In this final portion of the letter, Dan tells Lad about their trip from Trumbull to Anchorage, via Seattle, and explains their search for employment.
The boat trip was perfect. There were several young people on the boat who we happened to click with, and we organized what we called “the family”. We visited ports on shore together, Ketchikan, Juneau, Cordova – – and at Valdez the family disintegrated, most of them leaving for other destinations.
Ced and I arrived in Seward on July 2, and came by train to Anchorage. We had a hell of a time finding lodgings, since many of the Alaskans to come into town to celebrate the fourth, and many newly arrived “Cheechakos” had come up from the States (“outside”) to get jobs at the new Army air base under construction. I left Ced guarding the baggage on Main Street while I went from hotel to rooming house, searching in vain for rooms.
At length I approached Dennis rooms, as announced by a sign over the door. I knocked. The door, after a bit, swung open, and a frowzy girl, clad flimsily in a pair of girls overalls, smiled up at me. “Have you any rooms?” I asked. “Rooms? We have no rooms!” She paused, then added, “only girls!” “I beg your pardon”, I apologized. “I’m looking for rooms.”
We searched for Mr. Stohl, and found him soon. Ced asked if he had heard from Rusty that we were coming. “Did Heurlin tell you to come up here?” He questioned rather brusquely. “Yes”, we told him. “Well, I am full at the mine. But you boys won’t have any trouble finding work”. We thanked him, and left.
After trying several places, we learned that the railroad was shorthanded because all its employees had found more lucrative employment at the airbase. The airbase office told us that they were employing only Alaskans. So we decided to wait until after the fourth, then if we still could find no work, we would work for the railroad.
On July 5 both Ced and I found temporary jobs, Ced at a gas station, I at a grocery store. After a week Ced landed a job at the airport as Assistant Mechanic, where he hopes to learn aviation from the ground up, literally! In the meantime, by persistently haunting the office of the Army air base, I was permitted to fill out an application, and, after further high pressuring, I was hired as level man on a survey crew.
I’ll probably stick to this job until the work is done for the summer, because I am being paid well, $1.15 per hour, 52 hour week. It amounts to about $59 weekly, which is more money than I have ever earned. Ced and I are living cheaper than seems possible in a booming town where prices are high. I figured that I shall spend about $15 per week for expenses. Whether I shall go to school this fall at Fairbanks, or work all winter, or return “outside”, I do not know. It depends, of course, on circumstances.
Rusty has not told us when he will come to Alaska. I have written to Jim Shields, asking him to come up and join the boom. He has always wanted to go to Alaska. He and I used to discuss the possibilities by the hour in Totuche and Bobare.
I have been disappointed in many ways in Alaska, mostly because it is not sufficiently different from “outside” to be interesting. I make an exception of the scenery. I suppose that by comparison with South America it seems to commonplace. I wish, and even hope, that I might get down to see you before you leave Venezuela permanently (if you ever do).
Whether you “have time” or not, I insist that you escribame pronto y mucho. Se puede enviar cartas por avion o por correo ordinario. No importa. Y ahora, yo espero,
Tomorrow I’ll post the letter Ced writes to Lad covering the same time period but, like two artists, his account is quite different from Dan’s.
On Saturday I’ll be posting more Early Memories of Trumbull and on Sunday, more of Ced’s Coming of Age Adventure.