Yvonne Konnerup Lahti was interviewed by Ann Kain of the National Park Service on June 17, 1990 in Kennecott, Alaska. Yvonne was raised in Kennecott during the time when the mill and mines were in operation. She was in Kennecott for the Kennecott Kids reunion, hosted by the Kennicott Glacier Lodge. She talks about life in Kennecott as a child, school, play and the adjustment of returning to the Lower 48 from Alaska.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Jun 17, 1990
Narrator(s): Yvonne Konnerup Lahti
Interviewer(s): Ann Kain
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1) Background information
2) Her father's work history
3) Coming to Alaska and Kennecott
4) Housing and work at Kennecott
5) Chores and housework
6) Growing and picking food
7) Purchasing food from the company store
8) Buying things through mail order
9) Trips away from Kennecott
10) Illness and diseases
11) The Kennecott hospital and personnel
12) Her nearsightedness and eye glasses
13) Dental and other health care
14) Kennecott hospital use by the larger community
15) Company policies, and sibling information
16) Female employment at Kennecott
17) Social life and activities in Kennecott
18) Adjusting to being outside of Kennecott
19) Her education and teaching career
20) Returning to Kennecott and staying in touch with the other kids
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KAIN: Kennicott Glacier Lodge, Kennecott, Alaska, June 17, 1990. Oral history interview with Yvonne Konnerup Lahti.
She was raised in Kennecott during the time when the mill and mines were in operation. Presently, she is in Kennecott for the Kennecott Kids Reunion, hosted by the Kennicott Glacier Lodge.
The interview is being conducted by Ann Kain for the National Park Service, Alaska Regional Office.
LAHTI: Never been interviewed before.
KAIN: Well, okay, Yvonne, we are curious as to the age you were when you were in Kennecott, when you came and so forth. If you wanted to fill us in a little bit.
LAHTI: We came up when I was six years old, that was in 1925 and we stayed for six years, till I finished the fifth grade in 1931.
That was when the two older children were ready for high school.
KAIN: I see. And did you -- what did your father do?
LAHTI: Well, when my father first came up, he was straw boss of the yard gang and -- for about a year, year and a half, and then he got into the store and then he worked within the store with Humphrey.
KAIN: Was he clerking or working with -- ? LAHTI: Clerking and doing some ordering and all of that --
KAIN: Helping run the store then LAHTI: Yes, helping run the store, yes.
KAIN: Did he come from a mining background or?
LAHTI: No, no. Frank Iverson down here had the farm south of McCarthy and my father's garage business had gone under in 1923 when they had a recession.
And so he'd written down and said they were hiring up here. And Dad couldn't get something he wanted down there so Dad decided he wanted to come up and try it. He needed something to do.
KAIN: He was an auto mechanic?
LAHTI: Yes, he was just a general worker at anything, a jack of all trades, really.
But his folks had run a grocery store and they'd also run a lumber mill and they worked in the woods and done that same thing.
Well, he came up the first year and then Bill Douglass found out that he had a son the same age as Billy Douglass and so he -- and there was -- there were no other boys Billy's age up here so he was after Dad to bring the family up.
And mother wasn't very keen about coming up and then she found out there were two bedrooms in the house up here so she was just adamant, you know she just couldn't possibly come up, you know, she had two girls and a boy and she had to have three bedrooms.
So in the summer of '25, they built the third bedroom on the little house up there.
Cut off the kitchen, I think, and made a bedroom for -- a small bedroom in that room. I think, there were three bedrooms in the end so --
KAIN: So the two girls could be in one and the boy be in one and the parents could be in one. LAHTI: Uh-huh.
KAIN: And where did you come up from?
LAHTI: We came up from -- well the years Mom was -- the year Dad was in Alaska, '24, mother and my aunt went to the Bellingham Normal School, cause Mother had been a teacher when she'd met Dad.
And so we came from Bellingham and went down to Seattle and then up.
Our tickets were all bought through the store up -- through the office up here, and said -- and were ordered through the office up here and delivered to us.
And so, we came up without any excess baggage, which just about astounded the station master here because they didn't charge us for any excess baggage because it has all been ordered through the office up here, through Bill Douglass.
KAIN: He wanted a playmate for his son pretty bad, huh? LAHTI: Yes, he did. So we were up here seven -- six years.
KAIN: When -- you left in '25, is that what you said? LAHTI: No, we came in '25. KAIN: You came in '25, right. LAHTI: And we left in '31.
KAIN: In '31. And then where did you go to when you left?
LAHTI: We went back to Seattle. And you see, my -- they sent my sister out when we moved for her first year of high school and then my brother was ready for high school, so then it wasn't feasible to send both of them.
So we went out as a family and dad stayed up and we went back to Seattle.
KAIN: And how long did your dad stay here?
LAHTI: Well, he stayed here, gee, he was here in -- he stayed here three or four years and he went to Juneau for a couple of years and then he came back and worked for a year before it closed, probably '37.
KAIN: And all that while you were all down in Seattle? LAHTI: Yes, we were all down in Seattle.
KAIN: Now, did you see him during that time? Was he able to get out to come down or?
LAHTI: No. Well, we saw him when he went to Juneau, before he went back again, a few times, but that was all.
KAIN: And so then he stayed until -- did he stay until the mine closed then?
LAHTI: Well, no, I don't think he was here when the mine closed. I think he left the year before the mine closed.
KAIN: And he joined you all in Seattle then? LAHTI: Yes. And then they took over Grandma Clamitts store in Granite Falls because she was getting too old to handle it so --
KAIN: So he continued storing -- LAHTI: Yes. Store work. KAIN: Yeah, store work once he went back. LAHTI: Yes.
KAIN: When you were up here, you mentioned living in the house down here and they added a third bedroom -- LAHTI: Next to the parks -- is that south? KAIN: Yes. House -- on the same level as the lodge here -- LAHTI: Yes.
KAIN: Okay, did you -- one of our -- one of our questions, you know, has been whether you made any improvements on the house. Well, apparently, there were some with the adding on to the house.
LAHTI: Yes. And then Dad fixed the porch. First he screened in the porch and we had a swinging couch on it, you know.
He fixed -- he built that for us and the couch. He was very handy.
And then there was too many mosquitoes getting in the house so he then enclosed it with the windows screens now.
And then he built wood -- wood flower boxes across the porch there then the porch out and down the side and then we had quite a large garden.
And hauled in dirt for that and then added on to the woodshed so we'd have enough wood.
KAIN: So when he came, he was -- he came to stay?
LAHTI: Well, yeah, once he came up here, once the rest of his family came up here. It was -- he would stay, because it was the middle of the depression, you see, and so there was nothing to go out for.
KAIN: If you had a job you better stay where you're at. LAHTI: Yeah. So if you had a job you stayed where you were.
KAIN: Now where did you -- that's the only house that you lived in here then?
LAHTI: Yes. When dad -- after we got up here, about six months I guess it was, Dad took the job in the store.
The person left and they put Dad in the store.
You see, when you come up here, unless you were hired down there to come up for a specific job, you just came up and applied for a job, you were usually put in the yard gang until they found a niche for you, if you fit into a niche, you know.
And so as soon as the store manager left, well then he was put in -- KAIN: Charge of that. LAHTI: Well in the store.
Then we were on staff, so then we could have moved to the steam heated bathroom housing.
But we went down and looked at it them but -- and I thought how wonderful to have a bathroom and never have to go out that long stretch through the woodshed to the privy.
Mother said no, no thank you, there are only two bedrooms.
KAIN: She preferred the three bedrooms to indoor plumbing, huh? LAHTI: Yes.
KAIN: And steam heat. How were these houses heated then? LAHTI: Oh, just with a -- KAIN: A wood stove? LAHTI: A pot belly KAIN: Wood stove.
LAHTI: Wood stove, and wood range in the kitchen and so we kept it heated with wood.
KAIN: Since you were -- since your father became staff then you had the opportunity to move to another house. The housing was on a -- having to do with the social status or where you fell into the work force.
LAHTI: We felt that there was quite a difference when we came in. I don't know, people that were here whether they noticed it and I don't know whether the other people noticed it but we noticed especially that there was quite a difference between staff people and non-staff people. KAIN: Oh really.
LAHTI: We felt that way. I don't know if it actually was (?).
KAIN: Did you -- when you were with those other families, did you do things with different social categories or different labor groups? LAHTI: Well, to some extent, uh-huh.
KAIN: So it didn't reach necessarily beyond the housing and so forth? You still socialized with those other people.
LAHTI: Yes, but there was some -- some discrimination, I mean, just the same as there was a little bit of discrimination of whether you're Danish or Norwegian in a Norwegian community and whether you're Danish or Norwegian in a Danish community.
KAIN: Right. I'm not bothered there.
LAHTI: So that we felt that there was, but then after we were on staff, well then then it seemed the experience was through our perception.
KAIN: A lot of time you mainly socialized with other staff? LAHTI: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah
KAIN: Rather than the laborers and the mill workers?
LAHTI: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I don't think there was really too much, just a little bit of "yeah, yeah, your a --" on staff. You know, I mean little things so it wasn't extreme.
KAIN: So you were real busy -- now you had electricity down here through? LAHTI: Oh, yes. We all had electricity.
KAIN: But you did a lot of wood cutting? Were you involved in wood cutting? LAHTI: Um-hum. KAIN: A lot, huh.
LAHTI: I'm still doing a lot of wood cutting. I heat my place by wood. KAIN: Oh, you do? LAHTI: Yes, um-hum.
KAIN: Alright. Well, where are you at now? LAHTI: (inaudible)
KAIN: Okay and you heat with wood then?
LAHTI: Yeah, um-hum. Yeah, I have a big house that I heat -- just heat the upstairs cause I have oil and I need it for the -- KAIN: Yeah. LAHTI: My brother chops the tree down and cuts it up for me and I stack it and I would carry -- haul it.
KAIN: That's interesting. So you got your start with wood heat here, huh?
LAHTI: I enjoyed it lifting wood, it was better than housework.
KAIN: So did you help your mother with the housework?
LAHTI: Oh, yeah. We had to help with the housework, but my sister was very efficient and the house -- things had to look nice, and raising you -- do something, then my sister did it for me you know cause it had to be done and so she did it.
KAIN: But you didn't like that kind of work anyway.
LAHTI: But I didn't like that so if I could get out of doing the dishes and go out and help my brother with the wood, then that's what I did.
And I didn't like dusting, little jobs I had to do. But then year my sister went out, I had to take over and help mom with the washing, you know, we washed by hand, boil some stuff on the stove in the (?) boiler and we had to wring out the sheets and hang them out.
And I had to hold the sheets while mom hung them. I learn to iron all the handkerchiefs and all the sheets and pillow cases and all the -- all the skirts.
And the flannel shirts and that type of thing, we didn't have to do the -- my dad always wore white shirts in the store and we had to do those but he was the general store manager.
KAIN: Now did your brother help with the anything -- any of the housework and such? LAHTI: Not especially I don't think with the housework, but he took care of all the wood except when I could escape to help him.
KAIN: Yeah, and the wood was a big job since you were heating with it as well as --
LAHTI: Yeah, when you're heating two stoves all the time, you know, it was a pretty big job. And then in the summer time he had to help Dad with the sawing of the logs.
They skidded the -- took the logs up the staff road here and then skidded them down to our woodshed.
KAIN: Oh, off the top road.
LAHTI: Yeah, the top road, cause they'd come right down and that was fairly steep, and they would come right down to a little flat place there, you know, for dad and he would saw the wood, you know, cross cut them and then split it.
KAIN: Okay. Did you have a garden?
LAHTI: Yes, we had a garden. We had quite a nice garden. Dad put -- on the lower level Dad fixed it in beds. And there were carrots in one bed and lettuce in another bed and rutabagas and -- but the carrots and lettuce we liked because that never lasted.
We'd eat that -- wash that at the outside faucet and eat it right out of the ground which was quite often so mom grew carrots and lettuce and we had beets and carrots and all that sort of stuff.
KAIN: Did you can? Would you can them to preserve them for winter or --
LAHTI: No, because we didn't have enough beets and beans, I don't think they did very well, for the most part.
And if you didn't get some, it wasn't enough to do much canning with.
But the cabbage grew huge, my brother grew a 23 pound cabbage one year and (?).
And we'd did a lot of currents -- berry picking, picked currents for a few years. The current jelly was good.
We picked some raspberries but that was mostly eating because there weren't really enough to can. What we could, we'd eat for dessert.
We would get cranberries and make cranberry sauce and cranberry jelly.
KAIN: And most of your other food was purchased at the store -- the company store?
LAHTI: Yeah. You had them take out -- you bought so many -- when they paid $160 dollars and you got your food with only $60 dollars, you bought $60 dollars worth of script, or whatever you want to call it and used that mostly and you could use money too but you didn't use much money you used mostly the script.
KAIN: Do you know what the purpose of the script was, I mean, why would they have you use that instead of the money?
LAHTI: I don't really know why they had us do that instead of money, except that you had the money for groceries then.
And maybe they didn't want that much money floating around, if you get cash or something. I don't know why, because it was a very honest place. You could leave anything anywhere.
KAIN: No crime or anything? LAHTI: No, practically none at all.
KAIN: Well then, how did you start -- I assume most of the food you bought was canned, what about meat, how did you store the meat?
LAHTI: Well, they had the meat locker down here and a refrigerator here you know, to store them, in the bunkhouse. And so you just bought your meat. KAIN: On a daily basis?
LAHTI: On a -- you know, you bought stew meat and you bought roasts and you bought pork chops and you bought wieners.
And the company furnished each family a turkey for Christmas. I don't remember if they did that for Thanksgiving but I know they did for Christmas. And they had meat down there all year long.
KAIN: And you just bought it when you needed it. LAHTI: Yeah. KAIN: Rather than buying a quantity and storing it.
LAHTI: Yeah, well, you had no place to store it, you see. KAIN: Right, right. That's what I was wondering. LAHTI: So it was all stored, yeah, shipped in and stored there and I supposed we ordered it -- pretty well knew how much we needed.
KAIN: What about your clothing?
LAHTI: Oh, you ordered from the store out of Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward. And if you wanted something special sometimes the Altman Company in New York.
That just seemed to be the --
KAIN: Now, the store down here didn't have clothing? LAHTI: No.
KAIN: Did they have work clothing for the men in the mill and in the mines?
LAHTI: Yeah, I think they had some clothing for the men in the mine. I think so, I don't remember but I think -- I think so, I think over on that side cause I know they had things like, oh, I know that my brother bought mother a card table and napkins and it was made in Japan, very fine -- in fact. I still have it in our stuff.
KAIN: You bought that at the company store?
LAHTI: And got that at the company store. They had things like that. And Dad had a concession from some company for jewelry, because a lot of the single men wanted jewelry for Christmas to send out to whoever they had outside or you know, around here.
So we -- so they could come in and look through the catalog and tell dad what they wanted and send out for it -- to buy something, he had a few things on hand.
But I think most -- yeah, I think they had some clothing there for the men, you know.
KAIN: Yeah. Okay, what about furniture then? No furniture?
LAHTI: Not that I know of. No, they didn't have any furniture in the store.
KAIN: Where did you get your furniture? LAHTI: I don't know. KAIN: It was just there. LAHTI: I was six years old when I walked into the house.
KAIN: You had a bed to sleep on and chairs to sit on and you didn't care where they came from.
LAHTI: Yeah. And it was, you know, people probably brought things up with them you know, and so there was extra floating around probably and just used it when they needed it -- I don't know.
KAIN: Did you ever buy anything, clothing, or food, or furniture, or anything in McCarthy or Cordova? LAHTI: No. (inaudible).
KAIN: Did you -- were you able to go out anywhere, I mean did you go like down to Long Lake? I've heard a number of people going --
LAHTI: Well, Mrs. Jensen took Inger and I down to Long Lake one year. She usually went down with them one year cause she knew the people there and everything, you know.
Cause she had lived here so long, you know, and of course we didn't know anyone and I know she took us down.
KAIN: Did your family go at all? LAHTI: No, no
KAIN: You never went with them or didn't go on camping trips or? LAHTI: Well, we did a lot of picnicking.
KAIN: Just up by the mines or?
LAHTI: (?) or up this way or down by the big tins and that sort of thing.
KAIN: On a day off or a day -- LAHTI: But we didn't take a vacation anyplace, no.
KAIN: Did you ever go outside of Alaska when you were -- you were here the whole time?
LAHTI: No, that would cost money and we didn't have money. KAIN: Yeah, you just had script.
LAHTI: Yeah, well no, you got money and script, you know. But I mean with three kids, clothes and room and board, there wasn't much left over of dad's salary to go anyplace.
KAIN: So you did a little bit of day excursions here and there but that was --
LAHTI: Yeah. And we would go down to McCarthy for the ball games. But you see there was so much activity in camp here that we didn't -- as children we didn't miss going on vacation. We didn't know what a vacation was.
KAIN: Well, I just know that some of the other kids I talked with, talked about going camping over a weekend or for a few days, not a vacation as such but and I just wondered if maybe you --
LAHTI: We didn't do anything. But we would, you know, like we'd do something like one time we walked over -- the staff went over to Green Butte and stayed with (?) overnight and Dad and Chris (Jensen) hired a car to come and get us, you know or that kind of thing.
KAIN: A few of the people -- I found it kind of interesting -- they were saying they had no childhood diseases. Do you recall having any when you were here?
LAHTI: Well, I had the flu. I know Nels had the flu one Christmas and Chris came along with the horse and sled and jingle bells and delivered the Christmas presents that year.
I don't know if anyone mentioned that to you.
KAIN: Yeah, I've heard that he dressed up as Santa Claus.
LAHTI: Well, yeah, at the hall, but one year everyone was sick with the flu and the only one running the camp were the Greeks. They ate so much garlic that they were about the only ones unaffected by the flu.
But we were all in bed and Chris went around with a horse and bells and I can remember hearing the bells outside on that Christmas day.
KAIN: So was there no Christmas celebration that year because everybody was sick?
LAHTI: No, no, everybody was sick. I don't think there was, as far as I know and I had colds and had my tonsils out up here the year we went out to Seattle because I could have them out for a minimum.
KAIN: So you had to pay for treatment though, a small amount for having them out? LAHTI: Yeah, a small bit for having my tonsils out, you know.
KAIN: It would have cost you a lot more in Seattle had you had -- LAHTI: Yeah, it would have so we had them out up here and it was the summer before we left. But other than colds and flu --
KAIN: No chicken pox or measles? LAHTI: No, we didn't have any of the contagious --
KAIN: Did you get them later?
LAHTI: Yeah. I got -- well, I had the chicken pox before I went up, when I was five, and I got the measles the first year I was down in Seattle.
KAIN: So you had them, but you had them all when you were older. LAHTI: What?
KAIN: You had them, but you had it all when you were older.
LAHTI: Yeah, yeah. As soon as we got down, after we started school and then Mark got the measles and then I got the measles and then I got an earache and then I was sick all year, I was always having colds down there.
KAIN: Yeah. Did you -- other than having your tonsillectomy, did you use the hospital much at all, your family, I mean?
LAHTI: Oh, yeah. We used the hospital for anything that happened to us.
Like there was a big mix of national creek there and one time there was about a foot and a half, or so, of nice new snow and Inger and I started rolling down, you know, it was a bank, like this and I went over side ways
but you know how the bank ends and I went over those -- that bank.
Of course the stream was frozen over but there were large boulders sticking out of the ice and I managed to hit it and broke my collarbone.
KAIN: Oh heaven's.
LAHTI: So, anyway, it hurt, so I went to the hospital and the doctor said it was just a broken collarbone and he strapped me up and sent me home with a note to mom saying that I had fallen in the creek and broken my collarbone.
And then another time I was playing handball with my brother and I went down like this and I got splinters under my fingernails and that was worse than the collarbone.
Crying at the hospital. And anything that happened to you, you didn't get -- bother to go home.
KAIN: Because you knew they were just going to pack you up and take you to the hospital anyway
LAHTI: Yes, you just went over to the hospital and got taken care of, you know, and they were all just minor scrapes and bumps.
If you get a real bad, bad scrape and you went to the hospital they had to put a gauze over it and stuff, rather than running home. It's closer to the playground than going home.
So it just served -- it was just there and you used it.
KAIN: Was the same doctors there the whole time you were up here?
LAHTI: Oh, no. Dr. Gillespie was here the first year and then, I think it was Dr. Turner, who was a real good doctor, and then Dr. Peterson was here.
KAIN: We were talking -- just to open this side of the tape up, we were talking about health and you were mentioning your problem with nearsightedness. Now did they discover that here and could you get glasses here?
LAHTI: Well see, I started out just fine and I was sitting right up next to the board.
And then I got to be a second grader and the other first graders were sitting up next to the board in the front of the room and I was sitting in the back of the room and all of a sudden nothing was coming out right, you know.
And so the teacher was gets concerned about the second month she said, we'd better have her eyes checked.
And it's funny, mother was a teacher and she wouldn't have picked it up because of all my years that I had as a child.
But this was long. But she didn't so anyway, they picked it up in second grade and I couldn't see the big E on the chart.
KAIN: Boy, that is nearsighted.
LAHTI: And so -- yeah, I couldn't tell which way the legs went.
And so -- but you know, they didn't have the facilities here to do anything with me.
And I had those little round, little round, Orphan Annie glasses, you know, with the black rings around them, the black things.
KAIN: So did you have to go somewhere else to get them or did they write a prescription and send off?
LAHTI: No, they sent for them. He used the lens that he had here. He had a box, you know, of lenses and they had just the doctor not the eye doctor, and used -- got them just as close as he could and sent a prescription out.
But I didn't realize until I was outside that there were that many stars in the sky.
I was aware of only the bright stars in the sky that I saw.
KAIN: That was nearsighted.
What about a dentist?
LAHTI: Oh, that was -- that was bad. The dentist only came up occasionally, once a year or something like that. And then you'd have to go and have all your cavities. I don't know, my sister and I seemed to have cavities all over the place.
And then when we went out we had to have most of it all done over again. KAIN: Oh, really
LAHTI: Yes. Cause I can remember I'd saved a hundred dollars when I left here, which just was in a savings account -- my savings from birthday money and baby sitting money and it was about a --
and so I had this hundred dollars and I can remember going through this depression in Seattle. In junior high school and in high school thinking that there wasn't enough money to pay for my extra pair of glasses, cause I had to have my glasses changed every six months. My eyes were so bad.
Because of that there wasn't enough money for dad to pay for that, but I had my hundred dollars. There isn't enough money to pay for the dentist because either one or the other of us was constantly going to the dentist.
But the dentist would come up here about once a year and took care of them.
KAIN: And stayed until everybody in camp was taken care of?
LAHTI: Yeah, uh-huh. And I don't think he was probably too good a dentist. I don't know. There was a different dentist most every time.
KAIN: The company, I assume, brought him up. LAHTI: I suppose. I don't know.
KAIN: What about other medical assistance that you had? Were there doctors in McCarthy or nurses or anything like that? LAHTI: No. KAIN: No?
LAHTI: No. If there's a bad accident on the train, you started in Chitina or anything and you would be here and if there is a bad accident like with one of the Indians in Chitina had a child and he was hurt very badly. I don't remember or else he was very sick with Tuberculosis. One of the two.
Anyway, he was Indian but he didn't have a wife, whether she was dead or what, I don't know.
He had a five-year-old little girl and I know my mother said, well now, we should get all you kids together and get some dolls, cause she had to stay at the hospital too.
He was staying at the hospital and she had to stay at the hospital, too. And get some toys, each one of you contribute a toy and I can remember picking this big, yellow haired doll that I had gotten for Christmas the year before, because I couldn't give up my other two dolls from the past two years. So most of the accidents came --
KAIN: So even if you weren't connected with the company, didn't work for the company, you could still use the hospital -- use the hospital facilities?
LAHTI: Yes, uh-huh, until they could arrange some kind of transportation outside or something. No one went without. I don't know who paid for it or anything like that. I have no idea.
KAIN: Now for the people like in McCarthy, could they come up here and use -- buy things at the store? LAHTI: No, I don't think so.· They had their own store.
KAIN: Just for medical assistance, because it was the only available in the area?
LAHTI: Yeah, yeah. No the company store was the company's. As understood it, if a miner someone from the bunkhouse, was fired on Wednesday, if the boss got mad at him and says this is it, you've had it, he had to go down and stay in McCarthy until Saturday when the train came in.
KAIN: He couldn't even stay here in the bunkhouse until -- LAHTI: I don't think so. That's the way I understood it. I don't know how true that is, but that was my impression.
KAIN: That's what we're after, your impressions, so. Yeah, now, your dad worked in the store. Now did your mother work outside the home at all? LAHTI: Oh, no.
KAIN: Not at all. And your -- how much younger are you -- your are the youngest, right? LAHTI: Yes.
KAIN: How much older was your brother than you? LAHTI: Three, and my sister was four.
KAIN: Yeah, okay. And they never worked here at all? LAHTI: Well, yeah. My brother did back in -- I think he graduated in '35 -- and he came back in -- end of '35, '36, and then came out in '37 because we started college together. I graduated in '37.
KAIN: So he came back up here. LAHTI: He came back up here and he worked at the -- for Jim Morrison, (?) on the tram.
KAIN: And his name was? LAHTI: He was Nels Konnerup. KAIN: Nels. LAHTI: He was known as Sonny for some years.
KAIN: But when he was living here with the family, he didn't work, he was too young?
LAHTI: There was always something he could do for somebody, that he'd get paid for.
KAIN: Odd jobs type of thing?
LAHTI: Yes, but nobody worked, none of the children worked. And as far as I know, none of the -- none of the mothers worked at anything.
Somebody that was a nurse might fill in if, you know, that had been a nurse, might fill in for a month till we got a new nurse or somebody that was a -- had been a teacher might fill in if teachers got married and couldn't keep on teaching for the rest of the year, couldn't quite stick to that.
KAIN: Well, that's interesting. If she got married, then she was married so she couldn't teach, but a mother who was married could come in and fill in the rest of the year?
LAHTI: Well, I think so. Or maybe she could teach, I don't know, but they didn't hire married teachers. KAIN: Yes, I'm aware of that.
LAHTI: And they didn't approve of married teachers. I don't think that they would have approved of any body helping in the office -- KAIN: That was married? LAHTI: That was married.
KAIN: Same with nurses. LAHTI: Yes. KAIN: So they wanted
LAHTI: All the nurses -- when I was there, all the nurses and all the school teachers and all the secretaries were single. KAIN: That's interesting. When they married, then they didn't work anymore. LAHTI: I don't think so. Not that I remember.
KAIN: Interesting. Interesting thing. Now did your dad talk about work much at all when he came home? Problems that were coming up or? LAHTI: I don't know. KAIN: None that you remember.
LAHTI: None that I especially remember. He enjoyed his work I think. It seemed to me he did.
Dad was a very social person, a very likable person. He was the youth -- he was the manager of the baseball team, he adores great baseball.
He was the manager of baseball and dad -- in order to earn some extra money, he was the janitor there at the school and he also ran the projection machine for the movies. KAIN: Oh, okay.
LAHTI: Yeah, that brought in a little extra. And he was into everything.
He helped organize the dances (inaudible). He was the one that instigated things like the Badger Games. And he and Chris were pretty much -- they had a costume party, he and Chris came as something crazy -- one year it was caveman and dad in a barrel.
KAIN: So he was kind of the social director of the camp, huh? LAHTI: Yeah, he was into a lot of the activities at the camp.
KAIN: He and Chris Jensen, I assume?
LAHTI: Yeah, and he would take -- when the snow got deep enough to really slide down the hill, which was usually around Halloween time, he would let us chain our (?) in a chain down the hill. And you know, from then on, not until next year when the first --
KAIN: Not allowed to do that again, huh?
LAHTI: To put a chain -- because you know, you swing out and stuff and we weren't allowed to chain up but once a year when there was a good snowfall.
And it's nice and soft and everything is covered up and we would chain up and take the night road down.
KAIN: That's interesting. While we are on the subject of recreation and social life around here -- you, I assume you were quite involved in the social activities, since your father helped organize a lot of them?
LAHTI: Yeah, um-hum. Yeah, I was chief rooter at the ballgames (?) and we went to the dances and sat around the stove was stacked in the corner and sat around the stove.
When you get to be about ten, well then, if somebody didn't have a dance -- somebody to dance with they'd come over and get one of us and show us how to dance. So we all learned the dance.
KAIN: How often did you have dances?
LAHTI: Oh, I think at least once a month. KAIN: Really?
LAHTI: Um-hum. I think so. And then we went skating, you know, at night, usually Friday and Saturday nights because we had lights on the skating rink.
They put up light poles at night, so we skated at night on Friday and Saturday nights. (inaudible)
When we skated, they played the music from the mess hall windows there, you know, and then the people that knew how showed us how to dance and waltz and do that kind of skating as well as just rink skating.
KAIN: Did you play hockey?
LAHTI: Yeah. I had a couple of (?). My brother and Billy, they played hockey and it was always cold and you know, little sisters are always kind of getting jealous.
KAIN: Yeah, they're good for that aren't they. What about -- now there were tennis courts. Did you kids play much or?
LAHTI: Well, Navarre played quite a bit. When I was a little bit older and, you know, and wasn't into the cowboy, trapping stuff, you know, the kids stuff, you know, because she was already -- she was 10, 11 when we came up so she was already mature. So but she had her piano and she had her poetry.
She wrote beautiful poetry as a child and she kept on. And she played tennis pretty well and she skated beautifully, she was a reputable waltzer, she was a (?) and he taught her how to waltz.
And she was a pretty good skier.
KAIN: What about the more sedentary activities, such as a library or?
LAHTI: We had a library and Mother and Mrs. Jensen ran it mostly. And we had good books, you know, "Call of the Wild" and then they also had, you know, alot of Westerns for the normal lot in the bunkhouse.
But they got hold of a lot of children's books for us and "Treasure Island" and all those --Huckleberry Finn -- all those books.
And we read in the evenings, we read an awful lot.
And then we had evenings -- there was an English couple here and they used to come down and she played the piano and he'd play the mandolin and we'd sing, everybody except me because I couldn't sing.
And -- I tried but wouldn't let Nelson hear.
And so those were -- occasionally we did that but then as far as sedentary things, Narvarre and I had paper dolls -- flapper-type paper dolls.
And we drew our own family, our own clothes with the ruffles and zigzag skirts and all and cleaned them out.
And then we also made family paper dolls out of catalogs. We cut out the children and the mothers and the fathers and the umpteen number of children.
And we played jacks -- we went -- played jacks for a long time (inaudible).
KAIN: You talked about the English couple coming down. Did you socialize a lot with other families in the evenings?
LAHTI: I don't remember too much, except -- I can't remember their names now, all of the sudden -- but the English couple came down, most every -- once a week and we did that.
And then of course most Sundays we always had John (McKenzie) from the waterworks and John (Lorne),
he was a guide and a prospector in the summer time -- took people out for the dall sheep and then in the winter time he worked here in the yard gang and stuff.
And me and John were good friends and we had them most every Sunday for dinner because they were bachelors.
KAIN: So you did socialize some with the single people?
LAHTI: Oh yeah. And then -- the nurses would walk down the tracks for exercise or something and stop in for coffee and cinnamon toast or whatever.
And some of the courting couples, you know, walked down the tracks and stopped in the evenings for cinnamon toast and cocoa, which seemed to be the thing. KAIN: Staple for the evening? LAHTI: Staple for the evening.
KAIN: Do you feel your family was pretty typical, you know, of the families that were there?
LAHTI: Yeah, I think we were. Yeah, yeah. It was -- I think all the children here know the families here were family oriented and children oriented and the children had -- we had a wonderful --
KAIN: Wonderful time. You liked living here I take it? LAHTI: Oh, we did.
KAIN: Were you sad to leave when you had to leave?
LAHTI: Yeah, I was sad to leave, I know. I had a hard time adjusting, you know, from living here -- of the most here -- at the very most and then down to Seattle for junior high school.
KAIN: Yeah, I've heard that from several other people, that they had a real hard time with social adjustment.
LAHTI: Finding a niche in the social structure.
KAIN: Now how did you feel? Did you feel, academically, you were prepared, you were equal with those other kids or?
LAHTI: Yeah, they were all set -- by October they were all set to skip me, from 7A to 7B. You know, we had split at that time in Seattle.
And they were all set to skip me a half grade and then I came down with a massive ear ache and they didn't know if it was going to be mastoid or what it was going to be.
And I was out October and November and December and didn't come back until the fifth of January.
And mom taught me at home but I had to stay home, you know, so I didn't -- didn't skip a grade but they were all set to do it. I still got all A's studying from home. I was well prepared, I thought.
KAIN: How long did -- did you think it took you to get through the social adjustment?
LAHTI: Well, it took me forever, a long time. I still haven't gotten over it. KAIN: You still haven't.
LAHTI: Still haven't. No, it was -- I'd say I was -- in the ninth grade I started having girlfriends that I wanted to have. Before that I had girlfriends that I didn't especially want have, but I had to have somebody. KAIN: Right.
LAHTI: Then in ninth grade -- and then as a sophomore it sort of eased up a little bit and I got by all right, but I never was a social butterfly.
KAIN: So three or four years before you could fit in reasonably.
LAHTI: Um-hum. Before I found a group of girls that I really wanted to fit in with. KAIN: Right, yeah.
LAHTI: You know and yeah -- it was about three or four years before I found a group that -- that was the kind of person that I felt comfortable with.
KAIN: And I'm sure because of that you felt even more homesick to come back here.
LAHTI: Yeah. Um-hum. Yeah, and I couldn't -- you see, I couldn't adjust to plain girl play because I played so much outdoor things here, that wasn't what a seventh grade girl was interested in down there.
And I had no conception of what they were interested in because I was still interested in climbing trees, making a tree house and that sort of thing, you know, so it was very much --
KAIN: Yeah, very much a tomboy type thing. LAHTI: Yeah, urn-hum.
KAIN: So I think a lot of the people here -- a lot of the girls here were that way. LAHTI: Yeah.
KAIN: I mean, they weren't necessarily tomboys, but that's what everybody played, and you all played that.
LAHTI: Yeah, we all played that, and it was active -- we played an awful lot of active stuff, even though the weather was very cold. People nowadays or people down there, would stay in.
We were out doing something active. And we were -- and of course, I went out, you see, I was 12 when I went out, where most of these kids went out when they were 13/14 to high school.
Where as I started out in junior high school.
KAIN: What -- then you went on to college in that (?). LAHTI: Oh, yeah.
KAIN: And what was -- what did you major in? LAHTI: Teaching.
KAIN: Did you -- junior high or high school or elementary? LAHTI: Elementary. KAIN: Elementary. LAHTI: Yeah.
KAIN: So you taught? LAHTI: Oh, I've taught all my life. Yes, um-hum.
KAIN: Just all different grades or?
LAHTI: Well, no, I've always taught in elementary school and then -- KAIN: Well, I meant, mostly first grade or mostly -- LAHTI: Mostly first and second grades. KAIN: First and second.
LAHTI: Uh-huh. And then when I -- my husband kept getting after me to get my master -- we went back to Minnesota for his doctorate and I worked on my masters and then I started having kids, my kids came and so I didn't finish it there.
And then when I came back to Washington and then I wanted to do some teaching and anyway, I had to back to that -- when I went out they give you a six year certificate and you had to do -- KAIN: renew it, yeah.
LAHTI: Renew it, right. So I had to go back to keep that test renewed. So finally I went back and retook my masters at Western (Washington).
And got my masters in reading, which was real nice because then I could teach half days because I could just go to certain schools, smaller schools and pull out the kids from their class and I didn't have to go a whole day.
So I got half days until he died and he died when he was in his fifties and then I went full time.
KAIN: But -- and I assume you're retired? LAHTI: Oh, yeah. KAIN: Yeah? How long have you been retired? LAHTI: Nine years.
KAIN: Nine years? Another thing that came up with -- another one of the gals I was talking to had trouble with the social adjustment when she left here and became an elementary teacher and she felt that she was much more sympathetic to the children, much more understanding because of what she'd gone through, when she'd have a student that came that was very shy or whatever.
Do you feel that was true for you as well, as a teacher?
LAHTI: Well, I don't know if it was that so much.
Probably it did, probably because -- yeah, I -- it bothered me when I had children that didn't fit in and couldn't adjust to things
and I think that's bothered me because I had been a (?), too.
KAIN: You knew exactly how they were feeling. LAHTI: Yeah, yeah. So I think it did.
KAIN: I find that real interesting. As a teacher, did you ever wish that you would be teaching in a school such as Kennecott as opposed to teaching in a --?
LAHTI: Well, it's sort of funny, in Bellingham when I was back there -- was first up there substituting and there was this -- we had two small schools, Marietta School on one end of town and Geneva on the other end, that were just two or three room school houses
and they taught first, second and third, fourth, and fifth, sixth you know, and down like this and you had a -- not a whole bunch of kids and you sort of -- it was just sort of a little country school, you know, in a city school system, you know.
And anyhow, I went out there to substitute and the teacher just kept getting worse and worse.
And she was having nervous trouble -- problems so she didn't want to finish the year.
So and of course, I always thought, oh, it's so hard for kids to have substitutes and here I've been substituting a month and I thought, oh, I'll finished the year for her, you know.
And I -- where as I really had the kids at home and you know, and didn't want to do it full time but every time I substituted I'd end up doing that.
But then I started teaching and I taught two more years out there at that little country school.
It was fun and it had the feeling of this, you know, and I could relate to it real well and I really enjoyed it, I think the most of my teaching, you know.
Because it was just a fun time of my teaching, you know.
KAIN: When you left -- or actually -- how many times have you been back here? This is not your first time back here is it?
LAHTI: Yeah, about five years ago, I can't remember, four or five years ago. Inger and Charlie were coming in in their camper and so I flew up to Anchorage and came in with them.
KAIN: And so you've kept in touch Inger after all these years?
LAHTI: Well yeah, I think all of us have pretty well kept -- well most of us kids, the majority of us kept in touch with Inger.
KAIN: She would be the binding force of this whole group.
LAHTI: Yeah, she's sort of our little star. Yeah, if you wanted to know anything about anybody else, you know, you write to Inger, you know.
KAIN: Yeah. So you kept tabs on each other over the years.
LAHTI: And Inger and I were always best friends and, you know, so we've always -- KAIN: Kept that relationship going? LAHTI: Yeah, that relationship going all these years.
KAIN: That's interesting. Well, I think that pretty much does it and I appreciate you giving me the time and the giving us the information. LAHTI: My pleasure. I don't know how much information there was.
KAIN: I think there was probably quite a bit, so thank you very much.