Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson talks about the 50th Anniversary of the bombing of Dutch Harbor during World War II, and about local storyteller Henry Swanson.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2009-16-02

Project: Unalaska Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Apr 26, 1996
Narrator(s): Ray Hudson
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
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Ghost story

Henry Swanson story

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Transcript



RAY HUDSON: I guess I had said I would tell a ghost story. It isn't exactly a ghost story. But, you know, we had the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Dutch Harbor

and then 10 years later we had the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Dutch Harbor and they were two very different occasions. The 40th one was smaller.

The 50th was very large with really just dozens of veterans. Maybe, I don't know if there were 100's of veterans. It seemed like it when we had the dinner in the new school, big gym. 200, came in.

It was a very large occasion. The first one was smaller. It had a very moving and a special event when the memorial stone was dedicated by representatives of the Aleut People, the Canadians, the Americans and the Japanese.

It was something that really, in a sense, sort of stepped out of memory and became a memory, became a part of what goes on here.

And a lot of veterans would talk about the war and a lot of scholars displayed different aspects of it. But for me the thing that made the war in the Aleutians seem more real than anything was, maybe the second year I was teaching school here and it was in this building here,

I guess the second school, and my classroom was right here and it had a great view of the bay and stuff. It was one of those days when it's foggy. Very calm. And I think it was a Saturday. The school wasn't in session.

I'd been in the building doing some work and I left the building and started down the street. And in those days, of course, I think this was like '65 or '66, there were a lot of army buildings around. Even in the immediate vicinity of town.

The gray lumber, the beautiful gray lumber, the high grass, you know, it was very, very rural and it was foggy. As I started out of the school and started to move towards the road, through this fog I suddenly saw this soldier running.

The distance, he was a long ways away but it was very sharp. It was very strange. I knew he was a long ways away and so the detail shouldn't be that sharp.

But there he was in this fog, going by this gray building with a helmet and a rifle and it was very jolting. And then a moment later John Moller comes out from behind a building.

He was about 7 or 8 years old, dressed in a helmet with a little plastic rifle and went trotting on his way, silently, you know, playing army.

But for a moment there it was like some ghost out of World War II had materialized in the fog and was streaking by. Very, Very strange.

RAY HUDSON: I think in any story telling get together at Unalaska we always think about Henry Swanson who was such a wonderful story teller and just a great spinner of stories.

And I remember one story he told that isn't in the "Unknown Islands", his collection of Henry's stories. But it's a typical Henry Swanson story.

He was trapping out on one of the islands. It may have been one of the islands of the Four Mountains, in the 30's, fox trapping. And he was supposed to be picked up at the end of the season and the picker-upper didn't arrive.

So he was there for an extended time. It was on, I think, Uliaga, if that's how you say it, at the time of the wreck of the Umnak Native which was supposed to have picked him up. That may have been the occasion.

But I'm not certain of that. But he ran out of coffee waiting for the boat to come to get him and he really missed having coffee. One day, I guess, he was down by the beach and a can of coffee washed up on the beach. (Laughter) And this made him very, very excited, very happy about it.

So he got the can of coffee and brought it up to his cabin and was going to make himself a fresh cup of coffee. Then he thought, you know, this cans been floating around a long time, there might be something wrong with this coffee.

It might be, you know, spoiled or poisoned. Then he got to thinking that if it was poisoned and he had this cup of coffee that he'd die in this cabin and the picker-upper would come and he'd be in his dirty clothes and be quite a sight.

So he decided he'd better clean himself up. (Laughter) So he, he did. He washed himself up and put on the best clothes that he had.

Then he boiled up a cup of coffee and sat at his table and drank his cup of coffee. Then he went and laid on his bed. (Laughter) Just in case, you know. But he obviously survived and continued on.