John and Darlene Crawford were interviewed on August 20, 2014 by Jan Yaeger at the Seldovia Conference Center in Seldovia, Alaska. In this interview, John and Darlene talk about life in Seldovia in the early days and the first cars in the community, and changes in the community after the 1964 Alaska Earthquake with the Urban Renewal Program and new construction. John also talks about establishment of the Seldovia Native Association (SNA) and the Seldovia Village Tribe. Darlene also talks about tourism and the future of the community. They both talk about the sense of community and what a nice place Seldovia is to raise a family.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Seldovia Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Aug 20, 2014
Narrator(s): John Crawford, Darlene Crawford
Interviewer(s): Jan Yaeger
Transcriber: Sue Beck
People Present: Michael Opheim
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John and Darlene meeting each other
John's coming to Seldovia
John's father work as a fisherman, and John attending school
John's childhood in Seldovia
Early cars and roads in Seldovia
The swimming hole
Darlene working at the cannery, for city, for Seldovia Native Association
Beginning of Seldovia Native Association (SNA)
Formation of the Seldovia Village Tribe
Changes in Seldovia
New school and importance of the school in the community
Darlene serving as mayor, and community opposition to new taxes
Urban Renewal program, reconstruction, and effect on local economy
Introduction of tourism
Farm with milk delivery
Generations of families staying in the community
Sense of community, and multi-culturalism
Native corporation membership
Sailors retiring in old Seldovia
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: But he was a -- I was told that by Mrs. Blagg. She was a shareholder, too, and -- about her father that on Christmas he would put on his kilt and his tam o’shanter hat and go around and give the kids candy canes or something and wish ‘em merry Christmas. That was a long time ago.
And he’s buried in the Seldovia cemetery. And she’s -- lives outside someplace. But you could talk to her about it. She’s a shareholder. So that would be good.
JAN YAEGER: Now did you two meet in Seldovia or did you come to Seldovia together?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: He’s been here a lot longer than me. I was -- I was going with Norman Kashevarof, who went to Seward to go to school because he had taken all the classes that they had here.
So for his senior year he went to Seward to go to school, and that’s where I met him. I was going to school in Seward. I grew up there.
And then John came over to visit him. That’s when I first met him. But, and then --
JAN YAEGER: So you actually met in Seward?
JOHN CRAWFORD: The first time, yeah. JAN YAEGER: Okay.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: ‘Cause I lived in Seward and then -- but he and Norman were best friends and --
JOHN CRAWFORD: That’s not the way I remember it. DARLENE CRAWFORD: Oh, how do you remember it?
JOHN CRAWFORD: I remember he had a girlfriend that was gonna go to school over there with her, and then he had to go over there ‘cause she was over there.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah, that was a different girlfriend than me. That was Pauline McMeeken. JOHN CRAWFORD: That’s right. DARLENE CRAWFORD: I know. Yeah, he went over --
JOHN CRAWFORD: It wasn’t because of the classes.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: That’s what he told me that -- I hope you’re gonna edit this thing. Are you?
Yes, he did -- he went over there to go to school with Pauline McMeeken, but he told me that he’d taken all the classes they had. JOHN CRAWFORD: Well, yeah.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: And then he and Pauline broke up and he started going with me. Then you came over to visit. But, anyway.
And then, you know my kids, and I was married to Norman for fifteen years and we divorced, and then I married John.
So now he’s grandpa and father and --
JOHN CRAWFORD: It’s funny, too. When he came back from Seward over there one time, he told me that you said I was crazy.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: I thought you were. You were telling weird jokes. Now listen, they might put this on the air, so watch out what you say.
JOHN CRAWFORD: That’s the way I remember it.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Well, yeah, I thought you were crazy, but crazy funny or something.
JOHN CRAWFORD: I haven’t changed any.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: No, you haven’t.
JAN YAEGER: John, where were you born, and when and how did you come to Seldovia?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Born in McGrath on the Kuskokwim River. Not in McGrath, but on the -- my dad was huntin’ beaver up there then and they was in beaver camp. Guess that’s where. There’s no hospital up there anyway.
Came here and then we went to Fairbanks for a winter, and then in 1939 we moved to Anchorage and lived in Anchorage 'til after the Second World War.
And in 1945, in August, we came to Seldovia. And it was Mike Miller’s dad had an airplane, and he’s the one that brought me and my mom and my two sisters down in his airplane. He had a flight service here then. That’s how I got here.
JAN YAEGER: And so what brought your family to Seldovia?
JOHN CRAWFORD: That airplane and Mike Miller’s dad.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: See? Crazy. Okay --
JAN YAEGER: Maybe I should say, why did your family decide to get on an airplane and go to Seldovia and then stay?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Oh, okay. You got time. We had a friend that was named Earl Halsted, and he -- he had come down and spent a winter down here. He was living in Anchorage at the time. And he came down and spent the winter down here.
And it must’ve been one almost like last year because when he came back to Anchorage and said he was gonna move down here, he told us about this winter. They didn’t have much snow all winter long and it was nice weather, and if you do decide to go, don’t bring your sleds and skates and any of your winter stuff.
Got Dad all excited about it. And Dad come down and looked at it, and the canneries were working. Lots of employment in the summer.
So he came down and went on a tender, and then we came, the rest of the family in August on that plane and stayed here then. Been here ever since.
JAN YAEGER: So was that the first flight service in Seldovia?
JOHN CRAWFORD: I don’t think so.
JAN YAEGER: You think there were -- there were planes before that?
JOHN CRAWFORD: There was a plane -- Well, let’s see, Red Harrington had a plane and he used to land up on Raby’s Spit for his airport. And they used to go up there with a skiff and pick the people up.
That’s the first -- well, Dick Miller, he just landed on the beach here. I don’t remember where he kept his plane.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: That was before the airport was built?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Yeah, that was in ’45. Airplane wasn’t built until ‘50 -- DARLENE CRAWFORD: The airport. JOHN CRAWFORD: -- or ‘51.
JAN YAEGER: Sorry, I'm just checking the audio here. So what did your family do here? Fish or work in the canneries or something else?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Well, Dad worked on the tenders and then he bought himself a little boat and fixed that up, and then he started fishing and workin’ in the -- on the tender fleet. He’s on the boats.
Wintertime, I don’t know. He did a little machine work. But when we first came, he didn’t have a shop then.
Wintertime, nobody did much of anything. Except run around make each other miserable, I guess.
JAN YAEGER: So how old were you when you came here?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Nine or ten.
JAN YAEGER: Okay. So you went to school here?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Yeah. Territorial school.
JAN YAEGER: Okay. You probably had started in Anchorage and then finished up in --
JOHN CRAWFORD: Yeah, I was in third -- third grade when I started, when I got here.
JAN YAEGER: Any particular memories of being in school here? How it might be different from -- for the school kids today?
JOHN CRAWFORD: I don’t know what -- what -- what would stand out. Some of the teachers, they just all got old -- all got old and moved away.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: How many kids were in your graduating class?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Five. And the graduation -- we didn’t -- I think -- I think I went to the fourth grade twice ‘cause we went out to -- lived Outside for one winter and missed a lot of school.
JAN YAEGER: Did most kids go all the way through school and finish, or did they usually stop a little bit short of graduating?
JOHN CRAWFORD: When I started school there, there was a -- the high school boys at that time all went fishing, and so they all quit early in the spring.
And it seemed like after that maybe they’d get a couple years of high school in. I don’t remember any of them classes graduating until later on of the ones that were in high school here.
But Patty Colberg and her older sister, Mitch Kruger and some others. I don’t know. The Fox girls and Antone Anderson and Charlie Nelson and --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: So they did graduate?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Not that I recall. Some of ‘em might’ve, but I think they went someplace else and graduated or something.
I don’t -- I don’t remember ever going to any graduation 'til later on. I don’t remember. They never, I guess, had much of a ceremony.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: You graduated in ‘55 or -- ? JOHN CRAWFORD: '55, yeah.
JAN YAEGER: So when you weren’t in school, did you have time to run around and be a kid or were you working a lot?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Oh, we were in trouble a lot. Just not enough for kids to do, and I was always in trouble or something.
I don’t remember the specifics, but it seems like I was on restriction more than I was out runnin’ around.
JAN YAEGER: Did you have any favorite places you liked to go when you were a kid?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Yeah, we used to like to hike up the bay a lot. Outside Beach, I guess, was kinda the most popular ‘cause we could go out there and pick bidarkis and cook ‘em and shoot a duck and roast it and that kind of stuff.
But, yeah, it was kinda the favorite spots, I guess. Seems like it used to take us a little longer to get out there than it does now.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: You probably walked all the way, right? JOHN CRAWFORD: Yeah.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Didn’t go by skiff or anything?
JOHN CRAWFORD: There was a -- When we first came to town there was one automobile here, one old convertible-type car.
JAN YAEGER: You remember whose that was?
JOHN CRAWFORD: I don’t remember whose it was. I know we rode in it once, and I think Harvey Cook drove the -- drove it.
It was parked in a -- where the school manual training building -- down below that. Right about where Bev’s trailer was there.
It was a shed there that the car was kept in. I think they used it one year to haul coal to the school, too, or something.
JAN YAEGER: And how far could you actually drive it? I mean, how far out did the road go at that point?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Graveyard, I guess.
JAN YAEGER: Where the graveyard is now was about the end of the road?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Yeah. There was no road on the other side of the slough.
JAN YAEGER: So when did that road go in? That Jakolof Bay Road?
JOHN CRAWFORD: What year’d they bring the trailers to town? The logging company?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Late '60s.
JOHN CRAWFORD: '65, I think. It was after the earthquake anyway when the road come in.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: In the late '50s, when my kids were little, there was a two-lane road to the beach, ‘cause we used to pull ‘em in a wagon. But all it was was --
JOHN CRAWFORD: Two lanes for your wagon.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Well, I mean two tire tracks in the grass.
JOHN CRAWFORD: That’s two lanes, yeah.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Well, I mean not two lanes, two tire tracks. And people would pull their kids in wagons and go out to the beach.
Because they could swim in the swimming hole then because it was fresh water and --
JAN YAEGER: The swimming hole? This is the first I’ve heard of the swimming hole.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: It’s just -- as you go out there and you get by the Missionary Baptist Church there, and keep going, turn left? That is the swimming hole.
JOHN CRAWFORD: Lake Irene. JAN YAEGER: Okay,
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Lake Irene. But after the -- after the earthquake, we sank, and tidewater came in and then it got cold. But it used to be warm, ‘cause it was shallow.
And all the kids used to swim and -- even kids in his days and older. Because we have a picture of people out there a really long time ago, swimming.
JAN YAEGER: Okay. So the Jakolof Bay Road, was that kind of part of the whole Urban Renewal project then? Or it just happened to be at the same time?
JOHN CRAWFORD: No, it was part of the logging.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Logging operation out there. JOHN CRAWFORD: State’s logging -- state’s timber sale out in the Rocky River area.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Southcentral Timber bought timber out there and they did it, and then loggers would come to town. But then at one point, they used to live in a trailer court out there which Michael ended up cleaning up. Right, the trailer court, years ago?
And then they moved -- the school bus used to go out and get the kids. But then they -- most of ‘em moved to town and it had a trailer park down there where the new building is, you know. Where Wakefield’s was.
But that was trailer park and the loggers lived here. Back then, there were a hundred and seventy kids in school. And now there’s forty.
But when Crystal and my kids were in school, there was a hundred and seventy kids in school and lot of them were loggers. Came up from Idaho and lived here and had their families.
JAN YAEGER: So how long did that go on?
JOHN CRAWFORD: What, the school?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: The loggers and the --
JOHN CRAWFORD: Oh, 'til the logging -- DARLENE CRAWFORD: '70s. JOHN CRAWFORD: '70 something.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: '70 something, they were through logging and then those people left. But that was a nice boost to the town. Lot of people to work in the cannery then.
I was plant accountant at Wakefield’s. And the biggest amount we ever had was a hundred people working one summer because college kids would come back and work. King crab was in the heyday then, and snow crab, and we needed a lot of workers.
And the loggers, women, some of ‘em would work and the local women, and that was a big group. Usually we’d have forty people working, which nowadays I don’t think you could get forty people to go to work in town. There isn’t that much labor force anymore. So --
JAN YAEGER: Were those plants run twenty-four hours a day during the -- ?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: No. Wakefield’s? No. They didn’t. They just ran during the day. But six days a week. Or seven if they had to.
And the boats, first they used to get king crab out in Kachemak Bay, and then when that kinda went out, they went farther away and --
I worked there from -- well, up until ’75. From ’60 -- ‘67 or something. Before that I was a city clerk treasurer for about six years. Worked for the city, so -- and then I went to work for SNA (Seldovia Native Association) in ‘75, and worked 'til 2007.
JAN YAEGER: And that was when SNA began, right?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: They began, like, in ’72 or ‘73. But, yeah.
JAN YAEGER: Did SNA come first or did the Tribe come first, or did --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: SNA came first.
JAN YAEGER: Can you talk a little bit about how that began? And the process.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act created the corporations. JOHN CRAWFORD: North Slope oil.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah. Yeah, they wanted --
JOHN CRAWFORD: They had to get the oil from the North Slope to the market, so they had to cross Native lands. So they had to settle the land settles -- settlement for --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Hm mm. That’s -- that’s what did it. And a lot of Native leaders that were working hard on it.
And so then it was quite a while after the corporation was going that they looked into tribes, because Seldovia had been declared a tribe. But there was nothing.
In fact, when SNA first became a corporation even, there was a person in town who said that it wasn’t a Native village.
And I remember I was still working for the cannery then, but I was a notary. And I notarized at least twenty-five statements of people saying that they were Native and they had lived here a long time and stuff like that, ‘cause they had to prove that there were -- it was a Native village.
And then it worked out for the corporation to be a Native corporation. That was Jack English that fought against it, but -- and he was magistrate at the time. But --
JAN YAEGER: So this is just kind of my ignorance with the law. I know that the ANCSA created the framework for the corporations, but did the people in Seldovia have to say there will be one here?
And kinda do it from the ground up, or did it -- did the state kinda say, okay, here’s --?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Not the state. It was the federal government. No, the people --
JAN YAEGER: So the federal government designated exactly what all the corporations would be?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: I think they just named ‘em, didn’t they? JOHN CRAWFORD: Yeah. We -- we -- they had to apply, yeah.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah, and so the local Natives applied, and -- JOHN CRAWFORD: Under the act.
JAN YAEGER: So, who kinda took the leadership from the Seldovia side to make that happen?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Cleo Swick, Fred --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: -- Elvsaas, Sr. Helen Josefsen. Joe Carlough. They were the original incorporators on the Articles of Incorporation.
And then shortly thereafter John was on the board and he was chairman of the board for about twenty-some years, weren’t you?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Close, I guess.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: And over the years different ones have, you know, have gotten on over the thing.
And I was working at Wakefield’s at the time, and Fred Elvsaas talked me into quitting my Wakefield’s job and coming to work for the corporation to do their books. And so I did because my kids were shareholders and I wanted to make sure the money was well taken care of.
So I did that for thirty-two years and watched their money and -- but Fred was president of corporation for about twenty-five years.
And then president was also like general manager. And it used to be only two of us and then different things happened.
Then they got a -- what was Bill Spencer called? He was a worker anyway that -- that helped, and then later Michael Beal came on as CEO.
They went from president to CEO style. The president didn’t do the actual work anymore. It was -- they hired a CEO, so -- But I was there for a long time.
JAN YAEGER: And then, how about the formation of the Tribe? What was kinda the --?
JOHN CRAWFORD: That took a lot of work to -- spent a lot of time on that.
BIA sent us a person over to kinda help us get started with our constitution. We had to write a constitution, and it had to make -- and meet a lot of requirements.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: And the Native corporation did a lot of the work to help the Tribe on -- ?
JOHN CRAWFORD: And then to work it through Congress took quite a while. But the BIA assisted, so it was just gettin’ all the right paperwork together to be a recognized tribe under that law.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: The corporation wanted it because they were the profit arm and the Tribe could do the nonprofit things and get the grants and all.
And Crystal Collier started at the beginning and she’s been there for twenty-some years, so -- And the Tribe has grown greatly.
JAN YAEGER: And so was that a lot of the same people that kinda initiated that effort, initiated the Association?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Mm-hm. ‘Cause there’s just -- I don’t know, there was just always a small group here that worked and did things.
And then the corporation did logging and, you know, things like that. And did the grocery store. Started an 8(a).
JAN YAGER: I’m sorry, could you repeat that?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Started an 8(a) corporation in the states and different things. So the corporation did a lot of things.
JAN YAEGER: 8(a), is that a tax --?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: It’s under the federal government. Section 8(a) of some act. A minority business. Women, tribes. You know, different racial things can do an 8(a). So --
You have any questions, Michael? From a local view? MICHAEL OPHEIM: I’m just here as the eye candy. DARLENE CRAWFORD: Oh, okay. Happy, happy. Okay.
JAN YAEGER: So what would you say are some of the biggest changes you see in Seldovia now versus when you first arrived here? Either, you know, in the physical appearance of the town or the population or the culture? Whatever.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Physical appearance has definitely changed. I first came in ‘57 just for the summers and moved here in ’59, and he’s been here so long. ‘Course, there’s the boardwalk when you were here.
That was the boardwalk. And you take your kids in the stroller down the street, it’d take you two hours to get to the post office, because the old men would lean against the railings and you had to stop and talk to them all. And they had to pinch the kids’ cheeks. And it was just a good visit every day when you went out.
JOHN CRAWFORD: Hasn’t changed much.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Not really. Nowadays, people meet in the post office and say hi, and -- but -- and that used to be there. But it used to be along the boardwalk, because the old guys would lean back on the boardwalk and talk to everybody that went by. It was --
Seldovia was a friendly town and it still is. So -- There were -- there were things to do on -- we used to have pinochle club and the women had a women’s club and there was things to do in the evenings and stuff.
And everybody had little kids and then we were involved at the school with PTA and things like that.
And really, Seldovia got a new school, like, in the early '70s. Crystal was just going into high school then, I think, or in -- and my other kids were in there.
But Seldovia -- the new Seldovia school looks a lot like it did when it was brand new, because the kids have always taken care of it. They never did graffiti on it. You know, you were in that school, Michael, and the kids always took care of the school, right?
It was a source of pride, I guess. And that school is in really good shape.
And they experimented with Seldovia a lot. At first, they tried open classroom when the school was first built.
And it just -- they realized it was too noisy and everything like that, so they built a few walls and made a few classrooms because -- experimented with us.
Then later the new math came out, and we had that and a lot of parents complained because it was really stupid. And after a couple of years they went back to regular math.
And then a few years ago they tried -- what do you call it? Standards-based grading or something, without A-B-C-D? Parents complained about that, but it was there for a couple of years. And now that’s gone.
But it seems like every time the borough wants to try something, they use Seldovia as the guinea pig. Because that standards-based grading was only Seldovia and one other charter school or something.
And it really was not successful here. And the parents didn’t like it.
In fact -- in fact, that one year there were forty kids in school and sixteen kids homeschooled. People were not happy with the school.
But I’m encouraged with the new principal and all. I think it’s going to be good.
JAN YAEGER: That’s one thing that’s really stood out to me in the short time I’ve been here is how central to the community the school is. With the previous schools was that the case, also?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yes. It always has been. We fought for the school. When the borough was talking about swimming pools, and we lobbied for Seldovia because Gary Allen had drowned here. A guy had drowned. Different people had drowned.
And we told them that our kids needed to learn to swim, because by then we had no swimming pool. It was tide come in and all that -- and we were the first school in the borough to get a swimming pool, with much lobbying.
And so, and then they’ve had swimming lessons all the time, and all the kids know how to swim now if they fell overboard.
But different things -- we used to have community schools program where we could use the school and we had all kinds of classes, kind of like the arts council is doing now, but we had all kinds of classes that the adults would go. We even used to have college at school, depending on who the thing is.
I -- I took a lot of classes -- college classes there in the evenings. And if the administrator was -- or the principal was able to teach it, then we could have college classes with KPC in Homer.
And so different people took college classes at school. And we -- we’ve always, you know, pushed for the school.
John was on the borough assembly, and they had a really weird floor up there, kind of a rubber floor in the gym. And as assemblyman, he pushed for and got them the floor they got now.
We’ve got a big sign at home that all the kids have signed: "Thank you, Mr. Crawford, for our new floor." That was a lot of years ago.
But, you know, we’ve always -- the school has been an integral part of the community.
And it was named for Susan English, who was on the school board for forty-some years, and she fought for the school all the time.
JOHN CRAWFORD: She was the school board.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: She was the school board, probably, yes. Well, Daisy Lindstedt was on it, too.
JOHN CRAWFORD: In territorial days.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: And so the school has been an important part. And it had high academic things, put out some smart kids. Right, Michael? He knows. He graduated there.
But, yeah, it was good. So it’s a source of pride for the community.
JAN YAEGER: I know the first big school that was built. I believe it was down by where the multipurpose building is now. And then when the second school was built, that -- that one was enlarged and that kind of became the previous multipurpose building.
Was that still in use when you were here? I think --
JOHN CRAWFORD: That’s the first school. DARLENE CRAWFORD: Oh, the first school was the Russian church. JAN YAEGER: The library --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: The first school was the Russian church.
JAN YAEGER: Well, yeah. But then there was one that was built --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: That was the city office. Yeah. It was a city thing.
JAN YAEGER Yeah, was that still in use until the earthquake? DARLENE CRAWFORD: Hm?
JAN YAEGER: Was that still in use until the earthquake? That’s one thing I’ve had a hard time figuring out. JOHN CRAWFORD: No.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: No. No. There was another school up there that got torn down that was right next to where the gym -- not the gym, but the multipurpose building is up there.
JOHN CRAWFORD: Manual training center.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Manual training. That was there. And that’s where my kids started in school, in that building.
JOHN CRAWFORD: That’s where I graduated.
JAN YAEGER: When -- when that school was built, this school, or now former school, then was enlarged and had the library and Jack English’s office and some other things in it.
JOHN CRAWFORD: That was the federal school, yeah. BIA school.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: I don’t know that it was enlarged. I think just other things took it over. But --
JAN YAEGER: So was that building still in use when you came to town? JOHN CRAWFORD: Yeah. DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah. They had dances in it and stuff and -- J
OHN CRAWFORD: That didn’t go out 'til the earthquake time. JAN YAEGER: Okay.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah. They took that down.
JAN YAEGER: So was that kinda the inspiration for the multipurpose building?
JOHN CRAWFORD: That was where the clinic is now.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: No, I think the city just wanted -- wanted to have a place to have council meetings and stuff. I was mayor at the time and I got to dedicate the building.
And -- when it finally opened. Hugh Smith built it, and it took a couple years. But he did a good job with local -- local workers.
And the fact that we needed a place because the hospital then was no longer in use. Before we had a doctor in the hospital. And that was so old Gerry Willard lived there.
And then it was a place for the clinic and a place for the fire hall. A place for all this stuff in one place was the reason that it was all together.
JAN YAEGER: So what year did you become mayor?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: I was mayor for one year in 1970, was when I was on the council. At that point, the mayor was just chosen from the council. And I did -- that was only one year.
And I was through in ‘85, so I must have started in about ‘78. I was on my third term, but I didn’t finish it because we moved out of town -- found a house out of town.
We used to live on the corner of Lipke and Main, and a one-story house came to town and we bought it, and then I was doing ceramics. Upstairs in the kitchen there wasn’t enough room and so John raised the house up, put cement blocks around it, raised the house and fixed the basement.
And everyone was giving him a bad time, saying, “Gee, John, usually people build the basement before they put the house on it." But he built it -- raised the house and built the basement and then I had a ceramics shop there for three years.
I was still working at SNA, so I only did it in the evenings and weekends. But I only did that for about three years.
And the -- there’s been a lot of politics in town. And I was mayor at the time. And the fishermen were mad because the city started taxing their boats.
And Lou Collier was also on the city council, and so the fishermen were mad and told their wives they couldn’t go to the ceramics shop and they couldn’t go to the Centurion to eat. They boycotted it.
JAN YAEGER: What was the Centurion?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Centurion was -- Lou Collier built that restaurant, where the Mad Fish is now. That was the Centurion.
Lou and Marion Collier built that and Lou had it there. And it was a good restaurant. He’s a good cook. And he had that for years. Then he sold it and they retired.
But the fishermen were mad because the city started taxing their boats, but they hadn’t been taxed -- it’s not a -- it’s not as high a tax as on the house, but the city needed the money, so --
Then we had other political snafus when we had dog leashing. That was when I was mayor, too. Lot of angry people would come to city council meeting.
But we did some good things. We got a beautification grant and all this beautification was started back then, and it’s continued.
And we did house numbering and things like that. So we did a lot of good things. But there’s always a lot of politics in a small town.
JAN YAEGER: Hm mm. So after Urban Renewal, you know, when the buildings were razed, the boardwalk was razed, you know, fill came in, what was the process like of then starting to rebuild the main street of town?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Took about twenty years before somebody bought -- started buying lots. Except for the ones that bought lots right as they did the project. Like where the post office and the Linwood --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: And the theater.
JOHN CRAWFORD: And the store here and the cannery were the first that came back into that. Then it was about twenty years before the property started -- I think we bought the first house on it. DARLENE CRAWFORD: Hm mm.
JOHN CRAWFORD: Where that -- down the --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: On the corner of Lipke Lane?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Before they finally got to where they were affordable, I guess. Inflation finally made ‘em a reasonable price.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: That was another political snafu. Salvation Army came in and raised -- where the boardwalk is now, raised that boardwalk and raised those houses. They said they were willing to do it for the whole town.
But Urban Renewal came in and some people misunderstood, and they thought Urban Renewal would tear down everything and then build everything again. And that wasn’t what they were saying, but a lot of people thought it was.
And so there was a lot of arguing and everything. They had an election, and the election was pretty close about whether or not to have Urban Renewal. And they did have Urban Renewal.
Dick Inglima was mayor at the time, I was city clerk, and he didn’t want it to be. His place had been raised and he wanted the town to go on like it was. But they ended up selling and moving to Homer.
So all the people that sold -- the Beachcomber Hotel sold. They never came back. The cannery sold. They never came back. Except for Wakefield Fisheries -- they did, but we had five canneries in town. They took their money and left.
And the economy of the town went down. And the Englishes were real unhappy about Urban Renewal. And there was just some people in town that were real unhappy with it.
Englishes did stay and they did buy where the post office -- they bought the post office area because they had the contract and had their little newsstand there and all that. But they were not happy with it.
And it just took a long time. And then some of the people were real surprised, like, oh wow, now we have this. It was like an airport in town, because it was open and flat.
And some people were surprised that, wow, nobody’s coming in to build us buildings. And that wasn’t the way it was but -- so some people left and some people stayed, and it -- the hurts were there for a long time with some people.
JAN YAEGER: Did most people go to Homer or did they kind of go all over?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: One of the canneries went to Port Graham. I don’t know about the other ones. JOHN CRAWFORD: Kodiak.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Kodiak, yeah. And Inglimas went to Homer. But I don’t know where -- the hotel guy probably just left. Beachcomber Hotel. But it was --
JOHN CRAWFORD: He went to the old folk’s home. Luke.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Oh, Luke Fisher, yeah. That was a hotel, too. But anyway, it changed the economy of Seldovia.
But then Wakefield Fisheries started again. And they were the only cannery. ‘Cause we used to have salmon and -- JOHN CRAWFORD: Freezer plant. DARLENE CRAWFORD: -- halibut and a lot of -- JOHN CRAWFORD: I don’t think they ever -- they did canning.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Well, Wakefield Fisheries did it for quite a while and then they sold it to Norton Simon.
JOHN CRAWFORD: I don’t think they canned much, though.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: They didn’t can. They were -- it was frozen product. And then Norton Simon sold -- Simon sold it to a company named John Cabot, and then it just really went downhill from there.
And then I heard that some guy bought it who needed to have a shore plant so he could have a offshore processing ship. So this was his shore plant, but he never utilized it. So there was no --
So the economy in town got really low. ‘Cause there wasn’t much else to work.
Now the Tribe is the biggest employer in town and has brought a boon to Seldovia. But otherwise except for the school there aren’t many places that hire a lot of people. So --
But Seldovia has changed a lot. And I remember when -- I’ve been on the Chamber of Commerce for fifty years or so, and when we first started trying to do tourism and inviting people in, there were a lot of people that didn’t want tourists to come in.
And it’s kinda funny now, because now some of the people that came in recently don’t want things to come in, like heli-skiing and things like that. You know, it’s like, I’m here now, shut the door. I want it to stay the way it is.
But this town cannot continue to operate if we don’t have economy. And right now without a lot of canneries and things like that, it seems like tourism and having people come in and having gift stores and things like that is one of the ways to make money.
JOHN CRAWFORD: If you’ve got a good job so you can support it.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Right. That’s another thing, and I tell people that. I was working when I had the ceramics shop. You almost have to have a job so you can afford to have a business in Seldovia, because there aren’t enough people here.
I’ve seen in books that Seldovia used to have two thousand people. And I do not think that’s correct. Seven to eight hundred people, maybe.
And back then, we weren’t even living out the road, like now in Seldovia Village there’s several hundred people out there. In fact, there’s like only thirty difference in the last census between the amount of people that live in town and the amount of people that live out there.
And so we have a big community when you count all of ‘em. And I saw a report recently where they were talking about oh, we’ve stayed the same. But they’re counting the whole thing, not the city.
And some of those people moved out of town because they were unhappy with the city. And -- not us. I just thought there was too much traffic going by 248 Lipke Lane. Because there were a lot of cars then.
When I first came here -- when John said there was one car when he came to town, there was four or five when I came to town in ‘57. George Cook had a taxi. What were those little cars? Austin Healeys or something? They were just tiny little cars.
JOHN CRAWFORD: And he had Willys Jeeps.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah, there was Willys Jeeps. And Rocky had a farm out there and he had cows and he would deliver milk. He had this tractor and on the back was just this little platform?
And he would drive through town with this little container with his six or eight bottles of milk -- glass bottles of milk. He’d drive and he’d deliver milk.
JAN YAEGER: Is that the farm that was kinda on the slough area?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: It’s on Fish Creek. Right up there on Fish Creek, yeah. Ole Jackson bought it after that, but -- and I don’t know who owns it now -- but Rocky -- it was Rocky’s farm. So --
JOHN CRAWFORD: Fellow by the name of Bell had it when we came.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Bell? Okay. Rocky had it when I came.
JAN YAEGER: And did the gentleman you referred to also have livestock?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Cows. Kinda hard to sell milk without cows.
JAN YAEGER: I wasn’t sure if he had the property or if he had -- JOHN CRAWFORD: No, it was a, it was a --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: But back in those days -- I mean, I take pictures all the time now. Back in those days, I had to pay for film and you had to send ‘em away to be developed, I never took a picture of Rocky and his tractor. So many things I wish I would’ve taken pictures of.
But I didn’t have much money then and had a bunch of little kids and you didn’t take as many pictures as you take nowadays. But there were some fantastic things. But you’ll see some in those -- in those books.
And there’s one picture especially that I was gonna use for the Fourth of July poster and I didn’t. It’s Fourth of July in Seldovia and it’s taken from that old school area that you were talking about, towards where the theater is now.
But Seldovia looks entirely different. And it says underneath the picture: Fourth of July. So you’ll recognize it. But there’s some fantastic pictures in those books. So --
Yeah, Seldovia has changed. And it’s different. And it’s good to see some of the kids that grew up here coming back now with their families.
Because for a while everybody was just moving away and staying. And we’re fortunate, Crystal has -- she just went away to college for a few years and came back and been here ever since.
But most of the kids, they go away and don’t come back. Michael’s here, and, yeah, and his sister. But it’s good.
JAN YAEGER: That’s actually one of the things that most impressed me when I moved here, because I come from a small town where, yeah, I think I graduated from a class of about seventy and I think maybe two of my classmates are there. DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah.
JAN YAEGER: Then coming here and seeing generations, yeah, go for a little while and then -- DARLENE CRAWFORD: Come back. Uh-huh. Because --
JAN YAEGER: I thought that spoke really well of the town.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: They realize it’s a good place to raise kids. Because kids, when they’re very young, can wander all over town safely and you don’t have to, you know, lock up and stuff like that. It’s good.
I think Seldovia was always like that. When John was talking about getting in trouble, you know, it was things like going under the boardwalk and doin’ other stuff. Shootin’ at streetlights or something. I heard somebody did that. Sonny Halverson, I guess.
JOHN CRAWFORD: It must have been your relations.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: No. But, you know, there wasn’t that much to do back then. JOHN CRAWFORD: It was your relations. Your brother-in-law.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: We just -- we heard it on TV, yeah. But I think he was with Sonny Halverson. I hope you’re editing this. Don’t put this on.
JAN YAEGER: So did you find that, you know, when your kids were young that you could kinda keep track of them without actually having to watch them because word would get back to you?
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yes, definitely. And it takes a village to raise a child. If you saw somebody else’s kid doing something they shouldn’t, you would tell ‘em.
You wouldn’t necessarily tell their mother, but you’d tell the kid and they’d listen to you. And --
JOHN CRAWFORD: Sure we would.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: I did. And other people told mine, too. JOHN CRAWFORD: That’s a different generation.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah, but -- did anybody ever tell you, Michael? Other parents? MICHAEL OPHEIM: Oh yeah.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah. That’s the way Seldovia was. You looked out for -- you know, it was like one big family kind of. Arguments and everything. And you could argue real hotly in a council meeting and then you’d get out of the council meeting and everybody’d be friends again. Go out and have a beer together or something.
But it’s just a friendly town and just kind of family. And a lot of people were related, because there were a lot of generations here and different relations. And I learned when I first came to town not to talk about anybody, because who you were talking to, it was probably their relative.
So you don’t talk about ‘em, because everybody’s related. But that is good. And it was nice.
In ’57, ’58, I mean, it was so long ago, but the old ladies had tea. And they would visit and they would have tea and cookies. And I was young, but my mother-in-law would take me along, and it was just nice listening to the old ladies talk and have a good conversation with their tea.
And then some of them would go work in the cannery and they’d do different things. ‘Cause there was a salmon cannery, the halibut, the crab.
And then the Filipinos were a good addition to town. They -- they worked in the cannery and they would have different things. You got used to their customs and their food and all.
And Freddie Quijance had a Filipino restaurant and that was great. ‘Cause you could go get adobo and ponset and different things. So we got kind of more multicultured by -- by the people that lived here. So --
And Seldovia is mixed up. The corporation here -- some corporations up north I suppose are more full Natives. In Seldovia, there’s a lot of quarter Natives. And the other quarter being Russian and Filipino and, you know, other things. But everybody was in the area and they kinda got blended together. So --
There’s only a few people out of the original two hundred and fifty-seven shareholders that were all Native. The rest of ‘em were partial, so --
But you had to be a quarter to be counted as Native and so everyone in the corporation was at least a quarter, but they had a blend of great other -- other nationalities, which made for good sharing of culture.
JAN YAEGER: So I know we’ve kept you past your time --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Oh, yes. I need to go to prayer meeting.
JAN YAEGER: I apologize for that.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: That’s okay. We can do it again someday.
JAN YAEGER: I hope we can. ‘Cause I know you’ve got a lot of knowledge and lot of history here.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yeah, there’s a lot of history.
JOHN CRAWFORD: When we first came here there were a lot of old retired sailors. Sailors that are retired like Martin Hogenson and Lindstedt -- DARLENE CRAWFORD: Carl Lindstedt.
JOHN CRAWFORD: It was quite a number of them that -- they had these little cabins around. And some, some of the older ones --
Well, there was some people that had worked at the Red Mountain mine also, that whenever they needed a place to stay for the winter, they’d just take their tent and go over to some beach and put their tent up there and stay there the whole winter or go cut dory knees or --
There was -- they're pretty industrious bunch. It seemed like they all liked to party a lot.
The only time you’d see ‘em much is when they’re staggering down the street, but I guess retired sailors are supposed to do that.
That -- I don’t know why, but it must’ve been a good place to live for them, too. Some had pensions and some didn’t and --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Loggers and fishermen like to do that, too, because on Saturday night in the bars the loggers and fishermen would get in fights when they were here. JAN YAEGER: The loggers --
DARLENE CRAWFORD: When the loggers were here.
JAN YAEGER: So this group would fight this group? DARLENE CRAWFORD: Mm-hm.
JOHN CRAWFORD: No, they mostly fought amongst their own people. DARLENE CRAWFORD: Well, I know that -- JAN YAEGER: So fishermen would fight fishermen?
JOHN CRAWFORD: Be good entertainment. But it wasn’t always -- wasn’t the fishermen against the logger type thing.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: But they were -- they’d have Saturday night fights. But Carl Gosta-Lindstedt, he was on the city council. He was an old city father. But that’s Poikin‘s father. He was one of these old sailors, and he told me he sailed on the "San Salvador," the old schooner.
And it was still a big boat when I first came. But now it’s nothing but some metal.
But he got so he couldn’t talk at the end ‘cause of something. He had throat cancer or something. But I was city clerk and he was a city councilman and he used to come in and tell me stories and stuff.
And I wish I would’ve written them down at the time ‘cause I always said, “Carl, we gotta get together and you dictate and I’ll type.” Because he had so many stories of things that -- Seldovia and when he was sailing and coming in here and things like that.
But that was a lot of years ago. But I thought it was fascinating that he sailed on that ship. So --
JAN YAEGER: Maybe we can talk to Carl Junior.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Yes, talk to Poiken. ‘Cause his dad might have told him some of that.
And he’s been here all his life, too. Good. Okay, well I better go to prayer meeting, so --
JAN YAEGER: Well, thank you so much for coming in and, yeah, we’re doing this for the next several months at least, so if you’re open to chatting with us again we’d really appreciate that.
DARLENE CRAWFORD: Oh, okay. We’ll do it.
JAN YAEGER: Thank you very much. DARLENE CRAWFORD: Okay. Bye.