Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 31, 1910


Mama and Little Kids,

What a place to land. Everything about the upper Lynn Canal is huge! The mountains. The wind. Summer’s heat. The competition!

On that note, my dear ones --- I found a job. 

More accurately, I suppose, I‘ve laced together three tiny positions allowing me to not tap my savings while I look for further prospects.

Here’s my typical day, so far:

6 A.M. 
I roll a cart over to the Fort Exchange. I’m responsible for accepting the bundles of soiled laundry, each itemized and ticketed. I then trundle the load back across the parade ground to the carriage house.  Abe Strider drives a full dray by mule for Haines Transfer Co. He hauls goods back and forth from Ft. Seward to Haines twice daily.

8 A.M.
After dropping the laundry off at the Elite Steam Laundry I roll yet another cart from the Northern Hotel down to the harbor to pick up the catch of the day. Commercial fishermen, Tlingit and white, supply the town of Haines and Ft. Seward with the finest Salmon and Halibut I’ve ever had the pleasure to serve.

11 A.M.
I’m wrapping clean, pressed laundry from the previous day for Abe to pick-up by noon and deliver back to the Fort Exchange.

12 P.M.
We’re now busy sorting for dry and steam cleaning. At this time I attend to any minor mending as well. Three ladies, who've been with H. O. Banta for several years now, are allowing me to apprentice with them, offering a small stipend and scrap fabric. I’ve not yet mentioned to H. O. of the Singer tucked into my half-trunk. I hope to keep my work options open for a bit longer.

4 ~ 10:oo P.M.
My evening position is scullery maid for “O. Miyago, The Restaurant Man.” He offers his kitchen crew sleeping quarters and breakfast.  I’ve my own service cot in a closet, my half-trunk for furniture. Coffee and fresh toast in the morning. 

I make the coffee.  I deliver it to the adjacent Northern Hotel before walking to the fort in the morning  Mornings are quiet. Just water slapping the dock and seagulls making mischief. 

After the walk I receive the cart of laundry from the Exchange and hop a ride back to Haines and start another day

It’s a long day but the days are long here!

I’m eating, exploring, and sleeping with a roof above my head at night. Tell Frank summer weather is certainly lovely enough for sleeping out and that I’ve been invited up the Chilkat River this Saturday. Thrilling! I'll send a full report.

I hope you are keeping body and soul together, Ida May. Your pluck  getting all six kids to adulthood is amazing. And, now you're helping Thursa and Wren with their little ones.

While traveling across the country this year I met so many people who lost their children to disease and economic hardship. 

I’m full of bottomless gratitude to be strong and healthy.

And, to have found home.

May you join me here one day?

Love,

Jesse







Sunday, August 28, 2016

Ft. Wm. H. Seward, Alaska


July 7, 1910


Dear Family of Mine,

I stepped off the Cottage City yesterday afternoon onto a dock so busy with passengers and freight I asked the harbor-master to hold my half-trunk. I'll have a location to haul it to by evening, Mom. I promise.

Let it be known Mother, the lighter carpetbag we made before my departure is indispensable. Everything one needs for comfort while traveling is handily carried. I can't thank you enough. Our ancient rule of thumb, don't accumulate more than can sling from your shoulder or back, is particularly pertinent while traveling in Alaska. 

Alaskans, however, appear to have full access to contemporary marketplace America.  Be it expedition or mining equipment, dry goods, Victor Talking Machines, the finest wines, fruit, meats, vegetables, chandeliers, the latest fashion necessity, all can be had for a price. 

With the trappings of a commercial economy comes all the old social stratification. I'll start my adventure with a sewing kit, new shears and a seam ripper. With that and enthusiasm I should go far. Do I sound like new blood or what?


When I left Calumet, two years ago, I envisioned my time in Alaska working for the U.S. Army at Ft. Wm. H. Seward on famed "Soap Suds Alley". At that time civilians were occasionally hired to operate housekeeping and the laundry service for the officers and their families and for the other enlisted personnel.


The Elite Steam Laundry in Haines, H.O.Banta, proprietor, now holds that contract. Twice a day there is pick-up and delivery to the barracks. Endless pressing and stitching. Bottomless bins of soiled linens.

 While walking through the bustle of Haines today,  I came across additional job possibilities. Both the Northern Hotel and Hotel DeFrance are hiring. I'm writing from the foyer of the Northern. The coffee here is very strong which is good.

I'm going to close for now though, Dear Ones. I'm off to collect that half-trunk of mine. Ready for food! Ready for a room and to call it a day!  

Though there will be no darkness tonight,

There's more discovery in the morning

With love,

Jesse