Yule Kilcher was interviewed on August 14, 1998 by Eileen Wolfe, Isabelle Uny, and David Payne at his cabin in Homer, Alaska. In this interview, Yule talks about first arriving in Homer, some of his mountain explorations on the Kenai Peninsula, and the 1968 pioneering expedition that traversed the Harding Icefield from Homer to Seward that gave Exit Glacier its name. For more about the 1968 expedition see: J. Vin Hoeman, "Crossing the Harding Icefield," Alaska Magazine 37 (No. 5), May 1971, pp. 45-47, 63.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
Date of Interview: Aug 14, 1998
Narrator(s): Yule Kilcher
Interviewer(s): Eileen Wolfe, Isabelle Uny
People Present: David Payne
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Coming to Seward in 1936
Traveling from Seward to Homer
Settling in Homer
Vegetation, animals, and human activity on glacier
Equipment used during early days of traveling
Crossing the Harding Icefield
Observations of Exit Glacier
Road to Exit Glacier
Skiing and snowshowing on Harding Icefield expedition
Origin of French word "oui"
Use of maps, self-reliance, and sliding into a crevasse
Why he came to Alaska and early work as a carpenter and a farmer
His brother in Africa
His sisters and parents
Switzerland during World War II and war reparations to the Jews
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ISABELLE UNY: The first question I had, I guess, is when were you in Seward? That's --
YULE KILCHER: It must have had a thousand or more inhabitants. ISABELLE UNY: A lot. YULE KILCHER: Oh, yes. ISABELLE UNY: Okay.
YULE KILCHER: A nice little town.
ISABELLE UNY: Okay. And why were you in Seward at that time, in July of '36?
YULE KILCHER: Well, I wanted to go to Homer, and because I had heard about Homer from the son of the -- of the director of the Jessie Lee Home in Seward.
I had met him hitchhiking from coast to coast when I came from Europe on tourist papers.
And I was headed for British Columbia, and he told me about the Kachemak Bay area.
And so I decided to look at it after I also looked at British Columbia. And so I got to Seward. And --
ISABELLE UNY: And you got to Seward by? YULE KILCHER: What?
ISABELLE UNY: How did you get to Seward?
YULE KILCHER: Oh, I -- I hitchhiked through the states and through Canada, British Columbia, jumped the freight to Prince Rupert, then took the last steamship boat to --
ISABELLE UNY: Somewhere up there?
YULE KILCHER: Yeah. To -- what's the name. What's the first -- to Ketchikan, to Ketchikan.
And stayed on the boat as a black passenger to Seward. I still got the ticket that I paid from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan, three fifty, which was a lot of money in those days.
ISABELLE UNY: In those days.
YULE KILCHER: Yeah. And I got to Seward and looked up my friend -- friend's family. He worked on the railroad at that time, in summer, and they invited me to stay on their place, that Jessie Lee Home.
Stayed a few days and learned all I could about the country, but there was a boat once a month to Kodiak and Seldovia, close to Homer, but that had left a week before.
So I was in a hurry, I wanted to go back to Europe, and -- for a variety of reasons. I had a girlfriend back home that I hadn't seen for a year and a half.
And so I decided, well, being Swiss and all, I would go afoot to Homer.
So I had heard from Mr. Hatton, that was the director of the home there, that somebody had broken --
broken out of jail in Seward a few years ago, and in the direction directly west over the mountains.
And two years later they heard about him that he arrived over in Kenai. He made it, apparently.
And they were so impressed that the authorities didn't go after him. They decided, well, if he's well off in Kenai, leave him there.
So anyway, it was feasible, apparently. How that fellow left Seward and how he got to Kenai, I don't know.
He might have followed the dog trails here that you can see cabins here and there, and over at Skilak Lake, but I wanted to go directly west.
Being Swiss, I was not afraid of the mountains. I went directly up the creek in Seward. Well, that creek is not in here.
ISABELLE UNY: Oh, okay.
YULE KILCHER: There's the mountain -- there's a creek in Seward that goes directly west from downtown Seward.
ISABELLE UNY: Okay.
YULE KILCHER: Up and over the mountain. Again, I hoped to find the ice field, but there was a little ice field, you see here, and then there was a valley below.
And I had a choice, I don't know what to do. So I crossed that valley, went up the other side, and there over the mountain.
I didn't want to go south, there's a glacier -- glacier here. I went over that one, and I had to -- this is very inaccurate.
Slid down the mountain and got stuck in the crevasse and barely made it out.
See. I barely made it out. I got into two days of rain and -- no, I -- let's see. I crossed over here.
Yeah, I got on the -- on the Bear Glacier and got to -- but there were more mountains. And then I got into a rain and stuff, and cold --
and two days after I was on that glacier, miserable and cold, I decided that -- when I climbed onto the minor mountains, I saw more mountains I had to make.
So it -- it wasn't as simple as I thought it would be.
I went back to Seward, and they, of course, laughed at me. Didn't make it, huh. I came back about four or five days after I had first left.
Then I decided to go the easier, longer road. I went up -- went up to -- over Moose Pass, went up over Moose Pass, yeah, went up over Moose Pass, and there was a road to Cooper Landing.
That was the end of the road in Cooper Landing. For Moose Pass, of course, there was a road that went to -- that went to Turnagain Arm.
But anyway, there was no Anchorage road. Went to Cooper Landing. And I stayed overnight below Cooper Landing with a gold miner who wanted me to be his partner.
And he showed me a lot of gold, and said -- but I wasn't interested, I wanted to go to Homer. I wasn't interested in becoming rich. You know.
So I took his directions, and I followed the -- I followed the road, the trail. It was a winter trail road, a sled road. There used to be from Kenai to Seward a mail road.
And we took dog team (indiscernible). Anyway, I came down to -- I came down to Skilak Lake.
And I built a raft. I was good with an axe. I had been an axe man in Sweden the whole winter.
And I built me a beautiful raft and crossed it, crossed the lake, and you see the little lagoon here?
ISABELLE UNY: Um hum.
YULE KILCHER: That little lagoon right here. That where -- that's where I -- that's where I got in.
It was a storm and my raft -- a storm came up and I was halfway across from the -- it came down from the glacier.
And by the way, that glacier came much further down, that glacier came down that far those days, you could see it from here. You know.
EILEEN WOOLF: Skilak Glacier.
YULE KILCHER: Alll these glaciers were longer in those days. But anyway, I -- my raft started to go apart, and I paddled like hell,
and I finally came to the tiny little lagoon, came into the lagoon,
iwhich was perfectly quiet, and there was a moose standing in the water just looking at me.
And there was berries, cranberries all over the place, perfect peace, and I camped there.
The next day was quite a day. I paddled all the way down the lake and came towards Caribou Lake.
That's where -- that was homesteaded. There was a game guide, a miner and game guide who lived there with his wife and son.
The son still is in Seward. And Anderson was his name. And I stayed overnight.
Spoke Swedish, you see, because I spoke perfectly at the time. The next day he was going to arrange a guiding tour into the -- into the Killey-Indian Glacier area here.
He says I'm to go with him partways, so I traveled with them. I traveled with them partway for a day, crossed a couple of rivers, then he told me how to get to Tustumena Lake.
I stayed to the higher spots where I could see. Crossed a couple of rivers. Got to Tustumena Lake, and followed the lakeshore all the way to Kasilof.
And I went to Kasilof, you see. And in Kasilof I met people that told me that you could walk along the beach to Homer and cross the river.
I could cross the river, there's people would set me across the river. That was the last river, the Kasilof River.
The rest were small water.
Anyway, but there was a boat in a harbor, they had been fishing the season, a fellow from Seldovia, he took me down to the Homer Spit.
He took me down to the Homer Spit, set me on -- set me ashore here, and then to Seldovia. So I traveled that.
From there, I went -- I went looking over the Homer country and all the way to the head of the bay.
And became befriended with an old rancher up here who arranged for me, invited me to come back when I had my papers.
And it was beautiful homestead in the area, that's where the Russians have a city now. I was going to be there with him and be his partner.
If I came back next spring with my friends. That all didn't work out.
I came only back four years later, but at that time he had a partner already, so I had to look for something else.
Then anyway, then I visited him, made good friends in Homer, and went back to -- to Seward with the next boat, went back to Seward,
and to Anchorage by railroad, and I stayed in Anchorage for three years.
The next year my wife came from Europe, in Anchorage, you know. And I went back to Homer, then, in '43 with a wife and two little children.
Stayed in Homer a year, farmed with another Swiss in Homer, and then settled where I'm now. In '44 I moved up to --
ISABELLE UNY: Okay. To here.
YULE KILCHER: -- to the fox ranch up here. We lived in the old fox rancher's cabin down here for two winters and homesteaded up here.
And so that was the -- that was the the thing down there.
ISABELLE UNY: One of my questions was, when you went up this way -- YULE KILCHER: Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: -- because we're really interested in this area very much. What was the vegetation like?
What -- what were you seeing around you? Can you describe what -- what it was?
YULE KILCHER: I saw a few goats, lots of marmots. ISABELLE UNY: Okay.
YULE KILCHER: Lots of marmots. I saw one back there in the valley. But nice vegetation, Alpine flora and stuff.
But it kind of always intrigued me how the ice field looks, so 30 years ago, about, not quite 30 years ago, remember when that trip was the first cross, trip was taken by that big gang of people.
What's the fellow's name that's buried on the Himalayas now?
ISABELLE UNY: Uhm. Harmon? YULE KILCHER: Huh? ISABELLE UNY: Armand? YULE KILCHER: No, no.
ISABELLE UNY: Uh, Anderson? No. No. I don't know.
YULE KILCHER: Anyway, he was the leader. His wife -- his wife came along. And then we went from Homer with horses, from my place with horses up to -- up to Fox River up here.
Yeah. At Fox River up to the glacier here, and -- no, we went further.
We went up -- yeah, all the way up beyond -- all the way up to Grewingk Glacier, you see, we had -- with horses.
And, dammit, I forgot the his name. That's typical old age when you forget names of old friends. It's ridiculous, you know.
Ray Genet. Yeah, Ray Genet. Swiss French. Have you ever heard of Ray Genet? ISABELLE UNY: Huh uh.
YULE KILCHER: G E N E T, Ray Genet. Yeah, very famous. Famous mountaineer in Alaska. And he's buried in the Himalayas.
He was a guide on Himalaya tour. Yeah. Ray Genet. And he -- his -- his wife was along, too.
She also got killed in the mountains later on in a snow slide in the -- in the Chugach Mountains. She's buried -- she -- she and her husband are both buried on some mountain slopes, basically -- ISABELLE UNY: Oh, gosh.
YULE KILCHER: -- the fate of people who get mountain --
ISABELLE UNY: And that first time when you were going up -- YULE KILCHER: Huh? ISABELLE UNY: That first time when you were going up there -- YULE KILCHER: Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: -- did you see any other people? Did you see any human activity like trapping or --
YULE KILCHER: No, I tell you, on top of the -- on top of the mountain -- on top of the mountain when they came crest up there, I saw a stone pyramid, and I saw a mining claim, a fellow had a mining claim and a sluice box there.
ISABELLE UNY: Wow.
YULE KILCHER: So there had been -- a miner had been up at the crest. Let's see, that's --
EILEEN WOOLF: Would that be Mount Marathon? YULE KILCHER: Yeah, so this crest here.
ISABELLE UNY: Mount Marathon?
YULE KILCHER: Yeah, Mount Marathon. Before I went down that way, you see, there I found a mining claim up here. That's the only thing human I found. ISABELLE UNY: Okay.
YULE KILCHER: A mining claim and a box, in a little stone pyramid, you know, it was up there.
And then I went down the valley, as I say, I went up the valley to the glacier. But anyway.
ISABELLE UNY: But no -- no more people, you didn't see anybody else?
YULE KILCHER: Oh, God, no. Nothing. I didn't see anybody all the time, for a week or so, then I came back to Seward. Nothing, nobody.
ISABELLE UNY: What kind of equipment did you have? How were you clothed and what kind of equipment did you have?
YULE KILCHER: Oh, I -- I had good -- I had good -- I had a pair of boots I got in British Columbia, very good hiking boots.
And I had a -- I still have the same Hudson Bay pack board, I still got it here. Pack board.
And a raincoat, which I used as a sail when I crossed -- when I crossed Skilak Lake, I used the raincoat and had it stuck up into the cross board.
And down the lake, the next day I went down, there was a breeze going down. So I actually sailed from this little cove here, sailed all the way around to Caribou Island, paddled a little bit and sang, sang along. I didn't --
I told you I was alone in the whole bloody world, you know, and then all of a sudden I hear an outboard motor.
And around the corner of Caribou Island comes a boat, is a man stripped to his waist and a beard there, other hand, and a boy behind him, a younger man behind him, that was Mr. Anderson, the game guide.
He said, we heard some singing and yodeling. My wife said, it's that ranger, ranger. No, the ranger is of, she says.
So I went out and listened, and sure enough, I had to go, what's going on? So he came and met me, you see, up there.
Said, you don't need your raft anymore when you go into Homer -- to Homer, you go with us.
So I kicked my raft good bye, and I heard years later somebody found it on the beach here on the -- on the north shore of Skilak Lake, found that raft.
Yeah. So I met Mr. Anderson. Was a lifelong friend, and his son still is, too. Very nice people.
ISABELLE UNY: On the Harding Icefield, or -- you got a bit onto the Harding Icefield, right? YULE KILCHER: The what?
ISABELLE UNY: You got a bit onto the Harding Icefield, onto the ice field?
YULE KILCHER: Yeah. ISABELLE UNY: You walked a bit. YULE KILCHER: Yeah, yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: What was it looking like?
YULE KILCHER: No, I got -- I wasn't back up here.
ISABELLE UNY: Trace -- trace for our drawing.
YULE KILCHER: Yeah, I was. Well, I was. The stuff that comes down that way it overs the glacier, it goes downhill. I never came over where it's flat in here. I didn't get up here.
That's what -- that's what irritated me, you know, because I got stuck. I got up here and then got stuck here, and I go up to the mountain and the rain stuff, and I got here, and I --
all I seen is more uphill glaciers, you know.
And I was right -- I decided, hell, I should have done what they adviced me to go the longer route, you know. So that's -- I went back to Seward.
But then later on, as about 28 or so years ago, we made the trip, then, I was curious, it was a beautiful trip through the ice field that way.
And they came down Exit Glacier, of course.
ISABELLE UNY: Uh hum. Yeah. YULE KILCHER: Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: Can you trace for me your first trip here, like, with the pen, roughly? Doesn't have to be exact, exactly.
YULE KILCHER: Well, let's see here. ISABELLE UNY: Seward is there.
YULE KILCHER: Seward is here, isn't it? ISABELLE UNY: Uh hum.
YULE KILCHER: There's a creek, what do you call that creek here? You don't have a clue. ISABELLE UNY: Lowell Creek? EILEEN WOOLF: Is it Lowell Creek?
YULE KILCHER: You don't have a Seward map here? ISABELLE UNY: No, we don't.
EILEEN WOOLF: Are you thinking of Lowell Creek? Lowell? YULE KILCHER: Huh? ISABELLE UNY: Lowell Creek? YULE KILCHER: Lowell? ISABELLE UNY: Yes. YULE KILCHER: I think it is. Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: Okay. So that would be down there. Yeah. YULE KILCHER: Yeah. Anyway.
EILEEN WOOLF: It goes right through the middle of town, or used to.
YULE KILCHER: Yeah. And here I -- over -- entered in the crevasse here. And then I went down there, you see, then I went up there.
Ended up there, you know. And I don't remember. Yeah. Up there. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And over here. That's about where I quit.
ISABELLE UNY: And then -- and then how did you find your way back? You just took any way back?
YULE KILCHER: Oh, well, it's easy because you go by side, it was good weather side, good side to go down. First of all, you go downhill. You got to end up someplace. ISABELLE UNY: Kind of straight or -- YULE KILCHER: (Indiscernible.)
ISABELLE UNY: And the second time when you crossed the Harding Icefield again -- YULE KILCHER: Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: -- that was 28 years ago, about?
YULE KILCHER: I don't know. My daughter that's come in next Monday from down there, she may remember better what year was it.
ISABELLE UNY: That doesn't really matter. EILEEN WOOLF: '67 or 68.
YULE KILCHER: Well, there's -- there's several famous Alaska climbers were on that trip.
The guys that are living in Girdwood now, and one in Talkeetna, and what the name of these various guys.
Oh, and Spencer, Mr. Spencer, yeah, the name was Mr. Spencer, he was the game warden, the federal game warden, in Kenai many, many years, he was on that trip. And --
ISABELLE UNY: And you started from Tustumena? Is that where you started?
YULE KILCHER: No, these people started in Homer. ISABELLE UNY: Oh, okay.
YULE KILCHER: We started in Homer. This way.
ISABELLE UNY: And were you on that trip?
YULE KILCHER: Pardon?
ISABELLE UNY: Were you on that trip? Did you go?
YULE KILCHER: Yeah. I was. I went with that trip. I talked them into it.
ISABELLE UNY: Okay. And you went up the Fox River?
YULE KILCHER: Yeah. ISABELLE UNY: And where did you start? YULE KILCHER: Stop?
ISABELLE UNY Where did you start? YULE KILCHER: When? ISABELLE UNY: Where. YULE KILCHER: Where? Here. ISABELLE UNY: Yeah. And you went --
YULE KILCHER: No, no, no, we started here. Hold it. Hold it, hold it, hold it.
ISABELLE UNY: Up from where you were?
YULE KILCHER: That's my cabin here. That's Kilcher here. ISABELLE UNY: Uh hum. Yeah. And you went up. YULE KILCHER: Yeah, yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: Up the Fox River.
YULE KILCHER: We went through the gorge because it was still frozen. One day later it broke up.
Other iice, we had to go over the hills, up down, up down. It was easy to be on the river, you know.
ISABELLE UNY: What month of the year was that? Oh, I see.
YULE KILCHER: Then we -- then we climbed the highest mountain here. We gave it a name.
We gave this mountain -- this mountain the name. And then we went back down, and went this way. Whatever. Seward, you know.
ISABELLE UNY: Uh hum. And towards Exit Glacier. And when you arrived -- when you arrived -- YULE KILCHER: Yeah, Exit, yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: When you arrived to Exit Glacier, so what did it look like when you get -- when you got off like that? How was Exit Glacier?
YULE KILCHER: Oh, it was steep. It was steep down there, tough, tough, tough, you know. ISABELLE UNY: It was long? Longer?
YULE KILCHER: I don't know how long it is now. ISABELLE UNY: Yeah.
YULE KILCHER: No doubt it was longer. ISABELLE UNY: Yeah.
YULE KILCHER: But that's only -- that's only -- ISABELLE UNY: '67 about?
YULE KILCHER: 30 years, not even that, was it. ISABELLE UNY: Yeah.
YULE KILCHER: I don't remember what year it was.
EILEEN WOOLF: '67 or '68, I think.
YULE KILCHER: I don't remember what year it was.
EILEEN WOOLF: Do you remember what month? ISABELLE UNY: 1967 or '68. YULE KILCHER: Hum? ISABELLE UNY: '67 or '68? YULE KILCHER: You think so? ISABELLE UNY: I think that's what it was.
YULE KILCHER: I don't remember if it was -- if I was still married or not. Usually I -- I cut my life into pre, post --
ISABELLE UNY: Pre and post marriage? YULE KILCHER: -- marital life, you know, whatever.
ISABELLE UNY: And what month of the year was that? YULE KILCHER: Huh?
ISABELLE UNY What month of the year?
YULE KILCHER: Oh, that was in the -- that was, as I said, it was -- oh, no, let's see. We still had ice on the river. I think it was May. ISABELLE UNY: May?
YULE KILCHER: I think so. ISABELLE UNY: Uh hum.
YULE KILCHER: I think it was May. Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: And did you see any -- any animals or anything --
YULE KILCHER: Oh, yeah, yeah. ISABELLE UNY: Or any people around Exit Glacier? Around this area were there people or animals or --
YULE KILCHER: Not that I remember anything particular. I wasn't too interested. I was not a naturalist, I wasn't interested to see which, what, you know.
There probably was -- there's always a goat or a sheep in the mountains, if you look. You know.
And it might have been early enough for the black bear to come out, too.
ISABELLE UNY: But no people? No people?
YULE KILCHER: Oh, no, we didn't meet nobody. Not a sole. Nobody. Is it lively now back here? Lots of people?
ISABELLE UNY: Yeah, because we've got -- now we've got a road. See the road goes up. YULE KILCHER: Dégoûtant. ISABELLE UNY: Yeah. Oui. (Indiscernible, speaking in French) It was built --
YULE KILCHER: You understand the word "dégoûtant." Disgusting.
ISABELLE UNY: It was built in the late '60s. YULE KILCHER: Huh?
ISABELLE UNY: The road. The road was built in the late '60s.
YULE KILCHER: In the late '60s? I think we walked down it. ISABELLE UNY: Yeah?
YULE KILCHER: I think we walked down that darn road then.
ISABELLE UNY: That would have been the same time.
EILEEN WOOLF: I think it was a trail when you -- when you crossed -- and was -- I think it was a trail when you came through.
YULE KILCHER: I wouldn't know it. There was a -- maybe it was a foot trail there that came over to -- over to there was a trail over here. ISABELLE UNY: Yeah.
YULE KILCHER: There's a cute little lake here, too, I never was there.
ISABELLE UNY: Can you guys think of anything else?
EILEEN WOOLF: How did -- how did your equipment -- YULE KILCHER: Hum?
EILEEN WOOLF: How did your equipment in '60 -- how did your equipment differ when you finally made it across?
YULE KILCHER: How did I what?
EILEEN WOOLF: Your equipment, what you were wearing.
ISABELLE UNY: The second time. What -- what did you have with you the second time? YULE KILCHER: Equipment. EILEEN WOOLF: Equipment.
YULE KILCHER: Equipment. Speak clearly, say "equipment." Specifically got to pronounce the consonants. That's what half deaf people don't hear, are the consonants.
They only hear the vowel, they only hear the vowel. What? Can you imagine that?
ISABELLE UNY: What did you have with you the second time? What -- what were you wearing, and what gear? YULE KILCHER: Oh, since it was a -- ISABELLE UNY: Much later.
YULE KILCHER: And we had tents, we had lots of everything else. Ski gear, we had winter skis, we had ski gear, you know. Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: And did you -- did you have bad weather? How long did it take you?
YULE KILCHER: You got to ask somebody else. I don't remember. Pretty fast. ISABELLE UNY: Pretty fast.
YULE KILCHER: We were on skis, except one fellow went on snowshoes. ISABELLE UNY: Oh, wow.
YULE KILCHER: He always came a little later in camp, bravely went along. What -- his son is an aide, he was a aide to -- to the Republican legislators in Juneau, what's his name, now.
What's the guy's name. A famous nature addict, the father. And my memory is just lousy there.
Anyway, he was the guy that went with snowshoes, you know. And the other had skis.
ISABELLE UNY: And how long -- how long a day would you ski? How many hours would you ski during the day?
YULE KILCHER: Well, we camped -- we had to stay a day extra because of a snowstorm up there. We had to stay a day extra.
So I would say it was -- it was one day, it was one day from -- from here, we camped on there.
We went up here, we camped here, at a glacier, and we camped once or twice, maybe three camps on the glacier is maybe all.
I think that's all there was, because you could go pretty fast with skis and all. It was beautiful clear weather and all, you know.
ISABELLE UNY: So you were skiing the whole day? YULE KILCHER: Hmm? ISABELLE UNY: You were skiing the whole day?
YULE KILCHER: Oh, yeah. Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure. Little stops for lunch, whatever. It was very pleasant.
There was no race, no nothing, but we -- we had good going. Except the snowshoe man, who was very -- very astute, good athlete. He always came in later, of course.
ISABELLE UNY: Slower. A bit slower.
YULE KILCHER: Obviously, yeah. But we -- we made enough of a -- we -- we drew enough attention with this trip that other people were viewing the Peninsula from that perspective of crossing the field and doing all sorts of trips back here.
Other -- other people have gone from Homer over here and over the glacier, and down that way.
ISABELLE UNY: Have you had a chance to go along the coast here? YULE KILCHER: Huh?
ISABELLE UNY: Have you had a chance to go along the coast, the west, the south? Have you had a chance to go by boat or -- YULE KILCHER: Yeah. ISABELLE UNY: Yeah?
YULE KILCHER: Yeah, I never went there. I never went there by boat, I went from Seward to Seldovia, went to Seward to Kodiak, and so on.
ISABELLE UNY: But you've not been into the little fjords or --
YULE KILCHER: No, never -- never had a chance to do that, no. Never had a reason to do it, or any desire to do it, you know. ISABELLE UNY: Uh hum. YULE KILCHER: So...
ISABELLE UNY: That's about it, I think. Any idea, Dave?
YULE KILCHER: I might -- I might do -- I was invited by a couple of people in Homer, names again, you know them well, but the names right now I can't get.
They made a trip recently over here and they invited me again to make a trip maybe to Seward.
We might do it once more if they carry the whole luggage and take it easy, I'll -- I'm going along, if they -- if they plan to do it next spring, I'll do it. Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: Wow. Good. That's good. I don't have any other questions. Do you guys?
YULE KILCHER: I would have somebody to simply get -- go up there with a horse and take the equipment up, but then the rest I could do if I take it easy. I could do it.
ISABELLE UNY: If you take it easy.
YULE KILCHER: Mais oui. ISABELLE UNY: Mais oui.
YULE KILCHER: You know what the word, the French word "oui" is composed of? ISABELLE UNY: Oui?
YULE KILCHER: The two Latin words. Typically redundant, typically Celtic, exaggerating Irish, you know, hoch ouile (phonetic). ISABELLE UNY: Hoch ouile.
YULE KILCHER: Ouile, ouile. Oui. Oil, and oui.
ISABELLE UNY: What did they mean? YULE KILCHER: Huh?
ISABELLE UNY: What did they mean?
YULE KILCHER: Hoch is this; and ouile, this, that. ISABELLE UNY: This, that.
YULE KILCHER: This, that. Why not just say this, like the Provencale, much clearer, they say hoch, a long dock. Have you heard of that empty long dock? EILEEN WOOLF: No.
YULE KILCHER: South of French they call that the language of the hoch. EILEEN WOOLF: The language of the hoch. Yeah.
YULE KILCHER: And the northern French is the large doyle. The language of the oui, the oui, you see. That's the two great divisions.
In the front -- in the south you just say hoch, hoch, this. But in the north they make further, this that, hoch ouile.
ISABELLE UNY: Do you still have the map, when you -- when you studied the first time?
YULE KILCHER: No, no, I have not got it. I don't. ISABELLE UNY: They didn't give you any map or anything like that? YULE KILCHER: I don't. Oh, no.
ISABELLE UNY: So you just went like that.
YULE KILCHER: Yeah, yeah, well there were other people have to show them little maps. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't draw nothing on it anyway.
ISABELLE UNY: Yeah. So you had no map with you when you left?
YULE KILCHER: No, no, no. They knew where they were going, these guys know what they were doing, you know.
ISABELLE UNY: And it was the first time, the first time when you did it when you left from Seward like that?
YULE KILCHER: That little -- Oh, there's no evidence, no nothing. I maybe added a few rocks on top of the mountain here, I don't remember if I did that even, you know, when I went down there.
As I climbed down, as I climbed down from the Mount Marathon, there was a snowfield here, that's not a glacier, that's a snowfield,
I was sliding down, whoop, I was in a hole about up to my shoulders. I had my pack there, you know.
And the first thought I had is, shit, that's not Switzerland where somebody's watching from the -- from the hotel Jungfrau or the terrace over there, and watch this damn fool, say, hey, somebody's in trouble, you know.
I'm in trouble by myself. Shit, I said. You know. What do you do.
So I felt around with my feet, and I couldn't find no ice in front of me.
I could find a little bit of ice behind me, a hard spot, and whoop, comes to it, I bet that the crack was 10 feet deep, a hundred feet deep, 4 feet wide, or 6, I wouldn't know.
So I very, very carefully, very care -- I had a glacier pick with me. I put the glacier pick in front of me, you know, and I undid my pack board, but the pack board is what had held me, you see.
I put the glacier pick in front of me that way, lean on it, lean a little bit like, whew. A little bit.
And undid my pack board and slid it on the side, and I had a rope on it, you know.
And I pushed the packboard, but it was downhill, downhill, about 10 feet ahead of me, pulled it back a little bit, punched it, pull it back a little bit and it caught, you know, and I gradually got out of that damn thing.
By the time I was out I was so damn tired, I took out my sleeping bag and rolled it out and slept. Camped right there. I didn't go anywhere.
That's as close as ever I got into a really -- oh, I have been in some fixes before, and I've been in a few fixes in my life, but this was -- this one, I remember vividly that one. Oh yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: Did you have a map with you? Did you have a map like that? YULE KILCHER: Hmm?
ISABELLE UNY: Did you have any map?
YULE KILCHER: I had a map, about just as rough as this. Even less, rougher.
Just one big -- one big white dot here. There was -- there was no little mountains.
In fact, that valley wasn't even on. That valley -- that -- let's see. Which is the one here. All right.
You go up here, but that valley wasn't on. There was no map.
So actually, the map showed from here all white from here, that doesn't exist, that valley. That didn't exist, so you know.
ISABELLE UNY: Did you know how far it was to go down to that?
YULE KILCHER: Well, you had a map, you could measure it, if you want.
I thought I would make that in optimistically one, two, three -- Homer, I could four or five days, I thought I could make that, you know.
ISABELLE UNY: Well, you didn't have --
YULE KILCHER: No. So I went the longer way here, you know. ISABELLE UNY: Uh hum. Ok.
YULE KILCHER: Which was reasonable, of course, but then, I -- you know, it was -- I thought I could do this shorter. Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: Any other questions, Dave, or -- specific? YULE KILCHER: Ok.
ISABELLE UNY: No? You originally came to Alaska?
YULE KILCHER: I did originally come, not came.
ISABELLE UNY: Why did you originally come to Alaska? See? I mean, why did you originally come to Alaska?
YULE KILCHER: I'm forever -- I'm -- I'm a natural born language teacher, you know, so --
ISABELLE UNY: I don't always -- I don't often make a mistake. YULE KILCHER: Okay. Okay. Okay.
ISABELLE UNY: I try. And so what was the reason that you came to Alaska in the first place?
YULE KILCHER: Well, I wanted to leave Europe because we young people sensed the war coming.
I studied my first year in college in Berlin, Germany, during Hitler's -- when Hitler came into power in '32, '33.
And then we were -- so many young people we realized that the shit would hit the fan soon.
And we're looking for -- and I had been traveling quite a bit before in Scandinavia, the Sahara, et cetera, and so on.
So I was the spokesman for a group of young people, and we were looking for a place, considered -- we considered Tasmania, we considered Argentina, we decided finally on British Columbia.
And then I discovered Alaska on my way, you know, as I told you before, you know, so here I am. You know.
There is some young people have similar motives now, and I wish you good luck.
They've got good instincts. They are not dulled by the civilization's propaganda and optimism, you know.
ISABELLE UNY: And when you first came, you thought that you would -- what kind of job did you want to do in Alaska? Just farm or --
YULE KILCHER: Oh,when, well, I came to Anchorage, I had money with me, put that in the bank, I had -- my father gave me the money it would have taken to finish my studies.
ISABELLE UNY: Okay. YULE KILCHER: You see. You know, to help me out.
With which I bought a lot in Anchorage and built a house that I sold three years ago only.
ISABELLE UNY: Oh, wow.
YULE KILCHER: Yeah. Yeah. So I was a laborer and a carpenter's helper, then a carpenter, just worked everything.
My wife came then. Well, she came over in '41, and we left Anchorage in '43 for Palmer.
I farmed a year in Palmer and then I came down to Homer.
ISABELLE UNY: To farm? To farm?
YULE KILCHER: Yeah,to live here. ISABELLE UNY: And to -- your job was to farm? You had a farm?
YULE KILCHER: Yeah, to make a living as good as we could. We had -- we brought a cow with us from Palmer.
ISABELLE UNY: Did you ever work in any coal mining or any mining of any kind?
YULE KILCHER: No, I never did. Never did. I worked in forests in Sweden as a -- as a woodcutter.
ISABELLE UNY: Okay.
YULE KILCHER: And they did carpentry, cabin building and stuff, you know.
You know, never worked in a mine. I'm glad I never did have to.
ISABELLE UNY: Very hard work.
YULE KILCHER: Yeah.
In Switzerland he was 18 or 19. 18. Went to Belgium, and went into Africa, and then he's in Africa ever since until -- until the Algerian Revolution.
ISABELLE UNY: Yes, '54 to '62.
YULE KILCHER: Yeah. And then he did business, a little bit with Algeria, but not much. With Guinée-Français, and in Abidjan, and that's why he knew all the people down there, of course.
My brother was known like a terrible -- five, six years ago in Sweden, got acquainted in the -- in the railroad with a -- with a Swedish businessman.
And very quite friendly travelling along the coast, and he was going to the Cote d'Ivorie.
I said if you do there, I says is the council general of the West Coast of Africa.
I said, Cote d'Ivorie, I said, do you ever -- did he ever -- I didn't introduce my -- did he ever meet a -- heard the name of Kilcher , Kilcher, it's Kilcher.
"Oh, yeah," he says, "Edward Kilcher." I says, yeah, that's my brother.
He say, "Oh. (French)." You know. Yeah.
So my brother was well known on the African West Coast, and so on.
Had plantations of his own, and was a representative for a French colonial trust in Paris and so on and blah, blah, blah.
He was -- he was the Swiss that made money. Is the Leo. I'm the Pisces, the jerk, you see.
ISABELLE UNY: And, well, I'm Pisces, too.
YULE KILCHER: Well, you know what I'm talking about.
ISABELLE UNY: Yeah. What about your sisters and -- YULE KILCHER: What?
ISABELLE UNY: What about your sisters and your parents? What did they do?
YULE KILCHER: I had them. My youngest sister, who was the only smoker in the family, she died at the age of 74.
My older sister, a school teacher, she is 79. No, 89. ISABELLE UNY: Uh hum. She's older than you?
YULE KILCHER: My brother died at 86 last year. Yeah. Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: And your parents, they stayed in Switzerland?
YULE KILCHER: Yeah. Yeah. My father had -- a car hit my father when he was 74 years old and broke his back.
And he was in the hospital with the legs up and all for two, three months, and he died. He would have lived in his eighties, and he had planned to visit me in Alaska.
It happened when I was there, and I was with him when he died. I was with him when he died.
Yeah. I said, I said, (indiscernible), which means (indiscernible). He says, "Alaska." That's the last word he said. I was so proud. You know.
ISABELLE UNY: And your mama? What about your mom?
YULE KILCHER: She died three years later. Tired and (indiscernible).
ISABELLE UNY: And did you have -- did you have a hard time during the war, or were you hearing from them during the war?
YULE KILCHER: Oh, no.
ISABELLE UNY: Were you in contact with them?
YULE KILCHER: No, I got -- oh, yes, I got occasional mail through France. The Swiss -- the Swiss mail was still clear. Yeah.
ISABELLE UNY: But you were not back here during that time. When was the first time you came back?
YULE KILCHER: In '47. In '47. To try to see why my friend couldn't make it.
And I find out then that his mother had written her brother, my friend's uncle, in New York, had a good position to -- write her an affidavit, like my aunt did.
She wrote her brother, don't do it, they all seem to go -- these people crazy, stupid Alaska.
He was just working on his Ph.D., you know, etcetera and so on, a classmate of mine, and that ruined him.
Not as good, selfish interest to having your little (indiscernable). You know.
What the hell. Anyway. That happened to him.
And no, but during the war, my sisters and my family, they did all right. I mean, you know, they had enough to eat, they had cars and stuff, you know.
ISABELLE UNY: And Switzerland was neutral still. YULE KILCHER: Hmm?
ISABELLE UNY: Switzerland was neutral during the war.
YULE KILCHER: Yeah, it was 99 percent neutral, but now, you read in the paper, didn't you, that you -- ISABELLE UNY: Yes. Yeah. YULE KILCHER: -- have to pay your bill, the other Jews have to --
ISABELLE UNY: That's the banks.
YULE KILCHER: Well, that's the bankers. That's not the Switzerland necessarily. But Switzerland was predominantly anti-Nazi, you know.
Otherwise, they could have made common cause in Switzerland, which would have made a big difference in the war.
ISABELLE UNY: I have a good friend in New York --
YULE KILCHER: Hitler -- Hitler in '43, we found out, suggested to invade Switzerland.
And the general staff advised against it, because they said it will take us three to seven days to conquer Switzerland, and nothing will be left on our roads to -- to -- to Italy.
We will just lose. So the Germans formed a little ditty which said, "Die Schweiz, das kleine Stachelschwein."
The Swiss the little porcupine.
"Das nehmen wir auf dem Rückweg ein." We'll take them on the way back from Russia.
And the Swiss said, we gamble on that. You know.
But then all that claim of the Jews about the billions and billions, it was to some extent justified.
Now, a banker is a banker is a banker. Bankers are as apt to steal as anybody else.
But to make -- the bankers are not Swiss, officially Switzerland, that's private business.
They should have accused the Swiss banks and not Switzerland.
EILEEN WOOLF: That's true. YULE KILCHER: That's where the Jews were exaggerating, you know. You know. Well, anyway, what the hell.
EILEEN WOOLF: Well, with that, I think it's time to go.