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Val Anderson

Val Anderson was interviewed on August 6, 2010 by Rachel Mason, Karen Brewster and Shannon Kovac at his home in Seward, Alaska. Val's wife, Jean, was present at the interview and periodically added her own comments (she passed away in November 2010). In this interview, Val talks about growing up on the island and what life was like in the area in the 1930s and 1940s, his father's guiding operation, being in the Army in World War II stationed at Shemya Island, working as a longshoreman on the waterfront in Seward, the 1964 Earthquake, and how Seward has changed over time. He talks about helping build the Herman Leirer Road to Exit Glacier, especially the blasting work he did, and how people have used the area.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2010-05-09

Project: Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
Date of Interview: Aug 6, 2010
Narrator(s): Val Anderson
Interviewer(s): Rachel Mason, Shannon Kovac, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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


Childhood and family background

First time seeing an airplane

Growing up on Caribou Island on Skilak Lake

Meeting his wife, Jean

Homestead lifestyle on Caribou Island

His father's work as a big game hunting guide

Raising goats and gardening

Neighbors on the island

End of this father's guiding business during World War II

Jean Anderson tells the story of meeting her husband, Val

Being in the Army during World War II

Working as a longshoreman in Seward

Getting married in Oregon and driving the Alaska Highway


1964 Earthquake

After effects of the earthquake

Working on construction of the Exit Glacier Road

Jean Anderson continues talking about the 1964 Earthquake

Blasting rock for the Exit Glacier Road

Use of the Exit Glacier area before the road was built

Moose hunting

Recreational uses of the Exit Glacier area

Local support for construction of the Exit Glacier Road

More about working as a blaster on Exit Glacier Road construction

Working after the earthquake

Changes in Seward

Jean Anderson talks about photographs of the earthquake

Describes drawing of himself as a boy hanging on the wall

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.


RACHEL MASON: Hello. It is August 6th, 2010. We're in the home of Val Anderson, and Mrs. Anderson, who is -- whose name I forget --

VAL ANDERSON: Jean. RACHEL MASON: Jean. Val and Jean Anderson.

My name's Rachel Mason, we're here in Seward. Karen Brewster and Shannon Kovac are also with me.

And we're working on a project that has to do with tradition -- traditional activities around the Exit Glacier.

And as -- as you remember, we're interested both in your life story and what you've done around in this area, and also what -- what activities you've done right around the Exit Glacier.

VAL ANDERSON: Well, that, I'm pretty lacking in, because it very -- that amounts to very little. About the only activities I had was actually working on -- for a short time on the construction of it.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Well, we're sure interested in that. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: So could you start out by just telling us about your early days, where you were born, and early days growing up.

VAL ANDERSON: Well, I was born here in -- in Seward, in Dr. Blackman's hospital where -- behind where the present First National Bank is, shows as an old log building in some of the old photographs. That's beside the point probably.

And I was raised on Caribou Island and Skilak Lake where my dad was one of the early big game guides down there, and our home acted quite of the center for that.

We had horses and I had camps out on Funny River for moose camp, and up on the Funny River Mountains for sheep camp at the time.

RACHEL MASON: How did you happen to move from Seward to Skilak, or --

VAL ANDERSON: Well, my folks had homesteaded Caribou Island. I was just born here, we didn't live here.


VAL ANDERSON: I was just born here. At that time, he was working -- in the summer, he was working in the mines out along the -- oh, the Oracle Mine on the road here to Hope was one of the various ones.

Anyway, why, he was born and raised on an island in Stockholm, and it was always his ambition to have an island. And when they -- when they first came to this part of the country, they spotted Caribou Island on Skilak Lake, and that's where him and my mother headed for, and they homesteaded that and that's where I was raised.

RACHEL MASON: You're lucky.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what year did you -- what year were you born?


RACHEL MASON: Did you have brothers and sisters?

VAL ANDERSON: No. I had a little sister that passed away when she was only a few months old. That's all.

RACHEL MASON: Oh. So did you participate in any of the hunting and guiding activities --

VAL ANDERSON: Well, no, I didn't because I was only a kid at the time, you see. That was in the early '30s. You see, I was in -- I was 14 in 1940 when my mother passed away, you see, but before that I was -- I was too small to be able to go and be involved in any of that like that.

RACHEL MASON: Did you stay out at Skilak Lake after that?

VAL ANDERSON: After my mother passed? RACHEL MASON: Yeah.

VAL ANDERSON: No, we moved to Cooper Landing then.


VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Had a place there for a while. And anyway, it might be an interesting sight, the first airplane I can remember us ever seeing was on Tustumena Lake in fall of 1929.

I can still remember that was Frank Dorbrandt that is since many years gone, but one of the early pilots in the country.

RACHEL MASON: Oh. What were you doing when you saw him?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, at that time dad was with the Alaska Guides, and we -- mother and I went -- we had our own horses, and we went along, and we had a camp there and stayed there while dad was working with this guiding company.

And later on when he -- him and Henry Lucas that used to be on Skilak set up a guiding deal of their own rather than working for that company that they did for a while.

RACHEL MASON: What was that plane doing when it landed?

VAL ANDERSON: I'm not really sure. It came out -- I guess it probably brought a hunter in from Anchorage, I imagine, to the camp. Because, as I say, I was pretty small, but I can remember that. Because that is quite a ways back.

RACHEL MASON: Yes. Yeah. That's pretty good memory.

KAREN BREWSTER: Is that -- is that one of your first memories where you --

VAL ANDERSON: Well, just about, yeah. Well, I can remember little bits and pieces, you know, but I can remember little bits and pieces, things back to when I was about three and a half, I think. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Can you tell us a little bit what it was like growing up on that island and your lifestyle?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, it was quite a little different from things nowadays. We would make one trip into Seward in the fall and get our year's supply.

We would come in, come up to -- up to the head of the lake and come up the trail to Cooper Landing, and then he'd get -- a boat would bring us from Cooper Landing up to the head of Kenai Lake, and that was the end of the road out of Seward at the time.

We would stop over at Andy Simon's place where Andy Simon's Mountain is named after, and he was on the railroad and he would --

we had a telephone on the railroad at the time and he would call Bill Hawkins, and him and Bill Hawkins that owned Brown & Hawkins store here in Seward, came out to the Mile 18, or to Primrose they called it, where the Primrose campground is now, and meet us and take us into the Van Gilder Hotel.

And we'd spend about a week here getting supplies together for the year, and then Dad would get lumber to build a boat out of.

We'd take it out to his uncle's place at that -- where it was at Primrose area there, he'd build the boat, and they would load that up and go down the Skilak -- down to Kenai Lake and down the river to our place there, and then we'd take the boat apart and use it for building material and do the same thing again next year.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. RACHEL MASON: Wow. That's amazing. So did you go to school at all during that time or did you --

VAL ANDERSON: Well, they had a school at Cooper Landing, and when I got old enough for that, Dad would be on one of the parties that went out in that country, other parts, we had a cabin at Cooper Landing, and my mother and I would stay there while he was gone for that.

And then that was when school started. I would go to school there for about a month, and then we went back to Skilak. My mother would get the books from the school and I was taught at home.

It doesn't look too good on paper, but it's always served me pretty well during the years.


VAL ANDERSON: When you're raised like that, you learn to do things that -- because if something broke or what have you, you didn't go to a store and buy it; you either fixed it or you made a new one yourself, you know.


JEAN ANDERSON: My sister was the teacher out there -- VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

JEAN ANDERSON: -- that he went to. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. That was the first time I went -- my first school teacher I had out there was one of her older sisters.

RACHEL MASON: No kidding?

VAL ANDERSON: I knew the whole family before I met her.

JEAN ANDERSON: I knew of him but I didn't know him.

RACHEL MASON: But was she your teacher?

VAL ANDERSON: No. Well, her sister at Cooper Landing when I first started, and then we'd get the books, and then my mother would take over from there when we were down on -- at home on Caribou Island.

KAREN BREWSTER: So in terms of fixing things, how did you learn that? Did your father teach you?


KAREN BREWSTER: The fixing things. You said, oh, if it's broken, you would -- VAL ANDERSON: Broken, we would just -- oh, it's just the way you did things. You just -- JEAN ANDERSON: I knew the family because of my sister. VAL ANDERSON: -- learned it as we went along, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh hum. But your father knew how to fix all kinds of things. VAL ANDERSON: Oh, well, sure, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And he was from Sweden, you say?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, he was born in Sweden and he came over to this country when he was 12.

RACHEL MASON: Oh. So how did you two meet each other?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, through a mutual friend up in -- that was raised at Cooper Landing.


VAL ANDERSON: Alex Carlson her name was, at times, he was Alex White, and they came down from -- from Anchorage and flew down.

He had a plane and flew down there one time, and had talked me into going back to -- to Anchorage with him to spend a couple weeks, you know, and just for the fun of it. And next thing I know he had -- they had it all set up.

Here come Jean over, and that's when I first met her.

JEAN ANDERSON: And he asked me if I was busy that night. He lived around the corner from us in Anchorage.

VAL ANDERSON: Kind of funny when you look back on it, but that's the way it -- I guess it worked all right. We are going on our 57th year now. RACHEL MASON: That's great.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what year did you get married? VAL ANDERSON: '53. JEAN ANDERSON: '53. RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. VAL ANDERSON: Excuse me.

JEAN ANDERSON: We are working on our -- our -- our 57th wedding anniversary in November.

RACHEL MASON: Great. Wow. That's -- that's a long time. So did you know that she had -- her sister was your teacher before?

VAL ANDERSON: No, I didn't -- I didn't even know. I didn't even know she existed until many years later.

RACHEL MASON: Oh. That's pretty funny. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: And just -- after you got married, did you move to Seward?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, I had already started working permanently on the waterfront. RACHEL MASON: I see.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. I started work on the waterfront here in 19 -- in May of 1951. RACHEL MASON: Okay.

VAL ANDERSON: And I retired in the first of February of in '85.

KAREN BREWSTER: I just have a question back about Skilak Lake. Did you do trapping out there when you were a boy?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, I did some. Of course, I didn't, but my dad did some. Yeah, oh yes. And we had our own gardens and everything, you know.

And he would -- only he would put in about a month's work for his guiding, but at the time, when people were lucky to get a job for a dollar a day, he would make 17 and a half a day guiding, you see, so he could work for a month and we would live real good for the rest of the year on that, you know.

That was regular guides wages, was 17 and a half a day at that time, when we were lucky to get a job for a dollar a day a lot of places.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah. How did the -- how did the clients contact him?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, just from word of mouth or in -- in corresponding back and forth, you know, by mail.

RACHEL MASON: How did you get mail back then?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, we had to -- we had -- our Post Office was at Lawing where Nellie Neal Lawing was -- was -- you remember her, what they call Alaska Nellie, that was our Post Office.

Well, mail would get brought down to Cooper Landing, although it wasn't a Post Office, and then we would make about one trip every -- maybe once a month, maybe every two months in the winter, to -- up to -- was a matter of snowshoes and skis and across the lake to get up there in the winter and to get our mail. You know.

So if our packages didn't come for Christmas, we used to have -- we used to have a second Christmas in March, so next time we'd make a trip to Cooper Landing, you know, and that package would have showed up that weren't there before. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you didn't use -- you didn't use a dog team to get around?

VAL ANDERSON: No, we didn't have dogs, though we had horses and had goats for, you know, yeah, and other livestock.

KAREN BREWSTER: Did you use the horses for transportation?

VAL ANDERSON: The horses were used in the guiding, yeah. Yeah. And of course, for work around the house, to haul wood into the house, or whatever you needed to do, yeah.

We had four for a while, and -- but they were used primarily -- that was the main thing we used them for was for the guiding.

We'd pack out to the -- 15 miles out to the -- to the moose camp on Funny River, and then another 15 miles up in the mountains, what they had their sheep camp up there.


VAL ANDERSON: Of course, they would go out a couple weeks ahead of time and get the tents set up and everything ready and everything packed up,

and then they would meet the hunters or the clients, they would be called, I guess, on the -- on the dock here in Seward when they came in on the passenger ships, you see,

and take them down -- down the lake and down the river to Skilak, and stay at our place, and then take and go out to the camps there.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what were they hunting for?

VAL ANDERSON: Moose and -- and sheep in that area, mainly. If they went for brown bear, usually they would go down the river to Kenai and hire a cannery tender and go across to the west side of Cook Inlet to bear hunt over there usually.

RACHEL MASON: Where did the customers come from?

VAL ANDERSON: Everywhere, you may say, yeah. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Oh.


JEAN ANDERSON: Tell them about those guys from Europe that came.

VAL ANDERSON: Well, yeah, one year there was a Count Sigmond Szechenyi and a Count Hans Celmeus Ziersdorff and a Baron Buxhoeveden from Austria and Hungary, and that came over from that.

I've always wondered what became of them during World War II. They probably lost their heads or something in that, I don't know.

RACHEL MASON: No kidding. VAL ANDERSON: But I still have a .22 rifle that -- that -- (Telephone rings.)

KAREN BREWSTER: We can pause it. VAL ANDERSON: Excuse me. (Pause.)

KAREN BREWSTER: I just want to know, on the trapping, what did your father trap, do you know? Was it successful trapping?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, not too much. Whenever we were, we were away from the mountains quite a way there, so we -- we didn't have too good a trapping, but it would get -- we'd probably, if anything, we got was coyotes.

We used to trap them quite a bit because they used to have a $20 bounty on them at that time, which made them pretty valuable compared to what today's prices are, you know.

JEAN ANDERSON: Tell them about that sheep, or that goat, I mean. VAL ANDERSON: Oh, about my -- JEAN ANDERSON: That goat.

VAL ANDERSON: -- my friend, the big old billy goat that was my best pal when I was a little kid. Yeah. Yeah, that was fun, all right.

I would -- big, old, stinky billy goat, he'd -- I get playing with him round and around, you know, and wrestled around, and I'd finally get tired and would go in, and he'd stand with his head through the fence and cry for a half hour after I left.

RACHEL MASON: Now, this was a tame goat.

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, yeah. Right. Yeah, we had goats for milk and butter and things like that, you know.

RACHEL MASON: Well, what did you grow in your garden?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, just regular vegetables. We did just about everything.

We grew a lot of things that people didn't think they could grow at the time.

We even had a spot up on top of the island where we grew a little grain, and one time we used a hand coffee grinder and made a -- grind wheat and made a loaf of bread out of it even one time.

KAREN BREWSTER: What were some of the -- what did people think you couldn't grow?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, a lot of people didn't realize, it's hard to remember exactly which thing, but we did quite a bit of experimenting with different things, you know.

My mother was a quite an avid botanist, and she had a lot of flowers of different kinds.

And then later years we had -- for a while we had a, kind of a mail order seed business that we worked up, we'd raise -- gather wild flower seeds and package them and even had a little catalog printed one time up, that for seeds for stuff that was grown up here, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: What was the name -- did you have a name for that company?

VAL ANDERSON: No. No. Huh uh. I think Caribou Island Seeds or something like that. I forget now. Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: Were there other people living near you VAL ANDERSON: No. Huh uh. RACHEL MASON: -- that you socialized with? Or...

VAL ANDERSON: No. We were the only ones on the island at the time.

This Hank Lucas and George Nelson were there for a while, but then Hank Lucas, he was out, he was one of the guides out in Alaska Guides, and he got an attack of appendicitis, and he was --

they got him into Anchorage in time and survived all right, but he never could do much guiding after that because he was pretty poor shape for quite awhile afterwards.

RACHEL MASON: Did your dad hire other guides to help him?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, yeah, or else he'd work with some others, too, you know. You probably know of Andy Simons. RACHEL MASON: Sure.

VAL ANDERSON: He's pretty well known. He was one that used to come down all the time.

And his stepson Frank Ravelle (phonetic), and then Luke Elwell (phonetic), and then -- and then there was George Nelson and Hank Lucas.

But the ones that were in -- all in the area. Sometimes they wouldn't get a party, we'd need help, and one would help the other, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how -- who were your closest neighbors?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, Cooper Landing, I would say, yeah. The Lean family.

That was the aunt and uncle lived there, this lady and her wife -- and her husband, rather, that he introduced Jean and I together.

RACHEL MASON: Did your dad keep guiding during the war, during the World War II?

VAL ANDERSON: No, that was -- that pretty well faded out when the airplanes came in because then, you see, in the early days, they'd make arrangement during the winter by corresponding back and forth, and they'd set up everything.

People would come across the country by train to Seattle, they would come up to -- to Seward on the boat, and we'd meet them there.

And they'd take them down to the hunting camp and out in all this, different places, a month -- a month or so. When they went home, they had a trip of their lifetime they'd remember.

When they come later on, when thein flying, they would come down, they'd fly out, and bang, shoot at moose one day, and be flying back somewhere else the next day, and they could say where had they been?

It didn't amount to anything, it just -- it just kind of died out because of that. But those people years back when they had one of those long, extended trips and everything set up for them, they really had a trip of a lifetime out of it, you know.


JEAN ANDERSON: And anyway, the way we met was that Phyllis, my sister, that was a teacher, she would talk about him being down at the island and being at the -- at Cooper Landing, you know, and she'd come over to Cordova to visit in the summertime.

And -- and she married this Carl Carlson, and he worked in Cordova, and then he and his wife moved over here,

and her two younger sisters were born here, she and I were born in Cordova.

And -- and when their mother, when she had their -- their mother had the younger sister, she passed away when -- when Ima, her name was Ima Jean, everybody just called her Imo. And she passed away when she was 16.


JEAN ANDERSON: When she was six months -- weeks old, I mean. Excuse me. RACHEL MASON: Oh.

JEAN ANDERSON: And so anyway, this Mrs. Lean, Vern Lane and his first wife had been sisters. So he brought them out to the Landing to -- and they grew up with their -- their cousin.

VAL ANDERSON: Nick Lean, you may have known -- know of him. He's been out there at the Landing in later years.

JEAN ANDERSON: Anyway, Carl and Phyllis got married, and they had these three girls, and they were in grade school, you know, there was about eight kids in school, and so, that were out there.

VAL ANDERSON: So my schooling -- my mother always said she learned more when she was teaching me than she did when she went to school herself.

RACHEL MASON: That's right. Where did your mother grow up?

VAL ANDERSON: Huh? She was born in Port Townsend in Washington --


VAL ANDERSON: -- where she was born, yeah.

JEAN ANDERSON: But anyway, this night -- this Alex, her name was Alex, and Harry White, they lived right around the corner from us in Anchorage;

and I'd go over to visit her, she had little kids, you know, and Harry was working all the time and flying and everything and taking people out moose hunting and all.

And she said, are you going to do anything tonight? And I says, no. And she says, well, come on over and see us, will you? And I says, okay.

So I walked over there, and pretty soon he shows up. And they had -- they had that all planned.

KAREN BREWSTER: It was a setup.

RACHEL MASON: After they first warmed you up by telling you all the stories about Caribou Island.

JEAN ANDERSON: Yeah. We were both 20 years old at the time.

RACHEL MASON: That's great.

JEAN ANDERSON: And he'd been in the Army out at Shemya.

RACHEL MASON: Oh, really.


JEAN ANDERSON: During the Second World War.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah, well that's what -- I was going to ask you about what you did during the Second World War.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I went in the Army on the 4th of August in 1944, and I got out in July of '45 -- '46. Early July of '46.

KAREN BREWSTER: Tell us about that. Tell us about being in the Army.


KAREN BREWSTER: Tell us about being in the Army.

VAL ANDERSON: Well, there's not a lot to it. I went through basic training at Ft. Richardson, and then I was sent out to -- to Shemya, and ended up in what they call the Army Exchange or PX out there, and that's where I spent my time in out doing there, which suited me just fine.

And I always wondered how come that I didn't get sent off because about the time that I got out of Infantry basic training and at Fort Rich, they were -- I was in a replacement center and they were yanking guys out of the Air Force and everywhere else that went into that Army that went into Okinawa where they lost about half of them, and I ended up out in a -- in a PX in Shemya.

Always wondered why. And I don't know the facts of it for sure, but I've been told indirectly that there had been an executive order that Alaska resident couldn't be sent out of Alaska unless they requested it.


VAL ANDERSON: So I -- I always figured that's what saved me from being in that. But I've been -- only indirectly have heard that, never was able to verify it because it's made reasonable because here I came out of Infantry basic training, would be automatic, waiting for an assignment, would've been automatic for something like that, and say you ended up in the PX in Shemya.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what was your job at the PX?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, I ended up as a warehouseman for that. And nice part of it what they called -- what they called a profit organization, even though it didn't amount to much, why,

I made as much as I -- quite a little more. And then during the time I was out there, I sent money home enough to when I got out, got home, I went into here to Seward of Mrs. Lechner that had the Ford agency at the time, and brought me a brand new Ford and paid cash for it, and I always said I was that much ahead of the Army.


JEAN ANDERSON: But anyway, about this -- meeting him that night, seeing Alex and Harry, they take off to their show and left us baby sitting.

RACHEL MASON: Oh, very romantic.

JEAN ANDERSON: Yeah. In Anchorage.

KAREN BREWSTER: So did your work as a warehouseman, is that what led you to work on the docks?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, not necessarily, but I did before I started on here, I went to -- I worked for the Alaska Road Commission when they were building the road to Kenai.

I spent one winter and worked down there in their shop as a parts man. Of course, that had a little bit to do with what I had been doing before; but then I just automatically kind of gravitated to work on the waterfront because I always liked fishing and likes of that.

And when I was working on the waterfront, that was one thing about it, you didn't have to ask anybody or tell anybody if you wanted to take off and do something else, you just did; and when you went back, you went back to work, you know.

It was very -- we had a strange system. We were -- we were actually what you'd call hired and fired every day because we had a daily dispatch.

And if you weren't there for when they were starting the day, why, somebody would take your place; and when you came back, you'd take your place again. You know.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that -- so you were a longshoreman. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: That was the way the union worked? VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: You went to the union hall in the morning?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah. Uh hum. Last two years before I retired I was dispatcher, which worked out pretty good.

RACHEL MASON: So after the war, you came back and settled in Seward?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah. I was -- as I say, when I first came out my dad had a -- the old Hershey Mine out of Hope up at the head of Resurrection Creek, Swetmann that used to have the drug store here in Seward owned that,

and he wanted to prospect, and dad was, of course, a hard rock miner, he had done that before he went into guiding, you know.

And he had a deal where he was driving a tunnel for prospecting, and I worked with him for a while when I first got out of the Army, worked with him, and then later on I started work on the waterfront.

Then I worked for that summer of '47 on the waterfront, and then I had that job down there for -- and the Road Commission in Kenai, went to camp they had there.

Then I fished, started fishing on Cook Inlet in between. And anyway, finally in the spring of '51, I ended up on the waterfront here for -- and stayed with it until I retired.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah. And you got married somewhere along there. What -- what -- VAL ANDERSON: '53. RACHEL MASON: '53. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: Okay. Then Jean, did you move down to Seward with him at that time?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, we were married in McMinnville, Oregon. RACHEL MASON: Oh, you were.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. In '52, her dad and mother, he retired from MK in Anchorage, and they moved out to McMinnville, Oregon, and we went down the highway and I went with them and -- and took turns driving with her dad, and then they stayed there and I came back and worked the next year.

Then the next fall they came down and we were married in McMinnville, Oregon.

RACHEL MASON: What was the Alaska Highway like at that time? VAL ANDERSON: Rocks.

RACHEL MASON: It was all rocks? Huh. JEAN ANDERSON: And I mean rocks. VAL ANDERSON: Rocks and a little gravel.

RACHEL MASON: How long did it take you to drive down there?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, if you took it easy and didn't -- ones that would have trouble, they would try to go fast over the rough stuff and that would blow tires.

But if you stayed under 50 miles an hour, it took you about a week to make the trip down, you know, and you didn't have any trouble if you took it easy, you know.

But if you tried to go fast, and then, you know, those tires, they were made out of rayon at the time before nylon came in, and they just couldn't take it, you know.

RACHEL MASON: Did you have a lot of flat tires anyway?

VAL ANDERSON: In all those years, when we came back here in '05, when we -- and after I retired, I went and got a -- had a place in Bothell, Washington, had a 20 by 60 mobile home there for a while, we'd spend our winters in what they call snowbirding, you know.

And then we finally decided to quit that and move back here. When we came back in the summer of '05, that was our number 51 way over the Alaska Highway.

RACHEL MASON: Oh, really. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. VAL ANDERSON: So we had a bit.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then do you have children?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Our oldest daughter, Susan, and Bob White, you know, they have White's Floor Covering. Out here. RACHEL MASON: Oh, yeah.

VAL ANDERSON: And then our younger daughter is in Juneau, and our son is in Rathdrum, Idaho. Eric. Our daughter in Juneau is Sharon, and Susie and her husband are here.

RACHEL MASON: Is -- is that the same Bob White that -- that we're going to be talking to? That there's -- there's only one Bob White here in Seward? VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah.

JEAN ANDERSON: These are our pictures here, our great grandchildren. RACHEL MASON: Oh, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: You have a lot of them.

JEAN ANDERSON: Just three. Sharon doesn't have any kids, all she's got is dogs.

RACHEL MASON: That must keep her busy. So you must have been -- you were here when the earthquake happened.

VAL ANDERSON: Yes. I -- I was working on the waterfront then, and at that time, we had to -- we had two groups here.

They had a dockside and a shipside, and I always worked with shipside. For some reason, all the work at Standard Oil Compane tankers used to come here, and that had package goods to handle, and the shipside group had the deal to work that.

So whenever a tanker came in, why, we worked over there, and I had worked on that dock until after three o'clock that afternoon and we finished our job and came home.

They had the little Alaska Standard they called the Peddler, one that loaded here and took the small ports up and down the coast here, you know.

And it would -- had package goods loaded aboard, and we had done that, and they were still taking bulk aboard, and we finished that, and finished it or loading package goods and came home, and it was still taking bulk on when the earthquake hit.

And one of the guys they called a hose tender was on the dock, he was -- what the heck was his name, I forgot -- a guy from Seldovia.

The last thing he remembered was the dock folding up around him, and he came to washed aboard the deck of the tanker with a broken leg and survived.


JEAN ANDERSON: Yeah. Thank goodness all three kids were sitting on the -- VAL ANDERSON: Ted Pedersen, I think his name was. JEAN ANDERSON: -- on the floor here watching this, they were making fun of the space age.

Oh, yeah. Always thankful for that, because the kids were right here instead -- instead of scattered around the neighborhood someplace. RACHEL MASON: That's good. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: And so you were -- all the kids were home and you were home when that happened. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

JEAN ANDERSON: And then we gets out to the first bridge, and we couldn't get across the bridge.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, the bridge was up here like this, and the road was down there. The bridge was -- all the steel piling were down deep and they didn't go up, but the road dropped. RACHEL MASON: Oh, wow.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. And it was just rig -- square edge to the edge of the bridge about that high so you couldn't get over it.

RACHEL MASON: Were there a lot of people -- VAL ANDERSON: Ended up going into Forest Acres to the -- Mike and Chris Rice's house, and so we stayed there until things quieted down and they got things back together and came back in the house.

But when we left here, we didn't figure that anything was left. When we got out to Rice's place, I told Jean, I said, we better figure that you and I and the kids are together, and that's what we've got, you know, and I could hardly believe it when I found out our house was still here.

Like I say, it was just a solid wall of fire here, we figured everything would go, you know.

JEAN ANDERSON: Our neighbors were right ahead of us. And George gets out and they wondered what they were going to do. They had two kids, a boy and a girl, and they said, well, they knew these people up in Forest Acres. And so we went up there.

And of course, that night everybody was all shook, you know. And the next day I got talking to Mike and here he'd been a good friend...

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, that dumb thing, it should've have been moved. Sorry about that. JEAN ANDERSON: ...of my oldest brother's in Cordova. RACHEL MASON: Really?

JEAN ANDERSON: And I didn't know him at the time, you know, and I didn't know his wife. But he was born over there, too. But his wife had never been in Cordova.

RACHEL MASON: Let's see. Were any of your neighbors's houses damaged?

VAL ANDERSON: No, not here. You see, there's so much slope to the land here, you see. And the tanks had ruptured and everything, they float out on the water and they burned down on the water.

There was only about three houses right next to the tanks that burned down there, actually.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the fire all went out.

VAL ANDERSON: It was all on the water. It slopes to land, you see everything that -- they all flowed out onto the water. RACHEL MASON: Wow. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

JEAN ANDERSON: And for some crazy reason our son cannot reach a -- cannot remember a thing about the earthquake.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, our son was --

RACHEL MASON: How old was he?

VAL ANDERSON: He was -- he would have been four the 9th of April, and he still says he has absolutely has no memory at all.

I think he has a mental block because his daughter -- his sisters were screaming their heads off, you know, and scared, you'd think he'd remember that, but he doesn't.

RACHEL MASON: Do his sisters remember anything about it? VAL ANDERSON: Oh, yeah, they do. Sure. Yeah.

JEAN ANDERSON: And Sharon down in Juneau now, she said her husband came home from school -- from work one night and said that he -- that someone had told him that one of the TV stations in Juneau was going to start showing the old --

old black and white TV programs again, and they came to that program that the kids were watching, this making fun of the space age, you know, and they were puppets, and she says a cold shiver went down her back.

VAL ANDERSON: As soon as she heard that name of it, you know. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.

JEAN ANDERSON: But I fell down these stupid stairs. And then I fell under the car.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, see, because when it hit, she was in the bathroom. And I got in there and got a -- we had one of those lights in here that you pull down, you know, use it and then push back up, and it was swinging back and forth across the room, and trying to dodge that.

And I got her out to the front steps and she slipped, slid down the steps, and she got down and I picked her up, tried to get her in the car, she slipped and slid halfway under the car, and I just picked her up and threw her in the car.

And in the meantime, the kids they were just like scared rabbits, they were in the car, just in a bang, like that, you know.

And I remember backing out of the driveway and going down the street and thinking to myself, now, I've got to be careful, I can't make any mistake.

And I stopped at every stop sign and looked careful before I went and everything, you know. You can't make any mistakes now.

RACHEL MASON: Did you see a lot of other people out?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, yeah, but I was too busy getting it us it was. Once we got -- we got out and started, you know how the Lagoon Road used to be water on both sides, and the dump was over there, you know,

and you could look out and you could see the -- the boat harbor and you could see power barges and stuff a coming up on the wave way above the -- the breakwater, what's left of the breakwater, you know.

But then we were going across the Lagoon Road and got out of the way from it, you know, before the main waves came in.

The local waves here, they're just like you take a -- a pan of water and shake it, where heaping up you know, and that knocked all the docks down and everything, and the boat harbor and the whole bit like that.

JEAN ANDERSON: This house, believe it or not, it was going like this. And I was brushing my -- I was

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, it was motion in a certain direction.

JEAN ANDERSON: I just got through brushing my teeth, and I had the -- I had the -- the -- the deal in my hand, but --

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, she had a toothbrush in her hand, we got out wherever we stopped, she still had that toothbrush in her hand.

JEAN ANDERSON: And I -- I had to grab on to the side of the wash -- the washbowl to keep from going head first in the bathtub.


JEAN ANDERSON: And I lost every dish in the place. And Kathleen Kontra, they were the people that went with us, showed us where to go, and they lived a couple of doors down, and she says -- or she was a nurse.

And she says, well, go in our house, and it was several days later, and this Jack, this friend of ours, lived out the road, and he knew the guy's they -- they didn't ask them where they wanted to work, they just told them to work.

VAL ANDERSON: Well, it's what you do. You do what had to be done, that's all.

JEAN ANDERSON: Put up chimneys and pick up stuff, you know, and whatever. And Jack knew that we'd bought about $600 worth of groceries from Mr. Metcalf where the -- the Mormon Church is now.

So he says, we're going to town, because they wouldn't let him, and Kathleen was giving shots that day. And she said, well, look in our house, too, will you get stuff out of the refrigerator and the cupboards.

And like I say, everything in our cupboards just went on the floor. And their cupboards went this way, and our cupboards were on this side.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, the motion was a certain direction. If your stuff was pointed in with than it was alright, otherwise it wasn't, you know.

JEAN ANDERSON: Of course, they left this door. Didn't have a chance to get a sweater on or nothing. I had just got out of the hospital.

VAL ANDERSON: We didn't even shut the front door, we -- all we could think was get away from the fire, you know.

JEAN ANDERSON: I just had a housecoat on, you know. And these darn slippers, they were like they give you in the hospital, you know. And I slipped on the ice and the snow on the steps.

And -- but anyhow, Jack and I went in their house, went in the front door, and all -- they had a easy chair like that, and they had a -- either it was a mirror or a picture on the wall, and all it did was fall down between the wall and the --

and the chair, and all he did was just pick it up and put it back on its hook. It wasn't even cracked.

RACHEL MASON: What was it like living in Seward in the months after the earthquake? VAL ANDERSON: Huh?

RACHEL MASON: What was it like living in Seward in the months after the earthquake?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, of course, we were busy working on the cleanup and everything for quite awhile. And then after the cleanup, then they had to change out all the water lines, the sewer lines, and everything had to be redone.

And I worked with a construction company doing that for -- and as a result of it, of course, the waterfront was gone, but doing that I got a chance to get in the Laborers under general construction.

So where I was able to -- before they got the waterfront built back, I was able to work on water and construction jobs here, being as I belonged to the Laborers, too, you see.

So I didn't have to leave home like some of the guys did to get work, you know. So it worked out real good for me.

RACHEL MASON: That's good.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the longshoring you did, you didn't work with the railroad, then; you didn't unload ships to the railroad?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, yeah, sure. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, you did? VAL ANDERSON: That was all -- unloaded everything that came in here, yeah.

JEAN ANDERSON: The dock was in front of town. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. VAL ANDERSON: Oh, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you did all of it?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, the docks were down here. Of course, they went down and we didn't have it until they got a dock built back out here, you see, they built the dock where it is out here now, that was built after the earthquake.

I worked even on that for a while, and one fall after the -- the Laborer jobs, I worked on their -- on temporary with a pile bucks union, as they called it, working on the building of the dock out there.

JEAN ANDERSON: And they had fences all along so the kids couldn't even get down on the -- on the beach.

VAL ANDERSON: Well, yeah. The railroad yard used to be -- you just had a single road around town because you couldn't even get to the water because the whole railroad yard went all the way around it, you know.

Tracks went almost all the way to the waterfall. Switch track back, it went clear back past the dock there, over there.


VAL ANDERSON: So since after that, now it's got all that nice area for campers and everything, that was all railroad yards before, you see.

JEAN ANDERSON: You probably heard of Dale Lindsey.

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, well, of course, yeah.

JEAN ANDERSON: And his mother was coming for -- for dinner that night and Val was out in the kitchen making moose hamburgers.

And she had taken care of the kids while I was in the hospital, got the girls to school, you know, and take -- took care of Eric and got the meals, you know.

And she was coming for dinner about 5:30, so I thought, well, I better go and change my housecoat, and I did that, and then I went in the bathroom to -- to brush my teeth, and like I say, I just grabbed ahold of the edge of the washbowl and to keep from going head first in the bathtub.

And she said when she stopped here, it felt like all four tires were flat. And she knew what was going on, this whole thing was fire. The bay.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Okay. We wanted to move on to asking about the road VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: -- that you built. That we've heard a little bit about Herman Leirer deciding to build a road, and wondered how you got involved in that project.

VAL ANDERSON: Well, the only thing is as I say, I -- I worked with the -- after the earthquake, I worked with the Laborers.

And he needed help, and he went to the Laborers dispatcher and asked me to come up there and work with him.

And so I happened to get a job, and just we made that one rock cut, that was the only thing that I had anything to do with it.

As I say, I was what they call a chuck tender, where the guy with the -- running the wagon drill, that's drilling the deep holes for blasting, you see. The big rock cut.

RACHEL MASON: Okay. Were you the only one like that? Or did

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Well, then, when we got ready to fire, why, then Percy Blatchford and Danny Wheeler came and helped out to -- loading everything, and getting ready to shoot it, you know. But just Herman and I did the -- the hole boring before that.

RACHEL MASON: Do you know how he got the money together for this project?

VAL ANDERSON: I don't know the details of that. It was kind of a personal project of his. He scratched and did whatever promoting he could do.

How it did came about, I couldn't tell you that. So I don't know who -- I don't know whether his son would -- Steve.


VAL ANDERSON: Have you talked to him?

RACHEL MASON: We haven't talked to him yet, but he's been suggested to us.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, he should probably tell you more about that, he should know that, but I don't really know that because I was working elsewhere until that came up and they wanted me to do that job, you know, so I did.

RACHEL MASON: What year was it that --

VAL ANDERSON: I can't really remember, to be honest with you.

RACHEL MASON: Was it in the '60s or '70s?

KAREN BREWSTER: Before the earthquake or after the earthquake?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, it was after the earthquake. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah. It was before we got busy with all the stuff that came in for the pipeline.


RACHEL MASON: So it must have been between the '60s -- late '60s.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, somewheres in there, I couldn't really tell you. Steve might, of course, would be able to tell you that. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So you were running a rig to be drilling the holes for the dynamite?

VAL ANDERSON: No, I was -- he was doing that. I was grinding the bits and getting the stuff ready and helping him move things. And there's just what they call a chuck tender that works with -- with the driller. That's all I was doing, you see.

KAREN BREWSTER: I've never heard the word a chuck tender. I didn't know what that was.

VAL ANDERSON: Well, that's what they mean. The chuck is where they -- in the drilling machine is when they put it, that's the term they use for it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Chuck is like the bit, the drill bit?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah, where they put the drill -- drill steel in. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. That's why the term they use for it. And the bits they screw onto the end, you see, and they had a grinder there, and I would -- the dull ones, when they'd use them for quite awhile, they'd get dull, and I would grind them sharp again while he was working with others, and various things like that. Just whatever had to be done.

RACHEL MASON: How long did your part of it take?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, I think it was only about probably a couple, three weeks or something like that until we got ready, and they made that shot, and that was all.

And they came in with a D9 with one of them big hooks, you know, and that loosens it all up so they could dig it out and finish the road in to where the bridge is built.

KAREN BREWSTER: Which part were -- which part of the road were you working on?

VAL ANDERSON: The last -- just before you -- you come along the river, just about close to the bridge, and you go up a little hill, and there's that lookout point there.

And then as you start to go down a little bit between there and where those rest rooms are at the head of the bridge, it was a big bluff there or big hill through there.

We made the cut through right from where the little bit -- the other side of that parking area to between that and where it comes down to where it goes across the bridge.

KAREN BREWSTER: So about how long of an area were you blowing?

VAL ANDERSON: I think that cut was about 400 feet when we shot it, something like that. Yeah. Of course, that took a lot of holes drilling.

The holes were 16, 18 feet deep, you know, and took a lot of drilling to -- to get it done. It was a lot of holes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember how many holes or how far apart each hole?

VAL ANDERSON: I couldn't. It all depends on how deep each one of them are. They go in the middle, and then farther out, and you had the first, second, and third delay.

You had electric firing. They'd shoot the one in the first and that brings that up, and the next one brings that in, and brings it in, so first, second, and third delay --


VAL ANDERSON: -- when they shoot it.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then how far away did you go to be out of the shot blast?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, you can't be enough, far enough away. Several hundred yards really hiding behind a big tree.

You had electric firing deal to set it off, you know, and had one guy up the road the other way to make sure nobody came, and another one down each way, you know, and the shot didn't really do much, didn't more than knock the bark off a few trees around, they did real good, but just shook it up enough to where they could get in there and rip it out, you know.


JEAN ANDERSON: Anyway, now in the old boat harbor, there was a Texaco down there, and it was exploding. All those big tanks.

VAL ANDERSON: Well, yeah, they had two bulk plants here.

JEAN ANDERSON: And I saw a barge getting up over the -- the waves were coming in, you know, and they were picking up this -- this barge over the -- the breakwater.

And we had the biggest one, and the one that we heard the most was about eleven o'clock that night, and we'd hear rocks coming down off the mountains.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, and the roar of the tidal waves coming in. RACHEL MASON: It must've been scary.

VAL ANDERSON: Anyway, back to that rock cut. When we got ready to load it, we used what they called ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

And before that you -- you can use it, you have to activate it by putting diesel oil in it. RACHEL MASON: Wow.

VAL ANDERSON: I would open the bags, it's just a granular stuff in there and I would take a 2 pound coffee can that had holes in the bottom, and I'd open the bags and then sprinkle that too there.

And had to do that, that was before you get -- then you put what they call power primer, dynamite that you put in the primer you put down in the bottom of the hole, and then you put this ammonium nitrate fertilizer on top of it.

RACHEL MASON: How did you learn about how to -- what to do there?

VAL ANDERSON: Just knew what to do. I was told what to do and I did it, you know, that's all. They come in 50 pound bags, I think it was, I had to put so much in each bag.


VAL ANDERSON: I spent one day doing that before we got ready to -- to load it with, and then they'd take those bags and they'd -- we'd put that primer down first, and the few there, they -- what they call primer cord that came up to the top.

And then had that primer, power primer, they called it dynamite there in the bottom, and then the fertilizer on top of it.

RACHEL MASON: Well, after -- after your part was done on the road, did they just leave it sit for the rest of the -- for --

VAL ANDERSON: I don't know how long. It was a little while afterwards. And they had came in with a D9 Cat, and then they -- with one of them big hooks when it was all shook up, then they could sweep it out and build the road in it.

I don't remember whether they did that that same fall or after that. I can't remember.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you worked on -- the couple weeks you worked on that blasting was in the falltime?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. It was in late, towards the fall, as I remember, yeah. Yeah. Uh hum.

RACHEL MASON: And how many years did it take them to -- to make the whole road?

VAL ANDERSON: I can't really remember because other than that, I had -- I never went up there to know how long they were doing it. I was busy on the waterfront, you see. And then...

KAREN BREWSTER: So was that your first time going up that valley? Had you ever been up there?

VAL ANDERSON: I think I may say so, yeah, because that's when the road was first built, and I never went up there before that, no. I had no reason to.

KAREN BREWSTER: I wondered how much people in Seward went up there before there was a road. Did other people go up?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, quite a few of them hunted here. There used to be a couple landing strips up there and they used to land up there and hunt, but I never went that way.

I always went out to country that I knew off of Skilak and out that way, you know, was where I -- because that's the country that I knew.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But you knew that -- you knew of other people in town who went up to those air strips?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, yeah. I can't remember who all really now, to be honest about it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Did it seem like there were a lot of people or just a couple?

VAL ANDERSON: That, I couldn't really tell you.

RACHEL MASON: So did your hunting, was that mainly moose or what -- what kind of stuff did you get?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah, moose would be, yeah, yeah. Well, of course, once in awhile somebody would go up there and they'd go up the mountain for goat or something like that, but it was primarily moose hunting area. That's what I went after.

RACHEL MASON: And you said you went up to Skilak area?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, I'd go down in -- in what they called the Kenai burn. You see, after that area burned down in '47, it made that big area on the north side of Skilak.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah. That made for better hunting out there.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I remember when we lived on Skilak, my dad made the remark one time, we -- hell of a good thing that if that north side of the lake burned because there was old black spruce and everything, and there was no game over there at all hardly.

And then -- and then on the Funny River and the south side of Skilak, that had burned -- I don't know, somewhere in the early 1900s, somewhere in that, and that was a primary moose country.

But then after that burn over on the other side, then that turned into the -- the long time turned into primary country, all the stuff that grew up after the -- after the fire.

RACHEL MASON: And the moose must have liked that. VAL ANDERSON: Oh, yeah. Sure. Yeah. Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: With those little tender trees and they -- they'd come in there. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: Did any other kind of game other than moose increase in that area?

VAL ANDERSON: That, I wouldn't say so, no, not really. It just improved it because all that young birch had moved up, and that's what moose would browse on.

RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. So did you ever do any hunting around Seward area, or around this place?

VAL ANDERSON: Not really. A time or two went out -- out by boat out over to Day Harbor and got a goat or two out there, but that's all. RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. Okay.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then you said -- so up the Resurrection River towards Exit Glacier, you didn't go up and do recreation or anything up there?

VAL ANDERSON: No, no, I never did. Huh uh. No. KAREN BREWSTER: You never skied or snow machined?

VAL ANDERSON: Of course, there wasn't really anything like that up there then because there was no trail. Most of them, they say they went up there, they flew on one of those -- they used to have one, they called a T-craft strip up there somewhere or another. You may have heard of it.


KAREN BREWSTER: Do you know where that strip was?

VAL ANDERSON: No, I have no idea because I had never been up that far. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: How about your kids, did they ever go up -- VAL ANDERSON: No, they weren't --

RACHEL MASON: -- recreating up there?

VAL ANDERSON: They weren't into hunting much. So they didn't. My son was never interested in that, and he wasn't going to go for that.

KAREN BREWSTER: And no snow machining, skiing, hiking, anything up there?

VAL ANDERSON: Not really, no. Not in that area, no. As I say, I don't -- I know very little about that. Doug could probably tell more about that, really, than I could by quite a bit.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But it's interesting, your work on the road.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. It was just for that short time with Herman, yeah.

RACHEL MASON: Was the road very -- were people in Seward supportive of the road at that time?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, I guess. Not as enthusiastic as Herman was. Of course, it never would probably have got done if it hadn't been for Herman's enthusiasm. He's the one that really was the spark plug for getting it going, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: So was that interesting work to do that blasting?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, yeah, it was something I hadn't done before. Yeah. Yeah. Very interesting working with that type of explosive.

When I first came out of the Army, as I said, I worked with my dad up at the -- at the mine up at Palmer Creek, the old Hershey Mine, and then we used powder then, but we didn't use this stuff that was regular dynamite we used there.

He used to do the drilling, and I would sharpen bits and make up the pot and stuff ready to load to shoot, you know, with, and the likes of that.

RACHEL MASON: You mentioned that Steve Leirer could tell us a little bit more about the -- the specifics of the road. Is there anybody else that's still around now that you would suggest that could tell us about making that road?

VAL ANDERSON: I don't know who it would be, honestly. I'm getting to be such an old fogey that few of them are --

RACHEL MASON: We did talk to Percy -- VAL ANDERSON: -- are left now.

RACHEL MASON: We talked to Percy Blatchford, and --

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Danny Wheeler, he's passed away quite awhile ago.

KAREN BREWSTER: Now, Percy did all the -- how come Percy was brought in? You said you --

VAL ANDERSON: Well, he belonged to the Laborers local, too, you see. So did -- so did Danny Wheeler.

KAREN BREWSTER: But it seemed like Percy knew more about blasting? Or not?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, he had done it all right, yeah. He had done it before, I think, all right, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: It sounds kind of scary working with explosives and dynamite.

VAL ANDERSON: Not really. It's not near as what most people think it is. You just have to use a little bit of common sense, that's all. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And was Herman experienced with that?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, to a point, I guess. Back in those years, a person did most everything, you know. He had did the drilling, he knew how to do that, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, there are -- were there other places on the road that they had blasted before your part?

VAL ANDERSON: I guess there was some, but not a lot. I think that was the biggest cut that had to be -- it was kind of a shoulder that went down there, that instead of trying to go over it, they went through it, you see.

Remember, the cut was about 400 feet long, it took quite a lot of holes to do it. But there were probably -- the holes were probably about 4 or 5 feet apart, and down anywhere from 15 to 18, 20 feet, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: How many would you -- VAL ANDERSON: With a wagon drill.

KAREN BREWSTER: How many would you do at once? Would you do one hole or -- you load up a few holes?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, a load, when we shot the thing, we loaded the darn thing all at once. Everything was shot at once.


VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. You see, they were in the row, and the holes were in line, and the ones were angled down there close together, those were the ones that went first, they tend to bring that up like that, and then the delays in the ones over here, they would bring it in like this, and then in this way, you see.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, that was the one, two, three delay you talked about.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, uh huh. They used what they call primer cord. It looks just like a fuse but it's instantaneous. We didn't have to use a primer on the dynamite, we'd just poke a hole through the stick, poke that to it and wrap a half hitch around it, and then drop it down there.

Then when they got -- and that left them sticking out of each hole. Then when they got out on top, then they had to line this stuff down and you'd tape it, you'd make a half hitch around the one that was on the surface with each one coming out of the hole, and then tape it.

And then they had to -- on the ends of those, and they had those timer fuses, you see. But that's what they call primer cord, that was instantaneous, the length and the fire the ones it was hooked to, because the first was a line down the first holes, in the middle would -- would be cold cuts with it, bring it up like that, and then the next ones, and bring it in.

KAREN BREWSTER: So when it -- so when it went off, it went bup, bup, bup, bup, bup, bup, bup.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, but it was so quick together you couldn't tell it. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

VAL ANDERSON: It was just a particle second between it, you see.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you said it was an electric -- how did you set it off?

VAL ANDERSON: Well, they have an electric, kind of a dynamo, I guess you'd call it, that sends a current to the electric primers.

KAREN BREWSTER: Is that the old kind of box that you push down on?

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah, it could have been. No, this was more modern than that. It was like the old ones were like that, yeah.

This was a small rig of some kind, you just twist it with your hand. But you see, you only had about -- you only had about six primers, but there was two on each one.

You didn't depend on one setting it off, you always had at least two on each one of them in case one of them didn't go, then the dynamite would take it because if one wouldn't go, it would ruin the whole thing because it has to go in the right timing;

otherwise, it could wreck the whole shot and not maybe do the job it's supposed to do.

Same way when you're in -- in a tunnel in a mine, you have -- you have cuts on the -- on up like brings it out, and then another one in there, and then what they call a lifter on the bottom, and then what they call a top hole on the top that brings it down. That's when you're taking a tunnel forward, you see.

RACHEL MASON: Well, I was wondering if you had other jobs like that where you had to do this?

VAL ANDERSON: No, the closest to it was when I worked with my dad up there after I got out of the Army in 1940 -- '46.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then you said you retired in 1985? VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: From longshoring? VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So there was still enough work here after the earthquake?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, yeah. Well, we, of course, when the pipeline came through here, we were -- God, I'd have to argue for two weeks at a time to get a day off because I was a crane operator, and if I -- if I -- if I took a day off, it might cut a gang out to work, you know. Because we only had so many operators.

So I'd call in in the morning, and finally after awhile, the guy said, by golly, we're not too busy today, I think you could have a day off if you want, and I'd take it, you know. Otherwise we were working seven 12s.


KAREN BREWSTER: And then you said you did dispatching.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. And then towards the last, you see, that was an elected job in the union. And I got to where I was the one that was assigning the crews every morning. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, ok. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Down at the union hall.

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. I thought we did pretty good on -- of course, maybe you wouldn't want to be in this, but they told us in that when we had all that stuff coming through for the pipeline that we had a 37 percent higher productivity here in this port than they did on the coast.

I was always kind of proud of that. I always figured I helped contribute to that.

RACHEL MASON: That's great.

VAL ANDERSON: Because I always had the idea if the quicker you got a ship out of here, the quicker -- the better the chance the next one was coming back.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Can you generally tell us a little about how Seward has changed over the years? VAL ANDERSON: Huh?

RACHEL MASON: Since you first got to Seward, have you seen some changes in this community?

VAL ANDERSON: Oh, well, of course. The buildings and everything like that, it's hard to -- to -- of course, now the waterfront is quite insignificant; and at one time, Good Lord, we had about -- we had probably between the dock and the water, well, shipside that we called it, we probably had in two ships, we probably had about 300 men working here.

See, now it's very minor, that little bit that comes in here, the handling cargo, or baggage for the cruise ships and things like that, and tie ups and cast offs is about all that it amounts to now, you know. I think I retired about the best right time.


KAREN BREWSTER: Is there anything --

JEAN ANDERSON: That's the thing about the earthquake, though, I want to tell you that our neighbor Bernie, he was the one I said was a policemen, and when they had that deal over at the bank, you know, and anyway, he was out in the alley taking pictures. And --

VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. He -- they had a little pictures over at the library. You've no doubt seen them.

JEAN ANDERSON: -- come up from Juneau, and I said, by golly, we -- you and I will go down to the restaurant there across from the new Seward Hotel and have lunch, and I was telling her about Bernie standing out here in the alley taking pictures of the fire in the bay.

And I says, they got a picture of it in the library about that. So we went in there and Mrs. Decker was the librarian, she said we've got the picture -- the colors in it had started to fade a little bit, so they put it downstairs.

And so we went down the steps, and she got it out, it was about yea big, you know.

And just as we were starting up those stairs, they used to start -- I don't know if they still do it or not, they started the -- the pictures about the earthquake, and you never saw anybody get up those stairs as fast as I did.

VAL ANDERSON: She didn't want to hear it over again. We had enough of it.

RACHEL MASON: Well, just to wrap it up, do you have any other things that you'd like to make sure you tell?

VAL ANDERSON: I don't know really what it would be. Probably afterwards think of something I should have said, but I don't at the time.

RACHEL MASON: Well, we'll be glad to -- to add more later. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: I was wondering about that picture above your head, is that you as a boy? VAL ANDERSON: Yes, it is. That's my -- RACHEL MASON: This one?

VAL ANDERSON: -- my sister's husband lives up in Eagle River, Paul Cordasci made that from a little photograph of me holding a pet goose.

We had -- we had chickens and ducks and geese and goats and horses down there, and that was a pet goose of mine that I was taking -- somebody took that picture and he had had just a little photograph and he -- that's a -- a pencil drawing.

RACHEL MASON: I've never seen such a -- VAL ANDERSON: He's quite a -- artistic. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: It's a very nice picture.

VAL ANDERSON: I can remember when that picture was taken. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: About how old were you? VAL ANDERSON: Oh, probably about 8, I think. 7 or 8.

KAREN BREWSTER: That's great. VAL ANDERSON: Something like that. RACHEL MASON: It's a great picture, a nice bowl haircut. VAL ANDERSON: Yeah. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: That's great. Well, thank you very much for your time. Both of you. Thank you. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.