I've visited numerous Alaskan communities that have zero protection from the winds- no mountains, hills or even trees. Just flatland like an Oklahoma farm. They've built their homes strong and just ride out the weather. Savoonga was an unusual one, located out on St. Lawrence Island, which is located only 80-miles from the Russian coastline. I was out there doing an overnight investigation. Storm arrived right after we arrived. The homes were simple affairs from the outside, either wood or metal, or a mixture of both. Not much to look at really, but you enter their home and you've walked into high tec wonderland. Warm and comfortable, multi- computers, big screen TVs and the newest kitchen appliances. People were generally friendly, but we slept in the town's jail/village police officer's station. They raised reindeer and fished, that was the work there and for some reason they built their town where the winds swept in off the ocean and slammed into their homes. Power outages happened often but the most unusual thing I saw there was down on the beach, where I saw liquid ice-mush, coming in with the waves. Oh, I was awed by all the whale skin boats they were still using, brought up on the snow covered beach to sit beside the newest and latest power boats. Truly a remarkable people. I've told the story often enough about this ancient, not just old, villager who came to visit us and he kept smiling and even laughing at me. He didn't or he refused to speak English, which is not that uncommon among the native elders, but through an interpreter I learned he was inviting me to go out whaling with them. He said that with my size, he could leave me out on an ice flow to attract the whales...I was not impressed, but I thanked him anyway. I no longer use the word Eskimo anymore, not after finding out it meant "Fish Eater', but meant in a way we use honky, nigger or spic. Now I simply use Indian or coastal native. The Indians inhabit central and southeast Alaska, while the coastal natives live...on the coast. Then we have the Aleut, which is a totally different people group who live on the Aleutian Islands. I noticed while working as a cop in Dillingham that the Aleuts and the coastal tribes do not like each other. Anyhow, back in Savoonga, the citizens also hunt walrus and seal out there. Overall it was a grand experience, but only made it out there once. Though I did visit Nome, the point you flew out to the island from, three times for the finish of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. All I can say is that this place party downs during race time. When a dog sled racer enters the town, everyone empties the bars and cafes to come outside and applaud them. They even do this was the last racer. You have to admit, anyone who can finish this 1,000 mile race through some of the most treacherous land Alaska has to throw at them, deserves such praise.
The first year I arrived to work undercover, having learned of a lot of illegal gambling. While there I stumbled upon an illegal ivory smuggling operation and turned my data over to the feds who took another two years to make their arrests. The following two years I identified myself and some of the bartenders recognized me from the previous year. They thought I was just another reporter covering the race, which is what I wanted. During the festival held for the race, Nome hosts a 9-hole golf course out on the ice. They use bright orange balls. Now the ice isn't flat, not with the tidal action they have and chunks of ice shoot 8-10 feet up and those golf balls go everywhere as they bounce off the icy surface. It usually takes 8 hours or more to play the 9-holes. During the race finish the City of Nome also host a 54-56 team basketball tournament and the teams come from all over Alaska and the Lower 48 to play. Michael Jordan played on a team one year and left his jersey behind, which is signed and framed inside one of the bars. Not being a basketball fan I couldn't identify all the pros who came to Nome, but Michael Jordan I did know.
Nome was primarily a white man's town, laid out and built by in a white man's way with their streets and a lot of the homes resemble the ones you see on your own city streets. A lot of churches to combat the number of bars. Now, there are quite a few Alaskan natives who reside there, having moved in from the outer villages, but I saw how the majority of them were treated as second class citizens and this upset me. Nome had a colorful past to be sure. Even Wyatt Earp came to Nome and owned a bar there for awhile. I do recommend you visiting Nome, either at race finish time, or during the summer. But if you visit at race time get your hotel reservations a few months ahead of time and I do not recommend the Nome Nugget Hotel, as I didn't enjoy my stay there. Small rooms for the owner to make the most money in a small building when you think about a hotel, with loud steam pipes running across the ceiling. Not a place to get a lot of sleep. During the race time the downtown area parties from 8 a.m. until 5 a.m., having to close their bars for three hours according to state laws. Some of the people wander over to an open cafe, drink coffee and then return to the bars at 8 a.m. and plop down on their favorite stool. Gambling is a major attraction, with pull-tabs...sort of a small cardboard slot machine, and at the Board of Trade Bar they let their used pull-tabs pile up until the piles are over 5 feet high and covering a good one-fourth of the bar floor. An attraction it seems as people leap into the piles for luck. Board of Trade also hosts the largest bingo operation in town and they provide a very nice dinner buffet each night for the players. Inspecting bingo operations and reviewing their books was part of my job, which caused me to remember my arithmetic from school. Thankfully, I had an accountant back in Juneau to review my work. For some reason I always made him laugh as he reviewed my work. In Alaska, back when I retired in 1994, Alaska was doing over $250 million in legal gaming and we were sitting at about 780,000 citizens. we're still at less than a million state citizens and that's just fine with me. Moose Pass reports 280 people, but I see very few of them. We have one bar and two churches, with great people and a nice quiet place, except for the Seward Highway that runs right through it.
Yes, working for the state was a great experience and I was able to visit a lot of Alaska communities. The only part I ever complained about was having to shove my extra-large frame into those small puddle-jumper airplanes. I simply didn't fit, but this was the only way to reach a lot of the places I needed to go. Once a year I would do a summer road inspection, hitting all the communities for a quick eyeballing their gambling operations. I'd start at Fairbanks, head for Anchorage ( I left the Kenai Peninsula alone for the Anchorage investigator to handle), from Anchorage I'd drive to Valdez, then north to Tok and the Alaskan/Canadian border and back to Fairbanks. I tried to hit over 200 locations in about 24 hours, never stopping to sleep and then take 3-days off to recoup. I do believe I hit every bar and bingo operation (that was open) during that annual trip. My boss in Juneau loved getting my pile of reports for those organizations I found in violation. Then when I came back to work I began typing out my violation notices, which could take another two-days. The nice thing about working in Fairbanks was the close relationship I had with the Fairbanks Police Department. They treated me well, like I was one of their officers. I had my own police radio and call sign, or if I needed immediate help, some information or wanted to monitor their operations. Quite a few times I was able to work with Investigator Gary Wing of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and he was one of the best investigators I ever knew. A former Tuscon Police Officer he really knew his job. A few times were able to assist the Fairbanks Police when help was needed and one summer we assisted them by running surveillance for them most of the summer. One operation concerned staying in a Motel 8 and filming the back parking lot of Denny's Restaurant, where a gang of U.S. Army personnel were getting into serious trouble with a local gang. One night an automatic weapon came into play and two vehicles were shot up, but no one was hurt. Our reports were used to have this military gang broken up and the members scattered to different military bases. Another time we ran surveillance from two different hotels, keeping an eye on the downtown of Fairbanks. I don't remember how many hours of tape we recorded of drunks, prostitutes and drug buys going down. Didn't see my family a lot that summer because I still had to do my normal work for the state. But, my darling wife was great about it. Gary and I busted a few illegal party houses and one warehouse used for an after-hour operation. I still remember the "unkind" words a prostitute had for me when we busted the place. So much for old stories. Yes, I do add them to my book series, "The Badge and the Cross", loosely based on my 5 jobs as a cop in Alaska.
NEWS REport: Here are some headlines you might want to check out, or not: "Poland refuses to participate in this last sumit, due to Israeli PM comments about Polish cooperation with Nazi Germany during Holocaust." - Report that 39,000 homeless people now living on the street of Los Angeles County- Germany rejects America's demand that Europe pull-out of Iran nuclear deal.- Germany reports only 35% of the migrants now living three have found work since 2015.- Palestinians say Israel, "Playing with fire", by closing down Jerusalem's Temple Mount Gate- European Union presented with "first-ever" action plan to combat anti semitism.- Students at Oxford want to ban sales of Kosher meats- "Chinese and Iranian hackers renew cyber attacks on U.S. companies , including Boeing and T-Mobile; along with multiple U.S. government agencies.- New York City plans to ban "Hairstyle" discrimination.- Brooklyn synagogue vandalized as hate crimes persist.- As Venezuela spirals downward South America struggles to absorb its migrants and refugees.- U.S. investments in China increases by 124.6% despite trade war."
Book Report: I am currently working on "A Political Action", my final editing before moving it along to a real editor. This is the next book in the "Badge and the Cross" series. "Rookie" should be out soon, having been edited by Susan and in the hands of the publisher, who also has my "Arizona Rangers-Indian Wars". Mona has agreed to edit the proof for "Homeland Security". When the proof copy was sent to me by the publisher, I found numerous errors I hadn't caught. So my beautiful wife agreed to give it a good going over and she really is. She has had some great ideas for changes in the story to make it a "better read". Oddly enough, I have found numerous errors in books written by my favorite authors and they have editing staff members who get paid for their work. Susan and Mona do it out of love. Not sure I can get my wife to do another one though.
Its daylight now, skies are clear. Time for me to get back to my writing- on Chapter Twelve, which is titled "Ambush" and the book involves French-Canadian terrorists carrying out an operation in Alaska. They kidnap the Alaska Governor and Canadian Prime Minister off the Alaska Railroad, who are holding a brief summit meeting to discuss fishing industry concerns off the Alaskan and British Columbia's coastlines.
Hope you all have a wonderful day and thank you for listening to an old dude reminisce his more active times. May the Lord bless you this day and the days to follow. BILL