During the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in the 1970s, Fairbanks and Alaska in general were booming. People from all over traveled here in hopes search of opportunity and quick money. The following puckish article was written to educate outsiders on what it would take to come up here and work.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Feb. 16, 1976
The fortune-tellers have informed us after months of prognostication, consideration and luck guesswork, that our population will be swelled by hundreds of thousands of poor huddled masses in the next five years.
Since others can benefit from our experience, I suggest we compile a list of facts they should know before coming up here to start a new life.
BEFORE LEAVING DUBUQUE, be sure to pack several steelmade shirts. Steelmade shirts (available at $50 each) are made of aluminum alloy shot through with stainless steel threads (will not rust when washed) for adequate protection. Against mosquitoes, that is. Last year’s tourists found copper screening to be inadequate, as the steel was needed for the extra strengthy when strafing runs occur during the early weeks of summer.
The shirts are needed only during the first weeks of July, however, as that is the only time the temperature rises above zero. Long about August 1, the mercury takes its welcome plunge to 40 below as we begin to get out gentle autumn zephyrs, and the mosquitoes get tired of fighting the grizzly bears, and hibernate. Then we begin to wear our winter gear.
IF YOU NEED WINTER GEAR, don’t worry about it. You see, there is a trading post in Anchorage, and another one in Fairbanks, where you can buy such necessities as 34 pairs of long underwear (28.95 per pair on special next month), several pairs of mukluks, a couple of parkas (parkas are only $1,000 each, which is just barely a week’s wages on the pipeline) and other things such as cans of beans, racks of dry fish for your dog teams, and kerosene for your lamps.
Be sure to do your shopping early, however, as it sells out pretty fast after the annual boat arrives. Don’t wait until there is ice on the river.
OF COURSE, Alaska has come a long way since the early days. Anchorage, our largest city, is booming, and is talking ‘bout starting ANOTHER trading post. Rumor has hit that it will even stock some perishable items during the summer thaw, but you know how rumors go.
If you’re not much for cooking, you can eat in either of the two trading posts. In the Anchorage one, for example, a meal of ground grizzly bear with a side of skunk cabbage is only $25 (not including tip). Of course, that’s the summer menu. The winter menu depends largely on what the proprietor, Larry Lalluge, can find to kill in the fall. Prices are slightly higher here in Fairbanks.
WE’RE SURE YOU’VE HEARD of our fabled hunting and fishing here in Alaska, and all the stories you’ve heard are true. Why, just last week a record-class grizzly was taken by petite Mrs. Leroy Padue (formerly of Houston, Texas) in her kitchen in Anchorage. Her husband (who was away at the time, working on the pipeline) was pleased at the news. He said he’d gladly replace the two butcher knives she’d worn out in killing the animal.
And it is this true pioneering spirit we like to see come up here from our neighboring states to the south. Oh sure, there are a few unpleasantnesses in life here that we like to refer to as our “adversities,” but those happen mostly in the Bush, and at the fever-ridden pipeline camps when the dog team supply trains don’t get in on time. Here in our cities, everything is just fine.
Yes, Alaska is a marvelous land of big wages, fresh air, cool temperatures and abundant wildlife. We’re sure you’re going to like it, but suggest you check with your doctor before you leave.
Now for you Alaskan reader, here are two instructions. First, buy four copies of this paper, clip out this column, and send it to friends Outside who have written you asking about the permafrost.
SECOND, SNIP OFF these last two paragraphs before you send it.
Note: We don’t know how many of these notices were clipped and sent, but we do know that the great migration of workers to Alaska continued after the notice was published. Many of those “Pipeliners” stayed on here in Fairbanks, and a whole bunch of them even stayed long enough to become members of the Pioneers of Alaska.
This satirical History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Fairbanks Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska, who would like to remind you that History Nuggets are posted every Monday to our website at pioneersofalaskafairbanks.org.