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Joli Morgan
Joli Morgan
Joli Morgan talks about coming to Bethel as a Vista Volunteer, flying with a bush pilot, the friendly people he met, learning about the customs, and coming into Bethel when he had the chicken pox.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2011-27-03

Project: Bethel Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Jan 27, 1996
Narrator(s): Joli Morgan
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
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Small world story

Flying to a village as a Vista Volunteer

Friendly and trusting community

Going hunting

Coming to Bethel when he was sick

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My names Joli Morgan. I work over at the college. We took a student group over to Europe in 1989.

And we were riding the subway in London and a woman saw one of the students with a Bethel T-shirt on. And she said, I was just there 3 days ago.

So you know it's a small world. I'll tell you a couple of stories about coming in to Bethel.

When I first came here, then I was away from Bethel for six months and then I came back. I came to Bethel in 1967 as a Vista volunteer, and Bethel ended down at Sixth and Main, at that point.

They had a little Vista House. And they sort of like, put us in Eddie Bauer parkas and shipped us off to villages.

And I went out to the village with a bush pilot named Fred Notti.

And he put me in the back, behind -- sort of like, he was in the pilot seat and gear was sitting next to him. And I was kind of in the back and gear next to me, you know.

And as we were going out to Kasigluk which was about 20 miles away. He would sort of lean back and asked me a question.

Said like, where are you from? And every time he'd ask me a question he'd pull the wheel back and we'd go up in the air.

And I said, well I'm from Vermont. He said, oh, okay. How long are you gonna be here? You know, and up we'd go again.

And this - this - this happened, you know, about 10 times on the way out. And I got off the plane and he looked me and said, don't ask too many questions. And I sort of understood what he meant by that time.

Well, I got out to Bethel and had come from Vermont but I had lived most of my life in Chicago, New York. So I was a big city kid.

Firstly, I was surprised, none of -- none of the houses had locks on the door. If people left they just tied the door with a little string.

And we were in our little Vista house and people would come in. Without knocking, which would just like -- shocked me.

You know that people would come into the house without knocking. And they'd sit down and they'd look at me. And I'd say, "Hi, how are you?" and they'd say, "Fine." And I'd say, "What do you want?" and they'd say, "Nothing."

And they'd just sort of be there. I'd say, "Why are you here?" and they'd say, "We don't want you to be alone."

And I said, "Oh, okay." That's sort of like, plunk. My mind sort of said okay, now I'm kind of catching on to what the culture is like.

There are two more of these little short things. After that a man kept coming over to the house and he'd come in and said, beautiful weather.

I'd say, "Yes, really nice". He'd say, "Really nice weather" and I'd say, "Yes, it's great weather." And I knew by then to offer tea and pilot bread and jam and stuff.

And then he'd go away. Maybe about 3 or 4 days later he'd come back and say, nice weather. I'd say, yeah, it's really great.

And this happened about 3 or 4 times and it suddenly dawned on me what was going on. So the next time he came in and said, "Beautiful weather."

I answered, "Yes. A great day to go hunting." And he said, "I thought you'd never ask."

And on one of these hunting trips we went up the Johnson River. We were going to be looking for moose and we'd been going for maybe three hours, an outboard motor just cranking along and we came across another boat filled with about three teenagers.

And this was, after about 3 or 4 hours of steady motoring. And their motor had broken down and they were heading back to Kasigluk.

And they had like an oar and a 2 by 4 and that was about it. They were sort of paddling erratically.

And we stopped and everybody spoke Yupik and the men gave the teenagers some cigarettes and then we went on.

And I was kind of shocked cause I sort of thought, well, shouldn't we sort of tie up to the boat and take them back to the village.

And I asked the guy that was the captain on this -- on our little boat and I said, "Shouldn't we like, tow them back to the village?"

He looked at me and he said, "Oh, I'm sorry did you think it was a life or death situation?" And I said, "No." And he said, "Neither did we."

And so those are the little things that sort of like shift -- shifted my thinking. While I was in Bethel, they told us when we went out to Bethel as Vista volunteers to stay put and don't come in to the big city of Bethel.

And so we stayed put in Kasigluk and I was out, we had - there were two of us out there. But I got chicken pox.

And so I -- they sent me in to Bethel. I went up to the hospital and they refused admittance. They said, "No, we definitely don't want you in the hospital." And they put me in the little Vista house out on 6th and Main.

And I didn't know what to do. And as I said, I came in '67. I was 30 years old.

I was a Vista volunteer with chicken pox and my head was shaved off cause I didn't know what I had and low and behold Joerene Hout [a public health nurse] came in with a big bottle of calamine lotion.

And it was the first sort of like ray of light in my illness here. And I've always appreciated that. Thank you.