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Stories Moving To Alaska

1958 North to Alaska:

  My step dad (Ralph Emerson) had a TV store in Kalispell, Montana and when the only TV station in Kalispell shut down the TV business went bankrupt so my mom (Ira) and Dad decided to move out of Montana. They had two places they were thinking about moving to Hawaii or Alaska, so they picked Alaska since it was much easier to move to Alaska, so in the spring of 1958 they got into there VW bus and headed North to Alaska. They found a 1-1/4 acres of land, about 10 miles south of Anchorage on the North East corner of the DeArmond homestead Lot #10 for $1,500.00. They spent that summer of 1958 living in a tent while clearing trees so they would have a place to park the trailer house. They had a huge stack of wood after clearing a spot for the trailer. Ralph got a job repairing TV's for HillCrest Hardware/Vista Radio & TV. He worked there through the summer with plans to return to Montana for the winter and then return again to Alaska the next spring with the whole family.



Spring of 1959:

  Then in the spring of 1959 we started our move to Alaska. There was my mom and dad, my sister who was four years old and myself who was 8 years old. We took every thing we owned loaded it into an 8 by 36 foot trailer house, which my dad had bough in 1952 while in the Air Force. It was a very unique trailer in that it had real Red Wood siding and a Asphalt single roof, it was designed to look like a summer cottage.

  Well my dad had a 1948 Ford half-ton Pick-up with a flathead V-8 in it. And my mom was going to drive our 1957 VW bug. So we started out with the 36 foot trailer which weighted 9-tons (18,000 pounds) remember we had every thing we owned in it, Ralph's test equipment from his old TV business, cloths, toys, 4 rabbits and there cages. There was just enough room in the trailer to crawl over everything to sleep for the night. All this was towed behind the half ton Ford pick-up which also had a 14-foot boat, 55 gallon drum of gas, the largest 5-KW power generator I had ever seen, boat motor and Misc. other things needed for the trip loaded all loaded in the 48' Ford Pick-Up.

Off to Alaska:

  Our trip only took us thirteen days to travel from Kalispell, Montana to Anchorage, Alaska. On that trip in 1959 there was almost 1200 miles of the ALCAN Highway that was gravel road. I don't know how many flat tires we had but it seemed like there wasn't a day that went by we weren't fixing a flat. Well tires wasn't the only problem for about every two flat tires we had one broken spring on the trailer we also had the truck frame brake, one water pump go out. broke the spider gears in the differental and had to be towed up one hill because of the slick road. To this day I don't know how that old ford pickup towed what it did as far as it did.

Truck Frame:

  We had the frame of the truck break in half right behind the cab about the second day out. We were still on the pavement in Canada so we had a tow truck come out and haul us into a town where we had the frame welded back to gether and then we were off again North To Alaska.

Main Leafs:

  On the trip we broke seven main leafs on the trailer house during our trip. The trailer was so overloaded that the Mail leafs on the trailer house springs would brake. Since I was small I could slip under the trailer and with a hydralic jack I would jack up the trailer axle, then unbolt the spring and slid it out to my dad and he would take the spring pack apart and replace the main spring and then slid it back under the trailer to me and I would install it. After the spring was back in and the trailer back on the ground we would load up and be back on our way North To Alaska.

Broken Differntal:

  Probably the worst problem we had was when we ran out of gas about half way up a long hill. There was nothing unusuall about thais since that was the reason why we had the 55 gallon drum of fuel in the pickup. Well like we did several times during the trip dad would get out a small hose and siphoned the fuel from the drum into the pick-ups fuel tank and we would be off again North to Alaska. Well this time we got evey thing loaded up and us kids back in the car and truck we preceded to start up the hill....well the motor was wanting to go but the rear end said no, we broke the spider gears in the rear end.

  So there we sit on this hill with no way to move it. We sit ther for a couple of hours before two trailer house tow trucks came along and dad waved them down and they looked at the sitution and said "Oh we can get you up the hill and into a town with no problem". Well I don't think these guys knew how much was in the trailer house because first one of the trucks hooked a chain to the front of the Ford and.... well a lot of dirt flew then the second truck hooked a chain to the first big truck and..... Well I remember a whole lot of dirt flying but the Pickup and trailer just sit there. After a few attempts at trying to pull the pickup and trailer up this hill they thought it might be eaiser if we back down the hill and unhook the trailer. By now my dad was so mad.... well we backed the trailer house and pickup down the hill to a road camp which just happened to be at the bottom of the hill. We unhooked the trailer from the pickup and since dad was so PISSED OFF by this time he had them tow the pickup to the top of the hill and leave it there. My dad then hooked the VW bug on to the Pickup and towed it about 50 miles into a small town. It took three days for the repair shop to get the gears we needed. When the pickup was repaired we drove back to where the trailer house hooked it up to the Pickup and off we went back up the hill and North to Alaska.

It's Still Light Out:

 At night we would find a place to pull off the road and then we would let the rabbits out to eat some of the grass and then we would start up the generator mom would cook supper and my sidter and I would play outside untill it was time to go to bed then we would catch the rabbits and go to bed in the trailer. In the morning we would have breakfast and off we would go.

  Well one night my sister and I were playing after we had had supper and dad came out and told us to cautch the rabbits and then go to bed. Well both my sister and I started to cry because we did not want to go to bed. Dad said well its gettin late and you need to go to bed, Since my sister and I knew it was just to early to go to bed did a little more crying and complaining about it still being to early untill our dad finaly told us it was 1:AM and we WERE GOING to bed. That was my first contact with what I became to know quite well as "The Midnight Sun" so needless to say my sister and I went to bed.

Wet Road and Smoking Tires:

 There was another time we had to have help getting up a hill, it was raining and we crossed a rail road tussle which had been converted into a passenger car bridge because they were building a new bridge over the Priest River. That was a scarry bridge because all they did was put planks down so the cars could drive across, because the trains still used it. The bridge had no guard rails on it and I remember the trailer house was hanging over each side of the bridge as we crossed it. Well when we got to the other side we started up this paved section of road and we just could not get enough traction to pull the trailer up the hill with it raining, well a nice Canadian man came along in a new red Ford pick-up and said he would help us up the hill, I can still remember this as if it happened yesterday, the two pick-ups chained together spinning there tires, and smoke coming off the tires of both pickups as they slowly moved up the hill. As a small kid I just could not belive all the smoke that came off the tires. We finally made it up the hill and my dad thanked the man and Off we went North to Alaska.

More Water Again:

The only other thing I can remember which was a constant problem but we didn't fix because we only had a certain amount of money and there was a lot of waater along the Alaska Highway. Since we had on idea how much money it was going to take to get ot Alaska and getting there was more important than worring about the water pump. About half way to Alaska one of the water pumps went out on the engine (a flathead Ford V-8 has two water pumps) it was leaking so bad we would have to stop every so often and add water to the radiator.

Other than those few things it was a pretty good trip. We were always glad when there was a section of paved road, the rocks and dust on the Alcan Highway was like the Baja, and there were many miles of the road you wouldn't see anyone, most places were so remote they run generators for lights because there was no power lines to supply power. We were very happy to get to Alaska, and when we crossed the Alaska-Canadian border it was a big moment for us, only about 400 more miles to Anchorage, Alaska and half of that was paved.

  When we got to Anchorage it was about 5PM and we stoped at a store and I remember dad buying me a pack of Lifesavers. We then headed to our new home in Alaska. We turned off Seward highway onto DeArmond Road, which ws gravel at that time. and we drove up DeArmond one mile to this narrow dirt road which turned off to the left. We drove about a quarter mile to the end of the road right to the tree line and as he stoped he said with a big smile "WE ARE HERE",



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