James McGavock and Jean McGavock Lamb were interviewed by Ann Kain of the National Park Service on June 17, 1990 in Kennecott, Alaska. James McGavock and Jean McGavock Lamb are brother and sister who grew up in Kennecott when the mill and mines were in operation. They were in Kennecott for the Kennecott Kids reunion, hosted by the Kennicott Glacier Lodge. In this recording, they talk about their life at the mine, going to school, their housing, and adjusting to life in Colorado after they moved away from the mine.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Jun 17, 1990
Narrator(s): Jean McGavock Lamb, James McGavock
Interviewer(s): Ann Kain
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1) Background information
2) The family's move out of Alaska, and location of placer claims
3) Adjusting to being outside Kennecott
4) Traveling around the Kennecott area
5) Travel outside Kennecott
6) Riding the train from Kennecott to McCarthy in winter
7) Description of their home in the 1930's
8) Parents' marriage and mother's work
9) DT's and alcoholism
10) Kennecott nurses, doctors, and receiving medical attention in Kennecott
11) Kennecott's dental coverage and the availability of a dentist
12) Gardening and household chores
13) Description of their house
14) Price of meat and other staples
15) Household items used in the 1930's
16) Labor management at Kennecott
17) School at Kennecott
18) Recreation in Kennecott
19) The ethnic diversity at the Kennecott Mine
20) Visits back to Kennecott
21) Holidays at Kennecott
22) Deaths at Kennecott
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KAIN: Kennicott Glacier Lodge, Kennecott, Alaska, June 17, 1990. Oral history interview with James McGavock and Jean McGavock. Lamb, brother and sister, who grew up in Kennecott, Alaska when the mill and mines were in operation. They are presently in Kennecott for the Kennecott Kids Reunion conducted at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge. The interview is being conducted by Ann Kain for the National Park service, Alaska Regional Office.
KAIN: How old were you when you were here at Kennecott?
MCGAVOCK: Well, I was probably brought here when I was just a few months old
KAIN: And how long did you stay?
MCGAVOCK: I stayed until I was oh, almost 13 years old.
KAIN: And the years? MCGAVOCK: That was from 1924 to 1937.
KAIN: I see, you were here -- you left before the mine closed. MCGAVOCK: Yes. KAIN: I see. The year before. MCGAVOCK: Yes.
KAIN: And where did you come here from? MCGAVOCK: Well, of course, I was born in Seattle.
KAIN: Was your father in mining there? MCGAVOCK: No. KAIN: No.
MCGAVOCK: No. He had worked at the Bremerton navy yard when some magnetic thing drew him to Alaska.
KAIN: I see, so he just came up here -- this was an available job so he wanted to go to Alaska so he took it. MCGAVOCK: I suppose it sounded promising. This was probably the end of the rainbow
LAMB: Also times were bad down below.
KAIN: Yeah. When -- did you -- when you left here did he go into mining -- stay in mining or --? MCGAVOCK: Yes, he tried to.
KAIN: And what exactly did he do here? MCGAVOCK: He was the master mechanic here.
KAIN: Running all the machinery and MCGAVOCK: Responsible for a -- he had a crew of men and responsible for keeping all of the machinery running and maintained both here at the camp and at the four mines.
KAIN: Would he have -- ride up on the tram to maintain the stuff up there? MCGAVOCK: Oh, yes.
KAIN: I see. And Jean, your age when you were here?
LAMB: Well, I think I was brought up from Seattle, where I was born, at six weeks and lived here until 1937. Probably the late spring or early summer of 1937.
KAIN: So were you -- people came up here to -- your dad -- was ultimate to come to Alaska, so it was -- he planned to stay. MCGAVOCK and LAMB: Um-hum.
KAIN: When you left, where did you guys go?
MCGAVOCK: We settled in Denver, Colorado because that was my father's home. That was where he was born.
KAIN: I see. Why, if Alaska was his ultimate dream, he had enough of it and decided to leave then or --
MCGAVOCK: There was literally, probably, nothing else in Alaska at the time.
KAIN: Nothing else for him to do.
LAMB: Well, nothing to support a family. He could have gone off and mined -- placer mined on Dan Creek or done things like that in other areas but to support a larger family -- and I imagine there was some pressure from my mother to get outside where hopefully she thought things would be easier.
KAIN: Right. I understand you have some patented claims. MCGAVOCK: Yes, right.
KAIN: A few. Along Dan Creek?
MCGAVOCK: No, out on a -- out on Chititu, next to Rex Creek.
KAIN: At Rex Creek. So did your dad work those claims when you were here?
MCGAVOCK: Very little, very little. Actually, as I recall those claims, a fellow by the name of Chick Nelson gave those patented placer claims out there on the (Cole) Bench to my mother and George Powell's mother.
But to my knowledge very little was ever done with them. I think my father was waiting for the Chititu Mining company to complete their operations before my father began his.
KAIN: Why -- did you -- why did you leave here and go to Denver a year before the mine closed? Did your father see an end coming to this?
MCGAVOCK: Oh, yes, I'm sure he saw the end, yes. KAIN: Decided to get out when he had other opportunities.
MCGAVOCK: Well, he thought well, I better go and start looking.
KAIN: How was the adjustment for you kids when you went out?
MCGAVOCK: It was somewhat difficult going from the school here to the big schools outside.
And, of course, we were isolated here. We never had any childhood diseases that children go through outside since -- LAMB: Yes, I forgot about that.
MCGAVOCK: The measles, the mumps, chicken pox, whooping cough, etc.
KAIN: Yeah, so did you get all those things when you went out?
LAMB: We got -- well, we never got the whooping cough as I recall, but we did get the measles and the -- I don't think we got the mumps. They're harder to get. Chicken pox definitely came and I think that isolation of my childhood was responsible for my getting polio later -- later on.
KAIN: I see. How old were you when you got polio? LAMB: Twenty-six. KAIN: Twenty-six?
LAMB: But I think the fact that I had not enjoyed the usual exposure, because of the isolated life we lived up here, that and the cold, I don't know.
KAIN: Built up an immunity for alot of things.
LAMB: Yeah, I didn't have the kind of immunity that maybe the children outside had. But (?). KAIN: That's interesting.
MCGAVOCK: We were so isolated here that -- well, you could brag that you never got a cold in the winter time and things like that.
There were no viruses or anything like that, no influenza. KAIN: Right.
LAMB: And I think the big one -- the nasty Spanish flu hit Cordova, what -- in 1918.
They closed the camp, I mean they closed off the camp, they further isolated the camp up here so that it wouldn't come up here.
KAIN: I understand that during a flu epidemic they opened up what they called a detention building or a detention camp, or whatever you want to call it, as a quarantine location so they couldn't get back into camp and bring all that in.
LAMB: Something like that would decimate a community.
KAIN: Yes. That was a real controlling situation, from what I understand.
So socially -- you had difficulties in school, social wise -- adjusting to it?
LAMB: Well, I think so. To come from a one room school house to the Denver public school system was a shock.
KAIN: But as far as -- academically were you comparatively up to snuff with everyone else?
LAMB: Academically, I think we were behind KAIN: Really?
LAMB: And it took a while to catch up. And then I think there is always a social (?) and some do better with it than others. KAIN: Sure
LAMB: Yes, I'm sure.
KAIN: So with being slightly behind academically and that compounded with social --
LAMB: What girls wear and how they behave and all the rest -- maybe girls feel it more than boys, but I would think a teenager would feel it more than someone my age.
KAIN: Yeah. Well -- did -- when you -- how long did it take you to get through that do you think? LAMB: I don't think it took me more than a year.
KAIN: How about you Jim? MCGAVOCK: I don't think it took more than a year.
KAIN: And so you both made adjustments within a years -- a years time? LAMB: Yes.
KAIN: I found that to be an interesting thing that cropped up that, you know, I've heard several people say that that was a problem, making a social adjustment when they left here, because this was an isolated community.
Did you travel around much while you were here?
LAMB: Well, we probably did more than others. MCGAVOCK: Locally.
KAIN: Well, that's what I meant. Yeah. LAMB: Dad had the only privately owned automobile in camp. KAIN: Right.
LAMB: And that permitted us to maybe take Sunday drives or Dad would go down to McCarthy and take Jim along very easily.
It was strictly local and you can imagine what the road system such as it was.
KAIN: Not a whole lot better than it is today. LAMB: Well, it was better in our day. MCGAVOCK: It was better.
LAMB: You could cross McCarthy Creek, for one thing.
MCGAVOCK: And drive out the Nizina Road and cross the Nizina River and actually get to Chititu and Dan Creek.
And out of McCarthy you could also -- we also would drive up to Green Butte.
LAMB: And Baultoff Lake and do some fishing. MCGAVOCK: Well, that's true.
KAIN: On the weekends you'd go out for an afternoon of fishing? LAMB: Oh, Yes. Um-hum.
KAIN: Did you go camping at all for any extended period of time? MCGAVOCK: I don't recall. No. LAMB: I don't remember, except for that trip we took to Valdez, which of course was different.
MCGAVOCK: That wasn't what you'd call camping. LAMB: No. No, that was -- that was an Alaskan hotel.
KAIN: So, for the most part, your -- those day trips you'd go out on a picnic and go fishing and --
LAMB: Yes. Dad would go off hunting, I imagine, and be gone for -- KAIN: Several days? LAMB: No, not for a long time but, you know a week or two.
KAIN: Did you ever go outside, to the lower 48? LAMB: I think we probably did more than some. Mother -- do you suppose it was as often as every other year or maybe every two or three years?
MCGAVOCK: I just can't remember. LAMB: I can remember a number of trips.
MCGAVOCK: I'm sure there were more trips than when we were born. KAIN: Yeah. I see. LAMB: I remember because I got seasick.
KAIN: You don't remember how many times you went out though? MCGAVOCK: I can't remember, really.
KAIN: But you do remember going outside on several different occasions. And where did you go when you went?
LAMB: We went to Seattle and Mother's family lived in Roslyn, which is just a hundred miles about east of the Cascades, so we went down to her family.
KAIN: I see. What about -- so you went to Valdez one time, did you ever go to Cordova at all on the train?
LAMB: Well yes, because we had to, to go to Seattle. We would have to go to Cordova --
KAIN: Cordova -- the only time you went to Cordova was en route to the lower forty-eight. LAMB: Was en route, um-hum.
KAIN: You didn't go to Cordova to shop or anything like that?
LAMB: No, I don't think -- we certainly didn't. We'd go there on the way "Outside" or coming back in.
MCGAVOCK: Well, the one trip we made that you probably wouldn't call a local trip was -- a man by the name of Carl Whittam was running Nabesna mine and he needed help mechanically so my father was given time off from his job here to go to Chitina where he rented a car.
He took his family with him and we drove out the Richardson Highway and on to Nabesna where we spent about a week there living in a tent.
Of course it had a wood floor on it. And after he'd done all he could there for this man that ran the Nebesna gold mine, that's when we went to Valdez. And then back to Chitina.
Of course, we -- we went by speeder on the railroad from here to Chitina.
LAMB: Because you couldn't drive there by the road.
KAIN: Right. Now the train -- you just -- did you just ride it at all to just go, yeah -- I mean to just go for a day or anything like that?
LAMB: But Bill had an adventure.
KAIN: Did you stowaway on a train or something? MCGAVOCK: No, no. That was just a -- that was just -- I (inaudible) LAMB: Yeah, I know that. I just thought you were going to relate that to us here.
MCGAVOCK: Do you want to hear that now? KAIN: Oh, yeah. LAMB: That'd be good.
MCGAVOCK: Well, back in -- I guess it was 1932 when they kind of closed it down, they just kept a caretaker for it.
And then in probably about '34, '35, somewhere along in there, they decided to kind of open up a little again. But they were not going to run trains in the winter.
And so they decided to keep a train crew here in the winter.
Which involved a steam locomotive and tender and coach and then a train crew, an engineer, a fireman and three breakman.
So they brought up every available rail car on the system put them up to siding down at Chitina, you know west of the -- on the other side of the Kennecott River.
There was room to (?) here, sidings here for rail cars.
And when the cars -- they'd fill the cars here in the sacking shed with ore, the ore for the most part went out in junk sacks of bags.
They stacked it on flat cars or box cars or whatever it was.
When all the cars were full, why they'd -- it was a job to fire up the cold, dead steam hauler that'd just been sitting there but they'd fire it up and pull this -- pull cars down and bring a few empties back.
And the engineer (Art Holt) seemed to think I was just a nice kid and he'd always beckon me in the cab while they switched there at Kennecott. Right out here.
And he asked, he said, "do you want to ride down to McCarthy with me tomorrow, Jimmy?"
I said "sure". So when the time came, why I could hardly wait.
It was a surprise to me that there were several women and a few children were going along too, because there's very was limited room in the cab of a steam locomotive.
But there we were some and well, we started out, went up, over the hill and there is somewhat of a grade between here and McCarthy, a difference in elevation
and for some reason or other, the brakes didn't work on the cars, the brakes didn't -- were no good on the engine and with all those heavy cars pushing that little locomotive and boy, pretty soon we were going 70 or 80 miles an hour.
And McCarthy just went by like a blur. There was a big long trestle in front of McCarthy, that went across the two forks of the Kennecott River, and we zipped across there.
All of this time, we were plowing about two feet of fresh snow.
And then there's an up grade after you get on the other side just near the Iverson's farm and it kind of slowed us down, stopped it.
We backed up to the siding and got the ore cars and parked them and picked up empties and back to Chitina.
And boy, the women were scared to death, boy, they weren't going to ride that locomotive back and so I was the only one that drove the locomotive back with the fireman and the engineer and the crew.
I thought the ride was kinda neat. I mean, I wasn't scared at all and yet, they certainly gave a thought to throwing us off in the snow bank on the way down, but why they didn't, I don't know.
LAMB: The tail end to that story -- he hadn't had permission to go.
MCGAVOCK: I hadn't asked permission to go -- I guess I had not asked for permission to go because I felt well, I'd probably get a no.
KAIN: So you'd rather go without permission, than to --
MCGAVOCK: I'll tell you, of course, you know. A camp like this, why it wasn't long before that experience -- everyone knew about it, anyway.
Yeah, everybody learned about that through the mukluk telegraph(?).
Well, I certainly was chastised for not asking permission because, you know, as I recall my father's attitude was boy, you're to be seen and not heard.
I can remember him one time looking at me at the dinner table up there in the cottage and saying, "boy, you go down to Julius in the bunkhouse and get a haircut before you come to this dinner table again.''
KAIN: That sounds like in the early 60's with all the long hair.
MCGAVOCK: Well, I wasn't that way, there was no long hair back in the '30s. It was just a case of if you let your short hair just get a little bit long why it didn't look very good at all to the -- your elders.
KAIN: That's right, you get it cut.
Where did you live when you were here?
MCGAVOCK: We lived up on the hill. Up on the hill, east of here, is seven cottages, three in one group and four in the other.
In the group of four, the southernmost cottage, number 19, is where we lived.
KAIN: Number 19. Now that had indoor plumbing? MCGAVOCK: Yes. That had indoor plumbing.
KAIN: Was that the only house you lived in when you were here?
MCGAVOCK: No, no. In 1932 when they decided to close down pretty much and just keep a caretaker for us, they decided we're not even gonna pump or -- pump steam up on the hill.
So, we had to move down on the tracks north of the powerhouse. KAIN: Okay.
MCGAVOCK: So we were there for -- I don't remember whether it was a year or two -- a year or two.
LAMB: I have a lot of trouble remembering that period. I remember that we lived there and I think it was more than a year, but I wouldn't necessarily have had an understanding of what happened at that time.
But, I just don't even remember the interior of the house very well, for some reason. The thing I remember about that house, like all the houses of course, was the steam came in underneath and there were all these pipes, crawl space down there.
There were mice, I think and Jim and I used to go down there and he would catch mice with two sticks, until I got very tender about those poor little mousies, you know, meeting their demise down there.
Besides, that wasn't too much fun. Strangely enough, that's the only thing I remember about that house.
KAIN: Well, the first house -- when you came to Kennecott, you went directly to 19. LAMB: We lived up on the hill. KAIN: You didn't live in any of the apartments here or -- LAMB: No, no.
KAIN: Okay. So, there was no waiting list for housing when you got here? LAMB: Well, there may have been, because I think when mother and dad were first married in 1922, that they spent some months living in the staff house.
KAIN: I see. LAMB: So they certainly didn't move into number 19 immediately upon their marriage.
KAIN: But, now you kids were -- your parents were here before the two of you were born? LAMB: Yes. MCGAVOCK: Oh Yeah.
KAIN: Did they meet here? LAMB: And before they were married. Yeah. They met here.
KAIN: Okay. They met here and married here. LAMB: They married in Cordova, but they met here. They eloped I think.
KAIN: And then did the whole -- did both of your parents leave, or did your mother just go out to have you children? LAMB: Mother, just Mother.
KAIN: Okay. She went out and had you in Seattle and then brought you back. LAMB: And brought us back.
KAIN: I see. Okay. LAMB: And Dad stayed up here. Jim and I --
KAIN: So you didn't come up as a family. LAMB: No. KAIN: They came up as two singles. LAMB: Yes.
KAIN: And your mother, what did she do up here? LAMB: She was a Registered Nurse.
KAIN: She was a nurse. And did she continue nursing after she was married? LAMB: I don't know. I don't think so. MCGAVOCK: No.
KAIN: She didn't nurse at all. Even before you children were born? LAMB: No, I don't think she did.
KAIN: So as soon as she was -- they were married, that was it?
LAMB: Well, you see, by the time they were married -- when she came back -- of course, I guess I have to explain. She -- she came up, we think in 1918, she was definitely here in 1919.
She suffered some sort of an accident here with -- from a patient with the DTs, presumably.
He struck her in the breast and it necessitated her going outside where eventually she had surgery. KAIN: I see.
LAMB: And then I don't think she came back perhaps until 1922. She was visiting with friends here and she and dad decided to get married and of course, they had met before.
KAIN: You mentioned a patient with DTs, are you referring to alcohol? LAMB: Yes.
KAIN: Was alcohol a problem here, do you think? Alcoholism?
LAMB: It wasn't even allowed in camp, except people had private access to it, a bottle of whatever. But I'm sure it wasn't allowed at the mine.
If a miner wanted booze, he had to get his time off and get to McCarthy.
MCGAVOCK: Well, he -- he wants to keep -- they took their time and normally what happened at the mines was on pay day, why, there'd be poker games up there and maybe one individual or two would end up with all the money and then, who ended up with all the money went to McCarthy for wine, women and song and when it was all over, they came back and went to work.
The company decided well, this is the best arrangement, we can't have these miners, these workers, going on to Chitina or Cordova or even Seattle.
LAMB: And never coming back. KAIN: Right.
MCGAVOCK: And never coming back or maybe it'd be a long time before they did come back. Just let them go down to McCarthy and have their fling and they'll straggle back and go to work.
KAIN: Yeah and we don't have to worry about them leaving and we don't have to worry about them having the alcohol and so forth here at camp.
MCGAVOCK: Yes. And after they've blown all their money in McCarthy on wine, women and song, why, they couldn't afford to go outside. KAIN: Right.
MCGAVOCK: There was no other alternative, than to come back to work. KAIN: Right. That's an interesting --
LAMB: There was no liquor publicly available at Kennecott. KAIN: Right.
LAMB: But, I'm sure there were private stocks.
KAIN: Now, how many other nurses were there?
LAMB: I'm not too sure about that, but I know when mother came up in 1919, there would always be at least one or two other nurses in the pictures.
MCGAVOCK: I think generally there were three nurses.
KAIN: Okay. And doctors, how many? MCGAVOCK: Just one doctor.
KAIN: Just one and did he do -- was everything performed at the hospital, surgeries and everything else? MCGAVOCK: Yes. I --
KAIN: And we already mentioned -- you already talked about childhood diseases and there pretty much were none here. What about other injuries and so forth?
MCGAVOCK: I fell off the roof and broke my arm and I ended up in the hospital and the doctor set my arm -- X-rayed it and set it.
And then on another occasion, one Saturday, why, I'd been eating a couple of those real nutty candy bars previously and I came down with a real belly ache.
I was dragging around and kind of complaining and my mother -- I think she had to have the doctor come to the house.
I was kind of going down hill and well, by evening -- this was in the morning and by evening, why, he diagnosed it as acute appendicitis.
And by the time -- this was in the month of January -- by the time, he -- well it was dark and he decided I had to get that operated on.
And I can remember the doctor -- he made two or three trips up the hill and he was complaining -- he really, his lungs were getting frosted puffing up the hill just to check me. KAIN: Just to check this little kid.
MCGAVOCK: So they had the company truck come up and take me down. And my father didn't like the doctor. He felt the doctor drank too much and he didn't want the doctor to operate on me.
KAIN: Well, That's understandable.
MCGAVOCK: But eventually he relented and they operated -- well, even before they could perform the operation they only had two nurses on staff so they had to call for another one from McCarthy who had been an RN.
And she had to be brought up by dog team and so sometime in the wee hours of the morning, why, they started butchering me.
KAIN: So you had an appendectomy. MCGAVOCK: It was just about ready to rupture. LAMB: He survived.
MCGAVOCK: When I woke up in the morning, why, they even had it right there on a stand beside the bed in a bottle of formaldehyde , for me as a souvenir.
LAMB: I don't think Jim enjoyed the good health that I did, because I also remember he had his tonsils out and remember eating -- seeing you eat tons of tapioca pudding.
KAIN: I see. But most of -- you think most of the work done at the hospital was mainly on injuries?
LAMB: Probably miners and mill type injuries and things like that.
KAIN: Now did you pay for the doctor?
MCGAVOCK: Oh, yes. I remember, I was -- I guess my father was charged about $300 for that appendectomy and he about went through the roof.
He was going to run Doc Toohey right out of town. Why, that was just way out of line.
KAIN: So you paid for your medical services? MCGAVOCK: Yes.
KAIN: Okay. So some -- and the doctor, did he have a set rate do you know?
MCGAVOCK: I have no idea just what he had, but I do know after my dad made a fuss, Doc Toohey adjusted his -- changed his fee.
KAIN: I see. What about now -- did you -- did people ever -- were they ever sent out of Kennecott for medical?
LAMB: I wouldn't be surprised if they would. Either that or the patients, if they were able, felt that they would rather go out. In the case of my mother's going out for Jim and I. I don't think she had a lot of.
KAIN: She chose to go "Outside" and to have -- have you children "Outside" rather than here at Kennecott.
MCGAVOCK: But I'm sure there were some cases that could not be handled at this hospital. In fact, I remember a -- I remember someone in management being sent here back in the '30s and he came from Braden, Chile where Kennecott had an operation. And apparently he wasn't in too good of health and his health deteriorated after he got here.
And I can remember the superintendent and a manager coming up to our cottage one night and talking to my father and he said, "we got to get an airplane in here and get him out."
And of course, my father had a ham radio and he could talk to Chitina or Cordova.
So they got pilot, Harold Gillam, to come in with his plane, the "Pilgrim" and told him to take some seats out so they could get a stretcher in there on the floor and they took this poor guy down on a flat car with a speeder to McCarthy and put him on a truck and up to the airstrip and took him out.
KAIN: What about a dentist? Was there a dentist here?
MCGAVOCK: A dentist only -- a dentist here just part time or just intermittently, just once in a while. The did, down in the staff house annex, had a dental office where there was a dental chair, but you see the dental chair sitting down in a McCarthy saloon (now).
KAIN: I have seen it before.
Were there any other sources of medical assistance other than the hospital? McCarthy, was there a doctor in McCarthy? MCGAVOCK: No.
KAIN: No, so did the people in McCarthy come here? MCGAVOCK: Yes. I'd say so.
KAIN: Okay, I think we'll call it a good stopping spot right here while this is blinking and then we'll turn it over.
KAIN: We were talking a little bit about housing and so forth, did you have a garden? LAMB: Yes
KAIN: A vegetable garden? LAMB: A vegetable garden.
KAIN: And who did the gardening?
LAMB: Was it prepared, did somebody prepare it for us, or did Dad do it or -- MCGAVOCK: I can't remember.
LAMB: We don't remember things like that and I can't particularly remember what was grown. I do know that I have an aversion to canned vegetables.
I don't like any vegetables because of my Kennecott years.
KAIN: None at all, not even fresh?
LAMB: Well, I guess they are a lot more palatable, of course, but there was something about all those things I canned that were hard on me for some reason. But, yeah, I suppose the produce was the one thing that I would think of as negatively, although people had gardens here and during the winter time we had to rely on canned vegetables.
KAIN: Did you have chores that you did around the house? LAMB: I'm sure we did. MCGAVOCK: I can't remember now.
LAMB: Mother had to keep us busy somehow. Well, I know Jim chopped wood. I can remember that. And mother would keep me busy in the kitchen, cooking the usual things and learning to embroider tea towels and things like that.
KAIN: How about your father, was he pretty involved in work at home on his days off or --
MCGAVOCK: He pretty well busied himself with things outside the home, I would say. The job kept him pretty well tied up although, he was in touch with his job just through the telephone at home, which could tie him in even with the mines.
KAIN: Because of his position as a mechanic he needed to be on call, just to make sure things continued to run. MCGAVOCK: Um-hum. And then he established this ham radio station, which at first was transmitting with Morse Code, you know, and then later on he upgraded it to voice.
And he got pretty involved with that.
KAIN: Did -- did the two of you share a room or did you have your own room?
LAMB: We shared. There were only two bedrooms in the upstairs of those cottages. Jim and I had the back bedroom and he had his bed against the back wall, toward the mountain, and I had mine on the front wall by the staircase.
And he used to make it pretty hard for me to go to sleep and (teased me a lot.)
KAIN: And what about the heat upstairs? LAMB: Steam heat.
KAIN: There was steam heat upstairs as well.
LAMB: Well, it was certainly warm enough, but warm air rises. I don't actually remember the radiator in the room but it must have --
MCGAVOCK: I can't remember whether there was just a steam radiator in the bathroom and none in the bedroom or whether they put them in the bedrooms, too.
LAMB: And I can't remember being particularly cold, like there was no dash for the kitchen stove in the morning or something like that. It was comfortable.
KAIN: What kind of heat or stove for cooking, oven or? LAMB: Wood stove. MCGAVOCK: Probably an old Monarch wood stove.
KAIN: And you helped your mother in the kitchen some? What about did you -- was there -- did she cook differently in the summer, I mean did you barbecue, cook anything outside?
LAMB: No, I don't ever remember even meaning the word barbecue.
We picnicked, you know, on these little tiny trips we took and things like that. But I don't remember her cooking differently.
She was a good cook and she had access to I think quality meat, we certainly went to the meat market. We got good meat, well aged. They don't do it anymore.
MCGAVOCK: Well everyone did, because it cost so much to ship everything in that they only shipped the very best meat up here. There was no point in shipping --
KAIN: Did you pay a lot for that? MCGAVOCK: I could not say.
LAMB: Well, I imagine that we paid a fair amount for everything. We probably did.
KAIN: Now was it -- did you pay cash for things or ? LAMB: We had scrip. MCGAVOCK: Um-hum, what we got was scrip.
KAIN: So on payday you traded in some of your money for scrip and then purchased -- made your purchases that way.
LAMB: We also ate a lot of spruce hen and ptarmigan. Tell her about that.
MCGAVOCK: Yes, in the fall we'd go out -- KAIN: Go out hunting? MCGAVOCK: -- and hunt for spruce hens.
KAIN: Was the store -- did -- now did you buy everything at the store, I mean, other than food. What about clothing and furniture?
MCGAVOCK: Furniture -- probably we bought very little, if anything. When it came to clothing, that pretty much was ordered from a mail order house like Sears Roebuck.
KAIN: I see. So clothing was pretty much ordered from "Outside." LAMB: And of course, we had grandparents and aunts and uncles "Outside" and I think they kept us well supplied with gift clothing and toys. We never lacked.
KAIN: Now, what about the miners? Did they have to order stuff out or did the company supply them with coveralls and cold weather gear and so forth?
LAMB: I don't know that, but I rather suppose that if they did, they certainly paid for part of it out of their wages.
MCGAVOCK: Oh, I'm sure they did. The company store down here offered a number of things. They sold shoes and some clothes and I suppose it was primarily work clothes.
LAMB: Well and what we wear -- what we as children wore all summer, you know, was just a pair of overalls. You know, the kind that -- KAIN: Yes, bib overalls.
LAMB: Bib overalls, yes. And mother did have a washing machine and I suppose those overalls went in the washing machine once a week.
KAIN: Yeah. Now was it an electric washing machine? LAMB: No. MCGAVOCK: Yes. LAMB: Was it? the savage?
MCGAVOCK: I think it was, yes. KAIN: A wringer, an electric wringer type or LAMB: I think it just did clothes.
MCGAVOCK: It did and I can't recall now whether it had a wringer or not. But it was a pretty old one. LAMB: I don't either. But I can remember it was out there in that shed, wasn't it, that's gone now?
MCGAVOCK: No, they used to keep it in the back kitchen and then wheel it in the kitchen to fill it and the way it was arranged, why, it -- the cage in it swiveled so that it would tumble vertically to wash and then you turned it and it would spin when you wanted to get to a kind of a spin cycle.
LAMB: But it wasn't like the old Maytags with a wringer, no.
KAIN: Okay. Now where did she get it? Did she order that from somewhere or was it --? MCGAVOCK: I have no idea where that came from.
KAIN: Where did your furniture come from? MCGAVOCK: I don't know. LAMB: Here. Well, don't you suppose that this was probably made here? I was thinking, all these same tables that you find in the cottages were probably made in furniture shop on the west end?
MCGAVOCK: I think that is very likely. LAMB: And all those captain chairs, they're all so much alike.
KAIN: Okay. So most of the -- the clothing you would order out, food you pretty much got here or grew yourself or hunted. LAMB: Yes.
KAIN: Then all the furniture was probably company owned then?
LAMB: Or company rented out or, not rented out so much -- I heard somebody talk about the fact that they turned their furniture in when they left and got a certain percentage off of their payment back. So I'm not really sure how.
KAIN: Then a kind of rental idea. LAMB: I really don't know, that's my conjecture about it.
KAIN: Now, when you were talking about your mother working, I assume she lived in the staff house. LAMB: Yes.
KAIN: When she was single and your father lived there as well. MCGAVOCK: He lived in the staff house annex. LAMB: Yes.
KAIN: Okay, and then you said something about when they married they lived in there? LAMB: In the staff house.
KAIN: In the staff house. Okay, so there was some married persons accommodations in there? LAMB: Apparently there was, yes.
KAIN: I see. Now did either of you two -- you were both pretty young when you left, so you didn't ever work here at all. LAMB: No.
KAIN: Now what -- do you remember you were telling about your father being on call basically, because of his job. Do you remember any problems with labor management disputes or did you talk about those kind of things at home?
MCGAVOCK: He didn't talk about those kinds of things. I think if there were any labor problems, they were probably handled by someone higher in management, like the superintendent or the manager.
KAIN: What about people under him?
MCGAVOCK: He never had any problems that I recall. I think most of the people that worked for him were certain mechanically -- had mechanical experience or were good electricians and they seemed to be happy.
In fact, the people that got -- who had the highest wage rate were mechanics and machinists. They made more money, as I recall, than miners did.
KAIN: Skilled labor. LAMB: Yes, yes.
KAIN: What about school? You both attended school here. MCGAVOCK: Yes
KAIN: One room school?
MCGAVOCK: It is -- it was a two room school, but while we attended, in the '30s, for the most part, they only utilized the one room. LAMB: I only remember the one room.
KAIN: What grades were you when you left? LAMB: I left -- first through third. MCGAVOCK: I think I -- was it the seventh or the eighth -- I can't remember -- when we left.
KAIN: Okay. Now could you have gone on if you had stayed? MCGAVOCK: No. Beyond the eighth grade? No, I could not have.
KAIN: Okay. So -- LAMB: That would have been another consideration about it being time KAIN: To pack up and move out to the lower 48. LAMB: Um-hum.
KAIN: I see. How many kids were, pretty much in the classes? Do you remember?
MCGAVOCK: The last several years why, it was no more than five, six or seven. In fact in my case, from the first grade through the seventh grade, I was all by myself. There was no one else in the grade. KAIN: So you were it.
LAMB: And I had one classmate.
KAIN: One classmate. And then -- so you -- how many kids all total were in the building when school was in session, do you have any idea?
MCGAVOCK: No more than five, six or seven. I remember one year there were only about five.
LAMB: I have -- for some reason I think that last year I went that there might have been eight, that there were three Morrises, and a Watsjold and Catherine Howard and a Jimmy (McGavock) Lamb and Jeannie Lamb and a Billy Humphreys. That would add up to about eight, wouldn't it?
MCGAVOCK: I'm sure it was under nine or ten.
KAIN: Now was it -- just one teacher? LAMB: Yes.
KAIN: Was there any -- did they offer any education for adults, that you recall? MCGAVOCK: Not to my knowledge.
LAMB: It seems to me, you know, community-wise other things went on. There was a reading club and they had some kind of a library and that kind of -- and who knows what else they might have done. We just didn't take much notice of that as children.
KAIN: What about -- was there quite a social life here? Was that mainly tied to the school or did the school sponsor things, picnics and so forth?
LAMB: I would -- wouldn't you think the school would be basically the center of -- well, certainly, for people with children at home. I know that there was a group that played bridge, or maybe they all did. And They had some library and some kind of a reading club.
I suppose it depended on who was here at the time and how much interest they had for community involvement.
KAIN: Now if you -- you know, you were talking about the adults social activities, playing bridge and reading club and what not. Now were the single adults included in the group as well as married?
LAMB: I imagine so, because certainly Nell McCann, who was single but she came up here, I presume was included to some extent.
KAIN: Was there a lot of goings back and forth -- like you going over to another person's house for dinner and that type of thing?
LAMB: I don't remember going out to dinner so much, but I remember people coming after dinner. KAIN: After dinner, for the evening? LAMB: Yes
KAIN: Just talking or playing cards or -- LAMB: Yes, they did that. KAIN: Just come over for a visit. LAMB: Um-hum.
KAIN: We already talked about what you did recreationwise. I've heard that there was a ball team that played with McCarthy -- LAMB: Yes.
KAIN: Now was there -- were kids included in that at all? LAMB: No. KAIN: It was just strictly adults. LAMB: Kids watched.
KAIN: Kids watched. Did the women play on the team? MCGAVOCK: No. KAIN: No?
MCGAVOCK: No. And also on the -- on the ball diamond in the winter time, the company created a skating rink -- an ice skating rink. LAMB: That was nice.
MCGAVOCK: Which they even -- there were provisions there for skating at night, you know, lights -- artificial lighting, and they kept it cleared of snow and they'd even flood it with water to make it smooth if necessary.
That was another social thing for people that liked to ice skate. There were a number of people here that were, Scandinavian or Danish or whatever and they were -- LAMB: They were good skaters.
KAIN: Was there a lot of people with different ethnic backgrounds? MCGAVOCK: Oh, yes.
KAIN: I'm not referring to, you know, the American melting pot which, I mean we're all from -- but someone that was immediately -- had come immediately from Europe or somewhere? MCGAVOCK: Oh, yes.
KAIN: Quite a number of them. LAMB: Particularly from Scandinavia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland.
KAIN: And Switzerland? Did a lot of the men -- the men from the mines -- I assume alot of the men in the mines were Scandinavians and so forth, were they the miners, or were they the tower workers or mill workers or the --
MCGAVOCK: They were miners and some of them were utilized in mill and the flotation plant or the leeching plant.
KAIN: So they were just -- they were scattered among the different rankings, social rankings basically and job -- blue collar, white collar just as much as anybody else was basically.
What about -- did the men from the mines come down and recreate with you people at all?
MCGAVOCK: No, no, they did not. They, as a rule, passed right through and made a beeline for McCarthy. KAIN: Okay, so you didn't. LAMB: So we really had no contact as children.
KAIN: Your social life here included those living here. LAMB: Here. MCGAVOCK: Yes.
KAIN: So the people up in the mines -- you dealt with people that -- or did things with people from the mill, flotation plant, hospital, power plant. Okay.
So, there was very little contact with the miners up at the mine. They just came down and passed on through and passed on through going back up, huh.
When you -- when you left here, did you keep in touch with other people from Kennecott?
LAMB: Well, I think -- I'm sure my parents did. You know, throughout their lives, although it lessened as the years went by, but maintained contact.
MCGAVOCK: There was a tradition to always exchange Christmas cards and write a letter or note along with that.
And if any former Kennecott person or Alaskan person knew you were living in Kookoomongo why, they generally made an effort to look you up and visit with you.
KAIN: When they were passing through. LAMB: Yes.
KAIN: Now you've been up here since it closed -- since you left?
MCGAVOCK: Yes, in '83. KAIN: I mean aside from --
LAMB: Yes KAIN: So '83, was that the first time you had come back? LAMB: That was the first time.
KAIN: And this is the second time back. MCGAVOCK: It is my second time back. LAMB: It's my third. I made the trip in '86.
KAIN: Oh, you were here in '86 as well. And how did you find it?
LAMB: Well, pretty much, I think as we expected. You know, we -- we've always been alert for Kennecott news and history and occasionally we'd see things in the National Geographic.
Of course, we are ardent subscribers to the Alaska Magazine and the Alaska Geographic and I think we were prepared to see what we saw.
And frankly, surprised to some extent that it is in as good condition as it is. KAIN: Yes, yes.
LAMB: It's just that we lament that they ever started to take it apart.
KAIN: One other thing I was thinking of -- when you mentioned the exchanging of Christmas cards -- what did you do on holidays, while here?
MCGAVOCK: Well, there were only two holidays that workers got off, and I'm sure it was without pay, and that was the Fourth of July and Christmas.
Now, at -- on Christmas Eve, why, the school always put on a play or a program in the social hall and then after that, why, Santa Claus distributed the gifts that the company gave or provided.
KAIN: What -- what kind of gifts did you get from your parents?
LAMB: It's hard for me to segregate it out, you know, what I got from whom. Can you remember a -- the company gift?
MCGAVOCK: I sure can't -- I really can't. I remember --
LAMB: Were the roller skates a company gift? Would that -- something like that. That beautiful doll I got, I know I got from Grandmother Scobie and George, but apparently, you know, gifts were given like that. But it is hard for me to separate out who gave what. MCGAVOCK: Me too
LAMB: Not much ta-do was made about it. I guess we were in the reception mode and we didn't worry about where it came from.
KAIN: What about the Fourth of July, was it a big celebration? Fireworks and --
MCGAVOCK: No fireworks that I ever recall. The big event was the baseball game. KAIN: The Fourth of July baseball game.
LAMB: Yes, the baseball game, and for kids the races.
MCGAVOCK: I don't even remember whether they had a picnic or anything like that on the Fourth of July or anything like that -- I really don't.
KAIN: Okay. So there were races and baseball games and that's pretty much all you remember.
LAMB: And I don't remember if they provided food or anything. I remember a big washtub of strawberry ice cream provided for some school function.
And I was -- I think I remember it because I don't recall that we ate strawberry ice cream at home. We had a lot of homemade ice cream but strawberry was something different from to me and it was in a washtub, you know, I mean --
KAIN: Mounds, huh? LAMB: Mounds of this strawberry stuff, I never forgot it.
KAIN: There were just you two children and your parents? LAMB: Yes. And a dog.
KAIN: And a dog. Something you had mentioned heading down to the cemetery before -- and I was wondering do you have any relatives in there? MCGAVOCK: No.
KAIN: Do you recall anyone dying here at Kennecott, just an acquaintance or? LAMB: I don't, but I bet Jim does.
KAIN: And what were the procedures?
MCGAVOCK: I really didn't know the man that well, but he did work here in camp.
And he apparently -- I believe it was in the summer time and he went to McCarthy and of course, workers generally walked to McCarthy and had their fun and whatever and then had to walk back.
And walking back, I guess he was into his cups and an ore train was coming down and I guess he was laying on the tracks, probably passed out and he got hit by the train
and I think that he lost both legs.
And by the time the train crew notified Kennecott about the accident -- when they got into McCarthy -- yeah I think that happened around Blackburn, why they sent the company truck down to pick him up, but he was dead.
My electrician friend -- of course, no one knew who it was until the truck got back here -- and my electrician friend said, I jumped up on the truck and took the tarp off and it was so-and-so and he was gonna be our pitcher for the baseball game.
Well, they took him over to the company hospital. I knew nothing of this at the time.
And generally, I had my ear to the ground and didn't miss anything, but the superintendent called my father and her started to leave the house, and I'd either go with him or trail along behind.
Soon, he informed me that I wasn't to come. So I watched him and he went down to the bunk house and got several men and walked over to the hospital and they came out carrying a stretcher, covered, and took it to the carpenter shop.
Well, I knew that Inger's father Chris Jensen, who was the chief carpenter always kept several coffins there.
In fact, he may have even made them, these were not just an ordinary box.
And anyway, that worker was buried in the Kennecott cemetery. No relative could afford to have him shipped outside for burial at the -- even the freight rates in those days.
KAIN: So what -- did they conduct a funeral service?
MCGAVOCK: I don't think it was, it was probably just a grave side service because we didn't have a -- LAMB: No clergy. MCGAVOCK: No clergy or church. LAMB: Just visiting people coming up.
KAIN: You had a visiting minister that would come occasionally and that's the only time there were services? LAMB: Um-hum.
KAIN: And you don't recall any other funeral or anything like that? MCGAVOCK: No, I don't
KAIN: Well, that's interesting. But you were going to walk down to the cemetery just to -- just to look, huh?
MCGAVOCK: Just to look. I had heard that Rich (Kirkwood) has maintained it, you know. And it's a bleak place right on the edge of the glacier.
And I think -- I'm not certain, but George Powell was at Kennecott. He is here. His father was killed here and he is either buried in the Kennecott cemetery or the McCarthy cemetery.
George has never talked about it.
KAIN: Do you know what happened to his father?
MCGAVOCK: And then of course his mother remarried. I believe it was an accident.
LAMB: I gather that it was an accident, but I don't know whether it was a mine accident or a mill accident here.
KAIN: You don't know where he worked, though do you? MCGAVOCK: No, I don't. LAMB: He doesn't seem to talk about it.
KAIN: Well, I think that pretty much covers what I was hoping to cover. LAMB: Well, good.
KAIN: And I appreciate your giving us the time and the information and, like I said, these tapes will be made available for anyone doing research on the area. MCGAVOCK: Oh that's fine. KAIN: So, thank you very much.