No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.
There’s a whole lot of places in
Alaska Airlines overflew
Soon the pilot pointed toward the water and announced over the engine’s roar that we were about to land. My heart gurgled deep in my chest as we dropped toward earth, smacked the water, and plowed through the waves, splashing sheets of water up and over the windows. I thought for sure we had become a submarine. But no, the sounds of the engine died down, the water calmed and there we were puttering up to the dock like a huge, happy duck.
“Quack,” I managed to whisper to myself, and climbed out of the plane.
Later I learned that I had been riding in a Grumman Goose, an amphibious commuter plane. Throughout World War II, the Coast Guard and other air forces used them as a troop transports. In Metlakatla, this particular Goose was on the ground but somewhere in mid-air it had turned itself into a boat with wings.
I always liked
My father had been stationed in
The National Education Association was very dedicated to, ah, education. Each year, a flier arrived outlining the staff training programs available in negotiations, grievance processing and arbitration, crisis management, and so forth. Over time, I took advantage of just about every program offered and my job description and my involvement in the world around me began to expand.
No longer just a purveyor of press releases and in-house newsletters, I now researched and wrote negotiations proposals and occasionally served as negotiations spokesperson or as a member of a mediation panel. I flew to the defense of teachers throughout my section of the state when they found themselves in trouble with community or school board.
We flew, that is, when airlines and floatplanes were available. Sometimes it wasn’t that simple.
instance, there was no road to
In the 1970s, virtually the entire
town – people, governmental services, the movies, everything – was housed in
one, stand-alone high rise building left over from the military. Most of the town’s less than two hundred
permanent residents still reside in
I remember flying out to
I had met with the teachers and
heard their concerns. While they were
busy teaching, I was left on my own. I
really wanted to take the opportunity to see some of the area and the
superintendent of schools offered to drive me to the nearby villages of
Napakiak and Napaskiak. I climbed into
his truck and off we went – past an old, crumbling general store perched at the
edge of the
Up and over the riverbank we went – and down onto the ice. Thump. Vehicle tracks criss-crossed the wide, flat expanse of white. We turned right, drove down river, and bounced up and over the embankment to visit each community. In the winter, when the river ice thickened, transportation between villages was thus greatly enhanced. In the summer, such travel required a boat or a strong pair of legs.
The Adak Naval Station was a remote and barren outpost in the middle of the Aleutian
Chain, about 1,200 miles from
Back in gloriously metropolitan
On the ground, a good part of my job
was to encourage the
In 1970, I was a Republican precinct committeewoman. By 1971, I was an active member of the Democratic Women’s Club and the Bartlett Democratic Club. My perspective on life was changing fast. Political converts are a lot like religious converts – a bit fanatical. By 1972, I was a member of the Southcentral Democratic Committee, and chair of the Southcentral Democrats by 1975. Later, I was elected chair of the Alaska Democratic Party.
My parents had generally voted
Republican and discussed their reasons in my presence for selecting one candidate
over another, but they had certainly not been activists. Bob Anderson majored in political science in
college and was the step-son of a well-known Republican congressman from
With this history, I knew I was in a strange place when I first showed up to work for the teachers’ association. I recognized right off that neither my parents nor my young husband would approve of work stoppages, or grape boycotts, or half of the positions these folks had on the issues of the day. But I was willing to listen and to read. I was a long way away from home and conversion came easily. The new life and new politics were not so easy on my family or my marriage.
It was all very “heady” and would have been difficult to resist, even if I had considered resistance as an option. Senators and congressmen stopped by the office just to chat, hoping to wrangle an association endorsement. I was impressed and felt part of something that could really make an impact.
Our little organization took on United States President Richard Nixon, for instance, and won! Nixon had imposed a wage-price freeze in the middle of our contract negotiations, so our Anchorage-based attorney John Strachan sued the federal government. When the decision came down in our favor, I was hooked.
I felt like a member of the Dirty Half-Dozen, riding off to defend “the widows and children” against the Forces of Evil. It was scary, this taking responsibility for other people’s life and career. But the tight, cold ball in the gut was relieved often enough by a burst of euphoria and joyful abandonment when – We Won!
In 1975, a youngish, unknown
candidate for President of the
I was later asked to manage the
Carter Campaign in
An organizer’s job is to put the client, in this case the teacher, in the spotlight – and scurry back into the shadows herself. I was pretty good at getting teachers elected and selected to political posts, and even better at getting our positions including in party platforms. My downfall was that I just couldn’t stay in the shadows and my public presence – especially when I was elected state party chair -- was an irritant to a number of association leaders, most but not all, being Republicans. They questioned if what I was doing was legal, and if not, they’d like to see me hang.
The union conducted two rather extensive hearings concerning my political involvement. Fortunately, I had been careful to use my personal vacation for political activities, and had a pretty good paper trail indicating that what I was doing fell within legal guidelines and had been fully authorized by my supervisor, Bob Van Houte.
Some Old Owl once said, “If you ain’t got someone mad at you, you ain’t doing nothin’”, and followed up with, “You can judge the quality of a person by the quality of his or her enemies.”
During this period, some very quality people didn’t like me very much.
I was twice exonerated of any wrong doing, but still was pleased to step back from the fray after the 1982 elections and focus on other aspects of my existence.
Divorced in 1972, I had spent the
next five years single, for the most part working side by side with Chuck
O’Connell, the new deputy executive secretary for the NEA/Alaska Anchorage
office. Chuck and I eventually decided
that we possessed complimentary workaholic personalities and, in keeping with
our travel schedules, had exchanged wedding vows on