Cedric Duryee Guion
EXTRACT of Ced
Rx One daily before retiring.
Toward the end of July and the first part of August in the region known as Bristol Bay in Alaska, there comes each year the close of the fishing season. There are perhaps some thousand persons at that time who are desirous of obtaining transportation immediately to Anchorage and thence to Seattle. In former years, prior to the war, there were many boats which took a good share of these people from the fishing grounds to the states, and the rest paid their own way, for the most part, in any one of perhaps a half dozen airline’s planes, one of the big three being Woodley Airways. Naturally, with the war so close to the fishing grounds, the boat transportation was discontinued, and the bulk of the fishermen transportation business fell on the airlines. Competition was always keen in the Bay region and the short period over which it is possible to benefit by this “prize of the year” business, puts an airline to the supreme test. Management, pilots, personnel at hangar and equipment must cooperate to the fullest extent if full benefits are to be realized. It has always been a source of some pride to Woodley Airways that ours has always been a choice slice – – but only by expending a great deal of out–of–the–ordinary effort. This return business, along with the moving of the same men the other way at the beginning of the season – – around June 1st – – is far and away the biggest single source of profit over the entire year. Now, with that introduction and with you perhaps already forming opinions as to what I’m leading up to, I’ll give you a brief discourse on what happened and still is happening at the Woodley Airways. But first, a little on the humorous or tragic, however you choose to accept it, of the life of a fisherman. He is usually Scandinavian, more often than not, Norwegian. He leaves Seattle and has his way paid to the fishing grounds via boat and plane (Union intervention forced this last). He boards the boat at Seattle after a winter of slim pickings at any job he may choose and at which he is probably not too good or conscientious, preferring a good drink and a saloon any day of the week that he can afford it. He is, of course, well fertilized with good spirits for the trip and has probably had a bang up farewell party and is poured onto the ship. At Anchorage, his company has arranged transportation by plane (Woodley has the majority of these contracts) and, while waiting for the plane to take him to the Bay, he usually has from a day to two weeks, during which time he quickly exhausts any remaining finances which he may have been fortunate enough to retain that long, and when boarding the plane he usually clutches what is left of a last bottle in a grimy hand. When the ship returns to it’s base, after letting the men off at Naknek, his seat is in terrible shape, he having been affected by air nausea encouraged by that bottle. There is a cup handy for such emergencies, but how can a stewed, sick drunk know that? Then there is that pungent odor of men’s clothing not too often washed, hanging in the cabin of the plane. While at the fishing grounds, he works almost constantly, grabbing sleep when he can and living on the boat from which he fishes. He has no money, nor time to drink, and is so busy he wouldn’t think of it anyway. Then comes the final run, final tally and the prize check (for a good man it might run to three or four thousand for two months work). By borrowing against the check (no way to cash it until he gets to a bank) he is able to get some more of the good old “comforter” again and he then is told to board the plane for Anchorage. Again the dirty seat, the odor of clothes, and then a “short one” at Anchorage at which time he may lose all of his two months earnings by being “rolled” by bartenders or sharks or just from plain gambling. On his return to Seattle he will go on an extended drunk until he either loses or spends what his wife doesn’t get of the balance, and again goes to work for wages, thinking always of the next season and how much more he will do with the opportunity.
Tomorrow I’ll be posting the second part of this “Extract”.
On Thursday and Friday I’m posting two letters from Marian to Grandpa. The first was written while she was on her way to Jackson, Miss. from Pomona, Calif. The second was written after she had been in Jackson for about a week.