My Alaska “Origin Story”

In Alaska Travelgram by scott

At the Portland Airport, ready to board a plane to Alaska on June 12, 1978.

Do you have a story about coming to Alaska?  Would you like to share it? Please send it along by email. If you’d like a prize, please include your address and phone (everyone who submits a story gets a prize btw). 

The “Origin Story” is a common theme among those of us who were born elsewhere, but now make our home in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Some who were born here recall the stories of the first in their family to arrive. Sometimes that narrative goes back thousands of years. I arrived more recently, but it was a big moment in my life. Although I was born in Oregon, I really “grew up” in Alaska.

My father, my uncle (his brother) and my mom’s folks (my grandparents) all had made trips to Alaska for work. This sort of journey was not easy, but it was not uncommon.

My grandparents drove the Alaska Highway in 1948.

Three months before graduating from college (University of Oregon–GO DUCKS), my roommates and I were hanging out, doing what college kids do (smoking and drinking, mostly). 

Several of them were headed to Alaska to work for the summer.  Ours was a fun crew and they wanted to keep the party going—so they invited me to come to Alaska after graduation.

After pondering my post-graduate options (I had none), I said “Sure.”  

Making that one decision set in place a course of events that I couldn’t imagine.

A few days later, I ran in to a high school classmate at the bar. I asked if he still ran a fish-processing plant in Anchorage, which is where my friends were going.

“Yup,” he said.

“Can I have a job?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said. “Be there June 12.”

Well, that was simple, since I was graduating on June 11.

“Okay!” I said.

Back at class,  my Journalism School advisor pulled me aside. “I understand you’re going to Anchorage,” he said.

“Yup,” I said.

“Do you want a job?” he asked.

“Uh….sure,” I said.

He gave me the name of one of his friends who was a manager at the Anchorage Times, the largest newspaper in the state.

It was too late to send a letter. I couldn’t afford a phone call. Faxes weren’t invented.  Off to Western Union I went….to send a telegram. 

I AM A FRIEND OF BILL W  STOP (no…really….that was his name)



Graduation was a blur. I packed up what I could carry and stuffed the rest in my car to park at my parents’ house. I gave my car to my old roommate and  went to the airport with my bicycle and my backpack.

Western Airlines 727. “The o-n-l-y way to fly.”

There, I boarded a Western Airlines 727, flying nonstop from Portland to Anchorage.

Some acquaintences warned me against going to a particular bar in Anchorage. “Don’t go to Chilkoot Charlie’s,” they said. “It’s a rough crowd….knife fights and such.”

Of course, that’s where we went from the airport. 

Fast-forward after that blurry evening. I worked at the fish plant for three days before the fishermen went on strike and they laid everyone off. My professor’s friend, who was away on vacation, returned and invited me to come in for an interview. He hired me on the spot. 

A little blurry…but this is me as a newspaper advertising executive.

Three months came and went. And I fell in love with Alaska. But that’s another story. 

What’s your story? Send it to me by email: [email protected] . Let me know and I’ll share with the class! 

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