence: So he must have been very gifted because that’s a real skill isn’t it I mean?

Coghill: Very skilled. And he used – I used to watch him (clock) because when he moved to Nenana –

Terence: (Inaudible) to know for whom the bell tolls, right.

Coghill: We have 11 o’clock chime.

Terence: So Jack does your clock –

Coghill: I haven’t been able – when I brought it down here I set it and I set it I screwed up the chimes and it doesn’t chime any more, just –

Terence: Anyway so where were we – talking about setting the type.

Coghill: Setting the type and of course you had racks – you had regular typeset racks and you had the different denominations or the different or what did he used to call – the different typesets. The high type – I used to know all of that –

Terence: Fonts.

Coghill: Fonts. The different fonts, type and dad would sit there and he just go like this and he always had a – looked like a pencil, but it wasn’t a pencil. It was a wooden stick with a sharp point on it and that is what he would adjust everything. Then he’d get it all into the rack, set it over, and put it in there and then he’d clamp it together. I learned what printer’s lice was when I was just a boy. And a lot of people don’t know what printer’s lice is. But that is when after he would get done running the type you open up the set. You release the set and then you take a brush and kerosene and you scrub the ink off of the type and all of the ink with the kerosene goes to down below and then you take each one of those and you take and put them in a bucket and you swill them off and put them back into the different boxes.

Well I used to have – my two brothers and I we would do that. We would take the type and we would put them back into the box. And boy I’ll tell you if we made a mistake, we were in real deep trouble because old dad when he had to reset something why it was automatic with him. It was just like running a typewriter, but printer’s lice is when you get that all scrubbed off then before you start taking the type out why somebody would take and re-crank it back so that it was – so the type was set again and all that of that kerosene would come (psst) up like that and it would come all over you and you’d have black spots all over you. Well that was printer’s lice. Now did you learn something or you knew that?

Terence: I did – no, I had never heard that before. That’s great. So was this Jack something that when he was printing up here in – was this when he was printing the Nenana paper or this was down in Fairbanks?

Coghill: This was down here in Nenana.

Terence: When you were a kid?

Coghill: When I was a kid, because dad then went with W. F. Thompson and W. F. Thompson – William F Thompson they called him Wrong Font Thompson because he was always screwing up the font on the paper. And he always had it messed up. Well he went up to Ridge Top, which is now up on the highway just – Fox, where the roadhouse is, well just down the hill from that is where Ridge Top was. Well that was when the railroad – when the Tanana Railroad went from Fairbanks to Chena and up through the Goldstream Valley up to Fox. And they had a paper at Ridge Top because then it served all of the different creeks. Dad went up there for one year. And then when that was over with why he moved back to Fairbanks and that is when he bought the one-cylinder Brush car.

Terence: Well tell us about that. It was – how many cars were in Fairbanks before that?

Coghill: Three. Bobby Sheldon’s car that he built himself and a fellow – oh, what was his name? The fellow that had a dredge going out to Salcha. I want to say Briggs, but I don’t think that’s right. But anyway dad had a race with him one time. They raced and that is when dad broke the axle on his car and said that’s enough of that foolishness. I’m not going to do that any more. He bought that one-cylinder Brush in 1909. In 1910 he bought his second car, which was a Model T, which was much better because when he – I got to back up a little bit because what Thompson and the printers – the Swarthout said Coghill: if you want to come back.

He said I don’t want to go back into the print shop. He says I want to do something else. He says well so he offered him 300 subscriptions, he said you go and sell 300 subscriptions at Ester Creek and at Berry and at Chena, I’ll give you 300, but you got to sell 300 first. Well he went out and sold the 300 and actually sold all 600.

And that gave him enough money to buy himself a horse and a buggy. And I have a picture of dad and his horse and his sleigh. Cause he was then starting his tour of being an express service between Fairbanks and the creeks. And that is when he bought the one-cylinder Brush. Found that it was not heavy enough or not scucom enough to get over the hill at College. So what he’d have to do he’d always offer somebody a free ride to the creeks but they had to get out and push him over the hill at College.

And when he got the Model T why then he didn’t have to have that push, so that’s when his revenue got a little bit better. And of course dad followed that and created quite a following in merchandising. And Bob Bloom, who had the haberdashery store in Fairbanks became a good friend of dad’s and they – and he was one of dad’s suppliers for all the stuff that he’d take. That’s how he kind of got into the merchandising business.

So in 1912 when the railroad decided that they were going to build the railroad from Seward to Fairbanks instead of from Valdez to Fairbanks. And you probably know the whole background of that where the Guggenheims lost the election in 1912 and the Democrats took over and McKinley said well we’re not going to build the railroad from Cordova through Chitna –

Terence: And give it to the Guggenheims, that’s right, yeah.

Coghill: Into Fairbanks because we’re not going to honor the people that didn’t support us. So they built – they bought the railroad from Seward. There was a railroad that was starting from Seward to Portage and they bought that and then the next thing you know why they shipped up all of the equipment from the Panama Canal and they brought it up the Tanana River to a place called Tokanishna, which was the beginning of Nenana. And they put all of the equipment off here at the mouth of the Nenana River and started pushing the railroad from the Tanana River watershed south through the canyon and that is how Nenana got started.

Well that and the boom city and of course dad started a haberdashery down here with a fellow by the name of Gus Lashore and bought him out the next year, but Gus – dad – so 1916 dad opened the store in the spring of 1916 and we have had it going ever since. We are the oldest family-owned store and general mercantile store in Alaska today.

Terence: Now Jack was that and the store basically was the center of town in a way wasn’t it. I mean that’s the store – cause you had like the roadhouse and all that stuff right. I mean didn’t the store support other things too.

Coghill: Well, yeah, (inaudible) at that time Nenana was the northern terminus. So the roundhouse was here. The commissary was here. The dormitory was here. In fact, there was a general hospital here that was all owned and operated by the railroad. And we had six, eight commission houses where all of the different superintendent of the railroad lived and all of that. In fact, there is still several of those buildings still in Nenana. They’ve been moved from where the railroad used to be – the railroad houses used to be. In fact, when you came over the bridge, the highway bridge, and down the embankment right over here right behind the lodge is where the railroad commission houses used to be.

Terence: And are any of them – the ones that they built they’re still standing somewhere around town?

Coghill: Yes.

Terence: Maybe one thing we could do later on is just drive around town – if you see one, we can just film or something.

Coghill: Sure, sure. The one because my dad when Nels Peterson, who was my wife’s grandfather, when he retired from the railroad in 1937, he sold his house, his commission house, to dad because we had lost everything in the fire. This block that we’re sitting in right now burned to the ground in October 3rd of 1936. It was one of those nice windy Nenana days. The grease trap in the bakery, which was Dutch Rodekite’s terminal café, and it got away from him and the wind and it just burned the whole block in a matter of hours. And so we were – and we lived above the store. So we lost our home and lost everything. Dad, the next year why we moved into a railroad house down on the commission row for the winter and next year why we bought Nels Peterson’s. And that was a long association with his family because I remember pulling Frances’ hair when she was just about five years old and she always thought that we were rough boys in Nenana you know. And so after the war when I got out of the service, I met Frances at one of the school dances in Fairbanks and two years later we were married and 55 years later why – I got out of that marriage why we had six children, we got 24 grandchildren and now at the last count I think it was 18 great grandchildren. So we are helping populate the state.

Terence: You’re doing your share. You did your share.

Coghill: But this building that we are sitting in right here is when Frannie and I – when we were – our family was growing and I went – I won the ice pool in 1951. I won $18,000. That’s a lot of money in those days. And so what we did was we decided well there was not a good roadhouse or a good hotel in Nenana so I bought a sawmill. And we bought a sawmill and I think we paid $1,800 for it. And we shipped it in and we set it up right here next to where dad’s old store was where the place had burned down. And yarded all of these logs in from Poggie Slough, which was six miles up the river and set them in here and we three sided all of the logs, set them up, let them dry for a year and so we poured the cement foundation.

I went into Fairbanks and George Cooper had the gravel – sand and gravel thing out there just north of Ladd Field. And I bought a carload of cement from him and we brought it in here and we hand mixed all of the cement for the foundation of this building and it is still just as solid as can be so.

Then we had a roadhouse. We had 20 rooms, had this apartment (clock) and eventually why we had a restaurant on Front.

Terence: How many – say that again Jack, how many rooms did you have in this roadhouse?

Coghill: Twenty. Twenty rooms. We had 20 rooms and the apartment. And as things changed why we reconstructed it two or three times. The one time what we did was that it was after the flood in 194 –

Terence: Eight.

Coghill: Eight, 1948, the first flood. You see that’s why our elevation of our building is as high as it was because we took and figured that was the 100-year flood. It wasn’t. It was the ‘68 flood that was a 100 year flood.

Terence: Or ’67 flood.

Coghill: ’67 flood. And the ’67 flood right now the height of the flood is about here in this building. Well after the flood Frances said I’m not going back into the roadhouse. So we bought a trailer. We set it up out on the hill south of Nenana, sand dune, that we had purchased about two years before and decided well now is the time to build a house up there. And we built a home out there. That is where we raised the kids and we changed this into six apartments. And then as the world turns and as things evolve why now I’ve got the state court system in the front end of the apartment where the dining room and the kitchen and the lobby used to be. We have over on the north side we have a hairdresser outfit and we have an apartment and we have a Laundromat.

And then over on this side we have part of the judge’s chambers and my little apartment. And I decided that after Frannie had died why I’d sell the house at North Pole and move back here. And when I refurnished this apartment after it had been rented for years and years and years and years. I spent more money redoing this apartment than it cost me to build the whole bloody building in the first place. But that shows you how things. But I’m comfortable here and it is a nice place and I got lots of books and I just really don’t have the space that I wish that I did have, but I’ll do. It’ll do. It’ll work.

Terence: That keeps the amount of junk down a little bit when you don’t have too much space you know.

Coghill: Well yeah and what I did was that – so I had a 20 foot cono box and when I started moving well I said I need to have another cono box so I bought a 40 foot cono box and by golly I filled that up too. So I’ve got plenty of storage space.

Terence: Jack, let’s talk a little bit about how are we on time boys? Are we okay? The tape?

Terence: Okay. Jack, so tell me a little about when you were born and your brothers and sisters and stuff like that.

Coghill: Well I was born in 1925. Bob was born in 1924 and Bill was born in 1923. Dad went over – dad corresponded with mother all that time and after World – and the only reason why she didn’t come over here in 1912 or 1913 was because of World War I. And they couldn’t get – couldn’t leave Europe or England.

Terence: All right so he started corre – met her when she was 12, is that right?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: Yeah when he was down in Wales or the south of England.

Coghill: That’s right.

Terence: And then – so when did she finally – and he corresponded with her since the time she was 12?

Coghill: That’s right. And they – and he said well I’ll go to New York if you’ll come to New York and I’ll marry you. And Grandpa Fortune said if Winnie, that was her name, if Winnie is worth having you got to come get her. So over to England he went and he had a fellow by the name of Walt Tieland. Walt Tieland was working for the Alaska Railroad here and he was just a young fellow and dad taught him everything that was necessary to run the store.

And he headed over for England and they were married. He went over there in December of 1918 and they were married in June the 18th, 1919. And it took them a month and a half to come back. They came back via the Canadian Railroad and up to Skagway and up to Whitehorse and down the Yukon River and up the Tanana River. It was because there was no railroad at that time. That’s the only way they could get other than to take a ship all the way around from and so they – we had a sister that was born in 1921 and she passed away with the flu and then Bill came along in July of ’23, Bob came along in August of ’24, and I came along in September of ’25. Bang, bang, bang. And three of us boys and we were raised right here in the store. We – all of us went to high school here. Bill went to the University of Alaska and Bob went to the University and I went in the Army.

And when we got out of the service why I was going to head for school and my father passed away and so Bob and I started to run the store and we’re still partners in the store and we still got it. Still got it running and my brother passed away several years ago.

Terence: Now that was Bill passed away several –

Coghill: No Bob.

Terence: Bob did, okay, yeah.

Coghill: Bob passed away and his daughter now is our manager of the store. I – because of families and all the rest of it why my interest in the commerce was that I started what we call Nenana Fuel Company. It was a Union auto distributor and I started that in 1957 and ran it up until 1988.

Terence: Where did you distribute oil? Are we okay on time?

– Break –

Terence: Okay. You want to stop that one then? Yeah, the big experts are the people who never do anything. That’s what I’ve found in life you know. You want an expert opinion ask somebody who has never accomplished anything.

Coghill: Or never tried to do anything.

Terence: Exactly, yeah. Let’s see what were we talking about – we were talking about when you were born. You were born in 1925 and then you went to the Army. What year was that? What year did you enlist?

Coghill: I was drafted.

Terence: Drafted, excuse me. That’s right. Yeah, it would have the war.

Coghill: ’43.

Terence: Okay. So right when you were 18 basically.

Coghill: 18 or 19. There was Al Wright, Bob Hopbreck, Bill Burke, a whole bunch of us kids and we did our basic in Anchorage. In fact, when we got done with our basic in Anchorage why they shipped us off to Whittier to be a port battalion and from there why some of them wanted to go on to other things and Major Wakefield, who was from Kodiak knew my dad and he asked me if I was a Coghill: from Nenana and I said yeah. And they associated through the Masons.

And he said well I’m going to get you to go into the Tanana River and because that was when they were shipping all of the barrels down – barrels of fuel for the lend lease to Galena and they were rafting it from Nenana down the Tanana River and they were going to a slough just below Tanana. And that is where they would gather the single rafts from the Tanana and they’d bundle them up into several big rafts. And then the people would float them down from there to Galena on the Yukon River.

And so was taken – I was a supply clerk in Whittier and they said well we’re going to ship you off. So they shipped me off to Galena and I landed in Galena in a Norseman. And the flood had come and I taxied up to the second story of the hangar and they said well there’s no more lend lease coming through Galena. So what are you going to do with this?

So they shipped me off to Nome and from Nome I went up to Project Nan and from Project Nan they shipped me back to Nenana. And Major Wakefield says well I guess we’ll just have to keep you here until we close the river season. So from July until September why I was in charge of the PX here. And then when they got done with that why Major Wakefield says well now you’re going to pay for your being stationed home. They sent me off to Adak. And I was on the Aleutians Islands and die the rest of my service there and came back and got out of the service in ’46.

Terence: Did – so you ran the PX Jack up here in Nenana or down in Whittier?

Coghill: Here.

Terence: In Nenana, oh my gosh, that was something, wow. But so what was it like out at Adak? What was the – everything had been pretty much cleared up by then, right? It was just –

Coghill: Oh, no, it was booming, yeah.

Terence: Was it?

Coghill: Yeah, and I was – they sent me down there and by the time I got there I was a staff sergeant and so I was the head of the motor pool that we had. And we had jitneys, which are little tractors that they use on the dock. And the big push for building Adak had been over with, but – and that’s where I met George Sullivan.

George Sullivan was the first sergeant for the engineering company. And he used to get all of his transportation needs from our transportation company. So I got to know him real well down there, argued with him. When I heard he was going to be assigned to the US Marshal to Nenana, I thought oh man I’m in trouble now. And we became very good friends.

Terence: Yeah, because he ws born in Valdez. Was he born in Valdez, right?

Coghill: He was in Valdez. Uh-huh. Yeah, I met him the first time before we were in the service in Fairbanks at one of the basketball tournaments that they had up there. And we didn’t have enough to have a team, but we’d go in and scream and holler at the old gym there in the Main School in Fairbanks. Yeah. And so George was here I guess from ’48 through ’54, something like that and then he went to work for Alaska Freightlines.

Terence: Jack, tell me when you were a kid did you ever go to Fairbanks much. I mean what was Fairbanks like for a kid growing up in Nenana?

Coghill: Oh, it was going to the big town. I mean you’d get on the railroad. The only way you could there was by railroad and we used – the thing that we always looked forward to was the Fairbanks Winter Carnival. You know they didn’t have Golden Days in those days cause everybody was working on the mine. And you see you got to remember that prior to 1939 Fairbanks or Alaska was basically a natural resource development type country. It was not military. It wasn’t until ’39 when they started building the – actually they didn’t it – well they called it Ladd Field, but Ladd Field was not necessary a military base. It was a coal weather test station. And from there why it developed into what it is today.

But, yeah, as a kid we used to go into Fairbanks and that was like going up town you know. And of course we stayed at the old Pioneer Hotel on the Chena River and it was – got to know all of us wild kids from Nenana.

We’d go in and then of course Mr. Oldroyd, who was the extension service guy at the University of Alaska Extension Service out the University Farm was the head of the 4H Program and we became members of the 4H Club. And we’d go in Fairbanks. They’d take us into Fairbanks and we’d go out there and bivwack. In fact I remember one year living in the Hess Hall in the basement of the Hess Hall for a week and a half when we had a 4-H rendezvous. And all of the kids from the Matanuska Colony were all in Fairbanks, and we from Nenana. A lot of that stuff has gone by the wayside now.

Terence: So, but it might be only a couple times a year. I mean it wasn’t a regular thing going down there, right, I mean?

Coghill: Oh, in Fairbanks, oh no, no. We’d maybe make one or two trips and that was it. Everything was pretty much self-sufficient here at that time. Of course you had – you didn’t go in and do any shopping sprees or anything like that. I mean it was you’d go in because of an event. The winter carnival and they had the dog races and stuff like that and then you had – you’d go in for 4-H roundup or something like that.

But most of our time was spent providing our own entertainment. We have a fish creek out the railroad out here at Milepost 408 which we’d walk out to all the time, then do all of our fishing and Grayling fishing and the recreation that we did.

Terence: But it was – when you were growing up Nenana was a little town, wasn’t it? I mean it was pretty small I mean –

Coghill: It was a small town, but it was a compact town. It was more compact than it is today. Today because of the highway and people will jump in their car and in an hour they can be go in and go to a movie.

One of my first businesses that I had here was I owned the Northland Theater. And when I was just in school why Mr. Fisk, who had bought the machinery from a guy by the name of Gross, whose brother had the theaters in Juneau I believe. And he had a movie house here and he had a movie house in Talkeetna, two or three places and he’d bounce back and forth and bring these films in. They were pretty scratchy and everything, but. So Mr. Fisk bought it out and he was a schoolteacher. Then he went to the FAA in 1939 when they – so I bought the equipment. My dad financed me and it took me about four years. I never seen a penny of the take. My mom was the doorkeeper and I ran the theater until by golly I had her all paid off. And then I had a few pennies in my pocket. And then my brother Bob could see that I was making some money so then he talked me into putting him as a partner and we ran the theater oh up until television became pretty prevailing in the first part of the 60’s.

Terence: Did you guys sell popcorn and stuff like that?

Coghill: We had a popcorn machine and of course that made the janitorial service rather easy because the more popcorn you sold the easier it was to sweep it out. Because you know you’d put plenty of imitation butter. It wasn’t butter. It was I forget what they called it. It was coconut oil is what it was. It made popcorn look yellow like if there was lots of butter on it. Get a lot of salt on it you know and then we’d sell pop and stuff like that. And we had the one machine and after we paid off the machine with dad, then I bought the second Bell and Howell. So then we had continuous movie, but when we only had the one machine why then we’d have an intermission in the middle when we’d have 15 minutes and that is when popcorn, you know, and all of the rest of it.

It was interesting, but it was part of the opportunity of a young person raised in a small community.

Terence: Which building was that in, Jack, which one?

Coghill:: That was in the old Pioneer, well it originated in the Northland Theater was in a old theater building which was that Warren Thompson had next to his drug store. And I did that in the summertime, but in the wintertime you just couldn’t heat that old building cause there was no insulation or anything in it. So we then leased the Pioneer Hall and we’d have movies in there and then we’d have to take all of the equipment out because they used it for other things.

Terence: It is the Pioneer’s of Alaska Hall you mean?

Coghill: Yeah, yeah.

Terence: That still stands, right?

Coghill: No.

Terence: No. Did that burn down or –

Coghill: No, it fell down.

Terence: Oh, is that right, oh yeah.

Coghill: It had – it didn’t – it had all rough lumber trusses in the ceiling and the snow load one winter just collapsed it.

Terence: Took it down, yeah. Do you remember any of the movies that you showed in that thing or what was the first – do you remember the first one or do you remember

Coghill: No. I remember Tom Mix and a lot of cowboy movies and a lot of singing movies with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and Hedy Lamar and I just don’t want to date myself you know.

Terence: That’s right, yeah, yeah. No, that’s great. I didn’t know you ran – I knew Gross, yeah, I mean I know who that guy was so.

Coghill: Yeah. So we ran the theater and it was one of the things that we did and we’d use the equipment in the summertime we’d use the equipment for our PA system when we ran the 4th of July program. In fact, this year I will have done the 4th of July – I started doing the 4th of July program for the kids, announcing, in 1946. I missed one year so this year why it will be something like 55, 56 years that we have been doing it and we have a real program that we put on. We start at 11 o’clock and we finish about four. We have pie-eating contests and we have foot races and everybody gets a quarter. And the thing is that all of these kids and I’ve got third generation people coming and saying do you still give a quarter. And I says you come and you’ll hear me and everybody gets a quarter. And so that way nobody got left out. Cause I can remember when I was a kid and the rail road commission had the 4th of July program and they’d give first and second prize. And it was really a let down for you to go there and not get something so everybody gets a quarter.

Terence: Well, that’s wonderful.

Coghill: And we still do that. So you’re invited to come down, bring your camera crew. Come down the 4th of July. And in fact we even have a beer race for the men.

Terence: What’s the beer race? What’s that?

Coghill: Well we take two or three cases of beer and we set it out on the – down by the railroad station depot and line up the men, 21 and over, and they have to run down. They can scoop up as many beers as they can get. And we do that for the kids. We have potato races and we have three legged races and we have sack races. And when the railroad used to sack up coal and send it down to the Public Health Service Hospital in Tanana, they had a coal stoker. And of course the only way they could get coal was by sacking it up and shipping it down on the barge. And so we’d get all of these old sacks. Well we still got some of those old coal sacks and they’re getting – every year why we get kids will push their foot through two or three more of them. So we’re going to have to find some place where we can get some good gunnysacks, put the kids in them. We have pie eating contests and the whole thing and it’s something that families enjoy.

Terence: That’s wonderful. Well Jack in a little town like this so you got involved even as a kid in a lot of businesses, running the film – what else did you do as a kid? I mean that was the first business you got involved in?

Coghill: Well that was the first business, but I of course after my dad died why I was in the store for several years and finally we started the propane business. And we shipped propane bottles up and down the river. And that – the Union Oil Company came in and built – Standard Oil was here and Union Oil came in and built a terminal. And the third year why they said would you like to be our consignee distributor. And so I became their consignee distributor in 1957 and I ran that whole fuel business. And of course in ’57 was just right because Clear started in ’59 and I was – then Anderson came into being, Lehora and Browns Cork and several places out around Clear. And of course that just blossomed and I had – when I sold it to Earth Resources why I had 39 employees.

Terence: And did you deliver down the river too?

Coghill: Oh, yeah.

Terence: And – but you never ran like your own boat did you – I mean did you use with Utana or what was –

Coghill: I used Utana and I used Weaver Brothers. Weaver Brothers had what they called Inland River, which was started by Binkley. And I used them and they’d come into town and of course Utana was pretty much connected with Standard. So I was connected pretty much with Weaver Brothers and they would stop day and night, fuel up here and fuel up their barges and got them to buy all the Useral fuel, fuel that came in over the pipeline. They’d truck it down to north Nenana and they’d fill their barges and take it on down to Galena. And so that, along with – I just had a regular trade business.

And what I would do is I followed the same basic principle that I did when I was in the political arena is that in most of your villages you find that the last person in the village with the bubble gum usually got the votes. So I was the last person in the village with bubble gum to get their orders for their winter fuel. And I got real good relationship with lots and lots of people.

And I at that time the railroad was in the process of going into the 20-gallon – 20,000 gallon tankers, the bigger ones and getting out of the 10,000 gallon. So I would buy the 10,000 tankers, because they were real heavy steel. I’d bring them in here to Nenana and I cut the wheels off of them and put them on skids and we’d skid them down and put them in. In fact there are several villages who have still got tank farms of oil Alaska Railroad 10,000 tankers as their storage facilities.

Terence: Did you skid those down on the ice or how did you do that?

Coghill: No we put them right on the barges.

Terence: Oh, on the barge in the summertime.

Coghill: We built – we had the fellows over here at north Nenana and they built wooden skids for us and we’d take them off and put them on wooden skids or regular and they would last until such time as – in other words you got tankers in place and everything and now you go down there you’ll see that they’ve got them concrete blocks or something or other that they have them on foundation because the wooden skids have all deteriorated.

Terence: So Jack when your dad died in 1946, right?

Coghill: ’48.

Terence: ’48. And so –

Coghill: No, ’46, ’47.

Terence: ’47. Now you had been planning on going to go to college basically?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: And that kind of derailed that – because somebody had to take over the business?

Coghill: That’s right. In fact I was on my way to college in Washington State when my dad passed away and I turned around and came back. And so we, both Bob and I that took care of any higher education, so we became both of us became colleges of the hard knocks. And it has done me well. I mean I can’t you know I can’t complain. I served a good number of years as the territorial and state legislator and –

Terence: Did you ever get an honorary degree from the University?

Coghill: It is coming at me in May.

Terence: Is it, oh good, okay.

Coghill: I’m going to be – I’ll have an honorary doctorate in May of this year.

Terence: Well that’s wonderful, yeah, that’s a great honor.

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: Did – so you came to take over the store. I mean was your – before we get that, was your dad sort of an easy guy cause you know sometimes it is difficult with fathers and sons you know? How was that working with you?

Coghill: Oh, dad was a hard taskmaster. I mean he was a Scot. And you could always tell when his patience was – when his patience was taxed why he started rolling his R’s and when he started rolling his R’s why you knew that you were in deep, deep trouble.

Terence: What’s that sound like when he rolls his R’s, what do you mean?

Coghill: R – and he was – but he was a kind man, but he was firm. I mean everything was black and white with him. And he didn’t you know if you – we all had our chores in the store. We all had to put coal into the basement or wood into the basement. We all had to stock shelves. We all had to do and when we got into trouble, which I did several times. One time we at Halloween why we went up to the railroad Marine Ways, which is up there by the bridge and we stole a couple 35 pound pails of wax grease that they put on the track – the ways to pull the ships up. And we went up and we greased the track. And the coal train the next day couldn’t get up over the bridge. And Jim Hagen was the marshal and we could hear this train chug, chug, chug, chug, urrrrr – and they finally had to send another train and a flatcar with a boiler on it to come down and steam the track.

So Jim Hagen, he come into the – in the afternoon to the schoolhouse and of course this was the old Franklin Kaleen School. It was a two-story building.

Terence: Is that building still there – that’s not still there is it?

Coghill: No, no. I’ve got pictures of it, but part of the foundation is under that porch but –

Terence: Right here, is that right?

Coghill: Right under that porch.

Terence: Oh, yeah.

Coghill: Pillars that were and got four of them when we tore the building down. But he come and he says that any of you lads know anything about how the grease got on the tracks on the bridge? Everybody’s halo was out, no, no, nobody knows anything. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a pair of gloves and he says whose gloves are these? And somebody says those are mine. Full of grease. Second pair of gloves he pulled out were mine. Whose gloves are these? Oh, God, mine. We all got restricted. But because everybody, all the kids in the school knew about it why they took their lumps on it, but – so don’t grease tracks, especially when a coal train is trying to get to Fairbanks.

Terence: That’s so funny, oh God.

Coghill: Bunch of mischief. I mean stuff like that I mean – you’d think that was a Tom Sawyer type story, but we –

Terence: So the R’s were rolling that day.

Coghill: Oh, boy were they rolling. And of course the superintendent he told us all that he was going to put us in the custody of our family and oh, man, guess who got the chores for the next three weeks all by himself. My two brothers got off Scot-free. And they thought that was great and I would have to get up and go do this. And I’d have to sweep the store floor and I had to do all of those things, but you know when you play like that I guess you got to take the consequences. And out of all of that came a good lesson as you grew up and of course when I raised my family of four boys and two girls why I always remembered when they got into trouble I always remembered that. Well now if I were that age when I was that age what was I doing? So you know taking cans and putting rocks in them and throwing up on the superintendent’s roof in the middle of the night you know so bang, bang, bang and stuff like that. Creative but it was good fun.

Terence: Did that make it easier you know were you easier on your kids as a result of that, Jack, your own kids, or harder? What would you say?

Coghill: It all depends. If you talk to them, they’d say it was hard. I thought I was pretty easy with them.

Terence: Especially compared to your dad?

Coghill: Yeah, well, yeah, I mean he was raised from the old school you know. And you know I remember my mom standing in the doorway several times saying don’t you go hit him. Don’t you go hit him. But that I mean I think that the old-timers in those days – back in the 20’s and the 30’s you know – see I was raised in the 20’s and the 30’s, different. Different than it is today. And of course we didn’t have electricity. We had – our power plant would go off at midnight and would start up in the wintertime, start up at six in the morning. But he didn’t run that old Henry Kaiser, he didn’t run the power plant. It was a one-cylinder Fairbanks Morse and it blew big smoke rings. And you could tell that because the exciter on that – on his system was that it struck every third piston stroke and so the lights would go – just constantly had a little grip to it until that was all – after the war why of course they put in regular diesel engine caps and stuff like that.

Terence: When you were a little kid –

– Break –

Terence: Well Jack you had mentioned that as a kid you didn’t have electricity. When was it would go off at midnight, was that now before the war? What was that situation?

Coghill: The Alaska Railroad had built this town. Nenana was an Alaska Railroad town and they had the roundhouse here and they had the commissary and they had all of the offices and the administrative buildings and they had a hospital and they had a power plant. And of course the power plant was all coal fired. And they brought the coal in from Healy.

Well when they closed all of that down in the early 20’s why a fellow by the name of Henry Kaiser, who was a WAMTTCC, Washington Alaska Military Telegraph and Cable Company. And he had hurt himself and so he, being a veteran, why they financed him and they bought him a diesel one cylinder Fairbanks Morse power plant. I think it was 30 KBW generator on the back of it. He had to heat it with a blowtorch in order to get it going every morning. And he’d heat the top of the structure so that it would vaporize and once it got vaporized why then he had an air compressor. Then he had an air tank that would run the flywheel and got it going. It was a beautiful big flywheel, about that thick and about that wide.

In fact I think at Alaskaland is part of the machine is up there. But it was part of the original electrical stuff that they used and he had that well he’d start it off. And in the wintertime he would start it off at seven o’clock in the morning and he’d run it until midnight. And at midnight he’d give two or three blinks to tell you if you are going stay up later why you better get your kerosene lamp out or your candles because I’m shutting her down.

And of course you didn’t have all of the modern equipment that you have today. You didn’t have coal stokers or electric furnaces or electric motors that drove all of our furnaces. We were coal or wood and everything was stoked that way. Nothing was automatic.

In fact, I know when we moved into the commission house after the ’36 fire, why dad bought a little 5KW generator and he charged up batteries and that is what he used for lights and stuff like that we’d have and at the store because you had to have some kind of lights. You couldn’t have kerosene lamps running around. So you’d have a little battery light, a little night light, and every morning why’d he have to start up the generator to charge up the batteries again. But it then after the war, and of course in those days why –

Terence: Now what about in the summer, Jack, did he run the power plant in the summer at all?

Coghill: No, in the summertime he’d – in the summertime he’d run the power plant from six in the evening until midnight. And on Monday mornings he ran it from seven in the morning until noon. Give the ladies time to get their washing done. And on Thursday he ran from seven in the morning until noon and that’s when you did your ironing. So you did your ironing. So you did your ironing and did your washing according to Kaiser time not according to your own schedule. So that was part – that’s the way that worked in the early days here.

But we were a modern town. You went down the river to Tanana or you went down to Ruby and places like that they didn’t have that. It was all log cabins and stuff like that. So you know a lot of the convenience that you and I nowadays are – just take for granted didn’t happen in those days.

Terence: And did anybody – people didn’t have refrigerators though did they? Did you have refrigerators?

Coghill: Icebox. We used to – that’s one of the things that we used to get when we were kids. We used to get five dollars a ton for cutting ice on the Tanana River. We’d go up there right below the Alaska Railroad Bridge and you’d scribe out on the ice and you’d start and you had to be real careful. I mean you’ve have ice tongs and you’d put these big chunks of ice and you’d cut them. You saw down the line this way and then all you used was a slick. A slick is a big chisel. It’s a wooden what they call the old-timers call slicks that they made and that is how they would level off a log when they were making a log cabin or something and they had these big chisels and they were slicks. And you’d take that slick and you’d pop it and it would bust the ice. Take it and you’d pull it out of the river. You’d push it down about three times until you got momentum going and then you’d pull them right up and get on the ice. And we’d get $5 a ton. And they estimated the tons and I know darn well that they were always cheating us but the thing is that we still got $5 a ton. And you’d say well I got five tons out of the ice out there, got $25 worth. $25 in the 30’s was pretty good money.

But that didn’t last very long. So what they would do is that Billy Heinz and George Hubbreck had an icehouse. And the railroad had an icehouse. And an icehouse was a building that was insulated with sawdust and you’d stick the ice in there and then they would put layers of sawdust on top of it and that would hold it all summer long. In fact we used to go in in the middle of the summer and be able to get a piece of ice and take it out and chop it up and make ice cream. But you didn’t have ice machines or stuff like that, but all of that was stuff that you learned how to do.

Terence: Did – was – did George Heinz did they have like a little horse drawn car or how did they deliver it around town?

Coghill: Yeah, they had a little, well they had two or three and they had two Model A’s and they had a regular winch jack on the back of the car where they would lift the ice up and then they’d take it around to places people that had iceboxes and you’d get a chunk of ice and they’d chisel it off right there from the front.

Terence: What did you do with the ice? Was the icebox outside or in the ground?

Coghill: Inside.

Terence: Was it inside and so what did you do then? You’d just stuck the ice in the box?

Coghill: Stuff the ice in the box. It is just a regular refrigerator instead of the freezer being on the top, why that was where you stuck the ice and that kept the rest of the box cool. And we had two different services in those days. We had a guy by the name of Bill Elwell, who was Turd Head Bill because he had – he was the guy that went around collecting the honey do buckets out of the – and you didn’t have flush toilets and stuff like that. So behind every house in town you couldn’t dig a hole and have it like you did out where you didn’t have the population you’d have. So he would come up to an outhouse and he’d bang on the thing like that and if somebody didn’t holler why then he’d open up the trap door and pull out the bucket and take it to his horse – and dump in his barrel and put the bucket back.

Terence: And so what did they call him?

Coghill: What did they call him?

Terence: Yeah, yeah. You said – what was his nickname?

Coghill: His name was Bill Elwell. You would call him Horse Shit Bill cause you could smell him coming. He was the Honey Do Wagon.

Terence: But he is also the guy who delivered the ice too though?

Coghill: Yeah. He helped Bill Heinz and George Hubbreck deliver the ice. So you had to make damn sure that he had the right wagon when he was delivering the ice. So, but in those days you know they had – that was when we were a five horse town. We had Nels Anderson, Con Peterson, Tommy Jones, and Bill Herman – all had horse teams here and of course in those days the main thrust of heat was wood and they’d go up an cut wood and haul it in and of course you had – when you had horses why you’d have to have hay and it was kind of a self-sustaining type business.

But until the automobile came along and of course most of your automobiles – my dad always had a Model T and he had a Model T with a Rucksell gear, which was the first shifting gears that they had and he used to haul coal, was a coal agent here with the store for Healy Coal Company. But it was a novelty, because you (inaudible) on gasoline. You didn’t go to a gas station.

In fact out in my yard is a gas pump where you pumped up the five gallons to the ten gallons in the dome and then you opened the nozzle. That used to be behind our store and I’ve got it now. It is not hooked up or anything. It is just out there because it reminds you of what used to be. And I used that for a long time, a lot of years. In fact, old Cy Heathington had it down there in Manley Hot Springs for several years. Used those things to dispense this stuff and of course in the early days you didn’t have all of that. When I was a kid we used to get five drums of gasoline from the Standard Oil Company in Fairbanks and then ship them down. We’d get 55-gallon drums and they were all – it was real heavy duty galvanized barrels with rims around them and roll them in. In fact I have one of them as a water barrel I managed to hang onto. Had – the thing is we’d – the people would come up with their motors and of course in those days you didn’t have outboard motors. You had one cylinder putt-putts in the inboards. And they’d come up from Minto and from Tolovana and we’d siphon off gasoline into their five-gallon cans and they’d take them back to their boats.

Terence: But the motor boats were pretty early right I mean they – the little tiny with the little putt-putts, right, wasn’t that even in the 20’s didn’t they have it back then, I don’t know?

Coghill: Yeah, they had little putt-putts, but in those days it was just like dad’s car in Fairbanks was called Coggie’s Benzine Buggy because in those days it wasn’t called gasoline. It was called Benzine. That was the nomenclature for gas in those days.

Terence: And so when your dad had the car here was he the only guy in town with a car too, I mean in Nenana?

Coghill: No, when he had his car –

Terence: First one here in Nenana?

Coghill: Yeah, when he had his car here Al Gazzi’s dad had a haberdashery here, he had a car. George Hubbreck had two Model A’s. Dad had his two Model T’s. He had a Model T Runabout and then the truck that he bought for delivering coal. And it had – the Model T’s had a wishbone in the front. And the front part of the axle was held against the engine at the back side of the engine with a T like this that came out to where the spring was and the spring was not this way on the – the spring was this way. The spring was from wheel to wheel on the axle not part of and so the wishbone. And when that cup that held that wishbone in would break, why the front axles would go (swish) up like that. And I know that happened a couple of times and dad would always say I’m going too fast. You’re going too fast.

So you’d have to go in there and jack the thing up and put that cup back. And it had two bolts held it on right in front of the bands. You know in the early days those engines didn’t have gears. They had bands. And when you wanted to go into low why you pressed the one – there were three pedals on the floor. One was for low. One was for high and the middle one was for reverse. And if you wanted – when you went you held your foot on that pedal because that kept the band around the flywheel that would drive the axle when you left it up, why then there wasn’t any drive to the back wheels and so that was that if you did it too much why you’d burn the bands up. So you always used horse webbing. The webbing that they use for making horse harnesses and that is what you’d line the bands with. Every now and then why you’d have to take and put a new band on. So everything was self-sufficient you know. Just like – in the early days if you didn’t go to the store and buy a new part. You went to the local machine shop and had them cast one. And they’d have these bellows you know and the fellow’s name was Jack McClain that had the old machine shop here. In fact, I bought it from his estate after he died and we messed with it for a while and that is where we got the garage and then we made it into a fire hall and that goes on as a whole other story.

Terence: Well you know Jack, one thing that’s one more thing about the ice before we’re done with that talking about politics a little bit. But what ice in the store. I mean what about perishables and stuff and then how did the stuff from the store come in? Did it come in by boat or by train? How did you – how did your dad get the stuff for the store?

Coghill: Dad would get – we had a basement in the bottom of the store, in the old store that burned. We had a full basement. And what he’d do is he’d get a carload of groceries in October and that would last him until spring and if he needed other things why West Coast Grocery had a store in Fairbanks and that store is where that Pizza Parlor is now on the corner – Samson Hardware.

Terence: Oh, across from the News-Miner, yeah.

Coghill: Across from the News-Miner that used to be the old West Coast Grocery Store. And they would bring stuff in and dad would bring in once a week he would bring in perishables on the Alaska Railroad. It would come up by steamboat to Seward and then on the passenger train that would leave Seward on Tuesday – no, Saturday morning, go to Curry and it stayed overnight at Curry the next day and they would have what they called the express car. Wasn’t the baggage car, it was the express car. And it had a stove in it. It had a charcoal burning type stove.

And what they’d do is when they got to Curry they’d stick it into the roundhouse and keep it warm and that’s how they got the perishables from Seward – from Seattle to come up five days on the boat and then two days it’d have to come and they’d stop here and the next day it would stop here about seven o’clock in the night. And we’d have to go down with our sled and pick up how many boxes or whatever it was that he would have. And we’d get fruit and you’d get vegetables and stuff like that. That’s how we’d get.

Terence: Eggs. Would you get eggs or –

Coghill: Well, no eggs that’s another story. What dad would do right after the fire yes, but during when I was a kid one of my first jobs – well, second job. My first job was counting muskrats. And dad would – because you know I remember that in those days why everything was barter. Up until 1939 dad’s general store was 95% barter. I mean the cash register would only probably ring in maybe $20 a day because it was only the floaters, the people that worked for the railroad that came by that had any money.

Terence: The guys with jobs?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: Yeah, with cash jobs, yeah, right.

Coghill: These people were all trappers you know. And dad would buy their furs. Then he’d buy their furs and it was – he had four methods. He’d say all trade, highest price. Half cash – half trade. Next price. All cash a little bit lower. And then he’d say or I’ll give you an option. I’ll advance you 25% of my value of the fur and I’ll send it out and I’ll consign it for you. The Seattle Fur Exchange or one of the fur exchanges. And most of the people would take half cash – half trade. And so he would always get their trade cause that’s how he – because the NC Company and Northern Commercial Company and those people that would buy furs they didn’t have all of the ability, the flexibility that dad had.

And so I’d get that and he had a fur room. And his fur room was about as big as this living room. And he’d just throw the muskrat skins and he had wire and the foxes, wolves, wolverine, coyotes, lynx would all hang on these wires. And of course different times of the year you had different types of furs. In the fall your first fur catches were ermine, mink, and marten. And of course the long hairs, the fox and stuff like that. Because once the sun started coming up the fox would rub themselves and when they were mating they’d rub against the – and when they did that why then they would destroy their furs.

But Dad would throw all of these things and hang all of these furs and he’d ship them out. But we’d do when I was four years old I used to go into the fur room and I learned to count to five because he had three marks on the floor. He had a mark that size, which was for the smaller muskrats. Cause a muskrat skin is you’d grade the skin from the inside out not from the outside in. Most furs are graded by the primeness of the skin and the mat of the fur. But with a muskrat it is just the prime of the skin. So all your muskrats are always bought inside out with the skin side out. And he had three. So he had three notches in the floor. This was for small, for medium, and this was for large. And you’d sit there and put them in between the lines and if it was one put it over here. Once you got five then you would put another five this way and another five this way, and when you got five bundles of five then you would wrap them up and bundle them. And that’s how I learned to count because not 25 – I mean that too much of a mental thing when you were that young you know. Five’s why and he’d come in every now and then open the fur room door, us three boys would be in there arguing whether that was a medium or a large or you know. And that’s how we learned to grade furs for dad and that’s how we did all that.And then we’d take and he’d bundle them up into gunnysacks and we’d ship them off.

Terence: Now did you have to grade, but muskrats you’re not, because there is no evaluation of the value but with fox and stuff like that your dad would have to figure out what the quality was. Would he judge it that way?

Coghill: Well yeah you’d take a skin and you grabbed it by the nose and you’d grab it under the tail and you whack them like that. And if the guard hair stood up and there wasn’t a dent in it, why that was a good skin. That was a good fur, but if there was a dent in it, why then it had been what we call robbed – not robbed – rubbed. And that would be set off to one side. And you’d always have your quotes that would come in and dad would get them in by telegraph. They would come in on Morse Code at the railroad station and he’s have a quotation for different furs and it was all in code and it was done by Morse Code and so nobody could tell what was going on.

But we had several friends of his who were fur buyers and of course old Sammy Shuckling was one of them. And he was quite a guy. Used to call him Muskrats Johnny. Johnny Shlegler, that was Johnny Shlegler, Muskrat Johnny. And they would come by and they would always promote and have dad sell them their furs. Oh, no, no he says I’ll take my chances at the market because he had five markets that he worked. And he had the New York market, the London market, St. Louis market, San Francisco market, and the Seattle market. And he’d get quotes from each one of them. Bad times in the United States was good times in Europe. And when you had good times, long-haired furs were a lot higher. And so during the depression years when things were slow in the United States, they were good in Russia and in Germany and then England. And the big fur exchange was the London Fur Exchange. Dad would send all of his stuff over there.

Terence: Well your dad must have been quite a haggler when the guys came in with their furs, right? Didn’t he have to sort of – he knew how to bargain I suppose?

Coghill: Oh, bargain, you bet. I mean that is where we all learned the trade from. I mean you didn’t give away anything you know. In fact, one of the things that dad – see when we were growing up here there were not very many white kids in town. So most of our chums – most of kids were Native kids. And so we all knew how to and learn how to understand and speak the Athabascan Pokatan Native language that was here. Well old John Evan, the Chief came to dad one day and says you know the Elders had a big conference and we’d like to have your kids stop talking our language because the Elders kind of think that you’re mimicking them. So dad says knock it off kids. No more talking about – no more talking, but see we all understood it.

So when these people would come in Toklat or from the Wood River or from their trapping lines, why dad would always make sure that one of us went over and listened to them doing their bargaining. And I’d go over and they’d say Alex Fowler is going to give us little bit more than Coggy is going to give us, so maybe we ought to go to Alex Fowler. Alex Fowler is giving us about 50 cents more on the skins. So we’d go back, dad you ought to raise it up 50 cents. So there was always good ways to be able to use your talents.

Terence: Well I think but the whole thing cause with furs is such a – got to know the business right?

Coghill: Oh, that’s right, yeah. You had to know what you were doing. In fact, during the war dad had a whole bunch of mink and martens in the London Fur Exchange and they got froze. I mean the money during all of the assets that were in Britain got froze and you couldn’t get your money out. And dad about $28,000 worth, a lot of money in those days, in the fur market over there and it just wasn’t there until 1949 that finally mother – after dad passed away, why we sent her over there. Sent her over there to visit her folks and to visit all of the people, but to get the money. She come back with the money.

Terence: So –

Terence: Okay. I never heard about prices, right. That’s kind of how you did it.

Coghill: Well in those days you know and in those days the pensioners you know they only got $90 every three months. They didn’t $30 a month. So a lot of the old-timers that I knew in those days you know they’d have on the first of each quarter they would get $90. In January they’d get –

Terence: Yeah, no, no. Where was your dad from? No, no, no. Let me ask you though about the store. That’s a good thing, like you said you could still buy moose skinned out?

Coghill:: Yeah, we can buy it. We sell moose skins, but the only place we get them from – tanned moose skins is from the Peace River country in Canada. You very, very seldom will you get – but what we used to buy moose hides for $40 a skin, now they’re around $900 a skin. And I can take you down there and show you. We have them. And they’re basically smoke hides. They smoke them. And what they use is they use urine to tan the hides with and then they smoke them. We sell that at the store. We sell beaver skins. We sell unborn calves – calf skins so black and white or the brown and white kacker that goes around the mukluk. That’s what that is called is unborn calf. We sell that.

Terence: And what about the Babee? You said that has disappeared.

Coghill: The Babish has disappeared, but Babish is moose hide in the raw, before it’s hung up and stripped and it is just – and then it is put in skeins. And you put it in a skein and you wrap it. And they used to bring that in. We’d buy that. We’d have a whole bin full of Babish. But the mail carriers and the people that were delivering mail why they would be building new sleds and repairing sleds and they always needed Babish. Because what you do is you tie that together with that rawhide and then you’d wet it and once you wet it why when it dried it would – you’d stretch it and get it wet and then you’d stretch it. And when it dried why it would tense up – tension up.

Terence: So it would be real tight and they use that for lashing and stuff.

Coghill: Lashing and putting in the baskets of the sleds and what not.

Terence: Jack, so Nenana really was a central place as far as where the Bush kind of met the modern ways, isn’t that sort of true?

Coghill: Well that’s true you know. When air mail first started in Alaska, Pan Pacific Airways, which was the forerunner of Pan American Airways, got the contract to put –

Terence:Go ahead, Jack, we were talking about –

Coghill: Pan Pacific Airways and they had four or five airplanes stationed on the river here and Millegun and some of the old mail carriers that used to carry mail went to work for Pan Pacific Airways and later for Pan American Airways. And they were all part of that. But that all started right here because we were the fourth class distribution city for the interior and all of the mail that went to McGrath and went to Bethel and went to the old mining camps like Iditarod and Flat were all – all of that stuff central right out of here.

And so I can remember when I was a kid looking out the window and you’d see Mike Coonie going by with two full sleds with maybe 15 dogs heading for Diamond City. Diamond City was the turning point on the Kantishna where the mail carrier from McGrath would meet and that is where they transferred their mail.

So it was a network. In fact, when I was in the senate and we were doing the RS 2477, very, very few people knew all the mail carrier routes and when I introduced that why the federal government almost came unglued because we had trails that went back to 1912 and 1914 where they were hauling mail out of Seward over to Farewell and from Farewell to McGrath and places like that. So all of those trails in fact we have 1300 certified trails on the RS 2477. I don’t know how many they’ve got total as far as actual right-of-ways but right-of-ways I know we have around 115 that have been certified from the old mail trails.

Terence: Yeah, you’re right the trails went everywhere didn’t they?

Coghill: Oh, yeah. In fact, one time I really got the ire of the conservationists when I was making a speech one day and I says when we get all of the RS 2477 trails in Alaska it will be just like a plate of spaghetti. And man I’ll tell you they came unglued. But that’s true because wherever there was the RS 2477 said wherever there was a route where more than two people traveled that became a right-of-way. So it was interesting.

Terence: Before we get into politics one other thing I thought of. When was the first time you went Outside?

Coghill: I went Outside my dad being a Scot my brother Bill was going to turn 12 in 1935, so he says mom you got to take the three boys and take them back to England and show them their relatives. So in 1934, let’s see, I had my ninth birthday in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean going over. And that was in 19 – that would have been in 1934, yeah. So we loaded on and it took us a month and a half to get to England. And what we did we went from here to Seward. Dad went with us down.

We got on one of the old Alaska steamship boats and of course it was in the fall so it was right at salmon season and we stopped at every cannery to fill up the holes with canned salmon. I can remember going in the hall and pulling all of the stuff and putting them in the hole and we finally got a full load and off we went and it was down to Seattle. And then so we stopped there and went up to Vancouver where some of dad’s buddies when he came over from England why – that stayed in Vancouver. And so he – we went up there and that was our first stop.

Then we went from there to a place called Bingingham, New York where we had another rest stop because can you imagine mother taken three of us boys and of course we were not necessarily the most demure. I mean we were full of mischief and we all full of excitement. And you know I’d seen big cities. And we got into the port in Seattle and here was the Smith Tower you know. Gosh what a big place – thing that was. Now you can’t even find it amongst the skyscrapers.

Then we drove – we took the train across the United States – no we took the train across Canada, going over. And then we got on the Majestic, the liner Majestic, and went to South Hampton and spent that whole year traveling around in England.

Terence: Did you sail from New York or from up in Canada?

Coghill: We sailed from New York.

Terence: Well that must have been an experience just getting into New York I mean.

Coghill: Oh, yeah, it was, yeah. Coming back was even worse.

Terence: Before we get to that. You spent a whole year in just in England and Scotland?

Coghill: England and Scotland we spent New Year’s – Christmas and New Year’s in Glasgow. And I remember I had an Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack had a soap factory over in Edinburgh and he said well, how would you like to come visit that factory. He was in Glasgow and I said I am all game. Well none of my two brothers they didn’t want to go. They wanted to stay with mom. So I’ll go with you. True Scot he went up to the station and waited until the train was just getting ready to leave and he said excuse me and he got through the gate and I was right beside him and he got all the way through the gate, got into the last compartment of the car, sat down. Did you buy a ticket? No, no, don’t buy tickets on the train. We got all the way to Edinburgh and we get on the streetcar and he says and he gave the guy and he says well how about the lad. And of course I was nine years old. He’s just a babe in arms, he’s on my lap. So away we went. One of the things that you learned about that was that there was more than one way to skin a cat, huh.

And we spent that whole year we went down and my uncle – my mom’s brother was the general manager of an iron foundry and over in the Cumberlands and we went and spent some time with him. Learned how pig iron was made from – how they loaded all of the material into the top side of a blast furnace and it melted down and melted down. And they’d open up the gate and this molten iron would come out and into the sand and they’d make these tracks in the sand and that is what they called pig iron. And then they’d send it off to another factory.

And we went to Windsor Castle. And I can remember going to the Tower of London and to the Wax Works and several of the things. And then just decided that we would come back.

When we came back we went down to Liverpool and we came across to New York. And when we got to new York why I remember as a kid in this great big warehouse on the wharf. And the custom guy going through mom’s trunks that she had regular wardrobe trunks. And went through and just lifted everything. I mean it was inspected like as if we were some kind of – that was the experience that I had to authority. What are you doing all that for, that’s our stuff you know? But yeah we came across the United States by train and Seattle and Sammy Shuckling, one of dad’s friends and one of the salesmen was there and took us around and took us up to the Tower.

Oh, when we were in New York we went up to the skyscraper or the top of the Empire State Building, put our initials up on something. I’m sure that those initials are not there. It has probably been scraped off a dozen times since then.

Terence: Yeah, that’s when it just opened.

Coghill: Yeah, just opened, barely opened. And you went up so many floors and then you had to get off and go to another layer and then you went up so many more floors and then you went over to another elevator and went up and it was brand new, yeah.

Terence: So that must have been something for a kid from Nenana to spend a year over there?

Coghill: Oh, yeah.

Terence: I mean were you hesitant about this at first or excited about going? I mean what did you think, you guys think?

Coghill: Oh, yeah, no, we were really excited. I mean going over there, plus the fact is that you see when we left here of course in Alaska you didn’t wear knickers. You didn’t wear short trousers like they did over in England. So when we got over there, why here we were three foreigners from Alaska wearing long trousers you know. And people looking at us you know. A kid, until you’re out of school, why you didn’t wear – you always wore knickers or shorts you know. That was one of the things that kind of set us aside. And of course there was – they wouldn’t let us go to school over there so Grandpa Fortune was our schoolmarm, schoolteacher and we had certain lessons and mom had gotten a lesson books and stuff from the school here so that we didn’t lose a full year, but it was interesting.

Terence: But that’s pretty great too, yeah you got to go out of school for a year.

Coghill: Yeah, oh that was one part of it you know and yeah we had a good time.

Terence: Jack, I should ask you about the – what about the school here as a kid? Where was the school and what was the school like?

Coghill: Well the school was a Franklin Kaleen School and Franklin Kaleen was the Secretary of Interior for the United States when the railroad was built, when Wilson – when they built the railroad he was the Secretary of Interior and that is what they called it. The name was named after him.

It was a three-room school, had first, second, third, and fourth grades in one room. Fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth in another room. High school downstairs in another room. I think that at that time the high school, I could show you a picture, I think there are pictures of the high school. There was seven kids in high school.

I think that – you see you got to remember Terrence in those days about, only about eight percent of Alaskans were married. Most of the people in Alaska were bachelors. Most of the working force were people that didn’t have a family, hadn’t settled down. They were people that were shooting for their fortune in mining or they were up here Gandy dancers or they were you know they sent their money back home because this was the North Country. It was harsh you know. So population and school here was –

– Break –

Coghill: We had maybe 55 kids in it. Fairbanks was probably about the same way you know. You got pictures of the old Main School. Before Main was built, before the concrete building was built when it burned down and they had – they replaced it. When they replaced it they replaced it with a concrete building. In fact it is still standing. Still serves as the borough –

Terence: City Hall.

Coghill: City Hall.

Terence: So would you characterize yourself as a good student, mediocre, horrible?

Coghill: Horrible.

Terence: What’s that Jack?

Coghill: Horrible. I was a horrible student. I’d until, until it took off, until it made sense that it was my advantage to learn. Before that why -why should I learn when I was counting furs or why should I learn when I was hauling ice or why should I learn when you know it was hard. And the teachers in those days are three teachers you know. The teacher for the four grades so you’ll really didn’t have too much and I had a hard time in reading. I wasn’t dyslexic but I was almost you know. And so – but I got off of that about when I was about in the seventh grade. Then I figured well I guess I better get the Scot blood of mine going in the right direction and so then it turned – kind of turned around. I guess that’s probably true with a lot of people how that works.

Terence: Well and so here you are you come back you’re running the store. Your dad had died and you had started a family. When did you and Francine get married? What year did you guys get married?

Coghill: Frances and I got married in 1948.

Terence: ’48.

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: So you had just been running the store.

Coghill: I was in the store and running the theater and I was one of the things that I had learned to do early on when I was a kid was develop film and I had at the store why we had where people would bring in their roll of film and three days later I’d give them their prints. Down in the basement of the family home I had a dark room and I’d do that. And dad also had at one time had selling newspapers on the train when the train would stop. And when they had to back up to get water, when the old 600 series automotives were on the railroad they couldn’t get from Healy to Fairbanks on one shot of water. So they’d stop and I could get on the train and I could sell newspaper while they backed down and got water and then they came back to the station.

Terence: Would that be the News-Miner or what would you be selling? What newspapers – Outside ones or?

Coghill: Outside ones, yeah, yeah. And because the News-Miner wouldn’t come down until the next day you know, come down in the mail. So it wasn’t the News-Miner, although I have sold News-Miners on the streets in Fairbanks when Bill Berry and some of the kids up in the 40’s just before I went in the service were friends of mine that I had met during 4-H Clubs or 4-H roundups, why’d we go to Fairbanks. And what’d we do is we’d get on the streets and of course they had regular delivery routes and then they had what you call temporary routes where people could go in and you’d buy 20 papers for a nickel a paper and you’d sell them for a dime. And that was the incentive that we had. And I did that and that was not like dad always said well there’s the old Coggie is out there doing — getting his start just like I had my start, selling the newspapers for Miner News at that time.

Terence: Well so Jack so here you are – why’d you go into politics and how did that start – in Nenana or in the legislature first? Which was it?

Coghill: How I got started was that after Frannie and I got married there was a lady here by the name of Mrs. McNavish and Opal McNavish. And she was married to the roadmaster and his name was Joe McNavish. In fact, I still have – I’m still quite close to their daughters. In fact she just passed away here just recently. She was over – almost 99. Anyway, when – and she was on the School Board. And so when her husband, when Joe died in 1949 they said – they came to me and Billy Monroe was the – had the section, he was the section foreman. Harry was on the School Board and he came up to me in the store and says well Mrs. McNavish is going to leave and we want you to go on the School Board. So they appointed me on the School Board. And I says I’ll go on until the next election. Well the next election nobody ran so here I was and I ran for the School Board and I stayed as a member of the School Board for 10 years until 1959, from ’49 to ’59.

And in those days why you didn’t have a restriction that you couldn’t hold a local seat like you can today. So when I was in the territorial legislature, I was still on the School Board. When I was in the Constitutional Convention they called me Schoolhouse Johnny in those days. In fact the School Board Association bill is one of my bills that I sponsored, wrote and sponsored, got put through the territorial legislature.

Terence: What does that bill do, Jack?

Coghill: What that did was that that brought together school board members into an association so that they could further their educational process. I mean it was the forerunner. It was kind of a part of the movement by the Alaska League of Cities, which was the forerunner to the Municipal League where now you have all of the local governments that can get together. Well this was the local School Boards to get together and to refine and to help define. In fact they were very helpful during the Constitutional Convention when we wrote the articles for education (inaudible).

And then during that time of course I served on the Constitutional Convention, which is a great, great thing and there is only out of the 55 delegates you know there are only six of us left, and two of them are in pretty tough shape. So it is going to be interesting to see how this whole reunion thing comes together and the new structure that they put together for looking at the constitution. I hope they just don’t run off and go over the cliff with it because we still, in my estimation, have the best constitution of the 50 states because we kept it short. In fact, the longest article in there is when the legislators put in the article onthe permanent fund. I mean you can just see what would happen if they tried to redo the constitution today.

Terence: Well, so you ran for the senate in ’53, right?

Coghill: No, no, territorial house.

Terence: Territorial house in ’53?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: So what was your step going from the School Board to that? How did you –

Coghill: Well that was my model and I have some place in my – when I moved from my big house in Lakoley here why I have one of the placards of my original run in the territorial legislature, which was it’s at a golden E in ’53 with my motto and one with education and economic development. And I had five E’s. I forget what all of them were down here. But the idea behind it is like I say everybody and when I got into the legislature in ’53 why of course the Republicans followed – took over because we came in the wake of Eisenhower, which only lasted that one year. I mean then the D’s came back in the next year. But the idea behind it was that so I became a chairman right off the bat.

So I was chairman of the Educational Committee. And – but you ought to remember that in those days you prayed an awful lot because you had no authority. So every time you wanted some authority you had to right a memorial. And the memorial – the end of the memorial was we the Alaska Legislature on behalf of the people of Alaska pray that you will enact this piece of legislation for our benefit because you had to ask for it you know and the only thing we had authority to do was we didn’t have authority to regulate our own fisheries. I mean the fish traps were you know – there were several reasons why statehood was becoming very imminent. And of course I was an advocate of statehood right off the bat because I felt that we needed to have our own authority.

And so then in the Constitutional Convention which was the first apportionment of people in Alaska. And I ran for a seat which represented the Yukon and Kuskokwim River. The Constitutional Convention had I believe different types of elections. They had elections of people at large, people elections from the four judicial districts and then certain amount of us from election districts representing an apportionment of the people of Alaska. And so during the Constitutional Convention why of course we argued very adamantly for an apportionment structure and of course there are lots of good tales about all of the things that happened in the Constitutional Convention. One of them was that John Hellenthal, who was from Anchorage was not in favor of giving –

Terence: Right, right, but even you ran for the house in 1953 and that is an important legislature, the two of them because they sort of set the foundation for the –

Coghill: Yeah, it was the ’49 legislature that set the statehood thing in motion to bring it to Alaskans because it was the statehood committee that was formed during the ’49. Then in the ’51 legislature cause you got to remember that we only had a legislature for 60 days every two years. And it was – so it was the momentum that Mildred Herman and Bill Smeden and Atwood. I could go on and on and on, but they were the people that really started the statehood movement going. And of course we gave them plenty of ammunition and gave them the support that they needed when we were in the legislation. Then in 1955 the legislature nominated – they established the Constitutional Convention bill which created the election of the Constitutional Convention delegates. In three different – I think we already said that, but there were three different basic structures. It was the at-large by the four judicial districts and then by a separate act that established the election districts.

Terence: And what was the purpose of that Jack?

Coghill: By population.

Terence: What was the purpose of that?

Coghill: The purpose was by population. Because the old Fourth Judicial Districts were establishing districts that were out of touch. I mean the Third Division had the same amount of members as the First Division or the Second Division or the Fourth Division. So there was no apportionment and there was no structure. When I ran for the ’53 legislature, I had my own airplane. I had been a family of traders on the Yukon River and the Kuskokwim River, so my name was known. People didn’t know me but they knew Jack Coghill was Bill Coghill’s son and so he must be all right you know. And Bob Reeve was running for the delegate to Congress against Bob Bartlett, who almost beat him. If it wasn’t for the debate in Wasilla, why he would have been.

Terence: What about that? What was the debate in Wasilla? What happened?

Coghill: It was a statehood bid, but you know Bob Bartlett was a pretty smooth talker. He was a pretty laid-back and old Bob Reeve was an entrepreneur, hard charger type thing. Well you know

– Break –

Coghill: That was quite an election.

Terence: Oh, yeah, yeah. Well let’s save that Jack until we get – because I have something I want to tell you about that election that I thought was funny.

Coghill: Those flukes up there. Those are the Hickel Coghill inaugural flukes, the glasses.

Terence: Oh, those things, right, oh yeah, yeah. That was really something when you guys won that time. Okay.

Coghill: We took them by storm.

Coghill: Dimond was secretary for years so you know he was groomed well for that job. And Bob Reeve just came on like gangbusters and of course it was the Eisenhower sweep as we used to call it when in 1952 when Eisenhower was running for president and so a lot of our people were on the bandwagon and they were getting elected. And the legislature and some of those people that were elected to that first legislature in ’53 should never have been there really, but they came in with the sweep. And Bob Reeve would have beat Bartlett if it hadn’t of been for the Wasilla debate. And it was one of those debates that Auggie Hebert and Kap Lathrop was the Fairbanks – was the Midnight Sun Broadcasting Company put on statewide. And Bartlett just creamed him because he was a hard charger and didn’t have a lot of his facts together and old Bartlett was soft spoken and just moved forward and it was one of those things that you listen to that and you learn an awful lot. I did.

Terence: Did you think that – would he have been even though he was a Democrat would he have been your choice or Reeve? I mean would you – you were backing Reeve or Bartlett?

Coghill: I was backing Reeve because he was part of our team. And of course I was young but I – Bob Bartlett and I were good friends. Good friends afterwards. And you know he understood that. He understood the whole thing, but he said I just had to set a few traps for him and he did. But I learned an awful lot from that one.

You know and because you see in the ’53 legislature a lot of us guys that were elected the swing went the other way. And I didn’t get elected to the ’55 legislature and I learned an awful lot from that too. That you have to have new and aggressive programs and you have to know your homework. You just can’t try and work off of a rhythm. So then I took that lesson to the Constitutional Convention.

Terence: Well now Jack do you think in – cause I remember Tom Stewart telling us a little bit about the ’53 and that was the one where Miscovich was –

Coghill: Well, he was the president or he was the speaker of the house and old George Miscovich and old George was a miner and the problem is that he got down with a whole bunch of his cohorts that came to Juneau when and got into lunch one time and of course in those days the territorial house why the speaker of the house set up on a kind of a small podium with a desk in front of him and of course there wasn’t that much room around him. And George happened to be downtown that one lunch and instead of drinking coffee why he had a few brandies and he went to get on the podium and he walked right off of the podium and went crashing. Oh, it was rather a funny thing, but the Democrats made real big story about that one. And you know it was one of those things that just he – they captured him you know. He didn’t go back to the legislature.

Terence: Because that was his last time, right?

Coghill: Yes.

Terence: He was in there early – was that his only time?

Coghill: No, no, he’d been in there. He was elected. He was elected I think in ’49 and then again in ’50 or I mean ’49 and ’51 and ’53, yeah. Of course you got to remember that a lot of people don’t remember that back in 1940 census, I took the census here in 1940 and I had the sheets and everything, but there was only 130 some thousand people, the whole state, in ’40. Well you take and the legislature was always figured on the census prior to that so the 1940 census you know – the 1930 census controlled everything up until the ’40 census was published. So you know there wasn’t too much – there was not too much change in the population base until after the war. And then after the war we went in ’53 I think we were up to around 185,000 and then it was escalated since then and you know every year we figure that we’re gaining about 12,000 people.

Terence: Well now how did you take the census in 1940? What district – what was your district that you covered? What would you –

Coghill: My district was the United States Commissioner’s district and that included the Bonnifield and included McKinley Park, Healy, and I just had this big tablet and what I would do is I would interview people. I’d go and get all of the information. It was just blocks that I had to fill in and a lot of them like your people that lived out in Diamond City, Kantishna, I would do a lot of that by reference. Who’s out there? Well there’s this guy and there is his brother and there is the Herman brothers and there’s the Hanson brothers and there are these people. And so you’d mark them all down and then you’d go – one of them would come into town by dog team and you’d say well do you know Bill Herman? Oh yeah I know Bill Herman. Well how old is he? Oh he’s about this old. Okay, so we put that down. What’s he do? Well he’s a trapper and he’s a miner. And so you didn’t even go to the people themselves. You just figured out who was there. And old C. C. Hyde, the commissioner that was here, she was the one that got me appointed as the census taker in 1940. It was a lot of fun.

Terence: Cause you were only 15 then?

Coghill: Yeah, yeah. Did a lot of things when I was 15 you know. I had to witness when old Bill Mosher died, Ms. Hyde had to have witnesses and of course I’d already been the undertaker two times when Bill Mosher died. And we went up to his house and took an inventory and I was writing down the inventory for Ms. Hyde.

And she says now I understand there’s a still downstairs. Silence. So there was a trap door. One of the old trap doors opened up like this. Went downstairs and sure enough here was a great big vat and a still right next to it. About a 500-gallon wooden vat and it had foam and ucky stuff on top and besides this – boys, destroy it. So they went down to the fire hall and they got a couple of the old fire axes with the pick nose on it and stuff like that and started hammering away on this wooden vat. And finally it broke and (pish) – and of course everybody was kind of halfway in tears because they had been drinking out of that for a long time. And down in the bottom of the vat was old shoes and a couple of skeletons of a couple old cats and just all kinds of garbage that had fallen into this vat over the years while it was cooking because all of that stuff didn’t make any difference cause it just went through the still you know and once they got it going. But those guys would come out of there and throwing up and saying, God, to think we’ve been drinking out of that damn thing for five years you know. All of that stuff was just terrible.

So that was one of the experiences of making sure that when you got that good stuff but they told us later on well you guys don’t have to pay too much attention to that because it has got to go through the still. And when it goes through the still why it’s the vapors that is boiled off and the vapors settle that give you the good alcohol, so, we didn’t – but we learned our lessons you know.

I remember one time talking about that dad used to right after prohibition was over in 1937, ’38 when we had moved into the new store where we’re at now or not into that new store but in that location. And dad used to get three casks. He’d get a cask of apple cider. A cask of port wine and a cask of Muscatel wine. And a cask was 557 gallons, a cask. And what they would do is they would take the front end of the liquor store completely out and they’d roll these things in and put them on bunkers and then put the shelving back in and all the rest of it. Well when all this was done you see you got to remember two years after prohibition and so there was not too much. You could buy Seagram’s Five Crown and a couple of the other whiskeys that they had at that time, so you’d this thing.

Well we noticed that when they put these casks in and put them on these bunkers that there was a bung on the other end and the other end was in dad’s warehouse where he kept all of the cigarettes and what we called it a kind of a security room, where he kept shoes and (inaudible) and stuff like that because in those days there was no self-service. Everything was across the counter. You sit there and you’d take their order and you’d say well I want 10 pounds of sugar. Well you’d go to the bin and you’d scoop up 10 pounds and weigh it out and that was how you – there was no packaging in those days. If they wanted three pounds of Jersey cream crackers or pilot bread, why you went to the bin and you got – then you weighed it out you know.

The same way with the – so in the back of the liquor store we noticed that there was the same amount of bungs in the back end as there was in the front end. So being ingenious red blooded American boys we noticed how they pounded those bungs out with a great big mallet and then they’d take and put the bung or the wooden bung right next to the – and drive it in and in would go the plug and the wooden bung would catch and sniff a drop. Boy that was pretty good.

So we would have to go down to the store and in those days it was all wood fire stoves. So during the wintertime why we’d go down and fire up the stove, get it good and warm and then bank it and that would last for five or six hours when it was 30 below or so. Of course we had winters in those days you don’t have them like that any more. I mean it went down to 30 below in October and didn’t come back up until March you know. But so we’d have to go down there and the colder it got why the more you would have to do that. So as we would go down there we’d move the cigarette cases out and we’d get our hammer and we’d bang, bang, bang away at the bung and we’d get it a little bit further and a little bit further and a little bit further. And well two of the three local boys would help us. I would say help us, I was the only one in the Coghill family that was involved in this. The other ones their halos were way too high for – to do anything like that. So when we got that to the point where we figured it was sweating pretty good. So I went back in the back of the store in the warehouse and got a number three washtub, stuck it underneath the cask and we hammered away at it and we got it finally started and of course it got enough pressure that once you got that bung a little bit while it started (swish) like this so you had to really work. So you had your hand over it and you pounded away and we got it in. We got – we have an old spigot that had been used before. Well they use new spigots each time because you know we have got that thing. We had three gallons of wine in this number three tub. So we bottled it all up and got it all squared around. Got it all cleaned up and we had to take a couple of buckets of water and of course no plumbing in the store. So we had to go get water and so that was no stench of wine or anything. Got the cigarettes back up there and had our spigot in there.

So we took this wine and we had it – in those days why people would bring their gallon jugs to the store and you’d get your vinegar or you’d get your wine you’d get it in the gallon jugs. Seventy-five cents for a gallon jug of wine. And so we had several of those. Well, old Louie Hammel, who had his store right up the street here had a liquor store. And they swore up and down that Louie Hammel was selling us kids wine. Just swore up and down he was selling us wine. Old Louie Hammel was – I don’t know, I don’t know and of course in those days that is when the CCC – the conservation crew people were first starting to come in to Alaska. And so they were accusing these guys of buying this wine from Louie Hammel and feeding it to us kids. And that went on all that winter.

Well about the end of March dad’s port wine cask ran empty. It shouldn’t have. He couldn’t figure it out so he went a looking and he moved those cigarette cases away from the back end there and there was a spigot. Guess who was on restriction for six weeks? Cause I was the one that went down to the store and I was the one that banked the store and stuff like that. Well anyway that’s what you call learning how to be an entrepreneur.

Terence: I bet the R’s were rolling.

Coghill: Oh, they were rolling real good you know. I had my butt kicked a couple times on that one. Got restricted. Nobody would talk to me. They put this silent treatment on me cause as if I was Peck’s bad boy or something. But it was just one of those little mischief things.

Terence: But you know Jack it is interesting because I guess modern – there are no packaging, right, so pilot bread it wouldn’t be in a box like you’d buy pilot bread today, you’d buy a jug of pilot bread, I mean a cask?

Coghill: No.

Terence: You would come in –

Coghill: Pilot bread would come in a wooden barrel. It would be probably 200 pounds of pilot bread and you’d just open it up and you’d take – cookies were the same way. You’d get cookies – you’d get Nabisco cookies would come in a 30-pound box and there would be rows of Jersey Creams, rows of different kinds of the different types of cookies there were. And people would – dad would take and put a glass – piece of glass over them and you could buy them – the glass has hinges that would just hook onto those. Different merchandising altogether different than it is today.

Terence: Well let met just say one thing cause you mentioned this off camera we should get this about the undertakers, how you became that? How you became the undertaker?

Coghill: Well, because I was raised in the store, up above the store, I was always helping dad, always downstairs you know and of course that was where the action was because dad would have you store open until ten or nine o’clock at night. And of course a lot of people working on the railroad and stuff like that would come in there and old French John was the local undertaker at the time. And of course he wasn’t a mortician or anything like that, it was just an undertaker. Come in the store one day and he says Coggie, they called my dad Coggie. Coggie, old John Lunds passed away and I need somebody to help me. He’ll help you. Well when dad says you do, you say – when he says jump, you don’t say how high, you just jump as high as you can. Cause that’s the way we were trained. So off I went with John Lund – my mom wasn’t very happy about that, but I helped old French John – his name was John Orlette. I helped him two or three times and then he moved away. And when he moved away why the next thing I know old C. C. Hyde came to the store one day. C. C. Hyde was the commissioner. She was the niece of Judge Hyde from the First Division and then she had her little office right here in town. Come in and said to my dad where’s Jackie? Dad thought that kid is in trouble again. Got to be in trouble. And – Jack Devaral has just passed away Jack and you’ve got to go take care of him. Cause I’m the one that had been the student of John Orlette. And so I went and I got old Al Linder, who was the president of the Pioneer’s at the time. Came up and he was in the store at the time and said I’ll help you. So we went up to his cabin and we took him out and dressed him up and shaved him and called Hose Ross in Fairbanks. Hose Ross sent down a casket, got the casket and put him in it, took him down to the Pioneer Hall and had a service. All gals got up and sang two or three hymns and we buried him out on the – and that was the start of my career as the local undertaker and 37 graves later why I ended my career when they passed enough laws that you couldn’t do that any more. You had to be a mortician.

Terence: And so could you bury guys in the winter up here, I mean?

Coghill: Oh, yeah. I buried one guy – yeah I could tell you – we could go on all day on that, but old Henry Knight passed away on the road between Knight’s Roadhouse out on the Toklat River and Nenana. And Al Wright went up and there was no smoke coming out of his cabin and been gone and when Al came back Al was doing a lot of flying in that area at the time. And come back and so he followed and found where he had camped between here and there and his dogs – had to shoot two of his dogs in order to get close enough to him. He was frozen in his sack.

And so I went out with Al and we climbed him into a – I had learned to fly. I learned to fly when I was in the Army. Of course that was the thing to do in those days and everybody flew. But I found out early in life that was not – that was lots of work, not much pleasure. So, but anyway I went out with him and we got old Henry Knight stuck in the back end of my Super Cub. And the problem was that he was curled up in a fetal position and I had him sitting in the back seat and every time I would go over a bump, why Henry Knight’s whiskers would come up against my neck. And I said come on Henry back, get back. So we got him into town and here he was on the back of the pickup, all wrapped up in this sheepskin robe that he had and he was frozen and he was frozen in this fetal position. So we got a piece of barbwire or a piece of chicken wire and we made a hammock and we put it over the top of the old wood stove in the fire department, in the fire hall. And we cooked Henry and every day I’d go in there and he thawed a little more and I’d stretch him out until – because we had to keep stretching him out because rigor mortis would set in. And once rigor mortis set in why then you couldn’t – you’d have to wait until rigor mortis had gone through its cycle. So I’d stretch him out and finally we got enough that we could – we were able to get him in a box and we got him a casket. We took all the stuffing out and I can go on, but I could tell you several stories.

Terence: Well maybe we’ll do that one for another time.

Coghill: Stop that one for another one. I can tell you about the time that we – one of our old-timers died – well they were on a drunk and there was about five or six of them and they were staying in a cabin just about two blocks up here. And he stumbled and it was about 60 below and the stumbled and he set down on a red-hot Yukon stove. And he burned himself from his buttocks and down to his knees. And they were all in a stupor and so he just fell over onto the bed and went into shock and stayed there.

And it was a real mess and we finally, somebody came by and said you know those guys – those four or five guys are all drunk. They got one guy that is really in touch shape and he smells horrible. So I went up there and sure enough, the only medical treatment you had in town was the mission nurse. So took the mission nurse up there and she says we’ve got to get him to Fairbanks. Well the next day six o’clock or seven o’clock in the morning why the train was coming through. So five o’clock why we all went over to Bill Hare’s house and got him and go him on a stretcher and oh, he was in horrible shape and groaning. And you know he was in real tough shape. Got him down to the depot and that turning him shock and everything, he died before the train came.

So what do we do? Well better take him over. So we took him over to the parish hall, St. Mark’s Mission parish hall. Set up a couple of the Sunday school tables and got a stretcher and set him on it. And one of the things that you do with a cadaver is that you always make sure that their head is high because the fluids, body fluids and stuff. So I stuck a couple of his coats and stuff underneath, but I should have gone back and taken those out before he froze in position because it was 60 below out and we didn’t put any heat in there. Well I went back that afternoon and it was still too late, he had frozen into position. So when we got the casket the next day coming down from Fairbanks, took all of the stuffing out of the bottom of the casket. Doing all right yet?

Terence: Let’s finish this story that you were saying about the guy – cause he froze after you had the stuff –

Coghill: Yeah, he froze and of course he was frozen to the point where that I couldn’t get his shoulders and his head back down. So when we got the casket why we took all the stuffing out of the bottom of the casket and when his head was down, his toes were up. And we thought well, we’ll build a fire. Nah, we don’t build a fire. We’ll just go ahead so what we did is we secured – he was a World War I veteran and we secured the casket by squishing him down and taking a pair of pliers and there is a little clip on the lids of the casket and you could take a side cutter and you could just clip it. And it won’t come open. So we got it and clipped it.

Father Stratmon was the Episcopal Priest here. So we veterans we all got together and we had a good VFW Club and we got him over to the little church and got the flat set and all of the congregation was there. The town was plumb full. We were just going at it and in the middle of the service why the American Flag were bong – and everybody went (noise) you know. And the clip had come loose and old Father Stratmon just kept on a going with the service. He went around (clip) and just kept on a going and that’s how we planted Bill Hare.

Terence: Well that’s a great story. Well Jack so let’s go back to politics. You didn’t get elected in ’55. You lost in the ’55 and the ’55 legislature was when they set up the terms for the constitution. So what made you decide to run in ’55, cause you really wanted to get another taste of it I mean?

Coghill: Well because the ’53 you got to remember that when you got elected for two years you only served for 60 days. And there were other things that we wanted to get done. So I had run for the ’55 legislature but the swing was so great and anti-Eisenhower swing that everybody that was a Republican or a Conservative had lost in that election. So when the constitutional – when the 1955 legislature put together the Constitutional Convention they selected three methods. The at-large statehood at large, state people at large, a certain amount of the delegates came from one of the four judicial districts and the rest of us came from election districts that were established within the judicial districts according to population. Well I served and I ran for the Yukon Kuskokwim Tanana River District and I won. And I went – and I served in the Constitutional Convention.

Terence: Did you campaign at all and do you remember if you – did you spend anything on campaigning?

Coghill: Oh, yeah, I had my own airplane. So I went from village to village, went all the way around and made every village and told them I was running. I ran against a guy that was from Bethel and he was at the other end of the district and I beat him.

Terence: Do you remember how much you paid, you spent on it?

Coghill: Probably not very much because probably most of my expenses were cause I didn’t run out of Fairbanks. I didn’t have any big newspaper expenses or any radio, of course didn’t have TV in those days. It was credible you know and we and I just made the rounds and of course all of the people that I talked to were traders and people that – in the different villages that I had known and it was – I had won all of that in the ’55 election. I won that area big time. It was the Fairbanks area that I defeated. Then I won that and then I went on from that. And of course –

Terence: Let’s talk a little bit about the convention itself Jack what was that like?

Coghill: Well it was great. And see I was not the youngest, I was second to the youngest and I was 36 years old and Bill Egan in the committee on committees said well we need to have one Conservative so one Conservative they picked me as the Chairman of the Administration Committee. Well that was kind of like the old legislative structure where they had the minority group always took care of the administration of the territorial days and the different things that we had to do and see we did all of our own style and drafting. We did all of those things. We did the certifying the bills between the two houses and all that. You didn’t have staff people like you have today. I mean in the Constitutional Convention we had only five staff people and they were all consultants, basically consultants from different organizations.

Terence: And you were – he made you chairman – Bill Egan made you Chairman of the Administration Committee.

Coghill: Yeah. Well you see it was quite a fight between Bill Egan – it was a fight within the brotherhood of the Democrat Party. I mean it was Ralph Rivers, the River boys, several of the attorneys like from Fairbanks were all kind of interested in who gets what and so I kind of figured well gee whiz I’m out mastered here, but Bill came to me and he says that would you like to serve on the Administration Committee? And I says well I’d sure like to get on Reapportionment because that was my thing. I wanted to make sure that we had a new system of house districting because in the territorial days you had to run for the whole district – Fourth District and so that was basically my interest was apportionment, reapportionment and the election on the suffrage type thing. And he says I’d like to recommend you to be Chairman of the Administration Committee and it’s kind of a work all type committee.

Well we had $350,000 to run the Constitutional Convention. We were mandated to have the 55 delegates would work for 90 days to put the constitution together and we had $350,000 which was a lot of money in those days to do the whole thing. And so what we did was we set it up where that they got $20 a day for their subsistence and that was about the size of it. And there were a lot of them – Herb Hilshire was one of them I can remember always wanted to have new promotional things within the constitution.

Got to remember that the only reason why we got through the constitution and we made the constitution as brief as we possibly could, that was part of the – Bill Egan’s thrust with his committee chairmen was keep everything simple. Don’t get legislative intent into the middle of the constitutional structure. And of course that followed through and so we actually in my estimation and a lot of other people that this is out still the best state constitution in the 50 states.

Terence: Now when you say Hillshire wanted to put promotional stuff, what do you mean Jack? What do you mean by that? What kind of stuff – economic development stuff you mean?

Coghill: No, no, no. He wanted to promote the constitution. He wanted to have more things of what we were doing up at the University. He wanted to have PR going and of course we didn’t want to do that. In fact if you’ll see in the constitution itself we have – there is none of the intent is in the constitution and in the document and I wish I had it here. My son John has got my volumes of the Constitutional Convention proceedings that I had put together. It was to not have speeches or not just have the yea’s and nay’s and who voted for, who spoke for, who spoke against, that type of thing, but not any of the rhetoric that was put into it, except for some of the amendments and the amendments were put in. But that was to keep people from getting up and talking for hours and hours on things. So once they knew that it was not going to be recorded, it didn’t happen.

Plus the fact is that the media, they didn’t have – they didn’t have the what do I want to say – they didn’t have any negative or positive side to what was going on in the Constitutional Convention preliminary sessions. I mean it was straightforward type. And I think the reason for that is because Bill Snedden from the News-Miner and Bob Atwood from the Anchorage paper were supporters and so you didn’t have organized groups. You didn’t pressure groups coming out there to the University and sitting. And a lot of times a lot of school groups were out. I had school people from Nenana come up and we had one of the gals that was a senior that gave a talk to the Constitutional Convention. We had a lot of visiting firemen that spoke to us and one thing or another, but pretty much left us alone to do the things that we had to do.

Terence: Now does that include the no lobbyists? Did any lobbyists come and –

Coghill: Very, very few. In fact the ordinance that we put in abolishing fish traps. We didn’t get the fishing industry out of Seattle or the pressure groups from the fishing industry that were Nick (inaudible) and all of those that were the big fishmongers. They didn’t show up because nobody thought we were serious. Thought we were just a group of people going through an exercise.

In fact the thing that really promoted our constitution and promoted the statehood was the other articles that were put in in the transition when we endorsed and put into the program the Tennessee Plan where we elected a house member and two senators and we sent them back. And the reason why it was called the Tennessee Plan is because back in 1832 I believe it was Tennessee cut away from Virginia and became a state and when they became a state they went down to or up to Washington, DC and moved onto the floor and said we’re here, we want to be admitted. And they were admitted. So we thought well we got Ernie Gruening and Egan were our Tennessee senators and Ralph Rivers was our Tennessee representative. We sent them back to Washington with the explicit instructions to go demand a seat on the floor. Well they got themselves bounced pretty fast. So what happened in 1830, didn’t happen in 1950. So we set up offices for them and they went around and they lobbied and they took material to every legislator, every senator and every staff person, every house member –

Coghill: – The statehood thing. Well it was coming that Hawaii was doing the same thing because Hawaii had had their Constitutional Convention and they were getting ready and they wanted to have statehood. Well the thing was that the reason why we’re the 49th state and they are the 50th state is that in those days Hawaii was very Republican. It was the Dole Company and the big farmers and stuff like that. And we were a very strong Democrat state at the time. So we became the 49th state. That’s how and the next year why Hawaii became – was elected and they became the 50th state.

Terence: Would you think that the – let me back up and put it this way. During the convention what any sort of specific incident stands out about personality of the different people you know because it must have been unusual, very cold winter, you guys are all stuff there in Fairbanks you know?

Coghill: Well yeah and there was – I’m trying to think of several you know – Marsten, Mukluk Marsten was a great orator and he’d get up and tell us all of the fineries of World War II and he was the commander of the Alaska Native Troops. We’d have stories on that and we’d have stories where people would relate – I know that the big turning point as far as I was concerned was that when we did the election districts and we set out all of the election districts we made them social economically combined and we call them geographically, socially, economically combined. And so we used watersheds because that’s the way economics were by the watershed. And Bob, the guy that was from Fairbanks, he was an aviator –

Terence: Or Barr, Frank Barr.

Coghill: Frank Barr. He wanted to have Livengood into the Fairbanks District because he says I fly in there all the time and it is an economic structure of Fairbanks and I argued it wasn’t. It might have had an economic structure in Fairbanks but it was economically it was part of the watershed of the Tanana Valley and I won. And that stopped all of the – and that was the beginning and when we did that why then everybody that was trying to get their own little piece of neighborhood in stopped because you know it was just not socially economically geographically possible. And so we beat them on that. And old Barr he came over and he says boy he says you’re – he says I understand why they call you the silver tongued orator from the north and Buckalew hung that one on me.

Terence: Now why did he say that? What was Buckalew – what was the –

Coghill: Well because of the – I was always tooting or touting the other social economic structure. I was always in favor of independence structure economically not held to any one working group or to a trade group or to Anchorage or to Seattle or a philosophy like that and so Buckalew was always – he and I are good friends, but he’d say well, you’re still a silver tongued oratory aren’t you from the north country? And I says well I consider that a compliment.

But we had good debate, but see when the constitution when we had a lot of votes that were split but when we finished the document and the Style and Drafting Committee, which was headed by George Sonberg, when they got done putting it all together everybody, all 55 of us, signed the document. Now one fellow got a little bit upset. He was from southeastern Alaska.

Terence: Robertson?

Coghill: Robertson. And he went home, but he did sign the document afterwards when they got down to Juneau why they got – Tom Stewart and the guys got him to relent and to sign the document – the constitution. So different than the United States constitution, which had 55 delegates, only 30 what – 38 of them signed the United States constitution. So there was a lot of dissenters and so we used that. Well as Chairman of the Administration Committee, my target was to make sure that we didn’t spend over $300,000, that we had $50,000 left, that we could give then to the Statehood Committee and the Statehood Committee then created the lobbying group or the group that went out and told everybody about the constitution. In fact, I remember putting together the packet for the delegates so that we could get them out.

Terence: Jack, do you think that the – because you’re so concerned about the suffrage aspect of it, that the tariff oil legislature the way it was set up was quite weak and not very representative was it of the people of Alaska?

Coghill: No, it wasn’t and the territorial legislature you got to remember we didn’t have any authority. About the only authority we had around trails and so we had what we called the Alaska Highway Commission, but we had in territorial days we had about five different commissions and the commissions had authority, but the legislature didn’t have any of that authority. The governor didn’t have any of that authority. And so what the legislature could create was that they had to be able to also pay for and that they also had to give the authority or because the territorial governor was pretty much established by the Organic Act, which was passed in – well the first one was in 1886 and the second one was in 1912. So it was – that was the Organic Act that really established in 1912 was basically taken from the Oregon law.

Terence: So, but do you think that the – because it was so unrepresentative of – I mean Nenana your case is an excellent one – that you basically had to win in Fairbanks in order to represent the Fourth Division, right, isn’t that?

Coghill: Oh yeah, yeah and in the territorial days what I did was that I’d have to spend – I spent six weeks – I’d go out eight weeks ahead of the election and I’d spend six weeks flying around in the old Fourth Division and then the last two weeks I’d spend just rent a hotel room in the Nordale Hotel and I’d just spend it all right there at KFAR and KFQD were the two radio stations at the time. And I’d go in and talk to the publisher of the News-Miner all the time. Cap Lathrop was a good friend of our family, but he didn’t run the paper. It was run by –

Terence: Well Snedden had taken over by then in the 50’s. I think Bill took it over it over in 1950 maybe or ’51, yeah. But the idea that – let me – another sort of topic that we broach with a lot of people, the idea – the outside interests controlling Alaska. How was that sort of addressed in the constitution?

Coghill: Well basically it was addressed head on with the repeal of the fish traps. And economically the big structure in Alaska was the Guggenheims, which had the mining interests and the FE Company and all of the rest of them. And it was – the only reason why we became a state to be real frank with you was because of World War II and because there was enough people that were coming in from Washington and Oregon and California and Ohio and all of the Lower 48 that saw the great opportunities in the north country that finally we got enough that we had more people in Alaska from those states that were not beholden to the special interests of the fishing industry or the mining industry. And it was out of that you know because the people in Nome, a lot of the people in Fairbanks that were part of the institution of the FE Company. And it was tough. It was tough. And you just had to and finally that measure of percentages started creeping away from them and by the mid-50’s, by the end of the 50’s when we had our first vote on statehood why it was two to one.

Terence: And the fish traps particularly that was the most passionate – weren’t people mostly –

Coghill: Yeah, because the fishermen I mean that – the fish trap issue in my estimation was the thing that created the biggest push for statehood, push for ratifying our constitution. See our constitution was ratified in ’58 before we were a state. It had to be ratified by the people of Alaska and then we took it and we sent it to Washington and when we sent it to Washington of course we also sent three delegates to the congress and of course that is what they were doing.

Terence: With the Tennessee Plan? That’s right, yeah. But now do you think if – so there is not many lobbyists there?

Coghill: No, there was no lobbyists.

Terence: So then having it out at the University was a lot better wasn’t it than having it in Juneau, I mean was it?

Coghill: Well yeah and you know there was the thing is that Juneau and of course there was big push by a lot of the heavies in Anchorage to move the legislature to move the capitol and all of that was a part of it so Juneau and southeastern Alaska didn’t want anything to do with Anchorage. And so Fairbanks, we became the neutral ground. And so the Fairbanks delegation, the Nome delegation, and the Southeastern Delegation ganged up on them and said we’re going to have the Constitutional Convention in Fairbanks. They had just finished the Student Union Building and the president of the University Patty and he was a mining engineer and had a mining up there on the Yukon River. And he was a big supporter and he turned over the first part of the Constitutional Convention we still ate in the cafeteria in the old dorm one downstairs in the basement and then when we came back from our break we went – I think we went from November until the 20th of December or something like that and then we took a three week break and we came back in January and we finished up in February, but during that time why then they changed and they had the cafeteria in the second floor, I guess it would be the first floor – first floor cafeteria. I don’t know what is in there now. But we were down in the basement and then the third floor was where we had all our offices.

Terence: And so where did you live –

– Break –

Terence: What were you saying Jack, it seems like yesterday, what were you going to say?

Coghill: I think the Constitutional Convention and all the things that went on in the Constitutional Convention, just seems like yesterday. Time flies so fast.

Terence: If you had one memory of it overall, what would that be? You know –

Coghill: I think the one memory that I would have of the Constitutional Convention was that everybody wanted a good document for the state of Alaska and when we got done arguing there was no minority reports, no majority reports, except what was done by the committees. But when the document was finally finished, even old Bill Law, who voted against just about every proposition that went in, see because the only way we could keep these people like Herb Hillshire and some of the other orators from expounding and expounding is that if you had a proposition and you put it up and it failed, you couldn’t put it up again. There was no parliamentary procedure. We blocked all of that so that there was no delaying, no delaying action.

Terence: No reconsideration?

Coghill: No reconsideration at all. So that was one of the reasons that we were all pushing for 18-year-old voting.

Terence: Now why was that, explain that, Jack? I don’t understand.

Coghill: Well, because we were a (inaudible) territory the federal government law was that you had to be 21. Well we were a young vibrant state. Well our argument was hey if you were old enough to go into the Army at 18, by golly you were old enough to vote. And so we pushed for 18 and we lost, couldn’t bring it back up again. They said well let’s go for 19. I said no, no, let’s go for 20. We went for 20 and lost. So there was only one way we could go, was either go to 19 or back to 21. We went to 19 and we won.

Terence: What was the argument against – I mean what was the –

Coghill: Maturity. A lot of old geezers you know. I was young and still had that drive – I was still the insurrectionist what they called me you know and in the territorial legislature they called me Coghill:, the insurrectionist. Cause I didn’t believe in all of this government and I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. I was from the old school, the old prospectors. What they found, they kept you know and that sort of an attitude about it.

But the thing that I remember the most about the Constitutional Convention was the camaraderie that happened after we decided that the document was the best we could do. And so when we signed those documents we had a hundred of them. The first five copies of the constitution went to government, went to the United States Government. And then the next 60 went to the Constitutional Convention delegates and then the others were distributed to the different archives. And – if you go into the Signers Hall at the University of Alaska in the hallway that goes from Signers Hall into the next building you will see a whole series of pictures and those are my pictures that I have collected of different delegates and all of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. I think I had a copy of the constitution and the whole bit there.

Terence: Did you take any pictures yourself during the convention or you didn’t – I mean you were busy obviously?

Coghill: No.

Terence: So where were you living at Jack or who did you stay with?

Coghill: I stayed with Bob Hubbridge. Bob Hubbridge, who was the school buddy of mine born and raised here in Nenana and he was working for Alaska Freightlines at the time. And he had an extra room and I rented from him. And I would catch Paul Grinman’s bus and in those days why of course all you had to say was I’m living on College Road, I forget the number of it right now, when you come by just toot the horn and I’ll come climb on. I’d climb on the bus. Nowadays you can’t do that. Right where the overpass is, is where their building was.

Terence: And so you rode that bus back and forth everyday?

Coghill: Back and forth.

Terence: Was there any kind of social things at night or after hours or getting together with the other guys or…

Coghill: Well most of the guys – most of the people lived either in the Nordale Hotel or in the Northward Building and there was a lot of camaraderie that went on in the Northward Building and a lot of the guys, but I was not a part of that. And of course at that time in 1955 we already had the Tote Road between here and Fairbanks and it would take us five hours to drive from here to Fairbanks. And you had to take a chain saw with you because it was only a Tote Road was just the width of a D8 cat. And as you well know the root system of your Arctic trees is only about six inches deep so every time there was a wind why you’d have a couple more. So we had one of the normal things that we took with us when we traveled to Fairbanks was a chain saw. And the idea if you didn’t have a chain saw you took a bucksaw because you would have to saw a tree out in order to keep going. In those days if you see as you travel between here and there you’ll see the different cuts on the hill.

Well when we first got the survey and of course that’s another story where a fellow by the name of Allen Brown was the engineer for the Public Works for the Federal Highway Administration. And I got $85,000 appropriated to build a Tote Road between Fairbanks and Nenana. And Allen came to me and he says well what was your intention was it to follow the old railroad or was it to follow the Wood Road. And I said it was to follow the Wood Road. So it was the Saulich Wood Road that went up over Ester Hill and went around and that is where you see the old – where you travel and it says Old Nenana Highway. Was that was the old Saulich Wood structure and that was the original road that we had to Nenana.

And he ran out of money 16 miles up so there’s a turn off 16 miles up the road and that is where we had a turn out and so he ran out of money why a bunch of us guys got together and we bought five barrels of diesel oil and that was in the winter of ’53, ’54.

We bought and the Olson brothers who had just come out of the Bonnifield country with their D6 cat. So we took it across the river with a barge and we followed the Old Mail Trail until we were across from Berg and then we cut across to the railroad and we followed the railroad telegraph line down and we followed – we just made a road in between the tripods of the – got to a Little Goldstream and then we followed Little Goldstream and we went up on the hill and hooked into the survey line. So that’s how we ran the road until 1950 – and the first appropriation was in 1957 when we finally got more money to put into the – and then when we became a state why it was one of the first things that we got.

And by that time Clear had sprung and 1959 was when they started Clear. Well what we did in the meantime in order to get the railroad or to get the road put together. There was a general by the name of George Jones, who was the head of the Alaska Command at Ladd Field. And he was a good friend of mine and I said why don’t you put together your winter and your summer exercises down at Clear because Clear is going to be a part of the – we need to put the road in to Clear.

And so for three years why George Jones had the D8 cats and tanks and all kinds of equipment coming and going and we build the Tote Road so the Tote Road was actually a refined Tote Road for about three years before we finally got some federal money to it.

Terence: And that’s from Nenana to Fairbanks or Fairbanks –

Coghill: Nenana to Fairbanks to Clear.

Terence: I see, yeah, yeah. Well so when you know thinking about that, the military was a vital part of the economy, wasn’t it?

Coghill: Oh yeah, yeah.

Terence: I mean –

Coghill: That was it.

Terence: I mean even for Nenana, right?

Coghill: Yeah. Well Nenana’s basic economy was the river. Our basic economy even today is basically what goes on and around the docks at Nenana, because we are the port of entry for the Interior and although bypass mail where people now you can you know ship a case of – when I was in the fuel business, why I could ship a case of motor oil from here to Holy Cross and it cost me on the barge it cost me around $9 to ship that. I could ship it by parcel post for $1.20. The same thing goes on in Fairbanks today.

You take a lot of the Bush planes that go out of Fairbanks they don’t have passengers on them. All they’ve got is bypass mail. And when Ted Stevens gets out of office that may very well go away cause he has been able to have a hammer lock on that. There is a lot of things that Alaska is getting from old Ted that might just disappear once he disappears.

Terence: Yeah, what did Ted Stevens sort of mean to – you know I know he was an attorney during back in the Interior Department and stuff, but what he has sort of meant to Alaska? I mean do you know anything about his role during statehood or anything like that?

Coghill: No, he was not involved in that at the time. He was involved because he was the solicitor for Fred Seaton. He was high up in the Interior Department and how – and then after he – actually he comes from the East Coast. I think he was from one of the smaller states there in the Lower 48. And when he became a solicitor and he became a part of Fred Seaton’s program and everything that’s what introduced him into Alaska. And so after that all disappeared well he came up here and practiced. In fact he run for the state senate a couple of times before he was appointed you know. He was never elected for the first time. He was appointed when Bob Bartlett passed away and he has been there ever since that. He has done a good job for all for Alaska.

He and I have had a couple two or three scrabbles. When he got hardheaded, people – I’m not going to agree with everything that you do and you’re not going to agree with everything that I do. And that has been one of the things. Oh, he’s a hardheaded Scot he says. Well, I’m not a hardheaded Scot, I’m a hardheaded Alaskan. Believe what’s good for Alaska is what really counts. And I think that’s true of a lot of the old-timers. And yet if you are pushing for something and it gets accomplished then you only got two-thirds of a loaf. It is better to take that then to go forward with it then it is to try and defeat the whole thing.

Terence: Then to go hungry.

Coghill: Then to go hungry.

Terence: Well what about Gruening, what was your sort of impressions of him?

Coghill: Well Gruening was a good friend of mine. He always told me he says I don’t know where you came from but it must have been that hardheaded Scot father of yours that put you where you’re at. And I says well I think that was part of it. I think part of it was the training that I got. Ernie and I we could argue and whenever it came down for something good, I could go to him and he’d say have you thought this out son? That was his – have you thought this out? And he’d ask me again. Okay, I’ll back you, but he always said have you thought it out you know?

Terence: Well about Egan, what’s your cause you had a lot of contact with him over the years?

Coghill: Oh yeah lots of contact. And we had good times and there were a lot of times that he disagreed with me. And you could always tell when Bill Egan disagreed with he because he would frown. Whenever he frowned, you’d say oh Christ I’m in trouble now. I’m in trouble now you know, but – and two or three times. One of them was during the article on education that went into the constitution. I was the one that see I was at that time I was Chairman of the School Board Association. And public education was very, very strong with me. Well also there was a tremendous amount of parochial schools going on in the state. And Monroe had just started, but most of them were mission schools. And I was not opposed to them but I was opposed to domination of sectorial attitude and I was a real firm believer in free public education. I have arguments with my son right now John, who is a teacher in his Baptist Church School, and there was a teacher over there and he always questioned me as to that because that’s a part of our American way. And it was one of the arguments that we had at the Constitutional Convention.

Terence: And what was Egan’s? He differed – you guys were on the opposite sides on that one?

Coghill: Yeah and he’d frown at me, frown at me and of course I was in the front row. Right here was the podium and my – the three of us we didn’t have chairs or anything or desks or anything like that. We had just folding tables.

Terence: And whose the three? You mean Jack who do you mean?

Coghill: Three of us delegates were sitting there. I was sitting way over in the corner. And the two that were sitting with me was – he was president of the senate, the second president of the senate – Native from –

Terence: Peratrovich.

Coghill: Peratrovich sat next to me and then next to him sat the fellow from Anchorage or from Juneau, the…

Terence: Robertson?

Coghill: No, no.

Terence: Stewart?

Coghill: No, the one that had the hotel down there – I’ll think of his name. But anyway, then we’d all if you see the picture of the plenary session of the constitution was just tapes. Three of us were sitting at each table.

Terence: You said you had folding tables, right?

Coghill: Yeah, it was folding tables. It was not a table. It was just a folding table and you had folding chairs. And Patty put that thing together. I mean you know it was – I get a kick out of seeing the University. There was an article where the University was patting their selves on the back of being of the founders of the constitution. It was – the reason why it was there is because Fairbanks delegation in the territorial legislature teamed up with the southeastern delegation to make sure that it was not in Anchorage. And the delegation from Nome came right in and helped us. That is how is came and we had – when we signed the constitution in Signers Hall it was not the elaborate structure it is now. We had to kick the basketballs out of the way in order to put the seats in for the general public to come and watch us sign the document. I have a picture of my signing the document.

Terence: Because it was the gym I mean it was the gym?

Coghill: It was the gym. It was the University gym.

Terence: And most of the campus was pretty ratty looking, wasn’t it I mean at that time? I don’t know how the – of course you were in the newest building.

Coghill: Well it wasn’t ratty. I mean it was typical I mean the old – the dormitories. The two dormitory one and dormitory two and we ate in the basement of dormitory one. I mean it was part of the old School of Mines. And the old central building was the Bunnell Building was still there.

Terence: Oh, the main building?

Coghill: Yeah. And the only concrete structure was the museum. I think they called it the Eielson Building.

Terence: Eielson was there and then it was the museum and Signers Hall.

Coghill: Eielson Building and then the gym and the gymnasium. It is the only structure that is still standing.

Terence: Well Brooks was there too. The Mines Building. They built that in ’52 I think so.

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: So, but I think if – so Egan you were telling a story about Egan you were sitting at the folding table he’s up there on the podium.

Coghill: And I’d get up and he’d look at me and I’d okay, okay. I’d just say it is okay I wasn’t going to be – I would just wave at him and say you know I’m going to be constructive. This is not going to be destructive. I’m not going to get into your chain – I’m going to you know. Then he’d look at me and cause I was his Chairman of the Administration Committee and had to make sure that these guys were wanting to spend all of that money on publicity and stuff like that, that they weren’t going to get away from it. He always said well the only reason why the Constitutional Convention got through the way it was is because they couldn’t get through that hardheaded Scot Coghill:. And it was a lot of fun. It was fun.

Terence: Do you think that you know sort of looking back, how does that rank in your life experience I mean cause all these years in the legislature. You’re the longest serving mayor in Alaskan history, right? How long were you Mayor?

Coghill: Twenty-two years. Served from 1962 until 1985.

Terence: So you had all those years as Mayor and how many years total in the legislature, probably 15?

Coghill: Well I had six, 12, 13 and then of course the Constitutional Convention.

Terence: And four years –

Coghill: Yeah I had 20 and four years. I have 22 years of public- of state service and I have 20 – I have 22 years as Mayor and 10 years as School Board. So I’ve served my public.

Terence: But I mean with all that how does being on the constitution rank in your life –

Coghill: Number one.

Terence: – looking back?

Coghill: Number one, because territorial law, state law, and the things that you got done or amended are molded or twisted to accommodate contemporary time. Constitutional law is something that should be short, sweet, and direct. And that’s the reason why the people that put the amendment in for the Permanent Fund Dividend and the Permanent Fund Account really got out of their element when they started getting too wordy. They could have put that document together with 10 or 12 paragraphs or sentences, not 10 or 12 paragraphs.

But that was probably and I think that probably the most satisfying time was my tenure as Mayor because it was local, because you were affecting people on a local basis and I think that my most frustrating time was being Lieutenant Governor.

Terence: Why was that Jack? What – just cause of the wheels of bureaucracy?

Coghill: You couldn’t get anything done. I mean bureaucracy had gotten to the point where it was – if, you know, I had dot charts put together. The first year I was in there when I was still in favor you know we put these dot charts together to reorganize state government. The problem is that you’ve got a level of government and you still have it and you’ll always have it unless you’ve got people at the top end that want to do something about it. But if you take a look at your government about 12% at the top is your administrative directive heads. Down at the bottom you’ve got about 30% that is your work-a-bees, your working people. From 30% or 40% you got about a 40% in the middle there that is pass-thrus. They are passing through their paper. They are doing this. They are doing that, but there is really – they’re not policy makers. They are not work-a-bees. What are they? They are the bureaucracy that keeps that wheel turning. And that is what we tried to get at. And I had these dot charts made. And I – and the charts were color-coded so that it showed the different categories of people and how you could cut through all of that and where you could take. And I figured that we could take 25% of government structure tomorrow and I still believe it in today’s structure. You could take 25% of government and do away with it if you had the will.

Terence: We should stop for just a second. I just basically have two more questions for you and then we’re done on the tape.

Man: About three minutes.

Terence: Okay, Jack, I wanted to ask you because you were in that first state legislature, right? Weren’t you in ’59?

Coghill: Yes.

Terence: Was it in the senate or the house, I forget?

Coghill: Senate.

Terence: Senate.

Coghill: Jack Wise and I were the only two Republicans. And in the first session why Bow Smith from Ketchikan and Tom Stewart from Fairbanks or from Juneau and the people they organized state government and they’d kick us out of the assembly and they had their caucuses in the senate chambers. And it just shows you that that’s a good lesson for people in this democracy. The next year they split nine/nine. Guess who had balance of power? Neither one of their sides could do anything unless they had Jack Wise, who was a Republican from Bethel and myself. And we kind of worked that to our advantage.

Terence: I bet. Well what was the financial picture in 1959? Statehood is achieved. What –

Coghill: In 1959 I have a picture and I’ll show it to you. We had during statehood because we were working off of grants and we didn’t have much money and we had to keep it down. We spent $87M and we called it the $87M Committee, cause it was unheard of that we spent that much money.

And I think it was the third session of the legislature or something like that. I’ve got a picture of it. Frank Chapados was the Chairman – the Co-Chairman and he was from the house side and Bill Noland, yeah Bill Noland from – was the Chairman from the senate side. But it was interesting and what we’d do is every time somebody increased the budget they had to put a dollar into the pot. And we had a big jar in the middle of the table and at the end of the session we took that money and we had a party for just the Finance Committee. It usually was pretty (inaudible) because at that time why there was a lot of drive to increase that and increase that.

I remember one time Bill Egan got so mad at me cause when we put together the local government they had an office called Local Affairs Agency and it was in the governor’s office and I cut it completely out. And I’ll remember that guy going up and Bill Egan and Bill Egan called me into his office and he was shaking and he was shaking and he says and you know that we have it in the constitution. We had a provision where that we had to take care of local government. I said you got local government. You got the local government agencies and you got – you don’t need to have somebody in your office telling the mayors what to do. The mayors know what they can do. We argued and argued, went back in and he had enough votes that he turned it around, but that was kind of the things that we did. We kind of tried to keep a break on moving. And of course then what really happened –

– Break –

Coghill: Discovered and that is when government just (pish).

Terence: Took off, yeah. Well, let’s just talk about that a little bit and then I think we’re done in here. Maybe we can go outside because we wanted to get a shot of you maybe walking into the store.

Man: Well I have a couple of thoughts on that if we can get it before it gets too dark.

Coghill: I was going to buy you guys lunch too, but you’re talking too much.

Terence: We’ll save you a few bucks.

Terence: But that’s right at statehood you know some people said, even Gruening said if oil hadn’t have come along the state might have gone bankrupt. Do you think that would have been possible?

Coghill: Oh, we were struggling. We were struggling I mean and with all of the requirements and you see during statehood we had $400,000, no $4M was given in what they called transitional grants from the statehood and that went on for six years. Well that got us from until 1964, ’65, ’66 you know. And then boom here comes you know and of course that whole thing changed and government just grew by leaps and bounds.

Terence: But there was the transitional grants and I think then there was the earthquake though too.

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: That was a big, wasn’t that?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: I mean the earthquake had a big –

Coghill: Well sure because we got a lot of federal money from that too, but it was you know and of course you didn’t have – the federal government was pretty stingy, but it was you know taking over the Johnson O’Malley Schools. Johnson O’Malley was the act that took Bureau of Indian Affairs schools and put them into the public school system you know. And you had that and so you used all of those transition type funds to keep things rolling, keep things going you know. And it was tough, it was tough. I was on the Finance Committee and I could show you where you know we really had some knockdowns and drag outs, but we had a joint committee between the house and the senate, which after I got out of the senate why they broke away from that because they didn’t want the unicameral type system. But we had to do that in order to keep things going because we had it down where I think the first session of the legislature we adjourned it in 87 days or something like that. And then it just kept creeping up and creeping up and it got to the point where they had to put a trigger on it because it was going way beyond 120 days.

But the more you had to have a drive by the leadership of the legislature and of course then after statehood and then after the oil and then after all of that stuff then came along the Permanent Fund.

And then came along the savings account that we’ve got you know and then when the oil started dropping from the Slope and you started getting into a compressed area. Now they’re looking at redoing the formula for the Permanent Fund and taking a certain amount of that and putting in. But people don’t remember that the oil revenue from the North Slope that three-quarters of it already goes to government and nobody talks about that. The only thing that really fuels our state government and now they want to get into that other quarter. And they’re changing that. And I keep telling my son who is in the legislature gee John you got to remember that you’re already getting three-quarters of that money you know. What do they want the whole thing?

Terence: Well what would you say – I know you had your differences over the years with Wally – Wally Hickel, but what would you say about him as sort of as you know a guy to work with or what it was like, cause that was a big thing in 1990 when you guys got elected you know?

Coghill: Yeah. Well I think that Wally means well. I think he is too much of a socialist. And I don’t say that in the sense of socialism from the standpoint of the Soviet’s socialist. I’m talking about that he is a strong advocate of this owner state business. Well when we became an owner state we didn’t become an owner state for state government to become the king of the road. We just didn’t want the entrepreneurs from the Lower 48 to be controlling us. And so his philosophy is a sound philosophy if you want to follow that, but I’m not a member of that school of thought. I’m more of the school of thought that people that are entrepreneurs – I mean how did he make his money? You know how did he become where he is at? It is because he had the forethought and the foresight to put the hotels in. But do you think he could have done that under the owner state system? When the state was going to be a part of the hotel business, no. So opportunity still has to knock for the next generation that is coming along and that is where my basic difference in the philosophy is. And he’s a good friend of mine and we can holler at each other all we want to, but I’ll never buy the owner state system.

Terence: The two old wolves, right. No, what do they say? Two old dog – what is it?

Coghill: Yeah.

Terence: Two old dogs, what was the thing they said about you guys?

Coghill: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Terence: I forget what it was, was it dogs or wolves?

Coghill:Yah, no, two old dogs howling at the moon. In fact I’ve got a picture of it – dog howling at the moon – two dogs, Wally and I. That was some cartoonist in Anchorage put that together and called us two old dogs.

Terence: No, Kelly – Jim Kelly, remember. Yeah you’re right.

Coghill: Jim Kelly that hung that one on us, but you know and the thing that is nice about all of this is that for a country that is one-third the size of the rest of the United States, we still have a population where that I can go into any village and know people. You can’t do that in the Lower 48. You walk down the street in Seattle and people you say hello to somebody and they think you were strange. Huh. Here I can go down in Anchorage and I’ll bet you that the third person that I meet or in Fairbanks the third person that I see I’ll know. I’ll know who they are. I know them enough to say hi. That’s what is so nice about being an Alaskan.

Terence: That’s perfect. Robert, do you think of something we should?

Robert: No. There is one thing you mentioned earlier. We’re kind of thinking about future programs on this breaking out social, political, and economic and you talked a little bit earlier about how the watersheds acted as a social economic concern, would you finally kind of reflect a little bit how regions and play in the political and economic equation. You know we talk a lot about –

Coghill: Because there’s social economically tied.

Robert: But what does that mean for – I mean like for example in rural communities that don’t have the infrastructure and what – how does all of that play when you get into the legislature and you know you have this urban rural split that has developed?

Coghill:: Yeah, well, the Supreme Court you’re talking about that. The reapportionment article that we put together in the constitution made the senate districts permanent. Like the United States government had in saying that every state had two senators. We took that philosophy. Supreme Court of the United States said that they didn’t like because the one man, one vote rule that apparently was for the – but we set the structure together so that the people in the Copper River area for example are socially and economically together. And we didn’t want you know and the reapportionment committees have failed to look at this totally. Because now you got reapportionment where they got districts cutting down the middle of a road you know and that’s wrong you know. They should move out of that neighborhood and bunch it together because that neighborhood or that settlement or that village has got, although they might fight like dogs and cats, they still have an economic social function that they like to put together, that they hold together. And that was the reason why we had the way we had the reapportionment put together and the reason why I’d be – Frank Barr when he tried to put Livengood into the Fairbanks District because it was socially, economically, geographically not located. And it had to take all three of those units to put the thing together because what we did is we followed hilltops and that is how we you know you had because when you or I were walking in the Tolovana Valley we knew that on the top of that ridge another district was over on the other side but on this side wherever that water fell and that’s the reason why you call it watersheds was in your district. And that was tough because when you got down into the Anchorage and you got down to Bristol Bay and in that area there why you had to follow that fundamental structure. And the same in southeastern Alaska.

Terence: Well maybe to follow-up on Robert’s question for you, Jack, ask it this way. You know obviously a lot about rural Alaska, right, and your family made its living for now almost a century, this trading.

Coghill: We still do.

Terence: But, right, you still do, but isn’t there a big problem in Alaska today with the people, particularly Anchorage I suppose, but also I guess Fairbanks not understanding the rural areas, what about that issue that people talk about all the time? What do you – cause you have far more knowledge about it than most people do so?

Coghill: Well and I think that is a real problem that we have in Alaska because so many people and take a look at the population center. I don’t call it Anchorage. I call it the Cook Inlet. You take the Cook Inlet’s section of Alaska, which includes Homer, includes Palmer, Wasilla, that whole area cause out of the 650,000 people we have in the state you can say that probably 450 or 500 of it comes from that area. The rest of us are scattered throughout the rest of the state.

A lot of those people that live in Fairbanks or live in Anchorage and in that area have never been into the Interior. There is no reason for them to come to the Interior, just like southeastern Alaska. They go south, they go to Seattle. No reason for them to come to Fairbanks. So they don’t know how you and I live you know.

And the problem that we have and all stems from that – the problem we have is that the state administration does not follow through on getting economic development out into the woods and it is not welfare, it is not handouts, it open the bloody country up. Get the timber sales going. Get the mining going you know, instead of having so much about not being able to turn a shovel of dirt or to sink a mineshaft or to – and it takes money, money. And you know it is not the entrepreneur any more. It’s the big companies that are outside of Fairbanks that can take a whole mountain and move it is where your economic development is and you’re going to see that. Pogo Mine down there next to Delta is going to be one of the same things. It is going to be a big mine. They have a mine and I don’t know how they are going to do it, but it is going to eventually happen down at behind Aniak in the Flat area where this big – one of the biggest mines in the world is going to be established. And how are they going to get electricity there. Are they going to take it in? They can’t barge in enough diesel to do that. They are talking about a power line from the coal mine at Healy and go down to Rex and then from Rex down over into the Innoko and from the Innoko over into that district. That is going to happen. I don’t know when it will happen, but it is going to happen because people have got to have the desire to have economic development and one of the things that we’re missing in Alaska is that we have the best photosenticity (?) of any of the Lower 48 states. We don’t have the temmate clim or the climate change and stuff like that, but during the summer time our sun comes up and it doesn’t go down until in September and that photosensitivity is twice as much as what the normal states in the Lower 48 get and we’ve got to get our farming program going. We’ve got to get that attitude but you can’t do it by subsidizing people. We got to open up the land. You go out into the clear area right now and there are homesteads all in the back there and those people are scratching a living back there. Some of them have to work on the slope or some of them have got jobs at Fort Wainwright or some place like that, but they are out there because they believe in developing their piece of land. And I think that’s what made America great was that people could own something. They could be a part of it. That is what we got to create.

Terence: Well thanks very much Jack. I think is that okay.

Episode 5: Maynard Londborg

Alaska Statehood Pioneers: In Their Own Words
Maynard LondborgMaynard Londborg: Oh I learned a lot of things while I was up there and that is that you can debate. You can passionately debate but it doesn’t have to ruin a friendship and it is kind of interesting we started talking about missionary work and that but how many churches do not know how to do that. I mean they’ll end up in a bitter fight or something like that.Opening Titles.

Narrator: Maynard Londborg was born in Lynch, Nebraska, in 1921, to Swedish homesteaders. He came of age during the Great Depression and found his way to Alaska through mission work with the Covenant Church, which was founded by Swedish immigrants. Through the church, he spent 20 years in Unalakleet running an orphanage, founding Covenant High School, and even introducing basketball to the area. In 1955, he was elected to represent the 2nd Judicial District at the Alaska Constitution Convention. The document he and the other delegates wrote helped pave the way for statehood.

Intertitle: Growing Up in the Great Depression

Maynard Londborg: It was kind of interesting because my father and his four brothers migrated from Sweden and they stuck together and they went up there and homesteaded and they had lived in the southern Nebraska for a few years and then they heard that this military reservation was going to open up for homesteading around Fort Randall.

And they threw their gear and everything into wagons and just had a wagon train on up and the town – the big town south of us, O’Neill, was the land office. And they stopped in there to look and see what land was available and then they said well I think we’ll go on up there. It is another 40 miles and look it over and we will be back in two or three days and file a claim on the land. And the agent said well if you do that, by the time you’re back somebody is going to already have claimed it. So we suggest you pick the land right now. So they picked the land without even looking at it. And the land the five brothers had land that was either adjacent or cornered together and the five particles of land my father picked the worse one and raised the biggest family. So he had to supplement the farm income with – he had a little blacksmith shop. He did a lot of carpenter work.

And I grew up and lived there on that farm during the dry years and dust bowls in the 1930’s – 20’s and 30’s. It was – looked back quite a terrible experience. The crops had come up and before you could get cattle out to eat, if there was any vegetation, these hoards of grasshoppers would come in and they would just mow everything down. So we had dry years, dust bowl, grasshoppers, and of course the depression.

The dust storm when the clouds came in the sun would be obscured. I had about two miles to walk to school. In the schoolroom when a dust storm would come in we would go down to the little pump, well, bring in some water and soak our handkerchiefs in that and we would put that around our nose. We’d sit there in the schoolroom and it was so dark the teacher lit a kerosene lamp and school was just over, virtually over. We just sat there and waited in the schoolhouse. And then were times when they would dismiss us and had about two miles to face the dust on the way home.

You’d hear the dust hitting the side of the building. The – any fence that was somewhat tightly woven like hog fence, acted like a snow fence and the dust would pile up.
And then the farmers, springtime, they say, well I wonder whose farm we’re farming this year. Top soil come from South Dakota all over you know.
It was terrible. And then, like on our buildings, the barn and the house too, it would just peel the paint off from the outside.
We couldn’t raise anything, crops, and the government had what they called idle acres. They paid farmers to let the land stay idle, thinking that would help it.

Then the grasshoppers, when they couldn’t find anything else to eat went to the telephone poles and they creosote on the bottom of the poles they liked that and they would eat through until the pole just was suspended by the telephone line. And so long stretches where all these telephone poles were hanging by the line just dangling and grasshoppers. Neighbor of mine that left a pitchfork and his leather gloves out in the field. When he came back to get them the next day the pitchfork handle was so pitted you couldn’t hardly use it and all that was left of the gloves were little metal grommets. They had eaten all the leather.

So it wasn’t a very promising place to stay. And when I graduated from high school I had a chance to go to college and that turned out to be a good move.

Intertitle: Becoming a Minister

Maynard Londborg: I had gone back to Nebraska. Had surgery that summer and then I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law in – out in Nebraska recuperating and that was in ’41 when they started the draft. That came before the war broke out and there were three of us that we asked to be on the draft board to sign up people. So we signed each other up and then everybody else all day long, just a parade and got everybody registered.

My brother-in-law was the lay leader for the local Methodist Church right near their farm in the town. And he just told me one day that he said well our pastor is going to be gone and he said you’re going to speak. And I said well I haven’t been to seminary or Bible school or anything and he said, yeah, but he said we’re all farmers we haven’t even been off the farm. And he wouldn’t take no for an answer so I said okay. And that’s how I got started you might say in the ministry.

And then about a week or two later a big black car drove into his yard and he called me over and introduced me to the district superintendent of the Methodist Church and he said I’ve got a church I want you to go out and see. And that was out at Royal, Nebraska. So I went out there and when – then he conferred with the people and he came back he said well I’m going to appoint you pastor out there. I think I was 20 years old and went out there and just one thing after another and unknown to me he had written to the draft board and he said now we’re losing ministers and he is covering a big area and so I got – when I got in the mail my classification was 4D and then of course I stayed in the ministry ever since that I was. I tried a couple times to join the service and both times just the last minute something came up and I didn’t.

I wanted to stay at that church through the next year. I mean I really enjoyed it then. A lot of young people and talk about horseback right. Every kid had a horse and that was our outings was to go out horseback riding in the evenings or daytime and I really wanted to stay on there. The district superintendent came and he said well I’m not going to let you stay here. There are too many nice girls. He said I know what happens. You end up and you get married, you don’t have your education complete and he said I’m stuck with a lot of ministers like that. So he said you pick your college and wherever you want to go and I’ll see that you have a church to serve while you’re in the college. And it ended up that I went to Nebraska Wesleyan in Lincoln and they assigned me to a church there in Lincoln. And after a year or two then I wanted to go on to the seminary and that is when I transferred back to North Park Seminary. So I had about a two-year outing then with the Methodist Church, otherwise back in the Covenant.

Intertitle: Mission Work in Alaska

Maynard Londborg: Well my wife Loraine was in nurses training and she graduated in ’44 and we got married in ’45.
She had one year when she attended day school in North Park College before she entered nurses training and I met her that year and it was kind of love at first sight as far as I was concerned, but she was determined to go to nurses training. In those days the nurses couldn’t get married, so that meant a three-year break where we couldn’t do much dating or anything.

And then when I finished seminary I thought I would stay home and go to some college and get my degree. And that summer in ’46 I got a call from the head of the mission department. When he talked to me he said would you go to Alaska for – he mentioned specifically to replace the missionary at Yakutat, who was going to take a furlough. He said it would be about a year to 18 months. I said sure..

Frontier and wide-open space – it just had an appeal, which it still does. I mean I don’t know why I’m in Colorado now when you’d rather be back up there. Well, you know you’re up there.

I knew it was up north some place and so while I was in the seminary serving churches in Chicago area and this field director’s wife – he and his wife had been missionaries in Alaska and she spoke in a church I was serving and made a remark, I said, I think if I ever went to any place in the mission field, I’d like to go to Alaska over Africa or some place like that. And when they were apparently talking about getting somebody temporarily she mentioned that to her husband and somebody called me in. So before we knew it we were on the way into Yakutat.

When I was asked if I would go up there for, I said sure. And he said well you better talk to Loraine first. And I said well I know what she’ll say. And so I came home and I said well I know where we’re going now and she said where. And I said Alaska and she said great. She said, can I call and tell my folks? I said I think I better confirm it so that it isn’t just a rumor, but she was game right from the word go. And has followed or I don’t know if you could say followed but wherever we have been led in the work up in Alaska she is right there with it so.

Intertitle: Yakutat – 1946

Maynard Londborg: Well it was very fascinating, beautiful country, beautiful mountain ranges around there. The town had a military base located there because of the Japanese presence and so forth and that had a tremendous affect on the town. Apparently it was a somewhat quiet, peaceful town before that and the presence of thousands of military just changed the town completely. So it was in a way a very difficult place to do any work.

Then also in ’46 the fresh fish buyers came in. They hadn’t been able to before the war was over. And they stayed out about three and a half, four miles off the coast, which would be international waters and the people would bring their fish out and sell

These people would bring boatloads out there and they would pay them cash but always give them a little liquor besides. And they’d go back out there and buy more liquor. So many of the fishermen ended up in the fall with no money.

And otherwise Libby’s Cannery had gotten the fish over the years.

People could go there and get credit during the winter – Libby’s I think treated the people very good and then when they’d get the fish they’d clear up their debts and then have a little reserve left over and life when on. Until ’46 it just shattered that whole thing.

Liquor and I don’t think there was a young girl that could grow up there and was hardly safe in the area. And I think – I forget I looked at the statistics of the births over that period of time and it was kind of a sad story to read the parentage of the ones that were born.

We would have stayed longer but the church wanted us to move to Unalakleet to help start a children’s home because my wife was a nurse and there was a lot of maintenance and I had a lot of experience with machinery and things like that. So we went on up to Unalakleet then that next summer.

Intertitle: Unalakleet – 1947

Maynard Londborg: Well when we first got to Unalakleet, they did use a translator.
I had a translator who took a lot of time. I’d speak a little, maybe a sentence, and then I’d almost forget where I was at by the time he got done. Asked him what he was doing? He said well I’m giving it in all three dialects here at Unalakleet. And I didn’t know what to do and finally I gave him the whole long paragraph and he pulled on my coat and he said I can’t remember all that. I said well that’s fine, just tell them what you remember and we got along a lot better. He made it pretty short then. But Unalakleet really didn’t need an interpreter by the time I got there. I think he was one of the last ones, but down on the Yukon, Scanlon Bay, Hooper Bay, and Nunivak Island. They were still using interpreters when we’d come down there.

There as an old house that was built around the turn of the century and at the time it was pretty apparently a pretty nice house. It had two story with four kind of bedrooms on the second floor and during the Gold Rush days miners would come through and Unalakleet was the route if they came up from St. Michael or if they over from Kaltag, either way, and they would end up staying. Oh, the visitors list is really long in the old mission house and then they’d always say well if I strike it rich I’ll help you out. And some of them did. They came back and they had enough money and gave them so they – I think that’s how that house got built.

I think we ended up with about 30 and our missionary pilot was flying them in from all the villages.
We almost dreaded seeing the plane come because we knew it would be another kid he’d be bringing.

Oh, it was tuberculosis. There was hardly a family that wasn’t affected by it and many of the children were left with either one parent. If it was the father, he couldn’t take care of them. He had to hunt and trap so that was one of the big reasons the children’s home was started was to take care of these orphans and half-orphans and that was a big enough challenge.

Then of course the village they were supposed to have a government nurse there, but about half the time they didn’t. And then usually if they did have one there then she traveled to other villages. And my wife would end up doing the nursing in the village.
All of her nursing was just gratis.

Well that house got fixed up so many times that it was cold, poor insulation. We’d spill some water on the floor and ice right away. My wife had little mukluks and wool socks made for the kids and they wore them during the daytime in the house, otherwise their feet would be cold. So when they were ready to go out and play why they’d just slip a parka on and take off.

You never knew in the morning what you were going to be doing. And we had a – well and the house was old. We burned wood and then they burned wood in the church. And the people would go out and gather some and we had a hold of a D4 cat that was a Army veteran in itself that had been out on the Aleutians and had a couple of bullet holes through the thick plate behind and we – long story, but got that from Nome…

And I had to learn to drive that thing and maintain it and so I – there was an awful lot of time spent in just staying alive. Hauling wood, hauling water and all of these different things.

We had a little light plant in the basement of that building, a little Onan and it was used during the construction of the building cause it had automatic start soon as you turn a power saw on the light plant would kick in. And it was in the corner of the building, the basement, with the exhaust pipe running out into a big barrel and then there was this exhaust from there about 10 feet up in the air and that was instead of a muffler I mean it was used that way.

And we had a terrible snowstorm one Christmas and the light plant gave out and a friend of mine, one of the Laplanders that was living there he came over and helped me and we overhauled it in the dark with little kerosene lantern and took it all apart and cleaned it out. We got it running and we shut it off and then the next day morning was Christmas day. I think it was Christmas or Thanksgiving, one or the other and we started it up in the morning and one of the girls that was missionary helping and she went with me over to the church and she got called back because the other one got sick and then the kids were sick. We thought it was the flu and went out in the village and everybody said oh they must have the flu in there. They were throwing up and it was just terrible. And we had shut the light plant off then during the daytime and in the afternoon we started it again and everybody got nauseated again. And had a pretty good idea what it was. And I went out and the snowstorm had plastered that side of the building and it literally covered the end of that spout there 10 feet up in the air. And I got a long stick and I poked a hole in the and got the exhaust going out again. But we thought about that and I got it written up in my book here, the guardian angel or something because I could just see headquarters, the newspapers, 18 children orphanage in Unalakleet all suffocate from carbon monoxide poisoning. You look back and it is scary.

Not a lot of time for what you thought you were supposed to be doing you know the mission work – church work and that and but we survived that.

Intertitle: Founding Convenant High School

Maynard Londborg: We had been living down in Marshall on the Yukon and they asked us to go up – back to Unalakleet and the mission station. We got back up there in ’54.

And some of the parents approached us and said that the early missionaries had started a grade school and that is why the old people can read and write so well and then the government took over grade schools and the BIA came in. And they said would you consider starting a high school? And they said we don’t want to send our kids way down to Edgecumbe to 1300, 1400 miles down there and never see them for maybe two or three years.

And thought about it a little while and at that time the territory had a plan where anybody in the village where there was no school could ask the territory to pay for a correspondence courses, high school through the University of Nebraska and the grade school was that was another one, I don’t know, it’s Calvert System or something. But the only thing I could think of was to sign these kids up, have the parents put in applications for correspondence courses and then I would just hold regular classes for them. And I proposed that then to the lady who was head of the educational department in Juneau and territory and she fired a word right back, well if you’re going to do that why don’t you order textbooks from our adopted textbook list and just start a high school and we’ll put you on the approved list. And we couldn’t be accredited then or anything as yet. So I sent word back I said we don’t have any certified teachers and I said I’m not certified to teach. She said well we’ll take care of that. We’ll send you a teacher’s certificate. And so that came in the mail and good for one year and we got our school started.
When we first started they were I guess practically all Unalakleet kids, except one girl who had come from the children’s home through the eighth grade and so she just stayed there and took her high school
Taught all of the sciences, general science, physics, and chemistry, biology. And then almost any math class.

And then the year was over I said now we still don’t have teachers, certified teachers. We have a couple coming next year but that doesn’t take care of the immediate year up ahead. And they said don’t worry about that, we’ll send you a principal certificate that gives you teaching privileges and that’s good for two years.

We had seven students the first year and the first graduating class was nine. That was a pretty good dropout record. And then the second year I think we had 13 and it went up to 17 and then the fourth year when they had the full we were up around 30 so.
They – I don’t know how many of the villages you know represented any given school year, but it was a lot of them from – when you figure that they probably peaked at about 130 students and half of them dorm kids. A lot of them were from the other villages.

Intertitle: Basketball!

Maynard Londborg: Then we introduced basketball at Unalakleet as our builder was in Nome and he sent word down – he said there is some Cullen huts up here we can get and they are 36 feet wide, so bigger than a Quonset and he said how many feet long do you need? And he torn this down. We got it shipped down to Unalakleet. Then we poured cement five foot walls of cement and mounted this on top so that we actually had clearance for basketball in there. But it was only 36 feet wide. So the out of bounds line, which should be four feet, was only two and a half and the town people started coming. They thought it was the greatest thing to see their kids play basketball. And they’d line up on the walls and the kid would take a ball out of bounds he’d just back into the crowd and fire it off.
Yeah, we were the first one out, aside from Nome, and then they started picking it up pretty fast.
And the team, we really developed a good team because the kids started playing in the grade school when they were still in grade school and we had Saturday gym for them. By the time they got high school they were already good players and in 1965 we won the Western Alaska Division of Class C schools and Valdez won the Eastern Division. …

So we invited them up to Unalakleet. We had a three game tournament Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. And we won the first game and they won the second one and we won the third one. So ended up with being the Class C champs of Alaska.

And the next year it was in Valdez, so we went down there and the same thing happened. They won the first. We won the second, and they won the third. So, but the people of the village just came out en mass and the radio station in Nome that we had, KICY, they sent their announcer down. We were able to run a line through the FAA some way. We made connections anyway and the game was broadcast. And I’ll never forget when the announcer was telling about the gym being packed, he said and he said I want to tell you folks there is standing room only here. Well there wasn’t a chair or bench in the room. They won – they built a high bench you had to climb up with practically a ladder where the scorer and timers sitting up there with – it was just standing room only.

Intertitle: Getting into the Statehood Movement

Maynard Londborg: Well I want to drop back a little bit to –

Our days at Marshall, Alaska.
Which is also Fortuna Ledge. There was a Marshall some place else in Alaska. They couldn’t have two Marshalls in the post office. So the postmaster named it after his daughter Fortuna and that’s how Fortuna Ledge got into it. And that was the post office and it was also the kind of government seat for that whole Wade Hampton Precinct and they had the deputy marshal that lived there, a fellow by the name of Al Balls, who grew up in Unalakleet. He was one of the Laplander family and they were going to close the Marshal’s office there and which they did, but the US Commissioner office was still maintained there. And there was a lady who was appointed US Commissioner and she had it for a little while, then she and her husband moved away.

And I was sitting down in the trading post one evening and the Deputy Marshal flew in to pick up somebody. He was going on the next day down the coast and he said we’ve got to get a commissioner here. He said this is ridiculous he said. I get a notice and I fly clear down to Hooper Bay or Scanlon Bay and I have to bring them clear back to Nome for a trial. And if they’re released right away then they have to get their transportation back and he said we just got to get a United States Commissioner again here. And he was typing on a typewriter in the trading post and finally he said here sign this and I looked at it. And it was a letter to the judge in Nome offering my services as a commissioner if he would consider appointing me.

I don’t know what I was thinking but he gave me the pen and I figured well enough nothing would come of that. And it wasn’t very long until I got the appointment as US Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, Probate Judge, and the whole works. And I told the judge when I had a chance to go to Nome to visit with him I said there is one thing that is not very good. I said somebody out in a village commits what the town may think is a crime and they put in a complaint and the marshal goes down and picks him up and he is a hero coming out of his town. And you know get up before the commissioner I said is there any possibility that we can have a moving court so in other words if there is somebody down the line I can go with the marshal and try the person right there. And he said well I have a fund he said let’s use. So you go with the marshal and try it out.

And that had the best affect on the whole community. We’d go down to a place and this fellow was tried right in front of his own people and what a difference it made. It was probably one of the first moving courts in Alaska. I think Jay Rabinowitz followed it up out of Fairbanks afterwards, he was telling me about it. …
Well I felt that unless we got a constitution and became a state we would always be under the federal government, everything. I mean they appointed the marshals, the commissioners, everything was run by the federal government. And the only way you could get local government get any kind of local voice would be to go the statehood route. So I was pretty sold on the idea of it.

So when they came out with invitation to file for a delegate seat, there were basically two things. One was interest in local government and the law enforcement, like even at Unalakleet. And then the second thing was education so that we got a fair shake out of that. And with that in mind, why, I submitted my petition and I got elected and went to the Constitutional Convention.

I had a good friend that was a pilot that flew. He was the one that got all the signatures for me and pretty much did the campaign for me. I didn’t have time for that.

Intertitle: The Alaska Constitutional Convention

Maynard Londborg: I went there and had some good advice from a fellow that was running the trading post. He said well, be sure you pick up a good copy of Roberts Rules of Order. And he said another thing I think you will find most of the work done in the committee, in the various committees. So it’s real important that you get on the right one and that is where the work is done. Otherwise it is brought into the session as a whole and first reading, second reading and final reading.

Well I suppose I would classify myself as a Republican, but of course at the convention that wasn’t brought out. You didn’t run on party at all. In fact, I didn’t know what party most of them belonged to. They – I think all that were running for president of the convention were from the Democratic Party.

And the way it worked out we – I was with a group that helped get Bill Egan in as the president of the convention.

There was just something about him when I first met him. And those that knew him affirmed that, that he was just very fair type of person and really not a politician.

You hear from ex-delegates now they’ll all – that’s about the first thing they mention is how fair Egan was as a chairman, president of the – there was a lot of us that didn’t know the fancy Roberts Rules backwards and forwards and he could cut us off and just you are out of order you know and you’d stand there bewildered. But he would just like a good schoolteacher he would just draw it out.
So after he was elected then he had to appoint a committee of committees to see that people got on the committee they wanted to get on and he put me on that. …

Everybody put down their first, second, third choice and we tried to accommodate and of course I saw to it that I got on the two committees that I wanted to get on – local government and executive committees.

Intertitle: Executive Committee

Maynard Londborg: Vic Rivers I guess it was the chairman of that committee and he worked for a very, very strong executive, appointed powers and even they didn’t want a lieutenant governor at the time and secretary of state did it, well that was one of the first amendments. They changed that right away.

Right, it was to make the governor stronger. There was no lieutenant governor there. He was it and sensing this coming on in the writing on the Executive Branch the strong governor I held out and got support from enough others to limit the governor to two terms consecutively.
Well I felt very strong, but otherwise you get – if you didn’t have that in there you could get a governor in for 20, 30 years if he wanted to keep running.

Because in the territorial days they had an appointed governor by the United States and then you had your territorial legislature and in a sense the governor was pretty weak and they felt it was kind of a swing from that build up a strong one. Although I think that three branches of the government right now in Alaska from what I can follow do pretty good check and balance.

Intertitle: Local Government Committee

Maynard Londborg: And that was a very interesting committee to be on. Had a good group in there that worked together to come up with the idea of local government and one of the things that we tried to steer away from was where – although that came into the legislative as well, but where you’d have overlapping tax districts. And you could be taxed as this side and that side and the other side and whether this has been the best or not I don’t know but they presented it to the people in one tax package. It was sort of the town Parrish idea of local government.

Oh, that was weird. I mean nobody wanted to call it county and I don’t know that – how many votes were taken and reconsidered and all that but they did not want it to be a county, absolutely they were just memories from other states I guess or something. And then of course what are you going to call it. They ended up with a borough.

We must have covered at least 10 or 20 other names that would come up and they would vote them down and vote them down. And finally ended up the borough.
I think that there’s uh, a lot of the problems that we faced at Unalakleet are handled through the local government organization there. They are a – I was going to say incorporated village and have a lot of clout as local government.

Intertitle: Convention Lessons

Maynard Londborg: Oh I learned a lot of things while I was up there and that is that you can debate. You can passionately debate but it doesn’t have to ruin a friendship and it is kind of interesting we started talking about missionary work and that but how many churches do not know how to do that. I mean they’ll end up in a bitter fight or something like that, but I learned a lesson there. There were two delegates who were just passionately debating on each side of an issue. And this went on for a long time, long speeches and they were debating back and forth and I had something that I wanted to inject and I thought well if I can go to this one fellow and get on his side then you know he might be on my side because he is against that other fellow. And we had a little recess and I went out in the coffee shop and here the two guys were talking about their next hunting trip they were going to take together. And I thought boy oh, you don’t take anything for granted on the way they debated you know.

As a whole they were determined to write a constitution and not bring parties up to the extent that you would get deadlocked on issues that way. And which I believe they were very successful from that standpoint.

But we were not without our humor there. They – one of our delegates sat way in the back and she was always complaining that she couldn’t hear you know the speaker. And so they finally gave her a sign to hold up that said “louder” and she could hold that up and the speaker would amplify his voice. And a fellow got up to speak and he kept dropping his voice and dropping his voice and she grabbed for her piece of paper to hold up and somebody had slipped another one there that said lousy and she held that up you know and then this fellow stopped. You know I have to be insulted like that in this convention or something. It was really pulled that off really slick.

The Dr. Langston in Nome told Loraine you’re going to go to Fairbanks for the signing and he made arrangements for her transportation. So she got to come up there and be there when we went up there and signed the constitution. But that was quite an emotional time and I knew that nobody seemed to want to leave after it was all you know the final gavel went down they just – there had been built up such a close friendship among the delegates.

At that time the territory was very strong Democrat, which was kind of interesting because that was one of the blocks that we thought we’d have a hurdle with the United States Senate was the Republicans didn’t want Alaska in because that would give another solid Democratic candidates that would be in there and senators and representative and it would just add that many more. But it was rather interesting almost after it became a state it swung the other way and in a few years then we had Stevens, Young, and Murkowski just solid Republican representations. Alaska politics is very fascinating from that standpoint.

Credits:
Recorded March 31, 2004, at Maynard Londborg’s home in Denver, Colorado.
Died September 5, 2004.
Conducted by Dr. Terrence Cole, UAF Office of Public History

Maynard Londborg
Interviewed by Dr. Terrence Cole

Terence: And today is the day before April Fool’s Day, right. We don’t get this wrong, but it is March 31, 2004 and we’re here in Denver, Colorado at the home of Maynard Londborg. And Maynard, I want you to say your name cause I don’t – how do you spell it and say it just for the camera so we’ll have that.

Londborg: You mean the last name?

Terence: Well both your names?

Londborg: Maynard – M-A-Y-N-A-R-D and Londborg – L-O-N-D-B-O-R-G and there are two O’s in it.

Terence: Now there is a couple of Borg’s as far as I can tell at the Constitutional Convention, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: How many Borg’s were there?

Londborg: Well there was Sunborg, probably two or three.

Terence: There are a couple other I think, but I know is you and – but you’re Lon how do you say – is it Long, no I have trouble with my – like L-O-N-

Londborg: D.

Terence: So it’s Lond –

Londborg: Londborg.

Terence: Londborg, yeah.

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: I keep wanting to put a G in there not the D. But anyway why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you were born and are we all right with the dog you guys?

Londborg: I was –

Terence: Yeah.

Londborg: A little farm country home out in Nebraska and right – oh, we had about four or five little towns around us. Gross is the closest one about two miles away. And Bristow is where we did most of our shopping. It was south of us. Lynch southeast was our postal center and then once in a while we would go to a little farther west up to Spencer. So we were kind of in the middle of a few towns there. And I grew up and lived there on that farm during the dry years and dust bowls in the 1930’s – 20’s and 30’s. It was – looked back quite a terrible experience. The crops had come up and before you could cattle out to eat if there was any vegetation these hoards of grasshoppers would come in and they would just mow everything down. So we had dry years, dust bowl, grasshoppers, and of course the depression.

So it wasn’t a very promising place to stay. And when I graduated from high school I had a chance to go to college and that turned out to be a good move, just one thing led after another. Not everybody could get away from the farms and just a lot – and then the young people were all going into the – especially the women, into Omaha to work as housemaids and different jobs. And it actually left just the community of old bachelors up there. And of course they pretty well died off so. But that’s the you know as far as the early days.

Terence: Tell us a little bit do you remember what was a dust storm like? What was that?

Londborg: The dust storm when the clouds came in the sun would be obscured. I had about two miles to walk to school. In the schoolroom when a dust storm would come in we would go down to the little pump, well, bring in some water and soak our handkerchiefs in that and we would put that around our nose. We’d sit there in the schoolroom and it was so dark the teacher lit a kerosene lamp and school was just over, virtually over. We just sat there and waited in the schoolhouse. And then were times when they would dismiss us and had about two miles to face the dust on the way home.

Terence: Was there electricity in the schoolroom? Did it have electricity or?

Londborg: Electricity had not come to that part of the country yet.

Terence: So how about your in your – the farm and stuff, there was no electricity?

Londborg: No. We had just – I grew up studying by kerosene lamp, reading by kerosene lamp. We had oh, some gas lanterns or lights that we could use once in a while, but most of the time it was just little yellow kerosene flame burning.

Terence: When the dust storm though hit the school, what did it sound like? I mean was the wind howling and did the dust come –

Londborg: Oh, the wind just – and you’d hear the dust hitting the side of the building. The – any fence that was somewhat tightly woven like hog fence, acted like a snow fence and the dust would pile up. I know that our church cemetery was out in the country and the dust piled up and the cattle out in the field would like walk right over into the – we had about one day I think there were 18 of us gathered there with horses, wagon, fresnos and plows and moved a lot of the dirt back. It was – it was just unbelievable.

Terence: What was this like on your father? Because it was your father’s farm or you guys did you actually own the land or what was the?

Londborg: Yeah, he did up to that point, but he finally just turned it over to the loan company, about all we could do. And my sisters particularly that had gone into Omaha to work sent money home to keep the payments on the loan and my dad wanted to – didn’t want to owe them anything so he went to the bank and I think he borrowed $2,000 and paid them back and we lost our farm for $2,000. He said I might as well have borrowed 6,000. And that is what the neighbor did right next to ours. He borrowed 6,000 and he lost. What the banks didn’t want – the loan companies didn’t want the land either. So they would turn around and sell it back to re-contract for just practically nothing you know to get it off their hands.

Terence: What did your family do after they lost the farm? Where did they – did he move into Omaha or did they –

Londborg: No that was in 1938 when we moved, the folks moved into town, just the neighboring town and the year then I left for school. My older brothers and sisters were all out on there own so dad said well you’re the only one left what do you want to do? I said well I sure don’t see any future here so I pulled out.

Terence: Did, Maynard, what day were you born on? I didn’t get that exactly and where did you fit in with all your brothers and sisters? What day were you –

Londborg: I was born on May 11, 1921, the youngest of 10.

Terence: And did all the kids live until adulthood or did they all –

Londborg: Yeah. There is – it was kind of interesting because my father and his four brothers migrated from Sweden and they stuck together and they went up there and homesteaded and they had lived in the southern Nebraska for a few years and then they heard that this military reservation was going to open up for homesteading around Fort Randall.

And they threw their gear and everything into wagons and just had a wagon train on up and the town – the big town of us O’Neill was the land office. And they stopped in there to look and see what land was available and then they said well I think we’ll go on up there. It is another 40 miles and look it over and we will be back in two or three days and file a claim on the land. And the agent said well if you do that, by the time you’re back somebody is going to already have claimed it. So we suggest you pick the land right now. So they picked the land without even looking at it. And the land the five brothers had land that was either adjacent or cornered together and the five particles of land my father picked the worse one and raised the biggest family. So he had to supplement the farm income with – he had a little blacksmith shop. He did a lot of carpenter work.

Terence: Did all of his –

– Break –

Londborg: All the brothers –

Terence: Maynard, one thing about your dad and his brothers, he had four brothers, right?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: Now did they all lose their farms too or what happened? Did any of them stay on?

Londborg: They stayed on and pretty much went the same way with them as far as the farms. Most of the farmers up there in that area lost their farms or they refinanced with the loan company or whatever you had to do so.

Terence: Now what’s your of your nine brothers and sisters I guess, what were –

Londborg: Well I say I had five sisters. They each had five brothers so.

Terence: Now wait say that again.

Londborg: Anyway there was 10 of us, a family of five girls and five boys so.

Terence: What were their names?

Londborg: My oldest sister was named Venbla – V-E-N-B-L-A and his married an Arthur Johnson. And then my brother Elmer was next and he had three sons that are still living out in Oregon and his wife’s name was came from Hinderborman family. And then let’s see there was after Elmer then there was Nellie, married a John Holmberg. And Amy married a Elmore Arnold. And Tillie married a Bill Bonderson. And Hilder married an Ivar Larson. And then I had a brother Walter, just about six years older than me. And he married out in California, but they never had any children. So the only children – my oldest brother had three boys and then my sister Tillie Bonderson had three girls. So let’s see there weren’t that many cousins in our family.

Terence: Now are any of the – your brothers and sisters still alive?

Londborg: None of them now.

Terence: None of them now.

Londborg: No.

Terence: Now, okay I was going to guess you – okay, you went off to college. Where did you go to college? Oh, wait before we did that. I want to ask one more question about the dust storm. Did the dust ever come through the cracks in the building?

Londborg: It was terrible. And then like on our buildings, the barn and the house too, it would just peel the paint off from the outside. And I know our barn had cracks between the boards because of the dust just took all the pain off. And the dust would get into all of the feed. Cattle would have to chew on half dust and half hay, whatever.

Terence: I didn’t – I never thought about that. That would be awful. I mean they go after the feed with regular gusto or how?

Londborg: Oh, it was awful. And then we didn’t – couldn’t raise anything, crops, and the government had what they called idle acres. They paid farmers to let the land stay idle, thinking that would help it. On that the thistles grew up, these Russian thistles. And I know one year we – I brought one of my brothers and went over and mowed down a whole field of thistles from another farm or another place. We hauled that home and stacked it and sprinkled a little salt in there and the cattle ate it.

Terence: No kidding. They ate the thistles, wow.

Londborg: Well they were young and tender yet.

Terence: So it wasn’t going to rip them up inside? Did – so what were your chores around the farm? What kind of stuff did you have to do? As the youngest one did you get out of all the work?

Londborg: No, I had my share of it, milking cows and feeding the pigs and with the chickens and all of that, all of the stuff on a farm.

Terence: Did you have sheep? Did you have what kind of –

Londborg: We didn’t have sheep on our farm.

Terence: How many cattle did you have to have?

Londborg: Oh, I think the peak as I recall maybe 25 cattle and some were feeder cattle for selling and some were milk cows.

Terence: And did you learn how to ride a horse?

Londborg: I had a good horse to ride, very good one and –

Terence: What was his name?

Londborg: Peanuts. My –

Terence: What was good about him?

Londborg: Excellent. A horse well trained as a riding horse. Peanuts’ mother was one of the best cattle horses in the country and her name was Spider because of her long legs. And she belonged to one of my older brothers and when she had Peanuts this older brother told my brother Walter, who was immediately older than me, and I that we could have him if we –

Terence: Say that again, that’s okay.

Londborg: He said that you can have him if you take good care of him. So we went out – I don’t know why we named him Peanuts but it is probably the first thing we could find to feed him or something. But he grew up with a lot of the characteristics of his mother Spider as far as being a good cattle horse and very fast.

Man: We are going to turn that refrigerator we need to turn that to off.

Man: Okay, we’re rolling.

Terence: So what – why was Peanuts a good cattle horse? What does that mean?

Londborg: He could practically sit in the saddle and they just know what to do to cut cattle. They – and his mother Spider when people would travel down to another pasture maybe four or five miles away why they’d usually come and get Spider and she could – all you had to do was just be sure you sat in the saddle and stayed in there. Never had to give any directions. That’s really fun to watch a good cattle horse. They know what to do.

Terence: Did you really like enjoy riding and all that kind – or that was every kid had on the farm had to do or –

Londborg: Oh, I enjoyed it a lot and still enjoy it and horses up until just recently as far as going out trail riding around here in Colorado and that. Our banker in town in Bristow, Nebraska was down in the town south about 35 miles at O’Neill when a dust storm came up and he was concerned about his family and everything else. And of course he drove fairly fast, but then with the wind and the dust coming right at him it made it even faster as far as the dust hitting the car. When he got home there wasn’t a speck of pain on the front of his car. There wasn’t any paint left on the license plate. The windshield and the headlights were all pitted. That was – and then the –

Terence: That must have been scary, I mean being in them must have been scary, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: First time. Do you remember the first one or do you –

Londborg: Oh, not necessarily. Then the –

Terence: What was the sound like? What did it sound like? The sound of the sand, the dust hitting the edge of the barn or at school.

Londborg: A lot like when you get sleet out here you know just sharp sound hitting. Then the grasshoppers, when they couldn’t find anything else to eat went to the telephone poles and they creosote on the bottom of the poles they liked that and they would eat through until the pole just was suspended by the telephone wire. And so long stretches where all these telephone poles were hanging by the line just dangling and grasshoppers. Neighbor of mine that left a pitchfork and his leather gloves out in the field. When he came back to get them the next day the pitchfork handle was so pitted you couldn’t hardly use it and all that was left of the gloves were little metal grommets. They had eaten all the leather.

Terence: So was there something else you were going to say that before I went back and asked you again about the dust storm or?

Londborg: Oh, I think that pretty well covers it.

Terence: Okay.

Londborg: Dust storm, grasshoppers, and –

Terence: No locusts?

Londborg: All those good things.

Terence: Okay. So well when you when you went to college, where was the college at and where you’d – 1938 right?

Londborg: That was at that time it was North Park College. Now it is life a lot of others North Park University. And rather small church school and that’s – but I had in mind that I wanted to pursue some scientific field like either chemical engineering or electrical engineering. So I took practically all the – my courses in math and science, which turned out to be real help in later when we started a school because I had a good background in math and science.

Terence: When you ran the Covenant, let’s just skip ahead just briefly to that? Did you teach all the – there’s a picture of you teaching physics, right?

Londborg: Yeah. Taught all of the sciences, general science, physics, and chemistry, biology. And then almost any math class and the same way later when I was at the teacher or school in Minneapolis. I taught mostly science math classes there.

Terence: Was it sometimes hard to get science teachers than other fields? Was that more difficult sometimes?

Londborg: Probably. And that’s why I was fortunate because, especially when I was at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis. They would have their registration day and they’d get all the classes set and there was always a class that was left – they never expected the enrollment. Maybe geology, it might be algebra, it might be physics and then they’d give that to me so. There were times when I didn’t know what I was going to teach until the day before. That didn’t matter.

Terence: Did you – so when you went to college, once again the name of the college you went to?

Londborg: North Park.

Terence: North Park. No, no, but the college you went to as a student originally in 1938?

Londborg: North Park College.

Terence: Oh, it was North Park then, oh, in Chicago. So was the –

Londborg: Chicago.

Terence: Okay. So and so was your family in the Covenant Church back in Nebraska?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: Were they all members I – so you were raised in the Covenant Church?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: Anything that distinguished the Covenant Church from the other Swedish main line because the Covenant was a break off, right, in the – wasn’t that kind of how it started?

Londborg: Well it really had its start in Sweden sort of the pietistic movement over in Sweden and I don’t think they intended to start a separate denomination but it almost came by default because they – when they got over to America they wanted to be separate from the state church of Sweden. It was just they had been with that for time they grew up and so when they came over they wanted to be separate. But it was interesting that the early name of the church was the Swedish Mission or Swedish Evangelical Lutheran. They had tried out different names and then finally I think it was around 1930 they said well let’s pick our own name and they picked it, the Covenant Church then.

Terence: But you grew up in the church and your dad he was a member of – I mean –

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: How many people were in that church back in Nebraska? What was it – was it a small –

Londborg: Small, probably 50, 60 members at a peak, something like that.

Terence: And did that include all his brothers, their families, were they all in the same?

Londborg: Not all of them. Some of them went to the Lutheran Church in town of his brothers and that. So they weren’t all there, but it is interesting though that these five brothers stuck together and they are all buried in the same cemetery just in one row, which I think is unusual. I don’t think many families had migrated that far and stuck together.

Terence: That’s interesting and do you remember the names of his brothers? If you don’t, that’s okay, but I was just – do you remember their names?

Londborg: Oh, yeah. It was John was the oldest one and then Sam and then Andrew. My dad was Peter and then the youngest one was Charlie.

Terence: And they’re all buried together?

Londborg: Just –

– Break –

Terence: We’re rolling, okay. So the father’s name was – why don’t you just say their father’s name and you said it was Joe Johnson or no, what was it?

Londborg: Johan Swenson was his name and so his children then became whatever their given name and then would be Johnson.

Terence: A son of Johnson basically in other I mean son of John?

Londborg: Well that took on different spellings over the years too and –

Terence: Why don’t you just read the names of what would be the Swedish names of the brothers would have been? That’s kind of interesting, just the five brothers?

Londborg: Swen Johan and Anders Gustaf, Solomon Edward, Peter Alfred, and Carlie August. That became John and Andrew and Sam and Peter, and Charlie. Then they had a little girl that died in infancy, a little sister.

Terence: Well that is remarkable that they stayed together. That much have showed that they you know they got along okay, more than okay. That they stuck it out. One thing – well we can look at that, let me put it down here.

Londborg: Want to hand me the other books.

Terence: Now is that a memoir that you have written there or?

Londborg: Yeah, that’s the story of my life through the college up in Alaska, Matanuska. This is my father’s when he got his citizenship.

Terence: I see. Well we can maybe take a look at that later and then it would be great if we could get a Xerox of that – copy of that too because. I love Hubbard floors but they just get so dusty, okay, that’s sort of – that is kind of like the dust storm, huh.

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Is that what reminded of you when you saw that cartoon?

Londborg: Oh, right away. That was the famous remarks of the women when company would come when they say well I just dusted before the dust storm.

Terence: Because it would be covered with dust, right? Yeah. Yeah.

Londborg: And then the farmer’s springtime they say well I wonder whose farm we’re farming this year. Top soil come from South Dakota all over you know.

Terence: You know just one more thing about the farm. Did – was your dad sort of did he feel – how did he feel after they lost the farm? Was that a big sort of sad thing in his life or was he resigned to it or what was the – his reaction?

Londborg: I think it was you know he was expecting it. He saw it around him. Others same thing happening and my brother that went to California started working for Douglas Aircraft Company and he could have you know taken it over easy enough. My dad asked him if he wanted too and buy it or take it and he said well I don’t want a dead horse on my hands so he just washed his hands of it. But then when the folks moved into town why he bought them a house so they could live in.

Terence: And they passed away there? Did they stay in that town or?

Londborg: Yeah. See they moved in in ’38 and my mother and father passed away the same year in – well, it was the year we went to Alaska, so it would be ’46, something like that.

Terence: I see. Well you went to college you went out to 1938 is when you started in college, right, yourself and what year did you graduate then?

Londborg: Well it took me three years to get through the junior college. It was a junior college then because I had to get a job and work and so I took one year of college, summer school, and then the rest of it all through night classes. And I worked in a sewing machine factory.

Terence: In Chicago?

Londborg: In Chicago. And that proved pretty valuable because I learned a lot about machinery there. That big milling machine, drilling machines, and the like.

Terence: Was this a factory that made small sewing machines or was it – what was it?

Londborg: Industrial.

Terence: How big were they?

Londborg: Well I think the biggest one I saw must have had a head of about eight, nine feet. They could sew anything, big canvas and all kinds of things.

Terence: Okay. So what year was that then that you graduated? That was 1941?

Londborg: ’41.

Terence: Okay. So where were you when the war broke out or when the –

Londborg: I had gone back to Nebraska. Had surgery that summer and then I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law in – out in Nebraska recuperating and that was in ’41 when they started the draft. That came before the war broke out and there were three of us that we asked to be on the draft board to sign up people. So we signed each other up and then everybody else all day just a parade and got everybody registered.

Terence: Now so were you on the draft board?

Londborg: Not the draft board, just the actual signing people where they registered so I wasn’t on the draft board.

Terence: So and were you drafted then or did you have a deferment or what was the –

Londborg: Well that’s in the fall of ’41 I was mentioned I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law and they had a farm, oh, here, yeah that my –

– Break –

Terence: Maynard, speaking of that in a way how did you – was there any particular incident that made you hard of hearing or is that working in the factory or do you know? Cause I would say with Tom – Judge Stewart, he said it was pretty clear to him working in the mine and they didn’t have ear protection in those days.

Londborg: I’m not sure what affected my right ear, but that’s – I had the hearing loss there for a long time. I know one time a dentist up in Alaska and he was in there drilling for about two hours and terrible noise and I got out of there and had vertigo for about three weeks. Just you know lose your sense of balance.

Terence: Yeah, so that’s awful, oh man.

Londborg: My left ear is not too bad with a hearing aid I do pretty good with it so.

Terence: Oh, yeah you really do seem to pick up most everything so. But anyway so we were talking about the draft board and you were living on the farm in 1941 or helping out I guess with – not on the farm, but you’re helping with your brother is that right?

Londborg: Well I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law recuperating from surgery and during this time and then I’ll try to make this story short, but my brother-in-law was the lay leader for the local Methodist Church right near their farm in the town. And he just told me one day that he said well our pastor is going to be gone and he said you’re going to speak. And I said well I haven’t been to seminary or Bible school or anything and he said, yeah, but he said we’re all farmers we haven’t even been off the farm. And he wouldn’t take no for an answer so I said okay. And that’s how I got started you might say in the ministry.

And then about a week or two later a big black car drove into his yard and he called me over and introduced me to the district superintendent of the Methodist Church and he said I’ve got a church I want you to go out and see. And that was out at Royal, Nebraska. So I went out there and when – then he conferred with the people and he came back he said well I’m going to appoint you pastor out there. I think I was 20 years old and went out there and just one thing after another and unknown to me he had written to the draft board and he said now we’re losing ministers and he is covering a big area and so I got – when I got in the mail my classification as 4D and then of course I stayed in the ministry ever since that I was. I tried a couple times to join the service and both times just the last minute something came up and I didn’t.

Terence: So from the beginning you were – you basically got sort of drafted into the ministry?

Londborg: I suppose you could almost call it that. It was – and I look back. It’s – I – at the years the way they’ve turned out I probably was able to do through the ministry you know, although in a retirement home like this I imagine 90 percent at least are veterans or more. So not too many of us that things just worked out we didn’t get into the service.

Terence: Well so when you were then in the – you ended up being the pastor of this church, 20 years old. What happened then? Because you obviously didn’t stay a Methodist so you went into the Covenant some how but did you go back to school or what about that?

Londborg: Yeah, see then I wanted to stay at that church through the next year. I mean I really enjoyed it then. A lot of young people and talk about horseback right. Every kid had a horse and that was our outings was to go out horseback riding in the evenings or daytime and I really wanted to stay on there. The district superintendent came and he said well I’m not going to let you stay here. There are too many nice girls. He said I know what happens. You end up and you get married, you don’t have your education complete and he said I’m stuck with a lot of ministers like that. So he said you pick your college and wherever you want to go and I’ll see that you have a church to serve while you’re in the college. And it ended up that I went to Nebraska Wesleyan in Lincoln and they assigned me to a church there in Lincoln. And after a year or two then I wanted to go on to the seminary and that is when I transferred back to North Park Seminary. So I had about a two-year outing then with the Methodist Church, otherwise back in the Covenant.

Terence: You went back on the straight and narrow.

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Returned from your wild youthful fling with Methodists.

Londborg: From the string, yeah.

Terence: Yeah, that’s right, yeah. Well what was the – so what year did you graduate from North Park, what year was that?

Londborg: You mean the seminary?

Terence: The seminary I mean.

Londborg: ’46.

Terence: ’46. And so how did you get to Alaska because that was – how did that work out and when did you first hear about the –

Londborg: Well my wife Lorraine was in nurses training and she graduated in ’44 and we got married in ’45. And then when I finished seminary I thought I would stay home and go to some college and get my degree. And that summer in ’46 I got a call from the head of the mission department. When he talked to me he said would you go to Alaska for – he mentioned specifically to replace the missionary at Yakutat, who was going to take a furlough. He said it would be about a year to 18 months. I said sure. And –

Terence: Had you ever heard of I mean have you ever thought about being in Alaska before that?

Londborg: No, not particularly.

Terence: Did you know where Yakutat was?

Londborg: No. I knew it was up north some place and so while I was in the seminary serving churches in Chicago area and this field director’s wife – he and his wife had been missionaries in Alaska and she spoke in a church I was serving and made a remark I said I think if I ever went to any place –

Londborg: I’d like to go to Alaska over Africa or some place like that. And when they were apparently talking about getting somebody temporarily she mentioned that to her husband and that somebody had called in. So before we knew it we were on the way into Yakutat.

Terence: Now why did you say going to Alaska I mean was sort of sounded more interesting or what was the –

Londborg: I just frontier and wide-open space – it just had an appeal, which it still does. I mean I don’t know why I’m in Colorado now when you’d rather be back up there. Well, you know you’re up there.

Terence: That’s right. Well I can’t stand Alaska though. I’m just waiting to get out, sometimes. No I’m only kidding. But let’s back up one thing Maynard how did you meet your wife? You said she was in nurses training, but how did you first meet?

Londborg: She had one year when she attended based in North Park College before she entered nurses training and I met her that year and it was kind of love at first sight as far as I was concerned, but she was determined to go to nurses training. In those days the nurses couldn’t get married, so that meant a three-year break where we couldn’t do much dating or anything.

Terence: Because in those years if she was married she would have to drop out of the nurses training?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: Is that right?

Londborg: Especially that school. There might have been some others, I’m not sure, but not (inaudible) Covenant in Chicago.

Terence: So did she complete her nurses training then?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: And then you were married the next year?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: It is too bad it didn’t work out, huh? How long have you been married now?

Londborg: Fifty-nine years.

Terence: Fifty-nine years. Yeah. Isn’t that amazing? That’s wonderful. Fifty-nine or is it or 60. Sixty years next year.

Londborg: Next year.

Terence: That’s right, yeah. So how did it and your wife’s is Lorraine?

Londborg: Lorraine.

Terence: What was her maiden name?

Londborg: Lundstedt – L-U-N-D-S-T-E-D-T was her maiden name.

Terence: That’s a good Irish name, huh?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: So she was Swedish too? Her family was Swedish as well?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: Yeah. Did – so what did Lorraine think of going to Alaska when this happened? What –

Londborg: Well –

Terence: Because you were going to go as a team, right? I mean clearly –

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: And she was going to be the nurse?

Londborg: When I asked or when I was asked if I would go up there for I said sure and he said well you better talk to Lorraine first. And I said well I know what she’ll say. And so I came home and I said well I know where we’re going now and she said where. And I said Alaska and she said great. She said can I call and tell my folks. I said I think I better confirm it so that it isn’t just a rumor, but she was game right from the word go. And has followed or I don’t know if you could say followed but wherever we have been led in the work up in Alaska she is right there with it so.

Terence: Well that’s wonderful. Well tell me about how you’d get to Yakutat? What steamer did you take? What was – did you go to Seattle I guess? Did you take the train out to Seattle or did you fly or how did you –

Londborg: I drove a car for a company to San Francisco, a new car. Those days that cars were being shipped out West and then I think we took the train to Seattle. And then we were supposed to go by boat and we got into Seattle and Alaska Steamship Company was on strike. We stayed there for about a week and they decided that was going to a long strike so they said you better fly up there. So I went up on Pan Am I think it was to Juneau and then Yakutat.

Terence: Did – was that the first time you were ever on an airplane? Had you been on an airplane before?

Londborg: I think that was our first time.

Terence: And that was a big strike that year. I remember – I guess that was – I don’t remember but that was the post-war strike, right because it was ’46?

Londborg: ’46.

Terence: What day – when did you arrive in Yakutat? What time was that? What month of the year was that?

Londborg: Probably August or September something like that.

Terence: So you landed in Yakutat. What did you think when you got there? Did you think oh no?

Londborg: Well it was very fascinating, beautiful country, beautiful mountain ranges around there. The town had a military base located there because of the Japanese presence and so forth and that had a tremendous affect on the town. Apparently it was a somewhat quiet, peaceful town before that and the presence of thousands of military just changed the town completely. So it was in a way a very difficult place to do any work.

Terence: How did it change it, you mean there was a lot of liquor and stuff?

Londborg: Liquor and I don’t think there was a young girl that could grow up there and was hardly safe in the area. And I think – I forget I looked at the statistics of the births over that period of time and it was kind of a sad story to read the parentage of the ones that were born. They had a lot – and then the liquor.

Terence: And no father, basically no one being around, the fathers, yeah.

Londborg: Then also in ’46 the fresh fish buyers came in. They hadn’t been able to before the war was over. And they stayed out about three and a half, four miles off the coast, which would be international waters and the people would bring their fish out and sell and otherwise Libby’s Cannery had gotten the fish over the years. And they were getting I think a dollar twenty-five for sockeye salmon and these people would bring boatloads out there and they would pay them cash but always give them a little liquor besides. And they’d go back out there and buy more liquor. So many of the fishermen ended up in the fall with no money, just – and they had no way to get back into town because Libby’s wouldn’t transport them back on the railroad, Yakutat and Southern.

Terence: Because the railroad was that railroad running then when you got there?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Yakutat and Southern, where did it go from?

Londborg: From Yakutat out to the fishing area.

Terence: About how far was that, about how many –

Londborg: About 16 miles.

Terence: So what kind of railroad was that, that’s a little – was it a narrow gauge kind of?

Londborg: Probably.

Terence: Actually I didn’t remember that was running then.

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: And was there a cannery there? Did Libby’s have a cannery right there?

Londborg: In Yakutat?

Terence: Yeah.

Londborg: Yeah, Libby’s Cannery.

Terence: So what was that – was that really the main employment in the town?

Londborg: Right. And people could go there and get credit during the winter – Libby’s I think treated the people very good and then when they’d get the fish they’d clear up their debts and then have a little reserve left over and life when on. Until ’46 it just shattered that whole thing.

Terence: And then that was because of the liquor and –

Londborg: The fresh fish buyers. And the government tried to get them to stop it. See they were outside of the boundary – they were in international waters is where they did their business.

Terence: Well now is Yakutat supposed to be a dry village? Was it illegal to have the alcohol in there or was it you know –

Londborg: Oh, I wouldn’t say it was dry. It probably had been pretty dry, but after you know the military in there and this other, it was pretty (inaudible) stated that way.

Terence: Now how long did you stay at Yakutat? How long did that stay –

Londborg: One year.

Terence: One year.

Londborg: And we would have stayed longer but the church wanted us to move to Unalakleet to help start a children’s home because my wife was a nurse and there was a lot of maintenance and I had a lot of experience with machinery and things like that. So we went on up to Unalakleet then that next summer.

Terence: Now how did you get up there? How did you get there?

– Break –

Terence: I think I might have heard that they might have saved a locomotive or something of it, but basically it was a fish hauler. Is that what they used to haul the fish in from the fish – where the ships would have docked?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Because why did they need it or why not bring it right to the cannery? Is it because there is no –

Londborg: Well it was pretty rough waters out around.

Terence: Oh, I see.

Londborg: That area so in other words the fishermen would have to take you know bring them in or out and this worked out a lot better.

Terence: And safer.

Londborg: The town of Yakutat had decided they would like to have some electricity and there was the – around the cannery was the new village and around the corner, way down the coast about a mile was the old village where a lot of the Natives still live down there. And our mission house or compound was right on the edge as you went into the old village. So I had about half mile or three-quarters walk into town to get our mail and stuff. Always had a rain jacket in my backpack because it just rain would come just instantly. And anyway they got a idea and I don’t know where they got this light plant, but it was the one cylinder. It stood vertical and then big flywheels and it had the generator that operated off of a belt and then they had a line that ran down through the new village and anybody wanting electricity could tap onto that. I don’t know how much they had to pay.

One night, I don’t know what exactly what happened. But the belt broke and it whipped around and caught the line that went out and it pulled it into the flywheel. Literally the whole stretch of wire all through the new village was pulled in there and there was a great big ball of wire on that flywheel. There was the China man that had a restaurant, Lin Loe was his name and when the lights went out he had his flashlight right there and he went out and it just whipped it right out of his hand and that wire was going by. It could have taken his hand off, but made quite a story that the electricity went out and they rolled up the wire. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good camera, but I don’t know if anybody ever took a picture of that big ball of wire on that flywheel.

Terence: I’ve heard of rolling the sidewalks up.

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: But that’s something.

Londborg: That was something else.

Terence: So what happened? Did they ever get it back on line or what happened?

Londborg: Oh, yeah, eventually they got –

Terence: They’d string it back out?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Was this wire sitting on the ground or was it like on a pole?

Londborg: No, it was up on poles.

Terence: That’s really amazing. When you lived in Yakutat did you live in the house that in the old Swedish – the old teachers’ house or?

Londborg: Yeah. It was an old house, very old house and Yakutat I think they have about 130 inches of precipitation a year. Ketchikan has more, but 130 is plenty and when it would rain water would come under the front door and the back door at the same – I mean it downpour and water would get in both the front door and the back door.

Terence: And would meet in the middle?

Londborg: Yeah, in the middle of the house.

Terence: So what did you – cause you had never lived in such a rainy place before obviously. I mean did you have any idea what the weather was going to be like when you?

Londborg: No, no. Not the way (inaudible).

Terence: And so you always had your boots and your rain jacket with you?

Londborg: Always carried it and usually had boots on as footwear and then a little backpack for groceries and mail and I always had a little rain jacket in there.

Terence: And did you have electricity in the house? You must have I guess of the line.

Londborg: Oh we were out in the old village so we weren’t part of that.

Terence: So you didn’t have any electricity?

Londborg: No.

Terence: And what did you heat with? Did you guys have wood or –

Londborg: Oil. At that place we burned oil.

Terence: Now did – was there any boardwalks connecting the old village or was it just mud or what was the?

Londborg: There were some boardwalks around in placed. I think later when we moved up to lived in (inaudible), Alaska, there they had quite a boardwalk all over and of course Nome had pretty much boardwalks there.

Terence: Well, so when you’re leaving Yakutat and you are going to go out to Unalakleet, church has let you know.

Londborg: Right.

Terence: Did yo know where Unalakleet was?

Londborg: Oh, I found it on the map and –

Terence: Did you know how to spell Unalakleet?

Londborg: No. Not many people do. The – we went to Anchorage and then our missionary pilot met us there with a little Stinson and flew us out to Unalakleet.

Terence: Now that was in ’47, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: But now so was that your first trip out to Anchorage, because when you went to Yakutat you just stayed in Yakutat basically right?

Londborg: Yeah, pretty much so. I did have one trip up to Unalakleet for a conference. My wife didn’t go along with. I was up there and then she had a couple trips to Juneau to bring in sick children into Juneau and that was some scary flights that she was on. Rain and snow or sleet. I don’t know how those pilots did it around that country.

Terence: Where did they land at Yakutat? They did it on floats or was there a strip there?

Londborg: There was a landing field that part of the military installation. Otherwise a lot of float planes in the bay.

Terence: I guess that is where the planes still land is that military airstrip I think so. Well so you went over to Anchorage. What were your first impressions of Anchorage when you first saw it, that would have been 1947 I guess probably?

Londborg: Pretty small town at the time. I think Northern Lights Boulevard was the southern extremity but then Spenard Road went on angled out to the airport. Otherwise it was a really small town then yet.

Terence: Did you meet cause we talked the other day you met Jenny Rasmuson, but did you meet her that time or maybe that was later on, you know the missionary at Yakutat?

Londborg: I met her – I mentioned that I had gone to Unalakleet and I went through Anchorage and that was when I went in and visited her in the hotel that she was living in.

Terence: And Mr. Rasmuson, was he there I guess because this was ’47, so he was still alive, but I don’t know if he was in Anchorage so if you ever met him?

Londborg: Oh, her husband?

Terence: Yeah, E.A. I’m not sure.

Londborg: I don’t think. She was a widow I believe.

Terence: When you met her?

Londborg: Met her.

Terence: I see, okay. Well, so you went out to Unalakleet in what year that would have been forty –

Londborg: ’47.

Terence: ’47, so what was that like out there? Your wife was going to be the nurse.

Londborg: Right.

Terence: What are the challenges that she faces as a nurse? What was the major health problem?

Londborg: Oh, it was tuberculosis. There was hardly a family that wasn’t affected by it and many of the children were left with either one parent. If it was the father, he couldn’t take care of them. He had to hunt and trap so that was one of the big reasons the children’s home was started was to take care of these orphans and half-orphans and that was a big enough challenge. Then of course the village they were supposed to have a government nurse there, but about half the time they didn’t. And then usually if they did have one there then she traveled to other villages. And my wife would end up doing the nursing in the village.

Terence: Was she actually employed as a nurse too by the mission or who did it work? Were you working for the government?

Londborg: For the church. My wife was never employed by the government or any village. All of her nursing was just gratis.

Terence: So and so basically what income the two of you received was what you got from the church basically?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: So it was nothing from the government at all –

Londborg: No.

Terence: They didn’t ever help out?

Londborg: No.

Terence: Man that must not have been very much money. I mean how much you know.

Londborg: Didn’t need much money.

Terence: Well –

Londborg: Just go and get some fish and lot of subsistence that way.

Terence: How much did you get paid, do you remember what the –

Londborg: No, I don’t. I couldn’t figure it out as well – it wasn’t very much. Basically enough to order – we’d order bulk groceries from Seattle and if we would have had to go to the store and buy over-the-counter all our food it wouldn’t have been enough so we usually put in our order for and the ships came up there once or twice in the summer. So you put in your order for the whole year, flour and sugar and milk and whatever.

Terence: What volume, do you remember Maynard, about how much you’d buy for a year and how much you know flour. I mean would it be a whole pallet or how much would the size take when the groceries finally came you know, I guess it would be a lot of room it was a whole year’s worth of supplies?

Londborg: Yeah, it – as far as volume, probably five sacks of sugar, five sacks of flour and maybe 40 cases of milk and that would be the dry milk.

Terence: Not the condensed milk, I mean it was just powdered milk, right?

Londborg: Mostly powdered milk.

Terence: Did you ever get any fruit or stuff like that?

Londborg: Very, very little, except that’s why we grew so fond of the cranberries that we could buy. And we’d usually go out – they’d put in milk cartons, especially the town north of us Shageluk. We’d buy two or three of those and have cranberries all winter and blueberries. That was basically our fruit.

Terence: Did – so you’re in this situation where – but when you got to Unalakleet, did you have to build a house or was there –

Londborg: No, there as an old house that was built around the turn of the century and at the time it was pretty apparently a pretty nice house. It had two story with four kind of bedrooms on the second floor and during the Gold Rush days miners would come through and Unalakleet was the route if they came up from St. Michael or if they over from Kaltag, either way, and they would end up staying. Oh, the visitors list is really long in the old mission house and then they’d always say well if I strike it rich I’ll help you out. And some of them did. They came back and they had enough money and gave them so they – I think that’s how that house got built.

Terence: And that’s the house you moved into?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: Right.

Londborg: But that was pretty old by that time.

Terence: So did you have to fix it up?

Londborg: Well that house got fixed up so many times that it was cold, poor insulation. We’d spill some water on the floor and ice right away. My wife had little mukluks and wool socks made for the kids and they them during the daytime in the house, otherwise their feet would be cold. So when they were ready to go out and play why they’d just slip a parka on and take off.

Terence: Cause they already had their boots on?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: So it wasn’t going to remove your boots when you come into the house?

Londborg: Not –

Terence: Put your boots on before you leave the house, yeah. The – so your job is building the home basically for the orphans, right?

Londborg: Well I helped on the construction. I did practically all the wiring in that building and then in 1954 I think it was they were able to get a lease on some government buildings in White Mountain and they moved the children’s home up there.

Terence: So but the children’s home was still run by the Covenant, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: So that was your primary responsibility was running that home, right? Was that your –

Londborg: Well I had the church to take care of.

Terence: Oh, and the church too, yeah. So you were the regular minister and pastor. Did you do the whole range of stuff that ministers do – funerals, weddings?

Londborg: Everything. You never knew in the morning what you were going to be doing. And we had a – well and the house was old. We burned wood and then they burned wood in the church. And the people would go out and gather some and we had a hold of a D4 cat that was a Army veteran in itself that had been out on the Aleutians and had a couple of bullet holes through the thick plate behind and we – long story, but got that from Nome through Nome and on down and –

Terence: Got it barged down there. Did you bring it down on the barge?

Londborg: Yeah. And I had to learn to drive that thing and maintain it and so I – there was an awful lot of time spent in just staying alive. Hauling wood, hauling water and all of these different things.

Terence: Didn’t offer a lot of time for reflection and you know –

Londborg: No, and not a lot of time for what you thought you were supposed to be doing you know the mission work – church work and that and but we survived that.

Terence: Now when you – when the home was built, how many kids did you say – how many kids did you have in the home?

Londborg: I think we ended up with about 30 and our missionary pilot was flying them in from all the villages.

Terence: Do you remember his name? Who the pilot?

Londborg: Roal Dominson.

Terence: Oh that’s Roal Dominson, okay.

Londborg: And a –

Terence: He was named after the explorer obviously, right?

Londborg: Something like that, yeah. But we almost treaded seeing the plane come because we knew it would be another kid he’d be bringing.

Terence: And probably always the room for one more kind of philosophy, right, I think what you operated on? So were there bunk beds or how was it – was it a big dormitory or what was the?

Londborg: Well in that building that was built for the children’s home we did – I don’t remember just how we got bunk beds in there but probably through Army surplus in Anchorage something like that.

Terence: And you and Lorraine were responsible 24 hours a day for all those kids, right?

Londborg: Just about.

Terence: So you had 30 kids. It was like having a family of 30 children, right?

Londborg: And two of them were youngest two were in diapers and she had to take care of. We had a little light plant in the basement of that building, a little Onan and it was used during the construction of the building cause it had automatic start soon as you turn a power saw on the light plant would kick in. And it was in the corner of the building, the basement, with the exhaust pipe running out into a big barrel and then there was this exhaust from there about 10 feet up in the air and that was instead of a muffler I mean it was used that way.

And we had a terrible snowstorm one Christmas and the light plant gave out and a friend of mine, one of the Laplanders that was living there he came over and helped me and we overhauled it in the dark with little kerosene lantern and took it all apart and cleaned it out. We got it running and we shut it off and then the next day morning was Christmas day. I think it was Christmas or Thanksgiving, one or the other and we started it up in the morning and one of the girls that was missionary helping and she went with me over to the church and she got called back because the other one got sick and then the kids were sick. We thought it was the flu and went out in the village and everybody said oh they must have the flu in there. They were throwing up and it was just terrible. And we had shut the light plant off then during the daytime and in the afternoon we started it again and everybody got nauseated again. And had a pretty good idea what it was. And I went out and the snowstorm had plastered that side of the building and it literally covered the end of that spout there 10 feet up in the air. And I got a long stick and I poked a hole in the and got the exhaust going out again. But we thought about that and I got it written up in my book here, the guardian angel or something because I could just see headquarters, the newspapers, 18 children orphanage in Unalakleet also suffocate from carbon monoxide poisoning. You look back and it is scary.

Terence: Yeah, how close that was, yeah, yeah. And that wouldn’t be a good recommendation for your last job.

Londborg: That would have been my last job too if I would have stayed in that building.

Terence: Yeah because everybody CO poisoning.

Londborg: See I was going out in the village around and talking to people so I missed a lot of it for myself.

Terence: Now when the electric plant was that – did that – so there were hours you didn’t want people to turn on lights and stuff or?

Londborg: Oh, yeah. We had to ration out and just certain hours and they’d do the laundry and ironing and things like that and then we shut it back off. Later when we had the building turned over to the high school I was able to get a diesel light plant and we found that was cheaper to run day and night.

Terence: Because the first one what was the fuel the first one?

Londborg: Gasoline

Terence: It was just a gasoline.

Londborg: Two cylinder.

Terence: It was like a lawn mower basically right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Boy that would have been noisier than all get out. I mean it must have been I mean.

Londborg: And the problem was that we couldn’t ship in good gasoline, well we could from Seattle, but there was the Army had a lot of gasoline up at a Army post north of us and high water had taken that and washed those barrels way out in the flats and people would go there and put a barrel of that gas on and bring it in and sell it. We bought some of that but that was a high octane for airplanes and they’d run in this little Onan for maybe a couple of months and then you had to stop and clean it all out again.

Terence: Well now during this time the Dew Line comes in, right, the Dew Line or was that already there when you got?

Londborg: No, that came in about the time we started the high school in 1954 and ’55 they built the road up and got the Dew Line in.

Terence: Well, let’s talk about the high school then first because you were telling me how you got your – how you got the school going. So let’s talk about that, what –

Londborg: Well, they had –

Terence: Well, I guess the orphanage moved first, was that right?

Londborg: Right, they moved up to White Mountain and actually had better facilities for a children’s home up there. Those old government buildings and then had been living down in Marshall on the Yukon and they asked us to go up – back to Unalakleet and the mission station. We got back up there in ’54.

Terence: So you went from Unalakleet down to Marshall?

Londborg: Right for about two years.

Terence: Oh, I see, okay and Marshall is on the Yukon River, right?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: Okay.

Londborg: Very interesting village.

Terence: What were you doing down at Marshall? What was that – was the same –

Londborg: Had a mission church and that was had become an old mining town and a lot of old sourdoughs living there. I mean just characters. I’ve got stories about several of them written up. I mean they were just fascinating characters.

And anyway we got back up to Unalakleet and some of the parents approached us and said that the early missionaries had started a grade school and that is why the old people can read and write so well and then the government took over grade schools and the (inaudible) came in. And they said would you consider starting a high school? And they said we don’t want to send our kids way down to Edgecumbe to 1300, 1400 miles down there and never see them for maybe two or three years.

And thought about it a little while and at that time the territory had a plan where anybody in the village where there was no school could ask the territory to pay for a correspondence courses, high school through the University of Nebraska and the grade school was that was another one, I don’t know, it’s Calvert System or something. But the only thing I could think of was to sign these kids up, have the parents put in applications for correspondence courses and then I would just hold regular classes for them. And I proposed that then to the lady who was head of the educational department in Juneau and territory and she fired a word right back, well if you’re going to do that why don’t you order textbooks from our adopted textbook list and just start a high school and we’ll put you on the approved list. And we couldn’t be accredited then or anything as yet. So I sent word back I said we don’t have any certified teachers and I said I’m not certified to teach. She said well we’ll take care of that. We’ll send you a teacher’s certificate. And so that came in the mail and good for one year and we got our school started.

And then the year was over I said now we still don’t have teachers, certified teachers. We have a couple coming next year but that doesn’t take care of the immediate year up ahead. And they said don’t worry about that, we’ll send you a principal certificate that gives you teaching privileges sand that’s good for two years. So when they sent that and –

Terence: Then you were off to the races.

Londborg: Off to the races.

Man: Just a little break here just to –

Terence: Magazine in the back that – that’s amazing.

Londborg: Then in ’56 then we got Al and Gladys White up there.

Terence: Oh, these are the teachers yeah?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Well, that’s amazing. Well we’re about to talk about the convention here a little bit. You want to get up and take a rest or stretch your legs, okay.

Man: We can disconnect here.

Man: I can move this if you want to use the restroom.

Man: I can definitely feel that Terrence, that’s pretty good. Yeah, we’re rolling now.

Terence: It is a – you and Lorraine, is that you and Lorraine?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: And what’s that picture of you on the dog sled or what was the –

Londborg: Oh, that’s – that must be Linda down in the sled.

Terence: Linda is in the sled. Your daughter is in the sled, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Now is that at Unalakleet, is that –

Londborg: Yeah, that’s the old church there.

Terence: Did you ever do anything with dogs out at Unalakleet I mean I wondered if you ever did you know cause basically with the transportation around you didn’t really – no one really had dogs much back then, right, I mean in the villages, was there any?

Londborg: When we arrived everybody had a dog team. Now they don’t.

Man: Hold on a second.

Terence: So when you first got there did everybody have dogs is that in Unalakleet?

Londborg: Well there were dog teams – practically every family had a dog team and like at conference time where the church is you know and they’d come from far away up and down the coast. You’d have maybe 300 visiting people or a 100 visiting people but three to four hundred visiting dogs, put up a howl.

Terence: And did – had anybody had snowmachines at that time?

Londborg: They were just getting introduced, the snowmachine. Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo and some of those, but I don’t this is when – no they came in quite a bit later around the 50’s something like that.

Terence: But when you first got there the people were still using dogs to get around.

Londborg: To get around, haul their wood and ice and go out hunting and trapping.

Terence: Now did you ever keep a dog team or did you ever need for one?

Londborg: No, my neighbor who was the postmaster Frank Ryan had a beautiful dog team and three days a week he would (inaudible) or a fellow that would handle him would go out and meet the airplane and bring the mail in, passengers and that by dog team into town in the wintertime. And then on the other days the dogs would be idle and his daughter was going to exercise the dogs because they just aren’t getting exercise. And they would take off just like a bolt of lightening, go about two and half three miles up the river and then they’d stop and they’d swing around. And she wasn’t heavy enough on the brake to hold them and the dogs would come into town.

And Frank told me about this and he said that she is going to ruin those dogs. And at that time we were burning wood and I said if I can use the dogs and go out and cut wood, I’ll bring you wood and ice back in and made a deal with me. So there was a young Native boy that usually went with me and we’d hook up those dogs and the first time they went out they pulled the same thing on me, just whirled right around. And I was heavy enough so they couldn’t get started again and I was giving them the commands to turn and get back on the track and they looked at me and who are you? And then they stood there and I think it was 10, 15 minutes that we had a little mental deal going on. Finally kind of sheepishly they turned around and never had any problem after that. But if I had gotten off the sled and tried to run up you know and got the leader to turn around they would have been gone so.

Terence: Do you know why – why did they stop at two and a half miles – was there a certain point there that –

Londborg: They figured out that was a good turning point for them and it was just about the same place every time you know.

Terence: How much farther up the river did you have to go to get the wood? How far was your wood?

Londborg: I think all together we went seven, eight miles and then we’d cut wood and when we would get a sled load or two, then I’d go up with the D4 cat and pull it in.

Terence: Oh, I see so you just used the sled going up there and –

Londborg: And cutting –

Terence: Not for bringing it back basically?

Londborg: Just cutting it.

Terence: Is it a D4 is that what you said?

Londborg: D4.

Terence: Did you have a sled that you could build behind it?

Londborg: Big go devil what they call them and built behind there. Oh, we actually had two of them so I could up four and five cords of wood on each one and get that started down the river went along pretty good.

Terence: How did you handle your drinking water? You didn’t have a well there did you? What did you do with –

Londborg: We had a well under that building but it was brackish water. It was terrible. And so we would go up the river and haul water down in barrels in the summer time and in the winter we would haul ice in. We had an icehouse and then under the children’s home there was about a 5,000 gallon cistern tank it was there and we’d haul water down and fill that up about every couple weeks or so.

Terence: How did you haul water down, with the cat or –

Londborg: Yeah, with the D4 cat.

Terence: And was there a big like tank sitting on one of the sleds?

Londborg: We had gotten a hold of a couple tanks that were each about 500 gallons. We’d roll them up on the sled and we had a pump and we’d go up and chop a hole in the ice and fill them up. Take about four or five trips in a day to fill that cistern.

Terence: And how often would it run dry? Would it be –

Londborg: Sometimes too often. They liked the fresh water rather than the brackish water for everything, but we tried to limit it to you know cooking and maybe rinsing some clothes and things like that.

Terence: But did you have toilets at all in the home or was it just an outhouse or what was the – what did you –

Londborg: You are well acquainted with the term of honey buckets. That is what we started with and after well about the time we were ready to leave Unalakleet the government had put in a septic system through the town and then they had flush toilets and so forth.

Terence: That was in the 1960’s though, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: 1966 or so.

Londborg: Right about the time we left. Only problem I guess about the first winter the (inaudible) froze up and then they really were in a mess there at Unalakleet. So –

Terence: Did they have like at Nome where you – like a line where you were supposed to dump the garbage out on the ice, did anybody do that or?

Londborg: They did that at first and they had sort of an imaginary line that once you got started people would bring garbage and stuff way out there and dump it and hopefully in the spring why it would wash away. I remember when the health department came up and I was concerned about it. They said well once it gets turning around with the dissolution factor so great so you don’t have to worry about anything. Might be true.

Terence: That’s what the health department said?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: I don’t think they do that now. I wonder if DEC or the EPA has the same attitude nowadays anymore. Did – so but hauling that water, what an immense amount of work. What about the ice? Now was the ice kept underground or was it just a shed you stuck the ice in, what was that?

Londborg: It was half underground and built up over it.

Terence: And so that was the drinking water source for the wintertime?

Londborg: Wintertime.

Terence: How big were the chunks of ice that you brought in?

Londborg: The –

Terence: And how did you cut them, Maynard, how?

Londborg: They were probably 18” long and at least 12” wide and four or five deep. At first they were going up there and sawing so the ice would break off and then it would float and they’d pull it out and finally they found that it was better to let the ice get real thick and then we had an excellent co-worker that came up he could just do anything with metal work and he mounted a saw and pulled behind the cat and it would saw ice down to about five, six inches and then it was still solid under that and they’d go both ways and then you’d break up your first piece and after that why they just popped up with the ice pick.

Terence: And these how did you get them on the sled, so you say like –

Londborg: Oh, well that was with an ice tongs and it was manual work pretty much.

Terence: But you know I see what you mean you had to spend many hours a day living right?

Londborg: Living, right.

Terence: That is just what you just living. Must have been exhausting work though I mean.

Londborg: It was on that. I mean there was just no end to it. Ice and water and then fishing and different things like that.

Terence: What about with the fishing? Did you like enjoy that or did anybody have any wheels down there or I don’t know what did they do? What’s the –

Londborg: The people used basically gill nets to catch fish and or else a seine where a school of fish would come in and then you’d drop the seine around them and pull them on in. I got pretty handy at that.

Terence: Did you have a boat at all?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: What was the name of the boat?

Londborg: Well the one that I built I don’t think I gave it a name. It was kind of a first job, but it went pretty good in the water. That was –

Terence: But you built your own boat then too?

Londborg: I built one yeah.

Terence: Did you have a kicker with it or –

Londborg: Yeah. Little 10 horse Johnson I think it was.

Terence: So between that – what about hunting? Did any caribou ever down there or what’s the –

Londborg: The hunting was not very good around Unalakleet until there was a big fire in the Interior and moose and caribou started showing up. It drove them over and about the time we were ready to leave why it was pretty decent hunting there.

Terence: But from the 20 years there basically there wasn’t much, right? There wasn’t – did you ever get a moose down there at all or do you remember? Did you ever –

Londborg: Most of my hunting was hunting rather than getting one.

Terence: It was the hunting part?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: None of the bringing back home, yeah, well, that’s good, that’s like missionary work I guess in general or like you say.

Londborg: Everything.

Terence: Amount of labor. Now you had four children, three children, how many?

Londborg: Four.

Terence: And how many were born in Alaska? Who, what was the –

Londborg: Three were born in Nome, Alaska and then the second one was born in Iowa when we were out on leave for a few months. So he doesn’t claim Alaska from that standpoint.

Terence: Now so when Lorraine was pregnant then you brought her up when she was expecting up to the hospital in Nome, is that what you did?

Londborg: Then our missionary pilot usually would fly down and bring her into Nome and had a doctor up there that delivered the two youngest I guess – Dr. Langson and he was a good doctor. But we were living down in the Yukon when I guess both John and Beth were born and they had a flight there from Marshall on up to Nome. And I remember with Beth she gave us a false alarm about a month early and our neighbor got on the radio in the night. He just kept calling. He had Alaska Airline radio phone and finally somebody picked it up and they called and got in contact with Bethel and they sent a Beaver out to get Lorraine and landed in the middle of the night. I went with him to Bethel

Londborg: Strange thing happened but got in there and the labor pains stopped and she stayed down there about a week or so and then our pilot brought her up to Nome and so Beth was born in Nome too.

Terence: Did – what was it like having the kids in the school because well the elementary school was a BIA school, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: So for the young kids. Were there any other white kids in the school or were they the only ones or what was the –

Londborg: We had – well even when we had the high school we had a mix of quite a few Caucasian, FAA workers and others around the country would send their kids there so we had maybe 10 percent were Caucasian.

Terence: And as elementary school though was a BIA – it wasn’t a church school?

Londborg: No.

Terence: Elementary was the BIA, right?

Londborg: It was under the Bureau of Indian Affairs, yeah.

Terence: And so then let’s talk about founding the school, because that is 1954, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: And you’re coming back from Marshall and did you use the old orphanage, was that part of the building?

Londborg: Yeah, that was the building that we were able to use for high school.

Terence: And so as you said you didn’t have a certificate so they obliged and mailed you one.

Londborg: Right.

Terence: I should try that. I mean that’s a good idea you know, second career, just ask them. So what was it like what are the challenges of running that school cause you were the principal and the science teacher and what were the other teacher – did Lorraine teach at all or did –

Londborg: She taught a Bible class, but she also was the school nurse and then she taught piano. That was one little benefit the kids had coming there. Anybody that wanted to take piano could get piano lessons. So we had some real good pianists that came out of there and she was a good teacher.

Terence: Did you ever run into Simeon Oliver? Do you know Simeon that wrote that book Son of the Smoky Sea? He wasn’t up at Unalakleet, but you know, remember him? He was a piano player that –

Londborg: Yeah I’ve heard of him and I don’t know if I bumped him or not.

Terence: He wrote that music called the Aleutian Lullaby. I was just curious. So where did the piano come from? Did you have that shipped in or was that already there?

Londborg: There was an old piano that was kind of a relic that we used at first, tuned it up a little bit, but then when I was out to the Lower 48 one of the churches offered to buy a new one and so went into Seattle and made a good deal for a – I think it was a Hamilton studio model and we had that shipped up so we had a real good piano.

Terence: And Lorraine played the piano?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Did you sing or did she play the piano in church?

Londborg: No, I didn’t sing. I still don’t.

Terence: Well, okay, we’ll be the judge of this Maynard, why don’t you sing us a few bars of Amazing Grace here?

Londborg: That would be amazing all right. Yeah.

Terence: But did you ever, so in services – cause actually I don’t know among in the Covenant Church, do they actually sing in services like –

Londborg: Oh, yeah.

Terence: Okay.

Londborg: Singing is a big part of it.

Terence: Where did you get your idea – how did you handle it with you were telling us the other day – did you have a translator? How did that wrote when you had to give your sermons?

Londborg: Well when we first got to Unalakleet, they did use a translator.

Terence: They did or didn’t?

Londborg: They did.

Terence: They did.

Londborg: And I had a translator who took a lot of time. I’d speak a little, maybe a sentence, and then I’d almost forget where I was at by the time he got done. Asked him what he was doing? He said well I’m giving it in all three dialects here at Unalakleet. And I didn’t know what to do and finally I gave him the whole long paragraph and he pulled on my coat and he said I can’t remember all that. I said well that’s fine, just tell them what you remember and we got along a lot better. He made it pretty short then. But Unalakleet really didn’t need an interpreter by the time I got there. I think he was one of the last ones, but down on the Yukon, Scanlon Bay, Hooper Bay, and Nunivak Island. They were still using interpreters when we’d come down there. So I got pretty used to that.

Terence: Did you ever learn any of the Native words at all or I don’t know if that was something that you could ever manage?

Londborg: I learned quite a few words. One winter I went out or a Native pastor went with me when we had the children’s home, went out with the cat out in the woods and stayed out there for about two months cutting wood, try to get a supply ahead. And at night we’d sit there in the tent and he’d teach me words. So I learned quite a few, but I also learned that it was smart not to try to use them. Words sounded so similar that it almost got embarrassing to use them. But it came in handy because I could understand a little what people were talking about and they didn’t know I understood it.

I remember one time there was a bunch of ladies down by the post office and they – actually they were talking in English. When I approached they switched to Native and I listened to them quite a while and then I broke in on the conversation. And one woman said we didn’t know you understand Eskimo. And after that why they didn’t revert to the Eskimo when I came around them.

But our children learned a lot. They were out with the kids playing and they picked a lot of Native words.

Terence: Well now let’s so here it is 1954 or ’55. You just started this school, high school. How many students did you have at first? How many students –

Londborg: We had seven students the first year and the first graduating class was nine. That was a pretty good dropout record. And then the second year I think we had 13 and it went up to 17 and then the fourth year when they had the full we were up around 30 so.

Terence: Well okay you’re running the school, you’re the principal, and this stuff about statehood comes along. So how did you get involved in that and why did you end up, you know whose idea was it that you ran as a delegate to the constitution. What was the –

Londborg: Well I want to drop back a little bit to –

Terence: Sure.

Londborg: Our days at Marshall, Alaska.

Terence: Sure.

Londborg: Which is also Fortuna Ledge. There was a marshal some place else in Alaska. They couldn’t have two Marshalls in the post office. So the postmaster named it after his daughter Fortuna and that’s how Fortuna Ledge got into it. And that was the post office and it was also the kind of government seat for that whole Wade Hampton Precinct and they had the deputy marshal that lived there, a fellow by the name of Al Balls, who grew up in Unalakleet. He was one of the Laplander family and they were going to close the Marshal’s office there and which they did, but the US Commissioner office was still maintained there. And there was a lady who was appointed US Commissioner and she had it for a little while, then she and her husband moved away.

And I was sitting down in the trading post one evening and the Deputy Marshal flew in to pick up somebody. He was going on the next day down the coast and he said we’ve got to get a commissioner here. He said this is ridiculous he said. I get a notice and I fly clear down to Hooper Bay or Scanlon Bay and I have to bring them clear back to Nome for a trial. And if they’re released right away then they have to get their transportation back and he said we just got to get a United States Commissioner again here. And he was typing on a typewriter in the trading post and finally he said here sign this and I looked at it. And it was a letter to the judge in Nome offering my services as a commissioner if he would consider appointing me.

I don’t know what I was thinking but he gave me the pen and I figured well enough nothing would come of that. And it wasn’t very long until I got the appointment as US Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, Probate Judge, and the whole works. And I told the judge when I had a chance to go to Nome to visit with him I said there is one thing that is not very good. I said somebody out in a village commits what the town may think is a crime and they put in a complaint and the marshal goes down and picks him up and he is a hero coming out of his town. And you know get up before the commissioner I said is there any possibility that we can have a moving court so in other words if there is somebody down the line I can go with the marshal and try the person right there. And he said well I have a fund he said let’s use. So you go with the marshal and try it out.

And that had the best affect on the whole community. We’d go down to a place and this fellow was tried right in front of his own people and what a difference it made. It was probably one of the first moving courts in Alaska. I think Jay Rabinowitz followed it up out of Fairbanks afterwards. He was telling me about it, but the need for law and order was one thing.

And then the interest in education was another thing. So when they out with invitation to file for a delegate seat, there were basically two things. One was interest in local government and the law enforcement, like even at Unalakleet. And then the second thing was education so that we got a fair shake out of that. And with that in mind why I submitted my petition and I got elected and went to the Constitutional Convention.

– Break –

Londborg: Trying to thing of the names of some of them.

Terence: Yeah.

Londborg: I think one was Gallagher and there was a Mattson and Sadebanee for a while.

Terence: Oh, that’s okay. I got to ask you too Maynard about the (inaudible), the document in that picture you know remember the one that we saw. You thought that was Yakutat with the pig, remember the –

Londborg: About what?

Terence: About the pig.

Londborg: That’s a goat.

Terence: Oh, I thought it was a pig.

Everyone talking.

Terence: Oh, it is a goat. I thought it was one huge pig.

Terence: We had pigs yeah. Okay. I didn’t look at it very closely. The goat and is there a duck in that picture too or I forget?

Londborg: One of the pictures has a duck and a little dog and I think all four children were there and they each had something in their hands. One was holding a – that’s May of ’53.

Terence: I can’t see unless I take my glasses off you know very well. I’m not used to doing this.

Robert: But Maynard in the future it might make a better story if you did it was a pig you know.

Terence: Right, you ready. That is sort of like the kids playing around there. That’s you and Lorraine, is that Lorraine?

Londborg: I think our co-worker down there, Ellie Aust got a hold of this goat and the idea of having some milk. I don’t know if she ever did give milk or not.

Terence: Maybe that’s why it wasn’t – maybe it wasn’t – like you say maybe it is a pig, but anyway. Okay, so you ran. The announcement came cause you were concerned about education and law enforcement. Really your key issue – local government?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Okay. Did this stuff – talk about statehood did you know in a way you’re so far away from the urban areas I guess but you know had you thought that was a pretty good idea or what was your first feelings about that?

Londborg: Well I felt that unless we got a constitution and became a state we would always be under the federal government, everything. I mean they appointed the marshals, the commissioners, everything was run by the federal government. And the only way you could get local government get any kind of local voice would be to go the statehood route. So I was pretty sold on the idea of it.

Terence: Did you as being a you know mission employee, was it frustrating dealing with the federal authorities, I mean trying to get help for stuff that you needed you know? Was there ever – was that a difficult –

Londborg: You mean like what for instance?

Terence: Well I was just wondering if they ever helped out with the school or the home.

Londborg: Oh, there was like for instance Army surplus, which went through the government. We were in line to get help there. We go make our trips down to the – where they had the Army surplus and you could buy things about four cents on the dollar or something like that you know. We had a couple of big ambulances that we bought and didn’t have to pay much for them. Had them shipped up and used them for transportation. They were pretty good. And a lot of other things, old lumber and so on. We had our high school – Al White had a woodworking shop and went down and must have picked up about four dozen good baseball bats for practically nothing. But I mean we were eligible for getting things like that just like anybody else.

Terence: Did you, about the baseball bats, did you sort of set up a field where the kids could play or did you do anything with them?

Londborg: I used them – I don’t know what he would use them to make rungs for chairs and stuff and had his wood turning lathe. Later he got a metal lathe and really had fun I guess in his shop.

Terence: So the baseball bats weren’t for baseball though, they were for using for other stuff, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Oh, I see, yes, so it’s the wood basically.

Londborg: Well we did – we played a little baseball in the summer too so we didn’t let him have all the bats.

Terence: Did the kids at school since it was a boarding school –

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: You know so you had this additional responsibility constantly, you and Lorraine. Did – before you had the new teachers you didn’t have any help, right? I mean it was just you two basically.

Londborg: We had a fellow that was building the church and his son – he and his wife were living there and she taught English and one other class I believe. Then he taught in the springtime (inaudible) government class then for semester and then he took that time and taught shop to the kids.

Terence: And did the students – how many came from Unalakleet and how many were from outside of that first group of seven?

Londborg: Well when we first they were I guess practically all Unalakleet kids, except one girl who had come from the children’s home through the eighth grade and so she just stayed there and took her high school

Terence: But as time went on it was other – it was from surrounding villages and stuff the kids would come from I mean?

Londborg: Oh, yeah. They – I don’t know how many of the villages you know represented any given school year, but it was a lot of them from – when you figure that they probably peaked at about 130 students and half of them dorm kids. A lot of them were from the other villages.

Terence: From Nome as far north to say Bethel, between Nome and Bethel?

Londborg: Nome and out from Bethel out to the coast, Scammon Bay, Hooper Bay and Nunivak Island, north of Nome up to well I guess as far as maybe Teller and in that area. Then we introduced basketball at Unalakleet as our builder was in Nome and he sent word down – he said there is some Cullen huts up here we can get and they are 36 feet wide, so bigger than a Quonset and he said how many feet long do you need? And he torn this down. We got it shipped down to Unalakleet. Then we poured cement five foot walls of cement and mounted this on top so that we actually had clearance for basketball in there. But it was only 36 feet wide. So the out of bounds line, which should be four feet, was only two and a half and the town people started coming. They thought it was the greatest thing to see their kids play basketball. And they’d line up on the walls and the kid would take a ball out of bounds he’d just back into the crowd and fire it off. Sort of like the – what’s that new football game?

Terence: Oh, arena foot –

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Londborg: It was about like that.

Terence: So when the ball went out of bounds, people on the stands would just throw it back in play, is that right or?

Londborg: No, the player had to do it.

Terence: Oh.

Londborg: But he just backed into the crowd and throw it up. And the team, we really developed a good team because the kids started playing in the grade school when they were still in grade school and we had Saturday gym for them. By the time they got high school they were already good players and in 1965 we won the Western Alaska Division of Class C schools and Valdez won the Eastern Division. And I had a call from the principal and he said, it’s a shame he said your champions out there and we’re champions here. He said any chance to play he said we’ll meet, if you want to come down to Valdez we’ll give you some money or meet in Anchorage or. He called again, he said well I think it ought to be in one of our villages so that the people get a chance to see them. So we invited them up to Unalakleet. We had a three game tournament Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. And we won the first game and they won the second one and we won the third one. So ended up with being the Class C champs of Alaska.

And the next year it was in Valdez, so we went down there and the same thing happened. They won the first. We won the second, and they won the third. So, but the people of the village just came out en mass and the radio station in Nome that we had, KICY, they sent their announcer down. We were able to run a line through the FAA some way. We made connections anyway and the game was broadcast. And I’ll never forget when the announcer was telling about the gym being packed, he said and he said I want to tell you folks there is standing room only here. Well there wasn’t a chair or bench in the room. They won – they built a high bench you had to climb up with practically a ladder where the scorer and timers sitting up there with – it was just standing room only.

Terence: Yeah, there’s a good picture. We’ll shoot that of the guy doing the interview for KICY, right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Yeah. Because basketball became a big thing in the villages. I mean it is now, right? Did you introduce – were there any other villages have basketball before Unalakleet or what –

Londborg: Yeah, we were the first one out, aside from Nome, and then they started picking it up pretty fast. And the Athletic Department had quite a time to figure out how can we get every school a chance to win the state tournament. And they tried different methods. They had the Class D or what it was playoff and then the winner would go to the Class C tournament playoff and then the winner of that to B and A. And but that took a long time before it went through.

So they one year what they decided was that the A and B schools or A and AA whatever it was and then our branch where they had from the east and from the west four teams and we were of course in the Class C. And they went into Fairbanks for the tournament and one of the teams in Anchorage was rated number one. We were rated number eight and then the others in between had this playoff. And they couldn’t believe that we won the first game, won the second game, ended up that third game playing one of the big schools in Anchorage. And they beat us by I think one or two points was all. I remember –

Terence: What year was that, do you think, that was ’65, ’66?

Londborg: I wasn’t there at the time. I was – we had left the area so –

Terence: So it’s ’66, ’67, ’68?

Londborg: It might have been later than that when that particular tournament was excellent. The president of the University called me up and told me about the game. He says you can’t believe it. He said that at half-time all the spectators moved over behind the Covenant High bench. He said I moved over behind the Covenant High bench and he said just about pulled it off.

Terence: Well that’s amazing and also you had cheerleaders too. They had cheerleaders.

Londborg: Oh, we had great ones.

Terence: But when – was any villages – were you the first to have the cheerleaders in the village or?

Londborg: Probably.

Terence: And what was the name of the team? What was the –

Londborg: Our team Wolverines.

Terence: Who picked the name?

Londborg: Well I think the students wanted to name it after the most ferocious animal and that was the wolverine. Size wise they aren’t.

Terence: I remember this old trapper one time telling me the wolverine is a wolf bear. That was the Athabascan name for it was a bear the size of a wolf and you know some combination. Okay, well let’s get back to the convention. So you decided you were going to run.

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: And what was district? What was the district?

Londborg: My district was the Second Judicial Division so I was a delegate at large from that area. There was a local one from that area – see they had the –

Man: Stop for just a second

Terence: Maynard, just one more thing maybe about the Covenant special thing that we talked about. Tell the story a little bit about that truck and how that came to –

Londborg: That truck was first used in Nome by the road building commission and was a dump truck and dual wheels and double transmission and when they finished the road out of Nome towards Safety then I don’t know how far out it went but they finished that then they figured it was ready for the dump. So it ended up in the Nome dump and our missionary Paul Carlson went down there and he thought it was just too good to be in the dump so he brought it into Nome and did some repair work on it.

And then finally it got barged down to Moses Point and there it was used to bring in a lot of buildings, old Army buildings that were abandoned. And after it was used there for a while then we were able to get it barged down to Unalakleet and we had this truck down there and of course it needed a lot of repairs and Roal Almundson, who was a missionary pilot but he had his A&E license really worked the whole motor over again and honed out the cylinder walls, got an oversize pistons, and it would just – you could push it and start it that way if you wanted to. I mean it was just fired up right away. And then they had to do something about the cab it was pretty rickety. So they took it off, took the windshield off and they build a big seat about I don’t know a seven, eight feet long and 2 x 4 or 2 x 12 planking and that was a pretty sturdy seat there. And then they went out to the Army dump and he got bigger tires. And huge tires in the front and then even bigger ones in the back and it was sort of like a dune buggy and it go over the sand pretty good, but it had so much power that if you didn’t watch it why it would just twist off the axles and they had to replace them every now and then.

But it was a fantastic piece of machinery. And then one winter it was kind of under the snow drift waiting for spring to come and the Air Force came down to open up the road into town and they just plowed right through and they ran over the front end of it and just squashed it. And the radiator was just completely demolished and then it was Don Brockner, another pilot who had his A&E license. He jacked up the front end and welded everything together underneath. And then for a radiator he got a 25 drum and it would hold enough water so short trips in the summer it wouldn’t overheat. If you went very long why it would get boiling, but it then would start steaming out and looked like a Stanley Steamer, you know that steam coming out of that barrel. And it was still serviceable.

Finally, they got a new truck, two seated – or double cab and hauled that in and it was always getting stuck. Whereas the old special could go through almost anything, but they finally hauled the special to the dump again.

Terence: Waiting to be discovered by someone.

Londborg: By somebody else.

Terence: Yeah. Well okay, yeah cause that’s a great paint – line drawing you have there. One of your teachers did it, is that right?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Was it – is that who did – was he an artist?

Londborg: Well he was everything. I mean English teacher, shop teacher. He could letter things like when we give out diplomas he never needed to you know sketch it out first. He could just – excellent on artwork like that. But he started on that sketching type of art. Ever get a chance to go to his apartment at Mercer Island, Covenant Shores, he has got frames for his pictures that he has made that are just classic. Uses the back of a sled or something like that and he has his pictures in there. Sort of like the picture that we have here of the specialty, made it out an old iron frame there.

Terence: Did – and you used it for the high school – not hauling kids but hauling freight and –

Londborg: Hauling freight. Barge would come in. We used that special to meet that and bring the groceries up to the buildings and that was great –

Terence: Was that sort of the backbone of your transportation? Is that in a way is that?

Londborg: It was. Kind of got shared a little bit with the D4 cat but they made pretty good partners.

Terence: Okay, well now so back on that election. You were in the Second Judicial District, which includes Nome, northwestern Alaska sort of? How far south did that go?

Londborg: All of Wade Hampton where I lived before. That was one district by itself and then the way they arranged it in order to get rural representation they divided the whole state into small communities with certain number of people in there and they could have a delegate to the convention. And then the judicial district took in more at large and then let’s see there were four judicial districts. And then they had I think it was seven that were at large over the whole territory that were elected that had brought the total up to 55, which a magical number.

Terence: Why 55, what did they –

Londborg: Well I think that’s how many signed the federal constitution.

Terence: And did you campaign at all or what was the – what were you –

Londborg: Didn’t have much time for that. I had a good friend that was a pilot that flew. He was the one that got all the signatures for me and pretty much did the campaign for me. I didn’t have time for that.

Terence: Who was the pilot? Do you remember who that was?

Londborg: Art Johnson.

Terence: So he was your campaign manager and campaigner?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: And how many other people were running? Do you remember who?

Londborg: I don’t remember right offhand.

Terence: But you were an at-large guy from the Second District?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: Second Judicial District, okay. So were the rest of them from Nome or the at-large folks?

Londborg: Yes. McNeese was from Nome and –

Terence: Walsh I guess he –

Londborg: Walsh I think.

Terence: And somebody.

Londborg: Then there was one from – I guess the other ones were pretty much from right around Nome, close in there.

Terence: Well once you got elected, what did you think then? How are you going to do this?

Londborg: What did I get into to, but I went there and had some good advice from a fellow that was running the trading post. He said well, be sure you pick up a good copy of Roberts Rules of Order. And he said another thing I think you will find most of the work done in the committee, in the various committees. So it’s real important that you get on the right one and that is where the work is done. Otherwise it is brought into the session as a whole and first reading, second reading and final reading.

And the way it worked out we – I was with a group that helped get Bill Egan in as the president of the convention. And he knew that so after he was elected then he had to appoint a committee of committees to see that people got on the committee they wanted to get on and he put me on that. And I don’t know I’ve have to look in the book whether I chaired it or not, but it doesn’t matter. But anyway that way everybody put down their first, second, third choice and we tried to accommodate and of course I saw to it that I got on the two committees that I wanted to get on – local government and executive committees.

Terence: Let’s go back to Egan and say why did you support him? Why were you backing him?

Londborg: There was just something about him when I first met him. And those that knew him affirmed that, that he was just very fair type of person and really not a politician, wasn’t a lawyer, wasn’t – I think he was probably a bartender down in Valdez I’m not sure.

Terence: I guess they ran a grocery store.

Londborg: Ran a grocery store.

Terence: When did you first meet him? Did you first meet him when you got to Fairbanks?

Londborg: Yeah. Right.

Terence: So you never met him before?

Londborg: No.

Terence: Had you ever heard of him before?

Londborg: No.

Terence: And he seemed like a good guy to run the –

Londborg: Well the alternatives I didn’t feel I could support them.

Terence: Because it was like the Rivers? They were trying to get –

Londborg: Yeah. And I just thought of the group that were nominated he was – and I – you hear from ex-delegates now they’ll all – that’s about the first thing they mention is how fair Egan was as a chairman, president of the – there was a lot of us that didn’t know the fancy Roberts Rules backwards and forwards and he could cut us off and just you are out of order you know and you’d stand there bewildered. But he would just like a good schoolteacher he would just draw it out.

Terence: Now did you –

– Break –

Terence: The – do you think you were one of the – would you describe yourself as pretty apolitical I mean compared to many of the other delegates? Do you know what I mean? I mean in the sense that you weren’t really actively involved in politics I guess, right?

Londborg: No.

Terence: But were you registered in either of the parties or were you Independent or Republican or Democrat or how – you know?

Londborg: Well I suppose I would classify myself as a Republican, but of course at the convention that wasn’t brought out. You didn’t run on party at all. In fact, I didn’t know what party most of them belonged to. They – I think all that were running for president of the convention were from the Democratic Party.

At that time the territory was very strong Democrat, which was kind of interesting because that was one of the blocks that we thought we’d have a hurdle with the United States Senate was the Republicans didn’t want Alaska in because that would give another solid Democratic candidates that would be in there and senators and representative and it would just add that many more. But it was rather interesting almost after it became a state it swung the other way and in a few years then we had Stevens, Young, and Murkowski just solid Republican representations. Alaska politics is very fascinating from that standpoint.

Terence: Yeah, turned the opposite what they expected, that’s right, yeah. But at the convention you think it was sort of apolitical in the sense – I don’t know if that’s the right word or not, you know, political parties didn’t – the people in the know I suppose knew but you were more apolitical than because you really weren’t involved.

Londborg: What I think that as a whole they were determined to write a constitution and not bring parties up to the extent that you would get deadlocked on issues that way. And which I believe they were very successful from that standpoint.

Terence: Where did you live when you got to Fairbanks? I mean where did you stay? Did you stay with somebody or stay at the Nordale or –

Londborg: No I was in a hotel or motel for a couple of weeks and then I believe it was Warren Taylor who had an apartment and he said if you’d like to rent that he said I’ll rent that. So I moved over there then.

Terence: How did you get out to the convention every day? How did you – did you take the bus or –

Londborg: There was a bus that went every day. And we could ride the bus out and back or some of my friends had developed their – Les Nerland and Lawrence Johnson and a couple others that drove and they always would the night before so they said you want to ride with me in the morning. And I said sure, so I rode with them quite a bit of the time.

Terence: Was this your first trip ever to Fairbanks? Had you been to Fairbanks before?

Londborg: I had yes.

Terence: How about out to the University? Had you been out there before?

Londborg: Yeah, I got out there on my first trip there too.

Terence: So you kind of knew what it looked like and a little bit?

Londborg: Oh, yeah, a little feel for the area. Of course in the wintertime they had the ice bridge across the river freeze up and then you just drive across on the ice.

Terence: Until spring.

Londborg: Until spring.

Terence: So but the convention started and you among people that backed Egan, so were on those two committees, which were local government and education. Let’s talk about those a little bit, which you know what were the certain important like on the local government commission that was the one Dick Fisher was on that one, right?

Londborg: Right.

Terence: I guess he –

Londborg: And that was a very interesting committee to be on. Had a good group in there that worked together to come up with the idea of local government and one of the things that we tried to steer away from was where – although that came into the legislative as well, but where you’d have overlapping tax districts. And you could be taxed as this side and that side and the other side and whether this has been the best or not I don’t know but they presented it to the people in one tax package. It was sort of the town Parrish idea of local government.

Terence: What did you think of the animosity towards counties that came up?

Londborg: That was weird. I mean nobody wanted to call it county and I don’t know that – how many votes were taken and reconsidered and all that but they did not want it to be a county, absolutely they were just memories from other states I guess or something. And then of course what are you going to call it. They ended up with a borough.

Terence: I remember looking through the minutes. Yul Kilcher had proposed what was it now canton. No, I think he might have said cantons, I can’t remember, but there is a list in there of all the terms that they had proposed. Do you remember any of those?

Londborg: I don’t know if – I’d have to almost go back and look over that, but we must have covered at least 10 or 20 other names that would come up and they would vote them down and vote them down. And finally ended up the borough.

Terence: Do you remember what Frank Barr said about that? There’s a thing where he says he didn’t want to be somebody throwing a – that’s what is in the minutes anyway, going down the street and somebody going on because it was a borough, like B-O-R-O or I guess it was also debated how to say it too. Vorough or Borough, like V-U-R-R-O.

Londborg: Borough.

Terence: That’s okay. But so that was really the key thing that came out of the local government article, right, as a strong unified government, is that fair to say?

Londborg: It was sort of the idea and then in the of course you get organized with it then your law enforcement and so many things come under that.

Terence: Well did you ever envision though as being a delegate? Because Unalakleet would still be in what’s called the unorganized borough I guess. I don’t think they have a borough out there, do they, I don’t know? But you know I can’t remember because they have the state divided up into the organized boroughs and then everything else is so-called unorganized borough.

Londborg: Unorganized I think.

Terence: Which is funny way of thinking about it, but did you think that this would solve problems for a place like Unalakleet, I mean the rural areas, did you think it adequately met those needs?

Londborg: Well I think that there is a lot of the problems that we faced at Unalakleet are handled through the local government organization there. They are a – I was going to say incorporated village and have a lot of (inaudible) local government.

Terence: Okay, well about – what about the Education Committee, did that same to work well?

Londborg: Well that was part of the Executive Branch. I knew it was going to be so that is why I wanted to be on the Executive Committee and that was interesting too because they made Fairbanks kind of the state school or I don’t know what they called it but they looked very kind on the University through the little section in the education. But of course we got into the executive part, other than the education, but then where was it I guess it was the chairman of that committee and he worked for a very, very strong executive, appointed powers and even they didn’t want a lieutenant governor at the time and secretary of state did it, well that was one of the first amendments. They changed that right away. But –

Terence: Why did they go for secretary of state, what was the reason to make it a position a little weaker is that the idea?

Londborg: Right, it was to make the governor stronger. There was no lieutenant governor there. He was it and sensing this coming on in the writing on the Executive Branch the strong governor I held out and got support from enough others to limit the governor to two terms consecutively.

Terence: Was that your – some people felt strongly about that, about the two terms I mean?

Londborg: Well I felt very strong, but otherwise you get – if you didn’t have that in there you could get a governor in for 20, 30 years if he wanted to keep running.

Terence: Was this part in mind of the example of Roosevelt? I mean FDR because the –

Londborg: It came about that time, that’s when they – the United States decided two terms are enough. They put it in their constitution.

Terence: So in a way did that inspire you to –

Londborg: I think that had its affect on it because you saw the before the two terms for the president of the United States it just kept on until you died that’s what happened?

Terence: With Roosevelt, that’s right, yeah. So you know how did you think this idea – that’s one of the key things of the constitution isn’t it? A very strong governor, centralized authority in the governor’s office. Was that sort of a response to territorial days too I mean –

Londborg: I think so because in the territorial days they had an appointed governor by the United States and then you had your territorial legislature and in a sense the governor was pretty weak and they felt it was kind of a swing from that build up a strong one. Although I think that three branches of the government right now in Alaska from what I can follow do pretty good check and balance.

Terence: It certainly has not been I mean I think what Hammond said was he said you know he heard so much about how strong the governor was until he became governor and then he thought gee where did all those powers go. That was his take on it but you know cause you are always constrained by reality and stuff.

Londborg: Well they can come up with their cabinet and appointees but it still had to be the department heads approved by the legislature. And the court system is – well I think they’ve done a pretty good job you know through the Judicial Branch in Alaska.

Terence: Now there are just a couple more questions and then we are going to be done here. What about sort of reflections on Gruening? Had you met him before the convention, you must have seen when he spoke to the –

Londborg: I met Governor Gruening on an airplane between Juneau and Anchorage one time, sat and visited with him on the whole trip. He was a very – well he is an old newspaper man I think and there was a lot about Governor Gruening that I liked you know and he was interesting too you know. I think, well he wasn’t the last appointed governor. I think they had was it Stepovich for just a little bit.

Terence: Heintzleman and then Stepovich, that’s right, yeah.

Londborg: So.

Terence: But what was it –

Londborg: But Gruening had a lot of influence in the convention. He was – he gave quite a speech at the convention, but I think he was – had a pretty good understanding of what Alaska needed.

Terence: What were the things – what were the things – what were sort of his limitations though as a leader, cause he obviously polarized a lot of people?

Londborg: Well I hadn’t thought about that so much. He was the one that worked with Muktuk Marsten in developing the National Guard all over Alaska and Marsten went around to every village and everybody got a gun. I got a gun. I mean I happened to be there and here you need a gun. So I had got an old 30.06. And anyway doing that, going around he really solidified the villages, the Native people, in the party, in the Democratic Party. And I think it took quite a while even after statehood then for them to realize that you know we are not that all just a National Guard villager something else.

Terence: Were that there were two parties?

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: There was another party, yeah. So you had known Marsten – you had met him when you came to Unalakleet?

Londborg: Oh, yeah.

Terence: Had you met him on numerous occasions or what –

Londborg: Numerous occasions. He’d show up Unalakleet and somebody said one time they walked down to the bank and couldn’t figure out what that body was doing down there on the bank and he had gone down there and curled up and went to sleep, sleeping bag. He was something else. I – of the most colorful people I suppose at the convention would be Yul Kilcher and Muktuk Marsten I mean.

Terence: What was Kilcher like? What was he –

Londborg: Kilcher was a very interesting fellow – quite a musician and he’d entertain us there at recesses and stuff with his saw and different things and yeah, he had some ideas that he was pushing for there and pretty persuasive you know when he’d get up to speak.

Terence: He played the saw, did he?

Londborg: Oh yes. He could play anything. He could pick up a chair and make music out of it.

Terence: Now he didn’t sing did he, he was just –

Londborg: Oh, he yodeled and he sang.

Terence: Did he yodel in the convention – did he –

Londborg: Oh yeah. You know there would be little breaks that we’d have you know and he’d get going.

Terence: You know his granddaughter became a famous singer you know?

Londborg: Jewell?

Terence: Yeah, right, yeah.

Londborg: Quite a girl.

Terence: Yeah. And I guess he made some home movies. I don’t know if he did anything of the convention though, right, he didn’t –

Londborg: I don’t think so there. It was an interesting – you know we’d go around Homer and that area is Kilcher country.

Terence: Now, Maynard, what about Bob Bartlett? Had you run into him before – so you met Gruening on a plane sometime before the convention, right, I mean –

Londborg: Yeah.

Terence: Had you met Bartlett before? Did he ever campaign out in Unalakleet?

Londborg: See Bartlett was their delegate for a long time and we worked with Bartlett. This goes back to the education of Natives way back when the first commissioner of education Sheldon Jackson got reindeer and gave commission stations if you would run a school. And also land grants and down at Yakutat we were supposed to get some land there, but also at Unalakleet. The land that was originally intended for the mission encompassed the whole village on both sides of the river and then as people moved in – well they didn’t – the mission didn’t want to keep them out of that area. They invited them to come closer to build. So then when they were surveying the villages they came in and I think we had 11 corners on our little piece of property and we were supposed to get a patent on that. And that wasn’t very easy to get. Bob Bartlett helped us a lot on that. He was very good. So we worked through him. I’d go down to Anchorage to meet him or down to Juneau and visit with him. He was a good delegate there.

Terence: Did he ever come out to Unalakleet or did any of – I don’t know if they ever –

Londborg: As I recall I think he was out there, came out there.

Terence: I think – can you think of something else. Kind of getting late in the day here.

Man: Yeah, I can’t think of it.

Terence: Let me this one final thing. Maynard, after the convention was over –

Londborg: I was tired.

Terence: I bet. But I mean how do you look upon in your life as the convention as the you know – how important has that been in your life?

Londborg: Well it has had I think a lot of perks that has come through that, that we never expected of course and that wasn’t the reason we went there, but that’s all – like the 25th anniversary and there is so many different times when they invited all the delegates back and Katie Hurley was very good at getting transportation. I remember one time when they were going to have something going on in Juneau and she got Alaska Airlines to give the transportation but she also was given so many seats and she said you might as well bring your wives too you know. So Lorraine was able to go to a lot of these functions and when you look back on it, it – why you didn’t make anything as far as being a delegate but we certainly had a lot of perks out of it that have been very enjoyable you know trips like that. So it is good to still be a survivor.

Terence: Did – do you remember the day of signing the – do you remember that?

Londborg: Oh definitely.

Terence: What was that like?

Londborg: That was very emotional and the Dr. Langston in Nome told Lorraine you’re going to go to Fairbanks for the signing and he made arrangements for her transportation. So she got to come up there and be there when we went up there and signed the constitution. But that was quite an emotional time and I knew that nobody seemed to want to leave after it was all you know the final gavel went down they just – there had been built up such a close friendship among the delegates.

Terence: So everybody just stayed around. They just didn’t want to leave.

Londborg: Didn’t want to leave.

Terence: This was after you had gone back over to Student Union Building, the Constitution Hall, I mean –

Londborg: Yeah we were around there then. Oh I learned a lot of things while I was up there and that is that you can debate. You can passionately debate but it doesn’t have to ruin a friendship and it is kind of interesting we started talking about missionary work and that but how many churches do not know how to do that. I mean they’ll end up in a bitter fight or something like that, but I learned a lesson there. There were two delegates who were just passionately debating on each of an issue. And this went on for a long time, long speeches and they were debating back and forth and I had something that I wanted to inject and I thought well if I can go to this one fellow and get on his side then you know he might be on my side because he is against that other fellow. And we had a little recess and I went out in the coffee shop and here the two guys were talking about their next hunting trip they were going to take together. And I thought boy or boy you don’t take anything for granted on the way they debated you know.

Terence: Who were those two guys do you remember?

Londborg: I don’t remember right offhand, but it was really interesting. But I mean that was a good lesson for me.

Terence: No kidding, that’s a great example of being able to do something you know to limit it to the issue at hand. Who was the most fiery debater of the whole group? Was there anybody who stood out or a group of them who stood out? Who would you say?

Londborg: Oh, when I think Buckalew was quite a debater. McLaughlin. There were several that were eloquent. I mean they could debate any place you know. But we were not without our humor there. They – one of our delegates sat way in the back and she was always complaining that she couldn’t hear you know the speaker. And so they finally gave her a sign to hold up that said louder and she could hold that up and the speaker would amplify his voice. And a fellow got up to speak and he kept dropping his voice and dropping his voice and she grabbed for her piece of paper to hold up and somebody had slipped another one there that said lousy and she held that up you know and then this fellow stopped. You know I have to be insulted like that in this convention or something. It was really pulled that off really slick.

Episode 6: George Rogers

Alaska Statehood Pioneers: In Their Own Words
George RogersI said I want to get an island that the things that are brought in and out are defined, that I can simple enough that I can grasp how the whole thing operates and then I got to Alaska and said… This is my island.We were building a state and it just inspired all kinds of people and all kinds of people came here.

And I think that statehood sort of lifted us from the colonial status because we had rights, we had things that we could enforce, we could control our own destiny.

So that was bringing together Alaskans that had never had a voice before. That’s what made it so remarkable.

Narrator: George and Jean Rogers came to Alaska in 1945. They built a home, raised a family and were very active community members in Juneau, where they lived.

George’s academic background and advanced degrees allowed him to work as an economist, professor and researcher. During his long career he held local public office, worked for the federal and territorial governments and started an academic institute. He was one of those who helped pen the state constitution and was a Pioneer of Alaska Statehood.

George Rogers: I was born in San Francisco in the Patrilla District. If you know San Francisco, you know what that is, in 1917
I went through the usual school system, which in those days was not the sort of thing we have. The Patrillo District was a place where new Americans came in – Irish and Italian. And my mother was Australian and my father was of Cornish descent. So I spoke with an Australian accent which they assumed was English, which gave me trouble on the playground, but I became an Italian and I survived.

The Irish bullies move around in a group, but one thing about a bully he never stands alone. And they would pick out someone like myself who was different than the others and the whole thing was that they make a circle and knock you down and kick you. And then if you fought back then they could really clean up on you, say well he hit me first. Well this time I landed and my hand fell on a rock and I stood up and swung up – his name was Glen Noland, I hit him on the left temple. And head wounds bleed and all of a sudden blood was squirting and I dropped the rock, stood there, he started crying. Everybody was horrified. The playground monitor grabbed me, walked me into the school and I had to stand in front of the class this is a vicious person stay away. Well, the next thing I knew I was put in a speech correction class. And I came in and there were just Italian boys there and I said what are we doing here. He said well you talk funny too. So we became very good friends and it was a long story. I’d go into about how the head of the Italian boys – they had the poor young woman who was the only lessons she had was for stutters. So she went through this whole thing of having us sit at desks, pull down the blinds, and we said slow speech is easy. She said now imagine you’re in some sort of situation very peaceful and you’re walking along into the woods and it is all quiet and then she said now one of you tell what is happening. And the leader of the Italian says I was walking along and the birds were singing and I walked into this river and all of a sudden there was a rustling and a tiger lept out at me. And we all started laughing and she said no, no and she burst into tears. That was the last speech correction class I was in, but I had bonded with the Italians so I could stand over with the Italian boys with my hands on my hips and say okay you Irishmen come over here we’ll take care of you. So at that point I had an escort home. I was never bothered and I also had the reputation of being a very vicious person, but I have loved Italians ever since.

At age 12 we moved out of the district into the Sunset District and unfortunately this high school was a polytechnic high school and the name tells it all. I majored in mathematics, architectural drafting, and physics. The rest of it was Mickey Mouse work or working on the lathe or in a foundry or something like that. But that gave me the basis for my future education, the math particularly. I had inspiring teachers, two of them. And I never forget Ms. Worman, who was an old lady said children mathematics will make it possible for you to see the unknown or the unseeable, invisible. And that stuck with me all these years. Yes, that’s right. So I really rolled up my sleeves and went all the way through calculus before I went to college. I was into college in mathematics.

That’s 1934 I graduated, after the depression. My dad was only working part time. I had two younger brothers. So my job was to go out and find a job and that was very difficult. But I wandered into Standard Oil Company in their downtown office. I was answering an ad for messenger boys, Western Union messenger boy. I didn’t have a bicycle. I didn’t know the difference. But I walked across there thinking I might get a job in a service station. And the man behind the desk said well son this is the headquarters, but let me see your high school transcript. And he looked at it. I had straight A’s in math. He said if you don’t have anything to do we’d like to give you some tests and that was the beginning of my whole career. I took two hours of tests. I got home and my mom said they want you.

So I put what they call the Economics Department. I didn’t know what economics was, but was part of a human computer. There were half a dozen kids like myself that were picked up because of our aptitude and analytical abilities and we processed statistical data. And I was there until 1939. The war started. My dad was working in the shipyards. My two brothers were drafted and so I said now I can go to college.
I actually started the spring semester which was in 1940 and the courses they were still teaching post Kings, I mean pre Kings and as a matter of fact it was almost as though they were forbidden to talk about Kings in economics. I had already read his books so I knew what they were. We were back at the turn of the century neoclassical economics. And I thought this is ridiculous. Fortunately, the only thing that kept me is they opened up an Institute of Business Economic Research and I applied for a job. Well they said you’re a freshman, we’re looking for graduate students, but I showed them my Visa and it happened that if a freshman was doing an in-depth study of the Pacific Coast Petroleum Industry. So I was hired as one of the first – one of their first research assistants to work on this three volume study of the Pacific Coast Petroleum Industry. So I leaped frogged into graduate work right there. Then I got to talk to the faculty on a person-to-person basis and because of my architectural drafting ability I could make beautiful charts and diagrams for their learned articles. So I was in great demand for that too. Everything I did I was able to use later on. And then the next professor that took over was a young graduate Ph.D. from Columbia who had done studies of business cycles and broken down into sub national levels. And they didn’t even have a course in business cycles at that time and he instituted that. So he became my mentor for the rest of the time that I was at Berkeley. He went to the office of price administration. He pulled me over there with him and that is how I got into the war work with Office of Price Administration.

What happened at Berkeley you had no student housing provided by the state or by the federal government except if you were foreign student you had international house. So that the only alternatives you had was to go to one of the Greek houses, the flats for the sororities or you were at the mercy of the private sector so called which were little old ladies who had rooming houses and they were pretty tough little old ladies.

Well during the 30’s some of the students that were there before decided to set up a student co-ops and the ones that we were in one was the Methodist Church were into what they call social action Christianity so they decided that co-ops were the way to go, the middle wave (inaudible) and that sort of stuff. Good old days before people were scared away by being branded as a communist because you thought of something different. Once they did they turned their recreation dining area which wasn’t being used anyhow to the student co-op. They found themselves the Three Squares. And there was an eating co-op and then they picked up houses. The boys were in a what had been a frat house back in the 1870’s and 80’s. And they went to work and fixed it up. We all did chores and so that is where we got by. But I became – because I knew double entry bookkeeping I became the treasurer for both the co-ops. Kept the books. I didn’t have to do any work shifts. I was a white-collar worker. I was part of management.

George Rogers: And Jean arrived from Idaho. She sent her money in early and she –

A $10 deposit.
They had a get together you know the way they do to introduce everybody around and there were a lot of junior transfers to Berkeley. They encouraged that and when I met George I said isn’t it fun for you to put the faces to those ten dollars you got? And he said yes.

And of course the way he tells it he made up his mind to marry me early on but my – the girls at the girls house think I just chased him right down into a corner. You see he was a mutual thing, been kind of a mutual thing ever since.
And when she walked in, I said to my roommate. He said well what was she like? I said well she has the body of a high-class model. I’m sorry Jean. She has the best looking legs this side of Marlena Dietrich and she has a smile that lights up the whole room. And Vernon said to me, George, I think you’re in love. And I was. Then we got to know each other-
I had my studies all worked out. I was going to do it in two years. The reason I could do it – is I thought I could do it, is if you read the fine print if you maintain a B plus, A minus average you can take as many credits as you could work in, but you are supposed to get your faculty advisor to approve this. Well my faculty advisor was a dolt, he said he took my thing, I was taking chemistry. He scratched it out and he said astronomy for non-major. And I said why? He said well it is a snap course and it is full of sorority girls. I said well that is not exactly what I was looking for but okay I’ll do that. And sure enough it was full of sorority girls. Jean kept saying George why are all these pretty girls talking to you, but that’s another story.

But I had put as my minor not political science cause I read some of the things this is Mickey Mouse. I took English literature. He said why are you taking English lit? Because I want to get an education while I’m getting my degree. And I had signed up for the course – it was a survey course for majors. It was a five-minute course and Jean was a junior transfer from Idaho. She had decided she better audit that course. So I came into chemistry auditorium and a huge crowd there and I looked around for a seat. And Jean was wearing a purple sweater and a big smile and she had a seat next to her so I went right there and sat down. Then so after class she would sit – my class is a (inaudible). Well mine is too. Well her class was down at the other end but she walked up with me and from that point on we got closer and closer. I said I had already pretty much made up my mind.

But I was interested in getting away from economics that was being taught. I said I want to get an island that the things that are brought in and out are defined, that I can simple enough that I can grasp how the whole thing operates and then I got to Alaska. I said this is my island. Because everything that came in and out was measured and then I can just concentrate on understanding how the thing operated. How it adjusted to these forces and it was a very abnormal thing.

One of my professors said to me that you don’t want to study the normal, the successful economy, you learn nothing from that. Study the malfunctioning economy because you learn from what’s going wrong. And that’s exactly, yes right, but my idea of Alaska I knew after the war it is going to change. It was going no place before. Over 80% of the value of output was canned salmon and gold. The rest of it was just like miscellaneous stuff like halibut and a few a things. It was a two-crop economy, which is not a very stable economy. And it was dominated by absentee interests and it was sort of a traditional colony.

George Rogers: I was sent to Alaska because they had discovered that I could understand accounting, I could read what the Ph. D.’s couldn’t, so I had to teach them how to read balance sheets and that sort of thing. Then I was a troubleshooter. I went all over the Pacific Coast, took Jean alone, so we visited her parents in Phoenix and so on. And my final assignment was to go to Alaska. They said George the Department of the Army said we have a lot of Catholic boys in the Army, they want fish for Friday, you haven’t put a ceiling price on raw fish. We can’t afford to provide raw fish. Do something about it. So they said George go to Alaska and roll back the ceiling price, roll back the price of raw fish. Well fortunately for me I arrived and it was January 7th, wasn’t it Jean?

Jean: Uh-huh.

1945

George Rogers: So we came up with the Princess North, which was a lovely experience. It was like going back in the last century. The war was on but they had all the food that they used to have in the P&O, the Pacific and Orient. And they had full staff of the servants. The silverware was spread out and we had a wonderful time. And you got to know everybody on board.

That was a wonderful experience. By the time we got to Juneau we had learned a lot about Alaska just talking to all the other Alaskans that were going home.
Well it was a wonderful adventure and we thought we were doing we were doing our war duty and actually got here and there was all sorts of things that we hadn’t seen in Berkeley for a long time. Like steaks and eggs and whipped cream and even if it was Abescet.

Well we had signed on for two years, like all government employees do you know. And we found out that not only was it a (inaudible) town, although it was only about 6,000 people you know, but it had a flavor to it and besides as you know George found this to be an ideal spot to do this research was wanting to do. So it was just a terrific happenstance. We thought we were just really fortunate. And Mildred Herman took right a hold of me and said now just because you’re going to be housewife and a mother doesn’t mean that you can’t do public duties and volunteer your time and so on and so I’ve been doing that ever since.

But the streets weren’t paved. There were wooden sidewalks. We had a volunteer fire department, which we still have. And the way the volunteers were called is having at the top of City Hall there was a big horn that blasted out and they had a code you could tell where you were supposed to go. That’s where the fire was. You all jumped into your cars or you ran on foot to that place and you became a fireman.

We built our first house ourselves and we came back to Alaska with a book that George had that said How to Build Your Own Home for $3,000. And he can do anything he can read about, except plumbing. He said he wasn’t going to do the plumbing. So we managed to pay for the plumber to come, but he did all the wiring and he did it right. And I was only allowed to hammer things where it didn’t show because I was not very good with a hammer. Second under coatings but never anything on the surface that was going to show.

But let’s see when I went North at Anchorage the plane it was a Fairchild Load Star two engine. It landed – we had land at Yakutat. We had to land at Cordova. And each time we landed we had to stay for about an hour while the pilot got up his nerve to fly on to the next thing. We flew past the Fairweather Range and had to look up at the mountains. We thought we landed in the middle of town and we stopped right in front of a pie bakery. I hope they weren’t raising anything in the way of souffles and things. But that’s the way it was. The military establishment was there and they had their stuff, but this was a civilian thing. There were still 1930 vintage planes being flown.

And then from there I flew up to Fairbanks. I could have taken the railroad, but that was – took too long and besides it was the roadbed wasn’t too reliable. Fairbanks was just like landing in – back in the last century some place. The gold was closed down but the big dredges were all like a bunch of pasture full of dinosaurs sitting out there waiting to start chewing again.

George Rogers: The idea of a University in Alaska was one that appealed to me. Sure you could as one of the (inaudible) you could afford to give an area kid scholarship to any University of his choice and it wouldn’t cost as much as having a University and somehow we needed the University. I still believe that.

’45 I came up there – came into the main building and I was looking around for – and there was an old man with a push broom pushing and he had overalls on and I said I’m trying to find Dr. Bunnell and he said well he said you go down to the end of the hall there and turn left and that’s his office. So I went down the hall and turned left and here was this janitor sitting behind the desk. I was flabbergasted he said, well he said I’m trying to save money by doing the janitor work you know. But it was that sort of operation.

Well he was very impressed and I was impressed too because he was the governor. You could talk to him. He was a brilliant man. There is no question about it. And he convinced me that Alaska needed statehood and second reply was what the economic consequences of that were. And so what he wanted me to do is to work on a tax system with the territory. There are three taxes. He wanted income tax, property tax, and business license tax. The income tax he said this is the last one. I can’t get this passed. It was 120 pages long. I read the thing. I said governor you have been taken. This took the federal regulations and almost verbatim made them Alaska’s income tax.

I said why don’t we do this. Your income tax will be X percentage of what the federal tax would be on the income you are earning within Alaska. And I reduced it to 12 pages. It took two tries. The second try was passed by the legislature. I said no legislator in his right mind is going to pass a tax bill that is that thick that he can’t understand. And the governor bought that idea and it worked. It was written up in the Harvard Law Review. It was challenged. It went to the San Francisco Court and the judge there said this is a brilliant idea. And he said all the states should learn something from this. And a number of states have done versions of that.

When I went to work for Gruening it was with the understanding I would work for just three years to get the revenue program underway. I did other jobs too, odd jobs you know. Like the Mafia hires a hit man that’s the sort of thing I did. No, I didn’t, but basically he said to me George what are you going to do after this? I said I’m going back to Berkeley to get my doctorate. He said don’t do that. I’ll give you a recommendation to Harvard. They have a program of the Littower Foundation has a program that you could use. So I said okay. I’ll switch. I can go – where do you go from Berkeley, you go to Harvard. That’s pretty good. Then I went from Harvard to Cambridge, England and the Sorbohn too.

But the thing is that he did, but he didn’t want me go when the time came. And he was very reluctant to let me go. He said there is a lot of work here. I said well I’ll come back.
I got what they call a joint degree and it was called Doctor of Political Economy. And in Cambridge, England they don’t have economics they have political economy because they look upon economics not as a stand-alone science but as a means of managing things which makes a lot more sense.

Well Frank was a career man. He was highly ethical in everything he did. I have nothing but greatest respect for him, but he did everything by the book, which drove me crazy sometimes when I had worked for him. But he was a very principled man and he was dedicated to the beliefs of Gilford Pinchot and brought the tablets down from heaven. But yes I had nothing but respect for Frank.

In a way he was – I worked for him briefly for about two or three years. That’s another story, but he said that he was afraid that we couldn’t afford to support statehood. I said I agree with you, but that we are not going to be able to afford statehood until we get it because we don’t have control over our own destiny. So the legislature absolutely everything they did had to be approved by the congress. We couldn’t incur any indebtedness. There were lots of things we couldn’t do and you were in a straight jacket. You had to get rid of that. We had no lands that we could draw upon to get revenues from. So statehood would bring those things in. So I tried to argue with him that statehood would make it possible to afford statehood. He didn’t quite buy that.

For a while there was a commonwealth idea that was circulated. And Puerto Rico was a commonwealth and he said George research this for me. I have some friends who think we should become a commonwealth. So I did. I went to the (inaudible) and they said well what they do Frank is that you have charge – the local people have charge of everything. Defense is provided by the federal government. Everything else and he said well does that mean that the Forest Service would become a local? I said yes. That changed his mind immediately.

He was Republican and the Republicans as a whole were anti-statehood. Although during the Constitutional Convention they – very concerned Republicans worked very well on that..

We referred to Fairbanks as the heart remember, the heart of Alaska and that was sort of a symbolic thing was in the center of the land mass. And I think Juneau is ideal for the capitol because the capitol should be a place like in Australia they put it in Cambera in sheep country and in Brazil they put it in the middle of the jungles some place to get it away from the big centers so they could look at the whole thing.

George Rogers: The University was just beginning to feel its growth going there. When I first saw the University it looked like a Siberian penal institution. We had these wooden structures with a water tower which had a (inaudible) was tape playing up on top there and just reminded me of pictures I’ve seen in Siberian of these buildings. And this was this territorial days so they couldn’t go into debt.

He was very important in the first place in getting the whole thing going cause fair amount Tom Stewart. He had originally he was having been in the war he was looking for a way to eternal peace and he thought – he took up Russian studies. And then he abandoned them when he realized that he was dealing with more than he could handle taking on the Soviet Union. And he came back and he decided to push for statehood

Tom is the one who sort of went into local and territorial politics in order to promote statehood and he did it very systematically and very thorough and he worked very hard on this. He worked up the idea of the convention. He also worked up the idea on staffing it and bringing in a consulting firm that was top flight to tell us. He was determined to have what he considered to be a model constitution. We could learn from what mistakes had been made in the past. So he had devoted a lot of his time to that. When he was in the legislature he worked very hard to get the legislation for the convention, the appropriations, all those sort of things. And it was almost a single-handed job. He did it.

And I say this is what I think the fact that he was overworked. And then when he came to the convention and he was expected to be appointed to the secretary there were a couple of people stepped forward and set themselves up as candidates for this and for a while he thought he might lose out at the last moment, but that didn’t happen. He had that anxiety too.

But he did a terrific job on putting the convention together and this sort of thing was just overexertion. The doctor said to him he said you don’t have a heart attack. He described like there were iron bands across my chest. I couldn’t breathe. And he said what you should do is marry Jane. Jane Stewart he was sort of courting her and so he proposed to marry her and he came back and was a whole man.

Well actually the first month Tom Stewart had what they thought was a heart attack and Egan and Brovonovich appointed me to take over as acting secretary while he was gone. So it turned out it was just overworked himself to the point of collapse and then he was in good shape to finish up with his term but so I had part of the organization of it, the household things. The liaison with the military about providing color guard to come and open the sessions and things. I knew just exactly who to appoint to do that for me. I didn’t do it. Kept them out of my hair, but you pick out the ones that are going to be a nuisance and give them jobs to do and they are just delighted. When Tom came over it was all the nitty gritty stuff was put together, then the thing really went it and the second month is when things got done.

He was president and he was an unusual politician. He had this phenomenal memory. He would meet you in a crowd and come back 10 years later and say he remembered oh you had kids and how is so and so doing. He could remember these details. He didn’t have somebody prompting him. He was just incredible. When he was governor he would dress up like Santa Claus and go down to the supermarket and greet everybody. Things like this. He was the common man. He had a lot of good common sense and on the whole he was very trustworthy. He was just right for the job. He had his shortcomings too. We all do, but they weren’t – he was not corrupt in any way, just a – that to me is the bottom line with this guy. Real, this guy is honest, and he is ethical and he met all those things.

But Bill was able to let everybody speak their piece and he also knew when bring the – his gavel down and say you’ve had your talk now. Let’s move on to somebody else. He ran a very good show.

George Rogers: I was working for Frank Heintzleman. He just turned me over to them and said do whatever they want. And I did a lot of work on the natural resources provision on the apportionment (inaudible) because I was also – well I didn’t take any formal courses in geography, but I did a lot of reading on that. So I had this little handbook, regional handbook, which I designed, had reproduced for the legislators so they could – most people who were Alaskans only thought of the area in which they lived. Then they went outside. There was no sense of how we fit into this – the rest of Alaska. And bringing these people together because on the basis for the election to the legislature the distance for the judicial district – the Fourth Judicial District, which meant that the dominant city or town in each of the divisions voted everybody in, except for Bill Egan. He was voted from Valdez instead of Anchorage. There were exceptions, but for the most part it was like Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Nome. So this was the first time that the rural population was represented in any body like this. The people from Dillingham. You had a mix of people from the Eskimo community and Frank Baronvich was the vice president and the Tlingits are great orators. They know how to speak formally and he was – he added dignity to the whole proceeding.
So that was bringing together Alaskans that had never had a voice before. That’s what made it so remarkable.
not everybody at the convention was in favor of Alaska becoming a state but they went along with this idea because it was an opportunity to examine what was possible here and I got some very interesting feedback from some very conservative people on that. That was what that whole experience was just marvelous.

Statehood proponents were looking at the history of how other states came in. Tennessee, what they did – they didn’t wait for congress to act. They wrote a constitution. They elected their delegation to congress, sent the delegation to Washington, DC and demanded that they be seated. And then while congress recovered from this blow, they lobbied individual members of congress and it worked. They got it. So we decided that we would try that and it did work.

We had Ernest Gruening, Ralph Rivers, and Bob Bartlett. And they were all very good. Bob Bartlett was particularly good at politics you know. He was a master politician. Ernest Gruening was a showboated quite a bit and offended some people but nonetheless he was brilliant and when he spoke people listened. He was worth listening to. Ralph Rivers went along with the other two and he was okay. He was a common man out there. He could relate to a lot of people. We had a good delegation, a good mix of types.
this was before we had achieved statehood. We wrote the constitution at first and then use that as a gimmick to elect the convention delegation and sent them back demanding that they be seated. And then they hung around and were lobbyists for the – and it worked.

The field people for the most part that I knew managed the rules and a few other people like that were very sincere in trying to manage the fisheries. But when their recommendations were sent to back to Washington, DC representatives of the processors went back there and between them and the bureaucrats back there they determined what the management plan would be, regardless of what the biological research said about the resources. So they over fished and it was because of the federal mismanagement and I say I exempt the people that were working at the field level because they were totally frustrated by this being overridden by somebody who was making a profit from over fishing.

George Rogers: The other thing I was interested in that was why this was the management was by the federal government. There was no input from Alaskans in the fish management program in those days. So that gave me sort of a symbol of what Alaska was like under territorial operation.
This was a very efficient way of harvesting the fish. In fact, in my view it was the only way that salmon should have been harvested because the fish worked out to the runs. You could manage. You knew what was coming and going. You could control the escapement of the fish. You could then control the harvest. You didn’t have to chase mobile gear all over the place. And it was just perfect, but the trouble with the fish trap was that it was owned by the processors, the canners, and they were all outside interests. they were putting resident fisherman out of work.

Their – if they weren’t there my father could be fishing and that money would come to us not somebody back there. The trap was impersonal. It caught the fish and they referred as fish killers, well the fishermen were too, but it was a little bit rubbed off on them and they got a little bit of money from us, but the trap was too automatic.

It is interesting that when they repealed the – when they outlawed the fish trap, they let the Indians retain their traps. Traditionally Indians used the equivalent of a trap. They built a dam across the river that salmon would school up and when they had what they wanted, they then let the salmon out. Of course the Indians gave this a mythical sort of thing. These were the salmon people. If we didn’t allow some of them to go up, they wouldn’t come back again. So they went up to some never-never land where they became human, took human form. And so they had a sense of this and the fish trap that would be operated the same way. It would corral the fish into the stream. They would all sort out. You knew where they were going. It was ideal for management, but it was the ownership of the traps that made them mad.

The fish trap therefore is looked upon by most Alaskans as the dipper with which the large absentee owner appeared to skim with relative ease the cream of one of the regions most valuable natural resources and then carried away to the outside the fullest part of the wealth so guarded. That’s pretty poetic.

The theme of absentee ownership on the means of production and control over natural resources and the intended resident, nonresident conflict and resentment is a classic one inevitable in any area with natural resources to be developed and without local capital adequate to the job. This frequently as rational as it is inevitable for without the outside capital and the intended control of influence with local affairs there would be no development. And it is unlikely that even the alleged half loaf would be available to the residents. But it is nonetheless a real force in regional affairs in southeast Alaska this broad and almost abstract conflict has been given a sharp focus by the existence of a tangible object – the fish trap, which has come to represent the very quintessence of absenteeism.

The traps had long been the principal bete noire of Alaskan political demonology. The anti trap case has been emotionally elaborated and distorted to the point where even Alaskans who had never seen one really would readily brand them as fish killers. And at times would seem to look upon them as a very embodiment of the evil in this world. The story of the repeated efforts of Alaskans through their territorial legislature and territorial delegate to congress to have fish traps abolished as illegal gear or to equalize the alleged private and social costs through a differential taxation may not be decided here. The measurement of the popular sentiment regarding this controversial gear was taken by a referendum at the 1948 general election, which resulted in a territorial wide vote of 19,712 to 2,624 for trap abolition. The ratio of almost eight to one.

But now what is bete noire anyway?

Well that’s a black –
Black sheep or black –
Black – Raven a little bit.

No, that’s a terrible – that’s a beast – black beast.

Cause George says it is the Betenwah of Alaska.

I was showing off that I understand French.

Interviewer: I mean, did you think that there was a federal you know it was sort of incompetence on some of the agencies or what was you know like your view or Gruening’s view on because so many Alaskans want to blame out the feds.

George Rogers: Yes, yeah.

Interviewer: Do you think any of that is fair I mean that idea about the.

George Rogers: It’s one of the things you can’t generalize on. My first book, what I was studying there was the operation, the rule a bureaucracy plays in economic change and development. And I took the southeast region because it was one of the most bureaucratic ridden. Practically all the mining resources were under the forest service. The fisheries were under the Fish & Wildlife Service and then the Bureau of Land Management picked up the rest of it. So then the people, the Indians were all under Bureau of Indian Affairs. In those days they were a minority, but they are a very large minority, as you know.

So that representing – by studying those bureaucracies each one was totally different. Totally different in the way they were structured, in what their ideology was. The forest service wore Smoky the Bear uniforms you know. On the other hand they were the most decentralized. The regional forest was the one where the buck stopped. The Fish and Wildlife service they had agents in the field but everything was done in Washington, DC. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was organized on the basis of well most of their employees were former schoolteachers and their whole objective was to keep the Natives on the other side of the counter. I remember the first Native employees were brought in they were struck up in the balcony of the store front office so they would be out of sight.

So you had these different type bureaucracies all working at counter to each other. And so I couldn’t generalize on that. Actually I questioned it. I think the Forest Service were the best organized because they were organized on military grounds.

Also Gilford Pinchot was a saint. He knew what he was doing. He organized the whole resource thing with the working circle concept which was you look at the resource that this – at the hub there would be a community and this would be harvested so that by the time you finished the circle the new growth had come in so there would be a perpetual source of support for that hub. That’s the ideal and you did – had to do primary processing within the region. You couldn’t export logs. Exceptions were made later and – but it had an objective. You looked at the forest resource, it’s an old growth forest, which means that it is a mix of stands and so in order to really get at the good timber you couldn’t harvest it, you had to have a pulp mill which would use anything. That cleared it up and then you could harvest – you could afford to harvest the timber. At least that was the theory.

Phil Holtz and I were working at the Constitution Convention and he says, George, it is a good thing we’re doing – we’re writing this article now when the oil industry comes on the scene, they’d we writing the article. I think that would have been true.

If Alaska hadn’t become a state, the oil industry would have just come in and negotiated with the federal government with their buddies and they would have got a much better deal than they had here. They wouldn’t have to worry about taxation. They wouldn’t have an income tax on their earnings. They would have cut a better deal on the royalties and their leases. I doubt whether the Natives would have gotten anything out of this. Statehood did provide because they were citizens. They got a better status that many indigenous peoples under a territory. So I think it was beneficial. It created – well my dissertation at Harvard was the creating of an American polity. My faculty advisor suggested that title politic brings in the Aristotle and all the rest of it. But the idea that we created a government up here, a community up here, rather than just leaving it just a place you came up like a warehouse and took things out as you needed them, which is what we would have been.

George Rogers: When I was working for Standard Oil Company in the 1930’s the oil companies knew about the oil at Prudhoe Bay and I spoke to my boss about this. Why aren’t we developing that? He says George that is like having – saying that there is oil on the moon. We don’t know how to get it out of there. The seas would be frozen. The sea is too shallow for a tanker to come in to shore, which we discovered. I don’t know why they didn’t know that in the first place before they had that tanker come around and anchored miles offshore. They said it is there. We know it’s there and then we know that it is very rich. The Navy withdrew, but they always do when there is some new discovery, withdrew their reserves, but again that was just to be in case of an emergency. We’ll figure out how to get it out later.

And after 1950 something I decided that I would run for the local government. I was involved in local government for about 17 years. People just ignored local government in those days. It was and there weren’t a lot of things about government because it wasn’t as dominant as it became.
This was right after the statehood Constitutional Convention. I decided we’re not paying enough attention to local government. That’s where the government is as far as most people are concerned. And generally you had people who had – they were merchants they wanted to be sure that they didn’t put a no parking zone in front of their store and things like that, very earth shaking things. So I decided I would run. I got elected. Jean, took $25 out of her grocery fund so I could buy an ad.

And that’s when I discovered they didn’t have a double entry bookkeeping system. Literally the clerk had shoeboxes. And then the other thing I discovered is that they had – they didn’t have – I had more personal liability insurance than the city had. And the reason was that they wanted to do it on the cheap.

Well I made a few major changes there. I got a double entry bookkeeping. And they said well George we always have it audited every year. So I said let me see the audits. Well the first page says we cannot really do a proper audit on this with the records that you have on hand. We recommend that you institute you know. I said didn’t anybody read this. Oh, no, we just assumed that they signed off on it.

But again the state and then we had borough government too. And I also Mildred Herman with my boss at OPA insisted that we draft a charter, a proper charter, which I worked on the charter commission too. So I was in the business of designing of the local government also. And then we became the city and borough. I came from San Francisco which the city and county of San Francisco. So I knew how that worked and we could do the same thing here, which we did. So then I went on the borough assembly too. But it was total of about 17 years of local government I put in. And I said okay now it is time for some young person to come in and take over. I was still a young person but I felt somebody should take a turn. I had urged – I came out in public and said that any Alaskan who has any time should get into local government and make a contribution. And I think we have had pretty good government since then. And it was good. We have grown a lot. We had to become better.

It was right after statehood and the legislature directed me and the University to set up an institute of both business and economic research. So they turned to me and said would you do that? I said sure. So I designed this thing and for a while I ran it by myself. And I transferred the grant that I had from Resources for the Future with their approval to the University. And so we set up a pattern that I would bring in research money for my own research, they would take their overhead which was like 40 percent of what I brought in and I would be a faculty member.

That was an interesting experience too, but it was the University in transition. We just got Wickersham Hall that was built for the girls and then we had Chena Ridge was where the students would go and dig a hole in the hill and put a sod roof on it and they’d come in and use the gymnasium to take their showers and do their laundry and it was – but there was a sense of people trying to get an education there in that sort of rough situation, which I liked very much.

I retired at full retirement. I became an adjunct officio which was I would be paid when I worked on a piece basis.
They gave me an emeritus status, which was an honorary status as you know.

The term colony is a very tricky thing. You could say that the West today is a colony of the continent – of the rest of the United States and would be only partly true. A true colony is one in which the indigenous people had no say in what is being done to them and to their land.

George Rogers: In Alaska that’s not true. We have a lot to say, particularly with statehood. And I think that statehood sort of lifted us from the colonial status because we had rights, we had things that we could enforce, we could control our own destiny. A true colony was one which you simply go in and I use the idea of warehouse, pull it out, forget about the people who were there. They don’t count. They are just part of the wallpaper, but Alaska was never that sort of colony.

Under Russian rule, under the initial US rule, it was probably true because the indigenous peoples base of survival was wiped out or seriously damaged by the harvesting of salmon for example. It wasn’t until the White Act was passed – I think it was 1923 that the salmon resource was managed on the basis of its going to its source and coming back again, otherwise it was simply treated like a wasting resource, which it was. It was mined in other words, not harvested.

The big change came when we got the big money from the oil – Prudhoe Bay and it just all of a sudden things started changing. We lost our idealism. We lost the idea that we were working together, conservatists, liberals, everybody, creating a beautiful state and it became money grubbing on the natural element. You had the greed taking over in the 1990’s. You saw what happened to accounting. That sacred thing that I started with is no longer sacred. They know how to cook the books.

The state needed the natural resources economics, as well as special corner of the economic studies and there you look at a resource, renewable resources is one that you grow it back again – fisheries, forest, and so on and that sort of thing.

And minerals, petroleum, that sort of thing is a wasting resource. When you dig it out, you get rid of it, it is gone. It doesn’t reproduce itself. But if you look upon it when you sell the resource, not as income but rather a changing of the resource, a crude oil in the ground or metal to a resource cash that you invest and then the income from the investment becomes your income. And of course that is the basic underlying theory of a Permanent Fund, although it got all screwed up with other things like rainy day fund and a lot of other things, but as a economist I looked upon it as that it gave petroleum a life after death. And in theory at least if you knew how to manage your money it could go on in a permanent way. It became a permanent asset rather than a wasting asset. That’s the basic difference between a renewable and a wasting asset.

Well of course it was really fun when we adopted our first little girl. It was really fun when we adopted our last little boy. I don’t know I think there’s a state of mind in which you decide to be happy with what you have and I was certainly of that state of mind. Besides he’s a great guy.

Well he’s thoughtful. He’s courteous. He’s kind. He’s loving. He’s smart. He’s talented you know. He’s just a great guy. And he likes me. We still like each other.

Oh, it was a time of real thrill because we were building a state and it just inspired all kinds of people and all kinds of people came here. We met all sorts of interesting people here and I must have invited a lot of them to dinner. It was just a great and glorious time.

George and Jean Rogers
Interviewed by Dr. Terrence ColeTerence: Okay, today is, what day is today? September 22nd, right. Tomorrow is my birthday. Okay. And so we’re in Juneau at the home of George and Jean Rogers, where they have graciously allowed us to invade and talk with us. So first we’re talking to George Rogers. George, maybe you could just tell us a little about where you were born, where you grew up and …..George: That’s dangerous to ask an old man a question like that because we’ve become very garrulous when we get old.

Terence: That’s okay.

George: I was born in San Francisco in the Patrilla District. If you know San Francisco, you know what that is, in 1917 – April 15th, which used to be the Ides of – no that wasn’t the Ides of March that’s tax day, like the same thing.

Terence: Ides of April, yeah, right. And so you grew up in the San Francisco area right?

George: Yes, right.

Terence: How long did you stay – what was your early your education and stuff?

George: Well I went through the usual school system, which in those days was not the sort of thing we have. The Patrillo District was a place where new Americans came in – Irish and Italian. And my mother was Australian and my father was of Cornish descent. So I spoke with an Australian accent which they assumed was English, which gave me trouble on the playground, but I became an Italian and I survived.

But the other thing is that at age 12 we moved out of the district into the Sunset District and unfortunately this high school was a polytechnic high school and the name tells it all. I majored in mathematics, architectural drafting, and physics. The rest of it was Mickey Mouse work or working on the lathe or in a foundry or something like that. But that gave me the basis for my future education, the math particularly. I had inspiring teachers, two of them. And I never forget Ms. Worman, who was an old lady said children mathematics will make it possible for you to see the unknown or the unseeable, invisible. And that stuck with me all these years. Yes, that’s right. So I really rolled up my sleeves and went all the way through calculus before I went to college. I was into college in mathematics.

That’s 1934 I graduated, after the depression. My dad was only working part time. I had two younger brothers. So my job was to go out and find a job and that was very difficult. But I wandered into Standard Oil Company in their downtown office. I was answering an ad for messenger boys, Western Union messenger boy. I didn’t have a bicycle. I didn’t know the difference. But I walked across there thinking I might get a job in a service station. And the man behind the desk said well son this is the headquarters, but let me see your high school transcript. And he looked at it. I had straight A’s in math. He said if you don’t have anything to do we’d like to give you some tests and that was the beginning of my whole career. I took two hours of tests. I got home and my mom said they want you.

So I put what they call the Economics Department. I didn’t know what economics was, but was part of a human computer. There were half a dozen kids like myself that were picked up because of our aptitude and analytical abilities and we processed statistical data. And I was there until 1939. The war started. My dad was working in the shipyards. My two brothers were drafted and so I said now I can go to college. And that’s the nutshell of my getting up to that point.

Terence: So and it was just like you say a human computer (inaudible).

George: Uh-huh.

Terence: Doing the calculations, that’s interesting.

George: Well for example I learned all my economics there because we didn’t make models. We didn’t even touch a model. We just started with raw data, processed it, and worked out all of the (inaudible) variations and other things so that you got what basic trends of these statisticals. We didn’t know what they were but then we plotted them on semi log paper and we had stacks of these. And then the analysts came into the room and we watched as they put these all up. They looked for patterns that were similar by association and then they say what’s the connection between these two? What they were searching for were what were the things that were causing the economy to change. And from that they got some insights into what was happening, which I have always kept that became part of my education in economics.

Terence: Looking for the pattern.

George: The patterns, yes. And looking for strategic factors. Most economists – well I think they’re coming to that now. They have caught up with what I was doing back in the 30’s. And it was very important for me to do that because I also realized that we have a free enterprise system. It’s a market economy, but as I said later in my life it was a designer’s market. It was the major oil companies sat down and we gave them information that they sat down and negotiated. They looked long term. They weren’t interested in maximizing a profit but expanding the demand for petroleum products.

Terence: So not maximizing immediately?

George: Immediate profits, that’s right, yes. They would sell things. For example they kept the price of crude down at $3 a barrel until right just before the pipeline was built. Now that was unusual to do that, but it meant that they were in control. Then they divided the market up.

Terence: Well after you – this early experience, you went to UC Berkeley, right?

George: Berkeley, that’s right, yes. That’s where I wanted to in the first place but by this time I thought well I probably missed the boat I’ll be drafted. Of course I wasn’t, I was a 4F, but I went there and I came in.

Terence: What did you get the exemption for, George?

George: My eyes.

Terence: Yeah. Do you know what your eyesight was, what was it?

George: Well I was – if I took my glasses off, I had trouble seeing. I could see that you were there but you were a glob. I put my glasses on and that helped a bit, but I was never going to be a sharpshooter. I wouldn’t be very much use. In those days they actually shot rifles.

Terence: That wouldn’t be so great.

George: I took one semester of ROTC and then they decided I was hopeless. We were using World War I equipment and I loved the Springfield rifle. We had to learn how to take it apart blindfolded and put it back together again. Things that are very helpful in the sort of war that we were fighting then.

Terence: Yeah, the Army is always looking ahead isn’t it and they were fighting the last war.

Terence: I forgot, how did you become an Italian?

George: Oh, that was very interesting. The Irish bullies move around in a group, but one thing about a bully he never stands alone. And they would pick out someone like myself who was different than the others and the whole thing was that they make a circle and knock you down and kick you. And then if you fought back then they could really clean up on you, say well he hit me first. Well this time I landed and my hand fell on a rock and I stood up and swung up – his name was Glen Noland, I hit him on the left temple. And head wounds bleed and all of a sudden blood was squirting and I dropped the rock, stood there, he started crying. Everybody was horrified. The playground monitor grabbed me, walked me into the school and I had to stand in front of the class this is a vicious person stay away. Well, the next thing I knew I was put in a speech correction class. And I came in and there were just Italian boys there and I said what are we doing here. He said well you talk funny too. So we became very good friends and it was a long story. I’d go into about how the head of the Italian boys – they had the poor young woman who was the only lessons she had was for stutters. So she went through this whole thing of having us sit at desks, pull down the blinds, and we said slow speech is easy. She said now imagine you’re in some sort of situation very peaceful and you’re walking along into the woods and it is all quiet and then she said now one of you tell what is happening. And the leader of the Italian says I was walking along and the birds were singing and I walked into this river and all of a sudden there was a rustling and a tiger lept out at me. And we all started laughing and she said no, no and she burst into tears. That was the last speech correction class I was in, but I had bonded with the Italians so I could stand over with the Italian boys with my hands on my hips and say okay you Irishmen come over here we’ll take care of you. So at that point I had an escort home. I was never bothered and I also had the reputation of being a very vicious person, but I have loved Italians ever since.

Terence: Naturally. Okay. So you went to – go back to Berkeley, so you were there after your distinguished military career –

George: Yes, one semester.

Terence: – and so did you graduate in econ?

George: Yes. I graduated with (inaudible). I actually started the spring semester which was in 1940 and the courses they were still teaching post Kings, I mean pre Kings and as a matter of fact it was almost as though they were forbidden to talk about Kings in economics. I had already read his books so I knew what they were. We were back at the turn of the century neoclassical economics. And I thought this is ridiculous. Fortunately, the only thing that kept me is they opened up an Institute of Business Economic Research and I applied for a job. Well they said you’re a freshman, we’re looking for graduate students, but I showed them my Visa and it happened that if a freshman was doing an in-depth study of the Pacific Coast Petroleum Industry. So I was hired as one of the first – one of their first research assistants to work on this three volume study of the Pacific Coast Petroleum Industry. So I leaped frogged into graduate work right there. Then I got to talk to the faculty on a person-to-person basis and because of my architectural drafting ability I could make beautiful charts and diagrams for their learned articles. So I was in great demand for that too. Everything I did I was able to use later on. And then the next professor that took over was a young graduate Ph.D. from Columbia who had done studies of business cycles and broken down into sub national levels. And they didn’t even have a course in business cycles at that time and he instituted that. So he became my mentor for the rest of the time that I was at Berkeley. He went to the office of price administration. He pulled me over there with him and that is how I got into the war work with Office of Price Administration.

Terence: Who was that George? Remember his name?

George: That was Frank Kidner. He became –

Terence: How do you spell that – K-I-N-

George: You know Frank, good old Frank with a K. Like Frank Murkowski only without the Murkowski. And the Kid was K-I-D-N-E-R, yeah.

Terence: Okay.

George: And his great thing was that he was a labor economist. He became the great mediator that they used him a lot in labor disputes. He became a vice chancellor and he tried to get me to come back to Berkeley. In fact I was planning to come back and get my Ph.D. under him, but fate determined differently. I was going to do this. But I was interested in getting away from economics that was being taught. I said I want to get an island that the things that are brought in and out are defined, that I can simple enough that I can grasp how the whole thing operates and then I got to Alaska. I said this is my island. Because everything that came in and out was measured and then I can just concentrate on understanding how the thing operated. How it adjusted to these forces and it was a very abnormal thing.

One of my professors said to me that you don’t want to study the normal, the successful economy, you learn nothing from that. Study the malfunctioning economy because you learn from what’s going wrong. And that’s exactly, yes right, but my idea of Alaska I knew after the war it is going to change. It was going no place before. Over 80% of the value of output was canned salmon and gold. The rest of it was just like miscellaneous stuff like halibut and a few a things. It was a two-crop economy, which is not a very stable economy. And it was dominated by absentee interests and it was sort of a traditional colony. It outgrew that later. It became like one of the mountain states afterward, with oil and other things.

Terence: George, what is it – why was it like a traditional colony?

George: Well it was exploited. The indigenous people their basis of subsistence, which was primarily salmon, and fish was being completely exploited and actually people starved to death up river because the salmon didn’t get up to the interior and it wasn’t until the White Act. I think it was 1924 came in that the management of the resources so that the whole resource was managed not just the coastal fishing of it. And it left the Native people what the Russians didn’t do United States finished. And they just almost wiped them out because their resource base was wiped out.

Terence: How did it when you first came up, what year did you first arrive, I mean with OPA a little bit and then cause I wanted to ask you something about fishing and the difference the way the territory treated fishing and mining? Because I looked at the tax statistics, fish production versus mining was three to one.

George: Uh-huh.

Terence: By 1959, but taxing fish to mining was nine to one. Fishing was taxed at a rate three times I mean so but anyway before we get to that let’s a little bit about OPA and what was it?

George: I’ll back up.

Terence: Okay.

George: I was sent to Alaska because they had discovered that I could understand accounting, I could read what the Ph. D.’s couldn’t, so I had to teach them how to read balance sheets and that sort of thing. Then I was a troubleshooter. I went all over the Pacific Coast, took Jean alone, so we visited her parents in Phoenix and so on. And my final assignment was to go to Alaska. They said George the Department of the Army said we have a lot of Catholic boys in the Army, they want fish for Friday, you haven’t put a ceiling price on raw fish. We can’t afford to provide raw fish. Do something about it. So they said George go to Alaska and roll back the ceiling price, roll back the price of raw fish. Well fortunately for me I arrived and it was January 7th, wasn’t it Jean?

Jean: Uh-huh.

George: 1945. I just had time to do a quick study of the existing fishing industry, which this was completely new territory. I got a quick grand tour of Alaska and I settled down. I said oh my God, but they dropped the two bombs so the war was over so I didn’t have to admit that I couldn’t do it. But Ernest Gruening then picked me up and wanted me to stay on for three years as his economist and work on a revenue program for the territory.

Terence: So let’s when did you and Jean leave, we should go back and talk about Gruening and the economy. You guys met in 19 – you were married in ’42 is that right?

George: ’42, yeah. And –

Terence: Well how did you first meet?

George: Well this is a long story too. All my stories are long. Old men do this. And it is just one of those things, you can cut this out later. But what happened at Berkeley you had no student housing provided by the state or by the federal government except if you were foreign student you had international house. So that the only alternatives you had was to go to one of the Greek houses, the flats for the sororities or you were at the mercy of the private sector so called which were little old ladies who had rooming houses and they were pretty tough little old ladies.

Well during the 30’s some of the students that were there before decided to set up a student co-ops and the ones that we were in one was the Methodist Church were into what they call social action Christianity so they decided that co-ops were the way to go, the middle wave (inaudible) and that sort of stuff. Good old days before people were scared away by being branded as a communist because you thought of something different. Once they did they turned their recreation dining area which wasn’t being used anyhow to the student co-op. They found themselves the Three Squares. And there was an eating co-op and then they picked up houses. The boys were in a what had been a frat house back in the 1870’s and 80’s. And they went to work and fixed it up. We all did chores and so that is where we got by. But I became – because I knew double entry bookkeeping I became the treasurer for both the co-ops. Kept the books. I didn’t have to do any work shifts. I was a white-collar worker. I was part of management.

And Jean arrived from Idaho. She sent her money in early and she –

Jean: A $10 deposit.

George: A $10 deposit and there was something about the way she wrote that little thing. This sounds like an interesting lady. And when she walked in, I said to my roommate. He said well what was she like? I said well she has the body of a high-class model. I’m sorry Jean. She has the best looking legs this side of Marlena Dietrich and she has a smile that lights up the whole room. And Vernon said to me, George, I think you’re in love. And I was. Then we got to know each other –

Jean: In an English class.

George: In an English class, yeah. I took English as my minor because my –

Terence: Did you take that class intentionally?

George: No, no. This was part of my – when I had my studies all worked out. I was going to do it in two years. The reason I could do it – is I thought I could do it, is if you read the fine print if you maintain a B plus, A minus average you can take as many credits as you could work in, but you are supposed to get your faculty advisor to approve this. Well my faculty advisor was a dolt, he said he took my thing, I was taking chemistry. He scratched it out and he said astronomy for non-major. And I said why? He said well it is a snap course and it is full of sorority girls. I said well that is not exactly what I was looking for but okay I’ll do that. And sure enough it was full of sorority girls. Jean kept saying George why are all these pretty girls talking to you, but that’s another story.

But I had put as my minor not political science cause I read some of the things this is Mickey Mouse. I took English literature. He said why are you taking English lit? Because I want to get an education while I’m getting my degree. And I had signed up for the course – it was a survey course for majors. It was a five-minute course and Jean was a junior transfer from Idaho. She had decided she better audit that course. So I came into chemistry auditorium and a huge crowd there and I looked around for a seat. And Jean was wearing a purple sweater and a big smile and she had a seat next to her so I went right there and sat down. Then so after class she would sit – my class is a (inaudible). Well mine is too. Well her class was down at the other end but she walked up with me and from that point on we got closer and closer. I said I had already pretty much made up my mind.

Terence: Because of the bookkeeping?

George: Yes.

Terence: With the bookkeeping?

George: Yes, right.

Terence: The whole expression of your life, bookkeeping.

George: Yes, double entry bookkeeping, I’m for that. And I’ll give a little plug, LaSalle International Correspondence School.

Terence: Because that is how you learned it?

George: That’s right, I learned it. Very good.

Terence: When you were still a teenager, right?

George: Yeah, I was only out of diapers.

Terence: So let’s talk about – so when you came to – so you guys were married in ’42?

George: Yeah.

Terence: And then your first trip – was that your first trip to Alaska in January ’47?

George: Yes, that’s right, ’45.

Terence: ’45. So and did you and Jean come up on the boat together?

George: Oh, yes.

Terence: So by then did the rules against women sending them outside were relaxed and stuff?

George: That’s right.

Terence: Okay. So you came in on January ’47 – why don’t you tell us about coming up on the ship?

George: January and in those days the military had the preference of air – flying machines and we were stuck with ground and water transportation. So we came up with the Princess North, which was a lovely experience. It was like going back in the last century. The war was on but they had all the food that they used to have in the P&O, the Pacific and Orient. And they had full staff of the servants. The silverware was spread out and we had a wonderful time. And you got to know everybody on board because you were thrown together for a week wasn’t it, huh, three days. I thought it was longer than that, it just seemed like it. But we wanted it to go on.

Terence: So it was three days?

George: My wife says three days, it must have been three days. It was a very fast boat, but that was a wonderful experience. By the time we got to Juneau we had learned a lot about Alaska just talking to all the other Alaskans that were going home. They went on across the gulf and on up the railroad and so on.

Terence: Did you do any studying before you came up? I mean you know have to do any reading or background work for?

George: Well I did a little. There wasn’t much time. This was a fast thing. In 1937, the Natural Resources Committee was asked by congress to it an appraisal of Alaska and its resources and what the prospects were. That was the most valuable book I read. It was a really hardhearted look at Alaska and they sum it all up. The conclusion was that Alaska is no place and it is not going any place in the foreseeable future. And they were against trying to subsidize any growth. They said just leave it there. Let the market and normal economic forces to take care. Don’t provide any subsidies.

Well interestingly right after the war the successor to the Natural Resources Committee was directed by the President and the Department of Defense by that time to consider Alaska as a critically important outpost and that we should develop Alaska immediately as a national security thing. Now I’m getting way ahead of the story, but that is what they were going to do, use subsidies necessary.

Terence: But what was the successor to the National Resources Planning Board? That wasn’t the (inaudible)?

George: No, no, no. That was different entirely. This was one that – now my memory – it was the Natural – I think it was called the Natural Resources Committee. I can look it up but it was about in 19 – the war was still on when they came on so before ’45.

Terence: Okay.

George: But they changed totally they flip flopped from the ’37 report to this report. This is in the interest of national defense. We should subsidize the development of Alaska.

Terence: Right. Yeah.

George: As a strategically important thing.

Terence: Well you know even if – well let’s talk about the – you arrived in January ’45 and what were the conditions like when you arrived? Just tell us about the blackout and situations.

George: Yeah. Most of that had been over by that time because the war had changed dramatically, as you know. In fact the war was over back here. So that a lot of those restrictions were gone, but you still were in the sense of a wartime. This was a rest and recreation for the troops area and you had a very lively line down here, the red light district, which by the way was run by the city. All pimps were kicked out and the girls had to report every Wednesday to the medical clinic and they were allowed to operate openly.

Terence: Was there a tax up here? Did they have a city tax like they do –

George: They did a property tax, yes.

Terence: No I mean no prostitution?

George: No, no. They were considered as an asset to the community because they kept the boys away from the girls that were not prostitutes, but that’s part of it. But the streets weren’t paved. There were wooden sidewalks. We had a volunteer fire department, which we still have. And the way the volunteers were called is having at the top of City Hall there was a big horn that blasted out and they had a code you could tell where you were supposed to go. That’s where the fire was. You all jumped into your cars or you ran on foot to that place and you became a fireman.

And after 1950 something I decided that I would run for the local government. I was involved in local government for about 17 years. People just ignored local government in those days. It was and there weren’t a lot of things about government because it wasn’t as dominant as it became.

But let’s see when I went North at Anchorage the plane it was a Fairchild Load Star two engine. It landed – we had land at Yakutat. We had to land at Cordova. And each time we landed we had to stay for about an hour while the pilot got up his nerve to fly on to the next thing. We flew past the Fairweather Range and had to look up at the mountains. We thought we landed in the middle of town and we stopped right in front of a pie bakery. I hope they weren’t raising anything in the way of souffles and things. But that’s the way it was. The military establishment was there and they had their stuff, but this was a civilian thing. There were still 1930 vintage planes being flown.

And then from there I flew up to Fairbanks. I could have taken the railroad, but that was – took too long and besides it was the roadbed wasn’t too reliable. Fairbanks was just like landing in – back in the last century some place. The gold was closed down but the big dredges were all like a bunch of pasture full of dinosaurs sitting out there waiting to start chewing again.

Terence: What year of that?

George: That trip was almost immediately, wasn’t it Jean?

Jean: (Inaudible)

George: We didn’t know it at the time. We didn’t know anything about the bombs.

Jean: (Inaudible).

George: It was a little tiny (inaudible). Well I did it.

Jean: No, it wasn’t. (Inaudible).

George: Well the 26th was the – what I would do –

Terence: That’s terrible –

George: Well what I would do I would do –

Terence: What kind of advice was that?

Jean: (Inaudible).

George: The general theory – the general theory. And I had that under my belt and they weren’t even teaching it there.

Terence: That’s amazing George of not teaching (inaudible). It just shows how especially by the 1930’s how ridiculous that is you know.

George: I couldn’t believe it when I was asked. I almost dropped out of the whole program, but my friends who were on the faculty said hang around George it is going to change and it did.

Terence: We’re talking about fighting the last war.

George: Yeah.

Terence: You know I mean teaching 19th century economics, the eve of WWII you know. Okay. You mentioned something about being involved in city politics. Did you actually run for office?

George: Yes I did, oh, yes.

Terence: When was that?

George: This was right after the statehood Constitutional Convention. I decided we’re not paying enough attention to local government. That’s where the government is as far as most people are concerned. And generally you had people who had – they were merchants they wanted to be sure that they didn’t put a no parking zone in front of their store and things like that, very earth shaking things. So I decided I would run. I got elected. Jean, took $25 out of her grocery fund so I could buy an ad. Is that right, Jean?

Jean: That’s right. (Inaudible).

George: I think it was on that transportation thing. We were going crazy trying – the scene of the dog team. The jet planes kept flying out, yeah. Do it over again.

Terence: Okay, so you ran after the convention. You had thought about running for city – city council, what was it?

George: City Council at that time. We – this was before we had achieved statehood. We wrote the constitution at first and then use that as a gimmick to elect the convention delegation and sent them back demanding that they be seated. And then they hung around and were lobbyists for the – and it worked.

Terence: The Tennessee Plan?

George: The Tennessee Plan, yes, that was what that was.

Terence: But let’s catch that but let’s talk about the city. So you were elected to the City Council?

George: Yes.

Terence: What year was that, George?

George: Couldn’t say.

Terence: So after ’56 anyway?

Jean: ’48 or ’49.

George: No, no, it was after the convention. So you got the convention date, you’ve got it.

Terence: Yeah ’55.

George: When I came back I said I’m going to run for local government and that’s when I discovered they didn’t have a double entry bookkeeping system. Literally the clerk had shoeboxes. And then the other thing I discovered is that they had – they didn’t have – I had more personal liability insurance than the city had. And the reason was that they wanted to do it on the cheap. And they had the airport – this was a municipal airport by that time and I said this is insane. And fortunately at that time the insurance company that the local agent had bought from, a Texas outfit that went into bankruptcy. So I said let’s get all the insurance agencies together, which I did. We sat down and between them and myself drafted up what the requirements were for a proper bookkeeping system for the city. And then they all bid on that. They told me they said George the only requirement was that we get the cheapest insurance you could get. They never even looked at the policy.

Well I made a few major changes there. I got a double entry bookkeeping. And they said well George we always have it audited every year. So I said let me see the audits. Well the first page says we cannot really do a proper audit on this with the records that you have on hand. We recommend that you institute you know. I said didn’t anybody read this. Oh, no, we just assumed that they signed off on it. So I mean that’s – I had my work cut out for me.

Terence: Story of Alaska government, that’s a local government. So how long were you on the council for a couple of terms or how?

George: Oh, yeah. I went on then –

Terence: We’ll figure out whatever year.

George: Yeah, I can get you the itinerary there, but again the state and then we had borough government too. And I also Mildred Herman with my boss at OPA insisted that we draft a charter, a proper charter, which I worked on the charter commission too. So I was in the business of designing of the local government also. And then we became the city and borough. I came from San Francisco which the city and county of San Francisco. So I knew how that worked and we could do the same thing here, which we did. So then I went on the borough assembly too. But it was total of about 17 years of local government I put in. And I said okay now it is time for some young person to come in and take over. I was still a young person but I felt somebody should take a turn. I had urged – I came out in public and said that any Alaskan who has any time should get into local government and make a contribution. And I think we have had pretty good government since then. And it was good. We have grown a lot. We had to become better.

Terence: Oh, sure, yes, especially going from the shoe box to –

George: Shoe box. Had some cigar boxes too.

Terence: Well that’s much better.

George: All he did was make what we call a trial balance. If the columns added up that was fine.

Terence: Yeah, that’s an awful – well let’s go back to now when Gruening, first, in ’45, so you came with OPA.

George: Yes.

Terence: Was there a guy named Price? Wasn’t he the guy – no that would be too appropriate. He was the OPA. Who was the head of OPA? I forget. Ron Price?

George: No, it wasn’t Price. That was – for a while it was, oh my God I can’t think of the names of them now. There was quite a turnover of heads of the OPA.

Terence: Well there was a guy in Seattle right?

George: The guy in Seattle, yes.

Terence: I can’t remember what his name was.

George: His name might have been Price, yes.

Terence: Yeah, but it just occurs to me now Ron, his name is Price, but you’re right, yeah. But anyway, so you came in ’45. You were with OPA. And so you obviously met Gruening. So what was this – was that the first meeting with him in ’45 then?

George: Yes. Yes.

Terence: So what was that? And you hadn’t been to Harvard yet at that time?

George: No, no.

Terence: Okay. So what was your meeting like with him and your impressions of him?

George: Well he was very impressed and I was impressed too because he was the governor. You could talk to him. He was a brilliant man. There is no question about it. And he convinced me that Alaska needed statehood and second reply was what the economic consequences of that were. And so what he wanted me to do is to work on a tax system with the territory. There are three taxes. He wanted income tax, property tax, and business license tax. The income tax he said this is the last one. I can’t get this passed. It was 120 pages long. I read the thing. I said governor you have been taken. This took the federal regulations and almost verbatim made them Alaska’s income tax.

I said why don’t we do this. Your income tax will be X percentage of what the federal tax would be on the income you are earning within Alaska. And I reduced it to 12 pages. It took two tries. The second try was passed by the legislature. I said no legislator in his right mind is going to pass a tax bill that is that thick that he can’t understand. And the governor bought that idea and it worked. It was written up in the Harvard Law Review. It was challenged. It went to the San Francisco Court and the judge there said this is a brilliant idea. And he said all the states should learn something from this. And a number of states have done versions of that.

So when you’re doing your federal tax before you – while you’re still deep in that go back and change your gross income to represent the income you earned within the state and then use the same regulations and forms. The only thing that was required each year the legislature had to vote on delegating that bit of process to the congress. That was no problem.

So we had a tax that was understandable and it covered everything. The sales tax was voted – didn’t – its purpose was to try to tax income from nonresident seasonal workers. That didn’t pass muster. Oh there was a property tax but that didn’t pass muster because the canning industry knew that they were being targeted because they were outside the city limits. And so that – the business license tax is still on the books by the way so one of them survived.

Terence: The property tax – remember – it was repealed after four or five years. I can’t remember how long, but largely because the salmon opposition right?

George: They said it was unequal taxation or some sort of – lawyers have ways of doing this and they did. They got rid of it. Besides I thought that was a good thing anyhow. That should be reserved for local governments to use and the sales tax the same way too. I was against having a state or territorial wide sales tax.

Terence: Well what was the tax situation you know how could you sort of describe the tax situation that faced you when you first looked at it before we – what did you make of it, cause it looks like it was kind of a mess?

George: It was mess and things were outdated. Like dance halls were taxed on their square footage of the dance floor. Well who the hell had a dance floor these days? Breweries were taxed on the population on the area served by the brewery. And a whole lot of things. Undertakers were taxed on the population of the area. A series of little licenses like that. It just covered parts of the thing. There was no sense to this and there was – the only taxes that were really sensible were the mining taxes and the pack tax on the salmon industry.

And the salmon industry was really the backbone of the whole territorial revenues and Judge Arnold was the one who was – each session that I was there when they came to the final review of the budget they would say – the Judge would be on the stand and they would treat him like he was a member of the legislature. They’d say Judge do you have any suggestions what our budget should be? Yes, I just happen to have in my pocket and he would put it out and they would vote on it with him still sitting on the stand. I couldn’t believe that. But he was a very sharp guy. I kind of admired him in a way. He was able to talk them into almost anything. And he was one of those characters that you admire in spite of what he is doing.

Terence: As far as you mean he had the legislature in his hands?

George: Yes, he did, yes.

Terence: Of course not Gruening certainly?

George: No, no.

Terence: Gruening was –

George: Oh, no, no. He was the Satan of the whole thing.

Terence: Well now I’m curious, this – cause just as these numbers I’ve been looking at so if this doesn’t – wasn’t something you ever thought about or occurred to you. I’m just curious on your reflection on it. I found that the mining taxes were just a fraction of the fish taxes.

George: Yeah.

Terence: I guess it was a three to one total value and I know that’s probably not a fair way of looking at this gross value.

George: No, I think, yeah.

Terence: Because operating expenses were much different. I mean there is a lot of very heavy operating expenses in the mining, but the slight taxes on mining was this gross gold tax put in in 1938 and that these guys squealed like this was the most awful tax in the history of mankind. There was one had – Alaska Miners Association, as you may recall, the gross poll tax is a tax on courage. I thought that was a great thing to tax.

George: Yeah.

Terence: Courage.

George: That’s courage.

Terence: But why would there be they look at this differently. I mean what was fishing seen more as a nonresident occupation, is that fair to say or do you know?

George: Well, it was. I mean there was no tax. There was a head tax. Everybody that came to Alaska that was employed got hit with that, a couple of dollars I think, that was about all. And the mining industry was a hangover from the days when the syndicate ran Alaska, which was primarily mining – the Guggenheims and a couple of other mining operators. And so they had a stranglehold on the territory and on the revenue system. So the fishing industry never was quite organized that way. They also – the fishing industry did have control of the shipping because they were, but the Guggenheims also bought that over too because they were planning to smelt copper in Alaska and then export the ingots from there, but that was frustrated by Teddy Roosevelt who wouldn’t allow them to use the coal areas. That was reserved for the future. That’s a whole another story.

Terence: Right, right.

George: It was a holdover from the days the syndicate ran Alaska.

Terence: Right. But it was clear that the taxes and stuff was out of synch –

George: Oh yes.

Terence: With the economy, right?

George: No. It had nothing to do with the economy at all and it was – there was so many things that we not taxed that should have been taxed.

Terence: And the average person’s tax was just a head – the school tax?

George: Just a school tax about the only tax I think we paid when we first came here.

Terence: Which I think was like $5.

George: Five dollars I think it was.

Terence: So let’s about talk about serving general – we’ve got this sort of issue of federal control. How did you sort of you look and as being a guy who worked for OPA and of course Gruening worked for the Secretary of Interior too?

George: Yes, right.

Terence: But how did I mean did you think that there was a federal you know it was sort of incompetence on some of the agencies or what was you know like your view or Gruening’s view on because so many Alaskans want to blame out the feds.

George: Yes, yeah.

Terence: Do you think any of that is fair I mean that idea about the.

George: Well, I think it – one of the things you can’t generalize on. My first book, what I was studying there was the operation, the rule a bureaucracy plays in economic change and development. And I took the southeast region because it was one of the most bureaucratic ridden. Practically all the mining resources were under the forest service. The fisheries were under the Fish & Wildlife Service and then the Bureau of Land Management picked up the rest of it. So then the people, the Indians were all under Bureau of Indian Affairs. In those days they were a minority, but they are a very large minority, as you know.

So that representing – by studying those bureaucracies each one was totally different. Totally different in the way they were structured, in what their ideology was. The forest service wore Smoky the Bear uniforms you know. On the other hand they were the most decentralized. The regional forest was the one where the buck stopped. The Fish and Wildlife service they had agents in the field but everything was done in Washington, DC. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was organized on the basis of well most of their employees were former schoolteachers and their whole objective was to keep the Natives on the other side of the counter. I remember the first Indian employees were brought in they were struck up in the (inaudible) of store front office so they would be out of sight.

So you had these different type bureaucracies all working at counter to each other. And so I couldn’t generalize on that. Actually I questioned it. I think the Forest Service were the best organized because they were organized on military grounds. Also Gilford Pinchot was a saint. He knew what he was doing. He organized the whole resource thing with the working circle concept which was you look at the resource that this – at the hub there would be a community and this would be harvested so that by the time you finished the circle the new growth had come in so there would be a perpetual source of support for that hub. That’s the ideal and you did – had to do primary processing within the region. You couldn’t export logs. Exceptions were made later and – but it had an objective. You looked at the forest resource, it’s an old growth forest, which means that it is a mix of stands and so in order to really get at the good timber you couldn’t harvest it, you had to have a pulp mill which would use anything. That cleared it up and then you could harvest – you could afford to harvest the timber. At least that was the theory.

Terence: Yeah, well you know if – what was the role of Heintzleman, I mean did you run into – you must have run into Frank Heintzleman in the early years too?

George: Oh, yes, yes.

Terence: So was he the regional Forest Service?

George: He was the regional Forest Service long before we came he was there. I am sure he was appointed by the governor of Alaska by the other Republicans. Well Frank was a career man. He was highly ethical in everything he did. I have nothing but greatest respect for him, but he did everything by the book, which drove me crazy sometimes when I had worked for him. But he was a very principled man and he was dedicated to the beliefs of Gilford Pinchot and brought the tablets down from heaven. But yes I had nothing but respect for Frank.

Terence: George, how would you – is it fair and I was going to ask Bob D’Armand this too – is it fair to say that he was you know opposed to statehood given on the idea that the proponents of statehood of course wanted it right away and that he was one of the guys I think you said not now kind of thing, which is what a lot of the opponents said, but –

George: Yes.

Terence: But was he – so how did he really you know is it fair for the people to say to say he is anti-statehood or?

George: In a way he was – I worked for him briefly for about two or three years. That’s another story, but he said that he was afraid that we couldn’t afford to support statehood. I said I agree with you, but that we are not going to be able to afford statehood until we get it because we don’t have control over our own destiny. So the legislature absolutely everything they did had to be approved by the congress. We couldn’t incur any indebtedness. There were lots of things we couldn’t do and you were in a straight jacket. You had to get rid of that. We had no lands that we could draw upon to get revenues from. So statehood would bring those things in. So I tried to argue with him that statehood would make it possible to afford statehood. He didn’t quite buy that.

For a while there was a commonwealth idea that was circulated. And Puerto Rico was a commonwealth and he said George research this for me. I have some friends who think we should become a commonwealth. So I did. I went to the (inaudible) and they said well what they do Frank is that you have charge – the local people have charge of everything. Defense is provided by the federal government. Everything else and he said well does that mean that the Forest Service would become a local? I said yes. That changed his mind immediately.

Terence: He wasn’t going to trust these guys.

George: No. But of course he was Republican and the Republicans as a whole were anti-statehood. Although during the Constitutional Convention they – very concerned Republicans worked very well on that. That was one of those miraculous pulling together of Alaskans of all opinions and breeds working together and they worked together through this. I was so happy to be part of that process too. It was a wonderful thing.

Terence: George, why would you say – how did that come about – why did it work so well? What were the ingredients?

George: Or the ingredient, first of all, the statehood proponents were looking at the history of how other states came in. Tennessee, what they did – they didn’t wait for congress to act. They wrote a constitution. They elected their delegation to congress, sent the delegation to Washington, DC and demanded that they be seated. And then while congress recovered from this blow, they lobbied individual members of congress and it worked. They got it. So we decided that we would try that and it did work.

We had Ernest Gruening, Ralph Rivers, and Bob Bartlett. And they were all very good. Bob Bartlett was particularly good at politics you know. He was a master politician. Ernest Gruening was a showboated quite a bit and offended some people but nonetheless he was brilliant and when he spoke people listened. He was worth listening to. Ralph Rivers went along with the other two and he was okay. He was a common man out there. He could relate to a lot of people. We had a good delegation, a good mix of types.

Terence: How – what about the convention itself a little bit – why do you think that though worked so well? What role did Egan have to do with that say did he – was that because Borden had him as president?

George: Yeah, he was president and Egan was again he was an unusual politician. He had this phenomenal memory. He would meet you in a crowd and come back 10 years later and say he remembered oh you had kids and how is so and so doing. He could remember these details. He didn’t have somebody prompting him. He was just incredible. When he was governor he would dress up like Santa Claus and go down to the supermarket and greet everybody. Things like this. He was the common man. He had a lot of good common sense and on the whole he was very trustworthy. He was just right for the job. He had his shortcomings too. We all do, but they weren’t – he was not corrupt in any way, just a – that to me is the bottom line with this guy. Real, this guy is honest, and he is ethical and he met all those things.

Terence: And certainly has a well governor later but as head of the convention at first –

George: Yes.

Terence: People thought he was an honest or that he was working – I mean did his role you know was that kind of an important ingredient?

George: Yes, it was.

Terence: Cause if Gruening was running it, say that would have probably would have been such a great idea.

George: No, that would not have worked at all because he would be telling them what they should. When I was working for – with him on that income tax, he would – before I came he would give this speech about the income tax. He would say why we need it. He would say that what – when we had this little meeting when I drafted this thing I said governor just let somebody else introduce it and he did. He picked up two freshmen, legislators, to introduce this thing. Everybody knew he had – it was his bill but he didn’t come up and say – he did recommend that they consider an income tax. He didn’t make a big speech, but he would have been – he would not be suited, he would not be happy in that role.

But Bill was able to let everybody speak their piece and he also knew when bring the – his gavel down and say you’ve had your talk now. Let’s move on to somebody else. He ran a very good show.

Terence: What was your official position with the convention – what did you actually do then, what kind of stuff did you do?

George: I was working for Frank Heintzleman. He just turned me over to them and said do whatever they want. And I did a lot of work on the natural resources provision on the apportionment (inaudible) because I was also – well I didn’t take any formal courses in geography, but I did a lot of reading on that. So I had this little handbook, regional handbook, which I designed, had reproduced for the legislators so they could – most people who were Alaskans only thought of the area in which they lived. Then they went outside. There was no sense of how we fit into this – the rest of Alaska. And bringing these people together because on the basis for the election to the legislature the distance for the judicial district – the Fourth Judicial District, which meant that the dominant city or town in each of the divisions voted everybody in, except for Bill Egan. He was voted from Valdez instead of Anchorage. There were exceptions, but for the most part it was like Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Nome. So this was the first time that the rural population was represented in any body like this. The people from Dillingham. You had a mix of people from the Eskimo community and Frank Baronvich was the vice president and the Tlingits are great orators. They know how to speak formally and he was – he added dignity to the whole proceeding.

So that was bringing together Alaskans that had never had a voice before. That’s what made it so remarkable.

Terence: And too, like you say, those judicial divisions are completely artificial.

George: Oh, they were.

Terence: And had no bearing really on the real geography of Alaska did they?

George: No. They were laid out that the federal judge could make the whole circuit within the season. And it was based upon what sort of transportation he could – dog teams, rivers, and that sort of thing. So it had no relation to what they were embraced in there. During the convention when I worked on the apportionment, we broke it down. We used census divisions as our building blocks because they were defined in terms of interaction and put them together as geographic boundaries are very clear. The mountain ranges and so on and so we worked out different districts of the judicial divisions. I think we had some sense of the judicial division still being there that people wouldn’t object to wiping them out entirely. But you didn’t all come – you came from your own local district.

Terence: Which is so – I mean similar to the people worrying about this divide today between the urban areas and the rural areas.

George: Oh, yes.

Terence: But that’s the way it was too before I mean in territorial days the way the legislature was set off like you say, dominated by people from – I mean half the votes came from Fairbanks and Nome so you know so.

George: Exactly.

George: We purify our water with a lot of chorine in it or something.

Terence: I have arsenic in my well.

George: Oh, well you’re tough, you can.

Terence: No, no.

Terence: Taxes I mean.

George: Yeah.

Terence: And then all of a sudden the war comes and mining is over and so in the long range that’s the main reason why I think that the gold mining didn’t, I mean that’s why I guess the accident of the timing that it didn’t pay very much and that fishing continued on for at least a little bit longer, but you know not during the war and stuff too. But so I guess these reports you would have looked at these.

George: Yes, yes, I did. And then I put them aside and said this is not very helpful. This shows what a mess we have and took a clean slate. Of course the gold mining was shut down during the war and when they went and reopened the price of gold was pegged and the cost of mining was up. And mining requires a slave labor workforce and we had attacked before the war – I mean they had a good source. They went from the what used to be Yugoslavia and Serbia and some of the Balkan States and brought them – I think straight from the old country. They were indentured servants. They had to work a certain number of years to pay back their attachment. Then we had the Dukovich, all the rest of the names here that – particularly in Fairbanks, ended up there. They more or less disappeared now. When we were here there was quite a lot of ex-miners or descendants of miners who were in politics and active in the business community.

Terence: That’s right, yeah, I think you’re right. I think the miners had preponderance –

George: Yes.

Terence: In the legislature, of course that goes back to the thing we’re talking about the divisions too, doesn’t it? I mean –

George: Yes, it does, yes

Terence: I mean the overrepresentation of Fairbanks and Nome in the – you know one thing you said in the book in the southeast Alaska region in transition about the fish trap. We should talk a little bit about why a fish trap as a symbol.

George: Oh, yes, yeah, that’s right. I used that in the first book didn’t I? That’s right. And the reason was that it pulls – this was a very efficient way of harvesting the fish. In fact, in my view it was the only way that salmon should have been harvested because the fish worked out to the runs. You could manage. You knew what was coming and going. You could control the escapement of the fish. You could then control the harvest. You didn’t have to chase mobile gear all over the place. And it was just perfect, but the trouble with the fish trap was that it was owned by the processors, the canners, and they were all outside interests. And they were putting resident fisherman out of work.

It is interesting that when they repealed the – when they outlawed the fish trap, they let the Indians retain their traps. Traditionally Indians used the equivalent of a trap. They built a dam across the river that salmon would school up and when they had what they wanted, they then let the salmon out. Of course the Indians gave this a mythical sort of thing. These were the salmon people. If we didn’t allow some of them to go up, they wouldn’t come back again. So they went up to some never-never land where they became human, took human form. And so they had a sense of this and the fish trap that would be operated the same way. It would corral the fish into the stream. They would all sort out. You knew where they were going. It was ideal for management, but it was the ownership of the traps that made them mad.

The other thing I was interested in that was why this was the management was by the federal government. There was no input from Alaskans in the fish management program in those days. So that gave me sort of a symbol of what Alaska was like under territorial operation.

Terence: Is it fair to say that in the 1950’s people blamed the decline of the salmon runs on the federal mismanagement I mean?

George: Yes, that’s true. There was a good basis for that too. The field people for the most part that I knew managed the rules and a few other people like that were very sincere in trying to manage the fisheries. But when their recommendations were sent to back to Washington, DC representatives of the processors went back there and between them and the bureaucrats back there they determined what the management plan would be, regardless of what the biological research said about the resources. So they over fished and it was because of the federal mismanagement and I say I exempt the people that were working at the field level because they were totally frustrated by this being overridden by somebody who was making a profit from over fishing.

Terence: Okay, so maybe like from there.

George: The fish trap therefore is looked upon by most Alaskans as the dipper with which the large absentee owner appeared to skim with relative ease the cream of one of the regions most valuable natural resources and then carried away to the outside the fullest part of the wealth so guarded. That’s pretty poetic.

The theme of absentee ownership on the means of production and control over natural resources and the intended resident, nonresident conflict and resentment is a classic one inevitable in any area with natural resources to be developed and without local capital adequate to the job. This frequently as rational as it is inevitable for without the outside capital and the intended control of influence with local affairs there would be no development. And it is unlikely that even the alleged half loaf would be available to the residents. But it is nonetheless a real force in regional affairs in southeast Alaska this broad and almost abstract conflict has been given a sharp focus by the existence of a tangible object – the fish trap, which has come to represent the very quintessence of absenteeism.

Terence: Okay, good. And then if we go to this thing. I’m glad you went on there longer. I was enthralled.

George: Until you say stop I –

Terence: No, I was thinking I was glad you did. But now what is (inaudible) anyway?

George: Well that’s a black –

Terence: Black sheep or black –

George: Black –

Terence: Raven a little bit.

Jean: No, that’s a terrible – that’s a beast – black beast.

Terence: Cause George says it is the Betenwah of Alaska.

George: I was showing off that I understand French.

Terence: Now read this part with a French accent.

George: Okay. Fish vah. I had the funniest experience when I was up when in Fairbanks and they had a French TV crew coming in to – we had the Natives sitting around there and talking about the Natives and so on and I got quite animated. So I started talking with my hands and all the French crew all started smiling. They didn’t know what I was saying but they knew what I was – okay.

Okay. The traps had long been the principal Betenwah of Alaskan political demonology. The anti trap case has been emotionally elaborated and distorted to the point where even Alaskans who had never seen one really would readily brand them as fish killers. And at times would seem to look upon them as a very embodiment of the evil in this world. The story of the repeated efforts of Alaskans through their territorial legislature and territorial delegate to congress to have fish traps abolished as illegal gear or to equalize the alleged private and social costs through a differential taxation may not be decided here. The measurement of the popular sentiment regarding this controversial gear was taken by a referendum at the 1948 general election, which resulted in a territorial wide vote of 19,712 to 2,624 for trap abolition. The ratio of almost eight to one.

Terence: That’s good, yeah.

George: Betenwah.

Terence: Yeah, we got the Betenwah. That’s good, yeah. Because yeah I wanted you to show off your French, George.

George: Well thank you.

George: French. I couldn’t get a Parisian to understand what I said so that is why Jean along and she would tell the cab driver what I was trying to say.

Terence: Well I think you make a great case in there about and also in the future of Alaska economic consequences of statehood on the resident, nonresident –

George: Yes.

Terence: Battle and so the fish traps had really been the symbol of the nonresident –

George: It was yes. Their – if they weren’t there my father could be fishing and that money would come to us not somebody back there. The trap was impersonal. It caught the fish and they referred as fish killers, well the fishermen were too, but it was a little bit rubbed off on them and they got a little bit of money from us, but the trap was too automatic.

Terence: And it’s the efficiency I know that’s the issue at least that some people sort of have, but like you said the ownership is the key thing, right?

George: That’s right. That’s it.

Terence: I mean if the ownership – if the means of ownership had been changed –

George: Uh-huh.

Terence: It would have been different now. Is there is a chance that – why don’t we treat fish the way we treat oil? Have you ever thought about that and why?

George: Fish is a renewable resource. It can at least in theory be completely reproduced itself. Oil cannot. Oil goes out, it is gone. And you’re left with a hole in the ground and a bunch of diluted soil. But there is quite a bit of difference between the two. You can’t treat them both.

Terence: Well I mean in the sense that the Alaska’s share –

Terence: So George, so when did you first run into Ted Stevens, do you remember?

George: I don’t remember the first time. I remember when he was working with the federal government. I remember when he came to the first Science Conference that Vic Fisher set up for nonbiological sciences and he gave a rousing speech, which really raled me up, but he said we don’t need you outsiders to tell us how to run Alaska. So I got up and apologized for that – our Senator’s outburst. But he was – I got a lot of respect for him. He is one of Alaska’s natural resources. He gets things done for us. And he brings a lot into the state. And he – as I say, but he is a feisty little guy.

Terence: Yeah, that’s right. The – oh when he gave the speech he was already senator then at that time, right?

George: Yeah.

Terence: But you didn’t really run him back when he was with Interior or do you remember?

George: I remember him. I didn’t meet him but I remember seeing him then and he was very, very studious and very quiet.

Terence: And determined?

George: Determined, yes.

Terence: Did you, so and the Secretaries of Interior that you dealt with mostly were well I guess who was Secretary of Interior in ’45? I guess, I mean in your early days it would have been Crew.

George: Crew, yeah I think. Yeah, right after Icchy. Icchy was still Secretary I think when we first came up and then Crew came a little bit later. And he was a sort of a bolt out of the blue because he was reorganizing things. And as I say he set up the idea of the field committee breaking down of the United States into natural regions, river basins actually they were, that he used as his things. And I thought it was a very intelligent approach to this.

Terence: Did that ever work though in Alaska? I mean did that actually –

George: Oh, yeah.

Terence: Come to bear with the interior appropriations for the –

George: Yes, yes. And I say what we did that was the first cut on the appropriation, then they went back to Washington, DC and the various regional units with Bureau of Reclamation – were put together as per the bill. The Bureau of Reclamation was the only one that objected to this and they were the least cooperative when I was field committee chairman. The other one was the general manager of the Alaska Railroad. He had reason to be because he had to leave in the dark of the night. He went down to South America.

Terence: Which one was that?

George: Oh, that was Colonel Johnson. Colonel Olson was –

Terence: Yeah Johnson followed Olson.

George: Yeah, right.

Terence: Well why did he, I didn’t know that story?

George: Well, Felnowsky could fill you in on that cause he kept finding things about he would use railroad property, like barges and things and let his friends use this and then he had the friends pay his sister. You know those sort of things, which you don’t do. But he had done – he had worked on the railroad that went through Persia to Russia into the Gulf. And he got used to dealing with this sort of morality and when I went to see him in his office he had all the trophies that he had collected in Persia. Beautiful rugs and vases and things. Here comes Tom again.

Terence: Okay. So George this is a hypothetical question that I have come up with. What about Alaska if it hadn’t become a state and what about Gruening? You were going to say something about.

George: Oh, about Gruening. Which one do