Walter McInnes was interviewed on August 7, 2008 by Charles Mobley at his home in Seldovia, Alaska. In this first side of a two-sided original tape recording, Walter talks about working on DEW-line construction in Canada, coming to Seldovia, loading freight on and off of ships, and how the community of Seldovia has changed. He talks about how there used to be canneries and how the town has physically changed since the 1964 Alaska Earthquake and the Urban Renwal Program. He also talks about the bars and social life in the early days.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Seldovia Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Aug 7, 2008
Narrator(s): Walter McInnes
Interviewer(s): Charles Mobley
Transcriber: Jan Yaeger
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Personal background and education
Construction of radar defense systems in the Canadian Arctic
Coming to Alaska and Seldovia
Canneries and layout of the town of Seldovia when he arrived in the early 1960s
Churches in Seldovia and boardwalk along waterfront when first arrived
Loading and unloading freight on ships
Canneries in Seldovia in the early 1960s
Describing buildings and businesses and town layout in pre-earthquake Seldovia
The dump and filled area of town
Homer Electric and Seldovia Power companies
Comparing pre- and post-earthquake Seldovia
Type of vehicle he had when first coming to Seldovia
Experiencing the 1964 Alaska Earthquake in Nenana and Anchorage
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Okay, I'm on tape and how about you, Walter?
WALTER McINNES: Hello. Here I am. I am Walter McInnes, age 76, born December 19. Should I keep going? CHARLES MOBLEY: Yes, please.
WALTER McINNES: Born December 19, 1931 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. My parents was Bertha Hazel Andrew and Walter McInnes.
I was raised in Colchester, Ontario, which was a village-type community not too far from Windsor. And there was a mixed -- many mixed immigrants in that area, nationalities and immigrants on the farm and working in the factories.
And I went to public school in the little village and I went to the local high school in the small town.
And I don't think -- I don't know how to account for my coming to Alaska. Finally, I came to Alaska in 1949 as a sailor aboard a cruise ship to southeast Alaska. Made two trips.
And then went back, and then worked in British Columbia that whole year and the following year went back east to go to school.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And where did you go to school?
WALTER McINNES: Central Technical College. Central Technical School, Toronto, Canada. And so through the 50s, I basically was following a trade and busy in Canada and then in 19 --
CHARLES MOBLEY: If I can interrupt, what was the trade?
WALTER McINNES: Radio operator. CHARLES MOBLEY: Uh-huh.
WALTER McINNES: And I was in the Canadian Arctic. Actually, Arctic and the sub-Arctic for a total of three years altogether.
CHARLES MOBLEY: What were you doing there?
WALTER McINNES: I was an operator.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And what kind of projects were you doing?
WALTER McINNES: We were building defense warning -- radar defense systems.
CHARLES MOBLEY: What was that like?
WALTER McINNES: Well, it was -- We were there in the construction phase and it was isolated. It was a limited amount of people. The situation of contracts and work, and what we were doing and what we worked with was, to me, so extremely different than the people that worked in the North Slope in Alaska.
We started out with very small amount of facilities and then we went to work and had a camp built and we had to build our own facilities.
And then we went to work and built the -- the base for the radar sites. And then once it got -- the basic base and building got built, then the technicians would come in.
And after the technicians had installed the equipment, then the -- the Air Force personnel would come in and operate it. And about that time, we would be turning things over and then we would leave.
CHARLES MOBLEY: What was the name of the radar system?
WALTER McINNES: Well, there was -- two sys -- I worked actually on two different systems. One was a mid-Canada system and the other one was Distant Early Warning.
And I also worked at a large airport, Goose -- Goose Bay Airport, which is a large SAC base at the time. Strategic Air Command.
CHARLES MOBLEY: What kind of radio did you have?
WALTER McINNES: Oh, we had -- well, we had the best you could buy at the time. We had transmitters, a couple of transmitters, and about four main receivers and then a couple of other, smaller receivers for aircraft and things like that.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm. Thank you. I'm -- Occasionally, I'm going to jump in and interrupt you, just to go off on a little direction every once in awhile. So --
Okay, so 1950s, you're a radio operator and then somehow you -- you got to Alaska and became a citizen.
WALTER McINNES: My parents -- my mother and stepfather came in 1959 with a group called the '59ers.
They came from Detroit, Michigan to Alaska. And they came in February and March. Actually in Feb -- yeah, February.
And I came for a two-week visit to cheer them up and tell them it was such a short -- it was no big distance, in September of '59. And I'm still here.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And wh -- so they came directly to Seldovia when they --
WALTER McINNES: No, they, they were up by Talkeetna. CHARLES MOBLEY: Ah-huh.
WALTER McINNES: In fact, somebody started a little museum there on the Petersville Road and in that museum they have pictures of my mother and stepfather and the people who were part of that group at the time. And they have some photographs from that. CHARLES MOBLEY: Hmm.
WALTER McINNES: And they incorporated that into the Petersville-Talkeetna history. So that's probably available in various places.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm. But you must have very shortly come to Seldovia then?
WALTER McINNES: I came to Seldovia in the summers of -- I came in the fall of '59. And in the summer of '60, I decided I -- I wanted to make some income for the homestead. And I decided I wanted to go fishing.
And so I was looking. I checked Seward first, and then I checked Kenai, and very little was happening at that time. It was a little early in the season.
I was -- I checked Homer and I was enquiring around, and I was en route to Kodiak because I knew Kodiak was a strong fishing port. And I had a water background.
And so I -- as I was in Homer, I was advised by a couple of people that I just -- talking and asking around, why don't you try Seldovia? So for seven dollars and fifty cents, I got on a float plane and landed in Seldovia Bay.
And as I was getting off the plane, I asked the pilot, "Where's a good place to look for a job?" And he said, "Just stick your head in the bar." He says, "That's where most of the action goes."
So there was -- it didn't take long at that time -- at that -- in 1960. In all the '60s, there was more work in Seldovia than anybody needed or could handle. Everybody worked.
This was a very active, work-oriented -- cannery, fishing, crab, salmon, and shrimp operations. Plus a couple of hand-pack canneries.
CHARLES MOBLEY: What -- when you got here, then, in 1960, can you describe the canneries that were here?
WALTER McINNES: Um, well, the canneries and the town, everything was on sticks. And by that, I mean, it was on piling. All the canneries were on piling.
And they were all off of the face of the beach, or the bluff, and the -- everything was built out over the water.
And Seldovia itself had no flat spots in it. The -- the waterfront curved along the rock cliffs, basically, and then where there wasn't rock, there would be -- short stretches of beaches.
And so the canneries and the buildings and the hotel and the post office and different clusters of development would be along where the -- along the beach and along the waterfront, because the other was too rocky and -- and not -- not a good building site.
And therefore the water and the sewer -- the water and the sewerage and everything, particularly the water, I don't think there was much sewage effort at that time, but the waterlines had to -- had to follow the waterfront.
And the boardwalk extended from one end of the waterfront to the other. The whole developed area had a boardwalk on it. And all the stores, the canneries, and all the activities, the little hotel, two hotels, actually --
CHARLES MOBLEY: Do you remember their names?
WALTER McINNES: The one was the Seldovia House. I think one was Seldovia House and one was the Seldovia Hotel. But that's as I recall. I kind of forget that. I know where they were on the map here.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm. WALTER McINNES: I mean on this picture. I can point them out.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Where were they on -- on the map?
WALTER McINNES: Well, right in here.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And how do we describe that for the tape? That would be --
WALTER McINNES: The -- It's in the section. Oh boy. 'Cause, see, this is a straight road out here now. CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm.
WALTER McINNES: And this is Cap's Hill right here. And this is the other hill that exists -- still exists, in existence.
But this was the big hill and you'll notice there's only one building on top so -- the rock frontage, which was pretty steep, opposite Cap Hill, and then heading along the boardwalk to the north, the hotel was right in -- was the first building in there. CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm.
WALTER McINNES: And then there was a residence and there was a theater building. That's this one here.
And then there was a bar, which was the Polar Bar. No, yeah, Polar Bar.
CHARLES MOBLEY: That's going -- going south then, right?
WALTER McINNES: Going south. CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm.
WALTER McINNES: Not north. Going south. Yeah, and there was three bars in that time. There was the Polar Bar, uh, the Linwood, which would be in here.
And you can see the distance between these two bars was about 75 feet. And the Surf Club. So this is Surf Club and that's the Linwood down there.
CHARLES MOBLEY: What was the difference between the three bars? Did they have different clientele?
WALTER McINNES: Basically, the Linwood and the Surf were action. The guys' bar.
And the Polar Bar was quieter, off by itself, so it -- you could go down there and -- and when things had got a little too noisy or rowdy, the Polar Bar was a quieter bar.
And it had a pool table, but it was -- less -- less fights and less rowdy. CHARLES MOBLEY: Uh-huh.
And you -- we talk about Cap's Hill. Why was there only one house on there?
WALTER McINNES: Actually, I'm trying to see it here. There's another house. If this is a '59 photo, there should be a house right here.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Uh-huh. Maybe in the shade or something?
WALTER McINNES: It's in the shade. That -- and it looks like it, then you'll see the edge of it.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Who owned -- WALTER McINNES: Collier. CHARLES MOBLEY: -- Cap's Hill?
WALTER McINNES: Collier owned -- Oh, the hill itself? I -- I don't recall, but I know Mr. Backer, who had the Surf Club had the house. He owned the little cabin on top. It wasn't very big.
And you can see this little road to it up here. And the kids used to ski down. Over in this area was -- was where they learned to ski and sled and everything. Right down through there, through the south-facing.
And as you can see, on the -- how the road is so much different here, you know, this is where -- this street right here, and see how it had this curve, and another curve here? And this part right here is -- oh, boy, where am I?
CHARLES MOBLEY: We're right here. WALTER McINNES: As I said, where the two trailers were. Yeah, we're, we're right over here.
But this -- this part here where this -- where there was no trailers, I know that it -- it must have been very next year that they put a trailer in. CHARLES MOBLEY: Hmm.
WALTER McINNES: Because -- I -- if not the first year I was here, within the second or third there was a couple trailers in this. One trailer here and then later one trailer here. And that's the back side of Cap's Hill.
CHARLES MOBLEY: What about churches when you first got here?
WALTER McINNES: There was two churches. There was the one down, way down on the end, which still exists. Bible Chapel.
And then there was a Methodist Church. Coming around the corner. There it is. That would be it right -- right here. On this -- I'll use the back end.
CHARLES MOBLEY: I can -- I can see where you're pointing. WALTER McINNES: Yeah.
CHARLES MOBLEY: That's right about -- it's just to the north of the fuel company, wouldn't it be?
WALTER McINNES: Yeah. Actually, (phone rings) right now there's this -- there's a point of land there and there's a building up on this point. And (phone rings) the Methodist Church, I'm pretty -- it's either this one or this one, but there was a steep stairway.
And this is all part of the old store complex here. No, wait -- yeah. Yeah, it is. This is the store. And that's Surf Club and that's the Linwood.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And then there was the Russian Orthodox Church?
WALTER McINNES: Yeah, the Russian Orthodox Church is right up on top of the hill. And that's, by golly, that would have to be -- yeah. It's just the -- the (inaudible) of -- this is the Russian Orthodox.
This is the Methodist Church. And this is the hardware store. This is -- one of these is a apartment building and then this is the hardware store here. That belonged part of this store complex.
CHARLES MOBLEY: So most of the residential --
WALTER McINNES: And there was mo -- CHARLES MOBLEY: -- building was on land, is that right?
WALTER McINNES: I -- yeah. The commer -- the canneries and the bars, the Surf Club and the Linwood, all this was built over -- all the main -- main function of town was all built on piling.
But, and this is -- the boardwalk would almost -- anything on the water side of the boardwalk was built on piling. So the boardwalk basically hugged all along the beach and the waterfront. But, there again, you've got this one pier here.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Did that have a name?
WALTER McINNES: The pier -- this pier? CHARLES MOBLEY: Yeah. WALTER McINNES: No, it just -- it was just the dock. CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm.
WALTER McINNES: Well, it was the -- the city dock is this one right here. Now that looks like an Alaska steamboat right there. A -- a freighter from Alaska.
CHARLES MOBLEY: In this -- in this aerial photograph, which is, for the tape, we're looking at an August 15, 1959 aerial photograph from Aerometric,. And it's Seldovia Roll 59, Corps of Engineers 1, exposure 3 dash 4.
WALTER McINNES: I'll be darned. Yeah, I was here then. A very good chance I was down on this -- CHARLES MOBLEY: You're probably in there, Walter.
WALTER McINNES: A very good chance.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Waving up at the -- waving at the airplane. WALTER McINNES: Right here. CHARLES MOBLEY: Yeah.
WALTER McINNES: I'm loading this boat.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Yeah? So you were a -- what's that called? Longshoreman or some -- WALTER McINNES: Yeah. CHARLES MOBLEY: Uh-huh.
WALTER McINNES: A stevedore works on the dock and longshoremen work in -- onside the boat -- inside the boat. CHARLES MOBLEY: Oh, okay.
WALTER McINNES: Or work in the slings. And that was longshoring. And at that time, it was amazing how quickly things change, because -- '60, '61, '62 -- everything came by Alaska Steam.
It was real short -- shortly in that time period there where it switched to -- I'm trying to think, the vans that they shipped out of, there's --
CHARLES MOBLEY: Oh, yeah, the containers.
WALTER McINNES: Sea vans. Sea -- yeah, sea vans. And -- and the container ship. And it shipped -- and it was just during that times, I said, the first couple of years I was here, there was at least two ships a year, sometimes three.
The one in the spring would bring in -- besides bringing in cargo, it would bring in groceries and it would bring in the alcohol. And what was amazing, I helped unload that spring ship and the alcohol, the beer and whiskey, there was -- the beer pile was equal to the grocery pile.
CHARLES MOBLEY: How high was it?
WALTER McINNES: I -- well, that was basically what -- that was the main thing that the boat carried. There was some other freight, but their main freight was groceries and beer. A lot of beer.
And -- but as I said, it was Sealand, Sealand was what I started to go into.
And it was just a few years after that the Alaska Steam quit calling. But what -- when they -- was part of the interesting thing was when this ship landed, and it was only two or three in the season, and when they were landed, boy, they had, particularly in the spring, they had fresh vegetables. Fruit and vegetables.
And, of course, it was as fresh as -- after coming out of Seattle and being, you know, so many days, and they had other ports to stop in before they got here.
But all the ladies in town would -- the women would ask you, when are you going to get to the -- to the groceries, you know? And, particularly, when are you going to get to the fresh fruit?
Because it would be in there stacked in -- and, you know, we'd have to unload it according to the way it was laid in.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And how long would it take to unload a Alaska Steamship?
WALTER McINNES: Well, I -- the one time I worked there, I can remember working 52 hours straight. And that was loading, that wasn't unloading. That was loading. And we were loading salmon aboard that time.
And so I would say at least three or -- three days to load it. Unloading, I don't know. I would guess -- I would be guessing. About two -- two days.
And it took longer to load the salmon, because they were in cases and they had to each be fitted in and it was -- when Alaska Steam came in, then they weren't necessarily totally full.
You know, they -- they had stuff -- I mean full of stuff for Seldovia. They went to other ports. They went to Seward. They went to Kodiak and down the chain (Aleutian Island chain), depending on which route that boat had.
So you'd only take off the Seldovia things, the Seldovia groceries and beer. So that would -- whatever length of time that would take.
But I don't -- I don't recall any real long stints except when we did load in the fall, when we'd load up the salmon pack. I think I worked 52 hours straight that one time.
It was actually two of us worked 52 hours and the other guys didn't work that long. It - it's just so much you can do, so long.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And there were several canneries here at the time.
WALTER McINNES: Yes, there was Alaska Year Round, which was the salmon cannery. And then in around '62, they built themselves a crab dock, I mean a crab cannery, as well.
And there was Wakefield Cannery. And there was Iver-Wendt (Sutterlin and Wendt) Shrimp Cannery, which later became Pacific Pearl. CHARLES MOBLEY: Hmm.
WALTER McINNES: And there's still the Pacific Pearl brand that's still available in the grocery store. CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm.
WALTER McINNES: But the Pacific Pearl was right down here and Wakefield was here and AYR was -- was down here. That's this one here.
CHARLES MOBLEY: So going in, let's say, south to north, this one is Pacific -- the first one going from south to north is Pacific Pearl?
WALTER McINNES: Yeah. This is an old, defunct one. This was Cook Inlet Packers and it -- I think AYR was assimilated.
One company would buy out another and -- this used to be Cook Inlet Packers, but it was not a cannery when I got here. It was a warehouse and storage place.
The operating cannery was Pacific Pearl right there, and it was almost a joint dock. And this was Wakefield.
And we used to unload right -- that's a boat unloading crab right there. The crab went right through this section.
This was the processing section. This was a -- like a warehouse part. And then over here was the shrimp area. The shrimp cannery area was in this area.
And these things here are most likely barges for the -- where they had -- see, this is just after they had the '50, well, '59 was just after they had the -- the -- they used to have the nets from shore. What, I'm trying to think.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Oh, fish traps.
WALTER McINNES: Fish traps. yeah. And with the fish traps, they had barges for to load the fish on and some people would have -- with good fish sites would have a barge to put their fish on.
So -- I'm thinking that that's little barges, at least a couple of them there.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And so Pacific Pearl, then -- I've just thought of a way to tell on the tape. It was right straight out from Seldovia Street.
WALTER McINNES: This is Seldovia Street right here and, actually, from the looks of this, Pacific Pearl -- it was in between Seldovia Street and Lipke, which is now -- and what is now Lipke Lane.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Uh-huh. Very good. And then --
WALTER McINNES: Whereas Wakefield was right directly in front of Seldovia Street. The Wakefield Cannery.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Uh-huh. Okay. And then continuing north, we have what again?
WALTER McINNES: Well, there was a restaurant. Part of the Linwood complex, there was a restaurant in here and the Linwood Bar.
And then -- then as I said, there was a space and the Surf Club, and this was basically the main middle of town and then the hotel was -- the main hotel, which got all the action, was -- this is a rental, but this spot right here.
And then this is cold storage over -- wait, this is cold storage. This is all cold storage and this is -- this should be the hotel right here. And this is a rental place.
It's hard. This here, the photograph doesn't -- for some reason, it doesn't do very good on that -- that hotel had breaks in it -- roof and it actually -- hotel is this whole area, but it -- you can't quite identify it real good. CHARLES MOBLEY: Uh-huh.
WALTER McINNES: But this rental thing here, that had a solid tin -- It's funny how the roofs show a place better than the -- certain roofs.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And then up here where English Drive comes down, what's -- what's -- what's -- that's where the --
WALTER McINNES: That was the -- this was the fuel company was right here, off this. And -- and then, and then the oil would unload, you know, and they'd pump the fuel up to these tanks.
And so this -- this was the -- right -- Jack English had his magistrate's office in here somewhere. And the Post Office was right over here. Right on --
CHARLES MOBLEY: Continuing north, and that would be about -- WALTER McINNES: Yeah.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Well, that's still English, near English Drive would be where, about where the Post Office would be.
WALTER McINNES: Yeah. And I'm trying to recall this out here. This house here is still here, this one here.
And this one here. This is here and this is here. This is gone, all this is gone.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And so, do these have names? How do you refer to that? One of them's the old hospital, right?
WALTER McINNES: That's this one right here.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Okay. Did you remember it when it was a hospital?
WALTER McINNES: Ah, no. Yet I worked with people who were -- I worked with a couple of guys who were born there, from Homer. They worked for Homer Electric.
CHARLES MOBLEY: So what was it when you were there?
WALTER McINNES: It was still a hospital when I came and continued to be the hospital up and through the '70s, I believe. '60s early -- I'm trying to -- I don't recall exactly what date that they -- it was -- sold to a private individual, but it was -- I remember various doctors being in there.
Then Mr. Willard bought it somewhere in there. Late '70s, probably. And it's -- kind of interesting because now, where we're going to go with the pipeline, and this is a good thing to look at this is you look -- this is, this is -- the work, no this is --
CHARLES MOBLEY: This is Alder Street here.
WALTER McINNES: Yeah. And English Drive, Barnes -- Okay, basically, where Alder Street is now is a little different. See how this comes down here?
And in this map it goes and jogs, goes over here. Whereas now it goes directly right straight here. Alder Street now goes here.
And, you know, where there's digging now is like out, out in, out in here. CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hmm.
WALTER McINNES: You know, where the road is, out in, out in here, I would say.
You can -- with this map you can figure -- the road comes real close to this hill point right here. This thing, might forget that's there. That's -- that's -- on the waterside of the boardwalk. But right --
CHARLES MOBLEY: At Mission Street?
WALTER McINNES: Yeah. But this -- and Missionary Church has never been anything but, the road now is at -- the one place where you can see where the road is right over where the old road was is right in here.
And then from here, actually it does follow pretty close along in here. But then I think over here it -- somewhere along here it veers off over, more over this way.
But here's the interesting thing is that -- that though the road was here, this part here was not road so that might be an area of interest to you. CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm.
WALTER McINNES: I had -- In my mind, all of Alder Street was very inconsequential as far as finding stuff on a dig. It wouldn't be my -- place where I'd look.
And if you're looking around, you get looking around and you find some -- there somewhere there's a photo of this area before the hospital was put in. Am I too loud?
This area here, and in the '30s or so there was a few little Native homes up in -- this is the spot where they were. Right in through here.
CHARLES MOBLEY: On the old Church lot, which -- ?
WALTER McINNES: Up on this -- on this hillside.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Above it. Because the Church lot's pretty big. It's this triangular thing here.
WALTER McINNES: Yeah. Yeah. Basically -- and, right, even some below it. In -- and right -- anyway, this is a good evening sun spot, and they were all -- I recall about three or four of them being real close in here. In this area.
So there might be at the, underneath the fill somewh -- you know, in here, there might be some -- people put through -- because people used to bury their -- a lot of their stuff in the back yard.
You know, there wasn't -- the only dump at that time, when I got here, was -- let's see. Oh, boy, isn't that interesting? Right here. That was the dump.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Where Winifred Avenue and Anderson -- WALTER McINNES: Yeah. CHARLES MOBLEY: -- kind of come together there?
WALTER McINNES: Yeah. And -- and actually, the present road is -- is more like over here. CHARLES MOBLEY: Uh-huh.
WALTER McINNES: It comes -- it comes to this point the same, but if you go over there, you'll see where the old road is in here, and the new road is out -- they put fill across here and straightened it out.
But the old dump was right here. Right in -- right in this spot. That was the old dump. And then, as I said --
CHARLES MOBLEY: What's there now?
WALTER McINNES: There's -- there's -- that got knocked down and I'm trying to think. This is the school up here now. This is the new school.
And this is -- it's been filled in. Over top by -- when they pumped the harbor out.
I'm trying to think what year they pumped the harbor out. But they -- the harbor was dredged once. And that's quite a few years ago now. Cause it's rebuilt up the mouth of the harbor.
But the harbor was dredged and all the -- all of the dredgings was put up in here.
CHARLES MOBLEY: To cover the dump.
WALTER McINNES: Well, it was just -- that place was a -- was a -- low-lands like this, and it was just a non-committed piece of property, which I forget whether it was the city owned part of it and the school board owned part of it, but anyway, they -- they put it in there and it's amazing.
That -- that stuff is become pretty solid. When it was first put in there it was kind of mucky and it drained out, and settled and settled and settled, and you walk in there now and it's like -- it's pretty, pretty good footing. It's nothing soft about it.
And that's -- at presently you'll see that this right -- in this area here is a city storage yard and across over here you'll see there is -- there's four engines under white plastic, which were -- they came out of Homer Electric, when they took down the old building and the old engines.
And this is Homer Electric here. And there's another thing there. At that particular time, that's only about half the length of the building I eventually worked in. And because, at that time, I think they only had two engines. CHARLES MOBLEY: Let me give you that.
WALTER McINNES: This area, right here. Charlie Merrill, Seldovia Power. And he had only two engines in there, and later on, HEA (Homer Electric Association) added two more. And actually, eventually, I think they added three. One, two, yeah.
The engines came from Homer. And I can't remember exactly which year that happened. '68 or something, that Homer Electric purchased Seldovia Power and started putting in -- you know, they had the -- it was '66 they were building.
1966 they were building the -- they were clearing the right of way for the power line from Homer. I remember that.
So it was either in the fall of '66 or in '67 when the power line came in from Homer. (truck noise in background) And maybe even later before it finally, totally got built, because actually, for years -- No, I got to remember this.
We ran the Sel -- I worked in the Seldovia power plant when it was either -- and Willard came here in '72 and it -- this still wasn't connected so even though they cleared right of way in '66 there, it wasn't connected until some time in the early '70s.
That's probably in some of these books somewhere.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm. Let me -- let me ask, you know, the earthquake, of course, is like the big benchmark here as far as time goes. WALTER McINNES: Right.
CHARLES MOBLEY: So you were here about four years before the earthquake hit.
WALTER McINNES: I was here -- four -- let's see, '64, so I was here '60, '61, '62 and '63.
CHARLES MOBLEY: And so, if you had to compare pre-earthquake Seldovia and post-earthquake Seldovia, what was pre-earthquake Seldovia like? In general?
WALTER McINNES: It was more unique. It was very unique. It was very water-oriented. It was very -- the people were all fishermen, cannery workers, Natives, Scandinavians. It was a very water -- coastal water-related community.
It was kind of funny. The people, as a transport, would use a skiff to haul stuff around. Even to haul groceries and things.
And there was very few motorized vehicles in Seldovia. Even amongst people who had a fair amount of money and well-being in comparison. They had -- their money went into improving their boats at that time.
And after Urban Renewal, well, they flattened -- they knocked Cap's Hill down and they added all along -- they straightened -- added the waterfront, straightened it out a lot, and the roads were straighter, and actually roads got in pre-- prior to the -- prior to the earthquake, it was very few places that -- that you could actually drive a vehicle comfortably in town.
On the boardwalk, it was kind of like an intrusion. Because what they had -- they had a trailer that hauled carts for the groceries, to take stuff to the grocery store or to haul supplies around.
And the only person that had -- a guy finally had an old Willys four-wheel drive as an oil delivery. And then he had another one that you used for garbage, when they did start to have a garbage service. And that was Mr. Ressler, Kenny Ressler.
And he had the -- oh, boy what did they call it? Seldovia Carting, Seldovia something or other. And, but -- it wasn't -- you know, it's almost if you would lay one side -- lay one beside the other in comparison of the amount of vehicles and the people, how they use the vehicles now, and how many vehicles there are per family, and at that time, there was only two or three vehicles in the whole town. You know, regular-type vehicles.
There was the fire department had a couple of Jeeps, and the grocery store thing had a tractor that hauled stuff. You know, that's how they got their supplies from the warehouse.
And the dock and warehouse was all tractor and a little trailer and the boardwalk, I think -- I think it was about eight feet wide, but, you know, when you'd come to a corner, even today, what little section of the boardwalk is left, people don't drive vehicles on it very often because it's not -- it doesn't accommodate vehicles. This section right down here gives you a good example.
But as I said, there was two or three vehicles. I brought a vehicle here in 1962. And I've had one -- there was only three vehicles running at that time.
Yeah, people actually get a car to run. I mean, there was -- the fire department had a vehicle. Jeeps. The oil delivery had two Willys four-wheel drive.
There was a taxi here in the 19 -- early 1960s, but they had these little Anglias, I think they called them Anglias. It's small cars -- might -- not a Crosby, but -- the smaller version of -- smaller version of cars you could get at that time. Let me use a cough drop.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Sure. Back on tape. WALTER McINNES: Okay? Go ahead?
CHARLES MOBLEY: Yeah. I do have a question, though. What kind of vehicle did you bring up?
WALTER McINNES: I had a Ford six-cylinder station wagon. I bought it in Long Beach. 1962, I had a -- I had made a good season, and so I gave myself a vacation. I went back up north to the homestead and then in the middle of winter, I gave myself a vacation.
And I went down to Long Beach and then I went to Mexico. And while I was there, I bought a station wagon.
And then I drove it back up. I left it in Homer one year, so actually it was '63 before I brought it over here. '63 or '64. '63, probably, because I think it was here before the earthquake.
And as I said, at that time there was only about three running vehicles in town.
So then after the earthquake and things, they started putting, you know, the dimension, I mean the dimensions, the roadways changed and the transportation changed.
And it's like, you look at this here and you see, all this was undeveloped. You know, this section here later became the lodge and had houses all built through here, and the new school is up in this area and all this area a road was built across here.
Young Street was built, oh, down, right through here and then down across here.
And if you look at this, everything is not mostly -- all along the waterfront except Willow Street and Kachemak Drive up the slough. And then over in this side -- I'm sorry.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Sure. Can I do something for you? You want more water or --
WALTER McINNES: I'll just take another couple -- maybe this will start working.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Yeah. Tissues?
WALTER McINNES: It's just my throat. It's raw. Take a break?
CHARLES MOBLEY: Okay, so we're back on tape. And you were saying that you missed the earthquake here because you were in Nenana.
WALTER McINNES: I was in Nenana, and I was -- previously as a -- when we were on the homestead -- it seemed to be -- there were frequent shakes, and when the big one hit, up at Nenana it didn't seem that much, except it lasted so much longer.
It didn't crack the road, and it did shake some things off of some shelves, but it didn't do really major damage in Nenana.
However, unbeknownst to me, my parents had come up from the Lower-48, where they had been visiting, and were staying in Fifth Avenue Apartments in Anchorage.
My stepfather was in front of the City Hall when the earthquake hit, and it knocked him down. And so he grabbed ahold of -- as he was knocked down, he looked up and the flagpole, which has this big brown globe on it, was moving like a fishing pole.
It's -- extreme, one -- one back and forth, just like a fishing pole being cast. And he grabbed ahold of the parking meter and pulled himself to his feet holding on to the parking meter for one purpose.
He said he knew it was the end of the world and he thought he might was well watch it. Instead of just laying there, if it was going to be the end of the world, he was going to watch it.
As soon as he got on his feet, the other -- the part of Fourth Avenue that dropped, I don't know, it was eighteen or twenty feet or fifteen in part, but different -- fifteen, twenty, I imagine -- what I recall.
But it -- right in front of his eyes, just a short distance away, a long section of -- of the opposite side of Fourth Avenue just disa -- just sunk.
And like I said, he -- he said it was just the end of the world and he knew it.
My mother, in the meantime, was in the bathtub and she tried to get out and couldn't -- made couple attempts and then actually hit her head pretty hard, so she decided that she wasn't going to be able to get out of the bathtub during the actual time of the quake. Which lasted fairly long.
And so she just stayed there until the quake was over.
At that time, there was -- Anchorage was growing and there were some new business and things and they had some young ladies come up to be clerks and typists and work in the business community. And they were staying in that same motel -- apartments.
And they were so frightened with the aftershocks. My parents -- as with me, we weren't much frightened by the aftershocks because we had experienced them on the homestead at Talkeetna.
And my folks, it didn't seem to bother them but the -- the people who had recently come to Anchorage, the young people from the Lower-48, it so scared them that they knocked -- they come and knocked on the door, and wanted to spend the night on the couch of my parents' place 'cause they did -- they were afraid to be alone.
And two weeks after, even, a strong aftershock and the next morning the two of them came and said goodbye to my parents because they were leaving Alaska.
They -- they were still, two weeks later, they were so -- so afraid, so scared by the experience that they'd had.
And I knew quite a few people -- one fellow I knew that used to play band, and he had two children and he picked up his children. He lived -- not too far from downtown. And picked up his children and ran outside and it wasn't until the shake was over that he didn't realize, and this was in March, he realized he didn't have any clothes on.
But he got out of the house. He was, you know, afraid to stay in the house. So that was the -- some of the earthquake stuff that I know of. Other things would just be repeating other people's stories.
CHARLES MOBLEY: Mm-hm. So then, when -- how long did it take you to get back to Seldovia after the earthquake?
WALTER McINNES: I'm trying to recall. That was in March. I don't think I came down here until the late -- late spring. And then they were, had -- there were signs up and people were taking a petition to get Urban Renewal in and --
CHARLES MOBLEY: So it was several months?
WALTER McINNES: Yeah. CHARLES MOBLEY: Many months.
WALTER McINNES: It was a -- few months CHARLES MOBLEY: Uh-huh.
WALTER McINNES: Before I could -- a couple of months. I think maybe two months before -- one or two months before I got down. Maybe one month?