Allan Ulen thumbs a book on World War II at the table he used to study for his General Educational Development tests. Ulen should find out if he earned his GED in a few weeks.
Photo by John Hult
Not many folks are more qualified to say it’s never too late to learn than Allan Ulen.
Having just turned 80 in February, Ulen, who lives on his homestead south of Soldotna, is anxiously awaiting the results of his General Educational Development tests, the last of which he finished Wednesday.
Ulen was in high school when World War II broke out and said it became evident he was going to be drafted into the Army.
“I wanted to join the Navy and I got my Dad to sign the papers,” Ulen said Friday.
He enlisted on Feb. 1, 1944, 11 days before his 18th birthday, and was soon aboard ship, minesweeping out of San Francisco Bay at first, and later serving as a fireman on a sub chaser heading to Pearl Harbor.
Before his minesweeper reached the Pacific Fleet’s Hawaiian harbor, however, the atomic bombs were dropped in Japan, bringing an end to the war.
“I mustered out at Camp Shoemaker near Pleasanton, Calif., and went back to Minnesota to work on the home farm,” he said.
After that, life got busy and Ulen never went back to school.
Instead, he migrated back to California, began what was to be a 40-year career in the oil industry, and raised a family, eventually having two sons and three daughters with his wife, Patsy.
“We just celebrated 55 years of marriage in December,” he said.
In 1959, the couple moved to Alaska with their first three of five children, to homestead, and Ulen took a job with the Kenai Pipeline Company, where he worked for 17 1/2 years.
He then moved over to “the big pipeline” and worked at pump station 4 of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline for 15 years.
“Then I turned 65, and with 40 years in oil, I decided it was time to quit,” he said. That was 15 years ago.
Two years ago, he heard the state of Alaska would give people a diploma if they had left high school to join the military service during World War II.
“I decided I wanted to see if I knew what I needed to get the diploma, so I decided to go for a GED,” he said.
Ulen completed the course of study, including writing and comprehension, science, algebra and geometry, and then began taking a battery of tests.
“In a week or two, I should find out if I get the GED,” he said. “I hope I passed ‘em.”
With a laugh, he said he has no plans to go to law school after this.
“There’re too many lawyers already,” he said.
He is, however, looking forward to more years enjoying some travel and living on the Kenai Peninsula.
“I love it here. It’s just beautiful,” he said.
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