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Maureen and Bob Carlson
Maureen and Bob Carlson
Maureen and Bob Carlson talk about moving to Bethel and the difficulties of finding land or housing.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2011-27-01

Project: Bethel Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Jan 27, 1996
Narrator(s): Maureen & Bob Carlson
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
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Coming to Bethel

Finding a house in Bethel

Coming to Bethel for work

Trying to find housing

Trying to find land for the ASHA house he bought

Enjoying life in Bethel

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Maureen: My name is Maureen Carlson. I'm a teacher here at Kilbuck. Have been for, well several months now.

We'll be here for a year this, when did we come here? Bob: You came here in August.

Maureen: I came here, well, I tried to come here in April. My husband got a job. We've taught in Alaska for the last several years. So coming to Bethel had always been a place we stopped trying to get the jet back into Anchorage to do shopping or to go back east to visit family.

All I ever remember of Bethel is trying to blow from one air terminal to another and literally holding my dog with me and kind of getting from one place to another and thinking I'll never live there. That place is hopeless.

And here we are. We're really glad to be here. Coming here is like coming to the big city for us.

I've taught, we've taught in several villages and I've taught in villages as small as 85 people so when you tell me there are 5,000 plus in Bethel. This is the big time.

So we're real excited to be in the big time. Our toilets flush and everything. We're delighted.

It's a fun place to be. I have lots of housing stories. I tried to come here and live with my husband in April but there was no place for me to sleep.

He was going between sleeping with other men, that was okay, you know, but no place for a wife, to sleeping in his office at one point.

And I said, nope, I'm sorry. I'm not living in the office. So back to Anchorage I went until there was housing.

When I came back out in August, I was lucky to have a job but I still had no housing. Two days at Delta Cottages. One night at Millie’s.

A night on the floor at the librarian’s home and then that turned into a bed at the librarian’s home.

And finally, it got to a point where we said if we don't get housing soon I don 't know what we're going to do.

And we did end up with an apartment. Now I've got an ASHA house and an apartment and I did live in that ASHA [Alaska State Housing Authority] house one night, too, when there was nowhere else to go.

We slept in the dark, with no toilet, no electricity, just a mattress on the floor. So we can tell stories about housing in Bethel.

We have an apartment now and, hopefully, a house soon. So we're happy to be here and I think we'll be here for a long time. And you can tell the rest of the story --

Bob: My name is Bob. I work for a state agency and I've been here about a year. And when they first assigned me out here they sent me out.

They said go out for a couple of days, meet your secretary, find some housing, they kinda winked, and, you know, generally get the lay of the land.

So I came out for two days in January and I could find no housing whatsoever. People live out here I guess they can appreciate that.

But I didn't really at the time. I was able to get on VNC[?] waiting list for 1 to 2 years. Which wasn't very comforting.

Along about that time I met someone in town who said, look you ought to talk to Harry Faulkner who has all these ASHA houses.

So these are substandard houses that the government was replacing with more modern housing and Harry had contracted to buy them up and put them on a lot.

They were small houses. They are 24 by 24 basically. And needed to be wholly redone. But they are reasonably priced.

So I went and looked at them and agreed to buy one, but first I arranged to buy some land.

There was a gentlemen, who is pretty well known in town took me out to Tundra Ridge and said I got this property out here and we looked at it.

And I came back later and looked at it again. Finally said, yeah I guess I'll buy one of these lots, they're pretty reasonable.

So I went to Harry and paid him for my ASHA house and arranged to look at this lot again and I was just about to buy the lot when I met another prominent citizen in town who is an employee of the city. We'll call him ‘John’.

He said, "By golly, I'm buying some property out in Tundra Ridge as well. In fact, I've already bought these lots." I said, "Which lots did you buy there, John?"

He said, I don't know, "lots 105 and 106." I said,"This is out in Tundra Ridge?" And he said, "Yeah." I said, "Well, do you mean you have an option on them?" He said, "No, I've bought them."

I said, "When did you buy them?" He said, "Oh, December." This was before I came out.

And I said, "Do you have a bill of sale or something." He said, "Yeah. I happen to have it right here." He pulls it out and damn if he didn't.

And these were the lots I was gonna buy or one of them anyway. So now I have an ASHA house on someone else’s property.

I got no lot for it and I can't find a lot. I spent the next six months trying to find land.

I found some land up BIA Road and they told me this woman wanted to sell it and I went to see her. And she said, "Well, yeah I do want to sell it." I said, "Fine, what do you want for it?" She said, "Well, I'm not going to sell it to you."

I said, "What do you mean, what's wrong with me?" She said, "I don't know you." I said, "Well, I can get you references." And she said, "No, I don't know you. I'm not going to sell you property. I got to know you."

So I said, "Well, let's get to know each other." So I worked on her and I got my people that I met, new friends out here. I said, "Look, tell this woman I'm okay, you know, I'm married and respectable, no felonies, not even a speeding ticket in the last five years."

And so finally, I did convince her to sell me the land and the house is out there now and we're gonna rehab it.

Maureen: You try, you try telling family back east that you own the house but you don’t have land, forget it... Bob: We owned the house but no land.

So I bought this land and I met another person who wanted to live out there and he said, well, whose land did you buy and I told him.

And he says, "Damn," he says, "she sold you that land. I've been trying to buy that land for 10 years." I said, "Well, she got to know me."

So anyway, we’re, now that things look like we will have habitation and we're glad to be here and I think Paul enumerated many of the reasons that it is nice to live in Bethel

And even though my colleagues in Anchorage still, there’s still this tinge of sympathy when I call them. There's something you're not telling us, Bob.

You know, you really do like it out there? I say, "Yeah, I do." And, I just to finish up with an experience I had Friday. I took one of my colleagues from Anchorage out to the airport Friday afternoon.

And we stopped at the stop sign down at Ridgecrest and Hoffman Highway there just beyond AC.

And he noticed all the traffic coming around the curve, you know, it's one of the busy intersections in Bethel. And he said, "Boy, this would be a great place for a stoplight."

And I said, "You want to go the rest of the way, you want to walk?" And that's another thing that's great about Bethel. You don't have any damn stoplights yet and hopefully never will.