Moving To Alaska
North to Alaska:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Still Light Out:
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.
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.
Road and Smoking Tires:
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.
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.
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",