Part Three

ALPHONSE KEMMERICH’S REMARKS
ABOUT YES BAY, ALASKA


“In February, 1932, I received my appointment as Superintendent of the Yes Bay Station and Reservation. I mention “Reservation” because we had jurisdiction over a large area in that vicinity by presidential proclamation. Back in 1906 or 1907 it was set aside for fish cultural purposes on Yes Bay and the land ¼ mile inland around the shores of Yes Bay, Yes River and its entire catchment basin. This included an area generally about twenty miles in length, from the mouth of Yes Bay to the summit of Yes River and probably generally speaking the Yes River catchment basin was maybe from a mile to two miles in width. So, the reservation area comprised many thousands upon thousands of acres of timber, tundra, lake and muskeg. We also had the responsibility of patrolling the waters of Yes Bay because it was completely closed to all commercial fishing.

“We thoroughly enjoyed the recreational opportunities: fishing for Dungeness crab, red snapper, chicken halibut and salmon. On one trip, five of us went down to Yes Bay and fished just off the mouth of the bay--we fished the incoming tide only. This was in the month of June when the herring were starting to move into Yes Bay to spawn and we caught a total of 85 King Salmon! One fellow spent all of his time trying to land what proved to be an 85-pound halibut that he caught. So that was a very successful fishing expedition! Much of that salmon was immediately processed in the smokehouse at Yes Bay. Some of it was canned fresh, but a lot of it was prepared in what we called “hot kippered smoke” and then canned. All of us surely had lots of salmon to eat--both the canned and the kipper smoked.

“Previous to Barbara’s arrival the Looff’s and we went across Behm Canal on one trip to Ketchikan Island and went deer hunting. We camped there overnight and Ted and I went up the mountain the next morning. Each of us got our buck and while up there, when we were sitting on a grassy slope near the summit, we looked down and the deer down below us were grazing just like a big herd of cattle. While sitting there in that one position, we counted in excess of 100 deer down below us.

“We lived on venison much of the time, as it was canned, and they also had a long deer hunting season--lasting from about August 15 to the first of December. Also, one year five of us again went up on Twin Rift Mountain and this time we were all successful--each one of us got our Rocky Mountain Goat. Mine was about a two-year old billy, and it was pretty good eating.

 

Hunter with Mountain Goat Skin
No caption on picture.


Left to right:
"Louise (Pauline's sister), Clarence Rowland,
Pauline (in my wedding dress), Mary and Blenden Cook.
Yes Bay, Alaska, 1931"
--- Pauline Kemmerich

"Grace Rowland, the red-headed girl."
--- Pauline Kemmerich

"At the extreme left is the Foreman's wife and 2 girls.
I think you know the rest of the bunch. Fred's fixing a ski.
Aren't LeRoy (Kuehl) and Barbs big?
Had to nearly hog tie her to hold her still long enuf to snap this."
--- Pauline Kemmerich

 

“In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt was elected president and he immediately inaugurated an economy program. As a result, orders were received to close the Yes Bay Hatchery and transfer the personnel to the States. So, in August of that year all of the regular personnel went south.

“In July, 1934 I got orders to return to Yes Bay and take charge of dismantling the station, shipping all the usable supplies to the States where they were distributed to the various hatcheries in the western region. This proved to be quite an undertaking. I arrived in Ketchikan and with my brother-in-law, I assembled a crew and proceeded to Yes Bay where we reopened the cook house and immediately started to pack up all the things that were suitable and usable for transfer. This occupied the entire summer and I made two trips to the States with boatloads of equipment on our Fisheries vessels. On the third and final trip I came south with a load of equipment on the Brant which was the flagship of the Bureau of Fisheries’ fleet. I spent about ten days getting all the stuff shipped out to the various places and then returned to my new post at Spring Creek Hatchery, near White Salmon, Washington.”

------------------

Dictated by Alphonse Kemmerich, July, 1983

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

My father doesn’t go into detail on how people and supplies got from the dock at Yes Bay to the hatchery on the far end of McDonald Lake, but from conversations with him, I learned that there was a “tram” that carried supplies up and over a low hill and to the lake side. Then, they used motor launches to go to the hatchery.

He has mentioned to me that during the coldest part of the winter, when the lake was frozen, all the supplies had to be loaded onto the men’s backpacks, then they skied down the lake to the hatchery. This experience may account for the fact that my father could never see skiing as a sport--to him it represented hard work!

"Ralph and Cook's husband, and 2 other fellows from here on a fishing trip.
The tram in back of them is what we have to go over to get from salt water to our lake.
They're at salt water."
--- Pauline Kemmerich

Although in a wilderness, the hatchery staff did have the luxury of an electrical generating plant and my mother had all the latest electrical gadgets of that era: mixer, ironer, etc. At my father’s next post out in “civilized” Washington state, they found no electricity available to them!

I don’t know if Alaskans still make great use of catalog purchases, but I know that Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward were the “lifeline” for all the hatchery employees’ needs that couldn’t be caught, shot or made at the hatchery. Being Depression years, the catalog companies were grateful for the business of people who were getting a steady Government paycheck, and if an order inadvertently got sent to the wrong company, they would just forward the order on to their competitor, sending along a gentle little reminder to my parents that they really appreciated their business and hoped that the next order would be coming to them!

The years they spent at Yes Bay were indeed the “adventure” of my parents’ life.

 

Alphonse and Pauline Kemmerich
On their 50th wedding anniversary
Woodburn, Oregon
Dec. 26, 1978

 

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