Iíve Sure Enjoyed Whatever Iíve Done
Seems like every year or every two years, instead of getting worse I think it was better.† Yes, it used to be hard times, like a depression.
I was here, (Port Graham), in English Bay, and clear down to Portlock.† To support myself I worked in a cannery.† Itís the only work we used to do at those times; just in the seasons.† Seasonal work is what cannery work was. After I got married and had a family I worked here and there. During the war I worked in a mine. Both in mines down below and up here.
Now things are up to date. Kids have everything to play with. In those days we didnít have anything but homemade stuff.† Like bows and arrows; we used homemade stuff to make them. My gun was homemade also.
I was born here in Port Graham and we moved down to English Bay village after I was born.† There was no school here or in English Bay until 1925. I was born in 1914. The school began down in Portlock, and we moved down there for school. I was eleven years old at that time. I graduated from grade school in four years and took two grades at a time. But the subjects were easy then. They were simplified compared with these now. Especially compared with these books now.† They are sure Greek to me when I look at them! Then I went to high school in Seldovia for one year. I went alone and stayed with somebody.† That was it. I thought I was smart after one year. Now I realize what the district used to tell us five in the class. We quit ninth grade and then we though we had enough schooling. They said you kids are going to realize when you grow up that you should have had more schooling. We did realize it. I was 16 or 17 when I went to high school. There were four classrooms in the two-story schoolhouse. The lower grades were up above and the higher grades were down below.
After high school I moved back to Port Chatham until the rest of them, (brothers and sisters), got squared away through school. After that we moved up again to English Bay. We moved up from Portlock in 1934. Ever since then weíve been here.
Iíve only got one sister living now, Juanita Melsheimer in English Bay. Iíve got 4 brothers, Sergus is the oldest. Iím next, then Herman, Pete and John is the baby. We lost 2 boys and 4 girls. There were 12 in the family.
When I was younger there was so much moving around I didnít care where I was staying. But I used to like it here, English Bay or Portlock the best because they were small. It seems like there was more freedom down there in Portlock. There was a lot of fishing and hunting there. A lot of skating too. The lagoons were right there in Portlock. Two lagoons, and we would skate most every night as soon as it would freeze up.
In 1940 Edna and I were married in Seldovia. We didnít have any children until after two years. Martha was our first baby. Then Ralph was born and then Lydia. Lydia is the baby of the family.
In my younger days we used to burn wood. My younger days were not so hard for me. We would have a little oil heater and a large wood range. I built this house before I got married.
There are a lot of changes that happen every eyar. There is improvement of something. There are a lot of changes in Port Graham.
There used to be just little paths here and there, no such big trails like now. Then the C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Corps.), came up here. We go paid two dollars a day. That was good money in those days. We thought it was then. Sixty dollars a month. We started on that bridge above Walterís clearing a road to Seldovia. Wow! We worked really hard, with just axes and hand saws. From there, (Walterís), we went around the bay, under the mountains, and clear up to the summit. The Seldovia bunch met us up there.† They made a road from Seldovia. Then we started another one to Portlock. That one was shorter. A shorter route down in Portlock. The n we started to build these roads. Just a mattock, a shovel and an axe. We had those homemade hand saws. Iíll tell you, it was a lot of work.
There was depression from the 1920jís up to 1936. In the 30ís the Coast Guard used to come in here, down to Portlock and English Bay. They used to bring Red Cross flour. That was the only way we could get flour. Othere than that we lived on all wild stuff; wild animals, ducks and fish. It was nothing like today. Now we donít eat as much wild foods. Some of the kids wonít even eat seal!
We used to raise vegetables. We had a garden right out here. Edna and I would raise spuds, (potatoes), turnips and carrots. The carrots were pretty good, too!
We had to carry our water from across where the airstrip is now. I helped build the first village dam up there. Before that, there used to be just a stream with a little pipe in it.† I used to carry about four or five gallon buckets. There was a narrow path across where the airstrip is now. Sometimes the water would be covered with ice and snow. The first guy up there would have to dit it down to the wooden pipes. I used to watch for somebody else to go up.† I would start up. I used to have a yoke that I would use to pack water with.† It would come in handy. You could lift anything with that. It was hard to lift even one bucket though.
Before the airstrip was put in, planes would land across on the beach. The Malchoff kids, Tim and his brother Johnny, would take turns taking the people over, back and forth by skiff. Planes would come in whenever you called them on the radio.
This trailer here used to be a radio station. Tim used to live in it. First John, his brother bought it during the fishing season. Then Tim took it over. The only communication was that radio. I think KXC 30 was one station and the other† was KXC 40. Homer Air used to Be Lawrence Homer Airlines.† But that guy crashed. Then another guy took over and he went down. The Larry took over Homer Air. Ray Martin had it before Larry. He (Ray), crashed too, at Jakilof Bay.
I used to be the school agent during those times, between 1930 and 1940. After the teachers leave at the end of the school year, somebody had to take care of the school house. They used to have barrels for oil and gasoline. Somebody had to stand by and watch those things. They had one of those gas rigs, (generators), for electricity. So I had my electricity too, by hooking up to the school. They didnít pay me, but they gave me whatever I wanted. It was just in the summer season, you know.
During the war, that was right after we got married, 1941 or 1942, I remember I worked in the mine down below. A coal mine it was. The next mine was above Seldovia.
In the spring a company came up. F.I.P., Fidalgo Incorporated packing Company. Thatís when the cannery burned down. That was in March month. These crab fishermen were welding inside the cannery.† You know how welders are, sparks flying and all. Pretty soon we could see it from up here. Tim, me and Clifford were just sitting down to eat, and I said, ďwhatís that big smoke down there?Ē Clifford said, ďbig smoke in your eyes and youíre dreaming.Ē I said, ďstand up and take a look down there.Ē This guy was the winter watchman and when he ran down it was too late. The flames started and everything went up just like that. An old wooden building, the cannery was.
There was a lot of wood with tar on it and tar burns really fast. It was just one night and it was cleaned out. Just a piece of dock was left out there. Those pilings were just glowing like candles. The only thing they saved was the old bunkhouse. Yes, itís lucky the wind was glowing the right way. The gas tanks were right down here, and if the wind had been blowing this way, the whole place would have burnt. Those gas tanks would have exploded. But the wind was blowing up the bay.
The new cannery was built in the 50ís. Every year they would build and build, but they didnít start canning until a few years ago.
When I was in high school I stayed with a family in Seldovia. I had to work for a living; pack water or coal or something after school. They used to use coal for heat. They got coal easy from across the bay above Anchor Point. Between Anchor Point and Homer thereís nothing but coal beds there, clear out to where the tide goes out at low tide. They had to gather it up, and pack it, using any moving vehicle they could find. The only vehicle we had was a wheelbarrow. That was hard work! Some chunks of coal were as big as this table. Then we had to chop it up and get it in those wheelbarrows and wheel it up. That was the quickest way.
We had wood stoves, just like this, only black. They were cast iron. I used to burn alder wood. This spruce we got here burns like paper compared to alder wood. Alder is the only wood that would last long enough. I used toget three or four skiff loads of alder wood from across the bay. I had a saw horse and a buck saw. Iíd cut them up and fill the whole porch up. Then weíd be sitting pretty.
Before we had kids, Edna and I, weíd stay up when itís moonlighting. We were all fond of skating in Portlock, but there was no place here except that little pond up there. So weíd walk to English Bay about 10:00 or 10:30 at night. Iíd say, ďlets go.Ē Weíd grab our skates and walk down through the trail. We would skate until about 3:0 or $:00 in the morning and walk back here again. Itís hard to believe, but we did it. In those days we were running practically all the way. I think it took ups 30 or 40 minutes. It was a good trail then, you know. Itís been a long time since I walked that trail.
How do I feel about life today: Well Iím getting too old to be feeling anything about it. But I sure enjoyed whatever Iíve done. I enjoyed the kids too.
I like living in Port Graham now. I was born here, itís my home. I feel free, live good. Have lots to eat and everything.
Copyright 1981,† Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.† All rights reserved