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SO YOU THINK THINGS ARE TOUGH NOW?


Alaska Bears  KSR

It has been said that nothing is so bad it can’t get worse, and I’m sure that is so.  The Great Depression was certainly one of those bad times for a great many people.  Having weathered  through that one, I can vouch for a degree of discomfort and a few stories my kids think are highly unlikely, but even so, we had it good compared to a lot of people.    The pundits seem to feel that the entire world will be having another Depression soon enough.  It has become serious enough to put a capital “D” on it already.  Since the first one was “The Great” I wonder what the next designation will be.

I remember two friends we met years ago in Washington state.  They were small town kids when they married in 1939 during the Great Depression, and in her words, they were “Depressionate”!  They were both teachers, but had to keep the marriage a secret in order to keep their jobs.  When World War II was declared, they quit teaching and both went to work at the The Boeing Company in Seattle.  She worked as an IBM operator on a “monstrous, enormous machine!” ( Times have changed, now we carry computers in our pockets!)

When the war ended in 1946, thousands of people lost their war jobs, along with Nonie and Jack.  They started out thinking they would like to work in fish and wildlife management for the government, but instead were both offered jobs teaching Aleut natives in Alaska. Within 10 days they were on a boat bound for tiny Saint Paul Island, in the Pribilof Island group of Alaska, in the middle of the Bering Sea.  The nearest land mass was 150 miles away.  Jack taught all the students from fifth grade up, and Nonie taught the third and fourth grade students.  Their one and only co-worker taught first and second grades.

Japanese fleets had been located within 15 miles of the island during the war, and Japanese fishing floats came ashore regularly. There was still a feeling of unrest about the people.  They were iced in in the winter, and had no way out and no communication except for telegram and short-wave radio or the emergency weather plane.  In good weather the wind swept across the island, bringing Russia’s icy chill.  The men hunted seals, and in the short summers Jack worked in an office counting seal pelts for the government.

The U.S. Coast Guard also had a station on the island, but only five boats arrived each year, not counting a supply vessel which brought in coal and large items once a year in the summer.  A lonely existence.

In 1948 , after having been there for two years, they returned to Seattle and  resumed their teaching careers in a small town in western Washington.   Another couple of survivors of the Great Depression.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” Emily Dickinson

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