Since time immemorial—well, since 1867 anyway—Alaskans have boasted that their home is bigger than Texas. It was a feather our neighbors in the Lower 48 did not like having plucked from their Stetsons. Texans did live under six flags while Alaskans flew but four. That, of course, presumes that our indigenous forebears did not raise national banners. Neither the Aztecs nor the Alaska Natives were asked permission for the invading foreigners to cross their borders, but that’s not part of this discussion.
Even with the highest veteran population (per capita) in the country, Alaska was the last state in the union to have a museum dedicated to honoring veterans and Alaska's contributions to military history. It was only through ten years of blood, sweat, and many tears of passionate volunteers that the Alaska Veterans Museum opened its doors on April 17th, 2011. Still operating as a 100% volunteer organization, their mission is simple; honor Alaska’s veterans' by recording and sharing their stories; educate visitors about Alaska’s military history through exhibits and displays; and inspire our community to support our Active Duty, Guard and Reserve, and our veterans.
From June 3 to 7, 1942, Japanese forces attacked Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, bombing Dutch Harbor on the island of Unalaska and invading the islands of Attu and Kiska. Attu’s radio operator, Charles Foster Jones, died during the invasion and his wife Etta, the island’s schoolteacher, taken prisoner. The Aleut (Unangan) residents of Attu were taken to Japan for the duration of the war. Of the 40 captives, 16 (40%) died from disease and starvation.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal to create a military museum is potentially a good idea. Several museums now in place attest to the widespread interest in preserving the history of the military’s vital part in developing and protecting this American spot at the “Top of the World.” How to go about creating a major museum, however, is yet to be determined. Whether and in what manner the existing museums will be included is of concern to these all-volunteer organizations.
Recently, this space had a column on Geritt “Heinie” Snider, an old-timer and former legislator who homesteaded at Lake Lucille. The Hollander who became an Alaska State Senator had the opportunity to actually know some of the sourdoughs this writer can only read about. Coming to Alaska in 1910, he caught the tail-end of the Klondike heyday. He crossed the border and did some mining before migrating to the Matanuska Valley.
A park on the shores of Lake Lucille in Wasilla is named for Gerrit “Heinie” Snider, a well-known pioneer from the Matanuska Valley. His nickname was given due to the Dutchman’s accent. A miner, railroad section foreman, author, iceman, community benefactor, mink rancher, newspaper columnist and politician, Snider published his “100 Stories of Alaska” for the 1967 Purchase Centennial. The foreword to the book was written by U.S. Sen. E. L. “Bob Bartlett who wrote, “I know of no teller of tales, tall or otherwise, better equipped to relate Centennial stories about Alaska and Alaskans.”
Passage by Congress of the Second Organic Act on Aug. 24, 1912, changed Alaska from a District to a Territory, giving it the ability to elect a legislature. Voters did just that in November, sending 24 residents to Juneau, which had been designated as the capital. The session started March 3. Legislators’ remuneration: $15 per day with 15 cents reimbursement for travel mileage.
March 27, 1964, was Good Friday, the day commemorating the Last Supper on the evening of Christ’s betrayal. At 5:36 p.m. Anchorage children were watching Fireball XL5 on KENI-TV Channel 2. Dinners were being prepared in homes all across Alaska. It was a fairly warm day, only four or five inches of snow on the ground. Roads were clear and trees were bare, their buds not yet starting to show and the sap still dormant under the bark. Not many of today’s residents remember that day. Those who were here will never forget it. This writer was one who experienced the second-worst earthquake ever recorded, the worst ever on the North American continent.
According to historians, Julius Caesar was named Rome’s Dictator for Life. Opponents, though, saw to it that he held the title for less than a year. In the halls of the Roman Senate, several of the elite lawmakers—including his longtime friend Decimus Junius Brutus—sprang upon him and stabbed him to death. According to legend, a seer much earlier had warned him to “Beware the Ides of March.” Just what are the Ides of which Caesar should have been wary?