FIRST TRIP to Alaska: John J.

In Travel Stories by scott

“My first trip to Alaska in August 1949 was my permanent one.  My father and mother, my brother and I and a dog came up the Alcan Highway in the cab of a 1947 Ford truck “with bus chassis” as my father used to say.

“Customs was at Tok, not at the Canadian border   My mother taught at (old) Tanacross down the road about 12 miles from Tok.   It was an adventure.  

St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Tanacross, 1950

“The photo  (above, taken in 1950) shows St. Timothy’s Episcopal church on he right with the rectory behind it.  To the left of that is the school in front with our living quarters attached behind it.  The north side of the Tanana River is a stone’s throw to the left.  You may notice the wood smoke going straight up because of still conditions typical when it was really  cold.  The coldest we saw was an unofficial -72 below with a standard alcohol thermometer.”  

John and his dad in front of Bishop Gordon’s plane.

“My father was in the Navy, then owned a gas station/auto shop in San Diego.  We moved to Montana, John Day,  Oregon, and Nebraska after that.  He was very mechanical.  His job at Tanacross was “Special Assistant” where his skills were invaluable.

“He had brought up a whole oxy-acetylene welding outfit, complete with acetylene generator.  He used that, among other things, to build a double long Yukon barrel stove with double barrel stacks robber above it.      The minister at St. Timothy’s was Roy Sommers from Boston— a real greenhorn and very smart but I think he was rather lucky to have us there to for some practical advice/help.  After my father got a generator fixed, he ran a wire over to the rectory so Roy and Sally and their baby had a little electricity.  Rev. Roy  was transferred to Brazil after we left (2 years).  I think he was in a seminary there,  Bishop Gordon flew in a couple of times.  See photo, above (his plane).  My father had a plumbers’ pot I guess you could call it, a portable gasoline stove used to melt lead to pour into seams of the old hub and spigot cast iron  plumbing.  He used this to heat the Bishop’s plane engine.   I am fairly certain that the school and our “quarters” were originally a trading post.  The telegraph went through Tanacross at one time.  It followed the Native trail to Eagle and horses were used for maintenance. “

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