Another Great Adventure With Dad - Alaska

Dad Loved To Travel; Mom, Not So Much


Dad loved to travel! Mom also liked to travel as long as it was in a car, train, bus or anything else that stayed on the ground! When we had a reason to go to Alaska, driving was out of the question and no trains or busses went from LA to Anchorage!  Or reason, to visit Uncle Chuck Lewis, Mom's brother who was stationed in Alaska courtesy of the United States Army.  We had to fly so it was just Dad and I on this jaunt!

Uncle Chuck was stationed at Fort Richardson which occupies a 25,000 acre area located within the municipality of Anchorage in south-central Alaska. The installation is bounded by the city of Anchorage and Elmendorf Air Force Base to the west and by Eagle Bay and the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet to the north. It is within easy access of downtown Anchorage

Fort Richardson was built during 1940-1941 on the site of what is now Elmendorf Air Force Base. Established as the headquarters of the United States Army Alaska, (USARAK) in 1947, the post moved to its present location five miles north of Anchorage in 1950. The post then had barracks for 500 Soldiers, a rifle range, a few warehouses, a hospital and bachelor officer quarters.

Fort Richardson
Grey in winter and bright in summer... I'll take summer

Uneventful Was Not The Description Of The Flight Up To Alaska

We left LAX on a DC-6 and flew with two stops to Seattle.  The DC-6 was Ok but kind of a clunker.  We stayed there overnight in Seattle and then made our way to the airport the next morning to catch a brand new Lockheed Super Constellation belonging to Northwest Orient Airlines. What a magnificent flying machine.  It looked wicked with the three tail configuration and smooth dynamic looks!

Design on the Constellation began in 1939 to meet a TWA request for a 40-seat, four engined airliner of particular performance specifications. It resulted in an airliner which was pressurized and air conditioned, and which introduced a power boosted flying control system. Production began in 1940 to meet orders from TWA and Pan American, but the orders were relinquished and the USAAF was to take on the first aircraft. Production was delayed when the US entered the War, and it was the end of 1942 when the first camouflaged prototype of the C-49 was completed.

Super Constellation taking off
This was an amazing machine and was flown around the worl on many airlines

It first flew on January 9, 1943. The USAAF ordered 180 aircraft, but by the end of World War 2 only 15 had been delivered. In the postwar boom, over 100 were ordered by various airlines. The civilian version of the C-69, the L049, first flew on August 25, 1945.

In late 1946, the L649 Constellation II, with improved performance and the option of u 'Speedpak' cargo pannier below the fuselage, appeared. It was followed in 1947 by the long-range L749.

On October 13, 1950, the first L1049 Super Constellation took to the air. Its most noticeable features were the addition of 18 ft. 5 ins / 5.62 m. to its fuselage length and its enlarged tail surfaces.

With the arrival of the Boeing 707 jet airliner, the Super Constellations were reduced to secondary roles, mainly for charter or freight carriage and  were finally withdrawn in May 1963.

Back to the story...  We get on the plane and off we go in luxury.  About 5 hours into the flight we hear a lot of yelling from passengers on the right side of the aircraft and we see bright flashes on right the wing.  An engine was on fire and some of the gasoline was spilling onto the wing causing flames even though we were traveling at 350 miles an hour!.  There were some bumps and strange noises but the fire went out as the Captain was able to use the automatic fire suppression system.  We were almost half-way to Alaska out over the ocean with three engines and a load of nervous people!

The pilot announced what had happened and his decision to return to Seattle which we did, safely I might add.

That evening we were put up in a downtown hotel and were assigned the twelfth floor.  I could not sleep the entire night as I was afraid of being that high up in a building!  Dad was ready to shoot me as I wanted to sleep in the lobby but what do you want from a ten year old?

Next morning, we are off again but when we got onto the new Super Connie, there were only five passengers; Dad, me and three Japanese business men.  The others took another flight out to Tokyo the previous morning. That was quite a flight; more food that we could ever use and our own personal stewardesses!

Fifty Five Olds And Power Windows

Uncle Chuck has a new Oldsmobile which was great except that when it was cold in the morning, the power windows would NOT work!  They apparently froze up solid and the electric motors could not overcome the freeze.  After 30 minutes or so with the heater on, they would begin to move.

1957 Oldsmobile
1957 Oldsmobile didn't like Alaska a alot!

Fishing With Big Firecrackers

Before the environmentalists go nuts and the PETA folks self destruct, I was only ten years old when this occurred.

In examining my memories, I believe I participated in "M80 Fishing". Dad and I flew to Alaska in 1957 to visit an uncle who was stationed in Anchorage.  He was a Captain in the US Army at that time and flew small airplanes and helicopters.   During the visit, we decided to go fishing and the Oldsmobile was loaded up and off we went.  We probably drove 50 miles which in those days was really out into the wilds.

Stopping at a lake that was so pristine it looked as if nobody has ever seen it before, we unloaded our gear and walked toward a small dock complete with a boat.  The boat was courtesy of Uncle Sam. After fishing for an hour and not catching anything, my rather impatient uncle reached into his duffle bag and pulled out a small device with a fuse.  Dad asked him was he was doing, and he said something like "Going Fishing!".

He lit the device, probably an M80 on the early 1950s, and tossed it about 20 feet away.  It appears to  have sank and then a few second later, "BOOM! SPLASH", water jumped out the lake.  Seconds later we have several large fish.  The uncle said  "They must not have been hungry".

In retrospect and at a ripe old age, I know this was not a good thing to do but it was interesting at the time.  But not something I would support.  No rod, no reel, no bait!  Match, firecracker, and a net.

We cooked the fish right there on the banks and it was good eating.  I could not tell they were caught by explosion rather than a hook.

Steam Heat

When we visited the Army base, we saw many pipe lines going from the steam generators to the housing and other buildings. The base was all supplied from a central steam plant. Radiating from the steam plant was underground pipes carrying the steam and when the snow hit the ground (and it was light snow), it would rapidly melt so you see where the pipes were buried. Strange looking situation.

Tide Is A Rising

This tide is rising and you must move fast!!!  We all went out for a walk on the bay and Uncle Chuck told us of may people who dove their cars out into the ground around the water and found the car submerged an hour later because the tides are almost 40 feet!  We watched the tides come in one afternoon and you had to walk pretty fast to keep from getting wet as it rose 40 feet in six hours or 80 inches an hour!

Tide charts
You have to be careful as the tide can come in very fast and swamp your car