July 10, 1967:
David’s eighth birthday
Anxiety played a big part of my growing up. My mom had “what-if” and “what would the other people think” anxieties and she instilled that in me and probably my sisters and brothers. It forced her to not go places or meet other people because she would fret over the unknown, what she (or we) would wear and what she (or we) would look like. She talked herself and everyone else out of going anywhere. It was actually a sign of her times, as I can remember my Grandma Cogswell fretting over such things as what to wear to church and going “to town” about 14 miles to Fort Collins.
I sometimes was invited to go with them, in their old black car that Grandpa drove like he would a team of horses. He would push in the clutch — roar the engine into gear — push on the steering wheel, let out the clutch and we would lurch forward, with Grandpa hunched over the steering wheel as if he was pushing the car. He called it “fore-eerdge gear” and if he had to back up in reverse he called it “return gear” letting the clutch out with a lurch and chug “back-eerdge.” He drove white knuckled all the way to Fort Collins chugging along about 10 and sometimes 15 miles an hour.
But before I ever got in the car, Grandma would say to me “Edith Ann do you have clean underwear on? If we have an accident I do not want the doctor to see your dirty underwear!” Mom had scrubbed and polished me, curled my hair and ever piece of my clothing was clean and ironed. I was shiny clean! Grandma always asked me the same thing every time I was asked to go with them. If we had an accident — humm guess what — I probably would have had dirty underwear!
These lessons in anxiety I learned from my Mom and Grandma made me stop in my tracks one day when I realized I was doing the “anxiety thing” to my kids. I forced myself to start thinking positive and focus on the present and the future, not what “might happen” and “what other people may think.” I started being more positive and not so afraid of the unknown — and that is how I ended up flying to Alaska!
When we arrived in Anchorage, my old anxieties kicked in and almost overwhelmed me. The flight to Kenai set off the panic button. Our first airplane ride and being responsible for three kids, not much money in my pocket, an old noisy airplane with oil dripping off its wings, not knowing a soul and no one to meet us ... was my dad right?
The big old “Connie” circled slowly, came down even slower and finally landed on a dirt runway — with dirt and volcanic dust growing into big clouds and with the oil still dripping off the wings of the airplane — we landed at our destination, Kenai Airport. I cannot tell you how relived I was to get off that airplane.*
As we walked into the “terminal” and the dust hovering over the whole complex, it was surprisingly very warm. I had no idea what time it was! Mom bought David his wool clothes and Gail and Susan in their warm dresses, because we were going to “the land of icebergs, Eskimos and igloos.” It was way too warm for what we thought was Alaska! There was no snow, no icebergs, and igloos, and we did not see any Eskimos! As we entered the Army barracks terminal (old Army barracks were used for many things in Alaska), the baggage handlers were working in T-shirt or no shirts, complaining about how hot it was and wouldn’t it be nice to have some ice cream. Summing up the situation, David looked all around, looked up at me and said in a big voice “Mamma, weeze in the WRONG PLACE!”
Well, I thought – maybe we are!
I had to be calm and appear to be in control. I herded my three children, the three suitcases over to someone who looked like the worked at the airport, and I said in a very confident voice, “I need a taxi and hotel for the night.”
With a stunned look on his face he said, “AHHUUU Oh — uhhh, well, uhh, I will have to find someone to take you to the Harbor View Annex, that would be the best place to go.”
He walked off and came back with a gentleman who simply said “follow me.” He opened the door to an old dust covered, rusty, bent up car. We got in, he got in never saying a word and took us to the Harbor View Annex (which still exists next to the Seaman building). I fished in my purse to pay him and he just waved at me and said “That’s OK m’am, anything else I can do?”
No ... I guess not, I said and he drove off.
I paid $12 for motel room No. 2. We opened the door into a clean, pine finished, two bedroom, (one bedroom in the loft) with a bathroom and a small kitchen. I heaved a sigh of relief, looked at the clock on the wall — it was 2 o’clock in the morning. It was still light out and the birds were chirping in the land of the never setting sun, in the middle of July, in the middle of Kenai, Alaska. We had arrived safe and sound!
Next week loud pounding and screaming on the motel door next to us, the “po-lice” and the dad catching up with us.
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* — I flew on that “Connie” many, many times after that, until it was retired. I grew to love it and trust it just like the rest of the passengers.