Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Jack Thomas

Jack Thomas was interviewed on July 19, 2016 by Jan Yaeger at his home in Seldovia, Alaska. In this interview, Jack talks about working in the logging business at Jakolof Bay, fishing for crab with Joseph "Josie" Carlough, and how much he likes the freedom on living in a place like Seldovia. He talks about his friends Jack Hopkins and Bob Gruber, and about his welding and building activities.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2014-17-14

Project: Seldovia Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jul 19, 2016
Narrator(s): Jack Thomas
Interviewer(s): Jan Yaeger
Transcriber: Jessica Obermiller
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Institute of Museum and Library Services, Seldovia Village Tribe
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
Slideshow
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Sections

Coming to Seldovia

Deciding to come to Alaska

Meeting Jack Hopkins, first job in Alaska at King Cove

Logging and living at Jakolof Bay

Crab fishing and working for Josie Carlough

Building his house

Death of Jack Hopkins, raising a family, and enjoying the freedom of Seldovia

Local roads

Story about his dog, Ringo

Re-use of old trailers

Activities at Red Mountain

Old locomotive at Jakolof Bay

Getting logs out of Jakolof Bay

Driving to outer coast, fishing, and flying with Bob Gruber

Landing an airplane at Martha Lake

Fishing on the outer coast, and boats based in Seldovia

Owning his own boat

Welding

Getting together to socialize at local gathering spots

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Transcript

JAN YAEGER: Okay. Well, this is Jan Yaeger and I am speaking with Jack Thomas, and this is an interview for Seldovia's Project Jukebox and the "In Our Own Words Project."

And it is July 18th, 2016 (actually was July 19) and we are speaking at Jack’s house known as Hag’s Nook. And it is about 10:40 in the morning.

And Jack, can you talk just a little bit about how you ended up in Seldovia, where you came from, and why you came here?

JACK THOMAS: Well, we were logging in California and it just got terrible down there. You couldn't -- couldn't do nothing, so I just got on an airplane one day, flew to Anchorage.

From there, why, I bought an old car and drove down to Homer. Then I talked to Kenny Arndt, a contractor in Homer. He said, "Well, I got a job out to King Cove, if you want to go out there." And I said, "Yeah."

So I went out to King Cove for probably a month and a half, maybe two months, putting in that water system.

And so then I come back and the Japs had started logging up here. So we -- me and Jack Hopkins, we went to work for them and worked out the Jakolof (Bay) there.

JAN YAEGER: So when you say you just took an airplane up to Anchorage. Was that a commercial flight?

JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm. Well, when we come back the next time, him and I flew up in his little Luscombe airplane. Up the highway. That was quite a experience.

JAN YAEGER: And was that his plane or yours or did you own it together? JACK THOMAS: It was his.

JAN YAEGER: Were you a pilot also?

JACK THOMAS: I wasn't flying (inaudible). I never did get a license or anything.

JAN YAEGER: Did he teach you to fly? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: So just kinda used the Alaska Highway as your -- as your map?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. That's about what it was then. Or you could buy all kinds of charts but, there was none of them right.

JAN YAEGER: That probably would not be too helpful then, would it?

JACK THOMAS: No. We got piled up at Smith River, Canada. Well, the weather got bad and we found this great big enormous airstrip. And even had lights on it and everything.

The weather was real bad so we landed there and they took us in like puppy.

Come to find out it was an old refueling station for the bombers when they were taking them across (World War II, Lend-Lease program). They had fuel, they had everything. I know we stayed there a couple days until the weather got good, then we come on down.

JAN YAEGER: So the first time you came up, you and Jack Hopkins both came up that time?

JACK THOMAS: No, I come up alone. JAN YAEGER: Just you?

And with how much warning? Did you just kinda decide one day and get on a plane or had you thought about it?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, I -- I just went out, we went to -- Well, I can't think of the place out that LA where I flew from.

JAN YAEGER: So I think I'd heard a story one time that -- that Jack had to go to your house in California and tell your wife, "Oh, by the way, your husband flew to Alaska." Is that true?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Oh, really? Just went up and bought the ticket, and got on the plane and away you went, huh?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Well, we'd been working down there. Flood control and stuff around San Bernardino. And Jack, he got a big check, so we cashed it and he give me my wages. And -- and away I went. But I couldn't believe when I got up here, why, money you could make.

JAN YAEGER: Do you remember about what year that was?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, it must have been about '66, probably, '67.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. So kind of the early oil years?

JACK THOMAS: Right after the earthquake. I know that water system we put in out there at King Cove, why, it was all brand new. We built a dam.

JAN YAEGER: Was that a project that was because of the earthquake? Some reconstruction work that was happening?

JACK THOMAS: Well, part of it was and part of it was just old. They had two, three canneries there then. So they needed the water.

I come in from work one night and walked down the boardwalk to where the store was. And laying on the boardwalk out in the front was a great, big brown bear.

JAN YAEGER: Oh, really?

JACK THOMAS: And I asked, I said, the store, I said, "What the hell happened?" "Well," he said, "that bear tried to get in the store." And he said, "I had a rifle hanging on the wall for sale there and ammunition."

He said, "I loaded it up and blew that bear away." He did, too. Boy, that was a big bear.

JAN YAEGER: Had you ever seen anything like that before?

JACK THOMAS: No. I ain't seen anything like it since either. JAN YAEGER: That big, huh? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm.

JAN YAEGER: Wow. So were you born and raised in California? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: And when did you meet Jack Hopkins?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, him and I went to work together probably in, oh, maybe '60. '59 or '60. Somewheres right in there.

He had a logging outfit of his own then, and I work for him.

JAN YAEGER: Well, you must've gotten along pretty well if you decided to move to Alaska together. JACK THOMAS: Oh yeah. Well, we used to fight, but didn't amount to nothin'.

JAN YAEGER: So you went out to King Cove and worked on the water system there. That was your first job in Alaska? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: And that was for Kenny Arndt? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. How had you heard about Homer?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, I don't know. Somebody told me about Homer. End of the road.

I didn't have enough money left once I got to Anchorage. Got to look around and there was an old car lot and I bought an old Chevrolet, '49 Chevrolet, I think. And drove it down to Homer.

Yeah, that was weird. This Jack Kennedy. Well, it wasn't Jack Kennedy. His uncle, I forget. But anyway he -- he was working out there on the ferry dock. He had a crane.

So I just -- I went and asked him about work. Well, he said, "I don't have any, but," he said, "I'm sure that Kenny Arndt would hire you if you can run equipment."

Well, I can, no problem there. So I asked him, Kenny Arndt. "Oh, yeah," he said, "You meet me and I'll fly you out there tomorrow." So, that was that. Got in his airplane and away we went.

JAN YAEGER: Out to King Cove? Did Alaska look like you expected it to look? JACK THOMAS: Not really.

JAN YAEGER: And so when you first came to Seldovia you were working out at Jackolof area with the loggers out there, right? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: And could you drive out to Jackolof right away or did they -- ? JACK THOMAS: No.

JAN YAEGER: So how did you get back and forth? JACK THOMAS: We flew with Bob Gruber. Every day we fly out and fly back.

JAN YAEGER: And so you were staying in town here at first? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Was that in the trailers? JACK THOMAS: Up the lodge, yeah. JAN YAEGER: Up at the lodge? JACK THOMAS: Yeah. JAN YAEGER: Oh, okay.

JACK THOMAS: First. And then they -- I can't think of his name. The guy that was working for, he bought them trailers. Moved the men down there.

JAN YAEGER: Okay, so this the trailer camp that was kinda down -- down by the dock, in that area? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm.

JAN YAEGER: And then when the road got put in to out to Jakolof, did those same trailers then get moved out the road?

JACK THOMAS: No. Well, maybe one or two of them might have.

JAN YAEGER: But it was kind of a little trailer village out there too, right?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, I had a trailer there at Jakolof. A little one. I don't know, what big. Big enough.

JAN YAEGER: And you were there with your wife, Marge, and your two girls?

JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm. Yeah, they rode the school bus every day.

JAN YAEGER: Was that the only time there ever was a school bus in Seldovia? Was for getting the -- the Jakolof kids into town?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, that's the only one I know of.

JAN YAEGER: Yeah, that's the only context I've ever heard of for a school bus.

JACK THOMAS: Well, at that time they was, well, two or three -- two or three kids at the NOAA station and then I had two. And somebody else had two there on McDonald Spit.

JAN YAEGER: And didn't then Jack Hopkins end up being the bus driver for a little bit?

JACK THOMAS: No, Mitch and -- I forget who else was driving a school bus. No, Jack never did.

JAN YAEGER: Okay, 'cause he was -- he was probably logging with you? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. And so how many years were you out in Jakolof? JACK THOMAS: Oh, two anyway.

JAN YAEGER: Was that until the logging kinda finished up? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm.

JAN YAEGER: And so rather than following the logging somewhere else, you decided to stay in Seldovia, right?

JACK THOMAS: Well, crab fishing was really good then. I went to work for Josie on the "Primus." JAN YAEGER: Okay, Josie Carlough. JACK THOMAS: Big bucks.

JAN YAEGER: And that was tanner crab or king crab?

JACK THOMAS: King crab. Right out here.

JAN YAEGER: You didn't have to go to the Bering Sea?

JACK THOMAS: No, no. Yeah, we -- One day we -- I think we went out a little earlier than we -- Jimmy did. And we just loaded that boat right down. Come in, unloaded at the cannery, and went back out and loaded it again.

JAN YAEGER: Really? The "Primus" was a pretty good-sized boat, wasn't it? JACK THOMAS: 78 feet.

JAN YAEGER: Well, a 78 foot boat will hold a lot of crab, I think.

JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah, it did. It had a tremendous fish hold. That was a great old boat. Tough.

JAN YAEGER: Who else fished on that with you?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, there was Johnny Saracoff. Not too many different ones. Well, Roy Hansen. And somebody else, I forget now.

JAN YAEGER: And you were mostly working the deck? JACK THOMAS: I was engineer, but --

JAN YAEGER: So you were responsible for keeping it all running? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm.

JAN YAEGER: I guess, I'm not surprised. I should have thought that you'd be the engineer with -- 'cause you're -- you're pretty well known for your mechanical abilities.

JACK THOMAS: Well, I sure didn't know nothing about the ocean or fishing at the time.

JAN YAEGER: You probably learned pretty quick.

JACK THOMAS: But Josie, he put up with me. Ah, he's easy to work for though. No problem there.

JAN YAEGER: And he's a pretty good skipper, I think, too, right? JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: 'Cuz he -- he kinda grew up on the ocean, I think. Yeah, I talked to him, I don't know, a year or two ago.

I think he wasn't much more than a teenager when he started -- JACK THOMAS: Yeah, first started -- JAN YAEGER: -- captaining his own boats.

JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm. They always tell a story about him. He was across fishing, and he had the "Dynamite Kid." It wasn't very big. Anyway, why, he loaded it up and then he started across with it.

And he got down there to the dock, Wakefield Dock, and meant to pull in there and back her down and he sunk it.

JAN YAEGER: Oh, no. 'Cause it was so loaded?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. When he backed it down, that was too much. Stern went right under. I don't think he ever did live that down.

JAN YAEGER: Yeah, it's always hard when you do something like that with a big audience. On the other hand, if you're gonna sink a boat, you might as well sink it at the dock. And not out in the middle of the Inlet (Cook Inlet).

So how many years did you fish?

JACK THOMAS: Ah, just that one. It was real good and then it -- it -- we just caught 'em all, that's all. Killed it right off. Oh, there was spurts later on that was pretty good, but I didn't worry about it much.

JAN YAEGER: It never came back the way it was? JACK THOMAS: Mm-mm.

JAN YAEGER: You must have been building this place right about that time. JACK THOMAS: No. JAN YAEGER: No? Okay.

JACK THOMAS: No, I bought this from Josie's sister. I can't remember. It must have been '70, somewheres along in there. '71.

JAN YAEGER: So that was after your -- after you fished? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm. JAN YAEGER: Okay.

JACK THOMAS: There was a little shack of a house where this is now. We lived in it for a year or so. Then I decided to build. I built the shop first, too.

JAN YAEGER: And you've got some -- some big timbers in this house that don't look like they're local to me.

JACK THOMAS: Well, they are in a way. They used to be an old dock. Went out down there about where they built this pavilion. JAN YAEGER: Okay.

JACK THOMAS: And it run out there a little ways. And I got to looking at it one day and these timbers are all Doug fir and they were -- that's what they had up underneath there. But they had 'em all creosoted and tarred.

So anyway, why, I had that crane and I decided to go get them. And went down there, and we brought them up here, and set them up. Took the chainsaw saw mill and took all that outside off 'em. That's the way they turned out.

JAN YAEGER: Well, they're beautiful. JACK THOMAS: Yeah, they're Doug fir beams.

JAN YAEGER: Yeah, it's pretty hard to beat that. So that -- was that that dock that -- before they built kind of the -- the system of docks that's there now. There was one that kinda ran out at a little bit of an angle?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, I think it did.

JAN YAEGER: Okay, so that's -- that's what these came from? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm. JAN YAEGER: Okay. Yeah, we've got pictures of that.

JACK THOMAS: Now, it had been abandoned for years. I don't think I even asked anybody. I just went down there and tore it down.

JAN YAEGER: Was it still in the water or they had started taking it apart? JACK THOMAS: Oh, it was still upright.

JAN YAEGER: Mm-hm. Probably about one of the few ways you can get beams this size into -- into Seldovia, right? 'Cause that's always been a challenge here, is getting materials.

JACK THOMAS: I got some timbers there. You can go look. They're laying along the wall there. I cut them out of spruce. JAN YAEGER: From spruce?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Take a look. I was always gonna build a island in here with them, and never did get around to it.

JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I can -- I can see them kinda laying along the side of the wall there. JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: It's some good sized spruce. JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: And was that a chainsaw mill, also?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. Lloyd Wheeler, he had a real good chainsaw mill. And that's what we used. JAN YAEGER: Okay. That's Chris Wheeler's father? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm.

JAN YAEGER: And what did Lloyd do for a living? JACK THOMAS: He was a timber faller.

JAN YAEGER: So Chris grew up here, also? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. I didn't know that.

And so, can you tell me a little bit more about Jack Hopkins and -- and what he did here after the logging finished up?

JACK THOMAS: Well, he -- he got into this pilot business for these oil company. JAN YAEGER: Mm-hm. Marine pilot?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. So he could see where they were -- where they're running that pilot boat all the way out from Homer. Clear halfway up the Inlet (Cook Inlet) to put a pilot on the boat.

And he thought, "Well, Christ, that's -- that's no good." So he finagled away and they hired helicopter to take him out and set him on the boat.

Well, that got too much for 'em one time, and they crashed out there and he drowned.

JAN YAEGER: He drowned? Hm. JACK THOMAS: Or froze to death.

JAN YAEGER: Yeah. So he started doing the marine pilot work about as soon as the logging finished up?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, shortly afterward. He was sharp. He could -- he could learn anything in just no time at all.

JAN YAEGER: What was he like? JACK THOMAS: Well, I think he was good guy.

JAN YAEGER: So did he bring his kids up here also or were they born here? JACK THOMAS: Well, see Jim's -- Jim's boys were all born here. And he adopted a girl or two.

JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I think I said Jim, but I was actually -- I meant Jack. JACK THOMAS: No. No, they were -- they were born in California. JAN YAEGER: Okay.

JACK THOMAS: Three of 'em. Tom and Jim, were all born in California.

JAN YAEGER: Well, you must have thought Seldovia was a pretty good place if both families decided to stay here. JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: What was it about Seldovia that made you want to stay?

JACK THOMAS: Do whatever you wanted to do. Yeah, there was no -- nobody to bother you much.

JAN YAEGER: Well, I think one of the other things that, you know, people think about with some of the work that you've done around here, of course, is you work on the roads.

And it's always been a little -- because I'm new, it's a little confusing to me as to what -- when which roads were opened.

It's like the road to the outer coast and out to Rocky Bay and that area. I think didn't you do some work on that one? JACK THOMAS: Oh yeah, I helped build it.

JAN YAEGER: Mm-hm. You helped build it at the very beginning?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. There was a construction company. I forget what the hell the name. I'll think of it.

They actually had the contract with the Japs to build it. And I worked for them some.

But the deal was that the road, the money that it cost to build the road, they put it onto the timber. So actually the timber didn't cost nothing.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. So that was the one that went all the way to the outer coast? JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: And so did they log all the way out there? JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah. Clear to Windy Bay.

JAN YAEGER: Hm, okay. And so after the logging was finished did that road get maintained?

JACK THOMAS: No, for a little while. I kept it up for a while. It's not that much.

JAN YAEGER: That's a big project for one person. That's a lot of miles.

JACK THOMAS: Well, I was doing it all on my own, too. Fuel, stuff like that.

JAN YAEGER: Now didn't you tell me that you got your -- the property up on Red Mountain about the same time you got Ringo? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Was that right? Okay?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, I lost him up there. He -- them four-wheeler guys that were gonna rent the four-wheelers. I was up there with them, and I was riding one of their four-wheelers and he ran right out in front of me and I run over him

JAN YAEGER: Oh, no!

JACK THOMAS: So then he took off up -- I couldn't stop him. He took right off up the mountain. Scared. I couldn't figure out what -- So, anyway, it was about a week. Five or six days, anyway.

Couldn't -- Everybody went up there and called him and left food for him. So I had -- I'd already moved that cabin up there about part way. And this guy --

I went out there one day and this guy was way down there by the -- below the switchbacks there in the creek. And here’s Ringo with him.

So I stopped by and "What's going on with my dog?" "Well," he said, "That dog was under -- under that trailer up there." And he said, "He'd about starved to death." So, he said, "I fed him and he followed me."

He had a dog or two, and he said, "He followed me down the hill." So I picked him up again. Made sure I didn't run over him no more.

JAN YAEGER: He's a good little dog. JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: So how did you move that trailer up? JACK THOMAS: Huh?

JAN YAEGER: How -- how did you move that trailer up? That's -- that's a pretty twisty windy road to move a building up. JACK THOMAS: Oh, I pulled it up there with a truck.

JAN YAEGER: Mm-hm. You had it on skids or something or -- ? JACK THOMAS: No, actually it was on tire. JAN YAEGER: Okay.

JACK THOMAS: I jacked it up and took the trailer out from underneath it. It come from Kasitsna Bay that Jack Hopkins -- or Jim Hopkins done the work out there, a lot of it.

So he got them two connexes and he asked me if I wanted one of them. I said, "You bet." Well, I took it and took it up there.

He's got the other one up here. Saved for a bunk house. But, he's never used it.

JAN YAEGER: Were they being used as bunk houses at -- at Kasitsna Bay, also?

JACK THOMAS: Well, (inaudible name) had one. He's got one. The one I had was a lab. Had all kinds of sinks and drainboards. I don't know what all. But, it was part of their lab.

JAN YAEGER: Okay, so when they -- when they built the buildings they have now, then they had those -- JACK THOMAS: Got rid of them, yeah. JAN YAEGER: -- as extras.

And so Red Mountain -- was that just kind of a place to go up and hang out or -- because you never did any mining up there, right?

JACK THOMAS: No, no. But I had a claim there.

JAN YAEGER: For chromite? Did you have to designate what you were -- what your claim was for?

JACK THOMAS: Well, yeah, you gotta -- but, I just told them copper -- or chrome.

Oh, I've lost it now. It was -- it was like a lease. You gotta pay so much a year. I just didn't have the money to monkey with it, so I let it go.

JAN YAEGER: Your building and your barbeque and stuff are still up there, right? JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Did you make that barbeque? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: I've heard some stories about some pretty good Fourth of July parties up there. JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Mm-hm. How many years did you do that? JACK THOMAS: Oh, we must've had three or four years.

JAN YAEGER: Fireworks and all?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Rick used to go up there, and shoot his canon off.

JAN YAEGER: Oh, really? That memorial that just happened for Craig Higman. For Higgy. Was that Rick's canon that was being shot off there or was that Higgy's?

JACK THOMAS: I think Rick had his. I think they'd had Higman's, too.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. Did not know that there were two canons in Seldovia. JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Over in the museum in Seward they have a canon that's from Seldovia, too. I keep making the case that we should try and get it back.

JACK THOMAS: I'd like to get that locomotive back that's up there at Pratt Museum. That was -- sit out there at Jakolof for years. JAN YAEGER: Oh, really? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Oh, I didn't know that.

JACK THOMAS: Oh, what the hell's his name? Leo Rollins, he stole it and hauled it off to Homer. JAN YAEGER: Leo Rollins? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. Well, what was -- Now, this is the first I’ve heard of a locomotive. Were there tracks?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah. They used to be from -- Well, you can't hardly tell where. Where the old cook house was there at Jakolof clear down to where they dumped into the barge. It was in there, these railroad.

JAN YAEGER: Really? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm.

JAN YAEGER: I had no idea. And so that's what that locomotive was from?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, it sat out there for years. Well, old Leo he -- he's quite a junkie. He hauls stuff off everywhere. He had the equipment to do it with. And he'd load it up and haul it off.

JAN YAEGER: He'd have to have some serious equipment to move a locomotive.

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Oh it -- it was a little gasoline thing. It wasn't all that big. Pretty big but --

JAN YAEGER: And so did they use that -- that was for moving the chromite? For moving the ore? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: So that was probably from the mining days back in the '50's -- '40's and '50's. I guess it was the 1940's, wasn't it?

JACK THOMAS: Well, during the war time. Yeah, there used to be a load and chute in the tunnel and stuff, just this side of Kasitsna Bay. Now, you can't see it anymore even.

There used to be a building there -- or a couple buildings. And that's where they loaded the finished ore. On the barge.

JAN YAEGER: Didn't they have -- there was some sort of chute that they could kinda just drop it down onto the barges?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, it was a kinda tunnel deal made down there, and that's how they dumped it in.

JAN YAEGER: And what about the logs at Jakolof? How did they get them out? JACK THOMAS: Loaded them on ships.

JAN YAEGER: Right there in -- in Jakolof Bay? Or did they have to move 'em out a little bit? JACK THOMAS: Right in the bay, mainly.

JAN YAEGER: How big a boat can get into Jakolof?

JACK THOMAS: Well, them are pretty good-sized ships. But I think we had to really watch the tide.

JAN YAEGER: So did they load them kinda where the -- the dock is now?

JACK THOMAS: No. No, they rafted them. They towed them out alongside the ship, and picked them up with a ship winch.

JAN YAEGER: Okay, so the ship it's -- would kinda stay in the deepest part of the bay, probably? JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Mm-hm. JAN YAEGER: Okay.

And you said logging went on for just two or three years? JACK THOMAS: Oh, more than that. Five or six, I think.

JAN YAEGER: And so that was in the late '60's? Early 70's?

JACK THOMAS: '70's, yeah. Cliff Christian was a -- Christian Brother's Logging. He was the guy we worked for. He was a helluva nice guy. Good to work for, too.

JAN YAEGER: And so they -- you -- you've mentioned the Japanese. So, did they have a -- like a sub-contract?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Christian contracted the logging from the Japs.

JAN YAEGER: And then were most of the logs headed to Japan then? JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm. All of them.

JAN YAEGER: Oh, really? And mostly spruce?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Well, they had to build that sawmill out there. They made a deal with us that the logs all had to be processed in Alaska. So they built that sawmill to do that.

JAN YAEGER: So what was it like being able to drive to the outer coast?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, it was alright. That Rocky River, you know, probably the best silver (salmon) fishing in the world. JAN YAEGER: Really?

JACK THOMAS: And they used to go out there with motor homes and trailers and every other thing. Tourists.

JAN YAEGER: The road must've been in pretty good shape if you could get a motor home out there. JACK THOMAS: Oh, it was. Yeah. Them days.

JAN YAEGER: And I don't even know if you can get a bicycle out there anymore.

JACK THOMAS: Yeah. I imagine things probably growed in, too, now. We used to fly from here to -- well, right to the head of Rocky River. Where Rocky River runs into the bay there.

And we had an airstrip there. Anyway, probably from here it was more than -- Go over the mountain there, and land over there and work all day.

JAN YAEGER: That was with Bob Gruber? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: I've heard he was a good pilot.

JACK THOMAS: Oh, he was. One of the best. Me and him and Hopkins, we went off on a drunk one time with the airplane. That was something else.

JAN YAEGER: All three of you were drunk?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, we went to Anchorage, and proceeded to really get drunk. And they was looking all over Alaska for us, but we was hid out.

JAN YAEGER: You were hid out in Anchorage? Hiding in the crowd. And who was looking for you?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, Midge, she -- Gruber, Bob's wife. She was all worried to death about it.

JAN YAEGER: He was probably sober when he was flying though, right?

JACK THOMAS: Well, that time he wasn't. Well, he was pretty -- pretty sensible guy, really. Didn't need to worry about him much.

JAN YAEGER: So how big were the logging crews that were going back and forth every day? 'Cause I don't know how big a plane he was flying, but it seems like that would be a lot of trips.

JACK THOMAS: Two trips. JAN YAEGER: Just two. JACK THOMAS: Mm-hm. JAN YAEGER: Okay. How -- JACK THOMAS: 206.

JAN YAEGER: 206? So he was probably hauling just about four or five people tops, right? JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Six at the most. With your junk.

JAN YAEGER: So it had to have been a pretty small logging crew then. JACK THOMAS: Yeah, it wasn't all that big.

JAN YAEGER: And just landed over on the beach there?

JACK THOMAS: No, in the road. It was Martha Lake right there, and then they built a straight stretch of road. Kept it cleaned up. And that was our airstrip.

JAN YAEGER: Is Martha Lake -- is that real close to the coast? Just kinda right there? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. I've -- I've seen a -- a lake on the -- like the satellite pictures, and I kinda wondered if that was it 'cause I didn't see much else. It looks like it's not real large. JACK THOMAS: No, it's not.

JAN YAEGER: But, there wasn't a name for it, so I wasn't sure if it was the right one or not.

JACK THOMAS: Well, it was named after Martha Wallin. JAN YAEGER: Martha Wallend? JACK THOMAS: Yeah. From Port Graham. JAN YAEGER: Or Wallin?

JACK THOMAS: Roger -- Roger Wallin's wife.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. And the silvers run up into the lake there? JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: So, there's probably still good silver fishing up there. JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah. It's the best.

JAN YAEGER: Do you know if anyone still goes over there and -- ?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah, there's people go over there with boats and stuff. That's the only way to get there anymore.

JAN YAEGER: Does anyone fish it commercially or just for personal use? JACK THOMAS: No, just -- just for private use.

JAN YAEGER: What kind of changes have you seen in the fishing industry in Seldovia while you've been here? You know, right now, there's a couple, three large boats based here. But that's probably something that's changed in your time.

JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah. There was a -- the "Katie K", "Rosie G". There was two or three big boats.

JAN YAEGER: The "Katie K," that was the one that was named for Katie Kashevarof, right? JACK THOMAS: Right.

JAN YAEGER: And whose boat was that? JACK THOMAS: That was -- that was Gordon Giles'.

JAN YAEGER: And isn't the -- was it the "Guardian," is that his boat, too? JACK THOMAS: Yeah. Well, he had another one in between there that sank, too.

JAN YAEGER: And how about the "Rosie G?"

JACK THOMAS: It belonged to Jack Parks. Bob Ringstad and I don't know who else. There was three or four of them owned it.

JAN YAEGER: Was it -- was it the "Kona Kai" based here, too? JACK THOMAS: Yeah, that was Josie's brother.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. I'm trying to remember what his name was. JACK THOMAS: Little Joe would run it.

JAN YAEGER: So it would've been his uncle that he was running it for? JACK THOMAS: Huh? Howard. JAN YAEGER: So, it would've been his uncle. JACK THOMAS: Howard, yeah. JAN YAEGER: Okay. Oh, Howard, of course.

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, I hated to see him go. He was a good kid. Little Joe.

JAN YAEGER: And the "Laura S" has been here for a long time, too, I think, right?

JACK THOMAS: Well, yeah, since they built it. But, it's been a helluva good boat. And they work it, too. Swicks stay on top of that.

JAN YAEGER: Well, for not having much boat experience when you moved here it sounds like you've gotten to know them pretty well. JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Have you ever had a boat of your own? Even just a little one? JACK THOMAS: No. Never wanted one. JAN YAEGER: Not even a skiff?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, I've had a skiff, yeah. I put a bow and a new bottom on the "Hellion" was Ken Swicks' boat. It was just an old landing craft, but I put a bow on it. New bottom.

And they fished it here for three or four years and really made money with it. JAN YAEGER: Oh, really? So --

JACK THOMAS: And then they took it out westward. That -- Whatchamacall's father. Oh, I can't think of it now. Anyway, it sunk and drowned the whole boat of 'em. JAN YAEGER: Really?

JACK THOMAS: Well, that ain’t no place for a little boat.

JAN YAEGER: Is that part of the reason you never wanted one? JACK THOMAS: No.

JAN YAEGER: Or just wasn't -- wasn't the right thing for you?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, the first thing I used to get sea sick, too. I don't care for that much.

JAN YAEGER: So you spent -- I know that you're kinda known, you know, for welding and mechanical work and so on. Did that kinda become another livelihood for you?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah. I done odd jobs here and there, too.

JAN YAEGER: Always in Seldovia or did you ever travel and run equipment anywhere else or anything? JACK THOMAS: No, mostly here.

JAN YAEGER: Are you kinda self-taught with a lot of your skills? JACK THOMAS: Huh? JAN YAEGER: Were you kinda self-taught with some of that?

JACK THOMAS: Yeah, I never -- Nobody ever showed me much about welding, mind you. Just started doing it.

JAN YAEGER: And you were kinda the only welder here for a long time, weren't you? JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: So I imagine that -- that probably kept you pretty busy with a lot of people bringing you things to repair or fabricate or --

JACK THOMAS: I'm still running on that generator. I can hear it. It's kinda unusual this time of year. I don't know what --

JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I think of it more as a winter thing. Running on the generator. I don't know why -- why they're running it right now.

Gerry Willard who used to run it, is that someone that you knew pretty well? JACK THOMAS: Oh, yeah.

JAN YAEGER: What was he like?

JACK THOMAS: Oh, he was a good guy. He couldn't hold his liquor though. Yeah. He'd turn into an animal.

JAN YAEGER: Oh, really? I heard he was really musical. JACK THOMAS: Well, he'd play a piano.

JAN YAEGER: And who were some of the other people that you used to spend some time with? JACK THOMAS: Oh, I don't know. Pretty near all of 'em.

JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I suppose in Seldovia, that's -- you can't really avoid anybody, right? JACK THOMAS: No.

JAN YAEGER: How about some of the gathering spots? You know, we're kinda down to the Linwood -- now, but I think there've been a variety of places.

JACK THOMAS: Well, there used to be three or four bars here then. Damn, I can't remember what the hell the name of that one was down there. They were -- they were actually before my time.

The old temporary building, they -- before Urban Renewal, they moved all the bars in there. Three of them.

JAN YAEGER: Yeah, I think I heard there were three bars and the post office or something. JACK THOMAS: Yeah, I think so.

JAN YAEGER: So, that -- that must've been quite the gathering spot then. JACK THOMAS: Yeah.

JAN YAEGER: Probably everybody went there.

JACK THOMAS: Well, I think I'm gonna go lay down for a while.

JAN YAEGER: Okay. Well, I appreciate you letting me speak with you today. JACK THOMAS: All right. JAN YAEGER: And thank you very much.