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Elias Venes
Elias Venes

Elias Venes talks about first coming to Bethel from Akiak, Alaska when he was a boy, his first time eating in a restaurant, and how the cost of things has increased over the years. He plays a song with Martha Scott Stey and then they both play music with Barry Toelken. You can listen to more of Elias and Martha playing music in Martha Scott Stey's part of the Bethel Communities of Memory Project Jukebox.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2011-27-02

Project: Bethel Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Jan 25, 1996
Narrator(s): Elias Venes
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
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Coming to Bethel from Akiak when he was six years old

Inflation in Bethel over the years

Playing Jimmy Kvamme's song with Martha Scott

Playing the song "Golden Slippers" with Martha Scott and Barry Toelken

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Martha Scott: Tell a story. Me, tell a story? I've told enough already.

Diane Carpenter: Your turn -- your turn Elias.

Elias Venes: Well, I don’t know...

Martha Scott: What’s another one they’d like to know?

Elias Venes: Well, I was listening to all of you guys tell your stories and there’s a couple of them I’d like to tell, but I don’t know if I...

Martha Scott: Do you want me to hum along while you tell your story?

Elias Venes: When I first came to Bethel I think I was about six years old. I was with my dad. It took us a couple of days to get here from Akiak.

I was born and raised up there. And when we got here the first thing that happened, there was this big sawdust pile down there. Immediately I went to play in the sawdust pile and got beat up. Big city. You know, but really it was small.

Then right after that, one evening my brother took me down or one morning he took me down to the restaurant to have breakfast. First store bought breakfast, ever.

Well, little half starved kid, I ate just everything, you know. I had hot cakes and eggs and bacon and cake and pie and ice cream. And I had everything.

And, the old man's name was, believe it or not, his name was Jack Kennedy. And his, his partner was Orin Goodridge.

So anyway, we went on about our business. Went home and the next morning we came back. Oh, my brother paid $1.25 for the breakfast.

The next morning we came back and that was X-ed out and it was $1.75. (Laughter)

So maybe we had something to do with inflation. But there's another one that goes along something like that and it was my dad.

He always bought reindeer meat from my wife's uncles. Every spring he'd get wild reindeer. One day, he was a Norwegian guy, he came home one day and he was bellyaching about something and little Hans asked him.

"Well, Joe, what's - what's - what's the matter?" He said, "oh, the country's going to hell", he says. He said, they raised the price from $.07 a pound to $.10 a pound.

That was the price they paid for meat in those days. The other day I went down, just about $7.00 a pound, for the same kind of meat. So times have changed.

Martha Scott: Do you want -- let's try Jimmy's. Can I do Jimmy' now, Jimmy Kvamme's.

Elias Venes: I don’t know what happened there. Sorry folks. (More music is being played)

Martha Scott: That's OK, they're not...

Elias Venes: I don't know the name of that tune. I call it Jimmy Kvamme's song cause he's the only guy I ever heard play it. So I don't know what it is.

Martha Scott: And the other song we played we called "Henry's song".

Elias Venes: Yeah "Henry’s song" that was the first one.

Martha Scott: Well, maybe we should do one more and then be finished.

Elias Venes: What about you do, pick one of those and this guy do the...

Martha Scott: You want to switch? Oh, should we do Golden Slippers? Yeah. Will you help us with that? [Asking Barry Toelken] We just tried this in the back room...

Elias Venes: In the back room and we’ll see what happens here.

Martha Scott: That was fun.

Barry Toelken: I’ll back you up by sitting right here.

Martha Scott: You’ll back us up.

Elias Venes: No, no, no, come up where we can see you.

Martha Scott: Come right up and join the --join the peanut gallery. You were doing it in G, yeah?

Elias Venes: What was the song?

Martha Scott: Golden Slippers. Who should we send this one out to? Let's do it for Melvin. He'll like that.

(Music being played)