Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Andy Anderson, Part 2

This is a continuation of the interview with Andy Anderson on January 30, 2015 by Jan Yaeger at his home in Seldovia, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Andy talks about what Seldovia was like when he first arrived, changes in Seldovia brought about by the Urban Renewal Program after the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, and being police chief. He also talks about the road to Jakolof Bay and some of the old-timers of Seldovia.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2014-17-08_PT.2

Project: Seldovia Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jan 30, 2015
Narrator(s): Andy Anderson
Interviewer(s): Jan Yaeger
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Institute of Museum and Library Services, Seldovia Village Tribe
Alternate Transcripts
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The boardwalk and changes from Urban Renewal program

Doing construction and heavy equipment work

Changes in the layout, population, and economy of the community

Road to Jakolof Bay

Cars in the early days and driving on the boardwalk

Frank Raby and other old-timers

Getting hired as a police officer, and retirement

The jail in Seldovia

Buying his house

His wife and their life together

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JAN YAEGER: It is still January 30th. It is now three o’clock and this is Jan Yaeger talking again with Andy Anderson about life in Seldovia for the "In Our Own Words Project" of Seldovia Village Tribe.

And you were talking about the boardwalk kind of during Urban Renewal. Can you tell more about that?

ANDY ANDERSON: Well, like I said it was very emotional for a lot of people and a lot of people were really stern in their beliefs. And the biggest thing I think that actually -- I guess it was twofold.

One was the sanitation. Everybody was kind of concerned because of the sanitation problem with the high tide and everything.

And then the other was the property owners themselves not wanting to go to the expense to raise their property up to the level of the boardwalk.

So it was voted out, but, yeah, a big reduction in population and a lot of animosity for a long time.

And, but like everything else, you know, you absorb and you go on. They rebuilt the harbor and did the breakwaters and made it a nice harbor, and so that kind of advocated one of the canneries building back.

When they were going to take the canneries and everything out, four of the four canneries onshore all agreed to build back, but only one of them actually followed through and that was Wakefield Fisheries, I believe.

And so we at least had one cannery, but if you don’t have an economic base, you don’t have the population so -- So that kind of was during the years I was fishing and then I, of course, went back to construction.

One thing that I didn’t mention, all through my years as police chief here I was also at different times called on to do heavy equipment operations and stuff.

And I don’t know if you recall when the King Salmon platform burned up in Cook Inlet. It was on fire and the people I used to work for on the waterfront called me and I was acting chief here then and asked if I could come and go to work for them for a month because they needed the expertise on the water.

The stuff that we had been doing all along. And it was a personal friend of mine that was kind of leading the show. And so I was able to go up there and make $10,000 in a month, so that didn’t hurt.

And then different times I worked for Hopkins Brothers Construction and whatnot running equipment and for the city running equipment. Removal of snow and all that.

But by being able to respond on an on-call basis that was the only way that I could take the jobs in town. And so it all worked out over the years. And kind of give you a little different change of pace once in a while, you know.

It's kind of nice to jump on a loader and actually tell it what to do instead of telling somebody else what to do, you know, so --

But, yeah, that's kind of my life in a nutshell. I just – it’s been an interesting life. It’s been a good life, but it’s gone by really, really fast.

Sixty-eight years old now and I can’t picture me 68 years old. My mind is not that old. I guess my body is, but --

But what do you think of Seldovia? You've been here a while now. Do you like where you’re at?

JAN YAEGER: I love it.

ANDY ANDERSON: Good. I could never live anywhere else. Everybody asks if you're leaving. I lost my wife a year ago in January and they ask if you’re moving.

Well, God, this is home. Where are you going to go, you know? I got a daughter in Washington, but there’s too many people, too many cars and a rat race is not for me, so --

But so it’s been a good career, but it’s time to get some new blood in here. And hopefully, we can get some boots on the ground here pretty quick so --

JAN YAEGER: A lot of this part of town -- you had mentioned that you are at the foot of Cap’s Hill, so a lot of this part of town was built up, I think, gradually in the '60s and '70s?

ANDY ANDERSON: Uh-huh. Yeah, after Cap’s Hill was taken down, none of these houses were here. This was all a big flat. And Hugh Smith, two doors down, he has probably built more houses on the flat here than anybody.

And it did, it gradually built back up, but still the population shrunk, but the houses are still here. We're becoming more and more a retirement kind of summertime resort area. And that’s good and bad.

The -- You know, a lot of vacant houses and I look at it from a little different perspective than a lot of people. I'm kind of still look at it through police view -- policeman’s eyes and that’s all vulnerable.

That’s all stuff that needs to be watched by somebody. And you need an authority to kind of see that -- if something happens that they do have a, you know, action and consequence, you know. I mean, but a lot of times they escape too much and too much is done.

But in the spring, they come back and find all the problems so -- The reason again to have somebody on the ground, but --

JAN YAEGER: And when you first came here was the road out to Jakolof Bay, was that there or --?


JAN YAEGER: What was it like when that came in? ANDY ANDERSON: No, the road -- the road -- In fact, I worked in the woods and I'd even forgot about that.

For two and a half years, I logged out in Rocky River area, but for the first three, four months when they was -- this --two different times I logged.

The first time I logged, we flew out to Jakolof Bay ‘cause there was no road and we’d drive in from the Jakolof Bay harbor.

And then the next time I logged, they had built the road and we used a crummy in and drove out. But it went out just about you -- to where you live now.

There was a house across the street from your home right there before Three Mile and it was Mattie Matthewson’s house and that was the end of the road. There was a trail that led to Barabara Creek, but you couldn’t call that a road.

I don’t know they might have taken a tractor down there or something, but you couldn’t have got a vehicle down it. But that's as far as it -- the road connected.

When I first came here, flying into Seldovia, I flew in with Bob Gruber and who owned Cook Inlet Aviation. And before we landed, he had already given me a job. So I worked for him that summer and driving his courtesy car.

And he had what they called John’s Sport Shop then and I worked in there. And, course, booking flights, and --

But what was really unique for a kid straight off the -- in the boonies, if you would, to come to a place like this and get to get up in the morning and jump in an airplane and go spotting goats and moose and fish.

That was the perks for -- for working for him and it really was a good summer so --

Used to be one of three vehicles in town and it doubled over as the cab. And so I was one of the few vehicles on the boardwalk all the time that drove up and down the boardwalk so --

JAN YAEGER: Do you remember what kind of vehicle that was?

ANDY ANDERSON: You know, I think it was an old Volkswagen van, but there was two different vehicles that I drove and I think the other one was a Ford Falcon van or something like that.

But the one thing that I regret to this day, my brother and I, when I was driving that, he and I had this Super 8 millimeter movie camera. And we went from one end of this town to other and he was taking movies while I was driving.

And I'm talking about every road and up and down the boardwalk. And so I took that movie when I went out three and a half -- three years and four months, I think it was, later and showed my parents and my family where I lived.

I mean, it was kind of shaky, but it was a good -- good flick. Then I went back up to Illinois where I was from at my brother’s place and from there I took a train from Mattoon, Illinois when I was coming back up here.

And I took a train to Seattle and somewhere we lost my luggage and that film and everything was in it. Ah, God, I just wish I had that today.

Of course, you never know back then, you know, that you got an archive and you didn’t even know it. So maybe I would've protected it more. I don’t know. But that’s -- that’s old Seldovia, it’s --

JAN YAEGER: When you were driving on the boardwalk did you ever meet a vehicle coming the other direction?

ANDY ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah, I learned to back up really good, yeah, back with your mirrors. But like I said there was only three cars in town.

One was the oil truck that Ressler, he delivered oil and he did it with the 55-gallon drums and the pump.

And the other was George Waterbury had a vehicle that he’d drive around once in a while, but it was rare that you met anybody.

JAN YAEGER: ‘Cause there weren’t any back roads at that point, right? It was just trails?

ANDY ANDERSON: No, it was all just around here and -- JAN YAEGER: Okay.

ANDY ANDERSON: Outside Beach Road was still in. JAN YAEGER: Okay.

ANDY ANDERSON: That -- that was here. And like I said, it was kind of a trail out to where you live. It was a road, a passable road, but it wasn’t maintained or anything so --

But they used to use that road to go out to the -- to the fishing Barabara Point and where they fished out there. Drive to the end of that and walk on over, you know, so --

They had little motorcycles and everything around, but not many four-wheel vehicles. Of course, that changed over the years and now we got more of them than we got dogs so --

JAN YAEGER: Which is saying something in Seldovia.

ANDY ANDERSON: No kidding. Outside of that I don’t know what else you need to -- that you're inquisitive about.

JAN YAEGER: Just like I said, just kind of thinking about your memories and some of the people that you recall. You mentioned the Englishes and Bob Gruber and --

ANDY ANDERSON: Yeah, gosh we met so many people over the years. As you get older, the memories kind of fade and, of course, the names, you know, you can see the faces, but you can’t remember the names.

But the old-timers, gosh, you know, the Int-Houts, Tuggle and them. And they were quite a fixture here as was a lot of people. Frank Raby.

JAN YAEGER: I’ve heard a lot of references to him, but I haven’t heard much actually about him. Do you remember much about him?

ANDY ANDERSON: I don’t remember a lot. He was old when I came here. He was elderly, but he owned a lot of property in town and he was a wheeler-dealer and he gave a lot of property to the city.

But he was always -- always wheeling and dealing, but a good-hearted man. And the last I remember, he lived up on the hill by the Russian church there in a trailer. And lived there for years.

And then I was gone from here on a job or something when he passed and I really don’t remember that part of it.

But, yeah, and then, of course, my wife’s brother -- uncles were what they call the Big House, but the house burned and they lost their lives in it. And that was the first year I was here.

And I wound up being the one that put their bodies in the caskets and all that.

And so that kind of, you know, you’re seeing things like that and then after you become the police to the area you -- that's not that often that you see it, but you see a lot of things that you’d rather your kids and family didn’t see, but --

But I remember those kinds of things. And then I remember that -- I guess I was supposed to be a cop, I don’t know. Before I was ever a police officer and before I ever thought about being a police officer I helped out the -- a couple of chiefs of police.

There was one guy in the bar with a gun and the chief of police had the guy with him that he was going to kill. That's the reason he went in the bar with a gun.

And so he called on me and a friend of mine, Doug Parrish (phonetic). We fished on the Amatuli with old Joe Kurtz. And he called on us to take the gun away from him and arrest him and we did that.

So I don’t know if it was just something that you fall into or is destined or what it is, but you think back all these things and kind of led up to actually taking the badge.

Don Caswell that actually hired me, told me six, eight months down the road and he had already quit. He wasn’t the city manager anymore and he didn’t even live here. He come back and we went fishing.

And he said the reason that he hired me is that he had done some background on me and that I knew everybody, that I got along with everybody, but that I had a reputation of taking care of myself and stuff like that.

And that means that you’d be in a bar drinking and fighting and stuff, which I had to a point, but never was really into fighting and stuff.

But he said that that was one of the reasons that he thought I would be fair and so he paid me quite a compliment.

And then, boy, you know, after 32 years and then they have a retirement party for you and God, they come out of the woodwork. We had people -- the troopers came in in force, you know, and gosh, we had an ex-commissioner that -- Art English that -- born here and raised here, that came in and he was the MC for it.

JAN YAEGER: Would that have been Jack and Susan’s son? ANDY ANDERSON: Yeah. JAN YAEGER: Okay.

ANDY ANDERSON: Yeah. Oscar we called him, but, in fact, he was -- when I first came here I went up to Kenai and I bought a pickup truck, but I didn’t have a license. I didn’t have an Alaska license.

And back then you had to take the whole test. I had a Missouri license, but you had to take the whole test again. So I took it up there and he was the one that gave me the driving part of it.

But anyway we reminisced about that a little bit. He didn’t even remember it so -- I can’t remember -- I can’t imagine him not remembering me.

But to see the people that came out and the accolades and, well, some of them lied a little bit. You know, embellished the truth, we’ll put it that way.

But it was really -- it was humbling. It really was. To see how many people that you had actually touched. You know, you forget about a lot that goes on here and -- or that went on here until somebody brings something up and then it kind of stirs the memory.

One thing I've started and I'm only ten pages into it, but I've started a book. I've got all my files -- all my case files now and I've also got all my daily log books. So I'm going to try to really get my head wrapped around that.

And I’m not going to mention names or anything, but I'm going to personalize it as much as I can. It's going to be factual and that in itself's going to be hilarious in some areas I’m sure, but not so much in some others.

But -- but, you got to kind of -- when you're packing the badge, you got to be ready for about anything here.

JAN YAEGER: You mentioned when you first started, you didn’t have a jail. ANDY ANDERSON: No.

JAN YAEGER: So what did you do instead when you needed to contain someone for a bit of time?

ANDY ANDERSON: Well, you tried to -- you flew them out. We didn’t have a jail. We didn’t have this building down here or the clinic and the police department and fire department.

But a lot of times, you do what you got to do. You just maintain, but it -- the things that you come up with to just get the job done is amazing sometimes.

But -- but, so a lot of times -- and we really tried most times to fly them out if -- we tried not to arrest. We tried to do citations or summons and tried not to arrest, but a lot of times you just don’t have a choice. You just have to bite the bullet and do what you got to do.

And then again, Swackhammer that I alluded to a while ago, he and I sat down and we drew the plans for that police department that's down there, because we had to have Swackhammer involved because for a few years that was contracted to the state and we could hold prisoners up to ten days.

And so we built the two cell facility and at the same time we built the fire department so --

JAN YAEGER: That building was built in stages, right?

ANDY ANDERSON: Uh-huh. Yeah. Fire department first.

JAN YAEGER: Do you remember what year?

ANDY ANDERSON: You know, I don’t.

JAN YAEGER: Or approximately how many years after it was -- the center part was built that -- that -- ANDY ANDERSON: You know -- JAN YAEGER: -- extension was built?

ANDY ANDERSON: Boy, well it was built before I bought this. I bought -- I bought here in ’84 so it must have been ’82 or something like that.

And again I could probably look in my records and find that. JAN YAEGER: Uh-huh.

ANDY ANDERSON: But -- but, yeah, they built the fire hall and then -- And Burt Poland (phonetic) was the contractor on that and the house that Burt built we always said.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. Was he a local person?

ANDY ANDERSON: Yeah, Burt was a local contractor then. He later moved to Cordova, I think.

But he was one of these story time guys. He -- he was a good carpenter, I guess. Kind of, you know, did his own way, Burt’s way, but he could tell jokes all day long and never tell the same one twice.

And kind of hard hearing, so he says, yeah, he always asking you what you were saying. But, yeah, and I understand that he went to Cordova from here, but I haven’t heard whether he's still alive or not.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. So as we're sitting here we can basically see the police station out your dining room window. Did you --

ANDY ANDERSON: My wife could watch me work.

JAN YAEGER: I was just going to ask did you choose this house because you could keep an eye on the place without -- while you were eating breakfast?

ANDY ANDERSON: No, it's kind of funny how that came about. We were living in a trailer down on the other end of town where the boat haul out is now -- City Trailer Court in a 14 x 70 foot trailer.

And I wanted to get into a house and this came up on the market. Judy Johnson was the -- was the lady that was selling it.

And so we got with her and she just told me I couldn’t afford it. That there was no way on the money I make that I could live in this house.

Judge Jim Hanson was the owner, him and his wife owned the house. And Judge Jim Hanson was a real good friend of mine, and he said I want Andy in that house.

And had it not been for Jim insisting that we be in this house we wouldn’t have been in here.

And the fact is, that we made every payment. We never did -- it wasn’t like we starved to death or anything and we actually pulled it off, but there was some lean times.

But we actually have had a real good life in this house and this is what the daughter calls home and she was more or less raised in this house so -- I’m glad it worked out.

JAN YAEGER: Is this one of the houses that Hugh Smith built?

ANDY ANDERSON: It is. It really is, yeah. Look around you. I don’t think you can -- except behind you, I don’t think you could see one that isn’t one that he built.

JAN YAEGER: Yeah, that's true. This is kind of his neighborhood.

ANDY ANDERSON: It is, yeah. JAN YAEGER: Literally.

ANDY ANDERSON: You got his stamp on it. But yeah, and then Jim Hopkins’ parents built that house. And, of course, Jim built his place.

But then Bill built the one that -- Bill Hopkins, another brother, built the one that Weylands are in so -- And yeah, you don’t think about those things until somebody brings them out. What else can I tell you?

JAN YAEGER: You mentioned your wife. What was her family?

ANDY ANDERSON: Tania Wilson was her mother. Gladys Yuth, that’s her sister, and Helen Quijance, that’s her sister. And they had a brother who was killed in a car accident, but he was killed two years before I came to Alaska.

And so it was just the three girls and mom. And so they lived up here on the hill right behind where the Kashevaroffs have their house now. And lived there for years, so --

We -- Like I say, I came here in ’64, May 1st, and then we got married in ’67 and it was February 11th, ’67.

And so it's all history from that but. But, no, we had a good marriage. I tell you once you lose your mate it just -- the whole thought pattern has to change.

And the 19th of January she passed and it does not seem like a year. I mean it just boom. They say when you’re going downhill, you go a lot faster though. I don’t know. Maybe that’s true, huh?

But, no, it’s -- it's a different life now, but we had a good life. A lot of good memories and were really blessed to have had that.

Anymore guy’s marriages don’t seem to last and they really treat one another -- in a lot of cases they just don’t treat one another right. Once you lose the respect, you lose everything else. I think so.

JAN YAEGER: Well, is there anything else you’d like to share with us that you can think of?

ANDY ANDERSON: Boy, I don’t know of a thing. I’m sure there’s lots of stories that will probably come out in the book, but I can’t think of them right off hand.

JAN YAEGER: We'll have to save some for that so people will snatch them off the shelves, right?

ANDY ANDERSON: Yeah, there you go. JAN YAEGER: Okay.

ANDY ANDERSON: You don’t want to burn the book. JAN YAEGER: No, absolutely not. This'll be the teaser.

ANDY ANDERSON: Yeah, there you go. Yeah, the advertisement.

JAN YAEGER: There you go. Okay. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it. ANDY ANDERSON: Well, thank you.