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Mamie Maloney
Mamie Maloney
Mamie Maloney talks about growing up in Port Safety and moving to Nome. She also talks about her dad working as the ferry operator on the Safety Lagoon.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2007-03-05

Project: Nome Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Feb 17, 1996
Narrator(s): Mamie Maloney
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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Her father coming to Alaska from Sweden and her growing up in Safety

Prejudice in Nome

Running the ferry at Safety and the Russian Lend-Lease Program

Taking Army cars on the ferry

Taking care of dogs

Dad staying at Safety

Getting caught in a storm on the lagoon

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Well, to begin with, my dad came to Alaska in 1901 from Stockholm, Sweden. He stayed up there and went back outside in 1901. He went back that same year and he came up here again in 1910 and stayed.

He ran the roadhouse out in Port Safety and also drove mail from Council to Nome by horse team. From 1923 until he left the ferry in 1951, that's when he moved to Nome.

I stayed in Safely until I was...I left there in 1947 to get married. But I stayed down there all my life with my dad. Until I moved to Nome I had never gone to school a day in my life.

My dad didn't want me to go because there was so much prejudice in Nome, couldn't go to the restaurants. You had to sit in a certain place in the theater.

But being me, I'd go take my friends to the show. They'd tell me, "Oh, you have to sit in row so and so," I'd say, "well I paid money just like everybody else." I didn't move.

Luckily they never kicked me out. Never said anything to me. I had a good life in Safety, it was a hard life. I mean Dad didn't keep anything around that didn't work. So I guess that's why I stayed there till I was 24.

He ran that ferry and we had early days mostly horse teams, very few cars. During the war years we took our ferry halfway across the lagoon, and anchored it and gassed up the Russian planes that went through.

They had a big army here and they just went down on maneuvers. For what I don't know. One day we took a bunch of cars across, and we got half of them crossing the lagoon, and they were wondering why they weren't coming back.

You could only get 2 cars on the ferry at the time. We got about seven cars across, I guess, so they tell me to stop the next bunch that comes and tell them to send one car on ahead to tell the rest of them to come back because we'd be up there all night ferrying them across. So they had to come back.

One summer, one month, it was in July, June or July, we had taken; I don't know how many cars we had taken across. We had taken over 1,000 people across that ferry

due to the army going on maneuvers and there were a lot more cars in them days. We did have problems with the floods. One time had to move upstairs for three days because the water was so high you couldn't see no land anywhere, between Cape Nome and Safety and Solomon and Safety.

We had to move our dogs upstairs too. We got through that alright. We used to get Christmas trees from Council. Joe Felter had a horse team and he'd take them in from Council and he'd charge only a dollar a Christmas tree which was very nice. Now it costs a fortune to buy a Christmas tree.

Dad had a bunch of dogs that he used to take care of for the people that worked there in the summer time, miners and whatnot. But think the most dogs we ever had was 300 at a time. That's a lot of dogs and he had quite a few horses. That was a lot of work.

When I left home, dad only stayed there a couple more years after I left home because his health was ailing and it was getting hard for him too. I wonder what he'd say now if he could see that nice bridge they have across there.

One time we went across the lagoon and it was storming real bad. Southeaster was coming up and the current was going out real, real bad on the other side of the lagoon so I was changing the rope. I told dad, "Don't let go of the rope until I did a half hitch on here because I know I can't hold it."

But he didn't hear me I guess so he let go of the rope and I hung on to that rope as long as I could. Couldn't hang on no more so the lines broke off the cable and we drifted out to sea and stayed out there until 4:00 in the morning.

He decided that he'd anchor the skow out there, that we'd come ashore because the wind was getting stronger and it was raining and cold. So we came ashore and he was afraid I'd catch a cold so he gave me a cup of hot water and a shot of rum so I wouldn't catch a cold and sent me to bed.

I went to bed and I looked up at the ceiling and man that ceiling was going round and round and round. I didn't feel good the next day. I had a big headache but I didn't catch no cold. I guess I could go on and on but I think I've done quite well.