Dr. Larry Reynolds was interviewed on December 11, 2014 by Jan Yaeger at the Seldovia Museum in Seldovia, Alaska. In this interview, Larry talks about coming to Seldovia in 1974 and starting a medical practice. He talks about the early days when conditions and equipment were poor, the contributions of the Hospital Guild, and changes in the practice of medicine in rural Alaska. He also talks about his passion for backcountry skiing and camping in the mountains near Seldovia, including his role in designing a teepee-style nylon tent.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Seldovia Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Dec 11, 2014
Narrator(s): Dr. Larry Reynolds
Interviewer(s): Jan Yaeger
Transcriber: Varpu Lotvonen
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Coming to Seldovia
Living in an old and poorly heated building and above the jail
Old hospital building
Starting his medical practice
Construction of the multi-purpose building
Providing obstetric (OB) care and connections with Homer's hospital
End of OB services in Seldovia
Working with Dr. Eneboe from Homer
The Hospital Guild's contributions
End of the Hospital Guild
Medicine in remote areas and access to information
Early members of the community
Raising a family
Differences between rural and urban medicine
Backcountry skiing and camping
Designing a nylon teepee-style tent
People in the backcountry
Flying an airplane
Effect of weather on snow conditions
Impressions of Seldovia
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JAN YAEGER: So it is Thursday, it is December 11th, this is Jan Yaeger speaking with Dr. Larry Reynolds in the Seldovia Museum and this is an interview for the Seldovia Project Jukebox oral history project.
LARRY REYNOLDS: December 11th, 2014.
JAN YAEGER: Yes, good addition. So, can you just kinda start off telling us a little bit about when you first came to Seldovia and -- and what the town was like, what your first impressions were, and what it was like living here then?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, Cheryl and I came here in -- in 1974. You know, drove to Homer -- so, you go by the bluff and you see the bay.
But really, I had come up here with the idea of coming to Seldovia because I had a friend who had spent some time here, who was a -- a -- a glaciologist up at University of Fairbanks. And he said, boy, Seldovia would be a really neat place to live if you could pull it off.
So I came to Homer and Dr. Eneboe was the only doctor there then. And he had told many other physicians, including myself, “No, I kinda wanna do it all by myself for a while.” Now, you -- you know, a physician doesn’t have the right to say that but -- I didn’t wanna be there anyway.
But the hospital was over there those days, opposed to earlier where it was here. That switch kind of took place in the ‘50s, I take it, but they didn’t build the Homer hospital until the ‘70s or maybe it was the late ‘60s. It was right -- right in that area.
At any way -- any rate, so we came over here. And there’s the old hospital building, which is now Willard’s house.
And so we went in there and the place was devastated. It was -- the roof was leaking, the basement had been leaking through the foundation.
The -- and yet, here were the Hospital Guild ladies putting pots and pans in the kitchen. Who just happened to be there when Cheryl and I walked in. And that was a great crew. That -- that was Gladys Elvsaas, Elaine Giles, and who was the other one there that was that there that day?
Oh, I’ll remember in a minute. There was three of them there. “Oh, who are you, what are you doing in here?”
You know, I had my ponytail then, too. Yeah. And I -- I told them, okay, I’m -- I'm a physician. I’m thinking about moving here. “Oh.” So they were all for that. At any rate, it went on from there.
Seldovia was just about what it is now except less buildings. I mean it had rebuilt the flat -- the Urban Renewal had been through. There was a couple of houses out on the flat that looked like Lower 48 houses.
Not too much that looked old, except the church on the hill and -- no city building it then. So, well, they had the one down by the -- the ferry.
And that warehouse was kinda the thing they used and the city office building that we use now.
In the place of what is now our city building, there was a city building which was an old building that had been a grocery store on the boardwalk. Old aluminum-sided building that they dragged up on the flats and planted there.
JAN YAEGER: Where the multipurpose building is now? LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, yeah, right. JAN YAEGER: Okay.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah. And -- and so they told me, “Yeah, we can get you a place to stay here. Just bring your stuff and we’ll de-condemn it for you.”
That was okay with me as long as they paid for the heat, which was really great because it took a lot of heat to heat a building that had no insulation at all.
In fact, I can remember one winter day when we came home from some school affair and it -- we were in the upstairs and so it was up a stairway on the west side of the building and then a long hallway down to the one room that had heat in it now.
All the pipes in the place were broken, except the ones -- they redid them to come to the place where we lived.
But we came in the room in the dark, turned on the switch, which is on an interior wall, okay, and here’s snow coming out the switch.
JAN YAEGER: Oh my.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Had a big cone of snow on the floor. I mean it was ten, twelve feet from the wall, outside wall. I don’t know how it got in there. I imagine the heating bill was quite high.
But, so, we lived above the jail. The jail was right below us. And the city cop, Gary Gunkel, lived below the hospital, which really wasn’t a hospital then ‘cause we changed it to a clinic. Yeah.
When we first came here in ‘74, I looked up a -- oh, come on, what’s her name -- the physician that was here before us. Oh, I’m blocking on her name right now. But she was up in Anchorage and we went up to see her.
Mildred McMurtry. We went to see her and she says, “Whatever you do, don’t live in the hospital.” So we lived in the -- above the jail and the cop lived below the hospital. It was a noisy place to live above the jail.
JAN YAEGER: Was the jail pretty busy?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, you’d have to know Officer Gunkel. He had a way of riling the prisoners up and he had a fair number of 'em. Yes.
At any rate -- So, where was I? So we worked in the clinic and -- and it was one of those buildings also that required a lot of heat and maintenance. I -- I can remember one time --
I can’t remember what it was that made me go look down there. There was a power outage or something and -- and so I went down to look at the wiring in the heater room.
I had never been down there before. Probably had been working in the building for over a year. But went down there and the electricity was on these porcelain posts, you know, bare wires hanging out from the wall on porcelain posts.
And something had blown out and so we had to get one of the city maintenance guys to come over. And he was kinda hard of hearing, and there was so many different fuse boxes.
He was gonna work on something that had to do with the heater, and he thought he had turned off the heater, but I could hear it. It was still buzzing. And he couldn’t hear it.
I said: “It’s still on!” And so, we turned it off.
It was a very ‘40s type of building. It was built in 1940. It was a Seventh Day Adventist hospital. It maybe started in the thir -- late 30s. And they actually had physicians doing surgery here. There’s old anesthesia stuff and --
It was the hospital for the whole lower Kenai Peninsula and then -- so this harbor was too because it was a -- a green water harbor in the -- in the winter time.
If it had ice, it was minimal as opposed to what was going on on Homer Spit, which was -- could be really horrible ice. They were -- They had a boat harbor in behind the spit at the time, but it wasn’t very useable.
Well, I take it back. When they built this harbor, they had a harbor. This harbor was for the whole lower Kenai until they got the road built in ‘52, the road down to Homer.
And, so they -- about that time things switched over to Homer being the primary place for the Lower Kenai.
JAN YAEGER: Did you see -- Well, I guess that was before your time. I was gonna ask if you saw a lot of changes, but that happened before you were --
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, that was before the earthquake, too, so lot of things changed in that decade or two. Yeah.
So anyway, we were in the clinic, just started a medical practice there, Cheryl and I.
Originally, we would -- we would hire someone maybe to do janitorial or something like that, and then we’d find out, oh no, we can’t make enough money to do that. Couldn’t afford to pay 'em.
We had somebody answer the phone so Cheryl could do the other -- the billing and stuff like that which took a lot of time and -- and pretty soon decided, no, we can’t afford to do that. It’s just not enough people in this town.
Yeah, interesting way it turned out to be Cheryl and I. Cheryl having no -- no salary, no pay.
I always say though that she got to have all the money because I never spent anything. And we learned to live on very little money because didn’t have to rent the building.
The city paid for the maintenance and the -- and the heat.
We -- we would live in town. We rented a building after we got -- after they started building the clinic and the new clinic in 1980. We rented places, but all that -- up until 1980 we had a place to live that was free, too.
JAN YAEGER: So you were in that chilly room for a few years?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, it wasn’t that chilly. It was just a lot of heat, a lot of oil, back in the days when oil didn’t cost so much. Yeah.
JAN YAEGER: So can you talk about kinda the process that led to the multi-purpose building coming together the way it did?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, yeah. Cheryl had -- how did it go? Oh, she decided that we needed a new clinic. I mean, we went through a couple of years where the basement flooded.
I mean, when it flooded, it flooded. And the heater was down there so when it -- as soon as it started flooding in March, because when -- it’d melt around the foundation and so the water would come down the surface and run down near the building, ‘cause it was so warm that it melted and so all the water would go in the basement.
You’d have to wear hip waders sometimes to go around there. And that put the furnace out and -- and that’s usually when it started raining so it leaked from the roof, too.
It was a flat roofed building. Willards put a peak roof on it. We told him he better do that if he bought the building.
But, so after a while we got tired of that. It took us six years, ‘cause about ‘78 --
Cheryl decided that we needed a new building and so she went and got on the city council. And so it was her that really put the impetus into starting the movement of getting a city building, and trying to get it grant funded through the state.
And eventually it came and it happened. Interesting.
Hugh Smith was the contractor if I bel -- if I remember right. And he hired all high school kids and they’d -- they’d fill me in day to day.
Oh yeah, “We’ve tilted it out to the back door so all the blood will roll out the back door,” I was told. That was Dougie Giles who told me that. He was a high school kid then. Or maybe just out of high school.
Jim Hopkins was doing the work, too, and maybe he’s the one who told me about the blood going out the back door because he was building the foundation at the time.
JAN YAEGER: I’m assuming that that never actually happened.
LARRY REYNOLDS: No, we -- we put a ball on the floor and it doesn’t roll towards the back door. It was just a story.
But it’s been a good building for the city. It’s a -- maybe requires a lot of heat again. It’s not really well designed for being a “up here” building. Not -- not with standards we were using more in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with, you know, vapor barriers and R60 insulation instead of R19.
But, been a good building for the city, I mean both ends. Cheryl also works in the library so it’s -- she gets to use that part, too.
So once we move into the new building, now we don’t have a place to live so we’re living in rented houses, which is okay.
But about the same time we got property out on Seldovia Point, so I started building a building out there for us to live in. And I essentially built -- even starting from cutting the lumber with a sawmill, built the whole building by myself.
Except I had some help putting the roof rafters up and some help getting the sheetrock up the stairs. Other than that, it was all me by myself.
Kinda fun project. All reading books on how to do it. Fun time. Don’t think I’d wanna do it again.
So then, I don’t know, medical practice. So I was a member at Homer Hospital, you know, staff member. So I admitted patients over there.
Had an old Stinson that I’d fly back and forth. I -- For a while there, we were doing OB in the clinic here because they had really no OB over at the hospital.
They had a surgery department, but they didn’t really have OB, so wasn’t much different.
I actually had a OB nurse who was the cop’s wife. Gary Gunkel’s wife was a OB nurse, so we had an OB nurse for doing OB.
And basically what she’d do is, when moms came in in labor she’d go downstairs and made doughnuts.
Every once in a while come up and say “How ya doing?” Yeah, that was great. Doughnuts helped.
JAN YAEGER: Hm mm. So would you still have patients that would come from Homer over here then to get -- for the OB?
LARRY REYNOLDS: No, no, no.
JAN YAEGER: Okay, it was just -- but people didn't leave town the way they did --
LARRY REYNOLDS: They -- they had a hospital over there and they had blood if you ever -- you know, if -- That -- that’s one thing that the OB doc at ANMC (Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage) asked me is, “What do you do if -- if mom starts bleeding?”
And that is a problem. It can be, you know, all of a sudden and be devastating.
And we -- the only answer was you’d have to put pressure on the uterus and -- and go to Homer as fast as you can. Get blood.
They use oxytocin, the same thing that you induce a labor with, to clamp down the uterus. And, yeah, that too, we kept that on hand.
But soon as they got OB department in Homer, I was really happy to have all the ladies go over there for OB. For delivery.
But still, I’d take them over on the airplane. At four in the morning sometimes. Oh, it was kinda fun.
I remember one couple that -- we went over and got to Homer, you know, just a beautiful, clear, night.
But got to Homer and you could only see the first two runway lights. So I figured, "Oh, must be the lights are out or something."
But I got down close and it was tule fog. So we had to land on the first 40 yards of the runway and -- and then coast into the fog.
And by the time I got to the parking space, my prop had iced up so much we could hardly go anywhere because it lost all its -- its pull.
Interesting night. Wouldn’t wanna take off in it. Yes.
So, I’d do rounds with the Stinson. That -- that really was a hard situation, because it always took much more money to go back and forth than I made seeing a patient in the hospital. Yeah.
So, it was something that I did just because it was part of the job.
In 19 -- when I was 50 years old, so that would be '74, '84, '94. When I -- In 1994, I got to quit OB because there got to be a lot of docs over in Homer and they could do the OB. And I just said, "Okay, 50th birthday I’m gonna quit OB."
That was a -- that was a part of my practice that really left no private time.
It was usually one baby a month. But one baby a month made -- made you on pins and needles for four weeks out of the month either because they were late or because they were early or whatever. And -- a lot of care in that last month, keeping a mom safe.
So, I was happy to be able to -- then -- Then I could go skiing for three or four weeks at a time.
That’s -- that’s kinda why I came to Seldovia. It was -- When I left Lower 48, I was -- I did an internship and residency in internal medicine at the war zone in Oakland, Highland -- Alameda County Hospital.
And, I kinda got to the point -- it’s a three year residency. I got to the point where at the end of the second year, I had already decided that I really didn’t wanna go into internal medicine, I wanted go to a small town.
So, at -- at the end of the second year I just -- Cheryl and I just packed up an old Scout that we had and came up the road.
And didn’t know where we were going 'til we talked to Roman who is a physicist up in Fairbanks. He said, “Try Seldovia.” He ended up living in Hoonah, so he was that kind of person.
At any rate, it’s -- where was I with -- Got lost there.
JAN YAEGER: I think you were talking about, you know, packing up the Scout and -- LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, I -- JAN YAEGER: -- and pointing North somewhere.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, know that but where did that come from? I was trying to figure out. At any rate, that was a back look, I guess.
But getting rid of OB is what I was talking about.
JAN YAEGER: Oh, and you were talking about skiing.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, oh yeah. Right. Well, Roman was a skier, too, and that’s what we did when we first came up here is we did some glacier skiing.
We’d go out for a week at a time. He taught me really well that it’s not good to ski on glaciers. It’s no fun skiing roped. JAN YAEGER: Mm mm.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Unless you’re going uphill. Going downhill it’s not fun to ski roped.
So, but that’s -- oh, that’s why we came here, because I had decided when I left Lower 48, California, that it was -- we were looking for a place that had no roads and mountains. Homer didn’t fit that bill.
So, Eneboe had no trouble talking me out of wanting to be in Homer. In fact, I told him.
So you cra -- he could see out of his office window, he said, “Look across the bay, that’s where I’m going.” He says, “Oh yeah! I’ve been wanting to get somebody to take Seldovia off my hands.” He was --
JAN YAEGER: Did he come over here as a visiting doctor?
LARRY REYNOLDS: He had -- he had been here. He had actually had an exam bench in the old hospital. He says, “You can have it.”
JAN YAEGER: So was -- was that kinda the arrangement, there was Dr. McCarty? LARRY REYNOLDS: Oh, McMurtry? JAN YAEGER: McMurtry.
LARRY REYNOLDS: She had been there and -- and wasn’t too much stuff laying around from that.
But Eneboe had the place pretty well stocked up for things that he -- that he was doing. There was a microscope there, there’s some rudimentary lab stuff. JAN YAEGER: So he would --
LARRY REYNOLDS: An old centrifuge and things like that.
JAN YAEGER: Okay. So he would come over every so often and see patients here or -- ? LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah. JAN YAEGER: Okay.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah. And -- and really didn’t like doing it. He’d just soon have the patients go over there.
So he was happy to have me come over here.
JAN YAEGER: Can you talk a little bit more about the Hospital Guild? The people that were involved and some of the activities that they did?
LARRY REYNOLDS: It’s a great group of -- and it was women, mostly. The -- the -- all, I guess I should say.
And maybe about a core of six of them. And -- and I probably would say names that weren’t on it and names that -- and forget people who were on it. It's just hard for me to know.
But what I know is, any time Cheryl and I needed an equipment -- some equipment, just ask them.
They had -- they had -- they -- they ran the -- the wheel of fortune at the -- oh, what do you call it, the Halloween Carnival up at school. And so they had -- and they had that and money coming in.
Then they had the pull tabs at the bar, too, for being a non-profit and they could do that. And now the fire department's taken that over because that -- they came.
And so, it went on for years. I mean, we got a new microscope. The old one was, you know, one of these kinds you'd put it up and it had a mirror you shined at the sun and then you can -- you had the light source that way.
You know what, I’ve gone back to that microscope sometimes.
JAN YAEGER: Oh, really.
LARRY REYNOLDS: The -- get a new Nikon microscope, thousands of dollars, and the rheostat for the light goes out.
Take it back to them, “Oh, I’m sorry. We can’t fix that. You have to buy a new one.” I just took that old light source.
Actually, the -- the -- Mildred McMurtry had a -- had a little light you plugged into the wall that she’d shine at the mirror. And so I just put the Nikon up on two-by-twos and stuck the light under it and it worked great! Saved thousands of dollars.
Yes, the -- our medical industry. There’s a lot to be said about people and the need for profit. I’m sad. Maybe that’s why I came to Seldovia, too. I had no -- no way of making profit.
Okay. So, Hospital Guild. New scale, new -- new isolette for the babies.
I’m just trying to think of all the things that has their name on it now. A Lifepak 12. Oh, it was the old -- actually it was the Lifepak 7.
But that actually saved somebody’s life once. Not many of our Lifepak save lives, but that one saved a life.
I can tell you that story. Wonderful old lady, I’m not gonna say names. She came -- she was sitting at the bar and fell out of her chair.
And another famous guy around here, but I won’t say names, picked her up. You know, it was the Knight Spot bar, so it was a block away from the clinic up on the hill.
And she was a real light lady, about 98 pounds. He picked her up, thought she was dead, carried her up to the hospital. This is like five in the afternoon, kinda early in a bar room scene.
And plunked her down on the bed and she was pulseless and not breathing. And before I did anything else, just pulled out the Lifepak. Pop, she woke up.
Unfortunately, a month later over in Seward she died again. This time for sure. She had a problem.
And that was before the days of bypass surgery and all the fancy cardiovascular things that the cardiologists are doing nowadays.
It’s amazing how much medicine has changed since 1974. Can I name a few things? JAN YAEGER: Sure.
LARRY REYNOLDS: When I came here in '74 there were five antibiotics. There was no CAT scans, no MRIs.
We had a portable x-ray machine here which was kinda fun to use and learn how to use.
JAN YAEGER: And that was -- I think, wasn’t that kinda how the Hospital Guild formed, was to buy that x-ray?
LARRY REYNOLDS: The -- I -- It was there when I got there so I don’t know. They -- they had helped Mildred. But I think the x-ray machine had been there since the hospital days back in the '40s.
JAN YAEGER: Okay.
LARRY REYNOLDS: It was an old portable. And it looked damn dangerous. There was no shielding, no coning, no nothing.
I mean, I had this lead shield with a window, lead window through it that I’d get behind and --
And one day, the GE guy who comes around to all the x-raying machines in the state, he comes and he shows me, “Okay, here you are.” And he puts his little x-ray reader sensor right behind the shield, and he says, “Okay, shoot the machine.” And the needle goes “khhh” (makes a sound indicating high reading.)
I’m sure he had the gain turned way up. But yeah.
Yeah, I -- you know, we were right above Gunkels’s bedroom so if I was x-raying in the middle of the night I'd have to go get Gunkels out of their bedroom.
Yeah, anyway, so -- Another digression there.
What else did the Hospital Guild buy in that building? God, lots of things. The carpet. Oh, copy machines, fax machines, all that kind of stuff. Actually no, those two things Cheryl and I bought.
The -- it was hospital equipment that they kinda wanted to stay to, and -- and stuff that didn’t need a lot of maintenance was what they liked to get.
But thousands of dollars that they put in -- into that building. And you can still see their name tags on all of the things that has -- like the scale that we use, the old balance scale’s got their name tag on it.
JAN YAEGER: So when -- when did they disband?
LARRY REYNOLDS: The -- it -- When the tribe started doing the clinic thing, the tribe started asking them to give money to both places and they didn’t like the pressure, so they just said, “We quit.”
JAN YAEGER: Okay.
LARRY REYNOLDS: And it’s unfortunate, because I think they enjoyed doing what they did.
But they were all getting pretty old at that time and -- and, you know, it’s work to go do this thing.
And somebody has to do the -- the bookwork to keep the non-profit going. And Elaine usually did that and she was starting to be a little senile at that time.
That eventually was a major problem for her. And it’s terrible that we have to get old, isn't it? Yeah.
JAN YAEGER: What about -- So, you mentioned, you know, some of the medicines and the equipment and stuff that were different early. What effect did just being a doctor in a remote area have in kinda the way you practice medicine?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Oh, and changes that came? JAN YAEGER: Mm mm.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, let me give you an example. In 19 -- in the 1970s, if I wanted to review medical literature -- you know, I -- I’d came from a place where there’s a medical library. You just go to the library and you look up stuff, right? It’s -- it’s -- there were no computers then.
So when I came up here, if I wanted to look something up, you know, the kind of a thing that I can do in ten minutes today, I would send a -- I phoned the university library in Anchorage, and they had a medical library there. And say, “I want to research this subject.”
And they would ask me some questions and make it more specific. And then they’d run it through the -- their computer, which was -- and they'd bring -- send me this thing -- In the mail, they would send me one of these things. It still had the tear-off circ -- you know, the little drive hold sides, yeah. A computer readout thing.
And so there'd be about fifteen to twenty articles that they’d send me on the subject. Just the names.
And I -- and they’d say, “Okay, which ones do you want?” And I’d se -- And so I’d call them back just to make it a little quicker, and tell them, “I want this one, that one, this one.” “Okay, that’ll be $30 dollars. $10 dollars each.”
And they'd -- then they’d print them out and send them to me. Or -- or they'd send for a reprint, which you send to the publisher of the magazine.
And so there’s mail time and mail time and then in about two weeks after I asked for the subject, I’d have something to read if I had really did my due diligence and they did their due diligence and worked on it right away. Not very timely.
Nowadays, push a key, look it up, all the latest information. So much different. So much different.
I was researching hepatitis C last night. You know, mainly because -- for the specific aspect of needlestick injuries and, you know, what do you do.
Is -- is there post exposure prophylaxis they call it, PEP, for hepatitis C? The answer is still no. There’s no treatment that works. There’s nothing that we do. You just wait and see if you get it or not and then if you get it, there’s really good treatment now.
So I was able to look that up. You know, it was an afterthought. I was working on a patient like that yesterday and -- and -- and so I come to the question last night. Within 15 seconds, I got all the answers in front of me that I need to have. JAN YAEGER: Mm mm.
LARRY REYNOLDS: I mean, in a -- in a library, online library, that updates their information on a regular basis so it’s all recent stuff. It’s just so easy. It’s almost sinful it’s so easy. No work to it at anymore.
JAN YAEGER: So, going back to some of your early days in Seldovia, who were some of the -- kind of the people in town that you remember? Some of the leaders or characters or who kind of stands out?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, Jack English has certainly got to be remembered. I mean he’s a person that -- He was the city manager and mayor and all the things he can be, I guess. He -- kind of a notorious reputation.
There was some stories going around about how he didn’t like some hippies in town and ended up burning them out. I don’t know if it’s true or not but the -- the house was actually burnt down.
You can go still see the old place if you want to. It was out there past the Outside Beach, about a ¼ mile walk to get to it. That they had built a house out there.
Anyway, some fun stories about Jack. Cheryl went over to visit him one rainy, stormy night. We’d been working in the clinic but the power went off, so we decided, “Oh well, that’s the end of that.”
And so she went over to the newsstand, which is next to the post office. That empty room usually now that used to be the newsstand and -- and Susan and Jack ran that.
Anyway, they were sitting around in the dark, talking and Jack says to Cheryl, “Well, let’s have some fun with this power outage.” So -- so he calls up, and I don’t know who he called but he called somebody.
And said, “Yeah, it was Gladys. She was on a snow machine and she ran over the power cord going up to the TV tower.” He hangs up the phone. He says, “Let’s give it five.”
In other words, how long is it going to take for the story to get back to him in a different form. And it did, too. Five minutes later somebody called and told us it was -- it was Helen and -- And, anyway, funny story.
Who else? Notorious people in town. Squeaky Anderson, I didn’t have ever have any contact with, but there was a couple of guys in town, Sparky, and I can’t remember the other guy.
But anyway, they -- the -- you know, they were kind of twenty-somethings and they were notorious for running drugs, this, that and the other.
But they had the mo -- they helped us out in the clinic any time we needed help in the clinic. They were a kind of a dynamic duo. If we needed something carried or lifted or pushed, or -- They had a good heart in them, anyway.
All -- all the old families in town. Helen Josefsen, Alice Nutbeem, old, old people.
Her sister was here for awhile and I forget her name. And Katie Kashevarof. Just grand old people.
Before they built Lakeside -- I guess they don’t call it Lakeside anymore, but anyway -- Well, I call Lakeside up there, they had this row of white houses there that all the old people lived in.
Each one individual. Each with, you know, own heating unit and so forth. And that was quite a community right there.
JAN YAEGER: Where was that? LARRY REYNOLDS: Right where the Lakeside is now.
They tore that down and the -- the ladies had to move out for a while so they had to get someplace to live while they were building Lakeside. Interesting.
JAN YAEGER: Were those houses that were built by the -- the Native Association or -- ?
LARRY REYNOLDS: No, it was. Oh, I’m gonna block on her name. She lived right across the street from Lakeside, even up until she died here lately. Her son still lives here.
And I’m gonna remember the name just by working it through my brain in a second.
Her son’s -- her son's related to the Camerons and what is his name?
Lindstedt. And what was her first name? But they owned those white houses.
Her husband was here, too, then. And I’ve blocked on his name, too.
But the -- they -- they owned that little lot there with all the houses on it. Rented them to the old people, kinda took care of them. They were getting old themselves. They were kinda in the same community.
Carl Lindstedt was his name and Daisy Lindstedt was her name.
JAN YAEGER: Okay. LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah.
JAN YAEGER: And he was one of the partners in the Linwood, right? That started that.
LARRY REYNOLDS: You know, I don’t know that, but maybe you’re right. There was three of them, I guess, uh? Linwood or Knight Spot?
JAN YAEGER: The Linwood. With -- the story I heard was that that was -- that’s what the Lin part of Linwood came from.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Oh, Lin -- Lindstedt. JAN YAEGER: Came from Lindstedt. LARRY REYNOLDS: Lindstedt, okay. Well, there must have been someone with Wood then, too. Some person got left out.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, there was and I can’t remember off the top of my head, but -- LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, okay. JAN YAEGER: We’ll have to ask Carl -- Carl Jr. one of these days.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, and the Knight Spot, our other notorious bar had the same number of people. It was kinda in backing it, too.
I’ve always enjoyed Seldovia because I’ve always felt it’s a 50-50 town. At least, there wasn’t one sided.
But pick any subject you want, 50-50. And adamant. It’s not some in the middle, it’s this or this.
I mean bar people, church people, police people, Republicans, Democrats, whatever. 50-50, right down the middle.
I don’t know if the -- the. I’ll have to ask Cheryl ‘cause she helps with the voting now, if it’s really turning out to be that way.
But I know in the last election that -- the further south you got on the -- the peninsula, the more Democratic it got. It was interesting.
Well, I guess, that goes to say that the oil people are north and the fishermen are south.
JAN YAEGER: And you -- you raised a couple of kids here, right? LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, yeah.
JAN YAEGER: You didn’t have kids when you came, you had -- ? LARRY REYNOLDS: No. JAN YAEGER: Okay.
LARRY REYNOLDS: In fact, that’s why Cheryl went on the city council is -- is had to get it done before we'd have kids.
JAN YAEGER: To get the multi-purpose building?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, right. Once she had -- once she had kids, she wasn't going to do any politicking anymore. Anyway, it’s a --
Yeah, so Shaun was born in '80. And Jennifer, we actually adopted but is a relative of ours, so she comes up as family. And so, we got her when she was three.
And both of them are doing well.
JAN YAEGER: What was it like raising kids here, you think, compared to other more traditional communities, I guess, you know, something larger on the road system?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, kinda fun. Because, you know, it was getting to be the era where there was drug problems and drive-by shootings and things like that. And, you know, if you lived in downtown Detroit, you wouldn’t let your kids run free. Maybe in San Francisco, you might. They’d get run over, but not drive-by shot.
But -- we lived -- I did part of my training in -- in Berkeley. Lived in Berkeley and worked in Oakland. And nah, you wouldn’t let your kids run around in downtown Berkeley or Oakland. It’s too violent.
I worked in the war zone. A lot of the things I took care of were gun stabbings, gunshot wounds, drunken driving and bad wrecks. Things like that. Just the war zone I call it. Shootouts in the emergency room. Shit.
So, big difference. This is a pretty laid back place. And the other thing that was really different about Seldovia, and maybe different even in the west coast small villages of Alaska, is we had no trauma here.
I mean, the whole time I was here we saw two stab wounds. Two -- two deaths from stab wounds, and one car wreck with a death. Other than that it was good old internal medicine stuff, which is what I wanted to do.
Yeah, so, actually didn’t even have to take care of the car wreck, because he drowned. Stab wounds, I got to take care of. But they died anyway.
But, yeah, medicine. Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, all the stuff that I did in my training. I picked the right place. Homer is much more trauma-full.
The west coast of Alaska, the small villages, I think because of alcohol, is much more trauma-full, too. But -- but here we seem to be a more mellow people. We just talk too much.
That’s probably been one of my endeavors since I’ve been in Seldovia, trying to get people to talk to each other. It’s really sad that we have to be a 50-50 town with nothing in between. Yeah, okay. Need a new subject, burnt them all out.
JAN YAEGER: Do you take any different approach to medicine, being in a remote area than you might in a more urban area?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, if I was in Anchorage, for instance, it would be a lot easier to use consultants. There’s two reasons why you don’t want -- you don’t get to use consultants here. One, they're not here and people don’t wanna travel.
So, we’re moving to an era now of video medicine which, until now, you gotta be really fancy about it, dedicated line.
You know, it’s all this HIPPA stuff where you gotta be -- the information can’t get out there free anyway and nobody can -- can steal medical information, although -- Anyway, there’s the HIPPA laws and made it tough.
So -- so, we can’t have things that are exposed to hacking somewhere in -- in the train of things. So we gotta have these fancy video-up sets with the dedicated G3 line so you can send lots of data quickly to make them work. And so that’s kinda hard to do, but it’s possible.
But on the other hand, there’s things like Facebook and Skype that would make it so easy to do. And -- and maybe you don’t even need that. Telephone works pretty good for doing consultant work.
And let’s say you -- ‘cause we still use fax, but for some reason Internet, email, that kind of stuff, is not considered HIPPA-proof, unless it’s fancily encrypted. Fax machine is still considered a HIPPA-proof or HIPPA-compliant and it’s -- but I can see where it wouldn’t be.
It’s so easy to dial a wrong number and go somewhere else. But at least that’s not somebody trying to hack into the system to get medical information. It’s not quite like getting your social security number and your mother’s maiden name.
JAN YAEGER: And I don't have too many more questions for you, I guess, but you mentioned skiing a lot and spending a lot of time exploring in the backcountry. Can you just talk about some of your experiences there and -- ?
LARRY REYNOLDS: When I first came here, skiing was really tough because of the alders. The underbrush is just horrible for skiing around here. At least, if you’re going to start from the road.
So Red Mountain Valley was the one place we could go where you could drive or Skidoo or snowmachine to a place where the mountains were not blocked by alders.
So at any rate, in '74 I came here in the winter and tried to go skiing and it was impossible. Even in March when it’s a lot of snow, it was impossible to -- to get down through the alder belt.
So in the summer of '75, I went up with a handsaw and started cutting a ski trail to make it so that we’d have access to the ridge tops. And I think I got about 14 feet that first day. I decided I needed a chainsaw.
JAN YAEGER: Was this in the Red Mountain area or -- ? LARRY REYNOLDS: No, that was out front side here. JAN YAEGER: Okay.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Actually, it was access up to a -- the ridge above Kasitsna Bay. In other words, the north side of Barabara Creek.
And that -- that’s a whole lot of skiing up there, so it was worth to make a trail. And -- and -- and then a person came to town who was also a skier, a good skier like I was and -- and he started helping me. That's Dave Chartier.
And so we made a lot of ski trails, or s -- And made that ski trail and started skiing with that and --
And then we decided that that wasn’t enough, so we had to take a trip. And so our -- one of our first trips was up to Seldovia Lake.
But the way we went, we went through Red Mountain Valley over the top and down into the lake. And took a couple of years to figure out which was the best way to go and -- and where was the best place to camp so you’d be right at the skiing.
For a while, we camped up in one of the passes and it was just a wind hole. A couple years where there wasn’t much snow and you couldn’t ski at the lake because there's a lot of alders there, too. We’d camp and -- and --
Well, what everybody here calls Red Mountain Valley, but it’s really, its name, it's -- the valley is named after the river. And it’s more aptly named Windy Valley because it’s a windy place, too.
Wind in that valley sounds like a freight train when it’s coming up the valley. You can hear it coming for miles.
And it’s -- because it’s kinda set north-south in the -- in the terrain, it -- it -- the -- when the southeast wind's coming through, it -- it -- it has to go around a 90 degree corner which takes it into a Venturi effect. So it’ll be like 100 knot gusts that hit you and in all of the -- like a ton of bricks up there in the wintertime.
And so, one of the funny stories about our camping is that we started out with a -- a nylon rain-fly for a tent. That’s what we slept under. It’s light to carry and, you know, it kept the snow out. A good place to sleep.
You just pile up snow on the outside edges and it was a -- for Mount McKinley four-man tent. And so we'd sleep under that. And we'd put a tarp up in the trees and build a fire under it.
Well, that -- in all those windy places that was horrible because the -- you know, you’d be cold on -- cold and wet on one side and smoke-filled face on the other side.
Maybe you were warm on one side. You really, if you got wet that day, you couldn’t dry out around that fire even if you had a lot of firewood, which there wasn’t a lot of.
So, we started carrying more and more nylon, and kinda came up with things like, you know, leaning against a tree and having a fire in the trees. But the spindrift would come in around the edges, so we finally decided, okay, we gotta close this thing in. We gotta make it.
So, we ended up sewing our own teepee. A 14-foot nylon teepee. We thought, “Oh my god, we're going to burn this down the first time we use it.”
But we’ve had it now 35, 40 years and we’ve had three or four teepees. And they don’t get any sparkles in them. They just eventually rip up in the wind, is what happens to them.
But -- but totally safe to have a fire in a nylon teepee. It’s kinda interesting to find out.
But that made it so that you could go out in one of these storms that we have around here, these sleet storms that blow 60 knots and -- And go skiing in mush and come back soaking wet and you could dry out.
That -- that made -- So that made it so that we could go three or four weeks at a time, just living in a teepee.
We would take five-gallon oil buckets, fill them full of food and drop them out of an airplane, and ski up to them and -- and we’d be eating moose or bear meat or -- or just wonderful things to eat. Fresh vegetables.
Things that campers never -- I mean, the old dehydrated camp meals, no way, we wouldn’t do those anymore. Pack everything in with dog food around it to make it tight and then the dogs got to come, too. So, yeah, made it -- made it really a fun thing to do.
JAN YAEGER: What do you -- what’s the structure of the teepee? What makes it -- ?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Oh, single pole in the center, and then tie it out with lines so there’s not a lot of poles to cut down.
Usually, we find a pole laying down and we just stand it up, tie it up, put the teepee up.
Well, you have to dig down to the dirt so that takes some time. ‘Cause you can’t build a fire on a bank of snow, ‘cause it’ll eat its way down into the snow and pretty soon you’re looking down a hole at your fire.
But the worst -- you know, you always build a teepee -- put the teepee up under the trees because you want it -- don’t want it in a lot of wind.
And so, you go up to the upper trees, find a spot that’s flat, preferably wind-blocked by trees for the winds that are heavy and dig down -- dig a hole. Fourteen feet wide.
It doesn’t have to go down to the ground, but the six-foot fire circle, six-foot diameter circle has to go down to the ground.
And you sit on the snowbank where your sleeping bags are and put your feet on the ground and have a little bench to sit on. And it’s very comfortable.
JAN YAEGER: And do you have a hole for the smoke to escape or -- ?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, a regular Sioux teepee with a sno -- smoke flaps and, you know, wind blows one way, you get it flapped one way. And wind blows the other way, you flap it the other way. Yeah.
JAN YAEGER: Have you thought about patenting that?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, the Sioux already have it. I -- I wouldn’t wanna try to patent it.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I meant the -- the single pole version. Now, that would be different.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, yeah, I've done it all the time that makes it -- the -- the materials -- the -- the -- the design is -- I mean, we bought the Sioux teepee book. The Indian Teepee, I think the book's called. So, it really gets into all the teepees.
Sioux use a tripod to set their teepees up, and the Crow used a quadrapod to set their poles up so there’s different ways and different cuts. But basically you just, you --
If you lay it out on the ground, it’s a half a circle and you got a bolt of nylon, bolt of nylon and bolt of nylon. It’s really simple to sew.
And then this little leading ed -- this edge on the inside that ends up being the smoke flap and the door, little sewing, but not much. Even I could sew that, so we made our own.
Yeah, it -- it’s not too well known fact about how easy it is. How good a area this is for camping. How good a area this is for skiing. Keep it secret.
JAN YAEGER: We won’t tell exactly where you go. Have you seen much change in that over the years, the number of people that you encounter in the backcountry?
LARRY REYNOLDS: None. The only people we encounter in the backcountry are people that come with us. And I don’t know if we're too hard on people or what, but it’s really hard to get people to wanna go with you.
Well, we go for so long. And -- and none of the kids that are working can -- can do that, usually. You know, their bosses tell them, “No, you can’t leave.”
So we’ve had people come up -- like we’re gonna be there two weeks, they’ll come up for one week. Which is nice for them, because they got a place to live and -- and we drop the food in for them and --
So, all they gotta do is to bring their gear and -- and really don’t have to have a tent, just a sleeping bag.
JAN YAEGER: And are you still flying?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, I wish I was, but I lost my airplane. In the saltwater environment we live in, it corroded out from under me. They finally wouldn’t let me fly it anymore.
JAN YAEGER: What year plane was it? LARRY REYNOLDS: It was a '46 Stinson.
JAN YAEGER: Okay. And did you learn to fly up here? LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, with that airplane.
JAN YAEGER: From someone local or how did you -- ?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, a guy named Grenniger over in Homer was an instructor. And I learned with him.
And he was a old guy. So old airplane, old guy, went together pretty well. He was also a mechanic, so he took care of the airplane, too.
Not many mechanics these days can take care of those old airplanes. It’s a --
It was a fun thing to be able to fly. My eye in the sky. That’s how we knew where to put the ski trails. That’s how we knew how to get to the lake.
Nowadays, we don’t go from Red Mountain Valley anymore. We go straight up the valley. It’s a -- the quickest and the flattest. You don’t have the ups and downs.
Boy, that country is tough. It’s tough country. There’s -- there's no way there’s gonna be a four-wheeler into that lake ever, unless they build some horrendous bridges.
There’s one canyon out there that once you get within 40 yards of the river, it’s 300 feet deep. JAN YAEGER: Really?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Yes. JAN YAEGER: Oh my.
LARRY REYNOLDS: And it’s "shrkroom" (makes sounds of dropping steeply), v-shaped. Right down at the river you can cross that creek, but it’s a -- but there's -- it's tough country.
Now, there have been snowmachines into the lake. We actually saw a snowmachine that came from the Port Graham -- a track that came from the Port Graham side. But he just went to the top of the pass and he went back to Port Graham and he didn’t want to venture down in the valley for fear of maybe not being able to get back up.
But we’ve had a couple of kids from town make it to the lake. But they ran out of gas and had to go back from the lake. They couldn’t spend any time up there.
So, it’s a pretty pristine place. Pretty nice place for skiing.
There’s five passes that come in from Seldovia Lake. Come into Seldovia Lake. Two of them come from Red Mountain Valley way. Actually, there's -- let me think, there's one, two, three of them that come in. One of them from Rocky River -- two of them from Rocky River, one right next to Red Mountain, and the one comes right from the pass at the end of Red Mountain Valley.
And then there’s a couple of passes that go to Port Graham. And then a whole head range that’s just spectacular. Spectacular.
Any skiing -- any -- any person who is the most athletic, highest degree skier can find things they wanna do up there. It’s an amazing place. David’s gonna be mad that I told everybody.
JAN YAEGER: Well, we’ll maybe put some special restrictions on this part.
LARRY REYNOLDS: Well, I’m just hoping that it's not going to be viewed by a lot of skiers. We don’t have a lot of skiers around here. Although, we're getting more and more. Let me think. There’s probably fifteen, twenty really good skiers in this area now.
And I don’t know if they came here, like me, because this is a place you could have some really good skiing. I mean, I knew that from the outset before I got here, that this is the kinda place I wanted to live in.
I thought about southeast, but it’s -- it -- it just snows too much down there. It’s -- Or rains, too and it’s just too much that you -- it’s not safe for avalanches and it’s not safe -- and you don’t get enough days.
We have found that on our cut trails, that you’d think you'd wanna get to the top and ski on the top part, but the months of December, January, February, it’s what I call the Ws: wind, whiteout, and wet.
Those months it’s so bad on top, it's not -- we ski on the trails because it’s down in the trees and the trees kinda pull the snow in. It’s deeper. It’s not windblown.
That’s the other W: windblown. Well, wind, windblown. Windblown snow is soft underneath, crust on top, really hard to ski in 'cause you break through it.
And it’s that way -- Well, we aren’t skiing yet this year -- but in -- last year we didn’t ski 'til February, so maybe global warming's gonna take me further north. I don’t know.
We’ve had years like this before. We’re hoping we get a good year yet. This year is still early.
JAN YAEGER: Yeah. Have you noticed much change in the -- the weather over the years? How much snow and, kinda when -- how long it lasts?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Really, you know, it -- I am not a person who’s living through geologic timing. So to me it seems like we have good years and bad years.
And some of the good years are amazingly good. I mean, it’s -- you can take an alder forest that’s 20 feet high, with alders that are four feet -- or four inches, you know, big stems.
And in March -- first of March, you’re skiing over the top of them. They’re all down flat. Well, you know, it's covered up with six feet of snow, but that’s not 20 feet of snow, it's six feet of snow and it’s -- and they’re down flat.
And there’s other years, they're all standing proud.
I’ve always said that if -- if they're not down in December -- ‘cause December is your -- we’re getting right now -- it’s windless, and so the alders hold the snow and the next snow that comes on top puts them down.
And if that happens in December, they’re down. But if they’re up in January, they're probably gonna stay up. It's not always true.
They -- they go down a little bit as the snowload comes on through February and March. And there’s certainly times you can ski anywhere you want in this country. Alders or not.
But most of the time we’re really happy to have our ski trails. Homer’s kinda happy to have our ski trails, too. We gotta start charging 'em a fee.
JAN YAEGER: So I guess maybe kinda wrapping things up. If you kinda look back over your -- your years in Seldovia it’s -- it's -- you came here, you said, '74? So about 40 years now.
What would you say are some of your -- your strongest impressions of the town, like what words kinda come to mind when you think about Seldovia?
LARRY REYNOLDS: Good place to raise kids until you get to junior year in high school. Then they better go -- if they wanna go to college they better go somewhere else. They just can’t have enough teachers to teach the pre-college courses. That’s -- that's unfortunate.
Pretty mellow place as far as like I told you with trauma. That -- that’s a -- you know, that really says a lot for a community.
I wish that we wouldn’t be so 50-50. That we would maybe talk a little more between the groups.
And I don’t know, maybe that’s a sign of the times. Our Congress is certainly having the same problem. Yes. Maybe something will happen and force us together again.
JAN YAEGER: Alright. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to come in. I appreciate it. LARRY REYNOLDS: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.