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North Pole students show mechanical skills at state auto test

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Posted: Saturday, May 5, 2012 11:16 pm

FAIRBANKS — Jerry Million says when he finished auto shop at Lathrop in 1971, he had the skills he needed to start a career as a mechanic. He worked at Tip Top Chevrolet and then went on to run Million Automotive for 25 years.

Million says that others he went to school with met with mechanical success in Fairbanks. He mentioned just a few.

“Tim Davis went to work for Jim Thompson Ford and is still with Seekins as a shop manager. John Dashiel went to work for A & B Auto on Gaffney and is still working. He is the recognized best Mercedes Technician in the state,” Million said.

Tommy Hutchison went to work at Hutchison Service on Gaffney Road.

“There are others, just can’t recall at this moment. The point being, the technology then was such that a young person could go to work out of high school and be fairly competent to work on the vehicles of the day,” he said.

“Now, that has all changed. The technician of today has to have above average academic skills to success. Not that we didn't, but you get the point.”

He said a Chilton or Haynes manual is written at a 10th grade level, but new factory manuals require a substantially higher level of reading comprehension.

“Almost all students need to pursue post-secondary training to acquire the skills to work on today’s transportation,” he said.

Million, now a teacher at North Pole High School, shared this information by way of introducing Anthony Merrill and Andrew Howard, North Pole students who just won the Ford AAA Student Auto Skills Competition in Anchorage.

They earned tools and scholarships worth more than $50,000 by posting the highest team score on the written exam and by diagnosing and repairing a complicated set of intentional malfunctions in a 2012 Fort Fusion SEL.

Merrill and Howard will next test their skills in June against the winning teams from the other states.


GREEN MOVEMENT: The first flush of green on the hillsides is likely any day now.

Fairbanks meteorologist Ted  Fathauer, a dedicated student of the weather, says the temperatures since March and the rising pollen counts point to “Greenup Day” taking place Monday or Tuesday.

Greenup is the day on which the landscape starts to change colors, usually so suddenly that a difference can be noticed within a space of 24 hours or less.

Fathauer says temperature is the most important factor in the exact timing of the release of pollen from aspen, birch, alder, willow, etc. It is also the most important factor in determining when the leaves on the deciduous trees spring forth.

There is a solid record of pollen counts in Fairbanks because of the work of the late Dr. Jim Anderson of the Institute of Arctic Biology and Susan Harry, a lab technologist at the Tanana Valley Clinic.

Fathauer is completing his master’s degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a these on “The Relationship of Pollen Release to Weather in Fairbanks.” He analyzed 23 years of pollen and weather data to determine statistical relationships between weather parameters and pollen release.

He said the time when birch pollen reaches levels of “clinical concern” is when it is about 50 grains of pollen per cubic meter. That is also the time when the birth leaves appear.

On Friday, birch pollen levels were “medium,” at about 16 grains per cubic meter. The pollen counts for alder, willow and aspen were low.

The Tanana Valley Clinic says when pollen levels are medium, “Many individuals sensitive to these pollens and molds will experience problems.”


PARADE PLANNING: The organizers of the Salute to Our Military Parade are asking that all churches sound their bells at

9:55 a.m. next Saturday as part of the kickoff to the event, which is expected to include thousands of military men and women, veterans and civilians.

The parade is to start at Fort Wainwright and end at Pioneer Park with a picnic.

The idea of starting with a ringing of the bells came from a News-Miner reader who suggested it as a tribute to those killed in the wars.

About 4,000 current members of the military are expected to march along the route from the post to Pioneer Park by way of Noble Street and Second Avenue. Many military leaders are expected, along with Alaska’s two U.S. senators, the local legislative delegation, the mayors and others.

Several groups are scheduled to provide music, including the Red Hackle Pipe Band, the 9th Army Band, the Great Land Sounds and others.

The parade also will include military equipment and many veterans from the Fairbanks area. All veterans who wish to take part are urged to be at Lathrop High School by 8:45 a.m. for transportation to Wainwright.

For the public, there are to be shuttle buses from the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds and Lathrop High School that day to downtown.

A reviewing stand is to be set up on Second Avenue and members of the public are encouraged to turn out all along the parade route, which matches that of the Golden Days Parade, and wave signs and flags.

A picnic is to follow at Pioneer Park.

To submit news items to columnist Dermot Cole, write to him at or call 459-7530.

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