Monday, April 20, 2020

Back in the Day, A Undocumented History of Forty Years in Seward

The Walkers, 1980
This is a piece I prepared for a public reading scheduled for this spring in Seward. That reading, of course, never happened, so I offer it here. 
Back in the Day, before cruise ships, tour boats, and kayak guides, people came for the fish. They came in wooden halibut schooners older than the town, and they came in limit seiners and gillnetters converted for longlining. 
Back in the day before the oil spill of 89, the flood of ’86 and the quake of ’64, people came for the jobs. They came for longshoring on the pipe ships for the oil patch, herring stripping, and salmon canning, jobs that fringed the waterfront like beachgrass, beholden to the sea. 
Back in the day, we had the railroad, the Tustumena, the Army Rec Camp, and the Skill Center to pay our wage. Seward Fisheries and Anderson Seafoods let you squeeze herring until your wrists froze up like a rusty pump. The fish meal plant cooking —That’s the smell of money!
Back in the day, churches and bars were running neck and neck. We had Tony’s, the Yukon, the Pioneer, the Showcase, Breeze Inn, The Pit, and the FlamingO to take our money and ease our pains. We had the churches too: Episcopalian, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Lutheran, and even the Mormons and the Pentecostals showed up to save our souls on Sunday after Saturday’s debauchery. 
Back in the day, the most variety of groceries was at Seward Trading Company but the best produce was always at Bob’s Market. The best meal was breakfast at the Pioneer or the crab salad sandwich at the Harbor Dinner club. Yeah, we had Apollo Pizza too, Back in the day.
Back in the day, we had charge accounts at Mcmullen's and Seward Hardware and Seward Building Supply. Just sign the ticket and away you go, we’ll send you a bill. If you can’t find what you are looking for you probably don’t need it. 
The author with brother Dave and Father-in-law
 on a moose hunting trip.
Back in the Day, we had TV but not much: PBS, WGN (Chicago) and RATNET. Only sinners and old women watched daytime TV back then, Soap operas and Jim Baker’s PTL Club. PTL stood for Praise the Lord but it looked more like Pass The Loot.
Back in the day, the four seasons were winter, breakup, fishing season and hunting season. In the fall it didn’t quit raining it just changed to snow. Then it snowed so much that come Fourth of July we had to pile it up and burn it. 
Back in the day, Seward had Seward Bakery, and a barbershop, Dreamland Bowl, Lechner’s Machine Shop, the Liberty Theater —Family Night on Wednesdays, and First Video, the best video rental in the state. Highlights of the year were the 4th of July, the Salmon Derby, and the Purple Bubble Ball, the winter gala at the Elks club.
Brian Walker on the Maxine
Way back in the day, we had a Dairy on Dairy Hill and Lumber mill on Bear Lake, and Mark Walker ran the Breezin’ Along and then the Maxine, big wooden boats that chugged out the bay a hundred days a summer take Army Rec Camp people fishing. One day each summer, one day, he loaded the boat with birders and the fishing rods stayed in the racks. “Who would think,” he said, “that people would pay perfectly good money to go for a boat ride and look at birds.”
Way back in the day, a school teacher named Monty Richardson took his buddies fishing in his fourteen-foot skiff if they brought the beer. Then he found out strangers would pay money and bring the beer to go fishing, so he let them until the Coast Guard said he needed a license, so he studied, took the test and had a legal charter boat. Not the first man to say, “I’m going to need a bigger boat.” 
Our first house in Seward,1978
Back in the day, Herman Lehrer said, “We oughta have a road out to that glacier up the valley, and he made a road with his dozer and stubbornness —Permits are pending. That’s how they say it happened. Then people went to see the glacier and said, “Wow, they oughta make this a national park.” The Feds did make a national park west of town and at first, nobody noticed. When they did notice, people said, “Where is Kenai Fjords?” Because there was the Bay (capital B) and the Gulf (capital G) and the Sound (capital S) but where in the Hell was the Fjords (Fa-jords, capital F)?
Back in the Day, Don and Pam Oldow saw those people willing to spend good money to look at birds and whales and glaciers. They were glad to take that money and give ‘em a ride on their boat. And then they needed a bigger boat, the Spirit I think, and Pam said, “Let’s call our business Kenai Fjords Tours.”
Back in the day, we found out there was a fifth season, tourist season. Don’t know how we were able to fit that in because the calendar hasn’t changed since back in the day, so it must have been cut out of fishing and hunting season. 
That’s how it was back in the day when we came for a visit and stayed forever.