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Maria Turnpaugh
Maria Turnpaugh
Maria Turnpaugh talks about memories of school in Unalaska and the Russian Orthodox religion.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2009-16-02

Project: Unalaska Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Apr 26, 1996
Narrator(s): Maria Turnpaugh
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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Memories of the old school in Unalaska

Going to Russian school

Men who worked at the docks would predict the weather

How Lent is observed in the Orthodox religion

Mischievous boys in the village

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MARIA TURNPAUGH: Well, I'll start when I was maybe about 5, 6 years old. We had the old school, this was the old school you remember.

It was on this side of the old school, and it was 3 stories. And it was built like these Methodist, guest home places. And it was huge, it was really huge.

The boys had one playroom that was huge, and the girls had a separate playroom, for recess time. And the, we always wanted to go upstairs so bad, but we couldn't.

I think it was the 8th graders that were on the upstairs. And it was, it used to seem so dark and so huge to me. You know, become scared to go to other places, 'cause you'd never been a place so huge.

And then before my first year of school was over we got the new school house. And it was just four rooms. One room was for the teacher's quarters.

It was a beautiful new school, but it was filled. It was just enough for our little, I can't remember how many children there must have been -- 50 maybe.

And-oh, let's see. We'd go to school, we'd go home, change our clothes. Then we'd have to go to Russian school.

We had an hour class at the old Russian school, it was an extension of the bishop's house. And my grandfather Alexei Yatchmenoff, and my uncle John, they were both teachers there.

And that whole hour was just terrible, you'd want to play outside, it'd be spring (laughter). The weather was so nice, and the early fall.

And I don't really know what I learned there, because I didn't pay attention (laughter). It was terrible, because all these other children, they seemed to be older than I was. My oldest sister, she learned to read and write Russian.

There was quite a few of the old, Tim Tutiakoff, Victor Tutiakoff, Martha Vincent's mother and they did very well.

And then, well, we'd get up in the morning, everybody had coal stoves. And I always remember my father, telling us in Aleut, to get up, the kettle was boiling (laughs).

And we'd get up. In the wintertime he'd warm our clothes for us on the oven door, and that would nice (laughs). And before we went to school, we'd see all these men, before they went to work they had a -- what work they had here at the time was a coal yard down by the, on this side of the dock.

Was maybe six foot tall, fenced in, and the ships come in and put coal there. And all the men worked down there with their wheel barrels and stuff, and before they went to work, you'd see clusters of men sitting on the beach, in twos and threes.

I can't remember what they call it in Aleut, have to find out. But they'd be telling the weather, I mean, telling what the, figuring out what the weather was going to do. So after work they'd go out in their boat and fish for something, you know, hunt.

They'd all sit there and they'd be silent, they'd be looking around, you'd hear them mumble. Cause there used to be three of them right in front of our house, in front of Nikki's place there. John Golodoff, my father and Sergei, Sophie Sherebernikoff's father, they'd also be together all the time.

And then they'd get off to work. And then come back, maybe five o'clock. And then jumped in their skiff, go out, catch some fish for dinner, come back in, or whatever, some seafood. And we had fish 6 days a week, I guess.

I mean everything, clams and whatever. It was such a treat to get corned beef (laughter). To this day I love corned beef soup (laughter).

And, let's see...we'd come to school. And then, and on Sundays-Saturdays, of course, there was church in the evening. And then Sundays there was church in the morning. And you weren't allowed to do any work. You weren't allowed to play strenuously (laughter) or anything.

It was a day of rest. And they all observed that. And during Lent all the children, well, it was most all, everybody was Orthodox here then, we'd go to church in the morning, first week of Lent, before we went to school, before we had breakfast, we'd go to church. Come home, have breakfast, and go to school.

Then go home, and go back to church for, again in the evening. So that was during Lent, was what we did. First week, the fourth week, and the seventh week. The old people did it.

Everybody did it, sometime during the seven weeks of Lent. But that used to be the... you kneel an awful lot during Lent, in church, you know (laughter). And that was the most horrible thing. One of the boys would start do something, and try to keep from giggling in church was the hardest thing I ever had to do. (laughter)

Oh, those boys were terrible! Like Tim Tutiakoff one time, he was an altar boy, he must have been 13 or 14. And we had a monk here, he was ...I can't remember his name.

He had been shell shocked anyway, and he -- he was always going like that, you know (laughs). And I didn't know why, I thought he was disapproving all the time (laughter), you know.

Anyway, we were having church. And they had these two candelabra, and only the monks use them. You know, those with the candles, and they go like that, and.... and through the crack.

The girl's would stand over here. And the alter door was opened a crack. And here's Tim Tutiakoff, he had a firecracker (laughter), and he was threatening to light it.

And we tried to keep from laughing and all that. And pretty soon he did light it accidentally. And here that monk, he threw everything up, like that (laughter). And it just scared him to death!

And I guess you know what happened to Tim. He had to--his mother made him kneel in church, all through every service (laughter). For, just kneel, for the longest time. It was a long time. (laughter). But, that was terrible (laughter).

And, oh, let's see. And my mother said, when she was little, when she went to school, the Jesse Lee Home was here then. And she had many friends left. And it was fenced in.

And she'd take some homemade bread and jam up there and she'd trade it for a pickle, a dill pickle (laughs), cause they had dill pickles in barrels up there. And of course we hardly ever got a pickle (laughs).