Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Gladys Jung
Glady Jung
Gladys Jung talks about her family moving from St. Michael to Bethel, Alaska in 1926, when she was a child. She also talks about the Northern Commercial (NC) Company store near Akiak, Alaska, the health care system in the 1930's, and meeting her husband.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2011-27-02

Project: Bethel Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Jan 25, 1996
Narrator(s): Gladys Jung
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
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Sections

Moving from St. Michael

Coming up the Yukon River

Traveling with a group to Akiak

First sight of the Kuskokwim River

Northern Commercial (NC) Company store below Akiak

Health care in the 1930's

Meeting her husband

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Transcript



Gladys Jung: I wanted to tell you about how I came to the Kuskokwim. My family came to the Kuskokwim River. I'm not really from here. I was born in St. Michael.

And when I was 11 years old my dad announced to the family that we were going to move over to the Kuskokwim River.

And the -- at that time my dad was working for the Northern Commercial Company or the NC Company, which we now call AC Company here in Bethel.

We -- there was a store in St. Michael that he ran, then his bosses out in Seattle wanted him to come over here and check it out. So he came over in 1926.

Brought his, with his dog team. He came over to check it out and the story here at the time belonged to Felder & Gale.

It was right, you know, where the Joe Lomack building is now. That used to be a warehouse for the NC Company, it was below that.

In fact, I think it's been moved back two times from the river. It was not Bethel we were coming to.

We were coming to Akiak. Akiak was really more of a center than Bethel at that time because we had the wireless station up there.

We had the hospital up there. And there was a sawmill that belonged to the village.

And of course, there was school. There were two schools. A territorial school on one side of the river and the opposite side was the Bureau of -- Bureau of Indian Affairs, BIA school.

So anyway, he made the trip over here early in, with his dog team, early in April and then we were to come later on.

But my mother was pregnant at the time so we had to wait until my little brother was born on the 4th of July at St. Michael.

Ánd the next month, in August, when she was able to travel, we traveled. She had 7 children at the time. My oldest sister was 13, she was 13 and then we had the tiny baby.

The way we came, we came up the Yukon River from St. Michael which is down at the mouth of the Yukon. We came up the Yukon River with some gas boat of some type.

I don't remember what it was, but I remember stopping at Marshall and when we got there, of course, you know, there were no hotels or anything in those towns in those days.

So we just went up to my mother's friends up there, they had a family of about the same amount of kids I guess.

The house was full of kids. There was no question. They said, "Sure, come on." We all spent a couple of days waiting for the boat to take us on up farther up the river to Russian Mission.

And eventually we did get up to Russian Mission and we had to spend a couple of days up there.

There was an old storekeeper up there by the, I don't quite remember his name. He had been a friend of my dad's for many years.

So we spent a few days there waiting for the U.S. Mail Carrier to come from the Kuskokwim River over to the Yukon.

And they had to go on the portage over to Russian Mission.

So eventually they did arrive and, of course, I don't know what, I think back now I don't know how my mother managed with all of us.

But we got on this mail carrying group. There were other people with us to beside the mail carrier.

There was Charlie Jacobs, he was the father of a big family that lived here in Bethel years ago.

And we had two young men, one of them was Henry Nanson who's now passed away and the other one was a young fellow from Tuluksak. He is also gone.

They were young at that time. They were the helpers. So here we were, all of us, we got into these boats.

They were boats with kickers on them you know, and at St. Michael we had never seen anything like that so a lot of this was just brand new to us.

It was berry picking time too. Blueberries all over the tundra and we just had, as I remember, it was a great time.

Great adventure. We had a U.S. Marshall here at the time by the name of Frank Wiseman.

A very particular sort of a person and he just kind of kept to himself. And every day he'd pick the blueberries.

He said he was going to pick the berries for us because he didn't want anybody else's dirty fingers picking blueberries for him to eat.

So he did most of the cooking. And we had to spend two nights crossing the portage and we'd have to take our boats and haul them over.

And everybody would take a hand, even us kids. We just enjoyed it because it was kind of jolly. You know, everybody would go, Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho and we'd heave the boat and we thought that was great.

Well, night time we had to sleep in these cabins. They had one solid bed all the way across.

Just boards, you know,and it was -- I guess we threw our blankets and stuff and we all lined up.

I remember those two boys that were with us. They didn't want to sleep there. They slept out in a tent I think.

But we had the U.S. Marshall was with us and we had the Director for the Territorial Schools was with us and we had another alcohol man that was with us, too.

I think there were four of them that came from wherever they came from that crossed the river with us. It took us two days to get across to the Kuskokwim.

The last creek we went down was called Mud Creek and it was really just a narrow little creek and we'd have to pole and push.

And finally, we got to the Kuskokwim River and wow, here was this huge river.

St. Michael, you know, was on the bay, you know, St. Michael Bay out there. We had never been on a river before.

That was really exciting. Trees all over. So we eventually got, we went to a fish camp directly across Old Andy Smith was there.

He was an old-timer who had a store up in Tuluksak. His fish camp was there and we spent part of the day with him.

And then a boat came. It was the fish commissioner on the Kuskokwim here, Charlie McDonegal.

He came and he had a little gas boat, too with a cupboard, top on it. So we got in that.

We were getting pretty tired wanting to see our dad by that time. And this was right below Lower Kalskag where we came out.

We got in that boat and we headed down and I don't know how long it took us to get down to Akiak, not to Akiak proper.

We had a store, the NC Company had a store five miles below Akiak. That's where we stopped.

We landed there. And what a different country. St. Michael, you know, has no trees. Just pretty bare. Just tundra and here we were with all these huge trees all around us.

Strange sounds in the back there. We were pretty scared. We didn't know what all these sounds were, Spruce Hens, Willow Grouse making their noise with their wings, you know, and we'd say, "What's that?"

Of course, one of the first things we heard about when we got there was, there was a wild man by the name of Klutuck.

I don't know if whether any of you ever heard about that but anybody who ever lived around here on the Kuskokwim knew about Klutuck.

He was supposed to be a wild man that would kill on sight, you know. Of course, we were just positive he was right back there in the trees and we didn't dare go anywhere.

My mom would tell us to, you know, just try to behave ourselves. We were just well behaved.

Anyway, that's how I, that's how my family got to the Kuskokwim River.

Diane Carpenter: What year was that?

Glady Jung: 1930, we moved down, 1928 we came over here and then 1930 we moved down to Bethel here. The hospital was still open up there.

We didn't have a hospital here. We had a nurse. Mrs. Herrin was our nurse. Our health lady up there.

Every, once a month we had to go from the school. We had two schools here, you know. Territorial School and the Bureau of Indian Affairs School.

Every -- once a month we had to go up to Mrs. Herrin's and we'd all be weighed. She'd weigh us all, that was the amount of health that we got, and then.

Then we -- seemed like we never go too sick either. Then later on, several years after that another nurse came to be with her.

And I remember them coming down to the school maybe once a month and they'd come and feel our necks to see if we had any swellings in our neck.

And if we had a swelling there more painful, then they'd paint it with iodine.

That fixed it.

Audience member: How'd you meet Henry?

Gladys Jung: Henry didn't come down here till maybe we were here two years before they moved from Sleetmute.

He and his mother, his family, they lived in Sleetmute. They had a trading post up there.

So we really were trading post kids. Both Henry and I. They moved down then at that time. Of course, we went to school here and that's.

We were kids together here. I don't know. I can't tell you it was love at first sight. Eventually, I got him.

Diane Carpenter: He was a good looking guy, too. Wasn't he?

Gladys Jung: Yeah, yeah. Okay. That's it. I'm gonna go home then.