Unalaska and Me
years or so ago, Reeve Aleutian Airways flew me and a few others into
A few former passengers walked toward the ocean. I followed them with my trusty brief case, but they too disappeared, some into small boats. There didn't seem to be a boat for me.
I walked the short distance to town and asked for the school.
It was spring and I was in town to help negotiate a contract between the teachers of the Unalaska Education Association and the city school board. The communities along the Aleutian chain were part of my assignment as a staff person for NEA/Alaska, the state’s teachers’ association. Back then, there were six separate school districts along this 1,700-mile string of islands. All together they served about 200 school children.
I had visited several of the communities, but some of my fondest memories come from my visits to Unalaska. Yes, there was trouble in Unalaska, but the mists of time have worn away the details.
was the mist that I remember. Unalaska reminded me of the Misty Isles. On clearer days, the memories are of green,
rugged hills -- like a far northern
town, I was shown the original
Unalaska was purported to be a raucous cannery town. I didn't partake of any “rauc.” Would have been unbecoming to my position as visiting union representative and even more unbecoming to the teachers there whose conduct was scrutinized on a daily and nightly basis.
But I was fascinated with the community. I peeked through the windows of the Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church. It was being refurbished at the time. I would have considered attending services since I was to be there over the weekend, but the teachers told me that was discouraged. These were private people who did not wish to have others experience their worship as a tourist attraction.
remembered that most of the folks in this little church would be Aleut/Russian
people, most of whom would have had relatives whisked off the island after the
attack by the Japanese in 1942 and interred in southeast
My visit to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor is now much like a dream. This is a place to which I would have liked to return – on my own, not as a union representative. I would have brought some sensible, broken-in, walking shoes and roamed the hills and the ghostly remnants of the landscape's past peoples and wars. I would have sought to meet the members of that little church and maybe, if I were patient and respectful, I might have received an invitation to worship with them in their newly restored cathedral.
But too late for that now.
But in my dreams Reeve still flies the misty skies and ever so often lands on that abandoned airfield on the Aleutian chain. I disembark and wind my way through the ghostly streets, down to the channel, where the boatman appears, like on the River Styx, to ferry me across to the other side.
Published in Alaska Women Speak