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Mutual respect between strangers in early Alaska/Canada and


Mission, TX
I started this as a PM to a friend but it ended up as something I thought others might enjoy sharing so added to it and now, lets give it a try. Remember, this is only my memorys of what the situations were but all able to be confirmed by others.

In the good old days of Alaska and I am sure it was the same by our good neighbor, Canada (boy, as of today, I am glad it is not France again since the people of French are spitting on Anderson as he is racing for his 6th win), when everyone left their doors unlocked because someone might need to get inside. Remote cabins were left stocked with canned food, fuel for a fire and of course bedding just in case someone needed help. Needless to say, the door was never locked but remember, bears in the bush had not learned how to turn the door knob yet. Ah, progress now days even in the wild kingdom. It was the unwritten law that if a person used any item from a remote cabin, they were to replace it, either in person or by notifying the owner which was a must either way. It was not about the dollar amount, just the knowledge something was used. If they just left money or didn't on a table in the cabin, a phone call or letter to the owner let them know to restock on their next trip in was a must. In all of my some 30 years in Alaska, I never heard of anyone that didn't abide by those rules of the bush. I often wondered what would have happened had this not been understood in the old days and actually what is going on now days. I understand the old day respect is long gone.

Now days, parents do not train their children to respect others like they should. The parents blame the situations on the lack of what the teachers do not teach in school (remember the three Rs?). Bull. It starts at home before the child is even one year old.

Off the soap box Ernie.....and get back to the story...after all Ernie, some might be interested to hear the rest of the story.

An example of old unwritten rules:
When the Alaska Highway through Canada was opened up to the public in the late 40s, it was no super highway of course and almost all gravel and at times, ruts two foot deep from big rigs being pulled through by D-8 Cats. Everyone helped each other always. I have driven that highway 13 times between Anchorage and Omaha, Nebraska, the first time in 1954 which took ten days, the last in 1986 which took 4 days and all times of the year. One trip was from Anchorage to Seattle in 3 days and I met my estimate 15 minutes early. That trip started out as a take off to Gumball Rally with a co-worker in Anchorage in a 1974 Datsun 260 1/2 which was a 260 with a 280 engine. At times over 130 mph to keep on schedule. Did I say it was on the ground? The road from Dawson Creek to Vancouver has some rather interesting roads.

In the early 50s, a couple, from Florida I believe, headed south and did not stop and help someone that had broken down. They were able to find lodging that night and to eat but by the next morning, the word had spread down the highway. Someone must have found the fastest means of communication there is in the world and all men know what that is: tell-a-woman (sorry ladies, just had to get that one in). No one would sell them gas, rooms were always full and the kitchen was always out of food. They had one hell of a time getting out of Canada but pleaded lack of knowledge about local rules so they finally got gas along the Alaska Highway thanks to some very understanding Canadians. It was suspected by those along the Alaska Highway at that time, the couple from FL might not have been able to understand what respect of rules were and what help thy neighbor meant. Interesting part is, it seems they still haven't learned. Try to drive a motor home into FL. I refused to take a load of any kind into FL with my big rig because of how residents treated drivers, big rigs or motor homes. I do not mean any disrespect to any individual in Florida but more like to all. I do not discriminate. If a person is driving a motor home into FL to visit a friend, they have to take it out of state to park it. FL laws does not allow parking of motor homes on a visit.
The unwritten law in the Arctic is help your neighbor when in need and if you don't, it will bite you down the road somewhere when you least expect it. In all of my time driving through Canada and working in Whitehorse where we had an operation and in sales for our airline, I found you could never find a better relationship with local people than in Canada, especially in remote areas or in Vancouver if you were partying and with no disrespect to Canucks, Canadians really know how to party. We all should take lessons from our Canuck friends.
For those drivers thinking about flying to Alaska, you will be error in not going through Canada along the highway unless you are on floats. Water gets kind of scarce between Dawson Creek and Alaska.

At times, I have often boarded passengers in need because of an emergency of some kind and they could not afford to purchase a ticket to travel. My agents never had the authority thought. Of course I didn't tell my company (was I running my own airline as accused of doing)? And it was illegal of course but the need was there. Once the word got out on the QT in the areas I was assigned to, our airline never had a problem getting something locally anytime we needed it immediately. That is just part of living in the bush and respecting others. Our entire airline was built on that principle thanks to the great Wien family. My competitor at Prudhoe Bay in a way was an oil company with a leased 727 from my competing airline and they lost their APU on a turnaround. The head guy for that oil company was a friend of mine so of course I offered anything we, as an airline could do, to help him. I opened my terminal to his passengers while waiting. He turned down the offer but still, I asked to have transfer pressure hoses put on our next flight so we could do an aircraft to aircraft start. From that point on, I witnessed something that had never been done before. A ground start from oil field powder tanks from one company, huge air compressor pumps with pop off valves deactivated all working together to get enough volume at 7 PSI to fire that 727 up. All it takes to crank a P&W engine on a 737 or 727 is 7 PSI. It didn't work the first time but on by his second order, it did work. To my knowledge and what my friends from Boeing told me later, it was impossible. Never tell an Alaskan it can't be done. That oil company manager really enjoyed some Royal Salute Scotch that I poured him that night. Long story about that gentleman and what he meant to the building of the Prudhoe Bay and surrounding oil fields. Maybe someday, some stories for those interested.
When assigned to our operation at Galena when the flood waters of the Yukon River were ready to come over the dike around the Galena AFB because of an eighteen mile ice jam (oh, what a story that is), I called in a 737 at maybe 3 am to evac the town and US mail on hand and it was there in an hour and forty five minutes. I didn't charge anyone of course and when it came time for the paperwork, the entire flight was billed to my personal company account and I was responsible to collect passenger fare from everyone with a threat from one bean counter that I would have to pay for the balance since I called for the aircraft. I started with the government who paid probably 3/4 of the costs and a few rather well off passengers paid something. For the rest I never even contacted. When it got down to the end, I talked to the owner of the airline and told him what I had done, why and what I had been told. Needless to say, I didn't pay anything, the airline owner thanked me for taking care of his extended family and the bean counter that made the threat went looking for a new job. I was so stupid I forgot to save myself a seat on that last flight (I boarded more passengers than seats) and probably didn't actually know the exact gross weight of the aircraft was on departure as expressed to the Captain but ended up riding, with the approval of the base commander, an Air Force C-130 as it took off with a flat tire which rolled off on landing at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage. Interesting in a way because sitting just in front of me was a rather obvious safe with 3 very, very well armed MPs very close to it. I was told never to look at it. Having been assigned to an Honest John Rocket outfit in Korea and responsible for many of rather "unusual" material, I knew pretty well what was on board. It was always interesting to watch a scramble out of Galena in F-4s. There were, as I recall, 4 hangers each one housing two aircraft. When one pair of aircraft was set out, all I had to do was look at what was hanging under the wing and I already knew how long the after burners would stay lit. On a practice operation, the burners went off within seconds but on the real thing, they were out of site and still burning. The base commander showed me some photos that made sense. It is unbelievable what the time element is when I heard the alert going off on the other side of the runway and the F-4s were wheels up. Now days, they were slow compared to what we have now. Kind of like the difference between a Super Cub and a Lear Jet. It was always interesting when my wife and I could spend time with the Air Force drivers in the officer's club.