Jul 10, 2014


On and off for about six years of my young life, I lived in a logging camp near the Southeast village of Hoonah. This would've been in 1984, some of 1986 and 1987-1990. I've only been back to visit one time since I moved away in May of 1990.
My sister-in-law was in Hoonah for work recently and texted me some pictures. It brought back quite a few memories....
This building is currently the Misty Bay Lodge. But back in the day it was Northern Harbor Light's Store. I worked here for two years while I was in high school as a stocker, cashier and janitor. I'd work 5 1/2 hours after school each day and then 8 hours a day on the weekends. So I was getting close to 40 hours a week. I don't think they let teens work those kinds of hours during the school year anymore...
On freight weeks, I'd work even more. About once a month the barge would come in from Seattle with groceries for the store. It seems like it would always come in the middle of the night and then it would be a mad dash to get the trailers unloaded and back on the barge before it left. Unloading the freight was a frenzied chaos, but it was a ton of fun.

This is Mary's Restaurant. Back in the day it was Mary's Cafe. It seems like it also had another name for awhile... I can't quite remember it even though it's on the tip of my tongue. Maybe it was the Tlingit word for shark...
Anyway, I remember my eight grade year, me & Chad Stavely would go here after school and get a large order of fries and split it. We'd usually wind up fighting about who got more.
Half the time we'd forget to pay when we left. The beauty of a small town is that they would hold the check until we came in next time.
When the State of Alaska finally got around to paving and widening the roads in Hoonah, the cafe was too close to the road. So they built more pilings behind it and slid the whole thing back. It was pretty impressive to watch.
While we lived in Hoonah we attended the Assembly of God church there. When we first started going, the church met in a large room in the parsonage. Later we rented the catholic church. We'd have our service from 8:30 to 10:00 and then clear out so the Catholics could meet at 10:30. John & Joyce Moropoulos were the pastors at that time, before they went to Greece as missionaries.
Getting our own building was a priority, and towards the end of my time there, the church was able to build a beautiful facility.
This wall panel is being carved for a traditional Tlingit tribal house that is going to be built at Glacier Bay, the original home of the Huna people. Gordon Greenwald is one of the artist working on this piece. He was my favorite teacher and taught a Northwest Native Art class. I still have a canoe paddle and bentwood box that I made in his class.
Speaking of school.... I walked up those steps every school day for 3 1/2 years. At the time, I hated living in Hoonah. No movie theater, no fast food, no shopping, nothing. It seemed like prison. But looking back, the school provided a great education.
The cop shop. I've been in there before... Not for anything nefarious though. Obviously there was no DMV for getting your driver's license. So you could go to the police station and take a written test. This would get you an "off system" license that could be used for driving in rural Alaska. I don't think they do that sort of thing anymore.
I'm pretty sure this picture was taken at Gartina Creek. I remember John Elkins and I fishing for chum salmon on this creek. Towards the end of the salmon run, the banks of this creek was covered in dead and rotting salmon. The stench was almost unbearable. Long before the Lion King, I learned that the circle of life doesn't end well.
As I mentioned, I didn't actually live in Hoonah. We lived at the Whitestone Logging camp about 7 miles from Hoonah. Whitestone Logging started out as Tyler Brothers Logging. They had been around for a long time and some people in camp had been working for them for over 20 years. We came up from Oregon in 1981, when the camp was at St. John's Harbor on Zarembo Island. From there the camp moved to Cape Pole for a short time and then to Hoonah in 1984. Originally the camp was going to be at Whitestone Harbor, hence the name.
Anyone that spent time in camp should recognize this picture. It was the mail slots at the commissary. Everyone in camp had the same mailing address. The mail was picked up in town each day and brought out and sorted into each family's box. In those pre-internet days, the mail was one of our few connections to the "real world" or as we called it: "down south."
It's well past it's glory days, but this was the extent of our shopping options in camp. The commissary. Here's where the loggers could buy work clothes, toiletries and other supplies. And for us kids, it's where we could buy CANDY!! My favorite was the bucket of red licorice where you could buy it for 5 cents a stick.
I don't think the white self thing in the middle of the picture was there in my day. But I'm pretty sure the other shelves and counters are exactly the ones that use to hold the yummy goodness.
I remember there was a side door that was hardly ever used that had a padlock on it. At one point one of  the older kids in camp managed to cut the lock off and put on his own padlock. No one noticed for a long time since the door wasn't used. He'd go in at night and steal candy and tobacco. He was smart enough to not take too much at one time and arouse suspicion.
This building was the main office. My mom worked in the office most of the time that we lived in camp. It was made up of modular trailers. Everything in the camp was set up to be portable and easily moved. Obviously the building has been long neglected and is rough shape. But what seems weirdest to me is there isn't a grey Chevy six-pack pickup in front. That was the boss's truck and was usually parked in front.
 This building was the cook house. The logging camp had trailer houses for the "home guards". These were the employees who's family lived in camp. And then there where bunkhouses for the guys who were single, or whose family's still lived down south. The cookhouse was for the bunkhouse guys. They ate breakfast and dinner here. At breakfast there was a spike table set out with all the fixin's for lunch. Being home guard, I never got to eat in the cookhouse, but I was always told the cooks did an amazing job.
I'm pretty sure this is a section of bunkhouse. They were usually made up of Atco trailers connected by walkways. Two guys would share one room. There was about 250 people that lived in camp at one point. It was one of the larger logging camps in Alaska.
Because of the amount of snow we would get, the bunkhouses and trailers would often have a sloped metal roof built over them; allowing the snow to slide off. I remember one year a bunkhouse guy left his pick up parked under the edge of one of the roofs while he went home for the winter. All the snow sliding off the roof and piling up on the truck cause the leaf springs to snap.
It looks like there is still at least one trailer left in camp. And it looks like the brush has grown up quite a bit. The camp was one giant gravel pad with rows of trailers. So there was no playing in the lawn for me when I was growing up. It was all rock. So we'd head out to play in the woods. A group of us spent two summers chopping down smaller trees and building log cabins. Well, they weren't really cabins. We never figured out how to do doors or roofs. So the "cabins" where just four log walls. We'd dig out a hole under the wall to crawl in and out of . Or climb up and over the wall. But it kept us busy and out of trouble. Mostly...
This was the view of the small bay out in front of camp. Living there, I never appreciated how amazing the place I lived was. We could fish in the bays for salmon and halibut, we could fish in the creeks for salmon, we could hunt deer. We had amazing sights and scenery all around us.

Just as I was getting ready to wrap up this post, my sister-in-law sent me another batch of photos. Those will have to wait for another time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories. We actually moved to Hoonah in June of 1983. We always worried if it was best to raise you boys in such remote areas, but I think the unique life experiences has been a plus for you guys.