[letter from dad to mother, mom and kids driving down the Alaska-Canadian highway which was still 1200 miles of narrow dirt road at this time – we landed in Santa Fe, New Mexico on August 27, 1963]
Monday P.M. August 26, 1963
My Own Darling Mildred,
I wish I had written to you last nite when I got back from the homestead. I was fairly happy then, but I’ve just spent two hours going over the bills – and you know how that leaves me. (:
Oh, the H _ _ _ with that kind of talk! I got my raise! Finally, after how many years of waiting for it? I’m not even excited about it anymore. It seems the man did sign it before he left, and it’s been in effect since the 18th – I was a “12” [Linda note: civil service, GS 12 – I think his first raise since he started at the Army Corp of Engineers when he arrived in Anchorage June 1957] all last week when I was feeling bitter about it, and I didn’t even know it. It will show on the next pay check – on 11 Sept. – about $30 each 2 weeks, I figure. This will be nice, but it won’t help much I’m afraid.
After subtracting the bills that have to be payed [sic], and adding the overtime I’ll get, and sending BHC [grandma] a hundred, I can only send you $150, which probably won’t be enough. If it isn’t, maybe you can call her and ask her to send the $100 back to you for another 2 weeks. [Linda note: Constant tension about owing grandmother so much money!]
Today I got the big letter you wrote [the August 23, 1963 one]from Sheridan (I got a kick out of the picture J) – real fast mail service – I hope this gets to you as fast, although I’m afraid you’ll be in Denver waiting for it. I can just picture you driving through the nite, and sleeping in front of the fire station.
Oh, Mildred you have to write a book about this trip! I want to hear more about it – it sounds like you’ve had fun – in between the miserable times I know you’ve had too.
I’ve been thinking about what you’ve mentioned in your other letters – about this winter – and I can’t decide anything yet. I looked at that Jamesway yesterday and thought about you living there the way it is, and considered what it would take to fix it up. And then tonite I looked in the paper at the price of houses and apartments for rent. And always I think how I miss you, and of what it would be like to be away from you all winter. And then again I think of the winter that’s coming, and of how wonderful it would be for you and the kids to be down there in the sunshine for a while, after six years up here. It’s all so damned mixed up that I can’t make sense out of anything.
[Linda note: Oh, no! That’s not one bit helpful – “mixed up” – mother’s famous words! He’s in the same boat she is in! Why would THAT surprise me? And, no sooner did they get title on the 120 acres, they are already wanting to borrow money on it?]
For now you go ahead and go to Santa Fe or Albue – – – ? – -, and see how you like it. In the meantime, I’m to call the Appraiser in the morning to make arrangements for him to visit the homestead this week. Then I’ll know whether I can get a loan – and how much – and that may help us decide about the winter. In any event I’ll probably know by the time you get there, and maybe we can make arrangements for me to call you – I’d rather you didn’t call me except in an emergency, because there’s no privacy either here or at the office.
Last Friday after work, Giles McDonald and I went up to the homestead in his pickup. Didn’t see anyone but Pullen, and he was his usual bitter self. He’s still got the – – – – – – gate locked. I thought he and Rumsey had reached an agreement but no, they’re still going to court both about the road and the land. I was going to stop at Eklund’s on the way out Sunday, but they had company so I didn’t. Rich [sp? – Bict?] had a tractor up there clearing land behind his cabin – I guess he still figures on getting the place.
Anyhow – Sat. morning Mac and I hiked up the mountain – saw several sheep, but only one legal one and he disappeared while we were sneaking up on him (smarter than we were, I guess). By then the wind was blowing like crazy, so we found shelter in a gully and scratched out a place for our sleeping bags in the rocks. During the night the stars were shining, but in the morning it was raining – and it was still blowing. We stuck it out for a few h ours, saw another band of ewes and lambs but no rams, and then the wind got stronger than ever – so we came down, empty-handed again. I’m convinced the only way to get a sheep in that valley is to be there when the season opens, because as soon as they’re shot at they get spooky and you can’t get near them again.
The homestead was just as we left it – neat and clean, and I wasn’t the least concerned about taking someone there. And we washed our dishes and put them away, and swept the floor, and left it as we found it. J Mac was real impressed by the place, and the scenery, and I know he understands the difficulties we’ve had making a home there. Incidentally, he was very impressed by John’s stone-work, he really remarked about how well layed-out [sic] it was, and what a good job he’d done in fitting the rocks together. I picked about a quart of strawberries, had them for breakfast, and again tonite – really good. The turnips were so big they were bursting out of the ground. I have no way to cook them, but I brought a bunch down and gave them to some people in the office. Next week-end is Labor Day and somehow I’ve got to get a ride up there – I couldn’t stand 3 days here with nothing to do.
There have been a number of things in the newspaper I’d like to have sent to you, but not knowing if you’d get them I’ll save them for you. Mrs. Meekin, the wife of the man you talked to at Meekin’s Lodge that first night, died of cancer last week. I met them both 3 years ago when we were working up the highway – stayed there 2 or 3 times. There have been a number of people around Fairbanks attacked by bears this summer – black bears, too. One was Wm Strandburg, a well known mining man and brother of Gerry Strandberg of political note, who was killed near Manley Hot Springs while working at his mine. Then a young man named Larry Bidlake who worked in our office 2 summers ago as a student aid while going to the University, and now works for Fish and Game Department, was chased up a tree and had both feet chewed on before another man came along and chased it away. There have been several other instances, too, and they say it’s due to a very poor blueberry crop in that area, which is making the bears hungry – and mean.
The Borough election is set for next month, and guess who the only two candidates are for assemblyman from District 2 – which includes Eagle River and Chugiak, as well as the Butte area? Dan Bell and Ed Willis – take your pick. I’ll see if I can send you an absentee ballot so you can. Of course, some people from Palmer have gone to court to get an injunction to stop the whole election, and if they do then things will be more muddled than ever.
The reason I’m writing more tonite than I have before is that at least I know you’ll get this letter – since I’m going to send it with the money. Before I didn’t know whether you’d ever get what I wrote, so I didn’t much feel like writing. Clear? – like mud.
I’m sending a copy of the homestead patent, and one of the paper that told me about the raise – again something I wouldn’t do if I didn’t know you’d get them. I haven’t decided yet how to send this – I’ll find out at the P.O. whether to send it Special Delivery or Registered. But of course you’ll know by the time you read this. [Linda note: It was sent registered, first to General Delivery in Denver, CO, then on to Albuquerque, NM after the 2nd notice in Denver]
[This was in same envelope, see: *1963 – August – Dad’s Civil Engineer Work Promotion Form]
That paper about the raise reminds me of something else. This morning I was determined to have it out with Gail Gronewald, and get him to go down to Personnel with me and find out once and for all whether and when I was going to get it. So I waited and waited for him to be alone in his office, and finally about 10 I walked in to talk to him. And as soon as I walked in the door he said “Hey, look what the gal just layed [sic] on my desk,” and he handed me this paper. Boy was I ever relieved! If I’d gone in an hour sooner, I would have stuck my big foot right in my mouth – but good. We are watched over, aren’t we?
I’ve enjoyed the notes and cards from the kids, they’re sweet and thoughtful, and I love them. Tell David I liked the one I got today – he really must have worked over that. J Give them all an extra hug for me tonite, their Daddy misses them.
I miss you, Mildred, more even than I’d thought I would. Take care of yourself for me, and feel me close to you always, as I am in my heart. I love you, my sweet, I can close my eyes now and see you – and kiss you – and hold you –
Goodnite, My Love, Bill
This letter can be seen in context at *August 1963 – Mother’s Letters