Trudy Wolfe was interviewed on May 30, 2006 by Karen Brewster in Trudy's room at Wildflower Court Nursing Home in Juneau, Alaska where she was currently living. Prior to the interview, Trudy injured her ribs and you can hear the discomfort in her voice. The interview was interrupted by a phone call from her daughter, Marilyn, who accompanied her mother on health aide calls. She provided helpful background information. In this interview, Trudy talks about becoming a health aide, training she received, running the clinic at home, support she got from her family, her role in the Southeast Alaska Health Aide Association, and health aides as ambassadors of Native culture.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Community Health Aide Program Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: May 30, 2006
Narrator(s): Trudy Wolfe
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Her personal background.
When and how she became a health aide.
An old cannery that is a tourist site in Hoonah, and when she moved to the community.
The early training she received as a health aide and how she balanced the job with raising a family.
Not worrying about money when she was doing the health aide work and when she retired.
Running the clinic out of her house, her children acting as medical assistants, and the hardships of the long work hours and difficult schedule.
A sense of duty she had as a health aide to provide good care to her community, the need for training, and working with visiting doctors.
The lack of clinics in Southeastern Alaska, the creation of a regional Health Aide Association, and other statewide organizations she was involved with.
Surgery training she received and how she used that knowledge to successfully treat a boy who had been in a serious accident.
A flu epidemic in Hoonah.
Her experience of being the only health aide and being afraid during her first years, and using elder's advice about how to recognize broken bones.
The struggle of being a health aide and a mother, and why she stayed with the job.
Prejudice against Alaska Natives and the rising pride of being a health aide.
The little amount of training she had, the need to have confidence in reacting to medical cases even if she did not feel that she knew what she was doing, and communicating with doctors in Sitka.
Two emergency situations she dealt with that led to thoughts about quitting.
Getting help from her family on medical cases, and begins to tell a story about when her husband died.
The amount of work involved with the Health Aide Association's struggle to provide treatment to both Native and non-Native people in the community.
The amount of stress and how she dealt with it.
The low salary of a health aide and the need to work two jobs to support a family.
How she began as a health aide and how she felt when she was the only health aide in the community.
The medical equipment she used and her career as a health aide consultant.
The doctors involved in the Health Aide Program and the Indian Health Service health care regions.
Being proud to be an Indian, the new Hoonah clinic being named after her, and the effect of her health aide work on her children's career choices.
What type of person makes a good health aide.
Her dream of being a doctor and going to school.
The reason why she wanted to become a doctor and her experience in school.
How her life changed after quitting her job and how happy she was to recount her life as a health aide.
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
KAREN: So, today is May 30th, 2006 and this is Karen Brewster and I'm here in Juneau visiting with Trudy Wolfe for the Community Health Aide Project Jukebox. Trudy thank you very much for agreeing to visit with me today and I'm sorry - a little confusion of when I'd get here. TRUDY: Thank you for coming. KAREN: So, yeah what I normally do to start out, so people know a little bit about who this person is who's talking on the recording, is, you know, when and where you were born and -- TRUDY: I was born in Sitka. 1933. August 7th. KAREN: Oh, my birthday is August 5th. TRUDY: August what? KAREN: Five. TRUDY: Oh-- KAREN: My grandmother's was August 7th. And did you then grow up in Sitka? TRUDY: Yes, I grew up and came to Juneau and married my husband and we moved to Hoonah because he found a job. There was no jobs anywhere to be found and he found one, in Hoonah. KAREN: And what was your husband's name? TRUDY: Bill Wolfe. KAREN: What about your family? What were your parents' names? TRUDY: My mother was Mary Paul, my dad's Frank Paul. KAREN: And did you have brothers and sisters? TRUDY: I had four brothers and four sisters. KAREN: Okay. And when growing up in Sitka did you go to school? TRUDY: Oh yeah. I went to school and in my high school, my eighth grade year, I transferred to Sheldon Jackson and I stayed there 'til I graduated in '52. KAREN: And that's when you went to Juneau? TRUDY: No. KAREN: Oh. TRUDY: I just lived, went on living in Sitka because that was my home. Oh (exclamation of pain). KAREN: Oh, your ribs.
KAREN: So, when did you start doing health aide kind of work? TRUDY: In 1965. I had just had my youngest son, who is 41 now. But they sent me a telegram and the Health Council a telegram in Sitka at Mt. Edgecumbe and told them I was the preference for their health aide. But when they approached me, the doctor approached me, I told him “No, I just am not. I just have a newborn and I don't feel like I'm gonna go out and be servicing people when he's so small.” And they: “Nope, the Health Council wants you. You're the one they want.” So, here I am. I just stayed in there then. KAREN: Do you know why they selected you? TRUDY: Well, the lady at the -- the lady that was president for the Health Council, said that: “You are very, very easy going with people.” I got along with people. She felt like, if anybody, I'd be the one. But I didn't feel that way. KAREN: Were you working before? TRUDY: No, I was just a homebody. I never went anywhere, just always stayed home. My husband worked at the power plant. He worked at the store in the beginning, then toward the end he worked at the power plant and he was there for years. KAREN: So, the Health Council that you're talking about was that a local council, regional council, what was that? TRUDY: No, it was a community council. The president was Caroline Peterson. KAREN: Now, how is that different from a village council? TRUDY: It's the same. KAREN: It's the same, okay. TRUDY: That's what -- we don't call our town a village. We never did. KAREN: Okay. TRUDY: Although people laugh at us, they say: “You're just from a village.” Well, village or not, it's a good place. It was a good place, but I haven't been home for a long time.
KAREN: How many people where in Hoonah at the time, in 1965? TRUDY: I don't keep track of the amount of people, but there were a lot. KAREN: Was the cannery still -- TRUDY: Well, there are people -- the Hoonah Totem bought the cannery and they are revising it into a brand new place. Fixing it up and just show people what a cannery would look like. KAREN: Nowadays, for tourism. I saw an ad about it. TRUDY: It's really neat. I haven't seen it, my boy keeps telling me about it. But -- it's -- according to them, it sounds really good. They do a lot of work for the tourists. KAREN: Do you know when that cannery closed? TRUDY: No. I'm not from Hoonah. KAREN: When you were living there -- it was. TRUDY: No, it was closed when I moved there -- KAREN: Okay, that's -- that helps. TRUDY: And I had been there for about 38 years, 38 to 41 years. KAREN: And you moved there in -- TRUDY: But I never bothered to ask about anything. I was there to live. I just felt that I didn't want to be shunned out. KAREN: So, what year did you move to Hoonah? TRUDY: 1959. I think it was 1959. KAREN: Okay.
KAREN: So, once you agreed to be the health aide in 1965, then what? TRUDY: Then I was a health aide! KAREN: Did you have any background? Did they train you? TRUDY: Oh yeah. We had jillions of training. That's where I met Dr. Johnson. KAREN: Uh-huh. TRUDY: He was our, at the time, was one of our instructors. He was so good. KAREN: So, you went to Anchorage for training? TRUDY: Uh-huh (affirmative). I trained one week in Sitka - the very beginning and my baby was only one day old when I went to training. KAREN: Oh my goodness. TRUDY: And my cousin took him, boarded him for the time I was in school. She happened to be really good friends with a lady that was in charge of those kind of things. And she got my cousin to take care of the baby. So, I think I went home about a week or ten days after he was born. KAREN: So, had you been in Sitka to have him or did you have him -- TRUDY: I went to Sitka to have him, to Mt. Edgecumbe. My very last one. That's why I went. But I was gonna have surgery but they didn't do it, at the time. KAREN: How many children did you have? TRUDY: I have eight now. My one daughter drowned, so I have seven. I adopted her little boy, her oldest boy. So I'm back to eight. KAREN: It's a lucky number maybe. TRUDY: I have six boys, two girls. KAREN: So, how did you manage that, with a brand new baby and having to go to work as the health aide. TRUDY: Oh, my husband was home. And my kids were home. My kids were grown up. They were growing up with us. We used to play outside with them, play games outside with them. And after I had the baby, they thought, well they had to pitch in 'cause we played a lot of games outside with them. And they thought, well we took our time to be with them, so they'll take time to help us, so they helped us with the baby -- KAREN: Oh, that's good -- TRUDY: When they were out of school. During school hours, the father took care of them. KAREN: Uh-huh. TRUDY: Maybe two or three times we got a babysitter, but that was it.
KAREN: So, in 1965 when you started as the health aide did you get paid for that work? TRUDY: Uh-hum (negative). You know we didn't get paid for quite some time and when they did pay us it was very little. But it was pay, so we didn't care. We liked our jobs - Barbara and Marge and I. KAREN: That's Barbara Johnson, Marge Adams, is that who you're talking about? TRUDY: Uh-huh (affirmative). KAREN: Do you remember how much you got paid? TRUDY: No, I never paid attention to it. Never, even now, even before I got sick I didn't know how much I was getting when I was working. Didn't care. Money means so little to me. Now, I'm by myself, I can verify the fact that we have such a hard time by our self. We're living in a home, but that's it. My little boy says: “Oh, my mom's coming, my mom's coming. I am so happy, my mom's coming.” “Why are you so happy?” “Well, my mom always come with money.” I told him: “What do you think I am?” I said: “I'm not working over there, I'm living there, I just live there. I don't get paid to live there.” “Oh, now I'm not gonna ever ask you for money again.” KAREN: So, when did you stop being a health aide? TRUDY: I knew that was gonna come up and I didn't -- KAREN: Remember how long you did it for? TRUDY: Not too long ago. KAREN: So, you've been retired five years, ten years? TRUDY: That was a bad question to ask me. KAREN: Okay. Well maybe you'll remember it as we go along. TRUDY: Yeah. My daughter will know. KAREN: Ok. Yeah, partly just to know how long you did it, so how it changed along the way. TRUDY: Well, I lived in the Sitka Home for three years, four, five, maybe about six years. KAREN: You've been retired about six years? TRUDY: I think. KAREN: You think. Okay. That's close. That's about 2000. TRUDY: Because when I went to the hospital, I asked to be transferred to the Sitka Home and they transferred me to the Sitka Hospital. And I said: “I said the Home.” And they said: “Well, the Home is in here.” I said: “That's for the birds. I don't want to stay here.”
KAREN: So, when you started as the health aide was there a clinic in Hoonah? TRUDY: No, I used my home. I had a room at my home for a clinic. KAREN: Wow. You had space in your home for that? TRUDY: I had a bedroom open for it. My kids slept upstairs. We had an extra bedroom downstairs. So, I made that a home. But my kids were all taught to help, in every way they could when somebody got hurt. So they were there. My daughter Marilyn knows more about it than I do. What I did and what I didn't do. KAREN: Yeah, when I talked to her on the phone the other day she said she used to go on calls with you? TRUDY: Uh-huh (affirmative). My oldest boy used to and she used to. KAREN: So, when you saw patients in your house did you have a clinic schedule that said between such and such -- or how people could come see -- TRUDY: No, we had no schedule. There is no way you could have a schedule with a lot of people. Just open certain time of day and if someone gets hurt you just ignore them, walk around. No, that wasn't the case. Just go when you get called. Never stop to think: “Well, I'm off today, I don't need to go.” That wasn't the case. We had to go at all times. We had to be prepared 24 hours a day. And it did run into 24 hours a day some time. KAREN: Yeah. TRUDY: There were times that it did. KAREN: Like what? TRUDY: Like if you have a badly hurt person that you have to keep overnight and get him on the plane in first daylight. And that's a long time 'til morning - from midnight 'til morning - 'cause I had one. But luckily my son came along, my oldest son. He said: “I'll stay with the patient for the rest of the night. I'll call you before the plane comes in.” So that's what happened. The day was not getting daylight 'til like about 8 - 8:30. So he called me at 8 and I went down, checked the person, and by that time the plane was coming and we put him on the plane. But it's a lot. The health aides themselves are just always thinking about that. All the health aides they have, I know what they went through, how they went through this. Because it was just a thankless job, day and night, no matter where you were, no matter what time it was. It was pretty hard. Well, I never knew 'cause I never worked before. I worked in a cannery and that was it. Never any place outside of a cannery.
KAREN: Well, that's why this project to talk to health aides and get the history and what it was like -- I think it's so important. TRUDY: You know -- KAREN: -- is, you guys have done so much and haven't been recognized. TRUDY: It mattered none to me, because like I said money didn't mean anything to us, to any of us. Any health aide that I've ever talked to I don't think money ever made that much. It didn't sway them any which way because of money. It just was their job and they're doing their job. KAREN: So why did you keep doing it? TRUDY: Because it was my job. And I had never worked anyplace outside of my home except the cannery and I liked it. I liked it very very much. KAREN: What about it did you like? TRUDY: Taking care of people. They didn't have a nurse in Hoonah but once a month I think. So it was good to have somebody there to help them when there wasn't anybody else. KAREN: Now what about doctors? How often did they come around? TRUDY: Maybe once a year. In the villages they were -- they were scheduled to come once a year. I think that's what we had, just once a year. KAREN: And the nurses, they were public health nurses? So how did you -- did you have to talk to the doctors when you got a patient? TRUDY: Oh yeah. We certainly would. We couldn't do nothing by ourselves. We could not touch medication without talking to a doctor. The doctor was the one to tell us what to give and if we had it we had to give it. Or if it was stocked in the clinic -- they stocked some in the clinic. KAREN: What happens if they didn't have it in the clinic? TRUDY: Well, they had to send it out. Then we'd have to wait. They instruct you on what to do while you're waiting for the medication. Thank God, we didn't have any real bad patients that needed medication right now, that we didn't have. We were just fortunate like that. It's the same thing, I think, of babies that were born there. They were born there because they had no one to send them to the hospital at that time. But after we became health aides, we were fortunate enough to be able to send them by just calling a doctor and telling them that we are sure that person is going into labor. But there was lots that got stuck at home, that started at night. Had him first thing in the morning. Oh, I got stuck a lot of times. KAREN: So you delivered babies. TRUDY: Uh-hum (affirmative). That's one of the things that was told that we were gonna learn. They told me when I first became a health aide that I would be just taking care of minor cuts and stuff like that, nothing major. And I thought: “Well, that sounds like it'll be okay.” Then I ended up delivering. Didn't know the first thing about delivering a baby. KAREN: They hadn't trained you? TRUDY: No. I kept after them. Barbara and I kept after them to get them -- to get them to teach us. And by the time they're teaching us what they think we need to know, they never had time to do the delivery. Then finally, I think after a couple of years. But I was pretty much by myself for about ten years. The lady that was a health aide died and she was not replaced immediately. So, what I could gather was that like it might have been about ten years, maybe less, maybe it just seemed that way to me. But I don't know -- KAREN: So, do you -- TRUDY: I never kept track of it. I never thought I needed to keep track of something like that. KAREN: You didn't know someone like me would come along and start asking -- TRUDY: Yeah. Ouch! (exclamation of pain) KAREN: Oh, I can't make you laugh, I'm sorry. So, do you remember that first baby you had to deliver? TRUDY: Uh-hum (negative). I think about it and think about it and I -- I know that there is one girl that I delivered in my own home and I think she might have been -- the first one was Magna. Her name was Magna, Magna Kartidi (sp?), that little baby boy. And I was glad I didn't have to run all over the country looking for the patient 'cause she was right here at my clinic. KAREN: Uh-hum. TRUDY: And everybody would say: “You shouldn't have that clinic at your house.” I said: “Why? I want it there because I don't want to have to run all over.” If somebody's hurt, they can just come to my house and just stay in my house. And that's they way I felt about it. I just needed to have them there with me because if I'm gone then my husband or my kids were there to care for them. So for many years even the doctors, I guess, didn't recognize the fact that I had that place for a clinic. KAREN: Oh, really? TRUDY: I know I talked to one doctor and he said: “That wasn't authorized.” Well, you know, I don't care if it is authorized or not, I'll do what I have to do to make people comfortable. I felt I had to do it. My husband said: “Well, just do what you think you have to do.” So, there it was, he authorized it and I said: “Well, okay. I'm just gonna fix that room up for a clinic.” “Just tell me what you want done and I'll do it.” So that's what we did. KAREN: Sounds like a good man. TRUDY: He was. He was until he died eight years ago. He was so good, he was such a good person.
KAREN: It sounds like you weren't the only one. A lot of villages didn't have a clinic building. TRUDY: I don't know about anybody else having clinics in their own home, did they? KAREN: I know in other parts of the state, yeah. Or they didn't have a clinic building, they would just go see patients in people's home. TRUDY: We just never ever had a clinic. They never thought that much of our program I guess. But I used to fight about it all the time when I was a health aide. They used to just hate me to come around, people like the doctors and people in the offices: “Oh no, here she comes.” But Barbara and I never shut up. We just kept going. KAREN: They have a clinic in Hoonah now though, right? TRUDY: Uh-hum (affirmative). Yep. KAREN: Do you remember when they built the clinic? TRUDY: Do I remember what? KAREN: When they finally got a clinic. When you didn't have to have it at home? TRUDY: No, I don't remember but it was not too long ago. Not before -- almost just before I quit. I had to quit because I was seeing double. KAREN: That's not good. TRUDY: It was no good. Then I couldn't care for patients anymore. KAREN: Yeah. TRUDY: I quit one time before and they put me back on a pay roll and they said: “You're gonna be the health aide consultant, so just hung on to this -- ” what they assigned me to do. And I still would get paid but nobody else would. So I told them: “I just can't do it, if nobody else is getting paid. I can't getting paid for this and have the others not get paid.” So I quit. My husband said: “You're just being selfish. Cut that out.” And I said: “Well, I don't want to see me be getting lots of money and the other girls not getting anything.” They never thought I ever thought about them I guess. But I did. A lot. I was the health aide president -- that's the first time they ever had an association. Me and Barbara worked on having an association. KAREN: So that was a statewide health aide? TRUDY: No. It was a Southeast association. But then we found out that up north they had associations, too. So we got together with them. Not very often, but whenever I went up and they were having a meeting. KAREN: So you and Barbara, did you form this Health Aide Association? TRUDY: I did. KAREN: You did? TRUDY: And she helped me. I figured we needed to have something so we can have somebody to be a spokesman. Never think that I'd ever be spokesman. Ouch! (exclamation of pain) KAREN: Oh, your ribs are hurting. You don't remember when you formed that Association? TRUDY: No. I told you I didn't keep track of anything. Mt. Edgecumbe would have it -- KAREN: Yeah. TRUDY: -- that when we started that. KAREN: So who did you represent? TRUDY: The Health Aide Association. Hoonah. KAREN: And then each community in Southeast -- TRUDY: Each community that was there was involved and then we eventually got the others -- health aides to join the association. KAREN: Uh-hum. TRUDY: So it was like an ordinary organization. KAREN: Uh-hum. TRUDY: But. We had different things to fight about. KAREN: Like what? TRUDY: Getting paid and whatever like that. Getting involved and -- anybody coming to our community, you know, health-wise. Those are the kinds of things we fought for. Mainly, for the pay. And I didn't care one bit about the pay. Isn't that funny? There was some that really wanted the pay 'cause they wanted the money. But here I was I didn't want the money and I didn't care if they had an association or not. KAREN: But then you formed it and you were the president. TRUDY: Until I got out of being a health aide. It was a long time to be a president. KAREN: You must have been good at it. TRUDY: Well, I guess I was. Because I was president for other things in the state. I was School Board Association state president for a year. I was Grand President for the Alaska Native Sisterhood for four years. I spent nine years in Grand Camp. Four years as Sergeant at Arms, four years as Grand President, one year as the Vice President. What else? I was representative to the Tlingit Haida in Hoonah. I'm missing some. The four years I was Grand President though. I liked it. That's President for the whole state. KAREN: For the Alaska Native Sisterhood? TRUDY: Now, I'm a lifetime member. KAREN: I would think so, after that long as President. TRUDY: You're automatically an executive once you become a President of the organization. You automatically become an executive. So I am for life 'cause I served for four years.
KAREN: So, in your early days as a health aide did you report to the Indian Health Service? Is that who you were working for? TRUDY: Well, we had contact with them, a lot. So they knew what we were doing and why we were doing it, how we were doing it and who we were taking care of. And they set the rules at the Indian Health Service at Mt. Edgecumbe. That's how I had got to go to training in Anchorage, is because they recommended that I go. When we went to Mt. Edgecumbe to do interview of the different things that we knew, I told the doctor: “Never have I been ever involved in any surgery or anything, seen anybody in surgery.” And they made arrangements for us to watch surgery, me and Alma Cook. Alma Cook and I got into everything. KAREN: And what was that like watching surgery? TRUDY: It was okay for me. They said: “Now where would you cut?” and I was: “Right here.” It was right -- KAREN: Yeah. TRUDY: -- The guy said: “That's right, you're right.” But it was interesting. So much! We had one little boy in the earlier part of my health aide thing. He had just a tiny little piece of skin right here holding the top. KAREN: Oh, his scalp was -- TRUDY: His scalp, yeah. KAREN: -- had come off? TRUDY: He ran under a car and it scalped him. And there was just a tiny little piece left. My husband was with me when we went to the store, and when we were coming back somebody came running down the hill: “That little boy ran under the car and his head is wide open. It's just hanging there!” And we thought: “Oh my God, we better get there.” And it's lucky his grandfather was staying right on the corner when we were coming up that other corner. We run up there. My husband said: “I'm gonna go and see.” I said: “You're right with me so don't worry about it.” I didn't know he was scared. We ran in there and he almost fainted. That guy said: “Your husband's gonna faint!” The old man, the grandfather. And I said: “If you're feeling faint go outside. Just stay on the porch, it'll be a while before I come out.” But he came in and helped me finish. I took the scalp and pulled it back and cleaned the whole thing. And took the little pieces of -- KAREN: Skin? TRUDY: -- rocks and -- KAREN: Oh, oh. TRUDY: -- stuff on the top of his head. I took a tweezer and I was just taking them out: “Does that hurt?” “No.” And I said “If it does I'm just gonna drop it and just let the doctors in Juneau do it.” “No, it doesn't hurt.” So, I cleaned him up and put a band aid on his head, and we had to put a whole one all around 'cause it was just complete, you know -- KAREN: You wrapped -- Did you wrap a big bandage around it? TRUDY: Uh-hum (affirmative). And he didn't feel it. And I said: “You be very careful, don't get rough and play.” I said: “You just be careful so that the bandage doesn't come off your head, you need to keep it on.” When he went to Juneau the doctor called me, he said: “That was a very good job you did. We didn't even have to wash the kid up, but we did anyway. There was no trace of sand or anything in it.” I said: “Thank God, that's all I worried about.” Because, you know, they could get infected very easy from that. Here his scalp was hanging down when he was running down to his grandpa's house and the boys: “Hey, stop!” and he was so shook up that he was running down to his grandfather's. Then they came after us. We were just gonna turn a corner when somebody said he got hurt. We lived up on a hill, above where he was living. And we were gonna head up that way when we just were turning around that corner they came and told us the little boy's scalp was hanging down. They said his head, but it was his scalp.
KAREN: Okay, we're back now. Now, you had just told the story about that little boy with his -- TRUDY: Oh yeah. KAREN: -- scalp. So, yeah, what would happen? Would you get called out in the middle of the night? TRUDY: No, it was in the day time. KAREN: No, in other cases, did that happen? TRUDY: Oh, it depends. It depended on what it was. A lot of time we were called out after hours. After hours we count from midnight. Didn't appear to bother anybody that we were going out all hours of the night. When I first started the flu epidemic popped out in Hoonah. A lot of old people -- we had a lot of old people and a lot of babies. And they were sick. You know I walked day and night. And we didn't have anybody there from the hospital to come and check them. And I requested - because I was tired - on Wednesday. Finally, they came on Friday. My husband said: “There's a doctor and a nurse at the house waiting for you.” So I went there and the doctor said: “Well, you look like you could use some sleep.” I said: “I can. I'm so tired.” And there was a cot in my living room. We didn't have a couch or anything. We just moved into that big place and were just using a cot for a couch. And I lay down on it and I never woke up 'til the next day. The doctor just took over. Which was real good. KAREN: 'Cause you'd been on call for -- TRUDY: All that week. KAREN: -- you'd been up all -- TRUDY: Yeah, like certain hours there was kids that were really so ill that they couldn't do anything for themselves or the old people. And then there were people that were on penicillin? I'm allergic to it, so I always forget. You had to give shots to certain ones, certain time. And that's what I was doing. Day and night, day and night I'd go out see the sick people and then the other people that were on the list. Nobody ever asked us: “Do you think you need help?” or “Can we help you?” My kids were the only ones that used to feel so sorry for me. KAREN: So, you mean nobody else from the village or from the hospital? TRUDY: From the village. I thought that would be something nice. But my friend Beatrice Brown was the one that finally came in as a health aide. I was so happy.
KAREN: Well, you had said that there'd been another one who -- TRUDY: The one that was a health aide before me was Florence Jackson. She died in a boat wreck or something. She drowned. Her and her husband and her uncle. KAREN: So did you work with Florence? Were you both health aides for a while? TRUDY: I just did that one, just that one week or two. One or two weeks. KAREN: And then she died? TRUDY: Then she died. KAREN: Oh. TRUDY: I knew nothing, absolutely nothing. And I was scared. Never been so scared in my life as then. KAREN: So what did you do? TRUDY: Nothing. I was too scared to do anything. But I got some older people to tell me what to do. You know, if somebody got cut or anything. Then it was nothing. After a fashion it was nothing. Because we'd been taught. They taught us and taught us and taught us how to check for broken bones. God! I was off the road seeing a patient and there's a kid from Angoon in Hoonah and he was joyriding around in Hoonah. And he had a car wreck. And one other person went out there and came back and said: “He is pretty smashed up. His hip is really broken to bits.” And I happened to be cooking berries and I told my husband: “Just kick the berries off, we'll put it back on to cook after I come back.” My daughter came and he said: “Just let this cook until such and such a time, we're going on a house call.” We went out and I checked the boy that they said was all battered up. He was from Angoon. That was Barbara's boy. And I was checking him, I said: “Where do you hurt.” He said: “Actually the only place that was hurting was the hip, now its not.” Here it was pushed in a certain position that he couldn't feel it. But he had a broken hip. And I told, well -- told the guys: “Get him on a stretcher and get him into the hospital.” We went back and called the hospital and I told them they need to check him because he feels like he has a broken hip and the doctor said: “Broken hip? How could that be?” I said: “Well, he was in a car wreck for one thing, off the road, and we went out there to check.” He said: “Okay, I'll take your word for it.” Called me back and he said “ Yeah, he does have a broken rib”-- KAREN: Broken hip. TRUDY: Broken hip. I guess they didn't really have that much faith in us. But those of us that really wanted to learn, learned. And Barbara was one of them. Marge Adams, me and Barbara that I know of, because we were close.
KAREN: So how much training did you end up getting? TRUDY: I don't know. KAREN: Do you remember -- You said you were in Sitka right at the beginning. TRUDY: I was in Sitka already. KAREN: Right. So you'd already started the job and then you went to Sitka to have your baby? TRUDY: No. I had my baby and they sent a telegram there and said I was their next health aide. I didn't say no or I didn't say yes, because they hadn't asked me. They just told me by telegram that I was the next health aide and I said: “No, I'm not.” And I told the doctor: “I don't want to be because I have small children, and I wanted to take care of them.” I ended up being a health aide. I said: “That's how well you folks listen.” And the doctor just laughed. He said: “Well, we wanted you to be health aide.” I said: “That doesn't count.” I said: “I think you ought to -- you ought to find out how the people feel.” A lot of things go around here too just the same. They make the decisions for you and: “Well, we have you doing this,” and “Why are we doing it?” “Well, your name was on there, so we thought it would be a good thing for you.” I tell the people there: “You know, I like to know these things first and make up my own mind whether I want to or not.” KAREN: Yeah. TRUDY: Then if you think I have to do it and I cannot make up my own mind, then you could tell me: “We had to make up your mind, because it says you have to do it.” KAREN: Right. So then you went to Anchorage for training? TRUDY: Oh, several times. KAREN: Do you remember how long you were in Anchorage for each training? TRUDY: Well, we were up there for a couple of weeks. I remember the first time I went up there was for two weeks. But I had gone several times, for like about a week sometimes. But that one time we went for two weeks. I forgot something happened down Southeast, I forgot. It involved all the communities. And I was in class and they told me and I walked out and went down to the telephone and called. And it was very true. Said, "Well, we can't do nothing, we're up here." KAREN: It was a big -- a tragic event or something? TRUDY: I don't remember. A lot of things happened while we were gone. KAREN: I was thinking if it was that plane crash. TRUDY: No. KAREN: You know that one in Juneau with all the kids going back to school. Wasn't that uh -- I don't remember when that was. So, when you went to Anchorage for two weeks did you take your children with you? TRUDY: No! Are you kidding? I would never have been able to study. But we went alone as health aides. We were requested to go, so we went. There was Barbara. I was always with Barbara. KAREN: So what did you do with your children? TRUDY: My husband had them. I threw them away! (laughs) I felt like that some times. Instead of worrying about my children, I am worrying about everybody else's children. Used to tell that to Barbara: “I feel so weird, here my children need help and I'm helping somebody else.” KAREN: Have any of your children ever talked to you that they felt that way? TRUDY: Uh-hum (negative). No -- KAREN: And that. Oh, go ahead. TRUDY: I have one boy that said -- almost said something like that. He just said: “Well, I'm 13 now Mom. You can just go ahead and be a health aide forever.” And I quit the next day. Now he is married and has his own family. KAREN: So, you quit for a while and then you went back to being -- TRUDY: No, I never ever quit. KAREN: Did you ever want to quit? TRUDY: Oh, I wanted to quit from the day one. But I didn't want to leave the people. People were my concern. Always.
TRUDY: You know in Alaska, among the Native people it's -- a very hard thing to do is to become an officer of that organization. It doesn't matter what Indian organization it is. But it's very hard. They're very fluent about everything. They need to know this, they need to know that. They want you to do this, they want you to do that. So, it's very hard to be Indian. I don't know how other people are. I just know how hard it is to be an Indian, because I'm Indian. It was hard getting into different offices. But with the School Board it was the Superintendents and the people that were delegates for the School Board that voted me in, so I got in. I didn't want to. Same thing with the Grand President. Though, I traveled quite a bit. That's where my kids came in, my husband came in. KAREN: So, if you were traveling there was nobody in Hoonah to be the health aide while you were gone? TRUDY: No, that's what I said. My kids and my husband were the ones. I never traveled before I had any help. It was after I had help. KAREN: Once there was a second health aide? TRUDY: Yeah, Bea Brown became a health aide. KAREN: Did you ever feel -- you were talking about that, it's hard being Indian some times. Did you feel that with the work you did with the health aide and dealing with the hospital and the doctors or trainers or anything? TRUDY: No, I never felt that way with the people. I did kind of feel that way with some of the people at the hospital because it didn't seem to bother them -- it seemed like that some people felt like you shouldn't have been Native. I always felt that way. I don't know if you know what I'm talking about -- KAREN: No, I don't -- TRUDY: -- but you're white. So, they would be happy if you were the health aide rather than a Tlingit. Tlingit woman. That's the way I felt. But -- but we became very close to the people that we worked with. They began to see the different view of, I guess, of Tlingit people. KAREN: So, they did trust you. TRUDY: They probably did, after the fact. KAREN: It's interesting, and the thought just occurred to me that in a way you were ambassadors. TRUDY: Yeah. I thought a lot of that. I thought a very lot of that. I always thought, well if it wasn't for us, our people wouldn't be able to do this. I felt that way about different organizations like the ANS and School Board. KAREN: 'Cause yeah. There are people out there who didn't believe Native people could do things and you proved them wrong. TRUDY: I just felt like that. It may have been just my own feelings that I felt like people didn't believe in us -- enough. I felt like they didn't believe in us enough to do anything. KAREN: Well, that time period you probably were right. TRUDY: But I worked very hard to make sure I tried to do everything right. I think everybody else did. After two or three years it would seem so minor when we went to training. I'd tell Barbara: “You know, three years ago it seemed like we were under somebody's thumb, but now we don't feel that way.” And she said: “Yeah, come to think of it.” We did what we pleased, we cooked anytime we pleased. We stayed at the housing that they had across the hospital, and we had our own kitchen we could cook there. That's why we had so much fun.
KAREN: Do you remember what kinds of things they taught you in those trainings? Like that first one when you were there for two weeks, do you remember -- TRUDY: Well, they taught us how to deliver babies for one. Taught us how to care for major cuts. All kinds of things. They really worked hard to try to teach us how to pick up on how people are getting sick. When we know someone is getting sick, we should tell them. A lot of people don't care. They just let it go. But we were taught all kinds of things, burns and what have you, delivery. I didn't know how to deliver. KAREN: Yeah. TRUDY: No way. I did it because I had to do it. How long I had my clinic in my home. And I had a lot of children. The girl and my oldest boy are the ones that really helped me. My boy used to drive me around. My girl used to go with me, so she could help if she needed to. Dad almost croaked when he saw us clean the scalp of the little boy. KAREN: I know, you telling me that story made me queasy just listening to it. TRUDY: I just lifted it up and: “Ahhh.” I thought he was going to fall. KAREN: So that training that you got, you think that was enough training? TRUDY: No. We never thought that any one training was enough. And they knew it up there: “We know, but we can't take you away too long.” Which was a good thing. At least they were thinking about us. KAREN: Yeah, I was wondering if you came across a case where you didn't know what to do 'cause you didn't have the training for it. TRUDY: Well, that's what I say. Like the delivery, I didn't know anything about delivering a baby. Never in my life had I been involved in anything like that. KAREN: It sounds scary. TRUDY: Or even saw anybody deliver a baby. Just did it because I had to. KAREN: Sounds scary. TRUDY: After the first one, I wasn't scared. KAREN: Was there a midwife in Hoonah? TRUDY: No. KAREN: No. Nothing like that. TRUDY: We don't have any old, hardly any old people there anymore. Very few. People in our age group are the ones that are called the old people. I'm 72, 71. I'll be 72 in August. And they call us the old folks. KAREN: But when you were there as the health aide and needing to deliver that baby was there an elder midwife? TRUDY: No. KAREN: No. Not even then. TRUDY: No. KAREN: Wow. TRUDY: If there had been, I wouldn't have been as scared as I was. Because I'd know somebody would be there to help me. KAREN: Do you remember what you did to get through that? TRUDY: No. Just sat there as nonchalant as you could be and act like you know what you're doing. 'Cause you don't want that girl to get scared, so I'd act like I knew what I was doing. And she did really good, her first child. I told her boyfriend: “You stay out of here, you're the one that's scaring her.” He left, he went out in the living room. KAREN: When you had to communicate with -- you had to talk with the doctors, they were in Sitka? TRUDY: Oh, yeah. Mt. Edgecumbe. KAREN: Did you have telephones? TRUDY: Oh, yeah! What do you think we are? KAREN: No, well some places didn't. Some of the people I've talked to they had to do it by radio. TRUDY: I did -- the very beginning in 1965, I had to use the radio at the store office to call the doctor. Then, eventually we got a telephone. As soon as they came out, we got one. Then I never had problems. KAREN: Right. TRUDY: You know, when I talked to the doctor I made sure that the patient was there. So it could be repeated properly. KAREN: That was once you had a phone. When you had to go to the store to use the radio did you have the patient with you? TRUDY: No, not on that case. But after we got our own phones. People would have to come to the house anyways, so just let them listen to the conversation. KAREN: Were you one of the first houses then in Hoonah to get a phone? TRUDY: Yeah, we had to be because we were after them to get phones. “I'm having a hard time because I don't have a telephone,” I'd tell my husband. So, in his city meetings he was telling them: “The health aide needs a phone. Somebody needs to do something about getting phones out here." And finally we got it. It was good. Not that we really wanted it. We were happy without it. But after I got it, it was ringing off the hook. Even through the night. But my husband said: “It's better than to have to run out and see what's going on.”
KAREN: So before you had the phone if there was an emergency in town how would they let you know? TRUDY: They would come. Somebody would come to get me. There was no way else they could do it. Normally they would get somebody with a car to come and get me. Because of the emergency. And we hardly had any at night. It was mostly in the daytime. Oh, you should have saw that one guy. He was a state worker that worked out the road. They were making a road by the airport and the blast went off and a big rock came down and hit him -- KAREN: In the head? TRUDY: -- and he went kind of goofy. He was a white man and his wife was Eskimo and they were living downtown, Front Street. I was just on my way home and: “They need you up at the airport.” Maxine Savland was the Magistrate, she came down, says: “They need you up at the airport. The blast went off too soon and hit a guy on the head with the rocks, so we need you to come up.” So, she took me up. Her and I went up there. And that guy was just acting so natural. And he said “I'm gonna go home, I'm having a headache real bad.” And Maxine said: “Yeah I think -- you want me to ride you home?” He said: “No, I have my car.” So we followed him. And I told him: “We'll go to your house with you and let your wife know that you were hit. You need to go to bed.” And he said: “Ok.” So, we went there. She looked -- her eyes were just big. I guess they must have called her before. And she just run out: “Are you ok? Are you ok?” And I said: “Don't get him excited. He is bad enough as it is.” And she said: “What happened, what happened?” I said: “You go in the kitchen and I'll come in there and let you know.” So I put him to bed and I went out there to tell her and I said: “I'm just living up here. So, if you need me before the plane comes call me. Because I am going go home and cook for the kids, and I'll be right down.” So, I went home. I wasn't there long and Maxine came riding up real fast. She says: “That guy took off. And there is an airplane down at the float. We don't know who it is but we saw him -- look like he was getting aboard.” So, we rushed down there and the plane had already taken off. Here he chartered the plane to go to Angoon. And I asked his wife: “What is he going to Angoon for?” “He knows some guys there.” I said: “For Heaven's sake.” I said: “Did you know he was gonna go there?” She said: “No.” She said: “What really happened to him?” And Maxine told her. “Oh, he is going crazy.” She said: “You guys better watch out. He's mean when he is out of his mind.” Then Maxine and I went to look for a telephone and called Angoon, told them to be on the look out for him and get him back to Hoonah on a chartered plane. Whether he pays it or not, we'll pay it for it here. So, they got a hold of him and he fought with them, he didn't want to go back to Hoonah. He said: “I don't want to go back to the place I got hurt.” Then his buddy said: “I'll go with you. We'll go pack up your things and get your wife.” “Am I married?” It was so funny. I laughed and laughed. I said: “Didn't he know he was married?” She said: “I don't think so.” He just said: “Am I married?” And the guy brought him back to Hoonah. And I told them: “I think you just better get him to Juneau hospital right away. I think, he's worse off than you folks think. I think he needs help right away. He doesn't need to wait around. I think you need to get him in there.” So, they took him right in. An hour later he died. KAREN: Wow. Holy cow. TRUDY: If he had been in Hoonah, I would have been there, responsible for him, for his death. I think about that. God. KAREN: Wow. TRUDY: But his friend called me from Juneau, said: “He died just a little while ago.” And I said: “It's not even an hour yet.” He said: “I know, but he died.” He said: “I'm just calling from the room. He's here. He's in the room. The nurse is by him. They called for a doctor but he hasn't come yet. But he died.” KAREN: He must have had internal bleeding in his brain or something? TRUDY: I don't know. But, I told him: “Thank you very much for taking him in.” I said: “I don't know him, I really don't know him.” He said: “Well, his wife is here.” And she was with him when he died. All those awful things we saw. We saw a guy almost drowned. A boat tipped over and the other health aide and I were caring for them at that time. I didn't have a real bad guy, he was pretty stable. But having to be introduced to a guy that's really hurt, you know, wow. That was before I knew anything about being a health aide. Then I requested to quit and they wouldn't answer my request. I thought, well, I'll just stick it out.
TRUDY: My husband said: “I'll help you if you just stick it out.” So, that's what we did. Every chance he got he was helping me. Taking me everywhere I have to go, just terrible. KAREN: If you got called in the middle of the night would he go with you? TRUDY: Oh, yeah. He would go with me even if I had got called 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock in the morning, 5 o'clock, whatever. But when the boss at the electrical authority found out he said: “You can take some time to sleep whenever you want, maybe at noon until 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock.” So, he did. Whenever he could catch a cat nap, he let him do it. So, that was good. Then on the other, my kids would help me. If I had a real dire emergency then I would call his dad, the kids' dad. Never anybody else, nobody else showed an interest in. I guess they were afraid if they showed an interest, they might get put on. KAREN: So, did you lose patients? TRUDY: No, I never did lose a patient. Ever. I was telling my husband -- he was telling me: “You're lucky you haven't lost any patients.” I said: “Yeah, I didn't lose any patients, but you're gonna lose me pretty soon, if I don't quit this job.” And he said: “You better quit now.” But he died before I did, before I quit. He died, eight or nine years ago. Out of the clear. KAREN: And he was still working, huh? TRUDY: He was still working. We were just out hunting on his leave time. And we were trying to get over a hill going back to Hoonah. We were out at the -- they call that place, way out the road. But it was just a little hill. It wouldn't even take much to go up and go over. But he couldn't do it. We were sliding into the side. It was real snowy and -- Anybody that's lived there would get stuck, so you made every effort not to. And then two guys came, they were up going hunting and they came, they said: “We need you to get out of the way.” And Bill said: “I can't, I can't even move the car.” “Oh, I'll go get my car and pull you over the hill,” that guy said. And he start going and I say: “Get in --”
KAREN: One thing I was wondering about, you're talking about being on call and the clinic being in your house. Did you ever get a break, did you ever get a vacation or -- TRUDY: No, not for the first ten years. Was always out on -- It's not that there was things to be on call for all the time, it's just the fact that you had to be available if help was needed. But a lot of times, it just went by, you know, with nothing happening. But it was difficult because you're on 24 hours a day. So, any time during the night, any time during the day you could be called. KAREN: And what about when the nurse or the doctor came to town? TRUDY: When a nurse came, we were still taking calls for our people. And that's the way it started, it was just for the Native people only for a long time. And, oh, we couldn't stand that though we fought for just everybody in the community not just certain ones. That's what our association was doing so we could just see everybody. “That'll be a lot of work.” I know it's a lot of work but it sure saves your face when it comes to talking to those people. We couldn't just go out and see the Native people. Because when you have them in a clinic, you can't just close the clinic to them and just let the Natives in. I felt that way. Very strongly about it. My husband said: “Just let it go, let it go, just see the Native people.” I said: “I can't do that that.” It's very insulting to me not to be able to see the other people. And I fought for it. We won. KAREN: You did win. TRUDY: Now we could see both, Natives and white and not think anything of it. Because we're there to help people in general. That's what I used to say to the girls all the time: “You know, we are health aides because we want to take care of people, we want to help people in every way we could.” They never thought of it that way, until we started having meetings for health aides. Our last day of training we would have a meeting and they authorized it and would let us have a meeting during the day at Mt. Edgecumbe. Thought was pretty good. I thought. KAREN: It sounds like that association was a good idea, you got good things done. TRUDY: Right after I got that going then I got laid off. And I don't know what's happening with it now. Never kept up with it. I am really sorry I didn't. Because I think that would be something that would be really outstanding if there were people to talk for them self to people that they know that they need to talk to. I think that would be a easier way out than to talk to everybody under the sun and then find out you're not talking to the right person. But it's not always a bad situation that we talk about. There are different things we did talk about. It was good while it lasted.
KAREN: What about stress. Did you find the job stressful? TRUDY: Pardon? KAREN: Was the job of a health aide stressful? TRUDY: Oh, yeah. Definitely. Even the nurses here will say that being a nurse is stressful to them. I think. Sometimes, you can't get over things that happened. Like the little boy with that -- pulled his scalp off? For a long time I couldn't get over it. Then one guy shot himself in the hip, a little boy. And I had to go there and get him ready to put him on a plane. Those kind of things. Really stressful. They were things that you'd never realize could happen that happened. The drowning, the house burning, stuff like that. Then I started thinking about, “Gosh, when the guys go out hunting its dangerous.” Nobody thinks that way. But me and Barbara used to talk to each other, tell each other things and talk together and get over it. KAREN: Yeah, I was to say, how did you deal with this stress. TRUDY: Pardon? KAREN: How did you deal with this stress? What did you do to get through that. TRUDY: Just talk to my husband. Talk to my husband and my kids. It's a lot of family thing. We used to do -- we used to -- just me visiting with my husband and talking to him about how feel about this and that. Sometimes Barbara and I used to get together and I used to tell her things that I couldn't tell anybody else about my work. “Me too!” Well she started telling me her things, then we'd get over it. But you know, no matter how much and how hard people tried to help us and teach us, there was always something forgotten and you run up against it at another date. And wonder how do I take care of this, they never told us. And that was the difficult part of the job, was being told after the fact that this should be done, this should be that, this should be done right now. Like when I checked the boy for that broken hip, I didn't know what to do, but I checked, but I could feel, the bone was parted from the side. You could feel it where it was broken. So, I told them what I felt. I said: “I think he needs to go to the hospital, now, not tomorrow, now.” This happened like about 11 o'clock in the morning. So it was ok. But there were times we'd had to stay up at night. When the babies were sick, oh, night and day I walked. Just could not be -- time on my own.
TRUDY: Then I start working in the store as a clerk, so I wasn't eligible to be running all over. People knew that so they never called me 'til lunchtime or 5 o'clock or in the evening. That's how good they were, they just never bothered to call. But if it's real bad, they would call the store and tell me: “I need help right now.” So, it wasn't very often that I was running out on calls that were emergency. KAREN: So, there was a time where you worked as the health aide and you worked in the store? TRUDY: No, I worked as a health aide at the store, even I was at the store, the boss said I could work at the store but if I'm called out I could go. KAREN: Was this before you were paid as a health aide? TRUDY: Uh-hum (affirmative). I wasn't get much pay, well I should say my husband wasn't getting much pay so we both needed to work. So I worked. My brother-in-law was the boss of the crab cannery. Then I moved down there. Yeah, he put me to work as a crab shaker. KAREN: Once, they started paying you for the health aide though, you just did that? TRUDY: I still did it because what money they gave us was very little. There was no way that we could make ends meet if we were by ourselves. Each health aide was by herself. There was just no way. There was very small earnings. But we didn't care. KAREN: So, two jobs and raising eight kids. Holy cow! TRUDY: I didn't have eight at that time I worked in the store or the cannery. Now, my youngest boy that I had when I was becoming a health aide he's forty-one.
KAREN: I was thinking about other things you might have had to deal with as a health aide, like fires or boat accidents or suicides, things like that. TRUDY: Like I said, that's how I started. When I was a health aide I started with the house burning. And the other health aide, that was when Florence Jackson was still a health aide and she took care of the one that was real bad and I took care of one that was not bad. So, that helped because I had somebody with me. It's the weirdest feeling in your life, if you're by yourself. Especially at night, when you're by yourself. You feel all alone when somebody is so badly hurt and you're trying to help them. The weirdest feeling is that there is nobody there to help you and there is nothing you could do, you could try but you don't know if it's the right thing. I felt like that a lot of times. But I pulled through. I always think to myself I was the worst patient than anybody else. Even now they try to treat me like a patient 'cause I have that infection that went all the way to my knee. It's finally down to the point where it's about that big. KAREN: Like a quarter. TRUDY: It's closing up. KAREN: But you're not a good patient? TRUDY: And I'm not a good patient. My nurse is a male nurse, there're two male nurses here. I'm not a good patient. KAREN: So, I know that in some communities in Alaska suicide has been a real problem and the health aides have had to deal with that, gunshots and things. Is that something that happened in Hoonah? TRUDY: What? KAREN: Suicides? You didn't have to deal with that? TRUDY: I don't think. I don't think I've ever seen a suicide case. Ever. KAREN: What about gunshots? Gunshot wounds. TRUDY: Just the one boy that was playing with the gun, upstairs in his home and he shot his hip. He still walks around here. Walks with a big limp.
KAREN: So when you started as a health aide do you remember what kind of equipment you had? You talked about a black bag. TRUDY: I had the otoscope, I don't think there was very much else. Bandages and stuff that you normally carry around with you if you have a bag. Thermometer. Just the otoscope made a real big difference. KAREN: Why? TRUDY: Because you could hear and see things that you normally don't see. Like if you're listening to the ear and they say they're having a real bad problem with their ear, well you could look and not see anything but if you could listen, you could hear that there is a problem. With almost anything that you're trying to check. When they talk about their lungs feeling full, you could tell. Everything, I think. KAREN: And then as the years went on, you know, when you stopped being a health aide, when you retired what kind of equipment did they have at that point. TRUDY: There wasn't much difference except stuff that you use for newborns. We had the otoscope. I don't think I had anything else. If I did, it just slipped my mind. A lot of these stuff just slipped my mind because I'm not doing it anymore. KAREN: So, you've mentioned before about being the health aide consultant. So, you went form health aide to health aide consultant to retirement. TRUDY: No, they called me. If we're having a workshop then I would go and if there was something they needed, I would be the one to talk to. KAREN: But you weren't in the clinic full time seeing patients all the time? TRUDY: Not when I'm gone. How could I be two places in one time? KAREN: No, that was when you became the consultant, you just kind of helped out? TRUDY: Well, the one thing they wanted a consultant is because Alaska was new -- well actually, we know it was something that wasn't practiced in Alaska until after the first health aide. So, because we're so new, you call us new because nobody hardly knew about us. And we were there to help the people. Each community knew that they were there to help them. So -- KAREN: Okay.
KAREN: Do you remember some of the different doctors you worked with in Sitka and Juneau? TRUDY: Well, in Juneau I worked with Dr. Willhike (sp?) and Dr. McKabe (sp?). In Mt. Edgecumbe was Dr. Nash. Oh God -- There was quite a few doctors. They were pretty good, I'd talk to any doctor. Besides that, one of them was my adopted son. Dr. Pennington. And well, I had a lot of conversation with him about patients. That's how we got acquainted. A very interesting background. KAREN: So, you thought those were good doctors? TRUDY: Uh-hum (affirmative). Dr. Willhike, oh I liked him, he was good, so was Dr. McKabe. But I got to know them personally, I didn't just know who they were, I knew them. And that was the same with Dr. Nash and whatever doctors that were at Mt. Edgecumbe, I got to know. Even now I try to get to know the doctors. KAREN: So, did you mostly send patients to Mt. Edgecumbe or to Juneau? TRUDY: They had to. We had to. That was our area -- KAREN: Oh, for Indian Health Service. TRUDY:-- it was through them, they established different areas and Mt. Edgecumbe was the biggest hospital so Hoonah people had to go to -- we were once going to Juneau all the time but they requested that we send them to Mt. Edgecumbe. Because they were in charge of us, so. KAREN: Right, that was the Indian Health Service hospital. TRUDY: Because of the program, they were in charge of the health aide program along with whatever else they were doing, so we had to contact them. And Juneau was getting overloaded with Hoonah people. KAREN: Now, did you work for SEARHC? TRUDY: Just through the program. KAREN: No, when you were a health aide SEARHC took over the program? TRUDY: It was still the same people. KAREN: Did you notice a difference between Indian Health Service running it? TRUDY: No, no I didn't. Everybody we worked with were really good with us because they knew that we were new at what we were doing and we're trying to help. The doctors were very good. Any doctor we talked to. KAREN: Uh-hum.
KAREN: What about any traditional healing? Was any midwife -- well you talked about midwives but traditional doctors, traditional healing was that going on in Hoonah when you lived there? TRUDY: Have what? KAREN: Traditional healing, traditional doctors, traditional medicine. There wasn't any of that. TRUDY: Didn't hear of any if there was. We were just a bunch of ladies that wanted to learn and help our people, that's all there was to it. And that's how we became health aides. Because we wanted to help our people. And some of these guys always laugh about me being Indian, but I am full blooded Indian and I'm proud of it. I said: “There's a lot of things I could do that you can't do. So, you better not laugh at me too loud. See if I hear you, I'm very quick tempered. I'm sorry.” I said: “If anybody ever approaches me and tries to treat me snotty, you folks are gonna get it, you're gonna watch and get it.” And I almost did. A lady from Juneau, she's living on the other side, start giving me a bad time and I almost socked her. And she runs all over telling how I beat her up. I didn't beat her up. If I ever beat her up, she wouldn't sit up. KAREN: Your daughter mentioned that the clinic in Hoonah is named after you. TRUDY: That's what she said. I didn't know that. KAREN: You didn't know that? TRUDY: Uh-hum (negative). She said: “You were there mom.” I said “No, I don't --” KAREN: You just don't remember? TRUDY: -- don't remember. She said: “They named the clinic after you.” Now, they moved that clinic from downtown by the school. They moved it up the hill. Up on -- above the old the timers home, what do you call that, where all the old people live. KAREN: Like this elders' home or senior's -- TRUDY: Elders' home, yeah. It's above there now. But the original, the one they named after me was down by the school. It was in front of the school in fact. They tore that down because that was school property. KAREN: So, even though you don't remember the naming how does it make you feel to have a clinic named after you? TRUDY: Oh, it doesn't make me feel me any different. They are not the first ones, ouch. KAREN: She also mentioned that, you know, you talked about all your kids helped you, and your daughter Marilyn said now everybody is doing health related kind of work, all your kids. TRUDY: Yeah, she is. My oldest boy helps me yet, if I need help. I don't anymore, you know, I don't go out there anymore hardly. KAREN: No, your daughter Marilyn was a health aide for a while? TRUDY: She was alternate -- KAREN: Alternate. TRUDY: -- health aide. KAREN: And now your son works at the clinic? TRUDY: No. KAREN: No? TRUDY: Oh yeah, my son Bill works at the clinic. KAREN: And your husband did firefighting? TRUDY: Oh yeah. He did everything. KAREN: So, everybody in your family is doing something -- TRUDY: -- medical orientated. I had the youngest daughter that was like Marilyn. But she was giddy, she's always running around doing everything and in the meantime she was helping people. But she died, she drowned. KAREN: What are your other kids do? TRUDY: Helping me? KAREN: No, what other kinds of job. Your other children what jobs do they have now? TRUDY: I don't know. I don't keep track of them. I know one daughter works here, but I don't see her or hear from her. KAREN: Okay.
KAREN: My one last question is what do you think the type of person -- if someone wants to be a health aide, what kind of person do they have to be that's going to make them a good health aide? TRUDY: They have to be a non-drinker, somebody that's willing to do whatever is told to them to do, do it when they can, when they have time, not only when they have time but if there is a request for them to do something, do it. I think the biggest problem that we ever had with different people was the fact that they were drinking and they didn't do the job that was requested of them 'til later times. So I don't know, I haven't been at home for a long time. KAREN: Well, I was also thinking the personality. What kind of qualities of the person or personality that makes him -- TRUDY: -- well you know, yourself that anybody that's drinking wouldn't have a good personality. They may make you think they do, but they don't. Their lifestyle is altogether different from a regular person. KAREN: Right. If some young person wanted to be a health aide and they came to you for advice what would you say to them? TRUDY: They would have to contact Mt. Edgecumbe. Call your -- KAREN: Would you encourage them to be a health aide? TRUDY: I would if I thought they were the right type of person, not a person that drank a lot. Because that's very -- thing depends on your life. 'Cause I did. I did drinking. I didn't want them to put me in as a health aide because I said: “My lifestyle is going to be spoiled because I have to go to be a health aide and you can't drink there. And I like to drink.” And I was telling that to Caroline Peterson, the president: “Oh, don't think about that, just forget it. But I want you to be the health aide. We just cannot think of anybody else.” I said: “There's a lot of people here. You have to stop and think about how many other people there are. You don't have to just pick on me for everything.” And then: “No, I'm just picking on you because I know you'll make a good health aide.” I said: “No, I don't think so.” KAREN: But then were you able to not drink and be a health aide? TRUDY: Oh, you had to quit. My husband and I both quit. I quit one day, that very same night he quit, he said: “I'm not going to do it anymore.” Next day his friend came to him and said: “Let's have a party.” And my husband said: “I quit drinking.” “You did?” And he came to me and he said: “Did he really quit?” I said: “Yeah, he quit last night, really. And he's really sticking to it.” My husband liked to drink and he liked to have fun.
KAREN: Are you glad that you were health aide, even though you didn't want to do it at first? TRUDY: Oh, yeah. People always say: “Don't you hate it?” I said: “No, I like it.” I like it because I wanted to be a doctor when I was in high school. I really wanted to go on to school and be a doctor. At that time there was no way of getting help from anybody. I did not have any source of income when I was getting out of school. In fact, I went to Sheldon Jackson against my folks. They didn't want me to go, but I went. I had an older brother - he was the oldest in our family - and when he was going to away to school - him and I were real good friends. When he was gonna go away to school he said: “I'm gonna go to Sheldon Jackson pretty soon. I have to leave the boat.” Because they had to quit seining in order to get to Sitka on time. And then I told him I wanted to go. So, we start working on it. And we told the superintendent I needed to work because I need money to go to school with. I was thirteen years old. He said: “Well, we can't put you to work 'cause you are too young. But you know, we always need people at the shoot.” Where they shoot down the cans when they're gonna get labeled? KAREN: Oh, in the cannery? TRUDY: They said: “We could let you do that and pay you for it. But the pay will have to go through your dad, not your mother, your dad.” I said: “I don't care, as long as I go to work 'cause I got to go to school.” When it was almost time to go to school my brother came to me and he said: “I'm gonna go on Saturday to Sitka to go school.” He said: “You'd better get your stuff together and you could go with me.” So, I got my belongings together and my mother said: “Where you do you think you're going?” I said: “I'm going with my brother, we're going to go to school in Sitka.” “You're not going anywhere.” And my dad came home and he said: “Where are you going?” I said: “I'm going to Sitka with my brother to go to school.” And he said: “Get your stuff packed, put them in there real nice, don't put them in there any old way.” So I start packing. My mother didn't know what to say, she just looked at my dad. “Well, you sure mess up everything for me,” she said. “I just told her she couldn't go, because I don't want her to go to S.J.” And my dad said: “I don't care where she goes to school as long as she goes to school.” So, he let me go. There was a cannery tender going over there that had to deliver something to the cold storage, so we had a chance to go over -- the cannery tender took us over. KAREN: But you were already in Sitka, weren't you? TRUDY: We lived in Sitka but I didn't live at S.J. KAREN: And you couldn't -- TRUDY: They didn't want people that lived in Sitka to go to Sheldon Jackson. But I lived there and I told them I want to go and I want to be with my brother. KAREN: How come your mom didn't want you to go. TRUDY: Well, you know how it is. When you have a babysitter, you have a babysitter. When you have somebody to clean house, you have somebody to clean house. And I was the goat for that, she always made me do everything. KAREN: How many brothers and sisters did you have? TRUDY: Four each. KAREN: And you were one of the oldest? TRUDY: Yeah, there was a brother and sister and me and my sister. Now, there is only three of us. All my sisters died.
KAREN: So, why did you want to be a doctor? TRUDY: Because I wanted to be. Why would you want to be a doctor. I wanted to help people. I just was not the kind of person that will say I want to be a doctor, just to be a doctor, just for the namesake, that was for the people. I really like working with people. Even in Sheldon Jackson I had the opportunity to work with different people. I had a house mother there that was from Sitka. She was so nice, gosh, couldn't do no wrong. Just everything I said, always she wrote it down, don't know why she did that. She took care of me, how she took care of me all the time. When my mother was carrying my youngest brother, I quit school. My senior year, I quit in April. God, the whole staff at Sheldon Jackson were just fit to be tied when I quit. I went home. I told them: ”I'm going home because my mother is very sick.” Mr. Streeall(?) called me up and he said: “You'd better come back to school. They want you to go back to school because it's almost graduation time and you'd better come back.” And “I don't want to come back for that,” I said. “My mother is sick.” He said: “Well, you could come back to school, I'll pick you up in the morning, take you back down after school.” I said: “That doesn't help matters any.” And he said: “No, I would do it, just so you go back to school.” So, I went back to school, graduated. 1952 I graduated. My brother was born in July. I took care of him. My mother was very very sick. But I was glad I was there to take care of her. KAREN: So, when you became a health aide were your parents still alive? TRUDY: Uh-hum (affirmative). KAREN: What did they think of you -- TRUDY: -- Oh, they thought that it was pretty good that I was a health aide. My dad was always proud of me anyway but it was my mother that they had to convince.
KAREN: Well, I think that just about covers most of my questions. I appreciate you sitting here for so long with your hurt ribs. I know it's painful. Is there anything else that you can think of that you want to talk about? TRUDY: Uh-hum (negative). I don't think so. KAREN: Your favorite health aide story? Funny stories, anything? TRUDY: After I quit being a health aide everything was so dull. I just felt like, oh, I don't ever wanna live here again. My husband was still alive when I was gonna quit. “No,” he said, “you're gonna want us to come back here and stay.” I said: “Not me.” I went to Sitka and no way I was gonna live there. It was so changed after so many years. But we got married in '57 or '58. KAREN: So, after you quit as the health aide you left Hoonah? TRUDY: Yeah, I moved away from there completely. KAREN: And you haven't lived there since? TRUDY: I lived there one year after I came back from Sitka. I stayed at the Sitka Home for three years. Then my little boy and his dad said: “We're gonna come to get you and you can stay with us after you come home.” So, I went there and I stayed there a year. I have a friend working in the state office that was going to Hoonah all the time. And she said: “I could find you a place in Hoonah or in Juneau to stay, so you could be near me when I could come and see you.” And I thought that was really good. I can't think of her name. KAREN: But that's when you moved here to Wildflower Court. TRUDY: She got this place, she said she told them about me and said I wanted to come, to go somewhere, so I came. She said: “Just go there and see what it's like and if you like it, you can just stay there.” So my boy was arguing with me -- excuse me -- and I got mad, I thought the heck with it, I'll just pack up everything and go. And I packed up everything and I came here. And I moved in, I don't wanna go check to see how it is, so I'll just stay here. KAREN: Do you remember how many years you've lived here? TRUDY: Two years. KAREN: Okay. TRUDY: Going on two and a half. This is my second or third room. KAREN: Oh. TRUDY: I used to live way down that way. Then I went to Anchorage for surgery on my leg, then when I came back they put me in here. KAREN: Okay, well. Thank you very much for spending the morning with me, I really appreciate it. Hopefully, you've enjoyed it too. TRUDY: I did. KAREN: Good. TRUDY: I haven't talked about the health aide business for a long time. KAREN: Well, it sounds like that you and your daughter Marilyn did some talking about it the other day. TRUDY: Yeah. KAREN: That's good. TRUDY: She came in just to be with me -- KAREN: Yeah. TRUDY: -- to help me with that. I told her: “I just don't know what I'm gonna do, 'cause I don't think I could tell anybody the real tragic things that went on. My mind is just blank.” She said: “I'll come in Mom and help you.” KAREN: You did fine. TRUDY: She came in on Sunday and went back. Oh, I thought to myself, I just cannot pull myself together to do it. And I thought. Well, I just forget about it. I didn't. KAREN: No, I think you did fine. You remembered things. TRUDY: It was so good though, to talk about. Her and I would just roll around on the bed telling each other things about that health aide business.