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Marge Adams, Part 1
Marge Adams

Marge Adams was interviewed on May 28, 2006 by Karen Brewster at Marge's home in Yakutat, Alaska. In this first part of a three part interview, Marge talks about the early role of the Yakutat Health Council, health aide experiences and training, the beginnings of the Community Health Aide Program in Alaska, and organizations that managed the health aide program in Yakutat. Marge speaks critically and honestly about difficulties with and opinions about co-workers, supervisors, and administrative organizations. This interview was conducted in the apartment in Yakutat where Marge lived with her son, Danny, so there is some background noise during the interview.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2004-17-30, Part 1

Project: Community Health Aide Program
Date of Interview: May 28, 2006
Narrator(s): Marge Adams
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, University of Alaska Health Programs
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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


Her personal history, moving from Yakutat, and attending school in Juneau and at the Catholic Mission in Skagway.

Her return to Yakutat after high school graduation and getting married.

How she became a health aide.

The early clinics in Yakutat, and how she became a member of the Southeast Alaska Native Health Board representing Yakutat.

Getting the Yakutat health council started because of concerns about garbage in the community and working on solutions to clean it up.

Getting a Yakutat representative on the Southeast Alaska Native Health Board, how this benefited the community, and when they got a new clinic built in Yakutat.

The minimal medical equipment and supplies they had before there was a clinic building, and the city of Yakutat trying to manage local health care and the health aides.

Her multiple community commitments and feeling overwhelmed by the competing obligations.

Members of the Yakutat health council, and working with the Southeast Alaska Native Health Board to determine community needs and implement healthcare projects.

The beginning of the Community Health Aide Program in Alaska, training she received in Anchorage, and working to improve the dental care for people in Yakutat.

Health aide training she received, and learning on the job about medicines and patient care.

Changes in the Community Health Aide program, and criticism of the training program she went through.

Getting paid as a health aide, and the increase in the amount of paperwork that was required.

The paperwork required when treating patients, and how in the early days she just remembered everything about a patient.

When the City of Yakutat managed the health aide program and problems that resulted.

Difficulties experienced when the City of Yakutat ran the health aide program, and what led to her quitting the job.

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.


KAREN: Today is May 28th, 2006 and I'm Karen Brewster here with Marge Adams in her home in Yakutat and this is for the Community Health Aide Project. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.

 MARGE: You're welcome.

 KAREN: I'm glad we were able to finally meet up with each other. So, to get us started why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself and when and where you were born, where you come from.

 MARGE I was born here in Yakutat. I was born here. I was basically an orphan from the time I was four. My mother died and so I got taken out of here when I was six, yeah going on seven. And so I went to first grade here.

But my sister took me to Juneau and she had me down there for a couple of years and then she decide to send me on to school in Skagway. So I went to the Catholic Mission in Skagway. And I stayed there until I was 19, I went there when I was 9 and I stayed there until I graduated from high school.

 KAREN: What year where you born?

 MARGE: 1932. Yeah, I was in Juneau going to school but my brother-in -aw had a farm way out the road in Juneau. And in the winter time there was no plows evidently in those days, so we didn't -- we couldn't go out there -- we couldn't still go out there. 

So, we stayed in town and just as soon as it melted, though, we were right back out there. Which meant I didn't get my number of days in school like I was supposed to, which meant I could not go into the next grade so I was in the third grade forever. And I left here, I finished second grade. I went to Juneau and went into third grade for three years.

Yeah, and finally when she shipped me off to Skagway -- or that year before she shipped me off to Skagway, I finally finished the third grade and I was nine years old. And then I started in school there and stayed there until I finished high school. 

And Father Gallantry was gonna send me off to college but, you know, I hadn't been here, I hadn't been home since I was six years old and I wanted to come home. I didn't wanna go off to Texas, which was where he was sending me. Some sacred heart college or something. 

So, he said ok. He says: “I'll let you go home. You can come home for the summer and you make some money and you come back and -- or if you don't make any money at home, you can come right back and then I'll pay you to take care of the girls.”

I didn't want to do any of that. No, I ended up playing around. I just had a blast. After being in this school for ten years, you know, the nuns they don't let you do anything. Anyway --

 KAREN: -- and what year did you graduate?

 MARGE: '51.

MARGE: I stayed home and got married to -- my mother-in-law used to take care of kids and like I said I was an orphan, so she ended up with me for a while. So George and I were at that point together already, you know, I was five and he was like nine or so and, yeah, she took care of us for about a year or so before my sister came along and took me out of here and took me to Juneau. 

But I came back and I got married. And we lived in Juneau for a year or so and I had my first baby. And then I moved back to Yakutat, and then just lived here. And things were kind of grim in them days. When I left here in '38, yeah '38 -- '39 we at least had electricity. When I got back, there was no electricity, no nothing. 


 MARGE: Yeah, it was -- I must have been thinking: “Well, that's fine. This is home.” So I stayed. Although, I had thought about following my younger sister down to school. I wanted to make sure she stayed in school, since she wasn't gonna go back to the Mission anymore. I wanted her to finish school. 

But that's not what I did. I ended up getting married, so consequently she didn't finish school.

 KAREN: So, what was your mother's name? 

MARGE: My mother's name was Anne. Her maiden name was Roberts, Anne Roberts. And my dad was D.S. Benson. And I had three brothers, three sisters and then I had -- of course, a couple of them died, but I also had two brothers by my dad's first wife. 

So, he already had two kids when he married my mom, two boys. So, there was quite a few of us in that family, but we happened to be the youngest ones -- me and my youngest sister and my youngest brother. So we had to be farmed out. The rest of them were big enough to take care of themselves, so that's what they did.

KAREN: So, then how did you end up becoming a health aide? After you got married, you started having your own kids --

 MARGE: I had my own kids. And then I lost one baby, and then I was so scared. I wanted to move out of Yakutat. I didn't want to come back. I didn't trust bringing my baby back. I didn't want to go through that again.

But I did. And I was always calling the health aide, which was Sugar at the time. And one time my sister, who was on the Health Council -- and I wasn't even there, you know. I had this bunch of kids. I didn't have time to go running around. So, they were at the house and my sister said: “You should be a health aide. You're always taking up all our health aides' time anyway.” 'Cause Sugar would spend the night with me, 'cause I'd be so scared after having lost a baby. 

And I said: “I can't. What am I going to do with all my kids?” But I thought about it and thought about it and I thought: “There's nobody else, there's nobody.” 'Cause they were going through health aides and there's nobody else. 

And people were already looking at me and thinking -- you know, having graduated from high school was a big deal among the Native people and I graduated from high school. And so the old people were looking at me and thinking I should be putting my schooling to good use, to help the community. And I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing and finally I decided, well that this is one way I probably can help. So that's when I decided, okay, I will do that.

Except my baby was only two years old, you know. To leave him behind -- a two year old and a four year old home for two and three weeks at a time was a little rough. You know, rough on the kids. It was hard on the kids, but -- yeah, so I just, I went ahead and did it. Jumped in with both feet and said: “Okay, here we go.”

 KAREN: So, what year was that? Do you remember?

 MARGE: '64, '65? '65 maybe, '65.

 KAREN: So, you applied for the job or you were just given the job?

 MARGE: Yeah, there was nobody else. They were scraping the bottom of the barrel when they came and got me.

 KAREN: So, whom did you end up working --? For the village or --

 MARGE: The village. Uh-hum (affirmative). The Health Council.

 KAREN: -- council.

 MARGE: I actually -- who did I have? -- I didn't have anybody, they didn't have anything at that point in time. Because it was on voluntary basis.

 KAREN: Oh, you weren't getting paid?

 MARGE: We weren't getting paid. It was just on voluntary -- yeah. Sugar by that time was working for Headstart. And long time -- you know, $700 was a million dollars in Yakutat and that's what she was getting paid. But I talked her out of that. She did, she followed me, went back to working for nothing.

 KAREN: You guys must have been good friends.

MARGE: Oh, yeah we were really close. We did everything. We're just a match. I'm a talker, I'm a -- you know, take charge type of a person whereas she'll stand back and watch and wait and see what's happening, and then she'll run in and do all the odd ball things that need to be taken care of. 

So, we made a good team, you know, whatever I forgot she was right there to pick up and, you know, make it all right. So, everything turned out right with the two of us working together.

KAREN: So, when you started in the mid ‘60s was there a clinic?

 MARGE: There was an old clinic. And I remember being in it when I was a little kid. And I think just before I became a health aide, I kept hearing the stories about Dr. Justice coming to town and he was kicking up the building outside and saying: “Look at this, look at this, this is no clinic.”
And, well of course, that's all I can do is hear the stories, I wasn't part of that, so I didn't say or do anything about it at the time.

And in the meantime, I was the health aide and then ANB-ANS had started the liaison, the committee, they called it the Alaska Native Health Board, Southeast Native Health Board that worked between the government and the Native people.

 KAREN: So, at that point it was still Indian Health Service running the Native program.

MARGE: Oh yeah, oh yeah. And I got on that board -- I happened to go down to Mt. Edgecumbe for whatever reason and I heard about this meeting that was going on upstairs and then I heard there was representatives from all over. And I thought: “I'm gonna go up there and find out who's Yakutat's representative.”

And I got up there and I talked to Frank O. Williams, he was the president and I said: “I came up here to see who is representing Yakutat? Do we have a person from Yakutat being -- representing them?” and he said: “No, Haines is representing Yakutat.” I said: “Haines? What does Haines know about this. Why they are so far away. What are we supposed to do, write back and forth or how do they know what we need and what we don't need?”

And boy, I just lit into him and I just had everything to say and he used to tell the board, he says: “Yeah, I had to let Yakutat in, just in self defense.” That's how I got on the board.

MARGE: Of course, I came home, was ranting and raving and ranting and raving and talking about it. We already had a Health Council and we were already, you know, discussing things and I was Health Council president. 

KAREN: So that Health Council was just for Yakutat?

 MARGE: Just for Yakutat. Uh-hum (affirmative). Because there was three, three, three or four of us, Sugar, Cornie, maybe three of us and myself had been talking about how awful, how ugly, how embarrassing to see what it must look like for boats coming in to the village and see all that garbage running down the hills down to the beach. That was embarrassing.

And we discussed that and talked about it and finally we said: “Enough of this talk. Enough, no use talking about it, it's not gonna get done just talking about it.” So, we rolled up our sleeves and -- we did some crazy things I'll tell you.

I was president so I got to get on the phone -- we raised money, we had to raise money anyway, because we didn't have a dental and so we had to raise the money to charter the plane to bring the dentist into town and his helpers. So, we were doing that already, okay. 

And we decided: “Well, we could raise money to -- ” we weren't thinking very far -- “to get the garbage cans, two garbage cans for each of the houses in Yakutat”. So, okay let's get that done. We did it and after we did it, we were standing there looking and I said: “Now what? Who is gonna pick up all that garbage and where is this gonna go?”

I didn't think that far, but that's all right. It got us started. And went out there and talked to the FAA and they let us use their garbage dump and they were nice enough to come and pick ours up too.

 KAREN: Nice.

 MARGE: So, yeah, things worked out okay. And before that happened, we ordered the garbage cans from Anchorage -- we didn't have any money to bring it down. And I got this bright idea: “I'm gonna call the Air National Guard, they've got to practice flying around anyway, and we've got the biggest airport in Alaska.” So, I said: “Okay, we are going to call them.”

So, I called them. I called up there and some guy answered and I said: “I'd like to speak to the commanding officer, general or whoever he is.” And they said: “Yes, Madam.” So, they put me on through to General so and so. And I said: “I've got a favor, a big favor to ask.” He said: “Yes, Madam.”

I said: “We have garbage cans up there in Anchorage and we can't get it down here. And I was wondering if you would be able to bring it down and say that you are exercising your team on a new runaway.” “I'm sorry Madam, we can't do that.”

And I said: “Why not?”

And he said: “Madam, we can't compete with the commercial airlines.”

I said: “Compete? How are you competing?” I said: “I'm telling you, we don't have the money, we don't have anything, we're just a little village and we're trying to clean up our community and we don't have the money to get those garbage cans down here.” And I finally said: “Wait a minute, am I talking to the wrong person? Should I be talking to the Governor of Alaska instead?” 

“Oh, no Madam, oh no.”

 We got our garbage cans.

KAREN: You've mentioned Cornie, who was that?

 MARGE: She was another lady, she isn't in town anymore. Cornelia Howard was her name. Yeah, she worked with us. She tried her darnedest. She did her best. She was great.

 KAREN: After you'd been at Mt. Edgecumbe and found out about this regional board, you became the Yakutat --

 MARGE: Representative.

 KAREN: -- Representative.

 MARGE: Yeah, I brought it back to Yakutat and we discussed and we decided I should be the -- I didn't just put myself in there, you can't do that.

 KAREN: Right.

 MARGE: I came back to our Health Council and told them what was going on and how it was happening and I had the secretary write a letter, after they decided I was going to be the person, I had the secretary write a letter to the Southeast Health Board to let them know that Yakutat wanted to get in there to represent themselves.

 Which was in the end a good thing because we ended up being the pilot project for every project that Mt. Edgecumbe had. You know, they had a project that they wanted to try out on a village. Yakutat was always the pilot project and we got to do it first.

So, that's how we got the new clinic. Tlingit and Haida (Housing Authority) just came into being, so between Mt. Edgecumbe and Tlingit and Haida and Health Council, we got a clinic. And that's that old building that they're using as kind of apartments right now. When you're going down the hill to the city, city office building. It's there on the left as you're going down. That's the building.

 KAREN: And Tlingit Haida is the Tlingit Haida Housing Authority? Is that what you mean? 

MARGE: Right, yeah. So, they built that building. But the thing about that one, it wasn't only a clinic building, just a quarter of it was -- Bob Losier, he was so proud of his clinic and his building and he brought me up there and he says: “Marge what do you think about your new clinic?” He says: “I even built you an office.”

And I checked it all out, there was two examining rooms and a little bitty lab and a bedroom for our overnight patients if we had one and then one X-ray room. And I said: “Oh, Bob. It's too small!” He looked at me, he says: “Marge I built you a clinic not a hospital.”

I said: ”But there is no room for expansion, no room for -- You know, they're teaching us, they're teaching us new things all the time and we're gonna need room to expand.” I says: “But you guys never ask us what we think, what we like to see, like we don't have any ideas of our own.” Anyway, that's how it ended up. But we got our new clinic. 

The other part of it was, half of the length of the whole building was six apartments for the elderly.


 MARGE: Which was really nice for me and Sugar. And then the front part of it was a kind of a big living room and area where the seniors can go and, you know, entertain themselves or get entertained or whatever. 

And, yeah, that was nice for me and Sugar because some of them had arthritis so they couldn't reach, you know, to wash their hair or comb or even take a bath or anything. So we didn't have to go running off to Timbuktu to take care of our patients. We could take care of them right there. And we checked on them everyday, so that was really nice, I like that idea.

MARGE: Before we had a little black bag that we carried and that was our clinic. And, anyway everything was supposed to be in that black bag but there wasn't. So --

 KAREN: So, what was in that black bag? 

MARGE: Stethoscope. No, you never see medical people without a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometers, band aids, bandages. 
And I'm looking at this bag and say: “I know if I run to somebody's house, I'm gonna find all this except the cuffing and the stethoscope.” Yeah, there was nothing in there that could really help like an emergency, you know, there was nothing in there that could help. 

KAREN: So, how did you handle -- what did you do if you got someplace and --

 MARGE: You had to run back and forth.

 KAREN: -- that's all you had -- how did you -- what did you do?

 MARGE: We had to run back and forth. Run back up to the clinic to see what's there that we could use and -- yeah a lot of times it was a home, most of the time, home visits and then Larry Powell was mayor of Yakutat by the time we got the new clinic built. 

And then he started getting into the act and thinking the city should be the one running everything, which by itself was a fiasco because it never worked out. 

We lost out on all the projects. Mt. Edgecumbe wouldn't recognize the city because they had been working with us for so long and we had been doing so many things that they didn't think paid people were gonna -- they were just going to sit and do nothing 'cause they didn't have any ideas of what needed to be done.

So there for a while we had two health councils. Finally, he got rid of it completely, it just never worked out. Even his team of people he had, never worked out, never did anything. That was the last of it, nothing was ever done in Yakutat after that.

MARGE: But, you know, we did a lot of things in this community. We used to have basketball games. We were raising money besides all this, for all the other things that we were trying to do. And the whole community would come out because it was hilarious.

We'd have the old guys playing against the health council women and people would just die laughing watching this game. Old men, over the hill hippies. But yeah, we had a lot of fun doing it. We did a lot of things. We had a lot of fun doing it and it just kind of went downhill.

 KAREN: Sounds like a lot of work. 

MARGE: It was a lot of work. It was. 'Cause, you know, at the same time it was, they were stretching me a little bit too thin. I was on the City Council, I was on the Liquor Board. 

I'm on the City Council and I don't even know, now that I think about it, that Mayor was a little dictator because he never ran that through the Council. I had no idea about it.

I was on the Liquor Board, I was on the Health Council -- it was just getting to be too much. And finally I tried to get out of one and, I guess, it was the City Council. It was getting to a point I couldn't run down there and read the mail and find out what was going on before our meeting.

And so consequently, I wasn't doing my job, I didn't think. So I thought I'd better get off of it. I'm not worth anything on that Council. And so I got off and, oh man, the old folks were so mad at me. And I couldn't explain to them, you know, it was getting to be too much.

I had a family. I had six of my own kids and I had welfare kids, BIA kids, you know. I had all that to do plus the City Council, plus the Liquor Board, plus the health aide thing and the Health Council. You know, it was getting to be a little much, it was getting to be a little -- and then I had a restaurant at the same time --

 KAREN: Oh, my goodness.

 MARGE: Yeah, and they couldn't understand why I gave up. Maybe they wanted me to give up something else.

KAREN: So who else was on that early Health Board? You remember the other members?

 MARGE: The Health Council?

 KAREN: The Health Council.

 MARGE: Cornie, of course. Bella Watson got on there. Terry Gallagher and his wife got on there for a while. You know, just different at different times would get on. But Sugar, Cornie and myself, I think, we stayed from beginning to end. Yeah, I think we're the only three --

 KAREN: So, when you were on the regional Health Board what kind of things did you do?

 MARGE: Southeast Health Board. I know this clinic was one big project by itself. And one of the things that we did was decide for the hospital what was needed in the communities. Each one of us had -- supposed to have had our own ideas.

And I think what we did was we sat down all together and we made out a list of our priorities and what would be the best thing to do and why it would be the best, you know, what would it effect and all kinds of things, you know, different ways of looking at our project.

And so when I went to Mt. Edgecumbe, we were prepared on what was needed in Yakutat and maybe that's why they made us the pilot project always. And we got our projects taken care of really quick.

 KAREN: So, you had to compete with the other communities?

 MARGE: With the other communities. Gee, there was a bunch of us. I mean even to Juneau, Sitka, Angoon, Hoonah, Kake, Hydaberg, Craig, Klawock, you know it was a bunch of us. And we had to compete with all of them.

 But, you know, I never though of it as competition. I just knew what Yakutat wanted and needed. I just knew that this was -- I've never been in politics, I had never been in anything, but I just knew that's the way they were gonna -- there was no other way for them to know what was needed in Yakutat unless we sat down and discussed it and talked about it to find out which was the best.

 KAREN: And that Health Board, those Board members got together and decided, ok, we'll do this in Yakutat, we'll do that in Kake.

 MARGE: Between Mt. Edgecumbe -- Art Willman was head of Mt. Edgecumbe hospital and he was always willing to back us up. He was always glad that we had a project going and, yeah, he pushed it too and said: “Well, Yakutat is ready to go, we should just go with that.” 

KAREN: So what years were you on that Board?

 MARGE: '60 -- was that '68, '69, '70?

 KAREN: So, when was that new clinic built?

 MARGE: Gosh, '74, '73, '74? Somewhere in that neighborhood.

 KAREN: And so before that you didn't have a clinic you just -- ? 

MARGE: We had that old clinic.

MARGE: Who was the doctor that started the Health Aide program? 

KAREN: Down here?

 MARGE: In Alaska. 

KAREN: I thought that was Dr. Johnson.

 MARGE: No, Dr. Johnson came later. Dr. Justice was the one who started the Health Aide program in Alaska.

 KAREN: Where was he based?

 MARGE: Anchorage. Anchorage, yeah. He was based in Anchorage. And I really didn't know him, I just heard a lot about him before I became a health aide. So, I already knew about him.

Dr. Johnson got there at a later date. I was there already when he came along. But once he came, boy, he was a big help. He was great. It wasn't easy going up to Anchorage to -- you know people think I'm snotty or say I'm snotty because -- and that's the way the instructors felt too. When they get us altogether from Southeast, from up north. I don't know, we weren't fast enough, you know, everything we had to know had to be crammed in in such a short time and it wasn't enough and it wasn't fast enough.

 And when there's things to do I'm very impatient. I'm very impatient. You know, I know what to do, let's go do it. Let's just get it done and over with, we'll go to the next project. 

And they thought I was acting too smart, that I didn't give the health aides from up north a chance to answer because they took so long to answer. I wait and wait and wait and finally I just answer, you know. So, some of them weren't very nice and they let me know that they didn't appreciate me doing all of this stuff. 

But I'll tell you when they really got upset with me -- but it worked. I was trying to tell them that, you know, we pay good money for the dentist to come in. We charter their plane and we bring them in and they always wanna come the week of Thanksgiving. 

So what happens? They come in on Monday, they set up, Tuesday is when they finally get started working on kids, now Wednesday evening, late afternoon or whatever, they're heading home because they got to be home for Thanksgiving. You know, and we paid for that charter.

 KAREN: Yeah.

 MARGE: And I said there's got to be a better way. There's got to be something we as health aides can do to help this dentist see more kids. That dentist can't get past the second grade and those are the only ones he's gonna see, he won't see adults or anything just kids. And he can't get past the second grade and here's all these kids leaving school without ever having been seen by a dentist. And there's got to be something different.

And they said: “Oh, ok we'll fix that.” I was so disgusted. I was happy at first when they said: “Well, we'll get you started on the dental program” and went over to the hospital, the old hospital in --

 KAREN: -- in Anchorage?

 MARGE: And what did we do? We put bibs on kids and we marched them down the hall, up the stairs and into a room to show them a movie on dental health. And then marched them back down stairs and gave them to the dentist.

That was the extent of our -- and guess who blew a fuse. I said: “Now, how much did that cost the government for God sakes. You know, I know the government is paying something for us to be taught. There's got to be something going on here.” I said: “What kind of school do you have to go to to learn how to put a bib on a kid? You know, we've been doing that for years, we have got our own kids.”

I was so disgusted and you could hear me all over the place. But at a later date, in the summer time, I got a call to say they were sending up some equipment. And we had to go down to Mt. Edgecumbe and they were going to teach us how to do the topical fluoride, how to clean teeth and do fluoride treatments.

Great. That's more like what we had in mind so that all these kids are all ready now, the dentist just needs to go through and see them and find out who needs what. At least that part is done. But, you know, that takes a while too to clean teeth and to do the fluoride treatment. And so Sugar and I used to go to the school and clean teeth and do the fluoride treatments.

KAREN: So, what about some of that other training you got in Anchorage when you went up there? What other, besides that dental that you were just -- 

MARGE: Well, it's all basic, you know. How to take a temperature and blood pressure and how do you -- the first days of being a health aide, this is before, that was only after we started getting paid. We never went to Anchorage before that, we went to Mt. Edgecumbe for 5 days of training.

 So, my very first training was in Mt. Edgecumbe five days and then they sent you back to the community and say: “You have to take care of these 400 plus people.” Oh, my God.

 KAREN: So, how did that feel when you had the first patient.

 MARGE: Oh, man. You wonder if you're gonna do the right thing, if you're gonna give the right medicine and you read the medicine over and over 'cause, you know, you really don't have any background for medicines or names and stuff like that. And I would stand there and look at that medicine. I'd make the doctor spell it out to me and then I'd take that spelled name and put it up against the bottle and go from letter to letter to make sure that was the exact -- because there are a lot of medicines that sound alike.

 KAREN: Yeah. And they've big long names that are hard to spell.

 MARGE: And yeah, that's the way we had to do it. But nobody even bothered to show me the clinic and say: “Oh, all the eye medicines are right here, the antibiotics for the babies are right here.” Nobody bothered to do that for me, I had to figure it all out myself. You know, if you don't take the initiative you never learn. You never get started, you never get going but, you know, it had to be done so, just go do it. It wasn't easy.

MARGE: There is such a big difference between when we first became a health aide where -- So, we didn't have any bosses or supervisors of any kind or anything. And we just went about, you know, whatever you wanted to do and however you wanted to do it is how it all went.

And then one day we got down to Mt. Edgecumbe, 'cause I complained about it being too slow up there that we weren't learning fast enough --

 KAREN: This is once you started getting training in Anchorage?

 MARGE: Yeah. Yeah, 'cause you know there was one lady I thought: “Oh, my God.” -- In the morning they'd give us the highlights or they'd teach us everything on whatever subject, maybe its antibiotics and all the different things, different medicine for different weight. 

And all the way through this class she'd say: “Ahh…Hmmm…Ahh.” So she'd write. Then they tell us something else and she'd say: “Ahh…Hmm” and she writes some more. And then in the afternoon, they just do the highlights of everything they've given us in the morning. It was the same thing all over again. Like it was the first time she was hearing it.

 And I kept telling myself maybe that's just a habit. It might be a habit and not that she doesn't remember being told this this morning. But, you know, you begin to wonder. Did she really learn? Did she really understand what was going on at that -- you know, so for that reason you did have to back off because you had to give them a chance to really learn. They were there for learning too, so I had to back off and for me that was way to slow. Then it started getting boring. And I didn't wanna do that no more.

 KAREN: Three weeks of training in a time, isn't very much time.

 MARGE: It was better than five days. Which is what we got originally when we weren't getting paid.

MARGE: And I remember one time we came down there and Dr. Dean Tirador, he was head of Mt. Edgecumbe then, and he was telling the class that: “Well, I guess Yakutat isn't gonna make it. They had an all night patient, boy it was rough,” he was telling them. “It sounded like it was pretty rough.” And we were standing in the doorway watching and listening. The look on his face when we walked in.

 But then I'd like to have seen the look on my face. We walked in and there's a stack of papers on our desks, a stack of -- was about that high. And I kept looking at it and I thought: “Are we supposed to study that or what's gonna happen?”

And finally he started telling us about it, he said: “Now, that you're getting paid, I got news for you.” I put up my hand, I said: “Dr. Tirador who's getting paid?” and he looked at me and he said: “You are.” I said: “When?” And he looked at me again: “Since October.” I said: “Well, where is ours?” He said: “Oh, my God.” They forgot about us.

They were being paid since October and this is March. They forgot about us. And then when I said: “Dr. Tirador, do we get back pay?” He says: “I'm sorry no.”

KAREN: Oh, no.

MARGE: So, for almost six months, is that six months?

 KAREN: Almost.

 MARGE: We didn't get paid. No, that was six months.

 KAREN: And that was 1968, '69?

 MARGE: Yeah. In that neighborhood. Yeah, they wouldn't give us any back pay.

 KAREN: Oh, man.

 MARGE: And then he start telling us about this paperwork that we were gonna have to now do for that $260 we were gonna get. And I'm looking at it and I finally said: “Dr. Tirador, I'll go see any patient, I'll take care of any emergency, I will stay up all night, I will do whatever it takes if you can find somebody, if you can hire a secretary to do that paperwork. I'll gladly give up that $260 to give them that paperwork to do.” And he laughed at me, he said: “Marge, you couldn't even get them to look at that for $260 a month,” which was true.

MARGE: Yeah, we ended up with all that paperwork as soon as we got -- started getting paid.

 KAREN: And what was that paperwork for?

 MARGE: They were PCs, patient, name --

 KAREN: Patient record kind of things?

 MARGE: Yeah, and whatever you saw your patient for. So, we had to do that on every patient we encountered. We had to generate a sheet of paper for every patient encountered and then we had to have this log that we had to write everything down that we did, who we saw, what we did and the doctor we talked to regarding this patient. Yeah, all kinds of stuff. Same thing in the sheet of paper that went into their charts.

 KAREN: So, before you had that 12'' stack of paper, you had to go through -- how did you keep, did you keep records on your patients?

 MARGE: Before that?

 KAREN: Yeah.

 MARGE: No, nobody ever said anything about it. I never thought about it. You just keep it in your head you know. You just keep it in your head. I know today this little boy that was two years old -- his mother stopped me on the street and she said: “I'm gonna have to bring him up to the clinic, I can't get him to eat, he won't drink and he won't do anything.” And he came up and looked up at me and he knew who I was and he opened up his mouth. 

He evidently, had been eating fish and there's all the bones sticking out of his throat.

 KAREN: Oh, no.

 MARGE: Oh, my god. We had to run him up to the clinic and pull all those bones. He didn't cry, he didn't say anything, he couldn't talk, he just opened up his mouth and showed me. But yeah, there was a lot of funny things like that.

And, you know, so that was an encounter. It was on the street, you know, what are you gonna write about it? Didn't write anything. I never thought about that. But, you know that guy is a grown man, probably has kids of his own and everything but I still remember it. And whoever his mother told, will probably still remember. Yeah.

MARGE: I probably could go on and on about all the health aide things that have happened and at a later date we decided to let -- the Health Council was going to take the health aide program, then we found out we couldn't. 

And, you know, I wasn't really thinking what it all meant. They tried to get us to get licensed with the state and if I had been thinking, I would have thought: “Yeah, we should do that, then we can take over the health aide program.” But as it was the city was the only one that could do it. And I never thought about it any other way.

 And even though, they tried to get us to change, to get the state -- whatever it is, I thought: “No, if we do that we're gonna spend all our time doing their paperwork. That's all it means is a lot of paperwork. And we're gonna end up not doing anything, spending so much time with paperwork and worrying about what paperwork it's going to entail to do this project or that project.” 

So, I kept saying: “No, no, no, we don't want that. I don't wanna write about what we're doing, I wanna do it and there it's done, let's go on to the next project.” So, consequently, we didn't take it over. And if I had known or had been really thinking about it, we could have taken over that health aide contract. But the city had it --

MARGE: -- and the city wasn't very nice. They acted like they owned us and that they could do anything they wanted. They were always giving us a bad time. They were always looking for problems that they might find with us because, at the time, I think they were thinking about bringing a P.A. in.

And they brought the P.A. in alright. And the reason we even quit was 'cause we were making a grand total of $700 dollars a month and the mayor wanted to put us on half days 'cause he needed that money for the P.A. She was already getting $2,000 a month and she was demanding more, and the only place he knew of to get it was from us and he was going to put a -- and I told him, I said: “Those P.A.'s are coming and going, coming and going. And every time they go, you have two people that are always here.” I said: “The last P.A. went to every emergency program that Alaska had” --

 KAREN: -- training kind of -- 

 MARGE: -- training. And then she started heading stateside for emergency training. And I knew then we were in trouble. That she was afraid of emergencies. 

And when we got that guy that got killed on the highway out towards the airport and they brought him in and, of course, the police wanted --and she was our supervisor so -- the police wanted a urine sample to see if he had been drinking. She didn't know how. She didn't know how, she couldn't get that urine.