Part Two

 

ALPHONSE KEMMERICH’S REMARKS
ABOUT YES BAY, ALASKA

 

 

 

“Spring came within a month and with it lots of mosquitoes and other flying insects which kept you on your guard at all times!  But we thoroughly liked the outdoor type of activity up there and here again, one of the principle activities was not operating the salmon culture part of the station, but rather getting enough fuel laid in from one season to another to operate during the long winter seasons.  The area was heavily forested so fortunately there was no big problem of supply.  However, transportation was something else.  We had to build what we called “tram roads” into the wooded area and this wood, of course, was all cut by hand since in those days we didn’t have power saws, as they do today.  The wood was cut into 32-inch lengths, split, and then hauled by tram car to an immense woodshed which held about 200 cords of wood.  You had to cut your wood a year ahead because the drying season took so long to get the wood into usable condition.

 

The reason for the huge amount of wood was that the hatchery building itself was heated by a steam boiler, fired by wood.  All of the houses, (foreman’s house, superintendent’s house, the cookhouse, commissary, two bunkhouses, two carpenters’ shops and fish culturist’s house)--nine or ten buildings in all--were heated with wood.  While the winters were not severe--the coldest reading that I recall was zero Fahrenheit--we did get a lot of snow, sometimes as much as two to three feet at one time and the cold weather was the norm from the first of October to the first of May.  So, it turned out to be a long season for firing the old stoves.

 

“Fishing was wonderful!  Man oh man, if the people down here could have seen the kind of trout fishing that we had--both lake trout and Dolly Varden trout, cutthroat trout and steelhead, not counting the salmon and bottom fishing that we had, they would have all moved to Alaska!  It was no trouble at all to go out and in ten or fifteen minutes to almost wear yourself out hauling in Dolly Varden and lake trout which were coming up the river to spawn.  You could see them, literally by the thousands, as they jumped over our weir in their upstream migration.

 

“Steelhead fishing was marvelous.  Cal Ryan, who was then foreman at the Yes Bay hatchery, landed a 27-pound steelhead one evening, fishing in the river just above the station buildings.

 

Blenden Cook and Al Kemmerich
with their day's catch

 

 

“That summer another man and I (he was much older than I was) decided to go up on Twin Rift Mountains.  A game trail took off from about halfway down the lake that took us up the hill and we got into timberline at about 1500 feet altitude.  The Twin Rift mountains had a height of a little over 4,000 feet and that was goat country.  We went up and camped overnight and ran into a big herd the next day.  In our scrambling over the rocks I must have unconsciously somehow hit the rear sight on the 30-06 rifle, with the result that in the excitement of shooting I was just missing everything.  Well, we exhausted my ammunition and came home empty-handed.  I don’t know what the other fellow’s problem was--he did as much firing as I--but apparently his eyesight wasn’t as good as mine although I couldn’t lay claim to anything except seeing a lot of mountain goats jumping in every direction.

 

“In the early spring of 1924 I was transferred from Yes Bay back to Baker Lake to take charge of that station. .... In mid-November of 1928 I was notified that I was to be promoted to the position of Foreman at the Yes Bay Hatchery in Alaska and that I should make plans to go there as soon as convenient.  I left Baker Lake on the 23rd of December, 1928 with all of my belongings and on the morning of Dec. 26 Pauline and I went to Mt. Vernon, secured our marriage license and proceeded to Seattle where we were married.

 

"After finalizing the packing of our belongings we departed from Seattle on January 5 on the S.S. Northwestern of the Alaska Steamship Company, arriving in Ketchikan two days later.

 

 

The Alaska Steamship Company steamer "Alaska" (above)
brought tourists from Seattle to Seward and other Alaska points
 during the 1920s and 1930s.
The steamer "Northwestern" was probably similar.

 

 

 

"Subsequently, we took a mail boat for Yes Bay Hatchery.  Fortunately, McDonald Lake was still open and we were able to transport all of our effects, to our house at the hatchery.  Shortly thereafter the lake froze over and we settled into the routine of work at the station.

"Our first house at Yes Bay Hatchery, Alaska, 1930.

(Barbara's first home)."

--- Pauline Kemmerich

 

"Back & side view of our house."

---Al Kemmerich

“The following spring we started to go fishing and engaged in whatever recreation was available.  We constructed traps for catching Dungeness crab and that summer and fall we surely had our share of delicious crab!  We also did a lot of salmon fishing, and canned the salmon, having purchased a pressure cooker and a Burpee can sealer.  We bought the cans from the cannery at a dollar a case for 48 one-pound tins and put up an awful lot of salmon during our stay there.  We also canned a lot of venison and preserved venison steaks by putting them down in tallow--or shortening, I should say, because shortening didn’t shrink afterwards, whereas tallow would.  We put these steaks in stone crocks and when you would bring them out and warm them up they were almost as good as fresh steak.

 

“When the lake froze over in the wintertime and the rearing pond in front of the hatchery was frozen, it made a wonderful place to go skating.  Both Pauline and I and many of the other couples and people living there had ice skates and on weekends we would go out on the lake, if the weather was suitable, and skate out there.  If not, on suitable evenings we would skate on the pond right in front of the residences.

Ice Skating on Lake McDonald, 1933

L-R: Mary Cook (?), Pauline Kemmerich (?), Eric Kuehl holding LeRoy,

Blenden Cook, holding Barbara, & Al Kemmerich

 

 

 

“Pauline was pregnant with Barbara in 1931, and she went into Ketchikan several weeks before the baby was due.  When Barbara was born on October 20 at Sister’s Catholic Hospital she and one other native baby were the only two babies in the hospital--they got first rate treatment there from the nuns, that’s for sure. After a week in the hospital Pauline and Barbara moved back to the hotel and we stayed there for about five more days.

 

 

A postcard of Ketchikan, Alaska, ca. 1930

       In my parents' effects--no caption

 

 

 

 

"We had previously made arrangements to fly by seaplane to the hatchery, rather than make the arduous trip by boat and transshipment to the tram road and then the station launch out to the station.  The trip only took twenty minutes and everything went fine.

 

 

Floatplane

Lettering on plane says:  “Northbird”  “Pioneer Airways of Alaska

No caption on photo


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