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Bill and Lill Fickus, Part 1

Dan O'Neill and Steve Ulvi collaborated in interviewing Bill and Lill Fickus at their home on Crevice Creek, John Rivers, about 40 miles north of Bettles, Alaska on September 26, 1994. Dan was a research associate at the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and conducted some of the interviews funded by the National Park Service in the Yukon-Charley Rivers Preserve areas. Steve was a subsistence specialist at Gates of the Arctic National Park. The interview with the Fickuses was funded by the National Park Service as part of a project documenting the lives of people living and working in or near Gates of the Arctic. Dan and Steve conducted the interview around the kitchen table with the Fickuses for several hours, ate dinner, spent the night, then resumed the interview after breakfast for a few more hours. The time of year had been selected as a time when there were few pressing chores, such as garden harvesting and hunting. In this first of five interviews, Bill and Lill talk about their backgrounds, meeting, marrying, and living at Crevice Creek year round. The interview continues on tape numbers Oral History 93-15-64, 93-15-65, 93-15-66, 93-15-67.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-63

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Sep 26, 1994
Narrator(s): Bill Fickus, Lill Fickus
Interviewer(s): Dan O'Neill, Steve Ulvi
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Bill's background

2) Thoughts about and the move to Alaska

3) Life after school

4) Bill and his involvement in flying

5) Lill's background

6) Lill's background continued

7) How Bill and Lill met

8) Life after marriage

9) Equipment

10) Story of the horse ride from the Yukon River and building of roads

11) Feelings about the Hickel Highway

12) Raising kids in a rural area

13) When the Fickuses began living in Crevice Creek year round

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Scranton, Pennsylvania\ Alaska -- move to 1956\ Fairbanks\ dad -- fireman\ World War II\ Veterans Administration Hospital\ rafting\ World War II -- dad wounded\ dad -- raised animals\ dad -- hunter\ trapping|

Section 2: Fickus, Mike\ brother -- move to Alaska\ Fickus, Frank\ Galena\ ranch\ farm -- early experiences\ horses\ Alaska -- talk about\ dad -- navy\ school -- quit tenth grade\ Newport, Rhode Island\ born -- October 28, 1928\ Korean War\ school-drop out|

Section 3: World War II\ work -- 16 years old\ Korean War\ Eielson Air Force Base\ machinists\ dad -- part time carpenter\ farm work\ National Guard\ Germany|

Section 4: GI Bill\ enlistment\ pilot license\ commercial license -- 1956\ Fickus, Mike\ flying lessons -- cost\ younger brother -- learned to fly\ Piper Cub\ Pennsylvania -- flew back from\ Washington\ Pacer\ parents -- reaction to flying\ mom -- flying experience\ Alaska -- move to|

Section 5: Arctic Village\ Fort Yukon\ Mt. Edgecumbe\ Fickus, Lill -- wanted to be nurse\ hospital work\ Old Crow -- dad from\ Arctic Village -- mom from\ brothers and sisters\ subsistence lifestyle\ Fickus, Lill -- didn't finish school\ Sam, Moses\ Sam, Jimmy\ parents -- still living\ siblings\ Arctic Village\ Venetie\ Fairbanks\ ground squirrel -- trap|

Section 6: summer camp\ Yukon River\ Christian Village\ Arctic Village\ travel -- foot and dog pack\ sternwheelers\ dad -- work\ dad -- good hunter\ hospital -- Fort Yukon\ Burke, Dr.\ high school\ Mt. Edgecumbe\ Fairbanks -- kids went to high school\ mom -- miss Lill while at high school\ Christmas break\ Fort Yukon -- hospital closure\ Anchorage\ marriage|

Section 7: Fickus, Bill -- 1957\ marriage -- 1959\ bush pilot\ Porcupine River\ dinner date\ Fickus, Bill -- competition for Lill\ first date -- church\ Wien Airlines\ brother -- flew for Wien\ repeater station\ radar screen\ Fort Yukon\ Murphy Dome\ Bergman, Evelyn\ "Born on Snowshoes"\ Shorty\ Chena River -- trapline\ Porcupine River\ trapping\ hunting\ professional guiding|

Section 8: marriage -- Christmas Eve 1959\ 12.5 Mile\ Fickus, Frank -- murder\ Barkly, Pat and Emily\ mining\ children -- born\ Fairbanks\ Thanksgiving -- 1968\ airstrip\ Barkly, Pat -- Merchant Marine\ Sitka\ Olson, Seward\ O'Leary, Diane\ Eddie\ George\ Sourdough -- drive for\ Hickel Highway\ Chena Hot Springs\ cat -- $28,000\ Olson, Seward -- accident\ Bettles\ Olson, Seward -- death\ Rampart|

Section 9: Bettles\ equipment -- walked in\ Livengood\ Hess Creek\ Stevens Village\ Kanuti Pass\ Haul Road\ Caribou Mountain\ Old Hickel Highway\ cat trail\ Prospect Creek\ Wiseman\ Coldfoot\ Chena Hot Springs Road\ Yukon -- horses|

Section 10: aerial wolf hunter\ trial\ Sellars, Dan\ horses\ Yukon River -- open water\ 5 mile camp -- gravel\ snow bridges\ truck -- horses to Yukon\ horse -- crossing river\ Haul Road -- 1974\ Hickel Highway\ pipeline\ convoys\ bunk houses\ cat\ Forty -- cook\ Fickus, Bill -- marked trail\ snowmachine\ maintain roads\ Bettles\ Anaktuvuk Pass\ cat trains\ Hunt Fork|

Section 11: country -- cut up\ people -- influx of\ Minto\ hunters\ environmentalists\ Anaktuvuk Pass\ existing trail\ Earthquake -- 1964\ Miller, Tennessee\ Wright, Al\ exploration\ road -- use of\ dog trail\ trapline\ snowmachine\ sled dogs\ North Pole\ mail run -- Minto\ Sixty Mile trapline\ caribou\ dogfood\ Fickus, Lill -- quit trapping\ Fickus, Lill -- beadwork|

Section 12: sickness\ medicine\ Issac, Dr. Paul\ sheep hunting\ Scanca, Herman\ medical supplies\ Soldotna\ Issac, Dr. -- sent Fickus medical supplies\ elk meat\ airshow -- Fairbanks|

Section 13: Crevice Creek -- 1963\ Barkly, Pat\ Barkly, Emily\ Croshack, Louis\ Cusack, Joe|