Family, Friends, and Two Old Codgers
In 1951 we sold our log home in Fairbanks and bought a better house, with a small rental house behind it. I went to work at Eielson Air Force Base for Max J. Cooney Company as a heavy equipment mechanic and welder. In December the superintendent told me that he was going to lay off the other two night shift mechanics but wanted me to stay on the eight P.M. to four A.M. shift to look after the stoves and shop so it would be warm for the day shift. But as the big equipment overhaul program was now started, there was plenty of work, so I kept right on overhauling tractors and dump trucks to make the time go faster. In the spring when the weather warmed up he put me on the day shift.
We were forced to quit mining on Gold Beach too, in the fall of 1950, because Eugene could not make a profit.
In February Eugene went with a crew to Gold Beach, loading everything on the sleds and go-devils to begin moving to Stevens Village. From there George Black would bring everything to Fairbanks on his river barges.
The pilots kept me informed on their progress. Since they were not making much headway, I finally talked my boss into giving me time off so I could go help them. Dick MacIntire landed me right along side the cat train with his Piper Cub airplane on skis.
The heavy steel counterweights in the back of the dragline made it so tail-heavy that the skids on the go-devil under it kept breaking. We unloaded all two tons of the weights onto sleds and had no more trouble. When everything was in Fairbanks we sold it all to pay the debts. I finally quit working for Max Cooney, going to work for Mitchell Truck and Tractor Service as a working shop foreman.
In Fairbanks, Joe Fejes built a bedroom for his son Mark in their basement, saying that all he needed now was a radio. We had a big old Howard twelve tube console which Hildur never liked so we took it there. Joe met us at the door, braced himself across the entrance and said, “Oh, no you don’t! Get away from here with that!”
We pushed him aside and took it down to Mark’s room.
For years Joe, Claire and the children joined us at Christmas Eve parties. That next Christmas Joe and Mark came carrying a huge box all trimmed with ribbons. It was their Christmas gift to us – the radio. A few days later we took it to the city dump. The Fejes’s happened to see it at the dump, recognized it and retrieved it. The next Christmas they lugged in a big box again – the radio. One very dark evening Hildur and I took it to the dump for good.
In the fall of 1956 Hildur took time off and drove to Seattle with Hilda. Hilda went to school and Hildur entered the University of Washington to work on her Bachelor’s degree. Ray was also attending the University of Washington.
I got time off from my job and flew to Seattle later that fall, where I worked all winter for the Austin Construction Company, on Boeing Field, as a mechanic and welder. They were building missile plants for Boeing.
I left Seattle in the spring and flew back to work for Mitchell. When school ended my family drove back to Fairbanks and had quite a trip. The car was loaded so heavily that they had five flat tires.
One afternoon in 1959 in Fairbanks the city sirens began to scream. A young neighbor came out yelling to Hildur that we were being attacked.
Hildur told him, “It can’t be!” She thought a minute. “It must be that Alaska has become a state!” Dropping everything, she rushed downtown to join in the celebration.
In 1961 Mitchell started general contracting on jobs all over Alaska. I did not like leaving home so after spending the summer in Fort Yukon I quit them and went to work for the Alaska Department of Highways as heavy equipment operator, mechanic and welder. The job was much better than working for contractors. My years of experience counted. I was often sent to the road camps along the highways to do repairing and welding, which I liked very much. Most of the time I got back to Fairbanks on the same day.
In the summer of 1962 Hildur, Hilda and Gail Wien (Hilda’ best friend) flew out to spend the summer with Hulda and Sulo. Hildur attended a summer session at Cornell University, doing more work on her Bachelor’s degree.
An urban renewal program was started on our street and many of the older homes had to be torn down or moved, including ours. I sold it, found a nice house, wrote to tell Hildur and bought it. Soon as she got back we moved.
Ray was working as an electrician and met lovely Judith Uden, a schoolteacher from Mandan, North Dakota, at Eielson Air Force Base where she was teaching. They married a few months later. Troy was born less than two years later and Tom a couple of years after that. Judy works hard in public service: Little League, Cub scouts, Food Bank and her church.
Hilda married Kenneth Erickson, a fine young man, and entered the University of Alaska in 1963. Ken worked for the Fairbanks Telephone Department. They had the dearest little girl named Kelly Gail.
Hildur came home from school one Friday evening in January 1965, so tired she barely made it home. The doctor discovered she had a bad heart problem and sent her straight to the hospital for complete bed rest. She suffered from then on with frequent angina pain, and had to quit teaching.
The Fairbanks flood in the fall of 1967 caused so much electrical work in the area that Ray decided to start Ray’s Electric. He bid on jobs not only in Fairbanks but in Wasilla, Anchorage and other parts of Alaska. To date he has been at it for seventeen years and has done well.
In 1968 the doctor told Hildur to spend the winters in a warm climate because breathing cold air caused such bad angina. So each fall we drove to San Diego until Hilda and Ken pulled up stakes in Alaska and moved to Carlsbad, California, where Hilda got a teaching job. Ken entered the San Diego State University and graduated with a degree in Industrial Arts. They bought a home in Carlsbad. We sold our San Diego duplex and bought a home also in Carlsbad, but still drove to Fairbanks for the summers.
A few years later our dear grandson Kenny was born. Ken heard that there was a demand for new single family homes in Missoula, Montana, so he flew there to see, while Hilda finished her teaching contract in Carlsbad, and Kelly finished her school year. They decided to make the move, so Ken bought a van and drove to Missoula with little Kenny along for company. Hilda and Kelly followed as soon as their school year ended. Ken purchased some lots and built homes there, selling them until the interest rates on home loans went so high that all building practically stopped.
Hilda, now called by her middle name, Lynn, got her master’s degree in school administration. After working for two years as Missoula School District’s Curriculum Coordinator while Ken was building, they moved to Libby, Montana where Ken has a cabinet making business and Lynn is principal of an elementary school. She has just completed her doctoral degree in Education.
Now it is November, 1984. Hildur and I sold out in Missoula and bought a small house in Kirkland, Washington, across Lake Washington from Seattle. Summers will be enjoyable there.
The boys have grown up to be such intelligent young men. Troy is attending the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and Tom is at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, majoring in electronics.
Kelly is married to Pat Cameron, lives in Seattle, and is in her junior year at the University of Washington. Pat and Kelly are working hard, and will be supporting each other through school.
Lempi’ s husband, Art died; she has Alzheimers disease and is living with our youngest sister, Doris, in Marysville, Washington.
Claire and Joe have a winter home here in Vista and a condo in Fairbanks. Claire is a well known Alaskan artist and writer, and Joe is a concert violinist.
Eugene and Connie are happily living in Fairbanks among their children. They have a very nice vacation home at Harding Lake that Eugene built.
Our dear friend Eliza, Tony’s wife, died. Tony lives in Anchorage close to his children and grandchildren.
Lynn’s friend, Gail Wien, is teaching school in Anchorage.
Hulda and Sulo still live in Spencer, New York, close to their family. Our great pleasure has been traveling with them to Canada, Alaska, Minnesota, Cape Cod, Texas and Florida.
That leaves us two old codgers at home, me with an artificial knee joint and Hildur with five by-pass arteries to her heart. We’re still kicking and enjoying every minute of life, and hoping the end won’t come for many years.