"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Living in Igloos

In the years following World War II, employment was difficult to find in the Detroit area.  My father, home from serving with the Army Air Corps in the Philippines, could not find a year ‘round job, and instead suffered periodic layoffs at factories where he worked.
The decision to move to Alaska was made after receiving word from my mother’s sister Agnes that the Alaska Railroad was hiring.  Agnes and her husband Ross had moved to Anchorage the previous year when he was transferred by the CAA (predecessor of the FAA) to that Southcentral Alaskan town.

We arrived on June 5, 1948.  I was six years old; my brother was 11 months old.

Before we left Detroit, the neighbor kids heard about the move to that foreign land way up north and told me I would be living in an igloo.  I didn’t know what an igloo was.

One of the few remaining WWII era Quonset huts on Amchitka Island, used by military personnel when they repelled the Japanese invasion of US owner Aleutian Islands. 

Well, I never did live in an igloo.  The closest I came was a Quonset hut, a half-tubular, portable building used by the military for temporary housing, warehousing, and whatever.  They came in many sizes, the most common being 12 feet across by 36 feet long, and my memory tells me that is the size we lived in for a couple years while my folks built a log cabin down the road.

Most Quonsets didn't come with this nice row of windows.  My brother and I in the Quonset at Christmas.
Mt brother in front of the Quonset.  The nice sunny enclosed entrance had yet to be added.
Thanksgiving dinner in the Quonset hut.  Note the small front window open to the glass-in porch.

My aunt and her flowers when she and Ross lived in the Quonset hut.  Notice the nice glassed-in entrance porch.

The Quonset hut frequently was adapted to civilian use.  I went to the fourth grade class in a Quonset hut, and another Quonset held my high school journalism class.

Journalism class in a Quonset behind Anchorage High School, May 1959.  My co-editor and I are leading a class meeting about the school newspaper.  Notice the small front window, just like the previous photo.

With this winter’s unusually high snowfall, I suspect a lot of folks around here feel like they live in igloos.  To wit:

There's a large log home under all that snow.

This is the gable end.  I feared for the roof with all that snow on it.

Believe it or not, there's a front door under there.  The occupant worked out of town.

I took this photo today.  The front door is starting to appear.  The occupant was using a door on the gable end.

My friend kathy had the right idea.  She spent most of the winter in sunny Mazatlan, Mexico.  Note the snow up to the eaves.

Unlike Kathy, Sandy stuck it out.  There's a narrow path to her front door.

This is an unoccupied summer rental.

Most of the homes with metal roofs are now relieved of their snow burdens, thanks to a couple weeks of above freezing temperatures. Snow on non-metal roofs is slowly melting.  

However, most places have left-overs.  To wit, my yard:

This was the top of a six foot chain link fence a couple weeks ago.

Now there's about 18 inches showing.

This is the biggest snow pile on the property.

And that is my mid-sized Dodge Dakota for size comparision.

And the mini-van in the driveway that goes back to my house.  This photo was taken today, April 5.  We have a lot of thawing and melting to go.

I would invite the neighbor kids to come over and slide on my wonderful snow mountains, except they all have their own.


  1. as I'm writing this...5:35PM....the sun went away and it's hailing. Gotta' quit reading your stuff. ;D

  2. I love the pictures of your family and the history you've given us. I believe it was last year that you told me about the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians, another fact forgotten in our history classes.

    I'm with Kathy, I think I'd head South also if I had snow up to my eaves. Is it all thawed out by June?

  3. Awesome post, Gully! You can write forever and never run out of amazing real life stories.

    Happy Easter!

  4. Thanks for the AK migration story and the old pixs.

    Helped me recall an odd set of pixs my grandmother had stored -- complete with censor stamps -- of my grandfather's construction work on Adak Island during WWII. My grandfather was a poor dirt farmer from Arkansas -- and his AK construction experience really bent his life curve for the better.

    Best Wishes, Wren Gomez, WGomez aaattt Warpmail.Net