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FC: Stories from our Family's Past

2: As she cooked her sourdoughs, Mae told me how her father (Bill Hansen) taught her all about cooking. He never spanked a kid, but if they messed up, they "got a talking to" which was worse than any spanking could have been, Mae said. He's talk about what was right and what was wrong. Bill didn't speak English well, even by the time she had been in school 4 or 5 years. They had to teach the kids to speak English when they started school. they spoke a mix of German and Danish. I guess the family had "its own language." so by the time Mae was 9-10, she'd do a bit of translating for him. She said Bill was responsible for the mail when it came in at Katalla, so she'd go with him. She's always be there beside him or behind him, she said, ready to translate when he'd try to talk to the person delivering the mail. | This is a story her father told Mae about his bachelor days in early Katalla: It was the Fourth of Jully in Katalla. it was still a bustling tow then. He had a partner, Nels, and they were having whiskey at one of the saloons - 5 cents a shot - and get to talking about a rank they could do. Bill wasn't serious, just talking. They said what if they set off some dynamite to celebrate the Fourth. Well, Nelson left Bill there at the bar drinking, and at about 8 a.m. the next morning, all of a sudden all the windows blew out! Bill though he must have had enough celebrating and he better go to bed, as he was starting to "see things." In the old days,saloons usually had hotels in the upstairs where single men often lived. Bill went upstairs to his room to sleep off his "celebrating." Next morning he found out that all the windows in town had been blown out, except for the building where the Fourth of July dance was being held. It was always so hot when they had dances, they would removed the windows before the dance, so theirs didn't get blown out. Of course, Bill knew then what had happened and who did it. Apparently, his partner thought the dynamite idea was a pretty good one! Bill never said a word, never told anyone. | Mae remembers her father... | Mae was he father's right hand. Here she is with him, her mother and siblings next to them.

3: Wiley Post in Alaska | There are two stories about Wiley Post and Harold Gillam when they landed on the beach in Katalla. It was on this stop when Bill Hansen cooked Wiley Post his well-known sourdoughs. Mae was about 14 years old. Wiley Post, Joe Crosson, and Harold Gillam were on their way to Yakataga to go bear hunting. they were in Katalla, waiting for weather to clear up. Wiley was taking a nap in the lobby of the post office. Eddie, Mae's brother, had a much-treasured dollar. he said he would give it to her if she would sneak in while Wiley was asleep and peak up under this eye patch. She sneaked in, tip-toeing up close. Suddenly he snorted in his sleep and she jumped and ran back out. Eddie prodded her on - she couldn't have the dollar unless he lifted that patch. so she sneaked in once again and reached over, lifted the patch and looked under it. What she saw so unnerved her, she turned and went flying out of there. She never did collect her dollar. | Dora, one of the children who moved to Juneau with their mother when her parents separated, tells this story: I remember seeing Wiley Post. I was in Juneau when he landed and my step-dad took me and brother, Billy, and Gertrude to see him land. I remember because I had to go to the bathroom and my step-dad couldn't find it. And anyway, he didn't want to lose his good place right down in front. He kept saying to shut up and quit bothering him, that the plane would land any minute. So I peed' in my boot. When they landed, Wiley Post went to get out of the plane and he ripped his ants. They went "rip!" and he said "oops! I ripped my pants!" He was sort of outspoken - had a reputation for it. When I was on the way home, my step-dad asked what that squishing noise was. I said "What noise? I don't hear anything." I rinsed my boots out and hung them to dry and no on ever knew. | Wiley Post was a famed American aviator, the first pilot to fly solo around the world, known for high altitude flying and contributing to the development of the first pressure suits. On August 13, 1935, Post and American humorist Will Rogers were killed when Post’s aircraft crashed on takeoff from a lagoon near Point Barrow in Alaska.

4: From “Eyak Echo” newsletter Cordova, Alaska August 2003 The boys Bud Janson grew up with were all about two years older than he, so he figured they would get drafted to go fight in World War II and he would stay behind. “I’m going to be the only one left, “Janson would tell his friends. “I’ll be out there on the Flats, gill netting all by myself, and you guys will be in the Army.” It didn't work out that way. “I was the first one to be drafted,” Janson remembers. He got his notice in March, along with instructions not to bother bringing extra clothing as he wouldn't need it once he was in uniform. Unfortunately, the way it worked out, some time would pass before he was actually inducted and given a uniform. Janson was first shipped out of Cordova to Whittier, where the weather was cold and he did not have warm clothing necessary to deal with it. After four days, he was sent to Fort Richarson in anchorage, where he would have to wait for a full week before being sworn in and issued clothing. “It was pretty darned cold.” He recalls. “It got down to 25 and 30 below. They had six of us in a Quonset hut and we had a hard time keeping a fire going. There was ice on the walls. We kept envying soldiers that were already sworn in because they were walking around with their parkas and snow boots on and we didn't have anything. Our mess hall was about two miles away, and we had to run two miles in the morning to go down to eat and get back.” Finally, Janson was sworn in and issued clothing. After doing his 13 weeks of basic training, he was assigned to the 714th Railway Battalion, formed to run the Alaska Railroad. “I told them I had quite a lot of experience with carpentry work,” Janson relates, “I knew that if I did that, I could get on the bridge gang, which was a pretty good outfit to be in.” the other option would be to become a “gandy dancer.” These poor fellow had the job of “tamping ties, which is the lowest place on the scale.” | Bud (Axel Janson) was the only brother of my step-father, Dick Janson Jr. He was married to my real father's sister, Stella Hansen. Wayne fished with him in Cordova for years.

5: Bud, cont. Janson then went to work repairing bridges in the Matanuska Valley. “We had our own dining cars and we had a pretty lenient Sergeant. We'd get out at eight or nine in the morning and then work until 4:30 or 5:00 and then quit. The fellows that were in the section gang, they were down below us and lived in a little tiny Quonset hut. They'd go out at 6:00 o'clock in the morning and come back at eight or nine at night.” Even though the bridge gangs hours were shorter, there was still much work to do. “We had a lot of bridges to repair. We were driving piling, putting in new ties and realigning the railroad and absolutely repairing bridges where it was needed.” Come his first winter in the field, Janson was transferred to Nenana, where he was supposed to help put in a structure to accommodate river boats, but “it was so cold we couldn't even find the pilings, we couldn't even get down there to break up the ice.” Instead, Janson found himself staying in the railroad barracks firing a big, steam power house boiler that pumped water for the trains and river boats. “I had to run that boiler all night. I had to shovel in a couple ton of coal. I didn't know anything about firing a boiler, so the first couple of days I was throwing coal as fast as I could in there. Finally, this one civilian showed me how to bank the fires and run the pumps. It was an easy job for the winter, because it was 40, 50 below outside, and 40, 50 above inside.” In time, many of those that worked on the railroad as part of the 714the Railway Battalion were sent into combat in Europe. “Most of them were annihilated.A lot of them were killed over there.” Even as plans were being finalized to send those that had stayed in Alaska with Janson to Japan, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. “It was pretty hard to believe that they had something like that. We knew then that it was just going to be a short time before the war was over.” When it was, Janson was given the option to re-enlist for three years as a tech Sergeant, but chose civilian life. Not long afterward, he ran into a friend of his who had fought as a flame thrower in the Pacific. “His face was pretty well burnt, and his hair was burnt off yet. | This photo of Bud was taken as he waited for his plane at the small municipal airport in Cordova, on his way to be inducted into the Army. Below, his mother after he departed, sitting on the beach with Helen Grindle.

6: Fred Lange in the Army Eyak Echo, August 2003 Fred Lange was born on Prince William Sound’s Peak Island in 1917. His father was a miner and died from consumption, leaving his mother unable to provide for their children. So, at the age of eight, Fred was sent to the Jesse Lee Mission Home in Seward, where he would stay for nine years. Lange’s memories of his time at the school, established to care for Native children who had fallen on hard times, are not fond. “It was tough. In fact, there's a lot of it that was good for you, I guess, discipline and stuff, but there's a lot of hard work. But you got schooling and had lots of discipline, leather straps, whatever.” The work included logging, clearing land, milking cows, slopping hogs, hauling rocks, building rock walls, plowing, harvesting potatoes and vegetables and bailing hay, hauling coal and working with a pick and shovel. Older bullies made his life miserable, beating him “to a pulp” more times than he wants to remember. For recreation there was basketball, but that was not his game. Among the older boys at the school was Benny Benson, designer of the Alaska Flag, and Lange remembers that he was nice and not a bully. In 1939, Lange worked for a time on a boat out of Homer equipped not with nets but two movie projectors and six movies. He traveled to different villages in the area, showing movies at each stop. He was working as a bar tender in Kodiak when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Not long after that, a lady friend who worked for the draft board let him know that he should not check his mail unless he was ready to be drafted. So, before making his next visit to the post office, Lange enlisted in an Air Corps program and because of his experience as a fisherman was put in a boat program and ultimately found himself on a 104-footer, the P-216, plying the Aleutians. One day, as they were looking for downed allied aircraft, the ship made a short stop at an Aleutian outpost, where steam could be seen rising from a nearby volcano there. | Fred was married to my (Anne's) Aunt Mae Hansen. Mae was Stella and my dad Roy's sister, born in Katalla. Mae, like Fred, had a white father and native mother. I believe Fred's mother was either Aleut or Chugach native. Fred and Mae's daughters are Karla and Sylvia.

7: Fred Lange, Cont. Four men were stationed at the outpost, and Lange got in a good visit with them. Shortly after the P-216 left the island and moved on, the volcano blew, killing the four men. In another incident, a Japanese submarine surfaced near Lange’s hip, but did not attack them. When American and Canadian forces invaded Attu, Lange’s ship was positioned off the island to serve as a floating hospital. There was a doctor, a medic and no nurses and the wounded soldiers were brought on board in greater numbers than they could cope with. The doctor had to decide who had a chance at life and who did not and after examining one wounded man, declared that the soldier had no hope and so ordered him thrown overboard to make room for others who did. “So we just took him up the elevator and just tossed him over, and when he was going over he was calling ‘mama, mama, mama!’ and then you let go, go about your business. You're men you know, you can't cry or sob or holler and things. We were 25 years old or something. We went through a lot of tough things.” Lange also had the job of going onto the island to help gather up the wounded. On one such mission, he found the diary of a dead Japanese soldier who had blown himself up with a grenade. The Captain of the ship knew how to read Japanese, and so Lange was able to learn a few things about his dead enemy. As it turned the man was a doctor, assigned to the Japanese hospital on Attu. Rather than be captured or killed by the Americans, many Japanese on Attu committed mass suicide. Before taking his own life, the doctor had killed many of his helpless patients, rather than let them fall into American hands. Yet, Lange also learned something very surprising about the man. “He had gone to Stanford University for his medical degree and he had been in the United States for quite some time. And that's what surprised me one of the reasons they killed them was because (they believed) Americans were monsters and they would really torture these poor guys if they took them captive. He'd been trained in America, in Stanford University. Went through college there. And he was writing like that, and then he had pictures of his wife and his family in Japan.” After the war, Fred settled down in Cordova with his wife, Mae, and began to raise a family as he made a living in the fishing industry.

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Anne Darrow
  • By: Anne D.
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