Life in Alaska (1) – Alaskan Cranberries – Oct., 1940

Biss - with Butch and family - 1940

Oct. 3


Hello folks,

First, the weather. A letter from me with no mention of the weather what the season would be a Mexican hairless dog without fleas (I full due there, you thought I was going to say a Mexican hairless dog with the mange, hee, hee). The weather, then, is turning gradually colder, with disagreeable rainy days holding their share of the lime-light. We have not had many frosts yet, although we can expect snow any day.

Sunday last, Ced and I were invited to dinner at the Bragaws, no doubt instigated by Florence and the Duchess. After capacious moths had served in adequate bellies, we innocents were introduced to the shady subterfuge is of poker, and were duly fleeced. Out of the ruins came this Ray of cheer:

In Alaska’s ample carpet which spreads over her soils, grows a little green plant, from beneath which people the small red berries blessed with the pre-fixe “cran”. These cranberries are reputed to be far superior to Cape Cod’s bog berries, and this reputation is well-founded in native Alaskan lore. Everyone says they are more tasty than store cranberries, so it cannot be gainsaid. I, myself, have partaken of these superior fruits, and pronounce them, with a little coaching from the side-lines, to be far superior to Cape Cod’s bog berries, and more tasty than store cranberries. Not expecting anyone to take anyone’s word for it, the Bragaw household has offered to send you a box of these so-called Cranberries to see for yourselves. You boil them with sugar. Some people cook them with turkey and yams and giblet gravy. This is known as a “Thanksgiving Dinner”. The Bragaws are planning to send only the cranberries, but this whole affair really belongs to Ced discovered the Bragaws in the first place. I’m just mentioning it in case he forgets to, because he has been working overtime of late, putting “dope” on airplane wings, and getting a dandy jag over it, into the bargain.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting the final half of this letter.

On Saturday and Sunday, more Special Pictures.

On Monday, I’ll begin posting letters written in 1942 as the War comes to Trumbull.

Judy Guion

Life in Alaska – Hal’s Cigar – Sept., 1940

Dan in white jacket in Alaska

Wed. Sept. 18


Said Rag Weed to Golden Rod tough

As they spoke of hay fever and stuff

“Aw!, Cut out your goddam breezin’.

A.D. is hardly sneezin’.

Your pollen ain’t quite up to ‘snuff’”.

“Today”, as is so tritely reiterated on such frequent vacation, “I am a man!” The episode, as you may have already guessed, involves the delirious past-time vulgarly referred to as “smoking a cigar”. There are divers cigars. There are Havana fillers. There are good five cents cigars. There are better 10 cent cigars. There are Corona Corona’s. There are Blackstones. There are little cigars. There are big cigars. And there are ROSSIs! Rossi EE. . From Italy. They are long and skinny. A black stogie effect. I bought two from “The Greek”. He has a Delicatessen on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage, but that is a minor detail. Here is how it happened:

Yesterday morning Bud Johnston, transitman, came to work smoking a cigar… nothing unusual, you understand, just smoking an ordinary cigar. We were all in Hal Reherd’s Hearse, which he has converted into a ‘bus for the survey crews. “Swanny” Swanson and I are Hal’s chainman. Fred and Orme are Bud Johnston’s chainman. We all ride in together in the converted hearse. Bud was smoking a cigar.

“Say, Hal”, I ventured, “why don’t you smoke cigars like Bud does? We can’t have that crew any better than we are!” (There is quite a rivalry between the two crews, each trying to out-do the other) “Well!”, replied Hal. “It is up to the chainmen to keep the transitman in cigars!”

“Did you hear that, men?”, said Bud to his chainmen. “It is up to you to bring me cigars.”

“Tomorrow”, said Hal, warming to his subject, “tomorrow, Dan, it is your turn to bring the cigar. Next day, Swanny’s turn.”


Faced by a situation that might grow to undesirable proportions, I resolved to put a stop to it early. Last night I went to the Greek on Fourth Avenue. “Have you any strong cigars?”, I asked.

He smiled. “I have some cigars that will knock you out”, he replied. He walked to the end of the counter. “These are imported from Italy. If you smoke them on an empty stomach you will pass out. They are like liquor”.

“Not me!”, I assured him. “They are not for me! I want them for a practical joke. How much are they?”

“Five cents.”

“Give me two of them.”

I paid him a dime and left. This morning I gave one to Hal, very publicly, to ensure his having to smoke it. He offered no objections. He lit it, and, so help me, he smoked on that long crooked skinny black cigar until almost noon time! Swanny and I giggled at first. Thought it would get him soon. Then we began to wonder. He seemed to be enjoying it. I pulled out the other cigar and looked at it. Smelled it. Nothing particularly terrifying there! “Do you want half of it?” I asked Swanny.

“Sure.” I opened my pocket knife and cut it in two. “Have you a match?”

We worked on our sections for a while, and after several matches had been applied, succeeded in getting underway.


In five minutes Swanny’s half had disappeared. “Have you given up?” I asked.

“Yeah”, he answered soberly.

I took another puff, and spit for the 15th time. Then I quietly extinguished the cigar. Only about half an inch had been consumed, but a lot of smoke had resulted. We looked with respect at Hal who was chewing the end of his much-reduced cigar.


Tomorrow it is Swanny’s turn. He says he is going to look for a Fourth of July sparkler and insert it secretly in a cigar. We hope it will work. It is our last chance.


Enclosed are four self-explanatory photos. 10 o’clock PM. Bed time.



Tomorrow and Friday, I’ll continue with letters written by Dan to family in Trumbull.

On Saturday and Sunday, Special Pictures.

On Monday, I’ll begin letters written in 1942 as the War comes to Trumbull.

Judy Guion



Life In Alaska – Dan writes to Grandpa And Lad – Sept., 1940



Dear Poppa,

So it comes your birthday again! You are growing up, and I think it high time that you learn a few of the facts of life.

I should like to relate to you a little allegory, from which you are to extract the seeds of truth.


Once there was a Poppa who had many children. He spent all his waking hours (poetic for not sleeping) planning for the success and happiness of his offspring. This went on at such great length that he over-looked much of his own happiness, which, at times, made his children sad! Often they gathered in Conclave (several miles out of Boston) to discuss their Daddy’s obsession.

“What can we do to show our appreciation?” They asked one another.

“Yes, what can we do?” They answered sagely.

And what do you think they did? They gave him some money, and told him to do whatever he wanted to do with the money. And what do you think he did? He spent it all to further the success and happiness of his offspring!




Wed. Sept. 11


Saludo, Ladito. It is with the utmost confidence that I undertake this letter….because it is apparent that you, too, miss-spell words in the heat and hurry of typing! So when you fnid worsdxxxxx that look funny, you will redliez that maybe I’m not so hot, but neither are lots of othre guys!

I still cherish a latent desire to pay a visit to Venezuela again, e’er long. What sort of welcome would be my lot if I were to drop into camp some afternoon? Would I have the bridal suite at my disposal, with a band and the Alcade to greet me? Would I have my choice of the finest arepas and cocny, and a caja de chimo for my very own? Platanos fritos? Un cafecito? Or would I have to put up with lamb, and peas, and ice cream, clase de los Yanquis? Shall I bring my chinchorro, hecho de coquisa? Or shall I have to contend with a Beauty-rest mattress? Ever since I got as far as Palenque (I think that was the name of the place… several kms. south of the San Juan do los Morros) I have had a feeling of frustration that must be alleviated.

APG - Flor and Martin Williams, Bob Ross, visiting from Trinidad, April, 1940

Flor and Martin Williams are the couple on the right.

Please give my regards to the Williams-es. It is with gratification that I learned of Martin’s arrival back in Pariaguan country. Ever since he broke his leg and they failed to shoot him, I have been under the impression that he was settled permanently in Caracas! The first day I saw him, in October, 1938, I was disillusioned. Instead of hobbling about in bed with a pair of crutches, he breezed into the office (the old office) with the grace and stamina of a gazelle! And when I left for home in July, 1939, he was still in Caracas, figuring out the best place to dig for the water and silt of which, I have been told, you have produced plenty! If you can get past the 19th hole, tho’, it will go down in the annals of golfing history. But now, with Martin back on the old stamping grounds, I suppose it will just be a matter of time until he gets his divining rod to functioning, or breaks another leg! I’m sorry I didn’t meet Mrs. “Flor” Williams. I heard on good authority that she was one of the most stunning women living, but Martin hid her light under a bushel so well that I didn’t have a chance to meet her! I really have no excuse, because they were both still in the states when I got home (I think), but I didn’t drive down to Norwalk to find out. Que virguenza!

Una cosa mas….Usted me dijo que luego me ascribire una carta completemente en Espanol. Temo que me tome el pelo! Verdad? De Missourri yo soy! Y ahora, espero.

Dad’s clearing house of news has probably informed you that I am no longer working on a wage basis… I am now employed by the Army under a “per annum” basis, involving a cut in pay, but the acquiring of several advantages, such as sick leave, vacation with pay, Army Commissary privileges, etc. $2300 per year is my salary… if I work a year without being laid off! I have heard a rumor to the effect that there will be an Air Base constructed in Columbia under the Pan American Auspices. It would be a great thing if I could tie up with that! Have you heard about it?

No aado mas! Escribame pronto… en espanol.


I’ll be continuing the week with other letters written from Dan to his father and the folks in Trumbull. These are letters I have recently been given by Dan’s daughter, so I’m posting them all together, up until they catch up with this story line.

Judy Guion

Life in Alaska – Dan Regarding the Willys and the Invasion – Aug., 1940

I have recently received from Dan’s oldest daughter the letters he wrote home to the family from Alaska. I have decided to jump back in time and post his letters out of sequence so you can get a feel for what life was like for both boys shortly after they arrived in Alaska. They left Trumbull, CT, on June 13th and arrived in Anchorage on July 2nd. Dan wrote his first letter home on July 13th, having written earlier letters to Barbara Plumb, his girlfriend.

Dan in Alaska

Dan in Alaska

Wed. Aug. 27


Dear Dad, this is jiust a hasty note (in spite of my haste I seem to have taken the time to insert an extra “i” in “just”) to add my bit to what Ced might have written last night. He mailed his letter while I slept this morning, thus depriving me of the chance to enclose this note in his envelope.

The envelope in which you enclosed the Certificate of Merit and the clipping from Bridgeport Life arrived yesterday, over one month from the date of mailing….That in spite of its being via airmail! The letter offered to send a Check to tide us over the starting period. We are the ones who should be sending you a check to pay for the Willys, so flagrantly wrested from you. I have already directed you to acquire title to any money I have lying idle in the bank as payment on the Willys. You have not acknowledged it yet.

You did properly in reading Fred Chion’s letter, and I have sent it to Barbara to read, and to return it to you so that Ted can read it.

Re: Jap Invasion. The only rumor I have heard about any invasion is that there must be some secret threat or the Government would not go to all that expense (and this, after eight years of the New Deal!). My personal opinion is that the new methods of warfare might employ the term “over the top” in reference to the top of the world, i.e. over the North Pole from Europe….A much shorter and apparently less hazardous route than the old ones, now that air has come to stay. Alaskan defense, then, would be available against not only Japan, but Russia and Europe, too.

Regards to all, especially Don, whom I have shamefully neglected.


Tomorrow, Dan’s note of Sept. 9th, and a letter dated Sept. 11th, written to Lad. Wednesday, another letter home from Sept. 14th, on Thursday one from Oct. 8th and on Friday, one from Oct. 9th.

Judy Guion

Special Picture # 133 – Art Mantle, Biss and Lad – 1930s

APG - Art Mantle, Biss and Lad -1930s

I am having difficulty pinpointing the date of this picture. For one thing, Biss looks about 14 or 15 and she was born in January of 1919. This would make make it about 1935. Lad was born in 1914, so he would be 21 but he sure doesn’t look that old. I’m leaning towards using Biss to date the picture. What do you think?

By the way, this is the same Art Mantle that Dan ran into in Seattle in his letter to Lad posted March  15th.

Family – Butch Asks Biss To Write To Ced – Sept., 1944

Elizabeth (Biss) Guion Zabel

Elizabeth (Biss) Guion Zabel

Sunday Night,

9:39 P.M.


Dear Caric,

You can thank Butch for this unexpected letter from me. You see he and Marty were having an argument the other day over who was going to wear a pair of slippers that Butch received from one of you boys up there in Alaska about two winters ago and I told Butch that they fit Marty so let him have them as he had no other pair and Butch did have an extra pair. Well Butch let Marty have the slippers but very grudgingly and he told me to go down town and buy him another pair just like those so I had to explain to him that I could not buy another pair like that as they had come from Alaska and they did not sell slippers like that around here so he told me to write to Ced—-right now, mother! I told him I would write to you and see if you could get another pair for him so can you? Here is a description of the slippers if you can find another pair similar to the ones here. They have three “A” markings on the front in colored beads. It seems to me that there were some other beads on it too but I wouldn’t be sure now. He wears a size 12 children’s shoe if you do happen to find a pair.

I have to stop now just as I am getting started as Zeke wants to get to bed early tonight and I have to take a bath. We have all been sick this week so that is the urgent reason for getting an early start to bed but I will tell you more about that tomorrow when I continue this letter to you. Good night for now from me and Zeke too.

Sunday Night,

9:23 P.M.


Well, here I am again! I put down the ”9“ and then looked around at the calendar to see what day it was only to find that another month had crept up on me unawares. I think I will send Dave a note tonight too to wish him a happy birthday.

I suppose Dad has told you by now that Bob Peterson died this past week from a Tumor of the brain. It was a surprise to us here as we hadn’t even heard he was sick. Dad probably mentioned how long he was sick.

Zeke and I started bowling this last week and I am proud to state that I had the honor of bowling high score for the night with a score of 126. We bowl with the Singer dept. That Zeke works in. Johnny and Dot Heigelmann bowl with us. They give a prize for high score for women at the end of the season and if the scores had counted that night I probably would have had a good chance to win it right then and there.

Did Dad tell you that Aunt Betty fell last week and hurt her knee? I guess she had one of her dizzy spells as she didn’t trip on anything but just felt. I greatly doubt that she will last the winter out as I can see her failing more and more every time she comes down here for a visit, I believe she is losing weight too. We were talking about Christmas today and trying to find out what the different people wanted and aunt Betty said she thought having somebody else do the cooking would be the best Christmas she ever had in her life. I felt awfully sorry for her at the time and thought what a shame it was that she had to do all the cooking.

Well, Zeke wants to go to bed early again and is almost finished with his bath so I had better cut this short if I want to get that birthday note written to Dave tonight. Love,


P.S. The rest send their love too.

Tomorrow, more Special Pictures.

Next week, letters from 1940, written by Dan, telling Grandpa about his life in Alaska.

Judy Guion