++++++Mildred’s Mountain: A Bare-Bones True Alaskan Homesteading Tale

BRIEF – Mildred’s Mountain whole file

MILDRED’S MOUNTAIN:  A Bare-Bones True Alaskan Homesteading Tale

Transcribed by Mildred’s eldest daughter

Linda Ann Lloyd Danielson

Mildred’s Mountain copyright 2010 by Linda Ann Lloyd Danielson.  All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.


Table of Contents





(1)  The Mask Is Slipping

(2)  A House to Put Our Home In

(3)  A Bit of Heaven in the Woods

(4)  I’ll Live Where I Please


(5)  Go Ahead and I’ll Follow

(6)  I Don’t Want to Back Down Now

(7)  Maybe Someday It Will All Seem Funny


(8)  I See So Little of My Husband Now

(9)  If I Had a Nursery

(10)  We Belong On Our Land for All Time

(11)  It’s Really an Almost HOLY Feeling

(12)  Have You Ever Had Mountain Fever?


(13)  Treat of Hot Rolls and Celery

(14)  In Love with This Crazy Land

(15)  A Road and a Darn Good One

(16)  Gone At It All In the Worst Way


(17)  Nobody Can Push Me Away from Our Homestead

(18)  One Step Forward and Ten Backward

(19)  We Can’t Stand the Thought of Shifting

(20)  At This Point I Wish We Could Sell the Homestead


(21)  I Want a Home But Where!

(22)  I Need to Be Part of the World

(23) 160 Acres of Alaska Belongs to You and Me

(Appendix A)  Mildred’s Story of the March 27, 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake


Editor-Transcriber’s Note (Preface):

My mother, Mildred Anne Cahill Lloyd’s papers came unexpectedly into my hands after her death in March 2002.  This book is an abbreviated version of her Alaskan homesteading story taken from her complete collection previously published in four volumes (as described below).  As editor-transcriber, the words in this book are not mine and I assume no responsibility for ANYTHING contained in these writings.

Mildred had hoped in her lifetime to complete a book about her Alaskan homesteading adventures.  She never did.  She requested that her mother save and return to her all of the letters written during this period of her life.  Unfortunately – and for no reason I can fathom nearly all of the letters written between Mildred and her mother were left undated, although the day of the week was often noted.  In addition, over the forty five years Mildred saved her papers many letters became separated from their original postmarked envelopes. This made the job of piecing together Mildred’s story difficult for me to do.  I would generously estimate that only about half of these letters had any date (including year) associated with them at all.

There are letters missing that were lost over the years of Mildred’s lifetime, or were never saved in the first place, or were intentionally destroyed at some point, or were lost after Mildred’s death.  The main story of Mildred’s Alaskan homesteading experience was, however, preserved amazingly intact in her own letters, those written by her mother, Annie Beatrice “Bea” Hunter Cahill, and in those written by her husband, William “Bill” Dennison Lloyd.

This book came into being as a result of much paring down of the written words to condense the story from over a thousand pages into this manageable version while still preserving the homesteading story in the actual words of the letter writers.  All of their original writings can be found intact within the four volumes of HOPE FOR A MOUNTAIN.


It is important to realize that this story takes place in the years just following the ‘modernization’ of America and in the post WWII era of our nation’s history.  Mildred’s dreams for obtaining land under the requirements of the great Homesteading Act that settled our nation’s frontiers were met by the complications of working with limited financial resources.  Mildred, who was 31 with a family of four children under the age of seven when she moved to Alaska, had been raised in Boston and moved with her mother at age nineteen to Los Angeles.  She had never spent a birthday or a holiday away from her mother and had never even been on a camping trip in her life when the homesteading began.

Mildred and Bill had been married eight years to the day Bill arrived in Alaska ahead of his family to begin his new job and attempt to secure housing so that his family could join him.  They had moved out of their home, sold it, and lived in a single motel room in the Los Angeles area for two weeks before Bill left.  It was another stress filled six weeks before Mildred and the four children reached Alaska.

The family was suffering from great financial indebtedness and strain before the move had even been contemplated, a situation that never improved throughout the duration of their homesteading years.  Living in a time before credit cards, the Lloyd family debt had been accumulated by buying on ‘time payments’, borrowing money from high interest rate finance companies, and through borrowing money from Mildred’s mother.

In spite of the obvious differences concerning available means of communication during the time these letters were written, the financial woes of the Lloyd family can strike a resonating chord even among family’s struggling to raise their children in today’s world.  Continual medical bills that were not covered by insurance and the eventual nearly constant repair of vehicles involved in the homesteading process contributed to the family’s inability to budget or save ahead enough money to ever meet unforeseen financial difficulties when they arose.

As Mildred’s story explains, the fight with the mountain as it actively destroyed efforts to create an accessible road to the homestead meant that large sums of money repeatedly invested in road building created an additional major financial burden that was never overcome during all the years the homestead consumed Mildred’s life.  Perhaps if the Lloyds had arrived in the Anchorage-Eagle River area during earlier years when far more accessible land was available for homesteading, Mildred would have chosen a less challenging spot for her dream to play itself out.  Yet considering Mildred’s great difficulty in living near (and with) people and her deep desire for pristine land and its silent privacy, even if homesteading acreage had been available ‘lower down’ and ‘closer in’, I as her daughter personally believe that much of what constituted the drama of the Lloyd family’s saga would have happened anyway – and probably exactly in the spot it did.

Mildred had always intuitively valued and appreciated the kind of healing that the full powers of the untrammeled, unpolluted and untamed land itself has always been able to provide for those who know what they have found even if they do not fully understand what they need.  Mildred did not have an easy childhood, yet from a very young age had been exposed to the wonders of the natural world through summer visits to her relatives’ homes in the New England countryside where she had found a peace that cannot be reproduced in any artificial way.

The fact, in my opinion, that so much of Mildred’s inner woundedness lay forever cast beyond her realm of conscious awareness meant that for all the healing powers that the mountain she loved held for her, the ‘contamination’ she had within her own self prevented her from ever making the kind of progress toward a better life on that mountain she hoped for no matter how much she dreamed and worked for it.  What was left for her was the struggle, the perpetual struggle to obtain what she deeply knew she somehow needed but could never describe.

The process of homesteading under the requirements of America’s Homesteading Act was a challenge to everyone who ever picked up that yoke and placed themselves and their family within it.  The only true tools and weapons a homesteader has are those that lie within them.  Mildred’s battle was never for the land.  Hers was a battle between herself and ‘the world’ that began with her birth in 1925 and ended with her death in 2002.

Perhaps it is because of the contrast between Mildred’s inner struggles and those few moments of stunning joy, peace and absolute love for ‘the land’ of Alaska and of her mountain that Mildred described in her writings that we can begin to understand and appreciate the difference between land that is tamed by civilization and land that is not.  Although Mildred never saw the building of a cabin or the creation of her dream house on the homestead, never saw a well or a cesspool dug there, never saw the coming of electric poles, and never found a way to live a life of peaceful health and happiness anywhere on this earth, let alone up on her mountain, her story still portrays the human willingness to place one foot in front of the other upon virgin soil to claim it as one’s own.

In my mind Mildred’s greatest accomplishment was not, with the help of her husband, in fulfilling the requirements to gain title to 160 acres of an Alaskan mountainside.  It was not the civilizing of that piece of land that was of consequence.  What mattered is that Mildred had the ability to allow the land to touch her heart in ways that nothing else in her lifetime possibly could.  The land itself met her where, when and as she met it in return during those glistening moments when nothing else mattered.  At those moments this pure place had the power to civilize her.

It is not my intention to analyze or to interpret Mildred’s words in this book.  I present these pages as a synopsis of her much longer story as it is published intact in the four volumes of HOPE FOR A MOUNTAIN.  These books present the narrative and chronicle of my mother’s story as it was contained within the papers that were left to me upon her 2002 death.

I will say here, however, that my mother had, unknown to anyone during the years covered in these volumes, severe undiagnosed mental illness.  Her children’s assessment today is that Mildred probably suffered from and was tormented by Borderline Personality Disorder that stemmed from a disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment disorder from the time of her birth.  Mildred’s own words completely leave out any direct reference to the severity of the crimes of child abuse that she committed, and my discussion of these problems are reserved for two following books.  In UNSPEAKABLE MADNESS I will present selections from Mildred’s writings that I believe do pertain to her mental illness.  In the book, THE DEVIL’S CHILD I present my own stories about being Mildred’s severely abused daughter.

So when I say that the land of Alaska, of the Eagle River valley, and of Mildred’s Mountain had the power to touch my mother’s heart, and that my mother had the ability to experience the healing Alaska provided for her, I mean this statement in a profound way.  For all the flaws my mother possessed and even with the mental illness that possessed her, I believe it was her extraordinary desire to experience inner peace that led Mildred to her mountain in the first place, and led her back to it again and again and again in spite of all obstacles.

That she could not recognize her woundedness, either its existence or its source, did not prevent her from realizing the experience of healing from the land on those moments when it actually happened.  That she could not incorporate this healing (or any other) into herself in any permanent way was the tragedy of her life.  Yet Mildred still had an incredible adventure.  She homesteaded a piece of wilderness with her family high on an Alaskan mountainside and called it home.

*A note about the homestead:  160 acres takes up the amount of land in one square one quarter mile, or a quarter section.  Because of the steepness of the mountain, and because the quarter section is measured as if from the air in a square above the land, the actual homestead encompassed a great deal more actual footage than it would have if that same quarter section had included completely level ground.



Mildred’s full and complete Alaskan homesteading story has been divided and previously published in these four volumes:


Volume One:  Beginning a Dream (Complete Existing Letters, May 1957 through March 1958))


Volume Two:  Living for the Land (Complete Existing Letters, April 1958 through December 1959)


Volume Three:  In the Thick of Homesteading  (Complete Existing Letters, January 1960 through July 1963)


Volume Four:  Title to the Homestead – and Beyond (Complete Existing Letters, August 1963 through October 1966 — plus)




Mildred’s thoughts about her own Alaska homesteading book written before her death:

Dedicated To My Beloved Husband.  Without him our dream never would have been born, therefore fulfillment would have been impossible.  Without his unfailing belief, support and encouragement this book never could have been written.


Goal:  Recapture lost youth and dreams, make them feel what we felt, desire to reach their goals and fulfill their dreams whether great or small.  It’s never too late but becomes increasingly difficult with age.


A stirring, deeply moving story of a young couple who couldn’t find fulfillment in today’s shallow modern world and sought a better way of life in America’s last frontier.  The problems and struggles incurred and their love for each other and their children that carried them over – can’t help but to cause their venture to be a success.

(Their love for each other and their children carried them over their problems and struggles and couldn’t help but cause their venture to be a success.)


Mildred’s ‘introduction’ written fourteen months after her arrival in Alaska and before the land of the homestead had been found


Ours led us to Alaska and a richer and fuller life

I am A FIRM BELIEVER IN DREAMS.  Dreams can come true – ours did.

Everybody dreams to some extent.  Although they might be the last to admit it, even the most professional, austere and business-like people dream.  Some people just hide their more than others.

Some of those dreams are to remain in the world of fantasy forever.  They are thread-like and fragile, only to be brought out every so often, dreamed about and stored away again.  These dreams are in a class by themselves.

Then there are other day-dreams.  These are the ones that are important for all of us to try to make come true.  In a sense, they are our frustrated ambitions.  Many men work all their lives in a job they dislike while dreaming of another they’d enjoy.  Another man dreams of being in business for himself instead of always working for others.  These are some of the dreams people could make come true if they tried hard enough.

It is up to each of us to reexamine our dreams to see which are meant to remain as day-dreams and which would bring us a happier, more successful life.

Many times it is hard to break out of a rut and face up to sacrifice, hardships and work that’s necessary to make these dreams come true if we want to realize them enough to work to make that happen.

We had unfulfilled dreams and it was time for us to take stock of them for we were among the dissatisfied!  Although happily married for eight years, with four splendid children, and thankful for our blessings we were not living a life suited to us.  We were both looking for something and yet were unable to define at first what it was.

We had both always wanted to own our own home and live in the country so decided to move further out in the country away from Los Angeles, California and buy a delightfully new, modern four bedroom, two bath house, complete with built-in-stove, deep freeze, refrigerator, dishwasher and washing machine and dryer.  Materially, we had everything but were still vaguely discontented.

We were disappointed in our ‘country life’.  The once peaceful, quiet town of Glendora was becoming a thriving city and row after row of houses were quickly replacing beautiful scenic orange groves.  Nor had we escaped the smog, a product of too many people, industry and progress.

We did enjoy creating a lovely yard out of bare, rocky dirt.  We now realize that it was in building a thing of beauty out of nothing that we achieved our greatest pleasure and a growing sense of wanting to pioneer.

We worked in every spare moment in our yard and thrilled over the transformation that took place.  Soon, our lovely tropical gardens bloomed against our redwood fence and our cement patio and walks we’d designed were surrounded by lush green grass watered by our own sprinkling system.  It was a place of beauty, but wasn’t our answer.  Now that it was completed we were not ones to recline on our chaise lounges and be content.

We were bothered by other aspects of suburbanite living.  Our houses were so close together we felt that neighbors practically lived on top of one another.  Many were losing their individuality as they were busy keeping up to the Joneses.

Too many young couples were placing too much emphasis on a materialistic way of life and in doing so were sacrificing all the simpler pleasures of family life.  Some men were holding down two jobs just in order to get more luxuries and gadgets for their families so they could have more spare time – for what?  Women were becoming bored and worse still, so were the children.

I was reminded of the Queen Bee and the drone bee being the father, becoming a mere shadow of a man in his own home.  What was happening to the forceful man of the family that a wife and children could look up to and respect?

During summers and after school the children were confined to their small fenced-in back yards or driven into the streets to find entertainment.  The modern houses were pretty, convenient and efficient but didn’t offer much in the way of homey family living.

Our children were small and so were still easily confined but what of the future and what of our future?

I could see my husband changing too.  I did not like what I saw.  The long drive to and from Los Angeles over the freeway was nerve wracking and time consuming and he heartily disliked working in the city milling with millions of people when he got there.  Having grown up in the desert he was accustomed to clear skies and wide open spaces.  Gone was the ruddy complexion of the out-door man he had been when we married.  What had happened to the plans he once had for remaining at his present job temporarily?  He had just received his ten year pin.

Suddenly I became worried!  Putting my husband in a city permanently was like putting a lion in a tight cage and I would gladly free him if I could.

We both loved the great out-of-doors and heartily disliked the confinements of city life.

That night we sat down and figured how much interest we would have to pay for our house over thirty years before it was paid for and we were sick at heart.  We wondered if it would still be standing at the end of that time.  Bill had always dreamt of building his own house – would we ever accomplish this?  We had looked at acreage and found it scarce and high.

We asked each other the same question.  Is this really what we wanted?  The answer was no, no, no.  Perhaps for some people it was the formula for happiness but not for us.

We decided the time had come for us to reexamine all of our lost dreams and to be completely honest with each other and with ourselves.

It was fun.  We decided to take all of our dreams out of mothballs and reclassify them as “day-dreams” or “dreams we could make come true.”  We discovered we had many dreams, most of which we felt we could make true – somewhere, somehow.  We also found that most of them coincided.  We both dreamt of a particular “way of life” for us as a family.

I was brought up in a nice suburb of Boston, Massachusetts and summers we often visited a farm belonging to my Aunt and Uncle in Maine.  I had always dreamt of having a place in the country and we both shared this dream.  It seemed impossible to find such a place here.  We wanted our children to have a place to run and play.  A small farm would be wonderful to have.  We could plant vegetables and flowers and eventually have a few chickens, horses and a cow.

Our dreams knew no limit, and yet we let our day-dreams remain intact – dreams of Bermuda, travel in Europe.  For we were down-to-earth dreaming, yet one dream popped up again.  Bill said, “Remember years ago when I first mentioned to you that I’d always wanted to see Alaska?”  Remember, I certainly did.

It was years ago when I was pregnant with our third child in 1952.  How different our lives might have been if we had moved to Alaska then.  He once again expressed his desire to see Alaska and who knows maybe there we could find what we were looking for!

It would be nice to have the place we would love.  We both had come to southern California because of circumstances, not choice.  I had always missed the change of climate and beauty of the seasons.  I still had fond remembrances of New England and the enjoyable times we had during the winter and felt our children were missing a great deal not experiencing winter first hand.

Bill had never become accustomed to the shut-in feeling of city life.  He enjoyed hiking, fishing and hunting of which he had done little since moving to southern California.

We talked on into the night and it was one of our first discussions which gave rise to the new thought of Alaska and that perhaps we could find the answer to all of our individual dreams.

We went to the local libraries in search of up-to-date information concerning Alaska.  We found that current literature on Alaska was hard to obtain.  There were many books on Alaskan adventure and stories of its romantic past.  We read these, but we were searching for information telling us what the Alaska of today was like.

Finally we obtained some very good books from the Los Angeles library and were amazed to read about the many changes that had taken place during recent years in Alaska.  I found out that the climate in parts of Alaska was very much like New England and there were farms in the Matanuska Valley.  As we found out more accurate information, visions of an entirely new and different life appeared, the kind of life we were looking for and were unable to find in southern California – or within driving distance of most large cities.

We became more and more engrossed in obtaining all available literature on Alaska.  We attended lectures and travel movies.  Alaska still seemed a very remote, distant far-a-way place and our thoughts of living there had a dream-like quality and seemed far-fetched and unbelievable.  How could we ever hope to make such a drastic change?  We had many responsibilities and ties.

How could Bill up and leave a job he had held for ten years with many promotions and a great future security?  How could we uproot our four small children and leave our family and friends?  Then too we owned property – what of it?

Yet, in our hearts we knew we could do all of this if we really wanted our dreams to come true badly enough.  It was not an easy decision to make to leave the known for the unknown.  There was no doubt now but that we would move to Alaska.  We both felt certain it would work out.  It was now a matter of time.

There was much to be done and still we knew there would be many readjustments to make and in a sense, we would be leaving the easy life for one full of uncertainties and rougher bumps – especially if we were able to homestead as we hoped we could.  But we felt we would be leading a far richer and fuller life full of unexpected rewards.

We felt that the gains would eventually be greater for our whole family then the easier, secure way of life.  We were ready and willing to take the hardships and make the necessary adjustments.  We both felt that this was to be the most important move in our lives.

We were ready to pioneer.  We wanted to live in Alaska, a growing country free of congestion, crowds and smog where we could create a life to our liking.

But how, how, how?

Bill became quieter and quieter until I thought he had lost interest completely.  Bill hedged and hawed until I was almost convinced he didn’t really want to go.  After all, originally it had been his idea and now I wondered if maybe “pulling up stakes” was costing him more than he had anticipated.  Perhaps this dream of Alaska was only a day dream and would not stand up under close scrutiny.  I wondered if I had uncovered a dream of adventure that he really did not want to become a reality.

One night I asked him.  I told him exactly how I felt, that I wanted to see Alaska now too and felt strongly it would be the perfect place for us but if he had changed his mind I would understand and we would change our plans.  Bill and I are so much the same in many ways and yet so different in others.  We have always felt that we temper each other.  I spur him on and he slows me down. I know we are good for each other and right for each other.  This was one of these times.

Bill’s firm planning mind had quelled my impulsive, quick, eager one – so ready to jump ahead – “together we can do it.”  I alone, once decided, would have moved ahead to quickly.  Bill alone might have plodded on to retirement at Los Angeles Water and Power, hating it and yet putting up with it, always dreaming and reading books on Alaska.

He explained to me that he too, wanted to move to Alaska but I was moving so swiftly that he felt we would regret such a sudden move.  I told him I was afraid if we didn’t act now we might never do it and he agreed.  So together than night we compromised!

This was just his way of ‘being sure’.  He did want to go but as he said, he “was the provider for our family and responsible and he could not just up and leave a secure job he had held ten years when he had a family of six to support and take off for the wild blue yonder.”  Bill firmly insisted that he would not quit his present job until he had one in Alaska.

I could understand his view point.  But I was so certain things would work out.  This time we took our pen and paper and we figured.  The best time for us to leave would be as soon after school let out as possible.  This was in November 1956.  We would have six months to sell our houses, pay off some debts and for Bill to get a job in Alaska.

We both felt if we delayed action now that we might never come and would always regret it.  Our decision was made and we were both glad.  Now, with a plan of action I was relieved and Bill no longer felt I was hurrying him into a move he wasn’t ready to make.

We would leave that next summer if we could but if not, we would as soon as possible and meanwhile all of our efforts would be toward our goal.  We knew it would be easier on us and our family and friends to leave as soon as possible.  The break would not be an easy one.  We could visit each other but we felt we would never again live close and that hurt us deeply.

But as we put it, “The Alaska bug had bitten us.”  I felt like telling everyone and soon we would be going there to – – – .  I felt as I had when I became engaged – thrilled, excited and a little scared, too.

We grew to dislike our present way of life more than ever.  Every time the smog got bad we reminded ourselves that soon we would breathe clean, clear air again.

We gradually told the children about our plans.  At first the word Alaska sounded strange to them.  John, our first grader, wanted to know if we’d still speak English and would we still celebrate holidays the same.  We explained to them that Alaska was a part of the U.S. and that the customs, language etc. were the same as in the states.

We made up bedtime stories to tell them about Alaska – the real Alaska – putting the facts we had learned into language they could understand.  Yet the more we read about Alaska, the more we were convinced that it offered us every opportunity to live exactly as we dreamed.

Our plan was forming and Anchorage was our goal, for we read that this city enjoys relatively mild winters and warm summers, very similar to that of the northern portions of the Great Lake states, New England and the Scandinavian countries.  The January average temperature is 12° Fahrenheit and the lowest temperature ever recorded in Anchorage was minus 38°.  The July average temperature is 57° and the maximum temperature ever recorded is 86°.

Bill brought home an enormous map that we put on our wall and showed us Anchorage where he would like to find work.  We bought a slide viewer and many slides on Alaska.  We all enjoyed these.  There was an aerial view of Anchorage, one of Lake Hood and our favorite was a picture of a homestead farm in Alaska.  Every time I got discouraged about it all I’d take out the viewer and look at this farm and plan that someday we’d have a place like that.

Gradually, the children became Alaska enthusiasts too, as well as informed future Alaskans.  They now looked forward to the change as much as we did and we shared this important step together as a family.  They have felt a part of our Alaskan venture from the very beginning.

Our friends, family and neighbors were aghast though, at our plans.  Most of them were unlike us and were entirely content with living in a city and their present way of life.  They couldn’t understand our desire to move as far-a-way as Alaska.  We found that most people still had the same misconceptions concerning Alaska as I had once had.  Many people tried to discourage us.  Others offered us words of encouragement and others thought we were crazy to uproot ourselves and move to Alaska.

One friend said, “Why, you wouldn’t consider bringing three little girls to such a rough and tough place, would you?”  I tried to explain that Anchorage, Alaska was a very cosmopolitan city now and that the population of Anchorage and its suburbs was 65,000.  It was no longer a frontier town.  Although it still retained many pioneer marks it was as modern as most cities in the states, if not more so.  It had modern stores, schools, homes and our girls could have every advantage of city life in Anchorage and still we could live in the country.

This was but the beginning of a deluge of well-meaning advice and forewarnings of what we would find in wild Alaska and a few recriminations.  I might add that most advice came from people who knew nothing at all about Alaska.  The young people of teen age were best informed and as they had recently studied Alaska in school and many even spoke with knowledge of the oil development taking place.

We believed in Alaska.  Already our hearts and minds were there and we were soon to follow.  As we became more and more excited over our plans it was difficult to resist just ‘up and leaving’ but over and over we had been warned in the books we read not to rush off to the land of opportunity unprepared for a move to Alaska.  Prices were high and housing was scarce we were told.  Nobody should come to Alaska without having at least $500 in savings or a job – or at best, both.  For many people were discouraged and had to return back to the states.

I remember as we packed away our Christmas things that year that year we planned that next year if God willing, we would be spending our first Christmas in Alaska.  It would be a white Christmas and a splendid one.  We would recapture the almost lost Christmas spirit for we both felt that in Alaska we could discover a less materialistic way of life.  It was one of our driving incentives.

In Alaska we would live a new and different life.  We would try to use every capability we felt we were possessed with that now lay dormant.

We packaged our mementos and treasures away extra carefully, along with our hopes that next year we would open them in Alaska – safe after a long journey.  Bill said, “Why, perhaps next year we will even go out into the woods as our forefathers did and cut down our own Christmas tree.”  Guess what?  He was right.  We did!

Right after Christmas we placed our two houses “for sale.”  Everyone loved our house and were particularly impressed by the yard.  It did look pretty and we wished we could take our flowers with us but we knew that we would have flower gardens in Alaska too.  During the summers the days are long and many beautiful flowers can be grown in abundance.

Prospective buyers remarked to us, “Such a shame you have to leave your lovely new house.  Where are you going?”  We knew we could expect either shocked alarm or avid interest as we answered “ALASKA.”  For even the word Alaska itself doesn’t provoke weak comments.  People seem to feel strongly one way or another about moving to Alaska.

Some people couldn’t understand why we would want to move there and others could not see how I could part with my appliances.  There were others who were so interested and told us to go while we were young.  They said they had always wanted to do something like that and never had.

Meanwhile, things were happening.  Our determination proved helpful and our prayers were answered for everything fell into place within a few months.  Bill saw quite by chance an advertisement in an engineering magazine for an engineer to be employed by the Army in Anchorage, Alaska.  He immediately answered it but still gave it no further thought – thinking it too would go like the others.  Just as we thought Bill would never get a job there our prayers were answered and he received a telegram accepting his application as an Army Engineer.

All of a sudden we were caught up in a Merry-Go-Round of excitement.  There was much red tape to be completed and we made plans to store our furniture until later.

Through it all my heart kept singing “We’re going to Alaska – really going” and yet at the same time we were saddened at the thought of leaving our family and friends.  We were both disappointed that we were not to see Alaska together for the first time as Bill’s order definitely forbade his family to join him at first, but were required to join him at a later date when he had located housing.  Then we could come and our furnishings would follow.  There was no arguing with the Army.

By June, the seemingly hopeless was accomplished.  The houses were sold, school was out and we and we were settled in a court apartment awaiting Bill’s final orders.  He left Los Angeles for Seattle on June 9, 1957 and arrived in Anchorage on our 8th Wedding Anniversary on June 11th, and it was the start of our new life.

As housing was very hard to find it was August first before four little children and a Happy Me were met at the Anchorage airport by my husband.  At last – we wee all together in Alaska!!

He drove us over a smooth paved highway, through forests of trees, past streams and rivers to our first house in Alaska fourteen miles out of Anchorage in the country.  He had found a log home to rent, rustic on the outside to fit in with its natural surroundings.  It was in a particularly beautiful spot, woods of birch, spruce and aspen with a sparkling mountain stream tumbling by our door.

I could hardly believe my eyes.  Inside, it was completely paneled in natural wood and equipped with all the modern conveniences I had in the states.  Surprise, surprise and it was but the beginning.  We have been in Alaska for over a year now and find it was just as we had hoped it would be, only far better for from the beginning it has more than lived up to our fondest expectations.

Right away I fell in love with Alaska.  Our children love Alaska too.  There are no more fences to hold them in a yard.  They are obtaining a great love for the out-of-doors and Mother Nature is giving them a liberal education they never could have achieved before.

Now our children are back in Alaskan schools for the second year and we’re once again anxiously awaiting the first snow.  Meanwhile we enjoy the glory of the autumn world of gold bathed in sun against a blanket of blue skies.

Alaska is a land of indescribably beauty and rich in every way.  Our only regret is that we didn’t move here years ago but then perhaps we would not have been ready for Alaska then.  We have never once regretted taking our dreams out of mothballs!  Why don’t you reexamine yours?  Why we might even see YOU in Alaska too, someday!

Mildred Anne Cahill Lloyd, October 1958




CHAPTER ONE:  The Mask Is Slipping


December 1956 – Written before Mildred moved out of the house in Glendora, California


Decisions to be made

This is too important a move to ‘rush into’ without thinking of all pros and cons first.  Bill first mentioned Alaska to me and the remote possibility of our going there in 1952 while I was pregnant with our third child.  At that time, I like many others, thought of this country as one of desolate ICE and SNOW.  It’s NOT!

In 1952 we bought our first house which led us to nothing but misery and unhappiness.  We were not able to sell it, so rented it and bought a very modern G.I. tract house in a darling town of Glendora.  Even ten years ago Glendora was a farming town of orange groves and acreage.  Now it’s a small BOOM town.  Tracts are replacing orange groves and although I think it will always remain a superior community and a country atmosphere – it will not remain country for long.  I like Glendora more than any place I’ve been in California – secondly is Altadena.

BUT neither of these communities offer us what WE want!  Does Alaska fill the bill?  That’s what we’re trying to find out.  The more I read the more I like what I hear, the more I talk to people the more I’m convinced it has a great deal to offer people who are willing to give up modern conveniences (and modern headaches) for a different way of life, a life comparable to the pioneer that came to California in search of a good life – that he made for and by himself.  We want to live in a land where the sky is blue, where there are still trees, rivers, lakes within easy traveling distance, a place where we could homestead and farm our own land without paying $12,000 an acre (or more) and a thirty year mortgage on our house because Bill could build it – with our own lumber if necessary.  Bill would work out of the city and not have to travel an hour to get there!  What’s more important I think our family would be closer than the families around us.  We’d have room to breath, space to grow in a virgin land where we can live the way we want to.


June 9, 1957 Sunday – Bill en route to Alaska – left Los Angeles, California on June 9, 1957 for Seattle – family remained behind

My Dearest Mildred,

I miss you so much tonight, My Darling that I can hardly bear it.  I’m going to be homesick for you from now on until I see you again.  I can close my eyes and feel you in my arms, and see you the way you looked last night.  Oh, Sweetheart, I love you so much.  I can’t possibly put on paper the way I feel about you – you know how dear you are to me and how I hate being away from you; I could fill the page with I love you – I love you – I love YOU!

Tell the children that their Daddy misses them all terribly – and give each of them a big hug and kiss for me every night when you put them to bed.

I’ve got tears in my eyes as I write this, and when I go to sleep I’ll dream about you.  It’s going to be as fully hard on both of us Mildred, these next few weeks – but I know it’s going to be worth it when we’re all together in our new home. [smiley face]

So long, Milly-My-Darlin’, I’m so lonesome for you.  Oh, Mil-Mil-Mil I love you so, Bill


June 10, 1957 Monday

My Darling Bill,

Bill darling, I’ve tried so hard to be ‘courageous’ but it was impossible yesterday – I’ll try harder today.

I’ve never before in my life felt as I did yesterday when I left you and knew you were traveling far away from me and I must follow weeks and weeks later – that you wouldn’t be returning to me.  A thousand happy, sweet, precious memories crowded around me, a million memories of my wonderful, sweet, loving husband.  I’ve never really known heartbreak and lonesomeness before.  I simply could not hold back the tears as I drove home.  I have never once been sorry we made the decision to go to Alaska and know there are many inconveniences we’ll face before everything is righted again – I Just hate being parted from you, my beloved!

You know if you were in the service during wartime I wouldn’t dream of telling you how much I miss you and how completely heartbroken I was – but you’re not and I was and am!!  I’ll just exist until I am with you once again and then we’ll start living again together.  My constant prayer is to get all this mess straightened out and to be with you again, SOON!!!  Darling, it can’t be too long – I couldn’t stand being separated for very long!

All my Love to you, from your wife, Mildred


June 11, 1957 Tuesday – Bill arrived in Anchorage, Alaska

My Dearest Mildred,

I’m writing this letter now because I know you’ll want to know I got here OK.  But I hate to write right now because I wanted to write only cheerful letters, and I’m afraid this one won’t turn out to be very cheerful.  I’m so lonely and blue and depressed right now, I’ve got a lump in my throat and I just feel like H —.

I’ve given up so much to come here, left so much behind me, and I feel like a little lost child.  I’ll get over it soon, when I get on the job and begin to meet some people, but right now – today – I wish I’d never heard of Alaska.

I didn’t talk to anyone about my job yet, I’m to report again at 8:00 tomorrow morning for that.  And as soon as I get oriented on that I’m going to start inquiring about housing.

I wish so much that we could be together, but someday soon we will be and then this will all seem like a dream we had.  Kiss each of the children for Daddy and know that I love you and think of you always, Bill


June 12, 1957 Wednesday

Dearest Bill,

I need you, we all need you – I am truly sick without you.  We should have worked up to this in some way – I’ve never been separated from you.  Absolutely nothing makes up or fills the emptiness inside of me.  Oh darling, darling I want you with me, near me, close to me – I love you so much!!

Darling I can’t stand being away from you.  I must be with you.  I’ll never let anyone separate us again.  Never, never, not even the Army – oh darling, I love you.


June 13, 1957 Thursday

My Dearest Mildred,

Oh Mildred, my Darling sweet wife, I know how you felt when you wrote that first letter, and how you feel right now reading this. It’s an awful thing being separated like this – I’ll always look back on this period as the most awful of my life.

I got started on the job today, and it looks to be very interesting.  More about that later, too, I’m afraid, as ten o’clock is close again.

Please tell the children that I love them and miss them too, I couldn’t write it so they could understand.  Let them know that they’re important to me and that I yearn to have them and you here with me.  Love again, and always, Bill


June 15, 1957 Saturday

My dearest,

Finally, I am writing to you.  As soon as I awaken in the morning I want to get up and write you.  The urge is so strong all day to write you – I think of little things all day I want to tell you.  My mind actually ‘swims’ with thoughts of you, about you, and things to remember to tell you when I write.

I am so glad you’re being honest with me and not trying to conceal anything.  I’d feel it anyways if you were.  Mother thinks I should write nothing but cheerful letters to you and only the good things but I tell her we have always told each other everything and now is certainly no time to stop.  It’s most important to write you everything and that you tell me all of your reactions etc.  How else, anyways, could we tell if we want to make the venture, for sure?  Now, I am still all for it.  I can’t wait but you’re there to see everything first-hand, it’s up to you to decide in the next four weeks for certain if you like it well enough, the land, your job, to send for me, the children and our belongings.  It would be easier to change your mind now then six months from now.  Whatever you say goes.  In today’s letter you said you were to look for housing, so you must be somewhat favorably impressed but haven’t sounded exuberant.

Is it nice?  Do you want to stay?  Don’t feel you can’t change your mind.  I count the minutes until I am with you but I could, in fact you could return here there’s lots of room, if you want to.  Please, understand why I am saying this.  Once I come we will be there two years and now is the time to decide.  This house is darling and not costly.  I hate California and don’t want to stay here but the whole world is ours now but I am Alaskan bound to you, unless you decide otherwise.

Bill darling, believe me my dearest this is all good.  Perhaps even the bad is good.  I know it sounds contradictory so let me explain.  If I can.  Even my own Mother, I know doesn’t understand our love or the love of a wife for her husband.  I guess you can’t understand what one hasn’t had.

I am not sorry anymore for anything we’ve done – I plan such a rich, full life after this designed for our family alone for all of us together.  How wrong for us to be in a tract house.  We’re such individuals.  Why, they design everything now for individuals – well we needn’t be afraid to be different.  Ours is a search for our happiness and my happiness will always be with you.

Tell me all about everything and remember I’ve never been there.  What does it look like?  Is it barren – does it have trees – is the scenery beautiful – is the air clear?  (We’re having horrible weather, the sun hasn’t shone since you left, the smog is terrible and of course we never see the mountains or blue sky.)  These and other questions are prominent — and do you like it so far?

“Out of all bad comes some good” or “Everything is for a reason.”  You know, I believe this – I really do, now.  I also feel washed, cleaned and know I’ll feel more and more that way as time passes.  Darling, the mask is slipping and soon will be gone.  I feel more like the girl you married than I have in a long, long time.  I feel pity and compassion for all the neighbors left on Walnut Street – fussing, bickering, quarrelling, jealous – I want no part of it and they are.  They’re like the tigers in Black Sambo and soon will all turn to butter.

Darling, we must believe in ourselves and the power of our own conviction, even if in time we’re proven wrong.  There’s so much, so very much I would like to tell you.  But most of all is that we have a million dollars.  No wonder people are inclined to be jealous of what we have and they don’t know anything about.

LOVE, LOVE.  Love for each other, our children and trust in God and love for the good things in life


June 16, 1957 Sunday

My Darling Mildred,

I’m so lonesome for you, sweetheart, that I have no heart for anything.  Even when I find us a place to live, I’ll have to pay the first two months’ rent in advance.  I don’t have enough money now for that, and I won’t have until payday.  They won’t hold a house or an apartment on a deposit here, even for one day.  They always know they can rent it to somebody else.  Always before, you’ve been the one to do the looking and the renting, and I’m getting my baptism under trying conditions.  I’m going to take the first place that comes along, just to get you up here.  Then when fall comes and things open up a little as people start to leave, you’ll have time to look around and find us something better.

There are some things about Anchorage that I know are going to be hard for you to get used to.  The main roads and the downtown streets are paved, but there are still a lot of streets within a few blocks of downtown that are dirt.  And all of the roads farther out are dirt, some of them very rough.  Also there has been a great lack of zoning regulation in the growth of the city.  An awful lot of people have built their own houses, and there are a good many shacks even in the better parts of town.  The whole place has a kind of “pioneer” look about it, as though people were just doing what they have to to get along with the idea of improving things later on.  And I have no doubt that in a few years the place will take on a more finished look, as they get time to improve the streets and so forth.  So much has happened here in the last ten years that nothing has caught up yet.

There are going to be a good many things for all of us to get used to here, and it will probably take a while before we can be sure whether we like it or not.  It’s hard for me to tell now, things will all seem so different when we’re together here.

I hope you dream of me, my darling, as I do of you.  I miss you and long to be with you again and forever.  I love you always, sweet Mildred my own, I love you, Bill


June 16, 1957 Sunday Morning


How I miss you on Sunday morning.  I wish we could have our second cup of coffee together now.  I miss so many ‘little things’!  This morning when I opened a melon, I told Mother how I wished I could give you some, remembering how much you enjoy melon.

Have you had a chance to check on prices?  It’s hard for me to believe you’re actually there!  I am so anxious to find out how you really like it and please sweetheart don’t ever feel you can’t change your mind.


June 17, 1957 Monday

Dearest Mildred,

I miss you with all my heart and being Mildred, in a way so personal and tender it’s impossible to describe.  I miss the warmth and comfort of your presence, the warm glow of your laugher.  And most of all I miss the wonderful something that flows between us when I hold you in my arms and kiss you.  Oh my darling, I love you, I love you – I couldn’t live without you.  It’s only the knowledge that this is only temporary that makes life bearable at all.  I miss you in so many ways, Mil, that I could never list them all.  And I miss you and the children as a family too.  You’re the only ones in the whole world, I want to be with – and you’re the reason I’m here.  It sounds funny, but I think the main reason I’m here is that I want to find a better life for all of us.  And we will find it here, I know we will, and we’ll find it together.


June 17, 1957 Monday

Dearest Bill,

We rushed up to the P.O. Monday morning – even before eating breakfast – to be greeted by two letters from my darling!  I never knew how much a letter could mean to a person.  Yours mean everything – to me right now and will until I see you again.

We’re so anxious [multiple underlines] to know how you like the country and to have an actual description of what you’ve seen to date!  According to your letters it seems you’ve just moved around the corner – not to the land you’ve been waiting eight years to see.  The landscape can’t be that ordinary – I am led to believe you don’t like what you’ve seen so far or you would say more.

I really don’t see how I can wait four weeks.  It seems like an eternity already I miss you so.  Darling, darling, darling I love you.  Your beloved wife, Mildred XXXXXXXX and a million more I send to you my dearest.

I AM DYING OF CURIOSITY – you know me!  Please write and tell me.   How are the people, how do they dress?  Is it pretty there?  Cold?  Warm?  How are the day temperatures and night?  On and on.


June 18, 1957 Tuesday

Mildred, My Dearest Wife,

I could never get used to living without you, my darling.  Every day seems so empty when I don’t have you to come home to.  It was always so wonderful to come home to you.  I’ll never forget the empty feeling I had the few times when I came home and you were away from the house.

I’m finding that the people here are a lot friendlier than in L.A. – the ones who belong here and aren’t just passing through.  Everyone in the District building seems to know everyone else.  Another thing is that since they all live in a fairly small area they aren’t limited to just office friendships.  A number of people I’ve met are building houses and they get together and help each other, and stop by to comment on the other guys’ work.  The people here come from all over the map, just as they do in California, but it seems like they’re a different kind of people.  I hear a lot of talk in the office about hunting and fishing.  One of the men owns an airplane and takes his wife and little girl fishing with him nearly every weekend.  I’m certain we’re going to like it here.

I love you, my Darling, and long to see you again and to be with you forever.  I love you, I Love You, I LOVE YOU, Bill


June 18, 1957 Tuesday

Darling Bill,

What a day I have had – what a time I have had since you left my dearest.  I need you, I need you.  Don’t ever leave me again – I can’t stand being parted from you – find a place soon, soon, soon!  Just to be together again.  Have you investigated those apartments? – They were supposed to be close enough to the base so we wouldn’t need a car!

I wish with all my heart – soul you were here with me now.  I’ve never needed you as much.  I’ve never in all my life felt so alone.

Yet, I wanted to be alone – I just sent Mother home with all her blankets and she was boiling – I don’t mean because it’s so hot out either!

She comes over tired – all full of her hectic day and I am also tired and neither of us cheers each other up.  I miss you so terribly and she can’t understand that – she says she can.  “Well, I should hope so after all you’re used to him after eight years.”  Bill, I’ve been sidetracking comments until I can’t stand it any longer!  Yet, Bill I’m frightened to death to be alone – I long to be close to you, Oh darling, when I write to you my ‘whole being’ cries to you.

Mother, I think, is disappointed!  She thought we’d have fun together and I’m a wet rag.  I only want YOU.  It’s all I live for, all I think about!  I feel as if I was torn away from you and will ache until I am put together again.

If she had loved her husband it would be different but she’s truly a ‘spinster’ now and it irritates me and my complete love for you irritates her.

We enjoy each other occasionally but to have my mother come every night when I ache for you – I can’t stand it.  Darling, darling, darling.

I haven’t written many things about ‘Mom’ in the letters because I have been trying so darned hard and she has been going way out of her way for me.  I tried staying one night alone and it wasn’t too bad, I did sleep.  I went out to call her the next night not to come and nobody answered.  At 6:00 she appeared and has been coming every night since.

She was here from noon Saturday until Monday morning.  Too much!!!!!  [multiple underlines]  Several times she has overridden my discipline, pouted or grimaced and I ignored it until Sunday at the park.

It was only a little thing but important to me.  I can’t have her ‘butting in’, which she doesn’t hesitate to do!!

We had sandwiches!  John ate half and I gave him another.  He didn’t want it and I insisted saying he couldn’t play on an empty stomach.  Grandma had promised ice creams.  When the time came, I got up and noticed he had gone around in back of the tree and thrown the sandwich away.  I said he couldn’t have the ice cream then as he didn’t eat it etc. etc.   Grandma pouted, stormed, said I wasn’t fair etc. etc. and I told her, “It is none of your business.”  I had been wanting to for ages.  He didn’t get ice cream then but later I got him some after a talk.  Right or wrong I can’t be interfered with – perhaps parents make mistakes but they’re not as important as the children not having confidence in us!

Well, today has been bad anyway but I have managed fine. (This darn pen. I didn’t want a red refill and it doesn’t work right anyways.  I can hardly write with it.  Please pardon.  Most maddening when I have so much to say!)

It was another beautiful day but we didn’t get a letter.  I know you can’t write everyday but I am so anxious to know if you like it or not.  We’ve had so much trouble and I still don’t know how you like the D — place!

Well, we decided to go to the beach!  More of that later.  We were almost set when John complained of his foot hurting.  It had swollen up this morning and I had gone up to get Epsom salts but realized we couldn’t go anywhere now!

Yesterday while getting in the pool, on the grass, in the backyard, he stepped on a thorn.  It was pulled out and I put lots of tincture of Methiolate on it – all over – thinking of you.

By 11:00 today it was pink, blue and red and purple and very swollen.  He couldn’t even get a slipper on.  The doctor said to soak it, which we did almost all afternoon!  By 5:00 it was still bad so I took him to the doctor (before I had only inquired) and he gave him a shot of penicillin and told me to come back in the morning.  He can’t walk on it and I am quite worried.  Could blood poisoning set in?  The doctor said all the poison is centered in that one area now and he doesn’t want it spreading.  I will let you know tomorrow.

As soon as Mother came, after supper tonight — and we had a very pleasant one too – she was concerned and does love us but she has to try to manage.  Anyways, she said it was as she says, the children don’t mind.  It was due to that indirectly they were told to go out back and sit on the cot until I came out and got off but my heavens I had already explained that as a lesson, but they’re children and I don’t want her lecturing them.

After they were in bed and asleep at 10:00 P.M. again (this house is like an oven until then – it’s been well over 100° all day!) Sharon was still awake.  Last night Grandma excused her and the neighbors etc. [?]

When I came out I told her I didn’t care if she did cry I can’t rock her every night.  She said, “I never interfere.”  I said something about the day and the children.  Well, one thing led to another and I told her I thought it best I stay alone nights now and that she does interfere and always has.  And it was one reason I was going to Alaska!  I told her very quietly and calmly and did not lose my temper.

I told her I was grown and had four children and it wasn’t good for them to know I was afraid to stay alone and that it isn’t good for any of us to have her over every night.

Well, naturally you know the answers!  “So I’m being put out, am I?  I am soft but not that soft to come back again after that.”

Bill I’ve had so much lately that I told her I couldn’t argue but I thanked her and told her I’d see her tomorrow.  I have an appointment with Cartwright which I can’t keep if she won’t baby sit.  Why can’t we just discuss things?  She can’t be criticized.

Really, darling even the times I’ve tried to talk to the children – she says, “Now, listen to Grandma” – – – – – and starts in too.  Several times I’ve said nicely it’s easier for just me to tell them etc. and she sulks.

I know, as I said before, she’s disappointed in me and rubs it in that you haven’t written you liked Alaska and what a mistake we’ve made and why did we want to go there anyways etc.

What with all the troubles I’ve had, mother and not knowing from you — I don’t know!

I’m so cheerful every day but something new happens every day!

Poor Johnny.

Poor Grandma too.  I couldn’t talk to her and she left in a huff.  I kept on knitting.  She probably won’t speak to me tomorrow and I am frightened.  I need you, you, you, you.

Write me, advise me.  I am so lonely.  The days aren’t bad because I am used to having you at work but the nights – are terrible!

Poor Grandma can’t take your place.  I feel so sorry but I told her I’ve had to talk to her about this many times before and she swears she doesn’t ever interfere and always tells me how well I do!  (Sometimes she does) but also is plenty quick to criticize them too if they’re naughty until I do then she jumps in.  Grandma is nice to visit with sometime.

I want to live with you.  How can I wait?  God guide me and give me strength I need it so!  My darling husband I love you!  Mildred

Late.  I find it so hard to stop writing and there are so many things I have left unsaid – business things – but I will write them tomorrow.  I just made myself an iced tea and told myself that there are thousands of women alone tonight – this D — pen!  All over this world, some of them probably widowed, working during the day and lonely at night.

Yes, what is it I tell the children and have told myself recently?  “One has to do without to appreciate and place your self in other’s position in order to understand more fully what others go through.”  I do have you.  We are temporarily separated but you’re waiting for me – I am lucky!!  I am not widowed, my husband is not at war, but we’re separated and it’s so hard, my dearest.

I wish I could really talk to Mother and make her understand that I love her dearly but I am grown up and have four children and I must be let alone to bring them up as I see fit.  She can’t understand my love for my husband, I know.  It deeply upsets me.  I pray tonight for so many things.  Perhaps God can make her understand!

John awakened a few minutes ago.  He says the pain is so bad.  Darling, I get so afraid without you and I pray for guidance and strength.  I have relied on yours so much!  I gave him aspirin and will take him early to the doctor.  His foot is so puffed and unnatural looking.  I don’t like it at all!

It is past midnight and I must try to get some rest.  I sleep on the bumpy hard couch and my life is frugal too – in its own way.

I love you dearly and live for your letters.  I need them until I have you.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

I kissed John for you and he says, “I miss my Daddy – I love him so.”  We all miss you, my sweetheart!


June 19, 1957 Wednesday

Darling Bill,

I loved your letters – they finally told me something about Alaska.  I’m glad you’re honest with me and my hopes aren’t high.  Do you think we should come – will you be content for two years?  I have no high-hopes.  I want to be with you and the experience of seeing it will be worthwhile.  We’ve gone so far now I don’t want to turn back.

Whatever you decide about housing for us is alright with me – I trust you and love you!  I wish I were there now.  I am dripping wet.  It’s HOT, sticky and smoggy today!  Who cares about dirt roads or anything else?  For every disadvantage there must be an advantage.

Remember smog, freeways, cities, people, crowds, etc. and try to be glad.  We’ll be together soon and if we’re all well I’ll be happy.  We’ve had so much sickness here I only want us to be well again.

We all adore you, my darling.  I love you with all my heart and soul.  Love, love, love, Mildred


June 19, 1957 Wednesday

Dear Bill,

This letter is of a very serious nature and I will not try to make it otherwise.  I am financially worried.  If possible Bill get the apartment near work for the winter to give us a chance to get on our feet.  We could make out for the winter in the apartment, couldn’t we?  We must get straightened out financially once and for all.

I have had such a time since you’ve been gone and it has made me realize once again how terrible it is not to have cash reserve for emergencies.  Right now I am broke!!

I love you and things will be better.  The smog is back and I can’t wait to leave here.  I love you and am miserable separated.


June 21, 1957 Friday

My Darling Mildred,

I wish I could tell you more about the country around here, but as long as I don’t have a car I just can’t get out anywhere to see anything.  The buses don’t go anywhere and the taxis are too expensive, so I don’t have a chance to see anything outside of the city itself.  I know how curious you are and how anxious you are to have some real information, but to tell the truth I’m just as curious myself.  I’d like to spend the whole weekend driving around and taking pictures, but that will just have to wait until we can do it together.

I’m satisfied with my job and I think it will be challenging enough to keep me interested for a long time.  One thing I like about this job is that everything is needed right now and there’s no waiting around for some lard-head to make a “decision”.  I got so tired of working for months and years on the same thing and making changes over and over again.  Things will undoubtedly slow down here in the winter when there’s not any outdoor construction going on, but I don’t think it could ever be as bad as the Department of Water and Power was in Los Angeles.

An awful lot of people here are building their own houses.  Three men in my office have houses in various stages.  Just hearing them talk makes me itch to get started.  They’re all paying for things as they buy them so the house will be paid for when it’s finished.  It takes longer that way, but it must be a wonderful feeling to live in a house that you actually own!

My heart goes out to you across the miles, Mildred, I love you forever, I love you, I love you, I LOVE YOU, Bill


June 21, 1957 Friday

Darling Bill,

My own sweet, darling I miss you so very much – I often wonder how I can bear it much longer and am grateful and thankful our separation is only a temporary one and pray we’ll never again be apart.  My only happiness, my darling is with YOU!

I am happy that you sounded in these last letters a little more “exuberant” concerning Alaska.  You’ve probably been seeing it in my eyes!  Have no fear darling, I have no high hopes except concerning your job and the climate!  Remember, it’s for two years and if we don’t like it well enough to remain we don’t have to stay.

I am glad the people are friendly – we hoped they would be nice.  Oh, how I want to be with you – my heart aches with loneliness for you, my husband.

Keep house hunting and I’ll plan to move out of here when my rent is up!  I know now you like it but was worried at first you didn’t.  Can you see the ocean –?  Is the scenery around Anchorage pretty?  Could we homestead next summer close enough to Anchorage?  I too have many questions and can hardly wait to see everything for myself.

I love you my dearest and we all are living to be with you, it’s all we talk and think about.  Your loving wife, Mildred X X X X X


June 22, 1957 Saturday

Dear Bill,

Thanks for the wonderful description of Alaska.  Before I was worried now I want to be there more than ever.  I don’t know which is worse.  I too think we’ll love it.

I miss you so terribly, my darling.  I long to be with you again and will treasure every moment the rest of my life, we’re together.  I love you – my darling, I love you.  I miss you in so many ways!


June 24, 1957 Monday

Dearest Mildred,

I know more every day that we’re going to like it here, and on that glorious day when we’re all settled here we’ll both really begin to live again.  I die a little too every day that I spend without you, and I dread the days that lie just ahead.  I could never grow accustomed to living without you – instead it gets worse every single day that we’re apart.

I love you sweetheart, I love you forever and for always, I Love You, Bill


June 25, 1957 Tuesday

Dearest Mildred,

I have an ad going in the paper on Thursday, “wanted-to-rent” and maybe that will bring a response.  My one shining hope is to find a place as of August 1st, someplace where the renter has given a month’s notice.  I’ll run the ad this week, and if no result, then Friday and Saturday of next week – after the first of the month.  If I could find something like that then I could start that paperwork rolling so you could arrive here about August 1st.  But even if I found a place that was vacant right now I couldn’t pay for it and it would slip through my fingers – which would absolutely kill me!

I haven’t given up hope and I am still trying – harder than ever if possible – but I know you want me to tell you everything – even though it hurts.  And I know how it hurts because I feel it too – the terrible aching loneliness for you and the knowledge that it isn’t over yet.  I feel like swearing aloud at the trap we got ourselves into so that we didn’t have enough in the bank to finance this thing properly.  I almost think I wouldn’t have taken this job if I’d know how long we were going to be separated!  Sometimes I think wistfully of the car and trailer we almost bought – even that would have been an improvement over this.


June 26, 1957 Wednesday

Dear Bill,

Truly, I haven’t relaxed since you left – I always told you that you were a ‘good influence’ on me.  As soon as you used to walk in the door at night you used to relax me and make me happy!

My darling, this separation is such a trial to me.  I have never been so miserable in all my life.  Mother said last night, “Why, several young women in our group don’t have husbands and have careers and young children.  If they can get along, why can’t you for a short while?”

Darling it didn’t even bother me.  I truthfully told her why.  Because I love you and don’t want to get along without you – because you’re my life!  Still, I agree with you, how nice if she could understand!

No wonder I find my happiness writing to you.  I hate to stop – it’s the only peace I have.  Secondly, as I said before I enjoy the children – they’re a part of us – plus, most of the time, are a comfort to me!

I could fill this page, my darling, with I love yous.  I send millions to you over and over every second of every day my heart ticks and it says “I love you Bill, I love you.”  Mildred


June 26, 1957 Wednesday

Dearest Bill,

I’ve often heard that there’s happiness in keeping busy.  It’s not necessarily so – I have proven that.  I am busy from morning until night but there’s no happiness away from you.

Darling it isn’t going to go on and on is it?  It’s already been almost a month.  We must do something.  What are we to do?  Will you please find out about the apartments right away.  Never mind the house. * If you apply for the apartment and have to pay will you still go house-hunting?  And if you found a house would they refund you your deposit?

Can you rent a one bedroom place just to get me up there – Bill anything?  I only want to be up there with you!!

It sounds so pleasant – your Sunday with your boss and his family.  I really enjoyed hearing about the people and them – how I long to share experiences with you.  We’re not ordinary people – we’re a close knit family and should never be separated!

I am so happy darling that you find your work so interesting.  That’s worth so much, it’s at least 60% of why we made the change.  I know everything will be wonderful once we’re together again!

Bill, Bill, Bill I am counting on you.  I feel so helpless here.  There’s nothing I can do.  Each day I am biding my time.  I don’t even have money to take the children places, not that I could enjoy them without you as I know from the few places I’ve been – I miss you most when I go somewhere.

When I write you I can’t truly believe we’re separated by so many miles – I can’t get over this intense ‘closeness’ I feel to you – right now.  Oh my darling, maybe you’re thinking of me this moment – or dreaming of me!

Anything I can do to hasten things up I would gladly do.  I would start walking even.  If only I could be on my way.  I love you so, Mildred


June 26, 1957 Wednesday

My Beloved Mildred,

Last night after I mailed the letter I’d written, I thought of you and of the many things we’ve done together and of the wonderful sweet years we’ve spent with each other.  Thought and day-dreamed about the happy, exciting, satisfying things that lie ahead of us.

All the land for homesteading within driving distance of Anchorage is long gone, but you can still buy two or three acre lots for a reasonable price out in the country, and with lots of trees.  We can build a place to live, and add on to it when we live there.  The summer evenings are so long that they run into the mornings and you can work all night if you want to.

Goodnight my lovely wife, I think of you every minute, and love you and love you with all my heart, soul and being – forever and always – I love you, Bill


June 27, 1957 Thursday night

Dearest Bill,

I wrote you another letter this morning – I’m afraid it was a rather imperative (?) one.  (I can’t think of the right word – does it fit?)  Darling, I am not angry – I couldn’t be.  It’s just that I am completely sick at heart.  I do get afraid of your sinking into a rut – unmeaning perhaps – but I know your work will be demanding and it would be easy to do.  Other people mean well when they offer to help, I know, and perhaps they may but you can’t rely on it!  It’s up to you and only you can do it.  Every day that passes could mean the chance to find a place.  If you don’t settle for the apartment.

I love you, my dearest and believe me you were with me every minute today.  It’s really bad – I talk to you now – to myself.  I tell you how much I love you, how I love you for loving the out-of-doors, the blue sky, and the kind of a life we will lead in Alaska.

I love you my darling – more and more each day in every way.  Find us a house so we can have a home.  Love, Mildred


July 1, 1957 Monday

Dearest Mildred,

Don’t ever, ever think I’m “getting used” to being away from you!  Perhaps you feel the strain more because you have the sole care of the children and because you’re reminded so much, but I do miss you – Mildred, I love you – I need you – I want you here as much as you want it.  I am and will always do everything in my power to get you here just as soon as possible.  Nothing in this world could ever make me go through a separation like this again!  We were made for each other, Darling Mildred, and we were made to be together!

I want so much to be able to give you the comfort – the love – the care, protection, – everything you need.  And I need just as much from you – all the things that you and only you can give me.  But most of all I simply need to be with you – always near you.  Sweetheart, my eyes fill with tears too when I think of being away from you any longer – Oh Mildred I want YOU!

And I miss the children too – the feeling of all of us together as a family – the happy rush to meet me when I come home – the tender little voices at bedtime – I even miss their noises.  It gives me the saddest, tenderest feeling to think of all of you so bravely carrying on without me, and depending on me to take care of you – and I will.  And I will take care of everything, you can depend on me and trust me completely – always!

This time each day when I write to you is the happiest – and the saddest – of the whole day.  It makes me feel close to you for a little, but when I seal the envelope and drop it in the mailbox – a piece of my heart goes with it, and I walk back to my room with sad, slow steps.  Without you I am so alone, my sweet, I need you to make me whole again.  I love you always, I love you truly, Bill.


July 2, 1957 Tuesday

My Dearest,

Oh Darling, the loneliness almost suffocates me at times.  I need you so much.  I am with the children every minute and my only relief is with Mother.  I need the strength of your love and your arms tight around me to make me feel each tomorrow will be ‘a shining day’.  You always renewed my hope, strength and life.  I need you – nobody else in the whole world can ever give it to me.

How long will it be?  Every day is longer it seems.  Today I hoped all day I would find a telegram awaiting us when we got home.  I tried so hard not to get my hopes up!  On the way home we took turns guessing if there would be one – for some reason we all guessed “No” and there wasn’t.  Now I hope for tomorrow.

The uncertainty and not knowing is so very hard!  The waiting and wondering –.  Every night seems endless and days – tonight I thinking “Maybe tomorrow I’ll know.”  I wish I could turn the clock ahead.

Oh Happy Day – when I leave!  I don’t care if I drive, go by plane, train or boat – I no longer care – just to be on my way to YOU!!!!!

Ours isn’t mental telepathy – it’s LOVE TELEPATHY.  I do love you, oh darling, I love you.  As I read your letters and write in return to you, the miles between us are less and less and I feel so close to you.  Our love brings us close but I long to be with you, touch you, feel you as I write to you and read the letters from you I feel lonelier for you than I’ve ever felt before and pray to God in heaven at this moment to bring us together again soon, soon, soon.

I believe what you say about people even in Alaska, wearing masks.  I feel all over me and inside of me ‘a kinship’ with Alaska that I can’t even explain to myself.  It’s a feeling that it’s ‘home’ to me and I’ve never seen it.  I hope I will be one of the people who do not wear a mask and consider it home forever!  If you love it I can’t see how I, feeling as I already do about it, could help but feel the same!

I love the ideas you express – I never tire of reading your letters!  Love to you my beloved Husband, Mildred


July 2, 1957 Tuesday night – Mildred to Bill


How wonderful it will be when our things are together again and we’re all together again.  We’ll really appreciate it.  I already look forward to next Xmas.  I have to have something to dream of!

I feel as if I’ve gained 100 years wisdom in eight years of marriage and I wish I could pass it on to others.  I finally feel as if we’ve found the ‘key to happiness’.

I feel sorry for me now darling, terribly sorry but once I am with you again I will never feel sorry for ME again.  This separation is the hardest, most terrible thing I’ve ever experienced.  I feel so uprooted too – I pray tonight and every night for our quick reunion, my beloved husband.

I love you, I love you, Mildred – Your letters are my shining hopes – each time I hope you’ve found a house.  I enjoy them too!


CHAPTER TWO:  A House to Put Our Home In


July 6, 1957 Saturday

Dear Bill,

Today I feel wonderful when I think of your letters.  I am thankful for YOU and so glad I have YOU for my husband.

Probably we’re one in a million.  Even Mother doesn’t understand.  She says, “Well I’m glad to know you miss Bill so – I wondered if you would.”  She need wonder no more.  I’ve told her I don’t care to go anywhere or do anything without you.  There’s no enjoyment or happiness for me until I am with you again.

I do not intend to be sorry for anything that has happened to us ever again.  For a long while I was so unhappy that our life wasn’t always “a bed of roses.”  I so wanted happiness for you and sometimes it seemed we’d never get our worries and debts etc. straightened out.  But darling, this feeling we have between us, over and over our letters have crossed expressing the same thing.  The closeness we both feel while writing and the emptiness afterwards.  The way we love and miss each other.

Is this not all a direct result of all that has ever happened to us?  Of course, it is.  Our love is real, it’s rich – and true, so true!

I now almost am glad of all of our experiences, the good and the bad for we never would have moved to Alaska without them.

It’s all meant to be – just as our meeting and falling in love was meant to be.  Our past is over and we have a wonderful future awaiting us once we’re together again.

Darling, my own darling I am so full of love for you and so full of dreams and hopes for our future in Alaska.  I know you will fulfill many dreams of yours there and it makes me happy to think I can partake in them too, just as the wives of many years ago used to.

Even your work here in L.A. seemed so remote from me but already I feel the great need for the wonderful engineering experiences you have had and have to offer in Alaska and think I’ll be able to see more and understand more of your work than I ever could have here.

We will have more time together and can all work closer – share more things together.

I was so excited about the prospect of ‘the log cabin’ in the country that I sent a telegram to let you know I had no objections and trust the final decision, my darling, to you.  Your letter today showed me you’re considering every possible angle and I know, my dearest, you’re as anxious to be reunited as I am.

If you don’t take the log cabin, please keep running the ad – I think it should bring results! – But what could we do with our furniture if you found a furnished place – store it in Anchorage?

I will be so greatly relieved when this is all straightened out and won’t rest until I am on my way!  Good luck, I love you, Mildred


July 6, 1957 Saturday

My Dearest Mildred,

I talked to the Realtor today and made an appointment to go with him Monday afternoon out to the house on Eagle River Road.  Now that I’ve decided to take it I’m almost afraid to think about it for fear something will happen to spoil it.  I know how hard it is to wait, but if I do rent it you will have gotten a wire by now and the suspense will be over.

It takes me a long time to write these letters to you, my Sweetheart, and not just because I write slow.  I pause between sentences to think about you, about what you’re doing right now while I’m writing, what you’ll think when you read this, and most of all I think about the future – our future together.  We’re going to be happy here, it’s a wonderful place to live – and we are the kind of people who belong here!  You and I, and our children who think as we do because they are ours.

I miss you, long for you, yearn for you, need you with me now and always.  Oh Mildred, I’m miserable without you but I see a bright and happy future ahead for us in Alaska.

Dear Heart and Gentle Wife, My Beloved Mildred, I love you, Bill


July 6, 1957 Saturday

My Darling Bill,

Again no letter today and probably Monday I’ll receive three again.  The prospect of your taking ‘the little log cabin’ encourages me over the weekend.  I can almost picture the cabin and like what I see.  Eight years ago, darling, when we first were married, I would have been dreadfully unhappy in such a place. BUT now it sounds like “Shangri la” to me!

I hope you won’t think I was too reckless sending a ‘telegram’ but thought it might help you decide if you knew I wouldn’t mind being so far out of town.  I hope it wouldn’t prove too much for you during the winter months and we would need a car.  I know you will make the right decision and anxiously await it!!

I just want to be with you and the longing ache grows worse and worse each day we’re separated.

I already feel committed.  I feel as if I live in the log cabin with you in Alaska and my body is here waiting to join.  My heart and soul reaches to you across the miles.  It’s true even I am separated until I am with you again.

What a glorious day that will be.  A thousand parades will play, the sun will shine, and the pine trees and ocean will sing a serenade on the day we’re together again.  I Love You, Mildred


July 8, 1957 Monday

My Sweetheart, Mildred,

This is the great day I’ve been waiting for – at last things have started to move!  I just got back from town after sending you the telegram.

Up until now I’ve been almost superstitiously afraid to tell you too much about it, but now I don’t have to worry anymore.  After work today I got a ride down to the realtor’s office and he took me out to the house.  We worked out all the details with the owner and she is going to have a lease drawn up and we’ll meet again next Monday to sign it.  I wouldn’t agree to it if I didn’t know that it’s just the place for us.  Before I go any farther I might as well tell you that the rent is going to be plenty – $160 per month!  I’d hoped for less – but I couldn’t argue with her, we both know she wouldn’t have any trouble renting it to someone else for that, or more.

But to get back to the house – you drive north from Anchorage on the Palmer Highway for about ten miles, most of it through forest.  You go down a long hill, cross the Eagle River, up the hill on the other side and over a ridge.  You make a right turn, almost a U-turn, onto Eagle River Road which is graveled.  You go about a half a mile, up over a little rise, across a little bridge over the creek, past a log house with a little fence in front, then you turn right and down a little lane for about 300 feet to home.

It’s actually behind the other house and you can’t see it from the road, but it’s a good ways from the other place and there are lots of trees in between.  As I said before it’s built of logs, and it really fits into its setting perfectly.  The owners have no children and so the yard hasn’t been used much, and the ground around it is pretty much in its primitive state with lots and lots of small trees and tall grass and bushes.  Really, my Darling, it seems like paradise to me – just like a mountain cabin we might have had up at Crestline or someplace if we’d ever gotten rich.

From everything I’ve heard the people in that neighborhood are very nice, and what houses I’ve seen are all nice.  At the place where Eagle River Road joins the Highway there’s a little shopping center with a market and some other little shops, it’s about as far as we were from the Shopping Bag when we lived on Calaveras Street.

I’m just like you are, this has got to end – and soon!  I can’t bear being away from you, I miss you so.  I’ve always had that same feeling about coming home to you, that wonderful sense of completeness that always came to me when I opened the door and stepped in to you.  My whole life seems so empty and bare when I’m alone, and every minute I pass without you is a wasted minute.  I love you so powerfully, wonderfully, completely, Darling Mildred, I love you more and more and more!

Keep on telling me all of your thoughts and feelings, it makes perfect sense to me.  I know you so well, and we feel so much alike about it, about everything.  That’s news enough and reason enough for writing, to tell me of your love and longing.  We’ve built our lives around each other for so long that it’s awful to be apart like this.  My love reaches out to you across the miles, to hold you and comfort you as much as I can, and soon soon SOON we’ll be together again forever and ever!

I’ll see you in your dreams, as I’ll see you in mine.  I love you truly, Dearest Mildred, Bill


July 9, 1957 Tuesday

Dearest Mildred,

We belong together, Mil, and it’s a wonderful feeling to know we both feel alike about so many things.  Most people don’t understand how we feel, or even believe it’s possible.  But today just knowing we had a house to put our home in again made me feel ever so much better.  You are the only light in my life, my only reason for living, I love you completely, absolutely, I love you with all my heart and soul.

I agree so very much with all you say about our coming to Alaska.  Everything has been leading us to this for years; there was never any doubt about it.  We belong here Mildred, you and I and our children.  Our children will never spend a summer in boredom here, there’s so much to do.  Imagine their excitement – and yours – when they see a forest in their own front yard and a babbling brook in back!  It is just a brook, you could almost jump across it, and it jumps happily from rock to rock and gurgles in between.  They say it even has fish in it, little ones just right for a boy to catch.  And in the winter it freezes solid and they can skate on it.

The hill from the house down to the creek looks just right to make a good sled run when it snows.  And the yard just invites a dog, a big dog to run and play with the kids.  And you can have a cat without being afraid of it getting run-over, we’ll be so far from the road.  Oh gosh how I wish we were all there right now, the weather is so beautiful now.  I hate to make you feel bad, but the temperature ranges from about 50° to about 70°.  I’m so terribly sorry that you’re there in that lousy weather all this time, my Darling, you belong here!

The minutes aren’t wasted anymore – each one brings closer the time when we’ll be together again.  We’re on the home stretch now, and it’s harder than ever to be patient and wait.  But the wait is almost at an end, and soon I’ll hold you close and tell you of my love eternal for you, my Wife, I love you, Bill


July 10, 1957 Wednesday

My Darling, My Darling

I just tucked in the last child for the night and heard the last prayer of thanks to God for helping you find us a house in Alaska to put our home in.

What a thrill it will be to see you and have you show us all around.  Imagine what fun to see our house for the first time!  How nice not to hear fights and neighbors’ noise as I do now.  Just peace and quiet for a change.

My bedtime story tonight was all about the fun we’ll have and what the seasons are like and what good times we’ll have next winter.  You never saw such happy children.

Let’s never again have cross, angry words (we really seldom did).  I want to pay off our bills and be relaxed, rested and HAPPY!!!  I love you too much to waste any of our life together.  It makes me SICK to hear them.


July 10, 1957 Wednesday

My Dearest Mildred, my beloved wife, I’m lost without you.  I’m nervous all the time, I don’t feel like eating, I can’t sleep at night, I can’t concentrate on my work.  All I can do is think about you and worry about how things are going to work out.  I know that someday this period of our lives will be just a memory, but it will always be a bad memory – and the sooner we can start forgetting about it the better I’ll like it!  If I had ever had any idea that I could live without you, I certainly know now that I can’t!

I’m not really living at all now – just existing until we’re together again.  It seems like every day when I used to go to work and be away from you – the pressure would build up inside of me all day.  Then when I came home at night to you I’d kiss you and hold you tight, and I could just feel the tenseness and tiredness flow out of me.  The sweet tenderness of your arms and lips, the wonderful security of your love, always gave me the peace and happiness that made my days complete and my life livable.  That’s why I was so miserable last summer when you worked, and that’s partly why I miss you so much now.

I’ve always been able to do the same for you, and I long to be able to do it again.  I can feel your love when I read your letters, as I know you must feel mine, but nothing could ever ease that terrible loneliness except to be together again – forever.  I long for you – yearn-ache-cry for you – you – you.  I love you with all my being, you are my life – my everything – I love you, Mildred, I love you.


July 13, 1957 Saturday

My Beloved Mildred,

I’ve been sitting here looking at my pictures of you, and wishing we were together right now.  I’m so lonely and all I want in the world is to have you near me.  In all the years ahead I’ll never forget how lonely I’ve been, how miserable without you, how very much I’ve missed you.  How wonderful it will be to be able to open my eyes in the morning and see you there beside me, to reach out to you, to hold you tight again.

And what a wonderful feeling during the day to know that you’re at home waiting for me, and then to drive up to our house and be greeted by four happy children, to see you standing there waiting while I return their hugs, and then to take you in my arms and feel the magic touch of your lips on mine.

Oh Mildred, my Dearest Wife, I look forward with such great anticipation to having you with me again.  I’ll never again be guilty of taking for granted any of the wonderful blessings that you have given to me.  We are one, you and I, and until we’re together again I’ll be only part of a man, I won’t be whole until you are here with me.

Saturdays always seem to be my bluest days, I have practically nothing to do to occupy the time.  After breakfast I washed some clothes, and then took the bus downtown.  But I just wandered around for awhile and came back here.  I miss you and I miss the children, and I miss having a home!

We will have a lot to make up for after this summer.  It’s been a strain on all of us.  We’re not gong to tie ourselves down by buying a house; we’ll just spend our time enjoying each other and the children.  We can never replace or forget all these weeks that we’ve been apart, but I know the happiness that awaits us here will make it all worthwhile.

My only real regret is that we didn’t come here years ago, but like you’ve said, maybe it took all that’s happened to us to make us ready for the move.

Tell the children that Daddy loves them, I miss them and long to have them here too.

I love you with all my heart, Mildred my sweet, I can hardly wait to have you in my arms where you belong.  I yearn to see your face before me, as I see it in my dreams, I love you, I love you, Bill


July 16, 1957 Tuesday

Dearest Mildred,

I love you so much and I’m so eager to have you with me again – the closer it gets the harder it is to wait.  I know you’re all going to like Alaska and adore our house, and I will sure enjoy showing them to you.  Oh Mildred – I need you.  I need you, I’m miserable here without you!  Neither of us have a home, now when we’re apart – we have to be together in our own house before we’ll have a home!  I’m just sick without you, my Darling Mil, this terrible separation has to end soon.  I’ll be waiting, waiting, waiting every second until you’re in my arms again, I love you – with all my strength and heart and soul I love you.

And now goodnight, pleasant dreams Sweetheart, and may they all be of me.  I love you Mildred, now, always, and forever, I love you, Bill


July 19, 1957 Friday

Dearest Mildred,

Don’t think for a minute, my Darling, that I don’t realize what a miserable, nerve-wracking, exhausting time you’ve been having.  I do realize it and appreciate full well all that you’ve done.  I want all of us to settle down to a quiet peaceful life, to help you regain the peace of mind that’s been so shattered by all that’s happened.  We belong together my Love, we understand and get along with each other so well.  I love you with a love that’s as deep and enduring as the earth itself.  My only wish in life is to make you happy, in every way I possibly can.

To think that this letter may get to you on the very eve of your longed-for departure is a terrific thrill!  The days have stretched into weeks since we’ve been apart and almost into months.  It’s been much, much too long.  To have you in my arms again, to feel the quickening beat of your heart against mine, to taste the heavenly nectar of your lips again, to bask in the wonderful glow of your presence, oh Mildred it will be truly the happiest day of my life when you come to me.  When we were married I was so ignorant of what I’d been missing for so many, many years, but now I know and it has been torture to be away from you.  To be alone after all the time we’ve had together, with all you mean to me, has been a difficult thing to bear.  I’ll never let us be apart again, my Sweetheart, we need each other too much to waste a day of our lives as we have these past weeks.  I love you too much to spend another night away from you as long as we live.

Goodnight my Beloved Wife, soon you’ll be here and I can give you in person all the love I send with each letter.  I love you, I LOVE YOU, Bill


July 21, 1957 Sunday

Dearest Mildred,

All alone, I’m so all alone!  You at least have the children to keep you company but I have nobody.  This has gone on just about as long as I can stand it.  Perhaps if we had never been apart I might never have known just how much I depended on you, but I have certainly found out now!  I just can’t live without you, Mildred my Darling.  If I tried to write down just what it is I miss most about you I couldn’t do it.  You are, truly, everything to me.  As I sit here writing, I look at my precious wedding ring and think of the one just like it that circles your finger.  I’ve always been glad that we chose our rings just alike – there seems to be a magic cord between these two identical rings that stretches across the miles that separate them.  It’s as though our rings were touching and through them our hands and our hearts.  My ring is like Aladdin’s lamp – whenever I feel lonely I have only to rub it and close my eyes and imagine that it’s your ring I’m rubbing, and magically it is your ring and your hand I’m holding – and you are here with me.  If only …. If only it were really true – I long so to have you here with me, to hold your hand and talk to you, to feel the nearness of you that means so much to me.  Mildred, my Beloved Wife, my life, my love, my everything is you.  I love you truly, deeply and completely.

I love you my Darling Mildred, more than words can ever tell, and I wait longingly for the time when I can show you my love again – I’ll spend the rest of my life showing my love for you in a million ways.  Your loving Husband, Bill


July 24, 1957 Wednesday


Darling, darling how I long to be with you and share our unusual dreams again.

I love you Bill.  I still love you.  I love you.  I love you for so many reasons, among which, for how you’ve changed me—Oh Darling thank you!  I feel so alive and eager – it’s truly wonderful BUT so WASTED here!!  — Anywhere without you, my dearest!

Oh Bill, I must leave by then.  Aug. 6th – I would arrive and furniture would have been on way five days!  I could camp until it arrived and would be settled for school.  Oh darling, doesn’t it sound wonderful – how does it seem to you???


July 24, 1957 Wednesday

My Darling,

Oh Mildred, you belong with me, now and always.  I hate your family for making things so miserable for you!  Only a few days left, why couldn’t they let you leave in peace?

My Dearest I love you so very, very much!  My heart aches with compassion for you, I know how lost and lonely you feel.  I’m all nervous and upset just thinking about the situation you’re in.  I want to send you a wire just to comfort you.  But you’ll get my letter on Thursday telling you that you can come anytime after we get the check.  I know that’s small comfort right now, I want you here in my arms this instant – not next week!  But it’s better than it might have been if you’d had to wait for the boat.  I swear this is the last time we’ll get as low on money we have to wait for a check like this before we can do anything.

I’m going to look at used cars tomorrow.  There are several big companies here who say they guarantee their used cars, and I’d like to buy from one of them.  I’ll have to have a car to get things out to the house, and to meet you at the airport.

Oh, that wonderful phrase – “meet you at the airport!”  I’m so excited at the very thought of it that I’m practically jumping up and down.  I’m so in love with you and it’s been so long – so hard to bear this awful feeling of being away from you, my Mildred.  You’re all the world to me, everything I ever wanted you are to me.  I love you with all of my heart and soul.

I’ve prayed every night since I’ve been away from you – prayed to our Father in Heaven to watch over you all and bring you to me safely and soon.  My prayers grow stronger every day, as your do too, and I know they’ll soon be answered.  Be of good cheer, be brave and strong and courageous just a little longer, and soon you’ll be in my arms to stay forever, Mildred dear Mildred my own.

As I said Monday, your arrival will be a little different than I’d imagined it.  Not – understand me, please – not that I wanted you to wait any longer!  Just that in my daydreams I’d imagined driving up to the house, taking you by the hand and leading you into your new home.  That is just how it will be, except that I’d imagined that I’d have the furniture all in place, the beds all made, everything neat and clean for you.  I do hope you won’t be disappointed.  But I know, really, that you’ll love it, and no matter how bare it is I know it will be home to us as soon as we enter it.

Oh Mildred I love you, love you, love you! X X X X X  Hurry to me now as fast as you can darling – I love and wait only for you.  Your Adoring Husband, Bill


July 26, 1957 Friday

My Darling Husband,

Oh darling, it seems more and more real that we’ll be together soon.  I can hardly make myself believe you haven’t been gone two months yet and I’ll be with you before two months is up!  It seems to me you’ve been gone six months at least.  I never never will be parted from you again, ‘until death do us part’.  I never forget my love for you – it’s with me constantly, the thought of my love for you.  I want so much to make you happy in every possible way – nothing will ever mar our new life in Alaska.

I can’t get my coming to you off of my mind.  I thought about it all evening – even to the menus I can cook and serve in and on my camping set!!!

We will have a Birthday party – a big party – a celebration my darling August 7th!  Our own housewarming party in Alaska.

It burns on my mind – into my very being – I am coming to Bill – soon I’ll be in his arms again – I love you.  I love you, Goodnight my dearest.  Soon, soon, soon we’ll hold each other tight in one another’s arms and say goodnight with our kisses – so full of our true love – until then Goodnight on paper my love and I send my X X X X through Love Telegraph.  Mildred Your Wife.

I wish I could squeeze myself into this envelope – like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and be with you in two or three days like this letter will be!


July 27, 1957 Saturday

Dearest Mil,

I’m writing this downtown in order to get it in the mail right away.  I have just come from making a deposit on a car.  It’s a ’53 Ford, and the down payment is $350.  I hope you have already sent me enough to cover it, but if you haven’t then wire me at least $400.  I know that’s a lot of money when you have so little, but it’s the best I could do.  It’s a three-seat station wagon just like the ones you were looking at, except for being four years older.  The total price is $1095, which is very good for here and would compare with what you’d pay for the same car down there.  I’ll write again tonight when I have more time.  I love you, always, Bill

And now –

Sail forth into the sea of life,

O gentle, loving, trusting wife,

And safe from all adversity

Upon the bosom of that sea

Thy comings and thy goings be!

For gentleness and love and trust

Prevail o’er angry wave and gust.

Mr. Longfellow and I agree, you are my gentle, loving, trusting wife.  And we’ll sail the sea of life together, you and I.

I love you dearly, truly, and forever, your husband, Bill


July 29, 1957 Monday – Telegram  [with note:  $377.50 for airline tickets.]

Surprise!  All set to leave LA 1:15 AM and arrive July 31st. 11:15 PM Flight 538 Northwest Orient Airways.  Wiring $100 all that remains for down payment on car (pay rest payday and cots if can’t borrow).  Am bringing everything else we’ll need blankets, dishes.  We’re thrilled, We love you, Mildred and children

[Flew from Los Angeles to Seattle July 30, 1957 and from Seattle to Anchorage on July 31, 1957, arriving 10:45 in the morning]


CHAPTER THREE:  A Bit of Heaven in the Woods


August 1, 1957 Thursday – Eagle River, Alaska

[Letter from Mildred to her mother as are all that follow unless otherwise noted]

It’s really hard to believe I am actually in Alaska!  I feel as if I were transported here on the Magic Carpet in Grandma’s stories she told when I was a little girl.

Airplane travel is certainly wonderful – I arrived in Anchorage at 10:45 yesterday morning.  Really, Mom it was the most thrilling, exciting thing that has ever happened to me.  The trip here was all worth it just to have flown!

Bill got our car and it’s very nice and roomy!  He got paid yesterday.  What luck!  Our payments are $75 a month too and it will be rough.  I am going to be watching every penny now.

It’s wonderful to be here and so good to be with Bill again.  This morning when I woke up and realized where I was I was so happy to see Bill next to me – but it also hit me that I was far away from my family.  I’ll miss you Mother, Charlie and Carolyn and the children – will write you often.

Our home is truly beautiful.  As nice a house as I’ve ever lived in – barring none!  The living room is large!  There’s, by the way, a large black bear skin on the wall – really Alaskan!

Mother I can’t describe to you my impression of this house.  It’s plain on the outside but is a bit of heaven inside.  Bill performed no less than a miracle when he found this.  It’s shining clean and waxed!  As I said the living room is lovely.  The ceilings are high and the walls are beautiful polished pine (I think).  The beams run across the ceiling and are also smooth and polished.  There’s a beautiful lantern (light fixture) somewhat like an oil lamp hanging from the high point in the ceiling.

A small partition with pretty shelves for what-nots partly divides the dining area – which is bigger than ours in Glendora.  The bedrooms are newly painted and the top half of the walls and ceiling are knotty pine.  The bathroom is large and roomy and modern.

There’s a separate thermostat heater in every room, we have it on now, to take the chill off.  It’s cool this morning but was very warm yesterday – when I landed!  (At least 80°)  I felt silly with even a sweater on.

Now for the kitchen.  It’s beautiful.  The windows overlook the woods which are full of birth and pines, and little Xmas trees – the window in here, and living room and dining room overlook our beautiful stream!  It’s wide and clear and tumbling.

As you can see, this house has thrilled me and quite taken me by surprise.  It’s so entirely homey and lovely.  But Mother the kitchen is modern.  It has the newest Kenmore stove with two ovens, two broilers, a deep fryer, completely push-button electric!  It quite took my breath away.  Next to it is a large dish washer.  Opposite is the sink and cupboards which are knotty pine with black wrought handles for dishes.

There’s a large back hall with a deluxe refrigerator (Bill never told me) with a big freezer!  It was just like Xmas morning seeing this house!  Next to it is a new (less than two years) Kenmore washer and separate dryer!  There are lovely enamel white cupboards over for storage.  Then I have an ironer, really!  I haven’t tried it yet – but will.

I haven’t seen too much of the country yet.  We do live in the woods and it’s even in our lease that we can’t cut any trees down.  They have purposely left it this way – it’s beautiful.

The house in front of us is large – even nicer than this.  They have a large front lawn and rustic fence around it (and a fireplace).  It’s just far enough away and is ‘For Sale’.  The people moved out yesterday.  I hope for nice neighbors!

There are all kinds of houses in Anchorage and as Bill said, many shacks.  That would have once bothered me – but no longer does!  Now I understand!  People have to live somewhere and if they wanted to come here as much as we did they’ll live anywhere temporarily to do so.  This place – rented – is an exception and I feel God led Bill to it.  There’s no other answer.  Our car is another exception.  It seems to run well, is well priced, and station wagons ‘For Sale’ are scarce also.

I hope we’ll be happy here and I feel I can be inwardly happy in this house (you now what I mean).

By the way, the airport in Anchorage is very modern and nice!  Anchorage is a mixture of the old and pioneering and the new and modern.  Eventually the old will be gone!

I haven’t seen the downtown section as yet.  We had to go to his Barracks (such an awful room) and get his things.  He borrowed, free of charge, mattresses, sheets and Army blankets at the Army barracks – a service to employers — and the children camped on the floor.  The furnace was on and they were very cozy!

I love all of you and hope you can understand a little our reasons for coming – it remains to be seen if we’ll stay or not.  But already the experiences have been invaluable to me and to the children.  The move was a hard one and the trip a tedious one but I am glad we came!


August 2, 1957 Friday

*Notes:  Second day in Alaska — We always [Linda note:  “Always” here is a relative term.  Mildred had only been in Alaska one full day] have wild flowers on our table, picked by anxious to please tiny hands.  What greater pleasure is there then to watch small children discovering the wonder of nature in the woods – streams to watch flow, questions to answer – where does the water come from and where does it go, will it ever dry up?

Mommy are these berries good to eat?  Will this water really freeze and will we really have snow?  Yes, darling, yes darling and isn’t it a bit of heaven for us right here in the woodland and don’t you feel closer to God here as I do?  Yes, Mommy, yes and so our life in Alaska begins.

A Bit of Heaven in the Woods –


August 3, 1957 Saturday night

How I wish every minute that you were here to share these first wonderful glimpses of Alaska with us.  Will anxiously await your already looked to visit – next summer, when we’ll share it all with you.

Today we rode over to look at John’s school in the Chugiak section.  (It’s also the name of the school.)  It’s across the street from the Chugiak P.O. (which is by the way very colorful and surrounded by a multitude of the most beautiful large flowers I’ve ever seen).  The school is new and modern, located about six miles from here.  It’s also surrounded by miles of forests – a perfectly beautiful spot.  The country surrounding here reminds me of Vermont with all the natural lakes, streams and rivers.  Why, we must have passed four large lakes in that short distance.

Last night – it is light so late we could take a ride after dinner – we drove on up our dirt road [Eagle River Road] about six miles.  This territory has recently been opened to a type of homesteading.  It’s divided in two and a half acre lots (or larger) and Bill thinks it’s the section they have drawings on the lots and you must pay a certain amount for the land per year and build within three years a house on it, or it goes back to the Government.  A lot of the houses are being built right on lake frontage.  It’s the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen and within driving distance daily of Anchorage.

Today we took a long walk down-stream, had a lovely picnic lunch by the stream (near a waterfall) and slowly meandered back through the forest.  I still can’t believe it and the children are in ecstasy!  You can imagine about 1,000 feet from us there are some beautiful spots where pine trees are quite abundant and the stream widens and there’s actually a beach next to it.  (The water is only about six inches high).  We’re going to build a fire there soon some evening and roast hot dogs!

I am anxiously awaiting your first letter Mom.  I think of you often.  I know you could really relax here and write.  I have already rested more than all summer.  It’s just like a marvelous vacation.  Why, you may even decide to come for Xmas instead of waiting.  I know it will be beautiful here when the snow falls and the creek is frozen!

Bill painted our name today on our mailbox (It’s about a quarter mile down the road).  I hope a letter from you will initiate it Monday morning.  I guess this means we are official now!


August 5, 1957 Monday

*Notes:  From where do dreams come and can one trace the beginning of a dream to its origin?  Perhaps some can, we can’t.  Bill says he had wanted to go to Alaska for as long as he can remember.  I only know I was not content to remain in California for the rest of my life – it did not answer my needs or the needs of our family.  Bill felt the same way – neither of us had come to California from our choice and both had remained because it had seemed impossible to do otherwise.  I’m afraid we were drifting along discontented, but not enough so to up and do something about it, so we dreamed.  We had both always wanted to travel and even now we still have a dream of traveling over Europe and seeing more of the world we live in.  Perhaps this dream will be fulfilled someday too!

But Bill transferred the idea of his dream to me and it became my dream only after I found out what Alaska was truly like.

Me:  Over-emphasis on materialistic living – using juvenile restlessness

Not enough space for growing children [washed out ink/word] themselves – room for boys to hike and explore and discover the wonders of nature.

Such a long distance to travel in order to enjoy winter and summer sports

“A way of life”

Children want to feel a part of their family in play as well as work, they like to feel necessary – more opportunity for this in a new growing land

It wasn’t until the other day that I was certain of my own reasons for wanting to go to Alaska.  How many times I have tried to weight the pros and cons but all the while there was something intangible.

Up until now it had been a dream of which to dream never knowing whether the dream would become a certainty and not even knowing for sure if we perhaps just wanted it to remain a dream.  Everyone must have something of which to dream – was our dream of going to Alaska – only that?


August 6, 1957 Tuesday

I’ve only said “Hello” and exchanged a few brief words with my front neighbors who just bought the front house.  She’s very attractive, slim, and smart looking.  They have a beautiful place too!!  The people that moved out told me these new people, especially the man, don’t like people and want to be left alone!  They bought the place thinking the Spoerrys would live here in this house who had no children and both were working SO I’ve kept my distance – until they get to know us.  (I understand how they feel too).  (They have a three year old girl and a ten month baby boy.)

We’re all fine, happy and healthy.  I wake up every morning excited anew over Alaska.  We love it but we were ready for it here.  There are undoubtedly people that don’t like it – I’ll send you a clipping from paper from one that didn’t.

No other news – school starts the day after Labor Day, at least two weeks earlier than California so it really won’t be long now.


August 7, 1957 Wednesday

I enjoyed your letter so much yesterday and it was the first letter to arrive in our Alaska mailbox!!!

Yesterday and this morning it drizzled quite a bit (this is their usual rainy month) and our wooded yard is so thick and dark it isn’t dry enough to play out-of-doors.  Quite a few people have cleared the trees (some of them at least) away from their houses so more sunshine would get there but Spoerry hasn’t moved one here!  It’s very pretty but makes it quite dark.

Every little thing is terribly expensive here.  I said to Bill last night I am glad we have our dishes, silver etc. as I would hate to have to buy such items here.  I know food will be our biggest item if we’re not careful.  It’s half again more here.  I hope Bill can fish and hunt, and we’ll make our own jellies etc.

Last night we stopped by to look at some baby kittens advertised on the radio to be given away free and the man had been fishing over the weekend.  He had caught (probably ocean-fish) one 60 pounds.  I never saw so much fish!  He had it cut into big, thick slices and was gong to smoke most of it.  Why, they can eat for months on that.  He says it’s absolutely delicious too.

Really though meat isn’t as expensive as some items – but bacon is $1.17 a pound!  And eggs 90¢ to $1.19 a dozen!  You can be certain I am watching our menus very carefully.

Yesterday on the radio they had a recipe for braised moose.  The hunting season opens soon and I guess moose is a very popular meat!

Today we went to the store and I decided to take a walk on a side road.  While walking I noticed some raspberry bushes – most of them already dried up but we picked what we could and went on.  Later we came to a thicket just full of the largest, reddest, juiciest berries I have ever seen.  We all picked and picked and filled up a good sized paper bag full.  The children were so happy and excited.  I told them it was just like hunting Easter eggs.  I think I’ll go back Saturday and pick more – they’re sweet and juicy and would make good jelly.  Bill threw out all of my jars though and I bet it wouldn’t be worthwhile if I had to buy them.  Anyways it was fun and we do have a large bowl full for supper.

All around this vicinity are beautiful farms with abundant crops.  Next year we will raise our own vegetables.  The soil is rich and has of course never been worked.  I have never seen such gorgeous flowers – too, even in California.

The paper and the radio is telling people that the blueberries will be ready for picking in several weeks.  These can be frozen and there’s a large freezer chest on top of the lovely refrigerator she left.  Maybe I could freeze some raspberries too but they’re so soft it’s hard to keep them from crushing.

These things, the fish, wildlife, abundant berries etc. to me are wonderful and more than make up for high food prices.  I feel if we work it right, making our jelly, hunting and fishing, raising our vegetables we can eventually eat for less and better than we did before and have a lot of fun meanwhile.

I told you, didn’t I, we have a black enormous bear hung on our wall?  Here I was so frightened of them and am confronted with Teddy (as Sharon calls it) every time I go in the living room.  At night if I have to get up and it is dark I grope for the light and reach out to touch IT.  It’s really kind of pretty (?) though and anyways, what can we do with it?  It’s probably a prize possession!  So we make the best of it and hope it’s the only one I ever see!

Bill is going to teach us all to shoot and next year we’ll all have our own guns – Bill, John and I.  Then I dare any Bear to come near us.

It’s odd though.  Mom I am so fearless here.  I have no phone and don’t miss one.  (It’s too expensive and nobody to call.)  It’s completely peaceful here and beautiful and I really like it.

Already I am spotting ski and sled slopes and am full of plans for our Xmas here.  The woods are full of trees and we’ll pick out our own at that time.

I still find it hard to believe we’re so far away.  It was such a quick trip by air.  I’m sure if I had had to come by train and boat I’d feel the distance.  But it’s nice to know I could reach California or you could come here in less than one day’s time.  Always remember that.

Having no car I’ve seen little yet of the country – except around home and will report as I see it.  It’s truly a fairy land around here.  It’s such gorgeous country here and seems to fit us now!

We’re attempting to rake and clean out around our house.  We have a spot under enormous trees, close to the house, picked out for our swings.  I have a perfect place in back and to the right of the house picked out for our redwood set next summer – it overlooks the creek!  We also are clearing out underbrush around the creek and building a bridge of sorts across it!  FUN!  It will be already next July for your visit!!!!!  I am counting on at least two or three weeks!!!


August 7, 1957 Wednesday

The children and I have been in Alaska one week today and feel as if we’d arrived home.  I’ve never felt that way about any place since I left Massachusetts twelve years ago.  Alaska has it’s imperfections as do all places, but I feel it’s what I want.  Already I’ve formed a great peace and serenity here and know will all have a happy life in this environment.

Every day brings new wonders and pleasures.  I am writing this for instance, while resting after working strenuously in our woods for some time – am sitting on an embankment over looking the stream.  It’s a wonder, isn’t it?

The wonders and pleasures here are simple ones but those are often the greatest.  Today again we walked to the mailbox and to the grocery store.  I find I hurry to do my work as we all look forward to this beautiful walk every day now and tire less easily.  We emerge, really from our heavily wooded forest to the cleared road and have a vision of the fields, woods and mountains across behind us.  On the way to the store we cross a bridge that goes over our stream.

We always pause, while walking to the store, to look at the creek flowing under the bridge.  Yesterday Linda said, “Mommy, you do love the stream, don’t you?”  And I answered, “Yes, I do.”  The scenery is gorgeous.  I walk slowly relishing every moment of it.  I breathe deeply of the lovely clear sunshine and fresh air (it’s too warm for sweaters).

I visualize already what fun we’ll have sledding and skiing this winter and what fun it will be to pull Sharon to the store on a sled.  Now I always end up carrying her home.

Yes, I love this walk.  It clears my head, my lungs and the city cobwebs from my brain.

My desire to write grows stronger every day.  I plan to start my book and a children’s book of Alaska as soon as fall comes and two of the children are in school.  I have so many ideas to express and such nice thoughts for a descriptive child’s book about “The Wonders of Alaska.”  In fact it’s a good title, maybe I’ll use it.

Mom, this land is an exciting one and I feel enthusiastic about it and know we will accomplish wonderful things here.  Everyone seems to be equally ambitious and anxious to help.  My pen ran out.  Will write soon.  Take care, love, Mildred


August 14, 1957 Wednesday

I’m sure our children will grow up happier, better adjusted with high set of values here than we would have been possible in California.

Tonight we will have an early dinner and then we’re going in to Anchorage to shop.  You can see the ocean but it’s more like a bay and is called Cook Inlet.

There are many planes overhead all the time.  There’s a huge private airport besides the International Airport where we arrived.  I heard there are more privately owned planes here than anywhere else in world.  Several of men in Bill’s office own planes.

Quite a few shacks around here but I feel these will be replaced soon by nicer houses.

Views everywhere are nice – forests, mountains, lakes and rivers in a particularly picturesque area.  I am thrilled by all the endless possibilities confronting us.

Every night I read in the paper of new roads opening up in Alaska, new parks, places to visit and see.  I feel we can find everything here in Alaska.  I am crazy over it and hope it gets under your skin too when you visit.

Hope our children will have happy memories of fun in snow I had to treasure.  Love, Mildred


August 15, 1957 Thursday morning

The children have been so good and take to Alaska the way we do!  Mother, the books I read – even Bill – nothing has prepared me for such beauty.  And the weather is perfect.  It’s been sunny and warm – too warm for an undershirt for the children or a sweater even up until 8:30 in the evening!  We’ve only had two cloudy days and one shower since I’ve come – two weeks now.  Isn’t that something?  But I hear once winter comes, it comes fast.

The sleeping bags etc. arrived yesterday.  Good we weren’t depending on them!  Children love sleeping in them but Bill thought it wiser not to give Sharon hers for fear she’d slip down in and suffocate.  She’s been an angel since we came here and very happy and pleased to have a home.  When we turn down the driveway she says “My house – my pretty house.  I’ll run to my pretty house.”  She finally doesn’t have any bottles anymore and of course never wets BUT she does keep rolling off of her mattress at night and cries.  I go in over and over and over at night to put her back.  I think that’s how I caught a cold – she has one too!

John noticed this morning – we have visitors.  A bee hive in our yard, hanging high thank goodness – from a tree!

Last night we took a trip to the dump.  It’s a very deep canyon where everyone dumps everything.  Very handy – it’s surprising how fast our cans, garbage (I don’t have a disposal) and papers accumulate.  Then we took a ride – it’s still light until 8:30 – but black now when we go to bed.  We drove over a new government built road beyond the children’s school where the government has recently opened up two and a half acre homesites.  You have two years to build on it or it goes back to the government.  What gorgeous lots and views – and what beautiful homes – some equal to $30,000 ones in California!!  Two story ranch types – mostly all built out of logs too!!  They buy the logs and build with them on purpose.  Some have views of the gorgeous mountain range – it makes California look SICK — and the Cook Inlet (where the ocean comes in).

I ooh and aah and gasp and love every tree, berry bush and stick.  I love Alaska with every bit of me – and you all would too (at least I think you would).  Mother this land is free.  You can’t get it anytime and it’s almost all gone close to Anchorage.  You have to wait for the government to open up new land and then file for it etc.  Bill is going to investigate soon (it’s not homesteading – that’s different).

About the land, there doesn’t seem to be any homestead land available anywhere around any more.  That’s close to us there isn’t.  The man that built our house and the front house originally homesteaded all this land plus acres around here – 160 acres is subdividing it – all of it – into lots.  I don’t know how much he’s asking but darn it, I want my own land – not to buy his that he homesteaded.

If only I had known what it was like here.  Why, I never dreamt it could be like this – I would have been here eight years ago – We are always so late, it makes me mad.

I certainly hope we can at least get two and a half acres next spring.  I don’t care what I live in while we build – maybe one big room.  Plenty are living in trailers, Quonset huts and shacks, but I wish everyone could see what they’re building meanwhile!!  And such gorgeous country!!!  I could rave on and on and on about Alaska, that’s all and the air is so clear and the skies so blue.  I can’t compare it exactly to anywhere else.  It isn’t like Lake Gregory etc. because it is natural beauty, no resorts!!!  Well, you’ll see for yourself – You may only see the dirt roads, and the temporary dwellings but there’s so much else — — I don’t think you’ll mind that – we certainly don’t.

Well, I’ll close now I’m going to the mailbox and pick berries on the way.  I spotted some nice raspberries in a field I cross (short cut) and have saved some currants to make raspberry-currant jelly.

Yesterday I really worked.  It took hours to clean and sort the cranberries and currants I picked over the weekend.  Then I made each and a combination.  Tarty but delicious.  The fruit was so rich in pectin I didn’t need to add anything!

I’m getting two shelves full!  Then I washed floors, windows and ironed, made a cake, baked a ham and cooked scalloped potatoes!  I guess my vacation is over!


August 15, 1957 Thursday

Tonight we stopped by on the way to the store to leave off some information for school, over at John’s friend’s house, the neighboring farm, as his mother is President of P.T.A.

They were very cordial and nice and invited us to see their farm.  We were more than pleased as we have ‘eyed’ it as being a beautiful spot ever since we moved here and very much like our dream farm.  They raise hogs, having over 1,000 at present but keep them way across the creek and out of sight of the house so all we saw was their own surrounding area.

They have a lovely home, sitting on a hill overlooking the stream and mountains.  The house is set way back off the road with acres of alfalfa to the left.  The location is just ideal.

She has gorgeous flowers surrounding her house.  Sweet peas grow clear to the top and there are gardens of every color of nasturtiums.  Her present project is building a rock garden down to the stream and a patio under the trees in a flat area next to it for picnics.

We’re crazy over their place.  They had about eight horses and a baby colt that thrilled the children.  What a paradise for children and such a healthy life.

Already our John is duplicating their ranch in his play outdoors.  Ever since he could talk he has said he wants to be a rancher and shows a great interest in farming and love for animals.  This all occurred before he ever saw a farm and now he is in seventh heaven.  I hope someday his dream will come true and he will have a farm close to us in Alaska.  Who knows?

2 weeks in Alaska — Well, I’ve been in Alaska for two whole weeks now.  I really feel as if it’s an anniversary – a very wonderful one – a dream truly come true!  I know if we could make this dream of ours materialize then all of our other dreams are also possible.  In a wonderful land of opportunities such as this – anything is possible.  At last we’re here and together and that’s what counts and we love it here and feel in our innermost thoughts that we want to stay and make our home here.  Already Alaska has more than lived up to our wildest expectations.  I wake up every morning excited anew over Alaska.  We love it here but we were ready for this land and living.

There are undoubtedly people that don’t like it here.  (I saw a clipping – I’ve never seen Fairbanks but one could report as such around here too if they were bent on only seeing the worst of things but I could also write an equally nasty description of parts of California too.)

One sees what one wants to see anywhere – no place is perfect but WE like it here and that’s all that matters.  I know I’m lucky having such a nice home and a beautiful spot to live in but someday we too will be one of the couples starting from scratch to build our own place too and it will be well worth it too.


August 20, 1957 Tuesday

*Notes:  Big bouquet of colored leaves now decorate out living room and dining room now.  Reminds me of Massachusetts.  The leaves on the birch trees here only turn yellow and fall off – we had to collect the pretty ones from the berry bushes.

I am possessed with writing.  I’ve started a scrapbook of clippings of Alaska and news and want to combine it with writings.  I’d like to direct articles to other women interested in coming to Alaska – also a child’s book.

I’d also like to start an Alaskan collection of Eskimo art, dolls and carvings to bring to Pasadena and show and tell about!  There’s no end to the possibilities here.

They’re soon to have a flower show here – sweet peas and nasturtiums are particularly pretty and abundant.

Recently read of three deaths – people falling into deep, rapid creeks and current carries bodies away.  Why don’t people realize dangers? – One death occurred as a soldier tried to cross stream on a log.

The lakes I’ve seen with exception of one have reeds, mud – tall grass and are too cold for swimming.

Our stream is swift but shallow.  The children don’t go alone to it as it’s down over an embankment.  We enjoy it without being close to it as we’re told it gets wider and deeper when snow melts in spring.

We don’t want to buy land somebody else homesteaded – we want our own homestead.

If only I’d known what Alaska was like we could have come eight years ago and homesteaded.  I hope we can get two and a half acres.  I don’t care what we’d live in even one big room.  People live in trailer, shacks, and Quonset huts and build their homes.


August 22, 1957 Thursday

The movers brought an enormous truck – I never saw such a HIGH, BIG one!  Bill says it’s the kind they use on the boat and railroad.  See our things were shipped to Seattle and put on a boat to Seward and Rail road to Anchorage.  Well, as I’ve told you we live in a forest and the truck was too big.

It got jammed between enormous birches next to the front house and the driver was ready to tear them out.  The owner was against this naturally and I warned them to be careful!  They did damage them and the people who own the front house are going to claim damages!!

Then they knocked down about four trees on our landlady’s property and drove to our house front end in and then had to completely turn that enormous truck around in our driveway so as to unload it from the back.

I was torture to watch them!  I was certain they’d knock our house down!  In our lease I told you it forbids us to cut down trees.  Well they’re down but not cut down!

I stood at the door and watched them and kept going out to warn them but they kept on – I thought they were trying their best but now I think he was mad about the front trees and just didn’t care.  There’s no doubt he didn’t have enough space either.

I finally went to the kitchen to fix lunch and heard a tremendous crash.  He knocked the front of our Quonset [Jamesway] hut in and tore down a beautiful group of three large birch trees.  I was SICK but couldn’t get mad – it was done.  (I still feared for the house.)  I took pictures of it all and will send them to you so you can se the whole thing!

Bill had spent all day the Saturday before working on the Quonset hut to make it water proof – well, it rained Thursday and Friday and Bill had to take everything out Saturday (the stuff was really jammed in) and completely rebuild it practically and put it all back again.  You’d think there’d have been a hurricane.  We covered everything while it rained with boxes split open etc.  A lot of our stuff was wet – luckily old things because the truck was punctured on the railroad and it had rained!  Soaked our old mattresses and some books etc and we’re claiming damages galore!!

To get on with movers – they unloaded all boxes first – there must have been over a hundred (and to think I packed most of them).  Thank goodness though, I did.  Everything I packed is fine and dishes were fine but everything I added and let them pack is dented etc!   They just threw things in boxes – we’re furious!

Our good furniture, Mother, is fine!  It’s a miracle – it could have been soaked and ruined!  Well, it’s over now – thank goodness but I tell you if I don’t write, Mom, it’s because I’m desperately trying to make headway with all this stuff and fit a four bedroom house into a two bedroom house!!!!

Mom I’m afraid my ‘inner serenity’ has temporarily gone but don’t fear it will return I’m sure!

Oh, too, everything is apart.  I guess in order to pack tightly they had to.  Every wagon, roller table, bed, screw, bolt is undone!  Bill spent all Sunday putting tables, wheel barrow, wagons etc. back together.  He’s now putting hooks up in the kitchen – he says it looks nice and I tell him not to look in back hall (Sh-h-h – I’ve jammed all the boxes from the kitchen out there).  I shift them from room to room and oh this living room is A Mess!  Well, as I say if I don’t write you’ll know why – – ?

I am glad we kept what we did – as John says, “Mommy our house looks like our home again now!” and it does!  Even the colored pots and hanging basket are pretty on our porch.  The two metal chairs now overlook our stream and maybe someday (?) I’ll have time to sit in them!  Our large redwood table and chairs are beautiful in my chosen picnic spot! Out in back under the birth and Xmas trees — it’s beautiful –

We’re crowded but cozy! Our new couch is pretty is comfortable at night! And Bill is trying to make space I see to pull it out so I’ll say “adieu” and love!  The house was empty and we were all impatient to get them and I was bored – well, I’m not now!


August 24, 1957 Saturday

*NOTES:  What a job it has been.  I look back to when we moved to Glendora and all the mess we went through then and I remember thinking how glad I was we wouldn’t be moving again for years – I don’t think I could have stood it if I had known.

It’s going to take me years [‘days’ is written on top of this] to even begin to relax – we lived in a house built for relaxation and easy living and I can’t relax anymore – I never relaxed while living there.

Gradually now as things straighten out, bills get paid, we can start trying to relax and eventually it may come.


August 26, 1957 Monday night late

I am writing to you tonight so that you won’t worry – Our furniture arrived – in fact while I was walking down the road from the mailbox after receiving your lovely letter and was reading the part of your letter telling me you were hoping it would come soon and the trucks drove by!!!  That was last Wednesday the 21st and we’ve had a terrible, hectic time ever since!  I never have seen such a MESS in all my life and let me tell you it’s a good thing we didn’t bring the appliances and couch and chair.  Mother, there were so many boxes that there wasn’t any room for the furniture!  It’s still an obstacle course to find one’s way across the living room!!

Really – if you have vision one can imagine it will look nice if and when it’s ever settled.  I have worked constantly and Bill worked all weekend and it still is nowhere near settled though!

The house is certainly well-furnished but is cozy and cute!  Everything fits in or rather squeezes in and I’m already dying for you to see it!


September 15, 1957 Sunday night

Yesterday and today were two more gorgeous autumn days!  The trees have all turned colors and are beautiful to see.  The wind blew slightly all day today and the trees were still barer tonight of their colorful leaves.

Tonight we went out for a little while with Tim [Irish setter] to enjoy the stars after the children were tucked in bed.  It was so clear you could see the stars shining so brightly and listen to the rush of the creek.

Our house looked so nice tonight, Mom!  I spent all day putting the ‘final touches’ to it – hanging newly washed curtains up, Bill hung my pictures ‘just so’, I gathered armloads of autumn leaves and pine boughs and put them all over the living room and dining room – then we did unveil our couch and chair (in spite of holes) and lo and behold the rooms are perfectly beautiful.  It looks like Xmas Eve, so pretty and all the pine boughs.  Then for dinner I put candles on the table and our good dishes and the children loved it!

Had a nice day yesterday too and I think it gave me the ‘new lift’ for today.  Bill insisted I go to town and I did and had a marvelous time and will tell you all about it when I write next.  Window shopped in Alaska gift store and met my front neighbor and her very lovely girlfriend for coffee at a hotel.

Mom the stores are beautiful and that hotel is TOPS.  Then her writer husband (our front neighbor who says “he doesn’t like people” met us and took us to the Bar (My, My) – rather Cocktail Lounge for a drink.  They’re very interesting.  He is from Scotland,  quite a bit older, a writer, war correspondent, African hunter etc.  She’s perfectly lovely – well-educated, cultured, beautifully dressed – comes from California and is 27!  Has lived in Alaska five years.  They have money – I guess he’s made a fortune writing and lecturing!  (Coincidence.)  Says he’ll help me!

Anyways I was thrilled by it all and kept thinking, “It’s Me – here in Alaska” and on and on and laughed to myself.  “To think the girls felt sorry for me coming to Alaska!”  [her southern California friends]

Wait until you see all this!  The women all wear gloves, furs, beautiful clothes etc. downtown.  Janie owns her own Corvette, white, convertible and I wish you could see the inside of her house!!!  Will write more tomorrow.  Love, love, love, Mildred


September 21, 1957 Saturday – [says ‘copy’ of letter to Kathy H. – keep for book]

The children have been in school for weeks now.  There were so many new children this year that they had to add several new teachers and move some children across the street to use the Methodist Church building.  We were really lucky, we feel, as John was chosen to remain in the regular school and keep the same teacher.  There were 42 in his second grade class.  A new teacher arrived this week.  They drew names from a hat to divide the pupils.  There are 21 in his class now.

I had met the children’s teachers at the first P.T.A. meeting last week and had really liked them.  They’re certainly getting down to business right away.  Of course Alaska’s schools rate among the three highest in the U.S. and I can see why now!

Honestly, I am so keen on Alaska I wish everyone could see it.  We’re hoping to buy a movie camera and take oodles of pictures!  Two years from now we’ll get everyone together at Mom’s house and tempt all of you to move here.  I am certain you would be tempted too – if only people could see what it’s really like.

I am turning into an avid camera fiend – but I can’t resist trying to capture some of this spectacular scenery.  I really should have color film to attempt to do justice.  I wish I could paint in oils – paint and pencil perhaps then I could more truly capture the feeling one gets here.  Of course, the weather here adds too and that can’t be captured or bottled!

Last Saturday was a particularly clear lovely fall day and a perfect day for a jaunt in town.  The stores and buildings are new and modern in Anchorage.  The people are well-dressed, drive nice automobiles and one would truly believe you were in the states anywhere aside from the clear air, view of mountains and Cook Inlet.

One of the men in Bill’s office has conquered the problem of high food prices here already.  He owns several small houses and rents them for fabulous fees.  They raise all their own vegetables for the year – delicious too as we sampled his lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, etc. – hunts moose, caribou and freezes supply of both for long winter.  They built their own house on government acreage and have no monthly payments to make now.  Needless to say she’s not hurt by Alaskan prices.  He even owns his own plane and has his own landing field in his yard!

This is not uncommon here either!  The summer growing season is short true, but the days are so long that vegetables grow well.  They’re tender, absolutely delicious and enormous due to fertile, virgin soil and lots of sunshine!  We hope we can do same in several years.

We visited the Matanuska Annual Fair in Palmer several weeks ago and saw for ourselves Alaskan grown produce.  Sixty pound cabbages, potatoes, finer than any grown in the States and the livestock, etc.  We certainly enjoyed it and firmly believe – Anything Is Possible Here in Alaska.

How’s the smog there?  I surely don’t envy you.  I would take snow any day.

Today I wrote Mother that she should think about buying a lot.  There are one acre wooded lots close to a stream for only $700 and Bill could build her a log house where she could spend summers and write.  She’s finishing a book now and there couldn’t be a more perfect spot than here to write.  In fact I’m toying with the idea myself.  There’s so much I’d like to do and Alaska is certainly inspirational!

Believe me, I wouldn’t trade this log house for a mansion in California.  I told Bill I’d be perfectly content to spend the rest of my life here in Eagle River, Alaska.  That’s how much I like it here.  I love the scenery, the change of seasons, the woods and the water – just everything and I’m so glad we came.

Now if I could just get everyone else up here.  I’ll work ‘black magic’ over all of you and you’ll consent to come.


September 25, 1957 Wednesday

Dear Mother,

We’re still having our rainy spell – it’s been days and days this time – steady.  Our stream is overflowing and running very swift!  It’s no longer a ‘gentle little stream’ but the children won’t be out in this rain and it will be frozen next month!  We think it’s due to the leaves falling in and all this rain melting high mountain snows etc.  The picture I sent you showing the walk next to it – it’s all stream now!

Our house is cozy and warm – really comfortable.  I thank Bill we have such a nice home, wouldn’t it be awful to live in a shack or trailer now?  I’ll really be glad when snow starts – better than damp rain.  Said snow flurries expected tonight! Over radio.

I have news, Mother – I’ve baked my own bread twice now and it was perfect each time – beginners luck?  Last time I divided the dough and made one loaf, raisin bread.  Plain white bread at stores is 50¢ a loaf and up!  Isn’t that awful?  And I use six slices every morning for lunches to be taken – not counting breakfasts and our lunches etc. at home.  It isn’t expensive to make and such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and delicious and more nourishing.  It’s messy but will get easier as I do it!

No real news here – I’ve tried to get some pages written on my trip but I don’t know what to plan on writing – an article?  Any suggestions?  I want to write a book but Bill discourages me and says I’d work hard on it and wouldn’t have a chance to publish it.  He says to start on an article.  What do you think?  I get so enthusiastic and then it sounds so silly when I read it to him!!  I do want to do it but just don’t know!!!???

How’s yours coming?  I knew how you felt and I still think it best to do it yourself without help or advice.  (I’m going to if I do it at all.)  After all what does HE know – I have my ideas and will do it yet.  I’ll encourage you and you me.  It’s not that Bill doesn’t want me to write but I am inexperienced and books are a ‘dime a dozen’. ? ? ?   If I did write it – then what?

I’ve been homesick and lonesome for you ‘Mom’ but all is fine!  Wish the distance were not so great.

I die of frustration – all day today I was torn by desire to write and take care of house and family.  Yesterday cleaned house thoroughly – today baked.  Still ironing etc. to do but the time will come – it has to!

I feel better tonight.  Know I’m not pregnant, don’t worry I don’t intend to be — just a bug.

Bill does like his work – got a letter from former boss the other day saying L.A. office still same – everyone waiting for someone else to make decisions.  Says he envies Bill and was trying to play ping pong in Smog.

I’m still glad we’re here – no doubt of that at all!  Noticed Bill brought home more yeast, hint for more bread, I bet.  Better for children too – I remember Grandma’s and that grand smell.

Oh, will there ever be a book and would it be of common interest? – Bill doubts it but I’ll write it anyways because I have to!


September 26, 1957 Thursday [to her sister-in-law in California]

Dear Carolyn,

Today I baked coffee cakes (two) for the first time.  I divided the dough and sprinkled sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and raisins over one (oh, and butter) then the other I sprinkled with a mixture almost the same, and rolled it up like a jelly roll and then pulled it, formed a circle and cut it with scissors – you know, the kind – Guess what?  They turned out fine!

I have been told the classes were small but over 150 new pupils were added this year and John’s room has forty and Linda’s thirty.  There are two first grade classes held at same time and only one second (they need one more).  The school is new and very modern!!  The road is paved and good, so I don’t worry.  The opposite way there’s a dangerous bridge crossing over a deep, swift river and on beyond the school to Palmer there’s an enormous bridge over a big river.  I have heard these can prove icy and bad in winter!  I’m pleased with their school and teachers and they love it.  They go together, lunch pails in hand and John ‘takes care of’ Linda!

My only worry concerning the children – other than pneumonia now!  Are MOOSE.  There are quite a few around here and more come in winter in search of food.  They’re vegetarians and considered not dangerous unless frightened.  I’ve told the children to go to someone’s house or wait until it goes if one is in road or path.

Such dangers are certainly different than ones in California – but very real to me!

As I wrote Mom, I keep forgetting I’m in the wilderness, surrounded by modern convenience, neighbors, stores etc. but I sure felt it last night when sickness struck.  Do you realize after we leave Eagle River where we live that there are no neighbors (unless back in woods) all the way to Anchorage.  Last night there wasn’t one light to be seen all of the way!  Of course hundreds of acres between here and there are military reservations, in fact most of it – but it’s still wilderness – forests, marshes and mountains!

Well we wanted it!  I still like it here – in fact I love it where we live and some day it will be a town and maybe thirty years (?) from now there will even be a doctor here.  There’s a dentist several days a week – I hear a good one and he’s also a dental surgeon in Anchorage – down at our shopping center a quarter mile from our house.


September 20, 1957 Friday

This Eagle River section is going to be A Location.  Remember how we used to say we should have come to California thirty years ago and bought land?  Well Alaska is California of tomorrow.  You’ll feel it, when you come – I know!!  At $700 for one acre today, will be worth plenty ten years from now.

We plan to buy two and a half acres as soon as we can in this area and still we could take advantage of government land later.


October 1, 1957 Tuesday

The bread I baked yesterday was really delicious.  Mrs. Vanover, Joe Anne over at the farm stopped by the other evening to invite me to the stainless steel party (I told you) and I had just taken my bread out of the oven.  She has baked bread since a child and promised to help me.  She came over Saturday and told me she was about to ‘knead’ hers and would I like to watch.  I gladly went over and learned quite a few tricks.  It’s hard to learn by your self and is much easier when I’ve seen it done.  She gave me her recipe and it’s easier and far less complicated!  She has the most magnificent view from her kitchen window of the stream, fields with horses grazing (and a new Shetland pony) and the mountains beyond covered with snow.  She says she loves her house (they built it and it’s really nice) and the site.  They have 50 acres.  She’s very easy to talk to and an energetic, little person full of interests and enthusiasm – very down-to-earth and natural.

She stopped by the other day when I was trying her recipe – she never drops by but I had invited her little girl over and she came to get her – she’s a busy bee (the mother) – and helped me with my bread.  It really turned out good and we ate one loaf (warm) for dinner!  The children adore it and it’s good!  (I wasn’t kneading it nearly enough before).

We’ve had heavy frost since Sunday night and ice has formed on all the puddles and around the stream – it doesn’t melt during the day either.  Sheets of ice and icicles hang around the stream from the tree branches where the water has splashed.  The ground is frozen hard now but still it doesn’t feel cold – really!  So invigorating, clear and brisk.  It was 28° this morning and John wore the red mittens and cap you made him and a sweater under his heavy jacket.  They love the weather and get a big kick out of the ice.


October 7, 1957 Monday

We just got home from Palmer – Matanuska Valley.  Mrs. Vanover came over this morning and said she had to drive in this afternoon and would I like to go along for the ride.  We only made one stop and it took an hour and a half over and back – not bad.

Such a gorgeous ride – I’d never tire of the scenery – and it’s especially beautiful this time of year.  Joe Anne Vanover was born in Alaska and lived in Palmer on a homestead farm until her marriage.  She showed me where they lived – a beautiful farm – with a view, she says she still gets homesick for – of Pioneer Mountain, this massive mountain across from the Knik River.  This mountain and its range are so enormous that there’s snow and frost and ice there now because of its shade.

Joe Anne adores Alaska!!!  She has been to the states for several visits but loves it here.  Told me about marvelous times she had in school years – ice skating parties, tobogganing – out door cooks, even in winter etc.

Honestly we’re having the most beautiful weather – every day is perfect.  The sky for over ten days now has been blue early morning and is that way until dark!   The air is like wine and the sun is hot!  It’s deceiving and lots of people were parkas but I get too hot!

A man at the hospital said he’s been here since 1938 and said it used to be 30° below in October.  He also said that in all these years he’s never been sick in the winter – only when the weather is warm.  He says the winters have been getting more and more mild here!

Tomorrow night is P.T.A. again and I’ll let you know how children are getting along!  I’m going with Joe Anne and a friend.  I like and get along so well with everyone here, it’s already home – how can it be so?  I never liked the ones in Altadena or Glendora or felt that way.  These people are real, interesting, alive, wholesome, vivid, ambitious – each in their own way and I like them all!!

Oh, Mom, I’ll be so glad when you’ve seen all this with your own eyes.  It’s all so hard to describe to you – the house, the place and all.  It’s really so foreign and different but I do like it here.  Sometimes it seems strange – I realize how far away I am and I wish you were here always but I don’t ever want to live in California again.  I wish everyone were here but I bet they wouldn’t like it.

Right now the sun is starting to set and the sky is beautiful!  Here I can’t even worry as much over sickness.  I have more faith in God and prayers here – I feel so close to Him, living in the woods in this beauty of His than ever before.


October 8, 1957 Tuesday 2:00 P.M.

Today is another gorgeous day – which makes almost two weeks of perfect weather.  You’ll find it hard to believe but our thermometer, which Mrs. Spoerry left here and which is very reliable says 60°.  It’s colder in the shade, but that’s pretty warm for October in Alaska!!!

My Alaska scrapbook is really getting full-up-to-date clippings from Anchorage newspaper and my own remarks and write-ups of trips etc.  The newspaper here carries all kinds of articles etc. on Alaska.  You never saw such a newspaper.  We really enjoy it but if you weren’t an Alaskan fan you wouldn’t.

I’ve been going to ask you each time I write and always forget.  Would you make up a box of geranium, succulent etc. clippings by air mail?  I think they will keep without water that long as it only takes two to three days.  My plants aren’t doing well and they’re 89¢ a piece here – for tiny plants of ivy.  Everyone around her has lots of plants in their houses, just like you used to in Massachusetts.

Janie has some beauties!  Including many tropical ones.  We have nice wide window sills in our living room and dining room just perfect for plants – if I only had some!  They have some of those pretty ‘African Violets’ at the store and I’ve been tempted to try some – until I look at the price tag.

The high school bus just went by.  Now that the trees are bare I can see up to the road.  We saw the high school Sunday when we went to town.  It’s bigger and more modern than any I’ve ever seen.  It is light green stucco and really beautiful.  It’s so enormous I’m sure we can’t get it all in the picture!  That’s another thing I like about it here.  Everything new is really tremendous!  They have everything nice that really matters.

Some difference.  Yesterday Joe Anne pointed out her first school – a one room log cabin in Matanuska Valley!  Just think what changes the next fifty years will bring!  Oh, I wish I were going to live forever, so as to see the changes to take place here in Alaska!


October 14, 1957 Monday

We had our first light snow fall Friday.  It was really pretty out afterwards as it was a wet snow and clung to the trees.  It’s still scattered around and we’re due to have more tomorrow!  Bill got my skis out of the Quonset and I’m going to sand them tonight.  I can hardly wait to try them.  Bill says they’re going to give ski lessons on the base – wonder how much money.  Sure would like to take some.  Ordered some grey wool gabardine ski pants and boots from catalog so will be all set!

Bill ordered a parka with fur lined hood and some other necessary items.

Now that it’s colder out the men and women in the city are wearing all kinds and type of clothing!  It’s really interesting to see.  There are some truly expensive and very beautiful parkas sold here made by the Eskimos up North.  They’re all fur and have cut out border design on the bottoms of bears, moose etc. the eyes are beaded etc.   I would love one if I had everything I needed and lots of money.  I saw several of these being worn, fur coats, beautiful tweed wool suits, women dressed to the T with fur hats, gloves, etc. and others in slacks and parkas!

It’s pitch black here now at 5:30 and I was a little wary about driving home from Anchorage after shopping, but knew I’d have to sooner or later.  There isn’t a light for twelve miles, unless another car.  Fine as long as I don’t get a flat!!

Well, I did have one reward – I saw the Northern Lights!  I was driving in total darkness and saw the most gorgeous sight ahead of me – it was like a brilliantly lit stairway to heaven.  Have you ever seen one?  It was my first and took me a minute to realize what it was.  It’s quite a common sight here, we’re told – certainly a wondrous one!


October 20, 1957 Sunday

*Notes:  Nice spring weather.  Yesterday too warm for heavy jackets and today still warm.  This weather is sharp contrast to a year ago when they had four feet of snow.  Today is clear and lovely.  Already it’s pitch black at 5:00 and getting dark at 4:00.  But the sun is up and bright at 6:30 so the days don’t seem dark yet.


October 21, 1957 Monday evening

Friday I did make pie, clean and The Glenn Briggs, from across the creek came over.  We had worried some over way to entertain them as they’re more your age – oh about fifty I guess – (you’re so energetic, you seem fifty – REALLY!)  We had a nice time – just talking.  He’s very nice and we both like him very much.  He’s unlike Scotty who we don’t care to see much of.  He’s natural, intelligent, bulging with ideas, enthusiastic and just plain nice!!  Could be Bill’s father – looks like Bill and acts like him – out doorish and all.  (More energetic, but that comes from living in Alaska!)

His wife is nice – more quiet and reserved and harder to get to know.  Seems to resent the influx of people here in Eagle River, even though they’re partly responsible.  They were the ones who had originally lived on Vanover’s farm, having bought the 160 acre homestead.  Farmed and had hog ranch for seven years and then leased 40 acres to Vanovers – who bought it after three years.  They exercised an option to buy and meanwhile prices here had gone up – so Briggs regretted not waiting.  They subdivided rest here and built this house, Janie’s and their own – sold Pottel’s that house and land.  He bought another 160 acre adjoining homestead and has sold lots off and really made money — lives off of profits!!!  Some dealer (operator).  He’s still holding about 90 acres across road, next to stream, beyond Vanovers.

Oh, Mom, we’ve been miserable this weekend and sick for land.  It’s all gone in this area – we’re too late.  If only we had come here eight years ago, I’ve been sick all weekend over it.

I found out Johnsons – parents of our babysitter – homesteaded 160 acres five years ago.  The most beautiful land you ever saw!  Yes, five years ago we could have and we’re too late.

It’s $800 an acre now and will go up, up, up!  Many are getting rich – you multiply it!  Isn’t it sickening?  Then most are holding it for further, higher prices.  This section is booming.  They’re adding three new stores now to our shopping center – and exclusive restaurant!!

Oh Mom, I so love it here – Eagle River Road is home to me!

Saturday we looked into five acres of land Briggs told us about plus a homesteaded ‘habitable house’ (??) on it.  You see they could PROVE UP on the land, get title, and leave it.  This 160 acres belongs to the owner of Bockstahler’s Woodcraft Shop over across from our mailboxes – the one with such beautiful lamps etc.  He originally had his shop in this house – expanded and took a business tract and now really has something.

Well, Briggs quoted $2500 for the five acres plus house.  Now it’s $4,000 and no road to it.  Well there are two roads but can’t use them – so there would be that cost.  To think this man owned this and left it.  He too, is not anxious to sell as prices going up, up, up.  His 160 acres is about three miles beyond us up Eagle River Road.  He has level land and slight slopes, all overlooking mountains, glacier and Eagle River.  It’s indescribably beautiful – I’d give all I own to own it!

He will sell these five acres for $4,000 – $1,000 down and it’s a bargain as prices stand now because it does have a partly finished house (he lived there two years) of three rooms and a well!  [They rented later in July 1958 summer]

What a view!  Oh Mother, we took a picnic there and it was grand!  Of course there’s no stream (a small brook!) but the mountains look like Heidi’s Alps and all at once I’m reminded of ‘Trail of Lonesome Pine’ scenery – remember?  It’s just as beautiful and one lonesome pine stood outside the front windows.

If we had $1,000 (ha, ha) I would buy it. — We could still homestead out someday (maybe).  It’s even gone out in the Valley now!  Or tract, etc. but you see, these all require you to live on them right away.  Here’s a house – of sorts – no bathroom etc. – but Bill could fix it up in a few months and we could move in when our lease here expires the end of next July and save that rent.

Five acres would cost $30,000 there in Pasadena – and you’d never find it.  Lumber is so high here that house is worth something!  There’s room for horses, a garden etc. and it’s still in this section – same stores, school, etc.

The house there now is on the perfect location – it sits on a knoll overlooking the valley below and surrounding mountains.  I would like to move it elsewhere on the five acres, fix it up some – live in it, build another (one room and move in) then rent the old house for $100.

Oh darn it, MONEY — we have a few pennies and bills, bills, bills.

I wish you were here to talk to – and to see this scenery.  It’s spectacular, wonderful, marvelous and the skies so blue, blue – the air like wine.  You’d adore it and all the cultural advantages of Pasadena – best schools, stores, shops!!

I could kick [many underlines] us around Alaska for not having come before!  I tell you I was sick all weekend and I want to do something next summer!  Our lease here is up July 31st.  Come before then because I’m warning you – I’ll live in a tent or Quonset hut to get land like that!

The further up the Eagle River Road you go the less flat land there is.  The Johnson Place is perfect – as they have flat land and a view of the mountains and even the glacier!  Beyond it gets very mountainous – no level land – even the road is carved out of the mountain and to the right is a drop to the river and swampy land – so even as the road is built as the government plans to extend it, there won’t be livable land there!

The part that hurts me the most is that there are no hicks Mom, here.  The people are refined, educated and plain NICE – they come from California mostly (Funny).  They’re just like us and they homesteaded.  They did without electricity, roads etc. – even five years ago Mrs. Briggs didn’t have electricity here!  In fact, while building this place – it’s seven years old – they saw a bear in the yard!  And one time a baby bear was looking through our dining room window!  So there!!

So even though we would have to buy that land at $800 an acre we would be ahead.  There could be a phone, plumbing, electricity etc.  It would be half a mile from Eagle River Road and one mile from the nearest neighbor and four miles from the shopping center – but it’s perfect for me.  Why, dream though?  It’s quite impossible.  But see, say our payments would be $40 per month – we could live in it in August, September, October and apply this $150 a month to fix it up.  $1,000 down, $1,000 payments = $2,000 Balance by next August – and only $40 a month payments and no rent!  Just $100 from here for three months or so would make it livable.  Maybe we could dicker to use neighbor’s road.  (There are two roads already!)

Tell me your reaction.  I bet it sounds primitive to you but to me it’s right.  I must have been a pioneer in my old life.  I love it there – and it’s not rugged to me – only picturesque and beautiful.

The children adore it here too and are completely happy.  They’re real Alaskans!  Alaska is good for us all.  Children have better appetites than ever before – they look and feel better here in this fresh air – we all do!

That house is not included in price so is really a gift.  Owners had to build it under Homesteading Requirements.  There’s flat land for garden or corral, a driveway of sorts.  Woods comprise the five acres, could be farmed or left as is.  No work on this land here, it’s forest!  Bill could use birch for outside of house and it would look like a Swiss Chalet in Switzerland.

* I hope you keep my letters.  I spend so much time writing to you I neglect making notes for books and might need my letters to you for reference!

October 25, 1957 Friday

We’re still having that clear, sunny wonderful weather.   Yesterday the temperature was about 40°, a little snappy but grand.   We all went to walk after John and Linda came home from school, got home just as it was getting dark and the sky was beautiful.  The children absorb nature’s beauty and always notice the gorgeous sunsets we have.  As we walked to the store the mountains a hundred miles away were clear and so pretty.  The sun was setting behind them, and they were bathed in a glorious pink, making the snow look like a heavenly land.  There was a narrow strip of light pink here above the mountains and above that the sky was dark.

John loved it!  Yesterday we were at Vanover’s at sunset time.  I had to go over about the films and we were leaving as the sun set.  The sky was filled with fluffy pink clouds and the background was a real sky blue pink.  My, it was pretty!

They have a new little burro.  It’s really cute and it and the Shetland pony are the children’s responsibility.  Oh Mom wait until you see their farm – what a LOCATION.  I told her she’s the first woman I’ve ever envied and I do!  I envy her that farm and mostly the view of the mountains and that perfect stream running right through their property!  She has such large future plans for their place.  They still own a homestead besides and acreage up the road, they’re sub-dividing.

Well, yesterday I got so damned lonesome so just worked, walked, worked and walked – Bill stayed in town, had dinner, and went to library – then to Engineer’s Meeting!  It’s been the first time I’ve been alone.  I invited Janie over but she didn’t come.  Sometimes Scotty works, or has meetings so she couldn’t come over – and he didn’t come home.  I’m so afraid to pester my neighbors when I’m lonely, so I never just call.  I know how I hated it!  Thank God, I have Cindy home.  Sharon is company but still can’t really talk – Cindy saves the day!

Bill is going over to Alaska Woodcraft Shop Saturday to get key for house on five acres I told you about.  He’ll take $500 down.  I wish I’d saved that much out of money.  We could buy it with $40 a month.  He’s sure clever with his hands and has a lovely shop over there and makes everything out of wood off of his homestead and charges fancy prices.  Frames, pictures, book-ends, plaques, salt and peppers, trays etc. – some are beautifully painted by Eskimos and then varnished.  Would you care for novelties there for Xmas – all useful?

Golly he makes everything.  I’ll send you a list.  I want Bill to go see.  Why he could do same and we could display them in two years while showing slides and movie.

I’ve decided, as long as we’re here – to make money on Alaska.  It’s an attraction.  Will make several movies!  And write articles.  I told Bill he can submit articles on engineering feats here.  He spent time last night in library looking up how to write, submit etc.

Next week we’ll go over there and look at his things.  His house is probably well built and that’s his occupation.  The more we look around and hear – I think it’s a bargain – if he’ll sell and if we could get $500.  We could borrow $100 from Budget [finance company] and ???  Golly Mildred get busy.

I can also visualize showing Alaska things.  I so wanted to attend Woman’s Club today but was afraid to have baby sitter all day and night!!  Too long.  The woman at The Woodcraft Shop is putting on a demonstration and Eskimo artist to do line drawings at luncheon.  She says they plan same show at P.T.A. soon – I hope so.

Wish you would call girls and tell them about weather here etc.  Though must admit parts of Anchorage on outskirts aren’t pretty.  We have to drive through that part and Mountain View coming home.  Shanties, shacks etc. but it will improve.  I like to go downtown city but glad we don’t live there.  I love it here and we were lucky to ever know Eagle River exists.


October 30, 1957 Wednesday

*Notes:  Tonight we posted an enormous map on the wall behind our couch and derived tremendous pleasure and satisfaction in gazing at it afterwards.  For only five months ago this same map graced another wall 3,000 miles away in Glendora, California.  I was giving a party and we put this map on our wall so our friends could glimpse the map where we would be living shortly.

No we’re finally here – in fact, the children and I have been in Alaska now for three months and love it more every day we’re here and feel it’s been yes, not months – for already in such a short time we feel it’s home.

Looking at this map now I remember how strange and forbidding the Alaska map looked that night in California and I had the feeling, “Are we truly going to live there?”  I saw the brown area which seemed to cover half of the map and realized this was rugged mountain terrain and that still most of Alaska is still primitive wilderness with wild animals ranging freely!

Now I feel great pride as I look at the map and even the title in bold print ALASKA fills me with a great thrill – to think we’re here and will live in this territory.  Already the name, Alaska, brings to my mind a stirring picture of many things but foremost the spectacular natural beauty that surrounds us!

How little we knew before we came here and still know of this tremendous country – in size.  As we point to Eagle River, where we live, a mere dot on the vast map, Palmer and Anchorage, the only vicinities I am, as yet, familiar with, I realize what a great country this is and hope to see a great deal more of it in the next few years!

How unfamiliar Alaska still is to the majority of people – even though the distance we traveled to get here was no greater that that which my sister-in-law traveled last month from California to Boston to visit her folks.  But her visit created no stir as ours did.  Why?  The distance can both be measured the same within a few hundred miles, yes, but in such apposite directions.  Her trip took her to New England where I used to live before moving also to California – a land familiar to all.  But its tradition dates back yes – when it was first discovered.  When my family moved to California in 1945 it didn’t arouse a commotion either, because California has become familiar for years and is well known by all.  Even by people who have never been there have read of southern California, Hollywood and viewed the Rose Parade on TV.

Then why, one might ask, should coming to Alaska create such a stir?  Because still Alaska is unknown to the majority of people, even though it has been a part of the U.S. for 90 years now.  But until the Second World War, when the Army built the Alcan Highway connecting Alaska with the U.S. by road – it was virtually as unknown to fellow Americans as Timbuktu!  Yet it is as much a part of the U.S. as the soil in New England and California.

Coming by stagecoach or covered wagon to California created a stir too.  Alaska is still considered, by many, as much a wilderness as California was in those days.  BUT it’s so different.  We live in the year 1957 and parts of Alaska are as civilized now as Pasadena, California.

I have yet to visit the bush country and the far north where I’m certain my original impressions of Alaska would not be so far from wrong – for Point Barrow is still a land of ice and snow nine months of the year and grizzlies, bear, caribou, moose, lynx still roam the bush country and it’s not too far from us.  This country can be reached by plane for hunting – miles from Anchorage.

But this is one of the many wonders of Alaska, that a person can live in a city, the largest city in Alaska and still have access within a few hours plane trip to big game hunting and fish in lakes teeming with trout.  Here I can live in the country yet five months ago we found with deep regret that there was a time when we could have homesteaded 160 acres in this same area – and enjoyed the glacier fed streams, picnicked at the base of the Chugach Mountains, picked wild raspberries, currants etc which grow profusely in the woods and still commuted to the city of Anchorage twelve miles away.

Here in Alaska one can still find some government land at small cost, if willing to improve it or if wishes, to buy acreage at the low cost of $400 an acre up!

Here I can still live in a frontier land and enjoy all the modern conveniences – telephones, plumbing, electricity – while doing so.  So you see, even though we have moved to Alaska amidst “ohs and ahs,” we too are happy – such as our pioneer forefathers were – our only regret is that we didn’t come here eight years ago when we first married so we could be one of these lucky ones who now own 160 acres of beautiful forest with spruce, hemlock and graceful birch and perhaps a stream running through it and a panoramic view of the Chugach Range and glacier and still be twelve miles from a thriving busy city where one can enjoy such pursuits as The Music Festival, concerts, latest movies, etc.

But one does not have to go to the city for amusement as 4-H clubs, P.T.A., and community dances and other activities can keep one pretty busy at home!


November 3, 1957 Sunday

I want to mention the land.  It was fun to daydream about but we’re NOT going to buy for at least two years as previously planned and when we do it will be with money we have saved – after we’ve paid back all of our old debts.  There will be land to buy and by then we will know for certain whether or not we’re going to stay.

So far we both like it here but will the novelty wear off?  Will the winters (if they really have winters – I’m beginning to wonder?) be too cold?  Will Bill want to keep his job or be able to get another?

NO we’ll wait and see Alaska while we wait, have fun, enjoy ourselves and save money.

No we’re not going to tie ourselves down.  I do love Eagle River – Alaska is beautiful and I do want to write and I will and so will you – it’s the time.  But we also are definitely coming to visit California in two years – drive back then if we decide to stay and then buy.  If we buy before then we’ll be so busy building and working we won’t make our trip.  And if we bought and decided we didn’t want to remain here THEN we’d have the same old problem of selling and probably losing money knowing US.

So we’ll wait – we have a lot of ‘catching up’ to do and rent isn’t high here considering, in fact we might write soon to renew lease for next year.  This is a darling house, I love it, we are cozy, not at all crowded.  We have a big storage attic where old papers, summer clothes etc. are packed away and this house is not TINY.

What’s more we’re getting settled and organized here and yet not tied down.  With no telephone I get a lot of extras done – I really like this neighborhood and all.  The school, stores are fine and I’m sure prices will go up but we don’t have money to invest yet.  Maybe during the next two years we’ll get our $1,500 out of the Altadena house.  We still have that much coming, if not it’s adding up $20 a month plus interest in Pasadena bank!

So our plans are as follows.  Remain here two years.  Then Bill wants to look for other work.  Will make trip to states and then return here if have decided Alaska is truly for us.  We’ll never again live in southern California – maybe Arizona or Colorado.

Think we’d travel first if don’t stay here.  So far I’m enjoying Alaska and it’s a grand experience and I’ll never regret it.

I do want more babies at least one but it too will wait!

No changes – that’s it – meanwhile we’ll look, daydream and accomplish money things.  I do plan definitely to write these two years and make money if it all possible and lecture, show movies and slides on Alaska when we return.  Alaska will pay yet.

Did I tell you we went on a picnic Friday?  It was so beautiful and warm (40° – feels warm) for here – I packed a lunch, we walked to mailbox – nice letter and clippings from you!  Then had lunch on way home.  Simple but fun?

Janie found two dandelions on her lawn beneath leaves and is picture of girl picking pansies in November in paper!  Much love, ME.


November 14, 1957 Thursday

If it wasn’t so serious to us – it could be funny.  I am speaking of you and I and our obsession, especially of late – “Trying to get organized.”  You’ve inspired me and I too (darn it) find it hard to write or do any extras until I am organized.  Am I just fooling myself when I too feel I am beginning to get things sorted and fixed?

This last week I’ve scolded myself in getting down to brass tacks and facing facts and this is what I’ve come up with.

(1)  A housewife never gets all of her housework done.  There are always more dishes to be done, more meals to be gotten and more beds to make so why not face it?  I’ll never get all of my housework done.

(2)  If I’m to write and relax I must do it in my own house and must learn to ignore ABOVE.

(3)  BUT I also am going to realize once and for all that it’s impossible for me to concentrate and escape a guilty feeling while doing so until I have myself and the house organized and there’s a difference.  There’s really no reason if I give an extra push, work extra hard and work evenings for while why I can’t get organized and I speak of:  closets, clothes, diets – me – boxes, clippings, scrapbooks, sewing and other numerous things that irritate me and bother me.

These next two years will see many changes!  I know I’ve got to find out if I can write and there will never be a better time.  I have no outside distractions here and it’s such a beautiful, inspiring spot – no yard work and little house work!

The weather has turned cold here but we like it.  The temperature has gone down to 18° nights and 20° and 22° days.  There’s no snow on the ground – although weather report predicts it today.  But it looks as if it’s snowed as the ground has a thick white coat of frost which remains all day now and the trees are also heavy with frost.  The creek is partially frozen and has widened considerably.  Parts of the surface are ice but the water still runs swift beneath and around the ice.  In places there are big chunks of ice and icicles hand around edges and from trees where water has splashed.  It’s fun to watch the changes – it looks more like a pond now, in places and although rough in spots will be good place for children to learn to ice skate when frozen solid!


November 29, 1957 Friday – Day after Thanksgiving

Dear Mother,

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving and didn’t eat as much as we did.  It was all we could do to make our way to seats in the living room.  We had a fairly late dinner and then watched Disneyland.  We missed all of you and talked about all of you while having dinner ant that we hoped you missed us too.

We had a very quiet day – I spent most of it, in fact all of it in the kitchen – even though I’d baked pies the day before.  Of course, it was the first turkey I’d ever cooked – the first time I’d ever made a complete Thanksgiving dinner – maybe it won’t be such a job next time!  The children were excited over the turkey and interested to see it cooked – then to eat it.

Mm-m even I enjoyed it after cooking it but I sure wished the dishes would disappear.  But we finally got them done and I am glad that Thanksgiving won’t come for another twelve months.


December 18. 1957 Wednesday

*Notes:  Br-r-r it’s cold.  Yesterday for first time temperature went to 0 and last night 6° below and tonight 12° below zero!!  Listen to this – we have frost a quarter of an inch thick on the inside of all of our windows!!  I never have seen the like.  Our windows steamed up and now it is frozen – and we have ice and snow inside.  We don’t have storm windows but are sending or heavy plastic they use here for outside!


December 20, 1957 Friday

The tree is all decorated and so pretty, wish you could see it.  We all went out into the woods Sunday and cut it.  Quite a thrill!  My, it was cold.  Nobody but Sharon minds the cold and she doesn’t like it at all.  Of course, when she gets her snow suit and stuff on she’s so bundled up she can hardly move – it’s truly pathetic.

The temperature finally dropped – but good.  It has been 11° below for three days or so now and it’s getting colder.  I’ve kept the little children in so don’t know if I mind it or not.  Did go to market last night and feet cold but good – so clear!  Our heaters run continually now.  I bet our oil bill will be high.  Just as well our house is small, not so much to heat.

The ice on our windows remains night and day, even though our house is warm.  It’s a half inch thick in places.  It’s especially bad in the kitchen.  There’s a long window above the sink.  It freezes and then the cold hits me as I do dishes (window completely covered with ice and snow – imagine!).

The creek is frozen solid now and the snow is frozen hard.  We haven’t had much snow and only about six inches on the ground.  Oil man came – $45.80 for oil.  This is first winter here and will be hardest but I do like it.  I thought John and Linda would complain of cold coming from California but they love it, even though we all shivered and shook in California (?).  I bought them warm underwear and it helps keep them warm.


December 27, 1957 Friday 10:45 A.M.

Two days AFTER and I feel it!  The question is:  Will I ever recover?  And then I ask myself, “From what?”  I’ve never been so completely BUSHED.  I know it’s mostly this D – cold I can’t seem to throw.  We’re really going to attempt to go to bed before midnight or 1:00 – our usual bed time.  You just lay yourself ‘wide open’ for colds that way.  Every morning when I wake up I feel ‘feverish’, my throat is so sore and my voice is gone – I feel AWFUL – but as the day goes on I feel better and get wound up.

Anyhoo Bill took John to work such a thrill for him, and they didn’t get home until 5:30.  I was so worried at I knew Bill got through at 5:00.  I knew also they had to go to Ward’s to get our last order and get John a haircut but I still worried after 4:00 (you know how it’s.).  And we do have that awful hill I think I’ve told you about where there are sixteen crosses for every person killed there!!  Now they put a railing up but I still hold my breath every time we go over the bridge hill and curve.  It’s a TERROR.  There’s a blind curve at the beginning of the hill and then a terrible drop – the hill goes straight down to the bridge over Eagle River with of course rapids below – it’s bad enough any time but now with ice on the road – Bill says though he doesn’t mind it at all now because it’s the only section of road they sand all of the time!

Well, by the time he got home – the big Market was closed and I had to go to the little store and her prices are terrible – I paid 49¢ for one head of lettuce and 29¢ a piece for a bunch of radishes that turned out to be all black.  I didn’t need much – luckily – but had to use a slice of ham for dinner I had in freezer AND – oh, I shouldn’t tell you all this but I have to.

Golly Mom the house was really beautiful – it took hours and hours to do, every curtain was clean, every bed fresh and nice (ready for puffs) but by Xmas eve I was so tired.

We had so much to do – I had all the Sears presents wrapped days before and under tree but Ward’s order had juts come Saturday so we had to wrap them.  It was 1:30 Xmas eve by the time we got to bed and of course the children were up bright and early.  I was so tired – I just stayed in the living room all day.  We had a nice lunch on table in the living room – a party – with sandwiches, olives, fruit, punch and all those Xmas cookies I’d baked!  IT was nice but then I was so tired I got dinner too quickly and oh, Mom I burned my one slice of ham.  It’s funny I know BUT it wasn’t.  There the whole house looked like Xmas and no meat for dinner!  Everyone was such a good sport but I was sick.  There was the table all fixed special, white damask cloth, silver, best dishes, candles, etc. and NO MEAT.  Well, I haven’t finished — you see Thanksgiving I spent all day cooking (it was good) so Xmas I decided to try a special mince pie (on sale – I might’ve known!) in a tin (thank goodness I had plum pudding too – it saved the dinner, well, helped!) and it was inedible – I never saw anything so awful!!!!!! And the frozen vegetables were BAD.  Never have I seen frozen vegetables bad – I had lots of vegetables but taken all together – well, you can imagine how I felt.  Merry Xmas!!

Really, though I was too tired to be sad.  Instead I felt terrible but it struck me funny too!  Just like a story I once heard on the Radio and I felt so badly for the people.

The children had a wonderful day and I never knew them to be happier and more contented with everything they received.  They shone like stars and after all that’s what counts!!  They stayed in the living room all day and played.  In the afternoon I set up the card table and Linda and John and Mommy painted – those sets you gave them are lovely and they’ll write you about them – while Cindy contentedly cut out and pasted those cut out pictures.  She didn’t need any help and did beautifully.  Linda was thrilled with her set and did very nice work.  Everything you sent was so nice!!

I missed you terribly on Xmas and I think partly reason I couldn’t feel wholeheartedly Merry!

It’s still cold out but above zero today so I’ll try to get children out for awhile.  (Such a job though).  We haven’t had any snow for ages – just cold weather 10° to 20° below for weeks and weeks.  Wish it would snow!  No more news – Love and kisses, Mildred.


CHAPTER FOUR:  I’ll Live Where I Please


January 3, 1958 Friday

What a hectic day but I shouldn’t complain because it’s all been of my very own making.  BUT now isn’t it always?

I’ve been changing the living room around, yes, once again.  Remember I did it before Xmas but it was much too crowded looking – it certainly does look 100% better now and is still different than before.  Comprendez?  Oui, I hope!

I have to be careful not to put chairs etc in drafty areas and think I’ve succeeded.  What a satisfaction when the room is thoroughly clean (best way to clean is to move every piece of furniture I always say).  I wish it always looked this way but I’m told someday it will and then I’ll be lonesome.

Then one thing led to another and I cleaned all rooms and washed all floors etc. etc. etc.

New Year’s Eve was an utter flop (tell you about it later in detail) but will suffice to say I felt rotten with this cold – cold – (I’m so sick of it!!!)  that we decided to stay home and spent all evening putting pails under ceiling leaks in the living room (not the first time).  I was ready to move I was so disgusted!!  We had to move all furniture around and finally put an ironing board and old screen up on beams to catch worse drips so we could at least go to bed.

I’d been to the store and got chilled and finally climbed into bed and turned electric blanket (I couldn’t live, SLEEP anyway, without it here!) way up to get warm.

New Year’s Day I was sick and stayed in bed (first time here!) all day and Bill even got dinner.  What a mess.  The bed takes up the whole living room and room was all messed up, buckets around – ironing board etc – oh, it was terrible.

You can see why I had to fix up today completely.  Just doesn’t look like the same place.

What other news?  We had a real snowstorm all day today and our driveway was plowed out a short while ago (the children got a big kick out of that).  I read recently we’ve had – up until today – ten inches of snow (Imagine so little) – last year it was five feet!!

Well, we’ll get it for sure.  I just hope it stays cold enough out.  The temperature went up Tuesday (reason for leaking) to 20° above.  Bill says the ceiling leaks are from condensation moisture like on the windows.  The frost on windows is all gone now too.  When it gets warmer the house drips.  Would have to tear off whole roof to repair – impossible now.

Oh didn’t tell you – night a few weeks ago I went in to get my stole Bill gave me to wear out and was shocked.  I had that one and other white one I made in plastic bags on the closet shelf and the closet roof leaked and the moisture got inside the bags and stayed for days or maybe weeks.  They had shrunk and were mildewed.  I was sick and washed them in wonderful Woolite, pulled them, aired them and they’re practically as good as new.  The only room that leaks is the living room but the roof slants down and it leaked into the roof of this closet.

We haven’t been out since before Xmas but am watching money as this is tight year for us here.  Will write soon, Love, Mildred


January 14, 1958 Tuesday

Br-r you should see me all bundled up!  I have flannel lined pants on and a heavy knit sweater.  Something is wrong with our heaters only one is working and we have six.  I have the oven on and our blessed little electric heater.  One heater has been acting up and finally went off the other day and the furnace man came right away and fixed it but ironically since then none of the others have worked!  Golly – surely hope he gets out tomorrow.  The house is usually warm – almost too hot but is cool tonight and it’s below zero out.  You asked me where the drafts come from – well, the front door for one is glass and there’s a slight crack around it – we need a storm door – remember?  Bill put plastic on one window Sunday – and it’s made a big difference there’s almost no ice on that window now whereas the others are thick with it and drafty too.

Weekend before last it was so warm and we should have put it on then.  Sunday was too cold out to put more than one window on and even then he almost froze.

Yesterday though I took the girls out to play on the driveway – sleds – it was 6° below and we stayed out (OH I’ll finish this later THIS D – pen and I don’t have another) one hour and it was fun!

11:00 PM – Well, here I am again with a few more lines!  I didn’t go to P.T.A. – it’s the first time I’ve skipped a meeting so I don’t think I’ll suffer any.  By the time I went to the market – oh, our cupboard was bare – and bought $45.00 worth of staples – we were out of everything, got back and got dinner – I was too tired.

Anyways the roads are so icy I really dread driving myself a quarter mile to the market and wouldn’t drive to Chugiak or Anchorage for a million dollars as much as we need it (ha, ha, ha).  I know I would!  But last week I tried to stop because a dog (Pottle’s) was running down the middle of the road and the car turned a complete circle – no exaggeration twice in the road.  I couldn’t seem to stop it but suddenly righted it and went on but I still haven’t recovered.  Luckily it was on our Eagle River Road and not on the highway or near a ravine!  No thank you – these roads are just slick and icy!!  Bill doesn’t mind and knows exactly how to handle the car so he will do the winter driving.

Bill fixed the heaters.  Oh, it was cold when he got home.  I was worried!  The electrical current failed this afternoon, off and on then and the heat went off.  I hear Bill taking a shower so I got another piece of paper and will add a little more and have him mail this so you’ll get a letter.  I sure love your letters!

Tonight after I did the dishes we went out for a short walk – to the bridge and back several times – just so I could get out!  I feel wonderful again now that I get out.  I blow mucous every time after I go out – even at 10° below – I love the fresh air.  My head clears right up!!  It’s amazing.  I’m determined if I don’t go out for awhile during the day then I’ll stroll some at night.


January 16, 1958 Thursday

Joe Anne and I are friendly.  I would really dislike living in a tract with these neighbors but I only see them once in awhile and when I do I enjoy it but am glad to come back to my home in the woods alone!!!

People are people anywhere I find.  I’m told there are jealousies here between Chugiak, Rabbit Creek area and Eagle River.  I have not personally experienced it yet.  P.T.A. has all kinds of problems.  Some don’t like Superintendent (I would hate to be in his shoes).  Others always criticize everything.  If you try to help you’re trying to run things and if you don’t you sit back and let others run things and HonestlyWomen!

Sometimes I get so disgusted I want our children to be beyond criticism but they’re human and only children!!  We’ve tried so hard and will always try and I must have faith in them!

I’m not going to hide from P.T.A., Joe Anne ,etc. because they are the way they are and I am not.  I am very careful not to gossip or say anything that can be carried.  We’ve decided though we will wait and attend church in Anchorage.  I take it easy and try to be nice to everyone.  As I say I see and hear these things but living off like this is so good for all of us.  Never again could I live close to people!

Goodness I’ve really been spurting off.  I didn’t tell you about Joe Anne before until I was over being angry.  I do like her – she and I have much in common!!!  She’s interesting, loves to read – even reads encyclopedias – she too tries so hard for her children and to do for them!!  She’s very bossy and gossipy BUT I know she likes me too!!

The other day I went over for first time in ages and we had a wonderful visit with Joe Anne and Julie and Sharon and Cindy had fun.  I don’t tell children of any of this or talk it over with anyone but Bill!!  The children need friends, never again will I shut them off.  They need to belong and I feel if they don’t feel they do then they won’t get along at school.  Oh Mom, remember our childhood?  It isn’t easy and the Mother has to be a DIPLOMAT and be on her toes!!

Then Friday Joe Anne and Julie came over and Julie stayed to lunch.  The children loved it and so did I!!

Mom please listen this all out but then forget about the women because I want you to meet them and like them next summer.  I like them and want to get out and meet more women.  Next year I plan to go to Women’s Club and Toastmistress especially!  But this year we’ll get oriented.

Yes we certainly want to stay here.  No I don’t want to live in the city.  We love the country and I still love Alaska.  I know I could make a list of why I shouldn’t and all the good points of California.  But I’ve lost my heart to Alaska.  I have a tremendous pride of Alaska.  John and Linda sing Alaska’s song at home.  I’d like a recording of John singing it.  Have I sent you the words – they’re beautiful!  If not tell me and I will!  The children too, on their own, love it here.

To get way back to Saturday we had a mid-winter THAW here.  Such a mess.  Give me 20° below, cold and snow.  I love the cold, clear, snowy weather BUT the temp rose to 30°, then 35° then 40° and 42° above.  Fine if you’re a bird.  It was like spring!!  But the snow melted, the trees shed snow, the snow bunny melted and even the creek started to flow.  See we get protected from the cold by mountains and this was a warm wind (like desert wind!!) from the ocean.  Saturday the streets were slushy and at night they froze!!  Treacherous driving and we decided to stay home – wisely!

Golly this heater is noisy.  They might not rent this house to us next year.  Three more heaters are on the blink and they cost $20.00 a piece to be replaced!  Will have to see and hope things work out!

I’ve formed a diet club – meets every Wednesday evening – I’ve lost 10 pounds so far, first week only three women and total loss 16 pounds!!  We have charts and graphs and weigh in.  So far only Mrs. Pottle and a friend come – an older women and very short and heavy!  Joe Anne says she’ll come this week.  She’s short too, weighs 125 pounds and wants to get down to 105!

I’ve been here six months and still glad we came overall.  I like the winter, lack of smog, look forward to summer but wouldn’t exchange this for California!!  Answer to your question.

Hope I get a letter – may go to mailbox now.  Walked down Friday for first time in ages.  We saw a moose, our first one, on way back not fifty feet from the road.  Gorgeous animal and we were thrilled.  Tracks all over our back yard!! He got frightened – bounded for woods!  Quite a thrill to us!

Bill will finally get his $40 a month raise and then will finally earn as much as he did in L.A. and compare our great overhead here!

Yet, as I say I wouldn’t have missed this for all the world and who would ever want to be back in Glendora, Pasadena or L.A.?  Not me – except to see all of you!!

Oh Mom, what gives us so much inner pep, tell me?  You, Charlie and I all have it and such enthusiasm sometimes I almost POP with it!  Well, better close for sure and get busy, busy, busy!


January 17, 1958 Friday night 9:30 P.M.

Bill has taken the children to the every-other weekly movie, I’ve told you about, tonight.  The house is so quiet.  They should be home around 10:00 and I won’t write much more because I want to make some hot cocoa!  I hadn’t really intended to let Cindy go and she has been up since 7:00 A.M.!!  In fact it all depended on Bill’s taking them.  It’s too lonely a road for me and too icy!

It’s funny how I don’t mind at all being alone here.  My only neighbor is Janie and they have our baby sitter tonight so she’s there in case I need anyone BUT Mother I am so at peace alone here.  It’s a wonder.  I never have felt any fear here even now.  Of course TIM is here and helps but still it isn’t all that.  I have miles of woods behind me and absolutely no houses on either side (Briggs are in the states) or behind and still I wander from room to room unafraid!!  Of course too these windows don’t open and that helps.

Joe Anne always has a gun when her husband is gone.  Of course they have ‘hired help’ and used to live on a homestead.  Janie has her dog and ours is just as good!!

OH – we had such a terrible earth quake today I was petrified.  It lasted 45 seconds and was a real trembler.  They even interrupted the radio broadcast (I’ve started listening to those old soap operas – ‘agony hour’ the announcer calls it) and told about it.  This is the third one we’ve had since August but the first bad one.


January 23, 1958 Thursday

I’m so alone here.  We do have exceptional nice neighbors here.  I would dread moving.

I see school bus lights coming.  At least it’s light now – it’s dusk when they come home.


January 30, 1958 Thursday

*Notes:  Last night Bill came home ‘all shook up’ as he just barely missed hitting a moose and it would have demolished the car.  He’s always on look out for them while driving on the highway and saw this one on the opposite side crossing over.  He knew by the time he got there it would be in his lane so he swerved to other lane and luckily no oncoming car and moose moved over.  Whew!!  He didn’t dare apply brakes as road so icy car would have swerved.

Those moose are far more dangerous than icy roads and we’ve had so little snow.  Kansas has had more snow in one storm than we’ve had all year.  This winter has been wonderful.  I don’t mind it at all and never feel cold now.


January 31, 1958 Friday

Forgot to tell you (I’m trying to put it out of my mind ) we got a letter from Bill’s MOTHER full of news and saying she wants one of Mildred’s long newsy letters telling all about Alaska.  What a colossal nerve.  Well, she can just want.  Even that letter brought on trouble as we had our first real fuss.  Too bad but all fine now.  She upsets me so mostly because I feel maybe I am wrong not to be more forgiving – should I forgive and how could I???  I am asking for advice about her.

This is the darndest – I was thinking of her for days before the letter came for not reason – in fact I certainly didn’t WANT to think of her but couldn’t help it and dreamt of her mind you, the night before the letter came.  This all happened last week!

Bill doesn’t want to write except to blast her and there was no basis for our fuss except it made me remember how awful they were.  I blamed him!  I’ve decided not to write unless to tell her I was through before I came up here.  You were there and heard me.

Bill says she didn’t write because she cares but is dying of curiosity and is also embarrassed to say she hasn’t heard.  We didn’t even send a Xmas card.

Please give me your reaction but I know in my heart I will never have a thing to do with her again.  I think she’s a hateful witch and the most selfish woman I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet!  Do you think Bill would like me to write?  Damn, double D – them!


February 7, 1958 Friday

Tupperware party was nice.  Demonstrator was from Pasadena.  Her husband was a realtor there and they came up last summer too.  She knew all streets we lived on and was very nice!  They hated smog and sold their new house and all furniture to come up here and live in a trailer.  Absolutely crazy over Alaska – she says they’re pitifully ‘in love’ with it even though use an outhouse and carry water.  So there!!!

Joe Anne was there, all the women that own and run shops in The Shopping Center and several others I hadn’t met before – about twelve in all!  Was nice.  I walked over and back and night was clear, stars bright and moon as big and full as possible!  I love it here too – it’s under my skin in a way I can’t explain but I feel I’ll never leave even though at times I get nostalgic and think we’re crazy but I love it, that’s all there’s to it.

It’s so modern though and all though that at times I can’t believe we’re in Alaska.

Oh, Bill hit a moose.  He was only going ten miles an hour and so didn’t cause an accident but sure put two large dents in the car.  The moose rolled over twice and ran away apparently unhurt.  They’re all around now.  Children saw four on way home from school and two (mother and calf) in Vanover’s field.  I’m still wary of them and worn the children not to go near one or tease them!!!

Oh, Mom I miss you so and so hope we’ll have a happy summer.

The other day I got a cleaning bug on.  Last week I washed all curtains in the living room and had done others the week before so all curtains clean and bright.  Then I washed floors – and waxed two coats and polished all furniture.  Sun shines bright and into house now and is so wonderful – I didn’t really realize how much we missed it!  Days are warm – really!  Now we only had cold below zero weather for several weeks at Xmas – please tell everyone that.  After Xmas it got warmer and warmer.  It’s between 20° and 30° ABOVE day after day now, skies blue, sun warm and bright.  I never have seen such gorgeous weather anywhere.  Snow on the ground has been here since December or early January.  People seem to think we won’t have more now and are talking of planting flowers and vegetables!  Bill says all talk now at the office is ‘who will grow biggest cabbage etc.’ and he’s envious.  Used to be hunting!


February 18, 1958 Tuesday

As you know by now the Valentine Party was a success with Joe Anne running it all as usual.  I had some explaining to do to John.  He wanted to know how come ‘she has all the ideas’.  I slaved baking and decorating forty heart shaped sugar cookies with red and white frosting but she made girl and boy faces on hers and had cute idea of decorating plates.

She’s so bossy and I don’t want a run in with her.  Everything has to be Joe Anne’s way or else.  You could tell her off but she’d ‘fix you’ and is respected and well liked (?) or to steer clear of doing things with her (which I’ll do in future) or to glide along with her and keep tongue in check (which I thought wise to do being new here).

I explained to John and I think he understood.  We had a long talk about people – good and bad – etc.  Just hope he doesn’t carry story to the kids that I called her “bossy.”  He better not but she sure is!

As I said she’s just like Bill’s sister but I see little of her and I’m not a close neighbor.  I bet she bosses the farm, her husband and the help.  I think underneath it all she has an inferiority complex which appears the opposite.  Right?  I’ll tell you more next summer.

I do like her though – a little goes a long ways.  Every community needs her type though.  She’s to be again in play put on by P.T.A., is treasurer of P.T.A. etc. etc.

She’s full of ideas, enthusiasm and means well though.  Is now starting sewing course Monday nights at College.  She’s busy as a bee on farm, does all bookkeeping, deliveries etc. plus all the others SO I won’t see much of her!!

I went to church down street Sunday but won’t again.  It’s Baptist and you know them – you can’t go to their church casually.  You must join and be saved.  They’ve a nice church now and have a lot of good ideas and have built church from scratch but too religious (?) for me.

Bill had a cold so I didn’t want to go to town but this Sunday  We will start going to Methodist in Anchorage regularly.

Fur Rendezvous began today and Saturday will be big day.  It’s a shame that there isn’t any snow for the sled races.  I saw in the paper where a doctor and his wife from Weyland, Massachusetts have arrived by plane with their husky team to compete for $6,500 prize money.  They come from Canada and all over the U.S. to race.  I guess it’s all really quite a big event.

We’re still having balmy really! Wonderful sunny weather and such blue skies.  I’ll go look at temp.  It’s 25° maybe.  I’ll go to walk as haven’t been for days.  It’s beautiful weather.  I could use some fresh air but really should stay in.  They’re having such terrible cold and snow back East – aren’t we lucky?  Read where snow drifts were as high as nine feet.  I’m glad I live in Alaska where it’s warm!  Really!!


February 23, 1958 Sunday

Honestly, the dance and dog sled races were a thrill to me at the Rendezvous and it’s so completely frustrating to me not to be able to share every bit of it with you.  I’ll be so glad when you’ve been up here and know all this and then it will be easier to explain it all to you!!

I loved the art exhibit and will sketch and take lessons next year!  We just can’t move from here!  It’s such a spot for writing etc.

‘Mom’ am I the only one that gets so excited inside?  I know Bill doesn’t – John has become so funny.  He doesn’t get thrilled over moose or dog sled races and I do!!!!! – All by myself.  Even now over future plans and writing courses and life.  Oh Mom how can I wait for you to come???  I miss you so!  We will do all the things we want to do – everything and we won’t wait for ever either!

I don’t want to buy land or build for years until we have done some of the things we want to do.

Mom I feel there’s a great big, wonderful world out there.  Everyone else takes it so for granted.  I don’t.  The scenery thrills me, the mountains, the helicopters and many planes overhead, music – and Alaska and oh, how thrilled I’ll be to have you here.  Stay as long as you want.


February 25, 1958 Tuesday

Friday I had to clean and the Damn (pardon me) ceiling leaked – all over living room (what a mess!) in our closet, I had to take all clothes out – as if we’re not crowded enough and even spotted curtains in bathroom and girl’s room.  I had to wash all of them and I won’t put them back up until it’s all over!

I was so disgusted and almost ready to move but never could find another house and location like this.  Sure hope it can be fixed!  Such a mess and has ruined clothes, etc.

Temperature went up to 40° and as high as 48° above Saturday so ice that has formed was melting.  Bill worked Saturday and earned double pay – hooray! (as was a Holiday) and I guarded leaks at home.

Saturday night we went to ‘Miners and Trappers Ball’ in town – a part of Fur Rendezvous.  I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun.  We sat with Janie and Scotty who came as Scotch team.  Last year he won prize in kilts and bag pipe for best costume.  This year he wore plaid jacket and she wore his scotch hat.  Very striking!

It was held at Railroad Employee’s Club – very nice – on base!  Was a costume party – or not.  I’ve never seen such interesting – varied costumes, beards etc. in my life.  Golly, I could write a whole letter about the dance.

They had beard contests, best red beard (red fox), black beard, wolf (Scotty entered this), for having sex appeal and sheik.  Of course most men thought they belonged in this category.

Women came dressed as ‘dance hall girls’, there was a Devil, jail costumes, miners, trappers – all kinds of Alaskanish costumes and others wore suits and nice dresses.  Really was fun!  Had hall decorated with fur skins, totem poles, etc. – very well done.  I was sorry we didn’t bring our camera!

Sunday we went with children to town – saw ART EXHIBIT – mostly Alaskan pictures, some wonderful – others terrible (wish Charlie could try oil on some of this scenery), and most interesting of all – dog sled races.  Oh, Mom I could write you ten pages on this alone – it’s so frustrating.  How can I explain to you the tremendous thrill of this Fur Rendezvous?

See it is Anchorage’s Big Annual Celebration and takes place for one week.  Each day there are different events – so many I wished we could have attended, especially the Eskimo dances (next year).  There are plays, exhibits, choosing and crowning of a queen, ski and skating contests and three days of dog sled racing.  This year a doctor from Wayland, Massachusetts  entered his team!  Others come from the Far North (some Eskimo) and others from Anchorage.  There were 24 entrants and they compete for $10,000 in cash!  Each winner (first through fourth place) each day wins money and the money goes higher – then there’s a grand winner.  Sunday was the last day.

The crowds were terrific.  There’s no snow in the city now and they had to haul it all in the main streets are blocked off and the dog teams start up town and go 25 miles into the country over rough trails!  Best time was around two hours.

The teams are beautiful – we took many pictures and slides!  It’s a very colorful event.  Many Eskimos were down from the North and many people wear mukluks and fur parkas (gorgeous!)  Oh how I wish you could come here for it next year.

There were Merry-Go-Round rides, big thrill for Sharon, show Siberian, white dog teams, we took pictures of children in dog team with John driving it!!!  I get so thrilled I can hardly contain myself.  There were many taking moving pictures and next year we must get a camera!

As you can see I have so much to write so will answer your letters next time.  Bill is only looking to the future.  No, we love Alaska!  Job doesn’t pay enough and has always wanted to change after two years –we will see then!  We’re definitely coming to California summer after next to visit first.


March 3, 1958 Monday

*Notes:  At Airport Café — Lots of men own planes here and stop in here before or after a flight for a cup of coffee and talk!  In my opinion Alaska is the place for Men – real men and this is where they’ve found and belong here in a man’s country, Alaska.

Now, this moment, men aren’t lacking in enthusiasm and their conversation ranges from types of skis for planes – plans for approaching spring, hunting and fishing.  I’m so glad we’re here – Bill belongs to this country and here he’ll fulfill his fondest wishes and dreams and so will I.  For at this moment as in many others I have a sense, also, of belonging to this magnificent land that offers adventure to men and women and a promise of a marvelous today and tomorrow.


March 4, 1958 Tuesday morning

You know yourself that is impossible for us to write until ready and I am not ready but am getting there!

This week I’ve been overhauling numerous papers and materials and really am pleased and excited over results.  Ideas are buzzing like Alaskan flies – (ha, ha RUN!) but really things are shaping up and as soon as I can I’ll get things ready and see if I can come up with an article – if I’m just kidding myself.  The copy of Writer’s Digest has also arrived and I liked the article about sending in a finished product (just as he said to do in letter) and also another thing which I realize is very important and that’s writing your article ‘keyed’ to the magazine!  (We must do this.)

Mom, in a way I’m sorry about your house going but of course it has been inevitable.  Poor John is heart broken that your beautiful house will be torn down to make room for a freeway – it’s a shame!  — I wonder what you’ll do with all your lovely furniture BUT Mother I, for one, am also glad – really – that’s if you don’t mind.  You know I think it’s too much for you!  Oh Mother we often remark and wonder about what you’ve done and accomplished these years while sick.  You’re a MARVEL and a WONDER indeed.  BUT I’d like to see you free as a bird to write, do your own work and travel.  I know I for one am still not ready to settle down – I had IT.

If I had lots of money well, then I’d like a really sumptuous home base to travel from – BUT we don’t and I want to wait until we can build before we buy again and build nicely and then not that until we know where we want to live – I’m still not sure it’s Alaska forever as much as I like it.  Comprendez??  I’d like you to spend some time with us no matter where we are in the future and write (who knows we may go to So. America next and you’ll have a home base (US) to come to and see the world yet).

Writing indeed would be the answer for both of us and give us the freedom we desire.  Time will tell.  I agree with you we ought to be able to write as well as all this stuff we read BUT we don’t dribble that’s our trouble.  Maybe will be driven to it yet.


March 8, 1958 Saturday

Today I really liked Joe Anne – she’s nice.  Other times she’s so different.  Same with Janie.  The other day we went to walk and I didn’t like her as well and couldn’t seem to think of a thing to say to her!  I like people IF I don’t see them too often!  Oh Mom, I could never again live close to people.  In fact, I am too close even here to suit me!!

I’ve been considering sending now some children’s stories to Humpty Dumpty magazine.  Theirs are terrible and I could certainly do better.  I read the children my old story of Jimmy & Johnny the Towel I wrote when I was a child and they loved it. Who could illustrate these stories, could I?  Golly I have so many ideas.

I feel so weak these last few days from dieting even though I am on a very high protein diet with lots of milk, meat and fruit and eggs.  I guess the lack of sugar for energy does it.  I have the drive but a watery weakness accompanies it!

Mom, July would be fine here for you to visit and we certainly hope to stay here [log house] another year – I’d hate to leave here.  Plan on July – or August or both, or part of each!  Any time will be fine with me.

I feel – too – you should be more arrogant and not so humble.  Why, you should see Scotty and Janie.  They think they’re really something and so does Joe Anne!  I am like you and why??  We both must put on more but I like natural but we must be proud and confident.


March 13, 1958 Thursday 7:15 A.M.

The other day after I wrote you about Mrs. Hahn she came by with her little girl.  She says we could make arrangements with her husband to use their road to my lonesome pine tree house.  She thinks it’s a good buy and the more I hear so do I!!!  [Bockstahler’s cabin/shack]

The woman who runs the department store at the shopping center here and her husband just bought across a ways from us here.  (I’m glad and she has a nice son in John’s grade –named John.)  They bought two and a half acres, of course, frontage right on the good road of ours – Eagle River Road plus a two bedroom house (outdoor plumbing and no water or well yet) paid $4,5000.  They’re going to put a well in come spring and add on.

Well the other house is on five acres plus a house (as nice) for $4,500!  (Of course no road in).

Mrs. Hahn says we could hike around her place as they would sell some land.  They got 160 acres free – and now will sell for $800 an acre!!  (In 1951 – Oh, Mom if only we had come then and her husband’s overseas time counted and he never had to clear or plant at all.)  It has changed now!

Our Diet Club met last night.  Such a darling house.  A minister “wife”, two children, who almost bought this house and were looking at it the same time Bill was.  They bought up on a hill called Phillip’s Subdivision – house after house (not a tract) just lots to build on – but still quite close – looked like California.  Some of the homes were really lovely – and several as showy and nice as Hastings Ranch.  I want to take Bill to see them.  Her house is logs too, but all sanded and shellacked outside.  Two walls of the living room are also shellacked – beautiful.  The kitchen is open like the new houses and separated from the living room by ‘what-not’ break shelves.  I like this log house we are in better and particularly its isolation and woodsy affect.  You only have to see a homestead subdivided like that and all built up though to see how land has increased in value in six years!!

Mom, the snow is almost all gone.  Bill says there isn’t a trace of snow in town now.  It’s been 40° – 45° and puddles and mush all around (like California winter).  I dislike it – I really prefer cold and snow.  Yesterday and today too, I see, we have FOG – thick fog.  We seldom have it, in fact only once before can I remember seeing it – also looks like California.  Last night the puddles and slushy ruts had frozen and you can just imagine what condition the roads were in!!!


March 17, 1958 Monday

Saturday afternoon I packed our first real picnic of the year and we drove to the Matanuska Valley and ate in the car:  sandwiches, potato chips, pickles, chocolate homemade cake, oranges, apples and bananas and milk.  Oh Mom such a thrill for us to be picnicking in the Valley.  How we dreamed of someday being there and I still can hardly believe it at times.

We ate on a dirt road, near woods and farms.  It was so very warm that the roads were thawing – yet the farm fields were not thawed enough for the water to soak through so they looked like lakes and ditches alongside the roads looked like canals in Holland!  Horses, cows and children were all enjoying the first real day of spring!  Everyone feels that spring is now really on its way and we’ll have no more snow.  Knik River was starting to flow and Peter’s Creek was really going strong.  Our Meadow Creek looks thin but still hasn’t broken through.

We took the loop road in the Valley that Joe Anne took me on that day and I showed them her old school and house.  On the way back to the highway I spotted a log house set back off the road – so picturesque and empty.  I was intrigued (you know me) and had to get out and see it.  All the surrounding places were farms but this is a House, near a small lake all trout stocked (the sign said).  I loved it.  We even went inside (Bill didn’t want us to and I had to really tease).

Evidently a fire had partially burned it and it’s being all modernized etc.  Mom, the backyard was so pretty and down over a slope was a pretty lake (about twice size of pond in Melrose) – small here!

The other night while at dinner got talking about various houses we’d lived in and children were least impressed by our last two new houses and preferred Atchison and Owl’s Roost at Crestline and this one.  They said the Owl’s Roost was their favorite house they’ve ever lived in!  (This log house now is their second favorite.)  Kids! And to think how hard we worked on Glendora and that was least favorite!  They like country atmosphere and the Glendora house was too modern and citified.

We all loved this – and we could see a lovely lawn under the melting snow!  I loved it!!  There wasn’t even one neighbor in sight unlike our house here (you’ll laugh) — as our closest neighbor is Janie and the others aren’t close, only visible, but I don’t want anyone in sight –just woods, mountains, streams and lakes!!!  I know there were neighbors here but not in sight.  I couldn’t get the house and lake out of my mind and the children still talk about it.  Imagine, a lake at your back door!!!  (Stocked with trout.)

I love Alaska more and more every minute of every day and Thank God we came here!!  [written in very large letters]

I’ve almost been here a year now! — eight months.  Mom, it’s so lovely and each section is different.  The drive to Palmer is one of absolute beauty!!  And it differs in different sections.  Some places are forests, others are flat like desert with mountains in background, then marsh – (still pretty) then rivers and then towering mountains – of granite reaching up, up, up – makes one feel so insignificant! – Then you come to the fertile valley!

Yesterday we went finally to early 9:30 A.M. church in Anchorage and children each to own Sunday school class.  Oh we were all dressed up!! – It’s fun!  And we went over to look at swanky swank like that subdivision near your house – I forget name – and Mom, I still almost believed I was in California.  Flintridge or somewhere.  Next week I’ll take pictures, it was muddy (we’re having our break-up definitely!) and I wasn’t wearing boots only high heels so couldn’t get out.  Some of these houses are on bluffs overlooking ocean and cost $75,000.   Then there are cheaper $30,000 houses – beautiful!  But most are so close.  Big windows, patios, sundecks, big planters like in California, and brick work – just beautiful.  Must be all doctors, lawyers, etc. – well nicer by far than any houses on Linda Vista – well, anyways like the nicest.  I was truly amazed.  Everyone has asked me to go see them but I had no idea they were like that.

Then there were lesser tracts like Glendora where we lived etc. – so close, modern but with sidewalks, etc.!!  I still prefer Eagle River and Matanuska Valley but oh, to pick one of those up and bring it out here.

Mom, can we count on July?  I have to have a date to count on.  I’m getting so anxious – !!!  All of July and August???  (possible?)  You’ll love it – just close your eyes to see the shacks and there are more shanties, trailers and shacks than other but I see beyond these.  Why, to think that those people yesterday feel safe enough in Anchorage’s future to build such magnificent houses?

Of course I don’t need reassurance of any kind – I believe in Alaska!!


March 21, 1958 Friday

Last night children were tired and I put them to bed and went over to Joe Anne’s for a while.  Was good to get some ‘air’.  She had a Tupperware party and wanted to be certain someone would be there.  Only three of us – so glad I went.  Talked about Alaska all the time to her mother who came in 1935 with original settlers in Valley and to girl from California who sells Tupperware.

Mrs. Pottle made me mad.  I’ve thought of hundreds of things I should’ve said in return since, as usual, but know if I say things back people get really mad and I’m trying so hard to ‘keep my temper’ and overlook people!

She said, “Mildred, tell me, do you still dress all up every evening as you did last summer when you first came up?”  You know, Mom, I always freshen up, if I can, before Bill gets home even if it’s only to wash my face and change my blouse BUT I don’t dress all up (like Janie does) in heels, fancy dress etc. and it made me mad.

She said, “I got such a kick out of that.”  And Joe Anne said, “So did I but I better not talk the way I go around at home.”  She only dresses up if she goes out and looks like a PIG at home from her farm.  (Bill thinks it’s terrible!)

So much I could have said but was too MAD!

Golly, I know Bill likes to see me neat but I always cleaned up around 4:00 our last summer in California and would no matter where I lived and as Bill says I always look nice even during the day.  Not like some women who go around a mess all day and only clean up just before the husband comes home.

You know I’m still MAD.  I said, “Yes, I do if I can.  I like to look neat and always have gotten cleaned up for dinner and always will!  Also it gives me a second wind to get freshened up” – and let it go at that.

I now distinctly remember being ‘dressed up’ as she calls it in a cotton blouse and skirt but earrings and cologne too as usual and stopped on way to store to see if her daughter could baby sit.  She said, “My don’t we look pretty – going out?”  I said NO and she looked flabbergasted!

Oh, well, Jealous?  Why are they – especially her – dieting except to look nice?  Should I ignore it or say something more to her next time I see her?

She’s a lip person, know what I mean?  It made me mad mostly because people there and others might misunderstand if they don’t know me and think I’m conceited, ignore the children and ‘dub’ myself up or my house – like Bobby’s Mother and I don’t.  I look neat and clean and never wear dressy or inappropriate clothes around home.  You know!  I know they think I’m different but who cares.  I am!

Thank God!  I might add!

Poor fools but why must women be so damn catty!!!

I intend now to get right down in weight and drop the club.  I think it’s falling apart anyways.

And to think Mrs. Pottle wanted us to attend Chugiak Church – how she would talk about ‘our putting on airs’ – etc, etc.  There’d be no pleasing her.

We’ll go to church in town where others “dress up!!”  (Truly, Joe Anne has more clothes and more expensive than I have) and goes around the house in old sweater (dirty) and dirty Jeans – (town).  I have so little but at least am clean and neat always. – Is that a crime?  If so, I’m guilty.

I’m asking for advice.

How silly for me to think women could be different here – how false!!

Yet, I like it here and I’ll live where I please.  I think I’ll ignore her as she probably will get far less enjoyment that way.  I’ll take it as a compliment and keep right on dressing up and ignoring her.  That will make her mad – but I notice even Joe Anne is neater and cares more about her appearance than she used to.

I too wear jeans.  I have one pair – They’re clean and ironed.  I wear a clean shirt and a wide belt so I’m dressed up even then I guess BUT at night I switch to a skirt!

So what??

Joe Anne is mad because John is doing so well in school and Jerry isn’t!!  People!!  The children will have all this to contend with and I’ll only make it harder if I make enemies for them so I’ll hold my tongue but Mom it’s so hard with people like that!

Don’t think it’s all a bed of roses here – but how lucky I don’t live in a tract with them.  My house here really is my castle even if it only has two bedrooms and someday we won’t have a neighbor in sight!

Still I like people – but I sure get fed up easily too.  Good I have you to fume off to.

Any advice would be appreciated but ignoring and not getting close – just friendly is best!  I’ll live the way I want to regardless of them.  I’ve tried so hard not to put on any airs and not to be aloof and haughty like Janie!

She dresses up each night in ultra clothes and then Scotty half the time never comes home.  Bill loves me to look nice and THE H –- to them.  Right?

Thank God for you and Bill too.  I love you both.  Love, Mildred and the children.


March 31, 1958 – Busy Monday

Sunday worked in yard all day.  We’re still having warm spring weather and longer evening ever day.  We all went out at 9:30 Sunday and came in at 6:00!!  Bill put swing set up and we’re raking and clearing yard.  Brought lawn furniture out and had picnic out doors.  I made potato salad, cake and we cooked steak!!  Imagine!!  It’s lovely out back now.

At 4:00 we drove to end of our Eagle River Road – has been extended another five miles back into the valley and we hiked down close to the river.  Fun down but oh, what a hike back up and dear Sharon wouldn’t be carried – “All by my self she says!”  And she does bless her sweet heart and courageous spirit!!  John loves to walk and we have to keep him from running!  Had fun but sure tired.

Last Thursday (I lose track of time) was so warm.  Girls (Cindy and Sharon) and I walked to mailbox then home, packed lunch and hiked a mile up the road and cut back through the woods.  Ate on steps of teacher’s darling little log house I wrote you about.  Wished it was yours!!!!!  It’s so cute.

When we homestead we’ll give you acreage and house for your summers just like it.  How will that be??


April 1, 1958 Tuesday

*Notes:  We’ve started seeds inside and wish we had our own place so as to prepare a real garden.

Went to Hahn’s – terrible muddy road.  They homesteaded 160 acres seven years ago and lived in a shack but are building very nice house now.  Their living room window overlooks mountains and glacier.

We know we’ll have hardships to go through while homesteading but will be worth it.

Our warm weather 48° continues.  Last night we had a strong warm wind and snow is just about all melted and ice is melting fast.  Spring is here for sure.


April 3, 1958 Thursday

I have to write you and thank you for that marvelous letter – it was not a bit preachy – in fact it sounded so much like myself talking to myself I was amazed indeed!  Don’t worry about me!!  I’m fine and living here away from neighbors is my perfect salvation.  True, I may never become accustomed to people’s viciousness, cattiness and smallness but truly, they don’t bother me.  Then again I like people, I always have – even their faults amuse me as I too see through them.  I do continue to see the neighbors and be friendly.  If they were lowly I wouldn’t but they’re not!!

Mrs. Pottle is a typical small town New Hampshire, Mainer – which she is but nice!  I do like her, Janie and Joe Anne but I like different things about each.  I am quiet with them and not too friendly.  I feel the children too need to know we’re neighborly and not high-hat.  I never intend to lower our own standards anymore than I ever did while in high school for that ole gang of mine.  If I didn’t then I won’t now – don’t worry.  I’d search high and low before I ever found a home just like ours!

Janie, true, has a nice home and enjoys some of the better things in life but Mom, she’s so weak and has no interests!  She lets Scotty tell her what to do, what to wear and probably everything else – oh, I’ll tell you all when you’re here.  Can he respect her for this??  She doesn’t read, sew or anything.  Just fix herself and her house up.  The children don’t have toys or books.  She’s so slow Mom, like someone else you know and only talks about doing things.  I bet she drives Scotty crazy.  She definitely thinks she’s better than anyone – probably even God.  I hope I’ll always be humble and neighborly – never like her!

Now Joe Anne is catty and out for Joe Anne and true, not to be trusted.  Yet she’d quickly lend a helping hand, she’s a book-worm, probably twice as high IQ as Janie – wants advantages for her children no matter whose toes she steps on.  I do like both women – at a distance and unless something terrible happens, I hope to play my own cards right and be friendly with both.

Please like them all next year – I DO!  When I get burned up I’ll write you.

Funny Mrs. Pottle was telling the minister’s wife at last meeting, “Now you do what you think is right – you never can make everyone happy – why try?”  I had to laugh!

I have many sides to me and I’m glad.  Mr. Prides, I believe drinks quite a bit – and we’d never be able to keep up financially or socially with them, nor would we want to.  Scotty talks so odd – really, Mom, he’s funny and a little bit goes along ways of HIM and what an egotist.  It’s disgusting.

Joe Anne stopped over yesterday for first time in about a month.  She has been asked to be President of P.T.A. but declined!!  I bet she’ll change her mind – nevertheless she was asked.  Mom, she needs this to boost her ego.  I think it’s due to her younger years – more of when I see you.  I don’t care.  She says it takes too much time and she wants to take more night classes etc.  See – at least she has interests.  Too many, granted but it’s her life!

I have mine and a lot to do with it.  My home and family keep me busy and occupied and I have the urge to write again so bad I’m practically bursting.

Title of my book will be:  “Our First Year in Alaska” — Good?  It came to me this morning and I like it.  See I will have been here a year in August and will have my materials organized and in order and will finish book next dark winter for next spring 1959 publication and pray nobody else gets idea!  Don’t worry.  I’ve never told a soul up here.  I’ll try articles in meantime but Mom, now I’m so busy organizing –!

Kids were all so good while sick.  John and Linda went back to school today.  John was certainly ready – “like a husky dog straining to mush.”  There – I am an Alaskan, for sure!

Please excuse paper but it’s all I have.  We did use you know who’s money [her fathers] and sure needed it.  Our car tires wore out and medicine and doctor.  OUCH!  His letter was stiff and Bill said he must be an awful “Stuffed Shirt” even before you said it.  My wonder is how you ever married HIM but I’m glad or I wouldn’t be here.  SO we can at least be grateful for that, now can’t we?  I love life and wouldn’t have wanted to miss it or knowing you, dear Mother – or Bill or our darling children who I love and adore with all my being!!  So there!!

Mom, never once have I been sorry we came here – remember that – never once!!!!  Write soon, Love, Mildred


April 7, 1958 Monday

The other day I got spring fever and a sudden accompanying yearning for plants so bought packets of seeds – flowers and vegetables.  We have acreage all around us but no cleared land so don’t know what I’ll do with them.

We’ve all started some indoors – John has peas and carrots and each girl has an aluminum dish and cut milk carton planted – hope they grow with various flower seeds.  I should have a farm.  I’ve always wanted one – a little one – not commercial – just for our family.  I’d like John to get a goat too this summer and then enter his animals in 4-H Club.  I saw some goats for sale – have been watching ads – but is their milk good?  Any suggestions for an animal and activities for him this summer?

Thursday Janie stopped over – I haven’t been up there except to baby sit that time, in over three weeks what with children sick and all.  Now spring is coming I have an urgency to get indoor things done now.

She brought me some ‘plant slips’ – thoughtful – and wanted to know if I wanted anything in town as she was going to get shoes as she was invited to a fashion show put on my Alpha Delta Pi!  I do believe Janie is very surface and like Scotty – will make an effort to go places to meet the money people etc.  I really don’t think she has too much below the surface.  I don’t like that type, as you know.  Surface is fine but there must be more!!

I stopped by at Joe Anne’s on way to town – haven’t been over there in a month at least – to get John’s books and she’s knee deep in sewing.  Is making a coat for her girl and jumper and suit for herself.  You know I told you she’s taking sewing class.  She was her nice self and busy, busy!  Aren’t people funny!  Janie doesn’t sew – in fact does nothing, even read but house and herself!  Joe Anne is opposite but a catty person so – PEOPLE!

–Going to be a beautiful sunny day.  We’re still having superbly warm, thaw weather.  The roads are muddy ruts!!  It’s almost as bad driving over this as the ice.

Friday I wanted to pay Hahn girl for my cosmetics, it stays light out late now so I went down, not realizing how muddy and steep their road was.  A roller coaster, mud four inches deep.  I applied brakes only to swerve over to embankment where I applied emergency.  Her husband had to get me out.

It was worth it to see their house.  They homesteaded 160 acres seven years ago and lived in shack until last year and are now in process of having built a $30,000 home, three bedrooms, two baths, living room and fireplace.  Enormous family room and fireplace too!  So far only have shell and will add on!

Oh Mother, I was never so thrilled by any view as one from their sixteen foot living room bay windows!  It overlooks mountains and glacier.  There must be a hundred foot drop in back of their house to river below (I wouldn’t like with children) but oh what a view – I’ve never seen anything so breathtakingly beautiful!  She said for seven years they’d hike up there and picnic and dream about this house they’re building and now it’s coming true.

They’re willing to sell five acres but we can’t pay them $800 an acre for land they got FREE.  He had so much overseas time he didn’t have to clear one tree!  Oh mom, such land you’ve never seen!!  When I got there he was returning from hunting.  Imagine being able to traipse over 160 acres of your own land and know already it’s worth $800 an acre!!!!  It makes me sick!

They’re very quiet and nice.  She has sure roughed it up until now and is so quiet and tiny and petite.  They only have insulation up on inside of house but will be all paneled, have huge brick fireplace – and very homey.  She was embroidering table cloth, also had lots of indoor plants started – doing well – and had a delicious high lemon cake just out of oven – gave me a quarter of it!!  And her hair done up to go out to sell cosmetics tonight. (I guess to build their house.)

We know now we’d suffer some hardships to homestead but feel we’d hate to put up with all the inconveniences to buy land from someone who got it free.

We’re still trying to figure what to do in August when our lease is up – stay here at the log house or not – but it will work out.  Maybe she’ll want to sell and then we’ll have to find another place, if not, we’ll probably stay here another year and get our bills paid.


April 10, 1958 Thursday morning 8:45

[This is Mildred’s first mention of ‘going up to homestead’ at the same time she writes ‘hikes on looking for land’.]

We’re still planning on going up to homestead Sunday and I am hesitant about whether or not to bring all the children.  Bill just wants to bring John but you know old worry me.  I’m always afraid that a baby sitter won’t watch my darlings carefully!  We’ll see!  As Bill says if I bring all the children I’ll have to stay near this other man while he hikes on looking for land.  I guess it definitely isn’t safe to be alone there on account of bears!  Bill says every homesteader warned him and they insisted on loaning him a gun while hiking!!!  Scary!  Probably a bear would run if one saw you but I’d still be scared to death. You used to go hunting Mom, did you ever see one?  Did you ever kill anything?  Tell me more about your camping ventures etc. with Grandpa???

Think what homesteaders went through in 1935 when Vanovers and Pippels came – and they survived.

Just think homesteading is free except for road, clearing, etc.  If we could live in a cheap temporary house to begin and save rent and build better more permanent one later, we could make out alright.

I’ve decided to cut, clip etc. [articles] at home but to go to library at least twice a week to write.  There are too many distractions at home and I simply can’t write evenings when Bill is home.  I can jot at home etc. but to actually put it in finished form at home is nigh to impossible.

We’re having another gray gloomy California type day – minus smog at least.  Can’t complain though as our weather has been sunny and warm for ages now.

Today being Thursday I probably won’t write again until Sunday night and then will tell you all about our venture – or adventure.  Above all, don’t worry about us – never again will I hike alone up in there and I’ll stick like glue to the house and [have] Jeep to get in, in case of a bear.

Golly think what it was like in Alaska in 1935 when Mrs. Pippel and Joe Anne’s Mother came to the Valley – really wilderness and they managed and both had six children while here, raised now and married.  Mrs. Pippel still has two in high school at home.  So don’t worry!

Bill is working Saturday.  We got G.I. Insurance refund of $35.00 – maybe now I can get John’s things – still haven’t had the money.  I haven’t bought a blouse, slip, dress or anything but snow clothes for ME since here.  Kids all need shoes.  Never mind it’s slow but sure I hope.  I’ll be so glad when we get all straightened out!

Just think homesteading the land is FREE – except for clearing etc. eventually.  If we could build a temporary house and get cleared out – save rent – and then add on to building and pay as we go!  Well, will see, will see.  Love again, ME.


April 14, 1958 Monday

Now don’t faint but I can’t write now as I have to hustle to get early dinner as tonight I go to work.  Oh, so much to tell!!  I go over tonight to get briefed for Sunday work at Alaska Woodcraft Shop — 20% commission and chance to handle any gift items etc. that I want!!

No definite hours – nothing settled yet.  He’s a bachelor and just got married (same man that owns little house plus five acres I wrote you about and sent pictures of) and he’s to meet his new wife at airport Sunday.  He hopes she’ll want to sell some (?) so nothing definite!  Will write you tonight or later.

Bill worked Saturday and hiked Sunday.  He is going to file for homestead 160 acres – rules are must live on within six months and cultivate one sixteenth of land first year etc. etc.  Will write you more later!  Always so much to write.  Love, Me.


April 14, 1958 Monday – morning after Bill left for work

There’s no news!  Bill didn’t get a ride up or back yesterday and came home exhausted.  Of course, he left the car parked at end of Eagle River Road but had to hike the rest of the way.  He says he saw several regular cars down there but he’d never try it.  The road is too narrow, steep and rough.

The fellow that was to bring him up went Hooligan fishing with his aunt and uncle over the weekend.  They’re tiny little fish – but bigger than sardines – and run like California grunions this time of year.  You catch them with a net and he intends to freeze some for next winter.

Bill finally has things straightened out in his mind.  He has an old Land Office map and located people up there on it according to where they say they are.  Yet when he tried to locate himself by their property while he was up there it wasn’t same as the map.  Guess what?  None of them are where they think they are.  Great!!  Several are even building houses in wrong places.  See land doesn’t get surveyed until house built, land cleared etc. and you are ready to get title to it and they are so mixed up. The map is right and they are not!

There’s a line where property beyond that is not for homesteading but belongs to the territory and some people are actually on that line (and over it) and are wasting their time!  This fellow that rode Bill home last time is building his house on such land!

At least Bill can now find out for sure what is what!

So as you can see there really isn’t much news and I feel so punk I view it all very – well I’m not excited over anything when I feel like this – objectively – that’s the word and it all depends on land available.

We’re certainly lucky that Bill can do all this.  He says he has always followed maps and used compasses and couldn’t figure all this out according to what the men told him.

Bill worked again Saturday so I’ve been with children for two weeks.  I sure miss Bill home on weekends!  It’s been three weeks since we went to the movies and since I’ve been anywhere!!  Might just as well be homesteading and I’d probably make a point of going out more then.

Sunday I cleaned again – a losing proposition.  Then dragged myself to walk down the old highway (a quarter mile only) to the river.  Nice walk and pretty.  River is full force now and ice almost all gone.


April 19, 1958 Saturday

I’d give my eye teeth – as the expression goes to see you – today.  I’m certainly glad the time is drawing close for you to visit us!!

We had such beautiful weather for ages but the last few days have been real April – or May shower days – cloudy and gloomy.  It is doing wonders for the buds and weeds though and the creek is flowing now too!  All of the trees are about ready to burst forth in bloom – it is fun to watch.  I love the change of seasons – I can’t say I miss California – just you, C. and C. and our friends.

I have Bill and the children but nobody outside.  Oh well.  I’m not griping – it’s just that I’ve felt so darned awful this week.  This week – my sinuses are all clogged and just plain hurt and we can’t afford the doctor except in case of dire need.  I’ll lick this just with aspirin and nose drops and Ben Gay.  It’s not a headache but those tubes are filled with mucous across my forehead – awfully painful.

I’ve been trying to stay inside, but Wednesday night I felt obligated to take the Diet Club into town to the movies.  Remember?  I suggested it – and so much trouble to cancel it.  I hadn’t been out for four weeks and in with the children continually for over three so thought it might do me good.  Movie was good, “Long, Hot Summer” but I never had such a scare as on the way home.  The fog (which we haven’t had too much here and I’ve never driven in) was so thick and floating in big waves to the car.  It was so bad I couldn’t see the white line on the road or even the edges in places.  I’m telling you I barely crept all the way home, not over 15 MPH!  If I’d had my way, I would have parked the car all night but Bill said it was as bad the next morning.  I was really scared but didn’t want them to know.  It took us one hour to get home.  I was so glad to see our driveway.  I especially feared the steep hill to the Eagle River bridge!  Well, it’s over but wouldn’t that be the way?  The next night the moon was full and so bright it kept me awake!

Bill is working again today – third Saturday in a row!  The money is good but I sure miss him and tomorrow he’s going to the homestead again to see if he can locate a decent one.  If he can we will definitely do it!  IF!

[Again Mildred is saying, “Up to the homestead again” at the same time she writes, “if he can locate a decent one.”]

I wouldn’t dare go with this cold.  I blow continually and this isn’t very nice to say but it is thick yellow mucous – ugh!

Oh, I have so much to discuss with you when you come.  Now remember our lease isn’t up until August 1st so anytime before then that would suit you.

I haven’t done anymore on writing and get disgusted with myself.  Cindy has been in bed for two days with a cold – is up today and I’ve tried to get caught up with my ironing and mending.

I keep telling myself now that it’s nearly May – next month maybe Mother will be here.  Next month!!  Once again please – pardon this paper.  It’s all I can find in the house.  All for now, Much love!  Mildred


April 21, 1958 Monday

Yesterday Bill went hiking on up past the end of the road to look at the available homesteads – I wrote you about.  I wanted to go real badly but we couldn’t afford all day babysitting and as Bill said this was business and also at least a ten mile hike ‘back in’, if not longer.  So I stayed home.

All morning I washed dishes.  We had the Briggs over and I spent practically all day cooking dinner and fixing house etc.  Do you realize this is the first time here in Alaska I’ve had anyone in to dinner?  And it will probably be a long time again.  They don’t have any children and are older and I know can’t possibly realize how much work it is for me to have people over.

I used to like him so much but don’t know [now].  Oh, give me a homestead – away from all neighbors and I’ll be happy indeed!

Bill thinks he’s joking but I don’t know – he’s always saying how much noise the children make – it’s a LIE.  They’re hardly ever outdoors – older ones in school all day and little ones never out without me all winter until lately and they don’t make any noise.  Saturday John played all morning out alone and afternoon I took them for a walk and we played baseball and then came in!  When he [Briggs] came over Saturday night he kept saying how noisy the children were all day!  The nerve.  Here I’d worked all morning and late afternoon and our children are angels! – Really they’re so quiet and never play out here like in California all trucks, wagons etc. are put away and they’re quiet.  Scotty talks all the time that you’d never know we have children!  People – ugh!  I said nothing – I was too mad.


April 25, 1958 Friday

Goodness I’ve certainly kept the mail man busy.  Now you can understand why I used to write Bill every day and sometimes twice.  It’s just us – our family – we like to share everything with the ones we love.

Honestly – we’ll see but I feel we’ll homestead and you will come up summers!

Let’s plan on June – So much to do before then.  I got your letter yesterday and we all read it over and over.  Bill says you sound 26 not in your 60s – your enthusiasm and exuberance rings in your letters and I love you for it.  I really thought you might not like us to homestead and you sounded like a true Alaskan Pioneer in your letter.  I really think we’ve converted you from a Californian to an Alaskan!

It has been so important to me from the very beginning that you (Charlie still doesn’t) understand why we came here and now I know you do.  I’m so glad I’ve written so faithfully because I feel gradually you’ve come to understand through the letters, true?  Anyway, you DO completely and we’re thrilled that you’re glad and understand.  Kind of complicated, isn’t it?

When we drive to Anchorage and see $70,000 homes crowded in together in a subdivision on land some enterprising person homesteaded not too long ago I’m glad we aren’t buying there – yet they do! – And are!

Yesterday I went up to Joe Anne’s and we got to talking and she invited us to lunch then Julie came over here for the afternoon.  She also says one cozy, warm room would be best to start with.  We wouldn’t build a permanent home until after ‘proved up on’ and surveyed and we had title!  Maybe two rooms or so.

I can’t get the article out of my mind.  I’m ready to write one but what about?  There’s so much to say.  I like the Redbook now and it has several interesting articles this month, why don’t you get it?  It’s the one that has the story in back I want you to read anyways – that leads me to think they might be interested!  How about:  Ever since moving to Alaska last year I have been writing glowing letters to our family and friends in the states about Alaska.  They keep besieging us to write more until we finally decided we’d – -?

See I don’t know where to start!  Once I know and have the idea, outline etc. and like it then the rest will be easy.

Well, all for now.  Bill works tomorrow so he’ll mail this.  If I go Sunday [back in the valley] we’ll take John with us and Kathy Pottle will watch the girls for $4.00 for the day!  From 7 to 7 so I better feel good! – Or I’ll stay home!  Love, Mildred





CHAPTER FIVE:  Go Ahead and I’ll Follow


May 6, 1958 Tuesday

I’ll work at the Alaska Woodcraft Shop Sunday and after his new wife arrives more will be decided.  He’s hoping she’ll sell some – wonder what she will be like.  She’s never been to Alaska before.  I might be able to work part-time.

Cindy won’t go to school this fall as must be six and she will be five next birthday.  If we homestead it would be good if I could work at Bockstahler’s Woodcraft and children could get bus from there and come back [there] after school until Bill picked us up again.  Sharon could stay with me at the shop.  Will see.

You can’t prove up on land in spurts.  I’ll give you the rules here.

* Bill says the land he has found is mountainside but not steep and has big level area for house and farm!  Has big wide running stream – he can run pipe for water from it and put in a water wheel for electricity.

The Woodcraft furniture is so beautiful.  (He makes it all.)  I can just see a resort lodge completely furnished in it – Who knows?

(1)  Must live on land within six months – sometimes can get one year extension of time.

(2)  Must live on it seven months of one year and have no other home during that period!!!

(3)  Must cultivate 1/16th of land year – second year – so on and on.  Bill gets service time and so on only would clear 20 acres and guess what (ha, ha) he says there’s already 20 acres of naturally cleared land.  He’d only cultivate it and plant.

(4)  All red tape and when habitable house built, land cleared etc then gets title to land.

Our first step would be:

(1) Buy Jeep

(2) Build road

(3) Build cabin

(4) Move on

(5) Cultivate land.

If this would be done first year we could get title and move off.

It will work out and I’d write there – also I could write at Bockstahler’s Shop if I work there between customers.

* I refuse to worry over it and it will work out.

Bill will file on land tomorrow and then must be sent a “Notice of Allowance” – a go ahead from Land Office and I’ll let you know.  I haven’t seen the land yet – but all he does is file – cost $10.00 – no obligation if I don’t like it it’s all we’ll lose.

I am all for homesteading.  Bill goes to Fairbanks Wednesday night and gets back Thursday night.  He’s thrilled.  He and his boss will fly to look at Nikki site up there.  Hope I won’t be scared to stay alone but it’s a feather in Bill’s cap to be asked to go ahead to go so I’ll manage.


May 7, 1958 Wednesday

Filed claim with the Bureau of Land Management [Land Office] on the homestead.


May 8, 1958 Thursday

John came home from Gunter’s with stars in his eyes yesterday afternoon.  I sent him down to tell her I’d be going last night and her husband brought him to the garage to show him their baby chicks from Wards – and offered to give him one.  I said yes of course so when Bill gets back he can get it!!!!!  He’s thrilled.

I think he’ll get his own puppy tonight too.  Tim has turned out to be a lovely, very beautiful dog [Irish setter].  He loves the children but he’s Bill’s and mine!  I guess because the children were in school all winter he adores walking with Bill or me but refuses to go with John!  Last Saturday I put a leash on him and insisted he go – ha, ha.  He balked like a donkey and wouldn’t budge!  John pulled so hard he landed in the mud.  Then he declared, “I want a puppy all of my own!”  I’ve been watching the paper and saw these in it last night.

To get back to today – Bill left last night from here at 5:30 and airport at 7:00.  He and his boss are going to Fairbanks to see about building road to Nikki site.  Bill was thrilled to go – and guess what?  I wasn’t too scared!  I feel better (safer) here in the woods with no phone than in Glendora!!!

Bill filed on the homestead yesterday!!  Now we wait for a go ahead.  More news on it as things develop.  What do C. and C. say?  [her brother and sister-in-law in California]

I got the phone bill yesterday – $13.50 – not too bad but couldn’t do it often but was well worth it!!

Got Sears things for John yesterday.  He was so thrilled!!!  Put your money toward it but might give him half of it for the money he’s saving for bunny, goat and lamb!!!!

Golly – we need our homestead, don’t we??


May 18, 1958 Sunday – again

School is out now as of last Friday.  They had Thursday off and went back Friday to get their report cards – rather senseless to me but they must have had some reason!   I wrote you that the school was giving the children a BBQ picnic at school last Tuesday, all the food furnished by P.T.A.  It went off perfectly and the children really enjoyed it.  They held it at 1:00 and made four big bon fires – two classes to each bon fire.  They had hotdogs and marshmallows to roast and Kool Aid to drink.  To my way of thinking, it was a real Alaskan picnic!  I came home from helping – smeared with mustard and catsup, looking like a Hot-Dog but the knowledge that the children had enjoyed it all so much made it worthwhile.  Even me who ordinarily doesn’t care for hotdogs ate one and loved it.  I was sure John wouldn’t like it but he ate two.  Then both John and Linda came home and ate big dinners.  Oh what appetites lately!!

I’m writing this while working at the Alaskan Woodcraft Shop again.  He wants me to come every Sunday afternoon for awhile until you come.  He and his new wife are so nice!  I know you’ll like them both.

Bill hiked up to where the Park will begin yesterday – with a neighbor who’s interested in homesteading up there too.  It was his first time back that far.  He walked over fourteen miles and was dead tired.  Saw two black bear.  One was up in a tree and the other beneath scratching on the bark.  They (the bears) followed them a ways and he says they certainly tried to keep a good distance between them and finally the bears turned around and left.  Just curious, I guess but nevertheless I sure don’t want to meet up with any!!!  They had borrowed a gun and so were prepared.


May 20, 1958 Tuesday evening

I’m writing to you now in the backyard.  It’s 7:30 and the sun is still high!  It’s getting chilly but I’m sitting next to our BBQ fire – watching the stream flow by.  How I wish you were here – won’t be long now, will it?  This afternoon it was so warm and beautiful we went for a ride and came home and fixed my flower gardens and planted them!

This is the first time I’ve SAT down all day, although I must admit I did get up later – we’ve all relaxed more since school let out and the children stay up later these light evenings.  When Bill came home I didn’t want to go in.  So – I lit my third fire – in BBQ this time – and potatoes are baking in coals, coffee is perking on top and steak to go on now!  Mm-m.  We’ll have lots of picnics and BBQs when you’re here!!

This weekend will be a long weekend.  I’ll work one dayBig Chugiak Carnival takes place over the weekend rides etc.  Vanovers brought horses over, Chugiak housewives do Can-Can etc. – How I wish you were here!!!  Joe Anne wants me to take a booth for P.T.A. one day and we want to spend one whole day there too!  Should be really good – it’s quite a big event – I’ll write you all about it.  The money all goes to benefits for Chugiak area!!

John bought his second baby chick from Gunters today.  He paid 25¢ for it!  They wanted to give it to him but I wanted him to pay for it.  The other is outdoors now and we all enjoy it.  It’s quite a pet and chirps like a parakeet!


May 29, 1958 Thursday

Golly it just seems I haven’t had one minute to myself since school closed!  It’s a good thing you’ll be here soon because my letter writing has been sadly neglected.  Four at home makes a big difference and then it seems there has been something happening all the time.

Last week of course I concentrated on the house and dinner Saturday night.  Then I planned to do work outdoors this week.  Yesterday I waxed girls’ floor twice and am painting (varnish) their doll furniture etc.  I’m also busy getting the rest of the winter clothes packed away and summer clothes washed, hems down etc.

Might go up to homestead Saturday.  Guess I’m scared of bears.  One man who is last one ‘back in’ had tent, tractor, etc. torn to shreds by bears!  Everyone says only Grizzlies are dangerous but I take no chances!!  I must learn to shoot!

Mom – I am superstitious, might as well admit it.  Please, as silly as it may seem don’t leave on Friday 13th.  I’d worry myself sick!!  Leave on 10th, 11th, 12th or after John’s Birthday – we can have it late, but don’t leave on 13thPlease!!

The only thing I’d like you to bring to us are plants.  Everyone here has gorgeous house plants and we swap slips but I’d love some geraniums and also some potted – unpot them and pack in plant moss and box – plants similar to ones I gave you.  They’re like gold here and wouldn’t weigh much for you to bring.

I’m excited too and have so much to do before you get here.  I want to sand, stain and paint our redwood furniture.  I told you I got my gardens planted:  sweet peas, pansies, marigolds, larkspur etc. but John’s puppy dug most of them up.  Bill bought some chicken wire and plans to finish covering them tonight.

John’s chicken is a real pet too and when we bring it outdoors to clean its box it scampers right back in again!  We had a chance to get two baby goats but Bill said NO not until next summer.  I want the kids to have their own horses.  Vanover kids have three new horses!!  John is already saving up for one!


May 30, 1958 Friday

Loved your long letter I received last night.  You’ve been “a dear” for writing so often and so enthusiastically over our projects.  I’m amazed that you can understand it all so well from such a distance, and about the homestead so well from my letters!

Bill and I had hoped to go together to the homestead Saturday.  I bought some nice heavy new jeans last night so my legs wouldn’t get scratched by berry bushes and two shirts.  I need some hiking shoes.  She even carries shoes now at our local department store.

Anyways we can’t get a ride ‘back in’.  The other two guys Bill went with are going in Saturday with their wives and ‘pack in’ and stay for the weekend.  We had been hoping that we could ride in with them Saturday.  Bill has shown them his map and spent hours with them – now I hope they are nice in return!!  Guess what?  They are going to homestead with idea of having a resort!  Just like I wanted to do.  So far three men have told Bill that after the Park goes in they plan resorts.

Did I tell you that 80 acres of Bill’s land is already filed on?  Actually we can file on 40, so – up to 160 and use rest of the land another time!  That’s what Vanovers did and still have 80 left.

No I’m not worried any longer over homesteading – at all – except not getting best land available etc.  We’ll rent here month by month at the log house if we can.  We can get a trailer in over the road in the winter but it’s far too bumpy now!

I’m like you – so much to write I get dizzy.  A fellow stopped by yesterday and said Gunters had told him we were homesteading etc.  He was wide-eyed with excitement and told me all about he and his family.  They come from Texas, four children, and had a $20,000 home and one night figured out how much interest they would pay on it before it was bought, figured out where he was headed and why ….and decided he was under too much tension etc. and so came to Alaska.  Love it here and both he and wife want to homestead.  He says his whole set of values has changed.  No more ulcers, tension etc.  Goes hunting, fishing and made more money this year than ever before.  Bought income property here and earns $800 a month besides!

I told him Bill says there isn’t much land left!  Only a mile from last homesteader to park area but he’s coming over tonight anyways.

I will work Sunday afternoon or we could go Sunday.  I told Bill not to wait for me to see it but to go ahead and I’ll follow! [letter finished on Monday, June 2, 1958]


June 1, 1958 Sunday

Thought I’d write you a note while at work today at the Woodcraft Shop.  There have been many lookers but so far no buyers.  Last time I wrote to you seemed to bring good luck; let’s see if it will again today!!

He wants to rent his house next to his shop out for $200 a month for home-gift shop.  I would love to have it!  If he hasn’t rented it by the time you get here then we will discuss it.  OK?  Only $48.00 a month more than where we are now.  It would be ideal for other kind of Alaskan gifts – Eskimo art work, linens, etc. – to go along with what he already has here now.

Bill says it will be impossible to move to our homestead until next summer and I’d just as soon pay rent here on highway as where we are now if I could have a shop too.  What do you think?  Then when we homestead we could sleep at it – as required – must live on homestead six [was really seven] months of year – and still keep some things here!

We’ve been outdoors over holiday.  We eat all meals outdoors now – even breakfast.  It’s warm, sunny and lovely!!  The creek is full and deep now as glacier and snow melts.  I have planted quite a few seeds and Bill has been busy fencing them off so dogs won’t dig it all up.

We haven’t been anywhere in ages but are so content to soak up warm sunshine and be outdoors!!


June 2, 1958 Monday

[continued from Friday, May 30, 1958 letter]  – As I reached the above point someone came to the door.  Woman who is Brownie troop leader and another scout lady.

Anyways she came and I didn’t get back to your letter. — While we were eating dinner Headlow came and told us about their weekend trip – were nice – and just as he left the man from Texas I wrote you about came and his cute wife and stayed until 11:30.  I really enjoyed her and Bill liked him.  I’ll tell you all about all of this when you get here!

I finally got to go seven miles back in the valley and must record all my mingled feelings!  I wished all day yesterday for pencil and paper to write while fresh!  Please pack all my letters to you and bring them or mail them – Please and my job while you’re here will be to go over them and take out material.  I have to do it all myself.

I know now my book will be good – our Homesteading will give it adventure and I’ll close with one year here and write a second one of Our Homestead in Alaska.  Love, Mildred.  We’re all fine!


June 4, 1958 Wednesday

Imagine – ten more days and you’ll be here!!  Does it seem possible?  Yesterday morning I looked at the calendar and was amazed to see that the happy day falls one week from this Saturday.  Oh Mom, I get so excited!  I’ve missed you so!  Won’t it be wonderful?  I’m working like mad to get house all clean, waxed and fixed so we won’t have a thing to do.


June 8, 1958 Sunday

We’re definitely planning on your arriving Saturday at 12:15 but will be there earlier – as my plane was a half hour early!!  I bet your excitement mounts more and more each day – I know mine does.  I just have to keep it in check or I’d fly away for sure!!

Yesterday we spent all afternoon looking at trailers – old ones for our homestead.  I’ll tell you all about it when I see you!

We’re buying an older model – but clean – Jeep truck.  We should have it within a week or so then you and I can have the car while you’re here!  [Mildred’s mother arrived for her first visit to Alaska on June 14, 1958 and stayed until July 12th.]


July 13, 1958 Sunday – from Mildred’s mother [just returned to California from her first visit to Alaska]

I miss you all just terribly.  I even miss Alaska the beautiful.  I didn’t realize how much it got under my skin until I began to try to put it all in words for Carolyn and Charles last night.  Charlie was at the airport and tapped me on the shoulder as I was checking out my luggage.  He was all agog for every bit of news about you and Bill, what you are up to, and about Alaska.  That’s when I realized that you had imbibed me with the contagious spirit – and I talked about all phases of it.  Charlie wished he could have gone up – but it is August that he would go to Seattle, if at all.  I’m afraid it wouldn’t be hard for him to be sold on Alaska – especially for summer or business projects.  But knowing some things, I shall never urge it.  I know you want to be alone up there with Bill – to get away – anyhow one never knows how another would feel until he got the feel of the land himself.  But Charlie has so many sides which cry for the open – it does have appeal to him.

Charlie is out finishing the “tree house” which fell apart and he remodeled it with good lumber – put in windows and painted it green.  About six foot square, roof, etc.  Told him it would do for one on a homestead.  Really nice looking.  If larger would really be called a little cabin, I guess.  Last night was so anxious to know how long one would have to stay on a homesite or homestead or business property – whether one had to be intending to remain.  I assured him it would be for seven months with the family for homesteading.

He has money for investment – but I know better than suggesting that he look for investments up there [in Alaska], because I know you wouldn’t like it.  Funny old world.  Oh I can’t take time now to think or write more.  I’m still confused and so anxious for everyone to find security and peace and happiness!  Simpleton that I am – but I can’t help it.

But now let me say again and again what a happy and short month I had in Alaska.  Now I feel a part of it all.  I’m sorry I was such a tired piece of humanity up there – but it did me a world of good.  I know you have friends there – so won’t worry so much as before about that angle.  They are good people, fools like myself, all of us trying to make some sort of a picture with the jigsaw puzzles of life today.

I am so relieved, thrilled and happy to find you are your own natural exuberant, progressive self.  Don’t change.  Be yourself.  I’m in the background to help you and Bill in any way I can.  I wish I could be more help – but you two are taking wonderful steps toward a grand way of life!


July 20, 1958 Sunday night 12:15 A.M.

Don’t faint – please – but I am now revising my third rough copy of a very good, lengthy article on Alaska!!  I don’t dare be over optimistic but I like it but oh, such hard work.  Today I ended up with one of those terrible nervous headaches all as a result!  I am telling you so you won’t worry if I only write a note.  I want to finish before we move or will get stashed away like everything else so must work like fury!  [lease up on the log house July 31st]

We still are planning to move but can’t help feel that $3,500 for Bockstahler’s cabin would surely help on our homestead but we’ll see!!  We’ll know better after we live there in B’s cabin awhile.

Bill did find out that children could live elsewhere if no transfer [not on the homestead during ‘proving up’ time?].  At first I was thrilled but it would mean being at Bockstahler’s cabin alone in the dark of winter!  I’d rather be on our homestead with Bill!!

It will work out one move at a time.  Bill plans to go up [to the homestead] Saturday and I’ll let you know what’s taking place.

I am so glad you were here and saw everything.  It makes such a difference now when I write.  Also glad you were here to see our nice house before we moved to Bockstahler’s shack!


July 22, 1958 Tuesday – to California friends

How often I think of you both and how many times this summer I’ve started to write you a letter but always I get side-tracked.  This will only be ‘a shortie’ but holds a promise to write a longer one as soon as I receive an answer!  OK?

We still talk and plan our trip to California to see our family and friends.  To be perfectly frank, we love Alaska so much, we’ll begrudge every day spent away from here – but we certainly want to see everyone.

We’d hoped to go ‘outside’ [lower U.S.] next summer but our plans have changed as we’ve decided to homestead 160 acres here in Alaska.  There are many government regulations which must be met and one is that we live on it within one year of filing on the land.  So we’ll be moving up to our homestead next May and then we’ll be very busy for the next year – clearing land, planting, building our house, etc.

You’ll have to call Carolyn and she’ll tell you all about it as it would take me pages here to describe all of our existing plans to you but I will have to tell you:  Our homestead will be located about twelve miles up the road from where we now live.  It’s eight miles beyond the end of the maintained Eagle River Road and there’s only a narrow, bumpy road now ‘back in’ but this will be replaced during the next two years as the government is planning on building a National Park back by the glacier.

We have the most magnificent view as we’ll be at 1,500 feet elevation.  We can see clear to Cook Inlet in one direction and to the glacier the other way.  Below us lies the Eagle River Valley with the river winding in and out and mountains beyond.

We know it will be a lot of work but feel it will be worthwhile.  All of the land around us on up to the end of the road has been homesteaded already.  Lots here sell for $700 to $2,000 an acre and of course considerably more in town.  The house in front of us here in Eagle River sold for $30,000 and there are two new three bedroom, two bath homes being built but they’re close together and close to the road.  We came to Alaska to get away from all that!

We like this area so much we live in.  The school is modern now and excellent!!  We have a nice, complete shopping center at the highway and very nice neighbors.

Alaska is certainly THE ONLY PLACE for us – it’s a terrific place and we’ll never live elsewhere!!

We move August 1st to another rental until we get our road built to our homestead.  Our lease is up here.  This has been an adorable home for our first year but we feel we better ‘rough it’ some in order to get broken in gradually for homesteading.  I’ll write you more about all this later.

Bill really likes his work here.  It’s interesting and of course, he’s glad to be free of L.A.!!  He is an outdoor man and Alaska suits him.

I’m now struggling over an article I’m writing, in hopes of being published.  If I’m successful you can read it someday.  Of course, it’s on Alaska.  I want everyone to know what a tremendous place this new state is.  I’d like to write a book too – maybe I’ll have time while homesteading!  [The Alaska Statehood Act was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 7, 1958, allowing Alaska to become the 49th U.S. state on January 3, 1959.]

Mother flew up here for a month and left one week ago.  I never knew time to pass so quickly.  She certainly liked it here.  Do call her by 6-8451 or stop and see her at 1339 San Pasqual St. (opposite Caltech) sometime.  I know she’d like to see you!

I hope you’ll write us soon.  We really appreciated the picture you sent us of your beautiful home.  How I’d like to have one just like it on our homestead but I guess it wouldn’t fit in here.  There are some absolutely beautiful homes in Anchorage – but all so close together.  We want to build a split level log home.  The logs are purely for effect here – the homes are carpeted, modern and beautiful inside!!

Our children have had a perfectly wonderful summer.  It’s hard for all of us to become accustomed to the long hours of daylight during the summer time.  Now it’s getting dark by 10:00 P.M. and we’re getting back into a schedule of sorts again.  Everyone here really takes advantage of all this sunshine and daylight after the dark winter.  The gardens here are beautiful now and the lawns are a deep, lush green.


August 1, 1958 Friday [the lease at the log house was up, they moved (are still moving) to Bockstahler’s cabin/shack]

*Notes:  Bill went to work and I was left without transportation so was forced to stay home [at Bockstahler’s cabin-shack] all day.  Had a very peaceful nice time – so very quiet here but I feel as if I spent most of day carrying water up the two hills to do dishes.  Why, I must have made twenty trips to the spring.  Did dishes outdoors and enjoyed it.

Children had wonderful time playing outside and especially coasting down the two big hills on their wagons.  (What fun, come winter!)

Mrs. Hahn stopped by for a minute.  Drove her little red Isetta [a microcar] down the back road from her place to ours – really handy and cute.  I’m going to baby sit here Monday for her kids – so glad I can do something to help her when they’ve been so nice to us.  Mr. Hahn stopped by later in the afternoon to see if we’d seen Bell’s horse he’s boarding – it had gotten away.

Made some nice rock borders around my big lonesome spruce tree in front of the house.  I made a circle and path to “privy” and rock border around house – looks cute.

Had nice dinner – and even baked chocolate cookies on my stove – good, too.


August 2, 1958 Saturday

*Notes:  Bill went to the log house to work on the Jeep truck and I visited Janie.

****[Tony] Bockstahler agrees to draw up a sales contract on the house here and the five acres for $50 per month, no down payment.  Lucky us, now we won’t have to feel worried about moving etc. and know we can store our furniture here indefinitely.  Perfect answer for us!  We can rent it later in the summer time to vacationers or our own company can stay here.  Can’t go wrong in buying this and it’s such a scenic spot.

Trying to figure out whether to buy or rent – save $135.00 not to have a nursery now [at log house – see next letter below]


Use of appliances and bathroom

Place for children

Earn $ and still have Cindy and Sharon

Convenient later while homesteading

Take our children there while out

Limit 10 children (no help), 20 (with assistant), if 10 help after school.  5 children at $15.00 per week = $75.00


Hard (?) on Cindy and Sharon

Might not make expenses

Obligations and responsibilities

*Notes: From “Cheechakos” to “Sourdoughs”

A year ago we were considered Cheechakos or newcomers to Alaska, as we had just recently arrived in Anchorage from southern California.  We liked Alaska before we ever arrived – but once here, found it more than lived up to our wildest expectations.

Now, one year later, we are more enthusiastic than ever over Alaska and have decided to make this newest state our permanent home.  What is Alaska’s great appeal our friends and relatives in Sunny California write us?  What magic spell has it cast over us?

Alaska does have an appeal for us – and many more former stateside residents like us (we can no longer refer to them as such – so in the future I’ll say ‘outsiders’). The Alaska bug, as we call it, bit us long before we realized our dream in coming to Alaska.

It has a magic quality and appeal.

But now we’re about to experience our second winter here.  We’re homesteading and consider ourselves “sourdoughs” and our children “four little sourdoughs.”


August 4, 1958 Monday

As you can tell this is ‘a quickie’ to tell you we’re OK but tired, tired, tired and worn out too and still no way near through moving out of the log house – what a job, I’m telling you – between moving ourselves (and it’s still raining, no sun since you’ve left!!!)  I painted the living room and kitchen in Bockstahler’s (what an improvement) and am cleaning the log house – WHEW!

Bockstahler’s (I’ll call it our cabin from now on!) was horrible.  I vacced, swept, washed, cleaned, painted and now guess what!  It’s not only livable but cute, only we’re packed in like sardines.  We were supposed to be out of the log house on the first and we’re still not entirely moved!!  I moved two loads a day last week to the cabin, thinking it would make final move easy – didn’t even make a dent.  Bill took three days off plus weekend, load after load and still not all moved!

These rooms here soaked up paint.  I put one gallon on kitchen and still needed one extra quart and same with living room but what a transformation.

We borrowed a beat-up oil cook range and Bill had to hook it up – it weighed a ton to bring in!!  And the other night he built racks to put oil barrels on and I painted until 3:00 in morning.  We slept on the floor, no heat, no stove for two nights and kids are still in sleeping bags!  Mr. Gunter helped Bill move big couch and TV last night.  Tonight I went over to the log house and cleaned refrigerator, stove and washed floors!!  – (was cleaning and packing all day there too)

We also have to carry water from a spring at the cabin because the well is polluted.  Oh joy!

So glad we did all this before school started anyways!!  Children love it here – to them it’s a great big lark.  Bill and I are so tired it’s not a bit funny.

So many ideas cooking in my head.  I’ll write them all to you later.  Am considering starting a day nursery and kindergarten with Janie in our old log house!  [that they are moving out of even as she writes this]  Then we would have a place for us to wash, shower etc. and for children to stay before and after school!  Dawned on me today – and Janie wants to go 50-50 but I don’t know.  Still very tentative but ideal place, appliances in etc.  Let me know your reaction right away.  Twenty children at $20 per week apiece – hm-m-m!

Honestly, must close.  I’ve thought of you every minute but it’s been the worst move yet and four children to feed, keep happy etc. too.  I wish I’d kept a diary and must write it all out to you now before I forget.


August 6, 1958 Tuesday night late

I made a list of things to try to do today and writing you a long letter was one but honestly my days are so well, hectic.  The children are wonderful and love it here, but it’s all so different for me I feel as if I’m learning to keep house all over again!!

We’ve been so busy moving and all and now trying to make some order of all this and it’s no easy task.  Why, I’d come across medicine – no cabinet, no bathroom – hm-m.  Canned food, no shelves – dishes, no cabinets – it’s been well, shall I say different.  Why, just to make coffee involves going in and out front door etc. – no sink.  Well, believe me – it’s an experience!!

I write you letters in my mind but lately I have been so busy berry picking, jelly making and carrying water – hundreds of trips to the spring a day!! – And that’s no exaggeration and at night I ache.  I seem to be using a whole new set of muscles carrying water and lifting it to the stove to heat it.  The water is icy cold and has to be heated.  You know I could write a book about this – no kidding.  I am completely frustrated.  Every day I get up and want to write and a million tasks await me.

Today I made jelly – carried water – ironed – carried water – got dinner and Bill carried water.

We’re afraid the ‘monster’ Jeep truck has a cracked block and needs a new engine.  See why I hate to write and burden you?  So much to be done and the stupid truck takes all Bill’s time!!

No news.  I now have a telephone only to Hahn’s.  It’s an old crank field phone in a case but at least I can reach her in case of emergency!  She’s nice and a good neighbor!

As I say – no news – we haven’t been out since you left at all!!  Why, we haven’t even watched TV since you left!!

You know how glad we all are you came and loved it. – I was tired too and that awful cold but who cares?  We are us and have to be ourselves and I’m glad.  No, silly I haven’t written because we’ve been on a merry chase from morn to morn – and I’m not kidding but I feel fine!

We’re using our attic and that old van out by the privy here for storage and couldn’t manage without them.  Our oil cook stove, loaned to us from man at Bill’s office really heats the house now but in winter will need another heater but one step at a time.  In kitchen I’m using girls’ white toy shelves piled one on top of another for dishes etc.  Third room is unfinished and not insulated.  We will finish it before winter, paint, and get curtains.  Long and narrower windows all along wall!  Looks like a trailer and crammed like one.

All Bockstahler’s built-in shelves help – there are some over Sharon’s bed and all their toys are in boxes and I pull out and put back!  There’s a convenient ladder in kitchen to attic for easy access and it’s a life saver.  Bill is in now and I’m tired.  Will write soon again.  Love to all!  And especially YOU!  Mildred


August 11, 1958 Monday

Have had nothing but trouble with old truck.  I call it ‘THE MONSTER’.  Brakes and clutch went out on steep hill that Johnson’s live on on Old Eagle River Road the other day.  Had kids in back and Sharon on seat next to me.  Wouldn’t shift into second and no foot or emergency brake at all.  Had to ditch it and luckily it didn’t turn over.

I swear I won’t drive it again!!  We were just plain lucky.  Bill worked on it all weekend. – no luck, thinks it has a cracked block.  D — luck and hasn’t been able to get up to homestead at all.

I keep busy carrying water.  Counted ten trips to spring this morning.  My wash at laundromat cost too much so I did whole hamper by hand today – rinsed at spring.  At least it’s cleaner than in ages!  What work!  Pump and well will be sheer luxury after this!

We finally had a perfectly beautiful sunny day – maybe August will be nice!!

Surely glad you visited us at the other house – this is really going backwards but has its compensations.  We like it here and the scenery and locality is beautiful.  Our [log] house is rented and my job is here at home!


August 26, 1958 Tuesday

Election Day!  Will write ‘a quickie’ to you while waiting for Bill to come home then I’m going to Laundromat and to Polls as today is voting day!  Certainly pray and hope that statehood has an overwhelming high vote – it surely better.


August 27, 1958 Wednesday

*Note:  Bill got home as I was writing you yesterday so-o-o my letter will get finished now – only already at 7:00 the children are all awake so it will be ‘a quickie’ too.  They wake up early now as there aren’t any curtains at the windows and the sun streams in.  We all enjoy being out of the woods and the darkness.  It’s so dry here and was always so damp there at the log house.

I haven’t any transportation.  In fact, even our Ford Station Wagon is acting up.  Bill thinks it’s the fuel pump but it lacks enough power to get over our big hill here.  Bill can get it over but it STOPS dead still for me and I have to back up.  Maddening!

I have a dentist appointment at 3:00 this afternoon and didn’t do last night’s dinner dishes – have to carry water, heat water – no sink – believe me it will take hours.

Mrs. Hahn is going to loan me her old washing machine as she has a new automatic.  I’ll still have to carry water, heat it etc. but it will save money so I didn’t take the pile of clothes to the Laundromat and will take days to do them.  If I don’t write often you’ll know why!

John wants me to be sure to tell you that he has another chicken now.  Gunters couldn’t bear to kill one that was a red hen and gave it to John – it’s beautiful.  So now he has two!  Both of them should start laying soon.

We also have another dog – part husky and part German Shepherd.  Just a puppy – cute – and very much a baby.  The girls adore him and carry him all around and lead him around on the leash.  He and Smokey have exactly the same coloring and play well together.

Tim still hides but not so much.  He still looks skinny and I’m going to take him in to vets and others for distemper shots.  I couldn’t live without the dogs!  They come to the spring with me and even to ‘the little house’ and wait faithfully.  They protect the children and we need it here.  Hahn’s have seen several bears this summer and one Grizzly in the road!  I’ll be glad when they hibernate.


September 1, 1958 Monday [William “Bill” Dennison Lloyd’s homesteading plan, written while living at Bockstahler’s cabin]

The PLAN, as of 10:45 PM, Monday, September 1, 1958:

Right now:  Stay here, renting but not buying.  Fix up the truck, and do what we have to on the house [Bockstahler’s cabin] but no more, and figure on getting settled for the winter.  Keep the Ford.

This Winter:  Get the road to the Homestead built and get the building site leveled before freeze-up;  As soon as possible I’ll get the Jamesway up there and erected, and during the winter I can spend every-other weekend up there getting a cabin built – paying for it as we go.

May 1st, ’59:  Move to the Homestead, keeping this house at $25/month for storage, ironing, maybe washing.  Spend summer building on cabin.

Sept 1st, ’59:  Two alternatives; if they’ve built a road up the valley by then we’ll stay at the Homestead and move everything up there from here.  If not, we’ll move back here for our five months “leave” so the kids can get to school.

Dec. 20th, ’59:  Leave by ‘plane for Pasadena to spend X-mas and New Years – and pick up our new car.  A station wagon if the road is in, a Suburban 4-wheel drive if it isn’t.

Feb. 1st, ’60:  Back to the Homestead for good, road or no road!  Move out of this house if we haven’t already.

[September 1958 letters are missing]


October 3, 1958 Friday

We still haven’t definitely decided what we’ll do.  We mull things – pros and cons – over and over and over.  Now we think we’ll look into apartments [in Anchorage] close to Bill’s work.  School here is crowded and there are a hundred children riding on each school bus (four buses).  Too many!  Too far!  I take them to and from bus now.  Will be hard in winter.

If we move, we’ll keep our main things and summer clothes etc. here and store them and only bring couch, chair, TV and rug to town.  Apartments are plentiful now.  Then move to homestead in May!

Now for big news – I wrote you all about it and never mailed letter.  I miss my mail man.

Access road is now being put through by Air Force and is only like Jeep road but Bill is head of planning.  I’ll enclose old letter so you can know more and see I did write!!

Well, this road is not definite still but chances are almost certain!  Bill is head of it all as he knows territory up there.  Two survey crews work under him.  Better road should go in next summer.  Our homestead will still be 900 feet above it but nevertheless will help and road will be kept OPEN all year around.  I just can’t believe it and don’t dare count on it.  Bet everyone thinks we knew about it all the time.  Bill’s been dead tired working so hard outside.  He and men are blazing road.  Walk miles of mountains all day and cut big trees – really work.


October 6, 1958 Monday

I wish I could write you a letter telling you we’ve decided on just exactly what we’re going to do but I can’t – as we haven’t and a decision is due today for certain!  We’ve decided, true, a half dozen times, but each time we change our minds again.  There’s so much to be said for each, staying here, and moving to an apartment! – And against each.  We’ve listed all the pros and cons over and over on paper and in our heads too.

Already winter has set in.  Snow fell last Friday and the ground is frozen solid – over one month earlier than last year.  The skies are blue but it’s cold, cold, cold.  I even wear ‘longies’ in the house and so do the children!

Friday I went in with Mrs. Bockstahler to look at apartments on the base.  Bill could walk to work and John and Linda could walk to school.  It’s only $150.00 per month for a real nice two bedroom apartment and that includes heat!  Imagine!  Very tempting!!  But I hate to move again (although we’d store most everything here for the winter) and I don’t like to switch schools etc.  John has joined Cub Scouts and Linda goes to Brownies etc!  It’s hard to know what to do.

We still don’t have water and the spring is almost frozen.  We have the Monster truck back but today it broke down full of laundry and Mrs. Gunter drove us home!  I’ve had the car for weeks now while Bill worked on the road but he’ll be through in two days or so now!

So – we’ll probably move to town and to homestead in April!  Golly, I dread the move – yet there are so many advantages and we figure it would be cheaper to live in the apartment.  Heat will be high here as it’s not insulated and Bill would save on gas.  On and on it goes.  I’ll let you know as soon as we decide for certain.  No news – we work hard but still haven’t invested here except paint and must winterize it now if we stay.


October 13, 1958 Monday

‘A quickie’.  Bill has taken children up the hill to the school bus and I’ll jot a quick note meanwhile.  We finally decided to move to apartment on Government Hill.  Bill will walk to work, children to school and Cindy will go to kindergarten too.  It’s run by a registered nurse and is good.  $20.00 per month 9-11:30.  She’s thrilled.

We were lucky and got biggest two bedroom deluxe apartment.  It is unfurnished but has range and refrigerator and now listen, hot water and heat is paid so we feel we will save better there and be cozy warm.  We’ll save on transportation etc.  I am so glad!  Just think, I can take a bath and scrub my darlings and walk to the market.  We’re taking all of our good furniture, dishes and rugs.  Will come here to sled, ski etc. and leave the oil range here.  Country home!!!  We’ll bring the Jamesway to the homestead soon and furnish it with our lawn furniture.  Then we’ll move up there in May!  Much, much better.  PS.  They called off road to homestead, now wouldn’t you know.


October 15, 1958 Wednesday

Well, finally – we’re moved into the apartment – partially that is!  I assume that by now, you have received my little note telling you we were moving.

It’s nice!  The apartment is more like a house – a roomy, clean, modern, comfortable, warm house.  In fact, it’s difficult for us all to accustom ourselves to the heat (they keep them quite warm) and the noises!  It’s been so perfectly quiet for us since moving to Alaska and now cars, trucks etc. zoom by – telephones ring and people walk above us in the apartment.  Will be glad to visit the country during the winter – meanwhile will surely be enjoying this.

I am basking in the fact that I can turn on faucets and hot and cold water comes out.  Ah, such absolute luxury – it’s wonderful.  I tell Bill I’m going to take a bath every day.  I have a cute kitchen and electric stove.

We were very fortunate in obtaining this particular apartment!!  It’s in a wing and on first floor – so is private and nice.  There is an enormous grass area between the apartments for children to play on and an area is flooded for ice skating.  [Panoramic View Apartments]

The sidewalks go all around the side of the grassy area – marvelous place for trikes etc. and so safe!  The parking area is in back.  This is a deluxe apartment!  Only $5.00 more and worth it – it’s the biggest two bedroom apartment.  We also have a big locker for our use in basement and washing machines etc. are there (25¢ for use).

Bill took Monday and Tuesday off to move and we both worked hard.  We still have couch, chair and TV to move tonight.  Mr. Gunter will help Bill with those, he’s so nice!

I went to shopping center this morning on Government Hill.  I can walk to it – has everything – shoe stores, Piggly Wiggly market, cleaners, baby stores, banks, beauty parlor etc. etc. etc. etc.  It will be so nice for this winter and down over the hill is downtown Anchorage.  The children walk to school and Bill walks to work.  We’ll be too spoiled now to homestead.  We thought we might sub-lease it for the summer, will see!

I’d love to write more but I want to get some more stuff put away!  We’ve moved so much and it seems we’ll never really be settled!

We’ve decided next summer to build down next to the creek [on the homestead] – we won’t capture that magnificent view but will be next to water and more accessible.  Wasn’t that a darned shame about the road??  I knew it was too good to be true.  They’ve chosen another spot before you get to the end of the road!  Such is life!

Anyways we’ll build a one room log house – and then later build above, with idea of spending winters in town!  Of course next year we’ll have to be there May 1st through November 1st – but will be back in town for real cold!  Later we may build permanent home IF Eagle River gets a school and WHEN the road commission puts a decent road in.


October 21, 1958 Tuesday

We finally had to relent and bring all three dogs to the apartment – Imagine!  I could write, if I had time.  I sent you a letter telling you about that experience.  But I’m sure you can use your imagination!  We had had Tim here right along.  Poor dear Smokey was left to guard things at the cabin and was so glad to see Bill who had to return every night to feed them.  It didn’t matter too much for awhile as he had to get more stuff anyways BUT then it snowed.

Now listen – we have had flurries here but still the ground is barely covered.  BUT in Eagle River it’s three feet deep and still snowing!  There’s more snow there now than all told last winter.  Everyone is really snowed in!  The Hahns said they came to town to visit Saturday night and almost couldn’t get home – finally got towed.

We drove out there Sunday and Bill had to walk back to ‘Hilltop House’ [Bockstahler’s cabin].  We naturally haven’t been plowed out.  The roads were hard to find on the highway and when we got back here it was like southern California – only of course cold.  This is unusual, I think but weren’t we lucky?  One more day and we couldn’t have moved!

We’re so comfy here – I love it.  It got so I hated that shack.  It got to be like a horror night movie – the outhouse and all.  Fine, until school started and then terrible, terrible!  Well, I want to forget that experience.  I did the best I could but now realize I would have gotten sick there.

What really fixed me was one day lifting water.  I wrenched my back – I couldn’t move – the pain was horrible.  I had Cindy call Mrs. Hahn and she got Bill home.  I was on the couch for a day and a half – it hurt terrible.  I couldn’t stand straight – and I knew that the wires could go down in the snow – (telephone doesn’t work now and is buried three feet under snow) and four children, cold house, Br-r-r-r.  I’ll homestead in summertime, thank you!  We plan to live here winters from now on.

The Army road was cancelled. Our [homestead] road is a steep, narrow tractor road and even a Jeep can’t get up it.  Oh well, we’ll come to that next summer.

Keep on writing – I will start again!  Moving has been a job.  PS.  Found home for Tim and already cats and chicken, too.


October 29, 1958 Wednesday

Goodness where oh where, do I start?  Every minute, every second, has been spent – but I do feel as if I am at least accomplishing something now, and not carrying water all day – thank goodness!

Today – I finally completed making drapes for ten foot living room windows!  Whew!  Still have to be hemmed.  All went fine – until this morning I needed about 24” more tape.  So went downtown to Anchorage after getting Cindy to kindergarten, felt so efficient and came home, got lunch and sewed while they ate.  I sewed two drapes together and put pleating tape on and then examined.  Oh No – I’d sewn one right side up and one down – how horrible.  I had to take entire seam out, tape off and side seam out, stitch by stitch.  I knew if I left it I’ll never get back to it so sat and did it, gritting my teeth.  Well, they’re done – very beautiful and luxurious.  Fun and expensive looking.  I’m really proud of how they look!  (Made pillows to match!)

Oh, we’ve had dog troubles.  I told you we sneaked the three in.  Next morning I brought ‘Pooh’ – such a funny story but too lengthy to tell here as my wash is washing in basement – at 10:00 – oh apartment life and costs on 75¢ for three loads – wouldn’t been $5.00 before – anyhoo, I placed ‘Pooh’ in a pet shop, mind you!  Too funny for words.

I called radio station and they advertised Tim and Smokey – for free – Tim found home first day and good riddance acted so queer all summer, hiding and growling at children.  Oh but how I love Smokey and poor John he couldn’t believe we’d let her go!  What was I to do?  She was so hot in apartment – shed all over – hairs everywhere – complete nuisance and yet so loveable.  Well, nobody wanted her anyhoo.  I left her in the Ford one night and she tore up all the upholstery of the car – shredded it!  So I packed her in car and took her to Eagle River to try to board her somewhere until spring, knowing I couldn’t afford it – but John’s dog and all.  Cost $2.00 a day at kennels – finally found ‘Poodle Parlor’ (hardly dared ask them to board Smokey – big ox, that she is!) for $30.00 a month.

Well, I thought of Braendahl’s – had three boys – and she was John’s Cub Scout leader – so called her.  (Took whole day.)  Next day she said OK – $15.00 per month to her boy – included food.  We took Smokey out last Saturday – were going to old cabin Sunday and thought if she ran away would go back there.

She did!  But we couldn’t find her.  I’ve been sick, sick!  I love that dog and she loves US.  Today, someone called Bill at work and he left early and John and he tracked her down.  She’s back here tonight so happy – What a life!  But I’m glad – only now what?

Am writing – two – four stories finished.  Buy paper and type them now for children’s magazines for money.  Then send them back to Alaska.  Today I lined up writing for Alaska Magazine.  Am sending you one.  Like?  It’s new?  He wants article now!  Also am selling at 25% commission starting today advertising space in it!!  More later.  Love and night.


October 31, 1958 Friday

Don’t think I don’t want to write all news to you but I’m after money until spring.  I have goal of at least $1,000 cash in the bank by April.  Will I reach it?  We’ll see.  Anyways it’s full steam ahead.

I’m organizing myself, the house etc.  Every minute must count money wise from now on!  (I sound like my brother.  Well, I’m beginning to think maybe he has the right idea.)

I’ve always had so many ideas which I’ve had to hold in check because of Bill but now full steam ahead and I’ve told him so.  He says O.K.

I am working for the Shelmerdine Advertising Agency – they’re also Commercial Artists.  So far I’ve worked two and a half days.  I make my own hours and I’m my own boss, really, as it is all on a commission basis!  So far I’ve gotten three advertising accounts!

Goodness – since I first wrote this letter I have washed every floor throughout house and waxed and polished furniture and done the day’s dishes.  Still have to hem drapes before [gift] party Friday.  Have to also go out to Alaska Woodcraft Shop and pick up more samples – hike in to old house for dishes (all I have is plastic) and work tomorrow.  Golly soon I’ll sit down to write you a book all about it.  So sorry I kept you up in air about gifts – but until the last I wasn’t sure either.  I spent all day Sunday deciding what samples to order but came to $5,000 and then wouldn’t arrive for ages – so mounted pictures on colored paper to show!

Then last night girl in neighboring apartment came over to see if I’d like to go to a Toy Party.  Needed ten people before dealer would give party – I said “yes.”  Then when she contacted dealer no more time – all booked up.  So last night I went over to Spenard to talk to a man advertising for New Party Plan from California – Halliday plastic item dealers.  Had appointment weeks ago but still had in mind my own gift selling idea.

Anyhoo, I stayed until 12:00 after working all day downtown on advertising.

Anyhoo he has toy kit but must make appointment for that – but real line is plastics (curtains, bibs, table clothes, etc.)  Buy $96.00 kit and 30% commission – going over big.  I said if girl wanted toy party and me as dealer I’d get started!  So today she booked Toy Party for 7:30 on 17th.  I’ll get kit tomorrow (plastics) and book parties on it Friday at my apartment at the gift party for Alaska Woodcraft Shop.  Whew!

Never mind, I’m lost too.  I’ll write more later.  Love, love, Busy money making Me


November 12, 1958 Wednesday

I am busy!!  I’ve been home all day today working hard at home baking, cleaning, washing etc. and must get back to it.

Yesterday Bill had off and we went to Eagle River and drove the Jeep truck (did real well – Bill’s spent days and days overhauling it) – it took us down the unplowed road very well to Bockstahler’s cabin!!  We got my dishes etc. and brought truck back in here!

Tonight I go to sample plastic party and have my first one booked this Friday! – Toy party Monday – another plastic next Wednesday – and jewelry the next Friday – so far!  The one Friday went over real well – sold $85.00 – mostly his jewelry!!  And Yule logs and a few moose – one gun rack (sight unseen).  Only eight women, so did real well – but a lot of running around for me.  The plastic will be 30% commission – the Company buys the prizes etc. and I don’t deliver so will be easier for me!


November 20, 1958 Thursday

Oh, Smokey is in heat – what fun!  We’ll bring her to kennel tomorrow ($2.00 a day!)

What else?  This morning I awoke and saw diamond out of my ring – gone!  I was sick.  Looked all over – finally gave up.  Got back in bed.  Remembered time on Marengo when I lost my diamond and was talking on the phone to you and saw it on the rug so looked on rug and there it was!  Luckily at least!  Ring just worn out – will take to jewelers – oh, I was lucky.

Got letter from Altadena – they want to refinance house and we may get our money out of it if they do but also had letter from bank where they make payments and they are three months behind.  They can only get thirty days behind or we can take the house back.  There is a second and a contract.  We hold the contract.  So we will see!  Can’t figure out why they’d get two months behind.  Sure could use money.

We go nowhere, we’ve bought zero for Xmas. – We’ll finally get caught up – I hope.


December 1, 1958 Monday

Bill is working tonight and will be every night this week for the first time overtime since we moved here – it will help.  So I finally got to some long overdue ironing – did a pile but have loads more to do!

Had a jewelry party – Halliday – Friday and one this Thursday and then jewelry kit will be sold to a dealer as the manager and family are going ‘out side’ for a few months so I’ll concentrate on plastics.

I never wanted money so badly before – sure hope we get paid off on the Altadena house.  They are refinancing house and if we get paid off will send you at least half!

We heard Friday from the Land Office and finally after much red tape we got our extension.  Now we must be on land by May 6th!  Or lose it.

Mrs. Buttner, I’m told, the one who was to be above us [on the mountain] – Mrs. Pottle tells me has been up there for about two months.  They got a trailer up (I knew it could be done) and heaven knows how they get in with water and groceries.  Anyways one night about 2:00 A.M. she smelled smoke and the trailer was on fire.  She has four children and nearest neighbor two miles!! — Down the mountain.  She got out – luckily – and saved two blankets and two pairs of shoes.  She pulled children in deep snow for four miles – terrible – to get help!  Her husband only came up weekends so she was all alone.  What a terrible experience!

I can’t believe Xmas is coming – ours will be so meager this year – our homestead is our goal – and only January, February and March – three months to work in.  Love, Mildred


December 11, 1958 Thursday

Alousistou!  Merry Xmas in Eskimo.  I’ve never heard such a beautiful Xmas music as they are playing this year.  Jingle Bells – a beautiful arrangement is being played.  Wish you could be here for Xmas!!

I started work Monday night at the Westward Hotel Gift Shop – 5:30 to 9:30 PM.  The owner is always there and “we must keep busy IF not selling – dusting, fixing stock, etc.”  I’m dead tired when I get home!

I’m in a writing mood and want to see if it wouldn’t pay better but no typewriter and it all has to be in such a certain form – I think I’ll rent one and learn!  They’re reasonable and rent of thirty days applies on sale.  I’ll have to learn!!  He has a terrific stock at the gift store and I’ll learn about what to have in case I have a shop later.  It’s only a five minute drive and Bill baby sits.  I get home before 10:00.  Get $1.86 an hour too.  So I’ll dust – oh, I hate that and the owner there – oh, well.


December 27, 1958 Saturday

Today is Saturday – Xmas is over and I fear a sad one indeed – even though my efforts were great.  (1) I was tired from working (2) All the children have been sick on and off for weeks.  Cindy has been indoors for four weeks now, Sharon has been real sick – high fever and all, no appetite at all – then Linda and then John, although he wouldn’t give in for fear of missing the school play etc.  He spent Xmas in bed – consequently and has had bad earaches.  To top all this off (3) Bill is sick and he’s so rarely sick that he’s truly suffering and keeps looking up his ‘symptoms’ in a medical book.  Oh, my we’re a mess – indeed.

I completely relaxed Xmas afternoon while the children played with their toys and I napped most all afternoon.  Woke up long enough to get a good dinner and then collapsed again.  I think that all the aspirin and Bufferin I’ve been taking to alleviate two severe abscessed teeth made me dopey.  Golly, they hurt and no holiday working dentists here.  Yesterday I tried to get one and no answer!

Today they’re finally better but for four days they have ached incessantly.  I had dental work done months ago and the dentist said these teeth must be pulled but I’d have to send my plate to Seattle to have the teeth added and be without it for a week – so I refused, hoping it wasn’t true BUT now I see he knew what he was talking about – for certain.  Oh misery!

I could write a book about the horrible incident that befell me a few days before Xmas.  I wrote you what a menace and slave-driver I worked for.  I never worked so hard.  I got fixed up perfect before I went to work and he never gave me a break.  My feet hurt so when I got home I suffered.  He was horrible.  Had one other girl – his girlfriend working and she ate candy, sat on the stool, smoked etc. but let me stand still one minute and he’d give me rotten jobs to be done.  I never said a word but told Bill every night how glad I’d be when I was through.

Did you ever hear of completely rearranging cases and shelves and waiting on customers during Xmas when you only worked four hours?  One time they were moaning how tired they were and some crack about my just working four hours and I said, “Well, I have four children and work at home all day too.”  Later he threw this back at me.

He had a 20% off jewelry sale and when customers came in and I said, “We have a jewelry sale on etc.”   He had signs in the window, big ads in paper etc.  He jumped on me again and said, “Don’t tell people there’s a sale on and don’t sell at 20% off unless they know about the sale.”  I very nicely said, “I wouldn’t like it if I was a customer and bought at regular price only to later find out it was on sale.”  His remark was this * * “Better not to sell at all then to sell on sale.”

Oh, how I hated that man.  If it’s wicked to hate, I’m sorry but I hated him.  Nothing I did was right.  I was courteous to customers – you know me and never wasted a minute!  He was never satisfied.  He is dark, swarthy and horrible – after every penny in the meanest way.  Turns on smiles to customers if he thinks they’ll spend but is a demon when nobody can see him.

He criticized me for using one sheet of tissue and a box for a $10.00 gift – most sales run $25.00 up and he doesn’t want boxes given for meager $10.00 gifts.  No gift wrapping on sale merchandise.  I sold $300.00 rings – but 20% off so no gift wrapping.  I did wrap them and he was mad!  Oh Mom, I should have quit.

One sales lady looked and acted like the woman we rented room from who watched electricity – remember?  She’s been there ages and worked days.  Another, Mona, spent every evening when got off work in the bar drinking – always left many jobs for me to do while on.  Then his girlfriend was crazy in love with him and not getting him.  Divorced, husband insane – seventeen year old daughter – used to live in Fairbanks and ran gift shop there – up from Seattle for six weeks only.  All three sales girls lived together in adjoining apartments across from the shop and all hated me – very evident.  I found out later from him when he got mad they complained about me continually.

Pay-off came night an Eskimo came in to sell him mukluks and before she left I got her address (I still am thinking of having gift shop next summer in Bockstahler’s house on the highway).  He asked me why I wanted her address and he flipped his lid.  He screamed and he shouted – quite mad, really.  Of course Bea – stood by him and together they lit on me.  How dare I, of all the nerve.  He told me to come in Monday to get my check I was fired.  I told him I was sorry and that I meant no wrong.  He said now I was in competition with (him) – I could no longer stay.

It was awful!  He said I was lazy and all the sales girls complain I don’t work hard.  Mom, I never worked so hard!!  I told him so and he laughed.  I hate him.

He said many terrible things.  I told him he was the worst boss I’d ever had.  He works in shop from 9 to 9 (seven days a week) has three children 17-19-6.  His wife must be dead and I told him he really should take some time off – that all of them were unhappy with life and resented me because I was well-adjusted!  (ha, ha – ) and happily married.  He said I was worst clerk he’d ever had.

I told him he complained about me when Bea sat around and I never did and she uses the store phone when he steps out and moans and groans about Virgil this and Virgil that (him).  Mom she jumped across the glass counter and tried to strangle me – her fingers were like iron – I was so stunned and shocked – she’s truly crazy.  He had to pull her off of me and in doing so she clawed my neck – and I had welts for days completely around my neck.  He did not fire her – she’s still there.

I walked out and almost went to the police station but I didn’t want my name in the paper.  I could hardly get home and broke completely once I got inside the door.

Mother it was all so unjust.  I swear I went down there only to do my best (you know) and those women ganged together to get me out and succeeded.

I suffered inside for days.  I was sick with shame, disgust and mad.  I was sick with hatred and burned with ways to get even and oh, how I hated him.

The base Xmas party was the next day and I couldn’t go.  Bill took the children and I stayed home and cried!

It’s been terrible.  For all the time I worked the kids had been sick and I’d been up night after night bathing them with alcohol etc. and still went to work cheery, happy and worked [underlined five times] – was courteous.  Oh what’s the use?  Bill kept saying I was working as if it was permanent.  He said if you’re tired take a break or sit down.  I couldn’t.

It’s all over now and I hate to drive up that street.

I felt awful and Anchorage seemed spoiled for me.  I’ve recovered some but not completely.

We put up our tree on my birthday.  Bill had to go out to the old Bockstahler place to get decorations etc. and cut the tree.  We all stayed home.  He had a hard time getting in and it was six before he returned.  Not much fun.  I spent whole day before Xmas baking cookies etc. but never felt happy and kids half sick.  Xmas was something I got through, that’s all.

I’m all mixed up now.  I don’t know what I want at all.

We must be up on our homestead by May or lose it.  I don’t know any more.

We’ve had one terrible winter.  We’ve only been out twice in over seven months.  Living here in the apartment is convenient but lacks any beauty or Alaska feeling!

With all my work I still owe Burnett for my plastic kit, although I just paid $60.00 cash I’d saved for more plastic samples. I have six parties booked for January.  Nobody in Eagle River would give a party.  I asked Mrs. Pottle first and she refused and now tells me she’s giving one through a dealer out there.

We didn’t get Xmas cards from Marshall – Rydes or Vanovers!  We have no real friends out there – but Bockstahlers.  Mom, I feel so alone!!  And so mixed up.  I don’t know which way to move, it’s like gift shop – no matter what we do it’s wrong.

Bill says he can go up [to the homestead] in April and I can spend three months there and get exemption when school starts and return here.  People will hate me for it – running back to the city.  Already they call us quitters I know and “city people.”  Oh I really don’t like people at all!!!

If we did this maybe you could stay here in our apartment for three months June, July and August.  We could visit you etc.

I don’t know.  We don’t have money for another Jeep, a cabin or anything.

The school is better here but it’s awful to live in this apartment with people upstairs and next door.  You can hear their water running, their children crying, etc.

We could give up homesteading and buy Bockstahler’s five acres – it hasn’t been sold and he’s not so bad.  He reduced our storage rate to $10.00!!

Anyways, as you can well see – I’m in a dilemma.  I want to get title to homestead.  Why shouldn’t we do it the easiest way possible?  And to H — with everyone!!  Yet, I hate to be called a SISSY yet I have four children to consider.

Any suggestions?  Too bad there are people in Alaska – they spoil every place.

We’d really love you to come up summers but I think living on that homestead would be too much for you – but you could live in our apartment or house or whatever – or if we didn’t have one you could rent an efficiency apartment – furnished.  You could test and write I’d like you to have your own place and maybe after the road is better to homestead you could have a cabin there.

It all seems so mixed up to me now – terribly so!

I also considered having a lodge on homestead – renting out several Quicklog cabins!!

That Cartwright took wind out of my sails – he meant to.  This is a gloomy miserable letter and I should tear it up but I’ll send it so you’ll know.

Days are dark – sun seldom comes out at all this time of year and it is pitch black by four o’clock!!  In the afternoon.

Mrs. Hahn lost her baby and has been real sick but is better now!  We’re so lucky – why am I so gloomy and mixed up?  If only we could get our damn bills paid and do some things.

I want to ski – but cost $35.00 for family to join club and then we could meet people too.  Can’t use ski slopes if don’t belong to club – and I need different bindings.  Always money, money in our way – lack of it.  We can’t go dancing it seems or anything.  We never laugh or have any fun just work, work, work, work, work and more work!  As I said this is a miserable letter but I feel this way.

Will close for now – clomp, clomp above me – I can hear her walk, her washing machine shakes our apartment, her baby cries and I hear that.  Oh well!  At least we have running water and a bathroom.  Write soon.  May this year bring us all happiness and prosperity.


December 29, 1958 Monday

Just had to write you to tell you I feel much better today – figured out Cindy has been in and Sharon for well over four weeks due to sickness and John and Linda have been in all of vacation.  Only time girls were out was the time I took them to see Santa and then came right home again!  Whew!

Then Bill sick and children – and me too.  Both Bill and I were sick all weekend with swollen neck glands and both felt mean and horrible.  We usually get along so well.  I felt all shut up in apartment and horrible.  We’ve only been out twice since moved in here.  This New Year we’re going to make many resolutions and really try to stick to them.  Like YOU – too much WORK and not enough outside play!  We need that too.

We talked – talked last night about our plans.  We all prefer living all year in the country but really feel we must ‘stick to our gun’ for once to get out from under and know we can best do it here for at least one more year.  As I’ve written you – our heat is paid for here and it’s like buying a new car – we can depend on paying $160.00 per month with no extras!

Now we can plan too and must now that New Year is approaching.  We’ll probably put things into storage if you don’t come BUT could you?  You check with Caltech and let us know.  Bill will check with Land Office to see if I can stay here until school is out and return here again in the fall.  He will have to be there seven months for certain!  He plans to go up in April and me (if possible) in May.  He’ll eat meals here etc. – will work out nicely – so close to work.  I’ll still sell Halliday Plastics, etc.

I know you’d love this apartment and we could visit you all the time.  I’d do my wash downstairs etc. and we could take baths here.  Bill says we could give some money to you towards rent for use etc. if you come up and stay here this summer.  As he says all you’d need would be one bedroom so hardly fair for you to have to pay for two.  One bedroom though is fixed up as study – desk plus two book cases and folding bed opened – plus card table and portable TV.  Real cute but I’ve been too busy to enjoy it here at all.  In and out until I’m dizzy!  I’m not going to do anything until after January 5th now!!

Think I’ll concentrate on plastics then.  Children are like us, like to be home with me!  Sharon and Cindy were so sick and just now are like themselves and appetite returning.  Cindy doesn’t even want to return to kindergarten and says, “Mommy I’ll be away all next winter – please let’s all be together for the rest of the year!”  ??  To do??

Oh Mom, I’d love to have you.  I’ve been so lonesome lately for all of you!  We wanted you on homestead but just can’t see you going over that bumpity road, using outhouse etc.  (You might get sick and so isolated.)

You should buy Bockstahler’s five acres and maybe later could use it for your summer place – it’s not so far out!  Good investment anyways.  I wish we could buy it.  I so loved that land, you know!!!

So many IFS to all this.  What you will do?  My, it would cost a fortune for you to store your furniture.

We’ve had lots of snow these last few days.  I’m glad – it was getting so dirty.  We’re planning now to do next Saturday — what we had hoped to do last Saturday and was sick – go up to homestead.  We have chains on Jeep truck now and Bill has worked and worked on it!  He wants to see all in winter and how deep snow is now up there.  I’m real anxious to go too.  We’re buying snowshoes at surplus as will have to snowshoe in at least two miles.  I’ll let you know all about it.

I’ve called Le Verne – our old Eagle River baby sitter to come in Friday and stay over night.  I can’t find anyone as nice here and you know me!

Well I’ve still dishes to do.  We went downtown (children and me) today in snow – had to do errands.  It was 10° above zero and wind blowing (seldom happens here) and snowing hard!  It was so cold you felt your nose was frozen!  We won’t go Saturday if it’s like that!!!  We had 6” of snow yesterday and last night and more today.  It snowed all day the 24th and more 26th too!


January 3, 1959 Saturday

I am now listening to the radio report of the acceptance of Alaska as a 49th state – could you all hear it there?

Hope you weren’t too shocked the other day.  Add phone call in to $300 so I’ll pay you back $310 at least.  This is my debt and I assure you will be paid right back.  I’ve made Bill sit down and go over and over our bills.  I’ve left it all up to him and he just pays hit and miss fashion with no plan.  We’ll never get caught up that way.  I’m well aware that we still owe you $275 on the Jeep truck down payment – will get on ball with it too.

People in Altadena [Calilfornia] spoke of refinancing the house – if Bill gets to L.A. he will see about it.  If we get paid will pay you $1,000!!

If WE ever get straightened out!!!

Am now going after plastics [Halliday].  I have a very complete kit, $170 worth (wholesale price too).

Have been looking in paper for a Jeep for my use on the homestead.  April will be here in no time.  Saturday I had a dentist appointment so stopped at several places and spotted this one – thought I’d ask price.  Jeep station wagons are like gold here – it was exact same price as a plain Jeep – only room for children in it and perfect condition.  I just couldn’t pass it by.  Of course I’ll have to see now if I can finance it.  Then payments are $110.00.

It’s 1953, the same year as our Ford but they would only give us $300 trade in on the Ford.  I wrote you that Smokey tore up our seats D –.  Naturally that hurts its resale.  We are going to fix up the seats and sell it for $500.  I’d like to buy the good Jeep truck that was there at Wallace Motors too and sell our old Jeep truck – then will really be set!!!!  I’m also looking at old trailers.  Hope to get one for $200 or $300 down total $1,500 in summer.

So much, so much to be done!  Thanks for the loan – I’ll pay it back [to buy Jeep station wagon].  I have applied for a job at the hospital gift shop but feel I’d do better to work in plastics and writing.

I think we’ll plan on putting our furniture in storage.  I’ll at least get a price on that today.

Bill hasn’t even seen ‘my Jeep’ yet.  I’m taking it to a garage today for a check up.  I talked to the only owner over the phone.  Old couple.

Oh Mom, I get so excited over our homestead and all – I really hope it all works out.

I’m uncertain as to whether or not to continue selling advertising.  They still haven’t got the December issue out.  I’m supposed to deliver copies to people I sold ads to – I went all the way down twice and even on the 24th for my copies.  Last time said that the printer went on vacation!  Told them to call me when out and still no word.  Naturally advertisers will drop ads and then no commission for me!!  It’s a good advertising magazine but not much reading material and never gets out on time!

So much I want to do.  If only someone would do my housework and leave my time freer!

Next day didn’t get to Homestead.  Jeep wouldn’t work and was 20° below zero – 22° below New Year’s Eve.  So cold my legs felt awful when I walked one block.  Just numb.  You know when it gets that clear and cold it frightens me.  It’s too cold.  Yet in Fairbanks it was 44° below.

Anyways there’s no window in the stupid truck and no heater.  We went out to the ski run – it’s new but Mom, I couldn’t ski.  Too cold and no sun – Br-r-r.  Too cold for anything.  So we returned home.

Things like that make me realize we must have transportation –- that truck was a jinx.  Bill needs a good four-wheel drive to get out of there and so do I.  There has been one thing after another – so will close for now.  My neighbor is complaining about her jewelry order ruined – Love, Me.  P.S.  Will get this in mailbox now –


January 19, 1959 Monday

I have lots of news.  First off we bought a trailer today!  I decided last week we had to get one because we will not be able to build a cabin right off and Jamesway will not be enough!

We went up there this week.  Decided on spur of moment – children were in school and we sent Sharon and Cindy to Nursery for day.  The road is as smooth as can be during winter!!  I was amazed!  Beautiful beyond words back there.  Of course, our road is not plowed so we hiked half way up.  I knew then that this is the time and we have figured Bill may have to be up there in March!!


We decided to look at trailers!!  I brought Sharon to dentist Saturday and on way home looked and never got home until 8:00 P.M.  So high for old trailers all above $2,500 – if livable.  Bill said under $1,000 – I looked all day and no go!  Then at 7:45 on way home I saw a consignment lot and thought I’d just try that and then no more!  I told him exactly what I’d told others – he brought me to lot – and there it was.  $850, with $200 down and $65 per month.

There was one other $1,250 and lean-to but I brought Bill back today and we decided on it.  It’s 1949 – ten years old.  We said for salesman to try from owner to get it for less.  Guess what?  He did come down.  $700 total, $65 per month, $150 down.

We paid $20.00 to hold it and in three weeks we will move from our apartment to a one room apartment efficiency with living room, dining room and kitchen.

We’ll try to get on base and save on PX buying – we’ll save about $60.00 per month, $20.00 when we take Cindy out of kindergarten, $10.00 when we move the rest of our things out of Bockstahler’s cabin on February 1st, and that’s $90.00 saved.  More than enough and we should get back our $80.00 deposit on the apartment here.

We don’t want a big investment in a trailer or we won’t be able to build a cabin.  Bill will build bunk beds at the end or we may use it as a dining room and all sleep in the Jamesway.  This trailer is not ‘modern’.

Honestly Mom, I was really impressed ‘back there‘.  If I can I’d like to HOLD the efficiency apartment for an office for plastics and maybe for selling the advertising he wants me to sell every morning.   But plastics are doing well!  I’ve got four bookings next week.  I get $15.00 at least per night.  I want a party five nights a week so that would be $75.00 per week!!

We took the Jeep station wagon back to the valley when we went ‘back in’ to see the homestead.  Oh Mom, it’s a DREAM.  Everyone raves over it.  Tell C. and C. it’s a WILLIES STATION WAGON and it’s a 1953 and was $995.00.  Anything with four-wheel drive up here starts at $500 no matter how old.  They’re like gold here because they are so much in demand.  A new Willies Station Wagon is $4,500.

Oh, how I’d love to see you.  We’re really going to get caught up.

Bill does need to be pushed.  I found the Jeep wagon and trailer on my own!!!

He’s thrilled but slow.  Still he knows and does HIS part that I couldn’t do!

I’m so happy now since I went up to see it [the homestead].  People already are pouring in to homestead and get land here – I’m not about to give up!


January 22, 1959 Thursday

*Note:  Will be so glad when Bill [working out of town] gets home.  I miss him terribly.  I plan to go to homestead on Monday with Bockstahlers.


January 26, 1959 Monday

Bill went to homestead yesterday alone – I did housework all day.  He borrowed snowshoes and it took him three and a half hours to get from Pollard’s below us to our land – snow was knee deep – waist deep in some places and he had never been on snowshoes before – and all up hill!!

Butners are also going to pull another trailer up by March 1st.  We plan to plow road and go ahead with plans as soon as possible!  Bill took my Jeep and it did perfectly!

Days are getting longer now and we have some sunshine again – sure feels good.

I get so homesick for Eagle River (I’m trying not to smudge new nail polish pardon writing).   I’m about to leave for work – am writing this note to you while home on lunch.  I miss the country so!!!  Can hardly wait now to get on our place – it now seems real and wonderful again.

The Jeep made such a difference and our trailer.  We’ll put our good furniture into storage for now – at least!


January 28, 1959 Wednesday

They say there will be a big shortage of rooms for tourists now that so many will be coming to Alaska to see the new state.  You could run a guest house summers and a room for gifts – from Woodcraft Shop and lamps on consignment – no investment – and winters we could stay there (if we decided on it).  An idea.

I also would like a lodge summers and gift shop.  Separate from our place – cabins – and they take care of them.  Idea!  I have far too many and keep poor Bill in a whirl.

We’re going on two week notice here today – I think.

My Jeep won’t start today – I’m so worried!

Cheaper hotel here costs $11.00 night – share bath – no kitchen.  New Captain Cook Hotel is to be built this summer in Anchorage!  All kinds of new buildings going up and land selling like crazy for speculation!


February 1959

Printed receipt for Panoramic View apartment #547-25m 1350 Bluff Road in Anchorage for $165 dated February 1, 1959

*Note:  Here we go again – leaving a modern well-heated, up-to-date home (apartment this time) for the wilds of Alaska! And once again I am not sorry – oh, for some peace and quiet and serenity!!


CHAPTER SIX:  I Don’t Want to Back Down Now


February 1, 1959 Sunday

Today we went to look at the trailer again and Mom it really is cute and you can have it for a vacation stay at our homestead when we move into our cabin!  It’s really perfect inside – not a mar on the walls which are wood.  The mattress and couch are horrible and we’ll just throw them out!!  But it’s cute as can be!!  It even has little Venetian blinds!! – And tile in the kitchen plus cupboards, closets etc.!!  I really love it!  I had looked at so many before and really didn’t realize it was so cute!

Tomorrow we’ll give our two week notice!  We’ll put all our furniture into storage!! – At least until our cabin is built!  We’ll buy Army bunks for the kids – real cheap and narrow!  Then if we have to we’ll live in the trailer until rest is done.

We’re having an early thaw!! – NOW!  Drip, drip 35° above zero today and sun bright and warm!  My intuition was right!  We better hurry!!

Gee I miss you so much – you’re a sport, maybe you could stay at ‘our place’ this summer!!  Must close – no real news – I have several plastic parties this week and am busy every minute!  Oh, we did go see ‘Harvey and took children – they loved it.  It was a riot!  I laughed so and enjoyed every minute of it.  Really good!  They’re Hollywood actors and so much fun to see everyone.  Eagle River is home to me – strange – I love it there and always will!  — Even the crazy people there!


February 2, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  Gave notice to move out!  Here we are finally about to embark on our greatest adventure of all!  We’re really going to move onto our homestead – at times it seemed as if it never would really happen!

I can’t help feeling a little bit ‘queasy’ – but still relieved and glad.  We are to vacate our apartment on Feb. 16th – a Monday!!!!!!!!!!!

Lately I’ve gotten just plain homesick for Eagle River.  I miss the mountains, the cleanness of the country – I miss it all!  Last week I just had to go out there and once on the highway, headed  that way I felt as if I was ‘going home, going home’.  I just soaked in the beauty of the surroundings.  I just love it out there – it’s HOME and ALASKA!!

My we’re having such mild weather – the snow is melting and the streets are slushy – and icy at night.  It went up to 35° above today.  Surely hope it freezes again so we can move!


February 5, 1959 Thursday

*Notes: Today started packing!  It’s very difficult to decide what to take and what to leave.  The biggest shock of all was the final realization that we won’t have electricity – and I’ll have no need for my comb. Waffle iron and grille, toaster, mixer or my new coffee pot!!  When I packed my lamps away and realized soon my iron will be packed away – well, oh how, oh how will I ever manage??

I packed on and off all day and read a bit in a book titled “Living on a Little Land.”  I really felt inspired anew.

Now that I know we are leaving, this apartment seems especially noisy!  It will be nice to have peace and quiet again.  I know I could never feel ‘at home’ here


February 12, 1959 Thursday

We move Monday – the 16th.  You can imagine all of our work. – We had our first $20.00 bill on the Jeep station wagon – the starter and our first flat tire!!

Bill drove the Jeep truck the other day and going over a bump broke the water pump!  Is now fixing it and lost $5.00 worth of antifreeze!

So it goes.  Last Saturday John, Bill and I went to homestead.  John played with Pollard kids and Thomas.  I went half way up – walked and what a HIKE – it’s all up hill!  — To where men were trying to fix tractor.  Tractor belongs to Thomas – but Pollard is using it to plow us out.  [the tractor belonged to both Pollard and Thomas]  It will cost $175.00 to plow the road and get our trailer up there.

Yesterday it cost us $35.00 to have the road plowed into Bockstahler’s cabin so we could get our Jamesway out!

Pollards are so nice and have good sense of values – Mrs. Thomas lives back in from Pollard’s one mile – three children, six months pregnant.  A quarter mile glacier has formed over their road!  They walk!

People living here in apartments are just like we left behind.  They are flabbergasted at the idea of our homesteading!  Most of servicemen’s wives don’t like Alaska!!!  Can’t wait to get back to wherever they came from.

I’ll be glad to leave apartment living!

I’m packing, packing, packing!!  Seems odd to pack lamps and electrical appliances away.

Will keep you informed as things progress!  I’m in a whirl today!  Love, Me


February 13, 1959 Friday

Written receipt from B and J Surplus Sales including two Coleman Lanterns for $14.95 each, one pair of Bunny Boots for $3.59, one water can for $3.50, socks, underwear, etc. *Notes:  It adds up!  $52.81 – gone! And this is only the beginning!!!

*Notes:  Bill arrives home tired and discouraged!  I had a plastic party tonight and got home at 11:30 – just as he was pulling into the drive.  All afternoon and evening to move half of the dismantled Jamesway from Bockstahler’s cabin up to Pollard’s!!  He says it was an awful back-breaking job!  We’re both exhausted – and no stopping now!

Homesteading at its best is difficult – homesteading in Alaska is really difficult – and for us – well, homesteading on the side of a mountain in Alaska proves more difficult still!

Bill tells me today that he was unable to drive that first steep hill with the Jeep truck – now what?

I told him to ‘go ahead’ as far as I was concerned.  I don’t want to back down now even if we have to walk one mile of Mountain!  How horrible and could we?  Bill and I and John could but the three girls??


February 18, 1959 Wednesday – letter to Mildred’s brother

Dear Charlie,

Bill took all last week off – vacation – ha, ha – and so far including today, three days.

As Mom has told you – we’re trying to get moved to our 160 acres by March 1, 1959.  If we set up residency March 1st and live there fourteen months we’ll only have to clear ten acres.  If we wait until May 1st it will be twenty acres.  Seeing we had decided to get our trailer back into the valley while snow is still on the ground anyhow, we thought we’d all get settled back there before break-up.  Those dirt roads are almost impassable during the thaw, which will come soon now!

We’re having absolutely perfect weather for moving.  Cold, but not too cold, 10° above, blue skies and white snow.  Oh how I yearn for a movie camera.  We could make a movie of the whole thing.

Monday I rode ‘back in’ in the back of our Jeep truck.  We left the Ford station wagon at the end of Eagle River Road and brought the girls ‘back in’ for the first time!  Ahead of us a tractor pulled our trailer.  What a thrill for us – you just can’t imagine!

We only drove about five miles an hour and there I sat in the back of the truck with the whole beautiful Alaska Mountains – hills –forest – all unfolding behind me.  If I’d had a motion picture camera I could have kept it rolling every second and had a perfect film – such beauty can’t even be appreciated from a car window.

It took all day to get the trailer back seven miles.  The wheel came off, bolts came loose.  It got badly dented – the road is so narrow, but they made it to Pollard’s, but our own first hill is far too steep and they couldn’t even begin to make it up our road.  So there the trailer sits on Pollard’s land – only he is on Carr’s land.  Anyway Bill said I have the choice of living in the trailer – but not on our land right now – or hiking one mile up the mountain to live in the Jamesway on the homestead.  I picked the Jamesway so off we go again.

I drove Bill ‘back out’ yesterday and he left at noon to go ‘back in’ and get the Jamesway up by tractor and they’ll try once more with the trailer.  If they can’t get the trailer up now they can in the spring.

We bought two Coleman lanterns so far – $14.95 and $12.95.  The other day I spent $52.00 at the surplus store in about fifteen minutes.  I bought heavy insulated ‘longies’ and Bunny Boots.  They are Army gear and marvelously warm for cold weather and dry snow.  So far I alone have since coming to Alaska:  one pair high hiking boots (not cold weather), one pair fleece-lined boots (for over low shoes not high snow), one pair ski boots, one pair bunny boots and ‘mukluk socks’.  I need boots for high heeled shoes and rubber boots, hip boots, etc.

Yesterday I bought Cindy a new parka and now all need fleece lined boots.  The snow is so much deeper – three feet – on our homestead – than in town and so clear.

We wish for a tractor and a dog team and a snow traveler ($895).  Wish you could both come up and spend a few weeks so you’d be familiar and could understand my letters.

We’ve written Superintendent of Education to see if perhaps children can remain in this school on Government Hill for remainder of year.  If we don’t get special processing they will charge us tuition – $30 per child per month once we move off Government Hill.  I don’t think I’ll ever move again.  It’s so beautiful back there – like another world – so quiet – peaceful – unspoiled.


February 21, 1959 Saturday

Just a line to get a word in the mailbox before the mail man comes.  We’ve been so busy!  Bill took two weeks off – each day we’ve made great effort but when we look back – what have we accomplished?  It goes way back to when our ‘so-called road’ was built.  It’s impassable.  That first hill is sheer murder and the remainder of the mountain trail isn’t fit for a donkey.

Bill pulled our trailer out to the end of Eagle River Road and the Old Monster is now called Old Faithful – did a marvelous job even down the steep hill and over the Eagle River bridge.

The next day I kept the children out of school – none of us could miss seeing the trailer go back there –.  We met Thomas and his tractor at end of the road.  It was a perfectly beautiful day – blue cloudless sky – it took until dark to get the trailer to Pollard’s!  All went pretty well – one bolt lost and Bill had to go to Shopping Center for one and later wheel came off trailer – well, as I say it wasn’t easy and Thomas earned his money and then some BUT what a thrill for me.  How I wished for a motion picture camera to take pictures.

The kids had played in the worst deep snow so I took them in Pollard’s – took hours to get their clothes dry.  Meanwhile they tried their darndest to get the trailer over that first demon hill.  It still sits on Pollard’s property at bottom of hill!

Bill went up next day – determined to try again and get Jamesway up there at least!  He stayed over night and didn’t get home until midnight, forty eight hours later! – Only to tell me one third of Jamesway is up and tractor broke down on road on way back – clutch went out.

I called office here at the apartment and luckily they said we could remain here until ready.  All boxes are packed and ready to go! – But where?  I won’t go back to Bockstahler’s cabin again even temporarily and I won’t live in the trailer if it isn’t on our property.

Even if Bill gets the Jamesway up then we can’t drive to it!  Have you ever walked one mile up the steep mountain?  WHEW!

Today he and John are moving stuff out of Bockstahler’s cabin and their van!  Then what?

Honestly I don’t know.  I’ve been so busy here – ironing, packing, washed and ironed all my curtains which are packed – even my electrical appliances are packed.

I’m ready and anxious to go.  We looked at tractors and Weasels [vehicle with treads] yesterday – Dreams! And oh for money!

We financed trailer at Bill’s work and man came down to $600 instead of $750 – originally $850 – I’m almost afraid it will get hurt hauling it up there – Pray for us, it’s such a Cutie!  And only costs us $25.00 per month! – Instead of $650 on contract.  GOOD!

We did have to pay $40.00 just to get Bockstahler’s cabin road plowed out!  But will pay Thomas later!

I hate living in the city here – I detest it!

I adore our homestead and that road – I feel like a different person out there, but what will we do?  I’ll keep you informed!

Moving – a headache!  — I hate it!


February 23, 1959 Monday

Today I finally brought the Jeep down to a garage for a thorough looking over!  I went down first of week and brought it to a garage.  He looked under the hood but said he should really put it on a rack and really tell condition of motor!

Did your papers carry news of our big wind storm?  It was really a whooper!  We just more or less lost several days this week because of it!  I could write you pages about it – but will tell you later.  Suffice to say it came upon us in afternoon – we were out in it only three blocks from home and could barely get home to the apartment.  By 5:00 winds blew at 50 MPH and by night 85 to 95 MPH.  They’ve never had anything like it before!!  We’d had a fresh snow fall over weekend and it blew the fine snow and whipped it just like a blizzard.  Terrific!!  Up above the stars shone bright.  The wind piled the fresh snow which hadn’t packed down – one couldn’t see where you were going and you could hardly stand up in it.

The sun was shining and it was – days getting longer sun shines now at noon for awhile –a beautiful day.  On the way home we noticed the wind was blowing – very suddenly.  The wind kept blowing increasingly harder and harder.  Snow whipped around buildings here and piled up so I couldn’t see where the sidewalks had been plowed.  The snow stung when it hit your face – just like needles.  Children could barely walk under it and it just got worse and worse – like Old Hurricanes in Massachusetts – remember?  Of course here it’s pitch black out at 3:00 P.M. now.

All night the winds rattled – snow blew in through tiny cracks invisible to human eyes in the north bedrooms and piled up on the widow sills six to eight inches high.  I kept waking up all night – I’ve never seen such a spectacle!  That wind and snow – br-r-r.  No deaths, no fires reported – no school or work next day.  In some places snow piled ten feet.  Cars were buried completely.  Bill got our car out at 3:00 P.M. next day.  Blew until then.  Trees, signs, chimneys blew down!

Then water pipes busted in her apartment and ours – flooded bathroom and girls bedroom with hot waterTalk about city living!!  No lights to clean mess up by.  Water just came and came – pipes burst I guess in walls – walls got hot and we had to move all furniture into John’s room, used blankets, bed pads etc. to try to soak water up!  Finally man upstairs turned it off in wall.  Apartments were a mess everywhere.  Some ceilings fell in, some walls had to be knocked out to get to pipes – see electricity went out, heat went off, pipes froze – was 20° below zero!!

At 10:30 lights came back on!  We ate canned stew and mopped up floors and put children to bed!

I woke up next morning with wash to do, furniture all shoved around – candle wax all over everything – all toys in living room and a splitting headache.  I worked for two whole days to get place in order again!  No real harm done.

Lovely out today – and as I say everything OK.

Your check arrived – haven’t used it yet!  Am waiting until OK’d by garage.  We plan to sell Ford wagon as soon as we can!!  Dog tore up car inside and all has to be fixed.  We tried to trade it in on a Jeep but would only give us $300 on trade-in and we still owe $450.  We’ll fix it up and sell it for $500 or $550!!  So we can definitely pay you back the $300 + $175 for Jeep.  Damn it all anyways – how I hate borrowing from you – I do believe in Homestead – it’s all I want – and will give you that and soon other — $ $ $.  Thanks, thanks, thanks!!!!!!!

Got the Jeep station wagon back!  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.  The garage said it runs fine but it’s impossible to tell until it’s driven awhile.  We will hope for the best.

(The Jeep truck won’t run today – cold, I think.)  But has run up until now but not dependable!  Now I go after these plastic parties – full steam ahead!!!!


February 24, 1959 Tuesday

Finally am enclosing check for $15.00 on truck – leaving a balance of total due $160.00.

Bill spent yesterday at Homestead – no progress I’m sorry to report.  Tractor isn’t fixed yet.

Last night I was really discouraged for first time about homestead – we have such luck but today I got thinking about spring and all and know it will all be OK!

Everything stands around in boxes packed – and it’s rather discouraging – to say the least.

Tonight John was looking at price of baby chicks in catalog – and I was thinking of garden (like your recent letter).


February 25, 1959 Wednesday

Will write a quickie tonight to try to solve some of the quandary I have unmeaningly left you in.

“No” we’re not up at Our Homestead yet.  The tractor broke down for the second time and seeing Pollard works full time and Thomas is in the Army they too must do what they can – when they can!  We’ve been told they will get it fixed before Friday and then we hope – this weekend that the trailer and Jamesway will get up over the hill.

Here we sit with boxes all packed, etc. ready and waiting.  It’s hard to wait BUT I am catching up on mending, ironing etc. – and getting my wits together after all this rushing around.

The children are not upset by anything yet as they’re still continuing at Government Hill – and we wrote the Superintendent of Education in Juneau and gained ‘special permission’ to let the children remain here for the rest of the year and go back and forth with Bill once we move.  I don’t yet know who will take care of them before and after school – that’s IF we can get up there as planned – probably the Pan-View Nursery.  Well, we’ll figure that when we get to it.

Meanwhile we figure our bills and get grey hair.  We’re trying to sell the Ford station wagon.  The dog tore up the upholstery after we first moved in town and it will cost $100.00 to repair!  We’re trying to sell it as is at a lower price but people are fussy.  The body is not too pretty either – well, will see.  We still owe $450.00 on it and are trying to get $595.  We paid $1,095 two years ago.  Damn prices and money!!!

I’ve missed you all so much lately!  Told Bill it’s oh, so gloomy here – no curtains up, clothing, toys, dishes packed – Oh Mom, will we ever be settled?  (I’ve felt like hopping a plane to see you all – all week.)

We sold TV (portable) $65.00 and I sold two of my cheaper suit cases tonight for $11.00 – every bit helps.

Honestly I’ve packed everything.  I left two towels out – and just washed those – Bill is hollering out – “Towel?” – All packed.

I’m to make cake for cake raffle at Cub Scouts and no cake pans at all – all packed.  I thought we were moving over a week ago now – and questions everyone wonders and asks – I feel like hiding – anyhow I borrowed pan for angel food – now no mixer, not even a hand one!

Well, we have money troubles but still are lucky!

Had to get Sharon and Cindy new snow boots $10.00 a pair!! – And Linda needs new shoes – and Cindy a new parka – always something!  Decided to get them at Lorraine’s in Eagle River – shopped all over Anchorage and she’s the most reasonable and she gave me $2.00 off each pair of boots and $4.00 off of jacket!!!  Anyway her husband was struck suddenly by heart attack several days ago and is now in Hospital in very serious condition.  She’s so worried and sick.  Never a sign before.

Also Lucille Gunter fell and broke her leg and I guess, hip on ice in front of her own home!  She’s in hospital too.  Isn’t that terrible?

I heard all this as I was going skiing on Eagle River’s new ski run and almost decided not to but decided that if Lucille could do that to herself in front of her own house then I’d go on and ski!  It was fun.  First time all winter.  Played with girls in snow for first time and came on home.


March 5, 1959 Thursday

No news here except we’ve had an abrupt change in weather.  Everyone – including us — thought and hoped, I might add, that winter was over for this year.  We were all very greatly mistaken – as you will see by the newspaper I’m sending you.  It was a nice fluffy snow and everything is very clean now BUT what if we had gotten up to the homestead?  We are really watched over – I truly believe this and how could I believe anything else?

Three times the tractor broke down and left us sitting packed and waiting to move out.  Saturday Bill went up again.  Tractor was repaired and all.  They loaded the rest of Jamesway on the two-wheel trailer behind Pollard’s tractor and started off and wham bang it broke down again.

Bill came home dejected and sick!  We went to the annual Cub Scout dinner.  My cake sold for $4.00.  I had to borrow a pan and mixer because mine were packed.  We took the girls and all was so nice!  I’ll send you some stuff and tell you more of this later – it was snowing when we left home.  At 10:00 there was an announcement that anyone living off of Government Hill better leave or wouldn’t get home.  It snowed all night and next day – then as this recent paper tells more later – over twenty inches in all!!

Oh, Mom, we struggle and struggle – but we’re watched over for sure.  If it had been left up to us we would have been up there on the mountain weeks ago!

No more now.  I’m sewing (mending) and ironing and plan to rent a typewriter today or tomorrow – and write.  Love – Mildred

P.S. I still will not unpack anything here but tractor must be repaired again and road plowed all again so we’ll aim to get up as soon as possible – by May for sure!!


March 14, 1959 Saturday

*Notes: What is the price we’ll eventually have to pay for our homestead?

First leaving our family and friends, and breaking away and coming to a new land.  Now selling all that is dear to us.  I feel sick for selling our beds.  I remember so well the day we bought them and how we struggled to pay for them and now we’re selling them for half price.

As I brooded the children walked in.  John questioned, “Oh Mom, Are We Going To Sell That Too?”

I said to my son – “John, it’s a question of just how badly we want our homestead.  Many people would like to come to Alaska but they never will.  Do you know why?  Because they’re too attached to their material possessions – and they’re the ones who will miss the greatest adventure of their lives.  Honey, we have come this far do you want to turn back now?”

John emphatically answered, “NO.”  Behind him stood his three sisters and they chorused, “No-o-o” and there was the only answer I needed.

For as I explained to them – what is really important in life can’t be bought with money.  I have a million dollars worth right here that isn’t for sale.  You children and Daddy – I won’t sell you and you can’t be bought in the store.

Why, we can buy more furniture any time.  Daddy can build our own furniture to suit our own house or maybe we can furnish our own house with furniture from the Woodcraft Shop and I really like that furniture and it would fit in so nicely in a log house.

I know how you feel children.  Our furniture means home to us – it isn’t that it was so expensive – we have kept it in good condition and to us it is home.

We worked and struggled to pay for it – but if we’re going to homestead and it will sit in the warehouse where we’ll pay up to $30.00 a month to keep it.  If we save $30.00 a month we can buy new furniture and a different kind of furniture to suit our new lives here in Alaska.  And I have an idea that when we get our land we may have changed – just as our ideas are broadening and changing all the time up here – and we might not even like this furniture then and then we’d want to sell it anyways and would have difficulty selling it when we were way out on our homestead.

And just remember when we first lived at the log house in Eagle River and our furniture hadn’t arrived – how much fun we had and how uncluttered our lives were.  We picnicked, we walked, we painted and most important of all I wrote and that’s what I want to do again WRITE, WRITE AND WRITE.  So let’s not cry about it all it will all work out for the best.  And do you remember Mommy’s other dream?  First dream is to Homestead and secondly to see Europe.  Now after we get title to our land – we can do this and are a lot more likely to do it if we don’t have furniture to worry over.

When we return we’ll have our home to return to – a cabin on our homestead on the mountain and it will be ours –!!

Once again I thought the children have helped me to see the light and the TRUTH.


March 16, 1959 Monday

Still haven’t heard from Harrison or Neisler’s about Altadena house since we wrote you.  I am anxious.  Bill will settle for $1,500.  He wrote and we await an answer.  We hope for a cash settlement too – I think we’d settle for less if we have to.

We’re now selling our furniture.  Was a hard decision to come by.  You know how very sentimental I am and in a way our furniture means home BUT we can always replace it and may want something entirely different someday.  Meanwhile storage costs would add up.  I sold John’s maple bunk beds and good mattresses for $85.00.  Sold our own complete bedroom set for $85.00 this morning.  (Still have couch, chair and big TV.)  Oh, and these two living room occasional chairs for $30.00 pair.  Expect others will come soon to look so will hurry with this.

Bill tried to get up to the homestead yesterday – once again to no avail.  Tractor repaired but first hill is too icy and slick for even a tractor to get up!!!  We’ll now keep trying and when snow melts some, will make it.  We must be there by May 7th and we will if we have to drag up a tent.

Hope you can come up this summer – now we can send you money you loaned us on the cars soon – plastics sales are doing well.  Keeps me busy!

Will write a long letter soon!  My dear Jeep is in garage.  As to what is wrong????

Miss you all and love you.  This is all a mess here!


March 18, 1959 Wednesday

Bill went to the homestead – or rather to Pollard’s Sunday.  Mrs. Thomas’ baby died – did I tell you? – She was the one in back of Pollard’s.  Has three children, glacier over their road, remember?  Was expecting fourth baby in June.  The night of the big snow storm her water broke and she sent her seven year old boy a mile and a half through snow at night for Mrs. Pollard.  Brave child!!  Her husband was at work.  They got her to hospital and a one and a half pound baby girl born.  She died in two weeks.  Tragic but no fault of homestead.  Two women back there gave birth to babies this year without any trouble.

Well, Thomas and Pollard need some money toward contract.  We sold our refrigerator and gave $50 to them.  The tractor is repaired and tried again but this time even the tractor wouldn’t get up over our steep hill.  Bill came home sick at heart and discouraged – I can’t say I blame him.  Well, probably just as well to remain here until the last thing for sake of the children.

As for your plan – Bill says you do so well working out your problems we can’t advise.  We can’t work out our own.  I tell Bill we will go up there in May if we live in a tent!!

People are coming up to Alaska in hordes and caravans to homestead and we’re so close – oh-h – it’s maddening!

No more snow but turned cold – has been 10° and 12° below zero nights – and 10° above days.  We’re used to it and it never bothers me.  Of course these apartments are so hot that we’re always warm!!

We haven’t been out since New Year’s Eve – never go anywhere or do anything.  My Jeep station wagon is in garage for $70.00 repair job. That makes it $102.00 so far in repairs!  Damn it.


March 31, 1959 Tuesday

Western Union Telegram


[Money gram receipt same morning for $300.00 – cost $11.20 to send]


March 31, 1959 Tuesday

Just a one page letter because movers came today at 1:00 P.M. to take things to storage – even most of the boxes which we had hoped to take up to Homestead with us.  These are plainly marked “Homestead” and now it’s “later” on them.

Our landlord here has been patient, but apartments are scarce and he’s tired of being up in the air.  He wants April advanced rent for month and thirty days’ written notice.  Really pushing us into decision all week, and I’ve been telling Bill now that I’m not pregnant (thank God), we could camp in the trailer, and he’d have nights, and weekends to work on getting the Jamesway set up.

Well, it worked out that way.  Only we’ve been paying in arrears so we wouldn’t get caught having paid rent in advance.  Now they wanted us out by April 1st and thirty days’ notice.  This was noon yesterday.  I said we’ll be out tomorrow.  (Now today) and apartment will be cleaned — or deduct rent from it for cleaning and they have our $50.00 deposit.

Well, we’ll save this month’s rent but Bill doesn’t get paid until Wednesday!  So – we wired you for $200.00.

Oh, Mom, we’ll get straight yet and last night I was worried, but not now.  I want my own piece of land.  Ours!  I told Bill we’ll file on adjoining land for you!  All you’d have to do is live there seven months.


April 1, 1959 Wednesday

B and J surplus receipt

2 GI gas cans $3.90

2 GI water cans $7.00


April 1, 1959 Wednesday

Moving Day

And such an ordeal!

First morning in trailer — we had taken Sharon in bed with us because we only have one set of Army bunk beds in the trailer and they’re very narrow.  Cindy and Linda slept on the lower bunk and John on top.

She woke up, looked at me, kissed me sweetly and said, “Look Mommy at the pretty curtains, they’re so sweet.”  The darling.

None of the children have complained at all even when tired and hungry.

Today John said ‘This is FUN – all cozy and warm inside.  I like living in a trailer.’

How readily children adapt and adjust to a change of environment.  They feel our love and care everywhere and it’s all important.  The size of our place is not important, just the homey feeling which we create anywhere we are as long as we’re all together!

Bill busied himself all evening and got propane gas, three more water containers, one more oil container, and a used Army cot for John.


April 1, 1959 Wednesday

*Note:  Moved ‘back in’ the valley today and will live in the trailer for this first month near Pollard’s – our road impossible.


April 2, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  Tonight I saw a Coleman lantern lit for first time and it’s amazing how very bright it is – lighting up the whole trailer with a flickering but steady bright light – very reassuring.  So much to learn.

I take my pen in hand to jot down a few notes concerning the many talents of my homesteading husband.  I just remarked to him as he was busily connecting our stove – converting a gas stove to a propane gas one – that we never could have homesteaded at all if he wasn’t so handy and able to fix things – can’t call an electrician or a plumber, etc. in when you’re out in the boondocks –


April 3, 1959 Friday

*Notes:  Well, now we’ve spent two nights in our trailer and are none the worse for wear – with the exception, of course, of a few aching bones but a happy heart.

Last night’s midnight trek across our Jeep trail back into the valley tested our strength and endurance once again.

Yesterday Bill stayed home and so did the children.  Nobody got to bed before midnight and we decided to keep them home from school until Monday.

We were so busy all day – trying to get some semblance of order in our tiny, crowded little trailer.

I had a plastic party last night to add to the confusion.  I am trying to decide whether or not I can continue selling these.  We need the money but the time spent and travel time – having Bill drive me now – he doesn’t want me traveling over this road late at night during break-up – we finally decided to have these parties this month and perhaps sell out.


April 4, 1959 Saturday

*Notes: Had another plastic party last night and didn’t get home with Bill and children until 1:00 – and to bed at 2:00 A.M.

Yet, today I feel wonderful and happier and more content that I’ve felt in months!  We’re close to our homestead.  Bill and Pollard are working now to get the rest of Jamesway up hill.  I’ve been taking pictures of beautiful scenery and now am unpacking more things and clearing kitchen.  Had first hot meal in our trailer today – pancakes cooked on my tiny, compact and efficient gas stove!  We eat on a folding screen placed on two chairs.  Children sit on the bed and Bill and I on two water cans.  Works fine!

I love it here – I now can see what’s going on with the road and feel I’m helping too – SOON we will be up on our homestead!

Kids have been as good as angels.  I find it tight and cramped in trailer and would like a dollar for every time I’ve bumped my head going in and outdoors on the Coleman lantern hanging from a nail – out of danger.  I feel I’m getting hunched back and it’s even worse for Bill – but children seem to like being cramped – or as they put it ‘cozy’.   I tell Bill they remind me of little puppies – and have enjoyed it very much – so far.

Children pitch in and help and argue over which window or mirror they can wash and who got who’s the cleanest and enjoy being a part of it all!!!

Children have been reading to each other for amusement – no TV – and so far haven’t really missed it at all.

I just did one batch of dishes and now more are soaking.  Say this clean snow melts to fine dish water – live and learn!

The lamps Mother sent air mail arrived the day we moved back here – packed beautifully.  We haven’t gotten any kerosene yet and have just been using only the Coleman lanterns but they’re expensive and too bright.  I have kerosene down on my shopping list for tomorrow.  They are both so pretty and homey!

If only this trailer now was on our place and we could drive to it. I would be the happiest person in the whole world.


April 5, 1959 Sunday

*Notes: Snowed last night.  Baked my first cake on the gas stove – turned out perfectly!

Decided to have McCrary build a good road after break-up is over and pull our trailer up then – Meanwhile we’ll concentrate on getting Jamesway up and live in it first.

Went to market to stock up and had dinner at Fire Lake Lodge – we all deserved it and felt better for it.  I’ve had a miserable head ache but after dinner and aspirin feel better.

Just had my first lesson in how to light a Coleman lantern – I’m amazed at light they give – so bright, lights up whole room.

Kids to bed, school tomorrow – hope all goes well this week!


April 6, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  First day in trailer alone

Last night I faced one new step – first was driving over road alone – then actually moving back here – then my first day alone.

Alarm rang at 5:00 A.M. – up and at it (at least no water to haul and nice gas stove – makes a world of difference) children up, breakfast etc. and off they go.

Trailer a mess – so crowded and terrible looking but started right in – water to heat, dishes to wash – cot to put away, blankets folded and put in clothes hamper, laundry put in Jeep to take to Laundromat, scrubbed floors well – hmm beginning to look like home –

10:00 A.M. – up five hours now – girls been out since 8:00 A.M. – sun shining and warm but ground frozen solid this morning.

Girls in – muddy, wet, snowy clothes off – bath water warm and ready – heads shampooed, bath over – and clean, pretty girls, neat trailer – Not bad at all!

1:00 lunch over and delicious stew bubbling on stove for dinner – for we must eat early and get to bed early – for early to bed, early to rise.

I find myself singing – no radio and need for music (well, as long as no audience) – the view is superb from my tiny kitchen window and I’m really having fun.


April 7, 1959 Tuesday

Just a note to let you know we’re all weary but OK – I guess!  My we’ve had a time.  As I wrote you we moved in one day – I had to repack all those boxes – oh well – it was a nightmare!  Moved into this trailer – lock, stock and barrel one night at 10:00 P.M. – no dinner that night – kids had a bite at Pollard’s.  Was 48 hours before we got gas stove connected and I scrubbed it.  We carry water in – in war surplus water containers from town [metal five gallon Jerry cans] in the Jeep.  It’s precious needless to say by the time it gets in this far – yet I’ve had to scrub the trailer with ‘carried in’ water but it’s a losing game during break-up!  My, what mud.  You sink down in it – it’s awful!

I’ve had four plastic parties since moving in.  Kids sleep in car as Bill takes me!  Home at 1:00 A.M. and up at 5:00 A.M.  No wonder I haven’t written?!  Almost gave plastics up several days ago but need money so will carry through summer if I can.

Golly so much I’d like to tell you but it is 11:30 at night and up again at 5:00.

I drove ‘out’ – oh, that road.  It snowed this morning and it turned to sleet –last night the mud ruts froze and it was awful.  Sharon [age 2 ¾] lucky her, always goes sound asleep and she has never before gone to sleep in the car – bounces asleep I guess!

— Out goes the Coleman lantern.  Will write a long letter tomorrow.  Spent all afternoon in Mt. View in Anchorage washing clothes and drove ‘back in’ in my Jeep – Bill in his.  Must close, light going out.  Love, Me


April 9, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  It’s been so hard to resist the temptation to buy the children some new Easter finery.  We bought some lovely Nylon dresses for all three girls the summer before we left California – this year by taking down hems – Sharon can wear Cindy’s and Cindy can wear Linda’s.  Linda doesn’t have one – [“she’ll have to wear” – words crossed out] I found a darling suit, complete with hat, gloves and petticoat in the catalog for $9.99 but as yet I’ve held off and now it wouldn’t get here in time.  I feel I’ve won a little!

It’s hard to change one’s ways.  All through my childhood we always dressed up in new clothes for Easter – not to show off, they were always sensible, but fresh and pretty.  Having four children we’ve never been able to completely outfit ours at one time but I’ve always seen to it that each child looked especially nice on Easter and had what was needed.

This year Linda needs a dress and a petticoat and John can’t wear any of his slacks he has out grown all of them – even most of his Levis.  The girls all need shoes and coats.

BUT we have only 42 days left to get to our homestead now and every penny counts.  I haven’t spent one cent extra all winter and won’t now – I can’t.

We will go to church Easter – to ask God for assistance and guidance during this next year and to tell him how grateful we are to be here in Alaska and together and well.  I really ask for no more.  We’ll work for everything else.


April 14, 1959 Tuesday

Been ‘back in’ eight days.  Save letter!!

Here’s the letter I promised only – here in the tiny trailer as elsewhere time flies!  I get up at 5:00 A.M. and did take a two hour nap today with the girls – my, I’m tired – but today flew.  It’s almost 6:30 P.M. and time for the ‘others’ to come home.  One and a half hours it takes!  I’m glad school will be over before too long – this would be much too much for them.

Trailer is warm and cozy and bright.  Coleman Lantern lights up room BRIGHT – BRIGHT.

Later – everyone came home and I never got back to letter.

By now you’ve received one letter from me and one from John.  We stopped at Parson’s Hotel in town at 3:00 P.M. and they left at 11:00.  Now I know where I can get a clean room and bath for $8.00 – will go there.

I had checked all over town and $15.00 one room and up to $35.00 per our family!  We had only had sponge baths and I was desperate.  It would cost $1.25 for shower in Chugiak at Washeteria – $1.25 each – so room wasn’t bad.  I haven’t told a person and don’t want to.  Let them guess how we’re managing!

Oh Mom, when I’m home all day it isn’t bad at all.  I have time to squeeze everything in and make dinner and place cozy.  But when I leave with Bill and then all day in town and then plastic party and home at 1:00 or 1:30 A.M. it’s murder.  Pollards seem so settled and smug about it.  Will we ever be?  Trailer is O.K. – cozy and warm but oh, so crowded – no table to eat on – I’m going to try to get card table out of storage and one chest tomorrow.

Right now I’m melting snow for dish water – ran out of water last night.  Bill will bring more back in.  (Excuse awful scribbling)

We have three gallon metal containers [they were five gallons] – three or four and we carry water back in here in Jeep.  Jeep truck broke down again – maybe another cracked block – we have more troubles!  Bill took my Jeep last three days – thank goodness for it.

So that much for water!  I ran out because I’ve been scouring and scrubbing and waxing the floors here.  They were terrible. I’ll never feel right until it’s just so!

Road is still too icy and snowy for even tractor to go up!  What will we do?  I don’t know.  Bill and I fuss a lot – he’s so matter of fact about it all and gets discouraged so easy.  I admit he has good reason but I also know him.  He never thought a trailer could get back here.  He never thought we could homestead at all.  I am determined to have that land!  I love it back here – the road is worse than I ever could have imagined!  But after break-up is over (ha, ha it snows every other day!!!) we’ve told McCrary to build us a decent road.  If only I’d followed through the day I took you down there we’d have it now.  As he says, “If I’d built your road you’d be driving up there now!”

Bill says he’ll live up there and we’ll all live down here in the trailer until McCrary builds our road.  I know people and it will never stand up – never!  We’d never get our land then.

Yesterday Mrs. Pollard said she doesn’t like where we’re going – Mom it’s beautiful and it’s ours.

I get so frustrated fixing up this trailer – working so hard and is there hope to get on our land?

I tell Bill I’ll leave him if we don’t make it and I might too.  It’s all important to me – there isn’t anything else I want and I feel he has failed in his part.

Oh for a mule or donkey to ride Sharon and supplies up.

Oh Mom, thank you for all your help.  I’ve hired another plastic dealer and am working to be ‘Unit Manager’ and then get 5% of their earnings – is it worth it?  Had three parties last week and three this week.

We’re all tired and nervous.  Kids got report cards – excellent.  Linda got all As and John fine in reading now, almost A – but has arithmetic problems!

They’re best sports ever – even Linda!  They love it here BUT don’t laugh.  I hate being so close to my neighbors – now that’s funny.  But this isn’t our land.   Oh Mom, what I wouldn’t give to see you.

I can’t advise about school except to say we both hope if we get there we want you to come summers – we’ll make all this up to you YET.  If we can’t get up there nothing matters now!  Surely you can see that.  I’ve done all I can do – except walk up!  Jamesway still isn’t up.  I feel like screaming and banging my head on the wall.

What can I do now?

I’m so mad at Bill and he doesn’t know why!

Oh, I’ll write later – must melt more snow!

Oh John [3rd grade] and Linda [2nd grade] go in to school on Government Hill with Bill – lady cares for them for 50¢ an hour before and after school.  School lets out May 22nd.

This is the darndest spring I’ve ever seen!  Love, Me


April 23, 1959 Thursday

What would I do without your marvelous letters of encouragement?  I just finished reading aloud to everyone your book letter – we loved it and your reactions to everything.  I’m always amazed at your grasp of the whole situation at such a distance – you’re so understanding of it all.

Are you a mind reader truly?  I read your letter and am amazed – it’s as if you knew I was sick — sicker than ever before!

I did write you of my cold but it was no worse and no better than others I’ve had.  Let’s see – it was Wednesday night – shortly after I had written you my long review – my nose was so blocked up and I took some drops and blew very hard – oh such a mistake.  Take my advice and never blow.  The ear specialist in Anchorage says one should never blow.  Immediately I realized a queer sensation in my left ear – a whining and a blocking – no pain as yet!  The pain was there when I awoke Thursday.  Oh Mother, pain can be terrible as you so well know!  (I’m writing this in bed lying down so please excuse – I’ve wanted to write but I’ve been too, too sick!)

I suffered all day Thursday knowing Bill wouldn’t be home until 8:00.  Oh how that day dragged by.  I also felt weak and terrible.  The pain increased as the hours dragged by – it throbbed like an abscess tooth and I knew it would have to be opened to let the terrific pressure out!

Parts of ‘the horror road’ have dried out – other parts where the sun hasn’t hit as much are now thawing – it’s now partly impassable.  We walk one mile in through mud and muck.

Anyways that’s ahead.  They got home so late and were so tired I couldn’t have them turn around again and take me to the doctor.

I had dinner ready and house trailer in order – it had taken me all day bit by bit to do it.  Bill was so concerned and sweet and oh, how I suffered!  He suggested that I go to Pollard’s and see if she had drops – I had had some but had loaned them in apartment house.  She gave me four sleeping pills and told me to warm some oil – I went right to bed and slept fitfully all night. – Bill couldn’t arouse me until 9:00 – why is it pain lessens in morning and one can sleep?

Mother I was so weak I couldn’t dress and so sick I didn’t wash my face, comb my hair or put lipstick on.  Just slacks and blouse and into car – oh, how I dreaded that road.  At times I pleaded with Bill to stop, stop!  Each rut, each bump increased the pressure and made me more and more nauseated.  I hadn’t been able to eat but had drunk one cup of coffee and haven’t drank coffee since – I threw it up all the way in.

It took one hour to get off Jeep road and I was so sick I felt I’d surely die.

Then to town – all doctors out to lunch.  Finally went to one and out came Mrs. Pollard so clean and crisp – she took look at me and said “Oh, Mildred.  I didn’t know you were so sick.”  She directed us to Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist.  I don’t like him personally but he’s best doctor in town and oh, so efficient.

He was out to lunch – I dragged.  I couldn’t walk at all into office and slumped into a corner.  Nurses took me right into inner office – and left me there as ‘emergency case’.  When he came in he immediately operated.  He punctured my ear drum (Do you know anything about it?  I don’t have my medical books here.) and drained ear – also said I had acute sinusitis and drained my nose and throat.  I was too sick to care what he did.

He says he saved me hospital expense – it was an emergency.  Told me I’d done it by blowing my nose too hard and all mucous into my ear.  Gave me prescription for nose drops, codeine to kill pain, sleeping pills and I was OUT.  Oh Mother how alone and sick I felt and how I longed to go to YOU!  Nobody no friends, no relatives – nobody – and no money extra.

Doctor was $25.00 first visit but we didn’t have to pay – yet – medicines cost $15.00 – and yet I couldn’t go back over that road – Bill took me to Parson’s Hotel – took me in back entrance.  Anyone would think I was drunk for sure – oh, no night gown or pajamas but how wonderful to be in bed.

That was Friday – and I hardly remember – I know all I did was sleep.  Bill took over the children, baths and all.  We stayed in $15.00 room for two nights – and then Cindy took fever – I was some better – we took $10.00 room Sunday night without bath but wash basin in room.

You know it was all a nightmare!  I lost inches around waist as all I wanted was ice and cokes.  The others went back to trailer Sunday afternoon to change clothes and eat – all so expensive.  I bathed Cindy all night to take fever down and gave her aspirins.  By Monday it was gone!

We checked out at 1:00 – had to.  I had plastic deliveries to make and met Bill at 5:00 with kids.  By then I was worn out – then long ride home.  Jeep road was terrible – we couldn’t get past Eklund’s and Oh Mom we had to walk in.  Then I had to get dinner and kids to bed as Bill had to go back and move Jeep.

This morning poor Bill had to get kids breakfast and out by 6:00 to walk to Jeep.

John came home sick with fever – tonight.

It’s all been pretty awful.  The trailer is messy and looks terrible unless always picked up.

We’ve spent extra money on my Jeep — over $200 and now hotel, doctor, medicine and lost time.

May 7th draws nearer and I haven’t any energy and still have to take codeine for continued pain.  Bill saw doctor today and he said I have to take it easy for month.  Inner ear is still very infected.  I take sulphur and it drains.  He drained more yesterday before I left for home.  I’ve lost all hearing in it but he said it’s because of the infection.  It’s an odd feeling – a constant whining [whirring?] like listening to a sea shell and pain all the time – the pain runs down the side of my face and it even hurts to talk!

Queer, queer.

Worst of all is my complete loss of energy – I’ve been in bed all day due to walking in yesterday – just not at all like me!

Well, all for that.

Poor Bill – he has to get meals and care for kids and is not patient with them.  He’s tired and so are they.  It’s all a MESS.

I long for a home again.  A beautiful home.  Oh Mother I hate all this – the dirt, the lack of a bathroom, the lack of water.  I hate it.  I hate it – and yet what else?  To buy a $35,000 house here close to neighbors worth only $15,000?

To return to the apartment?  No, no, no.

It’s hard to know.

I may return to you for a visit late summer.  Bill suggested it weeks ago.  I’d drive the Ford back and stay at least a month – and Bill would fly down and bring us back.  I’m lonesome for you all!

We’ve already earned our land and the pathetic part is we’re still not on it and MUST be by May 7th.

And with me so sick — now what?

I had to have my new dealer take over my Friday party – tomorrow changed her date – then one Friday.  Nobody wants Saturday – save it for husbands.  Women are hard to please!

Still haven’t heard from lawyer on the Altadena house!  Anxious too.  Love you so much.  Keep my letters.  Bill has been wonderful to me.


April 29, 1959 Wednesday

Trials and Tribulations — I feel guilty as all get out to be writing you right now – I have millions and millions of things to do.  We all have colds and yesterday morning we all overslept – no wonder – let’s go back to Saturday, which was a rather pleasant day.  The day I stayed home all day and fixed up this ‘tiny hole’ we live in – it’s livable – but oh, those days I have to go to town and we come home to a cold (freezing) little trailer – we don’t leave the heat on – we have to haul our oil in – I hate it all then! – But back to Saturday – Pollard brought Butner’s trailer in – it’s now down at Pollard’s – they’re not living in it.  I was surprised they even got it in.  The trail is a muddy, gooey rutty mess – oh, I’ve never seen anything like it before –!

Friday night Bill and I decided that Pollard would have his last try at bringing Jamesway up last weekend – then we’d have to buy a tent (misery).  Anyways Saturday afternoon they tried again!  Believe me all ten fingers and toes were crossed and Mom, they made it, they made it!!!  I still can’t believe it – especially since you’ve seen the road.

Sunday I woke up feeling plain LOUSY – the works = headache, eye ache – cold, sore throat and ached all over!  I laid low Sunday morning – oh, I didn’t finish –

As Bill was tired – cold and all I busied myself – the trailer was immaculate (which, I’m telling you is no easy task!!!!!!!!!!!!) – this goes here – this goes – oh, in the third box packed behind those three under the bed – but first one must move two folding chairs – card table etc. to even get beneath the bed – oh, that’s done!  Now oh – yes, Bill and my underwear – we each have one suit case a piece which are stashed in a tiny closet – on end – oops bumped my head again – really I will be a stooped over person if this continues much longer!  Or – and on it goes – we have one closet exactly 24” wide — !  A paper chest – remember?  And now feel luxurious because we have a card table after weeks of eating off a folding screen set up on two chairs – and we used water cans for chairs!

Well, as I was saying I fixed a nice salad – started water boiling for noodles – coffee water in another pot – onions frying and pudding cooking and whim bang – the gas went out!  Couldn’t be!  I lit it again – I had everything at a crucial point!  The noodles I’d set in boiling water and you know how they get soggy right away – well, they did!

Finally it dawned on me – the gas was gone – Propane, you know – we haul it in too!  And here it was Saturday – meant a trip clear into town – oh, no thirty miles for gas – each way – NO, NO, NO.

Already it was 6:30 and kids were hungry and it was far too cold for an outdoor picnic —

Bill came home – and I blew up.  He explained it wasn’t his fault the man said it would last one month – and it didn’t.  I guess the man didn’t count on our using it for making toast, heating all our water etc. and there’s no gage – $20.00 deposit on bottle so can’t afford two.  Still I felt rotten – dinner ruined!  Meat to cook –

Finally I got a flat pan and took door off our oil stove for heat and slid pan on top of burner and heated about two tablespoons at a time –

Profanity!  Me cooking Saturday dinner a spoonful at a time.  It’s only tiny too.  We ate about 10:00 — I didn’t want a thing by then as no coffee.  It’s my life line here –

No water, no electricity, no bathroom but no coffee that’s too much!  (Pardon awful writing)

Then Sharon got sick and had tummy aches – and then I woke up sick Sunday.

Nevertheless at noon Bill announced he wanted to try to drive the ‘horror hill’!  Again.  I had to go – so we all bundled up.  It was a perfectly gorgeous day but cold – and piled in ‘Isabella’ – she took the ‘horror hill’ fine and even the switchback.  I looked to the back seat and oh, you never saw such four happy, beaming, joyful faces – finally after one year they were going to the homestead.

Do you all realize the girls had never before seen their homestead?  They talk about it, dream about it, make up songs about it – but never once had they ever seen it!!!

Then we hit number one mud hole – there are about eight bad ones —

The very first part of the road has now dried out – it’s so steep the water ran off and it’s also exposed to the sun but as you progress it gets muddy – then the higher you go it gets icy – where it melted and then refroze – places are so steep and so icy you have to sit down and scoot over them!!!

Oh, Mother – it’s not a road, it’s a frozen tractor trail period – never, never attain will I refer to it as a road!!!

Well no amount of teasing and coaxing could make Isabella budge.  Not only that but she started smoking around the clutch – now she’s in the garage – won’t shift into low – and her bill is another $50.00 – can’t win for losing.  The truck has been parked in the Jeep road for ten days – or did I tell you? – broken water pump – and maybe another cracked block – flat tire now too!  Bill has been taking my Jeep to work!!

Well, anyhow – he backed it up (after we got out) back to the switchback – and we slowly walked on.  Soon he caught up.  He had an axe, shovel, hammer and nails to do some work on hut if we could all walk up.

Oh Mother – I’ll never forget that walk HIKE – no my climb – poor Sharon.  It was hard on her – we pulled her, pushed her and carried her back!  Cindy is still heavy and it’s hard on her.  Linda of course pokes along but John runs up!!  And scorns us for being so slow.

We rested, we climbed – we got muddy, wet and our pants froze to our legs.  I mistakenly rested on the snow (it was crusty) and then it melted and oh, my seat was cold.

BUT on we trudged – one mile of steep mountain side exactly like “Heidi.”

Oh, what a view though.  Oh Mother, you must see it – You must!  Will have a road as soon as break-up is over and you must see it!!  I love it – and it is what keeps me plugging on!!

BUT Mom we made it.  Down here near our trailer the ground is exposed in many places but up there the snow is still four FEET deep and no ground exposed!

There was a hard crust over the top so we could walk on it – the snow covered all the berry bushes and brush and left only the few high trees exposed!!  It looked like something out of a – never, never land.  Stretches of white sand dunes – and below us lay the whole wide world and beyond that the mountains rose in splendor to the blue sky.  Oh Mother – it’s weird in a way and yet so breathtakingly beautiful!

We walked over to the spot that I had thought so beautiful for our home last summer – where we can see the creek below us and was amazed to see how terribly steep the canyon looked – with the trees bare of leaves!  It’s steep and dangerous!!  Way below us laid Thomas’ house.  I felt as if we were in an airplane.

We watched a moose run through the woods – 1,500 feet below us – that giant moose looked like an ant.

Mom we’ll own clear across the creek and up the mountains as far as we can see!!!  Imagine!  Oh, how I wish you were here NOW, NOW, NOW and yet it’s almost too hard for me!!

We walked all around the shelf where our ‘ranch’ will be – awesome and quiet and wonderingly.  The children were so alive, so thrilled and so noisy – but who cares?

Bill right away started putting the floor together and I built a fire for us to dry off.  Wood?  The moose have nibbled so on the tops that many trees have died and are easy to snap off and burn wonderfully.  There are very few trees – we’ll never cut a birch or spruce on our shelf as I’ll now call it!!

We stayed there for ages – the children slid on the hills on boards and oh, what fun!  I never, never wanted to leave.  I told Bill, “Why didn’t we move right up Monday?” – Oh, how I want to live there on our strange but beautiful land!  “Our Hidden Valley” but by 5:00 we decided we must leave.  It wasn’t so hard coming down – just rough, muddy, rutty, icy and steep – and those frozen ruts are as difficult to walk over as the mud.

Then back to a trailer with no gas – Bill had cooked breakfast and lunch over a fire.

So changed clothes quick, quick and climbed in the Jeep to go to town for dinner and ‘gas’.  Bill had decided to take Monday off to work on hut.

He had remembered a sign saying Propane in Eagle River but it was closed.  When we got to Airport Café in Anchorage and it was closed – children were fast asleep and I was tired and weary.  It took us one hour to get to the end of the Jeep road [where Eagle River Road started]!!  And now was 10:00 P.M.  We finally went to Hofbrau as Bill remarked – what a contrast – music, and oh, so picturesque and had turkey dinner.  Only $1.50 for children and $2.50 for me.  We splurged – hadn’t eaten decently in days.  Kids are so good – rough roads, upset routine, everything mixed up and oh so good!

Then for groceries at all night market and then for propane and then back home.  Oh Mom, it was 2:00 A.M. again before we got home.  The Jeep couldn’t be driven on the hard surfaced road because no third shift – so had to switch all that stuff at end of road and sleeping kids – no dishes done since Saturday because no heat – and home at that hour.  [They had three vehicles:  The Jeep station wagon, the Jeep truck, and the Ford station wagon.]

As I said Monday we overslept!!  No wonder!

I was so happy to stay home.  I did dishes, cleaned trailer and kept kids home from school.  John helped Bill.

Tuesday we brought Jeep to garage – and took Ford to town.  Had to buy parts for Jeep, get plastic party packages at post office, deliver – make calls – and then to Washeteria.  $7.00 worth of wash, eight loads – in less than one week!!!

Then hamburger in napkin and quick changes in car from jeans to dress, heels and off to plastic party at 7:00.

I sneezed all night and felt horrible.  $60.00 party, $18.00 commission.  Bill met me at 11:00 P.M. – he had to go get wash when dried, get supper out for them – and return for me.  Oh Mom, what a nightmare.  Then to garage to get Jeep – couldn’t repair it until today – left Ford – another switch – boxes of laundry, water, fuel oil, plastics (three large boxes) and four sleepy-weary poor children.  Back to horrible Jeep road – oh, how I hate that road at night!!!

We got home at 2:00 A.M.  Is it worth it?  Oh – to give up those Damn plastics now.  I had planned to go alone last night before car trouble.  Another party Friday.

Twice we went to Hotel – once $8.00, not over night, $14.00 over night and second rate Hotel.  Got kids bath though – might go next week once.

My arm is tired and I feel like HELL today.  Real bad cold.  Kids get rested and snap right back and I don’t.  Must get their lunch – my what a big long letter.  Keep it for me.  Love, Love, Love, ME.

[Mildred’s eight-year-old childhood story was enclosed inside this envelope ]

The Laughing Brook

Once there was a beautiful, gurgling Brook.  Its name was “Laughing Brook.”  The animals in the nearby woods gave its name to it because the wind came and wrinkled it up and made it murmur, and gurgle, and smile all the way down the hillside.

The animals came to drink at this brook, never knowing it was a fairy brook.  Some animals were good and some were bad.  Those that were bad turned into snakes after drinking the water from the brook, but those that were good stayed as they were, beautiful and kind to each other.

There was one good fairy that lived in the Black Forest where this Laughing Brook flowed by.  That fairy had a firefly that lived with her near a waterfall.  The fireflies lit up her way as they flew about the country.

There was a lovely meadow near the brook where daisies and buttercups and clover grew.  In the meadow there was a big red barn where the farmer kept his cows and hens and pigs and horses.

One night as the fireflies were flying around with the fairies watching over the good people they saw a fire in the hay in the barn.  At once the [written they] fireflies and fairies flew in the window of the farmer’s bedroom and flash their lights so brightly and after that the farmer and his wife woke up, saw the fire from their window, and rushed out in time to save all the animals and most of the barn.

Ever after that the farmer and his wife watched every night to see the fireflies at work and play.


May 6, 1959 Wednesday

Yesterday was another of a series of beautiful days but today is cloudy and cold!  Yesterday I took children to school and returned here [trailer] to clean house and then got cleaned up and went up to Government Hill to make plastic deliveries.  I feel stronger every day and yesterday except for odd feeling and some pain in my ear felt more like my old self!

Government Hill looks a sight.  The military bases are all so clean and as I wrote you everyone is fixing up their yards but papers were blown all over from trash on Government Hill and the snow leaving had left a mess.  I heard that Panoramic View Apartments are getting a new manager and they sure need one.  Joke – our apartment still isn’t rented and they were in such a hurry to get it back!

Jo Smith, my next door apartment neighbor was getting ready to leave – across Inlet in boat now that the water is open for summer.  Now she’s really isolated over there.  Can only cross that Inlet at certain times and they’re very treacherous waters!!  They will live in a tent – she, her husband, their brother-in-law and two children! – No stove, no doctor, nothing and she can’t wait to get over there.  Says the children are happier and healthier over there and she loves the beach and the uncomplicated life she lives there.

Just like our children are so happy and rosy cheeked in the country and love to remain outdoors and are always busy on some self-designated project but oh how different in town.  John, especially, wanders around like a lost soul.  “What is there to do?”  And I must admit – nothing!

I go to doctor today and am anxious to see what he says!  Still no hearing in that ear – God I hope it returns!

I know how you feel – I really probably shouldn’t relate all this to you because I don’t want to worry you.  My only record of all this is these letters — that way I can tell you more and enjoy so much more writing it all to you then just keeping a diary.  So, if you’re sure it doesn’t disturb you then I’ll write this way for now!

I love you letters – it’s to me uncanny how you can see both sides so clearly.  Don’t think we like this struggle right now – it’s the worst I know!

You’re so right it’s too hard on Bill and the children – it’s helping to be in town some like this.  Will stay here [at motel] tonight – dreading the bill – and then will return tomorrow to trailer.

Bill says we can’t go to mountain now.  He says he sinks into mud to his knees – the road is too steep and the water and melting snow just comes down it!  He did walk ‘back in’ – took him hours – all the way to trailer and there he spent Saturday night.  Sunday he hiked up to homestead where he stayed over night and Monday night returned to trailer.

He says it was worst night he has ever spent.  The darn mosquitoes ate him alive and when asleep in sleeping bag he awoke with his face a swollen mass – he could hardly open his eyes!

He said he laid out another road in another area – and when he got down near Thomas’ – they live closer to marshy area – he said the mosquitoes swarmed all over him.  He described them as so thick he couldn’t see a bare spot on his sleeve and I believe it and they’re monstrous things.

Now here in town I haven’t seen one!!  So you can see how people have varying reports on Alaska!!

He said the silly Quonset [Jamesway hut] looks so funny sitting all alone in that wilderness and so sad we can’t get to it to make a home!

Now what?

Bill says that we’ll live in the trailer until the road is rebuilt.  If I felt alright I’d go on up there – and if school would let me finish teaching children for only the last two weeks I would!  John’s teacher told him if he missed much more school he might stay back.  Makes me furious!  He’s only missed about five days since we moved ‘back in’ here to the trailer and he got a good report card and hardly missed one day until we moved!  I’m going to have Bill go and talk to the Principal.  I think school could send work home and I’ll help them.  Well, I’ll be so glad when May 22nd is here and school is out!

We have to live there seven months of this first year.  Nobody says those seven months have to be consecutive as far as I know!  Now if I could go up there for one week or one month then I could leave and return.  Buttners were only on land two weeks before the fire and haven’t returned – but at least they did the required “set up residency” part.

Bill says he set up residency Sunday night but Mom I don’t feel right about that and yet we’ve tried so hard – but you know me it must be done right I feel!

We’ll see what doctor says today about my ear and then will see.  He’s a very busy man and over confident in a way and not easy to talk to – know it all so I never can explain to him.  He told me to take it easy and have Bill help at home and then said why, of course I could walk one mile up mountain to homestead WHY NOT?  Honestly!  And I could hardly navigate myself from his office at that time!  STUPID I think!  Doctors – BAH!

Well, as you can see it would be futile for me to visit you during summer – unless Bill was to fix up house etc. and I’d return for winter.  But these summer months will be easiest and I must be there then in case we’ll have to leave during winter!

As far as I see it winter here if we can winterize our house will be easy after this – it snows only a few long storms here and then cold between.  Once our road will be fixed and plowed then the worst will be over.  It’s now I hate – during break-up I’m sure is the worst by far!

Let’s see

Good months = May, June, July, August and September.  Five months done!  Snow came last year in October but still Oct and Nov – well, they can be very bad winter months here. – now let’s see again!

One year from May – 1959.  May through November, those are the best, no doubt about it and then we’ll know.  December 1959, January and February 1960, very dark and cold!! – that’s below zero weather here and snow.  March and April 1960 break-up again.

Oh Mom, I can’t give it up.  I must go ahead – it’s all I want and all Bill wants.

I asked John if he wanted to return to California.  He looked aghast, as if I’d said something terrible.  His little face saddened so and he said “NO even if you make me then remember this.  I’ll come back here as soon as I’m old enough alone and I’ll never leave!!  I’ll homestead myself and I’ll do it right!” – Ah, youth!

I had to scold him about this but oh, he has counted on it all so much!

Bill also said it’s beautiful up there – still some snow but melting rapidly!

Mom I feel that break-up is worst – golly Hahn did it – all those people up Eagle River Road did it!  So can we!  They walked in too, had a cat trail [caterpillar tractor trail] and all that – it’s hard to believe now as it will be someday hard for people to believe we’ve had to do all this.

I can hear them now as they drive up to our lovely home – “Now, weren’t you the lucky ones to be given 160 acres of free land.”  Oh – I’ll, I’ll –

Yet didn’t we say that too when we first came.  I look back at us and I wonder how anyone liked us!!

No we’re just learning to be Alaskans – and there’s only one way to become that – it’s like an initiation and you either quit or become an Alaskan.  You know what I want!

We will not QUIT unless we have to – unless we’re forced to!!

So on we go!! – Somehow!

We never got that letter from the lawyer – I think he must have sent it regular mail!  So it’s gone to escrow – You know I told Bill at the very beginning they were going to sell it and that’s why they went to Realtor!

We need the money.  Terribly!  I hope it won’t take too long!!  __________________

Now back to homestead – Mom these plans could work out.

Somehow we live there seven months.  We live in trailer and Jamesway for three years or so and get financially straightened out and build a decent road.

You can come up summers!  Oh Mom, it won’t take long to get set up and then you’ll come up every summer!  Who knows you might like to try a winter after we’ve built.

Once our bills are paid and our overhead will be low then we’ll plan OUR HOME.  Oh Mom, our plans are glorious but it must have that setting!!

Nothing else can do and we love the winter.  I even like the dark days.  They’re cozy and nice and a fire going would be wonderful in a fire place.

I like the long summer days and I love our homestead.

They WILL put a decent road in back here.  Why, think how we’d feel if we returned to California.  Then had to come back five years from now and went out that road – and saw a lovely road going all the way to Girdwood as planned.

We’d never get over it!

We will pray and hope and work.  Goodness I could get sick anywhere and I’ve been so well here really!!

No we don’t want the land for the money, but for a HOMESTEAD.  Our children are young!! – Very young!  By the time they’re in their teens we will really have a lovely place if we decide to stay there.

If not, at lest we will KNOW.

Oh, Mom I know you want me happy and you’re such a wonderful Mother.  I really don’t know how you do all you do now.  I don’t have your endurance or inside stamina!!  I want YOU TO be happy too.

I wish I’d like California but I hated it and I love it here and what’s more important I understand this country!

We’re learning about it and learning more every day – will make out.  WE WILL

Oh, how we adored your poem.  I read it over and over to children and their faces were proof of their love for you.  Sharon likes the HO, HO.  But Mom it gave me a scare – don’t worry me by wishing for wings – angels have wings!  Please explain to God what you meant!!  Please!!

I want you to fly over our trailer in an airplane coming to airport – not as an angel!!

We’ll both write yet – summers in Alaska.  Mildred

Save this letter, it’s a longie!  I hope you understand.  I admit I’m muddled over it all too.  (No, I like being alone ‘back in’ there!)


CHAPTER SEVEN:  Maybe Someday It Will All Seem Funny


May 10, 1959 Sunday

Little did I know – or little did we dream – Friday night I had a plastics party and so we brought both cars into town for first time!  Lucky we did!

What a time we had getting out of there – we had to trudge about half mile to Jeep.  I was still weak and wobbly but carried a large suit case, Bill carried two boxes of plastics and each child had a load.

Finally we got there – you can imagine how early we’d all had to get up to do this.

Then on way out we met Thomas on tractor coming in to work on the road for the day.  He said Pollard was stuck in a mud hole down by Barbee’s and he’d be on down to pull him out.  Well we got stuck in one too – this side of Pollard’s Jeep.  Thomas got us out and then Pollard – later and later.  Finally we got out.  I was surprised to see how much snow had melted since I’d been sick.

Bill insisted we change cars and as I say it was a lucky move indeed.  He went on in with John and Linda to get to work and them to school.  I stopped by to pay Mrs. Bockstahler for some jelly I’d gotten for Mrs. Cox in town – an old customer.  She had been sick too with the flu.  They’re so nice!  I really like them.  We had coffee and went on.

I never stop to visit anyone – never time and really while we’re having such a struggle I don’t feel like seeing anyone!  It’s a terrible feeling of ‘aloneness’ doing all this.

Anyways into town.  I had a full day planned and then we’d stay overnight and return Saturday.  I had five pick-ups of plastics at post office to get (and money to pick up) then deliveries on way home Saturday and wash to do – always an enormous wash at least seven loads at 75¢ load.  But at least there’s a nice new Washeteria in town, TV to watch while waiting and all.

Well with Jeep – with a hundred dollar repair bill under her belt – rode along just fine until we came near Mt. View – then it felt as if the motor fell out.  Oh no!  No – not again.  It was unbelievable.  We’ve already poured more money into her then the Monster – these Damn four-wheel drives, of course after THAT ROAD I don’t blame her!

I pulled off into a drive in Mt. View – or rather coasted in.  She wouldn’t even turn over.  I went over to a garage across the street – at least she picked a handy place to break down!  He thought she was just hot.

So we waited all morning sitting tired and all in that dirty Jeep in that dirty garage.  At 12:00 noon she decided to start up.  The garage only charged $3.00 and we were off to find a motel and wash up.

I had seen a sign “Chittys’ but is another second rate Motel.  I stopped and got two rooms and bath and kitchenette for the mere sum of $14.00 again. – And believe me not nearly as nice as Clark’s or any of those which were only $10.00.  Oh well, the nice fancy ones here and there are only two are so D – expensive and won’t take children any how!  So – –

I called Bill and told him where we were and gave both girls baths – oh how quickly I get to baths every chance I get – shampooed hair and then did myself.

By that time I was tired and woozy too.  Remember the pain you lived with?  Well, I live on codeine too and when it wears off – oh such pain.  Not only in my ear though – by now the left side of my face was affected too – and Mom my neck.  It felt as if all the puss had gone through that area.  Worst of all is I can’t hear at all in that ear and I have a continual ringing sound and sound like the ocean in a sea shell.  It’s terrible oh, how grateful I’ll be if I ever get over all this.

You’re so right that health is most important of all!

Then I took enormous box of clothes to wash – but car sounded odd – I had to go to post office to get a letter with 7¢ due on it.  Was hoping it was that letter you mentioned seeing on lawyer’s desk but it was the clippings from you.  I loved them but was so anxious to hear from him.  (Even John enjoyed the clippings!)

Anyways the Jeep got worse and worse driving it downtown and I wondered if I’d ever get back.  It was more than over-heated after all.  People stared, covered their ears but I had to drive it back to the Washeteria.  It sounded terrible!  Bill met me there at 5:00 and was so upset when he heard my Jeep.  He knew motor had gone.  Oh Mother, Mother we’ve had so much and we try so hard and May 7th is this week!!!

We’re having beautiful warm spring weather finally — and last two weekends a complete loss.  Last weekend because I was sick and now this.  Poor Bill!

I had a party Friday night – and by then was so tired I could have died!!  It was a flop I think and I couldn’t have cared less.  My mind is not on plastics and I was sick!  Got home at 11:00 – and to bed.  Too tired to worry or care.  Should we give it all up and return to California?

Outside the motel were cars from everywhere.  Everybody coming up now to Alaska and here we are so close to our goal and yet really so far!

You and you alone can only know how we feel!  We hardly speak to each other, each of us alone so saddened and heart broken and me so sick.  Bill’s teeth hurt and dentist says $600 – there’s no end!

How can we pretend happiness when we each are worried and unhappy?  And I can’t pretend to you!

Saturday morning Bill took it to garage and heard the worse.  Bearings gone, heaven knows what else?  $150.00 and can’t get it out until Tuesday.  We couldn’t make a decision right off so pleaded for some time.

Still money to get and packages at post office – and listen to women complaining about their plastic problems.  It was 1:00 before we got them delivered and decision had to be reached.

Bill is dying to buy a new Jeep but would need $800.00 and Ford as down payment – total price close to $4,000.  I say, “NO we can’t” – and even house money mustn’t go there if we get it.

Can’t even sell Jeep station wagon in shape it’s in and have only made one payment due to all this.

Must stay in town $14.00 per night as no way to return and if we had sold Ford when we tried then what?  Bill couldn’t get to work or children to school!  Nice, nice old Ford!!

Oh Mom – well we talked and decided had to be fixed up!  We have to get in and out and it’s our only hope!

Bill decided he would not waste this weekend even if I had to.  So late yesterday I drove him to the end of road.  He planned to walk to trailer through that damn mud – and then today go up and get that damn Jamesway up.  In order to accomplish this he’d have to haul manually one large part of hut up one mile! – B and J Surplus had left that part out mistakenly so he had just gotten it!

How’s he making out?  He had a cold too!  Poor darling Bill – we’re both so upset and yet determined.  We both agree if this fails we’ll no longer want Alaska.  It will all be spoiled!

He plans to return Tuesday morning – to sleep in hut Monday night (oh, no gun – darling Bill – I wish we’d never thought of homesteading but we did!)  He’ll return here Tuesday morning and go to Land Office and set up residency for Monday.

Then we’ll all move up there or return by Jeep.

How will we pay for Motel, Jeep payment and Jeep breaking down – remains to be seen!  Plus Doctor!  Oh, Mother, will it ever end.  $14.00 a night, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday — four nights.

Tuesday night I have a party – damn plastics.  I must give it up!!  It’s tiring me and wearing us all out.  I must stay at homestead and make a home and care for my family.  They need that especially now!  If we get up there I’ll sell out and can get money back on my kit.

Will he make it?  So close – where has the time gone to?  I wonder are we meant not to go there – or are we being continually tested!

Pollards have troubles – he has gall stones and pain and an old Jeep and she doesn’t know who will care for children this summer.  I’d love the money but six is too many and I couldn’t get them!

Oh Mom, if we get up there – it was to be a surprise we’ll give you several acres for as long as you live and build you a one room log house – to be yours for summers.

Why don’t you plan to come to live with us when your time with house is up for awhile until you decide what you want to do?  You’re so welcome but dear Mother no home for you to come to and none for my dear family either.

I feel so lost!!

If only my head would clear up and I could hear again – then off gladly I would go to the mountain top not to come down all summer!

I go to doctor Tuesday and hope he can relieve me of this pressure.

My strength has returned day by day and this pain is almost gone – thank God!  So it must be getting better but I feel as if I had ten heads – at least!!

The woman here at the motel said to get Absorbine Junior – it had always helped her family so I got some and will try anything.  She said they came to Alaska eighteen years ago – still bought this land for $150.00 an acre then.  Now has motel only for sale for $75,000 – will keep her house and apartment house she has next to it.

Oh, there’s room for more good motels here – like Clark’s – for families.  The linen here is clean – very – but the stove and all and cracked dishes and I had to take plastic cloth out of my kit I couldn’t stand the torn old one on her table and $14.00 a night.

Poor kids haven’t any toys or anything.

Luckily I’d tucked a few color books and crayons in and they’re happy with paper and pencils now.  John and Linda love to read and help me by reading aloud to others too BUT still all that time HERE.  Such a waste!!  John is now drawing a picture and girls just came in.  It’s 7:30 P.M. and still light outside – summer is coming!

There’s a swing and slide set outside so they’ve been playing on that!  It helps some!

We’re so low on money and had just stocked up on groceries at home.  Golly what luck!  We’re not eating out and I can’t get an appetite here.  So far dry cereal, bananas, potato chips, and beans, hamburger, tomato and lettuce and sausages have done well.

I miss Bill and yet I’m unafraid – remember what a scaredy cat I used to be?  No longer!!  I never even think about it – well, hardly!

End of another day – time to get supper.  It’s 8:00 P.M. but children (except for John) had naps.

It’s been a beautiful weekend.  Hardly a trace of snow left.  I wonder if it’s finally gone from homestead too!

People in town and on Government Hill all have spring fever.  I never knew there were so many convertibles in town – all now with tops down!  Everyone has BBQs out and picnic supplies ready – why even hoses are being used on lawns and they emerge green and bright!  Isn’t it amazing!

The children brought me a bouquet of dandelions today!!

I ache to be on our place planting and fixing – potted flowers and seeds etc. are in all stores!  And here I sit in a D — motel!

The IRONY of it all!

Well, for kids’ sake I’ll close and get them – ugh – some supper!  Hamburger on buns.

Wish you were here – on second thought I wouldn’t wish you here now for anything – what a mess!!

Maybe someday it will all seem funny.  Will write you Tuesday!  Love, Me.


May 11, 1959 Monday

We sure had a peculiar time for Mother’s Day – I must say!  So much to tell you – how much I wish I could keep you informed day by day!  First I’ll tell you about today, and then go back.

Before even telling you about today, though, I’m writing real tiny so I can get more on the paper since I’m low on paper.  I’ll first put you at ease by telling you I’m better.  Oh, Mom how sick I was.  The doctor said it might be two or three months, and Mom he wouldn’t let us pay for two office calls and it was only $25.00.  Now isn’t that a bright note in Alaska of all places?  I know I must watch it and always wear a kerchief in chilly weather, but I feel so much better.  I still am a tiny bit weak but that is to be expected.

I saw today what a pokey-poke I am.  We climbed to the homestead and it took me three hours from here [trailer at bottom of mountain] to get up!  I had to rest every few steps and sometimes just collapsed on the sleeping bag I was lugging up.  Bill had a bag too and our camp dishes and Sharon.  Even Linda beat me by far.

Oh Mom for words to describe our so-called “road” – (ha-ha).

The first steep hill is dried out but then we hit one alder tree grove and guess what?  It’s near a mountainside marsh for half a mileThe water just seeps out of the ground.

All the water runs from the soil now to our road and down it.  Oh Mom, Mom, our road (?) has turned into a creek.  I never saw anything like it – it’s a stream and where it runs in [to the road] it has even washed the mud off and it’s a stone bottom like a creek and then in between is oozydeep mud.  You sink way down and your boot sticks in and you can hardly pull it out.  If you don’t move quickly you’d never get out.  For all that distance one has to walk on the upper side through alders and brush; or try to walk in to “creek” or sink into the oozy mud.  Even the sides are muddy with deep gully ridges.  The upper part is now dried out and is O.K. but so steep.

Bill told me that since the snow and ice had melted it was like that, but I had to see for myself!  We just don’t know how long before it will dry out.  Bill has diverted the water in as many places as he can but it really doesn’t help much.

It took us three hours to get there and another two hours to cook a simple meal over an open fire because the wind was blowing so hard.

Oh Mom I didn’t want to come back to the trailer – Pollard’s know the seventh has passed.  Bill put in residence the night he set up the Jamesway – will it count?  Will we be contested?  Oh Mom he must get up there, but no water there.  What can we do?

Tomorrow we’re buying a Yukon stove for heat up there.  It will burn wood.  We can chop and gather and save us hauling oil up now until we can drive – also a camp stove to cook on.

* When school is out I’ll stay there.  We’ll try to prove up in seven months – to get title – that means clearing and cultivating twenty acres this summer!  We have to have a tractor.  We can’t depend on others to do it — McCrary’s all booked up solid.  Thomas’ tractor broke down and he is building a new road for himself.  Pollard wants land cleared.  Carr needs his for his own work.  You remember how busy everyone is here in the summer – the precious summer days.

I won’t rest until we get title to our place.  We need at tractor to rebuild this road, clear our own land, haul up supplies now and in the future and to build a new road.  When we get the money we’ll turn the Ford and truck in on a Tractor plus $800 down.  $2,500 for a second hand one!

* Oh how the children loved it up there.  Oh to be young, Mom.  They scamper up the mountain shouting and laughing.  They think it is great fun indeed!  I’m glad we’re doing all this now while they are young!

How Bill ever managed to erect that enormous building single-handed I’ll never know.  It would be simple enough to build a house alone, but those enormous big pieces!  He did, though, and he slept there, and even we are dragging our possessions up – so as far as we are concerned we’ve set up residency.  We gave up our apartment and certainly this trailer down here is a camp along the way.

How I yearn to sleep there now and wish you could be up there too for the summer.  I’m sorry I can’t come to California – my work is laid out here and every day is precious – so much to be done before winter sets in!

(I am finally selling out plastics – decided last week – so far still booking parties but sold out for 10% off; 20 – 30%, depending.  Samples are going fast and I have very little left.  Have two this week, hope that will do it!  It’s been too much and can’t make profit when must travel so far etc.  It’s made us all tired and irritable and been hard on everyone.)

School is over one week from Friday and I hope to be all done with it by then.  I’ll hibernate on my mountain top even if I walk.

Bill thinks as soon as ground thaws he can dig out a spring in the valley for water.  There are only a few remaining patches of snow up there and not a sign on low lands now.  The berry bushes are all there as last year and the wild Iris are now coming out.

Oh, Mom, I want to be done with town except for occasional trips and make my home here – all year round.  Oh for a decent road, but as I tell Bill, I’d rather wait until we have title for sure or someone else will want our place and contest us.  True?

I would give my eye teeth to have this trailer up there.  It’s home now – elegant next to the Jamesway.  It’s all a matter of comparison, isn’t it?

Now I’ll go back to the Tuesday two weeks from tomorrow [April 28, 1959] when we got our Jeep out.  Remember?  Oh that was a busy day.  I had plastics to deliver, packing to be done.  Bill planned to take Wednesday off and we were to move to the Mountain Top.  I’d even seen the principal about teaching the children the remainder of the year.

I sold the motel owner $14.00 worth of plastics so paid for day but still owned $14.  OUCH!

Finally headed home and oh it seemed good to leave the city behind.  Stopped off at McCrary’s to see about having him come up next day to do some road building.  He’d been had last several days clearing land for Barclay and was boiling because Barclay’s land was steep — road in.  He is so awful.  Tried to talk us out of homesteading in here and in next breath told us how awful it was when he first homesteaded.

Well, as I said, he’s busy for some time to come and we left.  As we drew out of his driveway Pollard’s drove by – headed back to town.  Oh No!!  Said two Jeeps were stuck in mud and couldn’t get by and those were being dug out – much too far to walk – at least five miles and already 8:00 P.M. and me still weak from being sick.  There’s been the real bad marshy place where Pollard and Thomas had just worked over – now barely passable.  Evidently when McCrary’s tractor went over it, it ruined it – too heavy – and road collapsed.

We went sadly to Fire Lake Lodge for a decent meal – first decent meal in ages – 10:00 P.M. before we were done — full and satisfied.  Asked Bockstahlers (she thinks all this if funny – ha-ha!).

I haven’t seen one person other than her since returning to Eagle River and don’t intend to until hold title to our own land!!  It means the world to me – to both of us – if we could leave Jeep there over night.

Stayed over night in town at Far North Motel – double room and private bath and adjoining restaurant — $17.00 for one night and well worth it in comparison with other places we’ve seen.

Wednesday night back to town again, but couldn’t pass mud hole.  Pollards right behind us.  So we walked across and left everything in car.  I had gotten a tiny black kitten that day – three weeks old from one of my Halliday plastic women – and carried it to Barclee’s and he rode us to next mud hole.  We all waked rest of the way.  Next morning, Thursday, I had to go back to town so we all got up at 4:45 so we wouldn’t keep the Pollards waiting.  They had their old pick-up truck waiting one mile down the road.  We all walked to it and rode it to the bad mud hole.  We all got across it [left the pickup on the Pollard’s side] and then all in our own Jeeps and then to town.  What an expedition!

Thursday woman said she wanted plastic party Friday, so we left plastics at her house so we wouldn’t have to bother with them.  Friday night stayed over at Far North Motel again and home Saturday.

When we got to mud hole all the homesteaders were working on the road.  I wish I’d had a camera with me.  Where the road went completely out when McCrary went over it, they were scooping all the mud out of that spot to fill it in with gravel and then so pretty birch trees over this to make a bridge over the mud which is so oozy and deep you sink in it.

What a busy place.  Our Jeep was loaded with everything we had bought in town plus groceries plus clean laundry, but we couldn’t drive it over.  We all put our high boots on which look freakish in town where everything is all dried up.  We got out.

Eklund offered to ride us home and Bill would stay and help the men.  They carried the children over the mud.  It would have gone to their knees and maybe over them.  I barely got over – what gooey, gooey stuff.

Home to messy trailer.  Haven’t really lived in it for some time due to sickness and Jeep breaking down.  No water though.  Was in back of Jeep so carried some from Pollard’s stream.  Washed dishes, floor, some clothes.  Made cake and Bill got home.  He drove home – amazing to see the Jeep get through after all this time and over those hundreds of birth limbs.  Now isn’t that something?  It’s called “corduroying” the road.  Learn something new every day.

For all the trouble homesteading certainly is exciting to say the least.

Sunday [May 3rd] morning Bill had a sales manager from Chan [sp?] Motors coming out to demonstrate a German Jeep that he guaranteed (ha ha) could get up “Horror Hill.”  Pollard, Carr and sons were all here to see.  Well, it got up the hill and stuck in first mud hole.  Got it out and he was determined to get through the next, but he couldn’t.  Turned it around and he rammed it into a tree.  Broke front windshield and top!

Boy, I bet he was mad.  Men said that Bill should have taken a picture for the news of this $4,000 snazzy Jeep before and after our road!

Oh I could write pages on all this, but not time.  When I am up there for good there will be more time and peace.

I did write you about mosquitoes.  We were eaten alive first night here after my being sick.  Then got “Off,” a repellant that really works, comes in a spray bottle – no more trouble now!  Thank goodness!

Bill doesn’t get home until quarter of seven.

He’s fine.  We all feel fine, close again and happy.  I felt mean and horrible before I was sick.  Then Bill was so good and kind when I was sick and I’m so thankful to be better now that nothing else matters.

I did have time to think and know I’ll give up anything for our homestead.  It’s ALL to our way of life now.

We’ll live in Jamesway and walk if I have to.

Sharon just came in.  We have a strong glacier wind today.  She feels like ice.  Otherwise day is heavenly – blue skies and sunny.  We’ve had some gorgeous weather recently.

Oh how I love to see you all.  After we get title to our land – we’ll come there – should get title November 1959!  Hooray!

My secret worry is that you and Pollards and others know that we are not yet on our land – Oh Mother I worry.  Pray for us.  We’ve worked so hard and there’s so much ahead yet.


May 18, 1959 Monday

*I’ll be expecting all letters back in next mail!!  Received your latest letter on the way to town.  Idea of book, good, but as you know it’s been my idea from beginning but rush job NO – Please send me back my letters now – I write to you instead of keeping notes – I don’t want a review.  I want my letters NOW PLEASE if you want to really know all that happens this is the only way I can keep you informed but you must send each letter right back so I can put it in my three-hole notebook in order.  So please send my letters back from March on

I have so much to write and my ideas are endless and there were none at apartment so at least the tough homesteading brings release of ideas and who knows, perhaps some day a book or a movie but it must be done in my way or not at all.  You alone can understand that.  Thank him for his interest and maybe later, his help –.

We have had a time – but now I hesitate should I take notes or send them to you? It’s my way of sharing these experiences with you.  I want to continue.  Read them aloud but they are MINE and MINE ALONE.  You won’t ever let him copy them, will you?  They are MINE to do with as I want.  You must never use them in any way.  Promise???

It seems ages since I wrote to you and every day is a book in itself, believe me.  Speaking of writing did you know that you sent an envelope – air mail – without contents?  This last letter as you can see told about book etc.  Well, several days ago I received a plain air mail envelope, addressed and all but empty!  Mystery?  Did it fall out in the mail OR did you forget to enclose the letter?

Still no news or letters at all from lawyer on Altadena house.  Bill said on way to town today – of course, he was very discouraged and I don’t blame him – it’s all been pretty awful – that we “can’t go on if we don’t get some money to work with.”  The ‘so-called’ – rent we’re supposed to be saving goes out on homesteading supplies, gas in our vehicles to get back and forth and repairs on the Jeep because of the road – and that isn’t ALL – oh no, we must still pay to get the road fixed enough to get the trailer up – at least $300.

We brought McCrary – the road-builder everyone tells us not to hire because he drinks and then does some pretty wild things with his tractor BUT [can’t read this word] is too busy and between you and I no sane person would want to risk his tractor (or himself I might add) on our crazy mountain side – so – last week we decided something must be done.

Bill took a vacation (another LAUGH) HA! HA! HA!!!).  I talked to principal and teachers several weeks ago about taking children out of school for little remainder of this year.  They’re so dogged tired by time they get there and it’s so late by time they get home – I promised to tutor them at home – so all was agreed and then Jeep broke down so I waited.

Well, as I said, last week we tried again – and since Bill would be home there wouldn’t be any way to get them back and forth to Anchorage – we would live on mountain and not come down!

Well, that same day we went to see McCrary who homesteaded also on side of mountain too – and as he once told me when discussing our ‘problem’ – to put it mildly – he would be better able to build a road to our place because he had been through it all himself and I guess he probably has his very high and has a magnificent view too – but (not bragging) it’s nothing in comparison with our view!!!!  And his place is a MESS and his land is not nearly as pretty.  His has the biggest trees on his land I’ve seen in this area so he had in a way more of a problem but still he did NOT run into a marsh!

His mother is the old lady – at least 75 – I told you about who drives her own Jeep and homesteaded above them!  Mom, seriously – now this is a deep, dark secret – after we pave the way and have a decent road and most important of all our PATENT – and if Butner’s give up and I’m sure they will then you could file on their place above us – and only come up summers.  We could do the hiring for clearing etc. and it would be little expense for you alone to have a tiny log house.  Well, that’s for the future but think about it!!!  A Haven for writing! And so close to us!!!!

Well, McCrary does have a dirt road still naturally – but it’s a road good enough that we drove our Ford right up to his door!!  BUT it took him five years to get it that way.  They carried in supplies at first, and did everything we’ve had to do.  He used to work in town but now is in the road building snow clearing business only.  He started in when he bought his first tractor for his own place.

The next day Bill met them – his wife and mother (Eskimo foster child) came too and brought them ‘back in’.  His mother is so nice.  They all belie their dirty, unkempt appearance by using an astounding vocabulary and are well read and well educated.  They look always like we look when we’ve hiked through the mud down our mountain!  His mother is neat and nice.  She had just come back from L.A. where she spent the winter!! – A small world!

He said he’d do it and our hopes were high.  He too advised our buying our own small tractor – oh Mom, it’s the only answer – but how??  Then and only then we could:

1.  haul our water up

2.  haul our supplies up

3.  improve present road

4.  build a new road (next summer)

5.  haul our trailer up

6.  plow our own snow and clear our own land

Who ever thought I’d think in terms of tractors and such.  I haven’t bought one dress or skirt since I’ve been here and never allow myself to entertain such thoughts – just equipment equipment and more homesteading supplies.

He said he has one big tractor still across the river and the other was broken down.  Some man hired him to build a road across the river – (it’s really wild – absolutely nobody over there at all.  It’s all open but dark as mountain skirts out most of sun) – and to drag a ten foot big new trailer back there.  (Tell Carolyn I’m sure she can’t visualize how we’re living in our trailer – it’s ten years old, narrow and small and inefficient for six people – only room for two and I feel like a sardine!)

Anyways to get back to my story, he did all this – the man put in a ‘Yukon stove’ and some hunters went in last winter and burned a fire and didn’t put it out and the whole trailer burned down and no insurance on it!

McCrary left the tractor there to do some clearing this summer as he was already over there when the first snow fell.  That man is not giving up!

Well, anyways our hopes were high – he said that Monday – today he’d be back – then when Bill called him later he said NO he ran into more trouble in repairing the tractor than he’d expected and recommended Mr. Tuck.

So – Friday we stopped to see him.  He only has a small tractor and hires ‘an operator’ who he says is good but he’d have to see job first, so Saturday Bill once again had to meet him and bring him back.  He too said OK.  Said he would have present road improved only enough to bring trailer up and at least three day’s work at $12.00 an hour.  BUT it still couldn’t be driven over even by a Jeep – another road will have to be built!!  So now we know!  NOW WHAT?  He’s to come out this Wednesday or Thursday and start.  What choice do we have??  (I know but the answer is still NO!!)

Last Saturday we bought a Yukon Stove.  Bill hauled it one mile up mountain on his backoh, poor Bill. We’re down to our last penny and I mean literally – we scrounged for enough money to buy it.  It was $16.35.  It’s medium size – 22” wide – lightweight black metal and the answer for us now because

1.  We need heat of some kind to take the chill off of the Jamesway –

2.  It must be hauled up and we have no way to bring fuel up mountain!

3.  It’s inexpensive and economical.

4.  It burns wood – which we can gather up there.

Once many years ago there was a forest fire which burned the entire Eagle River Valley.  Absolutely nobody inhabited that region at that time so it was allowed to burn out.  Consequently there are not many large trees and many young ones as you noticed which is especially noticeable in our ‘homesteaders’ valley’.  It takes fifty years or so for trees to decay in Alaska so there are lots of half-burned trees and many rotted, fallen ones – which I want cleaned up anyways – which make ideal dry firewood.

We also needed a camp stove – as our gas stove is in trailer and anyways we need a camp stove for when gas gives out.  We priced them all over town and found the cheapest and same brand of everything at B and J Surplus – where we bought Jamesway, lamps etc.  A two burner one cost about $13.00.

The gun Bill wants was $110.00 and I needed a sleeping bag as we can’t bring our beds up on our backs but can bring sleeping bags up one by one by one.  Oh such labor, through that mud and side-stepping it through the jungle and maze of alders – oh, such labor!!!  BUT we couldn’t even afford to price it!!  I would sleep on our old chaise lounge mat off of our old redwood lounge.  The buttons have come off in the middle and so the stuffing is matted and terribly uncomfortable but I had no choice!

And as it was we only bought the Yukon Stove and nothing else.  We’ll cook outdoors like this until next payday.

So back home with our stove hating ourselves for not having money to buy what we had needed so very, very badly!

Saturday night Bill made a makeshift pack board and carried that enormous stove up the mountain and hooked it up!!

Oh yes, we’ve needed some pack boards!!  It would be such an added improvement – rather than carrying things in bags, blankets etc.

We use our California BBQ, rocks set on top works very well – and hasn’t it come a long ways?  From California patio to Alaskan homestead!!!!!!!  But made a nice cook range and worked fine – but last night it poured rain and we couldn’t work outdoors and Jamesway leaked and oh Mom, was awful and then Sharon got sick – very sick and we came to town.  More of this later.

But those pack boards cost money too.  There’s one especially of lightweight aluminum I need and one for John – well, later, later – anyways I HATE carrying things up that mountain!!

Well, then we all took off.  Linda carried the kitten, Cindy carried herself.  My they both do well and are all the best sports and John carried a pack and I carried a basket of food and a blanket packed full and poor darling Bill.  He made his pack of birch pieces and even had a piece of material wrapped around his forehead to help support the box filled with canned goods, blankets, books (school) and clothes!  I couldn’t even lift it.  He should have been stooped over – and up the mountain he trudged.

I felt far better then after being sick and did real well and told Bill I’d start first as I’m an awful slow poke.  It’s a terribly steep climb but that now wouldn’t seem like anything if we didn’t have that horrible mud, which we have all the way up through the twisted alder forest, which is so witchy looking we all expect to see a witch riding by on her broomstick!! – We don’t leave the mud until we get to the spruce trees and can see our own beautiful land ahead – such a change, you can’t imagine.  Our first steep trouble hill dried out but oh, so steep.

Then immediately MUD which gets worse and worse and twisted alter tree forest all swampy, wet and mosquito infested.

Once I looked at Bill and Mom, there were literally millions all over him – it was horrible!  I put this OFF repellant we carry at all times all over him – and the children said, “Mommy, they’re all over you too.” – And sure enough each child was swarmed too!  I guess Linda and I are lucky – we’re not sweet.  We hardly get bitten at all.  The others do terribly.  Last week we got John a crew cut and his poor head and neck are covered but Cindy’s swell to enormous sizes and give her a fever.  She seems to be allergic to them.  Sunday she had a fever and was miserable – I know from the bites.  Saturday night was the worst night we ever spent – more later.

You can see how I pour all this out to you and my pen won’t keep up with my head BUT I used to write in my note book first and then copy off to you.  Now I’m just writing to you and please send back!  They’re my gold – and mail each back now with your next letter.  I’ll start numbering them.  I also want you to keep them in the envelopes with post marks on them.  Later I feel, who knows we might need them legally if anyone ever tried to take our place away.

As I was saying – we have to trudge on the sides of the road in most places to get out of worst mud.  You sink down, down and lose your boots in it.  Yet, on sides are alder branches – twisted and you have to climb in and out through brush and it’s marshy and boggy – HORRIBLE and especially with a pack.

Then suddenly you come to the high land – and it’s another world.  Oh, for a helicopter to skip over the marsh and land on the mountain!!

As you emerge from the alder forest you come out into the opening and it’s gorgeous sight – but still a climb but dry, dry, dry but oh, so steep!! And by then we’re all so tired.  Bill wants to get Jeep truck brought (winched) over this area so we’ll have it at least to drive us on over the remaining hike.  But once we hit the dry steep area we can look below us and see the view!! And above us see our land to urge us on.

As I started to say way back – I hiked on and with children and Smokey.  We were way above him – found out later he had to stop and lighten his load – Smokey bounded off into the woods and all of a sudden we heard her bark (she seldom does).  She barked and barked and barked.  Bill told me later she barks equally hard at a porcupine, a bird, a squirrel, a moose or a bear.  But that doesn’t help either and by her sound it frightened me.  Often times moose are fine if not scared by dogs and then will attack or run in fright wildly without any sense of direction.

All around us were those alders.  They’re not good climbing trees but grow bent and crooked in all directions.  John found a big one and shimmied up to the stronger high branches ignoring the breaking lower rotten ones – to safety.  But what about us?  I told the girls to climb – ha, ha.  We all got up on one crooked branch and stayed and yelled for Bill.  He heard us and dropped his pack and came running.  We got Smokey back.  It probably was a moose as on the way back today the same thing happened – only Bill was with us and I’ll never again hike alone – even though he doesn’t carry a gun, I feel safe and he does carry a knife.

We saw an enormous moose standing in the alders.  He scared it away and we hoped we wouldn’t find her in the road below us.  We didn’t.

Several weeks ago Bill was going up alone and he heard a bark and a rush noise of brush and looked up and there was an enormous moose staring him, a few feet away, in the eye.  It was an unusual albino color – almost blonde he described it.  He says he’s heard they get lighter in color as they get older and ornerier too.  Well, he stared at it and it stared at him and he eyed the tree sizes and suddenly it turned around and left!  He says he sure had a few bad moments because Smokey ran circles around it and wouldn’t leave – BUT once she did the moose left!

Mom, we’re really camping out and you now I’ve never been camping before.  I try so hard to tell myself, “Let’s make it FUN – after all it isn’t everyone who can camp like this –.”  Well, sometimes it works – other times I want to go home and wash up and relax after my camping trip only it is HOME. – It’s not easy to pretend when you wake up after sleeping on the hard floor on a bumpy pad — the children sleep only in their bags – and look around at the filthy Jamesway – and know there’s no way to wash them and they should be hosed down – the whole place should be soaped and hosed – ha, ha – we don’t even have a trickle of a stream.

Now doesn’t that beat all?  We trudge through water all the way up and get there and no water up there and no way to haul it.  We hike over to the canyon and hear the rushing waterfalls and creek below us – yet no water – we can get to – it’s such a steep drop and impossible to carry water from!!  There’s a lovely wide area next to it and would be lovely to live there but no view except canyon walls.  We’ll build a cabin there later – for fun!  It’s a perfectly beautiful spot.  I’ve never been down — just look down l– ater I’ll climb it!

We went up there knowing there was no water – and wondering what we’d do.  Bill had dug several holes hoping a spring would emerge – but nothing at all!!

In back of the hut are several enormous piles of dirt and brush that Pollard shoved back when he cleared a place for the hut and guess what?  The snow underneath is still there – insulated against the sun – all other snow is gone.  Bill dug a tunnel into it and got snow there.  I shuddered to think of using it but it’s clean.  We have to hoard it and melt it and then close our eyes but it’s wet.  I really hesitate to use it but Bill assures me it’s safe!!  It’s slow and building a fire to cook on and melt snow on is slow.  The children love it – Saturday night we had beans, hotdogs, cooked on our skewer sticks from California BBQ days and roasted marshmallows and cocoa (made from melted snow and evaporated milk and instant cocoa) – good – if you’re cold, thirsty and hungry.

Bill had to go back for the pack he left when I yelled and didn’t get back until midnight.  It was still light enough out to eat and we were amazed to find out it was 12:00 and we didn’t know it.  [word destroyed by moisture on paper] – and still one month to go until shortest day of the year!!  Bill was exhausted and said he smelled camp fire way down mountain!

Then we went to bed – oh Mom, the mosquitoes I think had come in and stayed in folds of canvas – there were millions BZZ- like bombers coming from all directions at once.  I couldn’t sleep all night.  We had ‘OFF’ which I put all over every hour but it didn’t help.  We needed a spray and didn’t have one.  I got up at 4:00.  I couldn’t stand it.  That morning poor Cindy’s face was swollen terribly from the bites.

I woke up hating mosquitoes, hating the dirty, filthy Jamesway and hating the whole damned mess.  I went outside to gather fire wood – completely unafraid – I walked down to edge of drop and looked out – all others asleep and all peace and quiet.  The sun hadn’t come up but it was still light outside – it was beautiful.  The air smelled like a million flowers so clean, clear and fresh!  It was the beginning of a beautiful day and the view below [Mildred ran out of paper and now wrote on the paper pad’s cover] was breathtaking.  I stood there and looked around.  I clasped my hands around me and thought – it will all be ours – this beautiful place and I said aloud, “Oh, dear God help us get our land – help us, help us!”

I gathered up firewood and reluctantly returned to chores at hand!  Sharon and Bill were up and it was 5:00 A.M.  We three went to the edge and looked and Bill’s eyes shone with pleasure as he saw my delight in the beauty below and all around.

Oh Mom, you too must see it – but how?

Then they were all up, awake and so happy to be on our land at last!!

Bill announced, “It’s a holiday.  We’ll eat and see our land!”  We ate bacon, fried eggs, coffee, cocoa and doughnuts – m-m- good.

Dishes could wait.  I took picture of it all.  I’ll send you some and we left – oh Mother never will I forget that joyous, happy morning!  We walked to our valley, a hidden valley between two hills.  It has big, enormous spruce trees and many other trees.  The girls played house under its branches – and mosquitoes and mud were all forgotten.  They didn’t want to leave their play beneath the big sheltering branches.

BUT oh, so much more to see.  We walked down to spruce grove where I want to build our permanent home – our final home.  Here Bill says, we’ll get the winds as it’s out in the open but who cares?  Will have a view unsurpassed by anyone, a view of the ocean to the right and the mountains across the inlet.  Before us we see the opposite mountains – and below the rivers and ponds.  To the left we see the big jagged mountain and the bump where the canyon looks as if it closes but where it doesn’t – it’s a pass and where the park begins.  I love that view as here the mountains come together.

Now isn’t that enough?  But oh, no there’s more.  More I tell you.  Below us to the left is the creek and the waterfalls.  Oh, such beauty and beyond it and up over the canyon is another spot just like ours – not taken.  Oh, no they’re all below in the marsh too lazy to climb – or too wise.  Which?

They’ve never seen the beauty we have and I tell Bill I don’t want them to or they’ll all want it for themselves.

In some ways I don’t want a decent road.  I know it sounds crazy but Mother, you know everyone then will come and until we have patent I hardly dare them to see Our Hidden Valley – our name for our place and anyway – we need money to clear and get patent.  Right?

Oh, I wish I could show you it all – everywhere you look you see a view.

Where our Jamesway sits is only temporary.  Bill wanted it put in another place but they couldn’t get to it then because of the snow – now I’m glad.  It will later be a barn and is in a flat cleared space we know we’ll never want to live in.  Good.

Next summer we’ll move to the little warm sheltered valley I spoke of – then later to my spot!!

See, we can’t give this place up.  It’s beautiful and lovely beyond any words.

Poor Mrs. Pollard – she says, “You’ll only have the mountain across the river to stare at.  I prefer to live in the valley.” And yet how I wish our place was so easy to get to.

Must close for now – next I’ll pick up here!  Love, Mildred — Please mail right back or I’ll never do this again!


May 19, 1959 Tuesday

John was so anxious to chop wood for me and Mom he really does well.  He’s no longer interested in toys – as such – he has really grown up!  For his Birthday he wants a BB Gun and a Hatchet – Bill says no BB Gun but hatchet – yes!  Bill has taught him well – safety rules and all – remember last year ‘the knife’, well he remembered!!

Anyways, he set to work chopping wood and I gave the Jamesway its first real housecleaning.  Not much I can do.  We have 4 camp stools up there, and sleeping bags, food and box of clothing, dishes etc. – all carried up!  I aired the bags out and all and swept it out well.

Bill plans to put wall board up over the canvas and ply board over the flooring and then some partitions up.  It has possibilities for sure but is a terrible mess now!

It rained late Sunday, all night it poured.  Bill went down to trailer for more things and brought back a can of insect spray.  I went to town and there wasn’t one left.  That night I put a blanket under me and an extra one over me.  He gave me a sleeping pill left over and I slept.  I felt ill all afternoon – nauseated and miserable.

Oh that place was cold in the morning and so dismal.  Of course we can’t keep the fire going all night and it seemed ages before it warmed up in the morning.  Still raining and we were in the clouds.  A cloud hung over us and it was eerie and dismal!

Sharon woke up complaining of a bad sore throat and holding her throat.  She wouldn’t eat or drink a bite.  Then she started throwing up – even her aspirin.  Oh Mom, I was scared because she’s seldom sick and never, never complains unless really sick. – and then always such a good little sport.  Well, it kept on and on and I told Bill – she had to go to the doctor.

Of course I remembered the time she was so sick at Bockstahler’s cabin and had convulsions – remember?  So we packed up (I hope the bears won’t break in).

We were penniless and had all our food up there but I didn’t care – she had to go to doctor.

By then she was crying and saying over and over “My throat hurts” and then the dry heaves.  Oh Mom, I love her so and I was so worried.

It was raining out – and of course that was all we needed.

Bill carried her in his arms down the mountain.  John carried a load of food (which we’d carried up but were perishable items) and I carried a load of dirty clothes and books – and school papers and Linda carried the baby kitten!  She and Cindy take turns with it.

We got to trailer and changed clothes – they were packed with mud – horrible, horrible damn mud!  We got in town and checked in at Chitty’s motel.  Sharon is fine now – two days later – good bed, warmth and loving care and medicine and she’s herself again!  We are all clean and scrubbed.  I ironed for first time in a month and a half and got it all done!  So accomplished that much.

Jeep acting terrible again so has been in garage for two days – gasket another $50.00.  Honestly will it ever end?

Well, at least we could cook here and there was a $20.00 Halliday check in mail to tide us over to payday which is tomorrow.

We’ll get the Jeep tomorrow and a cook stove ($12.45) and head home.

Tomorrow is Bill’s Birthday so I’ll bake a cake here and we’ll eat dinner here afternoon.  Then I’ll make sandwiches which we’ll eat picnic style and then – UGH – back up that damn mountain!!  But we’ll make it, I swear.

Mrs. Bockstahler wants me to help out at shop again only I can’t get in myself [to shop, no transportation]! – – – – – –

Mrs. Pottle said Shirley received your lovely gift and asked me all kinds of pointed questions about homestead.  “We never see you any more.  How do you keep clean?  Must you walk in?” etc. etc.  I never see anyone!!!

*Bill bought a gun – well we’ll know tomorrow.  10% down – darn it, but we must have it.  It’s a Winchester Telescope Light – and he’s real pleased as he says it will be ideal for him being left handed and they are hard to get.

I’ll feel better now – we have to have one but my we’re having troubles making ends meet!

Well, I must close and get dishes done.  Do keep well – I love you and miss you very much.  I hope and pray we’re doing the right thing.  I’ll never rest easy until we have title and all is straightened out.  I feel for Bill and so wish we didn’t owe a penny to anyone.

Do write soon and don’t forget to mail the letters back.  Love, Me.  P.S. I bought some flower seeds today – sweet peas, Shasta daisies and double nasturtiums.


May 20, 1959 Wednesday

We’re still at the motel and feel fine now – rested and clean.  Well, not too rested each night we’ve stayed up until 1:00 A.M. figuring and figuring.

1.  We can’t live on homestead without water – we must have means to carry in our supplies.

2.  Oh Mother, Bill is right it all boils down to the fact that we must have a tractor and now.

I see it now and I know Bill is right.  It’s hard to get tractor work done and expensive.  Living back where we do we have to pay operator’s ‘traveling expenses’ so we owe at least two hours in and two hours out at $12.00 to $17.00 an hour!  Impossible!  We have to have:

1.  present road improved so as to

2.  get our trailer up now.  (People are suspicious because it isn’t up – heaven knows how hard we’ve tried)

3.  a tractor to haul all our household possessions up

4.  and to carry water up

5.  we could then clear twenty acres this summer and get title in December, 1959.

6.  Then this winter we can drive Jeep to where trailer is now and bring us and our supplies up in the tractor.

7.  Also and a bit item – we can then plow our own road and get out next winter.

We have to have one!!  If we had it now we could get right to work.  *Bill says without it we’ll be forced to give the homestead up.

I say ‘no, no, no’ but really even if he can get tractor up there and fix our present road and haul our trailer up we’ll still have to walk in and pay again for clearing etc.  That’s why everyone back there now has a tractor and they don’t need it as we do living on the mountain because they can drive to their place.

Mother do you see –?

Tractors (small ones) are $5,000 up new.  Shocking I know.  Bill has spotted a used one for $3,000, $1,100 down and $100 per month.  We don’t have the down payment nor can we swing $100 more now on our payments.  In fact, we can’t take care of present payments as they are now.

So where does that leave us?

Sure we can pull out.

Sell our trailer.

Sell our Jeep and truck

And then our payments will be reduced $25.00, $125.00, $45.00

Almost $200 a month – then as Bill says ‘we can afford to homestead’ ha ha!  Seriously though, those are our big bills now and ‘proving up on our place’,

Once we get title we’ll live rent free.  Jeep has cost us through our nose.  $400 in two months in repairs – hurts us terribly!  But in four months it will be paid for and truck too will soon be paid for and trailer is only $25.00 a month with low balance of $350.00.

Oh Mom, it looks bleak I admit.  I’m willing not to go anywhere – we haven’t even been to a movie since January 1st New Years.  Oh Mother, Bill and I haven’t been out alone – January, February, March, April, May — five months now.  Imagine.  Not even to a friend’s house – we haven’t any friends here – we’re all alone.  I’m with the children constantly.

We don’t spend any extra money — except shoes and necessities.

But still this summer I’d cut lower and lower.  Bill can now get a moose and a caribou – we can have a garden – Oh Mom, it’s what I want – to live up there.

I must admit – we don’t miss TV – we don’t miss electricity (except refrigeration and bathroom) and I love the country and it’s so peaceful alone!  I love not having neighbors all alone – and we’re closer to the children this way than ever before.

I can’t give it up – I’ll walk first but Bill won’t.  If only we – had a creek –

And of course we must be plowed out this winter.

I’m seriously considering having a day care center in fall so children can go to school. ??  It holds many sides – remember I considered it before – but Bill is right and says we must only count on his income – he’s so right.

Mom, Bill wants me to ask Charlie for a business loan of $1,500 payable at $50.00 per month with high interest.  He wrote the telegram today and I wouldn’t let him send it.

He says even if we got $1,100 from Altadena house – which with lawyer and all we won’t – we couldn’t handle $100 a month payments.  If we could spend that $1000 to lower our present payments then we could afford tractor but no down payment!  Not funny

I’ll gladly live in Jamesway and trailer until we get squared away but we must be able to get to our land without walking.

He also suggested I ask Cahill Sr. [Mildred’s father] for a loan and I won’t.  What do you think?

We owe you so much money I’m ashamed.

I swear to you, Mom we’ll pay it all back.  We’re young and we can wait for nice house etc.  I want to pay you back before we build or anything.

You’ll need it after you give up house and will be ready then to pay it.

Oh Mom, I’m desperate.  You alone know how far we’ve come and all we’ve gone through.

We don’t even have an outhouse – we have to go on a pot and empty it in the woods.  It’s awful!

We must build a ‘you know what house’ – we can buy used lumber cheap at [military] base sale we found out yesterday.  $25.00 worth for 50¢

Now we’ll even have our gun and the Jamesway is up.

How I wish you could come up next winter and teach our children.

When will your house be gone?  Would you like to come and be with us then?

If we can make it and get our title in December then we’ll be down in January.  If I teach them at home then we could stay there for one or two months if you wanted us – or even until spring – I could stay and bring you back for next summer!

Oh, wonderful plans – but if we lose our homestead all my dreams and hopes are lost – Oh Mom, I know it means too much to Bill and I but it does.

We wouldn’t even want a ‘Turn-a-gain by the Sea’ house in Anchorage or one of the beautiful new homes being erected close to the new Methodist University.  Oh yes, we would, if it were given to us we’d sell it and use the money for ‘our home’ – our land – our dream.

Mom, if only you had seen it you’d understand.  It’s so beautiful and precious I’m afraid we’ll lose it and will never have an easy moment until we have title to it – and the sooner the better before someone else tries to get it!

We have to clear ten acres this summer and cultivate it.

If we don’t clear all required twenty then we must reclear, replant the first ten next year and the new ten.

Mom – there’s hay – wild oats from last year up there now [?] – enough for horses and cows – all summer.

Oh Mom, Oh Mom you must see that place.

I wish – foolishly of course you could come up all summer and together we’d write.

No neighbors – no interference – such beauty for inspiration and peace that can’t be found in today’s civilization.  We’d only go out once a week.  Could you?  Would you?  Health-wise could you?  If we bought a tractor, could you?

You could have bedroom in trailer and we’d all sleep in Jamesway.  Trailer is cozy and warm and will connect to hut – if we can get it up.

Oh Mother – Maybe I’ll call you today – yes, I must and will.

Love, Mildred, ‘Your Homesteading Daughter’ – or am I?

P.S.  If only I could go on “Queen for a Day’ and explain it all to them.  How we worked to get here – the struggles we’ve had homesteading and how badly we need a small tractor and why – and how much it all means to us – Explain our road problems and all.  I’m sure I’d win and they’d give us a tractor!

Oh Mom – it dawned on me now – could you?  Would you?  People can go on the show for someone else or can they?  Yes – I remember them doing it – we’d get the tractor and you would get all else – the wardrobe, maybe even a trip to Alaska to us!  Oh Mom, let’s, let’s, let’s!

Ask Charlie – he could help?  Stress we need it now?  Oh no, we couldn’t – it would be like charity and the others would hate us!

I just don’t know!


May 23, 1959 Saturday evening

As I wrote you at this time of evening – around 5:00 P.M. I’m reminded of that song I love “When you come to the end of a perfect day and sit alone with your thoughts….”

It has been a perfect afternoon – it’s always nice as soon as we come home to our land – it will be ours now! — We’ll be able to clear and cultivate our required twenty acres now and be done!!

I hated to ask Charlie for that $1,000 but as I explained in the letter we need that tractor now!! – Or it won’t pay for itself.

We didn’t get back to the trailer last night until 10:00.  It had been a hectic day and children were asleep so we slept on top of beds – never undressed – and left at 6:00 A.M. for mountain.

All noise in the world now and it doesn’t bother us – or our neighbors and oh, what fun the children have had.  I don’t think I’ve ever known them to have so much fun together.

The whole world, it seems, is their playground.  The trees are houses and the branches are bedrooms.  The berries – all harmless – and not eaten anyways – are good and the dirt as cakes.  Bird nests are found and both Cindy and John are now proud owner’s of one a piece – so cherished – and so educational.  Each nest so perfect and a product of such painstaking loving labor by little birds and each now the start of a nature collection.  The enormous hill behind our Jamesway is a fort.  There’s a big mound of dirt on the top where Butner’s road goes.  John has ‘HIS FORT’ there.  This afternoon I wished Charlie Jr. was here to play with John – could he come up with you for several weeks this summer? – He’d love it, so would John and so would we.

I gave permission to the girls that for once, seeing he hasn’t any boys to play with, that they could be ‘enemies.’  So Sharon and Cindy were enemies and Linda a war nurse.  They bang-banged! And all– and we didn’t mind a bit – in fact we enjoy it here when we know it can’t bother anyone.

We all ate lunch outdoors.  You know I never have liked hotdogs and as a rule the children aren’t keen on them – but cooked outdoors – they’re SUPERB!  We roast them on skewers and pull them off with a folded piece of bread – as a roll – and put picallili on them and so good!  As dessert twice now we’ve had snow — crystally snow – mixed up with Kool Aid and sugar – we eat it as ice cream – it tastes delicious, cool and refreshing and economical.  We all love it and the children will be heartbroken when our snow is gone in our dirt mound.  Of course we could have this ‘delicacy’ during the winter but I’m sure none of us could ever appreciate it as much then as on today – a hot, sunny day – and no water to drink.

So as you can see it’s been a nice day.

We climbed up behind John’s fort to an enormous rock Bill used to tell us about when he used to come here alone last year.  He always used to eat his lunch there and view the fabulous scenery.  He used to tell us about it – he should have raved about it and yet nobody could imagine such beauty.  You must see it!  And YOU, Mother must, this summer – PLEASE SOMEHOW come and write!!!  PLEASE

Once Bill brought us home little pieces of this rock – and today we were all on it.  I took pictures to send you!

I’m sorry to say that although this afternoon was extremely happy – this morning was miserable!

Mom, I swear that unless I really have to – I will not go down that mountain again, until we have some vehicle to bring us back up again.  I really never thought I’d get here today and even our usually peppy children were tired.

We haven’t had a decent night’s rest in ages and I have slept in my Levis for weeks!!  — (I do change clothes in-between but it’s too cold here to sleep in a nightgown until we can get a decent heater in here and plywood on the floors to cover up the four inch cracks in the floor and so on!)

Anyways, yesterday we went down the mountain without our breakfast because we had to get up at 6:00 anyways as we had to get to Government Hill early morning to get children’s report cards before 10:00 – and if we’d eaten here we would have had to (1) build a fire to take chill off Jamesway (2) melt snow for water (3) leave dirty dishes etc. so we decided to get up and eat in town (we can get breakfast for $4.00 for six people).  But we didn’t eat until noon – then had one hamburger for dinner.

This morning we climbed the mountain without breakfast – we were tired and hungry and I felt like a rag doll.

I tried to carry a pack and couldn’t.  Bill had to go back and get it!  I could hardly bring myself.  We were all so relieved to get here and know that there’s no more school and no plastics until June.

I had one party yesterday afternoon – it was very small.  I have two more in June and hope I’ll close out then!

Meanwhile I’m going to stay here as much as I can. —-

I haven’t cried in ages but honestly I was so weak and tired and so were the children and we were all at each other’s necks. – I just sat down in the woods and cried and cried.  Then I started climbing minus a pack!

When we got here – as always it was worth it.

I cooked pancakes and then John said, “Com’on out Mom and relax!”  (Sounded like Charlie to you.)  I did and went to sleep – and slept – or rather dozed on and off.  The SUN felt glorious for first time hot on my back.

Every once in awhile I’d open my eyes and take in the scenery and doze some more.  I don’t know when I’ve ever relaxed so completely – and enjoyed our place so much.  The children were playing so nicely and we were all happy and glad to be here on such a day.

It’s been a real spring day – birds singing and such a marvelous sweet fragrance.

I told Bill I hope to live to be 90 and never leave here.  (I want to be buried here!)  [Mildred’s ashes were spread in exactly that spot in 2002.]

I told him I even yearn to be a child again and live here – such a kingdom – reminds me of our first home a hundred times over!!  Oh, how you’ll adore it here!!

If you want you can retire here and write!  I mean it!  — We both do!!  REALLY

As Bill says – in giving our children an opportunity to grow and develop here – we’re giving them something far greater than money could buy and I agree wholeheartedly.

How different we feel here on our own land –!!  How wonderful!

P.S Mom the telephone call was my last – it cost $40.00 – isn’t that awful?  I hated to hang up.  We’ll have to see you all next year for sure BUT Mom I so want YOU to come this summer – can you?

Tell Charlie one million thanks — I couldn’t walk much longer – the tractor is a must.  Supplies.  Road building.  Building materials.  Snow plowing, etc.

We have done right I know it!

Here there never will be any ‘living up to the Jones’.  We’ll WAIT for THINGS – all I want is patent on land.  Our vehicles will soon be paid for and so will Seaboard Finance — then just Beneficial and Tractor.

No rent [underlined10 times]

No payment for land [underlined 5 times]


May 31, 1959 Sunday 1:00 A.M.

(our usual bedtime now and often times our dinnertime –oh, we’re all mixed up)

I was so upset and shocked to read your recent letter and find out you’d been sick – and oh Mom, I never knew.  You didn’t tell me.  Was it flu? – Asiatic flu?  Or WHAT that struck you so suddenly?  Oh that I’d been there to nurse you – Oh Mom, so many of our plans are planned around YOU.

I always say, “And here we’ll build Mom’s summer house.  Oh, no here so she can see the ocean too.” — Oh Mom, please, please take care of yourself for all of our sakes!

No more now – everyone is asleep!  Poor darling children still on the hard, cold floor in sleeping bags!  I have a cot now that Bill insisted on carrying up on his back if I promised to use it.  They all have sleeping bags.

We still don’t have any chairs or a table – it’s so darned hard.  Luckily we’ve had gorgeous summer weather.  We all go outdoors all day and are sun burned!

Oh, so much to write but will have to wait until next letter as I always get into such involved letters when I try to write it all to you.  I just wish you were here so I could tell you all BUT you couldn’t walk that mountain.  It’s TERRIBLE.  I hate to go down, knowing we must come back up!

We had a pretty decent (ha, ha) but a kind of foot path on the side of the (ha, ha) road, and now it too is gone!

For three days now or four we’ve had Tuck’s [tractor] operator working on the mess.  He’s so persistent and determined to see it through he even worked all day yesterday and all day today!  He’s trying to build up the road with fallen trees and dirt and build ditches on the side for the water to drain off.  The road is better in places but impassable in others.

Bill can’t even drive our tractor over it.  Tonight though he brought me a can of water up VIA the tractor through the woods.  (He hauled one six [five] gallon can up on his back as the snow bank is gone and no water).  Oh, how precious it is! (now)

Tonight at 11:00 Tuck’s tractor got here for first time!!  We shouted a welcome and hooray.  The kids were so excited!  The man swears he’ll see us through.  He says everyone in the valley has told him our road is impossible.  He says it’s worst he’s ever seen.  Oh Mom, such muck.  Bill sank his tractor in it clear to the seat and he himself sank to his waist.

But this man is really good and got Bill out.  Pollard sank too!  —

Oh and such mosquitoes in that marsh! —

Up here it’s heaven really heaven and how I love it and how happy the children are here if we only had a road and I want our patent – everyone below now is fussing over land and so many newcomers coming in here looking!

We got papers from lawyer on the Altadena house Saturday and will get signed and return.


[written on a single page]  Reconstructing April and May 1959

May 10-16, 1960 – talked to people about road etc.

May 15, 1960 Friday – stopped to see Tuck and says he’ll come about road this week

May 16, 1960 Saturday – bought Yukon stove and Bill took up to homestead

May 18, 1960 Monday – to town – Sharon got sick – went to Chitty’s motel and Jeep to garage – Bill took vacation, brought Tuck out to see road.

May 20, 1960 – Bill’s birthday [age 34].  Got gun, camp stove and went back to homestead


June 1, 1959 Monday

I am BORED AND FRUSTRATED.  I don’t mind so much being way up here on the mountain as I do not having anything to do.  I have kept busy all day but so much I’ll have to do in future and I’m so helpless.  All I have is one broom and one rake – I did make a flower garden with child’s rake set but so wish for all of our things!!

Today I splurged and washed my hair with precious water and then not enough left to drink all day and we’re all so thirsty!

It’s about 6:00 P.M. and I know Bill won’t get home until 8:00 or 9:00 – and got up at 5:00 A.M. – he’s exhausted continually and never rests a minute.  He sure is SLIM now – and muscular too!!

Today I’d like lots of water!  But Oh, how I wanted today to have water for baths and to wash this filthy Jamesway and to do a big wash!!

I so wanted to cook.  We’ve lived out of cans for weeks and weeks.  UGH!  I always did hate canned food.  No oven or stove – everyone is so darned good about it all BUT I am frustrated!


June 1, 1959 Monday – Later 9:45 P.M.

Bill didn’t get home until 8:30.  I should have figured that – but that’s best yet, sometimes we’ve gotten home around 12:00 or 1:00 A.M.  He used to get back to trailer around 6:45 so of course, would be much later.

Oh, such a long, long day!  I want THINGS to do – so much to be done and here I sit!

Oh – these Damn mosquitoes – we’re all bitten to pieces and I hate the spray smell but we have to spray heavily – usually three or four times a night and then more all over us.  For some reason the pesky things come out around 5:00 – they’re around you but oh they’re out in hoards now!  * * * * *

Bill ate supper and just left to drive tractor about a quarter mile straight across to where he and John walked one day to look for water – and found a spring – closer than creek.  Sure hope he can dig some out.

I was hoping to ‘go out’ tomorrow but he says road is very bad now in spots where man is working on it.  He’s dug deep ditches three and four feet on sides of road – I wanted to go to Bockstahler’s van where our things are still stored.  Someone broke in several weeks ago but didn’t take anything and we haven’t been back since to check it.

More later – I haven’t done dishes in two days, lack of water, and scribbled this while water heating.  Love, Me.

P.S. Oh, so good when Bill gets home.  How marvelous to have water, milk and little things like this pen brought here to us on the mountain.  Never thought Bill would arrive home with a pack full of groceries on his back, driving a tractor!


June 2, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes – overview:  We gave notice at the Panoramic View Apartments on Government Hill on February 1, 1959 to move out of the apartment.  We bought a twenty six foot trailer and had it moved back into the Eagle River Valley to the end of the Jeep road in February and contracted to have it taken up the mountain.

Troubles, troubles, troubles.

The tractor broke down.  Seven times of new snow – frozen mud, etc.

April 1, 1959 we moved into the trailer and camped there one mile from our homestead at the bottom of the first steep hill on Pollard’s land, waiting for the trailer to be able to be moved up the mountain.  Kept working on road.  Had to walk to homestead and terrible road had turned into a creek.

No hope of trailer getting up.  Little hope left for hut so planned as last resort to buy a tent as we needed to be up there by the 7th of May.

I got very ill with an ear infection and was almost hospitalized.  It was impossible for us to walk.  I was weak and in terrible pain.

Bill continued to take children into school on Government Hill during April but had to take them out of school two weeks early so we could move up the mountain.

Road has been impassable to even the tractor.  It completely washed out and mud is knee deep.  Bill finally got the Jamesway hut up there.  It thawed more and we couldn’t get anything up there we couldn’t carry as we climbed the mountain.

Weekend of the 3rd of May, Jeep broken down and was in the garage in town.  I stayed at a motel and was still in terrible pain and taking medicine.  I drove Bill to the end of Eagle River road and he ‘walked in’ seven miles to set up the hut and stayed over the weekend while I was sick and the Jeep was broken.  This is when he set up residency while I was at the motel sick with four small children.

On May 9th through the 11th I dragged up the mountain with sleeping bags, still weak and sick, and slept on the floor and cooked outdoors.  Bill carried up the Yukon stove on his back.  I felt better and carried up the camp stove.

On June 2, 1959 I had been here on the mountain with the children for one week continually and plan to reside here permanently.  The trailer is still not up here, but Bill bought a tractor to bring supplies in and get some real work done on the road.  As I am writing this, including Bill’s time on the mountain while I was sick, we have three weeks of residency here.




CHAPTER EIGHT:  I See So Little of My Husband Now


June 4, 1959 Thursday 10:30 P.M.

Oh, how my moods change here – awhile ago, well, hours ago now I was so happy!  I was out gathering wood and heard a tractor coming – my, such excitement – the children all came out (it’s been showery all day) and we ran to greet it.  It was our operator Tuck.  He had come to inform me that he would help Bill bring my first load of household things up when Bill got home from work.

He came in our very humble dwelling and I gave him a welcome hot cup of coffee.  It was 6:00 P.M. then and he figured he’d just make it back down the mountain in time to meet Bill.

I’ve had quite a time keeping these good, good children amused all day – we’d been making paper hats out of newspapers and playing ‘tit-tat-toe’ – so I asked him if John could go – He’s so nice, just like a jolly Santa Claus and readily agreed!  It had stopped raining and so he happily climbed in two-wheel trailer behind tractor and they took off down the mountain.

My, how our wood stove hungrily devours wood – but how warm it keeps the Jamesway – today, being rainy, I’ve kept it burning all day.  It takes a lot of wood fetching and we all help.

7:00 P.M. I went out to get more wood.  It was sprinkling ever so lightly but the woods and grass smell ever so sweet and the wildflowers are blooming about – enormous blue flowers looking all the world like lilacs [they were lupine], blue bells etc.

I heard the tractor returning!  Oh, how pleased I was – I gathered ten armloads of wood – the house must be cozy and warm when they returned damp and cold.

I peeled my last potatoes, opened string beans and fixed hamburger –

The lamp must be lit – oh, how temperamental it’s been lately and how dull.  It doesn’t light up this big Jamesway the way it did the tiny trailer.  I cleaned the glass inside and out.  Bill tells me to ‘pump’ it up plenty and hold my finger over the hole.  Oh, bright welcome light – then gradually it dimmed and went out!  More fuel – I get the filter and go out and fill it up – pump, pump and on it goes.  (But gosh, I’m frightened of it and it seems to know it.)

Up until now I’ve stubbornly and flatly refused to light our Coleman Camp Stove.  I’ve heard of them exploding and only will use it when Bill is home.  Consequently I have to haul ever so much more wood and it takes forever to cook on the Yukon stove.  Today, I asked Bill to show me how and did cook the children’s breakfast on it and how quickly it heats dish water.

But tonight I couldn’t get it to work and just lost courage.

All the wood burned up – it started pouring outside and Oh Mom, the tractor had seemed so close and it stopped completely.

I got more wood – all wet – the potatoes and meat won’t cook.  I try the stove again, it won’t light and I’d cry if it would help but it wouldn’t.

So I fix the three patient girls a half peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some fruit punch and they go to bed in their sleeping bags on the floor because Bill was bringing the wash—in their clothes – and I wonder?

Oh Mom – they’re angels – as I put them to bed and tuck them in and hear their prayers – Cindy says, “Mommy I added a special prayer tonight for our homestead.”  It’s their dream too – oh such darlings – we cannot fail them.  It’s theirs as much as ours.

Now it’s close to 11:00 P.M. – no Bill, no John – no tractor, no trailer – what happened?  Are they stuck in the damned mud – or was the trailer too loaded down and the road couldn’t hold up?

Then why not walk home?  Poor darling John was so thrilled to go – he gets so tired of being with three girls and me all the time and now this.

I gave him soup and crackers at 5:00 – all of them – but no dinner and cold and wet and mosquito bitten.

Oh Mom, Mom. Mom!!!

I’m sitting here close to lantern for light and swatting mosquitoes that smell the half-cooked food and are attracted by the warmth, the lantern light and me!  I must have killed two dozen since I started this!  (My spray is gone!)

You know me – I’ve never been patient and it’s all I’ve had to be since one year ago when we started all this!!  — And all I can do now is sit, wait and wonder and hear the purr of the lantern and the drip, drop of the rain! – And the wood is all gone too!

11:15 P.M. – Still not home.  I am worried!  Oh Mother remember when Bill used to be half an hour late sometimes on the L.A. Freeway and I’d call you because I feared an accident?

Oh Mom, who do I call now?  It’s still raining and pitch black outside – I went out awhile ago to listen – listen.  I’ve listened so much I can almost imagine the ‘putt putt’ sound.  A minute ago I was certain I heard it – but opened the tiny window and only heard the rushing river below.

If it wasn’t for leaving the three girls I’d start down the road looking for them.

I’m worried especially about John.  It just dawned on me that I don’t really know that man at all.  I never would have let him go but they were on their way to meet Bill.

Bill said he might stop to help Carr fix the road below his place where the creek flooded over but I figured he wouldn’t in the rain –

And I did hear a tractor, but that was at 7:00 and now it’s 11:20.

And Smokey she’s been gone all day.  She’s never once left us here alone before today.  She used to follow us down to the trailer when we all out together and wait there for us – or rather come bounding down the road to meet us at the sound of the Jeep.

Why, I’ve been lost without her and worried over her.

She may have followed Bill but why today and why didn’t she return?!

She never lets John out of her sight a minute and we all adore her and depend on her too.

Oh Mom, I’m scared!

Where are they all?

Here is Bill’s gun hanging on the wall but I don’t even know how to load it!

I’ve been sitting here praying.  I want us to be together.

I’ve been so alone lately – yet always I’ve kept the children together.

I miss John – where is he?  He’ll have pneumonia for sure and he’s so thin anyways.

Oh God, Oh God – help us!

—- I didn’t mail these today for fear of worrying you and I wanted to write you a note telling you all was OK now.  They got home at 12:30 A.M., rain soaked, muddy and tired.  I cried with relief.

We think ‘our operator’ had been drinking – he had it in his head to bring our big trailer up the mountain last night!  Imagine!!

Oh, I’ll tell you all details later but suffice to say for now – he worked on road after leaving here with Pollard’s big tractor and broke down a lot of his own good work.  Left Bill waiting at trailer for two hours – he had planned to bring two-wheel trailer of household things up after work – by time operator got back and told Bill he guessed he couldn’t “bring your trailer up tonight” – imagine, in rain, at night!  Crazy!

I hadn’t packed anything.  He had put wheels back on trailer in afternoon and luckily he didn’t pull it up as it was – my kerosene lamp on table – dishes out – honestly!  Then Bill packed two-wheel trailer and started up but got stuck where ‘operator’ had messed up road and spent his [no word here] there.  (The tractor I had heard had been ‘operator’ on road while Bill waited at trailer and he’d left here saying he was going right down.)  Finally Bill started tractor – battery ran down and they walked home.

Man had emptied two-wheel trailer up here of all things Bill had in it in case of rain to cover up furniture so our good card table and two matching chairs were out in rain all night.  This morning NO WOOD, NO CLEAN CLOTHES, NO WATER.  Bill didn’t get to bed until 1:00 A.M. and up at 4:00 – walked to tractor, luckily it started – unloaded mess in hut – I gave him breakfast and he left.

The rain had come in last night and John and Cindy woke up in wet sleeping bags!!  All their clothing was wet and hut so cold.  I changed them – thankful for clean clothes – fed everyone and put them back to sleep – it was only 7:00 A.M. – they slept until noon.

I washed dishes, slept and tidied hut and at 10:00 went back to bed and slept too!

Crazy US –

Then got up and sponge bathed, changed clothes and fixed lunch.  It’s still raining so I had to keep them in hut all day!!  Thank goodness for table and two chairs and water and tractor and Bill – a wonderful husband and father!  Hope I get a letter from you tonight.  Love, Mildred


June 5, 1959 Friday

Poor Bill.  Before yesterday he came home the night before last so happy because he had been able to drive the tractor all the way up from the trailer without stopping!  It only took half an hour!!  That seems so short to us now but just think, on L.A. freeways it took half an hour from L.A. to Pasadena ONLY – never mind – it’s worth it and Bill’s face shone with happiness.  Then the next night he came home so miserable and pulled out his pay voucher and for sure I thought he’d been fired – he’s been out so much and late so much – my heart fell!  But to him it was almost as bad – his pay, Oh Mom, now of all times, was $250 short!!  A catastrophe for sure.

He had kept track of every day he’d been out and thought all was fine BUT in his tiredness and all so mixed up he had entirely forgotten two weeks taken in February and he lost pay for recent time taken off to try so hard to get us straightened out up here!  Oh, Mom, I never felt so sorry for him – even when he has come in dirty, wet and tired.  Well, not a thing we can do about it but eat beans and pay interest only this month.

We had one rainy day this week and I couldn’t let the children out all day – nothing seemed nice then – but oh, today – how I wish you were here to share it with me.

I’m writing this letter to you while sitting on the cot outside in the sun.  There’s a very slight wind and the leaves and trees are rustling and the sound of it and the creek and the river sounds the waves of an ocean!

Oh Mom, I hardly dare to love this place so and love it I do.  I am in love with it – just as Bill was.  It’s Shangri-la and I must share it with you each and every summer. – Now Mom, if we get title this winter and we must and I’ll never rest until we do!!  THEN now, I am serious – plan your summers here!!  Or at least one entire month every summer – but there’s so much room here you could have a little place all your own!  Now you write and answer me!!  No fancy trailer idea – no, no, no – a small log house or a tiny twenty six foot trailer like ours – because after all, you live outdoors all summer here!!

Every time I look around I wish to run and shout with glee – oh, such beauty – I’ll never want again for anything. — I’ll wait and wait and wait only this land, only this land!!!  I love it, I love it, I love it – our homestead and will live here for ever and ever and ever!!

I sound love sick and I am!  Speaking of love do you realize soon we will have been married ten years? – Bill wanted us to go out somewhere fancy but we’re not going to spend one penny.  I secretly plan a BBQ steak celebration here on our place, but I must admit it would be such fun to get dressed up in my white dress you gave me before I left California – we haven’t been out together since January – New Year’s Eve and that is not right.

I never seem to see Bill and now we don’t even sleep in the same bed and of course, have no privacy.  The children go to bed the same time we do.  Several nights ago he brought their beds up – two sleep in one bed – one on each end in sleeping bags but at least they’re finally off the floor!

Each little thing that comes up here is so wonderful!!!  Our sixteen by eighteen hut [each section was four feet wide, five sections made the Jamesway twenty feet long] now looks crowded!  See?  Now it’s getting to be quite comfortable and very nice for now once we get the trailer up.

Mom, Mom please come, please please come up.  Not to sightsee or visit like last year – Just to be with us — each day and month is so precious.  Couldn’t you get someone to look after things? – Oh Mom, if we get the trailer up soon and leave the bed in there or you could sleep in the front room and it’s so warm and cozy and private!  Would you come for the rest of the summer now that we have the tractor?

You could write here and I’ll spend the entire summer relaxing, organizing and writing!!  Please, we could pay your fare back late August – please a one way ticket – oh Now, now, now.  Answer me now!!!!!

The road in to Pollard’s is pretty good now – it’s fixed up, still bumpy but dried up!!

By the way Mrs. Bockstahler says you could have their cabin where we stayed last summer.  I said ‘no’ too alone in case you needed someone!  Mrs. Pottle said for me to invite you to stay with them!

Now I’m serious.  Come now – take the summer off – could you close the house up for the summer?  Your food here would be free, no rent and you could pay your flight up and we’d pay it back!  Then I bet by devoting all your time to writing up here all summer then we’d both make enough to pay for your rent.

Last night’s paper said Holiday Life, Outdoor Life etc. are all coming up with Alaska articles next month!!  Answer NOW!!!!!

Tell Charlie again and again we think of him and appreciate the temporary loan!  Without it we’d be walking and even hauling water [by foot] –!!   Well, it’s 6:30 now – I keep doing things and each time I sit down in the yard I’ve added notes. **  YOUR LAST LETTER WAS ONE OF THE SWEETEST I’VE EVER RECEIVED.  Your marvelous understanding and such sweet thoughts.  Mother, thank YOU for being YOU.  I too, am grateful for C. and C. – so very grateful.  I am so happy to know they are there.  BUT I want you some time summer and all summer if possible!!  Much, much Love and take care of yourself!  Love, US ALL

My hand got tired so I took awhile to rest!  I just took my plants off a shelf Bill made in the tree and put them in the garden for more sun.  Each child has several plants in old cans.  They tore off the labels, punched holes in the bottom and put small rocks one third of the way up.  Today we were all thrilled to see that they have sprouted and truly what’s more thrilling than to plant a seed and watch it grow?  I love gardens and can hardly wait until we’ve cleared and cultivated our land – I can just picture our place ‘someday’.  Sometimes it startles me to imagine it all so clearly and look out and see just wilderness.  But it will happen!

Yesterday, I read in the Saturday Evening Post about ‘pony clubs’ being started all over and by next summer our two youngest will have ponies – and we will all have horses.  If you have a chance read the article.

We just had a picnic lunch.  I cleaned up the Jamesway and honestly with wildflowers in vases (we can afford the luxury of giving them drinks now that we can haul water!) and our few things in there – except the canvas is so dirty and the floor so ugly!  Oh well, all in good time – I get overly anxious.

Anyway then I made a pan of fudge (We had half for dessert and then we were walking around and I looked back and Smokey had eaten the other half!!!  — Oh, I was mad.)  We had Kool Aid, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cookies.  I packed a basket and took a blanket and we took off.

Believe me, we’re still not brave enough to go too far but we did go out-of-sight of the hut to a grove of birch and spruce.  Hum – sniffed so nice.  The wildflowers are all in full bloom now and so beautiful.  After lunch the kids climbed some of the sturdier birch trees – it was a change and fun!

** Well, it’s 5:00 now and I better finish the letter.  I wanted to tell you all about yesterday!  I had to go to town to sign [Altadena] house papers with Bill and take care of some plastic business.  I finally let the other dealer take the bookings for June and July and I am through except for a few more packages to deliver when they come.

We had to get up at 4:00 A.M. and bundle up very warm.  The top mountain peaks were covered with snow – it snowed there while it rained here – the valley was a bed of clouds and more clouds hovered over surrounding mountains.  We can watch them float by below us.   We were going to town and ride in the two-wheel trailer behind the tractor, putt, putt down the hill to the Jeep to get there.  One thing we can really appreciate the scenery like that.  We all piled in and the marvelous tractor took off.

Oh, how I wish you could be with us.  It’s so darned hard to describe it all to you.  The first part of the road is fine – the first mud hole is hardly recognizable – but then we leave the road and travel in the ditch – just ride enough, barely for the tractor – that ‘the operator’ made for the water to go down.  The dirt is piled up on the side of us, some places five feet high and in the ditch the water races down – dripping and draining continually from the sides of the bank.  The water plus the tractor have got the ditch down to the gravel and rocks so it’s more like a creek bed, so amazing to me the tractor putt putts right along in the water!!

As we progress we come back up to the high road – (other places he will come back and fix the high places into a road when it dries out) — and then on the side of us the water runs in a narrow ditch and looks just like a creek with water falls BUT oh Mother, there it isn’t running in the road any longer!

No doubt about it he has already accomplished the impossible!

Oh, we looked funny when we got to town – me with boots, Levis etc and all of us looking – well just like homesteaders!!  I hadn’t been ‘out’ for a week and hadn’t had a real bath since then!  We took showers at the women’s dormitory on the base – and all got dressed up in summer cottons!  My, we felt good!!!

I had packed our things in a suitcase but had forgotten soap, shower cap and bobby pins and comb!  I couldn’t do a thing until I had them and even refused to go to breakfast until we were cleaned up.  I went over to the shopping center on Government Hill and he opened up the store early (he was cleaning it) and I purchased the things.  Oh, I hated to be seen that way.  Once you’re in the city it’s just like Pasadena or any city and you feel out of place not dressed up.

Anyways later I found my shower cap and wanted a refund of 39¢ on one I’d bought so returned it and I was sure he’d never recognize me BUT he did!

We had so much to do wash to be done, packages at P.O. and to be delivered, all done just in time to meet Bill at 5:00.  I’ll be so glad when we can just go in for fun.

(One or two more times and I’ll be done.)  Anyways I’m so glad we can take FREE showers there and it’s so clean and nice.  Remember when Bill first came here and stayed at ‘the barracks’?  Well, that is what this is, only it’s the women’s barracks!  They all work during the day and so nobody cares whether or not we used the facilities.  So that problem is solved!

On the way home, I stopped to see Mrs. Bockstahler a minute.  She’s so nice.  She has really fixed up the shop and has added fur things, Eskimo and native art, ivory etc.  She wants me to work part-time and I’d love to but just don’t see how it’s possible!!  She remarked, “You don’t look like a homesteader.” — I told her why!

After we left her we turned homeward.  It’s getting hard to know what to buy for food.  We’re all sick and tired of canned meat.  Yesterday in town I bought an enormous sack of potatoes at a roadside stand for $1.50 and some nice fresh vegetables – including our first corn on the cob six for $1.00.  I bought some corned beef to go with cabbage I bought (like buying a dress to go with earrings (ha ha)) but I didn’t dare buy any more meat without refrigeration .

We changed clothes at the foot of our road and once again climbed into the two-wheel trailer behind the tractor.  Oh, to think we didn’t even need the clumsy boots and all we were wearing.  We chugged to the top.  Each bad hill I thought – “Oh how hard that one is to make” and so one we rocked.   Cindy and Sharon pleaded, “Let’s rest Mommy” – and how my heart had ached!

We rode in our convertible to the top of the Mountain – oh, what bliss.  Only it doesn’t convert in case of rain, snow and all.  But oh, so marvelous.  I had trailer half loaded with boxes and today had wonderful time [rest of letter is missing]


June 7, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  I love Our Homestead when the sun shines, the doors are open and I see the beauty we are surrounded by.  The windows are so tiny that we can’t see the view at all from inside the hut and anyways we can’t see out the windows at all!  I’ve washed the inside and outside of them until they shine but the glasses are double paned, close together with fine screen in between and are filthy inside – years of accumulated dust and grit.

Bill plans to put large windows in each end when he fixes the hut.  Other times when I dislike this so heartily is when we arrive home late, tired and dirty and have left early in the morning.  It’s untidy and cold and so are we – nothing feels good then and I hate this place.

The Ford is in the garage.  Bill was taking it in to see about selling it and on the way it broke down.  Garage man said will cost about $100.00 – now what?  We can’t afford to sell it or keep it!!  Always something!


June 8, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  The children were playing ‘Giant Steps’ outside around 7:00 and I heard them yell, “A moose, a moose!”  Goodness, it sounded like a stampede!

I jumped out (and I mean out) our back door (or is it the front, who knows?) of our hut.  It’s about four feet higher off the ground than the other end due to sloping ground and no steps there yet, so I repeat, I jumped OUT and ran to the side.  By then all four children were inside the other door and then I saw the moose galloping down our hill and past me into the woods.  Smokey ran behind it and would not come as we yelled at her.  No wonder the children had beat it so fast.  It looked like the moose was running toward them with the dog after it.

*Later Notes:  “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”  Today is the perfect beautiful day.  And our dwelling IS HUMBLE but it’s HOME.  Even the children now remark, “Mommy this place sure is beginning to look home-like.”  Well, I’m trying.  Now that I have my stove, a table and six chairs and our beds here it’s getting downright crowded.  I asked Bill today to bring me a chest and our shelves from storage if he gets a chance.

We have boxes piled on boxes and more boxes piled on those and invariably I always want one item from the bottom box (naturally).

At times I really HATE living in this hut.  Those times are on rainy days when none of us could get out and we didn’t have our things here.  Then all I could see was the splintery cracked floor with the wide gaps between, (that first rainy day we lost a ruler, a pen and a nickel down a crack) and the miserable dirty, splotchy canvas.  How I’d like to try to wash it but there’s so much of it and it’s beyond that and Bill will soon put insulation and wall board over it!

Anyways HE just ‘balled me out’ for using hauled water on my seeds but as I explained to him, they really mean a lot to me now that I’m here all of the time.  Every day we all hurry outside right away to see what has come up!!  I hope we have lots of colorful blooms all over.  Yesterday I scattered poppy seeds around the driveway and the sides of my rock garden!

It’s my plants and the candles and mats and ‘little touches’ inside, I know, that make the hut homey!  Once, I tucked a flower vase inside my pack those first days we were up here.  The children picked wildflowers for it and I hesitantly gave them water – very hesitantly, because even then our snow pile was small BUT oh, how gratifying to see the colorful blooms on the table!

Bill said, “Now, so far I haven’t minded packing things on my back but now look at that vase.”  I stopped him and told him I had carried that and he couldn’t say a thing.  He really appreciates it but I see his point too.  How very precious water is.

I sponge bathed the children last night in one basin of water!  But four times over again ‘adds up’.  First their face, neck, chest and arms – in that order.  Then they stand in the basin and I finish.  It helps and then we go to town once a week for a shower.

Oh, if I only had water I could fill our big round tin bath tub full for them.  Bill will have to dig a well.  Oh, so much to be done and from past experience now we know how fast the summer flies by!

As Bill said last night he could spend every day working on this place to ‘prove up’ from now until December!!  We wonder sometimes how we’ll ever get it all done!  The road will need so many more hours of work after it dries out before the trailer can come up the mountain!

We see now how long and laborious it is to operate the tractor, especially after Bill’s long full day working in town!  Last night it was 12:30 again before we got to bed.  Then up again at 4:45!  Bill has lost 35 pounds since we got up here!  I’ll do my part and keep the home happy and relaxed and now that I have my stove I can bake for him again.

He’s earning every acre of this land we love – we all are.

Speaking of humble home his last remark before going to sleep was, “Funny, how things change.  Three years ago I sat at my desk at lunch time and sketched shapes for our planned patio in Glendora.  Remember what a time we had deciding where it should be and how it would look best?  Well, today I spent my lunch hour sketching shapes for our ‘privy house’.”  Yes times have changed – (and oh, how we need one) – (a privy, I mean).


June 9, 1959 Tuesday

We brought up three enormous loads of stuff over the weekend I’ve been sorting it all out this week and planting my vegetable garden.  Bill tractored (?) it over and then I had to turn it all over by hand – quite a job for one who isn’t used to it BUT oh, how very satisfying.  My problem will be water – now, I almost wish for (only) a few showers!

Bill dug me up quite a space – I hope I can manage it.  So far I’ve planted:  one rock garden with wild flowers, daisies and poppies, one round garden with nasturtiums, and one more with sweet peas and nasturtiums, one more with poppies and nasturtiums.

My vegetable garden so far (I’ll plant more later so they won’t all mature at one time!) has one row radishes, one row carrots, two rows peas, one row cauliflower, one bed potatoes (hope I planted them right side up – you know, I am a real green thumb as I wasn’t sure if you planted potato seeds.  As you probably know you don’t, you cut them in several sections as long as there is an eye in each.)

I still have oodles more seeds – cabbage, lettuce etc.  Oh Mom, our soil seems marvelous to me and absolutely no rocks at all!  Our fields are so green now and the wildflowers are everywhere!

I’m getting concerned about fall — whether to send for correspondence courses or not.  I want them to go to school but how?  I’m afraid the trip in cold winter would be too long and hours too early and late etc. etc.  Then it would be expensive to have them cared for before and after school.

Golly, I’m with them all the time and really dread the thought of teaching them at home but what else?

Yes, we will have earned our 160 acres when our time is up.

Bill doesn’t get home until 8:00 or 8:30 – it’s now 8:15 and he isn’t home yet.  During summer it’s still light but imagine the winter?  I shudder to think of it.  As he was saying last night – how will he ever get everything done that he has to do in a few short months.

Then the house (hut) has to be fixed – a foundation, insulation and wall board.  Road fixed so trailer can get up and then it hauled and foundation built and some repairs made.

Land to be cleared and cultivated.  Last night after dinner he worked at this one hour and it’s not an easy task.  Will have comparatively few trees to cut but many high bushes and still a job for Bill to do after getting up at 5:00 – getting home at 8:00 – working at a full time job and all.

Thank goodness we don’t have a high stand of timber.  When we were in California and talked of “homesteading” I pictured a forest.  Our place here is so different – wide open spaces – a green valley with a few birch and spruce.  There are many old, dead trees and places where we’ll clear out lots of dead trees and cottonwoods and aspen but I like it this way.  There’s so much sunshine for the children and the land here has a marvelous happy, peaceful feeling!

Well, it is 8:15 – we’re completely out of water – oh, how precious it has become — so I can’t get dinner.

Often times the kids go to bed at 11:00 or 12:00.  It’s still light out and easier on us all in one room.  We turn in shortly after them.  They’re so tired they go right to sleep.  Unless we go to town – which is very seldom now – I let them sleep until 10:00 or later.  It makes the day shorter and the sun shines late, late, late!


June 10, 1959 Wednesday

*Notes:  Another beautiful day!  It’s warm and sunny but big fluffy white clouds are gloating by.  The sky is the bluest blue and there’s a slight wind.

As I write, the door of our hut is open and the hill behind us is gorgeous.  It’s covered with quantities of assorted blue flowers and the entire hill has a blue cast to it from the distance.  There are tiny white flowers and dandelions adding a bright note.  It’s so beautiful and natural.  Nobody can duplicate Mother Nature.

These days we’re all out-of-doors every minute.  We even eat most of our meals outside.  Now, we have our gardens to attend, also.  Every few minutes I stop to gaze around me and feast my eyes on the beauty surrounding us.  The green valley against the mountains, with the snow still on the tops is truly a sight and in the valley below the river sparkles bright as it wends its way in and out of the valley carving a new path every year.  I can see islands in places where the river has bypassed but in time the powerful river will come through these also.

How we all appreciate the greenery, flowers and soil here in Alaska after living in a world of white snow for so long – the transformation is amazing!

In California I tired of the monotony of the landscape but never, never here in Alaska.  All too soon, autumn will be here and then winter again BUT even then winter varies!  Hoar frost is one thing, fresh snow is something else and always we look forward to spring, never really minding the snow and missing it a bit at first when it disappears.  (Really, I only mind the MUD!)

I love Alaska – every season – all year round – “I love Alaska.”

6:30 P.M. – My, what a beautiful day.  I’ve never before seen such perfect weather.  As I write the door of the hut is open and the hill behind is gorgeous – all covered with the blue bells and blue flowers!

I’ve been gathering wood and my hands and arms are so tired my hand won’t write right.

It’s so satisfying to me to see things shaping up so nicely!!  I’ve worked all day on putting things in place in the hut.  Oh, such downright luxury to have shelves (previous toy shelves Bill made) to put dishes, pots and pans on, and a chest of drawers with five whole drawers to put underwear in!!

To me, I even gain tremendous satisfaction from gathering firewood – available in enormous quantity now that Bill’s been clearing – and storing it in neat piles beneath the end of the hut!  “What a saving!” I keep thinking.

Every day I grow to love this homestead of ours more and more.

Well, I am gong to take a few minutes to wash up before Bill comes home – I am a mess!!

Evening (Rather 11:00 P.M.):  Here comes Bill home on the tractor after clearing land.  For the last hour I’ve been up helping (?) — well trying to – dragging away bushes and mostly gathering firewood.  It really is showing.  Last night he was discouraged and didn’t think one hour a day helped but it does!  Just like ‘some knitting’ every day or ‘some gardening’ – all added together – and some long work – and completion!  And tonight it does show!!!

I hurried home to make some cocoa for him!  It’s chilly out tonight but clear and nice!  How warm and cozy the hut seems as I come in from out-of-doors and the crackly of a wood fire even in a closed place is cheery.  I lit the candles so as not to bother the children but nothing seems to waken them now.  (AND there was a time that the slightest change wakened them. Oh, how we have all changed!)  Even the candles are cozy – NOW for Bill’s cocoa.

It has been a pleasant day!


June 11, 1959 Thursday

*Notes: Our 10th Wedding Anniversary.   For the very life of me I couldn’t enjoy today.  In the first place, we didn’t have any water.  Enough said!!!  Miserable day – miserable anniversary.  I try not to care but sentimental ME I do care TERRIBLY but I have no choice but to make the best of it.


June 11, 1959 Thursday – Our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

Who ever would have imagined – ten years ago – that I’d be living atop a Mountain in Alaska homesteading?  Certainly not me!!!

You know me and how I always like to have Birthdays etc. so nice.  I haven’t been in town for over a week and haven’t even a card – and no water today and couldn’t even bathe and shampoo my hair.

As soon as Bill gets home I’m going to bathe and clean up and clean the children and put them to bed so at least Bill and I can have a RIP ROARING game of Pinochle.

Well, now really – even that seems nice as I hardly ever see Bill anymore at all!

Last night Bill was so miserable because we weren’t going out anywhere and I assured him that this homestead was the nicest present he could give me.

We had another lovely day today.  I read the Writers Magazine over and over – and clippings you sent, thanks.  I’m just NOT in a writing mood — closest I ever came was in the log house – a time will come – but not when children are home – I need some QUIET TIME – too many interruptions with all four children at home.

Today I was so very lonely to see you and C. and C.  I would love to drive down this summer but can’t spend the money and Bill says he won’t have any vacation in January!  I refuse to fly alone with the children again.  Well, will see what this next month will bring.

Right now, Bill needs me here to see he eats and gets rest etc.  He’s carrying a terrific load!! – Much more physical than I am!  — Mine, I guess, is more mental!!

I’m sure I do get all your letters and did receive the letter about the Jeep – we don’t have any money to invest but admit it’s very interesting.  Any old Jeep up here sells for $400 UP!!

Last night on way home Bill saw a big black bear down near Donnelley’s about four miles from here.  He crossed the road in front of the Jeep!  Don’t worry I keep the children very close to the hut here!

Sweet of Charlie to try that – thanks for telling me.  Tell him that the tractor was ‘a must’ for us – the road is gradually drying up but even after all that road work (bill came to $610) we couldn’t have gotten in without a tractor.  We would have had to move OUT.  Thanks, thanks, thanks!  No word from lawyer but shouldn’t be too long now.

Pollard told Bill last night that Buttners have given up idea of homesteading.  All they did was buy an old small trailer and have Pollard haul it in.  It’s been sitting down near ours – unoccupied since April!  I guess Buttner is being transferred – that and the fact we never got ours up discouraged them.  Really, I’m very glad. I don’t want anyone above us – or at least, not them!

I had wondered about it.  The trailer, if fixed up, would have been nice for you but Pollard bought it from him for $100 – and will bring stuff out for Buttner that’s still there since fire.  Of course Pollard did haul trailer in and was never paid for it.  Neither have we – only $50 – still owe $125.00 I suppose, even though still hasn’t brought our trailer up.  Maybe he can still do it next month.

I sure want it now that bears are around to put food in!!

We went up to Buttner’s last weekend – sad sight to see remains of trailer and all.  Did I write you about it?

One mile above us – you can see it when you come – do you want to file on it now?  The road is there and high and dry back and forth to our place!


Write back!!  Well, better close and get to potatoes baking – oh, so good to have my GAS OVEN now!!  Bill’s coming!  Love, ten years Married Mildred


June 13, 1959 Saturday – from Mildred’s mother

Have so much that I want to say these days – that I may be writing frequently.  I love your letters which let me “share” your ventures on the homestead.  I am so torn between my desire to go up for a visit and the wisdom of remaining here and putting money toward your project instead.  I go “around and around” in my thoughts.

Like you and Bill it seems that your chief problems are road; water; and the school plans for next year.

Ever since your last letter of today came talking about the school problem and Cindy’s great desire to go to school – I have kept it in my thoughts all day.  Right now my conclusions seem to be that children must go to that good school in Anchorage next year.

No matter what anyone says about you being a “sissy” over living in town in the winter, I beg you to consider it.  I will pay $100 a month toward a Government Hill apartment, where you’ll be cozy and warm and well taken care of from now until school closes next spring.  When feasible you can “weekend” on the homestead!  It’s better and wiser than pay for each child – tuition – and having them worn out and weary going back and forth, as well as Bill and yourself on the daily grind in [can’t read word] inadequate housing against mid-winter storms.

So with this in mind I’ve been thinking that we could think about this.  Talk it over with Bill.  Get permission for tutoring until you get title in November.  Then going there into school for winter months.  Oh please, Mil.  You know that their good sound foundation is very, very vital to their whole lives.  Also, they need the social contacts with school affairs, children, scouts, and John’s choir etc.  You do too.

If this is done, Bill would not have to worry and work so desperately hard on the house-building until next spring.  He could put efforts and money on road; piping water and clearing land.

My heart is so much in this with you and Bill.  You’ve done so well so far.  It’s a tremendous undertaking – but it must not deplete Bill so much physically that he gets ill or loses his job through weariness and inability to keep his mind on his career-job.  Right?  You’ll be able to save so much in rent and expenses for those seven months, that you’ll get settled up a little, if the machines will only behave.

Having money is all important on those machines.  If you are in apartment during cold months you’d save on laundry and on children’s morale.  They should be in school in town somehow or other.

When you get settled with water, house (even small), toilets etc. it will be different.  Also, schools will have to be closer if settlers going in all have children.  But your children need stimulation and competition with children of their own mental calibers.  See what I mean?  .

You and Bill can pay back anything you owe me – in the future – after essentials on homestead are all taken care of slowly but surely and well.  Each step must be good and sound not makeshift, or you’ll lose out in end by doing it over again.  Bill will have job enough to get Jamesway water proofed and safe for storing your things for winter.  By having apartment you can take something from storage to apartment and some to homestead.

The more I think of it, this is the most practical, sensible plan.  As you say there are only a few months to work in.  In this plan you would not feel the pressure and dread of being unprepared for this winter.  It would be “too much” to do all at once, I think.  It would have been so very different if you hadn’t been handicapped by that old road and the car troubles.  But all those trials have provided you with the “conflicts” as well as “thrills” which Bert Anderson says is so very necessary for good writing.  You can write articles, or lectures, and put them all together afterwards in book form.  Oh I must get up so you can have a little time to yourself for writing.

We must earn the money when I see the BOOBS who do.  Oh me, oh my!  What’s the matter with me?  Lack of confidence and lack of regular hours for writing day in and day out – like any job!  You made yourself appear on time for those plastic parties.  You write so well, dear.  You should have been one of first to get Alaska articles off.  Don’t do as I did – fill drawers with materials.

I, too, hold visions of good future prospects for the homestead, if you take it easy and slowly.  I simply sang in my heart at the report of your gardens and the children’s plantings.  Oh, Mil, your Shangri-la or Hidden Valley sounds wonderful!  I wouldn’t mind ending up on Jeep – or sleeping on blanket on floor.  You know that.  Remember us sleeping in car on way out to save money?  [from Boston to L.A. during WWII, Mildred was nineteen]  It was worth it, dear.  I’m often sorry you had to be dragged across country because of me, but it must have been part of Destiny for us all.  I shall be deeply humble and grateful if you have found the place which makes you and Bill content.  You know me – anywhere is O.K. if I’m well and with my family.  Watch the health for all of you.

I’m so happy that you’ll have fresh vegetables this summer.  I bet your tomatoes will be better than any we ever grew.  The soil must be rich.  If I get there, I’ll weed and weed for you!

And the flowers and the trees.  It sounds wonderful.  We must hold it for you.  As soon as I get my rent together and pay Norwood $75, I pay two payments on car – I’ll count the shekels to see if I can fly up.  Have even wondered if I could drive.  Why not if those other women did?  What say you?

I don’t want you to give up the Ford station wagon unless you have to.  You need it for town.  You cannot look like homesteaders like McCrary.  I just loved hearing about your quick-change acts at the motels and at Army base showers.  Loved hearing Mrs. Bockstahler wonder.  Others will wonder too.  Don’t tell how you mange it all.  Let them wonder, and I hope marvel, if you could get on for awhile without garage bills.

Have the Buttners, Pollards etc. had as much hard luck with their cars as you have had?

Three cheers for the little old fellow who has helped put the road in shape so that you can go up and down with the Jeep.  Think of draining the water.  Just fine work.  How do you pay him?  Have you paid him some already?  What do the others think who say it was all impossible?  Oh how can I bear to sit here just waiting to know the progress – and wanting to be there?  Just as you all can do it – that’s the way.  Determination to remain and stack up a few $$.

Please be honest and tell me all your reactions to the various plans – and which seem wisest to you – Are they impossible or impractical?  Also tell me about your payments on various machines now that Bill’s check was short last time.  Can you make out, or do you need a payment to save the trailer or tractor or Jeep?  I’d send another check now – but want to wait and check payments with Pacific, due 9th, and see if they paid as the did last month.  If they did not I’ll pay it.  Don’t worry about Pacific – they have promised to let me know if money does not come in so I can pay.  Of course they’ll be nice – to themselves.

Thank God for the Jeep and tractor and that Bill is able to get some boxes of stuff to you.  What a celebration if he ever gets the trailer up to you!  Happy day.

Children are wonderful.  Let them sleep lots and lots and make up what they lost that will put flesh on Johnny too.  Did I suggest a goat – for goat’s milk?  Very nutritious and people get used to it and love it.  Like yogurt –

Want you to keep up your courage and not be lonely.  The Pep Kid will try to visit, if she can!

Remember the old striped umbrella on pole that could fold up and be carried anywhere.  We used to have it in yard in Melrose and took to beaches too?  I saw them in Sears last year for about $15.  Would you like one?  It would be good and colorful and give shady attractive spot for you all during day outside.  Also mark my words Bockstahler’s or someone from Eagle River crowd will have to appear this summer to look you over.  So let’s give them an inexpensive eyeful – O.K?

Can Bill hire a man to pipe water up there from creek below?  Or how much to drill a well?  That is absolutely important and will save lugging water for washing etc.  Good for gardens too.  You need water all summer!  Please tell me about this.  Watch springs that might carry typhoid from mosquitoes etc. etc.

How I rave, as if you didn’t know!  Forgive and overlook it!


June 13, 1959 Saturday

*Notes:  Bill ‘tractored’ out a deep hole and I throw cans in there and later he’ll cover it over.

I’m so glad I have the Yukon stove.  It’s been a blessing from beginning to end.  Now it is just enough to take the ‘chill’ off the evening and early morning and I burn our papers as they accumulate!  It was a mess at Bockstahler’s cabin not knowing how to dispose of trash and having to make endless trips to the dump.  This way we can keep our beautiful homestead neat and clean – not one bit of ‘trash’ will blight the natural loveliness of our heavenly place!!!

Perhaps this winter we can get a ‘portable fireplace’.  We will have lots of wood to burn and it too helps clean up the place and rids us of debris and it’s so economical and so cheerful!!  I really am amazed at how much heat our little stove gives off and how cheery the crackling fire is even if we can’t see it!!


June 14, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  (Our Marvelous Tractor.  We certainly never could have stayed here without it!!)

We decided to celebrate John’s Birthday today.  We’re so ‘poor’ right now and I really wonder how we’ll make it until Wednesday.  But Yesterday I bought ‘hotdogs’ for a roast and potato salad and corn would go well with that and then I took my last pennies – literally – for sugar and a cake mis and two 10¢ birthday cards.  So will have it today and fast until Wednesday.

Anyways it’s more fun in the afternoon before the mosquitoes come out and Bill gets home so late now!

Bill had been gone all morning and most of the afternoon.  He had to repair the Jeep and bring up another load from the trailer.  He really loaded it too – and oh, how very nice the redwood furniture looks here.  Even if ‘our hut’ is pretty awful the out-of-doors more than makes up for it and now we can live outdoors this summer for sure.

I am so glad we chose redwood in California instead of aluminum.  It’s so fitting and looks very much at home here!!  I bet we will really enjoy it here.  No need for privacy fences here and to remember California – we had put up an eight foot fence there and still never really enjoyed our yard there.

When Bill returned he told me Pollards were coming up with their tractor to get Buttner’s things, but he couldn’t get by the rock creek bed and they walked up.  There were our first company!  We showed them the place and had coffee and they left – on foot!  We put a cheerful yellow cloth on our table and I put a huge bouquet of Alaskan wildflowers on the table and strewed balloons all over the table.

We used our California BBQ, and my it was all delicious and such a setting.  How can one describe how we felt – celebrating our son’s ninth Birthday on our Alaskan Homestead.  John was ever so happy to know his was the first Birthday to be celebrated here.


June 15, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  Bill cleared land again until 12:15 A.M.  I sponge bathed the children, did the dishes and went outside to watch him.  I was amazed it was that time it was so light outside – like 5:00 in the afternoon in California.

Darling Bill fell into bed dead to the world.  I pray he won’t get sick through all this!!  Tonight he cleared directly in front of the hut, leaving the only two trees.  As odd as they are they’re trees and shade!  My beautiful birch in the center and back a ways will certainly stand out now.  We will cut down the sick trees and improve the standing ones.  So many trees can’t grow right because they are so over-crowded by bushes and other trees.

My beautiful birch is being killed by two spruce growing so close to it and the spruce are only half-trees and over-crowded, too.  Yet how I hate to cut any down.  They are all so pretty!


June 16, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes:  I got up at 5:00 and went outdoors as soon as Bill left for work after a hearty breakfast.  Such beauty – it truly overwhelms me and I hope I never get used to it.  Everything looked so different out front this morning and so much nicer with all those prickly bushes cut away.  The children will have so much more room to run and I feel so much better being able to see around.  Although we don’t have many trees, the grass is three feet high and the bushes and berry bushes are becoming jungle like and cut out the view and my sense of being able to see ‘out’ for animals.

So much to do in and out, yet on a day like this – well, I’ve been out all day.  I took a little water to do a hand wash, wishing for more water so I could do it all and save money.  Then the children woke up and they dressed and they ate out-doors.  We’ve all been out ever since.

I dug up another third of my garden, greatly encouraged to see everything coming up I planted so far.  Today I planted two rows of lettuce and cabbages.  Still have beets and more potatoes to plant.  Then in a week or so I’ll start another garden for a later crop.

I made a little path through the garden with a rock border and planted nasturtiums along the path.  I ‘cultivated’ the radishes and watered them.  They’re already one inch high and I planted them two weeks ago!!  The peas have sprouted already and the carrots came up today!!  I could spend all day on the flowers and vegetables, but then I have so much to do.

I am no longer bored or lonely.  I love it here as always but now feel better to have things to do.  It’s really HOME now – strange, true, but HOME.  This is where we will live forever – I hope!!

Later, I took Bill’s big axe and chopped down all the bush and dead branches.  I had never used an axe before and it was heavy but satisfactory to see how much better it looked.  Tomorrow I’ll enclose both trees with a wide rock wall, which I’ll fill in with dirt and plant flowers around it.  The soil here must be good.  Everything is growing by leaps and bounds!

I ache to get a horse and a cow and enclose the big grassy area in behind my garden for them.

My days are full, full, full.

Must go inside and fix things up and unpack more boxes but oh, this hot, hot SUN feels SO GOOD!!!

Our Children Are So Fortunate.  What a marvelous time the children are having.  They have most all their toys now and lots of room to play in.  Bill set up their tent we bought for them in California.  It’s like new and such a delight to them now.  Right this moment they’re playing ‘homesteading’ and arguing about ‘land rights’.  I enjoy being outdoors so much with them and listening to their play.


June 18, 1959 Thursday evening late

Really hate the bother of going to town tomorrow but must get showers, do wash etc.

No.  We still can’t ride * up in Jeep – how I wish we could.  You seemed to think we can.  We ride in two-wheel trailer hitched to back of tractor.  It’s rough, bumpy and oh, so terribly dusty!!  I hate it.  Consequently, I don’t go out unless I have to – I do wish every once in a while to go out and visit but how?  I always am covered with dust after 1 mile and Jeep is dirty and dusty too!  Oh well, some day!

Even Pollards couldn’t get their tractor up last Sunday – had promised Buttner to get their gear out — and had to walk up to our place.  I guess Bill will take it out I guess this weekend.  Pollard’s tractor was too wide!

We’re still having perfect desert weather.  I am tanned – really brown.  I can’t recognize myself!  First time in my life and to think got it in Alaska.  I live outdoors – between jobs inside –  Kids are fine.  Tanned too.  We put their play tent from California up and they have had lots of fun.

Bill clears land every night until 12:00 A.M.  It’s light enough at midnight to weed my garden.  It’s all up and I am thrilled to death.  Each child now has a vegetable garden too!


June 24, 1959 Wednesday

I’ve been inside for three days – today children have been so good and sweet.  Bill stayed home to help me. – He had a severe case of diarrhea Sunday and yet had promised to bring Pollard up with our tractor to bring down Buttner’s things and went anyways.  Oh, Sunday was ‘a peculiar day’!  Bill spent all day on that and when finally got home he collapsed on the bed for first time – he never takes time to even sit any more – just go, go, go – I worry over him he’s so THIN now – but anyways – he’d no sooner gone to sleep then I heard a carNow no car or Jeep has ever been up here since we moved back here.  I felt like a desert person in search of water – oasis and all – only me, imagining cars – but sure enough it was a Jeep and Pollard driving it so proud to have been the first to make it.  He had a couple – oh 45 or so – who had planned to homestead beyond Thomas and Land Office refused so he was to show them Buttner’s place.

They stopped here and loved it!!  She’s quite a character – one boy senior in high school.  Both work on base.  She kept saying, “What will you do in winter?”  “Aren’t you afraid of bears?” – And Mom, I felt like a ‘real sourdough’ and old timer as I heard her talk.

They had an old dilapidated looking Jeep only paid $150.00 for so didn’t care whether hurt it or not.  I sat in back – open with her and went up to Buttner’s.  Wanted to see it again.  We thought he’d never make it and were laughing so hard but that old beat up Jeep got there!!

All the land is terrifically scenic on way up and many perfect spots for cabins but it’s all our land.  You don’t get to Buttner’s until you dead-end against mountains and drop off to creek.  His was a tiny valley with hills on both sides and view of dead-end of mountains below.  Pretty but gives me claustrophobia – which I have lately anyways.  (I hate being shut up in this D – HUT!!)

Many bear droppings up there at Buttner’s and it’s scary!  I’d want you close to us on your visits not a half mile up there.  I’d worry myself sick over you!!

You’ll see when you come.  Anyways, her working and all I doubt if they’ll file on it and I bet Buttner wants money back for his road.  All of Buttner’s land is really mountain – different than ours.

Well, then Bill not feeling well and all he went to bed at 10:00 for first time.  I couldn’t sleep (I have terrible insomnia here – all six of us in one room and so light outside and so much on my mind).  Anyways again I heard a motor.  This time I was really flabbergasted.  10:00 visitors?  I rushed to door and sure enough it was Barbee.  We got up and I was scared thinking maybe forest fire or something but no, just came for a visit.  Now isn’t that something – a freeway no less and Bill didn’t think a Jeep could make it.  As he says it’s too bad for one and Barbee was shocked at road but didn’t know we didn’t drive it.  He’d been out horse back riding and when returned decided he’d stop up to see us – at least four miles of bad road.

Well, Bill tried to drive last night but too tough on our Jeep.

Bill stayed home Monday – still didn’t feel well.

I planted some more vegetables (really too late now and Oh Mom, tomatoes can’t be grown here except in hot house – nor can cucumbers or corn).  It’s a shame!  But thanks anyways.

Monday late we had rain – had our first real thunderstorm here in Alaska Saturday and rain!  Torrents of rain.

I had stomach aches.  Tuesday Bill returned to work and I felt weak and poor.  John had stomach aches and Cindy poor darling, had RUNS all day! – and No bathroom.  You just can’t imagine how terrible and pouring rain outside and all our firewood wet.  Terrible day.  Poor Sharon was sickest and scared me so.  She went every fifteen minutes and threw up even water at same time and then went into deep sleep.  I don’t know what I would have done without John and Linda.  They helped me get meals and read stories to Cindy and poor Linda even helped me gather wood and empty ‘potty’.  She never was at all sick but tonight said had a stomach ache so tomorrow she’ll probably have it too.

Last night I was sick, discouraged, lovely and blue.  This Damn hut got me down.  I had fixed place up and cleaned up before Bill got home but then Cindy threw up buckets and I didn’t have heart to cook dinner and was too weak by then.

I got to thinking and all I wanted was to see all of you.  I’d been blue for days anyways.

Mom – not even a battery radio here – I haven’t even heard the radio or seen TV since March!!!

Oh, it will be worth it and on sunny days it’s nice but I do get lonely and I can’t go anywhere myself – I don’t even dare to walk for fear of bears.

The grass and all is four feet tall now!

Yesterday we were in a fog and cloud – I couldn’t see at all and even hated to go off to empty potty.  Very depressing, scary and blue.

Last night for first time I cried and cried.  I truly hated it here then and knew you must never try it alone.  Last night I felt imprisoned with a seven month sentence!  It’s rather like that.

We’re so financially strapped and can’t even go to a movie alone.  I hadn’t been since January 1st and other day – last week we took kids and went.  I was so tired by time it was over and couldn’t enjoy movie knowing we had fourteen mile trip to Eagle River and fourteen miles ‘back in’ and then the damn tractor ride.  We were all dressed up and it’s pretty awful to have to stop and put on old clothes and mosquito repellant and all on for last one mile stretch and then sit in two-wheel open trailer –


Well last night I’d had it.  I told Bill I’d pay $1,000 to see you and Charlie and Carolyn.

I wanted to go to Carolyn’s and have a peanut butter sandwich (hers are so delicious always!) and iced coffee and sit on her patio like we used to.

I planned how I’d come and surprise you!

Well, Bill said O.K. I could come – Air Force would pay but I’m scared to fly – imagine me being here and I’m scared to fly and then I’d lose one month here and have to stay longer in winter and I’d need money for a few clothes for kids and Bill would be all alone.  (He’d probably accomplish far more!)

Well today I had the RUNS and weak?  Oh, OH, OH.  I’ve been so sick to my stomach you’d swear I was pregnant.

Bill stayed home and helped.  He did dishes (first time here and now can sympathize with me having to heat water and all) and got breakfast and lunch.  I couldn’t eat.

Tonight I’m better and the runs have stopped.

We can hear the creek, the waterfalls and the river – they’re all so full after the rain.  The clouds have lifted and all is sweet and beautiful outside.

I love it here and someday we’ll have our road and house – but oh, how lonesome I am for all of you.  It’s all I want – to see you and then return.

It’s been a big change – moving here and living like this – it piles up on you!!

Hope you can decipher – written hurriedly by kerosene lamp you sent.

Can you send me some sleeping pills?


June 22, 23 and 24, 1959 Review – Monday through Wednesday

*Notes:  I’ve been miserably lonely, sad, worried and upset.  Everything has seemed terribly wrong.  Bill was sick, the children have been sick and I’ve been sick.  It has rained and we’ve been in the fog and the midst of a cloud for days – couldn’t see ahead of your self at all – weird and depressing!

All in all it’s been a very unhappy week and I won’t elaborate on it, except to say:  Homesteading isn’t all roses!!!

Bill and I managed to have our first bad fight and I could never tell you why except I feel abused, imprisoned, lonely, shut-in and blame him and I know it’s nobody’s fault.

Most of all I am lonesome and he is so tired when he gets home he doesn’t care to even talk and falls into bed and is asleep.  I lay awake hours wondering and worrying.

I even feel bears lurk outside at night and I must keep awake and then all six of us in one room – that bothers me.

I wish sometimes – I would give anything to just turn on the radio and hear some music, news or someone else’s voice.  No radio and no money to buy one!

Bill is working so hard but each of our jobs is so different.  Each day he travels thirty miles to work and back and is with people all day.  I sit here on my mountain top and the children are wonderful company for each other (and for me) but they’re CHILDREN.  I get lonesome for adults to talk to – oh, so very lonesome!

I’ve been ‘back in’ for almost three months now – and no recreation at all and no companionship with Bill and we were always together so much – although this last year he’s been up here a lot.

Well, I’ll try to continue being a good sport.  I wish I could sew.  I saw a treadle sewing machine in the paper advertised but didn’t have $10.00 to get it.

This is still what I want and I know I can’t ‘have my cake and eat it too’!


June 25, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  We have had mild showers all day and in between the sun shines and there are huge white clouds in the blue sky and dark storm clouds over the glacier and surrounding mountains.  Everything is so lush green outside after our recent rain storms.  The wildflowers on our hill are truly beautiful.

I love our land and the scenery so.  I love to watch the changing weather.  But oh, how I hate to come into our dark, dreary hut with its four tiny windows!!

After being sick yesterday, everything was a mixed up mess today.  Bill was accommodating and did the dishes but all week has really been a total loss and the hut showed it.

It does have a ‘peculiar hominess’ when swept, neat, country clean and fresh flowers, etc.  BUT today it was horrible.  I’ve worked all day and even got some mending done and coffee cake baked and all looks better now.

Oh for some money to do the things we have to do.  We only have about $3.00 for the next four days and not even enough money to buy gas to run the tractor.  Bill’s $250 loss really set us back.  What would we ever do in a real emergency.  We have absolutely no ‘nest egg’ at all – except Blue Cross.  Oh, I pray, God will watch after us.  This recent illness was hard enough up here.

I took lots of pictures today and tried to get flowers in most of them.  Also several of John chopping wood.  How happy John was to be outside again today after the rain.  He worked so hard chopping wood and has chopped two big spruce trees up for wood – and does very well.  I think he really has learned his lesson about handling a hatchet.

A child’s imagination can make a tree into so many things.  The other day Cindy was up in the tree and declared, “I’m a bird and I’m laying eggs.  See my nest?”  Sure enough she had a nest of twigs and rope – but oh, how wonderful real bird nests are.  They had a grand time being ‘birds’ for several hours.  They flew and sang ‘bird songs’.

Today the same tree is a ship and John is the captain and the girls are the crew.  They just had to drop ‘anchor’ as the showers started again and at this moment are making flags for the ship and preparing their ‘catch of fish’ they caught while aboard ship for their dinner.

Children are wonderful.  Darling Sharon drew the sweetest picture for Daddy to cheer him up because “The road is so awful and it’s thundering out.”

And then, “Hooray, Hooray – Big Excitement.”  Bill got the Jeep up!! – much to our surprise.  How comforting it is to see it parked out our door!  I don’t take too much stock in it, as I now know at best it will only be until the snow falls.  But even that is wonderful!

We thought we would go to town tomorrow but Linda’s been sick today and we better not.  Then we don’t have any money and even have to bring our lunches in!

Same Day – Umpteen Hours Later:  It is well past midnight and once again I can’t sleep which is really quite strange for me who has always been one of the more fortunate people who goes to sleep the very moment their head touches the pillow.  I’ve had more and more difficulty gong to sleep ever since moving to the ‘HUT’ on our own land.  I’ve tried ‘relaxing’ and even ‘counting sheep’ but all to no avail.

I lay there and stare at this high rounded ceiling and feel myself becoming amazed and surprised to find myself here in a ‘near tent’ and wondering how we will manage this winter and on and on it goes – one thought leading to another without any end.

Tonight I decided to arise and write.  Maybe I will become tired this way and writing eases my loneliness and always relaxes me.

Bill and the children are fast asleep!  This crazy schedule we lead here certainly doesn’t induce sleep – at least not for me.  Bill is ‘dog tired’ after his 60 MILES traveling time every day – 30 on bad, rough roads and a long day at the office.

I’ve worked too today – even planted more gardens.  Mom’s twelve tomato plants arrived intact but very dry — but much to my complete amazement still alive I think — $1.00 air mail postage.  I bet I could’ve bought them cheaper downtown but so sweet of Mom to send them.  I hope the will live and maybe I’ll get green tomatoes for relish.  Alaska’s summers are too short for many crops, tomatoes included.  She even sent squash (which will do fine, I think and watermelon seeds – which must be started very early here and only survive in a hot house).  Corn and cucumbers can’t be grown here either!

But still I am not tired in the same way Bill is tired.  I hope soon I can get a typewriter.  Then I can write late like this when it is so quiet and peaceful and type them in the day time.  Yes I must. It will occupy my mind and I love to write – who cares if I ever do anything with them?  I do – that’s who.  [Linda note:  These pages have waited over fifty years to be ‘typed’.]

Oh, how we could use the money.  Bill came home with a post office notice of a certified letter to get there and we are afraid we are being sued.  We owe so much on Jeep repairs and all.

It is raining outside.  We had some thunder around 4:00 and I noticed in the paper that some fifty forest fires have been started by lightning and that thousands of acres are burning now as a result of it, careless fires and many other causes.  We have had such a dry summer up until lately.  Oh, how I pray that God will watch over us:  A fire back here would be too awful to contemplate!!

Well, it’s 12:30 in the morning.  I’ll try again.


June 26, 1959 Friday

*Note:  Tonight I spruced all up and felt far better for it!  It used to be that I couldn’t stand to ‘dress up’ if I wasn’t completely bathed first.  Well, tonight I had about two cups of water and managed to wash my face, neck, hands and arms – change into a petticoat and backless sundress, earrings and a flower in my hair and lots of cologne and felt like a million!  (I remember Mother once telling me that is what the French do!)  Bill was so pleased when he came home and surprised!

I felt so nice instead of pants and shirt.  It really gives me a lift to dress up, even up here on our mountain.

Bill drove home again and oh, how can I describe the marvelous feeling it gives me to see our Jeep parked in front of our ‘hut’.

I realize how important it is for me to jot down notes such as these as the day will come when it will be difficult to recall all our first homesteading experiences.  Some day I will sit in our lovely snug house and people will drive up to see us.  Then I can read back and remember again our first struggles – heartaches – worries – fears – and happiness.

Today I baked.  How excited the children were.  I haven’t baked much since coming here.  They used to take it for granted when I made cookies or pies, but not any longer.  Sharon ran out to John, “Mommy’s baking cookies.”  Then later John said, “Pie too – now Mother is making a pie.”

All week I have wanted to bake but expect our gas to run out any day and was sure it would give out just before I popped them into the oven.  But luck was with us.  The cookies were so good and so was the pie.

Bill brought home lettuce and tomatoes and fresh milk – such a treat.  He just about gave up for awhile bringing those things home in the tractor.  We had a delicious meal of Spanish food, salad and chocolate pie!

The kids didn’t get to bed until midnight again as I didn’t have enough water to bathe them until Bill got home and it took ages.  Bill didn’t get home until 9:00 – then dinner – then baths!  They do sleep late mornings and thank goodness.  It’s vacation time.

Acquired two more water cans from Buttner at $1.00 a piece.  That means six more gallons of water.  [Linda note:  Again, they were each five gallon cans, not three.]  Will really help especially since I’m doing my wash at home now to save money.  I find if I do it every day like I used to when I had babies I can almost keep up with it now that we’re not combating mud any more (only dust).


June 27, 1959 Saturday

*Note:  Overcast day.  Today Bill got up early and spent an hour thoroughly greasing the tractor.  He says he hates to take the time (each minute is so valuable and already June is almost over!) but he says that in the long run he feels it will save time on repairs.

As I write this Bill is down on the road trying to fix up the bad rock section so as to get our trailer up.  I see so little of my husband now and do miss him.  This, I realize, is a part of homesteading.

Those people have gone back to Buttner’s place again.  I wondered if they would return.  They stopped by on the way back and haven’t definitely decided to take over his place but are really interested.


July 9, 1959 Thursday

Bill is out clearing land now and it is pouring cats and dogs!  But time is flying.  We had our longest day of year in the middle of June and now each day gets shorter again and it gives a person the feeling that fall is coming – even though it’s only July.  But my, how the months whiz by.

I went to town Tuesday and we all took baths and then for the very first time Bill got a ride home from work and I met him in Eagle River – so I got a chance to visit some people.

I do like the people here.  Yesterday afternoon I stopped to see some old neighbors in the apartments and such a contrast.  The children on Government Hill were bickering, fussing and crowded and so were the women!!  A disgruntled – unhappy lot  Here in Eagle River they’re busy and happy.

While waiting for Bill, Mrs. Tuck – wife of man who owned tractor that did our $610.00 worth of work on our road, stopped over and said she had left a note in our mailbox.  Wanted money.

Then her husband drove up and told me how wrecked their tractor was after ‘our job’ and how he had to pay the operator cash and tractor repairs and on and on.  I told Bill and we stopped and gave them $25.00.  It was payday but we’re so broke honestly Mom I even carry lunch in town and we eat so poorly – yet that $250.00 Bill lost left its mark – yet when I see Mrs. Gunter I know how lucky we are!

How I hate to owe money here in Eagle River though.  I worried over that all week –

John has always liked their boy, Edward real well and oh, I hate owing money!  They invited John to stay over night and he was thrilled – for first time.  We let him and he was thrilled and she says he behaved very well!  He never sees boys any more and he was in seventh heaven.  If we ever get the trailer up to the homestead I’ll have Edward up some weekend.

On the way home I got so sick.  We were too broke to eat out and it was late and we hadn’t eaten but half a sandwich for lunch.  I got sick as a dog on the bumpy road and had to have Bill keep stopping.  I was so blamed sick and thought I’d pass out.  That stomach flu hangs on and on and none of us have been well, well.  Linda did get it very mildly – but got right over it.  I never seem to recover completely from it!

When we got to trailer I threw up over and over and felt somewhat better.  Then I got chills and vomited – Bill had been given a new pill from Mrs. Pollard when he had it and had one extra and gave it to me – I was asleep in fifteen minutes – woke up next morning fine – but weak.  Thank God!!

It’s an awful place to be sick – but the homestead must be home now because on that God awful bumpy road Bill kept saying, “Come on, I’ll take you back to town to a motel because you’re sick,” and I said “No, — I want to go HOME!”

And oh, how good, it was to climb into our own bed!

“Be it ever so humble there’s no place like HOME!”

The next day I could keep the three girls quiet and John can’t be quiet!

John says they all went over to visit Janie – Oh Mom, I bet Mrs. Tuck tells everyone we owe them money and wrecked their tractor.

Bill spent all last weekend trying to build a road on top of the ditch but HE CAN’T.  The tractor just is not big enough and he doesn’t know how!  Our ditch is caving in!!

Did I tell you we drive up now – oh that road – you just grit your teeth and hang on but you emerge alive.   Driving Helps.

We broke the springs on our Jeep coming in – had them repaired this week and now has ‘shock absorbers’ I think Bill called them so it won’t happen again.

Tomorrow Bill is taking me to Eagle River to work at Bockstahler’s.  She’s taking a ‘special trip’ to Nome and Kotzebue and I promised her ages ago I’d watch shop – so I’ll be there from 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.  Hope to iron and write you long newsy letters about things I always have to skip in these!

Bill will work at Bockstahler’s cabin – still stuff stored in their van!  Hope it won’t rain.  I do believe we get extra rain and moisture up there in the mountains!

Last night on the way home saw Pollards in the market.  He told Bill that those people have filed on Buttner’s place – they were up there today already – so maybe will have help on the road.

Yet, I tell Bill, our privacy is gone!

Oh well – it maybe worth it in the long run.  They only have one boy who goes away to college next year – better than Buttner’s four children.  I’ll keep you informed.

Bill says – why don’t you get a five acre homesite?  Now listen – there’s land available next to us – flat – and lovely.  You’d use our road and not go any higher than us.  There’s only a strip of land available and just left between Pollard’s and Buttner’s and ours.

Now any land available for homesteading is also available for homesite.  There aren’t any living requirements.  Land is free – but you must build a ‘habitable cabin’ on it – I think within three years!  Perfect – huh – and five acres is a lot.

We’ll look into more later.

Now I’ve also decided to stick to my land here like glue!

Bill needs my encouragement (such as it is) but I do manage to be so when HE needs it.  He’d never eat right without me.

You’re so right this is a work summer!  And will pay off later.

Mrs. Pollard’s father died from cancer.  It was all ‘very tragic’ as she’s very close to him and he was due to come to spend the entire summer with them – instead she got a wire that he was in hospital for operation.  She flew right home.  They operated and removed one lung.  She returned home and they bought Buttner’s trailer – painted it all up and expected him to come up to recuperate.  He died within one week.  She flew home again.  They have troubles.

Must close – so much to do.  Yesterday tried to save money by bringing seven loads of wash home to dry – and now, of course, it’s raining.  I told lady at wash place it would if I didn’t have them dried and I was right.  Now I have to dry them in front of our wood burner – as if we’re not crowded enough!


July 9, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  Showers on and off, is a lovely day in between.  Down to two big enormous boxes full of all sorts of miscellaneous things to put away – heaven knows where!!  Of course there are many boxes left but those are stored away under and behind, etc.

Still so much to do.  Bill really is feeling the pressure of ten acres to be cleared before snow falls!!  He has wanted to move the location of this hut but so little time.  All still indefinite as to our winter plans.

We are busy making gumdrop and marshmallow men for Cindy’s birthday and Methodist group arrived.  Very much impressed with our view and much to my dismay did come into the trailer (never realized how small it is until ten to fifteen people came in and out, clucking both ways) and up our two steps joking about our ‘being right up with the times’ with a split-level house!!

The hut is still really so very crowded but it is what it is and so are we – so they looked and heavens knows.

Finally a nice day, sunny, windy and cold but clear.  The snow still remains on the mountain tops and reminds us of winter approaching all too soon!  In California I imagine everyone is scorching from the heat.  We are fortunate – but already here in Alaska we feel that the hot summer has passed but who can tell?  We could still have some lovely summer weather in August.  We did two years ago.  Two years – and how they have flown.  Time passes so quickly here – days, months and years.

Still today the ‘school problem’ presses heavily upon me and I know a certain decision must be reached – and how and how am I to be certain of the right decision?  Oh, how many decisions have had to be made — for right or for wrong only the future can tell – these past few years.  The decision first and foremost to come to Alaska at all and leave all certainties back in California – then to leave the cozy log house for Bockstahler’s shack with the future goal of homesteading clearly before us.  We left there to live in town.  Should we have stayed at Bockstahler’s?  We still wonder if we would have been money ahead if we had, but at the time we felt our decision was the only answer what with winter coming on and no money to buy a Jeep or to winterize that place.

Yet now I wish we had that land for an investment and our things were stored there, but yet, we felt then as we feel now.  We must put all our efforts toward our homestead.  Now I wonder if I wouldn’t spread my own efforts too thin if I start a nursery school now.  (more of that later!)

Then in town with an easier way of life again how easy it would have been to give up all homesteading ideas.  But no it was what we wanted then and now.

Oh how glorious it is here this morning.  My heart aches with love for this place of ours.  I love every view, every wildflower, every tree, every inch of this place and if necessary I will teach the children for three months here – if we decide it best – to keep this place!!

BUT then I feel I must have them attend public school for the remainder of the year!!!  They must not ‘lose out’ on their schooling.  They must not stay back – and yet they must not become overly tired and get sick!

Perhaps I should send John and Linda to Pasadena with Mother for school and have Cindy attend private school in town!!  Oh dear God, I pray to you for guidance and help!!!  Direct me in the way in which YOU wish me to travel and to guide me in directing the children’s paths – now as never before.  Oh dear God, you are so wise I now feel I must depend on your wisdom and ask you to help show us the way as you have sown us – I truly believe – until now!  Amen.

It’s a prayer.  My heart cries out this prayer – for I know not what the answer will be!!!!  I must consider all Pros and Cons.

Teaching children at home until January 1stFor:  Children would have Xmas vacation, wouldn’t have to ‘go out’ if sick, wouldn’t have long travel and get over-tired and perhaps be too tired to do proper school work and behave as well, would take less money as no before and after school care, not so many clothes to buy.

Against:  Too much time with me, might not get academic background, Cindy wouldn’t start first day of first grade at school, wouldn’t be with other children, no social training and mixing with other children, might get behind their class and stay back, we might all get ‘cabin fever’, we don’t now whether we can get up and down the mountain!!!

The Nursery School – For:  Place for our children to go before and after school, can take showers there, can do wash there, extra money maybe, Sharon have company her own age, build up future business, help community, could move out [of homestead] in January until June, would know log house awaiting us, could save on storage after January.

Against:  Make us all too tired, could ‘go in hole’ financially, could use rent money on homestead, I might get ‘snowed in’ on homestead and couldn’t get there, own children might get sick and couldn’t ‘get out’ – then what?

Other Alternatives:  Mother could take John and Linda – go to private school in Pasadena this year.  John could go to Flintridge.  Oh NO!  I couldn’t bear to have him away and he would be so unhappy.  John tuition at Government Hill school $90.00 per month.  I could watch them before or after school.  Still long haul in and out, in and out, in and out!!!  — NO, NO, NO, not that and perhaps hiking back up mountain – to fall in bed and probably too tired to eat!!!  Let alone do homework.  Maybe they wouldn’t get as much if I teach them but probably as much as would if went in and out and were tired all the time.

One I don’t even consider really is having all three go to Chugiak school and have someone else take care of them before and after school for $40.00 per month because I don’t know anyone I can really trust who would really want to do it!!  And too much for Bill having three children alone to get in and out.


July 10, 1959 Friday

*Notes:  A gorgeous sunny day, blue, blue skies and warm as toast.  Heavenly day!!  I just went out and left the boxes for another day.  The children and I – my, we are getting brave! – ventured over to the canyon edge where we could watch the two waterfalls rush down the steep mountain and meet together forming the creek below.  It is such a lovely sight and is my favorite spot and one can capture every bit of the scenery surrounding us from that point.

The sun was so hot I told the children we’d have a real treat on this warm day – Cindy’s Happy Day.  We’d put water in our California wading pool (it hasn’t been put to use since then).  Oh, such shouts of glee!  I dug out their swim suits (oh we must try to take them swimming at least once this summer) and used extravagantly four water cans of water and it hardly made a dent – (me, who is so careful of water) but oh, how repaid I was for an extra trip by Jeep to the creek below us for more water.

The children loved it!  They ducked, splashed each other, laid flat on their bellies and laughed and laughed.  Such fun they had in those few inches of water!!  They’re really quite deprived of that experience here!!  They were clean and cool when Bill returned looking as dusty and dirty as a chimney sweeper – only his teeth and eyes were white.  Such a sight – and hot and dirty.

We put the cans in the Jeep and a towel and soap and took off.  We met Lowes on the bottom switchback coming to see us!  They came to the creek with us.  The water was cold but good.  I can’t stand init, it’s too icy but feels so nice to wash in it.  Both of us felt better and we filled the water cans and headed home!

Mrs. Lowe said she took two tranquilizers before coming to soothe her on the mountain road.  Good thing she never saw our old one.  It’s hard to make people understand that this is a new road.  We found in California that people believe what they see.  It’s almost impossible now for anyone to even begin to visualize the awful struggles we had coming up here before and fighting the ice, snow and mud.  Now that two-wheel cars can buzz up it really makes such a difference in so many ways!!

The people the other day said, “How could you get a trailer up here over that road?”

Oh, that we’d had such a road!!  If they only knew!!

It’s interesting to hear what people say about all this – the view, our place and our dwelling.  (No bitterness on my part) and “Oh, Frank,” shouted Mrs. Lowe to her husband.  “Come and see the hut it’s PINK inside.  She’s painting the canvas pink.  It’s cute!”

They did like it and were very enthusiastic over the place.  What stories they will tell when they get home!!  It started to shower as we were taking them up to the top and they turned around and left.  I wish I were more settled and Bill had time and I would have had them to dinner.  It would have to be outside because of lack of space and it showers so frequently here that would be hard to plan on.

I tell Bill it is senseless to try to impart our feelings about our homesteading, our dreams and this place in its entirety to others.  It is like describing your own beloved child to another.  They see the child and its momentary actions (and sometimes they show their worst self exactly like our place did the other day when it rained for the group and then the sun shone for hours after they left).

You must LIVE here to capture its real feeling and to see the sun rise, the clouds hang low and the mists rise – to see the sudden showers and the rainbows and the gorgeous sunsets – to grow to love it as we do.

Yet, that’s our reward and to others they see it as it is when they are here and heaven knows the reactions of many.  “Those crazy people living on that lonely mountain.”  How wrong they are!

No, this is our story – ours alone and they but get a glimpse into it and that, I guess, is the way it’s meant to be!!

— Very blue at night – about nothing special – decided I have been inside too much trying to fix up this place so Sunday plan to spend outside as much as possible!!!


CHAPTER NINE:  If I Had a Nursery


July 15, 1959 Wednesday

Oh, see here it’s about midnight and Bill is returning from clearing – now it’s quite dark – dusk really out — and getting darker every day.  Colder out now and has ‘feel’ of autumn – oh, please, not yet – “so much” to be done.

We take absolutely no time out — and I’m always bone tired – I think lifting water cans, gathering wood and all – I use different sets of muscles.  How Bill stands it I don’t know – He’s truly a wonder – he goes, goes.  Remembering – we used to wonder how he’d do it?  He gets up at 5:00 and goes to bed at 12:00 – or later.  Day in, day out –

I’ve been waiting to write hoping I’d have news!  Pollard was to do road work this weekend for people that took over Buttner’s place – they did take it and are building a cabin from the Cottonwood grove up there – green wood!  She’s fun – quite a character!!  [five underlines]  Just the couple, both work and 18 year old boy who will go to college this fall!

Anyway Pollard was to try to get trailer up – well it poured (naturally on weekend) and road got muddy.  Well, he didn’t do anything and now says this week.

On 4th of July I worked for first time at Bockstahler’s and guess what?  I worked 25% of commission and got $34.00.  I bet he’ll never recover – or hire me again!  She had wanted to pay me $1.00 an hour + commission and I refused — and then made that.  But from 9:00 to 9:00 Bill stayed in watching children in car so I was glad.  I gave it all to Pollards on his work and now him $95.00 and she hated taking any more when he’s never gotten trailer up.  The road is now too narrow for trailer.  It’s empty and our ‘hut’ is really crowded.

I’ve so hoped and prayed that I could write you that the trailer was up but I can’t.  We finally (or I did) put linoleum down here – we were waiting until Bill had plywood down so it wouldn’t crack but couldn’t stand these awful floors.  I could write you ten pages about the time I had getting it down.  It was an awful job with all stuff we have in here now!  Looks so much better but is cracking.

I’m quite sure I’m going to have a nursery school in our old log house – more later – lease would start Aug 15th and you could sleep there.


July 16, 1959 Thursday

My I’ve had a really delightful time – and it’s been just what I’ve needed!!  To hear me talk you’d think I’d been out gallivanting somewhere and I haven’t – far from it.  But one really comes to appreciate taken for granted things when one homesteads, believe me!  Fresh milk, crisp lettuce – these are a rarity when we don’t have refrigeration!! – We’ve only had corn once and oh, how I yearned for some watermelon the other night!!  We weighed it at 13 cents per pound – ½ weighed 1.50 – and we very reluctantly decided against it!  As Bill said “It’s cold and rainy out – let’s wait until it’s hot and we’ll enjoy it twice as much” (but just between you and me I think we’ve had summer and now are having a California winter – cold and rainy!)

Well tonight, I’ve had time alone that’s my luxury.  I’ve been busy, busy for two days but I’ve been doing the kind of things that just doesn’t show.

Did I tell you Bockstahler’s sold their five acres and shack to an Anchorage artist and there will be an artists’ colony there, ultra Japanese gardens? – Well we’ll see but that’s the artist’s plan!!  Anyway while I worked at Bockstahler’s on the 4th and Bill finished getting stuff and junk out of Bockstahler’s van.  Oh, I wish you could have seen the old truck and the trailer behind it loaded to the hilt – the week before!!

Well, we had all this stuff and junk and absolutely positively no place to put it.  Plus books plus books and scrapbooks and magazines and baby playpen etc. etc. etc.  Right now the darling bunny cradle is beside me for lack of a better place to put it – so sad – it’s empty!

Today I had to get things in and covered – it poured.  It’s been rainy off and on for well over a week now and sun comes out in between.  Actually it’s grand for the vegetables, flowers and got the dust down but is bad for our road and we use winter chains on the Jeep to get home – but we do drive – how I’ll never know (Each time Bill gets home he says he’s amazed!).  It did get stuck in the mud the other night and he walked home and got the dear tractor and pulled himself out!  Really wonderful what the tractor has done for us!!!  We never could have stayed here without it.

Anyways all day I’ve gotten into boxes etc.  You know how it is – and tonight still had so much to do.

I spent hours out-doors in the rain after dinner- — Bill was clearing and hasn’t time for anything else but to chop wood – we heat by wood (I break dry ones and gather it but can’t chop logs!)

Tonight I couldn’t go to bed at 12:00 when Bill did – so for first time I stayed up.  (By the way I got pills and thanks and how much were they?)

Anyways I sorted, I sewed, I cleaned ha, ha closets – we have plastic bag tacked over the cross bars of hut and those are the closets!  I cleaned out and packed things in mothballs and not it’s 2:30 A.M. exactly.  I’ve washed, and climbed in next to sleeping Bill and am luxuriously writing to YOU!

I know you can understand this!!  Now can’t YOU?

I’ve built up the fire – which is usually out hours before this and hut is warm as toast.  It’s pouring out!  A little while ago I went out and clouds were moving fast all around us – we’re literally up in the clouds!  This afternoon I called the children out to watch the clouds.  It was sprinkling out and the sun was shining and over the craggy peaks way beyond and above us the clouds were moving so fast – it was beautiful and amazing!

Around us are hills all covered with green grass and bushes – beyond these are green mountains – high and lofty and oh Mom, the 3rd set of mountains are high and still have snow on them!  I’ll never rest until you’ve seen this place with your own eyes!  How I love this spot!!

Sometimes I get so discouraged and blue but I could never, never give it up!

Everyone that comes here is agog and says we have the most perfect spot in the valley – and oh Mom, I know it’s true but I hardly dare love it the way I do until that happy day we own it and I don’t let others know how much it means to us.  I don’t dare!!  I tell them how hard it is and how awful the road is – I agree it’s beautiful beyond all compare but I can’t and won’t show them how I love it and adore this place and this view until we have clear title.  DO you understand?

I must sleep now!  Tomorrow we go to town!  Sharon wants Eskimo slippers with your check or a bird – she doesn’t want it to talk but to sing!

I’ll write you more about nursery later.  I’ve still not decided but must decide this week!  It’s only way I can think of to get our seven months in now before January and still have them attend school and we could take baths and do wash there – then in January we’d stay there week nights and come here weekends to work inside!

I’d rather of course NOT, there are many headaches involved etc. etc.  I’ve thought about it all summer but I can’t teach three children and Sharon would have company and be warm and I won’t get cabin fever (and I now realize even I’m susceptible to this).

Let me know your ideas NOW on the subject!!  I’d charge $15.00 for one, $25.00 for two in one family.  50¢ an hour for one, 75¢ for two in one family, $1.00 for more than two.  Must stop.  Love, Love, Love


July 22, 1959 Wednesday

Where is the elation I thought I would feel?  The trailer is up.  I am glad but overwhelmed I guess, by the amount of work I have to do and completely absorbed in my quandary of what to do this fall.   Should I have a ‘day care center’ in our former log home and move there in December OR teach the children at home and move to town in January?  There are so many pros and cons on both sides.  One day I decide one and the next day the other.  I have even written long lists but just can’t reach a definite decision.  Oh, how I wish YOU were here now to discuss it all with YOU!  I must decide now though and no chance to even discuss it via air mail.  It is quite a lengthy process to get the correspondence course through the State – tests and all – so I must do it.  Spoerrys will rent me the log house but wants to know now.  Of course that involves advance rentIt’s a tough decision to make.

Well, Sunday Bill said, “The trailer is coming up.”  I just didn’t dare think about it.  Sure enough Pollard did try to widen the road in the morning and his tractor stalled.  He said for Bill to meet him at 5:00 to try again.  How I wanted to go and watch.  Bill said, “No.  There’s work to do!”

So I stayed home and busied myself.  Within an hour and a half I heard a tractor.  Linda was helping me with dishes and I said, “Oh, it’s just Daddy returning by himself.”  Then finally, “Linda go see if they have the trailer.  I can’t stand the suspense.”  All the time I just knew they didn’t but oh, Mom they did.  It was dented and muddy but WHOLE.  Dorothy Pollard sat next to her husband and the boys too.  They just had to see too.

We all celebrated over a pot of coffee!  I haven’t fixed it yet.  I plan to thoroughly clean it and wax the walls and paint the outside.  Mom, it will be ready for you on August 1st.  Will you come?  Can you really afford to make the trip?  And do you really want to??

I’ve been nervous these last few days.  Pollards have had a bear in their yard every day this past week and saw two on the road last week.  I wouldn’t worry but Pollard shot one Saturday night in their yard and felled it.  They followed the bloody trail but lost it – so now there’s a wounded bear close by.  It gives me the jitters!

Monday I kept the children in all day.  It was rainy anyways.  Bill was home yesterday with a cold.  He slept past the alarm clock or wouldn’t have stayed home.  He is so tired and yet won’t stop!  He has about half of the clearing done now and won’t rest at all until it is all done.  Then it must be plowed and planted still!!!!!

Yesterday John and Bill hiked down to the creek to put signs up.  Now we’re all marked!  There’s a survey crew of eleven ‘back in’ here now surveying the land.  Electricity will follow!  We don’t know if we’ll get it up here or not!!  It would mean so much this winter – once again I hardly dare count on it.

Bill had sad, sad news Monday on Sharon’s Birthday.  By the way last Friday we went to town, took showers on the base and bought Sharon darling white Alaska slippers.  They are leather beaded and trimmed with fur.  They were a close out in a Government Hill gift shop and reduced to $2.25 from $5.50.  She is saving the rest of the money you sent her for her bird.  I didn’t dare get one until I’m sure of our plans.  They take cold so easily.

I bought her lots of little presents amounting to the $5.00 I gave to the others.  She loved them!!

Anyways, the Jeep broke down.  The Ford still isn’t sold and sits in the Eagle River garage with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it.  The transmission went out on the Jeep.  At least $150 to repair it and we still owe $200 on back repairs and haven’t made a payment for over two months!

You can see why I worry!!!!

Would I help best by teaching the children, or by trying to make money at the Nursery?  Which, which, which?

Pollard brought Bill home Monday and took him to work today.  This place is strictly cash so will have to pay them and there goes our Jeep payment!

So it goes!

I didn’t mean for this letter to sound so discouraging.  Really I’m not — Bill is!  I just know that in several years things will be better.  It’s NOW that’s the trouble.  Nobody will buy the Ford unless it’s fixed up and that costs.  The truck needs two wheels and is in rotten shape – Not saleable.

But Oh Mom, the trailer is here and if I can see YOU I will be happy.  Truly.  I want that more than anything.  I guess I’m being selfish.  I don’t mean to be!  But I haven’t anyone to talk to and never see anyone or if I do it’s just Hello.  Nobody knows our business!

I only go ‘out’ once a week and then I do wash, showers, errands and return.

Mom, how soon could you come?  August 1st will be Saturday, one week from this Saturday.  Could you?  If I rent the log house you could stay there the last two weeks in August and I would come down every day to get the place ready for the Nursery.  My rent starts August 15th IF I take it.  I want you to come whether we take the log house or not.  Love, Mildred


July 28, 1959 Tuesday

I AM discouraged today – and the rainy, foggy, gloomy day just suits my miserable mood!  Oh Mom, I’ve gone over all this ‘school problem’ in my mind so many, many times now and finally thought the Nursery School would be the answer.

Yesterday I stopped by to see the very nice teacher, Mrs. Erickson who lives in Spoerry’s house now.  I told her that they would reduce the rent $10.00 if we would pay maintenance costs.  She advised us not to sign THAT lease because the furnace has given them as much trouble as it gave us.  They did just have the well dug for $200, but the furnace was an intricate one and put in by Mr. Spoerry who DID NOT know what he was doing!!!  So we would have trouble with THAT and it costs to have a repairman come clear from Anchorage!

Mrs. Spoerry said the house would have extra wear and tear if I had a nursery and I can see that.  But the furnace certainly wouldn’t suffer because of children.  Also I found out the new tenants have been paying $140.00 a month.  We paid $155.00 so I feel I am surely being done wrong!!!  Spoerry told me in the letter that she felt the house was worth our old rent but would reduce it $10.00 as Mr. Spoerry quoted me that price.  Well, as you can see she really wasn’t giving US favors at all!!!

Now what?

I also heard that due to the carpenters’ strike the school addition is not being finished.  There will be a double session.  How awful!  It is also to alleviate the crowded buses.  Of course, if I had the log house double session would be O.K. – I mean as far as care is considered.  Still, of course, NOT satisfactory at all!!  But it does eliminate any idea of anyone else caring for the children before and after school.

Now what?

I saw Mrs. Wooten and found out she taught the Calvert System course to her child (one) for three years in Kotzebue, Alaska!  She said it wore her out but she thoroughly enjoyed it.  She showed me all the books, work books and papers.  They were way ahead in school.  Why, Calvert teaches art, Greek Gods, etc. which now are not introduced at all in regular school.  But they are so far ahead she said the children might be put back one year when they start and then ahead again in public school.  I couldn’t have that!!

Well, we’ll see.  I have thought of working in town and putting Sharon in Nursery and then could afford $90.00 total tuition at Government Hill school.  But such a distance to travel every day!!  And still the bath problem and wash problem wouldn’t be solved.

The school teacher doesn’t have my own problems so can’t know how nice the log house would seem to me.  We would save at least $30.00 on before and after school care and more if there was a double session.  We would save another $60.00 on wash and baths and at least $30.00 a month at motels.  Right there would be the rent!!  And a chance to make money with children at the Nursery.

I stopped to see Janie yesterday for the first time since the snow melted.  Her furniture is arranged just the same.  She is just the same.  Oh, some people!!

Mother, I just don’t KNOW.  The truly maddening things is it’s just for three months – September, October and November.  Our residency time is up on December 3rd!  If we leave before then we will have to return during the ‘break-up’ and Bill has to be here during September to take care of the clearing problem!

The tractor broke down Sunday night and he didn’t accomplish much over the weekend.  I ironed Saturday morning at the motel and it was 1:00 before we got back to the homestead.

Oh Mom, so much to write you – I go in circles.  Did I tell you there’s a survey crew surveying here and now as of yesterday the ‘right of way’ for electricity is starting!!!  I don’t know if we’ll get it or not.  Pollard is!!  Will they bring it up the mountain for us??  Oh, how much it would mean to us!!

I’ve even thought of asking you to take John and Linda back until December and then I would come to visit and stay for Xmas vacation and bring them home!  But I couldn’t have them so far away and it would be too much for you!!

I believe it is still – have the Nursery OR teach at home.  I really hate to have Calvert for a half a year.  I could do whole year once I started and we would save and stay put all winter up here.  Maybe next year there will be a road, a bus, and a school in Eagle River!!!

John is talking to Cindy about Easterly’s (above us) Jeep.  It’s a homemade one, painted turquoise.  He adores it!  The other day he decided to spend his $16.00 (he still has it – so much like Charlie!) on a motor.  He would build a Jeep.  He never mentioned like Easterly’s!  But I knew!!  Now he’s telling Cindy, “I wish I could buy their Jeep.  I could drive it back here.”  Oh-oh, he is growing up!

I paid Tuck $100.00 yesterday from our poor paycheck.  Now we’ve paid $125 on $610 and still owe Pollard $95.00.  I HATE owing people in Eagle River.  Oh, if I only knew what to do!!!  How we need money now.  I never cared so much before but now I want money to pay our bills and fix our place up – it will come – time, time, time!!  I never spend a dime.  I know the children must have school clothes if they go to school.  I could use what they have if I teach at home!

I am in a mess here.  I’ve taken everything out of the trailer and will NOT move in until it’s painted and clean.  We tore out the old bed and scrubbed that room.  I am really washing the walls and then will sand and varnish.  I painted the tile in the kitchen turquoise and around the windows pink (it was black).


August 3, 1959 Monday

I don’t know whether to write or not if you’re coming this Saturday.  You might get here before this letter reaches you.  So hope for a letter today – this week there’s a bible school at Pollard’s and I’ve brought children to it.  They loved it.  Ladies are so nice – and I think, very wonderful to do this!….

Haven’t heard from Mrs. Spoerry yet either so am going to send applications in for home schooling course.  I need Cindy’s birth certificate – cost $1.00 to get it from City Hall NOW so I can get the course.  If you’re coming on 9th please bring it – will get here as fast that way and if on 15th send air mail as I must send it in now for course and will need birth certificate even if she goes to school.


August 7, 1959 Friday

*Note:  Miserable Day.  Bible School in morning, kids up at 5:00.  Went down the mountain with Bill.  He rode into work with Pollard and school started at 9:00.  All morning I wondered if Jeep would get me out.  We all dressed up for a change.  I wore heels (no choice as tennis shoes smelly with holes and no money to buy new ones) and a suit.  I put petticoats and dresses on the girls, all to buy shoes for Cindy – FUN anyways.

Got ‘out’ and into town but the Jeep stalled several times and I had to start it again.  Sure enough at 2:30 after I got the wash done in Mt. Vies and was ready to go it wouldn’t start.  Oh, how can I describe how I felt.  First time dressed up – all day planned even to night before when I gave each a tub (what a chore!).  I tried and tried – no go.

A woman pushed me and the Jeep started.  I followed what looked like a road and it was a gravel pit.  Stuck.  We sat in that hot sun and waited for Bill at 5:00.  I could have cried.  He had my Jeep towed.  No dinner, kids tired and hot.  Awful.  Left there at 8:30 P.M.  Got to bottom of Jeep mountain hill at 10:00.  Bill’s Jeep wouldn’t take first steep hill.  Ten o’clock and we sat there, girls dressed up with light sweaters.  Can’t walk home.  No money.  No dinner.  Sharon asleep.  Pollard comes up in bath robe when he heard Jeep trying and takes us home.  How can you thank someone for doing that?  Dinner at 10:30.  Kids never complained.  So good.  Bed at 11:00 for children.

So discouraged and am I pregnant?  Oh dear God Help Us!!


August 8, 1959 Saturday

*Note:  Already I wish I’d written in a diary every day.  So much has happened and how will I ever remember it all?  It seems years ago since we first came out here.  Everything has changed and I feel today as if I am possessed with a fever of activity – really shouldn’t take TIME – oh, precious time – to write but MUST and must try to catch up with my darting plans and thoughts.

Mom is coming next Saturday and oh, so much to do.  Trailer is really getting to be beautiful like a new trailer.  There’s no comparison to the old junk heap we looked at.  I just put up the last curtain I made.  It’s beautiful to me after living in one room hut for months.  I want to move in this weekend but there’s still some more cupboards to paint and walls to varnish – all turquoise and pink.  I am thrilled with the transformation.

When I go to Eagle River to buy paint I must get a book and write, write and sometimes I feel what is the use?  Not to sell – not a typical dream homestead.  No cabin, just worry.  But oh, our land and our dreams are there and we will and must make it.

Already things are happening – right of way for electricity pushing through, more homesteaders coming in – more and more.  Already things are so different below us.

This morning Bill went down the mountain to see about the Jeep.  He took the tractor and two-wheel trailer to haul water and laundry up (and ladies tent for Bible school, etc.).  Mr. Beker [sp?] stopped by here with friend and wanted permission to pick berries.  My, company.  How things have changed.

Then up over the mountain came Pullens, kids and Wells.  Men went on laying out road and Mrs. And daughter and boys stayed.  We talked while I fixed lunch – nice!  They arrived in January – building dream house of seventeen years.  He works until 2:00 A.M. – both work in town.

I must carry notebook with me so I can get thoughts at the time – time will come when I have time to rewrite all this.


August 10, 1959 Monday

This will probably be the last letter I’ll write until I see you!! – wonders – wonders.  We’ll be at airport to meet you and if by chance we’re not WAIT do not leave.  I say this because we have so much Jeep trouble – more now – and Jeep to garage today again.  Hope will be in running condition by Saturday.

I had hopes of being in trailer by time you got here but had Bible School last week and then girls sick.  Well, you’ll be able to see how we’ve been living and all and we’ll move into trailer while you are here.  It’s almost done and you can sleep in there.  I want it perfect and hesitate anyways to use it until we have the connection between the trailer and the Jamesway for fear we’ll get sick going back and forth!  Bill must finish clearing first – so much to do.  Just think you’ll be here, I’m so thrilled and excited.

Do bring me some geranium clippings.

We got letter back from Spoerry with lease to sign for the log house but we wrote back and said we would not sign unless they would maintain furnace – haven’t heard yet!!


August 10, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  A gorgeous day but I made myself work all day long in the trailer and now I am so very glad I did.  It really is shaping up and certainly doesn’t look at all, at all like the dirty, filthy rather smelly old junky trailer we first bought.  The walls are clean and gleam.  I like this dull varnish.  It looks like wax!!  I keep going back in just to look – so pretty.

Tonight I am tired and ache all over.  One quart of varnish is gone.  Bill got home late because he had to wait for the Jeep.  $35.00 repair bill.  Bad for us but could have been so much worse.


August 11, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes:  Soon, soon, soon Mother will be here and I am getting excited.  I moved the table and scrubbed the nine year old trailer but it still looks nice and tonight will varnish it and three folding chairs.  Plants are blooming on the window sills and the floor is clean plus four coats of varnish.

It’s so beautiful to me after living in the hut for so long and then I can work on the hut!

I am fixing Mom’s room now.  She will sleep in our old bedroom in the trailer.  We rearranged the lawn furniture, planted wildflowers around the trailer and hooray at least nasturtiums will bloom for Mom even if nothing else does!

Sometimes I wonder – why are we fighting so hard – why do we make it all so difficult for ourselves – John here in a nice bed so clean after his bath and so comfortable when sick – how I wish he had his own room and his own bed.  I feel ill myself tonight – I can’t stand having them sick.


August 13, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  How terrible for poor, darling Bill.  He had the remainder of his upper teeth out this afternoon.  Here I sit writing next to his bed.  He is resting at the moment.


August 15, 1959 Saturday

Mildred’s mother arrived for a visit.


August 20, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  Well, Mother has been here almost a week now and it’s passing much too fast!!  We’ve had showery weather for the past few days and even more as I write the rain is pouring as the sun shines thru the clouds.

I’ve decided to start Nursery school on September 8th when school starts.  Each day Bill brings a few things down to the house with him.  I’m so hoping Ericksons will remain there and rent a room, at least until December 3rd – help to ease our expenses and verify that we will not live there.  So much to be done!  My head whirls as I think of it all!!!


August 21, 1959 Friday Night

*Notes:  We almost didn’t get through a bad mud hole on a steep hill next to Pollard’s clearing.  Took Mother to town for first time since here.  We’ve been up on the mountain for one week with her.  She surprises me with her adaptation of homesteading.  She’s a marvelous sport!!

We had hoped to se the Eskimos dance so remained down town until 2:00 but it rained – again – so the dance was cancelled.  We looked in shops and covered Anchorage from one end of town to the other.  I’d love to get a fur parka for each child.  Sharon looked absolutely adorable in a small rabbit parka. Someday!!  Now every penny goes to machines and road building and homesteading – then we’ll think in terms of fur parkas!!  Dreams!

I took Mother to visit the museum where we saw Alaska’s wildlife in its natural surroundings – terrifying and yet so grand!  We enjoyed it immensely!

We saw ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ were playing so decided to remain in town to see them.  The first show starts at 6:00 – so we decided if we could get to it we would still get home by 11:00 – BUT we didn’t take the road into account.  It was 1:00 before we arrived home – was the movie worth it?  The children loved it but that road is a ‘horror road’ at night and in the dark!

How that road can differ.  It’s always long, rough, bumpy and tiring – at it’s best when you are at your best.  But when it’s late and you’re tired the road seems to beat your body.  Long ago I learned to ride with the bumps like horseback riding and it usually works well but at 1:00 in the morning, when we’re all tired it just seems you’re unmercifully thrown around and I feel the road will never end.

Finally – after what seemed like hours – we reached our hill.  Bill, poor darling, stopped the Jeep to put on chains.  We’ve been using chains on our hill for a month now.  Our road is impassable without them.

We got up over the first steep hill alright and then got stuck in mud.  The more we tried to get out the worse it got.  I shuddered to think of poor Mother having to get out and walk anywhere at that hour in the mud.  I remembered noting that everyone else’s lights were out as we passed.  We had been the last ones over the road that night.  Mother could never walk up the mile to home.

Bill tried and tried.  The Jeep got ditched – once more grind, grind and slowly – ever so slowly inching along – hooray!  The Jeep pulled out – it was OUT – and we slowly, ever so slowly crawled HOME – and tumbled wearily into our beds – so thankfully!

I hesitate to take Mother out again!!



*Notes:  Roads are bad after all the rain.  River rising and Donnelley’s bridge goes out!!

For the last month or so, Bill has been getting home more or less regularly – about 6:30 or 6:45 P.M. (leaves at 6:00 – which means almost 13 hours away very day – Long Day!!!


August 27, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  No wonder our children don’t miss TV – we have the real adventure and real excitement with us every day – we don’t get it vicariously from TV

Mother’s eyes pop as she sees all the excitement going on all around her.  As she remarks, “People here in Alaska are busy!”  In Anchorage there’s road building going on, roads being widened, new skyscraper hotel being built, Anchorage docks under construction, new Methodist College soon to open.  Yes we Alaskans are busy people and Alaska is growing right under our eyes!!!”

Then when we come ‘back in’ on our Jeep road – a new kind of excitement takes place – you can feel it all around you before you ever see it – you know this is it! — the romance and adventure of early pioneering.  The men back here seem to change when they leave their city jobs and take over the roles of early pioneers – which is what they are!!

As soon as you come down over the first switchback past the end of Eagle River Road you are in a whole different world!!!

Bill got his moose hunting license and bullets!!


August 28, 1959 Friday

*Notes: Went to town – two days in a row for first time.  Sharon was so tired.  We had showers – what would’ve I done without them?

It’s strange – I guess it works both ways –

Yesterday someone told me how lucky I was that we could get out to go to town and we are I know and that the children could go to school – true – I feel we’re lucky – She said, “Many people have to pack up and take off to strange lands, teach their children” –  BUT in some ways if we could support ourselves it would be easier.  Bill would be home all the time, he wouldn’t have to tire himself commuting back and forth, could be winterizing the place now and would get to bed early – we wouldn’t have to worry about “the road problem” as we could stock up for the winter and would only have to go out for supplies etc. once a month!!

True, the wives would get so lonely but I too am isolated and don’t even have my husband home.

I prefer doing it this way and we had no choice as we couldn’t have homesteaded way off somewhere.  BUT I think I’d like it if it wasn’t for the children. –

There are pros and cons on both sides for sure!!!

One tree near Pollard’s has turned gold already and it’s beautiful – but how well I remember how quickly they will all turn – autumn in Alaska is short lived and the snow soon falls after the trees turn.  All of the fireweed has turned and is blowing – yes, summer is over!  Winter is on it’s way!

Oh – it was cold last night. “Termination dust” was on the surrounding highest mountain peaks when we came home last night from town and the trailer and hut were COLD – just a slight prediction that winter is on it’s way!!! – Please wait a little longer – I cry to Old Man Winter – and so do many others.

The trailer warmed up quickly it’s so tiny and has an oil heater but we couldn’t get a fire going in the hut – and it was so late we just climbed into bed!

The hut hadn’t been heated for two days and nights and it go so COLD I woke up at 2:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep it was so cold – at 4:00 I got out of bed and covered all the children and built a fire.  We just have to get a wood supply cut and under shelter.  It’s a slow process by hand and we don’t have an electric saw or the electricity to use it if we did –nor the TIME, TIME, TIME –

Finally at 5:00 I had a rip roaring fire going and it was time to get up so Bill went out and cut some wood.  What a marvelous little heater for only $12.00!!!!  It heats up the hut in minutes but we will have to get another oil heater to use too for the winter.


August 29, 1959 Saturday

*Note: 10:00 a.m. Bill went to get the plower (cultivator) at Donnelley’s and is working on road on way home.  As he says, if he could just have two weeks at home to work but by the time he commutes back and forth every day there isn’t much time left – already it’s pitch black outside soon after he gets home.

I never knew it could be so utterly black – I went outside the other night to get ‘our potty’ and couldn’t see at all – why, only a few months ago it was light all night – this is Alaska – never-ending change and never the same!!

As I write the fireweed blows by the window in soft, fluffy gobs!


September 1959 Journal overview

*Notes:  Lived on homestead May through September four months [of the required seven – April 1959 didn’t count toward residency because we were in the trailer at the bottom of the mountain, couldn’t get trailer up]

Started Nursery [at the log house] so children could go to school and we’d have place to stay if had to take our leave and for after our residency completed

September to October 6, 1959 – Ericksons kept [log] house until October and we paid half rent and used days as Nursery.  We arrived at 7:00 A.M. and they left at 7:15 A.M.  They got home at 5:15 and we left at 6:00.

We never stayed overnight.  They can verify this!  (I stayed once when Jeep broke down and I came out for Nursery and would have had to walk last mile home alone.)  Family on homestead.  I never was late once and children didn’t miss school but that one day!  [September 1959 counted as the fifth full month of residency]


September 2, 1959 Wednesday

Yesterday – the day you left us –was the longest day I’ve spent here.  It’s still cloudy out and yesterday it poured – you’ll really appreciate California now.  (I could use some sunshine too!)

I’ll be relieved to hear you got back O.K. but I don’t worry – I know you’re watched over!

I’m sitting here going over our accounts.  Bill talked to ‘Jeep Man’ yesterday and he agreed to let Bill refinance it – we’ll do it next pay-day!  He also called about tractor and is to call back today.  I will keep my fingers crossed!

We quieted Wards with $12.00 – not it’s only $90.00 – and only three more payments on truck.  I’ll keep you informed.

Bill barely got home last night – road was so bad!

I’m tired of all this and will count days until December.

Loved seeing you!!  You’re a marvelous sport.  Wish it had been more FUN.  The day will come!


September 3, 1959 Thursday

*Notes: Hooray, hooray, I got the seed today – all 400 pounds of it and 100 pounds for Pollard – we got rye and he got Brome grass.  There were so many sacks that the piled up on the back floor of Jeep and on seat.  The kids had a grand time riding on the bags and by time we got to Pollard’s [were] tired.  Sharon had gone to sleep on them!

I’m so relieved to get it.  Tomorrow will get plow and will finish with that over this three day Labor Day weekend!!  It’s a thrill just to have it – cost $26.00!!

Yesterday I was ready to give up Nursery for certain but today several things happened!  Mrs. Pollard says she wants me to care for them $50.00 per month – and Mrs. Goodale – I’ve always wanted to meet her as she’s my favorite Alaskan artist and a former neighbor of Jane/s – remember – thanks to you speaking to Kathy P. – wants me to care for her child.  She’s retarded and I hope I can manage!!  She starts on 15th!

I went to doctor and had a COMPLETE physical exam – everything – pelvic, blood test, cancer smear etc.  I am slightly anemic but otherwise fine.  He gave me a prescription for that.  He says I’m healthy as a horse!!!  I liked him very much and will take Sharon next week – (other is all better and I know I caught cold!)


September 6, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  Glorious clear, sunny day.  First light frost last night.  Red letter day for two reasons.  First Bill is really plowing today and I kick myself for not having any film

– (I’m going to make menus and lists galore ) – so that I’ll have ingredients for recipes handy (no running to market here if I need one thing etc.) – also want to plan quickie meals and yet very nutritious – we’ll need to pack in every vitamin.

Secondly I drove for the first time down one night and out and back!  I honked and honked the Jeep on way down – I was so proud and RELIEVED.

Our mile is still muddy but this is – believe it or not – third day of clear weather and the road has dried out considerably – and no need for chains SO – I decided to try it – I still had more census to take and load to take to Nursery –

EVENING – A gorgeous evening follows a gorgeous day and I realize I’ve been depressed lately because I’ve been in tight cramped quarters for so many rainy weeks – and no view at all through the teensy hut windows

— Ah today though has more than made up for all that those weeks lacked.  The very air has been marvelously clear after the rain and today seemed even more lovely than yesterday.

Other people thought so too as they trek to the highways in search of outlets that can’t be found in the city – many have come down our Jeep trail to explore the unbeaten paths but the lower homesteaders turn them back before they reach our road – once again I’m glad to be on our Mountain!!

There were three cars turned back from Pollard’s today while I had coffee with her!

I just returned from a short walk down to Bill – the children are tucked in early tonight to get a few extra winks before school starts and I am once again alone with my thoughts!!

— As I returned up the hill from his plowing and saw the cheerful smoke wending skyward from our hut chimney and knew all was well and snug inside I had a marvelous sense of accomplishment – Oh, how crude to any outsider – but to us – well, as I look at the first home we’ve made in the wilderness and trudge happily crushing soft, rich dirt clumps beneath my feet I feel rich – and I feel like shouting – We’ve done this and I feel rich indeed!

The sun was setting and the sky was a mass of vivid orange tonight above the purple Mountains that form Sleeping Beauty above Knik Arm and the clouds were purple above the orange sky.  – Oh to paint and be able to capture this scenery –

It’s cool but nice – so nice to have these few days of sun before winter – Indian Summer for sure and how the children reveled in it!!!

(Magic) Precious Moments


September 1959 [undated]

*Notes:  All week I’ve been taking census and have it almost completed now.  It’s given me a chance to meet my neighbors – each one is so different and each one looks on their homesteading different – yet, each seems happy and satisfied with what they are achieving, have achieved and their dreams they have for their future.  All are workers each struggling and working to overcome their individual homesteading problems.

To me it’s fascinating – I, like them, have one thing in common – homesteading and the fact that each one is glad they’ve done it and in spite of all wouldn’t exchange their lives – hardships and all for any other life anywhere in the other 48 states.  We like doing what we’re doing and Alaska is a part of us now!!!  We may gripe sometimes, fuss and fume but we will never give up until the land is ours and our dreams are fulfilled!!!


September 28 1959 Tuesday

I am writing this from the log house.  Today I brought ours and Pollard’s (I’m taking care of) to school but only John remained all morning – others only stayed to register and then left so I’ll have to charge Pollard more.  I’m paying off money we owe them!

We sent for a small oil stove – four weeks to come! – so much more to do and winter almost here – we have frost every night now!!

Yesterday – finally – Bill finished plowing took twelve hours and planted!!  It’s done!!  Hooray!!

I got Ford wagon out of garage and will use it myself.  Sent for seat cover for front.

Will fix up truck and sell!

We’re splitting rent ½ and utilities ½ until October 1st [with Erickson’s].  We paid rent today!  And will carry utilities after 15th.

So they can verify they lived here until then.  I’m posting signs of Nursery around and will have ad in paper and signs for street made.

Bill and I are on edge and he barely speaks to me – we’re nervous with one another – and will be more so before December!!

We need a BREAK but can’t lose land!

As I see it!

If I could move out [from the homestead?] October 3rd

Advantages (1) could handle here alone and wouldn’t have to hire anyone (2) could winterize up there weekends gradually and forget out house and all until next summer! (3) easier on Jeep and US (4) could fix truck here and sell it here (5) could save on storage costs for two months and would be furnished here


September 11, 1959 Friday – from Bill to Mildred’s mother

Since Mil wrote this we’ve been talking it over.  She’s been so busy during the day, and so tired when we get home, that we haven’t had much time to figure things out.  We’ll mail this now, with the understanding that we may change our minds and write you something different next week.

I’ve been trying to re-finance the Jeep through the Credit Union here at work.  There’s no use trying to fool you – you know how tings are.  We owe $625 on it, and can only borrow $450, and that only by paying about $40 that we’re behind in our present Credit Union payments.  I’ve lost all pride in asking you for loans – you already own everything we have – but if you can send us $300 more I think we can get things straightened out and reduce our payments so that we can pay it back.

I’ve found a place where I can get used tires for the truck, and I intend to fix it up and take it to town as soon as I can to try and sell it.

As Mil says, I spent last Sunday and Monday discing the fields, and she followed with the seeding.  So by Monday night it was all planted and what a relief.  We were beginning to wonder if it would ever get done – but now it is and there’s one less thing to worry about.  You’ll hear from us next week.  Love, Bill


September 8 – 11, 1959 Journal

*Notes:  School started and I started to get the Nursery school ready at the log house [in Eagle River] to go great guns starting October 1st after the Ericksons move out.  They are buying front [log] house of Pryde’s.

This week I have the two Pollard boys.  Fred is on double shift and goes afternoons. Cindy – the darling – has finally started school and how ready she’s.  She comes home dimply and happy and how glad I am I did this so I am there to greet her and hear her first reports of her first glorious days at school.  It will never again be quite the same again!!  She goes from 9 to 11:30 a.m. so I’m kept quite busy – four of my own and the two Pollard boys.  Next week the little Goodale girl will start.

I’ve decided to have 300 booklets printed telling about the Nursery and I’ll distribute these.  I’m also having some signs made – every week I’ll do a little bit more.  I have so many plans and hope it will go over well.

I want to maintain high standards.  I’d rather have a few children and care for them will rather than to have too many and not be able to do a good job.

On the first school day enrollment was only over 300 pupils this year.  There are 26 teachers and six Quonset huts for extra classrooms.  We need a school in Eagle River!!

We get up at 5:00, leave home on the mountain at 6:00, and get to the Nursery at 7:00.  Children leave at 8:15 that go to school.  Cindy comes Nursery at 12:30 when she is done at school and Fred leaves at 12:15.  The others get back to the Nursery at 4:15.  Pollard comes at 6:00 and we leave soon after but must go to the store etc. and children haven’t gotten to bed before 9:00 P.M.

Must get home earlier this week!  Such a change for all of us to go out every day and will take some getting used to.  This week I’ve left all house work and gone to bed very early.


September 12, 1959 Saturday

*Notes:  Another glorious autumn day!!  Oh, such a beautiful morning and so much to do at home.  I decided to take a walk over to edge of canyon first and then do work.  Here I sit at creek hours later – still no work done and I don’t care.  This is a perfect day and I will not spend it inside!!

I called everyone over to see a wonderful flat spot close to the canyon edge with trees all around it where I’d like to build a cabin – everyone came over.


September 1959

*Notes – Review:  No money until payday.  Had to make payment on tractor or would have it taken back.  Jeep broke down – at least $200 to repair it and can’t do it or even make payments.  Took tires etc. from station wagon to fix truck – Bill got it running and we rode in it for three days.  Two or three of us have to sit in the back out in the open and exposed to elements.  All got colds.  Better now.

Never mind Bill got lumber from Wells in return for helping him and is building connection between the hut and trailer.

Nursery school seems promising.  Got quite a few drop offs this month.  Got furniture painted yellow.  Bill brought home folders Friday.  Ericksons move soon – want to get more children and log house will be there if we have to move down.


September 15, 1959 Tuesday

Cindy got a real bad cold and I’m having her sleep in trailer for now.  We’ve sent for an oil heater but it will be three weeks at least before it arrives.  We’re having glorious autumn weather – sunny and blue skies to make up for cold, wet spell.  Thank goodness!

Bill went moose hunting yesterday and saw a big grizzly – it ran right past him!  (no moose)

This is a quickie as I expect Ericksons back soon.  They paid half of rent and utilities for this month and expect to move 27th [of September] to Janie’s.  Janie has never mentioned it and I’m not supposed to know.

I’m having folders printed to distribute and also one $12.00 sign made – but gosh, no money.

It doesn’t help now that I’m handling things except I know now how badly off we are.  IF we can just hold off two more months then we can save, save, save BUT golly I’m so worried and sick about our financial state.  We look back at all the mistakes we’ve made – real estate etc. – but it doesn’t help.  Honestly, Mom, I can’t and don’t feel we’re wrong to homestead.  It’s so worthwhile – we’ve got to make it.

We paid Blue Cross, Spoerry and $25.00 to Tuck (he’s been nasty and we had to sign a contract plus interest) so we had no choice and then $25.00 for Ford and heater (cash) about $75.00!!  So no Beneficial Finance, Tucks, Jeep, tractor, NY life etc. etc. etc. etc.!!!!!!!!

Well, Ericksons are home – she has to go back to P.T.A .and they’re getting dinner.  So, I’ll close.  We do need money but deserve to lose vehicles – but oh, Mom that land – after such struggle.


September 18, 1959 Friday

Oh Mother if I don’t write forgive me – I’m not happy – I haven’t been and can’t be since I found out our dilemma.  It’s just ‘getting the time in now that’s all’ – maybe the joy will come later.

I feel as if I’d been drained of all emotion – I feel always like crying – it’s too bad.

Bill and I never see each other and when we do we don’t talk – I can’t help it.  I’m worried and Oh Mother, I’m heart sick.  I feel such a failure at every thing and my heart bleeds with pain.

I hate to try to start a nursery school – especially since I’ve named it Happy Time – when I feel like this.

We sent for an oil stove but it hasn’t come.  I put Cindy and Sharon in trailer in one bed and Bill or I take turns sleeping on the floor on a mattress there.  Twice this week I’ve gotten up at 2:00 A.M. or 3:00 A.M. to build a fire in that Damn hut to try to get warm.  Twice I’ve gotten up at 4:00.  We have to get up at 4:45.

I’ve taken a total dislike to Pollards and feel we can’t trust them.

Oh Mom honestly if it wasn’t for that land and my crazy mixed up dreams I’d throw in the sponge and say the HELL with it all.  Come June I plan to sell all we own – except personal things and rest and have fun.

I’ll never again do what I’ve done – NEVER.  I don’t know what I will do but not this.

— What a letter – I told you it was useless.

Kids are all fine now.  They are all so good!! – And deserve much – they’ve worked for their homestead!

— (I couldn’t give it up) but will Bill and I ever find our way back?

So many bills – no fun – no companionship – we never see each other – Oh Mom –!!

I’ll write later – this is no good!  I feel wonderful though – peppier than ever – and all – just sick inside where it doesn’t show (or does it?)


September 21, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  Jeep broke down!!  Oh –!  I feel responsible – I drove out today and Bill stayed home to work on connection between Jamesway and trailer.  I was in high spirits and felt cheerful then wham, bang – [in other words, she drove ‘out’ way too fast for road conditions]


September 22, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes:  I walked OUT to Pollard’s (ran) to ride out with them.  Bill and kids remained home – I had to go out to open Nursery.  Painted nursery furniture yellow.


September 23, 1959 Wednesday

*Notes:  Had ten children all told today – quite a merry circus.  They were all very good though and the playpen, shelves, and chairs look nice painted yellow.  Really felt like I had a nursery today!!

— Oh what a ride home!!  We had to ride in the ‘Monster’ – Bill robbed station wagon Jeep to get truck running – this can’t go on.  John, Linda and I sat in back – cold – and at those hills – oh my, looks a hundred times worse.  We sat on seat from Jeep and hills so steep – it slid from under us and it was all we could do to stay put!!  Seemed steeper tonight then ever – in dark I guess – really scary – but oh mountains look pretty – out in open like that.  Poor children – what a day they put in and such darn good sports every one of them.  I love each and every one.

Washing machine [at log house] overflowed – clean clothes washed twice – what a day!  I’m going to bed!


September 25, 1959 Friday

*Notes:  The end of this week – thank God, Cindy and I have colds – I feel like HELL.  But at least tomorrow we stay home – we don’t have to go over that bumpy road in that miserable truck.  Wonder of wonders – home, home, home!!!  ??  It’s Home to us!!

Oh, that our Jeep station wagon hadn’t broken down.  It was pouring rain tonight and the windshield wipers wouldn’t work and the heater wouldn’t work.  Pollard was thoughtful and took Cindy and Linda back to their house with them.  It was ten before we got them –had to go to market, get oil, etc. etc. and drove so slow – I had to hold Sharon – no room – I didn’t charge Pollards for today in return!


September 26, 1959 Saturday

*Notes:  Have a miserable cold.  Have cleaned trailer today and baked almost all day.  My it’s good to be home today.  Now I know how Bill used to feel when he didn’t want to go over that road again on weekends.


September 26, 1959 Saturday

I am very distressed today.  Last night I told Bill, “Tomorrow I must write Mother a long letter – it’s been so long since I’ve written.  I wrote a letter a week or so ago but it was so blue and discouraged that I decided not to mail it.”  He said, “But I mailed a letter to Mother Wednesday.”  I said, “You couldn’t have.”  Come to find out – Tuesday when he was home he found the letter all sealed and ready to mail and thought I’d forgotten to give it to him – so he took it and sent it.

I had decided not to send it and to wait hoping I’d feel better – well, maybe it’s just as well as now you’ll know for sure how I felt and that I did want to write but couldn’t feeling as I felt!  Things are not better – worse than I ever could have dreamed (well, not really) but financially worse!!

Tuesday we were in better spirits.  Last weekend Wells, the homesteader who intends to homestead that high land across the creek, was using our high road to see if he could cross to his place above Easterly’s.  He had Jeep troubles and asked Bill to spend several hours pulling him to Jeep road with tractor.  Bill is getting smart and said for $10.00 an hour!  He agreed!  Now this Wells character owns a lumber yard so Bill said how about lumber?  So Monday before he could change his mind Bill collected enough lumber in trade to build our connecting entrance way between the Jamesway and the trailer.

Last weekend he moved the trailer alongside the hut and will build a door on side of hut!  I must tell you this.  I’d been making piccalilli – he told me to put all breakables in hut before he moved trailer – which we did.  But I still decided to remain in trailer to watch things.  As he moved it over rough area my forgotten picallili slid from the stove off to the floor spilling all over.  The berries we’d been picking slid in the other direction and you can imagine the mess!!  Luckily I’d just washed the floor so scooped it back up.  We’ll eat it tonight on beans baking in the over!!  (extra flavor)

Last weekend we picked the high bush cranberries (I don’t like) because I tasted Joe Anne’s jelly made of half high bush cranberries and half apple juice and it’s really delicious!  I also tasted her concoction of low bush cranberries and banana jam!  I’ve since made twelve jars of first and six of latter!

Here I am trying to save and pinch, pinch, pinch every penny!!

Then Tuesday Bill decided to take day of sick leave (had cold anyways) and stay home – no interference – and build connection.  So proud brave me took all the kids and drove out myself – even down our road!!  I did it several weeks ago for first time – alone – and even came back.  I had to finish that census!! — It was scary but I did it!!

Well, I got out fine and had nice day at Nursery (Happy Time Nursery) and then started home at 6:30 – never leave Eagle River until 7:00 – home at 8:00 then dinner, and bed at 9:00!! – Up at 4:45!!!!  Isn’t that awful?

Anyways felt so efficient and proud – Bill was to meet me at bottom of road – but Jeep sounded awful.  I drove home anyways – Bill heard us coming.  He rushed over – and checked oil – all gone – and he said motor shot.  This happened before and cost $199.19.  He drove home anyways then and you could hear “the motor grinding itself to pieces!”

It sits outside now and the wheels are taken off and put on the truck (how about a children’s story about the truck) and we’ve ridden in truck this week – rain and shine!  We must completely rebuild Jeep!  See why I haven’t written you?

Tuesday night I was sick – Oh Mom, how much of a beating can we take?

Wednesday I had artist’s daughter all day and Pollard’s too – Fred all morning.  (Business is getting good and I love it –it’s so cute and I’ll tell more of it later!!)

We got up usual time Wednesday but can you imagine how we felt?  Cindy’s cold had gone but was back again – we’d borrowed an oil heater for hut from Wooten’s until ours arrives and it won’t work – and heater in trailer quit too –

Oh Mom –!!!

Well, heater didn’t quit until Wednesday night so it was warm Wednesday but I had told Bill to keep Cindy in but he got so busy and she cried so he let her play outside and Thursday she had bronchitis!

I’m getting ahead of my story!

We decided finally at breakfast that he’d stay home and fix truck – he was all for moving out this weekend – I say WE WILL STAY UNTIL DECEMBER 3rd!!


We left children in bed and I decided to brave bears and moose and go to Pollard’s for ride out.  By then it was 6:15 and they leave at 6:30 – so I got Smokey and we ran down mountain and to there at 6:30!

Bill had made me promise not to walk back – it’s dark now by 6:00 – and pitch black when we get home!  I had intended to anyways BUT finally stayed at Erickson’s [at the log house] – slept on cot in my clothes.

I bought lemon yellow paint for school and painted crib, swing, two sets of shelves, old high chairs all yellow – it’s beautiful – I am thrilled with whole thing.  That night I painted but next morning woke up with such fear for family riding in that truck.

They arrived at 7:00 – dirty and tired – and with headaches.  I always wash and change their clothes before school!

We’ve ridden back and forth ever since in truck – some have to sit in back.  Bill put Jeep seat in back and it’s cold and no heater in cab either.  Bill takes Ford to work.  It can’t go on, I know!!

Today I have flu and fever and wanted to stay in bed but had to get up.  I let this place go all week and have so much to do.  I keep stopping – work then write more.  Wish I wasn’t too tired to take notes but will write you instead.

Please now send back all letters and this – it’s my only record and I’m determined – a book I will write!!  — I will –!!

First week of school I went to bed at 9:00 with kids –now I can stay up until 10:00 – I make lunches, do dishes and sweep out place.

I do ironing and wash down there [at the log house] and baths etc.

Last week I had a time at the house.  I had one woman bringing her boy when she went to a club meeting in the afternoons – and Janie’s children at 11:00 to 4:00.  So I hurried to store for lunch makings and then decided to be doubly efficient and put load of wash in while gone. – (Dryer broke down our first week there – wouldn’t it.)

— P.S. I’m finishing this in bed Sunday night!  I’m determined to get it in mail tomorrow or else!

To get back to my story!  Came back and found it had overflowed and wouldn’t stop even after I turned water off.  It was at least five inches deep in back hall and was running into kitchen – on into dining room and living room!!  I didn’t let children know as that would have only added to the uproar.

To make it worse – on Monday I had washed two bags and brought all the way back to homestead to hang up.  Tuesday morning hung one bag but too late so left other in Jeep and told Bill I’d do it when I got home.  That night I stayed at Erickson’s (they move into Marshal Pryde’s October 1st).  Well, he didn’t hear me and piled dirty clothes into it and brought down to log house Tuesday and I dumped the whole bag onto floor and saw too late was clean clothes I’d washed – the machine overflowed on top of whole mess!!

I had to wring water out of clothes on floor before I could push water out the door – what a mess!!  Probably how I got cold.  Took almost an hour to clean up D – mess.  Had six children at the Nursery that day.

Haven’t advertised yet.  Got pamphlets Friday – and signs made and will put up when Ericksons leave.  They leave half hour after we arrive in morning and same at night.  I make children stay in back room while they’re there and always have house perfect when they get home no matter how much of a mess during day is made.

But they paid half rent and utilities and I’ll miss that.

So much more to tell but I’ve worked all weekend. Yesterday cleaned trailer (a mess) and baked beans, apple pie and two raised (from scratch) coffee cakes.  Today cleaned hut – (mess too) and made stew!

Oh Mother, last night Bill finished entrance-way and now they’re finally connected.  You’d never be able to imagine the difference!!  As John says, “It’s now like a house.”  The children were thrilled — and not a bit to go to log house days but thrill over every improvement at homestead.  First time Sharon went through it she beamed and said, “Here I go!”  There are 2 steps from hut then hall and then trailer (used flap cut from hut for roof of connecting way).

I’m so pleased!  It’s really cold out today and now wind is blowing and it’s raining.  Snow almost left the high mountains four weeks ago when we had real nice weather but now is back and real low and deep on high mountains and high hills – we’re sure it won’t melt again.

We had several glorious weeks of autumn but then wind blew all leaves away and now we expect snow any day.

Moose are back and each day for last four days there have been one or two on our homestead.  Sure sign winter is coming!

Bill went hunting three times but no luck but saw a Grizzly – I’ll tell later.

Pollard got bull moose on mud lake on way home from work – another story.


September 27, 1959 Saturday

*Notes:  I sit here in bed writing by our kerosene lamp – just think in another few weeks our neighbors will have electricity – but not us!!!  Friday some of the poles were up and others were all laid out!!  That’s, once again, what we get for coming up on the Mountain.  But still it hardly seems fair.  We tried to get above the 500 foot line [government’s requirement] and they didn’t – still they get electricity and we don’t.  Bill has explained it all to me and I know they put in their applications ages ago and they’re all on one road but still – –

The HUT is surely flapping in the wind tonight.  The wind is whistling – my, it’s strong – I’m glad Bill is here.  He’s outside working on the Monster.  Whew, that was a big one!!

Thank God he completed our entrance way last night.  It’s wonderful – we just walk back and forth from the trailer to the hut and as the children say – now it’s like a real house!!!  It does make all the difference in the world!!!  John helped Bill all weekend and is so proud that he helped build it!!!  The children thrill as I do over every improvement made on our homestead – and what a great improvement that entrance way is – and how very appreciated.

It’s been sheer hell this week riding for all of us in that bumpy, cold, smelly truck and coming home to a trailer with no heat and for days no heat in hut.  We had to heat trailer with oven and then walk clear around hut to trailer and pitch black outside!!

Now they’re both warm and connected – sheer heaven tis true.

Tonight is homey – and neat and clean – despite the wind rattling the canvas of this hut.

I bet the snow will be much lower on the mountains in the morning and by the sound of the wind and the feel of that cold air which I feel through this (insulation?) – sounds like the ocean outside – I wouldn’t be at all, all surprised to see snow on the ground here.

So many winter clothes are in storage!!  No money to get them out – Oh, God, Oh God!

Tonight I feel as if we’re living in a cracker box for sure!


September 28, 1959 Sunday night

*Notes:  (I’m quite a picture tonight.)  Last night I burned my only nightgown (who even would think I would reach such a state) trying to dry it in time to wear it to bed – so dug out Bill’s long underwear – wore old sweater and Bill’s T shirt over it because sweater was shrunk and left a gap in the middle – cold.

Tonight I had to add a wool kerchief to regalia as wind is whistling around my head.  Quite a glamour get up – yes, yes, yes!!!  Ha, ha, ha!


September 30, 1959 Wednesday

I went to store yesterday to get bread and on way back Jeep [truck] smelled hot.  I stopped and smoke was coming from under hood.  I opened hood, after a struggle, and there was a fire –!!  Some man was going by and stopped and told me to throw water on.  He disconnected wires – and pushed me back to nursery.  It was some wires got crossed and started a fire.  I hated to tell Bill – poor darling.

We had to stay overnight here [log house] for first time.  Bill slept on floor wrapped up in throw rug – he worked on truck until midnight – I slept on bare cot and put all four children on mattress on floor – what a night.  We borrowed one blanket from Erickson’s who have moved to Janie’s over the weekend – but not enough to go around.

He’s working on truck now and we’ll go home tonight.  We’re trying to stay at our place until December 3rd so can be through with it [fulfill residency requirement for ‘proving up’]!!

Carrs stopped by one day this week and gave us a hundred pounds of beautiful home-grown potatoes – that was so nice!!!  Real windy today – has blown all leaves off.  I’ve been painting nursery yellow – so pretty.


CHAPTER TEN:  We Belong On Our Land for All Time


October 2, 1959 Friday

*Notes:  Ice forms on water outside overnight, now soon will have our own deep freeze (two months from today [residency done])!!

I have been too tired at night when we get home (it’s always so very late – usually 8:00 or after – one night 9:00 and Friday 10:00) to write or do anything but get dinner – do dishes and fall into bed and I mean that quite literally.  My stupid cold has persisted all week – finally two days ago Bill administered me several kinds of pills and they seem to have taken effect – for today I sound like a bull frog but the pain in my chest has subsided.

All the kids get so tired and it’s so cold now for John and Linda to sit in back of truck but will keep on as long as we possibly can – and go from day to day and week to week.  Here it is October 3, 1959 Saturday – now two months to the day!!

Last night on way home Bill told me he’s only gotten one signature on loan approval.  Two refusals and one still not sure – must be approved by coming Tuesday – oh dear God, how I pray – I wish I could go to church tomorrow – right now I’m going to ask Bill to come in – maybe he’ll take us tomorrow – maybe God would answer our prayer if we went out 28 miles to church – He knows the faith I have and hears my prayers but still.  It’s our only answer.  They’ve given Bill until this Tuesday only to pay $650 on Jeep or else bring it in.

What can we do?  I feel that if I’d only known this summer I could have done something to help earn those payments.  Well, no use in going back now – we’ve done best we can – heaven knows we buy NOTHING – right now we need so much –  I wear Bill’s long underwear to bed, rather than buy pajamas – Linda needs school clothes and Sharon’s jacket is completely worn out –

Last night I felt so discouraged.  We’re so close to the end and yet these last two months are just as important as the other five!!  We must complete the seven months before May 1960 and we’re so afraid if we leave before then we won’t get back up here in time!

We were discussing this as we bobbed along in the truck on the way home when all of a sudden we caught sight of an animal slowly crossing in front of us – at first glance it looked like one of the many porcupines we see but on closer observation we saw it was a beaver.  We quickly knocked on the rear window so John and Linda could see it – as we expected it to get frightened and scurry off – but it just came toward us.  Bill thought it was blinded by the truck light – but NO, it was just busily going about its business.  (Bill was so surprised because he’s never seen a beaver before and expected they’d frighten easily!)  We’d noticed for the last few days how they’d been cutting down enormous trees with their sharp teeth and hauling them across the road to the river where they’re damming up for their home.  Bill explained how they eat the bark off the trees, that’s their only food and use the rest for their homes.  He says that they’re building their home on the river underneath the water where it won’t freeze –

Well, right before our very eyes this beaver with his bright beady eyes and glossy brown coat – walked over to a big branch and dragged it right back across the road – in front of the truck – to our complete amazement!

Somehow our worries dissolved as we enjoyed our true life adventure – such an experience for all of us – and such a sight for us to see on our way home from school and work!

This morning (early) I had quite an experience too.  Smokey was barking furiously – I went out and looked all around and didn’t see a thing – I had to go to the bathroom and went and all the while felt eyes upon my back.  I turned around to go in and my glance fell upon the biggest moose I’ve ever seen standing up on the top of John’s fort – on the hill behind our hut – the enormous animal looked larger than ever standing statuesque, silhouetted by the sky – it was a very magnificent sight and I imagine the moose had been there all the while.  We stared at each other a moment and then I hurried inside to get Bill to come out to see – by the time he got to the door the moose was gone!!

On the way up Mountain last night I looked out our truck window and saw the spectacular Northern Lights in the sky, above the hills, behind our homestead.  They were more beautiful than I’ve ever seen before! – So green, great splashes of green against the dark skies, ever-changing in size and form and color as we gazed aghast at the beauty.

Mind the trip home?  Not last night – beavers to see, Northern lights lighting our way HOME, HOME, HOME –

My Home, My LIFE is on our homestead.


October 5, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  Spent at homestead.  Bill got back to Nursery very late.  I was a little bit worried but he told me he had had a chance to work late but only stayed one hour later because he knew I would worry.  He will work late every other night this week.  It’s the first opportunity he has had to work overtime all year.  It will make it late getting home.

Then – late as it was – the truck wouldn’t start.  I drove Ford and pushed truck – after half hour it finally started.  Meanwhile saw gorgeous display of Northern Lights – most beautiful I’ve ever seen – so green – and came to a point in middle of sky – the center.  Then later after this spectacular show was completed the lights kept appearing – green – green – in big flashes.

Oh, I was so glad good old truck started – I like going HOME at night.  I hate (no, not hate) dislike the road but I like going Home.  Hard to explain but true just the same.


October 6, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes:  Bill insisted we spend the night at log house.

*Got loan! – Just in time.  How much this means to us and just goes to show you that we’re watched over.  Thank God for it.

Now will just pay one enormous lump sum each month to credit union instead of numerous payments.  The total will be less and we can budget our money.  Most important of all – our debts get paid and we won’t lose Jeep and tractor.

Bill working overtime until 11:00 P.M.  Jeep broke down, truck too, which we’d been using last few weeks and too cold for children to ride in back.  Took leave [from residency on homestead] * Having completed five months.


October 7, 1959 Wednesday

*Notes:  Spent night at log house.  Had wanted to go home but Bill got back so late and I had children asleep and hated to rouse them from warm sleep to that below zero ride in unheated cab of truck and two in back – pneumonia for certain.


October 9, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  We’ve decided to tell the Land Office and stay overnight here at the log house until Jeep station wagon gets fixed.  We’ll tow it out this weekend.

Bill worked late again.  Says he could work tomorrow but – but not as late as must go to homestead and feed animals.  Must go to town and get tires for Jeep.

It’s been a busy week at Nursery – drop-offs etc.

All things from storage came today and what a mess.  My Nursery advertisement went in the paper and I was so afraid someone would come to see the place when all was in such a turmoil.  I worked all day like fury – packing and repacking boxes.  We’ll take about eight to homestead and store everything else in extra room here at the log house.  I am not even opening the couch or unwrapping it – just leave boxes packed one on another until our residency time is up on the homestead.

I hate missing this week on the homestead.  Every day counts towards our time and soon it will be so cold.  But this can’t be helped.  It had gotten far too cold for John and Linda to ride in the back of the truck.  The temperature goes down to 28° and that is already too cold to sit in open truck exposed.

I miss our place.  It’s home and this isn’t.  It is a Nursery – PERIOD.

This will give all of us a break and a slight rest.

It’s surprising to me how messy the Nursery gets when we stay here overnight.  Darn it.  I wish our homestead wasn’t so hard to get to!!

John and Bill are going to homestead tonight and I’ll stay here and finish sorting boxes.  I am also going to paint the child’s white table and chair, diaper table, bulletin boards, etc.  Got so many Nursery things from storage – and so many things!!

I worked until 1:30 A.M.  Mess is cleared in Nursery room but still so much to do.  This will be a hard year for all of us I can see!


October 10, 1959 Saturday

*Notes:  We are still at the log house.  Golly I miss the homestead.  If it comes to this I wish I could stay at the homestead all the time.  Nursery looks so cute now, but no children.  Slow and I hope ‘sure’.  Bill got back from town around 6:30 – day wasted waiting for tires!!!  Decided to stay here tonight and go back up tomorrow.

Mrs. Pollard stopped by to tell me they have rented a cabin close to school and will move out until summer but plan to return weekends.  Boys will care for themselves – so I lose that money.


October 11, 1959 Sunday

*NotesSnowed * first snow * finally.  Went HOME.  Oh, how good it felt to know we were going HOME at last.  How can that little old trailer and that hut mean HOME to all of us.  It’s because we created it ourselves – a home out of wilderness.  It’s OURS and the log house isn’t.

Oh, how I’ve missed the view – how I’ve missed our place.  As we were loading the truck the first snow flakes fell!!!


October 13, 1959 Tuesday

Dear Mother,

Please, please send all of my letters back!!!  You haven’t, have you?  It’s my ONLY record.  I haven’t written any notes since I last wrote you – and really should now but I haven’t written you either so if you’ll please send my letters back I’ll write you.

I’ll expect them SOON!

Bill worked every night last week for four extra hours.  The money will surely help but we have been staying at the log house since last Tuesday and we’re missing all that time on our homestead.  He’s also working this week so we’ll stay here this week too.

We brought the Jeep station wagon down the mountain (oh, I was scared as I drove the truck out and had to push Bill up the switchback – that steep last hill out to Eagle River Road).

It was about 8:00 P.M. Sunday when we finally got it out.  We thought we could just bring it to Eagle River garage but found out he doesn’t do major repair work anymore so it’s still sitting in the driveway.

We really can’t go back and forth now in the truck.  It’s far too cold for the kids to sit in back and no heater in cab and windows are out.  Of course we could get heater and build something on back BUT if we fix Jeep we won’t have money for both.

I am more tired staying here [log house-Nursery].  Kids sleep together, John on floor in sleeping bag.  Bill and I try to sleep on twin bed and neither of us sleep.  The couch is unassembled and piled high with boxes!  I refuse to fix the room until our time is up on the homestead.


October 16, 1959 Friday

*Notes:  We will have missed two weeks time on our homestead next Tuesday.  I can hardly bear missing one more day.  I’ve never missed anything as much before in my whole life – except Bill when we were separated.

That land, the view, even the bumpy Jeep road are all an integral part of my life now – I cannot be separated from it.  I must return and soon!

Bill has worked every night for the past two weeks and the overtime will help pay for the Jeep – that’s good.  He’s worked twelve hours every day and has been dead tired upon returning here [to the log house].  It would have been too much to go back to the homestead every night even if Jeep hadn’t broken down – but oh God, how I miss it.

AND I’m worried.  Against Bill’s better judgment we left the heater on LOW in the trailer.  Nobody would know if the place was completely burned down!!

Then too I’m afraid somebody might take our things – Wooten’s stove or ours which sits unattended in Jamesway hut.  I read in the paper this week that there was a robbery at Donnelley’s back there.  I’ve been more worried ever since.  Of course the Jeep road passes right by his place and ours is a mile of mountain hazardous road off of the Jeep road – a BIG difference but still – I’ll feel so much better after I’ve returned and seen for myself that all is sound and safe! ! ! !

Next summer we’ll have to build a cabin, have electricity and a road we can go back and forth on.

My heart is there – we belong on our land for all time – it’s OUR HOME! ! ! ! !  STEAD! ! !  Tonight we’ll go home tonight – when Bill gets home! ! !


October 20, 1959 Tuesday

We’ve been staying at log house nights for over two weeks now.  Haven’t brought anything down from the homestead except one change of clothes – in fact, we’re hoping to go back as soon as possible.  We have the Jeep at a garage but still not sure of repairs – may need a whole other motor!!

Bill worked twelve hours a day for two weeks and now ten hours a day –

We went to homestead Sunday.  Had intended to leave here at 9:00 but truck wouldn’t start – nor would the station wagon – finally at 1:00 the Ford started and I pushed the truck to get it started and then we were off.  Golly it’s cold.  Sunday night was 40° above zero.  Too cold to ride in that truck without heat.  On way back here Monday morning we kept taking turns riding in back – and I never was so cold – I froze!  It’s awful to be that cold.  I had to hold a sweater over my face.  Tears rolled down John’s cheeks he was so cold.  [wind chill was a factor not talked about in those days?]

Then the big heater wouldn’t work all day in the front room of the log house and I never did get warm – Br-r-r!!!  Such is Alaska – !

But Oh Mom, was it ever good – so good – to be HOME!!!

I’ve brought so many boxes up and got all unpacked Sunday night – looks cuter all the time.  The children sled outside until I had a big meat loaf, potatoes etc. cooked – then ate and to bed.  I unpacked and then went out.  It was a full moon and as light as summer time.  The snow glittered all over our clearing like trillions of sparkling diamonds.

Mom I went sledding on Easter ley’s hill – just half way up the first hill above us – and laugh, oh, I had such fun (More then the kids had, I think).

I hated leaving the homestead Monday.  We have to leave the heat on LOW because of food there and I worry over it.

I really might see if I could take the children out of school for two months – Oh, I know I can’t do that. What then??  Two more months – oh, how I worry over that time.

BUT now this is good news.  Oh, Mom, we were about to lose the Jeep and tractor – (you know).  They gave us one week to raise all the money owed – $695 on the Jeep.  That’s when I didn’t feel like even writing a letter.  We had a deadline Tuesday or else!!

Then the Credit Union too wanted their money.  Bill talked to them and they said they’d soon have a board meeting and see if we could consolidate all – $7,500.  The monthly payments would total smaller but would take half our paycheck – leaving us $300 to live on – food, rent, all.  There was no choice but to try.  All was OK’d and we were to have four co-signers, four who work at the District.  Oh Mother he asked the four most likely = one yes, three no.  We were sunk all weekend!!   I tried not to think about – we were to bring the Jeep in Tuesday or the money.  Sunday still one co-signer.  Mom, Power of Prayer.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  Our prayers were answered!  Bill was LED to three men who he never would have ordinarily asked.  He’d thought of them as most unlikely to sign and right away they all did.

By 3:00 P.M. Monday he had the four co-signers.  Tuesday at 9:00 A.M. we would have lost the Jeep.

It still doesn’t answer all our problems but they’re all in one payment now except for $10, $15 bills to doctors, etc.

Dentist, trailer, Ford, tractor, truck, garages etc. are paid – and Beneficial Finance and storage etc. etc. and we owe the Credit Union.  But it’s a two year loan. – We will be out of debt in two years –

Now we’re working on a budget and oh Mother, we can manage now without the $25 you said you’d send or any money and we’ll pay you $50 a month regularly – not a word now – it’s in our budget and we’ll try to save more on sidelines — $2,700 to YOU.  You’re a dear, a darling and I love you!  Now you think of you and your plans.

I may come down – certainly during 1960 – my [residency] time will be up for the land – somehow – I’ll be FREE with an Army paid trip coming!!

Now you think what’s best for you.  I’m thrilled with the speller and I want us to write – my heart and soul cries out – write, write, study – and leave people alone!!

We’re going so tight – I don’t have any children but poor retarded Gracie.  Nobody even comes to see my lovely, beautiful Nursery – it’s a dream place – books, toys and your chairs added the perfect touch!!!  I guess it’s not meant to be yet.

Everyone asks, “How many children do you have now?”  And it embarrasses me but I don’t care except for money.   Gracie pays between $40 and $50 a month and about $15.00 in hourly jobs or $25.00.


October 20, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes:  Two weeks yesterday since we moved out [back to log house from homestead].  I miss returning to our homestead.  I never missed a place before.  I miss the ride – oh, not the bumps – nor the jostling – but the smell of the cold, clean air, the beauty I saw out our Jeep window – the majestic mountains outlined in the early winter dark against the moonlit sky – the creek now flowing smoothly dammed by ice and snow – now breaking down it’s barrier – for awhile – soon to run beneath the heavy layers of ice and snow – for many long months to come – too long – but that’s winter in Alaska – long, cold, dark – and beautiful to behold – and on – and on – and on will this road never end?

Five miles an hour – it takes one hour to go eight miles – such a road – but oh, will the beauty still be the same – years from now – when our road is smooth and fast?

Will we see the Mother Moose and her two calf twins – on the lake we pass by – so unafraid?  But wait it’s been weeks since we’ve seen a moose – in fact, not a one since a Jeep stopped in front of us and behold a hunter crouched in the road – Could he?  Would he?  Oh yes – a shot rang out so clearly – and the young bull fell to the ground with such a dreadful moan and groan –

Winter’s meat?  Yes, it will help a homesteader through the long winter ahead –

A tear? – a sigh – oh yes you heard me cry – I cannot stand to see these majestic animals shot – dead –

But yet, I wish we had some roasts stored in a cache so high away from the roaming bear – for homesteading is not an easy row to hoe – oh no, – oh no –

On and on will this road never end?  It’s already 8:00 – the children – all four are sleeping —


October 22, 1959 Thursday 7:15 P.M.

Just read your long letter – so nice and informative and interesting.  It’s funny how things work out.  Now you are money tight and we got that loan and can start paying you back.  Thank God.  We are watched over – for certain, for certain.

We’re tight too and eat beans and potatoes (Carrs gave us a hundred pounds) but at least we can keep those D – vehicles.

I just finally got truck started.  All week it wouldn’t run but today it’s warmed up and now it’s raining and then will freeze!!!  Anyways went to the garage to see about the Jeep and called Bill at work and he talked to the mechanic.  I’ll know when he gets home.  It will cost but we’ve GOT to get it fixed.

I worry over our two months still needed for time on the homestead.  Our neighbors – Pottle, Gunter etc. say, “Who will know?”  Oh, I hate that.

I say, “We KnowWe’re Honest.”

Spring is not good, roads are impassable – mud and all.  Remember?  Must be November, January, February or two of these.  Unless you come up in March and April.  I hate to depend on that.

Still no children at the Nursery – just Gracie.  I don’t feel she’s good publicity.  She’s a moron but easy for me!  She does say twenty words, plays dolls etc.?  But what do others think?

Oh Mom – I want a home and to live like other people.  I’m tired of all this mixed up MESS.


October 25, 1959 Sunday – from Mildred’s mother

You two wonderful people – coming through this hectic struggle as you are.  I’m with you all the way through it.  What a time it has been I know.  In that way it was good that I saw the wonderful spot you are fighting so hard to hold.  If I hadn’t seen it, I fear I’d think it wasn’t worth the struggle.  Now I feel, like you, that the great wish of my life will be to see you get that title in your hand.  If your land was on the road like Vanover’s your struggle wouldn’t be so bad, but placed where it is on top of the mountain, you’ve had double trouble.  You’ll win, I know you will.  Like you, dear, I believe that you and Bill must have been guided to those men!

But there won’t be enough money for you to live on after paying the Credit Union – and paying them is a must.  I’m so thankful to the Union and to the men.  But oh damn – what about future car repairs?  You can handle it – if bearings don’t burn and the tires don’t blow.  You know what it means to homestead if anyone does.

How I appreciate the offer to pay me $50 a month, honey, but I couldn’t take it right now.  You need it.  I’d rather you’d pay off the doctors, dentists etc. first, please.  Thanks for the check enclosed with the letter.  I will accept this one, but do not start trying to send $50 regularly – yet.  It can’t be done!  You have to eat, you know.  I’ll be so happy the day you are free of debt.  Perhaps this great need for money will be a spur to your writing.  The best is always done under pressure and under adverse conditions.

Tell me about Log House.  You’ll hold that until school is out, I hope.  Tell me please what you mean about trying to take children out of school for two months.  Is it because of the dangers and cold in traveling, or because you can’t swing the rent?  Tell me details – truly and honestly.  How I wish I were near to help until you get this all straightened out – So far so good.

You need another stove?  Tell me please.  I’m relieved about the money – I know you were worried to death over it all – you didn’t “have to write.”  I was “sick over it” on this end and helpless to help.  It was awful.  I also “felt” and “knew” a change had taken place last week before the letter came on Saturday!  I didn’t know how it turned – but I knew our prayers were answered.  Let’s not stop and never forget.  When, or if the time is right for the children to come [to the nursery], they’ll come.  You have prepared the spot – so we’ll see.  How I wish you could relax enough now to see the need for writing stories and articles.  Make winter articles for children too.  You can’t when you are over-tired and over-worried I know, but try – you’ll lose yourself in it.  Try an hour a day and see.  Thank God for little Gracie.  Even that $50 helps on the rent etc.  How I hate financial problems.  I’ve had enough of them – so many I could easily retire on $1—a month and like it, perhaps!

Anyhow let me know more details about your plans.  Even $15 to $50 is good “extra.”  That was idea I had so many years ago – to get started in something which would bring in the “extras” which always crop up.  Remember when I thought about ceramics and writing for that – but I didn’t carry through?  Well we can try again!  Build a few extra crafts for children as they grow up too.  It’s a great place for that up there I guess.

I think all the people up there either hoard their money – or haven’t got it, like Mrs. Hahn.  Goodness knows she has her troubles!  Many of the women know they can’t make enough at outside job to pay babysitters and have profit left too.  You know that.  It’s not personal, you know that!

You are finding out what I found out and feel that one must walk alone with one’s family.  Take people as acquaintances.  That is good.  Children must learn how to live in world of today.  But you find very few, trustworthy friends as life goes along.  Everyone learns that, if he faces the truth.  But you need casual contacts to know what goes on.  That’s why the casual contacts of church and schools are good.  One must have exchanges of ideas for the sake of the family.

Bill tested his men at work and learned a lot even if embarrassed.  I hope and pray for it.  Am I awful?  He is a great fellow Mildred.  He’s a wonder.  Makes me burn and burn to think about those three men who wouldn’t sign for Bill.  They must have had rough times – or they may have yet.  How I hope to see the day when Bill can show them for what they are.  Good men who did sign!

I want you to have stoves fixed for the hut, or other things to keep warmHow can you have Jeep engine repaired and pay me too?  You can’t and you know it.  Oh, Mil dear, thanks for wanting to.  You can later on.

Loved to hear descriptions of the moon on the snow and you on the sled.  I know you were too worried to write for those weeks – I yearn for news.  Can just imagine how things are looking with new additions [added extensions on the Jamesway ends].  How I wish it were in a cabin, warm and cozy.  That will come too.  But oh it gets cold there.  Why did you choose the land of ice and snow?  How’s the going up and down in the snow?  Who else dares take it?  How go Donnelly’s feud?  Please take care.  Don’t worry about the two months, dear.  It will work out somehow.  Why worry when you’ve time left this summer?  Don’t understand that part.  How I wish I could help!  Will do anything I can, you know that.  Time will work it for us if we pray and trust to God’s guidance.  Worry won’t help at all.  Wish I hadn’t seen that D — movie on that first night in Alaska two years ago.  It haunts me and bothers me.  Take care of yourselves, please.

Honey don’t give up the Log House.  I’ll help and Gracie and the $50 you were going to send to me ought to do it!  Then get out a children’s story for Elsa to criticize when you have a chance at her help.  Really she means it.  If she can make “14” books so can we.  Tra-la-la!  Then you can pay off the loan – Tra-la-la.  Dreams!


October 25, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  The snow has melted and it warmed up some.

Staying here at the Nursery is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I’m uneasy here – I cannot shake the feeling that I should be on our homestead.  Will I lose this?  Is it because I know we haven’t completed our time yet?  It’s more than that, I know.  I want to be up there.  I miss it terribly!!

Friday, Bill told me that the Jeep is going to cost so much to repair that he has decided to get a motor and put it in himself.  It will take at least four weeks for it to come and then another week to put it in.

Then too he will be working overtime through November – So – we decided as long as we were going to be here at the log house anyway we might just as well unpack all the boxes and put the rest in the attic so we could make use of the room.

What a job!  Will the day ever come when we’ll be settled somewhere??  Pack and repack – over and over.  I feel so silly, packing and unpacking here, in this house for the second time!!

What’s more I don’t want to live here and I haven’t wanted to make it home-like.

Well, it will be better and the day will come when we’ll live on our homestead, not to move again – travel, yes, but not move – to me, there’s a great difference.  That will be HOME, forever more.  My heart is there now and I wish I were there.

It went so against me to unpack here!!  Well, Sunday night it was finally done and we have a cozy room even if we do have to shift everything in the room at night, so as to open the couch-bed!

We’ll be here for over Xmas and can try to return there weekends.  Yesterday the truck wouldn’t start, so we couldn’t go up!  The hose on the water pump was broken.  I was so disappointed!  Certainly the fuel has run out and my plants will be frozen!  Oh God, I want to go home.  I miss that place in the same way as I missed Bill when we were separated that summer of 1957.  I couldn’t enjoy myself no matter what!  I feel that way now.

Well, the children can partake of Xmas activities, school play etc and then, after Xmas – will try again.  (Bill put the sign up for the Nursery!)


November 1, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  I called Emerett, the Eagle River School principal today to ask him if I could keep children out of school from November 6th to January 1st.  He was to call Juneau and check and I’m to call him Wednesday.  It’s not a perfect solution but is the best.  We started this business and we must try to complete it on our own!!

I really think I can manage.

(1) It will be easier on children not going back and forth to school.

(2) During November and December – with holiday approaching and all – they won’t miss as much school as would later.

(3) Bill won’t have to worry about the responsibility of four children and me.

(4) He can stay here [log house in Eagle River] if he has to.

(5) No questions of my living here – I’ll close up this house [log house]

(6) – Many more


November 3, 1959 Tuesday

I won’t know anything definite as to whether or not I will be allowed to take children out of school or not until tomorrow or Thurs and I’ll write you then to let you know the latest developments.  As you so well know I can’t relax here or plan anything until our time is in.  We haven’t been back to our homestead for going on three weeks – when we left we left the heaters on and nothing locked up.  All my good jewelry etc. is there and I’ve been worried sick.  My plants, of course, will be frozen and heaven knows what else is ruined – frozen etc.

You see when the truck too broke down we were without any four-wheel [vehicle] and Bill refused to take the Ford back there for fear it too would break down.  It’s just a good thing we didn’t sell it or he wouldn’t have gotten to work.  Last week he thought he’d repair the Jeep but with overtime and all he doesn’t have the time and we have to get back in there.

The only choices we have are for me to go back with children or you to come up.  That would be the last thing – the trip would be expensive and you’d lose money.  I have a trip all paid by the Army coming to me and I’d rather do that – perhaps when school is out, we’ll see.

I too have another move in June – getting all this stuff out of here when this lease is up.  I can’t see that it would benefit us to hold onto this house during the summer.  I’m happy that next winter we’ll have a road and electricity but as you say one jump at a time.

We’re having the mildest weather ever.  We have had rain off and on and it’s 32° and 28° above.  I heard on TV this afternoon that the Army has had to bring all their men from Ft. Greeley, that were there for winter training – survival and all – up to Eagle River Glacier.  There’s no snow and they said how fortunate they could train them there.

I think too – my closing up this house for two months will quell talk of my not homesteading right.  Now that we have lived here – dispute could be made –

Well, I feel better about this – if the school will cooperate.  As I plan it, this Friday is November 6 – to January 1st. will give us our time – and two days of Thanksgiving vacation plus one week of Xmas – actually they will only miss three weeks of school and I’ll tutor them.

I get lonely here too.  I don’t see anyone.  Erickson works – Mrs. Cook across creek works etc.  I’ll feel better up there for now.

Mrs. Wooten has taken Gracie – I really got to the point where it was hard to take care of her – she’s depressing and no company for Sharon.  The nursery just hasn’t caught on and I haven’t felt like doing much with it when our own plans have been so indefinite…..


November 4, 1959 Wednesday

*Notes:  Those precious, darling children.  I just told them that tomorrow I’d find out for certain if Mr. Emerett had gotten the O.K. from Juneau for me to teach them at home for the time remaining we need on the homestead.  (Oh – I can hardly wait.)

I explained to them that at first I’d hesitated to take them out until after January because I didn’t want them to miss the Xmas music, play etc. at school but that I felt they’d really miss less actual school work during November and December than in January and February.  Also I told them they’ll have vacation during Thanksgiving and Xmas and so won’t miss school during that time. – Then too they’ll have Xmas and Thanksgiving and their vacation time up there.  I won’t give them school work then and they can enjoy our homestead in the winter.

Our holiday this year will be simple not elaborate but it will be a wonderfully happy time if we’re together and we’ll finally be on our homestead for Xmas!!

Each one – on his or her own said – John, “Mother I want to be there.  Even though this house is nice and all it’s not comfortable tome – even this bed, for instance, it’s not like mine.” (old Army bed at homestead and cot here)  I know how he feels – I feel the same way.

Cindy says, “Oh Mommy, I like the homestead – you made it pretty and fixed it up and now it’s home.”  Linda too expressed herself, “Mommy, I wonder each day what the homestead looks like – is it bare of snow, I miss it – I want to spend our holidays there.”

— I feel that way too.  It’s HOME, HOME, HOME.

Bill just went after the Jeep – I hope and pray we’ll find all is well up there!!  Oh, how I pray.  We could never – oh, well, I pray – I pray – I pray!


November 6, 1959 Friday

*Notes:  Back to The Homestead.  Well, this is the day – I took the children out of school — — At least now we can feel we’re finally on the last lap and I really think that after January I will be able to enjoy this house during the week, once I’ve stopped being so worried and we will try to return to the homestead on every possible weekend!


November 7, 1959 Sunday

Yesterday I took the children out of school.  At first – last week – they were upset by the idea but now have not only accepted it but we all really look forward to studying together.  I brought back scads of school books etc.  I figured out that they’d actually only miss thirty days of school – because of one week Xmas vacation and two days at Thanksgiving.  Up there, too, the holidays will help break up the stay.  So that’s all settled and I am relieved.

But I surely had several very upsetting experiences yesterday!

First off – the day before yesterday, it snowed and the streets were very slick.  Forty cars were stalled on Eagle River Hill and even the school bus turned around and came back!  There were several accidents and I got scared to drive – (I hate the children going on that road to school – there are so many bad drop offs).

Well, I had to go to see the teachers etc. but really felt something would happen and it did.  The car started swerving on ice and then swayed from side of the road to the other.  It was uncontrollable and I knew we were going to crash.  Luckily no cars were coming – we went to the side of the road – into the ditch – out – and in again HARD – I thought it would turn over.  Poor Sharon was so frightened and I caught her as she was thrown to the floor.

I called Bill.  There was a gas station and tow truck service across the street.  I almost feel as if my guardian angel pushed me there off that icy road where it was safe.  I wouldn’t drive home and the car is at the garage – NO DAMAGE to us or the car.  Bill came home and drove me up to the school.


November 8, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  The Last Lap of Our Homesteading – I Hope. Eight weeks to go – will we make it?  And what adventures are in store for us now?

Snowed all day yesterday and was still snowing when we went to bed last night.  Today dawned blue skies, bright sun – a gorgeous day.

We’d hoped to get an early start but Jeep wouldn’t start.  Errands to do and it was 3:00 P.M. before we left [log house] and already getting quite dark.

Well, off we go – everyone wishes us luck and hopes we’ll ‘make it’.  I remark with an optimism I wish I felt – “Oh we will, don’t worry.”  After frenzied preparations  – extra blankets to take, all the school books, warm clothes, film, food a plenty (after all, who knows, we might get snowed in) we’re OFF.

Arrived at Jamesway at 6:15 — three and a half hours to at the store and drive the 15 miles home!  Thank God and I’ll never know how we made it.  I told the children – and I really believe it – that God pushed us all the way.

Bill had me and the kids get out and walk up the worst hills and each and every time I prayed he’d make it – and he did!  It was a miracle.  There was a sheet of ice under the snow, which had never been plowed.  Several times the Jeep stalled and we had to back down a ways.  I could feel Sharon next to me tighten her tiny body up – can’t say as I blame her – and I’d tell her, “It’s alright Daddy’s driving” and she’d relax!

Such faith and I’m surely glad Daddy was driving.  (He’s an excellent driver.)

I’m relieved – so relieved and all was just as we left it –


November 8, 1959 Sunday

I HATE to go to bed but I’m so tired.  Tonight I just plain hate to go to bed.  Honestly Mom, I just don’t know if I can bear to stay here alone now that I know – – – – -.  I’ve worried over coming back up here and Bill not returning every night.  I’ve wondered what I’d do if some stranger came – I don’t know how to work the gun but John made a darn mean tomahawk yesterday – a really clever one (peeled a birch pole – split it on the top and wedged a flat smooth rock between it – then took a leather shoe lace and bound it in very neatly) and all his own idea and no assistance from anyone!

Well – I worry over what I’d do if the children got sick.  Everyone but Thomas has left back here.  Even Eklunds have moved out.  It’s very frightening and terrifying.

So I put it out of my mind except once in a while – but it’s much too frightening to dwell on – so I pray – oh, how I pray and trust God that we’ll be cared for.

Really, Mother – even as I packed today – food, clothes, the children’s books and all – I really didn’t believe we’d get up here.  We haven’t been up for three weeks and the snow has really piled up.  It snowed day before yesterday – last night – well – we have all told about ten inches of new snow up here.

But yet – do you know what Mom?  I didn’t dare think that we mightn’t make it.  We had to.  We couldn’t carry food enough to last with Bill not coming up at night.

Bill wanted to plan what we’d do if the Jeep wouldn’t get us up.  I said we’d see when the time came but we had to get up!!  Yet I dressed the kids very warmly, thinking we might have to walk – yet, dreading the very idea of the snow and cold.

Today it was already getting dark at 3:00 – the days are getting shorter!!

We had planned on leaving the log house early but the Jeep wouldn’t start and then there were last minute errands etc. etc. – so we didn’t leave until 3:00 P.M.

It had been a beautiful day, after snowing all day yesterday.  Blue skies and all – and it was lucky for us.  Tonight the moon was bright and guided our way.

We got out at Bill’s insistence and walked up the first steep hill and all the big ones where the drop offs are so bad.  It was cold but at least it was bright.

I must tell you here about one little episode.

We were almost home and we had to get out and walk up all those last steep hills.  Poor Sharon was miserably cold and although I had her hand she kept slipping – it was sheer ice beneath the snow – and being so tiny and all – her boots were filled with snow and her feet were freezing – I was real worried when I saw it.  She said “Mommy when I grow up I’ll never homestead.  I don’t want to.”  I said “You don’t have to you can live on the homestead with us.”  She said, “NO.”

Then she later told Bill that she was going to live in California when she grew up – where it never snowed.  PERIOD – and you know, I don’t doubt it.  I can see her living there.  She’s such a little lady and loves so to dress up and all.

Well, as I say maybe I’d be driven away from here after all – not by moose, bear, mud, steep roads, walking in and out, lack of a cabin or warmth, water, bathroom, electricity

— but


Yes, mice.  You know how I detest them, abhor them, hate them and how FRIGHTENED I am of them.

Well, I haven’t seen one yet but their signs are everywhere.  As I said we’ve been gone for three weeks but I see the mice have been here.  How horrible.  Isn’t it bad enough?  Do I have to have this too?

And to make matter worse our dear, sweet kitten has decided to stray.  She was gone this morning and we couldn’t find her when we left.  We inquired at all the neighbors and the kids searched everywhere – no kitty and now when we need her so.

I saw the first signs in the kitchen drawers and I was sickened – at how I hated to clean those drawers but as a brave homesteader – I did!

Then they had been in the closet where I keep my cake pans etc. – everywhere – still I didn’t scream or screech.

BUT oh Mom – this is awful –

I left everything so clean and neat and our bed was left with clean sheets, blankets and a bedspread on it.  I pulled the covers back and brace yourself now – there under Bill’s pillow was the neatest pile of stuff I’ve ever seen.  Pieces of macaroni, a cake crumb – a little bit of this and some of that – all put together into a neat pile – I guess it was their winter supply.  How sickening!!

I went to the door and screeched for Bill to come – he came running – and was really mad when he knew it was just concerning mice – but still he knows if anyone does how I feel about mice.  He really understood better when I showed him the pile and explained to him how I came about seeing it so suddenly.  He didn’t know mice gathered food for winter.  Honestly I didn’t want to go to bed.

That’s where I started this letter.  I wouldn’t go until Bill came in – and then just couldn’t relax.  I kept thinking that the mice would be adding to their food supply.  All night I lay there – half awake listening – just like I used to listen for bears when we first came up here last May.  And now MICE – some difference but to me – equally terrifying.


November 9, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  First Day of School at home for the children.  Jeep wouldn’t start.  I tried to start it while Bill pushed with the tractor – no use.  Came in for breakfast – still could scarcely eat, remembering mice.  Bill so discouraged – finally decided battery gone.  Damn it!  Remembers Pullen and his garage?  We’re not prepared.  Lack of money.

He really wonders if I can stay here as he has to drive the tractor down hill and try to catch Thomas going out this morning and if no luck he will walk out – get battery and return Wednesday with battery.

“I’ll manage,” I tell him and hope and pray we will.

So much to do today – yet I don’t want to miss one day teaching the kids, could so easily become habit to skip it.

Ice inside the trailer – imagine!  Melted and what a mess.

Icicles inside passage connecting the trailer and hut – more ice on the floor – melting – messy – and drip drip down walls – it wasn’t finished.

Golly – I had to chip ice away with a ski pole.  I washed the floor, did dishes and helped all three do their studies – they’ve been so good.  Tried to interest Sharon in coloring – ha, ha!  Called recess at 1:00 – sun has been out and already gone.  I knocked snow and ice off the trailer and hut roof.

Found two more water containers – thought only had one and a half until Wednesday.  All were frozen solid last night but one has thawed.  Still must go easy on water.

I pray oil lasts until Wednesday.

These are notes, must go put a meal on and call recess over.

John has built an igloo for himself – real looking – entrance and all.

We must have two feet of snow up here!!  Later I’ll measure it for fun.  John has made a snow house for Cindy – More later

This time I’ll write every day.  I have to laugh how we tried so hard to get kids to school and try not to be here in coldest weather – and here we will be here on the shortest day of year – Oh well!  Wouldn’t really be complete unless we’d homesteaded in Alaska in winter too!

10:00 P.M. — Dead tired!  But a good satisfying day.  Children were in bed by 8:00 but we did do school work after supper from 5:00 to 7:00.  Then I read them stories by a man who had lived in the wilderness.  We read about getting lost in a blizzard and we felt cozy and warm.

We had some snow ice cream and it tasted so refreshing and good – first in five months and how well the children remembered.  They also say that cocoa and mosquito repellant will forever remind them of the homestead.

We had a good supper and I baked a blueberry pie and oatmeal cookies.  Tomorrow I will cook a tiny turkey and baked beans are half-cooked.  Good smells make this place seem homey.

Golly, I’m tired – mice or no mice I’m off to bed.  I wonder where Bill is and hope he won’t worry.  I wish I could tell him ALL IS WELL.  P.S. Children did so well


November 10, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes:  3:00 P.M. – Already getting dark – thought I’d put Sharon to bed so I could have some uninterrupted time helping the children with their school work but if I do she’ll sleep too late, so I’ve swept out the hut and shook rug – put it down on their bedroom end and got her playing there – how long will it last?  For the moment all is quiet.  I sneaked in here to write a few lines – while John and Linda are studying for a spelling test and Cindy is doing her numbers 1 – 100.

Just finished dinner at 2:00 and am trying to do the dishes.  It takes so long heating water and having to dump it outdoors – haven’t enough dishes to wait –

Has been a beautiful day but they haven’t been out today.  We spent extra time this morning on science – all three did it – was interesting.  John is going to make a scrapbook for science.

I can’t find gas for the lamps so are having to use the two kerosene lamps Mother sent us and candles.  It’s dark enough I had to light the lamps at 3:00 P.M.  It makes for a long evening.  They’re done – will write more later.


November 13, 1959 Friday

It’s 1:00 A.M.  I couldn’t sleep.  I slept later this morning and haven’t had any exercise.  Bill went out like a light.  He’s exhausted from working such long hours and all – so I thought I’d take this quiet time – it’s really a rarity now with all four children home – to write you a coherent letter for a change.

I don’t feel coherent.  I feel erratic – I went up to homestead last Sunday night with every intention, naturally, of setting up residency.  Bill left Monday – more of that later – but Jeep wouldn’t start and it ended up that he walked out!!

I was alone Monday night and was NOT a bit scared.  I’m never scared up there.  I wonder why.  I went to bed – to sleep and never woke up until morning.  I’m too busy all day to be lonesome.

Tuesday night the stove went out.  I am afraid of cold.  The wood stove was not hooked up, so I couldn’t use it.

We’d spent our last penny to get the damn Jeep – close to $200 again to get it out of the garage and couldn’t bring any oil up.

Yes, the stove was out of oil.  The hut got cold in a half an hour.  I decided to tip the barrel and when I did it started up and ran alright.

Bill got home about one hour later but I didn’t expect him.  Wednesday was a holiday but he was to work.

Wednesday – with the oil gone – I had to go out [off the homestead].  He had to buy a new battery for the Jeep!!  What’s the use trying to budget money?  We HAD to have it!

I’m so mixed up about time and all.  Our hours are crazy.  He hasn’t been able to take me back up the mountain yet – so I lost the three days I put in and we’ll have to start all over – still need two months up there.

Next week I think – as long as we’re so mixed up already – I’ll take kids to the dentist and start officially November 23rd!  Oh, darn it.  I’m so darn sick of all this!!  I can’t seem to do anything I want to do and I’m always stuck Here at the log house or There on the mountain.

As for your questions!  Bill will stay here at the log house and come up one night during the week and Sunday to bring us water, oil and food.  Pleasant?  No, but will have to do.  He’s working long hours and can’t commute all that way.  The government only requires me and the children to live there.  I have all the books from school and the children have been good about dong their lessons.  No, I will not have the Jeep and even if I did I wouldn’t dare drive it.

Sunday night when we went ‘back in’ the children and I got out and walked up every steep hill and I still think it’s a miracle our Jeep ever got up that night!!


November 16, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  Sunday night was warmish and the wind was blowing.  Not cold.  No moon.  Our second trip for the week.

Sharon coming up steep hill – sitting in trailer – Except look at those clouds!  Dark clouds hanging low over mountains.  “Those are night time clouds.  “Look, one is shaped like a boot.”  John, “See the other is shaped like a rocket.”  LATER – Sharon remarks – “Oh, Mommy I don’t like homesteading – (once she gets to the homestead she loves it) but gets discouraged trudging up steep hills – her tiny legs find it hard going.  Children excitedly exclaim over rabbit tracks in the snow and a little hole in the ground where the tracks ended.

I never thought the tractor could make it up the mountain tonight – and remembered so clearly what a long way we’ve come and what it was like in the days we couldn’t make it at all unless we hiked up all the way.  There is terrible ice building up on the road – a glacier – very bad.  We had to leave and get more oil and food up while we can.  I have ‘a feeling’ it won’t be too long before we can’t make it.  We had left Wednesday the 11th – came back Sunday the 15th.


November 17, 1959 Tuesday

Went up Sunday to the homestead again and came down Sunday.  Will go up again this Sunday with best of intentions of remaining for these last two full months!  It’s been too bad these two weeks have been wasted.  Bill is working twelve hours again and cannot possibly take me up during the week.  He tried to hook up the oil and something broke so I couldn’t stay.

Our mountain road is building up with ice and looks like we’ll have our own private glaciers on it before very long.  Even the tractor had a hard time getting up.  We walked most of the way to lighten the load in the trailer (we’re not going to even try to take the Jeep up any more) and partly because road is so bad.

Kids are real good about school work and it’s a full time job for me.  I see little of Bill down here [log house] either.  He leaves at 6:00 and gets home at 10:00.


November 21, 1959 Saturday 6:30 A.M.

Bill says, “It snowed last night.” Oh Mom, our Thursday will be a terrible one.  All my dinner fixings are at the Homestead and we can’t get up.  Oh Mom, I’m discouraged.  This is the third week for the children out of school and no credit for time up there so far.  Last night we packed the Jeep full, took all afternoon to pack, then put all in the trailer behind the tractor.  Kids and I walked up steep hills – Oh, Mom, it’s terrible.

I felt no happiness or gladness last night.  No moon, everyone has moved out before Pollards.  Then our mountain road is a glacier.  The ice is piling up – it’s terrible – the tractor slips and slides and can’t dig in.  We got half way – I’ll never know how – then had to back up – at the bottom, repack the Jeep and come back to the log house.

Here I sit amidst boxes, not even a table here at the log house to eat our Thanksgiving on.  I’ll call you on Thursday.  Love, Me


November 24, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes:  Why do we struggle so hard for our homestead on the Mountain? –  Here I’ve had the children out of school for going on three weeks – still no credit for living on our land – Obstacles so great – can we, will we overcome these new obstacles?

Yes, yes, yes – we must but why?  What is it I hold onto so dearly – certainly not – our humble hut on the Mountain.  It’s not this that I cling to so desperately.

No, no, no – it’s my dreams – still so dear, so dear, so bright and untarnished.

I remember when we first filed on our homestead – ah, how great our dreams were then – and still are –

A neighbor of ours was over two years ago when we were living at the log house and mentioned our homestead claim.  I felt like a new parent with a brand new baby – beaming and proud – bring forth slides of our lovely one.  But all the neighbor sees is LAND.  “Aha,” she exclaims, “You’re eager to get hold of this land for speculation.”

“No, no I cry!” – But how can I explain our tender, sweet dreams to someone like this?  I try but to no avail.

She puts me down as ‘land hungry.’  How hurt and angry I was – she said, “You’ll never be satisfied with 160 acres.  You’ll want more and more.”

Oh how cruel – and oh, how untrue.

But yet – well, how simple if that were the case.  For then I would not struggle for that land.  We would never have climbed through mud, mosquitoes and carried burdens on our back.  Not for land alone – land for speculation.  Time and money is too dear.  Our family and their comfort are too great.  Would we now do what we’re doing just for land?

No, no, no.

We would have relinquished our claim soon after filing.  But we can’t relinquish our dreams.  It’s our dreams that brought us here to Alaska –made us sell our home and leave our family and friends.  It’s our reason for being here and our very reason for homesteading in the first place.

When – if ever – I see that our dreams cannot and will not materialize, then and only then will I give up.

This summer there was a time when our dreams were faint.  Bill and I were never together and always worried and tired – “But it is temporary,” I said.  “We must always remember our dreams and make them come true.”

Our family must always be first – and our dreams for our family – they all center around our homestead and the life we have planned there.

I never want to sell that land or any part of it.  It would be like selling a member of our family.

Yet, Sunday when I saw that glacial ice on our road – standing thick, slippery and full of ridges – so bad even the tractor couldn’t pass over it and we slipped and could have broken our necks.

Can it be true?

Will we ever be able to live there? – All year round or will it always be a continual battle — wearing Bill out?  And making him old before his time?

The road has always been our trouble from the beginning and yet our land so peaceful and beautiful is always there beckoning us on and on and on –

To our dreams!!


November 24, 1959 Tuesday

As you now know – here I sit in the log house teaching the children all because I can’t get to our homestead.  If it wasn’t so very, very sad, I suppose it could be funny.  Even the children are embarrassed and hate to be seen for they feel they should be in school.  Yet, I hate to start them again and then go through taking them out all over again.

Oh Mother what a struggle it has been – such a struggle – for what?

If you could see that road now you too would ask – “Why?”  It’s long stretch after long stretch of glacial ice – deep ice full of ridges and still runny on top as it’s still forming more and more ice.  The weather is too warm so the water keeps coming out of the ground and then freezes on top – it’s sloping sideways and so the tractor tilts and sways.  Oh Mom, there must be a quarter mile of it – what will we ever do??  You can’t even walk on it!

— Such a short time to go – if only we were there.

Bill plans to get bolts of some kind for the tractor treads and hopes they’ll stick in the ice and he’ll try to get up early Thursday morning and bring oil and food up.  If so, I’ll go up Saturday.  I imagine no matter what we’ll walk in whenever we go in or out.  I’ll pray continuously!

It’s too bad it worked out this way.  Bill says March will be worse as the ice will build up with each passing day.  Then in April we’ll have a creek again.

Damn it anyway!!

The log house here is cute – but oh the cesspool froze and overflowed [at the log house] – isn’t that terrible?  Not cold enough – or not enough snow to protect the ground.


December 2, 1959 Wednesday– from Mildred’s mother

I shouldn’t write to you when I feel like this, because I can’t pretend today that I am cheerful or happy.  I too am blue, sad and discouraged though the sun is shining and I should control my mood.  If I were only there to share and to help you in some way!  It’s hard enough to have financial problems, but to have Nature refuse to budge!  That is something to worry about.  Today I wish you had said good-bye to the homestead last summer, had taken that $1000 and put it down on a home somewhere instead of machines which continually break down.  No wonder the garages make money!

May 7th is your deadline, isn’t it?  Can you, yourself, go down to the Land Office and beg them for “advice” about “how to get up” so you can “put your time in.”  Register the fact that you’ve had the children out of school (with permission) for the period requested, but you can’t get up there.  I think they should have some way out of it – in delays like that.  They want the land to go to people like you and Bill that have the nerve and willingness to face such hardships.  You have and are willing.  What’s the use of having that “friend (?)” in the Land Office, if you can’t talk to him?  Have Bill go with you, but you go anyhow.  You could even go to that Governor to “fight for your land” and help to get some help on the road to get you up there.  I think that is an Alaskan duty to the struggling pioneers.  Stand up and fight for your rights – if there are any!  You “want it” – go get it.  I’ll help any way I can.

I bet Bill never wrote about those tires for the Jeep to go on ice which are fastened to Jeep tires.  I wrote in October about them when boy in Caltech, knowing about the road, brought address.  You have to try to find out.  It would be good advertising for the company, if they worked.  Write anyhow.  Here’s address again:

Terra Engineering Co., Inc.

P.O. Box 254

Lexington, Mass.

Anyhow boy said he read article and he thought it would work on your road – He is an electrical engineer here in house and understood your road problem.

Would be worth it.  Was supposed to go through creeks etc.  Might work in March.  No harm to put problem up to them to see what they say!

You’ll lose everything otherwise.

Can’t the Army suggest anything?  Army Jeeps go on Artic Ice.  I suppose on skis and sleds.  Can’t you get help from the Camp?

Then afterwards, if Bill has these tire gadgets he could be sure to go up and down.  Imagine if you’d been up there alone with the broken plate – or something else.  It’s just not right for you to be alone there with 4 children.  Better put them back in school until March.

Anyhow those records will be there at school of your willingness to do the job!!  Seems awful if you don’t get it.  But government would only say you should have put in your oil supply for those 4 remaining months, plus food etc. and stayed there.  You would have if the road would allow it.

Oh well what do I know about it?  I really only wish it were all over as you do.  I can’t say I wish you hadn’t tried it, because now you both know what it is all about.  Certainly you can write about it as an authority – from experience – whether you get the place or not!

Really I’m afraid to have you and children up there in January and February – alone in case oil stove or something doesn’t work – or someone is ill.  It’s like the road – you can’t just ignore dangers when four little ones depend on your wisdom and plans, dear.  Oh, Mil, it’s a terrific problem and you’ve been so brave I want you to win.  I’m afraid I’m not helpful at all.


CHAPTER ELEVEN:  It’s Really an Almost HOLY Feeling


December 3, 1959 Thursday 5:00 A.M.

(Even the pen is too cold to write.)  I am intent on madly dashing off a few hasty lines to you while the pancakes are cooking, so you’ll know ‘all is well’ – (except I have one of my nasty headaches.  I don’t have to speculate as to how this one originated).  We’ve had quite a time of it! – To say the least.

But what’s important dear Mother, is this – thanks to your encouraging words and our own ‘bullheadness’ and Bill’s ingenuity – we made it.  We’re here!! – And I pray we can stick it out.

We got here December 1st – an easy day to remember and the night Bill’s overtime was over so he can get back at least two nights every week.  Then he may have more!  Already the children’s cheeks are rosier.  Oh, such a white pallor they get in the valley.

It gets dark so soon now!  It is pitch black at this moment and yesterday I turned on the kerosene lamps at 2:15 P.M. – of course it gets darker earlier in the hut.

The snow is very deep and the world up here is one of white stillness – oh, so quiet.  No rushing river or rushing waterfall – all is frozen and QUIET – save for the caw of a crow occasionally or the yapping and mournful howling of Thomas’ sled dogs.

Bill and I would like a joint present for a battery radio – a transistor radio – not expensive but just so we could hear Xmas music here – the children otherwise won’t even hear a carol this year.  If they’re expensive – we’ll add to the money.  I wanted one all summer – oh how nice that would be!  Nothing else!!  If you decide and can get one reasonably then package it real well and send it air mail so we can hear it now.


December 4, 1959 Friday 5:35 A.M.

I have not kept a recent record of all this so please return letters – O.K?  Thanks.  You see, I’m determined to put all this in book form still if only for the children so that they will be able to partially understand why we did what we did.

If we sometimes wonder – think how they will?  (Although I think they’ll understand pretty well – this way they’ll be able to grasp the full significance of it just as I am by writing it – it amazes how it all fits together in a pattern – I can see, as Bill says, how we were headed for that Mountain all of the time – ready and waiting for us.)

As I said good-bye to Bill this morning I saw it is snowing, really snowing – big, soft, white fluffy flakes.  Already it’s up to my knees except on our paths and where the children have trampled it down.

Oh, so much to tell – I may skip around a bit but bear with me!

First, I must tell you how good it’s to be back but Tuesday night at 10:00 P.M. when we arrived home I didn’t feel like that.

Last Friday Bill came up here alone to see if he could make it.  He put the large bolts in the tractor treads to see if they would grip in the snow and ice.  They bit into our already meager budge – as $300 per month is now paid to the Credit Union and Bill gets $300 and we must pay rent at the log house, oil, gas – Oh well!

Anyways we live on air.

He made it!  He wouldn’t even take a box for fear of jinxing it!  You know, Sunday before last we were loaded to the hilt and had to return to the log house and unpack all because we couldn’t make it up.

But he made it!

No trouble on ice!

We’re persistent – even Joe Anne is surprised, she says.

Then – I’m looking at the calendar.  Monday was November 30th and he came up alone and brought the book case – it’s in the trailer and cute.  I have all the children’s school books on it.

Tuesday we came!  I went to the store and we brought our wool rug up for ‘the hut’ – it will be warm!  I’ll paint the inside of the entire hut before Xmas!!  We also moved our big redwood table in and to think Bill didn’t think there’d be room for boxes that were there unpacked!

I didn’t either for awhile.  Oh, Mom you know what almost beat me?  MICE – yes, MICE.  You know how I detest them.  I wrote and told you how twice now I’ve had to wash linens, pots and pans etc. – I told you about our bed.

Ghastly!  Horrible things –

Oh – Oh – how I hate them.

Well, now I have two kittens!  Got them from Cooks – when oh, so tiny.  (Our black sweet cat disappeared.)

These are adorable and the cutest I’ve ever seen.  They love each other and play so cute.  They’re getting very big now and as I told the children at the log house as they played – they’re tiger cats.

Cat says, “Look at me.  I’m a tiger – I’ll scare those mice away” and children would laugh to watch them practice.

Well, they will too.  Bill has caught two in his traps.  Not a sign of one while I’m here but there were icky droppings everywhere.

Oh Mom, let me tell you.  We rode up in the trailer in back of the tractor – cold – we almost froze!  It was a moonless, cold, dark night – way below zero – we all had two sets of long underwear on but still froze!  I had two sweaters and Bill’s Alaskan sweater on and a parka and felt as if I had a summer jacket on.

Just sitting in that open trailer – not moving around – it’s colder that way.  Oh, those kids are perfect sports.  Never a whimper, complaint or cry.

Well, we got here and still had more boxes of food, school books and honest this hut (I’m in the trailer now) and trailer were so crowded you could scarcely move.  It smelled mousey.  Then the hut had ice on some of the inside panels – and icicles – really!

Bill says it’s due to condensation – I was certain they leaked.  It’s all important not to let snow pile up on roofs and first thing we do when we get here is to clean it all off.

No fire – freezing inside.  We slept in our ‘long Johns’ and sweaters until last night and then I wear two pairs of pajamas and long underwear and flannel lined jeans inside all day and two pairs of wool socks.  No choice.  The floors are cold and the trailer is always cold.  I swear there’s absolutely no insulation in the trailer.  The ‘hut’ gets snug and warm but the floors are cold and there are cracks all around as you so well know!

Anyway mice droppings are everywhere.  They had slept on children’s beds and worst of all for Darling Cindy they were in the box with her new precious beautiful doll.  She wept.

Oh Mom, I just sat in a chair and couldn’t cry – I just sat.

Finally, after I built a fire – we have wood and oil stove in the hut – and cleared some boxes out, we went to bed.  I lay awake – Bill went right to sleep.  I couldn’t.  I imagined mice everywhere and couldn’t undress or get under sheets.

Same next night – the reason for my head-ache.  Bill stayed home Wednesday and we worked all day.

I got most boxes cleared and he brought in the big redwood table for the children to study on as we can’t sit in trailer for long.  I’m bundled up now and have oven on high.

Then yesterday I taught kids and cleaned all day.  Beds changed – blankets aired – drawers cleaned and school in between.  A job.

Bill had a day too.  Oil to get – propane to get.  Chains to put on and take off.  He didn’t get home from work until 10:00 P.M. and left at 5:45 A.M.

Well, only two more boxes to go.  Once again, it takes shape and looks homey!  We’ll take slides inside at Xmas and send you copies.  It’s so expensive to have slides printed.  We still haven’t developed rolls taken when you were here – no money.

I also re-arranged trailer and put the metal shelves in the back room and put canned foods etc. on them.  I also put dressing table and medicine in there.

Brought up my good curtains – drapes – I made for the apartment.  Pretty but cheap material and I am putting them in the hut – I insist it looks as nice as possible.

We must build a lean-to or get another hut in June to hold furniture that’s at the log house – what we’ll do next winter.


December 5, 1959 Saturday – from Mildred’s mother

It was just wonderful news to hear that you “made it” up to the homestead.  I could cry for joy.  Hurrah – Raise a flag.  I’ll be waiting anxiously for details of the trip and conditions.

I know I’ll sleep well tonight.  You all have been on my [mind] every minute night and day.  You have gone so far and bravely that I couldn’t begin to think Mother Nature would hold you up at the end.  Now I’ll pray continually for the beaters to work and for all to be well.  I’d die happy if I know you complete this little circuit which you have sacrificed so much for.  “Money” we can all earn somehow, sometime, but what you have earned is quite different.  Now I pray for health and safety.  Money we can all get soon – if we are as careful as we have been.  I love you all and want your security and happiness more than I ever wanted my own.  You’ll understand some day when your children are older.

Consider the radio my Xmas present to you and Mildred, with my love.  I had thought of that – last summer, but didn’t know.  I’ll send it via Sears on Monday.  Getting children (girls) lined pants (indoor and T shirts).  Sharon will get her mittens and knitted stocking-hat.  Girls won’t get theirs until later.  John will get a Bible which I hope he will always love and a shirt – and at least “one” stocking, perhaps the second which is “on its way.”  Will send one anyhow to check the size.

Bye now – from a Happy Mother who is relieved to know you can get in your time.

Have you everything with which to keep warm?  Will you be able to get your supplies up?  No more worry thoughts today – Just happy thoughts for us all.


December 5, 1959 Saturday

*Notes:  We went down to the log house – snowed all day and tonight.  Worked down there giving baths, shampooing hair, washing clothes, etc.  Addressed Xmas cards and got packages ready to mail to California.  Didn’t leave there until after 10:00 P.M. and got home at 1:00 A.M.


December 6, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  How perfectly wonderful to have Bill home today – all day.  We got up late and really goofed off today – although we did get a few things hung and up in trailer kitchen.  It’s cozy and oh, so cold.  Even with the heat turned up high it’s still cold over there!!  I’m sure there isn’t one bit of insulation – just metal and 1/8” board.  Oh well, the entry doesn’t have insulation either!  Only the hut gets warm but it’s drafty and full of holes!! – Maybe next winter –

Never mind, when I remember back – I feel we’ve done a lot – even though there is oh, so much to be done.

We all walked over to the bank of the creek and looked so many feet below.  How very different everything appears – how still and white!  Yet oh, so beautiful.  Looking into the valley – it’s bleak and cold at 3:00 – yet toward the inlet it’s a riot of splendid color – the setting sun over the water.

I love it so here – I get afraid – and know I’ll never rest until the land is ours – truly ours!

The children tried walking in the deep snow and it’s still snowing.  I bet this is a marking for this winter.  Bill carried Sharon – beaming and happy to be with her Daddy – high in his arms!  The other girls trudged on – but John, as usual, full of bouncing energy was ahead and back several times.

We took several pictures – and one of dear Smokey covered with her delightful snow.  She plows into it with her head – and makes a tunnel and then just lies there!  Oh, how she revels in it!  It’s sheer joy to watch her!

The girls found a big spreading spruce tree and discovered a house under its boughs – all dry and snug.  We stopped in our spruce forest to decide for the millionth time – the exact spot where a cabin should be built.

Dream, dream, dream and yet someday I’m so certain they too will come true.

Sharon had her first turn on the little skis – and did so well!  John is a natural and I surely hope we can squeeze the money out for his skis.  Slopes are perfect and snow is fine.  Mine are still in town getting bindings changed.

I felt so happy and contented here all day – all of us close together – so all alone up here.  It was a nice day.

I hated the thought of Bill returning to work and we daydreamed together of how he’d quit work and we’d live so cheaply – hunt our meat, grow our vegetables and live in our old trailer and hut, then travel to Europe and lecture on Alaska – return to Alaska and lecture on Europe – south America and lecture on both.

Oh, such marvelous dreams and yet we’d probably hate it –

Or would we?

After we came in I had a big roast cooking and put a pie in the oven.  Ym-m.  So nice to all sit together and eat a wonderful meal way up here!!

Afterwards Bill got our big Xmas box out and we took out our before Xmas decorations and fixed up our hut.  The children were so thrilled and gathered together to read and sing carols.  Oh, such sweetness and starry eyes.  They don’t care about presents – it’s just the feeling of Xmas coming.

Wore two pairs of light ‘Long Johns’ and a sweater and flannel pajamas of Bill’s to bed – and was none too warm.  Have trouble sleeping at night here.


December 7, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  Been up here one week today – seven weeks to go.  Colder and clear.

Last night I knocked all the snow off the canvas inside by pushing up on the canvas from the inside with the end of the broom handle.  I accidentally poked some holes in the canvas but they luckily only went through the inside layer.  I’ll have to be more careful from now on, but it has to be done.  You could hear it slide off the rounded top and yet today it was dripping from condensation worse than ever.  Three panels now are wet and make a general mess of the floor.

Then Bill put several gallons of water in the galvanized container he bought that as “guaranteed” not to leak and it all came out all over the rear room of the trailer.  Such a mess.  The floor is so cold that the towels I put on it to absorb the water froze and crystallized!!  The idea was good – but it does LEAK!!

Spent some time this morning stuffing crumpled up newspaper in spaces under doors and in cracks between the floor panels, etc.  This place surely is NOT winterized!!

Hung two heavy Army blankets over the door entrance Bill hurriedly erected. Door won’t shut tight and it is way blow zero today.  I hung one wool blanket in front of the entrance down to stairs to trailer. They really helped.  Big blasts of cold air come in – even Smokey wanted to be in today with us!

Really worked with children today on their schoolwork.  We made a few Xmas things – a tree, Xmas cards, and Xmas pictures.  Glad I kept scrapbooks of John and Linda’s work in first grade – gives me lots of ideas for Xmas things for them to make!  They’re so good and plug on!

Today lit lights at 2:00 in the afternoon – no windows in here really – and still will get darker.

Kittens snuggled up to the children today and relish their cozy world.  They have never been outside yet.  I had hoped children would get out some each day but all stayed in today.


December 7, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  Our Family Is Never Bored!  The children spend many happy contented hours now working on various Xmas projects.  Cindy has made individual baskets for each member of her beloved family made out of egg carton sections, each wrapped in aluminum foil with a pipe cleaner handle and a marshmallow (how hard they’ll be by Xmas) and a lollypop in each one.  They’re secretly hidden and each day Sharon teases to see hers – it’s a constant thing to talk about, to whisper about and to be excited about for Xmas is coming.

Our Xmas books – we buy two each year — has grown to quite a collection.  These are taken out during the first week of December and read each day until Xmas. This year John and Linda can very expressively read them aloud!  It thrills me to see the younger two – eyes wide with wonder – listening in rapt attention to their older brother or sister read the magic words to them.

Yes, Xmas is coming.

No mention is made of money – we all know – it just isn’t there.  We will do what we can but the days of borrowing money for Xmas presents that we can’t afford are over!!  There will be Xmas presents though.

I’ve bought at half price knitting sets – with yarn and tiny needles for two girls and a needlepoint set for one – I hope John will get his skis and Grandma will buy his boots.  The girls will get a flying saucer from Santa to share and a tea set.  The 5¢ and 10¢ store and ingenuity and imagination and love will make a Xmas – you just wait and see….

What is important!!

More and more every day I realize what’s really important in life!

Being together – being a family unit and being loved and loving – these are the important things.

Health – to be healthy and well and to know that the ones you love are well.

(I hope my loved ones never suffer – how terrible it would be to see them hurt or sick – how terrible to ever think they might need me – and I wouldn’t know).

How thankful I am to be here writing this and know our family is safe and together on this night –

Dearest God in heaven above, I thank you for our family and our homestead and for the opportunities we have here to create a home for our loved ones in a land such as this.

I am content tonight – tomorrow we will plan and work for our future but I intend to fully enjoy each day as it comes – to work hard but to be content to wait – material things are really of such minor importance.  I feel we already have what really counts and must never lose it in hurrying and working too hard to get THINGS.

I see so many people – even up here in Alaska – doing just that, living in far too expensive houses – beyond what they can really afford to pay and working so hard to live there and meet the payments that the house as beautiful as it may be, holds no happiness for the occupants and they live separately in it.

No, no – never – we’ve had our share of money worries – no, no, no.

I’ll be content with less – Bill and I are so close now – never, never to be apart mentally and spiritually – nothing is worth that!

Our little hut and trailer mean more to me if we can be all together and happy and close here!!

The other – I pray God – we’ll be content to wait for.  If we can manage fine – if not, so what!?!?


December 8, 1959 Tuesday 10:30 P.M.

*Notes:  How quiet and serene and peaceful it is.  Everyone is asleep.  Even our two kittens, Dixie and Pixie are curled up in Cindy’s bed.  I don’t approve but haven’t the heart to move them.  One is tucked under her arm with covers pulled up under it’s chin, all the world lie a toy.  The second is on the foot of her bed.

The dishes are done and the trailer is tidy and neat.  Everything looks cozy and cute and serene in the light of the single kerosene lamp I am writing by.

Bill went to bed – absolutely exhausted after a twenty four hour ordeal of futile attempts to return here which finally terminated in his having to walk the last mile.  Even poor ‘Oliver’ our faithful tractor found this 10° to 20° below zero weather too cold!

I just went outside for a moment and it’s really cold and really beautiful.  The stars are so close looking you feel as if you could pick them out of the sky and the moon is so bright that you can see all the Mountains and the valley below.

How I truly love this place – no words can aptly describe how I feel about this land we hope someday to own.  It’s really an almost HOLY feeling.  I know it sounds silly but it’s the way I feel.  If only you could see it – you would see what a Shangri-la it is! – And what’s more we have created a home – be it ever so humble here!  It’s quite a grand feeling!!

Time for bed.  Good night!


December 9, 1959 Wednesday

*Note:  Darling Sharon [4 ½] how diligently she works – sitting so still and straight next to Cynthia and she wants to work and won’t play.  She says, “I must get this Nursery school work done or I’ll get spanked.”  Eagerly she looks at me and says, “I do, don’t I Mommy?”  The others glance at me – so knowingly.  At first I didn’t want her to work all day and we had many arguments about it.  She was so hurt and wanted to work as they did.  Now she’s so happy and gets her papers marked and corrected and receives stars just as they do.

No school today!

Bill doesn’t come home.

It is midnight and I guess Bill wasn’t able to get the vehicles going.  I’ve had to melt snow for water since noon and after a big baking spree of bread baking, pies and baked beans and hot rolls there were many dishes to be done.  I’ll never do THAT again.  I finally gave up teaching today except for one lesson in letter writing and some reading aloud in History.

The trouble is – I bring in an enormous amount of snow and it melts to just about one cup of water.

Finally I built a big fire in the wood stove.


December 10, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  Got a full day of studying in.  9:00 P.M. – For the last hour I’ve been intently listening for the welcome sound of the tractor.  It’s funny how when you listen so hard for something you can almost hear it.  Several times I’ve gone outside to listen for it, but not a sound – all so still and quiet.  I guess I hear the ail lamp or stove when I stop and wish –

We’re out of water, of course, except for snow – consequently I cooked very little today.

We’re very low on groceries too – no bread, eggs or potatoes – also out of cat and dog food and fruit juices.

Pray and hope Bill comes up tonight and maybe tomorrow we’ll go down to the log house for baths – instead of Saturday.  Kittens made friends with Smokey finally!!  So cute to see them cuddled up next to her.

The children made a lovely Xmas book to send Grandma today, at my suggestion.  I made two covers out of red construction paper and decorated them.  Each child colored Xmas pictures to put inside and drew several of their own.  I’m sure it will be her favorite Xmas present and now I want one too.

They all made cards to send to relatives which are all enclosed in envelopes and addressed.  Sharon got pencil in hand and wanted to know (like Cindy) how to spell Love and Merry Xmas.  As I told her, she wrote one by one in her own script so carefully!

Sharon wrote a long letter to Santa and made a very special card for him (because she bet he doesn’t get many Xmas cards).  Of course I put his name on it and addressed it to the North Pole.  The older children wanted to know what will the mailman think?!

Well, at least I conquered those Coleman lanterns today.  Our light is so poor that I decided to get those lit or else!  Yesterday they flared up a bit and I’m so frightened of them anyways and I just refused to try again.  But today I was determined – and had good luck!  But our big kerosene lamp’s glass shade cracked today for no apparent reason and we’ll sorely miss that until we get another one.

Bill came home late – Oh, how welcome was the sound of the tractor.


December 10, 1959 Thursday – from Mildred’s mother

I am so thrilled over you “getting up” to the homestead.  It was quite a feat, I know.  You are wonderful and so are those grand little sporting children.  It must have frozen you all.  Don’t see how you stood it.  Oh, oh, have you plenty of oil and wood?  It’s the cold indoors that frightens me.  What about those furlined suits that Eskimos wear?  Can you buy them?

Your letter was wonderful, Mil.  Made me feel as I were right along with you.  “Who’s afraid of a wee little mouse?”  Not I.  But stay near the “hut” – I’d be afraid of a bear-hug.  Oh they are asleep aren’t they?  Goody!  But I do know how you might have felt that first night there.  Leave it to you to make it homey right away.  Seems that all you need to do in the summer is to put up brick walls on outside and have everything the way it is now – inside.  Imagine.  Write the story of the redwood furniture that traveled from California to Alaska – and loved it!  The old big table would make a good study table at that.  I hope you do manage to get those pictures.  The developing can wait, but you can’t recapture the moods or the pictures.  That’s why it is important to jot down outlines at least as you go.  Rewriting can be done later.  I’ll send all letters, of course.  Am hoping you will be able to write some articles up.  You can make extra during these tight years.

Loved the diagram of the hut and the trailer.  How do you get so much “up” and “in.”  No one else could ever do it.  There’s no one else she ever knew that could match you in all this, Mil.  All keep well – and all will be wonderful.

So happy that Bill’s overtime ended just when it did.  Miraculous, wasn’t it?  Our prayers are answered.  How I’ll try to live up to all our blessings.

Well, back to my homestead talk.  Thank Goodness Bill is with you for first few weeks anyhow.  I do not quite understand how he did it, but that he can get up is something.  Probably better now then in the spring flood waters.  Right?

(Believe me a mosquito is buzzing around my head.  Where did he come from?  Is it a ghost mosquito or what?)

Seems to me some one told me it was easier to get up with snow on the ground.

Anyhow I hope you all learn to “ski.”  That thrilled me again.  (Silly me!)  But be careful!!  It’s a long time since you were on skis, and you MUST be cautious.

Sent a radio via Sears at Seattle.  Do hope it will work.  Ordered it last Monday through Pasadena store.  Let me know as soon as it arrives.

Sent a plaid wool shirt to you, Bill.  Hope it keeps you warm on one-layer-anyhow.

Will you tell me how you are going to get around in ten feet of snow?  I have memory of getting “stuck in it” in front of my own house that night of the blizzard [back east].  Please do not venture far when Bill is not there.  Promise?

I don’t wonder that you love that little bit of Heaven up there.  All I want is you all safe and well and warm!  Your letters ring with the thrills of it all, once more.

Write a child’s story about the kittens in Alaska.  That would be cute – and the mice peeking out.  (I know the mousey smell.)

Is your hut water-tight or snow tight now?  And free from the wind?  Shall I send you that Chinese hooked rug – green and gray – for the floor – via boat?  It would cover the cracks and be warm!

Would hate to hear the moaning of the dogs in the night if I were she.  You get used to it, I guess.  Tell me how she is, if you know.

How do children respond to new teacher – mother?  Bet they love it, Mil.  Will write to John.  Has been hectic with Flintridge, and Spelling and house and all.  But getting it under control.  I can work like the deuce when I know you are all O.K.  Keep the letters or notes rolling – they keep me happy.  Let me know what I can do.  Tell John I am going to write him.  I’m sending him the Bible, you know.  Next year, I hope one to Linda, then Cindy, next Sharon if I may and am alive and able.

I must investigate gram’s old hooked rug.  Probably ruined.

What is the story on the second stoveThat’s a MUST.  If I can help after awhile on that I will.

Can Bill get home when he wants to by means of these new fixtures?  When he isn’t home – I’d be apt to change my schedule and get up at daybreak and go to bed at dark – no matter what the clock says.  Now I understand my people in Maine etc. “always went to bed with the chickens.”

Looking at the “Plan” you sent.  Will return the letter after I’ve read it a couple of times.  Will return all for your records.

Seems so well arranged in hut.  I can imagine it all.  May have been silly to go up last summer, but I can so well visualize everything on homestead now as you write.  It’s a comfort, dear.  Like the four steps up!  Watch out!  Did excellent job on my little bedroom in trailer.  Good.  How about smell in refrigerator!  I crown you an “Efficiency Expert – Interior – Decorator” after looking over that plan again.  It’s great.

Glad you brought the drapes up and gave color and home to the family.  Who could enjoy living as those people did below who never took food or anything out of cartons!  Mrs. Thomas and you are different, wonderful women.  How goes her book, I wonder?

What is there in my house you would like in “break-up” time?

Anyhow – one step at a time, but yet must keep on making advanced plans and creating visions and dreams, or one becomes a day-today “dud.”

Dying for next installment.  You see I kept all letters in their envelopes so you could file and find them “by dates.”  [Linda note:  Yeah, right!]

How I pray that by some miracle Bill can keep on going up.  Health is everything and foremost.  Don’t be scared.  Don’t be lonely.  God is truly watching over both of you and your family.  Keep that firmly in you minds and hearts, and things will work out.  I’ll write several times again – but for now again – before Xmas – My dearest love, I’m proud and praying for you, lovingly, Mother


December 12, 1959 Saturday 1:00 P.M.

*Notes:  I have a splitting headache – feel miserable – combination of nerves, heat, oil, kerosene, below zero – being cooped up with children.

Oh, how we had counted on Bill getting home early today.  Yesterday he overslept (oh, how tired he is) and stayed at the log house last night.  It’s a good thing we have that house so he can sleep there when necessary.

I wonder what has happened – Jeep broke down – tractor wouldn’t start – or what???  I’m sure he would have been here early if there had been any possible way.

The so and so Coleman lamps won’t stay bright, no matter how I pump them.  They flicker – off – oh, for some good light.  Bill can get them burning so nice and bright.

Oh, how I miss him and wish he were home!!

6:30 P.M.  Bill gets home – poor darling says he had been on the Mountain since 2:30 trying to get up and finally had to walk up!  That one hill just is giving him lots of trouble!!!

He says the ones with ice are easier – the bolts on the tractor’s treads dig right into them but this one steep hill has frozen ice-earth (dirt) and the tractor can’t dig into it.  He says he’ll have to build a new road now – that this one will soon be impassable!

Saturday night — I cared for nothing else in the world except to be close to Bill.  When we’re apart one night I feel as if it’s been weeks.  Oh, how good to be close to him – I relax completely when I’m with him.  Such bliss to just be close to him again and oh, how I wish we could just all be together here for these months!!! – How nice, we daydream, just once to be alone here to ski and snow shoe and love!  (–We need a bedroom of our own – we’re very handicapped here all sleeping in one room.)


December 13, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  Bill put our big star together and it’s now hung in the middle of hut.  We’re not able to place a light in it this year but it’s a thing of Xmas beauty in our hut.  It reminds me of Hope and Promise when I look at it!!

Bill had to go down the Mountain and try again to get the tractor up and oil up.  He had to leave water and oil off on the mountain.  I’m still melting snow for water and it takes forever.  Friday night I had saved dishes thinking I’d have water, then he couldn’t bring any – (even snow doesn’t satisfy our thirst) so today I did all dishes by building fire in wood stove and I melted lots of snow.

Then Bill suggested we all go out in the nice fresh snow awhile together.  He brought my skis back with the new bindings on them.  I’m anxious to try them.  It was ever so nice all to be together out-of-doors.  The children are doing so very well on the one pair of skis they share.  I wish we could afford to get them all skis.

I’ve really got to learn to ski all over again.  Such fun, though.  I tried a few hills and didn’t fall down but sure was shaky.

Every time I go outside I fall in love with this place all over again.  It’s a Shangri-La indeed.

I came in to my nice clean place and fixed onion soup for Bill – a juicy steak and coffee cake.  Then he went down to get the two-trailer with the tractor.  I fed children in the trailer and then we all came back in the hut and read.  Bill got back in an hour and made it this time.  Oil and water – Good!  All to bed early.


December 14, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  Been here two weeks today.  Six more to go!  Sounds like forever.  It’s been over a week since I’ve been ‘out’ so decided it was time we all had a change and get the two enormous duffle bags of wash done!! – Oh, how that wash piles up.  Also, we all feel ever so dirty – and want baths.

I got up really easily today – I had a terrible nightmare of a snow slide and awoke at 4:00 – alarm went off at 4:30 so I got up easily.  Dressed, coffee on and woke Bill.  He was pleased and surprised to see me up and dressed.

Busy, busy – what a job to get children up at 4:45 A.M.  They wake up so pleasantly and get dressed so nicely for so early.  I’m so glad we don’t have to take them in and out to school.

We left here at 5:30 – a chilly ride in open trailer in back of tractor – moon out and stars still bright in the sky.  It takes about one hour to go down the Mountain and then another twenty minutes to load what we carried down in the trailer into the Jeep and put the chains on.  (It had snowed so much).  Finally on our way out, another hour to maintained Eagle River Road.  Sharon snuggled close to me and was soon asleep.  Children are such good sports.

To the log house – Bill hadn’t plugged in the head bolt heater on the Ford as he didn’t want to leave it on for two days.  It refused to start.  He hates to take Jeep in as chains have to be removed and then put on again before he can drive it ‘back in’.  Also we know there’s only a certain amount of mileage left in it.  He used starter fluid etc. and I tried to help him – No use.  He had to take Jeep after all.

I taught children at the log house, washed clothes – at least six loads and hung wet clothes all over the house to dry but still not enough room.  Later Bill put clothes lines in the front room for me.  Everyone had baths and I was astonished to see how much I needed one.  Oh, I hate that almost most of all.

Long underwear, wool socks not dry and still about six more loads to do – so Bill insisted we stay over night.  Once in a month is O.K. he says – so we did.


December 14, 1959 Monday

We came down to log house to do wash, take showers, etc.  I have clothes hung all over the house to dry – so much wash accumulates in one week!!

THINGS anyways are not important.  I look back at how we used to go in debt at Xmas for toys and all and then we’d fuss at them to play with the toys they never even wanted.

We’ll sing carols, make cookies, string popcorn, cut a tree and that’s our Xmas.  I want to take them in to see Santa and decorations this Saturday.

Bill will be working overtime every other night again now!  They’re taking $300 out of his $600 check each month – leaves $300 and we pay $135 rent plus fuel here and up there on the homestead?  And gas – eat??  — You tell me.  Someday – I wonder.


December 14, 1959 Monday

[Not dated, written on a writing tablet cover, with December 14th letter]

To Mother

Christmas On Our Homestead

This year our Christmas will be a simple one.  No costly presents will lie beneath our tree and still, when it comes it will be – the richest one we’ve ever spent – just you wait and see.

As yet we haven’t running water nor electric lights, but our humble home is filled with good cheer.  It’s cozy and snug and decorated bright, awaiting Santa who soon will be here.

Our homestead is nestled amidst Mountains so high, close to Santa’s Domain, the North Pole.  Alaska’s brilliant Northern lights will brighten the sky guiding his sleigh through sparkling snow to our door on gala Xmas Eve night.

This year our Xmas will be a simple one but our hearts are filled with everlasting cheer.  For here, at last, we’ve found our dream and on our precious land we’ll celebrate Christ’s birthday this year.

Childish, excited voices whisper secrets from ear to ear of surprises crafted by tiny, eager hands.  “Hush now, hush” they say, “You mustn’t let the others hear.”  Hastily the surprises are wrapped – leaving a trail of ribbons and papers – stream of delight.  Now the treasures are hidden away for the wondrous day so soon to come, to make others gay.

This year we’ll even cut our Xmas tree from the mighty stand of spruce on our own dear land.  Our eyes shine bright as we go forth into the bitter cold to find our own choice tree.

Finally the Merry day is here – and just as we had anticipated it’s full of happiness and good cheer.  Our fulfillment complete we’re content to await the happy prospects of another New Year.


December 14, 1959 Monday – from Mildred’s mother

How did the weekend go!  Your last letter telling me all about the double-triple layers of clothing and yet feeling cold – made me shudder.  Pile the clothes on, pile them on everybody!  I have visions of that snow and icicles on top of the roof.  But it’s clean snow anyhow.

Oh, honey, stay inside when Bill isn’t there.  At least do not venture far from the Hut.  Please?  Charlie and I were talking about your worry when expecting Bill and he didn’t come.  He said you can get “walkee-talkee” arrangements and buy batteries to be connected with the new radio – from you to him for at least three miles distance.  He could talk to you from the bottom of the mountain if he couldn’t get up because of ice or because of car trouble. Investigate it.  Can I get it here or can you?  Ask Bill.  What a relief it would be for you!  It’s not knowing that is hard.  Also rig one up with Mrs. Thomas, Mildred!  Just that feeling you can call for help or say “Hi” when you want to!

Will return your precious letters tomorrow.  Love again to a brave wonderful girl from Her Mother.


December 15, 1959 Tuesday

[There is another version of this story]

*Notes:  More of same work today at the log house as yesterday: iron, wash, vac and teach.  Had the water cans all filled and everyone ready to go when Bill got home.  Loaded Jeep and all – then to Market for groceries and on the road at 6:00 P.M..

*Little did we know – didn’t get HOME until 1:30 in the morning!!!

Tuesday night.  What a night!!

I had planned for us to eat dinner when we got back to the homestead – so that we could leave the log house earlier.  As it turned out we never had any dinner unless you could count a cold sandwich in front of the fire at the half way point on our road at midnight.  No, we had no dinner.

It took ages for Bill to load the two-wheel trailer.  We couldn’t even get the Jeep up the first tiny stretch of road we usually go up.  Snow was so deep it hit the underneath part of the Jeep – oh, it was cold and clear.

Finally we all loaded onto the trailer but only for one minute – Bill insists we get out and walk up that first steep hill.

My, the snow was deep.  It had snowed quite a few inches since Monday morning.  It was all we could do to climb up the hill – then back into the trailer again.  I had brought two blankets and we made a kind of tent out of them and sitting close together we were quite warm – so the snow from the overhanging branches and trees bent over from their heavy burden of snow – didn’t fall on us directly.

All was slow but sure until we hit that one miserable hill that has given Bill so much trouble.  He tried it four times with no luck so then we all unloaded and Bill told us to walk ahead.

Even John who adores Alaska – tonight was fed up.  Says when he’s grown he will move to a warm place.  Linda felt ill she was so cold.  Sharon and Cindy never complained once but I could feel Sharon’s body trembling and Cindy tried to warm her feet over the fire – No dinner – and 1:30 A.M.

Still couldn’t get it up!!  Over and over he tried – oh, such grueling work for so late and cold a night.  Thank goodness for the moon light which helped lighten the road.

We waited and waited – hoping and praying – not wanting to turn back and yet dreading the thought of going ahead – a half mile up the mountain at this hour.  The snow was deep and even though the children were warmly dressed they were not dressed for sub-zero weather or to go hiking up a mountain in deep snow – already cold and no dinner.

Our baby kittens were up there too and we had to feed them.  Bill thought if given time he could repair the tractor which a part had broken on in the struggle to get it up over the frozen earth.

I decided we’d wait and see.  I gathered sticks and wood from the brittle alder trees and Bill poured a small amount of gasoline on them – soon we had a crackling fire.  I got the two blankets and spread them in front of the fire.  The high banks on the road sheltered us some.  I got bread and ham out of the trailer and chocolate bars, donuts and coffee (which we carry with us).

For a few minutes it was nice but really lent little heat and warmth – but psychologically it seemed cozier and gave them a bright glow to warm their hearts.  They ate and it diverted their minds from themselves.

After a quick bite to eat Bill went back and worked so hard.

Such a long time – we had no watch and couldn’t tell how long but I knew it was past midnight.  I remembered seeing Thomas pass us at the foot of the mountain on his way home at about 9:30 and I knew he was home and asleep.

We looked around at the weird shapes the snow had made out of fallen logs, etc.  We were in the ‘ghost forest’ and it was not beautiful as it is below and above.  Our place is a beautiful sight in the snow – each tree lovelier than the other.  But here in the alder forest it was cold, bleak and disheartening.

It took all my time to keep the fire burning and get the children to walk around – keep moving and all.

Just as I wondered if it would ever make it we heard a roar and there was “Oliver.”  The rest of the ride up the Mountain was a nightmare.  Wet and cold we sat – not caring any longer if the snow fell on us or not.  It no longer mattered.

Sharon, exhausted, fell asleep in my arms.  It was all we could do to sit up on the steep hills – the boxes, oil, water cans all fell backwards – almost pushing us out of the trailer.  And me with the heavy child asleep in my arms had to keep all thoughts of staying in trailer.

On each hairpin switchback Bill had to plow the snow over and over and push it off into a corner – back and forth – and it’s no easy job to back up with the trailer in back of him – and no easy job to remain in the trailer.

Slow, oh so slow we crept through the deep snow homeward.  Finally we reached the upper hills and there sat our Palace – and such it seemed to us that night.  Warmth awaited us – soon we’ll have a wood fire blazing and cocoa heating on the stove and our cold, wet clothes off.

1:30 A.M. – Could it be possible that it took us six and a half hours to come 15 miles from the log house in Eagle River?  No wonder Sharon fell right back to sleep.  The others now had a second wind and babbled and laughed – having quickly recovered from the ordeal.  Now they were home.

Bill refused to go to bed – oil to pump and then he’d leave.  He said if he ever laid down he would never wake up for 10 hours.  He would go back to the log house – clean up, eat, get a cat nap and go to work – to work for 12 hours.

“Oh no darling you can’t – You’ll be sick! – Please come to bed and rest.”

His mind was made up.  I went to bed and was asleep in minutes and never woke up until 10:00 A.M. when children woke.  He’ll stay at log house Wednesday night – and I hope sleep well and then come up here Thursday.

P.S. When we got home – two gigantic moose stood, as sentinels, on the hill behind our house – they just stood and stared and watched us.

Bill said to me, after I queried whether now he wished he were back in California.  “No, even with all this tonight – I feel more alive here than I ever did back there in that smog.”


December 16, 1959 Wednesday 10:00 P.M.

*Notes:  Children snug and asleep tonight in their own warm beds instead of climbing the Mountain – thank God for this humble hut.  It is warm – it does drip water in places – but is so much warmer than the cold trailer.  We all sneeze and sneeze every time we go over there – walls and floors are so cold.  BR-R-R.

Fixed fried chicken tonight and everyone ate well – and oh, how kitties enjoyed their scraps and now, they too, are asleep in their bed!

I’m darning and mending and putting patches on the children’s pants.  I miss Bill coming home but I’m glad he’s not going to tackle the mountain tonight but already think how marvelous it will be tomorrow night to see him!!!

We hung our paper cut snowflakes up today by thread – they look so pretty hanging from beams of the hut.  When this place is fixed up and warm it’s cozy.  But every time we leave it, ice forms and drip, drip, drip – big pools of water on the floor in the entrance way and in the trailer – makes me feel like I’m living in a cave.  Still – as I sit here and sew I think what a long way we’ve already come.  The curtain looks pretty – beds so cozy – from last May when we climbed the mountain in the mud and slept on the floor!!


December 17, 1959 Thursday

[This is the other version of the December 15, 1959 telling]

Oh Mother, how can I ever keep you up to date?  After I wrote you last – we had one terrible time.

I was already to leave the log house on Tuesday night when Bill got back.  Clean clothes packed, ironing packed, water cans filled, heaters turned down, children dressed warmly except for final layer (and what a job that is).  Come to find out later John had neglected to put on one extra pair of wool socks and Linda only had long underwear and one pair of flannel lined pants (must wear two here for warmth or snow pants and hers are worn out) – Well, that was important later – I have always so much to do –

Then Bill had to load the Jeep, put chains on tires, etc. – then to market and at 6:30 we left market.

I hadn’t fixed dinner on purpose so as to save time – so, remember this as I relate our ever so sad plight into the wilderness.

O.K. – now, I can laugh but let me tell you it was not funny at the time.

Nor, is it funny driving on that narrow Jeep road after so much snow.  It’s never been plowed and just gets packed down if enough people travel over it but only three live back here now and there weren’t any tracks even to follow.  It had snowed so much that it was hard to see the road and the under middle side of the Jeep dragged in the snow.  Bill says he’ll spend his Xmas plowing it!!

If one can get their mind relaxed enough to enjoy it – the scenery is beautiful.  Here the wind seldom blows in the winter and may I add, Thank God for that!!  It does, I hear, further North.  The sun never really shines now at its brightest – it’s as light during the day now as it is in the middle of the night in summer – a semi-darkness, so the sun never melts the snow off the trees.

Consequently, the snow lays just where it fell and a more beautiful sight you never saw.  The spruce trees are unimaginably beautiful and each log and bush takes on a different shape.  The children love to guess what each looks like – rabbits, etc.

Of course, the forest in winter is always lovely – but back here it’s cleaner and purer and seems whiter than ever before!! – I do love it.

OR, was enjoying it until we passed by mud lake – remember?  And Bill remarked “This is the only stretch of road where I would fear a snow slide in winter because there are just towering mountains above and a sheer drop and few trees.”

I had just been reading aloud to the children – books on Alaska and several mention snow slides.

Well, honestly I had real shivers after that! – and when we were parked waiting for Bill to load tractor and all – I glanced across the river and saw those enormous mountains across from me and could almost visualize a snow slide.

All at once I was frightened – of it all – being so isolated, being so responsible for the children – and everything.

But it can’t last OR I’d turn back –

Later, now I remember, when there was reason for fear, I never have it – or when really alone.  I can have the luxury of being afraid when I’m with Bill but when I have to be responsible – I alone – I have no fear!

I keep thinking I hear Bill coming now.  It’s midnight and he wasn’t home last night at all.  His overtime has started again and so now he’s coming home every other night and works four hours alternate nights – whereas other men are working two hours over every night.  This is his night home.  I worry more over his coming home than I do our being here alone.  If anything should happen to him – nobody would know!  I mustn’t think things like that.

But I’m listening for that welcome sound of the tractor as I write to you – so many times my ears deceive me and like a mirage I think I hear it so  I run to the door and step out – Oh, such silence!  Is there any greater silence than that of a mountain in winter.

Today, while out with children – I plowed through snow waist deep (NOT 10 feet high) – yet to edge of the field – and listened.  Oh, such a great, vast silence – I could only hear my own heart beat after the exertion of pushing through the heavy snows.

It’s snowed and snowed and snowed – I hope he can make it tonight.

Tuesday night (to get back) we almost didn’t make it and yet I was determined not to give up and turn back – no, no, no, no!

Bill made us walk up the first steep hill as before – the snow was ever so deep and poor Sharon had to be carried practically – but never complains – Oh, my sweetheart.  The others are stalwart soldiers too.

Only, this night – more than ever before – and hear me, I don’t blame them, they did give forth with remarks such as (at a later time of which I’ll soon tell).

John “I’ll never homestead.  I’ll never stay in Alaska when I get big!!” – Really, this was mostly – not because he was tired or hungry – no mention of these things – his feet were cold.  He had forgotten his extra socks.

Well, stay put, dear Grandma – Sharon says she’s going to live in California and wear pretty clothes and live in a pretty houseyet she plans to marry her brother and live with me – Oh, a four year old is a wonder indeed!

Linda said she always got a tummy ache in the cold – and she had a tummy ache – poor child was hungry and cold.

Not a word from Cindy who stood so quiet but had her stocking hat pulled well over her eyes – I told them all to jump to keep warm.

But this was all when we got stuck half way up the MountainI had brought two blankets and this night we made a tent like affair over our heads to shield us from the cold and branches hanging low with their burdens of snow, over the road, falling in our faces – to heck with the Winter Wonderland view for once – we wanted warmth.  We crowded ever so close and were quite cozybut Oh, how slow that tractor travels – until

It’s a very difficult job to drive the tractor up these mountain roads.  The trailer tires to catch up with it going down and swerves to and fro coming up. It’s especially hard making those hairpin switchback turns (and we have plenty).

Well, ‘Old Oliver’ the tractor was doing just fine until it reached that one bad hill – and that’s probably where Bill is now – he got stuck there Saturday night and walked home too.

We got out and walked on – hoping against hope – that the tractor would be on behind us.  No tractor and that’s when our darlings complained and as I say – no wonder -!!!

Bill finally put it to us – after one hour!!  “The tractor broke down.”  He could repair it – given time and try again but no guarantee he could make it.  “The bolts worked fine on ice,” he said, “but I hit frozen dirt and the road was steep.”

We could go back – (the trailer was loaded, the new two baby kittens were at the homestead and needed to be fed, this all would have to be repeated – and when?  Bill’s overtime started the next day.  We could walk on alone the half mile at midnight and so cold – “No.”   He would have to come with us and return later to fix the tractor.No.

My decision was made – I’d build a fire in the road – And there’s more I’m afraid.  It turned out that it cheered us up rather than warm us.  It smoked and sputtered but never warmed but it gave the children a better feeling and I fixed practically frozen bread and ham sandwiches – and cold milk (we’d had our thermoses filled and drank them before climbing in trailer as we’d frozen for half an hour in the Jeep before getting in).

It was rather funny – I’d bought ice cream for dinner because in summer without refrigeration we never could have it – so we enjoy it occasionally now – there it was – cold ice cream – Believe me nobody wanted THAT.

As it turned out, we were there over three hours.  It was way below freezingit was pretty awful as I recall it vividlyToo vividly.

Finally the tractor got repaired and bit by bit it got over the hill – by then we didn’t care about anything.  I held Sharon who fell asleep exhausted and warm – in my aching arms.

Linda said it was a nightmareher worstand she wanted to wake up.  It felt like it.

It still was ages before we got home.  At each switchback he had to go up and down, backward and forward, pushing the snow away seven or eight times before he could get around curves in deep snow and we could hardly sit up in open trailer, the oil cans, water cans and boxes all sliding and slipping.

Oh Mom, how can I tell you how wonderful it was to see our dear old humble dwellingto us it was a palace.  (There were two gigantic moose in our yard).  The clock said 1:30 A.M.

I made cocoa, built a fire – Bill had oil to pump yet – I put children who, by then, as children will picked up and were raring to go – where? – Well, full of pep – except Sharon – although even she downed four cups of cocoa!

Then Bill informed me he wasn’t going to bed or he’d never wake up.  I remember pleading with him to sleep but he said he’d pump the oil and start back down to the log house, take a shower, eat, and cat nap and then to work for twelve hours.  I couldn’t have done it.

He’s been swell lately – and so good humored.  He said, “Well, some men play golf for a hobby, others swim – I homestead – it’s my relaxation.”

I said, “Don’t you wish – now tell me really – right now you were in California?”  He said NO so emphatically I believed him and then, “I feel more alive here than I ever did there in the smog.”  (I knew what he meant).

I slept until 11:00 the next morning and so did the kids.  I haven’t seen Bill since.  It seems it’s snowed ever since then and I wouldn’t be surprised if even Jeep can’t get through.

I’ve been busy today.  I’ve had to get several new feet of snow shoveled and especially cleared off hut so roof won’t cave in – teach kids – baked cake (from scratch and good) plus puddings – expected Bill home and wanted good things for him to eat.

— Now I’m tired – It’s 1:00 A.M. and I’ll lie down, I guess and wait.  I’ll write more soon.  We’re all fine – this darn thing leaks though – several sections are real bad and the entrance leaks terrible too – but could be worse.  I’m always glad for IT when I come in from wilderness outside.

It’s really lovely here though.  We read a lot – and it’s snug and warm.  This hut is so well insulated – it’s amazing to me how warm it is.  It looks more and more like an igloo as snow banks up high around it.

Three packages from you but I left them at log house to avoid temptation.  You’re a darling and I love you!  Good night, ME — Save this


December 17, 1959 Thursday

*Notes:  Once your heart has been captured by the wilderness you will never again be able to be confined to the city and its limited space.

As I read in the Alaskan books about the traders and dog mushers of past days, here in Alaska – I can truly understand why they really liked the life they led — free from restrictions and limited to their own resourcefulness and one with the Alaskan outdoor world they so loved.

Bill got up the mountain and home last night at 1:15 A.M. again.  He brought the radio from Mom!  It’s playing now. How civilized it sounds.  Thanks, thanks

Have done all painting in the hut I’ll do until after Xmas — old Army beds are turquoise enamel – look so different – lower half of bed is pink.


December 20, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  (Bill said at least now when he has trouble on the road in winter he knows I’m here when he gets up the mountain – warmth and food!!)

I expected Bill home early morning – hasn’t been home for two nights (as agreed upon so I’m not worried over him) – probably had more tractor trouble, then too so much more snow has fallen this time – a wet, wet snow and in staggering amounts.

I’m writing this as I rest for a few minutes – have been shoveling snow.  Up until now I’ve let snow pile up on sides of hut as someone told me it would act as insulation but yesterday while painting the inside canvas I saw the snow was melting under the canvas and the water was running onto the many boxes stored near the lower side of the hut.  What a mess!  I have books etc. in those boxes and had to unpack everything and store them in different places according to contents.  Of course the canvas drips from above too, in places and is in general a damp mess – but much better than — ?  Well, outside it looks like an igloo but inside it’s warm and cozy despite all.

Anyways I’ve been cleaning snow off canvas – I don’t want it to cave in on us and from the sides of hut.  I’m truly exhausted.  It’s a heavy laborious job as the wet snow is heavy and much ice too.  I can’t get to the snow on top of hut!

(2:30 P.M.  Bill got home – has been trying to get up since 7:30 A.M. when he was at the foot of Mountain.  Finally had to leave trailer and come up will have to go back down and try again.  The darling – such determination – even his parka was wet through and through!)

We celebrated my Birthday [34th], which is tomorrow, tonight.

Little moments, so treasured and so sweet to remember — these are the real things that count.  Each child taking a turn stirring the frosting and the radio (still, such a wonder) playing Xmas songs – and Sharon throwing back her head and laughing at Santa’s reindeer singing –

I made an angel food cake and it was perfect!  High and fluffy – Birthday tablecloth and our canned spaghetti and pork was a banquet.

The children gave me lovely slippers and Sharon could hardly contain herself – she wanted to tell so badly – how she loves a party.  Her eyes shone in anticipation.   An hour earlier she had said, “Mommy will you invite me to your party?” – As if she wouldn’t be invited!!

As they sang Happy Birthday my eyes filled with tears and of course my wish was that we all remain well and that next year our Homestead will be ours!!

We put the Xmas tree up – Bill had a special one – not large, not small, really just right – all picked out in our lower field.  He said he plowed around it on purpose – saving it for Xmas.  We’ve always had such big trees – but we’ve never before lived crowded like this – but it still didn’t look just right, so I put it on our round redwood coffee table and now it’s perfect.  I put aluminum foil around its base and our little Xmas village on it.  The presents can go on the long coffee table on the right of it.

The wonder of a Xmas tree will never, never grow old.  The fragrance alone brings back many nostalgic memories of my own childhood – and each decoration brings back memories of other Xmases in California – the one we got on our first baby’s first Xmas – this Xmas I’d meant to buy several new ones just to remember our first Xmas on our homestead, but next year – I won’t be leaving here until 1960!!  [Linda note:  On a future move the box containing all these ornaments was accidentally thrown away as garbage and never recovered.]

The children went to bed happy and contented – with their own memories of anticipation of Xmas.  They are counting each day.

After Bill ate lunch he returned down the mountain and got the trailer up – with groceries, mail, etc.  All so welcome.

Oh, I hate to think of him leaving so soon tomorrow.  Why I’ve only seen him for a few hours.  Yet I can’t bear to think of him coming up that Mountain when not necessary.  We agreed for him to come Thursday.  It seems a long time away but maybe he can get some rest at the log house – working overtime and all!!

I surely hope Bill is right and he’s not required to be here.  I’ll check next time I am in town!!  I’m a worry wart over our homestead!


December 21, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  Well, somehow we managed to get up at 4:30 – have breakfast and Bill left.  It’s warm today and lovely with a slight breeze.  Well, that would be a Chinook.

I was rather startled when I opened the door to see Santa greet me (the wooden one).  Bill won’t be up now until Thursday afternoon!  First one day, then two away now three.  Well, it’s gradual and not so hard to take that way!  But oh, how I hated to see him leave – but I also hate to think of him taking that Mountain more than he has to and working overtime too – it’s an impossibility.  He was so tired last night!!  — Battling that Mountain road all day –

But after lunch yesterday at 3:00 he returned – plowed the road and did manage to get the trailer up – with groceries, two new kerosene lamps (good!!).  We noticed on the box it said “for decorative purposes or emergency only” – no mention of practical use – homesteaders even in Alaska are becoming extinct.

Candles, red and green – the house (?) looks prettier and more Xmasey all the time!

I told Bill he’s a true Santa this year in the true sense of the word.  I’m afraid if I ‘go out’ I won’t get ‘back in’ so I’ll stay put until after January.  Anyways – I need to go sometime when we could start back here in daytime.  With Bill working Saturdays – I’ll have to wait.


December 21, 1959 Monday

It’s been a long day – got up with Bill at 4:30 this morning – then was wide awake and we were having such a terrific windstorm that I couldn’t have gone back to sleep even if I had wanted to.  This has been our first severe wind since returning this time.  Luckily, it’s a “CHINOOK” – which means a midwinter thaw, warm winds and temperature goes up above freezing and the warm winds blow like mad.  It’s really odd.  When inside the hut and you hear the wind whistling down the valley and in and around the canyon.  Then it hits the hut and the end our bed is on really flaps like sails on a ship.  The windows rattle and then it’s hard to realize it’s a warm wind as it sounds like a blizzard!  The recently fallen snow whips around on our clearings and piles in high drifts.

I went outside and watched the snow blowing on the mountain tops above our hut.  It looked like a sand storm and the snow and wind gained momentum from time to time and the snow really flew up there above the timber line.

It was good to be inside and know we had the trailer to go into if the hut blew away – at least its walls don’t shake!

But one good thing – the warm temperature and winds blew all the snow off the hut and released all the heavy icicles and ice on the trailer that I couldn’t budge yesterday.  It’s all gone!  And believe me there was a lot of snow in the middle of the hut and trailer roofs where I couldn’t reach!

We had a nice, quiet day.  Oh, Mother, I feel such love for our children and it breaks my heart tonight that I won’t have presents to give them.  I’m sitting here listening to Xmas songs on the marvelous radio – Oh, how we love it – the music is gorgeous and heart rending sometimes too.

I wish I could put down on paper all that’s in my heart!  I truly feel we have been ever wrong in the past to charge our Xmas presents (it’s never been extravagant but always more than we could afford) – or to borrow money to buy presents and we will never do it again.

When we came to Alaska we had so many wonderful ideas about getting entirely away from a materialistic way of life – and yet oh Mother such courage it takes.  We’ve been here two Xmases so far and both times I’ve relented and bought far more than we could afford – once even borrowed from the Finance Company.

Now I want to give them what they’re really ready for and let them really want it.  They themselves admit they don’t really want anything.  If I had money – which is so distressing because we have none – I’d buy skis, ice skates and slippers for each and snow pants.

The trouble is Mom, we don’t have any money and I got stranded up here and I couldn’t shop and I’m forced to try the kind of Xmas I’ve always felt was RIGHT.  I’m so afraid our children will be disappointed and I’d die (like all other parents) rather than have that on Xmas.  Why, I couldn’t stand it.

11:00 P.M.  Bill’s brought home a few little things and I thought I’d wrap them, and Oh Mother, there isn’t anything.  My heart is breaking – Xmas spirit I guess – but if I could get off the Mountain I’d join the crazy throng somehow and get those kids a Xmas.  But I can’t and if I did I don’t have money and I won’t charge anything.  We’ve consolidated our loans and they take $300 out per month.  Bill just paid the rent on the log house I’m not using and there’s nothing left.

I bought several dollar knit sets and a weave set for the girls and had Bill by John a few tools.  Bill on his own bought a 50¢ model airplane and two puzzles and Oh Mother, the awful truth is That’s It.

I’ve spent a week decorating our homestead and if I do say so it’s beautiful – everywhere is Xmas.  Today, we finished decorating our tree – it’s a beauty.  Bill plowed around it last year just saving it for Xmas – perfectly proportioned, thick and lovely.  Our cards are up – our black metal card holder is on the back door of hut – colorful and pretty.  The children have made paper angels, trees, santas, reindeer, etc which decorate the place – well we love it and it’s Xmas.

We’ve read Xmas stories and I’ve explained the true meaning of Xmas.  Our manger scene is up and we’ve read the Xmas story over and over.  Darling children – they all adore their Jesus and Sharon speaks of God’s beautiful face and Mother Mary who was so good.  As I’ve told them, any millionaire can hire someone to shop for him but a thoughtful gift, no matter cost – if any – really means more – as it’s a gift of love.

We’re all so grateful for each other, for our health, for our homestead and the privilege of living in a land – such as America – where we are able to homestead.  We’re grateful for the home we’ve created on this wilderness mountain where no home of any kind was last year.  Even the moose gaze wonderingly at me outside our door – hardly able to believe their eyes.  I’m grateful to you Mother – for your love, thoughtfulness and encouragement and guidance – for Bill, my love and our children – so dearly loved –

But can they, little children, understand – we’ll see!

Tomorrow we’ll bake – gingerbread men – big ones – sugar cookies, cut in Xmas shapes (I have my sweet cutters).  We’ll decorate them – pop corn, string it – make more paper snowflakes to hang with the other fifteen suspended from our hut roof.  They’re so lovely and all such unusual shapes, no two alike.  And we’ll MAKE presents – if the joy is in giving no matter what cost – then we’ll try it.

I’ll make doll clothes from craps, knit socks, mittens….doll blankets – a doll bed from a box – a castle from an oatmeal box – they have so much – the log house is full to overflowing with toys seldom played with anymore – they have so many dolls – I think in a way they’ve been like poor little rich children and they love to create.  I’ll put my thinking cap on and see what we come up with and each has $5.00 towards skis and we’ll save the rest!!  And then I’ll pray for a Merry Xmas.  There have been Xmases when many presents were beneath our tree – and yet it wasn’t a relaxed, happy one.  We’ll try an Alaskan Homestead Old Fashioned Xmas.  Already today John saw in his Cub Scout book how to make candied apples.  We’ll see and now I’ll knit!

I can’t help but look back to the time, not too long ago, when gifts were important to me – no longer.  I have my gifts!!  This land has taught me so much and one of the most important is patience – not to stop working and striving and planning and hoping but to be patient meanwhile.

I know it’s up to ME to be happy Xmas day – I set the mood, if I’m happy they will be happy – if I act discontented and unhappy our day will be so and it won’t – I promise you our Xmas will be a happy one and they’ll treasure their few gifts I know!!!  I love you!  Mil


December 22, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes:  1:00 A.M. — This seems to be my usual bedtime now.  I like to stay up late so I’m so tired I go right to sleep!!  And then I keep busy every minute and that way I miss Bill less.

The wind has blown all day and in places the drifts are as high as my shoulders!  It looks like the desert outside the way the snow has blown.  You can hear the roaring noise of it (at first the children thought it was thunder) and then it hits us and the hut blows and the canvas sides sway.  It really gives a person an eerie feeling and makes us all uneasy!  I have a fervent prayer on my lips that we all stay well for I don’t know if we could make it down to the Jeep road in this wind.  The snow stings your face.  It actually whistles as it blows!!  I pray and trust God through all this and I know He’ll hear my prayers.

And the children’s prayers too.  Tonight instead of Sharon’s usual prayer she said, “And Dear God thank you for our homestead and your helping us with it.  Dear God thank you for my other children and for Mommy and Daddy whom I love.”  My own dear heart.  She’s an angel herself, at times an exasperating one – but my angel nevertheless.

They were all angels today and patient as could be – but they loved it!  I let them help make rolled cookies cut out in numerous Xmas shapes.  Each child did one tray of his or her own and chose their cutters etc. and later we made red, green and white frosting and green and red candles to decorate them with – oh, such care, such time it took and such delight.

How I wished for flash bulbs to capture their expressions.  So serious, so intent and then so delighted with their work of art.  And they were too.  We laughed and talked and it was fun even though it took all afternoon.  Then I made snicker doodle cookies.  Each child chose their best cookie and wrapped it up as a Xmas gift for Daddy and I did too – so there will be gifts.

Last night I got to thinking about my love for him and all and I wrote three separate notes on each emphasizing gifts of the heart I can give him and labeled them 1, 2, 3 in order.  Then today I decorated cookies too and put some along with the cards in packages – Crazy?  Maybe but he’ll know I thought about him and I think he’ll be rather pleased.

We decided that this year we wouldn’t tell him we made cookies (although each year I make five or six kinds) and then we’ll surprise him on Xmas with our lovely decorated cookies.  Tomorrow I’ll make foot high gingerbread men, pies and cakes.

I decided today after talking it over with the children, to tell our Sharon about Santa and the Xmas spirit.  I think it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  The others were told early but not until five and then only because they asked too many questions and were so suspicious.  But Sharon believes so firmly and is awaiting his arrival with such wondrous anticipation.  But how disappointed she’ll be when there aren’t any Xmas gifts from Santa and there aren’t.  I feel Bill won’t get any.   I had to tell her.  Now SHE knows.

Cindy brought over carol books all by herself and while cookies baked we sang Xmas carols.  A real memory, while snow piles higher and higher outside the trailer.


December 22, 1959 Tuesday 10:00 P.M. – from Mildred’s mother

Naturally I appreciate your letters – every one is precious.  I’ll send every one back for a record.  You will keep them at the log house or where?  Be sure they are safe.  They are priceless.  I wish we had two records – to be sure.  That’s how I value them all.  Have more packed in a box ready to ship right after Xmas when budget is stronger.  People are holding out – not paying.  Not buying either!  But those letters must be preserved carefully somewhere.

These reports of the struggles up the mountain are terrific.  It frightens me to read when I think of those turns this summer.  I never did like that narrow road by Mud Lake where we got stuck that time.  I don’t see how you know where you are half the time.  Anyhow there you just have to hug the side of the hill and you know you are safe.

Though, honey, I pray hard for God to send protecting angels to show you the way and keep you.  I know he does.  I know he will.  You must trust God when you are alone there, Mil, as far as humans are concerned, for God is with you, if you trust and call on him.  The experience the other night was terrific, but you were protected then, I know.

Please, please do not walk around the cabin in the snow when you are alone, — without Bill.  Suppose you fell in the snow?  Stay put with the children, please.  Only a few weeks left to go!  You may never again have such joyous weeks of companionship with the children as you can have now.  They grow up so fast.  They fly away so far!!

And don’t forget it either.  “Love them while you have them, dear.”

Weren’t their conversations normal and cute and “right” after the session! On the road the other night!  I think they are just wonders!  And you and Bill are unbelievable!

May it be a Happy 1960 for you!

I don’t see how you get by on the tight budget.  I hate myself these days for being so stupid money-wise.  I really do.  You MUST get that book out in near future while Alaska is still in the air!  A summer project for you perhaps.  It will work out in your mind, when you get that title in your hand.

When I saw those lovely snapshots again I was taken back quickly to the happy days there last summer.  Even the cottage at the top of the hill looked cute and natural.  Oh what a place.  All for a road.  Yet if there was a good road, the crowd would run up as you saw last summer.  A good Jeep with right gadgets on tires for Bill is the answer.  Then let the others find ways up too.

Anyhow I love you all for your faith, courage and pluck.  You would never imagine that you could do all this that anyone could, until you have proved it to yourselves.

You must do some more sketches for me to keep, if you feel like it.  I never could do any, so appreciate them all the more.  You got the perspective just right with rolling hills and background mountains.  Even the reins.  Do more sometime.

But more graphic and vivid are your “word pictures,” Mildred, of these experiences and the scenery and the silence.  It just brings me close to share it all with you.  How that tractor works at all I do not know.  How you all “make it” in open trailer, I do not know at all, at all.  Oh if I only knew you had enough fuel, enough wood; no leaks!  If I only knew you could get up and down safely, I’d be happy as a bird.  How can those adorable little sports walk in that snow?

If I think you had wood etc. and even beans, rice and soup – I won’t worry if Bill doesn’t get home every night.  But darling stop the straining to hear.  Stop gong out like that to look and to see.  That’s what will chill you; and wear you down.  It’s not safe – and brings him no sooner.  You must keep well and happy mentally.  It’s bad enough when your old tractor breaks down, but don’t worry about it while it is running.  Know what I mean?

Stay in shoveled paths.  Keep John and children right near you.

Oh Mil just think this won’t be for the whole long winter – that’s bright to think about.  It’s temporary isolation.  But I wouldn’t go up and down any oftener than I could help – just to save wear on the tractor etc.

I know how hard it must be on you to be isolated with the children.  Oh I wish you had a rag rug going on – now – for a project – while you wait at night – and cannot have bright lights to read by.  Thankful radio works.  Never think about that.  I was so thrilled over it.  Remember I mentioned that this summer?

“Waiting” is the hardest job in the world I guess for us.  It takes “Patience” all the while.

Sleep as much as you can while they sleep.  Do not see how you can relax, and worry over Bill.  Any chance on him rigging up a “walkee-Talkee”?  He could talk from bottom of mountain if he couldn’t get up all the way.

What about the Thomas?  How often does he get home?  Are they using dog sleds?

Glad for Bill’s overtime.  Glad you have the radio when you are alone and children sleep.  But they say that sleep and rest keep you young and beautiful – so keep the children’s sleeping hours.  You’ll be less lonely too.  Bill can wake you, you now!  Better than having you worn out with worry, darling.

How Bill manages to handle those machines I do not know.  He is a wonder.  He is paying a stiff price, with you, for that homestead.  But I guess that this fight with snow is better than with rushing waters.

Thank God for the school routine.  That keeps children occupied.  Glad for it.  Hope the teachers appreciate the struggle and make allowances.  Probably do not.  People!

Almost Christmas now.  Praying all are well and safe and warm.  Then my Christmas will be completely happy.  We must trust and have faith – and pray that all will be well for the few weeks ahead.  May 1960 be Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous.  Love and kisses, loads to all – from Mother


December 22, 1959 Tuesday

An open letter to ‘The People’ of Chugiak and Eagle River, c/o Mrs. Tuck:

I am writing this letter to you now because my son just informed me that you told Bill several weeks ago at the Market that ‘people’ were saying I wasn’t living on our homestead.”  Perhaps you can inform these ‘people’ of the truth.  These ‘people’ are probably the ones who never would homestead on their own and just can’t believe that ‘a city gal’ like me has the nerve to live up here in the Mountains in mid-winter with four children – well, how wrong they are!!

The children and I have been living here again since December 1st.  We had hoped to ‘set up residence’ to live here three weeks or so sooner and had even moved back here but we were only here three days and had to leave.  We did not notify the land office that we were living here until December 1st.

After I took the children out of school I taught them and remained at the log house – still trying to get back up here.  We were not able to because deep ridges of glacial ice had formed on our mountain road, making it impassable even for a tractor!   We didn’t have enough food or oil at our homestead or we would have walked the Mountain road to get here!!

Finally Bill put bolts on the tractor treads and we were barely able to get back here.  The night you saw John at the Market (a week ago Tuesday) we were barely able to get back.  (I like to ‘go out’ once a week to shop, wash, etc.)  Over a week ago we were stuck on the Mountain half way up our mile of Mountain road in the middle of the night for three hours!  It was 1:30 A.M. we got home and we left the Market at 6:30.  We have not been OUT since not even to Xmas shop.

Bill came up Sunday with supplies etc.  He arrived at the foot of the Mountain at 7:30 a.m. and got home at 2:30 P.M.

The snow in places is up to my shoulders now.  The wind has blown for 48 hours and it’s a real experienced to live in a canvas Jamesway in high winds – the sides flap and you feel as if it’s about to take off.  The snow has piled up in drifts – blowing across our fields like a desert.  Now the wind has ceased and it’s snowed all day again.  Bill hasn’t been up since Sunday and we expect him Thursday – but we never know!

Bill sleeps at the log house most of the time – as he’s working over-time.  The land office only requires the wife and family to live on the land.

We will have been here six months on January 1st and will remain here until total on February 1st.  (If I had my way I’d never leave!)

But there are hazards – if the children got sick I don’t know how we’d get out!  These last two days the snow has really piled up and it’s a long walk!

My mother sent us a transistor radio for Xmas and it’s our only contact with civilization.  Bill can now send a message to me over the ‘Mukluk Telegraph’ but I can’t contact anyone in the outside world.  Only one other family is here days – Thomas’ and they live one mile down the Mountain and one mile beyond Pollards.  Pullens also live in here but all go out to Anchorage every day.  Otherwise everyone has moved out.

We hadn’t planned to live here this time of year – but that’s the way it worked out.  We are here and we are making the best of it –.

Our homestead means more to us than mere words can ever tell!  We’ve  wept over it, we’ve struggled over it, we have stood in awestruck wonder at the magnificence and beauty of it – we’ve walked (dragged) in mud to reach it and slept on the floor when we’ve gotten here – now it’s our home.  We have no desire to ever live elsewhere – than here – in the home we’ve created in the wilderness and will only because its location necessitates us to – but our hearts are here!

We have a lovely tree up – no lights as we haven’t electricity.  It’s prettily decorated and we’ve made most of the presents beneath it!  The children have made many decorations from paper and our humble home looks lie a Xmas palace to us!!

Strange yes — for ‘a city gal’ like me to feel like this and like living here?  Yes, but I do and right now I now extend a personal invitation to all the “people” who say we’re not living here – (and everyone) to come and visit us – if they can!!!!!  We’re located 8 miles beyond the end of Eagle River [Homestead] Road – and up one mile– at 1500 feet elevation.  Any time will be fine, we’re always here!!

Come and see for yourself!

A Homesteader

Mildred Lloyd


CHAPTER TWELVE:  Have You Ever Had Mountain Fever?


December 23, 1959 Wednesday

*Notes:  Third night alone!!!  I am melting snow for the second day for water.

No more wind.  High drifts.  Lots more SNOW!!  It really snowed last night and was so deep on the oil drums outside the windows I couldn’t see out at all.  I had quite a time getting it off of the hut, a job I did even before getting breakfast so the roof won’t cave in.

Children are out to play – really had fun in deep, deep snow playing they’re snowshoe rabbits and wolves etc. and each has snow house like in the book, ‘Pinnacle Mountain’ we’ve been reading and oh, what fierce growls.  Our Pinnacle Mountain is really white.

A full day today indeed.  This morning we all finished making Xmas presents for one another and wrapped them amidst great secrecy.  I made pads covered with flowered material and stuffed with foam rubber I had handy.  A pillow sheet and pillow case of same material for dolls’ bed, then a doll nightie and diaper – cute!

(None of the children feel well and all have diarrhea quite badly and upset stomachs – really for third day but worse today – John just plain doesn’t feel good and was sick at thought of food.)  I pray he’ll get better tomorrow – I don’t want them sick for Xmas and it scares me up here to have them sick.

They’re all so thrilled with Xmas!  We read Xmas stories made more snowflakes and hung them up.  Sharon made Xmas place mats – all decorated herself!!  John covered little egg containers with aluminum foil and made bells.  We hung them up on red paper, turned out really pretty….

(I’m getting to be a real old hand with Coleman lamps and all now!)

These have been happy days and I’m exhausted (a nice kind) at night time.  I do miss Bill and I’m so glad he’ll be home tomorrow!  Though I just can’t see how he’ll ever get through the drifts and snow.  It has snowed all day and it’s really deep.

John told me that when he and Bill were at the store they saw Mrs. Tuck and she said “people” say we’re not living here.  That hurts and it’s also maddening.  I wrote a long open letter to the people c/o Mrs. Tuck – but what’s the use really.  I’ve thought of putting an announcement in the paper that we’re living here but if they don’t wish to believe what can I do.  Nobody sees us here – how can we prove it?  These things worry me.  I suppose they see the lights on in the log house when Bill comes back and they think it’s me.  Yet I haven’t even been OUT for two weeks Tuesday!

After kids in bed tonight I decided to make them the ‘promised’ foot high gingerbread men.  What a job.  But now they’re made and put away plus dozens more Xmas cookies.

Oh, I love Xmas.  It’s a joyous, happy time, yet a time for deep sentiment and remembering.  Especially here – everything is so different and somehow so fundamental and real.  One reason I like it here, despite the hardships (like melting snow all day for all our water – even to wash all the rolled cookie dishes – sticky and messy but worth it, I’m sure!!) is because of the way I feel when I’m here.  It’s hard to explain but I like it plus I feel I’m really doing something worthwhile and I like being and feeling so close to our children.  Yet, I know for everyone’s sake the other is better for everyone for a steady diet but I never want to forget these days!!!!!

12:15 – so it’s Xmas Eve – Oh, this radio is so nice!!

I pray the children will be well tomorrow and Bill will get home with less difficulty than usual and please dear God let people KNOW we’re doing this the most honest way possible!!  It means a lot to me – and as dear Sharon says in her prayers, “Help us with our homestead.”

Xmas Eve.  No snow today.  What a clear marvelous day – a real white Xmas!!

Bill surprised us by getting home at 11:00 A.M.  He says he worked extra last night so he wouldn’t have to go in at all today.  Got about one hundred feet with the tractor close to home – and got tired of fighting snow drifts (he says the wind never blew below!!!) and walked the rest of the way.  We never heard him come as we had Xmas carols on the radio.  What a marvelous welcome sight and so good to have him with us!

He brought cards – (and presents from Mrs. Erickson – how very thoughtful and sweet!!!) and from Mrs. Bockstahler for everyone plus a birthday present!  How wonderful to have such friends.  He’s a real Santa Claus – cards from California plus letters and notes enclosed – all mean more than ever this year!!!!

How good to have him hold me tight.  We’re not meant to be separated.  Then I hurried to melt snow for coffee.  Then we all went out together.  I took several rolls of film – a lovely day – Bill plowed around the hut and trailer – such a difference and then the road – flat part – and we could walk around without walking in waist deep snow for me, even.  They tried to sled but the sleds sink in snow!  Still had so much fun making snow forts in big piles of snow Bill pushed aside with tractor – and castles.  I can still here Sharon say, “I’m the King!”

Smokey loved having them out.  She ran and jumped, her tail wagging happily.  She gets lonesome out by herself.

We set our wooden Santa and figures up.  I tried the other day but wind blew them down and in matter of minutes and covered them with flying blowing snow.  How Xmasey and festive they look.  I set Santa and angles outside the trailer – across the road – so we can see them from the trailer window as we eat.

Well, better go and write more later.  I am in the middle of giving melted snow baths – two down and one to go BUT the children must be clean on Christ’s Birthday!!!  (Even if I melt snow to do it!)

Bill has been gone – was only home for one hour or so – to plow a mile of road – load trailer from Jeep (bought turkey!!) and bring it back.  I want baths over and supper ready when he gets back so more later.


December 26, 1959 Saturday

*Notes:  Nice clear day, colder, no snow.  Temperature had dropped today and snow was drier and crunched beneath your feet.  I like it better this way and you don’t get damp and wet-cold when it is colder like this!  Today I said ‘heck with fussing around the house take a holiday’.  All of us went outside.  The children are so happy to be outdoors and to have Daddy home.  I decided for the first time to go off on my skis alone for awhile. Such enjoyment – nice to be off awhile by myself and I wasn’t at all afraid to ski over to the embankment overlooking the creek alone.  The snow was just perfect – dry and powdery for skiing.  Every little way I had to stop and gaze around at the beauty all around me.

Every time I get outside here it makes me feel so silly to worry over the little daily happenings in the bit of civilization we’ve brought up to this remote spot with us.  We are but tiny ants really so insignificant – perhaps if I could see OUT of our trailer and hut I could feel this all day but I feel so shut inside the place – without windows to capture the view, even in part.  The view of the water of Kink Arm is ever changing as the sun sets.  One moment one of the lavender splendor and the next wreathed in rose.  How close I always feel to God here.  Mrs. Bockstahler referred to this place as ‘Celestial Heights’ in her recent letter and it truly is a heavenly spot.

It was a new sensation and a very nice one to make the first tracks across the white stretches of unbroken white snow in our fields.  Smokey following close behind so contented and happy that we two were alone on a walk.  These moments are never to be forgotten.

As I got further away from our hut and the children’s voices became fainter and fainter the moose trails became more and more frequent.  As I got to the bank where I could gaze down on the still-rushing unfrozen creek down into the valley spread out below and Thomas’ homestead so tiny below me and hear their sled dogs howling echo and reecho amount the hills – the tracks were very frequent and places where they had bedded down the night before were all about me.  In one place the moose droppings in its trail were still steaming.  I looked about me but no moose in sight.  As I absorbed the stillness and beauty about me I was once again entranced and dedicated my life to our homestead forever more – such love – no, something I can’t even call love – surged from within me – such a kinship for this strange unknown land that one would expect would frighten me and upset me by its mere isolation and coldness – instead I feel such at ONE with this place – everything about it appeals to me – oh, for words to be able to fully express the way I feel.

I only wish I never had to leave it, not even to return to the log house [in Eagle River] which holds no appeal to me.

As I skied back I kept telling myself I would find a way to remain here and watch the days now grow longer – the sky grow brighter until the snows melted and spring came again to our beloved mountain regions.  How can I leave, how can I tear myself away again – and how will I ever know a moment’s rest until this beloved land is truly ours – all ours?

I skied down below the flat land and crossed the mountainous hills below our place where it’s still heavily wooded beneath our clearings and the high Mountain peaks are almost obliterated.  I like the wooded regions but once again was glad that Bill chose the open valley above to live in.

I came across one spot that made me smile and chuckle aloud.  Signs before me showed a moose had hurried down the Mountain – perhaps rushing from Smokey’s bark.  The snow was so deep and all it looked as if the moose had slid on its stomach and the prints were far apart.  What a sight that must have been!

I would like to become more familiar with the cold quiet of the Alaskan winter days and have the time and opportunity to discover the secrets of the wild life around me. Study their tracks, their habits, etc.

In some spots my foot slipped out of the skis so my leg sank to the ground beneath me – the snow came clear to my waist and it was quite a feat to get back on the skis.

I have become so unused to outdoor exercises and so unaccustomed to manipulating skis that by the time I came out on the road I was truly quite tired – but that nice kind of tiredness that always comes from good outdoor exercise – and such a thrill to know I had not even been off our land!!  Down at the log house I remember trying to ski about and feeling rather silly as I was in view of all my neighbors and could scarcely go 100 feet without being on someone else’s property.

As I came down the road I could see the girls playing on their snow castle.  Sharon came running down the road holding her big blue balloon that Santa sent and her long blue and white stocking cap askew with the long white tassels bobbing up and down – that Grandma in California had lovingly knitted for her youngest granddaughter to keep her warm on the long Alaskan winter.  Such a sweet sight and it came to me that she was everything a child should be and so completely absorbed in her own activity and so content with her childish play

It sounded so good to hear Bill about the place.  I wish we could all be together for this period – like other homesteaders.  This place needs a man about.

Coleman lamp to fill – already dark although only 3:00 in the afternoon.  Baked mince pie – all came in cold and hungry – good meal – then sat down at table in the hut to try out some games in Treasure Chest of games Mrs. Eklund sent us.

Girls put on Chinese kimonos Carolyn sent and looked so cute sitting there.  We played checkers and then BINGO.  It was fun and even Sharon was able to do her part – calling out to Daddy the scorekeeper.  I had that number – her face beaming.  Being together – how very nice!!!


December 27, 1959 Sunday

*Notes:  Clear nice day.  All out of water today – and just didn’t feel like melting any more snow than absolutely necessary so let dishes pile up and house work slide today!  Bill worked with John on his model plane and us girls sewed and knitted this afternoon – real lazy nice day.

This morning bill and I talked at great length about our future plans which are at this time so very indefinite!  I just wish I could stay her – yet we both feel the children’s schooling is of utmost importance – also that he keep a good record at work – if only this place were easier to get to – yet, in a way, that’s the beauty of it!  Neither of us want to live elsewhere THIS is what we came to Alaska for!  Well, time will work these things out.  Went to bed much too late and the alarm goes off at 4:00 A.M.!


December 28, 1959 Monday

*Notes:  It’s amazing how the weather up here in the mountains can vary within a few hours’ time.  It was so clear, then the wailing wind came up and each gust hit with renewed force – then it started snowing – next time about one hour later when I started getting more snow to melt for baths  the stars were out!  No sign of wind or snow!!  All within several hours’ time.

10:30 P.M. — Bill returned to work and came in this morning to tell me that a marvelous display of Northern Lights would light his way this morning so early!!  He plans to return home tonight and work overtime Tuesday and Wednesday.  I’m almost out of food and no water – But I told him OK if he can’t make it and he’s still not home yet.

This has been a WORK DAY.  I’ve been melting snow all day long – and John just missed a very bad accident.

Bill had put my deep frying pan on the hut heater this morning with snow in it.  I had just left it there – and started John on his school work.  I set up the card table and he was working at it – when I went to get the water.  As I lifted it up by the handle the handle snapped off as I held it and the boiling water flew in every direction!  I yelled at him in that split second and he – quick as a rabbit – ducked and only got one burn (small) on his face!  Thank God for that narrow escape.  The handle had been exposed to too much heat and just snapped in half!!  I try to be so careful – extra extra careful of lamps, kerosene and candles and hot water.

I built a fire in the wood Yukon stove today and got the big old round tin tub in (that’s been buried in snow all winter) and put it on the wood stove – gradually I had melted enough snow (and oh how much it takes to make any impression at all!) to bathe the children.

Oh so nice to have them even part ways clean – all three girls used same water – never thought I’d come to that plus never knew water could be so hard to come by either!!!!!

John still hasn’t had his.  I’m working on more snow but haven’t got enough yet and have expected Bill for several hours now.  It’s been two weeks today since we had a shower!! – yet I don’t feel like going down to log house and going through that road ordeal again – Bill says we’ll probably  have to walk up which wouldn’t be too bad during the day but it would be late!

Waited until 1:30 A.M. for Bill – kept imagining I heard the sound of the tractor – but on going to door al was silent!!  I wrote some letters, knitted, read and finally gave up!


December 29, 1959 Tuesday

*Notes:  Nice day outside – but bleak inside.  School has started again here on our homestead even if not in Eagle River as we took the week before Xmas for vacation – as I thought the children would enjoy getting ready for Xmas that week and would more easily settle down to school work after Xmas!

I was right.  They are raring to go and eager to get back on schedule of things and so anxious to do good work and not miss their work or be behind their class when they return to school and so am I!  John is busy in his Arithmetic books – both work books and school books and is learning more complicated multiplication and going on to division.  It seems we never catch up with John’s work or get all done we should do – but we keep on plugging away.

Bill never came home!  No water today again – and my propane gas gave out before I could even cook breakfast.  The children had cold cereal for breakfast and bread and jelly.  I tried to get our Coleman cook stove going but it seems to be leaking and a fire started in back of it and below.  I had to throw water on it (a half a coffee pot full).  Then I was going to get the fire extinguisher out – but before I used it I got the fire out by beating it out with a towel.  I had a scare for a minute and made a mess of the trailer with the water but far better than fire.

I checked it and rechecked it and brought it outside to light but gas seems to be spilling out so I put it away.  Now what will we do?  I yearn for some coffee and think I’ll melt some snow and try to heat some on oil heater.  We’re really out of food – except flour, sugar and staples.  I do have potatoes and one more can of Spam if I had a stove going.

Bill HAS to come home tonight [Tuesday] – yet, he told me he would be home Monday and work Tuesday and Wednesday!  This is when I don’t like to be so isolated!!

10:30 – We relented and I heated our last can of stew over the oil stove (heater) and by then even it tasted good.  I made Kool Aid for the children from melted snow – and to bed.  (Wrote Mom more this evening and will put her letter in here).

It’s now 11:30 – tomorrow we must walk OUT if Bill doesn’t come home.  I just undressed and climbed into bed.  Must stop running to the door thinking I hear the tractor.  My usual evening things tonight hold absolutely no appeal to me.  I don’t want to knit although I’ve started mittens (first time on four needles for Cindy) or read or anything.  I want to know Bill is alright and to have him here – please Bill come!!

I’ll set the alarm tonight (first time I’ve set it since Bill hasn’t been here!) for 4:00 A.M. and we’ll leave here at 5:00!! – Well is that early enough??  And it will be so cold waiting for a ride at the bottom of the mountain.  We are so dependent on Bill – for oil, gas, supplies –

I’d love to homestead way off – if Bill could be with us.  I’d like to hunt our own meat and cache it away – get all our supplies in for the winter early – have a wood cook stove – I’d truly love it.  I tease Bill and urge him to stay and try it here.  He says we could never make out – but if we had our bills paid and raised perhaps sheep – those are foolish dreams.  Still it could be ever so nice and right now he’d be here!!

Golly, what’s wrong with me?  I’ve done so well – it’s expecting him and not having him come – and knowing he would if he could and wondering.

LATER — I just simply can’t sleep.  I’m writing this by flash light – still listening – oh, how I yearn for Bill tonight.  I feel so all alone.  This is really only the second time.  Last time also was when I expected him and he didn’t come.

As I try to go off to sleep I hear a noise – it sounds like the tractor – urging its way up the Mountain road – Does silence have a noise – it’s so quiet I can hear my heart pounding.  Silence, silence.  Where is Bill?  All I ask is for his safety and well being.


December 29, 1959 Tuesday 11:00 P.M.

Last night about this time I sat here writing you a letter – listening with straining ears for the welcome sound of a tractor to tell me Bill was coming home.  I waited up until 1:30 A.M. – I didn’t want to be asleep when he got here BUT he didn’t.

Twenty four hours later and still no Bill.  I listened to “Mukluk Telegraph” on KENI station on my wonderful radio – a special broadcast where messages are relayed to people like me, living in the bush, but no word.  So, here I sit again waiting.

It seems I’ve done a great deal of waiting since we began homesteading.  I guess it’s a woman’s role all over the world – one which I am now accustomed to but like none the more for it.  It’s hard to wait – especially when you don’t know and tonight I’ve gotten a little worried.  Jeep trouble? – could be – but no message.

Seeing he was home over the long holiday I would have just as soon he waited several days but we’d been out of water for two whole days again and I’d been melting snow (which is a slow process and laborious but at least I’m grateful for the snow – there was a time when we had neither snow OR water – funny how one becomes grateful for such strange things).

But it was agreed he’d come home last night and work Tuesday and Wednesday and come home again Thursday.  We’re out of water and propane gas.  As of today and I almost started a fire trying to get the Coleman camp stove going – I guess it leaks and I won’t try again.  This morning we had shredded wheat (last of it).  At noon – sandwiches (good thing I saved the bread since last Thursday) – used the last of it and after waiting until tonight at 10:30 for Bill.  So we heated the last can of canned stew (ugh!!) over gas heater!!

I’ve even melted drinking water today – and yesterday gave everyone baths by building a fire in the Yukon stove and melting the big wash tub full of snow.  It was to be a kind of a surprise for Bill – but he never came home.  It’s unlike Bill to cause us concern or leave us when he knows we’re out of supplies!!

Last Thursday he brought food but today is payday and he was to bring a big order up yesterday.  I almost went down yesterday – it’s been two weeks and one day since we’ve been OUT – but probably will have to walk up late at night or spend three hours on the last mile of road (how well I remember last time) so thought I’d wait until the weekend and go down and come up during day light.

Now I have no choice if Bill doesn’t come home tonight.  Then we’ll have to get up at 4:00 (and just put children to bed – waiting for Bill) and go out with Thomas or Pullen.  I hate to walk down alone and it’s snowing now.

We started school again here as we took vacation the week before Xmas but other schools are off now.  Another reason I hate to go down.

Bill has trouble pulling the trailer up now and is going to buy a flat sled to pull supplies up behind tractor – but we walk!!

The kids are marvelous sports.  Last night John stayed up and worked on the model airplane he and his Dad started Sunday.  Today after school, we worked a big cross word puzzle and I showed Linda how to purl – she knits well.  I gave her and Cindy a knitting set for Xmas – it has smaller needles in it and they can manage them much better.  Today she completed her doll blanket she started on Xmas – just plain knitting.  Cindy finds it harder but two years difference in ages.

She and Sharon played Chinese checkers – then Linda and Cindy – and so this evening passed – with a lollypop treat made by Cindy for each for Xmas and saved because they had so much sweets and so welcome tonight as a morale booster.  She made cups out of egg carton, two together and decorated and put life savers in each cup and two lollypops.  Oh, such squeals of pleasure they brought forth tonight.

I made molasses cookies in Xmas shapes and enormous gingerbread boys cut and decorated in green, red and white – All eaten!  Fruit cake devoured.  Children and I made spice cookies and sugar cookies and each had a whole tray to do themselves in Xmas shapes (I think I told you) and then each decorated as they pleased.  They took their prettiest and did up for Xmas presents for Daddy.  But all is gone now and mince pie, apple pie, chocolate pie I made yesterday.

Still we have little up here in way of fresh fruits, vegetables etc. and mostly canned meat.  Last Thursday Bill brought up lettuce and tomatoes and oh, such a treat you can’t imagine.  We haven’t had fresh milk since we’ve been here – all canned and powdered – and now we’re OUT of all but flour, sugar and oatmeal!

Well, it’s 11:30 P.M.  I guess I better stop!  I just keep listening and listening.  Will enclose a note tomorrow to tell you what happened!

**Donned my coat etc. and thought I’d go outside to get some fresh air and listen intently.  It’s really snowing now.  The weatherman said ‘no snow’ but I found out weeks ago that we have our own weather here in the mountains – and it IS SNOWING here.  It is lonely tonight – not a light or sign of habitation.  Usually I like this but tonight I don’t.  I want Bill at night – I’ll never get used to that.

I could easily stay here all day – all winter – if I thought he’d be home come night – it’s our highlight of the day.  Even then – I don’t worry if I don’t expect him – Oh, I know he’s alright but —- —-

The children look so sweet and peaceful asleep.  Thank God they trust me and I can make them happy up here –!!

P.S.  I keep forgetting that I haven’t written oftener.  I must tell you how much your radio has meant to me – a voice – music – it means so very much to us!!!  And during Xmas the music was beautiful.  We heard Dicken’s Xmas Carol and all the stories.  It really made Xmas for us and I think especially for Sharon who couldn’t remember the songs from last year.  You’re my Xmas angel!  Love, Mildred

Later next day – Bill got home at 6:15 in the morning!  I was going to walk out and decided to wait until tonight — He tried Monday night and tractor wouldn’t make first hill – battled it for three hours and then went back to log house where he arrived at 4:00 A.M.  Spent all last night battling hill last night – has had no sleep – ate breakfast and now is leaving again.

He’s safe!!  How he keeps awake I’ll never know!!

Happy New Year

P.S. Only one month to go.


December 30, 1959 Wednesday [before Bill returned up the mountain]

*Notes:  3:00 A.M. – I slept for a short while awakening with a strange feeling gripping my being – it took hold of me suddenly without any warning.  For the first time since I’ve been here alone – FEAR clutched me in her grip.  Stark fear.

Something must have happened to Bill – that I cannot stand.  I must know today!!!

I get up and look outside.  Still snowing, no wind but steadily.

Oh, dear God how alone I now feel on this Mountain.

Perhaps something happened to him Monday morning on his way down.  Nobody would look for him or know thinking he was with us.

I realize again I’m not brave up here alone – just very trusting!! – Trusting of God.

And trust of Bill –

I dread walking down that Mountain with these children.  If something happened to us nobody would know or suspect — — until Bill came home IF he isn’t hurt – What shall I do?

4:30 A.M. – Got John up and we talked at great length and decided to give Bill one more day – and night.  Surely the Jeep or the tractor broke down and tomorrow (tonight) he’ll be here.  I must be steady for the children’s sake and it’s so dark and snowing –

6:15 A.M. – Bill is home – thank God.  He wants breakfast and he’ll turn around and go to work – Oh, my darling – how can he??  Is it humanly possible?

He says, “My homestead is my second job – right now both require overtime.  I’ll rest this New Year’s weekend.”  Thank goodness for that long weekend again, I say.

[Journal history of prior three days]

Monday night Bill shopped after working overtime and came home – or rather tried to but the tractor didn’t have power it should and pulling heavily loaded trailer it just wouldn’t make that first steep hill.  He labored over it for three hours.  Finally turned around and left.  He reached log house at 4:00 A.M. and slept several hours in the chair and then headed back to work.

Tuesday tried again. First spent evening building a box to drag sled fashion behind the tractor to carry supplies in – (tried to buy flat sled and couldn’t).  After building the box he left.  Haven’t heard details but will add later (he’s left now).  He arrived home at 6:15 in the morning.

I feel terrible to think he’s doing all this to bring us fuel, groceries etc., but we must live here and it’s a part of it all.  It can’t be helped and even he thinks someday we’ll certainly be able to get up here easier.  This is temporary if only his health holds up!!!

The box worked fine and it’s amazing to see all it held.  Three enormous boxes of groceries and water cans.

I got Bill a good breakfast after he hooked up my propane.

(Everyone reading this will think why weren’t they better prepared?)  We’re taking it best we can and doing what we find necessary as we go and to me it’s always a wonder we’re here at all.  Perhaps others will gain from our mistakes but they say experience is the best teacher and I know in my case it has been!

When we’re through homesteading on a Mountain we’ll know how to do it.  [smiley face]

I eagerly dive to the bottom of the box for mail…..

We’re truly blessed and I’ll see Bill rests this weekend!


December 30, 1959 Wednesday

School lets out here in May and we have the log house leased until June – so I’d get back in time to move out.  But will you be there in May?  I doubt it.  Would that be a bad time for you?  I’ve thought of putting children in school there for a month but Alaska’s schools are so advanced I hesitate to!

It’s almost definite a new modern school will be built on the field behind our mailboxes across from Bockstahler’s Alaska Woodcraft Shop in Eagle River.  It will be erected this summer.  Won’t that be wonderful?  I hate the children going on icy roads in crowded buses.  I don’t know where we will live next winter but that will work out in due time.

I wish you could spend all summer with us.  Would you like to???  We have the log house leased until June and you can come any time and stay there you know until June.  I just didn’t want to feel we were dependent on it – for our homesteading it was an emergency measure to call on you.  I hope and pray we’ll be through February 1st – if all goes OK.  Then I’ll be a new person.

I feel good today and am contented here when Bill is OK.  Love, Me.


December 30, 1959 Wednesday early

*Notes:  How different everything seems now that I know everyone is well in our world – I feel fine – Oh, so good – and I am contented here once again!!

Oh, Bill, take care.  Without you this homestead would be nothing – our world would fall apart without you!!!

Soon it will be a New Year and we have great cause to celebrate I feel!  We will – here on our Homestead – I’m glad we were here over the holiday!!

I’m sure January will fly by!! – Even though we’ll live here perhaps for a lifetime – never again will we be homesteading in quite the same way – and January will be our last month.

Oh, so much we’ve learned and how much still to be learned…

Our Homestead – once so alien and strange to me (but always dear) is now so familiar – every little hill, tree and mountain range – to become more so with each passing day.

Days are gradually getting a little longer.  The sun now shines fully on the craggy Pinnacle Mountain far behind and above our homestead.  I wonder when we will feel its welcome warmth!!  I hate to leave here.  I wish with all my heart I could stay and feel the sun’s first rays and see the snows melt and the green grass and flowers emerge from beneath their winter blanket.

But leave we must – for this year.  I hope next winter by some miracle we will be able to stay all winter long!!


January 1, 1959 Friday – New Year’s Eve

*Notes:  I made a nice pie and a lovely large cake.  In the center John cut a round circle out of cardboard and I frosted it and drew a clock pointing to midnight on it in chocolate frosting – looked so pretty. We decided to have it tonight if Bill got home in time, if not we’d have it on New Year’s Day.

No sign of Bill at 11:00 and things got mixed up as we ran out of oil and I had to go outside and dry out wood from big snow banks.  John helped and we got a fire going.  Bill got home at 10 past 12!!

I was outside cutting wood and joy of joys I heard the tractor coming.  I dropped everything and ran down the mountain shouting, “Happy New Year Bill!”  Of course the sound of the tractor drowned me out and as I ran I heard shots in the valley below announcing 1960 had come.  How glad and happy I am to be on our homestead.  The night was clear and lovely – I ran down two steep hills to surprise Bill.  We got home and had pie and coffee.  Oh so wonderful to have my Bill home!!  Happy New Year!

**It is true, really true.  We’re starting on our seventh month – our last required month of residency on our homestead.  Oh, thank God for helping us – for giving us the courage we didn’t really know we possessed.  You have given us good health to pursue our objective.  You, Almighty God have answered our prayers and guided us when we probably never realized it – and I ask you to guide us this month too.  You in your Divine Wisdom can show us the way – where we would falter unguided.  Thank you.  Amen.

I didn’t know this would end in a prayer but how often I’ve turned my eyes up to the heavens above – which seem so close to me here on our Homestead and pray aloud to HIM and thank HIM for our bountiful blessings!!


January 6, 1960 Wednesday 10:00 P.M.

*Notes:  Bill just got back to here [log house].  Children are all asleep and I can’t awaken them and take them back to the homestead tonight on these icy roads.  We’ll try again tomorrow night at 5:30 right when Bill gets back from work.

Mr. Pullen and Pollard stayed out too again and both men tried it together.  Bill will call tomorrow and see how the switchback is.  I’ll stay through February 6th at homestead to make up for this time lost.  Darn it but maybe it was meant to be.  Perhaps Bill would have come in against his own judgment if I’d been up there on the homestead and killed him self.

Sunday night – slept in Jeep at end of road.  Too icy and turned back.  Awful road.  I was terrified.  Got back to the log house at 5:00 A.M.  Bill went to work – no sleep.

Monday night – We left the log house to return to the homestead and Pullen flagged us down on Eagle River Road.  He was turned back to Anchorage and warned us of the switchback and said Pollard almost crashed because of ice and melting waters.  Jeep started going down sideways.  Pollard stopped Pullen and he stopped us.

Bill was supposed to work tonight at the office as job must be finished Wednesday but got off to take me home to the homestead.  Our food is all up there.  Kitties to be fed.  Still our lives are most important.  So back to the log house.  (No school books for children either).


January 7, 1960 Thursday

*NotesReview:  Children taken back out of school.  Bill working overtime and stayed at log house weekdays but once a week came up the mountain to bring supplies and then took all night to get there.  Came home for weekends.

Taught children.  Didn’t even Xmas shop.  Set up residency and stayed at homestead December 1st to January 6th when had to leave as no oil, food (had melted snow for water) and tractor broke down.  Two weeks five days to go.

Bill got back to the log house last night at regular time – for the first time in months!  His overtime is done and he said it seemed very odd to quit at the regular time after only eight hours.  But he didn’t relax.  We had dinner and then he loaded the Jeep up and brought our things up to the homestead .  Tonight he will also bring us back up the mountain when he returns from taking the load up.

If I know he’s due home I feel different.

I brought children’s work up to the school yesterday and John’s teacher sent home five tests for him to take.  Teachers were busy so I left off a folder with each child’s work in it.


January 7, 1960 Thursday

*Notes:  Home Again. Oh, it’s so good to be home and home is on our homestead.  I think it always will be now. We got here at 9:45 – it took three hours and I think that was pretty good, considering we walked the icy, treacherous switchbacks (Bill drove) and we walked the last mile and I, unaccustomed to the mountain trek again – and the girls got tired so we rested frequently and the fact it was ice most of the way and even the snow was in ridges and slippery – so it took a long time.

Darlings never fussed or complained once.  John is truly a mountain goat – he scampers up those icy hills with no trouble at all.  Bill helped Sharon and I helped Cindy – they did so well.  At one time, though, Linda said she felt like a rag doll – and Cindy sat next to me while I was resting and said, “My legs feel as if they just won’t go one step further.”  Finally they got magic sticks and by giving these several twists they could go much easier and faster.

Several places we could hear water running on the side of the road and coming down the first switchback we saw where the creek was released and had run down the road and frozen.  I never saw such ice on a road before.

We had dinner and then I popped the children into bed.  I didn’t even bother to dig pajamas out of the duffle bag Bill brought the clean clothes ‘up in’ Sunday night.

By then, remarkably we felt fine – all of us – and the hike and fresh air had felt good.  I asked them how they’d like to get up at 3:30 every morning to hike down the mountain to go to school and back up again every day.  At the moment the idea seemed a good one to me as I thought of tomorrow teaching them again and the fear they will be kept back.  How I’d love to know they were back in school and keeping up with their class.

Bill quickly scorned that idea and I too know this is but a mild spell.  More severe weather is still ahead of us and that mile of climbing every night would be mighty tiresome.  Of course, we’ll get more used to it and my desire to live here I think would overcome the distaste for climbing the mountain even when our required residency time is up.  I am emphatic about wanting to return here most every night.  Of course it will be nice to know we don’t have to – but still I want to live here and keep our home here.  I pray Bill wants to and will!!

There were quite a few lights on – maybe people think it’s spring – Doyle’s were watching TV – isn’t that funny?  As Bill says after coming down that switchback and onto a Jeep trail as rough as this it seems odd to see TV in someone’s crude log house.

Civilization!!  Schroder’s lights were on and Barclay’s were, and Lee’s and Barbee were home.  Pollards have moved back and it will be a new feeling to know someone is close at night now in case of emergency.

Our winters aren’t severe in this part of Alaska but are so long that by January you feel spring should be here but it will be February and March and April yet before spring comes – almost four months as January just started.  I noticed down at the log house the sun shone for awhile and we don’t have it here yet.  It looked so warm and welcome and it seemed years since I’d last seen it shining.  Sharon came running in exclaiming, “The sun, Mommy, the sun is shining!”  Wonder and amazement registered on her own shining countenance.

Later:  While ‘out’ Joe Anne Vanover remarked to me that her boys were very jealous of John and his homestead.  Can you imagine with all their money and 27 horses and sleigh and old fashioned stagecoach and ponies – and beautiful home and farm?

I must say I am NOT jealous of anyone and I’m sure John isn’t jealous of them.  If only we can get title to this homestead I want nothing else.  I’m willing to work, to do without, to wait and be patient.  This is the base of all my dreams and hopes – I’ll never rest until that title is ours.

I love the song played so often now from the current Broadway hit – “Climb every Mountain, forge every stream until you reach your dream.”


January 7, 1960 Thursday 10:30 P.M.

*Notes:  Clear, lovely, sun shone for several minutes.  Cold again.  Big bright moon tonight.  Arose early, was up with Bill and so awake hours before children woke up.  Got groceries put away and prepared day’s lessons (even Sharon’s Nursery School work)….We really worked today.  They worked from 10:00 to 1:00 then lunch and out to play.  While they were out I took the tree down (meant to do it Monday but couldn’t get home – now so dry needles fell all over) – I think, “Where will we spend next Xmas?  Here I hope,” and, “What will we live in?”  Many other questions crowd my mind that only time will answer.

I packed all away carefully.  Meanwhile they had great fun outdoors.  After wind, thaw and refreeze the snow is packed down and they could finally slide and walk all over the crust on the surface.  What fun and I’ll tell you, children are so resourceful.  No coveted flying saucer so they found old discarded linoleum and used it – oh such squeals of laughter.

The children have been so sweet, understanding, kind and gentle lately – and I feel so good inside.  I really (I know it sounds crazy) but in a way I’ll hate to see all this end.

Then back into the house and more schoolwork.  It was 7:30 before I started dinner.

I worked on making a history test for tomorrow.  I want to get to the end of chapters, etc. and send papers and reports in to school!  I want to make sure we’re up to the class.

Must go do dishes as I hear water boiling.  I am tired and would like to go to bed!


January 7, 1960 Thursday

Who Am I?

You’ll never guess – have you ever had Mountain fever, the usual term is ‘cabin fever’ and you’re supposed to (especially if you were recently a city girl like me) get it in the long dark Alaskan winter when you’re confined to small quarters and I gather – unable to stand being alone and the quiet and a kind of claustrophobia creeps over you and I guess you go kinda mad.

Well, so far so good, I haven’t had THAT but I do have Alaskan Mountain fever – and in a way that’s worse – it’s certainly crazily unexplainable, goofy and all else – especially when now I can look forward to going down to civilization soon and live in a nice warm house with electricity, running water, bathroom and such –

My time – my seven months’ residency will soon be up and I can learn – but I don’t want to.

Yet, at times, I’ve felt I’d walk the fifteen miles OUT to have an honest to goodness shower but now here comes the odd part – then I want to high-tail it right back here – home.

I love this place – more than I dare say.

Tonight the mountains are clearly outlined – the moon is bright, in fact, it’s lighter outside than inside.

I dream of once again leading a so-called normal life – here I’m confined not only to a tent-like Jamesway in mid winter Alaska and a tiny unmodern trailer at 1500 feet elevation in mid January alone and my husband only comes home with supplies weekends and yet I know it’s crazy –

I dread that day also.

The children will once again go to school – teaching four small children cannot be called an easy job up here, especially when they’re all in different grades and I’m inexperienced and have no set course to follow (just their school books PERIOD) and yet I am fully and deeply enjoying it and although they miss school , the teachers and the other children and they know it’s only temporary – I can say for certain they too, are enjoying it.

Here we all find a marvelous peace and satisfaction from being on our own and beholden to nobody (except the Land Office) and find it rather nice to know that we enjoy each other’s company and in this day and age can stand ourselves.

We don’t miss TV and find the days are far too short to do all we plan to do – but there’s always tomorrow.  Tomorrow holds all of our dreams – bright and shining and unfulfilled.

We carry our water, we live in a poor dwelling and we’re HAPPY – we lived in a tract house – a deluxe one at that – in southern California two years ago.  We had the school two houses from us (now it’s thirty miles) and I watched the children’s walk to school from our back step.  Now we watch sunsets, clouds, moose, beaver, porcupines and Mountain peaks, rivers from our back door.

We had everything and I might add, nothing.  Now today – anyone (who didn’t know) would say – they have nothing – true, we’ve sold our furniture and our proud possessions now have a Jeep, truck and tractor – but oddly enough now I feel we have everything and we have done it all ourselves and there’s so much more to do and that’s good too.

So as I sit here tonight the children sleeping soundly, the nearest doctor thirty miles away, nearest neighbor one mile down the mountain, husband fifteen miles away, no telephone, no vehicle – I who up until a year ago had never lived out of a suburb of Boston or Los Angeles, had never been camping or worn Levis or slept in a sleeping bag.

I am now a homesteader and a Sourdough (old time Alaskan) no longer a Cheechako or a newcomer as I was so commonly called upon arrival.

I’ve now been initiated.  We’ve lived in a suburb of Anchorage in a lovely home (there are many) – and in a modern apartment in Alaska’s biggest city – Anchorage (and had modern theatres, stores, schools at my elbow) and I was not happy.

Now I am.  Yet I feel the children must go to school,  They need social contacts, Brownies, Cub Scouts, other children – Bill and I need to go out to the movies etc.  We’ve been out once this past year and he only is staying out now because our road is impassable except by tractor and since the recent thaw and then freeze even the tractor won’t make it – and he’s holding down a job in Anchorage but lived here five months and cleared our land.  [Linda note:  Confusing sentence:  first ‘out’ means ‘out on a date’ and the second ‘out’ means out of the valley and not on the mountain with her.]

But for you who also are unprepared but have an unquenchable dream burning in your heart – come – come – and do as I’m doing – you too will [rest of page is missing]


January 7, 1960 Thursday

Dear Editor,

Ever since coming to Alaska in 1957, before Alaska was proclaimed a state, I’ve had a burning desire to write about this land I love so much.  Then, after statehood, ‘everybody’ was writing about our new state and I thought, “How could I, an inexperienced writer, ever hope to compete with this?”  So instead I wrote reams and buried them in my desk drawer.  I thought, “Someday I will learn to type and will attend a class on article writing.  Then I’ll send something I’ve written in to a magazine but not until it’s in perfect form and beautifully written”

I am afraid that day will be a long time in coming and meanwhile I am exploding!  Every day I think of more and more subjects to write about:  the children’s reactions to homesteading, how they have so readily adapted themselves to their new and different way of life here in Alaska, how every day is a lesson in Science, how they amuse themselves without playmates and about all we have all learned.  Am I to wait forever?

We are homesteading and time is of the greatest essence and money is spent before we get it.

So tonight, I decided, there is ‘no harm in trying’.  I sit alone here, the children are sleeping close by, for all intent purposes we’re alone.  Our nearest neighbor is two miles away, we do not have a telephone or any means to communicate with anybody, we’re 30 miles from a city – and yet, we’re unafraid.

Two years ago I could not stand to be left alone for one evening.  What has happened to account for such a change to take place?

We love it here!  Our homestead is located at 1,500 ft. elevation in the Alaskan Mountains – below us the Eagle River Valley spreads itself.  I find that if we are away from here for more than a day I become very homesick for this place – I who never before missed ‘a place’.

As I ask myself the above question, the answer comes back “You never knew what you were capable of, you never gave yourself a chance.”

Here in Alaska I have seen and heard of many stranger things happening.  It seems that great space alone clears a person’s mind so it can more readily accomplish things one never would have dreamt of doing formerly.  The constant beauty is inspiring and the clear air is invigorating.  The change of season keeps a person feeling constantly alert and very much alive!

Some people become great painters here.  They are moved to painting by the tremendous scenic wonders surrounding them.  To their surprise they are able to capture some of this on canvas and to their complete amazement they become ‘artists’.

I know of many such cases.  Each one is different.

One man came to Alaska to get away from cities and crowds, although formerly an industrial engineer, here he opened a small woodcraft shop, where he sold gifts and furniture which he made by hand from native Alaskan woods.  Although he had never done work of this type before, he found it completely satisfying economically and otherwise.  He was happy in his work.  He now owns a fine store and shop and is a happy, fulfilled person.

We too have followed our dreams to Alaska and we too have found happiness and fulfillment in a very different and completely alien way of life than that to which we had always been accustomed.

We are homesteading.  (How much that sentence says – I could write a book on it.)  We’re doing this on the barest of shoe strings (like most homesteaders) and yet, we feel, we wouldn’t exchange this experience, hardships and all, or our homestead, for a palace or a million dollars.

I felt compelled to write you tonight.  I hope this lengthy letter did not meet ‘a wastebasket fate’ before someone read it.

Sincerely, Mildred Lloyd

P.S.  This was written at 1:00 A.M. by kerosene lamp.


The Jeep Road

As we wend our way home – I drink in the beauty I see around me and think – “Finally, I’m going HOME.”

I never thought I’d miss a place so remote and strange as this.  I remember when I first came and I though “I cannot live this far away! – From people, bright lights and city things.  I’ll surely be lonely and afraid.”

But instead a peace came to me – I relaxed and was unafraid.

The road to our homestead is full of bumps.  It’s a rough one and has many jolts.  But I wouldn’t trade it for a freeway.  Smooth, easy riding, swift and modern. — Surely things would not remain the same

The moose and beaver, the squirrels and bear would soon hasten to find new homes.  They would be afraid to stay.

Would the sun shine so brightly?  If the cities came to us – or would it’s ways be filtered through the city dust.

Would the skies be so clear and blue if the traffic came right through –

Would the air be like wine or would it be choking and would my eyes sting all the time?

I could not bear to stay and see it change –

From a place so serene to one of hustle and bustle – to one of modern ways.

I once thought “I cannot leave the conveniences behind.”

But I found so much to replace them and came to understand . . . .

The beauties that surround us – for all to enjoy – I think of all these things as we wend our way HOME –

I drink in the scenery.  I was so thirsty –I’ve been half-starved – since I left this wilderness area.

My heart cries out “Don’t leave again!”

My soul is nurtured and so is my brain.

I look around me – oh, such peace envelopes my body as I sink into bliss –

We’re going HOME

The mountains are etched in rose – just as if a small child – or God had outlined them with a pink crayon –

The sun is setting – so early indeed – as this is Alaska in winter – a scene so different than any I’ve ever seen.

The trees bend down with their burden of snow.

The world is all white except for the sun setting in crimson and gold.

We ride on – and I’m grateful to be going HOME!

Written by a woman who had come from the city to homestead and although had loved the wilderness had an unaccountable desire to return to the city.  She left in the fall and returned in the early winter – never to live elsewhere again.


January 8, 1960 Friday 1:00 A.M.

*Notes:  (Cloudy and light snow, colder)  Golly it’s been a busy, busy day.  School work and more school work.  I’m trying so hard to get units finished, tests over (I have to make them, etc.) and really look into this school situation seriously.  They’ve been out so much longer than I’d ever intended and still weeks to go.  I’ll either go up to school or mail more work in Monday.  And tell them where we are in books and see if I can’t find out where they are.

Such eager pupils (including Sharon who begs for her nursery work).  I’ve been working for three hours on their work – my the time I put in on this – and yet I enjoy it – and believe me I’m learning.  Tonight as I wrote out a simple story for Cindy to copy (teacher’s suggestion) I remembered back to first one during first week I taught them.  Such a long one and I used words she hadn’t had by mistake and expected her to use quote marks.  How simple they must be and yet their vocabulary is really amazingly large – considering just such a short time ago she could neither read nor write.

I see each one improving – Linda in her writing.  John in his arithmetic, and I’m so proud.  I think they’ve done so very well and I pray that my crude but anxious teaching methods will see the darlings through!!

None of us went out today.  I cleaned trailer, washed floor (between teaching) and settled up and cleaned the Jamesway.  Tonight everything is clean and neat and cozy.


January 9, 1960 Saturday

*Notes:  Hill so icy – didn’t want to plow it because so icy underneath but snow got so deep had to plow it and now after thaw just ice.  Bill couldn’t get up today and barrel of oil fell out of box in rear of tractor, got hole in barrel and oil started spurting out.  Turned upright and had to leave it there.  Then got tractor almost here and steering lever broke completely off.

The odd thing about all this is that Bill was coming to tell me he’s leaving for a job at Summet Lake up near Paxson where road turns off to go to Mountain McKinley.  He’ll be gone for at least two weeks.  All the men are going on jobs.  Microwave repeater stations, part of an Air Force communications network.  Whole system from here to states and now from here to Fairbanks – located, designed and built before next summer – so hurry, hurry, hurry!  Bill was going to give me a choice of whether to stay here or not then decision was made for us.


The other day I didn’t want to come back and thought of having Mom come up in April so the children could go back to school and remain until end of term.  But we decided to come back [to the homestead] and finish [the time requirement] now.  Then I wanted to put children back in school and walk back and forth at night up mountain – so fearful children will miss too much school but as Bill pointed out still so much winter ahead – and children would have to get up at 3:30 A.M. and we’d be lucky to be home by 9:00 or 10:00 – then chance of one getting sick, or breaking a leg on icy road, Jeep breaking down etc. etc.

The last few days I’ve still been undecided though and Monday I was going to go see teachers and talk with them – have been catching up on work and getting it all in order — and now this.

I’m disappointed.  I would like to complete our time now and I don’t know if we can make up this time or if we will have to start again in spring.  I’d like to stay on the mountain but now that tractor’s broken – not enough oil, food or water – and would be too risky.  If one of us got sick we wouldn’t have anyone checking on us – we would be all alone.

Now what?  I don’t know.


January 9, 1960 Saturday – from Mildred’s mother

How goes it?  Would that I could peek and reassure myself.  How I pray that the first will come fast and successfully for you.  I am pushing mentally for you all.  I am positively breathless about it, and about the weeks passing by for you.  The last letter was simply exciting where it described the Christmas on the homestead.  You “made it” for them, as you always do no matter where you are.  They’ll remember that one for ever and ever.

How thankful I am that the Radio worked on the mountain.  Shortly after I bought it, one of the students told about a friend who took one to the mountain and it didn’t work.  I can well imagine what the “voices” and “music” over the air meant cutting the dead silence for you all, and especially for you during that long long hours of  “waiting” and “listening” for Bill to come.  Oh, Honey, how I wish I could have been there this year to share all this with you.  But you’ve almost accomplished the feat – and the more power to you for it!

I positively cannot see or understand how you and Bill have withstood these strains.  I pray and pray that you can hold on to gain your goals.  I love you, both so much!  I don’t believe I have it within me to do it!

The day will come when you will be ready to do your writing.  Meanwhile, my dear, you have had time and opportunity to stand aside to think things through for yourself – People who are in suburbia “following the crowd”, and running after them do not have time to think!


January 1960 Review

*Notes:  January 6th — Bill working in Gakona.  January 10th — We had to leave homestead.  January 11th Bath and children rested and got ready to return to school.  January 12th — Children returned to school.  Bill left for work in Paxson.  Sub-zero weather all week – 20° – 25° below – good thing we came down.

I’m lost without Bill and the children now that they are back in school.  Jeep won’t start so every day Sharon and I walk to the store, mailbox, etc. – Cold – Br-r – but nice.  We bundle up and except for our face we don’t mind.  I put a scarf over Sharon’s mouth and we don’t talk – it’s too cold.


January 11, 1960 Monday

Oh – so much has happened and things have been so uncertain and mixed up and that is why I haven’t had time – truly – to write.

I ‘came out’ last Saturday (a week ago) for first time in three weeks and roads were packed down and fine.  Then, while out, we had a THAW – warm winds and temperatures soared for one day.  The time you wrote it was warmer here than in California.  First, I thought, “How nice,” but it was awful – streams thawed, snows melted.

Sunday (a week ago) road – left here [log house] at 10:00 P.M. – had washed clothes all day – no dryer – so hung clothes all over to dry.  The roads were treacherous – awful.  Got to Pollard’s midnight – kids asleep — it was drizzling – all ice.

Bill decided to take — I’d brought one month’s groceries, wouldn’t you know – up and if he made it he would come back and help us up.  We can’t use trailer behind tractor now and I’d have to walk.  He built a box on rear of tractor to haul supplies – did I tell you?

Oh Mom – we froze.  Temperatures up but wind blowing like fury – shook Jeep and went right through me.

Bill got back hours later but said snows caving in on side of road and all is ice –

We drove back to the log house and arrived there at 5:00 A.M.  He slept in chair one hour and went to work.  I didn’t wake until 1:00 in afternoon or kids either – poor Bill – terrible!

I never was so afraid coming out of the valley – ice, only ice on the road and I prayed all the way.  Even in four wheel drive Jeep zigzagged – and with chains.  And that switchback – oh-h!   Anyways we made it.

Bill was supposed to work over-time Monday as job to be done Wednesday, but got off to take us back.  I felt we HAD to get back up to homestead or people would say we were living here [log house in Eagle River].  We left here at 6:00 P.M.  I was already to go when he got back from work.  Driving along Eagle River Road and someone honked and honked.  We thought, “Crazy fool trying to pass us Here on the ice.”  A car swerved past us – honking – It was Pullen.  He did all this to stop us!

Pollard had tried to go home and almost crashed on switchback – stream coming down the road and car went down sidewards [sic] and they almost got killed.  He finally got back up the hill and he warned Pullen who was on way back to town and Pullen warned us so we turned around and came back to the log house.

Then Bill had to work Tuesday and we went home [homestead] Wednesday – and trudged on ice up the mountain on foot!!

Naturally I swore I’d stay until February 1st and then Bill came home Saturday morning and said he was being sent (all men in office) to the Interior on a job.  He left this morning for two to three weeks and so I had to come back to the log house.

I only had two weeks and five days left to finish our time up there and naturally didn’t want to leave – especially since if this counts (he wrote to ask) as a break in our residency we’ll have to stay until May so if that’s so we’ll go back in April.  If not I’ll return when he gets back.

He was sent to Paxson up near Mt. McKinley to design a road with one other man, older, heavy and not used to outdoor life – at least as Bill says he’s sure glad he’s in condition and says other could have heart attack.  They outfitted him with complete (to use) winter insulated clothes, snow shoes etc. etc. etc.  They’re not to go out if 20° below zero or wind blowing – so if weather is cold he gets paid anyways but job will take longer.  So I don’t know when to expect him back and I hate being alone down here but never minded up there!

Now listen – we’re taken care of.  Bill was bringing me a barrel of oil at the homestead so I could do what I wanted – stay until oil ran out and walk down and come out with Pullens or come down now with him.  The oil fell off tractor on the first hill – rolled down – and big hole in barrel and oil came out.  He turned it over and saved most but couldn’t bring it up then.

Then tractor broke down when he was almost home and lost its steering – and must send for new part so decision was made for me!  I had to come down and now temperatures are 20° below zero – oh, it’s cold.  I walked to mailbox and could hardly bear it back – really thought Sharon’s face would get frost bitten.  The temperature dropped Sunday then lower yesterday and hit lowest today and still dropping.  Wasn’t it good I ‘came out’?  Hope Bill will be O.K.

Actually this will be a rest.  He gets lodge and meals paid and a real good lodge I hear!!!

Oh yes – we’re taken care of!!  We had awful trip down mountain, no tractor and books, books, books – some food and clothes.  Two big boxes and duffle bag loaded, two sleds and poor kids had to do for themselves.   One sled broke.

I carried enormous back pack and basket with kitten in one hand and bag in other – night time and so cold.  Bill managed sled with two big boxes – we went on ahead alone – kids are mountain goats and did fine and we got down thirty minutes before Bill.  (I stopped in at Pollard’s – they’ve moved back!)  Boxes fell off sled – top heavy – hard to hold back coming down steep hills.

Then our Jeep wouldn’t start when we reached Pollard’s, and he helped Bill and finally after one hour pulled him and it started.  He’s so nice that way.

We got to here to the log house midnight Sunday – really dead.  Went to mailbox.  Now mind you no food here, stores closed – and all I packed down the mountain was one can evaporated milk and one jar mayonnaise and bread.

And in mailbox was your marvelous food package – us cold and hungry.  We had hot soup, hot cocoa and chicken sandwiches. Perfect timing – thanks, thanks – so sweet and I needed those vitamins.

You’re an angel and I hope you haven’t been worried, but it’s been a nightmare and oh, how I wish I was through.

But I love it up there and live for the day we can stay there forever!


January 12, 1960 Tuesday

Darling Bill,

I have had YOU on my mind constantly – did you get there yesterday, is it terribly cold?  According to airport temperature the thermometer soared to a record 21° below for January 11th and it’s still cold today.

I walked to mailbox yesterday and really felt the cold.  I turned on the head bolt heater after you left and didn’t try Jeep until 2:00 but wouldn’t start.  I have to go to store today so will leave soon and walk.  Sharon needs a nap so I’ll get back by noon.  Will main this letter then too and hope it reaches you before you leave. [smiley face]

Sharon, the cutie, is writing you a letter – working so hard over it.  She just told me that she said a separate prayer last night that “Daddy wouldn’t get hurt.”  She loves you so!

Well, it wasn’t quite the trial today getting them off to school – no spilt milk or such – thank goodness!  I hope they didn’t have to wait too long for the bus.  It was nice to have them in school and I was glad to have them come home but they belong in school!!

I worked hard yesterday and place [log house] looks better.  I put the old standby straight nylon curtains up in the living room – (I would’ve said panels but being a man you wouldn’t know) – any how they’re pretty – let the light in – and give me a better feeling!  I had quite a time getting them down from the attic.

Also put rug down and what a difference.  Couldn’t lock the back door last night – tried and tried and tried – it must be the cold.  It’s always hard to lock but now it’s impossible!!  So with all my concern I ended up sleeping with an open door!  I stayed up and watched the late show and then slept – poorly – I missed you! – slept on couch (didn’t open it) and woke up in time too!

Stopped over to see Mrs. Bockstahler yesterday – she’s joining the Community Chorus – has been on waiting list for ages – and also the Soroptomist Club – a woman’s club, she tells me, similar to Kiwanis and her dog class – I don’t envy her!!!!  Well, good for business, but I’m content to be home!!!!

Mrs. Anderson’s Mother is here and she’s jolly and nice.  Stopped in on my way home.  Mrs. Gunter came over and WOW!  She’s slim and beautiful – red hair too!! – And red sweater and stockings and about a size 16 now!  Hair curled, make up on and acts different too.  I guess I’m just me and could never change so abruptly – I ask you will it last? – And why?

I’m so anxious to hear all about your trip, the lodge, (are meals good?), the country – well, everything.  Take care – please!  We miss you.  Love, Mildred.  P.S. Seems so funny to write a letter and not talk homestead all the time like I usually do to everyone in my letters.  I am glad I’m not up there in this weather.


January 17, 1960 Sunday night

Darling Bill,

I’m so very lonesome – in fact I’m so lonesome for you I feel I’ll die!  Oh sweetheart please don’t go away again – ever!!!  I’m selfish I guess but honestly Bill – we’re just not a family without YOU, YOU, YOU!!!

All week I’ve missed you – I guess everyone must know.  I just can’t stay home!  I was that way before when you were in Alaska and I was in California – I feel the same way now.  This week has been longer than a month on the homestead because there I lived for your coming to ME!

Even a week hasn’t passed and it seems a month.  What will I ever do?  All the things I usually crave the times to do – now I have the time and I’m not interested.  I just want YOU.  Hurry home!!

I hope that cold weather didn’t hold you up too much!!  I’d be happy if you had a rest but still it would mean you’d be away longer!!  I will try to write a ‘newsy’ letter tomorrow – tonight I feel too lonely – so will close with all my love, to you – my dearest one.  Mildred


January 17, 1960 Sunday – from Mildred’s mother

Blessings upon your head for the letter that arrived Friday.  I needed it.  I was so relieved.  Of course I knew something was making it even tougher than usual – but fear plus imagination are bad combinations for me.  I was afraid of illness upon mountain top – alone with the children.

So the letter relieved me in several ways.  You are safe and well.  And you are down at the bottom at the log house which is the place for you now.  Don’t be afraid any more.  You have neighbors whom you can call upon or send for even if you have to send John.

When I visualize the last trip on the mountain, I just shudder.  It is a wonder the Pollards weren’t killed.  And Pullen is a good guy too.  Keep ‘in’ with them all.  It’s close experiences like that which draw a small group together in times of need.  They’d all swear for you and Bill on your residency.  They ought to too.  In fact I think the government ought to give Bill the last two weeks since they are preventing you from having transportation.  I’m sure it will work out, dear, I’m sure.  I cannot doubt after everything else that has happened.  Miracles and guidance and answers to prayers over and over again.  It will all come out right for you all.

To think even the oil barrel turned out to be a lucky accident.

And to think the little box of foods were there to serve you!  I sent it for a quickie lunch after a struggle “up” some cold night, while you prepared for dinner or for bed.  But this was even better.  I was afraid you’d think me silly and be mad about it.  Anyhow – goody it was there.  Bet children were surprised.  And, Mil, the mysterious ways of the Lord.  If the road had been easy and accessible Bill wouldn’t have learned so much about making new roads in that terrain.  That plus all his water-power knowledge plus his engineering plus, plus is creating Bill for a wonderful job up there.  I am so proud for you – because you have proved the stuff you are made of and so has he.

His work is important right now too.  Only it i