Shake, rattle and roll

“Cocktail Hour in the Land of the Midnight Sun,” our most recent book, is now available as a digital book at Amazon. Before writing, I spent weeks pawing through my vast closet of memories to come up with the most fun items stored there. These went into the book, but there were dozens that did not make the cut, often because they were too short. So to help promote “Cocktail,” we are putting up a string of these “little” memories for your enjoyment, in hopes you will be interested enough to buy the book.  — Ed

Dennis and Nelda Oxford were some of the nicest people we ever met during our years in Alaska. Although Nelda was a native of Fairbanks, we met her and Dennis in Barrow, where they were station agents for the now-defunct Wien Airlines. Dennis had been a tower operator in the Air Force and was continuing that profession in civilian life.

kbl_cookinletmapEventually, they were transferred from that miserable (my opinion) village at the top of the North America to Homer, regarded by many as the most desirable place in Alaska. Homer is on the edge of beautiful Kachemak Bay at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, 227 miles south of Anchorage.

We planned to visit the Oxfords at their new station, and Nelda asked if we could bring them a kitchen stove that her parents had in storage. Sure. We just humphed it into the pickup and headed south out of Fairbanks. Road warriors that we were, we rolled into Homer a day earlier than expected. Nelda was dismayed; she hadn’t been to the grocery store yet.

“Oh, dear, there’s nothing in the house,” she fretted. Then, apologetically, “We did pull our crab pots this morning. Would crab meat be okay?”

For Fairbanks people, who seldom score anything decent from the distant ocean, it was a dream come true. Nelda pulled a couple of handfuls of crab meat from a plastic bag and tossed it into a frying pan sizzling with butter. I drool at the thought.

The Oxfords lived in a little house provided to them by the airline. It was an old house, two corners of it held up by stacked concrete blocks. Inside, there was a utility room for the washer and dryer, next was the kitchen, and beyond that the living room. Alaskans, often prevented by weather from much outdoor activity, were ferocious readers in those days before television. The Oxfords, especially after their isolation from the civilized world in Barrow, remained champion readers. Parents and kids plowed through all the written material they could find. Stacks of newspapers and magazines lined the walls. It was great place.

The next evening after our arrival, we were deep in a literary discussion when the house began to move and shake. Many small quakes rattle through Fairbanks, and since you never know when it might be The Big One, you run for the door. We did just that — raced through the kitchen and into the yard. The Oxfords stood in the doorway and laughed. Gasping, they managed to explain that it was not a quake. It was the clothes dryer, going into spin cycle. The concrete blocks were a little unstable.

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