Elias Venes talks about coming to Bethel from Aniak, his first time eating in a restaurant and how the cost of things has increased over the years. He plays a song with Martha (Scott) Stey and then they both play music with Barry Toelken. You can listen to more of their music in Martha's section.
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Coming to Bethel when he was 6 from Akiak
Inflation in Bethel over the years
Playing Jimmy Kvamme's song with Martha Scott
Golden Slippers played with Martha Scott and Barry Toelken
Martha Scott: Tell a story. Me, tell a story? I've told enough already. Diane Carpenter: Your turn -- your turn Elias. Elias Venes: Well, I don't know... Martha Scott: What's another one they'd like to know? Elias Venes: Well, I was listening to all of you guys tell your stories and there's a couple of them I'd like to tell, but I don't know if I... Martha Scott: Do you want me to hum along while you tell your story? Elias Venes: When I first came to Bethel I think I was about six years old. I was with my dad. It took us a couple of days to get here from Akiak. I was born and raised up there. And when we got here the first thing that happened, there was this big sawdust pile down there. Immediately I went to play in the sawdust pile and got beat up. Big city. You know, but really it was small. Then right after that, one evening my brother took me down...or one morning, he took me down to the restaurant to have breakfast. First store bought breakfast, ever. Well, little half starved kid, I ate just everything, you know. I had hot cakes and eggs and bacon and cake and pie and ice cream. And I had everything. And, the old man's name was, believe it or not, his name was Jack Kennedy. And his, his partner was Orin Goodridge. So anyway, we went on about our business. Went home and the next morning we came back. Oh, my brother paid $1.25 for the breakfast. The next morning we came back and that was X-ed out and it was $1.75. So maybe we had something to do with inflation. But there's another one that goes along something like that and it was my dad. He always bought reindeer meat from my wife's uncles. Every spring he'd get wild reindeer. One day, he was a Norwegian guy, he came home one day and he was bellyaching about something and little Hans asked him. "Well, Joe, what's - what's - what's the matter?" He said, "oh, the country's going to hell", he says. He said, they raised the price from $.07 a pound to $.10 a pound. That was the price they paid for meat in those days. The other day I went down, just about $7.00 a pound, for the same kind of meat. So times have changed. Martha Scott: Do you want -- let's try Jimmy's. Can I do Jimmy' now, Jimmy Kvamme's. Elias Venes: I don't know what happened there. Sorry folks. Martha Scott: That's OK, they're not... Elias Venes: I don't know the name of that tune. I call it Jimmy Kvamme's song cause he's the only guy I ever heard play it. So I don't know what it is. Martha Scott: And the other song we played we called "Henry's song". Elias Venes: Yeah "Henry's song" that was the first one. Martha Scott: Well, maybe we should do one more and then be finished. Elias Venes: What about you do, pick one of those and this guy do the... Martha Scott: You want to switch? Oh, should we do Golden Slippers? Yeah. Will you help us with that? [Asking Barry Toelken] We just tried this in the back room... Elias Venes: In the back room and we'll see what happens here. Martha Scott: That was fun. Barry Toelken: I'll back you up by sitting right here. Martha Scott: You'll back us up. Elias Venes: No, no, no, come up where we can see you. Martha Scott: Come right up and join the --join the peanut gallery. You were doing it in G, yeah? Elias Venes: What was the song? Martha Scott: Golden Slippers. Who should we send this one out to? Let's do it for Melvin. He'll like that. (Music being played)
Paul Sugar talks about moving to Bethel from Fairbanks, the friendly people who live there and the incredible scenery in western Alaska.
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Coming to Bethel from Fairbanks and his friends' reactions
Wife got job offers as soon as she arrived
Beautiful area with wonderful seasons
The people in Bethel
I moved to Fairbanks in 1980. Lived there for 6 years. Taught for a year in southeast. Left there, came back to Fairbanks and was hired by LKSD to come out here to Bethel. I've been here for 9 years now. And when all my friends in Fairbanks, when I told them, "Wow, I just got hired in Bethel. I'm gonna go to Bethel." I was really excited. And all but two of my friends looked at me and said, "Ohhh, you're going to Bethel." And now of all of my friends who had that same reaction, or reactions like, "Oh, it's the armpit of the state, Paul. What are you going to do out there?" Only one of them had ever been in Bethel and that was because he was on a governmental commission. Came in for a quick half-day meeting and left with the commission. None of them had ever been here. Very few of them had ever met anyone from here. The two friends who came to me and said, "Oh, you're gonna have great time out there." Well, one said, "Oh, you're going to have a great time Paul, you'll love it." He lived in Emmonak and Marshall for a while -- a number of years and Bethel was the big town for him to come to. And you know, so he thought, oh, you'll have a great time. It'll be great. And the other friend had never been to Bethel, never really met anyone from here, hadn't heard much about it. But was a tremendous dead-head. Big Grateful Dead fan. And he had all the books and literature about the Grateful Dead and he opened up one of his Grateful Dead books. And he said, "Look, there's stories in here. There's Dead-heads in Bethel." Look, here's Bev Hoffman, check her up when you get out there. And they said, you'll have a great time. You'll be fine. No problem. And so, you know, I didn't think there would be a problem. We left and actually I came about a week before my wife. And here are the reasons why we stay. 1. Like I said, I came about a week before my wife. I had my job. I talked around with people that I met, "Hey, my wife's coming out, these are things she likes to do. This is kind of, some of her experience", etc., etc. I picked her up at the airport on a Monday night. Tuesday morning there was someone knocking at our door offering her a job. By Wednesday she had another job. And she now, in case most of you -- probably already know, she works over at the college. So the opportunities, the openness, the willingness to just take someone new at face value and say, we're gonna give you a shot, give it your best shot, is one level. On another level. I came in August and the tundra was just beautiful. I mean it was red and yellow and I had seen the tundra change colors before around Denali. You know, being from Fairbanks, but it just wasn't the same as seeing it here. It was wonderful. And then to go through the winter. Watching that first winter here. Watching the blowing white sand serpentining across the ground. It looked like something out of "Lawrence of Arabia" or something. Only it was snow instead of sand. And the following spring came and the tundra just turned so beautifully green and the wonderful mists would roll in. And I thought I was in Ireland or something. I had never seen anything like that. I come originally from Detroit, you know, the only mist that rolls in has a funky smell and kind of gray. Then summertime came and I got my first ride down the river. And I saw these things in the distance and I thought they were these beautiful red flowers. They looked huge from a distance. And of course, they were people's salmon drying on the racks as we got closer. And so the land and just the look of the place is another reason why I stay. But then as a teacher, I met the kids and through the kids their families. And you know, the people. That's the main reason to me. It's a beautiful place, wonderful opportunities, wonderful people. I can think back my first year here. Teaching up at M.E. School [Mikelnguut Elitnaurviat] and having Nellie Wassilie just laughing uproarlessly in my class. Sometimes with me, sometimes at me. But just, I can still hear her laugh. And every time I see her in town, we don't work together any more, but that laugh comes out just seeing her. And, you know, I'll stop there with that example but it's the people, the land itself and the opportunities for me and that's -- that's why I stay.
Martha Scott Stey tells a story about the first time she came to Bethel, meeting other musicians and starting a band called "the Beat Around the Bush Band". She plays a few songs for the audience and then music with Elias Venes. She talks about her love of the Bethel community and the people who make it a special place to live. You can listen to more of their music in Elias's section.
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First experience in Bethel
"The Beat Around the Bush Band"
"Country Roads" remix
Acknowledging Peter Twitchell at KYUK
Eilas Venes and Martha Scott play "St. Anne's Reel and Liberty"
Learning songs from people along the river
Her feelings about Bethel
I came to Bethel, oh, early 80's. I came on a Wien jet, so that kind of dates me. I got off the plane with my mandolin. Went into the warehouse that was kind of like the greeting center at that time. And a bunch of people came up to me and said, "do you play" -- one woman came up to me and said, "do you play that?" -- "do you play that?" And I said, "well, yeah." "Will you be part of our band?" I really wasn't in Bethel 5 minutes. " Sure." "Sure. Well, then you can go to Aniak." I said, "what's Aniak?" "Well, that's a village up river." So the first weekend I was here, I was on a small plane up in Aniak, sleeping at the mental health clinic, playing with music for and with people I had never met. So music has always been a part of my Bethel experience. That wasn't the only gig that the band had. We were called "The Beat Around the Bush Band". There were usually 4 women in this band. At times there were five. [Marty Nerenstone, Galen Paine, Lynn Conant, Elizabeth Mayock and Martha Scott]. And we had a mandolin and a guitar, a banjo and a washtub bass. Lots of other things. And we had a television show. River City Review. It used to play 7:00 on Thursday nights. And we were the house band. We used to do an opening number and a closing number. Lots of experiences. We were famous for rewriting songs. For instance there's a famous song that Ann Murray did called "Delta Dawn. What's that flower you go on?" Well, we wrote, Delta Brawn, what's that after shave you've got on? Could it be the stench of fish from days gone by. (Laughter). We also, we had a Christmas show I remember. That we sang, I'll be in Nome for Christmas. You can count on me. They just called my plane has stalled and I can't get to Waikiki. So you get the idea. We wrote a mushing song, the story of the MTA. About the, a man can't get on the train and can't get off. Well, let me tell you a story about a musher named Sally on a tragic and faithful day. She kissed her husband. No, she hooked up her dog and kissed her husband and family and went to ride in the great Kusko Race. And she never returned. No, she never. Yeah, so you get the idea. All the harrowing things about her trip. Well the one that we were famous for was a remake of a -- maybe I'll do this on a guitar, instead of the mandolin. This was just a visual aide -- that was just a prop (Laughter) That's right. A song called "Country Roads". Take Me Home Country Roads. We rewrote a Bethel version that some of you will remember from way back then, that goes. Almost Heaven, Bethel, Alaska. Kilbuck Mountains, Kuskokwim River. Life is cold there. Cold enough to freeze. And the northern winds, they blow you to your knees. Just one road, takes you home to that place you belong, Bethel, Alaska. I'm a tundra mama, there's just one road still that takes you home. Still I love her, Bethel, Alaska. Mud and potholes, up to my knees in water. It's dark and dusty. The mosquitos on the fly. I got to get to Anchorage soon or I might die. Just one road takes you home. To that place you still belong, Bethel, Alaska. I'm a tundra mama. Just one road takes you home. Now, I hear the dogs all barking in the distance. KYUK reminds me of no other place I've been. And driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have put my honey bucket out and fed my dog. Just one road takes you home to the place, yes, I still, I still belong, in Bethel, Alaska. I'm a tundra mama, there's just one road that takes me home. There's just one road that takes me home. (Clapping) There you go. I'm the -- I'm the only tundra mama left, I'm the only tundra mama left of that group. I have great memories. We played a lot of great music in those years and I guess one thing that comes to mind about stories for me before I play a couple other tunes that I think people will know is -- I'd just like to take a minute and acknowledge a man who worked at KYUK for many years named Peter Twitchell. And he did a lot to collect stories from this area. There are just, the archives are great and he also collected music. And some of the best stories from people who are still living and some of the people that we miss that are now gone are collected by Peter Twitchell at KYUK. So I'd just like to acknowledge that. Are you interested in playing some tunes with me? Elias Venes: Sure. Martha Scott: A couple of our kind of songs. Great. Someone get a chair for -- let me grab one. (Laughter) A lot of that -- Well, I do keep coming back. Well, I got one. Oh, here you got yours. A lot of the happiest times I've spent in Bethel have been in the home of Elias and Bernie Venes. They feed me so I keep coming back. And Elias feeds me a steady diet of some great songs. Elias Venes: Kind of hard for her to revive an old man. Martha Scott: The gray one. There you go. And we're not used to playing in this kind of stuff with all these lights but we're just going to pretend they're not there. Okay. I'm going to do the hard one first.
Get it out of the way. This is called St. Anne's Reel and Liberty. I hope sometime we can play this that people will dance. If you feel like dancing then you won't notice the mistakes I make. (Music is being played). Don't make me laugh. He always does that. We're almost done. Well it's better than -- Elias and Bernie have taught me some wonderful songs that have been friends along this river with people. Some of them are from Jimmy Kvamme, from up river in Aniak. We've had some great music times with Melvin Anderson and this is a guy that can really play this thing. So I'm going to take the guitar. Just try. They'll really like it. We were over visiting Glady the other day and she, I played one the Jimmy Kvamme's songs on the radio. She said it's so nice to hear our music on the radio. So we're playing some of -- Elias Venes: Especially for Henry and Glady Martha Scott: Yeah, lots of good coffee at their house, too. Which one did you choose. Got it. (Music is being played) Don't look at me, you'll make me laugh. Can you hear it? Martha Scott: I guess, while we're packing up to leave I just wanted to say how much I love this community. And how much, no matter how far I've gone and how many miles I've traveled, this has been a place where I've learned about life. I tell people that I was born and raised in Colorado but I was -- I grew up in Bethel. That's really the way I feel about it and I'm very honored that you asked me and my friends to come and play for you. Thanks. Elias Venes: One time I left Bethel, too. I was going to leave forever. You know, I left --that was in the '40's. Martha Scott: Me, too. I've done it five times. Elias Venes: I left in the 40's, but I came back. Martha Scott: You're back, too. Elias Venes: Yeah. I'm going stay, too. Martha Scott: There's more stories. Turn off your TV and go visit some of these people that live in this town. Wonderful people to visit in this town.
Jimmix Samuelson talks about learning to fly, getting his pilot's license and starting his flight service company. He also talks about some of his scary experiences and using what's available to fix a hole in an airplane.
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Learning to fly
Getting pilot's license
Strange happenings while flying
Using bear fat to patch a hole in a plane
Barry Toelken: How did you guys learn to fly. Did you learn from other guys. Pick it up locally. Jimmix Samuelson: We did for a while. Then I went to Fairbanks and took flying lessons and I soloed in 3 and a half hours. Diane Carpenter: Jimmix, how did you get your flight service started? Jimmix Samuelson: Well I was flying for Alaska Airlines for four and a half years. The boss and I didn't get along because they rented my airplane from me and I was making more money than he was. And so I got fired so I, when I got fired, Ray Miller said I'm going into Anchorage tomorrow with the Norseman, to ferry it in. So he says, come on with me. And I went back in and they wanted me to go flying again. But I never did. Then I just went over and got my certificate and I bought an airplane, a Pacer and got started. Barry Toelken: What's the strangest thing that ever happened to you while you were flying? Jimmix Samuelson: Well, I don't know. I went up for an emergency one time to -- to Nightmute. And it was really windy out there and they came out with a snow-go and brought the woman and a kid in. On the way back the weather turned bad and I was flying along and pretty soon I felt my skis touching the bottom. Man this was awful close. Buck Bukowski: Smooth landing. Jimmix Samuelson: I didn't land. I just came on in to Bethel. But, I didn't realize I was that low. Do you remember that time I punched a hole up at Stoney? [asking Diane Carpenter] And then you had a piece of bear fat. Then, I couldn't patch it, so we put it against there and put a willow on it and I used it for a whole month.