Deborah Vickery House and Jane Vickery Wilson were interviewed by Ann Kain from the National Park Service on June 16, 1990 in Kennecott, Alaska during the Kennecott Kids reunion. In this interview, these two sisters talk about growing up in Kennecott, the mine, the store, their housing, and their schooling. They lived there for over 13 years, between 1918 and 1931, and the Kennecott Kids reunion in 1990 was the first time that they had returned.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Jun 16, 1990
Narrator(s): Jane Vickery Wilson, Deborah Vickery House
Interviewer(s): Ann Kain
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1) Jane Wilson's personal background and family
2) Life after the mine
3) Deborah House's background
4) Their father, and Deborah's education and employment
5) Transportation, mail, and supplies
6) Supplies in Kennecott
7) Homemade supplies, and Kennecott houses
8) Reminiscing about their father
9) Kennecott housing
10) The Kennecott store
11) Kennecott Mine housing and furniture
12) Travel to neighboring towns
13) Housing facilities for employees
14) Kennecott medical facilities
15) Quarantines and diseases
16) Injuries, and serving the outlying community
17) Dentists, epidemics, and travel
18) Their parents' jobs and hobbies
19) Labor disputes
20) Kennecott Mine and schools
21) Education and teachers in Kennecott
22) Kennecott schools compared to outside schools
23) Adult education in Kennecott
24) Chores, and leaving Kennecott
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
KAIN: This is side one of the tape of the interview with Deborah Vickery House and Jane Vickery Wilson, June 16, 1990 at Kennecott, Alaska.
These two women grew up in Kennecott when the mill and mines were in operation.
They are presently in Kennecott once again for the Kennecott Kids Reunion hosted by the Kennecott Glacier Lodge.
The interview is being conducted by Ann Kain of the National Park Service, Alaska Regional Office.
Okay. This is Jane Vickery -- WILSON: Jane Vickery Wilson. KAIN: Wilson. Your last name now. WILSON: My name now.
KAIN: Yes, right. And what was your age when you were in Kennecott and the years you were here?
WILSON: I came to Kennecott in 1918, I was three, and we lived here until 1931 when I was 16.
KAIN: Okay. Where were you born? WILSON: I was born in Juneau. KAIN: Born in Juneau. Okay. WILSON: Yes. I came directly from Juneau to Kennecott.
KAIN: And what brought you here?
WILSON: My father decided when we lived in Juneau that he wasn't content with his work there and he applied for a position in Kennecott
and with a little correspondence, he decided to come to Kennecott to work as a cost accountant in the office in Kennecott, in the town.
He took did -- care of -- well, cost accounting how much per ton it cost to mine the ore, for the different mines.
KAIN: I see. Okay. And you have never -- you haven't been back here since you left? WILSON: No.
KAIN: This is your first time back here? WILSON: Yeah. This is our first time and we are thrilled to pieces.
KAIN: So, your family came up here so your dad could work at the mine? WILSON: He came first and we came shortly after.
KAIN: How long was he here by himself? WILSON: I don't know. I doubt that it was more than a month or two.
KAIN: Yeah. Okay and then where did you live when you were here?
WILSON: We first lived down like across from the power plant. There were four or five houses up there and I think we lived, I think in the third house and we lived there maybe not more than two years, not more than three years, because my mother wanted to get up higher, have more view, you know.
And I think she thought it would be better for us as small children to be away from the railroad tracks and up on the hill.
And so we were able to get a house up there. And I can remember my mother walking up to see it and I was with her and I thought we'd never get there.
That was the longest walk. It wasn't very far, but it seemed like it to me being four or five years old, you know.
KAIN: And when you left here where did you go? WILSON: When we left Kennecott? KAIN: When you left Kennecott. WILSON: We went to Seattle. My grandmother lived there and I had to finish high school and then on to college.
KAIN: You have remained there since? WILSON: Yes. Well, in -- two years after I finished at the university I went back to Juneau and I was able to get employment there through a friend of mine, Jim (Dennison), he worked in Kennecott for years.
He was the one that planned the -- did a lot of the planning of the mill when it was built, he was very knowledgeable about that.
And he knew somebody that needed a lady -- a girl in the office and he took me down and I got a job in Juneau. So I stayed in Alaska.
KAIN: Okay and then, after college what did you -- WILSON: This was after college. KAIN: Okay, so you were in Juneau for a while. WILSON: Yes I was in Juneau
KAIN: How long were you there? WILSON: For about two and a half years. KAIN: Two and half years.
WILSON: Yes. And I had married during that time and then we both came outside. I hadn't met my husband's family and he hadn't met anybody but my sister, she came up for the wedding and he hadn't met my parents so we came out.
Ant then four days after we got there the war started so we just stayed.
KAIN: I see. Okay. And your sister, Jane Vickery House. I'm sorry Debbie Vickery House. That's correct. Okay. The wrong names for the wrong people here.
HOUSE: Jane and I have been called by each others names all our lives and on the phone they get us mixed up sometimes our voices sound more alike on the telephone.
KAIN: Well that's what I was wondering on this tape, if you guys were going to come out sounding pretty much alike. What was your age --
HOUSE: I was a year, a little over a year. KAIN: And how long were you here? HOUSE: Until 1931 and I was 15 --
KAIN: When you left. HOUSE: When we left.
KAIN: Okay. And you followed your sister to where -- you all went together when you left? HOUSE: Yes. Right.
KAIN: Okay. And did you attend high school and college elsewhere or?
HOUSE: Yes. I went to -- finished high school in Seattle.
I found it extremely difficult in making the transition from here, the small Kennecott, to a large high school in the city.
And we had some friends and we would -- lived quite a ways from the school and we would have to transfer.
And then after we'd been to the school for a year and were going back for the second year, this girl that we'd met, she said, "Well, I met you last year but you looked so unhappy I thought it would be the kindest thing to leave you alone".
And she didn't talk to us all that first year and the second year we went to school, she spoke.
But it was because mainly for me, I was so homesick.
KAIN: Huh, that's really interesting. WILSON: And very difficult. HOUSE: And nervous. Just going from one room to another -- would we get there in time before the bell rang? WILSON: Yeah.
KAIN: That was something you didn't have to contend with here. WILSON: No, no. We stayed put.
HOUSE: And I asked a boy in the hall one day where the history room was. He said, "You asked me that yesterday", and I said, "Yes, but I can't remember".
It was so difficult and answering roll call, everyday.
And they all -- and my name being Deborah, they would mispronounce it, and my mother had insisted that I correct them -- say it correctly.
KAIN: Right. HOUSE: And that made it even worse. Not only did I have to answer "here" to roll call but also correct the pronunciation. It was almost impossible.
KAIN: Yeah, almost terrifying, I'm sure.
HOUSE: Yeah, it was. It was just terrifying.
KAIN: Now I, just to continue with getting your voice down pat here -- did your father continue in mining when he left here?
HOUSE: Well, when he left here he retired. He did off and on work for some people in Seattle, but he was retired.
WILSON: But he didn't come out when we did. He stayed in Kennecott.
HOUSE: He stayed there until it closed. KAIN: Okay.
HOUSE: And then he stayed on as watchman for a while, so that he was one of the very last people to move out.
And when he flew out, he (inaudible). No, he flew from McCarthy to someplace because he said -- he said --
WILSON: Oh, I didn't know that.
HOUSE: -- that the pilot tipped the wing and he said I thought we were going down and he said I was busy looking cause I was trying to find the place where he was trying to land and all he was pointing out was that there was a bear down there.
KAIN: Well, then what did you do after -- did you go on to college?
HOUSE: Yes. I came up here -- up to Western Washington University and -- and taught school. So then I taught school for thirty years. KAIN: For thirty years - in Washington?
HOUSE: Yes. And I think that this protectiveness that I've always had -- when a child would come in the room and would be so shy and could hardly answer roll call. There was no one that understood it better than I.
KAIN: But you were elementary teaching? HOUSE: Yes.
KAIN: What grade? HOUSE: First and second. KAIN: First and second? HOUSE: Yes.
KAIN: That's interesting. Did you travel much around the area? WILSON: Well, we didn't have a car in those days. HOUSE: Yeah.
KAIN: Well there was -- I've run across a few people have spoken about camping trips, going to Long Lake and WILSON: Oh, well we went to Long Lake. HOUSE: Oh, when we were here?
KAIN: Yeah, that's what I meant, yeah. WILSON: Yes, we went to Long Lake -- HOUSE: We went to Long Lake and lived in a little cabin --
WILSON: Yeah. HOUSE: And fished in the creek and met George Flowers -- WILSON: Yeah, George Flowers
HOUSE: And he could cook -- cooked fish like no one else. He'd put it all -- all the trout in a pot, put it all in a frying pan and cooked it all and turned it all over so like one big fish cake.
And then he just broke if off. Marvelous. WILSON: You could eat the whole fish. KAIN: My goodness.
WILSON: And he cleaned them of course. HOUSE: But I meant the bones were cooked down, it was beautiful.
KAIN: Did you -- did you go any where else other than Long Lake or was that your main vacation -- HOUSE: That was our main spot. KAIN: -- vacation spot.
HOUSE: Yes, yes. That's the only place we would go to stay overnight. WILSON: We'd stay for a week.
HOUSE: And we had to take every bit of food that we were going to eat with us except for the fish that we caught. KAIN: Now, how did you get there? HOUSE: On the train. KAIN: On the train?
HOUSE: And then stop right in front of the house where we were gonna stay, this log cabin, and the train engineer knew where we were gonna -- where to stop the train, you know, and he would give us time to get off and get our luggage and all the groceries Mother had packed.
Bless her heart, she went to a lot of work to get ready to go.
KAIN: Right. Oh yeah, I can understand that. So the railroad was, aside from supplying the community, it was your means of transportation as well?
WILSON: Yes. It was a link. HOUSE: Yeah.
KAIN: Was it any kind of a big deal -- I know a lot of times the bridges went out, so you didn't have the train for a while. Did supplies run short?
WILSON: Well, yes they could run short on some things, but there was always plenty to eat. I think butter was -- one time went down sort of low and -- but I don't think we were ever without anything. Maybe eggs or something like that.
HOUSE: We talk about having frozen food, you know, and that it's modern. But of course here, the meat was brought in frozen, the turkeys came in frozen and came in beautiful shape. KAIN: Oh, I'll bet. HOUSE: So there were always lots of provisions.
KAIN: Was there excitement when the bridge was repaired and the train came in? HOUSE: Oh, yes. Everybody went down to see the train. KAIN: Everybody was at the depot? HOUSE: Yes, downtown.
WILSON: And once I think we were six weeks without a train and my mother went six weeks without hearing from her mother, you know, and that's a long time when you're used to a letter every week.
KAIN: The train also brought in all the mail? HOUSE: All the mail, you see. There was no way -- KAIN: The total link with the outside world was the train? WILSON: Yes, they had telegraph but that was the only communication. We could have gotten a message to her if it was life and death. KAIN: Right.
WILSON: Of course we used the Sears and Roebuck catalog a lot. We either ordered from Sears and Roebuck or Mother wrote to Fredrick and Nelson in Seattle, but it was one extreme or the other. KAIN: Right.
WILSON: And there was a Montgomery Ward in Portland. But if something came in -- and the main reason that those were the ones we dealt with was because they would exchange if a mistake was made. If the shoes didn't fit, they took them back, you see.
It was just heart rendering if your new shoes came and they were too small. KAIN: Right.
WILSON: And had to go back, because it took a week for the order to go in, a week for them to set the order up, a week for them to come back.
Well, then they weren't right so then it would be a week for them to go back and another week --
HOUSE: It could take three weeks to get and it was already 6 --
KAIN: So most of your stuff, a lot of your clothing, and so forth and implements and cooking things that you'd buy, was most of it mail order from Sears or Montgomery Ward or did you buy it here at the store?
HOUSE: They didn't have everything at the store. WILSON: We bought shoe pacs here at the store (felt shoes and canvas shoes).
HOUSE: And bib overalls that we wore all summer and we had to have long pants because of the mosquitos.
WILSON: Our mother sewed so she made a lot of our clothes and I think we were some of the best dressed because for each season it was perfect.
KAIN: How did she buy the material? Was that available at the store or did she order that as well?
WILSON: Some material, cottons were available. But somebody had an old coat -- HOUSE: An overcoat.
WILSON: An overcoat they weren't going to use and I can remember she gave -- they gave it to my mother and she made me and Debbie some ski pants.
Well, it was wonderful. We never had real ski pants before. And that was a big thing.
HOUSE: But they were beautiful. They shed -- she ripped the seams and sponged them off and brush them and turned them so that the inside was out there was no fading. It was beautiful -- Jane -- my coat was brown and Jane's was a sort of greenish -- a dark green.
Hers was just beautiful.
WILSON: And then she always made us our jackets you know, our outside jackets for winter, plenty warm. And we always sent out and had good mittens to wear, you know, two or three pairs, inside mittens and heavy ones on the outside. Never got -- I never got cold outside.
I could go skiing at 36 below and I wasn't cold. That's below zero. Not below freezing, below zero.
KAIN: Yeah, right, right. So and when -- since we were talking about buying things and your life here. You lived in two different houses then?
WILSON: Well, a short time in that first one. But then too -- you know, one of the houses we were in three live -- were in a row and then the end one --
HOUSE: I was 11 when we moved from the little house on the end to this end.
And Mary Ellen (Duggan-Clark) remembered today the day we moved -- and remember we found the chocolate. WILSON: That was before we moved.
HOUSE: No. It was the day was moved because Mary Ellen and I both looked -- remembered and my father liked chocolates and he would buy them at the store, Victorian Creams and they put them in a little sack because they weren't for us.
And we were looking for -- the day we moved we were looking through the cupboards and way back in the corner were sacks.
And we brought it out and there were all these nice big Victorian Creams. Well I thought that daddy had left them, which shows you a lot about our dad.
And so we ate them. I think there was one left when we decided that maybe we ought to put it back.
But I told Mother, I said, "Do you know what the fairies left?" And Mother said, "No". I said, "Well, you know they left candy in the cupboard."
And she said, "That was your father's candy. He put it there." Well, I was so -- not sorry I ate it though. Maybe a little embarrassed and maybe glad there was one left for him. Daddy just laughed.
WILSON: Yeah, I could see, he could get more down at the store.
HOUSE: He thought it was great. Now, he probably wouldn't have put them there if he'd known we were going to find them because he used to put them out on the back deck, especially if we'd been good.
And he'd -- pretty soon he'd say, you know I think the fairies -- WILSON: The little old ladies -- wasn't it the little old ladies? HOUSE: -- put them out on the back step and we'd go out and sure enough there would be a chocolate there. WILSON: Or he'd put -- HOUSE: And that's why I thought the fairies had left it.
KAIN: Yeah, wonderful -- wonderful memories. The first -- now these houses up here. The first one you lived in was smaller than the second one? HOUSE and WILSON: Yes.
KAIN: But they both had two bedrooms, or three? WILSON: Well, in the first one, it was just all one great big room, like an attic here but it was finished.
And my mother and dad had some kind of a screen that they could put across, you know.
HOUSE: They put the bed backwards so the high head of the bed, was at this end and they had a blanket over it. It was a partition.
WILSON: Well, of course, we'd go to bed first and we'd be sound asleep until it was time to get up in the morning. So --
HOUSE: My bed was next to the window at the end of the building. And it was a window that opened out and in the winter the snow would blow and fall and it would fall in.
It would come in and since the window opened out it would come like this -- it would blow in on the floor. And it never melted. WILSON: It would stay right there.
HOUSE: It was cold enough -- because my bed was right here and I would look there and there would be the snow, the soft lovely snow coming in and I would think it was lovely and it was a long time before I realized that the snow should have melted.
KAIN: So the heating upstairs -- HOUSE and WILSON: Well, there was no heat. WILSON: There was no heat. It was just any kind of -- whatever radiated up from downstairs.
KAIN: Now did you shut the -- there was no way to shut off the stairwell though, right? HOUSE: Yeah, well, there was a downstairs door.
WILSON: But maybe it would be shut and maybe it wouldn't but I don't know but maybe they didn't want the downstairs to get that cold. And we had plenty of blankets and sheets -- special sheets for winter, you know.
KAIN: At night did you leave the door open -- the stairwell door open so heat could come up or?
WILSON: I don't know. I don't remember that. Of course they a roaring fire going all night, you know, want to have -- HOUSE: They would bank it . WILSON: Bank it, you know, but it would die down.
KAIN: What about -- now you were heating with wood? WILSON: With wood. KAIN: And then -- in these other houses did you heat with steam? WILSON: Steam heat from the power plant.
KAIN: Okay, so the for -- the second house you lived in was heated with steam. WILSON: Yes. It was warm. KAIN: Now was it warm upstairs as well? HOUSE: Yes.
WILSON: Well, we had a bathroom up there and it was warm it seems like, but if our door was closed, we could open the window and it was plenty cool.
KAIN: Now, are those -- for some reason I just always thought that those houses up there were -- WILSON: Somebody said the "Silk Stocking" row or something.
KAIN: Yeah, well that's what they call it. Now are -- it that -- were those mainly reserved for like upper management people? WILSON: Well, they were all office people.
KAIN: They were all office people that were up there? HOUSE: Yeah, like Mr. McGavocks. WILSON: Yes. McGavocks because he was the head of the power house, I mean you know, key personnel.
And Mr. (Richardson) was an engineer and (?) Duggan was an (inaudible) man.
HOUSE: There were several families, of course, that lived in the inn house. But somebody had always lived in all the houses.
WILSON: But then it came vacant again and whoever was next in line and anyway --
KAIN: It may have been a next in line thing -- you'd been here so long and you were -- now was it dependent on the number of children you had?
HOUSE: I think it was dependent a lot upon the need and Janie and I were growing up and they thought we needed the room and the bathroom would be nice.
KAIN: So it depended on need more so than -- oh, I don't know if you want to call it social status or whatever.
WILSON: No, I don't think so. KAIN: A family was a family, it didn't make any difference. WILSON: No. We'd been there a long time, you know. KAIN: If you needed the space --
WILSON: You took what was offered and then you waited your turn.
The company was very good to the -- to all the families and they gave turkeys at Christmas time to every family. HOUSE: To every family. Every family had a turkey and that was a big thing.
KAIN: What about power? Did you have electricity? Wilson and HOUSE: Yeah, we had electric lights. KAIN: It was all up from the power plant.
WILSON: I can't really remember the lights going out but down in camp, they were -- there was -- they had light posts, you know.
HOUSE: We had one out -- I can remember looking out the bathroom window out towards the point and there was a light out there and it was just beautiful seeing that snow and the lights glistening on it and the moon shining on it.
WILSON: But when you stop and -- this was in the 20's, with running water, steam heat, electric lights -- KAIN: In a place like this.
WILSON: In a place like this. Way back beyond the beyond. It's just remarkable to think about.
KAIN: Now I've noticed -- it was -- the houses, the second one you lived in -- there is a shed immediately --
seems to me like it was probably -- the fort was probably an enclosed thing going into the shed. WILSON: No, not really. It wasn't --
KAIN: It wasn't? Okay. Well, it's close enough they could have been -- WILSON: Yes.
KAIN: What were those rooms -- or just a shed? WILSON: Well, we had a wood shed but then we also had a pantry-like -- HOUSE: Well, we had a cache. Yeah, right outside. WILSON: Which we called a cache right out the back porch. It was attached to the house.
KAIN: Yeah, that was like a back porch there and then you went out the door and then into this other building? WILSON: Two or three steps up and there was a pit toilet in there.
KAIN: Yeah, okay so you had that -- you used that as well as indoor plumbing, then? WILSON: No this was the one down here. KAIN: The house down here?
WILSON: The one down here. We carried water from the water house down there, for a long time. Did they ever put water into the kitchen sink? HOUSE: Well, Daddy did. KAIN: In the first house?
HOUSE: In the first house. Daddy put that tank there on the -- when you came up the stairs -- WILSON: Well that was the aerial pipe that came across.
HOUSE: Yes, and he had a pipe -- he and another fellow they attached the pipe down there at the water house, we call it and brought it up and into this big tank that Daddy had gotten down from the --
KAIN: A holding tank in your house. HOUSE: Yes, a holding tank, 50 gallons or something like that. It was -- and he'd fill it up every week or twice a week so, however often it took to fill the tank.
And so we had running water in the sink. And then my mother would have to heat what water she needed on the stove. But that was a lot better than carrying --
WILSON: Two buckets of water in the morning and then two buckets at night. Then when we washed clothes, it took more water.
KAIN: And how did you wash the clothes? Just in the sink with a scrub board?
WILSON: A big tub -- a big wash tub. And Daddy used to help Mother because he had to get the water and help lift it in.
HOUSE: And it was our job to hang out the clothes before we went to school so you can see they were up at five to get the wash done. KAIN: So what did you do in the wintertime --
WILSON: I think they did it the night before -- I think they did the washing the night before they went to bed.
Mother then -- Mother used to hang them up at first, and then you and I probably helped when we -- after we moved.
HOUSE: Because we would hang them out. And the clothes would freeze dry in the winter.
WILSON: In the winter and then you just knocked the ice off of them and HOUSE: When she brought them in, she lay them out and maybe have a line or two and hang them in the kitchen and they'd dry. Come along fine.
KAIN: Well, now -- the shed behind the first house you lived in had the pit toilet and lumber or wood storage and so forth in here? WILSON: Yes. A woodshed.
KAIN: Now the shed behind the second group of houses that have indoor plumbing so it was wood and storage of whatever you could stick in there or whatever
WILSON: Yes, because all the kitchen stoves were wood burning. KAIN: Right, right.
WILSON: And Daddy would have to get the stove length and Daddy chopped the wood, you know, into pieces you know so it would burn in the stove.
HOUSE: And it was our job to pile it. He would chop the wood at night and leave it all and we would carry it in and stack it and then he would come home at night and inspect it to see how well -- if we'd done our job well.
KAIN: Okay. You bought most of your food and so forth, all your food, down at the store.
Someone earlier today, when we were touring was saying that you -- usually when you got -- they got paid, they came down and got a scrip book.
You would use a basic scrip book because it was company owned? WILSON: Yes.
KAIN: Now were there -- as you recall, and I realize you guys were fairly young then, but do you know if the prices were -- you know, were they okay?
HOUSE: A candy bar was five cents. And every Saturday we would go to the store together, us and the (Pressly's), the Duggans and Inga (Ricci) maybe and go down to the store in the morning and buy a candy bar. Something very special that we liked, take it home and wait until after lunch. Then we'd all get together and eat our candy bars.
KAIN: Oh, I see. So you think that food prices were about moderate and not too excessive.
WILSON: Well, at forty-five cents a pound for T-bone steak. Way back then. Forty-five cents a pound, so that wasn't bad.
KAIN: The rate you were getting -- what would be competitive price, although there was no competitors.
WILSON: Yes. I think.
HOUSE: Well, wages weren't high so -- and everybody paid rent and so they were very good about the food. I think most of us worked for food and so on.
And the store was well supplied. In the summer time, sometimes they would have cherries and sometimes they would have a watermelon.
We rode the (wagon) to distribute the merchandise around from the -- down from camp up to the mill -- to take for the mills and the mine. They would use a team of horses and wagon and we would ride on the wagon. (inaudible)
And we were riding one day -- one day when they were delivering groceries on the hill. They delivered the groceries once a week, I think you could order sugar and flour and stuff.
And this time in McGavock's box was this huge watermelon and we would stop and wonder what were the McGavock's doing with a watermelon?
Well, we got up around the turn, we walked that road -- to the woods and Lawn Morgan stopped the horses, took the watermelon out of McGavock's box, took it back in the woods and hid it and got back in.
And we said, "Oh, old McGavock's going to be mad."
When we came back -- all the kids on the hill rode that day, it was a nice day -- he stopped and brought the watermelon out and we all ate it.
It wasn't for McGavocks after all. KAIN: Oh, he just brought it for you kids. Oh, that's great. HOUSE: Yes.
KAIN: So you got all your food, basically, at the store, at pretty moderate prices. But you did mention that you paid rent. WILSON: Yes.
KAIN: So you had to pay rent, that wasn't an offering -- that wasn't included with the wage? WILSON: I don't think it was very much, twenty dollars, it wasn't more than that, I'm sure. I have that figure in mind, I don't know if that's right. HOUSE: I wouldn't say because I don't know. KAIN: So it was a minimal amount. Wilson and. HOUSE: Yes. It wasn't much.
KAIN: And keeping with, you know, a little more about the house info. Did you improve the house at all when you lived in it? WILSON: We kept it up.
KAIN: You kept it up. But you didn't make any improvements as far as adding more cupboards or anything like that? WILSON: Nothing like that. HOUSE: Mother had bookcases made. WILSON: Well, yes, down at the carpenter shop, probably.
KAIN: But they weren't -- were they permanently attached? WILSON: No, no. But, we left them there, of course, when we left.
KAIN: Okay, we were basically talking about food and your purchases and your housing and so forth.
Now all the other houses -- other than some of them having indoor plumbing and -- most of them were basically two bedrooms and a living room and a kitchen.
WILSON: As far as I know. Except for the superintendent and the assistant superintendent. I think they might have had three bedrooms, you know, or four maybe even.
Cause the Douglasses -- HOUSE: They added on. WILSON: They had a big -- they added on. HOUSE: They had a big family.
WILSON: Yeah. And then (?) was staying there or something, too. The rest of them I think were all the same but Yvonne (Konnerup-Lahti) said that there is an extra bedroom on -- for their house because they had a boy and two girls, you see.
So they needed three bedrooms. The boy was old enough, you know, and the girls where they needed three bedrooms.
KAIN: So if they wanted -- like in her house if they added a bedroom, did the company pay for that and add it or was that up to them?
WILSON: It would for them, because Mr. Konnerup -- Mrs. Konnerup didn't want to come up until they added the bedroom and they did so she came with the children.
KAIN: I see. Okay. Another thing I was wondering about was -- we talked about -- about getting food at the company store, basically.
Getting you ordered most of your clothing through Sears or Montgomery Ward. What about furniture?
WILSON: It passed around.
KAIN: Okay. So if somebody left, they didn't take their furniture with them. WILSON: No, no, it just passed around.
KAIN: They just gave it to someone or did you buy it from them? WILSON: (?) or whatever arrangements could be made.
HOUSE: If they had something special that they had shipped in then they could take it with them if they wanted to, you know.
KAIN: Now was the furniture -- so it was here when you got here, did the company own the furniture?
WILSON: Yes. Our house was -- I don't know, but I'm sure they must have.
KAIN: They must have built the homes and furnished them and then brought people in.
HOUSE: Or the first people came brought it, I don't know which way it worked, but it all stayed. And it all moved around. KAIN: From house to house and from people to people.
HOUSE: Well the people were good. Somebody needed a table, well I have one and it might stay in that house for a while and somebody else needed it sometime and it went somewhere else.
WILSON: When we left, we just left the piano. We bought one from a family in McCarthy. When they left we bought their piano, remember, (O'Neill) and it was set up first at the little house and then when we moved over to the other one.
KAIN: That was something I was going to ask, if you bought much of anything in McCarthy or Cordova.
WILSON: No. Well, this was of course is secondhand, thirdhand, but it played.
KAIN: Well, yeah. But you didn't buy food or clothing in Cordova or in McCarthy either one? WILSON: No. We didn't get there, you know, to buy it.
HOUSE: McCarthy was just far enough away so that it wasn't handy for us to go. It was just too far.
KAIN: What were the -- I've gotten that impression a lot of times that McCarthy was not a place that(?). WILSON: (inaudible) HOUSE: No, no.
WILSON: We went -- some friends would take us on the Fourth of July. And there would be races for all the kids.
And when we were, oh, 13, 14 we came home with most of the prizes. KAIN: I see.
HOUSE: We were just elated because we really had -- Jane and I, never had any money. But to come home with this money.
Harold Glad, took us to down and he was so pleased. Jane had a dollar more than I did and he said well we can't -- we were walking up the hill and he said, "Well, we can't have that", so he gave me a dollar so we would have the same amount.
WILSON: I can't remember that. HOUSE: Well, I remember -- I was so proud of you and I was pleased to come up with a dollar. And Harold just said, we can't have that and we walked on -- and seven dollars then was a fortune.
KAIN: Yes. So you guys, for the most part, didn't go to Cordova or McCarthy? HOUSE: No. Inger went to McCarthy because her mother was Danish and there were Scandinavians families there. And that was nice.
KAIN: Just one other thing about the housing. I was talking to you earlier, Jane and you said something about the staff -- a staff house which had been torn down. How was that set up? Was it for single employees?
WILSON: For single women like the nurses. There were three nurses for the hospital one at a time and one on duty for eight hours and then the other one and then then another one.
KAIN: Right WILSON: And they would stay there, and the secretary to the superintendent, a women secretary. She would live there and the teachers when they were here, the two teachers. So that would make six women and they had the upper floor.
And that was for the women and then the first floor was for -- well, the first -- where the rooms were, the other floor, was for the men, the lower floor.
And that would be men that worked in the staff house -- in the office that were not married -- like an engineer, a mining engineer or --
KAIN: As opposed to the laborers in the mill that lived in the bunkhouse.
WILSON: Yes. That lived in the bunkhouse. And they lived in the staff house. And so that was very nice for them. And the lower floor was -- had a sitting room sort of and they could -- KAIN: A common area.
WILSON: Yes, a common area and they could meet there and socialize there.
KAIN: Several people have mentioned having met a spouse here or your parents met here or whatever. WILSON and HOUSE: They did. Yes.
KAIN: What happened when two people who had single accommodations, got married and all the houses were full? So then where did these people go? Since there weren't too many.
WILSON: Well there was always a house available -- it seems like. HOUSE: And there was always the annex above the hospital that was a sort of apartment arrangement and they used it mostly for, not really travelling salesmen, but visitors that would come in and stay a week.
The dentist that would come and stay a week and he'd live at the annex or a visiting engineer it there wasn't room in the staff house he would have the annex.
KAIN: I see, and did that -- this also -- the lodge here that was an -- this was an apartment building as well, right?
HOUSE: No, just families lived there. WILSON: Well, just mainly couples, no children. I don't think children ever lived there. Did they? HOUSE: I don't know, unless they were just tiny babies.
KAIN: Yeah, so couples, until they had children that needed space and then it was --
WILSON: And everybody kept an eye on the houses and if they wanted -- this was a holding -- really, more or less a holding spot-then when something came up they moved out.
KAIN: They moved out WILSON: And somebody else moved in here, they would wait their turn'
KAIN: I see. You were talking about the nurses living upstairs. There were three nurses on the staff. And how many doctors?
WILSON: One doctor. KAIN: Just one doctor.
WILSON: And he would every once in a while go up to the mine. Go up in a bucket to them and take care of any little things that might be bothering any of the miners, you see, so they didn't have to come down all the time.
They could keep on (?), if it wasn't that serious, they could keep working and might have questions, you know.
KAIN: He -- he did all kinds of surgery as well?
HOUSE: Yes, everything.
KAIN: So, nobody was shipped out of here for medical treatment for the most part?
WILSON: No, not -- not shipped out, no. They might go out of state, like my mother had to have a goiter operation and she had a cousin in Seattle that was a doctor.
And she couldn't go to the hospital for ten days in those days, you know, two weeks and leave Debbie and me at home.
We were too little then and my dad had to work and he worked six days, sometimes six and a half, Sunday mornings once in a while, it would be his turn to be in office, they took turns.
So, we went out so my grandmother could take care of us.
KAIN: So, if you went out -- if anyone went out for medical treatment, it was by choice.
WILSON: Yes. If mother -- if we'd been older we could've stayed in our home and been fine.
HOUSE: Jane broke her elbow and broke her wrist, being such an active one -- that they did well by her and her arm healed just fine. WILSON: They certainly did.
KAIN: Another thing I found out today that I was surprised at, that there was a quarantine building. HOUSE: The detention center, yes.
KAIN: I didn't -- I wasn't aware of that. And they would quarantine people if they had something so they wouldn't spread it around? WILSON: Well it was during an epidemic, you see and they didn't want it brought in.
KAIN: Now did they do that with -- I've heard mention of flu, did they do it with chicken pox or small pox or -- HOUSE: We never had anything like that.
WILSON: We brought chicken pox in. We didn't even know we were going to have them. Not chicken pox -- mumps. I had the mumps when we came back from down below, from Seattle, and I had it on one side.
I got it on the other side when our son was in kindergarten and I was sick too. It was hard on us. Did we have the chicken pox after we came back?
HOUSE: Let me see. I was -- I thought that we brought the chicken pox back and you got the mumps later. WILSON: I don't know where I got the mumps, maybe that's right then.
HOUSE: The first time we came, when Mother brought us and we were tiny, I was a year and we brought whooping cough.
And then the next time we came back after Mother's goiter operation, we were only out when we were small, we brought the chicken pox because Jane broke out with a spot on her back on the boat.
And the man, whoever Mother talked to, said just keep her clothes on and don't say anything or you will be put off at the next port.
So we made it home. Well, then I got it.
WILSON: Then Mother kept us home and none of the other kids got it. HOUSE: Nobody in camp got it.
WILSON: We didn't spread it. No we didn't spread it at all.
HOUSE: But it shows that we lived a life where we weren't exposed to anything to -- but as soon as we were exposed, we caught it.
KAIN: Yeah, that's what I was wondering -- yeah I'm wondering, you know, things like your chicken pox and mumps, because they are so much worse to get it when you're older, and so I was wondering -- I would think that maybe some of the parents would want to expose their children to you.
WILSON: Well, they didn't know it'd be so much worse when they were older. KAIN: Yeah, back then they didn't know that it was --
WILSON: We got the measles when we were older and I was in college. My last week, oh, and I missed all the tests and Debbie happened to be going that year. I was a sophomore and Debbie was a freshman at the U.
She spent one year there and then she went to Western
and she had to go and tell all my teachers I missed exams that week -- KAIN: And why,
WILSON: And I missed the test, you know. And I -- some of them I didn't need to take but some of them the grade depended upon -- a lot on that test and so I had to take the test in the fall.
HOUSE: Well, then I went up to Western Washington and I got the other kind of measles.
It's just one of those things, wherever we went if there was anything going -- we had it all, but a little late.
KAIN: When you did have to go to the hospital, like you were telling me, you split your head open, now did you -- did your parents have to pay for that or was that included --
WILSON: I don't think they ever had to pay. KAIN: Free medical. WILSON: Yes.
KAIN: Okay. What about injuries, like among the miners, do you remember any --? WILSON: They were taken care of.
KAIN: Did they -- were there a lot of injuries? HOUSE: There were people, it seems to me in the hospital most of the time. WILSON: There was always somebody in there.
HOUSE: And they would come in from McCarthy and people would come in all along the railroad line because the Kennecott hospital was furnished to help everyone.
KAIN: It was the only one in the area? HOUSE: Yes. And I don't know, they might have paid a token.
KAIN: So it served Kennecott and the -- the WILSON and HOUSE: Yes, yes. KAIN: Now, what about Cordova? HOUSE: No, well they probably had their own.
WILSON: The ministers would get free transportation on the railroad so there were services every three months or so. Which was one of the highlights because it was one of the things the train brought in. It was fun.
KAIN: The train -- here we have the train, again being the focal point of the camp. WILSON: Yes. It was the lifeline
KAIN: Your only source of medical help was the hospital. But they had a reasonably -- it was reasonably staffed with people. WILSON: Yes. The hospital. They had a very good doctor.
KAIN: And it served a large area. Okay. What about a dentist? Was there a dentist?
WILSON: Yes. He would come every three months or something and stay for a week or ten days or something.
HOUSE: A week or two weeks.
WILSON: And people that had toothaches or something or had a problem -- they realized they had a problem, would go to the dentist HOUSE: Or if they thought they needed to have a check up.
WILSON: Yeah, just a check, you know. And that dentist office is down under the hospital around near where the private mess for the staff people could have their meals -- they called it the private mess.
And along that line, there was sort of an office -- room and it was equipped with dentist equipment, the chair and all of the things you'd need.
KAIN: And you didn't pay for that either, the company brought him in?
WILSON: I don't know. My dad might have had to pay for when they had some work done, but it wasn't that much, I'm sure. I can't remember if Daddy paid.
KAIN: Right. So, were there any epidemics? You guys had mentioned the flu.
HOUSE: Well, that was at the end of the Second World War they had that terrible -- WILSON: First World war. HOUSE: First World War, yes. They had that terrible flu and that's when they built the detention center.
KAIN: I see. WILSON: Otherwise, we didn't have anything going around in Kennecott. We never talked about it, you know. Inger (Jensen Ricci) had gotten real sick with something. HOUSE: She had pneumonia. WILSON: Was that it?
HOUSE: Yes. She was there in the hospital for quite a while. And then the doctor advised Mrs. Jensen to take her out in the summer to California or some place where it's warm, so she could get lots of sun. KAIN: And build up her health again
WILSON: And I think part of the winter she was there too, to keep her away from the cold weather and she spent, oh, several months. Six months or so and you know --
HOUSE: We were talking -- she was coming in on the train and Jane and I were talking and we thought we weren't gonna ask her what it was like.
If she wanted to talk, we just weren't going to ask. We were going to be real quiet.
WILSON: She didn't want to talk about outside. We kept asking her. She didn't care a thing about outside, she was back. And we wanted to know what it was like, what she had done, where she had gone. She learned to swim, we knew that.
KAIN: But were you only out the one time when your mother went out for the surgery then, and the whole time you were here you only left then?
HOUSE: We left the state and when we were small and WILSON: I don't really remember.
HOUSE: I had got the flu when we were there and mother thought I'd lost my hearing. I can remember being very ill. But I survived it.
KAIN: Now, your father -- you had mentioned that he worked sometimes six and a half days a week, frequently. WILSON: Yes, yes.
KAIN: And probably his only half day he didn't work was when -- riding -- the circuit super came in?
HOUSE: Well, when he wasn't working, he was working in the garden at home in the summer time. We always kept our own garden.
KAIN: So you had your own vegetable garden, as well.
HOUSE: And when we lived. in one of the three houses, we had chickens. He and Mr. Jensen, Inqer's father, built a chicken house over the steam pipe, you know, that kept the cold water from freezing. And they built the chicken house over it to keep -- give the chickens some heat from the hot water in the pipe and so we had fresh eggs. And that was really nice.
KAIN: So he did -- when he wasn't working there, he spent a lot of time doing things at home. WILSON: Around the house and around the yard.
KAIN: What about your mother now, was she just -- was she strictly a housewife?
WILSON: She had to do everything herself, you know. We didn't have a carpet sweeper or anything. She had to sweep the floor, sweep the bathroom, you know, and wash and iron.
KAIN: But she held no other job outside the home. WILSON: No, no. I don't think any of the wives did, no, no.
HOUSE: We were -- I was talking to my children and I -- they were wondering if being -- living here for so much of our lives were we deprived -- did we missed something, were there things that we didn't have that everybody else had and I can't think of any.
And as far as meals and so on are concerned, I think -- when you talk about what Mother did, she -- she varied the meals and the food and she saw to it that we had experience with everything so when we came up with it or went out some place that we would know.
KAIN: What that was. HOUSE: What that was. Yes and what was expected.
WILSON: And we learned to cook. I used to make Spanish cake and Debbie and Mother'd made doughnuts and cinnamon rolls and I would wax the floor or wash the windows, the things I liked doing better.
HOUSE: So it worked out just fine.
KAIN: Do you remember any -- you know, your father coming home with any problems? There was at one point there was a walkout here in the mine. Do you remember any labor problems or complaints? WILSON: I don't remember any. HOUSE: Mother and Daddy never discussed any of that -- KAIN: In front of you. WILSON: No, no. HOUSE: So Jane and I didn't know.
KAIN: Know anything about the workings of the mine or much of anything? HOUSE: Not the problems. WILSON: Not the problems. The good things we heard, if something good happened.
HOUSE: We visited the mines before we left. KAIN: Oh, you did?
HOUSE: Yes. We walked up and went through the tunnels and down the skip and through the stoves, had our lunch down in Bonanza and Jumbo, and Erie, down below.
KAIN: You got over to Erie too? HOUSE: Yes, we got to. Erie too.
KAIN: Now did you -- it was just the two of you or was there a whole group of people?
WILSON: We went with another couple. A couple took us that were our neighbors, Bob and Gertrude Sullivan,
Cause she -- he was important, he was a mine supervisor. And his wife wanted to see the mines and we were neighbors then.
So they took us and Navarre Konnerup, which was Yvonne's older sister and she was going to leave that fall so they took her, too. We didn't leave till the next year.
So, Yvonne went with us.
HOUSE: Our greatest disappointment was that we didn't ride the bucket.
KAIN: I bet. You had to walk up there.
HOUSE: But it really came round in a circle though when we came across the tram, across the river yesterday. (A tram was currently used to cross the Kennecott River to get to McCarthy) That suited me.
KAIN: Yes, after all these years you finally got to ride in a tram, or pretty much of one. HOUSE: Sure.
KAIN: Now you both attended school here. One room schoolhouse? WILSON: Yes.
KAIN: Did you have a number of teachers over time, or was the one -- ?
WILSON: Often it'd be a new teacher every year. They'd go out and just stay for it -- and they'd come and stay for a year and then go. Most of them.
HOUSE: But Miss Clark stayed what, three? WILSON: Did she? I didn't think she stayed.
HOUSE: And she stayed over one summer and didn't even go out which just surprised us -- the children. WILSON: I'd forgotten about that.
HOUSE: And Ruth Danielson, she stayed and married. WILSON: Yes, she was one that stayed, yes. But often they would just come and go.
KAIN: Now, long ago -- you know alot of times a woman could only -- I know my grandmother could only teach when she was single. WILSON: Yes, that was true KAIN: Okay so that happened here, too. When this one teacher married then she didn't teach.
WILSON: But one -- we needed another teacher the second half of the year when I was in the seventh grade -- we were all in one room.
Well, it got to be too much or they had some new children that moved in and it just made too many for her.
So we needed another teacher the last part of the year and Mrs. Olson, (Olaf) Olson's wife, took over for the upper grade children.
So we had her for half a year and her husband worked here. But that was an emergency. It would be hard to get a teacher in the middle of the year and so she took over .
HOUSE: Our mother taught us, so that we could stay an extra year. She taught you -- WILSON: Geometry in my second year.
HOUSE: And when I did my first year of high school here and she taught me Latin and algebra. WILSON: Did she? HOUSE: Yes. But we were fortunate, otherwise, we would have had to leave a year early or maybe even two years early.
KAIN: So did the school basically go up to say, the eighth grade or -- ? WILSON: Yes. And for a while you could get two years of high school and that's what we stuck with.
KAIN: Two years of high school, meaning ninth and tenth, what would be ninth and tenth grade? WILSON: Yes.
KAIN: So you didn't have to leave, most of the time, until after tenth grade, you were about 15 or so?
WILSON: I think families were urged to try to get teachers that would teach that far. HOUSE: But they're not. But they were willing, the ones that came in. WILSON: Especially when Mother could help us. HOUSE: And Mother helped us at home, so in the morning --
KAIN: Now was the teacher employed by Kennecott? WILSON: Absolutely. On the stairway (at Kennecott Glacier Lodge) there's a notice about hiring teachers.
KAIN: Oh, I'll have to read that. So you had the whole gamut of subjects -- were you well prepared -- when you did leave, were you well prepared? I mean, you were worried about being in a new place and getting to class on time. But you were, you had a good enough background to
WILSON: We fit in academically just fine. KAIN: No problem. WILSON: Yeah, our grades were just fine.
KAIN: But I mean, you had -- you had all the variety that you needed to -- WILSON: Yes, yes.
KAIN: Were you -- was it any better than the other kids? HOUSE: Well, it took me -- the adjustment socially took me until I was a senior. And when I was a senior I got all A's. So I made it. But it took me until then.
KAIN: Mainly for the social adjustment though. HOUSE Because I wouldn't ask --
KAIN: But you, as far as preparatory HOUSE: Yes.
KAIN: But you don't know as you were better prepared than the kids that had attended there prior? HOUSE: Better than some and --
WILSON: But we fit right in. As far as English and things like that we could do as well.
KAIN: Now, were you required to go to school here? HOUSE: Yes, everybody had to go.
KAIN: Everybody had to go to school. WILSON and HOUSE: Yes.
KAIN: Were there any, you know, little boys that didn't go to school or skipped school or -- i guess, it would be real hard to skip school here, wouldn't it? HOUSE: Everybody liked it. WILSON: Oh, yes. Kids got along just fine
KAIN: It was part of the social thing, to go to school? HOUSE: Yes. I was talking to Frank Morris today, and he was in lower grades when we were bigger kids, you know, and he said he was afraid of these older girls cause he was afraid they might put him down or tease him or something, so he just kept his P's and Q's.
WILSON: Have you talked to Frank? KAIN: He was here last night and, yes, he had a lot to say last night. WILSON: He's real sweet, HOUSE: He's a good talker WILSON: Yeah, very well educated. KAIN: I think Logan, one of the other historians, is going to interview him. WILSON: Yes, yes
KAIN: What about adult education? Were there any -- there was?
WILSON: The teachers taught the English language and foreign men would come and they'd hold night classes.
The teachers enjoyed it. The men worked so hard and were so appreciative and they learned so quickly.
And then they became American citizens while they were here.
KAIN: Were there a big group of aliens or foreigners?
HOUSE: I think there would be three or four, maybe. And then the next winter -- it would be just during school time and I don't know how many weeks the course was but maybe as long as they needed, or whatever.
And I'm sure the teachers got paid for it but I doubt if -- I'm sure it was offered to the men.
KAIN: Now, did the teacher ever go to the mines and do that same thing? HOUSE: No. KAIN: No, so -- HOUSE: Women weren't allowed to ride the buckets for anything. Very disappointing.
KAIN: Not disappointed anymore are you? HOUSE: No more, not after the other day. No.
KAIN: Well, so she -- so this adult education, like the English language, was that the only one?
WILSON: I think so. That was the only one they wanted. If they maybe needed math help, they could get it. But mostly they wanted the English language so they could become citizens.
KAIN: Foreign people that wanted to become citizens. So, basically that was only really offered to those working in the mill, those living here.
WILSON: Well, the men from the mine would come down, I think.
KAIN: They'd come down at night for --?
WILSON: If the class was offered three nights a week. KAIN: They could do that?
WILSON: And then the men used to come down I think to the movies. HOUSE: Didn't they have movies up at the mine? WILSON: Yes, but I think they could come down whenever they wanted to.
KAIN: If they were off their shift, they could. WILSON: They could come down and I think they'd come down to the store.
All they had to do was get on the buckets to go back. But I think it broke their time off.
KAIN: So they had the opportunity to take advantage of the adult education, as well? WILSON: Yes, and that was a long time ago, that was good.
KAIN: Alot of these we've covered just the discussion and some of these other things. You mentioned having your own chores to do, you all -- everybody pitched in around the house? HOUSE: Yes, we helped. When we got older.
KAIN: Dad helped with the laundry? HOUSE: Yes and stack the wood. And the shopping. WILSON: Yes, we could. And we learned to make our own beds and, you know, and things like that. HOUSE: I think all the children helped.
KAIN: In a place like this I think you would. WILSON: And then we cooked or well, we could do the dishes and things like that.
HOUSE: When we could handle the hot water. My dad was very safety conscious. When you're little you don't mess around with hot water.
KAIN: Or fire and stove. WILSON: Yes. Absolutely.
KAIN: Things that need to be regulated, they took care of that. So basically, from a lot of things that I talked to you about earlier, you guys loved it here. WILSON: You are right. We loved it. I knew at the time, I loved it. HOUSE: The thing is we knew it was but we also knew that there would be a day when we would leave. So we knew we had to enjoy it.
KAIN: Were you sad to leave when you left? HOUSE: Oh, yes. WILSON: It wasn't easy HOUSE: Oh, it was terribly hard to leave Daddy. He went with us to Cordova though. He saw us off on the boat and I can remember how Mother had tears in her eyes. I'd never seen my mother cry, you know, until she waved goodbye to Daddy. She was just that sad. It was sad for Daddy, too.