Bill Emerson Photos
Bill Emerson: During 1959
through 62 I was working happy satellite tracking station on
Kodiak Island. The reason I took this assignment was that when I
asked where the site was they showed me a topographic map. On it
I saw that there was a ski area located between the satellite
tracking station and the town of Kodiak. Being an avid skier
this clinched the deal for going to Alaska.
As one of the young
engineers, I didn't have very much seniority when it came to
borrowing one of the Air Force jeeps to go to town. Therefore I
normally ended up with the jeep that had been rolled and had no
windshield or top. I would put on a parka, been put on a second
parka with the zipper in the back, put on a facemask and goggles
and of course my gloves and drive the 40 or so miles from the
site to the ski area. Needless to say I enjoyed the fire and the
warmth of the chalet upon my arrival.
There were a number of
children from town who were trying to learn to ski and I was one
of the volunteer instructors who taught children to ski. It was
a wonderful experience and taught me to ski backwards while
leaning over and helping children master the art of the snowplow
and the stem turn.
number of people from the satellite tracking station decided
that they would learn to ski while in Alaska. This is a
photograph showing people from the satellite tracking station on
the slopes at Anton
Larsen Pass Ski Area, in 1961. From
left to right they are: Bill Emerson, Don Sikkema, unknown, Bob
Greeley, Mrs. Monell, Dick Monell (who was the station manager
at the satellite tracking station), Lyle Burnham.
had a very good snow the road from the top of the hill with the
site was located was about 2 miles. It was a lot better than
the Anton Larsen ski area since there was no rope tow. At the
bottom of the hill you just got in the Jeep and went to back to
the top of the hill to ski down it again.
note the FORMAL ski attire which included black pants, Black
parka, and a black top hat!!!
Pictures of the Front gate,
taken in 1960.
Search - October 2004, excerpt from story written by Tony Smaker, www.kadiak.org
"A hilarious but accurate account of life and the related humorously funny events that occurred at the Kodiak Tracking Station on Kodiak, Alaska during the 1950's and 1960's."
Compiled and Written By:
The winter of 1959 was an exceptionally nasty, and windy one making for outdoor activities a real challenge. Rain, rain, rain, and more rain. And ice, oh brother, ice was had, and I do mean everywhere. You couldn't drive on the roads much less stand up on them. To the locals, this wasn't anything new, but to the Chiniak people of which the majority were transplanted-Californians, this was pure hell on earth for them. People's nerves were rapidly deteriorating from being cooped up and nothing to do.
The mail runs to town were down to only 3 a week, and at that, only if 2 or more vehicles could make up a convoy for safety sake. The Navy even closed down the back gate (about where the Samson Tug & Barge docks are today) to traffic because of the icy conditions on "Base". I think that they called it condition "Charlie" or some dumb thing like that. Many a time the mail driver, and including all of the local ranchers, would have a fight with the Marine guards over allowing them to pass through to town after battling the road for 6 or so hours! Oh, by the way, this was the "new" back gate. It was relocated in April 1959 from the top of a hill about 10 miles back down the Chiniak road. You know this place now as "Marine Hill". Ah ha, get the connection now?
Finally, in the first week of December, the snows came (another strange new phenomenon to the Chiniakers) and everyone's attention turned to outdoor activities. Some of the people had the forethought to bring their skis up from California, and were having a ball cross-countrying. Others constructed small sleds out of packing crates or whatever they could get their hands on. One even made a sled out of the hood of a 54 maroon Ford that used to be a Mecca cab. Dick Prentike graded the access road from the site to the bottom of the hill (about 2 miles give or take a few yards) for a ski and sledding runway. This was the Friday Night event with races, timed events, bets, and just plain horsing- around. They even posted a road guard at the bottom of the hill to prevent any vehicular "surprises".
Then, someone figured out that there may be some real sleds in Kodiak. Well, of course there was, and yes, you guessed it, into town they went and bought up every single sled available. Well, needless to say, they were now equipped very professionally. The one thing hat these guys forgot to think of was that now the kids in Kodiak would have no sleds for Christmas!! Talk about grown men feeling really down and rotten, oh brother Words or actions just could not describe their sincere and sorry feelings!
Then, one of the nicest events (that I can recall) occurred. Lockheed, Philco, and Budson, the major contractors, initiated an emergency project called "Operation Sled". "Black" Bart Morgan of Lockeed went to Ray Martin, Sr., the Pacific Northern Airlines representative in Kodiak, and made arrangements to purchase out of Seattle 75 single child sleds and fly them in. These sleds were immediately "Donated" to the children in Kodiak (if the parents wished them to have them). Dixie McGehee volunteered to be Santa Claus (although there were several others that would have made a more "natural" looking Santa). So, on the 21st of December, in the old Kraft's mercantile store, Santa held forth "court". There were several pictures taken that day, but I am unable to locate a single copy. If anyone has a copy, please send it to me for CHINIAK TOO. Thanks..