Ron Hogan was interviewed on March 30, 2016 by Karen Brewster at his home in Kotzebue, Alaska. In this interview, Ron shares his experience of seeing a U-2 airplane land in Kotzebue in October 1962. He also talks about the relationship between the nearby White Alice Communication System station and the local community in Kotzebue, and what it was like living there during the period of Cold War threats from the Russians.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Cold War in Alaska
Date of Interview: Mar 30, 2016
Narrator(s): Ron Hogan
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Personal background and coming to Kotzebue as a teacher
Appeal of living in Kotzebue
U-2 airplane landing in Kotzebue in 1962
Secrecy surrounding the U-2 plane landing
Communicating with Russia by ham radio
Reading from a letter he wrote to his mother in Kentucky about the U-2 plane landing
Details of the story behind why the U-2 plane landed in Kotzebue
Being alert to jet airplane noise
Interaction of White Alice Site and DEW Line station with the community of Kotzebue
Contact between polar bear hunters and Russian pilots
Changes in Kotzebue, including water, sewer, telephones and television
Lack of concern about Cold War danger, and concern about health hazards from radioactive fallout
Description of White Alice versus DEW Line sites
Affect of the military bases on the local community
Life in Kotzebue during the 1960s
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
KAREN BREWSTER: Today is March 30th, 2016, and I'm here in Kotzebue, Alaska with Ron Hogan at his home. And we're going to talk about issues about the Cold War here in Kotzebue and his memories of the time in October 1962 when a U-2 plane landed here.
Ron, thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me today. RON HOGAN: Glad -- glad that you came.
KAREN BREWSTER: Before we get into all that Cold War stuff, maybe a little bit about yourself and where you're from and how you ended up here in Kotzebue.
RON HOGAN: Well, actually, I'm originally from Kentucky, and, actually, I guess you’d have to say I chased my wife up here.
We met at -- she lived in Fairbanks and we met at Western Kentucky University. She graduated a year before I did and after I graduated I borrowed some money from an older brother and came to Alaska.
And that was in 1960 and we were married in Fairbanks in 1960, and been in Alaska ever since.
KAREN BREWSTER: And you were a schoolteacher?
RON HOGAN: Right. We came to Kotzebue first and taught two years here. Then we went down to the little village of Elim, which is between Nome and Unalakleet for three years, and then I came back here as a high school principal for ten years.
And left education in ’77 and went into private business here. And we had some stores here with two other families. And we built and operated and owned the world’s only Dairy Queen restaurant north of the Arctic Circle in the world for ten years.
KAREN BREWSTER: All right. That was you guys, huh?
RON HOGAN: Yeah, that was us and so -- so we've been retired since late '80s. Just enjoying life here.
KAREN BREWSTER: And -- and did you get your teaching credentials in Kentucky?
RON HOGAN: I got a degree in Kentucky. I also have a degree from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in secondary education, and a master’s degree from Western Kentucky University.
KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. And you grew up in Kentucky?
RON HOGAN: Well, I grew up until I was about twenty and then came to Alaska, yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And can -- may I ask what your age is? RON HOGAN: My age is 78. KAREN BREWSTER: Very good. So we have a timeframe of all that and -- RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: So why did you guys decide to come to Kotzebue?
RON HOGAN: Well, we'd been interested in coming out to rural Alaska, and at that time the Bureau of Indian Affairs operated the school here. And so we applied with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and we were hired for here in Kotzebue, and so we came here.
There was not much here in Kotzebue then. Not many people. I think there were about twelve hundred people then and fifteen hundred dogs. Everybody used dogs for, you know, work and transportation back in those days.
And not -- just a very small area here of houses and a couple small stores. And it's just changed a lot in the last 50 years or so.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And what did you teach when you -- those first years?
RON HOGAN: When I first came here, I taught history and math in the middle school for the first two years we were here.
And then when we went to Elim, we were the only teachers at Elim. And I was the principal teacher and I taught grades four through eight, and my wife had first through third.
KAREN BREWSTER: And, yeah, at that time there was no high school in -- there? RON HOGAN: No, no high school there, no high school here. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, that’s right.
RON HOGAN: All the students were shipped out to boarding school then in rural Alaska. Yeah.
And then when I came back here in 1970, that’s 19 -- I'm sorry, 1967, the Bureau wanted me to come back here because I did have a degree in secondary education.
And so when I came back, we kept the eighth grade that year and they became freshmen the next year, and we kept them all the way through. The next year they were in the tenth and eleventh, and then we had our first graduating class in ’71.
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow! RON HOGAN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: That must've been quite an event, the first local graduating class.
RON HOGAN: Well, it was, yeah. It was a really a very exciting time. A nice time. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
RON HOGAN: Yeah. Kids were great to work with and just a -- it was a good situation.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, you and your wife must like Kotzebue if you've been retired for a quite a while and you're still living here.
RON HOGAN: Well, we do. We really like Kotzebue. People ask us all the time when we're Outside. They say, you know, "Why do -- why do you go back to Kotzebue or why do you live there?"
And my answer that I give most of them is unless you had lived there, you really wouldn’t understand. So that’s sort of my answer.
There's just something about the country. There's -- I don’t know, it's about the freedom. It's about the great big land out there, and it's so peaceful and quiet.
And it's just a good way to go out there and get your batteries recharged.
KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. So you guys have spent quite a bit of time exploring the country and -- ?
RON HOGAN: Well, we have land up on the Noatak River. We have a cabin up there. So we built our cabin in ’76, and so we've been going up there ever since.
So it's peaceful and quiet. Caribou are around. Moose. And in the last couple years, we've had too many bears around. They decided to pay us a visit after about thirty years and been inside the cabin a few times.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And you go up there in the summer or the winter or spring?
RON HOGAN: Well, we usually go up there in the winter. We haven’t been up in the winter for -- Well, we didn’t go up this winter so far.
I had spine surgery a couple years ago and so we haven’t been up in the winter, but we go up every year in the summer. KAREN BREWSTER: Nice. RON HOGAN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: It must be beautiful. I've heard it's really pretty up there. RON HOGAN: It is. It's very pretty. We have trees, beautiful scenery.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So this U-2 plane, why don’t we talk about -- RON HOGAN: Sure.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- that. For people who don’t know what we're talking about, maybe you can explain a little bit of that background and what happened.
RON HOGAN: Well, of course, a U-2 plane -- You know the -- probably the history of the U-2 plane. They were spy planes that basically that the United States had.
We had quite a few around. We actually had -- we had one or two that were based over at Eielson out of Fairbanks, I think, at that time.
We had some friends over there that we knew real well that were in the military, and they had told us about the U-2 planes. And actually, every once in a while you might see one on the -- along the runway there at Eielson. We had actually seen them there.
And, of course, you know how close we are to Russia and that was back in the Cold War days, and I'm certain we were doing some flyovers.
And this situation that arose here with the U-2 coming to Kotzebue happened during the Cuban Crisis. Well, we had a -- I guess, a U-2 plane that had been over there. Either got lost or had engine problems, you know, that really wasn’t made public.
And it was one Saturday morning. It was really early in the morning. We lived over at the school then in a six unit. And all of a sudden in the morning, sometime between five and eight in the morning, these two Delta Dart jet interceptors, fighter planes, that were based over at Galena I think at that time. We had a squadron over there probably five or six planes.
Just sort of flew right over Kotzebue. I mean just roof top level almost. Just about shook the building down.
And, of course, immediately we jumped up and went out and you could hear the planes. Of course, it was still sort of dark.
And a little bit later there was lights appeared, you know, from sort of over toward Russia and up North. And a long circle and a plane came in and landed on the north south runway.
At that time, we only had -- we had two runways like we do now, but they were both gravel and so the U-2 landed on the north south runway parallel to the ocean out here and taxied up actually to the FAA housing quarters out there.
And so we immediately got up, and a friend of mine, another teacher there, he got up and we decided we'd go out and check it out and see what was going on.
And so we went out there. And by that time, the military had gotten down from the base. We had a White Alice Site out here, you know, a DEW Line station.
And they had come down. Pretty well had everything cordoned off and they were putting tarps over the airplane.
And it was getting light by that time and people were trying to take -- going to take pictures. And the military people, well, the Air Force people they were taking their cameras away from them and whatnot.
And the plane stayed here most of the day and they flew in some -- some Air Force planes flew in from Elmendorf down in Anchorage and brought some personnel in. I don’t know if they were working on the U-2 or exactly what they were doing.
But this friend of mine and I decided that we would go out to the end of the runway. We knew which way the wind was blowing that day. It was coming out of the east so we thought we'd walk down to the east end of the runway and get a picture of it when it took off.
And so we went down and sort of hung around in the willows there at the end of the runway for a while.
And when the plane took off, it took off from up by the water here and it didn’t stay on the ground but about maybe two hundred feet. And when it took off it didn’t glide, it didn’t just climb out easy. It just almost hung itself right straight up and just sort of disappeared.
And by the time it got anywhere close to the end of the -- end of the runway was probably -- I don’t know, it was so far up you could hardly see it, so -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, wow!
RON HOGAN: So that was sort of the story of the U-2 plane and its coming to Kotzebue. Of course, it was kept very quiet. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RON HOGAN: Nothing appeared in the news for over two years. There was not any mention at all of it.
And the funny thing about it, I don’t know if you've seen the movie about the Cuban Crisis. I don’t know the name of it. I think it was "Eight Days in October" or something like that.
And it did mention the U-2 plane that almost went down over Russia and it showed it landing somewhere in Alaska And it landed at this nice great big concrete airport with a nice big terminal building and sort of interesting since it landed in Kotzebue. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. RON HOGAN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you said that it didn’t come out in the media for two years. What was that media report that -- when it did come out?
RON HOGAN: Well, just that it -- that we just had a U-2 plane that almost went down over Russia. That was the first time I saw it in any news. And it was two years later.
KAREN BREWSTER: And was it in the newspaper or -- ? RON HOGAN: It was in the newspaper. Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: The Anchorage newspaper or -- ?
RON HOGAN: You know, I really don’t know. I think it prob -- I could've seen it Outside sometime in the summer. I don’t really know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. RON HOGAN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so the U-2 flew out? They didn’t -- RON HOGAN: It -- right. It flew out under its own power. KAREN BREWSTER: Its own power. RON HOGAN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
RON HOGAN: Yeah, it was probably on the ground, I’d -- I'd say maybe six to eight hours. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. RON HOGAN: Maybe ten.
KAREN BREWSTER: And any noticing of the pilot? Did he come around town or -- ?
RON HOGAN: Oh, no, no. Uh-uh. No, it was very secretive.
You could not go near the airplane, you know. They kept it all cordoned off. You couldn’t even go on that side of the runway to get to over where the plane was.
And they had a big tarp over it. You could see that, but no, you couldn’t get around it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, was there -- Just in Kotzebue, lots of other people knew about it? Was there a lot of talk like what’s this and lots of gossip?
RON HOGAN: Well, there were a few people there, you know, that sort of came out. And, you know, it was mentioned.
A lot of people had no idea what it was, you know. We had planes in and out all the time. And that was a little bit different since we had the fighter planes, you know, that came right over the town was pretty exciting.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I was thinking a small town, there's lots of talk and you'd think word would have spread pretty quickly like, "What were those fighter planes and what’s this thing?"
RON HOGAN: Well, I'm certain that that was the case, right, yeah. You know, a lot of people were talking about it. Nobody really knew too much about it. They weren’t too familiar.
We didn’t have a whole lot of news up here in those days, you know. We didn’t have a radio station, and unless you had a shortwave radio or something and listened to the Voice of America or Armed Forces Radio, you didn’t get a whole lot of information.
KAREN BREWSTER: Were you doing ham radio back then? RON HOGAN: I was, yes. Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: And did you have communications? RON HOGAN: I did. Uh-huh. But we didn’t talk about that, yeah. I just thought it was best not to mention it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Could you reach Russia with your ham radio? RON HOGAN: Oh, sure. I talked to a lot of Russians, yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Back then, too? RON HOGAN: No, not too many back then, but, you know.
KAREN BREWSTER: I wonder if they scrambled the airwaves?
RON HOGAN: They had a -- Russia for years had a jam. What they call a jamming station over there. They called it the woodpecker. Ham radio operators did.
And it was always just made quite a bit noise on certain frequencies, but, you know, we -- we talked a lot.
And, of course, Radio Moscow you could get here on shortwave radio. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really?
RON HOGAN: Easier than you could get most any station down in the Lower 48. So we listened -- we actually listened to Radio Moscow quite a bit.
KAREN BREWSTER: It was in English? RON HOGAN: Sure. Oh, yeah. Yeah, they had English -- English speaking people. Very interesting. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
RON HOGAN: They had a lot of interesting stories that they'd tell.
They'd talk about, you know, they just got a letter from farmer Joe Smith in some state in the Lower 48,
and he was just talking about how wonderful it must be to live in Russia and he wished he could come and live there. So, it's pretty comical.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. RON HOGAN: Yeah, but interesting. KAREN BREWSTER: A little bit of propaganda. RON HOGAN: Quite a bit of propaganda, yeah, quite a bit. Oh, yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you said you have this letter here.
RON HOGAN: Oh, I do. Well, I just -- This letter I have is dated November 12, 1962. And I had written to my mother down in Kentucky.
And she -- that -- that was -- we'd been hearing a little bit about the Cuban Crisis. We really didn’t know that much about it, actually, because we weren’t getting that much news about it.
But I'd get a letter every once in a while from them, and they knew that it had been building up to this.
And, actually, the folks had actually built a big bomb shelter in their basement there in a rural county. KAREN BREWSTER: In Kentucky, yeah.
RON HOGAN: In a rural town in Kentucky. And just -- I'll just --
I’ll read you just a little excerpt of this, if you don’t mind. KAREN BREWSTER: Sure, that'd be great.
RON HOGAN: And I retrieved this letter after my mom and dad died.
KAREN BREWSTER: That's wonderful that they saved it. RON HOGAN: Yes, they saved it. KAREN BREWSTER: That's wonderful.
RON HOGAN: And after they had died, well -- There were ten siblings in the family. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, wow!
RON HOGAN: And so I got the letter back, so I thought that was pretty nice.
But I said, "Dear Mom. Well, have things settled down any down there? In your last letter it seemed that everyone had pushed the panic button.
I guess things did look bad for a while, but we don’t get much news here so no one got very excited.
I hear you got a new bomb shelter out of the deal, so that's pretty nice. Actually, building it was a real good idea."
And so then I went on and I said, "We did have our own bit of excitement during the Cuban Crisis. I'm certain that all of you down there heard about our U-2 spy plane, which was over Russia and ended up landing here in Kotzebue."
Well, nobody heard about it.
"Well, it was really over Russia and I think the Russians might have almost shot it down.
We were asleep early Saturday morning on October the 28th when about five to seven o’clock in the morning the sky over Kotzebue was sort of -- there was a lot of noise as two supersonic jet fighters from bases here in Alaska flew over the town.
And they flew out over the Bering Sea toward Russia and in a little while they came back escorting another plane, which was the U-2 spy plane.
And it landed at our airport here in Kotzebue, and it had to make a forced landing here on our gravel runway at Kotzebue.
And military police and personnel were flown in from Fairbanks and they soon sealed off the field. And I did see the plane, but only from a distance.
The plane was here for about seven hours and then took off. We have very short runways here, but the plane had no trouble.
So you can see we can even have a little excitement on this side of the world. I'm certain that the landing place of the U-2 plane wasn’t made public to the newspapers so I know it is classified government information."
KAREN BREWSTER: Pretty cool. RON HOGAN: So that’s --
KAREN BREWSTER: That's really neat. Yeah, well, from that book by Michael Dobbs he talks about the flight.
That Maultsby was the pilot and they were -- according to this book, they were -- he was flying up toward the North Pole monitoring for radioactive fallout from Russian testing. RON HOGAN: Testing. Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: And he was navigating by the stars and he was supposed to go out, turn around and come back and he had some radio contact.
And the aurora was out and he got disoriented with the stars. And so when he turned to come back, he got off course.
RON HOGAN: Right. And it ended up over Russia.
KAREN BREWSTER: He ended up over Russia. And you’re right, the Russians did send -- RON HOGAN: Right, they --
KAREN BREWSTER: Planes out to try and shoot him down. RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then they -- eventually the US, you know, was able to make some radio contact with him and tell him turn left, turn right. RON HOGAN: Right, right.
KAREN BREWSTER: You know, come back. 'Cause it took him a while to figure out where he was.
And he was coming back and the planes had, you know, enough fuel for, you know, I don’t know, nine hours, ten hours of flying. RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: And he was at that margin and so he turned everything off and he glided. RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: And that's why they picked Kotzebue. It was the closest -- RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- point. And he got lucky. He was able to glide all the way in. It was like 200 miles or something.
RON HOGAN: Well, 200 -- it's 200, but those planes from a high altitude -- I don’t know if you've ever seen one. KAREN BREWSTER: I've not seen one.
RON HOGAN: But they have huge wings. KAREN BREWSTER: That's what I've heard.
RON HOGAN: Huge, wide long wings and they're made to glide. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
RON HOGAN: They can glide almost forever. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
RON HOGAN: And, you know, I really couldn’t tell. As soon as the jets went over Kotzebue, I immediately -- I was up and, you know, out on the porch. It was, like I say, it wasn’t really too bright.
And, actually, there might have been, you know, the Russian planes I don’t know if they were still close by or if they had dropped off.
KAREN BREWSTER: From what I've read, I think they dropped off. RON HOGAN: Dropped off.
KAREN BREWSTER: They had -- they had one set trying from one base and that didn’t work and then they sent another set. And then by that point, American jets had gone to help. RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: To help kind of guide him back. RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: So those jets were probably the American jets. RON HOGAN: Right. KAREN BREWSTER: That flew over. RON HOGAN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: But, yeah, I would think in 1962, middle of the Cold War, you hear jets like that, what do you -- You know, you said you jumped up out of bed. What were you thinking might be going on?
RON HOGAN: Well, we just really didn’t know. I mean, because we didn’t -- we didn’t have jets land here then at all. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RON HOGAN: They were just piston planes. And so to -- You know, I knew right away that it was -- had to have been a jet because it -- it just -- the whole house shook it was that low to the building.
And it was sort of almost like they suck us up in the, you know, in the air intakes, but it was really loud, and so I just jumped right out of bed and ran out on the porch and it was headed that way.
You could still see the, you know, the lights were flashing on it.
KAREN BREWSTER: As I say, that time period, you hear jets like that I think everybody would kind of freak out a little bit.
RON HOGAN: Well, probably, you know, you just -- you never know. You know, I mean, I would imagine that a lot of people heard it.
Maybe a lot of people didn’t think too much about it, but there -- there was quite a bit of talk in town about it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, and you mentioned the White Alice Site or the DEW Line here. RON HOGAN: Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: How much interaction was there between that site and the community just in general in that time period?
RON HOGAN: Well, you know, I can only speak from the school standpoint. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RON HOGAN: And we had a lot of interaction with them. The commanding officer out there was -- they were always very nice. They came down and took part in different activities that we had at the school.
They had some bowling alleys out there that they let us have -- I had a bowling class for my high school students out there and we took them out there every day.
And they came -- they had a little gym out there, a nice gym, and they had a little theater and a little tiny restaurant and, you know, they would invite us out to eat and see movies and things like that.
So the -- the interaction, it was really very good. They were really willing to help any kind of project.
You know, they’d make donations to the school. They always came back Christmas with gifts for all the kids. So it was very nice.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I was wondering with the Native community how much, you know, beyond what you said about the school, then beyond that how much interaction with the Native community was there from the base?
RON HOGAN: Well, I don’t know, we had local people here that worked at the base. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, there were? RON HOGAN: Uh-huh. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.
RON HOGAN: So we did have people out there that worked out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.
RON HOGAN: And I know local people could go out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, they could? Okay.
I didn’t know if it was --You know, a lot of military bases they're pretty closed off and you have a gate and they don’t want to be around the community, especially in that time period. RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: Everybody was on such high alert.
RON HOGAN: Well, every year, I think it was Armed Forces Day maybe? Is that the day when maybe that they opened the base up and -- and the whole town, you know, anybody that wanted to would go out there.
And we had the Blue Angels. They came up and put on a big show one year when we were first here.
And they had two radomes out there at that time. There's only one now and it's all been remoted. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RON HOGAN: But now -- Then, you know, they actually, they took care of all that data and they had people manning them all the time.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. It was a fully operational --
RON HOGAN: Fully operational station. And they -- And they took us right through the radomes. KAREN BREWSTER: Really?
RON HOGAN: Oh, yeah. We got to go through the radomes. They explained how everything worked and, you know, they showed you little things on their scope.
And, no, they were -- they were very nice, very nice. They had hotdogs and hamburgers and things.
KAREN BREWSTER: It seems like an open house kind of thing. RON HOGAN: It was. Uh-huh. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: That’s good. Did they ever mention if they ever caught anything on their radar and there was ever a possible Russian threat?
RON HOGAN: They never talked about anything like that. No, I don’t think they -- they wouldn’t mention anything like that. But I'm -- I'm certain that they saw a lot of stuff probably, you know.
And then back in those days, there were a lot of -- there were actually a lot of polar bear hunters that came here and -- and -- you know, in the '60s.
And, you know, there was a old fellow here that was a great guy, Art Fields was his name, and he -- he used to tell me stories about going out on the ice hunting -- polar bear hunting and he'd actually see, you know, some Russians there and they'd be flying around.
They’d land and -- and he showed me a watch that he had swapped with some of the Russian guys and they used to swap cigarettes.
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow! RON HOGAN: And did stuff like. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: How far out would they go for polar bear hunting?
RON HOGAN: Well, they'd go up off of Point Hope, so probably, you know, a hundred or so miles out there at least. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow!
RON HOGAN: But in the spring of the year there would be -- everybody hunted with Super Cubs and there would always be two -- two planes.
And they'd be pretty much wing tip to wing tip from out by the airport all the way up to B&R Tug and Barge and --
KAREN BREWSTER: B&R Tug and Barge, the end of the beach up here? RON HOGAN: That’s – yeah, that’s now Crowley Maritime. Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, so -- Yeah, the -- like they'd -- they'd land on the ice in front of town?
RON HOGAN: Land on the ice, right. It was all frozen then. Uh-huh. Yeah.
Pretty exciting time. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, it must've been.
RON HOGAN: Roy Rogers was here. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, was he? RON HOGAN: So, I guess that's exciting. KAREN BREWSTER: I guess that's exciting.
RON HOGAN: I don't know. But it -- Yeah, it was -- it was a pretty interesting time, yeah.
A lot of changes. No water. You know, no running water. No sewer. No television. No phones in the houses. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RON HOGAN: It was -- You know, our first TV was a canned thing. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, right.
RON HOGAN: Yeah. And a fellow here, Jimmy Greg sort of installed -- he strung wires around and ran the wires into your house and then they would ship it all out in canisters.
And it would -- they would -- they would ship it first to like to Dillingham, and then they’d see it and then they'd ship it on up to Bethel, and Bethel would ship it to Nome, and Nome here. And then we'd see it on up there to Barrow.
But you never knew which order your movies were going to come in. You know, we saw War and Peace. It was in four series and we saw first, second and fourth and then the third, so -- So it was pretty interesting.
KAREN BREWSTER: That's pretty interesting. Yeah, and I was thinking, you know, being up here, you were pretty close to Russia during that Cold War period, it was pretty stressful time. Was that -- did people up here even notice?
RON HOGAN: People didn’t really pay any attention to it really, you know. I'm certain that probably the Lower 48 was in a lot more danger than we were.
The big concern here for the health of the people was the fallout from all the atomic tests over there. Because, you know, the drift would come this way.
And they did a lot of medical testing on people here. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
RON HOGAN: Because that would -- the fallout would get in the tundra and then the caribou would eat it, and, you know, people would ingest the food. So there was a big concern of that.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did they ever find any -- connect any -- ?
RON HOGAN: Not -- I don’t think, you know, they really have. Although, it seems that we do have a pretty high rate of cancer here. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, yeah.
RON HOGAN: But I don’t know, you know, if that’s related.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So the -- having that DEW Line -- I don’t know what the difference with DEW Line and White Alice 'cause people they're calling it the White Alice Site, but was it a DEW Line site?
RON HOGAN: Well, DEW line stood for Distant Early Warning and the White Alice Site was a communications system that they had here.
And we -- there were actually two separate facilities out here on the -- toward the base.
There was the base, which was a DEW Line station that had the two radomes. And then just this way about three or four hundred yards were some huge antennas.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Those big curved things. RON HOGAN: That -- that’s right. Hm-mm. Right. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. RON HOGAN: And -- and that was the White Alice.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. That's why I was confused 'cause I -- I think of them as two separate things. RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then I've heard the terms used interchangeably and so I was a little confused.
RON HOGAN: Uh-huh. Yeah, I think the -- I think the term is used interchangeably, but it was -- it was sort of two different operations.
There was a White Alice -- I mean there was a DEW Line station here, Cape Thompson, one in Nome, one down at Unalakleet.
You know, they were scattered -- Well, they were all up and down the west coast and the north coast.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Yeah. And I know about DEW Lines going up around Barrow. RON HOGAN: Right. KAREN BREWSTER: And over to Barter Island. RON HOGAN: Right. Hm-mm.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then Nome has those big -- the big White Alice -- RON HOGAN: Right. KAREN BREWSTER: -- towers. So, here you had both? RON HOGAN: Right. KAREN BREWSTER: I see. RON HOGAN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: And they were both Air Force?
RON HOGAN: Well, you know, I'm not really certain who ran the White Alice operation. I think at that time it was White Alice, but then -- I mean it was military, but then I think they might have contracted it out to private business. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
RON HOGAN: And now they just have -- I think the maintenance out here is all done under contract.
KAREN BREWSTER: So there's still -- RON HOGAN: No one's stationed here.
KAREN BREWSTER: No, but there's still -- those radomes are still -- ? RON HOGAN: One radome works.
KAREN BREWSTER: And it -- yeah, I mean, it's all automated, but they're still using it? RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: They're still monitoring for incoming Russian -- RON HOGAN: Right, right.
And they have a fellow that provides the maintenance on it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. RON HOGAN: Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: I didn’t realize we still were watching.
RON HOGAN: I don’t know what we're doing, but the radome is still there. So I don’t know.
KAREN BREWSTER: I don’t know, yeah, are we still watching or not? I don’t know. RON HOGAN: Probably. Probably. I would imagine. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Were there any -- could you talk about -- think about having those two military bases here, if they affected the community in any way, positive or negatively, and the local people?
RON HOGAN: Well, I don’t -- You know, I -- I didn’t really hear a lot of complaints about the bases here.
Like I say, they seemed to try to do everything they could to get along with the people and so a lot of interaction.
They were friendly. You know, friendly guys. We’d get together every Saturday a bunch of us, local people that we knew, and we’d play them basketball games and things like that.
And like I say, bowling out there and whatnot so it -- it didn’t seem to be, you know, where there was a lot of agitation or conflict.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, 'cause -- And certainly in some places, you know, young guys on a military base can come into a community and cause trouble a little bit. RON HOGAN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: And I just wondered what -- what the sentiment was here. So, interesting.
RON HOGAN: It was interesting. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there was -- there was a lot of interaction.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Was -- were there bars here at that time?
RON HOGAN: You know, Kotzebue has gone through a lot. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
RON HOGAN: You know, they've gone from being, you know, dry, by law dry, to a liquor store owned by the city, and then dry again, and then back to privately owned bars, and then back to damp.
And now we're back to -- we have our own liquor store here. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RON HOGAN: So we've gone through a lot of -- So -- So, you know, I can’t say that for all of it -- you know, any of that period that the base was here, you know, that it was either wet or dry. It was -- It went through a whole lot of things.
KAREN BREWSTER: But at -- at some point during that time, there were bars here? RON HOGAN: Right. Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: And that military guys came into town?
RON HOGAN: They kept the guys pretty much out there. They didn’t come in unless they had a specific reason.
They'd always make a mail run or two every day, and then if there was some activity at the school.
Like we'd have a -- we had a winter car -- spring carnival, and they always came in for that. And they were very friendly, didn’t cause any trouble.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. But I -- I know like -- Well, I've heard that up in Barrow the DEW Line had quite strict rules about the personnel not interacting -- RON HOGAN: Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- with the people in Barrow. And so that's why I wondered if that was the same here.
RON HOGAN: You know, I -- I was never conscious of that, yeah. I'm certain they had some pretty stringent rules though on what they could do.
I mean, I don’t think they just let the guys come down, you know, and wander around the village too much.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I wondered if there were any marriages that came out of that.
RON HOGAN: I don’t know. There was a fellow that was here at the DEW Line stat -- at the DEW Line station for a year or two, and he came back and he opened up a Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, I didn’t know there had been a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
RON HOGAN: There was, yeah. There was a Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant here for probably -- I don’t know, it didn’t last very long. Maybe a year or two at the most. Yeah.
Down on Front Street. Had the Colonel Sanders, the whole nine yards, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Funny. RON HOGAN: Hm-mm.
KAREN BREWSTER: So what -- do you remember what year the White Alice shut down, closed up?
RON HOGAN: You know, I honestly, I don’t remember what year it was. KAREN BREWSTER: Like '70s, '80s?
RON HOGAN: It was probably in the '70s, I would think. Well, I’m certain --
Well, I know it was still operational in the '70s because when we had the high school we -- we took the kids out for bowling classes. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RON HOGAN: So it was in mid to late '70s or early '80s. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. RON HOGAN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And, yeah, you said some local people worked out there. Was that a lot of people?
RON HOGAN: No, I wouldn’t say it was a lot. I don’t know the exact number.
KAREN BREWSTER: But I was thinking the closing of it, loss of jobs. How many people, families, that were affected?
RON HOGAN: I don’t think it really impacted that many people, yeah.
And then they tore it down, and, you know, they actually -- there were a lot of local people that got materials from the site when they tore it down.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, they let people come and salvage things? RON HOGAN: They let people come and salvage it. Hm-mm. KAREN BREWSTER: Interesting.
RON HOGAN: I think they even hired -- they hired a local outfit here to actually tear it down. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. RON HOGAN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Cool. RON HOGAN: Yeah. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, it sounds like it was an interesting time to be up here.
RON HOGAN: It was an interesting time to be up here. We've seen a lot of interesting things happen.
Yeah, a lot of good things have happened and a lot of bad things have happened, so -- Yeah.
We've seen, you know, a lot of improvements with -- Well, you know, like the water, sewer, you know, those things were all good. Of course, you know telephone service now is like anywhere in the Lower 48. Television, you can get anything you want here.
Transportation, you know, jets every day. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RON HOGAN: Jet freighter planes.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, well, it sounds like even though you're pretty close to Russia, during the Cold War you didn’t feel in any danger. RON HOGAN: Nobody ever thought of it really. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. RON HOGAN: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: I think everybody in Washington, DC was more worried about it.
RON HOGAN: I - I think so. You know, out here people were -- I think they were more worried about just sort of maintaining themselves.
You know, because, you know, it’s -- it was tough. It’s a tough life out here sometimes. You know, when the weather gets bad.
And most of the people back in those days they burned wood. And a lot of people, you know, and so you had to go out with your dogs or whatnot.
And then finally we started getting snowmachines.
And so you had to take care of that and there was just thousands of dried fish because everybody had a dog team.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
RON HOGAN: And so at that time there were fish racks all the way from the airport, from the runway, all the way down to Arctic Lighterage. I mean the -- the fish racks were almost end to end.
And then in 1962, we had what is referred to here as the hundred year flood. And we had a really massive storm, really high wind, and it basically cleaned all of the fish racks off of the beach, except two or three.
And they were never put back. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. RON HOGAN: Because people, you know, the dogs, you know, they were replaced by snowmachines.
And then you had motorcy -- motorbikes, and then cars started coming and, yeah, it's -- it's really changed.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, I appreciate your time this evening and unless there's anything --