browsing the Internet, I ran across this column
from the SITNEWS website
seemed like an appropriate addition to this Alaskan
cruise web page.
thanks to the author, June Allen, who gave me
permission to reprint portions of her column here.
I've inserted some of our "tourist pictures" from
the day our ship was docked at Ketchikan.
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SAY THE FUNNIEST THINGS!
and make life a little
By June Allen
1908 tourists' silly comments may have centered
on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife's sign posted
at the shallow tidal mouth of Ketchikan Creek,
which warned against trying to catch fish with
bare hands. (Someone must have tried!)
90 years later, tourists were still baffled by
the creek's fish. Not too long ago, one woman
was leaning over the railing of the Stedman Street
bridge and watching the swaying pinks as they
waited for higher water for their upstream run.
She was shaping little bread balls from a slice
she'd coaxed from June's Café and dropping them
into the water for the fish. At the tour guide's
explanation that the fish were heading upstream
to spawn and die, she cried in a New York accent,
"That's inhuman! You should put them in tank trucks
and take them to some nice lake where they could
swim and grow old."
looking for salmon heading up Ketchikan Creek.
Ketchikan Creek where the salmon spawn
then "inhumanely" die.
salmon in upper Ketchikan Creek.
were also remarks about the transparent white
jellyfish that pulsate as they swim in the tidal
water by the bridge. "Used condoms," a man muttered
under his breath to his wife, as he shooed their
boys down the sidewalk (apparently disregarding
the variety of improbable sizes.) At the bubbles
that pop on the surface of the water there, a
woman said, "Oh, look, the fish are burping little
(actually photographed in Skagway harbor)
the docks, any dock, the questions are never-ending
and very often center on the mysteries of elevation
and tides. It could be that the visitors are just
being polite and feel obligated to ask something?
There are those visitors who think the Narrows
is a river and want to know its name. Also, there's
the common question "What's the elevation here?"
of the folks think that because they sailed so
far north, like, uphill? that they are therefore
higher. Look at a world globe; it
makes a weird kind of sense. But one of the best
comments was from a gentleman, who, when he was
told he was at sea level, said, "Oh. I thought
we were higher because the clouds are so low!"
clouds over high-elevation Ketchikan, early in
the tides are by far the most baffling of Ketchikan's
phenomena to tourists. One visitor, who arrived
at low tide via a lighter from a ship anchored
in the harbor, paused on his way up the Ryus float
ramp to look at the piling crusted with marine
life. He pointed his pipe at the piling and said,
"Hmmm. It looks as though the water level must
have been higher at some time in your town's history."
No one had the heart to say that, yeah, it was,
six hours ago!
then there was the woman who refused to reboard
her ship because she had arrived at low tide and
was ready to leave at a much higher tide, and
she refused to believe the ship was "her boat!"
Another woman in the same boat, so to speak, remarked
to a friend, "Well, will you look at that! We
got off one floor and now we're getting back on
in the basement!"
quite high tide at the Creek Street buildings.
tourists are so eager and happy to be in Alaska
that it's hard to do anything but smile at them,
even when it's late in the season. One visitor
had been an Israeli pilot who had flown F-15's
(I think they're called) in the Gulf War. The
young man stood on the bull rail in front of the
Visitors Bureau and watched in awe as float planes
took off and landed on the Narrows. He simply
couldn't take his eyes off them, even when his
family members tried to coax him away!
plane taking off in the Narrows,
near an anchored cruise ship.
are quite a few questions and comments that could
be filed under Miscellaneous.
very British ship's officer once asked, "I say,
are your hemlocks the same as used by Socrates
to commit suicide?" Well, no. Ours are trees,
his was a deadly herb. But it makes you wonder
why the names are identical.
better is the eager tourist who disembarked and
cried out, "Which way to the Tongass Forest!"
maybe the best of the miscellaneous favorites
is the time a tourist asked what those white things
out on the water might be. Told that they were
whitecaps, she asked, "Are they edible?"
late Owen "Ownie" Hamilton swore that he was once
asked, "How long have you been an Indian?" Ownie
was a Haida gentleman, and he explained carefully
and patiently a little Native Alaskan history.
And there was the time a lady phoning in on a
segment of KTKN's First City Forum said that when
she answered a tourist's question and said she
was an Indian, she was asked, "Are you sure?"
original word for Ketchikan.
comments are not limited to cruise ship passengers,
although their very numbers make them the largest
contributors. I'm sure even the airlines hear
some good ones.
state ferry workers certainly do. One of their
favorites happened either very early or quite
late in the visitor season, whichever. Anyway,
there happened to be a rather gorgeous display
of the Northern Lights visible one evening and
the announcement was made over the loudspeaker
from the bridge. Passengers dropped everything
and hurried to several vantage points to see the
display. Except one man. He was eating in relaxed
comfort and finished his meal. He noticed the
other passengers returning to their earlier occupations
and he finished his cup of coffee. Then
probably with hands in pockets and with a toothpick
between his lips he strolled to the purser's
desk and asked, "What time is the next showing
of the Northern Lights?"
there was the obliging ship's officer who informed
a curious passenger en route that Ketchikan is
on Revillagigedo Island. At Wrangell, in answer
to the passenger's question he said that Wrangell
was on Wrangell island. Later, he mentioned that
Petersburg is on Mitkof Island. And even later
he informed him that Sitka is on Baranof Island.
Upon arrival at Juneau, he announced that Juneau
is the capital of Alaska. What island is it
on, he was asked. "Well," the officer replied,
tongue in cheek, "the same one that Seattle is
course, shopping is one of the biggie pastimes
of Ketchikan's hordes of visitors. Surely tourists
must say funny things while engaged in commerce?
One curious tourist question was, "How do you
folks celebrate Christmas?" In one of the historically
compatible shops on the old spruce mill dock,
a visitor is said to have asked, no kidding, "Who
designed and placed your island?" Even that can
be topped! A tour guide at Waterfall Resort on
the west coast of Prince of Wales Island, which
is about as close to authentic nature as you can
get, had taken a visitor out some miles from the
resort to fish. The gentleman looked around at
one of Alaska's many sights of untouched Eden
and said, "It is so beautiful around here!
Who does the landscaping?"
late Joe Ambrose, who worked at the Legislative
Information Office .......used to go outside
periodically to smoke. He loved to answer tourists'
questions. One day a little lady came up to him
and asked him a tourist-type question that he
couldn't answer. She apparently thought she was
at a tourist information office. Joe pointed out
where the visitor information office is and then
explained patiently that this was a legislative
information office for the State of Alaska.
The lady argued that Alaska was not a state! Joe
replied that indeed it was and had been since
1959. She pursed her mouth in a smug little smile
and announced, "If Alaska had become a state,
I would have heard about it!"
ship looming over downtown Ketchikan.
from the sublime to the more pedestrian, a prime
subject for tourist comments is and always will
be our tunnel! We're used to it and know why it's
there. But looked at from a visitor's perspective,
it is a curious sight. Well, there's a
road around it. And houses on top
of it that are obviously older than the tunnel.
Curiously, tourists don't ask about that.
couple, standing near the mouth of the tunnel
at the corner at Front and Grant, posed this question
to a helpful local, "We see that your tunnel is
one-way. If we walk through it to the other side,
can we get back again?"
the final tourist funny and a personal favorite
concerns two older women sitting in the Sourdough
Bar to have a glass of white wine after a tiring
stroll through Ketchikan's neighborhoods. One
of the women had lived here back in the '30s and
40s when she was a girl. She was so excited to
see her old hometown after so many years and to
visit places that still looked the same as they
had when she was a child! As she sipped her wine,
she talked about what a wonderful place Ketchikan
was and that in many ways it hadn't changed all
that much. Then she added, "Of course, the tunnel
wasn't there then." Her companion then asked her,
"Oh? Where was the tunnel back then?"