For the next few weekends, I’ll be posting Special Pictures. These are photos that do not pertain directly to the letters I’m posting but are unique and interesting so I want to share them. Enjoy.
Rusty Heurlin, taken in Alaska
For the next few weekends, I’ll be posting Special Pictures. These are photos that do not pertain directly to the letters I’m posting but are unique and interesting so I want to share them. Enjoy.
Rusty Heurlin, taken in Alaska
The following article, published in a local newspaper in 1941, tells of a trip Dan took to explore Homer and other Alaskan towns in the Kenai Peninsula.
Daniel Guion Discovers An Alaskan Town Where No Fuel Bill Ever Worries Man
A utopia where land is free, coal is scattered by nature like rocks along the beaches, “fat rainbows” abound in the streams and brown bear and moose in the hills – such wonders in the heart of Alaska, Daniel B Guion, now in an engineering post with the United States government air base at Anchorage, has discovered after 14 months of residence in Uncle Sam’s most northern possession.
A year ago last July, Guion, but recently returned from a similar assignment in the tropics of Venezuela, decided on an excursion into the opposite regions of the Americans. Second of the five sons in the family of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred D Guion, well-known Trumbull residents, he found enthusiastic response in Cedric, the brother third in line, on his arrival in Anchorage.
Trio of brothers there
Only last spring, Richard, the fourth son, chose to follow in the same adventurist path, and at the present time, is also a federal employee at the Anchorage airport project.
Recently, Daniel left on an exploration trip to the Kenai Peninsula where he caught his first glimpse of Homer, one of the Alaskan spots still open to homesteading where, “virtually in our backyard since we came to Anchorage,” he writes, “is the paradise we’d heard about.”
In a graphic story of his travels, he wrote of the Homer of Alaska to his parents: He says: “The reputation of Homer has always seemed much higher than could possibly be true, but upon seeing it, one is confronted with irrefutable evidence….
“Homer is one of the several places in Alaska still open to homesteading. It differs from the rest, however, in being situated in a country upon which nature has lavished every luxury conceivable.
“Land is free for those who wish to Homestead, and cheap for the man who wants to buy. By plane, Anchorage is only an hour and a half distant, and the CAA is building a landing field. Several miles of good gravel roads have been made by the Alaskan Road Commission, and it is possible that sometime in the future there will be a road connecting Homer to Anchorage and the rest of Alaska. When this happens, those who own property in and around Homer will be raised on a crest of prosperity beyond all bounds.
In summer in Homer, the moderating influence of the sea keeps the air pleasantly cool despite the long days of bright sunshine. In winter, the Japanese stream exerts the milding influences to such an extent that snow seldom stays long on the lowlands. Spring comes early, and autumn late. Rainfall is moderate throughout most of the year, and this ideal combination of elements promotes the growth of lush fields of hay and thick copses of berries without the aid of man. Celery, beets, peas, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and a variety of other fruits and vegetables thrive in the rich soil of the bottom lands. Fishing is good all year round. From the beach can be gathered clams and mussels.
As you may have heard, Cook Inlet has the second largest tide in the world (the Bay of Fundy being first). Coming or going, the waters flow as swiftly and turbulently as a mighty river. Sailing was delayed an hour and a half, the outgoing tide pushing the boat against the dock. After much maneuvering and clanging of bells, and pushing, and pulling of ropes, the ship, Monterey, was wheeled away from the docks. The first night was spent watching the northern lights and a few whales now and then but never very close.
Climbing up to land
Shortly after lunch we rounded the 7 mile long spot which projects out into the inlet to form a roadway out to a dock . . . the point of disembarkation for Homer. The dock is built of pilings a good 30 feet high to allow for the extremes of tide, so we had to climb a ladder to dock. A truck was waiting to take us to Homer.
After visiting Homer the ship Monterey sailed again, past the volcanic Augustin Island into the quiet waters of Kachemac Bay. With bright sun streaks across the gently ruffled surface of the Bay, the town of Seldovia, clinging to the precipitous edges of a rocky hill was seen. . . . . A town of pilings and boardwalks below and cabins and cottages hugging the hills above. . . . . surmounted at the summit by a little, weather-beaten, square church with the bulging steeple of Byzantine architecture that was testimony to the Russian influence.
I would love to see the Alaska that Uncle Dan saw on this trip, if it still exists.
Tomorrow and Friday, another letter from Grandpa to the “Trio From Anchorage”.
Monday, July eleventh
President Roosevelt’s misguided children:
As I hope you suspected, work has added up to such a degree lately that I have been unable to find time to write for the past two weeks. Naturally I’m sorry, but business is bizzness, don’t you know? Ach! Yes, ain’t it the truth.
Tonight I sneak a moment to whisper a few uninteresting and probably rambling thoughts on this, that and the foreign situation.
Dad – I’ve just exhumed your last three letters and will now take time to reread them “bzzzz bzzzzz” That’s done, and here are the items for your information:
The letter ends here and it appears that the second page is missing.
Handwritten note along edge of paper: By turning over this paper you may discover something which caused much gnashing of teeth and chagrin – Love from toodlumm
I don’t know what happened to the rest of this letter. The handwritten note along the edge of the paper refers to the fact that when Ced was typing this letter he had the carbon paper reversed so that the carbon copy is actually on the reverse side of the original.
Tomorrow, a letter from Rusty and then two letters from Grandpa to his son’s in Alaska.
For some of the time that Ced lived in Alaska, Rusty lived with him and they became very good friends. They kept in touch and Ced and his wife were planning a trip to Alaska to see Rusty. He passed away a few weeks before their trip.
Rusty Huerlin outside his studio
CED – Rusty Heurlin gave my mother a painting – it was a rather famous one – he was very fond of her. He was younger then my mother and father by a little. We did a lot with him – we went hiking with him. He made quite a name for himself. All his life he lived by sponging. He was so charismatic that he could get away with it. He walked out of school, he took Art lessons, he was a hobo for a while. The only thing that really interested him was painting. He spent all his life painting beautiful pictures. He was a good artist but he didn’t make any money at it. He knew all the artists in Westport – Red Heurlin – they knew Red Heurlin and they loved him. He loved dogs, oh, he loved dogs with a passion. There are a lot of his paintings around Fairbanks, Alaska, at the University of Alaska, in banks, in hospitals. They’re mostly outdoor scenes, some have to do with the early settlers, the Russians. Colcord Heurlin – he always signed C. Heurlin.
One painting did more to make him famous than anything else he did. Rusty made friends, he lived with me for a time in Anchorage. He made pictures. He made a mural, he filled the whole wall with it, for one of the bars in town, a whole Hawaiian scene. He used to drink quite heavily at times. I came home at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and he’d be painting. We lived with an old Norwegian guy, he slept in the upstairs room, had to climb up a ladder. I worked for the airline there, mostly bush piloting – scheduled passenger service came later – but most of the time I was there, it was all bush pilot’s. Rusty and I would go down to George’s living room, George was a bachelor. Rusty would paint in that living room until three or four in the morning. During the day he’d go out partying up and down the street. They called it the longest bar in Alaska – that was Main Street in Anchorage.
About 1940 – 41, things were getting red-hot. Major Marston was up there in charge of the Alaskan Defense Command. He was based in Anchorage. Rusty made friends with him – he made friends with everyone he talked to. He met the Governor of Alaska (Guering) through Major Marston. Rusty came home one night and he said, “Know what they’re going to do? Major Marston says that the Governor wants to go around the whole perimeter of Alaska and try to develop a reasonable defense system for Alaska. I guess it was Major Marston’s idea. Major Marston said, “None of us know anything about Alaska, the Eskimos, the Indians. We should go around and meet these native people. They know the land and if any problems develop with the days coming, we’d be lost. We wouldn’t know what to do.” He said, “We want to get an Alaska Defense going with native people. “Guering says, “Well, you know what? I don’t know any. I’m the Governor of this territory and I’d like to go around with you and meet these people that I’m supposed to be Governor of.” So Rusty sat and listened to all this talk and he said, “You wouldn’t want to take me along, would you? I’ve had this in the back of my mind for years that I would like to do a series of pictures on the discovery of Alaska”. His whole goal, idea and the love of his life was Alaska. He said, “I’d like to have a chance to go around to all these places, make sketches.” “OK, come on along” they said. That’s where he got this series of 18 pictures, starting with the fellow who came from Russia, sailed to Alaska and took it for the Russians. That was the first painting, he did the gold rush and 16 others. This was after he moved to Fairbanks.
Rusty moved to Fairbanks and got married. He was probably in his 60’s, and he married a girl from the Fairbanks News. At this point, he decided that he would teach Art so he got a job teaching Art at the University. He did that for quite a while. After he got these pictures done, the University said to him, “Why don’t we set up a building for you and fix it with this huge rotating platform and you could put these 18 pictures all the way around the building.” They talked it over and they got the Poet Laureate of Alaska to narrate the story. He did a beautiful job and that’s up there. If you ever get to Alaska, you should see it in Fairbanks. Alaska is different than any other state. This place is out of town about 10 miles or so. It’s a park sort of thing. They have a huge boat there that they have on display, probably like the boats they used up there. This one building is all Rusty’s pictures. They also have a museum and other historic stuff.
Rusty was an amazing person. He did posters during the war with “Uncle Sam needs you” on them. We went to the University of Alaska, we told them what we were after, they took us down to the basement and showed us some of his work.
Tomorrow, my posts will be based on letters written in 1942. Both Lad and Dan are in the military, but close enough to get home for some weekends. Ced is still a bush pilot in Alaska, Dick works at Producto Machine Company and worries about the draft, and Dave is in high school and hating it.
I will be using the entire week to post a sis-page letter from Grandpa with quotes from other letters he has received and news from France.
Easter Sunday, 1945, at Trumbull 4/1/45
Dear “Patient Reader”:
Having forced you last week to arise from the banquet table without having served the desert – – an Alaskan delicacy, a specially prepared by Ced the Chef (who usually burns things but this time turned it out just golden brown) – – I shall now continue in my own inimitable manner, which consists of quoting from others, to wit:
“I have finally taken up residence at the Morgan Establishment. Myra’s mother arrived on the Aleutian last Saturday afternoon and took over my room. I packed my belongings that evening and barged in at the Morgan’s. As the floor is still being laid I have taken temporary lease of the attic which measures about 4 feet high between the rafters and is probably 12 feet in length and 8 feet usable area wide. Of course I spend a minimum of time up there but it isn’t too bad at that.
Art Woodley arrived from Washington, D. C., and L. A. Sunday evening. He is returning from the hearings on the Anchorage-Seattle run and states that if an Alaskan carrier gets the route he expects it will be himself. He was pleased with the way the proceedings ran. He returned in the Boeing 247, the same one he left in, but he had two new engines installed and the Army paint removed so that it is now silver color and looks infinitely better.
(May 9) Note: that’s what the letter says – – time evidently passes quickly up there) I have been sitting here reading over the previous section and your last few letters to receive some inspiration. I am apparently doing so in vain as little inspiration is forthcoming. Rusty’s address is merely C. Heurlin, Barrow, Alaska. Incidentally, Rusty made big headlines a couple of weeks ago and I will attempt to get you a copy of the times to send. Seems he pitched in and helped (Rusty style) the doctor and nurse at Barrow during an epidemic of influenza among the natives recently. The doctor mentioned in his report that Rusty had helped save many lives and was directly responsible for some recoveries. Last I heard from the hare himself was last fall, and so I have no news to quote directly.
Started the Red Cross first-aid standard course last night and will thus be tied up every Thursday night for the next 10 weeks. My card had about run its course and the Ski Club is trying to get interest in a ski patrol started. As few signed up for the course I felt I had to enter myself as an example. I have had the course twice but one must renew every three years anyway.
My draft status is now occupational deferment until August 11. The day before the date set for my pre-induction physical I was notified that I had been classed as 2-A again.
I continue to receive your most welcome letters and continue to fail to answer regularly. Correspondence, other than to you, is too much of a disgraced even to mention. I have quite a few slides up here. Would you like me to send the ones you haven’t seen with the idea of your returning them? Occasionally I like to show some of them to folks up here which is why I would like to have them returned, otherwise I’ll bring them along on my next trip eastward, probably after the war. What I have in mind is to drive out on the highway and East to Trumbull where I would stay for a while. Then perhaps I’d take off for the South seas or South America. The latter place I have never been interested in until quite recently and then it took Walt Disney’s production of “Saludos Amigos” to create the desire to visit that continent. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Caballeros ) ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkZRlWekvj8 ) If you haven’t seen the picture, by all means do so. The theme development is about the cleverest I ever remember having seen. As for making Alaska my permanent home, I am rather dubious. Homer or a similar locale might be worthwhile but Anchorage is fast becoming a place to exist but not to live in. Ced.
He also mentions sending a box of gifts home and something to each of the Guion warriors.
Tomorrow’s section of the letter carries news of Trumbull, Grandpa, Marian and Jean. Two letters from Dave, a letter from Lad and words for Dan will complete the week.
This is the second half of a letter written to Lad, Dan and Ced by Grandpa.
Page 2 – 7/12/42
To give both start and finish of the trip extra zest, I found at the post office on the way to the train with Dan a letter from Ced, and surprisingly, another letter from him on my way home. The first, which both you boys read, reported no air raids as yet in Anchorage although they do have nightly blackouts. Private flying is banned so Ced is not making much progress along this line. He was still a civilian at the end of June when his last letter was written (Lad: you remember he sent a money order of $25 from which was to be credited to your account). His second letter, Dan, mentions the returned to Anchorage of Volly Pedersen who arrived with Chuck Morgan, both having traveled up from Seattle together on the Aleutian. Florence also was there to meet Chuck. Of course with both Ced’s letters were additional full-page installments of his plane rescue mission, making most intensely interesting reading. To properly preserve this saga I bought a special scrapbook in which to mount each chapter as it arrives. And hear a word to Ced. Dan showed me a large-scale map of Alaska which he says is on sale at Anchorage at one buck per copy, and on it we trird to locate Farewell and the route along the Kuskokwim or however you spell it, and it occurred to me it would make a most interesting addition to this account to have a map on which you have marked your route up to the point where the plane was located. I would like to have the map anyway but I hope you will not be as long in sending it as you have the air view of Anchorage. By the way, please let me know when you receive the watch. Also I have made two shipments of tennis balls which please report on arrival.
LAD: one of the things I meant to ask was whether you wanted the spark retarded on your car, or Steve to put more oil in that gadget were carbon removed or something done so that it wouldn’t buck as much as it does. My car is doing the same thing. Also just as a reminder you are going to take up the matter of a loan to take up the bank’s note on the car through that Veteran’s Organization. Meantime I will make no further effort to find a purchaser, O.K.? I also failed to ask if you wanted me to send back your watch after it is repaired, in view of the fact you already have the other one. Have ordered both razor repaired and battery sent. It is possible both may send them C.O.D. although I offered to send check to both if they would let me know cost, including shipping charges. Give my best to Jerry. And by the way, is it against regulation for you to buy and sent home and extra mosquito net and frame for cot and a good quality army blanket? We could use both at different seasons of the year.
Dan: Will you grab a R.R. phonebook when you get a chance and send me the full name and address of Wethers, Williams and Beckwith. I thought I would like to send them a little greeting from Bridgeport. I have Mr. Manning’s but not the others. Please give my best to Foster.
Dick got a card in the mail the other day granting him deferment until January. He is
now working days but is putting in overtime regularly. Hours are from 8 to 5 with half hour for lunch, 9 to 3 Saturdays, no lunch hour. Our refrigerator control went on the blink yesterday. It keeps shutting off so our milk is sour. Elizabeth and kids came to dinner today. Ced: Aunt Betty appreciated your message about the kiss but would rather have you deliver it in person.
On Friday, the poem “The Old Man Goes To Town” , regarding different experiences a father has with his three sons as adults and his reflections about how they were raised.
On Saturday and Sunday, I’ll be continuing Grandpa’s Reminiscences about his early life in Mount Vernon, New York. I’ll be posting these memories through his young adulthood, his marriage to my Grandma Arla, the birth of his children, the move to Trumbull and the death of his wife. This story will be going on for months. Enjoy.
Jan. 18, 1941
Carrajo, hombre! Porque no me escribe? No puede comprender mis cartas? Quiere olvidarme?
If you are at a loss for what to say, give me the low-down on your social life and secret passions. What do you do with your spare time, or don’t you have any? All the news we hear from you is indirect references to your meteoric rise to fame, seen through the doting eyes of a proud father. We have been so long out of touch with your mode of living that we don’t even know if you are still at Pariaguan or not.
Of course, there are two sides to the situation, and I have made hardly any greater attempt to keep you posted on life in the rugged North than you have made to enlighten me. It is probable that you would never recognize in me the callow youth who grinned a warm welcome to you in arid Carora nearly 2 years ago.
I have acquired another mustache, and with it, a sort of rugged sophistication that comes from mouthing a wad of Copenhagen “snoose”, and spitting in the stove, and wearing smelly muk-luks, and changing long-handled underwear once a month in conventional
sourdough style. This apparent lack of culture and intellect is prompted by the Annual Fur Rendezvous in February, when all the trappers and other Alaskan natives from miles around converge on Anchorage for several days of the most flagrant hell raising, whiskey-drinking, crap-shooting dissipation that ever was seen north of 54. All male citizens must prove themselves virile enough to wear at least a vestige of facial hair, or pay a fine of five dollars in the “kangaroo court”. The threat of losing five dollars, plus the opportunity to win a prize in the beard contest, has had a most unbelievable effect. On the streets, under the tables, entering brothels, reeling along the sidewalks, are seen scores of men, variously embellished with assorted blue-beards, wiry brown patches that put a chestnut burr to shame, finely tailored Van Dykes, gaily flounced sideburns, suggestive little pimp pushers, brazen handlebars, effeminate fuzz, etc. There is one aggressive fellow who has pruned his beard into the word “ALASKA” which reads down his right cheek, across his chin, and ends in the vicinity of his left ear! But the judges of the beard contrast will learn with dismay that a bearded lady has qualified! It is doubtful that she can sway the decision with any sex appeal.
In normal times, however, Anchorage is just another overgrown town. I spend a large part of my time at the ice rink. I have purchased a pair of figure skates, and apply them to the ice alternately with my nose and more bulky parts of my anatomy. Occasional carousing at the local hot spots round out my amusement, with even a spot of poker or dice in my more vicious moments. Ced and I sing in the local choral society, and in the cantatas given during holiday seasons (Christmas and Easter).
The Army is looking more and more business-like as the Air Base takes on shape. What was a dust-ridden smoking flat last July has become Alaska’s number one defense spot, Fort Richardson.
Speaking of the Army, next week we must register for the draft. If, as it may happen, FDR declares war on all his enemies, and tells me that I am proud to be an American, and I say yes, aren’t I, and he says, well, good, then here is your uniform which makes it legal for you to kill all those nasty old Germans, Italians, and Frenchmen and so forth that you want to kill, and I make a lot of vague abstractions about being a conscientious objector as I don’t know any Europeans I want to kill, and he says, is that the way you feel about it, and I answer, yes, dammit, and he says, well, now, we’ll just see about that, and I reply, yes, won’t we now, and we do, and I am put in a concentration camp to learn how it is wrong to go against the wishes of a democratic country that is fighting against dictators who put men in concentration camps against their wills, and while I am absorbing all this, how about writing me a letter?
Tomorrow and Sunday, Special Pictures.
Next week, I hope to complete the story of Lad’s induction into the Army in 1942.
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