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July 9, 1967

To Kenai Alaska

Our trip to the old Denver airport was fast and delightful in my brother Jim’s Pontiac GTO. The kids were packed in the backseat, in warm wool suits, with instructions not to open their candy sacks until they got on the airplane.

Actually that was my third or fourth trip to Denver in my 29 years of living in northern Colorado. My life up until this moment consisted of growing up on a farm, going to school in a little two room school house for eight years and then on to high school in Timnath, out side Fort Collins. After graduation from Timnath in a class of 14 people, I went to work in Loveland as a waitress, where I met Jack through my uncle Les. They had been in the Air Force together and fought the battle of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, as they jokingly described their time in the service.

The last of August 1955, I got a receptionist job at the Fort Collins Coloradoan. I never worked so hard in my life, taking ads over the phone, taking ads over-the-counter, typing them up and meeting the 11 o’clock in the morning deadline.

The job required being very well dressed every day, with high heels, nylon stockings (attached to a garter belt — oh my, how uncomfortable those things were!). That was the days of hair perfectly in place with tons of Aqua Net Hairspray. For this old farm girl who grew up in jeans, Converse tennis shoes, and shirts that were usually my dad’s, it was a big, sometimes painful, change. The shoes I had to wear at the newspaper were the high heeled, very pointed shoes. My feet were/are wide and flat – once describe by my dad as “when you buy shoes for Ann– throw the shoes away and put the shoe box on her feet!” My feet hurt so badly at times I could hardly walk – but I was dressed up according to dress code of the newspaper.

In November of 1955, Jack and I were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins. This began a new life for me as he was in his second year at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado studying to be a petroleum engineer. We moved to Golden to a motel unit that was in the boundaries of our budget. Thus began our life on the G.I. Bill. Jack and I worked at odd jobs as the G.I. Bill paid $135 a month. I worked for the telephone company during the day, and three hours at night at a local creamery. I learned to make malts and shakes and triple-decker ice cream cones. I also learned to “over make” the malts and shakes, and put the leftovers in a large malt cup so I could take it home after locking up at night. That would be our supper. I called it our rainbow supper as it had every description of malts and shakes piled on top of each other.

Then for a while I worked for Coors in their ceramic factory making ceramic ashtrays. Jack worked for Coors on his days off. Usually his job was outdoors in the cold.

I checked in with Mom once a week. One of those phone calls I told her we could sure use some groceries. So Mom in her always giving, always helpful spirit mailed to us, through the post office, about 10 pounds of venison. I still do not know what she was thinking, because three days later, it arrived on our motel door step leaking blood. And I do not know exactly what the mailman thought, as he placed it on the doorstep. Can you imagine in this day and age what would’ve happened? Anyway the venison arrived warm, and I fixed venison steaks that night. Neither one of us could eat them as venison has a peculiar smell anyway and cooked made it worse. To this day I do not like venison! The rest was thrown out. I never did not tell Mom how her care package arrived.

In late March of 1956 Jack hurt his back severely digging ice out of a ditch for Coors. He could not go to school, he could not go to work, he could hardly get out of bed. We were broke with pennies to our name. So the decision was made to move back to Fort Collins and Jack would become a parts man for my dad at the John Deere Implement Company he owned.

In 1957 Gail was born. A happy little tow headed girl with lots of energy, she was named after Jack’s good friend, Gayle. In 1959 David was born, a healthy little boy whom we named after my dad’s father David Thomas and my dad John Melvin. We named him David John. In 1960 Susan Renée was born, another happy healthy little tow headed girl with a smile for everyone. She was named after my great-grandmother Susanne. So began our life as a family, something I had always dreamed of, something I always wanted to be, a mama just like my mom.

In the years that followed, I have written about our adventures, up until flying to Alaska. A new beginning of a new adventure in a growing Alaska town called North Kenai ...

As we boarded the airplane in Denver, my first airplane flight, my three kids in tow and the three suitcases checked at the luggage counter and a hundred dollars tucked inside my purse, my brother hugged us goodbye and said good luck! I needed the good luck part!

Next week: up, up and away, flying across the skies, over the beautiful country we call America.

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