*Age 7 – 5-3-1959 Letter – Classic Homesteading Stress


I will have pictures to add here of the Jamesway going up shortly.  This letter gives a clear picture of the stress the early homesteading years gave my parents.


May 3, 1959

Dear Mom,

Little did I know – or little did we dream –

Friday nite I had a plastics [Tupperware] party and so we brought both cars into town for first time!  Lucky we did!

What a time we had getting out of there – we had to trudge about ½ mile to jeep.  I was still weak and wobbly but carried a large suit case, Bill carried 2 boxes of plastics and each child had a load.

Finally we got there – you can imagine how early we’d all had to get up to do this.

Then on way out we met Thomas in tractor coming in to work on the road for the day.  He said Pollard was stuck in a mud hole down by Barbees and he’d be on down to pull him out.

Well we got stuck in one too – this side of Pollard’s jeep.  Thomas got us out and then Pollard – later and later.

Finally we got out.  I was surprised to see how much snow had melted since I’d been sick.

Bill insisted we change cars and as I say it was a lucky move indeed.  He went on in with John and Linda to get to work and them to school.

I stopped by to pay Mrs. Bockstahler for some jelly I’d gotten for Mrs. Cox in town – an old customer.

She had been sick too with the flu.  They’re so nice!  I really like them.  We had coffee and went on.

I never stop to visit anyone – never time and really while we’re having such a struggle I don’t feel like seeing anyone!

It’s a terrible feeling of ‘aloneness’ doing all this.

Anyways in to town.  I had a full day planned and then we’d stay overnite and return Saturday.

I had 5 pick-ups of plastics at Post Office to get (and $$ pick up) then deliveries on way home Saturday and wash to do – always an enormous wash at least 7 loads at 75 cents a load.  But at least there’s a nice new Washeteria in town, T.V. to watch while waiting and all.

Well with jeep – with a hundred dollar repair bill under her belt – road along just fine until we came near Mt. View – then it felt as if the motor fell out.  Oh no!  No – not again.  It was unbelievable.  We’ve already poured more $ into her then the Monster – these Damn 4 wheel drives, of course after THAT ROAD I don’t blame her!

I pulled off into a drive in in Mt. View – or rather coasted in.  She wouldn’t even turn over.  I went over to a garage across the street – at least she picked a handy place to break down!

He thought she was just hot.

So we waited all morning sitting tired and all in that dirty jeep in that dirty garage.  At 12:00 noon she decided to start up.  The garage only charged 3.00 and we were off to find a motel and wash up.

I had seen a sign “Chittys’ but another 2nd rate Motel.  I stopped and got 2 rooms and bath and kitchenette for the mere sum of 14.00 again. – and believe me not nearly as nice as Clark’s or any of those which were only 10.00.  Oh well, the nice fancy ones here and there are only two are so D – expensive and won’t take children any how!  So – – –

I called Bill and told him where we were and gave both girls baths – oh how quickly I get to baths every chance I get – shampooed hair and then did myself.

By that time I was tired and woozy too.  Remember the pain you lived with?  Well, I live on codeine too and when it wears off – oh such pain.  Not only in my ear thought – by now the left side of my face was affected too – and Mom my neck.  It felt as if all the puss had gone through that area.  Worst of all is I can’t hear at all in that ear and I have a continual ringing sound and sound like the ocean in a sea shell.  It’s terrible oh, how grateful I’ll be if I ever get over all this.

You’re so right that health is most important of all!

Then I took enormous box of clothes to wash – but car sounded odd – I had to go to post office to get a letter with 7 cents due on.  Was hoping it was that letter you mentioned seeing on lawyer’s desk but it was the clippings from you.  I loved them but was so anxious to hear from him.  (Even John enjoyed the clippings!)

Anyways the jeep got worse and worse driving it down town and I wondered if I’d ever get back.  It was more than over-heated after all.  People stared, covered their ears but I had to drive it back to Washeteria.  It sounded terrible!  Bill met me there at 5:00 and was so upset when he heard jeep.  He knew motor had gone.  Oh Mother, Mother we’ve had so much and we try so hard and May 7th is this week.

We’re having beautiful warm spring weather finally and last 2 week-ends a complete loss.  Last week-end because I was sick and now this.  Poor Bill!

I had a party Friday nite – and by then was so tired I could have died!!  It was a flop I think and I couldn’t have cared less.  My mind is not on plastics and I was sick!  Got home at 11:00 – and to bed.  Too tired to worry or care.  Should we give it all up and return to California?

Outside the Motel were cars from every where.  Every body coming up now to Alaska and here we are so close to our goal and yet really so far!

You and you alone can only know how we feel!  We hardly speak to each other, each of us alone so saddened and heart broken and me so sick.  Bill’s teeth hurt and dentist says 600 – there’s no end!

How can we pretend happiness we each are worried and unhappy and I can’t pretend to you!

Saturday morning Bill took it to garage and heard the worse.  Bearings gone, heaven knows what else?  150.00 and can’t get it out until Tuesday.  We couldn’t make a decision right off so pleaded for some time.

Still $ to get and packages at post office – and listen to women complaining about their plastic problems.  It was 1:00 before we got them delivered and decision had to be reached.

Bill is dying to buy a new jeep but would need 800.00 and Ford as down payment – total price close to 4,000.  I say NO we can’t – and even house $ mustn’t go there if we get it.  [from sale of California house]

Can’t even sell jeep station wagon in shape it’s in and have only made one payment due to all this.

Must stay in town 14.00 per nite as no way to return and if we had sold Ford when we tried then what?  Bill couldn’t get to work or children to school!  Nice, nice old Ford!!

Oh Mom – well we talked and decided had to be fixed up!  We have to get in and out and it’s our only hope!

Bill decided he would not waste this week-end even if I had to.  So late yesterday I drove him to end of road.  He planned to walk to trailer through that damn mud – and then today go up and get that damn Jamesway up.  In order to accomplish this he’d have to haul manually one large part of hut up one mile – B & J Surplus had left that part out mistakenly so he had just gotten it!

How’s he making out?  He had a cold too!  Poor darling Bill – we’re both so upset and yet determined.  We both agree if this fails we’ll no longer want Alaska.  It will all be spoiled!

He plans to return Tuesday morning – to sleep in hut Monday nite (oh, no gun – darling Bill – I wish we’d never thought of homesteading but we did!)  He’ll return here Tuesday morning and go to land office and set up residency for Monday.

Then we’ll all move up there or return by jeep.

How will we pay for Motel, Jeep payment and Jeep breaking down – remains to be seen!  Plus Doctor!

Oh, Mother, will it ever end.  14.00 a nite, Fri., Sat., Sun., and Mon., — 4 nites.

Tuesday nite I have a party – damn plastics.  I must give it up!!  It’s tiring me and wearing us all out.  I must stay at homestead and make a home and care for my family.  They need that especially now!

If we get up there I’ll sell out and can get $ back on my kit.

Oh Mom, if only you could come up – maybe I could return for a visit with you?  I need you so!  Well, we’ll see.

Will he make it?  So close – where has the time gone to?  I wonder are we meant not to go there – or are we being continually tested!

Pollards have troubles – he has gall stones and pain and an old jeep and she doesn’t know who will care for children this summer.  I’d love the $ but 6 is too many and I couldn’t get them!

Oh Mom, if we get up there – it was to be a surprise we’ll give you several acres for as long as you live and build you a one room log house – to be yours for summers.

Why don’t you plan to come to live with us when your time with house is up for awhile until you decide what you want to do?  You’re so welcome but dear Mother no home for you to come to and none for my dear family either.

I feel so lost!!

If only my head would clear up and I could hear again – then off gladly I would go to the mountain top not to come down all summer!

I go to doctor Tuesday and hope he can relieve me of this pressure.

My strength has returned day by day and this pain is almost gone – thank God!  So it must be getting better but I feel as if I had ten heads – at least!!

The woman here at the Motel said to get Absorbine Junior – it had always helped her family so I got some and will try anything.

She said they came to Alaska 18 years ago – still bought this land for 150.00 an acre then.  Now has Motel only for sale for 75,000 – will keep her house and apartment house she has next to it.

Oh, there’s room for more good motels here – like Clarks – for families.  The linen here is clean – very – but the stove and all and cracked dishes and I had to take plastic cloth out of my kit I couldn’t stand the torn old one on her table and 14.00 a nite.

Poor kids haven’t any toys or anything.

Luckily I’d tucked a few color books and crayons in and they’re happy with paper and pencils now.  John and Linda love to read and help me by reading aloud to others too BUT still all that time HERE.  Such a waste!!  John is now drawing a picture and girls just came in.  It’s 7:30 P.M. and still light outside – summer is coming!

There’s a swing and slide set outside so they’ve been playing on that!  It helps some!

We’re so low on $ and had just stocked up on groceries at home.  Golly what luck!  We’re not eating out and I can’t get an appetite here.  So far dry cereal, bananas, potato chips, and beans, hamburg, tomato and lettuce and sausages have done well.

I miss Bill and yet I’m unafraid – remember what a scaredy cat I used to be?  No longer!!  I never even think about it – well, hardly!

End of another day – time to get supper.  It’s 8:00 P.M. but children (except for John) had naps.

It’s been a beautiful week-end.  Hardly a trace of snow left.  I wonder if it’s finally gone from homestead too!

People in town and on Government Hill all have spring fever.  I never knew there were so many convertibles in town – all now with tops down!  Everyone has B.B.Q.s out and picnic supplies ready – why even hoses are being used on lawns and they emerge green and bright!  Isn’t it amazing!

The children brought me a bouquet of dandelions today!!

I ache to be on our place planting and fixing –potted flowers and seeds etc. are in all stores!  And here I sit in a D—Motel!

The IRONY of it all!

Well, for kids’ sake I’ll close and get them – ugh – some supper!  Hamburg on buns.

Wish you were here – on 2nd thought I wouldn’t wish you here now for anything – what a mess!!

Maybe someday it will all seem funny.  Will write you Tuesday!  Love, Me.

[Linda note:  We had left the apartment we had lived in Anchorage — they must have been driving us back and forth so that we could complete the school year from the homestead.  I have no memory of the Ford.]


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