Apparently, I (Megan) can’t hide in my office anymore and plead my newbie status as an excuse for not writing a blog post. I’ve been Reference Archivist here in Archives & Special Collections for two weeks now and an Alaskan for just three weeks. And what a busy three weeks it’s been. Arlene, Mariecris, Nicole, and even Kathy, all the way over in Germany, have been incredibly welcoming, and I already feel at home here. It has made moving to snowy, cold (but beautiful!) Anchorage in January much easier.
Earlier this week, I was busy converting some of our old finding aids to our new standards when I stumbled upon a colorful letter written by another transplant to Alaskan from the Lower 48. Madge Stone came to Seward in the summer of 1928 with her husband, C.W., to prospect a mining claim at Moose Pass. By mid-July, the mine had proved a waste of time and money, and Madge had tired of the “different world” of Seward and its wild life. In a July 19th letter home to friends in California, she wrote the following (all grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors are hers):
“I don’t care to ever see Alaska again. we have had this wonderful trip, but the life up here does not appeal to us. its surely the other side of life. everybody most takes life easy, sleeps days and Parties around nights. the night-life in this little town is as bad as a big City. The ‘Line Women’ in theire little houses, taxies tearing around all night, out to beer houses, and boot-legging… Just drive out to some little cabin, wake up the folks, and have beer, sandwiches, wine and ‘what-have-you-and-how’… it’s all like a different world, we would not exchange the experience for anything, but are tired of it.” (Madge Stone letter, HMC-0672).
I can’t say I’ve exactly had the same experience of Alaska as Madge (yet?), but I love that line about Alaska being “the other side of life.” The historical record is full of letters and diaries from visitors who arrive to test out the Alaskan frontier for a new life, only to leave a few months or years later, ready to return to “real” life; as Madge, comparing her home state to her adopted one, writes, “one has to get out into these rough places to appreciate California.” But nearly everyone who stays for even a short while seems to appreciate the magic of this state. Even dear old Madge, tired of the rain and the booze, in the same letter encourages her friends to make the “delightful trip” to Alaska to experience its plentiful fish, moose, and wilderness.
Here’s to hoping that the “other side” of my life here in Alaska is just as wild and wonderful as I imagine it will be. We have plenty of “what-have-you-and-how” here in the Archives, so stop in any time and say hi.