Life In Alaska – Anchorage – A Grown-Up Mid-Western Town – Oct., 1940

Dan in white jacket in Alaska

DBG - letter from Alaska - Howdy, Kinfolk - Oct., 1940

Wed., Oct. 8

(R’cd 10/17/1940)

Howdy, kinfolk,

I suppose that all this newspaper talk about elections and our little brown brothers across the sea (the bastards!) in Japan has gotten you stirred up to a pretty pass, but in perspective, from this squaw’s nest called Alaska, it all seems pretty silly.

The inefficiency of construction which is rampant all over the air base and the rapid pouring of concrete on the runway is due more to the proximity of cold weather than to any threat of invasion.

Your naïve queries, Dad, about light and power in Anchorage are deserving of considerable attention. Perhaps I will repeat what Ced might have told you, since he and I do not collaborate with one another when we write. The most concise way of describing Anchorage is that it is like a grown-up mid-western town. The Anchorage Light and Power Co. furnishes electricity from its plant at Ekluntna. The City water supply is pumped from filtration wells beside Ship Creek. There are several restaurants, cafés, liquor stores, drug stores, soda fountains, dry goods stores, hardware stores, pawnshops, furniture stores, hotels, nightclubs, taverns, houses of prostitution, Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers, Jewelers, Opticians, one paved street, and fewer women per capita than anywhere else in the world. It is both a man’s town and a woman’s paradise. Spinsters, widows, even prostitutes can find themselves a husband apiece without half trying. There are over two thousand men now employed at the air base. The CAA is active in Anchorage, and is employing men. The Railroad employs men. Last week a new arrival in town paid $.75 to sleep in an armchair overnight. The hotels and rooming houses are always full. Exorbitant rates are being charged, and real estate values have soared. Labor is extremely scarce for private hire, every able-bodied man has a job with the Air base etc., and each night the Anchorage Times advertises for more men at the Air Base. There is bound to be a reaction, when prices will careen downward, and hotel rooms will be given away as premiums with each pair of trousers you buy. It has been hinted that such profiteering as is going on now might well result in the birth of a new town nearer to the Army post, which will fold up many dealers in Anchorage.

Appendix to Anchorage’s institutions: Churches, paid Fire Department, Grammar School, High School, five or six Air plane Services, bus lines, railroad, taxi companies.

Prices on standard products are equal to or slightly higher than in the states (cameras, toilet goods, etc.). The bulky things are more expensive, due to excess freight rates (fresh fruits, vegetables, furniture, etc.)

Pennies are seldom seen. It is said that Fairbanks was “spoiled” only recently by the influx of outsiders, before who’s time it was considered picayune to use anything smaller than a quarter! A bar of candy was to bits. So was five bars of candy!

What a difference from the state of Washington, where sales tokens worth 1/5 of a cent are used everywhere!

I hope all this gives you a more lucid idea of what Anchorage is really like. At night the street (Main) is aglow with neon signs and streetlights. The sidewalks are never deserted from dawn to dawn. There are night shifts at the Air Base, with buses running two or three times between sunset and sunrise. Nightlife does not quiet down until three or four A.M.

Please keep us posted on Dick’s peregrinations… if he lets you in on them. Adios until the next time.


8 thoughts on “Life In Alaska – Anchorage – A Grown-Up Mid-Western Town – Oct., 1940

  1. Mrs. P says:

    Nice to get a better view of what it was like up there!

  2. GP Cox says:

    How are you doing, stranger? Still super busy?

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