Tom Teasdale was interviewed on August 5, 2014 by Leslie McCartney and Barbara Cellarius at the Northway tribal offices in Northway, Alaska. In this interview, Tom talks about moving to Northway and his work as the pastor of a local church. He also talks about changes in the community of Northway, problems with environmental contamination in the soil and water, and his work as the conservation coordinator for the Northway Village Council.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Aug 5, 2014
Narrator(s): Tom Teasdale
Interviewer(s): Leslie McCartney, Barbara Cellarius
Transcriber: Sue Beck
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Moving to Northway as a pastor
Environmental contamination in Northway
Moving the family to Northway
Elders in Northway
Younger generation moving away from Northway
Changes in the road leading to Northway
School in Northway
Other community services
Soil contamination and clean up
Businesses in the Northway area
River travel around Northway
Reduction in the population of Northway
Vision for the future of Northway
High cancer rate in Northway
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So today’s August 5th, 2014. We’re at the Northway tribal offices with Tom Teasdale -- thank you, Tom -- TOM TEASDALE: Okay.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- and Barbara Cellarius; and I’m Leslie McCartney. And so, Tom, we’re here to talk about -- just life in the village and you coming up. So, do you want to start off with where you’re from?
TOM TEASDALE: I was born and raised in Montana. I joined the military in high school. Completed high school while on active duty; stayed there for twenty-four years. Got out, retired from the military in Alabama, and then drove up here, because the military’d never send me up here, so I took my retirement move up here and got here at midnight, New Year’s Eve 1979.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right in Northway? TOM TEASDALE: In Northway, yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And why did you pick Northway?
TOM TEASDALE: I was pastoring a church in Alabama and they -- they said they’re going to close this church by the end of the year if there’s no pastor there, and I said, “I’ll be there.”
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you came up to be the pastor, actually -- TOM TEASDALE: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- for the church? TOM TEASDALE: I came up to be the pastor, yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: And --
TOM TEASDALE: And then -- well, the interesting thing was when I hung up the phone, I told my wife we’re going to Northway, Alaska, and she says, “Where is that?” I says, “Where is that? I didn’t ask ‘em.” I had to go back on the military base and find a map that had Northway on it so I knew where I was.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right! So your wife came up with you?
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, I had brought my wife and four of our kids.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And how old were the children then, when you came up?
TOM TEASDALE: They were all in high school -- one in eighth grade and three in high school.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So was there a high school here for the kids when you came?
TOM TEASDALE: Yes. The high school -- at that time, the high school had -- in 1980 -- had 220 -- 221 kids in it.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. So let’s just clarify. What year was that, that you came up?
TOM TEASDALE: Nineteen eighty. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Nineteen eighty. So there was over two hundred kids in high school.
TOM TEASDALE: There was over two hundred kids -- oh, no. There was two hundred kids in the school itself. And the school was from kindergarten through twelfth grade. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: And I -- I don’t (even) remember exactly how many were in each high school or elementary, but we had 221 kids.
LESLIE: Right. And today?
TOM TEASDALE: Today we’re hoping we have thirty-six. I think we’re gonna be in the thirties. It’s gettin’ scary.
LESLIE: Right. And is the church still open? Are you still -- TOM TEASDALE: Yep. LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- pastor of the church? TOM TEASDALE: We’re still pastoring the church.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And working here at the tribal --
TOM TEASDALE: I work here at the -- at the tribal office for about three years now. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Mm-hm. Right.
TOM TEASDALE: As the conservation coordinator and helpin’ Chad learn the environmental work. And that’s real interesting because I don’t know much about the environmental stuff either. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: But we plug along. There’s all kinds of experts we can talk to. They come out and visit with us, so we’re learning.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And what does that entail then?
TOM TEASDALE: Well that -- the whole thing got started because the military’s out here with forty-five hundred soldiers during World War II.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: In Northway.
TOM TEASDALE: In Northway. And they had the airstrip here, and it was a -- it was a airplane transfer place from -- yeah, I guess, from U.S. to Russia on that Lend Lease program -- whatever they called it. And -- and so the military was here.
Well then, they left around ’45, ’46. Well, then we decided to clean the place up. So we got a IGAP grant and been workin’ to clean it up. The interesting thing is we’ve got 641 civilian vehicles and one military vehicle.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So the military didn’t have to clean it up when they left?
TOM TEASDALE: The military didn’t -- I’ve got a lot of records saying people come out here and cleaned up different things and it was okay. But in the springtime 55-gallon drums still float up in the water.
Most of the vehicles we found are abandoned construction equipment, maybe from the highway or from buildin’ the airstrip.
Civilians that went up and down the road in their vehicles broke down for some reason; they caught a bus or took off. Just left ‘em there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And I think we’ve actually -- I think we found another vehicle squashed up in the trees. But -- and we’ve got -- we just found out this morning we’ve got roughly 300 -- 360,000 pounds of scrap metal has been shifted out of here -- transported outa here.
And that was frames, fenders, some type of exercise machine, theater seats, scrap metal from all kinds of junk.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Gosh. What about any toxins like petroleum that’s gone into the ground or anything? How about those vehicles’ oil?
TOM TEASDALE: We’ve been gettin’ checked out by different water people every year, and they said last year that the water’s actually gettin’ better. But my big concern is people that stored batteries out here. They just threw ‘em out in the woods. And that was a -- I didn’t realize the impact it would have.
I went to the council meeting and I says -- I said, “I found all these batteries in the woods with grass growing on ‘em.” And people, “Yeah. I know. Who cares? It’s just old stuff.” Well, I said, “But the problem is the rabbit eats the batter-- that eats grass that’s full of battery acid and you guys are eating the rabbit.”
Well, since then we’ve had a whole change of thought here. And -- and we’ve been cleaning up really good.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So has anybody done any testing on the rabbits or on -- TOM TEASDALE: No. LESLIE McCARTNEY: The food or --?
TOM TEASDALE: Actually, the fish were tested. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Uh-huh. TOM TEASDALE: And came out good.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay. Whitefish?
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, whitefish. I -- I don’t think they tested any pike. I think it was all whitefish. And the soil samples -- the water out of the soil has gotten better.
And -- and the interesting thing is there is one of the most contaminated areas and that was up by the airport. And they said the water’s gettin’ better, so that’s good.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Huh. And what about town itself then -- and contamination? The airport’s two miles away from town, right?
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. We -- we -- we really haven’t had this checked yet -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: -- as such. But we’re on a water-haul system. We got a new well down there, and the -- we got a forty thousand gallon water tank and the water’s delivered to everybody twice a week.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So each home has a holding tank?
TOM TEASDALE: Each house has a -- that’s on -- in the program has a holding tank, anywhere from 150 to 500 gallons.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And then the pump-out’s twice a week, too? TOM TEASDALE: And then the pump-out is twice a week.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And where’s that dumped?
TOM TEASDALE: It’s dumped at a lagoon that’s over by our current landfill.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Huh. And how long is the water -- the hauling water, pumping in and pumping out been going on then?
TOM TEASDALE: It’s been goin’ on -- I think this summer was eleven years. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh!
TOM TEASDALE: So it’s really worked out good, but my concern now is not the water comin’ out of the ground. It’s the water that’s been sitting at the tank -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: -- that’s been going into the truck, that’s sitting at the people’s houses. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: To include my own, and --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Do you do scrub-out of tanks every year?
TOM TEASDALE: No. Hey, Cha --Chad? Will you hand me that glass thing with the -- yeah, there. yeah. This guy cleans his tank out every year, and he cleaned it out and brought this down to me, and this is the last couple scoops out of his water tank.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: Okay. Most of -- most of us have not cleaned our tanks out in eleven years.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: You -- you don’t have an annual scrub-out program then?
TOM TEASDALE: Nope. Nope. And nor did we have a maintenance program. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And so I’ve been trying to develop that thing a little bit. But this -- if this came out of his tank, who -- he cleans it every year -- what’s in the rest of ours?
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So the water that your pump -- where, where are you getting your water to pump in?
TOM TEASDALE: Okay. The water that pumps in comes out of the holding tank here in the -- in the village.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: That’s the well.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. Now that’s tested every month.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And does it go through a filtration process to try and -- TOM TEASDALE: Not that I know of. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay. Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And now, some of the houses have put filters in their houses. But I’m concerned also still about the truck, and the tanks aren’t gettin’ cleaned.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And do people use that as their drinking water, too, then?
TOM TEASDALE: Most everybody’s usin’ bottled water. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: But some do the -- do the other. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: So -- But this got us scared -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. TOM TEASDALE: It’s scary.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And so that -- that’s been eleven years, so -- TOM TEASDALE: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Before that what was -- what was the drinking --
TOM TEASDALE: We had -- we still had the well. We had a second -- well, the first well down at the village, and then you go with your five-gallon jugs and get water.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So you hauled your own.
TOM TEASDALE: You hauled your own water, yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right, right. TOM TEASDALE: So --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So describe a bit of what -- what it was like when you first drove into Northway.
TOM TEASDALE: I left Alabama at sixty-seven above, and it was fifty-eight below when I got here. And all my kids were mad at me because we moved.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And your wife’s still married to you?
TOM TEASDALE: Yep. Yeah, in fact the -- the ninth we’ve been married fifty-six years.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh, wonderful!
TOM TEASDALE: But anyway, we came up with four kids, and I had been livin’ down -- I’d been in Georgia for three years and Alabama for seven years and kinda lost the -- the knack of living in winter.
Well, we -- when we moved up here, we moved into a 10x50 ft. trailer, from a three thousand square foot home with a swimming pool. So it was a tremendous change.
The kids -- the kids had never been in cold weather, so we got used to that. It was a fun trip, even though they all moved and won’t come back.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: They’re all living elsewhere now?
TOM TEASDALE: I’ve got -- well, I’ve got one girl now that -- we only brought four with us, but I’ve got a girl in Alabama, a boy in Texas, a girl in Wyoming, a girl in Montana, add a girl in Florida and three boys here.
That may add up to nine. I might have missed somebody somewhere. But we had --- we had five adopted and -- five of our own and four adopted.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. In from the village?
TOM TEASDALE: One -- three from the village and one from Washington. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh!
TOM TEASDALE: So -- but anyway, the three boys are still here that we adopted from here. And the-- all the others are spread out doing their thing.
In fact, one girl just came up last -- it was two weeks ago -- and visited us, and she’s still upset.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So when you got here was the church quite thriving then,Tom?
TOM TEASDALE: We had about, I’d say, thirty-five, forty people. And then most of the elders, of course, have passed off -- passed on, rather -- and we’re still hangin’ in there during the wintertime, about thirty-five, forty people -- maybe fifty sometimes.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Can you tell us what elders were here when you first moved here?
TOM TEASDALE: There was Walter and Lillian Northway. There was Ina Albert. Frank Sam -- I forgot her first name, his wife. I can’t remember all of ‘em. But there was twelve people over a hundred years old when I got here.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Wow.
TOM TEASDALE: And I think what it was, was two things. When you lived out here in this type of climate, you better work to stay warm for one thing. And you’re eatin’ all the stuff off the land for the other thing.
You’re not eatin’ -- drinkin’ beer and whiskey, and you’re not eatin’ pizza and all that junk. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And between those two things, I think that’s why they lived so long. In our age group is -- well, we got five or six people in their eighties right now, and then let’s say from seventy on down it’s gettin’ shaky.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Mm-hm. So these elders that -- the oldest elders, were they still going out on the land when you came up here or were they pretty --
TOM TEASDALE: They were -- they were basically going out, but they weren’t doin’ anything. They were just -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: Because they liked to go. They -- they’d go out with the people and just kinda be a participant of it. They went to culture camp where they could take the boat down and they had little cabins out there for ‘em, and then the -- they’d go out to a caribou or moose hunt and just watch.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. TOM TEASDALE: But they didn’t physically -- or couldn’t keep up with anybody, so they’d just watch.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right -- and give advice probably. TOM TEASDALE: Yep.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah, definitely.
TOM TEASDALE: Yep. And then we got Ada Gallen, who’s ninety-one, December. I think she’s the oldest one here now. We got Oscar Jimmy, eighties. (Louis) Sam, (Ava) Sam in their eighties. Yeah, I think there’s two or three more.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: We talked to Louie Frank yesterday.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, Louie. Okay, Louie, Steve, and Harry -- three brothers all -- I think Har -- I think Louie’s probably the youngest.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It seems like that.
TOM TEASDALE: I think he’s close to eighty, or eighty. I think all three of those boys are in the -- in their eighties. And still drivin’. Well, Steve and Louie are. Harry was hurt as a kid, and has been kind of crippled since then, so he doesn’t drive.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So, did any of these people ever talk about where they went on the landscape? Have you been out with them on any trails --
TOM TEASDALE: No, I haven’t. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Or anything? TOM TEASDALE: No, I don’t. LESLIE McCARTNEY: You don’t do that?
TOM TEASDALE: No, I don’t go out. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: I had -- I had enough of the woods and different things in -- in the army. So. But one interesting thing -- well, there’s two interesting things.
We used to have all kinds of dog mushers, and they’d go out and hunt and fish. Now I don’t think we got anybody in the dogmushing business.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Not even for racing? TOM TEASDALE: Nope. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Really?
TOM TEASDALE: It’s too expensive for one thing, and then the other thing is where our -- our real trappers are down to about two or three. Whereas before, there was half the place out there trappin’. And it’s due -- it’s due to age and television.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And is it also due -- is it due to fur prices being so far down, too?
TOM TEASDALE: No. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Just not --
TOM TEASDALE: I don’t -- no, I don’t -- no, we just don’t have the folks -- the younger generation comin’ up, let’s say from thirty on down, are more interested in video games --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: They’re just not getting started --
TOM TEASDALE: And gettin’ drunk, things like that. They’re just not gettin’ with it. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: But they’re not all that way. We got – we’ve got a lot of kids that surprised me -- moved to Fairbanks and Anchorage -- that are doing very well. And they’ve -- they’ve got a girlfriend or wife.
They got a family. They got a house. And they’re really do -- We got one boy’s been ten years on the Anchorage police force. Another boy that was a state arson inspector.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Wow.
TOM TEASDALE: Got a lot of guys and women that are in the construction field. And it seems like when they break the connection here, they do well.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Move on with their -- TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, they move on. BARBARA CELLARIUS: -- careers.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, if you go from a place -- right now about 170 to 400,000 -- it’s really surprising they’re doing very well. TOM TEASDALE: Yep.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And there’s just not the opportunities here for the younger people to stay.
TOM TEASDALE: You got it. There’s -- basically there’s nothing here anymore. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: The airport’s closed -- well, you can wait twenty years for someone to retire at DOT, and if they hire somebody else you gotta wait another twenty years.
See, that’s -- between the school, which requires college, and DOT, which requires CDL and difference -- heavy equipment --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Certification. TOM TEASDALE: -- skills. Yeah, certification. There’s nothing else here.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And are people also moving away now for education purposes, so their kids can be in bigger schools?
TOM TEASDALE: A few. A few. And here’s another interesting thing. We have a girl -- the father was not home, and she has several brother and sisters, kind of a loose life in the house.
And she had made up her mind somewhere in grade school, she wanted to make somethin’ out of herself. She finished number one in her class here in -- at school -- until she left and she went to Mt. Edgecumbe, and she finished number one in the class down there and got accepted to a medical school down in Oregon. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Wow.
TOM TEASDALE: And she was up this summer visiting and I say “You found a boyfriend yet?” and she says, “Nope, I’m interested in education first, and then I’ll get me a boyfriend.”
Now -- and I often wondered why, coming from the background she had and living -- what made her so different than everybody else?
We’ve got a lot of kids that went on to college. And we got two extremely good mechanics out here. Both went to Vo-Tech. One works for DOT and the other’s kind of a self-employed guy. He’s -- well, he’s one of the vill -- village maintenance people.
So, the opportunity’s there. Most of the funds are there. Just gettin’ ‘em there.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So you talked about the transition from -- sort of there used to be a lot of people who would -- who were mushing, had dogteams, used them for hunting and trapping and that kind of thing. Are there other changes that you’ve seen in the time that you’ve lived here?
TOM TEASDALE: Well, the big change we mentioned before was that the road was dirt. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And now it’s paved. And then --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And just for the purposes of the recording, we were talking about the road is nine miles from the highway here.
TOM TEASDALE: Nine miles -- yeah, from the junction to the village. They have moved the Alaska Highway in a little bit, not -- it’s not so close -- it’s just maybe a hundred -- two hundred feet.
But it used to be sixty miles to Tok, and because of work on the highway, now it’s only fifty miles. I can’t wait till they do some more work it’s only five miles.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: But I imagine when it was dirt it took quite a long time.
TOM TEASDALE: Well, the problem was -- yeah, the problem was when it rained it was terrible, and you couldn’t hardly get up and down the road. And then the -- when they built -- when they did the road -- that’s been -- it’s been seven, maybe seven or eight years ago now -- it flooded.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And you said that they actually tarmacked the road back -- it was already done in the ‘80s when you arrived. It wasn’t a dirt road.
TOM TEASDALE: It was dirt in the ‘80s. LESLIE McCARTNEY: It was dirt in the ‘80s, sorry.
TOM TEASDALE: Then sometime in -- after the ‘90s it got -- had some chip seal on it. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: But what happened was we had a big rain and then with the snow and everything from the big bridge -- which is about a quarter mile from the junction -- from the big bridge down this way about two miles, the whole road was underwater.
You couldn’t even drive it. So they hired boats to take people back and forth. Well, it was nice to take the boat up to the highway, but if your car wasn’t there waitin’ for you --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: What do you do?
TOM TEASDALE: You’re still walkin’. So what they did was they redid the road. They raised the road up four feet in some areas, and then they put culverts in there. So the river water when it comes up again passes through the culverts --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It can go underneath.
TOM TEASDALE: -- and it goes into the flatland, and everything is covered with water, but it’s not flooding anything. Okay. And the other thing that happened is the schools went from 221 to 36, and in fact I think this year the kids were tellin’ me we’ll nobody in high school.
And we had one graduate last year, and we’ll have zero this year.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Is it because there aren’t any kids of that age or are they going somewhere else?
TOM TEASDALE: Well, we can’t offer anything anymore. When we first got here the school had home ec, they had music, they had mechanics and carpentry. Now -- and we had two basketball teams, boys and girls teams.
Now we have nothing. And the kids are interested in basketball. They’re interested in playing sports. They’re interested in different votech --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: The vocational. TOM TEASDALE: -- not just sittin’ there with their books. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And so that’s a big change there. And when our -- our staff has went from ten or twelve down to four.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And is it harder to retain staff then when it’s that small?
TOM TEASDALE: No, because what happened was one lady has her own home here, and -- and so she’s staying. She’s about to retire. And then we had --we built a duplex for two of the teachers.
We had an apartment in the school, and they built another -- well, they got a home off of FAA and bought that and made that the principal’s house. So we’ve added in housing for ‘em -- so if we get other people from outside here they got a place to live.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Makes it easier.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Makes it easier to retain staff.
TOM TEASDALE: And so that way -- of course, Becky married a fellow here, so she’s been here -- she was here -- she was a counselor when I got here, I believe. No, she was a student. In ‘91 she was a counselor and then was goin’ to -- goin’ to school through correspondence.
And became a teacher, so she’s been here for -- whenever they got married, probably in the ‘80s. And then we’ve -- our staff generally liked it. A lot have bought property and stayed here.
And then they were here like eight, ten, twelve years, and now we’re down to where we don’t -- we don’t retain these people like we used to. And --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well, but if your -- if your student numbers are dropping, that’s -- TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. BARBARA CELLARIUS: -- probably affecting how much money the school has.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. Beck -- Becky -- see, our principal retired last year, so getting -- Dot Lake closed -- ‘cause they didn’t have enough students -- so that principal’s comin’ over here. And then we had Becky, who’s been here twenty years probably.
Ruth, who’s been here -- I think this is her third year. We got another new teacher comin’ in this year, and -- yeah, we’ll have -- well, no, the principal/teacher, yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So that’s four.
TOM TEASDALE: So of our -- of our long-term people, the longest would be Becky, around twenty years. And then three years.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And so the principal also teaches.
TOM TEASDALE: The principal teaches. He’s a principal half the day and teaches science and math. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And he lives in Tok. See, so basically you kinda consider he’s really not a community member. He just works here. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. TOM TEASDALE: So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And what about medical?
TOM TEASDALE: Medical, if it’s a real serious case they’ll fly in and getcha. Actually we have an ambulance service. We have a health aid. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: And we have a volunteer health aid.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And the health aid’s always here?
TOM TEASDALE: Pretty much. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: And we have an ambulance, so the health aid drives the ambulance partway to Tok. They’ve already coordinated with Tok clinic -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: And they come out.
TOM TEASDALE: And they come out. Wherever they meet on the highway, the drivers of the ambulance get out and stop the traffic. They switch you from one ambulance to the other and then you both go your own direction. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And then if need be, if you get to Tok they’ll either take you by the ambulance to Fairbanks if you need to go there, or they’ll fly you out depending how serious it is.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And, Barbara, you were saying -- we were talking this morning about was there still fire brigades?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Is there a volunteer fire department? TOM TEASDALE: No. LESLIE McCARTNEY: No.
TOM TEASDALE: We’ve got five fire trucks and no fire department. That’s another funny story. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Tell us.
TOM TEASDALE: Every house we had that caught on fire burned down. Okay. The lodge -- several years ago the grandson was playing upstairs with matches and caught the mattress on fire in the apartment area.
And usually people come to a fire and watch it, and there’s two or three guys puttin’ it out? Well, with the lodge on fire -- and the top of the lodge caught on fire --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Is that here in the village?
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, that’s the one at the airport. That’s the one at the airport, yeah. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: And so, about thirty guys show up and they’re fightin’ the fire. Everybody else is there watchin’ and then they had to have the fire truck shootin’ the water out and the water truck was bringin’ water up to the fire truck and I’m thinkin’, “Man, we never had this great success at all!”
And then finding out that the motto was: Save the Liquor Store! It was so funny. And we did. We saved the whole building -- and it was in good shape, too.
They were able to just put the fire out upstairs, repainted everything -- it was fine. But we saved the liquor store. So it was good.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Is this now a dry community or is there some --
TOM TEASDALE: No. No. We have -- the natives have their own bar up in the highway. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh, yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: And they have a liquor store at the grocery store. So. But everybody else -- Dave Stout, 1260 -- Milepost 1260 Lodge, and Wrangellview have all been abandoned. None of those are opened.
Now the natives took over Wrangellview, and EPA shut it down ‘cause it was so contaminated. But we’re workin’ on that. That’s part of the reason --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: That’s the gas station that’s about a mile up the road? TOM TEASDALE: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And contaminated with chemicals, you mean?
TOM TEASDALE: Oil and gas. Diesel. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Leaking underground storage tanks. TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And things like that, we found and -- in fact we found two 10,000 gallon tanks that nobody even knew they were up there off in the trees. And we found -- so we got -- I think we had two 20,000 gallon tanks, two 10,000 gallon tanks, and we found four or five 500 gallon tanks and maybe one or two 100 gallon tanks just laying out there in the woods.
Well, one of ‘em -- one of the 10,000 gallon tanks still had something sloshing around in there. But they’ve been there at least twenty years. So, what I’m thinkin’ is, has the -- has the bottom rusted out and that’s slowly dripping?
Well, if it’s slowly dripping then we have -- we have 20,000 or 10,000 pounds of diesel down in the -- in the ground. So, we’re gettin’ -- we pulled out two hundred cars from there, and the cars from the fifties of all the crazy things, they’d -- they’d block ‘em up and they would drain the oils and the fuel out -- we had four cars from the fifties still had a full tank of gas in them. Nobody’d bothered it.
But we had all these other vehicles with nothing in there, so did that seep down into the ground, also? So once we get this mess cleaned up, we’ll start checkin’ the ground. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: Now, interesting happened. It didn’t affect the highway, but when you turned to go the junction -- turned right, between the junction and Wrangellview about a half mile up, the ground gave way and slid down into the river. And they were able to test it and they knew that, that -- where it slid away -- that was the water that ended in the river.
Now with Wrangellview I’m wondering, is that fuel -- if there is fuel seeping down in there -- is it going down the river, too? See? Because the case is that the gravel gave way and -- and slid down the river, why isn’t the fuel draining down that way? So we’ll see.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And then how will they clean up the chemicals in the ground? They’ll have to actually remove all that dirt.
TOM TEASDALE: I guess so. Well, I can’t remember what year it was in the -- it was in the nineties, I believe, late nineties -- up by the baseball field you can see where they’ve been diggin’ -- cleanin’ that up?
Well, they set up a big -- a big container thing there and the fuel tank had leaked underneath the school. So they braced the school up at one end -- about -- about half the school -- and they dug all that fuel out and had this big machine there, and they were puttin’ the fuel through -- puttin’ the sand through there and burning all the fuel off.
Then they’d bring the dirt back and put it under the school. We may have to do the same thing up there. And I don’t know who that was or whatever happened, but we -- that’s the next -- that’s one of the things we gotta do next year. If we can get the junk out of here this year to a great extent, then we’ll get these other things next year.
But the other thing that happened was out at the landfill, we -- we’ve collected some of these old -- well, we collected all the old refrigerators and freezers and anything that’s white we’re collectin’ -- and some of the old refrigerators and freezers had dead meat -- had bad meat in them.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh, really.
TOM TEASDALE: And -- and somehow or another -- I don’t know if somebody opened or what happened -- but it all spilt on the ground. Well, the -- the fellow down here doin’ the crushing of the vehicles and I, we’re walkin’ around the landfill tryin’ to figure out what we’re gonna do next and clean this up, and he goes back to work and I come down here and they start spraying me with Lysol because -- and with Febreze ‘cause I smelled so bad.
What it was, it was all the odor and stuff and the chemicals from the meat had slid down to the ground and we were walkin’ through it. It was terrible.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: What about all the Freon then in the fridges and freezers?
TOM TEASDALE: We had -- the recycle company took care of all that. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: ‘Cause we didn’t have anybody licensed to do that and they did, so they took care of all that. But this -- it took me -- well, my wife wouldn’t let me in the house till I took my clothes off and put other clothes on. And then the other guy -- he got back to -- he’s been staying in the school.
He says, “Man! something stinks around here.” He realized what it was, so he -- he washed all his stuff in the shower. Well, it stayed for two days -- we couldn’t get -- all kinds of crazy things.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Good grief!
TOM TEASDALE: But this is where we gotta go back and we got -- hopefully get somebody from some other outfit that checks soil and things and have them come out and do all this so we can set up a plan to get rid of that contamination.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: You talked about various places that had closed down. So when you -- when you came up, were there a lot more businesses kind of in the Northway junction area?
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, we had -- okay, we had the -- in the junction area we had Milepost 1260. Well, if you came in -- let’s go -- we’ll go back to the border ‘cause that’s only forty miles. You had -- Border City Lodge was open.
Then you had another place called First and Last that was open. You had Scottie Creek was open. And then you came up the road, you had Seekin’s Roadhouse. You had Milepost 1260, Wrangellview, Stout’s, and the store.
Okay, and then nothing between here and Tok. Today you’ve got -- Scottie Creek is partially open. Border City is open, and you’ve got the stores open. Everything else is gone. Gone by the wayside.
People either -- basically they just abandoned the property and left. And when you got -- in those days probably when they were built, you had this -- you had vehicles stopping all -- all the time for this, that, and the other. Well, now you can go four or five hundred miles in your vehicle.
So why stop at all these little places? So as the business dwindled down, they couldn’t make any money so they left.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And has that affected life in the village?
TOM TEASDALE: Not really. I don’t think so because over the -- over the time, like I say, the kids are movin’ out and the old folks are dyin’ off, so I don’t think it’s affected it that much, ‘cause the store is still there.
BARBARA CELARIUS: Right. TOM TEASDALE: And the gas station is still there --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Those are the important things for -- TOM TEASDALE: And at the time the lodge was open, which has now been closed, I think four years.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah, it’s not been that long. TOM TEASDALE: And --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: But it -- did it -- was it a source of employment for some people?
TOM TEASDALE: They had twelve to fifteen people workin’ there. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And now we got zero. LESLIE McCARTNEY: So that -- that’s an impact right there.
TOM TEASDALE: See, because when I first got here, you had the lodge and then you had the -- the restaurant. You had fuel for the airplanes. You had a beer joint, a liquor store, the motel.
Okay, then -- then you also had three or four apartments.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And those employed a lot of local people?
TOM TEASDALE: Yep. It was all local people. And then across the street you had a grocery store.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: At the airport. TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, at the airport. And it was an old army barracks, so it was a good-sized store.
And then -- of course, that’s all been gone.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So we talked about -- just going back to effects of change -- we talked about the dirt road and then they -- they chip sealed it. So, what effect did that have on the town and what for people coming in and out and travel?
TOM TEASDALE: We could -- we could go faster. We -- one of the things that happened is we’re getting’ a lot more tourists down here just looking. And whenever I see a tourist, I stop and visit with them.
And a side note from that is, some of the tourists came up here and looked at what we’re doing the -- the first part of summer. But then they came back a couple months later and they can’t -- they just -- the change is just tremendous. They didn’t -- isn’t the same place almost.
So anyway, the -- the outsiders are seeing big changes. The dirt road -- the one -- one good thing about the dirt road is if you got a person in the ambulance, they’re not gettin’ jerked around all the time where they’re in the ambulance. It’s -- an ambulance isn’t as smooth-riding machine as you might think it is.
And so that was a big help there. Okay, then you had fuel trucks comin’ down here or these big semis to bring groceries and such? They couldn’t hardly get down the road.
And then as the road was -- was improved, they also improved the bridges at Moose Creek and Fish Camp, which meant bigger things could come in here, which they have -- at that time.
So the road was a big -- it was -- it was good for the residents. It was also good for economics.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you can bring in more building supplies -- everything.
TOM TEASDALE: Yep. We had building supplies come in -- you had bigger trucks. You could get more groceries in at one time. And just the way it was you get a liquor store -- a liquor truck in every Friday -- things like that, which is not the case anymore.
So. And that brings me to another change, is when you’re out here long enough, it seems to me between thirty-five and forty there’s a big change in your life. For the ones that drink, you can either continue drinking or you’re gonna totally quit.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And that seems to be the age marker?
TOM TEASDALE: It’s that -- it’s that age mark right in there, and I don’t know why, but that’s -- that’s my experience. That’s the -- that’s the -- the deciding factor right there is between that age group, I’m either gonna keep drinking or I’m gonna quit. And a lot have quit.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And then what about any other -- other type of drug abuse. Is that big in the --
TOM TEASDALE: We had marijuana. Then we -- last year, I think, we kinda had a little bit of heroin come in, and the last two months we’ve had a -- a lot of meth.
Because we understand that there’s a person outside of Tok, that’s not a Tok person, growing it or whatever -- you make it in your kitchen or some -- yeah, I don’t know how you do it.
But anyway they’re making it in their home and bringing it out, or they have people bring it out. So that’s been a -- a real factor here just recently. LESIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: So, we’ll see.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: We were talking, Barbara and I, earlier this morning about river travel. TOM TEASDALE: Mm-hm.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So -- just because Louie Frank’s going out tomorrow in his boat to collect berries as opposed to going out on the road somewhere -- so has river travel in the summertime always been big in this community?
TOM TEASDALE: Mm -- not -- I don’t think it has been that -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: It’s been a factor to some of them but in the -- I’m thinkin’ in the -- in the, not -- in the early 1900s they used to have a ferry come in here. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh!
TOM TEASDALE: Or a steamboat come in here, and that’s how Northway became Northway. It was the steamboat captain’s last name.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So where would the steamboat come from?
TOM TEASDALE: I don’t know.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It was on the Tanana. It was -- the Tanana River. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: And they -- they, I guess they brought supplies and things like that, ‘cause no road. And then when that -- when the road came in, then it pretty much dropped down to just personalized boating. The main boating I’ve seen is when they go down forty-five minutes to culture camp.
And then you got boats running all day for a week. But on a -- on a regular basis I don’t think it’s used that much. Maybe hunt -- hunting season be another big time. And then we used to have a -- a great big long wooden homemade boat come in.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Like a scow?
TOM TEASDALE: I’m not sure. It had big designs on the front, I guess. And it was -- I don’t know if it was UAF or somebody? And they would travel the old style down the river. They’d paddle this big long thing and there’d be about twenty of ‘em on it.
And then all of a sudden that disappeared, so I don’t know if they’re still doin’ that or not. But basically I would say maybe not much boating goin’ on. Minor -- minor fishing from the boating and limited hunting -- not very much.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And not very many fish camps anymore?
TOM TEASDALE: No. Not -- I don’t think so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Was there many when you first arrived?
TOM TEASDALE: There was -- let’s see -- one, two -- maybe four. But see, folks aren’t -- very few people trap anymore. They went to -- basically, they went to fish wheels.
They go down to where the fish wheels are and they -- and some of the folks here --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Do they fish on the Copper then? TOM TEASDALE: I think so. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: Now Howard’s one of them that does that. A lot of the fellas that used to do a lot of that have all passed away. And we had one fella that would come up.
He’d go down there and get all the salmon and then he’d come out and stop at everybody’s house and give them salmon.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Bring it back and share. TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. He’d share everything. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: And then he -- he passed away with a -- with a frying pan over his head. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Hmm?
TOM TEASDALE: Like a cast iron frying pan. So, his life ended rather early. And --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And no one you knew picked up and continued that tradition?
TOM TEASDALE: No. I think now basically you go down and do it and then pretty much get what you need and that’s it.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Do it as an individual activity.
TOM TEASDALE: You may -- may do it as a close family thing. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: But that’s about it. LESLIE McCARTNEY: But the sharing in the community -- TOM TEASDALE: But not like we used to, no.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- is gone. And I take it that would be the same with hunting, if someone got a moose it’s not -- TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: Our moose population has increased the last few years, but again our population has dropped way down. When I first got here we had four hundred and fifty people.
Now we’re down about a hundred and sixty and we’re talking -- another girl was tellin’ me there’s gonna be -- five, six, seven -- maybe eight more people movin’ to Tok, and they’re lookin’ for work.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And that’s why they’re leaving.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. And they’re -- they’re basically looking for something for work where they can have more things for their family than they got right now.
And -- I don’t know of anybody else that’s movin’. We -- we lost -- I think we lost twenty-two people between May and June.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: This year? TOM TEASDALE: Yep.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Just all moved out for employment opportunities.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, yeah, well one -- yeah. One fella bought a home and got a good deal in Tok on a house for him and his family moved. There was six of them right there.
He works at the weather station and he drives -- he drives back and forth, but they don’t work in the summertime as such. He’s mainly all winter. So anyway -- but that family moved out.
And then we’ve had several young folks move to Fairbanks and the rest to Anchorage.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And is there a feeling when -- when these people are moving that they don’t want to move but this is inevitable and what they have to do? Or is it --
TOM TEASDALE: I think they kinda want to move. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: Because we’re in a -- we’re in a electronic age now and we have no cell phone service here.
And that’s -- that’s not a big deal to me, but it is to the kids comin’ up because that’s their lifestyle.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And internet -- is the internet --
TOM TEASDALE: Internet works here most of the time. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay. TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: Real slow but it does work. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: And then you have the little iPod things, whatever they are? They do -- they use those. But with no cell phone service and things like that, the -- it’s just the -- it’s just the -- like all the villages are kinda dryin’ up.
Well, the other employment I mentioned -- I didn’t think about was the FAA. Basically, but the one fella moving to Tok, I don’t think they hire any local people. I think they’re all out of Tok, and the reason being is nobody here will go take the test.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Drug and alcohol tests?
TOM TEASDALE: No, the -- the -- the FAA weather test.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh! Weather testing. TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, the weather testing.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Which I hear is quite difficult.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, it is. It’s --pretty tough deal. LESLIE McCARTNEY: I heard that. TOM TEASDALE: You can study for it -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: But again, who wants to sit down and study when you can go and do video things.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Well, I’ve heard even when you study, sometimes you have to write it four and five times. TOM TEASDALE: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: It’s really, really difficult test. TOM TEASDALE: It’s extremely difficult. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: But it pays well. The job -- I think that the minimum is like thirty dollars an hour.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: But then they’re also closing a bunch of the smaller stations, too.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. Now our station’s open -- I think it’s -- it may be one May through the end of August.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh, so you’re not all year round.
TOM TEASDALE: No, not anymore. Now that was a big change. Years ago we had sixteen FAA families livin’ here. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Really!
TOM TEASDALE: Yep. And when they moved, of course that was a big drop in the school there, but it caused -- you know, and then you had two -- two rest -- two -- well, we had the one restaurant. We had the airport goin'.
We had two grocery stores goin’, plus all the other stuff. Well, all of a sudden BOOM! Every -- that’s sixteen houses. Figure two people per house. Thirty-eight people there. Lyle had five kids.
So, that’d be another -- We’re lookin’ maybe seventy, eighty people there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And that was a big loss here. So, and then they bid all the houses off. And that -- it was a whole deal from here. So.
The only real employment we have now as such would be -- long-term benefit program -- would be the DOT. I think they hire five or six people.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And then the tribal offices. How many people are employed here?
TOM TEASDALE: Basically, I think it’s two people in the office and everybody else is either TCC or IGAP grants.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay. TOM TEASDALE: Chad and I are IGAP grants. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: The behavioral health girl and this -- this other lady -- she does appointments for old people things.
I think they’re both TCC. Tribal court -- I’m not sure if that’s TCC or who that is. And then the ASAP welfare lady. That’s TCC.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So even though it looks like a big office -- TOM TEASDALE: Even -- yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: There’s lots of people in here.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. We got about eight -- six to eight people here, but there’s only two paid by the village, I think. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And then you got -- next door you got the cook. My son’s the cook. We -- we never had more than four people eatin’ lunch there or breakfast and maybe seven takeouts.
Well, he’s got -- he’s feeding more people now than they do in Tok.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So he does the elder lunch program?
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, he does the -- and I think that’s -- I don’t know if that’s TCC or who runs that, but the Tok people are talkin’ about coming up here for lunch.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So every day he cooks and it goes out to the elders’ homes?
TOM TEASDALE: He cooks -- he cooks -- he cooks lunch Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Breakfast on Friday, and then they go to Tok on Wednesday. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh.
TOM TEASDALE: And then, on -- since all these seniors are goin’ to Tok on Wednesdays -- there’re a lot from Dot Lake, Tanacross -- you know, the whole local area -- Three Bears gives a ten percent discount if you’re over sixty. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh!
BARBARA CELARIUS: On that day.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. On that day. So it gives the elders, since they’re in Tok -- they can buy their groceries and ride back on the bus and it’s no hardship to ‘em to a point.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So the --
TOM TEASDALE: And then the -- the bus driver is young enough, he helps get the groceries on the truck or Three Bears will help put ‘em on -- things like that.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So is it once a week then that the bus goes? TOM TEASDALE: Once a week, yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: Once a week.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Now did they used to go in more often? Or -- TOM TEASDALE: No. LESLIE McCARTNEY: No. It’s always been --
TOM TEASDALE: Far as I know it’s always been once a week. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: But they were -- they were getting fed at the -- at the airport.
TOM TEASDALE: And that closed down. Then they were gettin’ fed up at the Wrangellview. Was it Wrangellview?
I think they’re getting’ fed up there and that closed down. And now they’re back down -- now they’re down here. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: So -- but they’re still eating. Now that takes disabled. It takes senior citizens. I think it’s -- I think the village council voted to make it fifty-five and older. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: And then you’ve got disabled. And if I go over there and eat, I can take a guest with me. So you can -- you get good population.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And is there a large disabled community here then,Tom?
TOM TEASDALE: It’s kinda -- it’s kinda hard to figure because we got one boy -- one guy in a wheelchair, but he goes to -- his family takes him to Fairbanks and lives there for a while. Then he goes down to his daughter’s in Mentasta. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: If we count, there’s one there -- two, three, four -- I’d say less than ten. Maybe eight that -- that are -- really need help. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: Then -- that are either in wheelchairs or on crutch -- oh, we got one young girl and her boyfriend. They’re both disabled. They’re -- I don’t think they’re in their thirties yet.
And one of my plans was last year to take this lake and put trout in it. And then we’ll put a little ramp out there, and then the people in wheelchairs that can’t go much, they could come out here and enjoy fishin’.
And then you could send your kids over here go fishin, not worry about something goin’ on. So Fish and Game from Wildli -- from Fairbanks came down, and the -- the lake doesn’t freeze to the bottom.
But there’s not enough oxygen in the water that’s left to -- to keep the fish alive. So they said you can’t do it. So, that ended that deal. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: But we got about that many elders, I think. And then the bus driver goes around picks ‘em up every day, and then on Wednesdays, of course, takes them to Tok.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So then what’s the vision for the village, or does the village have a vision for carrying on in the future?
TOM TEASDALE: Well, my -- my thought is -- and I’ve been workin’ with the state DOT to give us the -- the airport. Because it’s in five -- the thing is it’s in five different leases, there’s little sections of property. You’ve got the hangar on one piece.
You got somethin’ else the other piece, and they got the lodge on another piece. And you can’t get it unless you have all -- you take the whole thing. Well, the first year it was a $10,000 minimum bid. Nobody in the world applied for it. The second year it went to $200 dollars. Nobody applied for it.
They did have a couple Chinese people come out and look and never came back. Well, what I’m tryin’ to get to do is give us -- let us have one lease at a time -- for example, we take the hangar. That’s what we want. We’ll put our school buses in there, which means we can put the fire trucks back in the fire hall.
And then we can set up a -- take our village mechanic, set up a little village mechanic shop, and then work a deal with him; and he can do both private and village stuff. He could rent the place out.
And then do some little things there that would get that running. Then we move over to the lodge, and we start redoin’ the lodge. And take one step at a time. Well, the lady finally wrote me back after I’d been buggin’ her for over a year, and she sent my information over to Airport Leasing.
And I want them to come down here and sit down with us and let’s get this thing goin’ again. And my stand was, we lost twelve to fifteen people that we could put back to work, which means in order for us to do that, we have to have people move in. Okay, if they gotta move in, then you gotta give us some housing.
See, so the whole plan is to build up and -- and may -- who knows, maybe it’ll work. But we get that goin’ again and then Fort Wainwright used to have helicopters flying in here. And they fly on the training. But this was refueling point.
You get four helicopters in here and sell eight thousand gallons of gas, you’re doin’ pretty good. Well, then we’d make it with Fort Wainwright and get that connection goin’ again. They can barely use the airstrip at Tanacross for fire prevention.
Okay. If that is a disaster, then why not move it up here? We got a place. We got a upstairs -- the fire hall -- we can take -- they -- the forest people could use that. We’ll have fuel. We got a maintenance shop.
And now we got all the firemen, so -- there’s a good possibility we could do somethin’. Some of the board members are in on it. But we can’t do anything until DOT says, “Okay. Let’s try it.” And all I’m saying is, “Let us try it.”
And two -- the other reason was -- well, we had -- we lost twelve to fifteen jobs and then how much tax dollars has the state lost? That was my big point, but I made it second.
And then it’s still a Custom’s checkpoint. Okay, if you have a small plane -- you can’t make it to Fairbanks -- you got to stop here. Okay, you stop here in the wintertime. It’s dark. No telephone, no fuel --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Not the services at all.
TOM TEASDALE: No -- not -- no services at all. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: And -- and so let’s -- let’s change the image coming into Alaska. You’re mad because you have no service, let’s change the image.
So we got -- I got three or four board members that are now kinda gettin’ with it. Hopefully we can start doin’ somethin’. Just waitin’ on the state.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: We notice there’s a helicopter flying in and out behind the store. What’s -- what’s that all about?
TOM TEASDALE: Well -- no -- none of us know. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh.
TOM TEASDALE: They’re doin’ -- there’s something -- They been out for over a week. They’re doin’ -- they’re doin’ something with the border. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh.
TOM TEASDALE: But when you go drive back up there, their bus -- or their -- their truck blocks the driveway into the RV park. They’ve rented the whole RV park. And the helicopter lands in there -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: -- and they all got all their tents up. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: But we’re not -- we don’t know what’s happenin’.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: You know, I saw an article in the paper and -- that they’re -- and I don’t know if it’s here -- but I did see an article in the paper that they’re clearing the border strip. I mean they kinda every -- periodically clear the border strip.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, we’ve heard that, too. But if they’re workin’ down at the border, why didn’t they go down there at Border City, which has -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Closer.
TOM TEASDALE: -- a little bit better arrangement. You’re only two minutes away, and -- and so that’s the question. Now if that’s what they’re doing, why are they here?
And it does -- it does provide a little bit of income for the store and things like that, but it does -- it doesn’t make any sense. Of course -- I guess it does, because the government’s involved in it. I’m nasty. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: Let’s see, I’m tryin’ to think what else.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah, any other significant changes that you’ve seen or changes in people?
TOM TEASDALE: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: In social structure?
TOM TEASDALE: Not really. I don’t -- I don’t think things change that much. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Not much. Not that fast.
TOM TEASDALE: The attitude of the young people that have moved is they don’t want to come back. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: They don’t want to put up with all this big expense of potlatches and things like that. They basically have a few friends. But they’re not connected like they used to be.
It’s not like they don’t like us.They just got more involved in other things and they’re realizing that they’ve got -- they gotta make a house payment or apartment rent. They’ve got power, you know, goin’ down your list of bills. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yep.
TOM TEASDALE: And they -- they haven’t -- they can’t come out here and do things. Now they -- they -- last weekend they did a -- a basket -- a baseball tournament. And all the kids from Fairbanks and Anchorage showed up, because they’re all doing somethin’ they like to do together.
And they had -- I think they were even selling sandwiches and things up there. But it lasted Friday, Saturday, Sunday; and so all the kids kinda had a -- like a reunion type thing, which was nice. But other than that -- POOF! They’re all gone.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: But it’s not like planned, like every two years we’re gonna go back and have a reunion? TOM TEASDALE: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: It’s not that structured. TOM TEASDALE: No, nothin’ like that. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: So. We got -- we still have a high cancer rate.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: I was gonna ask about that.
TOM TEASDALE: (Tape edited for privacy) they determined -- I think he’s got brain cancer or it’s going into brain cancer. (Tape edited for privacy) And then you got (Tape edited for privacy). I forgot who all, there’s so many of them. (Tape edited for privacy)
Then you had -- there’s a bunch more but it’s --some are getting cleared up and some aren’t.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Have you noticed an increase in the cancer rate -- TOM TEASDALE: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- since you’ve moved here? It’s always been fairly high?
TOM TEASDALE: It was -- it was high for a while, but then as people moved away, of course, it dropped down. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: But -- but another thing I noticed is whether you live here or whether you moved here, you both get cancer.
So is it somethin’ that happened outside and you brought it with you or is it the water we’re drinking or, you know, whatever?
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Are they consistently the same type of cancers, too, or are they very different?
TOM TEASDALE: Well, probably the majority is probably lung cancer and kidney cancer. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: Lung cancer ‘cause of heavy -- heavy smoking. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: And in my case it was different ‘cause I had Agent Orange can -- cancers. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh. Right.
TOM TEASDALE: So I brought mine with me. But they had other people that moved in here had cancer from the various things. And so that’s when they got involved in checkin’ the water.
Now somebody does -- and they checked the water all around the airport basically, because that’s where most of your contamination was at.
When you get to that real twisty road right by FAA? Okay. If you look down you’ll see some white or black pipes comin’ outa the ground? LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
TOM TEASDALE: And that’s where they’re checkin’ stuff. And then on the other side of the -- you pass the airport and up in that area, just not very far, like maybe a hundred, two hundred feet, you’ll see some others stickin’ up and they’re checkin’ all that area. Then -- now also, across the street from the post office you’ll see a road goin’ off to the left?
Well, that used to be the old dump area back in there, in ’80. And it -- it appears that that whole area -- maybe the water’s gettin’ better. But if that’s the case, then why isn’t the water gettin’ better somewhere else? So. What’s happenin’? Don’t know.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right, right. And then you said that they weren’t actually checkin’ the water around here.
TOM TEASDALE: No, I don’t know of any of these groups that come in to check the water right here. And the only thing, the time we did have the water checked here was for the air for the fish. And that was it.
And then the -- the school and the -- and the water well down here. You have to send a sample in every month. It has to get checked here or filled up here in their bottles and be in the station by twenty-four hours later.
So what happens is they -- they -- they do the samples early in the morning and Terry drives down to Forty-Mile Air and Forty-Mile Air flies it to Fairbanks, so we’re well within the timeframe.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Right. And then you get reports back for --
TOM TEASDALE: And then we get a written report back and he keeps a copy of it. They keep a copy here. And then we post it on the bulletin board, which is required.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And people understand what they’re reading on the water reports? TOM TEASDALE: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Because where I’m from, one time that happened and that whole community got very ill, and they were all posted but nobody understood what they meant.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. Yeah, you get all these little abbreviations of things. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And I don’t think any of us know what it is. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: So. But the water at the school -- you can actually sometimes smell the water, the phosphorous or something in it? You -- you don’t drink any water at school. We get our water from Tok, and we have -- we put in little water stations, water coolers, and that’s where you get your water.
But my -- my stand on that one is, if we can’t drink the water at the school, then why you cooking in it?
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And showering in it and bathing in it.
TOM TEASDALE: Why are we doing the dishes in it and why are we washing in it?
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And brushing our teeth with it.
TOM TEASDALE: Another -- well -- that brings up a thing, when you mention teeth, we used to do a fluoride program here. And I gotta check on that, see why we’re not doin’ it. I’m always checkin’ things that are none of my business.
But I want the community to -- to be good with -- a good community. Anyway, we cut out the fluoride business a while back. The kids used to get it once a month at school. Well, now they haven’t been gettin’ it.
Got a whole bunch of kids with no teeth that aren’t even in school yet. They’re not getting any fluoride whatsoever. But they are drinking lots of Kool-Aid --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And the sweet, sweet stuff. TOM TEASDALE: -- and these goofy sippy cups. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: And they kinda think that’s a lot of, is that between the Kool-Aid or the -- not necessarily Kool-Aid, but --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: It’s the sugar content. TOM TEASDALE: Powerade or somethin’ --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: It’s the sugar content. TOM TEASDALE: Yeah, it’s the sugar content of all these drinks, and it’s just --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Rotting their teeth out.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. Yep. They -- when I first got here a real strange thing was the kids were eatin’ cereal, but they’re puttin’ water on it because they didn’t like milk.
Well, over the years now, they’re -- they’re putting -- they’re drinking milk and -- and the milk is on the cereal. So, I guess it’s just how you’re raised. And change is takin’ place.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: But other than that, I can’t think of different changes. But the big drawback is we’re just losin’ so many people. We can’t do that. My -- my whole goal is let’s do somethin’ to get the community back up goin’ again.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: So we’ll see what happens. Now here -- this house over here is gettin’ some sinkholes in it. Flossie’s house over there is gettin’ some sinkholes in it. And, let’s see, if you go back up by Kelly Frank’s -- where Kelly Frank lives, the back of his place, the ground is going away.
And then when you pass the purple house -- I’m tryin’ -- yeah, I think past the purple house and you’ll see a big water opening? And you look you’ll see a log house there with all kinds of Styrofoam and wood in the water? Okay, that’s bein’ eaten away by the river.
And underneath the water about this far is a 500 gallon fuel tank. And we don’t know if the water -- if the water washed it away or it fell in. Now it’s upright, so I’m thinkin’ maybe it fell in.
Well, It’s been there for years so I don’t know if it had fuel in it when it left. But I wanted to pull it out last year and the guy said I couldn’t come on his property. And I said, “That’s no problem to me. This is a free service. DEC will come down and it ain’t gonna be free.”
And now -- and since then he’s changed his citizenship. He’s now a Canadian citizen. But then I got thinking, if I’m standing on Northway Road and he doesn’t own the water, I’ll run a cable from the road over to the tank and pull it out that way. We’re gonna get it out one way or the other this year.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So the slumps are interesting. What’s causing that? The warmer climate?
TOM TEASDALE: We think it’s -- we think it’s the permafrost melting, and it’s causin’ all these big holes to take place and it’s -- it’s shiftin’ the house a little bit, which is usually on permafrost anyway, but we’re seein’ some different type of results here --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: More of it.
TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. And like the ground slid away in the highway -- that might have been some of it. If you go back to 1260, a guy at the border bought seven acres back in there. He thinks he can still put a house up there, but there’s great big sump holes all over that property.
And we think it’s the -- I think Alaska’s -- this area’s gained nine degrees warmer over the last few years, and the permafrost is melting and that’s causing all this --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: That’s what I was just going to ask. You mentioned you came up and it was minus fifty.
TOM TEASDALE: Fifty-eight. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Fifty-eight. The winters certainly aren’t as cold as that anymore.
TOM TEASDALE: No. My coldest day out here, I think, was sixty-eight below. And then I don’t think we even hit fifty below last year. And the year before that, we only had fifty below twice.
So that was good. And I can’t hardly wait for this winter to see what’s gonna happen.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And the spring’s coming earlier and -- TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: And it -- it seems like -- it also -- it almost seems like out here where winters are going into May, but the summer’s going into October. As if we’re almost changing the cycle here.
But I think a lot of it is, it’s just gettin’ warmer. And then Fairbanks’ newspaper had a great big full page thing on the Arctic? Where so much of it’s melted away and things like that.
Yukon River’s melting. The -- the -- the banks are meltin’ away, so we’re gettin’ the effects here, too.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Have you ever -- just getting back to the Wrangell-St. Elias area, have you ever gone down that -- No --
TOM TEASDALE: No. I’ve never been down. I’m too busy here to -- it’s crazy.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: I just thought I can ask--
TOM TEASDALE: Nope, never have.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. And as you said local people just aren’t going out and trapping and --
TOM TEASDALE: Not like they used to, no.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: What about the use of snowmobiles? Has that increased or decreased if people aren’t going out hunting and trapping?
TOM TEASDALE: I think it’s about a -- boy, I think -- I’m thinking maybe seven or eight, maybe ten at the most. Mainly just by the kids runnin’ around or by some real trappers. I’m not sure how Howard Fix does his.
He may go by snowmachine, but I’m not sure. Never thought of him and that, but his daughter and her boy -- the lady at the post office? LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yes.
TOM TEASDALE: They’re gone every weekend on their snowmachines, gettin’ -- checkin’ their traps and things like that. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: Mainly I’m thinking right now it’s just recreational-type stuff, except for maybe two or three people. And one guy’s too old -- Da -- Dave James. He’s eighty -- I think he’s eighty-one or two now.
He’s got three hundred traps out. But they’re all along the highway, so he just drives on a -- gets outa his truck, checks, gets back in, goes --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: They’re not back in the bush somewhere.
TOM TEASDALE: And he still does pretty well. But he’s not out there bouncin’ around the snowmachine, that type of thing. So. You know our price of power’s just killin’ everybody.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah, I was gonna say, what do you -- how do you generate your own power here? Or do you buy it on the grid?
TOM TEASDALE: It’s all from AP and T, yep. And what I’m lookin’ at now is, once we get this recycle thing done, Chad’s gonna pick it up. And then, if he’ll get right back into EPA stuff, I’m gonna go full steam into solar energy. And biomass.
And what I want to do by next summer is start seeing solar energy around here. But I went out at fifty-one below zero a couple years ago and took -- when you get past the purple house, and you go by a couple other places, you get to that big clearing.
You got the river one side -- small creek on one side -- and big river on the other and Little Fish Creek bridge there? Okay, the -- the river -- the creek on the left never freezes. At fifty-one below zero I was out there takin’ pictures and sent ‘em in to some folks.
And if the water’s that warm, then there’s gotta be a hot springs up there somewhere and can we do something off that hot springs? That’s the second thing we’re lookin’ at.
Now K&K Recycle in Fairbanks -- Bernie also owns the Chena Hot Springs. Well, he’s got an airplane. He came down and looked into this. He’s got an airplane with a device underneath, that he can fly along and tell the temperature of the water. And he never came back.
So, I don’t know if he got too busy doin’ his things and -- whatever. But there’s gotta be something there to keep the river flow -- creek -- the creek is flowing as fast at fifty-one below zero as it does in July, so there’s gotta be something there.
And the other thing is, if it -- if it’s where I think it might be, I don’t know if we could build anything out there anyway ‘cause there -- there’s not much solid soil.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Build it like a hot springs resort type of thing is what you’re thinking or build it for buyout for warmth or just capture it?
TOM TEASDALE: The first thing I want to do is do somethin’ with the power out here. We’re payin’ -- we put thirty cents a something, a kilowatt, and then you put thirty -- I think it was thirty -- it was thirty plus -- plus thirty-four, I think, last power bill.
They -- they put in this fuel charge or something. So we’re paying over seventy cents a kilowatt. Okay. Now Becky, who teaches school, she leaves her house and she’s in school at eight o’clock, by herself, and she runs her woodstove during the day.
She gets home around six o’clock at night. Power bill’s almost four hundred a month. My power bill was over six hundred. One guy’s, his was over eleven hundred.
And these folks here -- some of these houses you go in and they got one bulb burning. Who could pay that -- I mean, everybody’s over I’d say at least a hundred fifty to eleven hundred dollars a month. So that’s my big thing.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
TOM TEASDALE: And I’m thinkin’ if we -- another thing you can get a device -- with the -- with the river up by the highway and Moose Creek by my house and this river here, you get the device to put in the water and it’s a squirrel cage thing.
And you can -- and it generates electricity, which you get -- we get at all three areas do not freeze in the wintertime, so the current keeps flowin’? So that’s another area we -- we’re lookin’ at. But we gotta do something to this power thing. Yep.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And I take it the power plant runs off of oil?
TOM TEASDALE: I imagine. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Imagine. Yeah. Diesel generators. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Diesel generators.
TOM TEASDALE: You know Tok School -- and I thought Northway -- the school, was part of the grant, but it didn’t work out -- they went to biomass -- what, two years ago maybe? And Scott put out a note that they’ve saved something like fifty-five thousand gallons of fuel in one year. That’s quite a savings.
Northern Energy went-- they got a -- if you look at Northern Energy if you go by there -- they got a great big solar panel -- panel thing there. May be at least a hundred feet long and they -- they get all kinds of solar energy. And then you got Forty-Mile Air.
There’s one house in Tanacross and one in Tok. Well, if they can do it, we can do it. So anyway, that’s kinda the highlights of Northway, I guess.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well, thank you very much.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Thank you. I just have one more question then leading to the energy. How do most people heat their homes here then in the winter?
TOM TEASDALE: Wood. LESLIE McCARTNEY: But they do -- they have an oil backup or -- TOM TEASDALE: Yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: Last winter -- I haven’t checked yet -- last winter fuel was $4.40 a gallon. Well, if you got a 200-gallon tank, most -- most people here can’t afford nine hundred bucks a refill. So the boys are goin’ out and cuttin’ wood for a hundred and fifty bucks a load and they’re really stacking their trucks up. So the main source, I think, still is wood.
And then we got the -- the fuel backup and then two of us have pellet stoves. But I’ve got a -- I’ve got a regular home furnace and a pellet stove and the wood stove.
Because if the power goes out, I’ve lost my main furnace and the pellet stove. So you -- the wood’s still your best source. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: And as long as I got three boys livin’ at home, they’re cutting it and chopping it and stacking it in the house. They can earn their keep. But we’ve got -- right now we’ve got -- that house over there fell apart but that’s empty. House across the street is empty.
Lee Northway ‘s house is empty. Another house is empty up on the highway. One here. We’ve got seven or eight houses that could be rentable, but they won’t rent ‘em out.
See, so if we have a influx of people wantin’ to work here if something does develop, I’ve gotta convince the folks, let’s rent this stuff out, because -- ‘cause I don’t think -- is it IRA that builds the house, I guess. I don’t think we can call the state to build us ten houses tomorrow. You know, it takes years to do this stuff. But we do have seven or eight places that could be available with minor fixing up.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah, if you let them go too long they’re gonna need major fixing up and then it’s --
TOM TEASDALE: Well, if you leave them too long you get two types of residents: bats and squirrels, and neither one them are any good for housing. So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Well, I hope you’re successful.
TOM TEASDALE: Well, I hope -- I hope we’re all successful for the benefit of everybody here.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. And I hope you can get this water -- this is like a -- a pint jar and about a third of it is sediment -- TOM TEASDALE: Yep.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- and the other two thirds is a brownish water. TOM TEASDALE: Mm-hm.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: We could take a picture. LESLIE McCARTNEY: True.
TOM TEASDALE: See, what I’m wonderin’ is that we know -- we know the well water’s good. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: But if the -- if the truck -- if the -- if the water truck leaves the water in there -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
TOM TEASDALE: -- then what’s happening in there and what about the hose?
WOMAN: Hello. TOM TEASDALE: Hello there.
WOMAN: Sorry to interrupt. How long are you gonna be? LESLIE McCARTNEY: I think --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: We’re probably about done. LESLIE McCARTNEY: I think we can say thank you.
WOMAN: Because Dawn is on the phone, and she’s called three times and I’ve put her off and -- TOM TEASDALE: Okay.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Well, Tom, we’ll say thank you very much. Thank you for your time.
TOM TEASDALE: We’ll get that one next time.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Tom, thank you for your time. We really appreciate you sharing your memories with us.