KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

“Keith Stone, I’m glad you’re finally home!”

The year was 1972. To the delight of many young men the Vietnam War finally ended; draft notices as well. Recent high school graduate Keith Stone wanted to be a tour bus driver. Seeing the country and getting paid sounded like a perfect career choice.

There came a day when he decided to go for it. Being a responsible employee, Keith gave his boss a one week notice. She proceeded to fire him. After Keith’s termination, the fast-food executive had a hard time filling empty shoes. Experienced grill managers are hard to find in Pueblo, Colorado.

First thing on his agenda was get a commercial driver’s license. It took a year to pass the test. Keith had a problem making sharp turns without hitting the curb or driving over sidewalks. It was a depth perception issue. He never did get things right. The savvy Mr. Stone slipped his instructor twenty-bucks and immediately solved the dilemma.

Keith talked to a man from California named Charlie Cobb. Mr. Cobb formerly drove a tour bus before hitting it big in Amway. The guy said as a driver he sometimes made a hundred bucks in tips. That got Keith’s attention. Keith Stone’s wallet had never seen the likeness of Ben Franklin. Money literally burned a hole in his pocket.

Charlie told Keith that to be a good tour bus pilot, and get decent tips, you need an act of sorts. Keith wasn’t sure what he meant. Charlie went on to explain that a driver has to know the history of places along the route. He gave the young man an example:

“Folks, the river we’re about to cross was the location of a major gold rush. in 1860, over 200,000 ounces of the precious metal was taken from it.”

Mr. Cobb explained to Keith that tourists want to be educated plus entertained.

“Have a joke or two up your sleeve!”, he advised. “And always know your audience!”

Keith Stone was eventually hired by Lost Wages Tours. The outfit ran a fleet of derelict buses out of Denver to Las Vegas. Most of their clientele were older retired people. A young baggage handler informed Keith the tight geezers seldom tipped. That bummed him out before remembering what Charlie Cobb said.

“You need to entertain those people!”

Keith Stone’s maiden journey consisted of a group of seniors from Fort Collins. They were an eclectic bunch of retirees. One gal said she’d won a thousand bucks on her last gambling trip. Keith instinctively took to the bus microphone, telling everyone that he got 50% of all winnings. That had them cackling like geese. He believed he was on the path to an easy hundred bucks.

The fully loaded bus pulled out of the depot at 9:00 and was on I-70 within minutes. Spotting a closed and boarded up cafe on the right side of the highway, Keith informed his passengers that the owner had been murdered in a botched robbery attempt several months back.

“Shot him in the head! You know that place served the best darn chili in all of Colorado. A real shame it closed!”

The passengers were exceedingly quiet upon hearing such gruesome news. It took several minutes for them to rejoin former conversations.

After being on the road for two hours, Keith asked for a show of hands on those needing to use the restroom. Nearly everyone raised theirs.

“We’ll be stopping at Santa Fe in two hours.” he told them.

“Hope those really needing to go wore Depends.”

When unsavory language flew from back of the bus, and a full can of soda hit the windshield, Keith decided it best to tell them he was joking.

“There’s a rest stop straight ahead. We’ll be departing for a fifteen minute break.”

Keith planned well for his grand finale act. This would be the ultimate tip gathering stunt. Everything was perfectly aligned. Keith smirked while thinking about it. His mind flashed back in time.

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

Twenty years previous, Uncle Joe Stone played a prank on Keith’s mom and dad that relatives still talked about. It was considered the joke of all jokes:

Keith’s parents were riding with Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty to Salt Lake City for a Stone family reunion.  Everyone loved Joe’s sense of humor. Uncle Joe was the one that couldn’t cut the cake, yet he could cut cheese with the best of them.

Uncle Joe was driving his 1952 Lincoln to Utah. He’d just picked the car up in Baton Rouge from a reputable car dealer. A salesman there told him the automobile had been purchased new by Elvis Presley. Later on Joe discovered that Mr. Presley didn’t make it big until 1954.

Joe’s version of the story quickly changed. He told anyone who’d listen that the stately vehicle once belonged to Hank Williams Sr. A few family and friends actually believed Joe; having their photos taken in front of the car.

During their trip to Utah, unbeknownst to Keith’s mom and dad, the burly Uncle Joe placed a bottle of Coke inside a brown-paper-sack and stuck it between his legs.

Several miles down the road with Keith’s folks in the back seat, Joe began taking nips. He’d look in the rearview mirror before placing bottle to his lips. Of course Keith’s mom instantly noticed. She quickly jumped to conclusions as most women do. Husband Rod was dozing and didn’t see what was happening.

When they stopped for a potty break, Maggie Stone insisted that her husband take the wheel.

“You need a rest Joe. Rod can drive for a while!”

That fit perfectly into Uncle Joe’s plan. Him and Aunt Betty happily swapped seats. They were able to sleep the remainder of the trip comfortably in back. Rod Stone drove all the way to Salt Lake City including the return leg to Louisiana. Rod and Maggie didn’t find out they’d been fooled until years later. The couple found it hilarious.

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

Tucked between Keith’s legs on the tour bus was a bottle of Pepsi purchased from a neighborhood 7-11. It was hidden inside a brown-paper-bag. Keith Stone emulated Uncle Joe’s act to perfection instantly seeing results.

The whispering got louder and louder. There came a point when a woman jumped up screaming for Keith to stop the bus.

“Let me off before you kill us all!”

Spotting a safe area to pull over, Keith Stone eased the big vehicle to a halt. Dust rose from all four tires. Opening the door, he started to inform the gal that she’d been punked. Before he could do so 41 passengers and a poodle abandoned ship. They refused to get back on.

These days Keith is back doing what he does best. The man’s old boss recently informed him,

“Experienced grill managers are hard to find in Pueblo, Colorado. Keith Stone, I’m glad you’re finally home!”

"Mr. Keith Stone, I'm glad you came along!"

GETTYSBURG SURVIVOR

Extraordinary story about a Union soldier during the Civil War, and how his personal diary came to be lost during the Battle of Gettysburg, ultimately winding up in my hands.

Abraham Trostle barn as it appears today. Structure located in Gettysburg National Military Park.

I’ve been interested in the American Civil War since birth. As a young man, Ken Burns’ documentary on the war only spurred my interest. Keep me supplied with large bowls of buttered popcorn and I’ll watch it time and time again.

My ancestors fought on opposing sides; the majority of them being Confederate soldiers. Grandpa Houston Hankins told me stories about these courageous kinfolk. He said a few Hankins were teenagers when they enlisted. GGG-Grandfather Stephen G. Hankins from Lamar County, Alabama tragically lost 3 sons in the Civil War. Family history fascinates me.

One of my east coast ancestors, William Hankins, became a partner with gun-maker Christian Sharps in 1859. They produced Sharps & Hankins carbines and rifles used exclusively by Union troops.  Early on I had the desire to own artifacts from this conflict. It made no difference whether the relics were North or South. I love holding history in my hands. Certain antiques talk to me. Thanks to an understanding wife, and assistance from Mr. Norm Flayderman, my wish became reality.

The late Norm Flayderman is considered by many to be the expert of experts when it comes to firearms and accouterments used in the Civil War. His business, Norm Flayderman & Company, put out yearly catalogs chocked full of such antiques for sale. It made my day when one of these books showed up in the mail.

Often times because I lived in Alaska, the catalog would arrive a week later than addresses in other states. The items I sought were long gone. Because of this I called up Mr. Flayderman to inquire on what could be done. Initially I talked to his wife Ruth before Norm took the phone.

Amazing story about Pvt. Joseph Gilbert Barton's personal diary, and how it came to be lost then found during the Battle of Gettysburg.
The late Norm Flayderman

He must have sensed the utter unhappiness in my voice during our 15 minute conversation. Mr. Flayderman put me on his list of premium customers, although I’d yet to purchase anything from his firm. From that point on whenever the catalog showed up, countless hours would be spent poring over it. I don’t recall ever losing out on a purchase after Norm did me that favor.

Over the years I bought several antique weapons from him. Those items include a Sharps & Hankins – Army carbine plus a pepperbox pistol. Various tintype and daguerreotype photographs were obtained. One of my favorite collectibles were signed Civil War Bibles.

Deviating a bit, I picked up a pair of Lomen Brothers reindeer mukluks used by Admiral Richard Byrd on his Antarctica expedition. I traded those for an 1863 Springfield rifle excavated from a Williamsburg, Virginia battlefield.  The rifle has shrapnel marks on it indicating hot grapeshot from a cannon struck the barrel and receiver. I still get strange feelings each time I touch this weapon. Without doubt the soldier carrying it did not survive.

Yearly calls were made to Norm before his catalogs came off the press. He knew me as the ‘collector from Alaska’ although I’m sure I wasn’t the only 49th state player.  On my last conversation with Norm, I asked if he had anything from the Civil War that begged for attention. Norm knew what I meant saying that that he did.

He mentioned a unique Civil War diary coming up for sale. It was written by a Union soldier named Joseph Gilbert Barton. Mr. Barton served with the 14th Vermont Infantry – Company I. They were a group of volunteer soldiers.  Norm went on to say he’d been researching the manuscript for years, believing there was something special about it that he could not place his finger on. He told me he didn’t have time to continue pursuing.

Monument to Vermont Volunteers at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Norm Flayderman was loyal to his other customers. He would not allow me to purchase it before the catalog hit my hands.  He was as honest a businessman as they come. Norm told me to keep a lookout for the mailman.

“Early bird gets the worm!”, Norm chuckled.

When that catalog finally showed, speed-reading-tutor Evelyn Wood’s head would’ve spun as I quickly thumbed through it. I scanned page after page at warp speed looking intently for Barton’s diary. Finally locating the ad I called to check availability. Norm wasn’t in yet Ruth told me the item was still for sale. I excitedly asked her to,

“Mark it sold!”

When a well-insulated envelope arrived containing the diary I began carefully poring over each hand-written page. They were composed of ink on different types of paper. Norm included his research notes from a yellow legal-size notebook in the packet.

Joseph Gilbert Barton diary pages now reside in acid free envelopes for protection.

Some of the words were hard to read without magnifying glass. A friend of mine, Fred Salter, along with the assistance of Terry Barton on the Barton family website helped transcribe things. This took some time. The finished project was well worth their effort. Gilbert Barton’s chronological records lined up precisely with other recorded accounts of the 14th Vermont’s wartime activities.  Some of this new information was added to a website on the 14th Vermont Volunteers.

The journal begins with Pvt. J. Gilbert Barton entering the service. It mentions boring routines the troops went through getting ready for departure. Marches and drills were constantly part of the regimen. One of the more vivid entries is a detailed account on what Barton saw after his train arrived in Washington D.C.

“Oct 25, 1863

Arrived at Washington today about noon. Before we got there (near enough to see the city), the soldiers (myself included) were anxious to see the Capitol, as we crowded to the doors of the cars for a sight. After taking dinner that was prepared for us in a Soldier’s Boarding House, we rested a while & during the time saw several VT soldiers. Steven Hazard was one of them. Old women and raggedy boys and girls were around selling pies and cakes. I did not buy any for fear of being poisoned.”

I researched the 14th Vermont Infantry finding that they fought gallantly at Gettysburg. What was very unusual about Gilbert’s writing was there was no mention of such. In fact the diary’s last entry was dated March 13, 1863. The first thing popping into my head was that pages were missing.

I spent hour after hour looking for more information on Gilbert Barton going so far as to send off for his military records. They didn’t offer anything more than what I already knew. Eventually I placed the diary in my safe and moved on. That was over 30 years ago.

Just recently I was searching for tax paperwork coming across the old diary. Taking it out of its fireproof home, something told me to give things one more try.

I typed J. Gilbert Barton into a http://www.newspapers.com website and hit the jack pot:

Article from “Burlington Free Press” – Vermont newspaper – Feb. 21, 1890

For those having studied the American Civil War, you’ll know that Cemetery Hill and the Trostle Farm are the most significant landmarks in Gettysburg National Military Park. President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address there.

Many died on the farm grounds with graphic photographs showing the carnage. It’s remarkable that the Trostle farmhouse and barn are still standing.

When the 14th Vermont Infantry arrived in Gettysburg they had little time to settle in. Camped to the east of Cemetery Hill, records show the troops were instructed to double quick to an area under attack by Confederate troops. Double quick means dropping everything but gun and bullets and basically running to your position. This explains why Gilbert Barton lost his knapsack.

A knapsack back then is much like a backpack of today. It would’ve contained personal items such as Bible, photos, comb, tin cup, fork and spoon, metal plate, hardtack, writing utensils, paper, and in Gilbert Barton’s case, a copper stencil used for marking valuables.

Amazing story about a Civil War soldiers personal diary. and how it came to be lost then found during the Battle of Gettysburg.
This is representative of the copper stencil Joseph Gilbert Barton owned.

After the Gettysburg battle ended someone picked up Gilbert’s knapsack and went through it. How this stencil ended up hidden in the Trostle’ barn is a mystery. My theory being the person finding the knapsack, intentionally ditched the stencil for one main reason. That stencil identified who the goods belonged to. For whatever reason, Gilbert’s diary was deemed worthy of keeping. It’s a miracle that the writings survived.

In the months leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, the 14th Vermont Infantry was always on the move. They were considered a part of the hard charging ‘Army of the Potomac’. Wolf Run Shoals and Occoquan in Virginia were their staging grounds the last few weeks.  During this time there would’ve been little or no time at all for Barton to make entries. His last journal date reflects that.

Although Gilbert was eventually reunited with his copper stencil in 1890, the diary never did return to his hands. Norm Flayderman indicated he’d purchased it at an estate sale, and that the person selling it did not have Barton connections.

It was only because of Mr. Flayderman piquing my interest that I ultimately purchased the diary. It’s almost as if Norm knew I’d never give up on finding answers.

J. Gilbert Barton’s diary is a significant piece of Civil War and Gettysburg ephemera. Provenance seemingly popped out of the woodwork in solving things, although popped out of newspaper pulp is a more plausible term. Without the 1890 archived newspaper article I never would’ve figured things out.

Paper items, unlike guns, swords, and copper stencils have a limited life expectancy when subjected to the elements. The simplistic and fragile diary composed by J. Gilbert Barton is a miraculous Gettysburg survivor.

I should end things here but I won’t. If you’re inquisitive like me you have to now wonder,

“What happened to Joseph Gilbert Barton’s copper stencil plate?”

Joseph Gilbert Barton Obituary – “Burlington Daily News” – July 21, 1908
Joseph Gilbert & Florence A. Coburn-Barton grave marker
Abraham Trostle barn as it appeared after the Battle of Gettysburg – 1863

EVERYONE KNOWS TOOTSIE

The life, wisdom, and humor of Pioneer Alaskan, Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby.

Oil painting of Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby by artist Kim Lee.

FOREWORD

When I first visited the ghost town of Iditarod City, Alaska in July of 2000, I’d been lightly schooled on highlights of its short, yet illustrious past. During a summer writing class several years previous, under the tutelage of University of Alaska Professor Michael Burwell, student Frank Gularte wrote a short essay dealing with life in the old gold mining town.

Frank was an adept story teller. His grandfather Manuel Gularte owned businesses in Iditarod and Flat during its heyday. Frank’s dad Tony lived in both towns during the early years. Much of what Frank Gularte wrote, as well as what he verbally told the class remained with me. That’s the first time I heard of African-Alaskan pioneer,

Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby.

In July of 2000 before beginning an 8-mile hike to Iditarod, the postmaster in Flat shared intriguing information. Mark Kepler informed hiking partner Steve Schmidt and me to be on the lookout for ‘Tootsie’s Place’. I instantly recalled Frank Gularte mentioning that name. At the time I couldn’t remember exact details. Unknown as well, two experts on the subject were standing directly in front of me.

Mark Kepler’s wife Sherry mentioned that Tootsie was a local legend in Iditarod and Flat; throughout Alaska for that matter. She’d been a ‘lady of the night’ including ‘madam’ for several years, eventually becoming a respected and much loved resident. Sherry went on to tell us,

“Early in her career Tootsie ran a Swedish style bath house”.

Mark mentioned that the dwelling barely stood upright as winter after winter had pounded crumbling remains closer to the ground. He went on to say the previous January, he’d removed Tootsie’s huge cast-iron bathtub from rubble, sledding it to his home in Flat.

“If only that tub could talk!” he chuckled.

When Iditarod began to decline in population many residents moved to Flat. Tootsie was one of those people. She set up shop leaving her deserted home in Iditarod to wandering hunters and prospectors. Before heading out on our photographic expedition, Mark gave us one last bit of advice,

“Be especially careful of rusty nails and bears. They’re all over the place.”

With Mark and Sherry’s directions we found ‘Tootsie’s Place’ without problem. The large two-story structure was reduced to one level. Sticking my head inside an almost squashed window I saw fancy red wallpaper peeling from walls. Such extravagance seemed out of place in the wilds of Alaska. It reminded me of something you’d see in a New Orleans bawdy house. I wanted to climb inside but deemed it too risky.

Walking to the front of the ruins I stepped on something slippery underneath a clump of tundra. Reaching down I picked up an oddly shaped bottle. Brushing away gooey muck revealed it was a perfume bottle with Victorian embossing. ‘Paris’ was the first word to appear. It seemed we’d found the old bath house for sure.

Framed photo of Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby next to perfume bottle found at her old home.

Steve Schmidt entering the ‘ghost town’ of Iditarod.
Aerial shot looking down at Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby’s former home in Iditarod, Alaska.
Looking through thick brush towards Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby’s cabin along lake edge.

Steve and I took numerous pictures before deciding it was time to head home. Walking 16-miles in one day through throngs of mosquitoes, ankle twisting tundra, and soggy ground might be a piece of cake for sourdough miners, but it was a challenge for us. We’d brought along extra water and food which saved our hides. Mosquito nets rarely came off sweaty heads.

On our return to Flat, Steve and I briefed Mark and Sherry on what we’d discovered. When asked about bears we said, “Not a one!” Steve did inform them we skirted plenty of snarling nails and sharp metal roofing. The Kepler’s were interesting people to talk with. They knew almost as much about the history of Iditarod and Flat as John and Mary Miscovich.

I was fortunate to have coffee and cake with John and Mary on my second trip to Iditarod. They were a remarkable couple. John was born in Flat while wife Mary came there as his bride. “It was love at first sight!” she cooed. During our chit chat session Tootsie’s name popped up several times. The Miscovich’s referred to her as their close friend.

I would’ve liked talking with them more but we’d entered John’s nap time. Mary Miscovich informed us, post lunch snoozes were one of her husband’s secrets to living a long and healthy life. He was in his 80’s and still going strong. John Miscovich continued to mine until he was 94.

On my third trip to Iditarod I was once again drawn to Tootsie’s former digs. This time I had more questions yet there was no one to answer them. I decided when I got back to Anchorage I’d research her name at the local Loussac Library. Unfortunately what I learned wasn’t good where posterity is concerned.

Tootsie throughout her life wrote memoirs about life in the great land. She had plans to publish a book titled “Golden Dreams here in Alaska”. Some say the book was to be called “Everyone Knows Tootsie”. Whatever title, the manuscript was eventually finished and given to a schoolteacher friend. This person was to edit and type Tootsie’s notes along with placing things in chronological order. A simple task it seemed.

As time went on nothing happened. Mattie often asked how things were going, always being informed they weren’t. The teacher said it was too much work. She handed back only a portion of the original notes.  Evidently the others were lost, misplaced, or perhaps the woman’s dog ate them. Whatever reason it was devastating news. When Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby passed away, even the portion of notes returned mysteriously disappeared. It seemed as if her original thoughts and dreams would never get published. Miracles sometimes have a way of happening!

I was researching old newspaper articles about Iditarod, when out of the blue an editorial Mattie Crosby wrote turned up in the Chula Vista-Star. That’s a California newspaper located basically in San Diego near the Mexican border. With piqued interest I started to read. It only took a few sentences before I knew for sure I’d found Tootsie. For some reason she’d started writing this newspaper initially from her home in Flat. That was 1956. I found out it had something to do with old friends moving to Chula Vista from Flat several years previous. Evidently they were mailing local newspapers as a means to keep up her up to date on current events.

Searching further I uncovered more and more letters she’d written. Her compositions were long and descriptive. Much of it had to do with life in Alaska. Her imagination was over the top. She was an excellent poet. That’s when the light came on. There was enough information at my disposal to compose Tootsie’s memoirs for her. I’m talking about 40 letters and over 24,000 words. I’m sure it lacks in total detail what the original would’ve had, but there’s enough data to give readers a clear view of her charm, wit, intelligence, and spiritual being. There were a few close friends knowing she’d done such, yet they never took time to locate and compile all 40 letters.

Some folks might say Mrs. Crosby speaks to us from the grave in these compositions. Without hesitation, Tootsie would be quick to explain that her body may be in the ground, but her soul resides in a much higher place. Before introducing you to her letters, I’ll lay out a brief synopsis regarding Iditarod, Flat, and Mattie obtained from published articles, recorded interviews, including valuable information the late Frank Gularte and John Miscovich provided.

Mattie McElhaney-Crosby (“Tootsie”) was born May 2, 1884 in Maine. Her parents were Joe and Susannah McElhaney. When her mother died in 1889, white friends of the McElhaneys asked to adopt the little girl. Mr. McElhaney being a blacksmith and having twenty-seven mouths to feed agreed. Mattie said the total number of siblings may not be correct, but it made no difference as she didn’t know or remember any of them anyway.

Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Wade were wealthy and caring people. J.D. worked for United Fruit Company which was based in New Orleans. The couple treated her like a queen according to an interview by the late Alaska writer Helen Gillette. Much of the following was gleaned from Mrs. Gillette’s article, as well as a piece written by Charles C. Hawley and Thomas K. Bundtzen for the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame. The bulk of my information though, came from a 1962 interview of “Tootsie” by Mr. Clinton Clark.

The Clark interview started in Flat right before Mattie left for Sitka, and was completed once she arrived in the historic town located on Baranof Island. There are several discrepancies between the Gillette and Clark interviews, with the most questionable being how Mattie received her last name. She told Helen Gillette she got it from marrying a miner named Crosby in Alaska. On the other hand, Mattie informed Mr. Clark ten years earlier, it came after she’d wed a hotel worker in Seattle. I chose to report the Clark version although we’ll never know for sure which is correct. No marriage license was found in either state.

In the 1920, 1930, and 1940 United States census, handwritten data shows several other facts misaligned. In 1920 she claimed to be born in Florida, in 1930 it was Pennsylvania, and in 1940 it was said to be Maine. I chose Maine for sake of this story as that’s what Mattie told everyone in her later years. Personally, I believe it was Florida as that’s where the Wade family lived. Her birth year changed several times as well.

She gave different answers as to her ethnicity in those reports. I had to chuckle after seeing she told a census worker in 1930 that she was Indian.  Whatever her reason for doing so, it only adds mystique to Tootsie’s amazing life. It appears to me she loved messin’ with the government where personal information was concerned!

The Wades allowed Mattie to attend schools normally reserved for white children. During summer months, with Mattie in tow, the family traveled throughout Latin and Southern American countries; especially Cuba. When J.D. tired of his job he decided to pursue gold mining. Like many adventuresome gold seekers, J.D. took the family via ship to Skagway. They arrived in the rip-roaring town on September 2, 1900. Mattie followed them up the Yukon River to Dawson. Finding things tough the family pulled up stakes relocating to Fairbanks. Eventually they ended up in Koyukuk.

Mattie last saw her foster parents at Skagway in 1909. “No white child was ever raised better than I was!”, she told the Clinton Clark. The Wades left her a sizable amount of money in the Bank of Commerce – Dawson. Records show J.D. Wade returned to fruit growing and fruit harvesting equipment after returning to the states. Wells & Wade Manufacturing Company is still in operation.

Mattie traveled back to Seattle in 1909. She met a black man there working in a hotel there and married him. The day after their marriage she got the notion that he was about to run off with her sister. Mattie immediately left for Chicago and never saw the fellow again. She kept the Crosby name even though her marriage lasted 24-hours.

While headed to Chicago on a steam-powered train, she befriended a young lady that talked her into trying out as a dancer. When the dance director shouted, “Keep going, keep going,” Mattie thought the guy meant, “Git out!”

As she headed for the door he yelled for her to come back. “Where’d ya learn to dance?”, he asked. She was that good. For over a year Mattie performed on stage at the ‘Amateur Theater’. In 1911, tired of the Windy City, she left for Iditarod with another African-American girl. The two performed dance routines in Iditarod until Tootsie grew bored with that.

Needing income, she purchased a gasoline powered boat and began hauling supplies up and down the Iditarod River including the mighty Yukon. On one of her trips, loaded down with 18 passengers and headed to St. Michael, she ran into a storm and the boat almost capsized. Miraculously all survived.

The industrious woman ran dog teams hauling freight during winter months. That’s when she frostbit both eyes. Making plenty of money from these businesses she opened up a combination roadhouse/bathhouse. On the side, Mattie boarded sled dogs sometimes overseeing as many as 200 at a time. She charged $5.00 monthly per dog to take care of them. The venture was so profitable that she hired a couple of men to help out. The canines were fed fish, reindeer meat, and meal.

Mattie in her winter parka. Image reconstructed from a near totally faded photograph.

“Every four weeks, I bathed every one of them dogs. I had a great big tank, and I had two great big men that used to souse (soak) them dogs. Folks said their dogs never was kept so good. I had a house for each dog, a feed can and a water can.”

Her roadhouse, known for its yummy food, oftentimes served 50 to 75 men at a time.

“Days, days, I never got a chance to go to bed. Handled whiskey too, got pinched too!”

When fires destroyed a good portion of Iditarod in April and July of 1911, Mattie survived both. Her home and business was far enough away from flames to not be in danger. In spite of things, during her stay in Iditarod and Flat she lost three cabins to fires. One appeared to be accidental while the other 2 were of suspicious nature. Tootsie talked about losing all her worldly goods and having to start over. How she came to be known as “Tootsie” is a mystery? We can only speculate.

Iditarod, Alaska circa 1911

A daring robbery took place in Iditarod City on September 21, 1911. The transportation tram that ran between Iditarod and Flat was held up by ten masked and armed men. A total of $35,000.00 in gold dust was taken. That’s the equivalent of $2,275,000.00 today. As soon as the tram arrived in Flat a posse was organized to find the bandits. No trace of them was found although there were suspicions. Surprisingly all of the gold was quickly recovered from three locations. There’s no mention of Tootsie in any of this, but I’m sure authorities questioned all ‘working girls’ for possible leads.

By 1916, Iditarod was practically a ghost town. What’d been a bustling city having close to 5,000 occupants was reduced to a handful of people. Commercial buildings sat empty except for a few. Much of the city was disassembled and hauled to Flat. Items of importance were left behind such as newspaper printing presses and other heavy equipment. The cable tram running from Iditarod to Flat was taken down. The town was stripped of all reusable commodities. By now “Tootsie” was a full-fledged Flat resident.

Early 1900’s Flat, Alaska.

Tootsie was recognized as one of the best in Flat when it came to manufacturing moonshine. Although she never drank or smoked, the woman had zero reservations about profiting from such. For several years Tootsie’s moonshine still ran non-stop. This was during the prohibition. One summer day, federal agents came to town on a mission. Most of the people making liquor in Flat had been warned beforehand. They were able to hide their equipment.

For whatever reason poor Mattie wasn’t informed. She was cookin’ when they came lookin’.  Her place was raided and behind bars she went. Tootsie spent two years incarcerated in a Fairbanks’ jail before coming back to town. When she did, the savvy businesswoman decided to forego a portion of her former occupation.

On July 20, 1933 famous adventurer and aviator Wiley Post crashed his airplane while landing at Flat. Reports of the accident shot across the nation helping put the small gold mining town front and center. Pretty much the whole population turned out to see him. Without question the good-hearted Tootsie was there. Her excellence in cuisine was known throughout Alaska at that point. More than likely she fed Mr. Post breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Wiley Post being in Flat was a momentous event to say the least. An adventuresome person herself, its probable Mattie obtained his autograph as a souvenir.

Wiley Post airplane crash – University of Alaska-Anchorage photograph.

Mattie Crosby opened a restaurant and bar in Flat called “Tootsie’s Tavern”. Because her cooking was over the top, the establishment became an instant success. Several vintage photos show her standing out front of the establishment. In each picture she appears happy and content. It seems she’d finally found a business that was endearing to the soul.

Mattie invested much of her profits in several gold mining properties. Certain unscrupulous people in the community were always trying to rob her of it. She was smart enough to ward them off, but eventually funds needed to mine the ground ran dry. She sold her claims for a song to an investment group having sufficient capital. Within a short time they were pulling gold out of the ground by the bucket load.

“I was making money as fast as I could, and putting it back into the ground as fast as I could get it. I never had any luck in my business. No matter what business I went into, I was a failure. I made worlds and worlds of money, but always put it into the gold mines and lost it all.”

Mattie lived in Flat until February – 1962. At that point she was 77 years old. Friends wanted her to move to the Pioneer’s Home in Sitka. Mattie Crosby wanted no part of it. She’d frostbitten her eyes years ago, and was blind in one with partial vision in another. Her ability to walk was reduced to almost nil. Several men in town helped by gathering firewood and performing other jobs, but looking after her soon became a full-time chore.

It’s said they basically had to drag Mattie out of town against her own will. On the trip to Sitka, because of bad health, she stopped in Anchorage spending time at Providence Hospital.  While convalescing there she came in contact with several old mining buddies.

“Great day in the morning! I have never been so happy in my life. This is one of the greatest meetings I have ever had!”

When reminded how they’d been like one big family in Flat Tootsie replied,

“Ain’t that the truth, and the Lord surely blessed us.”

An old sourdough friend, Mike Burns, traveled to Sitka with her. Mike passed away several months after arriving at 92. Time spent in Sitka Pioneer’s Home was not akin to living in the bush. She had few friends at the start but before long there were many.

When a new Pioneer’s Home was built in Fairbanks opening doors in 1966, Mattie was one of its first residents. Many old sourdoughs from her Iditarod and Flat days were residents at this place. She felt at ease. Tootsie spent days socializing, reading the Bible, including continuing to write her book. She said it was tough going having only one eye, and a bad one at that, but overall the woman remained in good spirits.

One story she told Clinton Clark had to do with the mail. Evidently Tootsie loved getting letters.

“The prettiest thing in the world was to see the mail man comin’ with 18 or 20 dogs with their tails curled up and their little bells a ringin’. Great big dogs – Huskies. Them was the kind of dogs to have. I wouldn’t have these little playthings they have now, they can’t haul nothin’.”

Tootsie was confined to a wheelchair in Fairbanks yet still made the rounds. Workers at the facility as well as elderly residentsabsolutely adored her. She was invited to birthday parties and dinner socials, with many such appearances written about in the Fairbanks newspaper. Her name was generally listed as special attendee. At Wednesday Bible meetings, Tootsie was called upon to sing. One of her favorite songs was, “In the Sweet Bye and Bye”.  She sang it often.

Mattie Crosby died on October 19, 1972. A newspaper article mentioned that more people turned out for her service, than any other person in Fairbank’s history at that time. She was much loved by the community. The longtime Alaskan is buried at Birch Hill Cemetery.

Although she departed for a better place free of pain and suffering, Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby left behind some fascinating tales. Examine her writings very closely and you’ll find subtle, between the lines humor. I’ve left the excerpts ‘as is’ which include grammar and punctuation errors.

The following compositions are penned from Mattie’s wrinkled fingers. They will never be lost or destroyed!

Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby

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

Chula Vista Star-News – September 13, 1956

LETTER FROM A SOURDOUGH – Marijuana Makes Mice Chase Cats in Alaska

(A group of letters to the editor which appeared in recent editions of the Star-News has attracted the attention of a woman living in Flat, Alaska, and this week the Star-News received an airmail registered letter from Mrs. Mattie Crosby, who says she is known throughout Alaska as “Tootsie”. In her letter “Tootsie” agrees with Harold Spear Young in regards to his calling all drugs, not heroin alone, dangerous. Dr. P.C. Means, a retired Army medical officer has written letters contradicting the opinions of Young. Mrs. Crosby’s letter follows in part – Ed.)

DEAR EDITOR,

“We here in Alaska agree with Harold Spear in regards to his calling all drugs, not heroin alone, dangerous. Dr. P.C. Means seems to bring out that marijuana is not dangerous.

GUNNING FOR CATS

          “We were certainly surprised. Scientists are always experimenting and when they tried marijuana on white mice over in Fairbanks, a few hundred miles from here, the mice got loose and killed two cats that had been running for the mice.

          “The marijuana was tried on a big salmon and when put back into the water the salmon took off and swam to the ocean and took on a whale and killed the whale. (The whale was not full grown, Mrs. Crosby points out). The rabbits that got a few sniffs of “the weed” chased the moose all over the place.

          “Dr. Means says it’s okay to smoke one to prove there is no kick. What if a person would light up one of these weeds, what then?

          “An old maid came out here looking for a husband and no luck until she tried a marijuana weed, then she kidnapped three trappers and an old ancient prospector, but she didn’t puff on the harmless kind of weed that Dr. Means talks about.

OLD SOURDOUGH

“I am an old sourdough of Alaska and the Yukon Territory and have been breaking trails for 56 years. I have lived in this part of Alaska for 45 years. Flat is a ghost town and was once one of the richest towns in Alaska.

          “When the long winter sets in and the northern lights dance for us in the heavens up here, I think of the old fool who smoked two of those harmless weeds and applied for a job turning on the northern lights, or had another harmless weed and went out to chip ice off the North Pole.

          “Up here we have fermented blue berries and a few swigs of the juice will cause some of these old bean eaters up here to go clear off the beam. Like the monkey who smoked a harmless marijuana weed, went out and beat up on a gorilla, than ran off with his wife.

          “Harold Young left Fairbanks by boat years ago and was one of the first to settle in Flat, when he was just a boy. He wrote articles for newspapers up here in 1910. His grandparents operated the largest store in the camp and after the rest of the family left Alaska, his mother stayed and was here for many years. She was one of the finest ladies that ever came to Alaska, was loved by everyone for her kindness to all.

          Sincerely,

          MRS.MATTIE CROSBY

(Better known as “Tootsie” all over Alaska)

Chula Vista Star-News – December 12, 1963

Tootsie Ponders Why She’s Black

Editors:

Hi!

          A little Alaskan Indian child stood staring at me and at last I said: “Honey child, tell Tootsie what it is”. She did, saying, “What makes you black?”

          She was so sweet and innocent. I was so old, and crippled, one eye gone from freezing and other cold storage ailments and, at my age, that is over 80, I should have had the answer right there on the spot. I asked that sweet little native child to give me time. She did.

          Now about the time she gave me. Time, like God, never began and shall never end. We have a big state up here in Alaska, the 49th state. And speaking of space, I’ll have to mention in Texas and even in Chula Vista, with all the space there is, some places are so crowded.

          And yet space has no beginning and no ending. At least that is the latest that I have learned. My, but I feel so small.

          Now back to that little native child. I did some research and this is what I found:

          Men often inflict gruesome punishment upon each other, and very often all because of such mere trifles such as race, creed, and color. I am black and if Adam and Eve were white, God in his wisdom may have had reasons to change some of his creations (humans) to black.

          For example, possibly thousands of years in the heat was God’s reason for a change from white people to black and the change may have taken place very slowly as we measure time.

          Now, if we were all black from Adam and Eve, some may have turned white. I have been up here where it is so cold so long that my heart and soul seem white to me and my skin may be turning white.

          However, I love you all. God bless you regardless of any color. I even love those creatures of God’s with feathers, and those with fur.

          Thank you so much.

          MATTIE CROSBY

(Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – December 19, 1963

Tootsie Recounts Christmas Tale

Editors,

Hi, you folks in the South Bay.

Like so many other oldsters here at the Pioneer’s Home, I am thinking about Christmas and I have a story to tell.

On the sourdough’s last trip out of Alaska 20 years ago, he had been greeted at the dock in Seattle by his wife and little daughter. How happy they were. And now those same streets he was walking along brought back memories of over 20 years ago when the 3 of them walked together.

They had purchased Christmas gifts from some of the same big stores and life had seemed beautiful. But this time, over 20 years later, walking the same paths, just before Christmas, the old sourdough was sad because his wife and child had been called from life.

The streets were crowded now. Soon the old sourdough found himself in the basement in one of Seattle’s big department stores. How beautiful everything looked. There were tables and counters loaded with toys…. artificial snow and tinsel that made him think of Alaska, which he wished he had not left.

Off in a corner of the crowded room he noticed a small girl with big beautiful eyes and a beautiful child’s face. Her little body was dressed in ragged clothing; her shoes were torn and wet. She shyly walked to a toy counter, holding out a nickel and a few pennies in exchange for some toys. She was refused because she did not have enough money and he spied tears as she rubbed her sleeve across her cheek.

She quietly went back to the corner from which she had come and watched, satisfied to smile at the joy others were having.

As the old sourdough watched her, he thought of his own little girl. There stood this one living in the early morning of life – the time when the sun shines and the birds sing to commence the day. His hair was white; hers was a beautiful golden color. His hands were hard like rocks; hers were soft but rough from work. Yes, she was enjoying life’s morning sunshine; he was living in the evening of life just before the stars start to shine and darkness overtakes us and it is time to sleep.

Smartly dressed children with their parents were picking out toys and beautiful things; none seemed to notice her.

Then the old sourdough moved close to her, doffed his hat and asked if he could be of service to her, explaining that he worked for Santa Claus.

The child’s face lit up and her eyes sparkled far brighter that the Christmas lights on the big tree in the store, and she smiled, holding out in her hand the nickel and pennies.

“First,” said the old sourdough, “We must find a purse for your money.” They purchased one, in which a goodly sum of money was added to hers.

Next he walked back of a big toy counter just as if he were the clerk and waited on her, helping her to pick out a beautiful doll.

He then went on a shopping tour with his little friend just as he had done over 20 years ago with his wife and little daughter in that same store.

When they had finished, our sourdough called a taxi and the presents were carried from the big store to the waiting auto.

The old sourdough and child took a long ride to her home, during which she told him how her mama had been sick since her papa died, but that now she was well and looking for work.  Mama had given her, her last nickel and pennies to get her something for Christmas.

She confided that her mama was the best God could have found for her and that they were so happy together.

The child then asked the old sourdough questions about the North Pole and Santa Claus.  He told her how the Northern Lights light up the heavens so Santa can see to drive his reindeer from the North Pole over Alaska and to every place where children live.

As the taxi approached the front of her humble home on Seattle’s tideflats, the little girl asked him if Santa was really the first person that lived at the North Pole.

When he told her “Yes”, as the things were unloaded and taken into her home, she threw her arms around her mother’s neck and exclaimed excitedly, “Oh mama this man is one of Santa’s helpers – and Santa was the very first sourdough in Alaska!  Look at all the lovely things he has brought us.”

And Mother, smiling through her tears, thanked the understanding soul whose heart was filled with happiness as thoughts of other days surged through his mind.

Christmas in that little home was one of the happiest in all that big city during holiday time – and our old friend was perhaps the happiest of them all for he had brought joy into the heart of a little child.

The old sourdough of this story could be here in the Pioneer’s home right now.  Would you believe me if I told you he was?

Thank you so much.

MATTIE CROSBY

(Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Pioneer’s Home

Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – September 26, 1963

Red Eyeball Prompts Tootsie Tale

EDITORS:

          Because of an article in The Star-News about a pill for men only that makes them safe under certain conditions and also turns the whites of their eyes red, you have elderly men talking and wondering and also the ladies here in the home are wondering.

          Also, I wonder if a man I’ll call Skinner or his son, could be at work outside of Alaska?

          When Skinner landed in Flat, he entered a saloon, took from his pocket a tablet, placed it in his glass of whisky and drank the mixture. Accidentally he dropped the box and made a great fuss as he asked everyone to step aside while he located the pills he said were worth a dollar each. One man inquired why such small pellets should be so expensive.

          “They’re youth tablets,” explained Skinner. “They make old men young, young men full of what it takes, and although I’m over 63, I have ideas that go with a man say 25.” Before Skinner left, he had sold several boxes at reduced prices.

          Skinner later told an old sourdough he was a successful photographer connected with an establishment in a Washington state town and he specialized in taking pictures of the departed.

          The sourdough said, “Do you mean that you photograph the spirit of the dead?”

          “Yes,” he answered. “And they all turn out beautifully.”

          “How much do you get for this work?”, inquired the sourdough.  “From $10 to $30,” he replied.

          Skinner offered to take the sourdough in as a partner for the small sum of several hundred dollars. He went on to explain photographing the dead saying:

          I called on Widow Jones and said to her, “Mrs. Jones I have a very strange story to tell you. Last night when I was sleeping, your departed husband appeared in a dream and told me to come here, go up to your room where he slept, that he would appear and asked me to take his picture. He told me his spirit would carry the very shape and form his body used on earth. The widow gasped and looked horrified.”

          “Did she let you up?” asked the sourdough and Skinner continued, “Yes,” she first however, gave me a dirty look and asked me to describe her husband as I had seen him in the dream. I told her he was tall, a little lame, had a little bald spot, a finger missing and he had a pointed beard to which she gasped, “My God, John.”

          Skinner went on: She led me into her departed husband’s room. The poor soul had everything just as he had left it. His slippers were under the bed, his pipe, tobacco, and tobacco jar were on the table. I asked her to speak to him and in a soft, trembling voice she said, “John dearest, the photographer is here,” but there was no answer.

          Skinner’s eyes almost closed to slits as he continued: “I asked the widow to pull down the curtains which she did, and again she called for her husband. I informed him that I could now see him and would get a good picture.

          “Just before I left,” said Skinner. “I told the lady that that in my dream John had asked me to make a colored enlargement which would cost $50.” She readily agreed to pay if the picture was good.

          “How did you know what John looked like?” inquired the sourdough.

          “Well old-timer,” said Skinner. “I always pick out an old photo establishment, the father-and-son kind, and go over the old pictures. When I have all the old husband-and-wife lined up I find out which ones have had deaths, pick out the departed, study the features, and set out to sell the survivor a picture of the departed.”

          “I get in the proper room, point my camera, click it, hurry to the studio, get the old negative, and a little touching up does the trick.”

          “When I delivered the picture the widow gasped, ‘O John, O John, I knew you could be reached.”

          I believe that we will put a man on the moon. Can you folks believe this story?

          Thank you so much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

           (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – January 12, 1964

Tootsie Answers Some Questions

          As I write it is still 1963 and I want to thank you folks in the South Bay for the dozens of letters, books and other things. There is so much left unsolved to keep me busy for a long long time. And you folks have asked me many questions to keep me both busy and happy answering at least some of them through 1964.

          There is a sourdough here that still asks, “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” Some have tried to answer that one.

          In the case of Adam and Eve, Adam arrived first and therefore was older than his daughter Eve. I say “daughter” because Adam gave birth to Eve when his rib was removed and therefore was Eve’s mother.

          Later they had a visitor, Lucifer of hell and that is another story. Also they had children (sons) and now let me squeeze in that there is no such thing as an illegitimate child. All have a soul given to them by God. No one performed the marriage of Adam and Eve. At least that’s the way I think.

          Now back to the unsolved question which came first, the chicken or the egg. A darn old ___ here has tried to tell me that possibly the rooster arrived first and lost a rib like Adam, and the hen arrived, and next followed the egg.

          We so often speak of Negroes as black. Now it has been discovered that we are, in most cases, a dark blue complexion. My hair is pure white, my blood is red, my complexion is dark blue, and therefore I am a true “Red, White, and Blue”.

          I am now over 80 and realize and realize I am not a young woman anymore, and therefore must look more ahead than behind. Now looking ahead: We speak of reaching the moon soon and also we have heard tales about “the man in the moon”. No one knows exactly how he got there, except that there must have been a woman there and another man also – to make a man on the moon.

          You have asked me about gold here in Alaska, and money and lead.

          For a great many years, pennies and nickels and dimes were never seen or used in Alaska. A quarter was the smallest money used. That saying, “Gold is where you find it” is okay, but most of the gold in the world is where one cannot find it. About lead, it is the oldest metal on earth and the age of the earth has been determined by lead.

          In closing, I want you to know that we are all happy here in Pioneer’s Home and we all wish you a very Happy New Year.

MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

(Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Pioneer’s Home

Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – April 5, 1964

Tootsie Ruminates on Dogs and Thought

EDITORS:

          HI:

          In answer to a question from Chula Vista: “Do Sled Dogs Think?” I sincerely believe they do. They are in most cases loving and hardworking animals, who take good care of their young and will, if necessary, die for their babies. Their feelings are often hurt, and in most cases they are a happy lot and play games much like we humans do. They know their respective names and understand much that is said to them.

          Let us examine thought briefly: The brain is flesh, composed of lime, chalk, water, salt, and 13 or more substances, and with that substance we think.

          One cannot really see a thought; however we know it is there.

          One cannot smell a thought or burn it, and if it could be placed on a track even a train could not harm it by running over the thought. It is invisible and the most important part of us humans or animals, such as dogs.

          What good would the universe be without thought? Love and kindness all depends on thought. With none to enjoy the universe or parts of it through thought, there would not be, it seems to me, any reason for the stars, moon, sun and all.

          We, of course, all do not think the same and that makes no two exactly alike. No two sled dogs are the same, either, and we are all here to serve a purpose according to God’s wisdom that is the highest intelligence.

          Our thinking is, I am sure, on a much higher level than the dogs. We are humans by the grace of God instead of a tree, flower, or even a dog. When I depart from life on earth, I would just love to meet beyond dogs that I have owned and used as sled dogs, as well as many others that were my tail wagging friends. They are really part of Alaska and have been, in so many ways, part of my way of life here in this wonderful land.

          In short, I love dogs and believe me, they think.

          Thank you, thank you so much.

          MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Pioneer’s Home

Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – April 30, 1964

Tootsie is Irate at Lottery Plan

Editors:

          Hi:

          I almost turned white in this old black face of mine when I read Mr. John Morrissey’s letter to The Star-News. “Private State Lottery Backed By Reader.”

          The high quality and vivid manner in which the gentleman presented his views got me to thinking, but I do not agree with him.

          The education of our children is a must in our way of life.

          But lotteries are not good and even bingo used for religious purposes is still like gambling, much like lotteries. Also such things as that great television attraction, “The $64,000.00 Question,” and that has a long story back to it.

          Loopholes in the law to permit gambling for state, or churches, act like certain sprays to cover up odors. The smell is there but the spray material perfumes above it. In the case of a dead horse, a mask is needed.

          Should we mask our public for state lotteries and even church bingo games? Read the Ten Commandments Please.

          Lotteries and such gambling as bingo brings quick and easy money for those on the right end to receive it.

          We are told the farmer is a gambler. Is he? He labors for what he gets. Farming is not a game. Should a judge or jury render a verdict by the turn of a card or throw of the dice?

          A thief steals to get something of value without paying or working for it. A gambler hopes to get something of value by chance without paying or working for it. The promoter of a lottery or any game plays on the desire of what we often call “suckers”. I know, because I too have been one. Gambling hits the poor and takes away their hard earnings. It robs children and that is hell.

          I am well over 80 and have seen men sell snake oil that was guaranteed to cure many ailments. I also remember the selling of Indian Root Bitters that really was a cure for what have you. I saw pain pads sold by a man with long hair, long beard and all the rest of the gear used at that time to fool the public. All such junk was supposed to cure suckers like magic.

          And now I have seen it all with this idea of a lottery to raise funds to be used by our public schools to reduce school taxes.

          How about a chance in the church collection plate? Every person putting money in could take out a number that could be the winning number?

          Thank you, thank you so much.

MATTIE CROSBY           

(Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Pioneer’s Home

Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – May 14, 1964

Tootsie Gives View On School Prayers

EDITORS:

          There is a great deal in the newspapers about prayer in our public schools.

          Should teachers by law have to lead children in prayer, regardless of how simple? If so, what prayer or prayers? For example, Christ’s parent took him to a Jewish synagogue and he went to church on Sunday. Any prayer that was good enough for Christ and his parents certainly should be good enough for all. However, many may object.

          It seems that a great many fear a compulsive system of prayer by law and therefore our Constitution is brought into the picture. Some say than an amendment to our Constitution would put everything in order for prayers in our public schools.

          Would it? Many do not believe in the same creeds such as the Buddhists, and there are over 350 million. I do not believe in the Confucianists and Taoists and there are over 300 million and again we have the Mohammedans over 225 million and the four make more than three quarters of the world’s worshippers. Many are in our U.S.A. and have their respective prayers.

          No child or adult be required to say a prayer that he or she does not believe in. Prayer is between the person praying and God, or at least should be. No person should condemn another because of his or her religion.

          There are many creeds here in our U.S.A. and it should be possible for those who go to Jewish synagogues, Roman churches, or any other of our many churches here in the U.S.A. to get together on one or more prayers.

          From our earth we can at least see some of God’s universe. How wonderful and could mere men have accomplished that? The air pressure here is exactly right to keep we humans and animals and all from exploding. The air, water, and all are just right for us and even the sun is the right distance from earth to keep us from burning up or freezing.

          Even the moon is tilted exactly right to control the tide so that it will not drown us all.

          I could go on and on; however, what I am getting at is this: How about a prayer that will have incorporated in it how wonderful God’s creation is and that God had no beginning and shall never end.

          Thank you so much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

           (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

 Chula Vista Star-News – June 11, 1964

Tootsie’s Views on the ‘Retarded’

Editors:

So-called “retarded children,” as well as “retarded adults,” are very often only different, and in a great many cases are those who refuse to reason as others might want them to.

          Now, all children and adults are not exactly what Ma and Pa might have placed their respective orders for. But I believe that every living thing is in God’s plan. We know in the first place that we did not make ourselves and we are here on earth. Also no other thing such as a tree, animal, etc., could make itself. Life and all else because of the power of our Maker.

          Now back to the so called “retarded.” Not too long ago, children and adults were thought to be strange, odd, and even retarded because they had what others thought was too much imagination. Animal’s brains are not capable of generating imagination and our advances are a product of imagination.

          Now let us suppose that we humans in 1964 could see exactly how, for example, the medical profession operated 100 years ago. We would not want any part of it should we need an operation or tooth extracted etc. If we should be living 100 years in the future, we may feel the same alarm about today’s medicine. And so it may be we are all retarded today, considering what may be the average intelligence 100 years from now.

          Very valuable mining claims were discovered here in Alaska by the Chechako and others because they were chosen by seasoned prospectors, etc., to be dumb enough to believe them when they were told to climb to the top of a very high hill and stake claims there.

          The skilled prospectors “knew” that the pay gravel was always on the creek bedrock where the water flowed or close. Those that were supposed to be fooled and staked high on the benches made great discoveries such as Chechako Mine.

          When Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1876, the deal was called “Seward’s Folly,” for a great many years.  You know, Seward was sort of retarded.

          I am of the opinion that many are classed as retarded or worse (merely) because they are not on thinking terms with others. Thank you, thank you so much.

          M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Chula Vista Star-News – June 25, 1964

Tootsie Knows All About Goldwater

EDITORS:

          It is easy for one who writes to be misunderstood, especially in connection with politics. For example, we are hearing much about Senator Barry Goldwater these days and I have been asked: “What do you think of Goldwater?”

          Now, goldwater here in Alaska has been used for cooking, bathing, and many other uses and it has been piped to us. And now we are getting Goldwater over the air, through the mails, etc.

          I have heard for a great many years about that d _ _ n goldwater, and heard language used to describe goldwater that even a reformed malamute would run away from. Too much goldwater has ruined many a man in Alaska. Any person that might solve the goldwater curse to mankind might not only get rich but be of great value to the world.

          By now you should be really wondering. I am not sure from whence came the name Goldwater. However from a standpoint of Gold mining and especially placer, goldwater is a problem, and here is why.

          Goldwater is found in a great many parts of the earth. Gold comes first from the solid rock and is so mined and known as “hard rock, or quartz mining.” Next gold is found in the gravel on earth, after it has been by nature removed from the rock and washed out, etc. Even sea water averages one grain of gold per ton of water. Now we are getting close to goldwater.

          Much gold is lost when the pay dirt is sluiced because it is flake gold or so light that it cannot be caught. This is often called “goldwater.” If there is a great deal of flake gold or flour gold, etc., the loss is great.   Clay or the like that also carries off flake gold or flour gold is called “sluice robber.”

          Too much goldwater is dangerous to the success of mining and I have heard goldwater called names that would shock even some Democrats.

          Do not pay too much attention to my political views because I know so little about politics. I am so dumb that for years I did not even know I was a Negro until I would look in the mirror. And now, at well over 80, I think back to my gold-mining days, trailmaking and my over 64 years in Alaska.

          Why even Republicans here in Alaska still say “something must be done to stop goldwater.”  One thing is sure: mud mixed with water makes the best mixture for goldwater.

          I’ll just bet my legs, that have been frozen so many times, that both Goldwater and Rockefeller and even our President would have made wonderful trailblazers and prospectors. Who knows but what all three might have under certain conditions been frozen in exactly the same places and needed social security medical care.

          MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Pioneer’s Home

Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – July 9, 1964

How Tootsie Feels On Being a Negro

Editors:

          I am asked how one feels to be a Negro and if “I ever feel discriminated against.” I am not so sure so late in life. I can give a good answer.

          There is not much use telling about injustice because there are so many circumstances to be considered.

          For example, let us briefly consider women. Injustice to women has lasted thousands of years. The Negro has no monopoly in suffering from it.

          The thing that counts is what may be done to diminish injustice. Now you may sense how I feel about being a Negro because to me, at times, I seem to see the world preaching Christianity and not always practicing it.

          Right now I wish to make clear that everybody, especially during my later years in life in Alaska and here in Pioneer’s Home in Sitka, has been so good and kind to me that it seems like heaven on earth here in the land of the midnight sun.

          There is the question, “How does it feel to be a woman?” You all know the story of the men prepared to stone a woman. Like thousands of others, this woman would have met her death, the victim of what some call a crime and committed by two with usually the man the more guilty.

          In this case, however, there stood a man with no stone in his hand, no excitement to destroy, and no hate in his heart. The fearful woman, hunted by men like an animal looked in His face and saw love and pity and she threw herself at His feet for protection from the men with stone in their hands. The rest is a long story.

          Can you imagine how it felt to be a woman at that moment?

          Women still jump off of buildings and into rivers and the like because they have as we humans often describe it, “sinned” and been found out. The other party that also sinned does not jump in the river.

          It seems that many do not care how it feels to be a woman. And I doubt if such a woman could really describe how it feels.

          I can tell you how it feels to make a good gold strike, and also to be burnt out three times in the dead of winter far in the interior of Alaska, with all my supplies gone.

          I could go on telling how it feels to be nearly frozen to death, and to almost go blind. Also the joy of finding after freezing that there was some sight left in one eye.

          I can tell you how it feels to have lived in Alaska over 64 years.

          How it feels to be lost on the trail and also off the trail.

          How it feels to live where only 12 or 14 humans were, far in the interior.

          However, best of all, I can tell how it feels to be wealthy and how it feels to be poor. How it feels to be young and, now well over 80, I still feel young and know how good it feels to still be alive.

          I know how it feels to love and not to hate.

          How it feels to be hungry as well as to eat too much.

          How it feels to see a brand new baby and how it feels to see death.

          How it feels to believe and also not to believe.

          How it feels to dream and how it feels to awaken from a dream to be the real thing.

          How it feels to see the midnight sun in summer and the beautiful northern lights during the winter.

          How it feels to own big dog teams and later to be so down and out that I pulled my sled by my neck, and felt good.

          I was in Alaska where I could only see what a Negro looked like when I looked in a mirror. Honestly, I cannot tell you how it feels to be a Negro. I just do not know. I have even at times, forgotten that I am a woman and have gone on living, having and being thankful for life here on earth.

MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

(Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Pioneer’s Home

Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – September, 24, 1964

ANOTHER LETTER FROM TOOTSIE

Editors:

          We will just imagine that you are on vacation and decided to visit me here at Pioneer’s Home in Sitka, Alaska and we are answering each other’s questions.

          Now about your bald headed dogs? I know that it is true because I saw one from your area. A fellow was sort of in love with one of the girls at Flat about 1916 and he made a trip outside. While in Tijuana, Mexico he bought a bald headed dog for the girl.

          Also the animal was nudist. I mean that it was bare behind, in front and other. Even a malamute in Flat sniffed the animal, jumped back and hit the trail leading to the tall and uncut, and plenty fast. You have a fancy name for those dogs and call them “Mexican Hairless Chihuahuas”.  When you think of our malamutes keep in mind that not all of your dogs are perfect at least when it comes to a covering.

          Next, I am asked if it is true that during very cold weather in Alaska should a person throw a pan of water out of a window, if the water will freeze before it hits the ground? Yes – go high enough in the air by plane or balloon in Alaska during the cold weather and throw out a pan of water and it should freeze. Also go high enough above Chula Vista and the water will freeze at any time.

          About gold mines in Alaska: California is also a great gold-mining state. I’ll take up the matter of gold at some future date, with the exception of calling your attention to a sort of gold mine that is not too far from Chula Vista and I mean the race track over the Mexican border where too many go to see the horses race and to wager money. I am wondering how they get the horses so fast, slim and trim through breeding and the jockey’s so small? I understand that some of the race horses were so polite that when a male horse passed a female horse in a race, that the male horse has been known to tips his jockey.

          Now briefly about bull fights: I am informed that the bull is always killed. I do not understand the sport that would seem very dangerous to me. I do not know if the “bull” is always correct, unless there was, for an example say 99% bull and 1% fight. There was and may still be an old saying in Alaska: TIE YOUR BULL OUTSIDE”. If the weather is too cold, even the bull, if left tied outside would freeze and there would, in that case be very little if any fight in any bull.

MRS. M. CROSBY

(Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Pioneer Home

and

Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – December 3, 1964

Tootsie Gives View On Poor People

EDITORS:

          After reading your “Dear Editor” column of Nov. 19th, sent to me air mail, please let me give my views regarding one of your letters (i.e., from a Southern lady who calls Negroes “the most dependent breed of people in the world”).

          I am a Negro reaching for 84. I have not been out of Alaska for 54 years. I first arrived here in Alaska from Chicago in 1900. Now, as a Negro, I have seen outside of Alaska, in Chicago and other places, young and especially old women on their knees and they were not praying but working and very hard.

          They were called “scrub women,” and would work in office buildings and other places, often throughout the night. I so remember the bucket, the soap close by, and the brush in hand. All that was long long ago. Times are changing.

          Those tired old, as well as young, backs would be a sight to see. While others would be sleeping, I saw those folks doing their tiresome labor through the night, and then they would probably go home in time to possibly prepare some food and get children off to school.

          Not much time for them to attend bridge parties or go to City Hall and complain about this, that or what have you.

          Many have seen what I have described. And please still keep in mind that I am a Negro and have my thoughts and know those women worked for the smallest wage such people could be made to accept.

I have also seen children doing work that was far too hard for them. They were denied an education. Sur, that was a long time ago,. However, I feel that we have not yet reached perfection. There are still folks doing what we call “hard dirty work.” Some will say they were not well educated. Others will say other things such as printed in your “Dear Editor” column.

          I say to you that I really love our people and that while in Chicago before 1900 there was sorrow in my heart for those I have described. Those women on their knees working through the night. Also children working very hard and deprived of schooling in nearly every case.

          Those folks I have described were white folks and I love them all and still do, just as I love the Negroes and Indians here, as well as the Eskimos.

          I have at times lived for years without even seeing another Negro. Going back to the days before 1900 in Chicago, and now up here in almost 1965, there are some brave souls that are making efforts to end poverty in our great U.S.A.

          I am so proud to be a little black speck up here in this big white land of snow in winter and midnight sun in the summer, and again I love you all so much.

          Thank you, thank you very much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – December 17, 1964

A CHRISTMAS STORY FROM TOOTSIE

Editors:

          In reply to one of my letters to you, a party has told me that; “We are all born equal.” I am thinking now of a boy who in my opinion was not born equal to other children.

          In a town supported by a large refinery lived a girl of about 18 whom I will call “Mary”. Mary’s father worked in the refinery. Her mother had died in that same town years before.

          Mary was a sweet girl and she kept house for her father. Mary did something most girls do in time. She fell in love with a man and they were to be married. Yes he promised to marry her but kept putting it off.

          In an old doctor’s home early one Christmas morning a baby boy was born to Mary, and the old doctor was kind to the girl and kept her there in his home and he cared for her. The man Mary was to marry had left town for parts unknown. He already had a wife and child.

          Mary soon was out and around with her baby. Her father would not let her back into his home. Some people on the street whom Mary had known all of her life time would not even stop and talk with her. Her girlfriends seemed very cold toward her. Mary even read in a local paper a very cruel story about her. Yes, that was a great many years ago and times have changed – however not completely.

          Mary wanted to be good and she took her baby to church. People were somehow different to her, and Mary, of course, knew why. In her sleep she saw accusing fingers pointed at her and her baby. She applied for work at the stores and was refused. She even tried the refinery and they just could not use her.

          The old doctor gave Mary work as a practical nurse, and certain people of the town protested to the old doctor. Some of the town ladies warned their daughters about associating with Mary.

          Mary loved that boy of hers and he was sent to school and when he was told enough to understand he heard other children explain just how he arrived into this troubled world.  Sermons were preached that did not name Mary. But Mary knew and her boy got the message.

          A boy fought with Mary’s son at school and lost. The boy who lost was the son of a powerful man in the town. Mary’s son was called to the principal’s office and was questioned by several indignant and enraged folks. Harsh words were spoken and Mary’s son said as he stood, “Joseph being a righteous man took unto himself Mary as his wife.”

          The principal sternly said, “Sit down.”

          The boy replied, “I choose to stand now alone as I have always except for my dear mother, stood alone. I now stand in defense of my mother. The Lord sent Christ to this world and every other living creature, and if you condemn my birth, you condemn the work of the Lord because I am created not by man, but by the Lord.”

          The boy was promptly expelled. I guess he would not at that early date, be called a “dropout”.

          Later Mary’s son headed for Alaska and got to Iditarod City and Flat during the first stampede, in 1909. He staked his claim and got to mining.

          The boy got to buying certain mining ground, as well as property in Settle. There was a wireless station in old Iditarod City, eight miles from Flat and the boy, now a young man, would often wire his mother.

          Later it was discovered that Mary’s son had arranged for a large Christmas tree to be put up every year in the park owned by the refinery in the town of his birth. There would be presents for every man, woman, and child. Also Mary’s boy arranged a trust fund for girls in sorrow.

          As this was quite some time ago, I just wonder if the breeze whispering through the branches of the Christmas tree did not say for Mary’ son, “Merry Christmas to you all?”

          Two men now living in Chula Vista were in Iditarod and Flat during the early days. Both those men are now over 70 now and they know about what I have written.

          Thank you folks, and Merry Christmas.

          MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

          Better known as Tootsie

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – January 28, 1965

Tootsie Tells Why She Chases Rainbows

EDITORS:

          I have a letter from one of your readers in Chula Vista associating Alaskan prospectors with rainbow chasers.  I think that we all chase rainbows.  Children are known to try and walk to the spot where the rainbow comes down and seems to touch the earth.

          In fact, I pity those who do not permit life’s rainbow to shine in their lives.  The prospector is blessed while he chases the rainbow that sort of shines in his soul.

          Now, some believe that all human beings were drowned on earth except one family.  Also that all animals except one pair of each were drowned.  And after all that, it is said, God made the rainbow as a sign that such a thing would never happen again.

          It is all in Genesis 1X: 13, 14, 15: “I do set my bow in the cloud and it shall be a covenant between Me and the earth … And it hall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth that the bow shall be seen in the cloud.  And I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

          In the study of gold mining, we are taught that rainbows were shining on this earth millions of years before the Bible was written.

          Personally, I have followed mining in Alaska for over 60 years and am a professional rainbow chaser.  I even see a sort of rainbow in the spray of waterfalls and I see it in the glad hearts of children as well as adults at times.  Now that I am over 80, there is still a rainbow in my soul and I love it.

          Laugh at this if you must, but remember that many children still believe there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Once grown folks believed that gold could be found at the end of the rainbow.  Some say that the rainbow has nothing to do with gold or wealth.  I know that it has.  I should know because I have chased it enough and more than once I found it and got the gold.

          Alaska is still full of rainbow chasers.  Some will succeed and others must fail.  They all know that the gold is here if only they can locate it.

          I have seen a great deal of nature and with the exception of our Northern Lights, I think the most beautiful thing is the rainbow.  I see all the lovely colors of the sunlight and even more, such as beautiful red blended with the violet.  Can you wonder why Alaskan prospectors are rainbow chasers and rejoice in the chase?

          I think that humans that are not rainbow chasers are to be pitied because it signifies that hope is dead.  When hope shines in one’s soul he is happy and eager for the chase.

          Rainbow chasers made Alaska.  Other rainbow chasers discovered the earth is round.  Do not discourage the rainbow chaser because there is a rainbow of hope in so many hearts.  Keep your thoughts of the rainbow chaser kind because there is one real joy and that is hope.

          The rainbow shines somewhere on this earth and possibly on millions of other planets every second.  Should there come a time here on earth that there are no more rainbows – all will be darkness and all hope also will be gone.  As an old time rainbow chaser please take this advice:  Keep your rainbow with all its splendor and never let it fade or die.

          Thank you so much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

           Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – January 31, 1965

Tootsie Ponders Why We’re Taxed

EDITORS:

          Here it is tax time. Many will be working on their deductions such as doctor’s bills, and medicine. I am very much mixed up in the matter of taxes and other.

          Pauper: “A very poor person.” Taxes in such cases often help. Charity: “The relief of unfortunate or needy persons. Something given to a person in need.” Taxes help.

          Very often a fine line is drawn between charity and that which is supported by the taxpayers. In many cases donations such as money willed to universities and hospitals help both rich and poor alike. Believe me, one would have to be very rich to go through life without taking, in many forms, relief from taxes. I, of course, have in mind public schools. In fact, we all take tax handouts. We all profit from the cradle to the grave from taxes.

          When students in great universities surround police cars and hold them sort of prisoners… When the students take over in a forceful manner and demonstrate for free speech, free this, and free that, I am wondering if those bearded and long haired fellows realize that Mr. and Mrs. and even Miss U.S.A. taxpayer, as well as those who leave money in wills or give it in other ways, have made it possible to have a great university. Should taxes and donations help such?

          Judges, USA Presidents and doctors have moved through life because of the person who paid taxes and made donations. Some gained great success and others not so good however, all have in some manner profited.

          Some time ago a good doctor on vacation in Alaska journeyed to the interior. He gave several lectures, and many learned a great deal from him. He did not believe that those highly educated and skilled should continue to wave before the eyes of others the fact that their education cost them or their parents a fortune.

          He brought out what I have tried to tell you here, that taxes have given us most of our education. Sure, Ma and Pa in degree pay for the schooling of the garbage collector or dog catcher.

          The doctor who spoke made very clear the need of medical care for all classes. He did not believe too much in, “charity,” and even suggested that the word “charity,” should be replaced with entirely.

          The kindly doctor returned to his home, and I am wondering if many of you folks will not agree that the doctor, who was a doctor of law, would not have made an exceptionally good medical doctor?

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – June 27, 1965

Tootsie Gives View On Medicare

EDITORS:

          Hospital security for those over 65 is discussed a great deal by those in the home here. Also I have had letters from Chula Vista about the medical bill that may become law.

          I want you to know that I am not qualified to answer questions asked of me. I have been here in Alaska over 55 years without a trip to see what we call “outside”. However, I reason this way:

          We have public schools and need them badly. We have fire departments to save life and property. We have police departments to guard our lives and others lives. Along with all these things we need hospital care and even doctor’s care – most of all for those over 65 but, to be frank, for all our people.

          If one’s home is burning, the fire department does not ask questions. They put out the fire as quickly as possible. If any human is in danger and may die, hospital care may save a life. Should a house or other building burn down, that is not too bad. If a life could be saved but is lost because of lack of hospital care, that is very serious.

          All cost money. Police departments, fire departments, hospitals, all save life. What an awful thing it must be to arrive at some hospital with death close and be questioned at great length regarding insurance, money in bank and all the rest, and at long last not accepted.

          That does not sound like the police department, fire department, etc. Surely only a very few must have been turned down by hospitals. However, it could be true and such conditions can be remedied.

          Those who oppose the contemplated medicine plan for those over 65 have their respective rights to their opinions. However, if they are heard on television, radio, or in certain newspapers etc., ask yourself: “Who is talking? What is their profession, such as insurance or nursing?

          Government, like free enterprise, is open to improvement. If hospital care for all of those over 65 can be made possible, I think that will be great improvement. The saving of life should be our first task in government. Our military strength is to save life, country, and all. We fight floods, spend much to save animals, trees, crops from death, and now there is a great fight to keep our aged well and strong.

          Constructive thinking and cooperation will make possible such hospital care. Why must people with degrees and what have you, as well as others, fight such a noble cause?

          Thank you. Thank you so much.

          MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – July 8, 1965

THE ‘JUDGES’ TALE TOLD BY TOOTSIE

Editor:

          I am so thrilled through and through to receive the letter from South Bay students and others about precious stones and blond Indians and Eskimos in Alaska. You surely have wonderful teachers in your area.

          Here is a story about precious stones and I am afraid to give real names. One person named in the story could be right here in the home now. One that knows about all to follow lives in Chula Vista and lived in Flat, Alaska many years ago.

          Blank knew gold to the extent that he could, like a great many others, name the creek from whence it came. He knew whether the gold had been mixed with gold from other sections. He also thought he knew precious stones such as diamonds. He also had a slight knowledge of law and some called him “Judge”.

          He made a trip to Seattle just before the freeze up in the fall. Also along was a young couple who were going to be married in Seattle. They took it upon themselves to sort of look after the Judge. He liked fermented juices, often called “Bug Juice”.

          In Seattle the Judge may have hoisted one or two or three too many. He told a glowing story about his success in Flat and how he made the trip outside to straighten out a young couple that had to get married or the like. His talk was inspired by bug juice or stronger.

          The following morning while the Judge snored the Seattle papers carried the Judge’s story. It was indicated that the Judge might be wealthy. The two young folks tipped a bellboy and got into the Judge’s room. They gave the Judge a severe going over and at last forgave him for talking about them.

          Down in the hotel lobby, the Judge asked where there was a barber shop. Some dirty bum pointed out a beauty parlor attached to the lobby and the Judge went in and asked for shave and haircut. The proprietor had one of the beauty operators give the Judge the works. Even manicured his nails, the first such experience the Judge ever had. In the beauty parlor the Judge talked again and must have been heard.

          Shortly after, when the Judge was reading the paper in the lobby, a stranger seated himself beside the Judge, saying, “Good morning. I have an important message for you. May I see you alone?”  The stranger got up and walked toward the elevator and the Judge followed. In the elevator the stranger said, “We will talk in your room.”

          In the Judge’s room the stranger took from his pocket six very large precious stones – diamonds and what looked like good carbon. The stranger said, “$12,000.00.” The Judge was no fool and said, “Not interested and started to leave the room and asked the stranger to follow him out. “Fifteen hundred.” pleaded the stranger, appearing very nervous. The Judge took a glass from his pocket and studied the stones and scratched a glass with one of them as the stranger stood behind the Judge’s back and the Judge said, “No, positively no!”

          “My last offer.” said the stranger. “$1,200.00 and quick.” The Judge looked at the diamonds again and said, “$1,000.00 and not a dime more.”

          “Give me the money.” said the stranger and the Judge gave him a traveler’s check for $1,000.00, carefully putting the diamonds in his pocket.

          In the hotel lobby the young couple, now married, almost bumped into the Judge and gave him more instructions on how to take care of himself outside. The Judge showed them his diamonds. They informed the Judge that he had fallen for one of the oldest games known. They took the Judge to the hotel manager and was told that the hotel could not assign a detective to the Judge.

          The Judge tried a few innocent games of cards and lost about every game.

          Weeks later the young couple was going to head back to Flat by way of Seward and go in over the trail by sled. The Judge was broke and they were not too flush with that stuff we use for money.

          The Judge decided to try and sell his precious stone that were called “diamonds”. He took the two newlyweds with him. In an establishment that loans money on such things as diamonds, watches, etc., the Judge asked how much they would give him for his stones. The proprietor looked at the stones and laughed and called two of his clerks and they shook their heads laughing and walked away as the proprietor handed the stones back to the Judge saying: “What would anybody think such stones would be worth?”

          “Cheap paste.” whispered the newlyweds to each other. The Judge hung his head and started for the door. At the door the proprietor said, “$2,500.00.” The Judge gasped, “What!”, and the proprietor replied, “Well I’ll make it $3,000.00 and not a cent more.”

          The Judge sold his diamonds and walked out with what he called his two kids he was looking after. They all got back to Flat and that was 1911. All three are still alive.

          Thank you. Thank you so much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – July 22, 1965

Tootsie Gives Views on Hoppe Column

EDITORS:

          This is in reference to Art Hoppe’s column, “Beauty Is But Skin Deep” (July 11).

          How deep do you want beauty? Skin deep should be deep enough for most any human. This is awful but I just had a thought that Mr. Hoppe might be as nutty as I am and crazy thoughts are not too deep – or are they deep at times?

          As you know by now, I just happened to arrive here on earth black, no – hold it! All Negro babies are born a sort of gray, which is a color between white and black.  In time they turn black, or to be exact, a dark purple or blue and at times a high yellow or the like. Some grow up and have red hair.

          Now about white folks: So many babies are born blue or black and must be spanked or other to get them to turn white.

          Art Hoppe writes: “The white ladies decided being white was really kind of insipid looking. It was much prettier, they decided, to be brown so they traveled to Deauville, Miami Beach and the Galapagos where they poured millions of gallons of sticky lotion over themselves and laid motionless for trillions of hours in boiling sun. In order to turn brown.”

          How long a time is “trillions?” Mr. Hoppe, are you really nuts?

          I left Chicago about 1900 for Alaska much as I am now, a Negro and black or blue and going over 17 years up here without seeing another Negro, I would look in the mirror at times and tell myself white lies.

          I would say: “Tootsie, you are talking to a wonderful person. You are going to hit the pay streak. Keep trying.”

          “And do you know – I have hit the pay streak and found almost pure white, yellow, and what we call black gold. All kinds of gold such as white, yellow, and black, and all kinds of humans.

          Like you say Mr. Hoppe: I am sort of commenced to change. And when I had a big poke full of gold, some of the white folks sort of commenced to change and took more notice of me. A few were good enough to borrow from me, and some even paid me back.

          I would have just loved to have run into Art Hoppe back there in Flat or even Fairbanks or the Kuskokwim and talked about mining with him, or even about how deep the skin must be to be skin deep beauty. Skin deep should be deep enough for any man, woman or worse.

          You know that way out prospecting, when beans are scarce and there’s not too much rice or flour left, folks like Art Hoppe hand out help when there is a crimp in one’s belly, regardless of a black belly like mine or a white belly like his, and when the grub is scarce and the stakes are high, if you strike it, a black belly or a blue or a white belly will feel the hunger just the same, as well as the freezing cold.

          And what a blessing that our good U.S.A. has bellies, black or white and covered with skin that is not too deep – but deep enough to cover and protect the guts that are needed to pioneer, fight together and keep our good old U.S.A. going and able to enjoy guys like Hoppe.

          MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – July 29, 1965

Bullfights Are For Bullies, Tootsie Says

EDITORS:

          This is about pets and bulls. Sometime past I read in your paper about a dog in Chula Vista that the owner tied up outside with a long rope or chain and it rained and the dog got wet. (The dog as described, should have made a good sled dog.) People then complained about cruelty to animals and worse.

          Now, if it is cruel to tie up a big dog that might get wet, how about the bullfights not too far from where your paper is located. Think of thousands paying money to see a bullfight! I am informed that the bull that fights has been carefully segregated from the common bull. Also his horns are sharpened needle point sharp. Now all this sounds like some bull; however, it all is said to be true.

          I even read in your paper about a woman bullfighter who lives in Chula Vista. She surely is brave and wonderful. She might, however, be afraid if she saw a mouse. Many brave women are.

          One man right here, an old sourdough, attended a bullfight in Mexico and saw some bum wearing a big hat and other garb that would indicate him as a Mexican, explained the fine points about a bullfight to the sourdough, who has explained bullfighting to me.

          He explained in great detail how either the bull wins or the bullfighter wins. The Mexican explained that he would place a bet 10-to 1 that the bull would lose. He also stated that the way to tell if the bull loses is that the bull would die at the hands of the bullfighter. The old sourdough lost with 10-to1 odds. The bull died.

          We hear so much about cruelty to dogs, cats, etc. and nothing about the humane treatment of the bull. Considering the bull always dies in a bullfight between man and bull, we up here are wondering if those fights are fixed? Also, considering the type of bull, I am wondering what percentage of fight really is in most bullfights.

          I mean how much fight and how much bull?

          A woman fights a bull and that is big news. A bull fights a man and that is more common news. People, I understand will at times cheer the bull during a bullfight and at last the bull must die.

          Now back to the dog that was tied outside, got wet and people out where you are complained. Up here, many who own malamutes are told from time to time to tie their bull outside. Those who read this may have a hidden desire or other to tell me the same thing, and I never owned a bull in my life.

          We have Bull Moose in Alaska that have, in their fury, charged head on both passenger and freight trains. Would one of those bulls that fight in the ring dare charge head on into an oncoming passenger or freight train?

          Thank you so much.

          MATTIE CROSBY

(Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – August 12, 1965

‘Tootsie” Tells How She ‘Reads Baldies”

EDITOR:

          I have read and heard about an earthquake that was to be pulled off in your area and was predicted by one highly qualified and skilled in such predictions. I have a knowledge of earthquakes because we have had them up here in Alaska.

          I know that earthquakes and much more are predicted by those with special powers. Some tell us by the cards, the stars, the palm of one’s hand and the lines, etc. who to marry and who to avoid. You understand, love, marriage, happiness, wealth, health, and all for a small fee or in a great many cases large sums of money.

          I may be the only person on earth that reads bald heads. They are the best because there is no messy hair to cover up those delicate lines and one may observe the shape of the head that is bald much better than one loaded with hair.

          Bald heads are not as close to one’s heart and they are a great distance from the planets. But they do furnish a covering around the brain.

          Not let us reason together: Thoughts come out of a bald head and thoughts are not visible, cannot be weighed on a scale, could not be hurt should the thought be placed on a track for a train to run over, and yet it is the most important function of the body. So bald heads are my baby. Nothing to do with crystal balls.

          Speaking of “my baby” and bald heads. I was called in Flat a great many years past, to help with a confinement case. I told the husband as I entered the cabin: “I am your mid-wife.” He seemed shocked and was excited and nervous and replied: “Like h _ _ _ you are, I am a decent and ______.” At that moment things started to pop and there I was. I moved fast and I think that he even accepted me as a mid-wife or anything.

          The baby showed up black. I was given a dirty look by the father. I was scared and talked to the baby saying: “Please, please turn white.” It was a nightmare in the daytime. I was the only black person in five days by dog and trail. Only about 20 people left in the camp of Flat.

          I studied that newborn black head. Well shaped, bald as the black bottom. I gave that end opposite the head a spank saying and praying: “Turn white you little ____.” And I did other things and held him by his feet and also spanked again. The father thought I was hurting that poor little fellow. “Oh, Lord,” and the baby cried and soon turned white.

          I studied that little bald head carefully and told the proud parents what a well-shaped head he had and much more that goes with bald head reading. Folks, that was the youngest bald head that I ever read.

          Do you know that certain people said that I got mad and spanked that little bundle of black that turned to white. Lucky for me that there was no humane society there in Flat. There was not even a doctor there. Keep in mind that there I was, and now old Tootsie, the only bald head reader ever heard of in Alaska.

          I think that the last bald head that I started to read had to first have a heavy mess of hair removed to make the head bald enough for my reading. The head was so full of dandruff that had legs that I was busy defending myself with a coal-oil solution of pure kerosene.

          I have never read a female bald head. I have heard a great deal about the wigs worn by many. I understand that some women have as many as three or even four wigs and all different colors. Some pay as much as $10 or $15 each for those creations. Would be awful should some woman tip her hat to a gentleman and her wig would come off with it. That might be a bald head to read.

          Thank you so much.

          MATTIE CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Sitka, Alaska

 Chula Vista Star-News – August 26, 1965

Tootsie on Rocks, Salt and Candy

EDITOR:

          Chula Vista and those in other sections close seem to be very much interested in rocks, salt, and gold.

          I am wondering if some are trying to have fun with me.

          Question: “How did the salt get in the ocean?” My, but that is an old one and like the new one, “which came first the chicken or the egg.” Anyway here goes: It is often claimed that no one knows how the salt got in the ocean – except me.

          Salt is in the body if human and animals and in plants. Salt is in the soil, solid rock and water. It starts from rock and how it first got there is a long story. It is a mineral. From rock salt goes to soil and washes into the water and much reaches the ocean. The water evaporates and the salt is left.

          About Lot’s wife who looked back, and became a pillar of salt. (Gen. 19:26). I have been looking back a great deal and must be careful. I suggest that you contact a priest, minister or other about such a salt wonder.

          Let us consider that rock was formed when it was too hot for a sea or any body of water to exist and so salt was ahead of salt water.

          Considering that the earth once was molten and that frogs (or is it toads?) are found sealed in rocks and even coal and when the solid rock is broken open they come out alive, however, soon die, and that they, too, have salt in their respective bodies, tells quite a story.

          Think of the millions of years that those frogs or toads were there. Also considering that fish frozen in ice for no one seems to know how long, will, when thawed out, swim away also tells a story.

          Yes, there is salt in the fish.

          Ignorance is one penalty of pride. I mean that we, if not too proud may learn much from mere children. I have learned a great deal from children living in your area. Katherine Burns who lives on Sea Vale Street in Chula Vista has, the way that I think, the making of a wonderful teacher. I owe you three letters dear girl. Would love to have your picture. You would make a most wonderful mining woman.

A little more about salt: I feel sure that there is salt on the moon and other bodies out there. Salt once had more value than gold and has been used as a medium of exchange just as we use money now, Please do not laugh: Men now living in Chula used gold here in Alaska such as nuggets and dust in payment of food, equipment and most everything. Those who did use money used only quarters, halves and silver dollars as well as gold money (no paper).

          About rock-candy or candy rock: Before I left for Alaska in 1900 I would buy rock candy that had a string through it. It was sold in long pieces and looked a little like glass. Often another candy would be in a jar beside the rock candy called “horehound”.

          Because gold, like salt, originated in rock, I should know about candy rock. I followed placer mining and did not go too much into the quartz end of the greatest game on earth.

          Those of you interested in diamonds surely cannot expect too much from me. I have some news, however for you and if our editor will print what I write you will get it.

          Thank you so much.

          MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Chula Vista Star-News – September 26, 1965

Tootsie Explains Savages – Religion – The Jewish Faith

A letter to Editor Ruth Nuttall:

          Dear Ruth Nuttall: We writers have our trouble. In your Sept. 12 “How ‘Bout That?’ you wrote: ‘No naked savage in darkest Africa with a bone stuck through his nose has ever had more passing missionaries concerned with his immortal soul than I have.’

          “There is one exception, Ruth. You should have said ‘none with the exception of Tootsie and me.’

          “How did the naked savage get that bone stuck through his nose? Sounds terrible to me. There are worse places for one to get a bone stuck, though. For example, one’s throat.

***

          “About you appearing to be heading for hell in a handbasket, Ruth, may I warn you to watch your language or you are going to be reminded just like I was about the improper use of the English language.

          We two must remember that ladies read out stuff.

***

          “You mentioned all those religions. There are at least 312 denominations. The home here in Sitka receives money from all faiths to talk with us in an effort to save our souls.

          I have been giving a great deal of thought to the matter of my soul. I think that I shall choose the Jewish religion. I mean that the synagogue is the place for me. Understand Ruth, I can take my choice of 312 different beliefs and religions.

***

          The Jews are not here talking to us about their religion.  I happen to know that they are a very busy people. I have needed credit and other things badly through my life here in Alaska. I have turned to my Jewish friends when really in trouble.

          They have never failed me.

          Believe me, they were good and kind to me in all weather, stormy, freezing or worse and even when all seemed hopeless.

          God bless them!

***

          Before I get rolling, Ruth, you might think along with me briefly, Christ was a Jew. We all of course know that his parents were Jewish. Here is a hard and cold fact that is positively loaded with the truth:

          Christ went to the Jewish synagogue on Saturday with his mother and father. He never attended any other form of church. If the synagogue was good enough for Jesus Christ, it certainly should be good enough for us, Ruth.

***

          Come along with me, Ruth, and keep our choice simple. I mean simple enough that even the naked savage with a bone in his nose could understand the religion and would not need to be confused with 312 or more different forms of religion. Enough to make us nuts and might cause the savage to remove the bone from his nose and throw it at those trying to make him believe as they do.

***

          I do not mean by what I have written to condemn any person for his belief. And I am sure, Ruth, that you have the same thought. I mean Christian, Turkish, or other. All have a right to their perspective beliefs. Jew or other, we agree that we believe in one God.

          About those naked savages in Darkest Africa, or in Hollywood, in the movies or on the stage, I feel for them because I am, as you know a Negro. I know that the cold is not always best for me and my dark skin.

          Those naked savages better stay out of Alaska unless they put on proper clothing because the mosquitoes will get them in the summer. During the winter, they would freeze all or the most important parts of their bodies if they did not cover up with proper clothing. They might even get arrested where you are if not properly clothed.

          “Thank you so much,

          Mrs. Mattie Crosby

              Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska.

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – October 14, 1965

Tootsie Tells Tale of Law (and Love)

EDITORS:

          To you who have written to me about race riots and the like, please keep in mind that I told you through this paper that I once went over 17 (seventeen) years in the interior of Alaska without seeing another Negro.

          Also I first arrived in Alaska in 1900 and have not been out of this land of the midnight sun for over 55 years.

          I believe, of course, in law and order.  In the case of arson I would not be qualified as a juror.  Far in the interior of Alaska I was burnt out three times and each time lost my winter supply of grub, my cabin, clothes and much more.

          Killing, rioting and looting are contrary to our laws.  No person has the right to inflict harm on the life or property of others.  Every person has the responsibility to uphold law and order.

          The laws are for me regardless of my race, color or religion.  I am so proud to be an American.  To plunder is an act that should be dealt with on the spot if possible.  The same for arson.

          There are cases, however, that look very bad for the accused until a just court digs out all the facts.

          Here is a case in Alaska where the accused was tried for rape:  A lovely lady that was recently from another country was hired to help with cooking etc. on a mining claim.  She did not speak very good English and was warned about going down in the open-cut pit where very often men were working, taking out the bedrock for sluicing.

          Out where you are, love seems to flourish under a harvest moon.  Here in Alaska during the summer months love makes it under the midnight sun.  The lady in question did take a walk under the midnight sun.  She met a man down in the pit.  Her boss, the mine operator’s wife, followed her.  The man in the pit was accused of raping the girl by the operator’s wife.  It was awful.

          I now know that out where you are certain of you folks need shock absorbers.  I mean that you are shocked easily.  I shall be careful.  Believe me, I cannot tell you all of the facts.  You understand.

          People were enraged and shocked.  The case was brought into court.  The young man in a roundabout way denied the charges.  He did not seem to have a good lawyer.  The lady in question was very much mixed up.  She had to have an interpreter to bring out the facts.  She had to answer questions “Yes,” and “No.”

          The accused took an awful beating from the prosecuting attorney.  His lawyer just could not get his case over to save the accused.

          As the case ended, the young man who was charged managed to say to the lady in question these three simple words:  “You are welcome.”  His attorney just grinned.  The accused hung his head.

          The judge asked the accused’s attorney:  “Have you made any preparation for this case?”  The attorney said:  “Yes, your honor.”   I wish to question Miss ——.”

          He did.  He asked her what the last words were that she spoke to the accused as the mine boss’s wife pounced on them.  The young lady said:  “My English is not—I said — “I thank you.”

          The accused had not had the opportunity to say “You are welcome.”

          The case was thrown out of court.  The accused would possibly have been sent up for 30 years.  Every man woman or child is entitled to a fair trial here in our great U.S.A.

          I shall not end this as usual with—“I thank you.”  Also you need not say, “You are welcome.”

          MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

          Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – November 11, 1965

How Tootsie Started To Turn White

EDITORS:

          A short while back, Ruth Nuttall wrote, “No naked savage in darkest Africa with a big bone stuck through his nose has ever had more passing missionaries concerned with his immortal soul than I have.”

          Well this reminded me of a story about a missionary of sorts. It happened before 1900; because that is the year I came to Alaska. His name was the Great Sampson, and his free show was going full blast. I was young then, and had a great deal to learn and, believe me, still have.

          Sampson was up above the crowd on a crude stage with strange lamp-like stage lights. He was shouting:

          “Men are the victims of progress. Look what has happened to the stage coach since railroads came in? Some doctors are shaving off their whiskers and going around with faces like women.”

          He went on and on and soon got down to the business of selling.

          The crowd that had seen a crude free show was made up of mostly Negroes. First Sampson sold love powder with a full guarantee and more. He told yarns about what the powder had done for many.

          He had lucky cards for sale and claimed they were 1,000 times better than horseshoes. He had a lovely sample rabbit’s foot on display. He did not try to conjure any of the gathering. But he did have for sale a powder that would break the spell of any conjurer.

          Sampson told how to detect ghosts. He explained that one could smell a piece of strong cheese and said: “You see the cheese, you smell the cheese, but you do not see the smell do you?” Yet you know it is there. That’s how it is with ghosts.”

          At last Sampson got around to selling a mixture that was guaranteed to turn any Negro or other person white.

          There I stood, young, black and dumb. Questions were asked and arguments started. The Great Sampson explained that he had taken from the insides of white chickens and animals such as cows and sheep a little thing that looks like a little wart. And this was taken from strictly white birds and animals.

          Sampson explained that he knew the secret of locating the little wart that controlled the color He had to dry the wart-like material and it was ground into powder. There were even four-leaf clovers dried and ground into the powder. Even white maiden’s tears had been mixed in the concoction.

          I stood close and when the selling started one of Sampson’s group pushed a package into my hands and said: “Only one package to a customer.” I had not said a word but he grabbed a coin from my hand and handed me change of a dime. I tried to explain that he had made a mistake in the change and he said that I should not take an overdose.

          I was afraid to take that powder at first and after I landed in Alaska in 1900 I still had it. Then a few years ago I started taking the powder and I commenced in time to turn white.

          First my hair started turning and it is pure white now. I had seen black spots before my eyes many times during my life and I started seeing white spots. I have been having white dreams and during my sleep have had whitemares instead of nightmares. A doctor told me I had too many white corpuscles. Instead of blackheads I am, at times getting whiteheads.

          I have found myself telling some white lies. Soon a white Christmas will be here. I hope that I do not have white flashes. Now, to be on the level, much of this is true but some is more of those awful white lies.

          Ruth, some places other than the U.S.A. and well before 1900, some of my ancestors may have had bones in their noses. Possibly in Europe or worse, your ancestors may have had only a tiger’s skin or the like to cover up.

          You are not going back to Europe or worse, and I am not going back to Africa, so let’s all get along here together.

          Ruth, you have made a great many think. Sure you shocked them. However, you also put over an important message. Keep going, Ruth, and if they kick you out where you are, come up here and be a sourdough, How ’bout that?

          Thank you so much.

          MRS. MATTIE CROSBY

           (Known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – November 25, 1965

Tootsie’s Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Editors:

          Every year before Christmas certain folks out where you have written to me about Christmas decorations.

          Third Avenue in Chula Vista and also a Candy Cane Lane and other things. Soon Christmas will be here, and at the moment I am trying to think of something to write about Thanksgiving.

          I must admit that there may be something to the fact many outfits will not employ a person over, say, 70 or 75. I am up the trail quite a distance from 80. We all slip just a little as we get older.

          First, I thought of the Thanksgiving Day that a plane dropped a turkey and more out of the sky to several of us in Flat, Alaska. What joy that brought us. That is old news now.

          Next, I thought of the lights going out recently in your big eastern cities. What if our Northern Lights went out forever? Also what if our midnight sun failed us up here? That should never happen because the inventor of such blessings never makes a mistake.

          How about just plain dogs? When they are brought up here to Alaska they will lose their bark and develop a howl just like the malamutes and wolves. They never again return to their barking. But they keep on wagging their tail the same old way. How about that? It is all true, but no good for Thanksgiving.

          What about the light from the sun that contacts the air at terrific speed and produces a friction that gives us warmth? You have experienced some warm weather out there and we have experienced some cold weather up here. If the sun was closer we would all burn up, and if further away we would all freeze. It is all so perfect. Still we kick about the weather.

          Anyway, this is old news and not for Thanksgiving.

          Now the moon that hangs out like a great lantern in the sky is tilted exactly right to control the tide and keeps the ocean from going all over the earth. Wonder if there is gold up there on the moon? If there is, a flock of old sourdoughs here would make the trip.

          We also wonder how the rabbits and certain birds turn white in the winter and back to the color of soil in the summer. Those white birds and rabbits have served as Thanksgiving dinner for me a great many times. However, that is no Thanksgiving story.

          All that I can think of, looking deep down in this old soul of mine, is this: My heart and soul is full of love for you. I want to say – have a nice Thanksgiving and God Bless You.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – April 10, 1966

TOOTSIE COMMENTS ON BIAS IN CHURCH

Editor:

          I have been asked about the segregation of Negros in connection with churches. 

          I do not chose to reply as a Negro especially one not too far from the 90 years of age, but one who is a friend of dogs and, in fact of all animals, as well as friend of convicts, people who are failures, of people called ‘fools,” of those who can neither read nor write, and even of some successful people. I am a friend of the illiterate and also the college-educated, and even those called “high and mighty.” 

          Regardless of segregation, all of you belong to my church, which is locked up in my soul.  If I should deny you the right to belong to the church locked up inside this now old black body of mine, I would also be closing the door to the church in my very own soul.

          The spirit of love flows through me and I am, of course, the house (my body) for that love.  There is love in all of us.  I am black and you may be white.  We all arrived from the wisdom of the same Devine Source – God.

          Those who can neither read nor write and so have no knowledge of the Bible may be deeply Christian and religious.  The religion in my soul and yours, regardless of outside beliefs, does not threaten another with pain, penalty and much worse should you choose not to believe what I might teach.

          My soul religion incurs no obligations of others. It asks none to make promises and no money is involved, and therefore no money need be counted by those unable to add.

          My soul church, like yours, is the creation of God. We shall, while here, pay a price should we break God’s laws. Right brings good and to do wrong brings misery. We cannot change those laws with money. We must obey eternal laws.

          We are all members of our soul church and there is no such thing as segregation in such churches. Our boys fighting and lonely people have their wonderful soul churches, as well as those behind prison bars, in speeding cars, in planes high over the earth loaded with bombs, and even in hovels such as flop houses.

          All have their own church within their respective souls and segregation does not matter in the case of one’s very own church of his soul.

          Thank you so much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska 

Chula Vista Star-News – July 21, 1966

‘TOOTSIE’ WRITES ON PRAYER ISSUE

Editors:

          To those of you who have written to me about prayer in our public schools keep in mind that our U.S.A. as a nation, naturally had a beginning.

          In viewing the subject let me keep clear in our thinking that we have no reason to roam for information into what may be the case in certain countries in Europe.

          We have our constitution and we started with 13 states. In our constitution were first laid down a declaration of rights and following the form which the government should have, and the power it should possess the authority of courts and of judges, and the manner in which elections should be conducted.

          No article of this constitution could be altered or infringed at the discretion of the government that was to ensue. It was to that government a law.

          The Bible or church law is not our constitution. Our constitution was set up for all and not a select few. It has, as you know, been amended a number of times.

          Churches, under the protection of our constitution, are protected and the same applies to our public schools.

          Once children were taught that the earth was flat, however things have changed.

          Franklin did the world a great service in his discovery of electricity.

          It is written: “Had Franklin drawn lightning from the clouds at an earlier date, it would have been at the hazard of expiring for it in the flames.”

          Even at this late date there are those who would not permit the teaching of evolution in our public schools.

          The circumstances that we have now about prayer in our public school should not be compared with other nations of the world, where compulsive systems of religion have existed and may still exist.

          This is the U.S.A. and we have, believe me, proven with our compulsive prayer in public schools, and systems of religion that we are a great and just nation.

          We have not, like others, lost sight of humanity and kindness. We have even given beyond our limits to other nations of the world that may believe and practice compulsive religion and prayer in their public schools or whatever they have as places of learning for their children.

          No one surely will deny or question the supreme wisdom and power of God and to sincerely believe in the Almighty one need not be compelled to pray in public schools or even in church.

          No person shall deny another of his right to worship as he may choose. We all agree on one God and there surely are no more.

          In our public schools as they are now or should be, are those who believe in the Jewish faith and Moses, and others believe in the apostles and saints.

          No human on earth could make what we see and call: “the creation.” and to this old sourdough Negro now on my way to 90 years of age I see from my one eye that is not too good. God’s wisdom here and out in space and I am so proud to be part of my maker’s plan.

          Thank you, thank you so much.

          Mrs. M. Crosby

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Chula Vista Star-News – September 29, 1966

Tootsie’s Comments on ‘Black Power’

Editors:

          I am a Negro, free, black, and over 4 times 21. Because of the color of my skin I have frightened Eskimos and Alaska Indians. They had never before seen a Negro. I went over 10 years in the interior of Alaska without seeing another Negro.

          I got myself all tangled up in a segregation mess several times.

          As long ago as 1920, for example, I was headed to my mining claims on Ophir Creek in the Kuskokwim country. I had employed two good dog mushers and had two sleds well loaded with grub and mining equipment. In the Kuskokwim I picked up a young native to act as a guide.

          We stopped at a roadhouse and it was the only one around for many miles. We were all welcome except the native. He had to sleep out and cook his own grub. I was about to mush on. However, the native who, of course, understood how to care for himself, quickly left and made his own camp.

          The proprietor of the roadhouse let me know in no uncertain language that I should understand. I had experienced the same thing before and I understood. There were some roadhouses that would accept a native. Dogs were welcome and I was welcome in all roadhouses.

          Now I am hearing about “black power.” Strange marches by Negroes and at times by a few whites.

          People have been marching for a very long time, such as to war. Once women could not vote and, as time moved on, they marched and did other things that were not always ladylike. Now they can vote.

          Once people, and especially women, marched in protest to the legal sale of liquor. We got the Volstead law passed in 1919 and ended in 1933.

          Marching and segregation seem to be making the news throughout the U.S.A. and even the world. Personally, I do not go along with certain segregation parades because they bring about bad results such as killing, murders, burning, looting, and even the use of crude bombs that will cause death and injury to the innocent. To me, it just is not good.

          I have been here in Alaska for over 56 years without a trip outside. However, I well remember Chicago and other places that had beautiful public parks open to all. Those parks were, and still are, better than most any private parks. Also I remember the great public places of learning such as schools and libraries. What a blessing. Here I am, almost at the end of the trail, and a lovely home is provided for me and a great many other sourdoughs. I, like so many others, are blessed.

          Most any kind of power must be regulated. Speaking of “power” what a grand and glorious brought all the good that I have mentioned, such as this home, the parks, schools, etc. I can understand that kind of power. I do not even know what black power is. Do you know?

          About poverty, slums, riots, and much more. It seems to me that we are put here to do some kind of work and it may be humble. However, the power that rules the universe has planned a work schedule for all of us, and if black power and even green power will get going and work, at least a great deal of trash would be cleaned up and as humans we might move along and develop ourselves more.

          Keep in mind that the power that rules the universe is the real power. And that is love, supreme wisdom and more, and that power is surely not black or even white. It is real and good.

          Thank you so much.

          Mrs. Mattie T. Crosby

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – November 10, 1966

Tootsie Comments on Civil Rights

EDITORS:

          This is about civil rights, a subject that I am not qualified to write about regardless of the fact I am a Negro, as I am not too far from 90 and blind in one eye and the other not good and frankly my days (and they are wonderful) are spent in a wheelchair and I have been up here in Alaska over 66 years without a trip outside.

          However, since I’m honored with a letter from Chula Vista on this subject, I shall, God bless to all of you, give you my thinking.

          The rights of man is a subject that covers volumes. We shall surely all agree that civil rights does not give any the right to break laws, to destroy, to plunder, to shoot at people or kill.

          Natural rights include the right to self-protection. They do not include the right to any manner abuse or slander one’s fellow man, to do anything that might be injurious to others.

          Common sense tells me, a Negro, that it is difficult for any government to overcome by law, long-standing prejudices. The Negroes are not all saints, not are those of any color or shade. We will have sinners in this world.

          Once there was one in heaven, “Lucifer,” who had to be good to get into heaven. And, when given all the rights of that glorious place, he turned out to be rebellious and bad and got kicked out and may now be possibly found in full charge of hell.

          What I am trying to get over is the circumstances that now have taken place in connection with civil rights parades and demonstrations makes me wonder if there is not some other way that might be better?

          I do not mean to condemn those who have taken place in such demonstrations. They have the same right as I to think as they do. But I think that education and opportunity is the answer to many of our civil rights problems.

          Alaska, out 49th state and much larger than Texas, holds unlimited opportunity for young folks regardless of race, color, or religion to homestead, to prospect and much more.

          Train our young men and women to prospect, mine, and farm, etc., and give them a grub stake to go out on the creeks and elsewhere and punch holes to bedrock and test it for gold. We need the gold and we have the young men and women who need an opportunity to prospect for it.

          We are taught that “youth is the seed-time of bad habits,” and Alaska is a most wonderful land for youth to get started and in most cases share in the natural resources of the land.

          “Natural rights are those which always appertain to man in right of his existence.” and therefore, “rights of mind and also those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the rights of others.

          “Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society. Every civil right has for its foundation some natural right pre-existing in the individual, but to which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.”

          The above few quotes were taken from “Rights of Man,” by Thomas Paine.

          Thank you so much.

          MATTIE T. CROSBY

         (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-Newa- December 25, 1966

Tootsie Gives Yule Thoughts

Editors:

          In the deepest part of our nature dwells that mysterious little spark we know as “love”. I think that love has a great deal to do with the human soul.

          We see that spark of love in children at Christmas time as little girls love their new dolls much like a mother with her new baby. We see a boy’s love for his dog and at Christmas even wars will briefly cease.

          If every day could be like Christmas, what a glorious world this would be. Possibly wars would end forever.

          I guess it’s because I am getting old that I am getting more and more into the wondering class. Now I am wondering about Christmas. I get to wondering and worrying about this undeclared war, and about our boys that are involved, and so many that must give the very life that God has given to them.

          I am reaching up to 90 and I get to wondering if I shall live long enough to read that a man has been landed on the moon? I have turned out to be an old, black, wondering woman.

          In half a million years, we have moved from the spear that one might hurl 20 yards to a rifle, and to cannons and much more. We shoot weapons 70 miles and more that can hit a whale. We now even have weapons that may spin hundreds of miles through space.

          Oh Lord, how this old black Negro that you gave life to is wondering. And Lord, please help me to be good for others.

          Lord, I realize that in the desire for better things we have greatly advanced, and I have lived to see some of this greatness.

          I realize that, when I was much younger, dissatisfaction pushed me forward in an effort to locate gold, to build and operate river boats, to do many things, and through it all I dearly loved Christmas time most of all.

          Now that I am old, I still love Christmas, and most of all I love all of this great creation.

          There is so much that I do not understand, especially what is taking place in Asia now. I do not even understand the force of gravitation, holding us down here on earth. Now men have solved that and circle the earth for several days at a time. Christmas time can reach men now in outer space. Lord, how I am wondering.

          What I do understand is the faith little children have in Santa Claus, and the love that I so plainly see in our children. I understand the kindness that has been showered upon me, especially right here in Pioneer’s Home.

          Think how surprised that the man who lived half a million years ago would be if he could come back and see humans living in outer space as they circle the earth?

          If this old black lady could, after departing this life, come back in half a million years, the thing I would want to see most would be the people of this, our earth still celebrating Christmas and wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

          And now that I am still here in life I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

         (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – May 4, 1967

Dogs Make Nuisance? Tootsie Has Remedy

EDITORS:

          I am not exactly sure why somebody in Chula Vista wrote asking mw we what is done in Alaska to prevent dogs from committing a nuisance on lawns, flowers, trees, poles, etc.

          I realize that dogs do some highly obnoxious and annoying acts. I know because many years ago in Alaska I boarded dogs for an entire summer. Also I have owned sled dogs, hit the trail many times with them and I even transported dogs on my river boat, the M.T. Crosby. I love dogs.

          So many of you have lovely homes and gardens and also many of you own dogs and love those tail waggers. I understand that certain places even have beauty parlors for dogs.

          Even here in Alaska I have seen some very strange looking dogs. Dogs from Mexico, very small and some without any hair and even bald headed (nudists). Even the malamute at times will sniff those queer dogs and run.

          I have seen dogs that had their tails cut off. That is cruel. A dog needs his tail to keep his nose warm when he curls up and sleeps. Also when he wags his tail and he means it. A dog’s nose must be protected. They depend on their noses and gift of scent. It is their way of life.

          What is to follow is shocking. Please do not read on if you become emotionally upset when you hear of anything that might frighten or upset animals. You might keep this in mind; when the wolf falls or in some other way breaks his leg and limps, other wolves will kill him and eat him.

          There is little the humane society can do about that.

          The problem of dogs going from post to post, bush to bush, lawn to lawn, and yard to yard, is very old. And so is this remedy – fixing an electric wire to a post or what-have-you frequented by a dog or dogs.

          The amount of current may be very, very light. And when the little dog sniffs, lifts his hind leg up to second gear and releases his amber-like fluid, the latter comes in contact with the current, touching off great sparks. The dog will, believe me, stop in the greatest of haste and he will jump the nearest dog to him. However, he will never again return.

          The message soon gets around to other dogs and the nuisance will be discontinued.

          In Flat, Alaska, such a pole was fixed up close to the rear door of a saloon. Two men had reason to go out the back door. Why those fools ever decided to use the big pole is a mystery. However, it was a shocking experience.

          There was no humane society and the men were given several free shots – shots of whiskey. They suffered only shock.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – May 28, 1967

Tootsie Recalls ‘Memorial Day – And Northern Lights’

EDITORS:

          I am thinking of the Memorial Day and of the Northern Lights. God’s flowers are beautiful as well as his Northern Lights. These manifestations of rare beauty in the skies of the northland mean so much to me, as well as to all mankind.

          Years ago, not far out on a trail from Flat, there were several cabins. A sturdy miner who occupied one of them was often seen on clear cold nights, sitting on a bench just outside his door when the Northern Lights were visible.

          Long into the night the old Sourdough would sit, gazing at the dancing rhythmic motion of the colorful display as it folded and unfolded its lovely multicolored streamers through the starlit sky – ending possibly at the end of heaven and beginning where heaven begins.

          Often was there a tear in his eye as the beautiful colors in the heavens passed by, and when the lights would appear low on the horizon and the malamutes howled heavenward, he would put his hand on his ear and listen. For when all was quiet – very quiet – he heard a whisper – yes, a voice – which he knew.

          One night the old timer told the story to a group down in Flat. He confided that way up there in the skies was the spirit of his little girl.

          “Yes,” said he, “her beautiful little body is covered with a blanket of Alaska snow, but her soul is up there … That’s why I gaze, for the Northern Lights are dancing for me.”

          He sat there in silence and slowly continued: “Those lights are lighted by angels. Yes, we call them our dead … they’re not dead. They live up there, and my child now helps light the way.

          Walking outside with the others, he pointed heaven ward saying: “Can’t you see those colors shooting over the sky, lighting the trails of heaven to guide me where me where she is? Many a time have I hit the trail since she left me alone. During a blizzard I have often lost my way, but my little angel lighted the way for me.”

          After a few moments pause, he continued. “California has sunshine; Florida, climate; the South, colonels, mammies, and cornbread – yes, every state in the Union has something to bring happiness. But Alaska has Heaven just over our heads – it reaches right down and kisses the snow covered land.

          The old sourdough who loved his little girl and the Northern Lights now lies under a blanket of winter snow beside his little daughter. And who knows but his spirit is trailing the heavens with that of his beloved little girl … and both may be lighting the way for Sourdoughs they once loved.

          Thank you so much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – August 31, 1967

Tootsie Reminisces On Art, Sourdoughs

EDITORS:

          Chula Vista and surrounding country must be literally loaded with artists because I am informed that even a large bank has many locally painted pictures hung on the walls where those who line up at the several windows to transact their business may look at the paintings in front of them.

          Also, I am informed that at times the stores display paintings done by local artists in their windows.

          I can sort of picture artists painting pictures under lovely palm trees as bright and rippling sunshine thrills them through and through.

          Again others may be painting under orange or lemon trees as they live up the mild climate and gaze in wonderment at whatever they might be painting.

          Chula Vista and others around it must have a great many music loving folks. I am told that in dental, doctors; and other places music is sort of piped to their offices and as teeth are repaired, music keeps coming to lull the folks into whatever music might do when one is having a tooth extracted.

          We send flocks of grey whales down from Alaskan waters to your San Diego harbor to entertain you. Wonder if any have painted our whales at play in your bay?

          If I could paint, I think I would do a picture that would be a little different. I would paint a Sourdough, his squaw, a fish-wheel, a malamute and a tin can.

          On the Kuskokwim River a few years ago I met a sourdough, his squaw, a fish wheel, malamute, and tin can. He had blazed many a trail… sunk many a hole… had plenty of tough luck and at times plenty of good luck.

          When I saw him he was broke. His only aid was his ambition to move forward with his squaw and fish-wheel, a malamute and a tin can.

          This old-timer’s dream of heaven was a squaw, a fish-wheel, a malamute and a tin can, with beans aplenty in the cache and a patch of dry timber handy.

          Prospectors had come and gone, yet he had kept moving forward with his squaw and fish wheel, malamute and tin can… always making new trails, sinking new holes in which sometimes he got gold. At other times he trapped.

          As a result of his labors, his gold was made into money… gold money on which Uncle Sam printed “In God We Trust.” And his furs adorned the bodies of movie stars, princesses, and beautiful ladies the world over who never even thought of him, his squaw, malamute, fish-wheel and tin can.

          I have often thought of him and a great many like him whom I met far in the interior of Alaska. Some of them have finished out their lives here in this home where I am now.

          I have since seen copies of paintings by great artists of generals, beautiful ladies, queens, kings and other such. But I would, if I had the talent, paint those that are and were real – such as my old sourdough friend, his squaw, a fish-wheel, a malamute and tin can.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – September 24, 1967

Tootsie Tells of Fairbanks Flood

          I want to thank you for printing my yarn: “Tootsie Reminisces on Art, Sourdough,” in your August 31 issue.

          I had a very severe sick spell a few months past and was hospitalized for some time. When I had recovered enough I was sent to Pioneer’s Home, Fairbanks.

          So I was here during the Fairbanks flood and was taken out and to high ground. You know all about the awful flood and possibly saw pictures on television and in the press. I have seen many floods through the great many years that I have spent here in Alaska. However, the Fairbanks flood was really a dilly.

          An old blow-torch went running around when it was my time to be evacuated and he said he was looking for a female moose and a male bear. He had the malamutes, but needed two good ice-worms and looking at me said:

          “Tootsie, I gotta get a marrying man and fast. You will do.”

          I asked him, what in the heck was the matter with him. He replied: “An old hull will be used for an ark.”

          I tried to say nice words to him and he kept going about Noah and at last I mentioned a place where all the flood water would be of great value and I told the old moose to go there.

          We are taught that God made the rainbow after the flood that Noah was involved in. In the case of Fairbanks, we shall see many rainbows again and already it is shining in the hearts of those here who are building again. And while hope lasts there is no cause for one to quit.

          Thank you so much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Fairbanks, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – November 23, 1967

Tootsie Muses of Turkey’s People

Editors,

          The turkey is so closely associated with our Thanksgiving Day celebrations that we have sort of learned to love the now famous bird.

          With our population explosion, it seems that millions of our population are getting right down to cold turkey about birth control and are holding down the number of humans to be born.

          The entire world seems to be birth control conscious.  Also we know that when the turkey market is flooded around Thanksgiving, in some cases that turkey is very cheap.  We could raise enough turkeys at this time in our USA to feed the world.  We should be thankful for that.

          Here are some cold turkey facts I have dug up:

          “Sultan Mural IV inherited 240 wives when he assumed the throne of Turkey.  He decided to dispose with their help by the simple expedient of putting each wife in a sack and tossing them, one by one, into the Bosporus.”

          He did not keep one wife to cook him a turkey dinner.  We are hard on turkeys at times and the ruler of Turkey was tough on wives.

          King Solomon, a 10th century B.C. king of Israel famous for his wisdom, I think had around 500 wives and possibly no turkeys.  However he may have had many elephants and camels, etc.

          Did the wise old king have population explosion on his mind?  A professor who lectured here in Alaska seemed to think that King Solomon with all his wives slept possibly by himself I doubt if King Solomon celebrated any kind of a Thanksgiving.  He may not have been too thankful for his flock of wives and would have enjoyed a flock of turkeys much better.

          One wife should be enough for most any normal man and especially during these times.

          Considering our great population explosion, we are informed that if Adam had counted to a billion at the rate of 200 to the minute, day and night he would have reached the number 598,132,800 by September, 1931.  He would have had to keep counting until the year 5753 of our era to reach one billion.

          Now we hear of billions of dollars and the same goes for contemplated populations of our earth.

          If we had a turkey population explosion along with our birth explosion of humans, would the turkeys take over and possible eat us?  Would everything, such as trees etc., be loaded with turkeys?  Would we have so much to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day?

          Possibly just as the turkey population has been kept under control, there will be a way found to limit the human population explosion.  But also be thankful that there seems to be plenty of food here in our blessed USA to go around and much left over to feed the world.

          Thank you, thank you so much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Fairbanks, Alaska 

Chula Vista Star-News – December 24, 1967

Tootsie Recalls Strange Alaska Yule

EDITORS’ NOTE: Mrs. Mattie Crosby, known as “Tootsie” to many former Alaskans in the South Bay, is a Chicago born Negro woman in her 80’s who has spent most of her life in Alaska. She has been a frequent contributor to The Star-News “Dear Editor” column.

Now a resident of the Pioneer’s Home in Fairbanks, she wrote the following personal Christmas story especially for The Star-News.

By Mrs. Mattie Crosby

          I shall call her Dolly because that is not her name. She had spent many a Christmas with me in Flat, Alaska.

          There had been times before plane travel started that we would only get two mail deliveries the entire winter season. We had been together when it was 70 below and even beans were very scarce. No doctors and also often not even a nurse.

          There would usually be about 18 or 20 people in Flat during the long winter months.

***

          Dolly called at my cabin as usual and informed me that Christmas was only a few weeks away. She acted just a little strange and thought bug juice (fermented blueberry juice) would make a nice Christmas for some of the men and one or two women. Wild blueberries are plentiful in Alaska.

          Dolly informed me that a new man, young and handsome, had arrived in Flat from Ophir. He had mushed over the trail to Flat. He was a big Skookum young fellow, However, he did smell of fish oil used on his body to keep the cold out and prevent freezing. Also it indicated that he was no cheechako (newcomer).

          He interested Dolly.

***

          Dolly fixed herself up, not only to look human, but to attract the opposite sex. She wanted to do something for her breath so consumed a quantity of more bug juice. She got a talking streak.

          Dolly reminded me that she possibly was the only woman in the world that wore, when very cold, real mink fur-lined drawers.

          She needed warmth more in the drawers’ area than over the shoulders where mink is used to adorn the lovely bodies of ladies throughout the world.

          Dolly informed me that she was still beautiful. She said that even the few men left in Flat would tell her with their eyes that she was full of charm.

***

          She rambled on that she might even catch a plane and go outside. The plane was a small suicide model that would lift one from Flat to the coast where one could take a real plane for the great outside.

          Dolly was going outside to lure a few innocent men and much more. I caught the going outside bug from Dolly. I really made up my mind to leave and I had been in Alaska a great many years.

          I got some hot water, hot enough to make white skin very wet and extremely red when it contacts the water and filled a crude tub. Also I filled another tub with ice cold water.

          Then, getting Dolly’s clothes up and fixed I pushed her down in the cold water first, and, when she cursed plenty, I pushed her down in the hot water. When she screamed plenty, I let her up and she was sober.

***

          When she left I started packing for the trip outside. I was going to have a real Christmas in Chicago where I had once lived many years ago.

          As I packed I thought of new-fangled beauty parlors for strange looking dogs outside. I might even see jeweled dog collars used to adorn degenerate dogs for removed from the lowly malamute here in Alaska. My thinking rambled on and on about shows in the big cities, swell hotels, old sourdoughs living outside that I might visit. I was chuck full of outside fever.

***

          It was one of the happiest days of my life when I was packed and ready to go take the plane to the coast. This now old head of mine could almost see myself looking in big store windows and going inside and buying nice things. Things that I had hardly dared dream about.

          Heaven seemed to be reaching right down and touching me, sitting in my cabin in Flat.

          My money, nuggets, and much more were in a safe place on my person. Glory, glory, how blessed I was. All that I had to do was step up and into the plane, and away through the sky I would go. Headed for my first step to heaven before I really departed from life here on earth.

***

          Most of the people, and even many of the malamutes in Flat, like myself, were old. Just plain old trail-blazers. Most had, much like myself, missed too many boats in the early days and too many planes later. I loved those folks.

          I went to my cabin window and while looking out toward Discovery Mountain, I could see the dark clouds gathering. I sat down to take it easy. I had been packing the night before and was tired. I had plenty of time before the little plane would land. I fell asleep.

          I do not know exactly how long I had been asleep when I heard a “tap, tap” several times. Thinking it was someone outside, I called out, “Come in.” No one entered – so I began dozing again.

          Again, “tap, tap.” The wind was blowing and making funny sounds, and the willow trees were bending towards the windows. Small batches of snow, falling from the tree limbs and striking against the cabin window were making mournful sounds, like some strange kind and soft voice talking to me. It was much like some person crying.

***

          Lord, what a strange feeling.  I swear that something was happening to me.  Could it by my very soul trying to speak to me?

          There was silence.  All around me was something strange  That cross wind would blow the tree leaves against the window and all the time it appeared to me like there was crying, as if the leaves were trying to say something like “Goodbye Tootsie.”  Who ever heard of crying leaves?

          The trees all seemed to be waving great big flakes of snow, as if they were crying and saying goodbye.

***

          Outside the malamutes and my friends stood close to my cabin, waiting to bid me goodbye.  They had never before looked so sad and strange.  My God, were they crying?

          I could understand tears filling the eyes of some of my sourdough friends.  Do malamutes cry?  I think so.  Nice things were said to me.  One old-timer looked at me and said:  “Tootsie, you are crying.”  I replied, “Yes.”  Another asked me, “What is the trouble?”  I could not reply.

          However I went back to my cabin and the plane came in and left without me.

***

          I was very happy getting out of my snowshoes and my sourdough clothes that I put on.  I took a look around and it seemed like I had been away for a long time and had just returned.  There were my old stamping grounds.  Up Flat Creek were the old tailing piles, the old worked-out claims.  Best of all were my old sourdough friends that I almost left.

          I was very happy because I had decided, (or was it decided for me?) to stay where I belonged in Alaska.  Yes, here I am, still in Alaska, writing to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS.

          Thank you so much.

MATTIE

Chula Vista Star-News – January 18, 1968

Tootsie Provides Advice on Skunks

EDITORS:

          I have been informed all the way up here in Alaska that Chula Vista has a great many small, striped bushy-tailed, fur-bearing, weasel-like animals, commonly called “skunks,” and that eject a fetid fluid when attacked and possibly just for the fun of it.

          I heard that a newspaper delivery boy could not get near a home at the end of a blind street because of early morning skunk gatherings. Also skunks blocked an automobile on Seavale from entering a driveway.

          A street called Kimball Terrace also attracts skunks I was informed, and a street known as Third Avenue Extension runs through an area that furnishes a park-like place for skunks.

          As near as I can gather from my informer, skunks are getting very friendly and they may be trying to take over. Even dogs and cats are wise to the friendly and beautiful little animals.

          Keep in mind, folks, that Alaska is great hunting and especially trapping country. There are hundreds of trap lines up here. The very finest furs often come out of Alaska.

          I happen to know that the fur from the animal kind of skunks adorns the lovely (and other) bodies of ladies out in your area, as well as all over the world. If skunk lovers would not object, why not turn the trappers in your area loose and let them trap the skunks?

          Evolutionists inform us that our animal characteristics, mental and physical, were picked up during the millions of years when we lived in various animal forms.

          We are taught we get the construction of our hand from a five-toed salamander “that crawled along the fern trees in the Carboniferous era, millions and millions of years past.

          Also we are taught that we get our skeleton from higher order of the anthropoid apes, and that our ears are put where gills used to be in the days when we were fish.

          Now we often hear about “bad breath” and body odor that breaks up romance. What do you use in Chula Vista to get rid of skunk-delivered odor? Tomato juice is one good remedy.

          Since we are not directly part of the skunk family why do people at times call each other, “skunks?”

          There are some who have the pig’s greed for food and other things. There are people who have a ferocity much like a tiger and others have the loving way of a dog. Some have the snake’s cruelty. With all that, we call each other at rare times, “skunks.”

Now Chula Vista has nice, gentle skunks. I almost overlooked the chameleon who changes color, adapting himself to every shade of opinion. Know anyone like that? There is the fox. You know what I mean.

          Also in the Chula Vista area one may find the opossum and his weapon is to make believe. Know any person or persons like that?

          You have people going around looking like peacocks, blissfully happy and wearing feathers. Know anybody like that? Back briefly to the skunk. A `beautiful animal and should make a lovely pet.

          However, be careful and I need not tell you why.

          Thank you, thank you so much.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Sitka, Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – May 5, 1968

An Alaskan View of ‘Hippie Dogs’

EDITORS:

          I think in many cases we actually murder animals, both wild and tame. It is a sin to commit murder. Yet there are those who would shoot a good respectable moose or other animal just for the fun of it and not even use the hide or eat the meat.

          I have my name for such sport and you may have a better or worse name and again you may not give a damn.

          Dogs still play a big part here in Alaska. Personally I have freighted with dogs, boarded dogs during the summer months, transported them on my river boat, theM.T. Crosby, and have nursed dogs, operated on them, loved them, cursed them and many times talked to them when they understood me word for word.

          Some have talked back with tail, mouth, and especially their eyes. I know dogs and have been in the doghouse many times, slept in the doghouse and they do have intelligence and they do think, scheme, invent, and reason.

          They enjoy certain music. Some dogs can sing and dogs dance and in a few cases have been on the stage.

          I am wondering about who to really blame now that we have hippie dogs out where you folks are. In a very few cases, we also have them up here. They were seen in Anchorage.

          I think the hippie dog originated in Europe. I mean those dogs that have in some cases been to dog and cat beauty parlors. Some are called strange names that must have originated in Paris.

          One may identify hippie dogs by their tail job done by an expert on clippings and such things as big flowers fashioned on the tip of their hippie dog’s tail.

          Some have huge globs of hair on their heads; they may be tinted slightly pink or even unmentionable colors, such as ice-worm blue, etc. Their nails are done, they are perfumed, have jeweled collars hippie style and even ribbons. Some even win ribbons.

          Some have papers that prove their respective parents were properly introduced.

          Personally I think that dogs have more respect for their kind than to stoop to what humans who call dogs dumb animals have forced them to endure. Surely the humane society out where you are can help those dogs.

          What I have tried to prove here that is if the dogs in the hippie class could choose for themselves, none would be hippie. Personally, I cannot say as much for us humans.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

          (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

          Pioneer’s Home

          Fairbanks Alaska

Chula Vista Star-News – December 22, 1968

Tootsie’s Yule Gift – Her Sight

Editors:

          This Christmas will be exceptionally happy and merry for me because for years I have had only one eye. I lost the other because of freezing and several months ago lost the sight of my good eye and was in almost total darkness for months.

          Because of God’s blessing and answer to my prayers and exceptionally good surgery, my sight in what was my good eye has been restored to me.

          The thing I most desired was sight and to see light. I have been here in Alaska many years. In fact, I arrived here during the horse and buggy days and the electric automobiles. That was over 60 years ago and I have not been what we still call “outside” during that time. I love Alaska.

          I have seen the earth here opened up by prospectors and I have been a colored prospector. Indians and Eskimos have looked at me in amazement because they had never before seen a Negro.

          Keep in mind that, as a result of the prospector who was game to take a chance, millions in gold was and still is recovered from mother earth.

Now I can see again and can read and even could prospect except I am confined to a wheelchair. I may even beat the old chair. Miracles do happen.

          In your letters Star-News readers have told me that you can see the lights of San Diego and even Mexico from your area. I can understand how beautiful it all must be.

          We are not too far from the North Pole here where I am and, of course, Santa has his oy workshops there, as well as his reindeers and his helpers. I just wonder if Santa turns on the Northern Lights that I can now see again?

          How many of you have seen the rare beauty in the skies of the Northern Lights? These manifestations of rare beauty seen on clear cold nights, dancing in rhythmic like motion, showing the colorful display as the lights fold and unfold in lovely multi-colored streamers as they glide through the starlit sky – ending possibly at the end of heaven and beginning where heaven begins.

          Oh Lord, what a beautiful sight. And now I can again see it all.

          Could these lights be turned on by the angels while Santa is busy delivering toys and other gifts? Surely such a lovely display is just for us. Lord, what rare heavenly beauty.

          California has so much such as sunshine, flowers, and wonderful climate. Every state in the union has something to bring happiness. Here in Alaska we have Santa Claus close by and the Northern Lights right over our heads.

          At times, those lights have been known to reach down and kiss the snow-covered land, and now I again can see the midnight sun.

          There is so much to see here in Alaska. Even to see the ice come and go thrills one through and through.

          As you folks gaze at the beautiful Christmas trees and Candy Cane Lane and so much more, such as the street decorations, the store windows loaded with toys and other gifts, give thanks to our God that you have been blessed with sight to see our beautiful world.

          Thank you, thank you so much and MERRY CHRISTMAS.

          MRS. M. CROSBY

           (Better known as Tootsie throughout Alaska)

Pioneer’s Home

Fairbanks, Alaska 99701

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

Bibliography:

Bundtzen, Thomas K.

Hawley, Charles C.

Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby

Alaska Mining Hall of Fame Association Newsletter

Buzzell, Rolfe (Editor) – 1993

Flat and Iditarod Oral History Interviews 1993 – 1995

U.S. Department of the Interior – BLM

State of Alaska – DNR

Gillette, Helen – “An Era Died at Iditarod-Flat When Old-Timer Tootsie Crosby Went to Sitka Home.”

Alaska Citizen

May 15, 1911 – (page 7)

September 25, 1911 – (page 6)

Chula Vista Star-News

May 16, 1963 – (page 5)

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

April 28, 1965 – (page 7)

July 6, 1967 – (page 24)

May 1, 1968 – (page 7)

May 3, 1968 – (page 1)

March 4, 1968 – (page 5)

May 9, 1970 – (page 2)

June 25, 1976 – (page 6)

May 20, 1972 – (page 2)

September 9, 1972 – (page 2)

October 19, 1972 – (page 14)

Fairbanks Daily Times

October 1, 1911 – (page 1)

September 22, 1911 – (page 1)

Negro Digest – “Tootsie-Belle of Alaska” – Clinton Clark

March 1963

The Los Angeles Times

July 1, 1911 – (page 3)

The Star Press – Muncie, Indiana

July 9, 1989 – (page 38)

United States Census Records:  1910, 1920, 193

Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby at Sitka Pioneer’s Home

Keep a Light On

“Even you should be able to remember that much.”

If I opened my mailbox today finding a letter addressed to me from Jesus, what would it say? I can only speculate.

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Dear Michael,

A brief but important message:

Your parents and grandparents are fine. They say hello. Aunts and uncles echo the same. Several friends give you thumbs up. Those furry and feathered friends of yours; they’re romping around the mansion grounds. All ten of them miss you dearly.

I see you are doing well. Being upright is good. You’ve definitely been eating. That isn’t the case for millions throughout the world. At times you forget. I’ve blessed you with ample food. Remember those folks not as fortunate next time you complain about a cold burrito.

Looking over your life history there were many times I shook my head. Your judgment between right and wrong went haywire on numerous occasions. I had to get your attention more than once. Still do. Often times with leather boot instead of woven sandal. Have to constantly stay on top of you Mr. Hankins. You have some spiritual growing to do!

You’ve been concerned about what’s going on in this world. Who isn’t? Do not be afraid. Things will be okay. Until the day of reckoning, continue to pray for friends, family, strangers, and enemies. Yes; enemies. Read your Bible. I know you’ve failed to do that. There are people praying for your health Michael. Return the favor!

Wherever you go, know that I’m with you. I see your every move. I know your inner thoughts and secrets. Never forsake me. You asked me into your heart. I reside within. Each time you enter a place where I’m not welcome do not fret. Man has neither the power nor wisdom to keep me out. Those who rebuke my presence are fools. Vengeance is mine.

Using the Heavenly scale of eternity, you’re less than an eye blink away. No one knows the year, month, week, day, or minute. I know precisely the millisecond.

Michael, remember that harsh words, verbally and written, cut deeper than a double-edged Gillette® razor. That last line has you smiling. Yes, I have a sense of humor. You got yours from me.

Follow my commandments. There are but 10. Even you should be able to remember that much.

I’ll keep a light on!

Love,

Jesus

PLUCKED FROM THE ASHES

“It’s more than just a gun!”

Firefighters struggle to get Mt. View Sporting Goods fire under control (January 21, 1976)

Sometimes stories come out of the blue. Unlike those compositions, this one was plucked from the ashes:

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I’m not sure why I was given Herman’s rifle. Glenn, Charlie, Andy, and Philip are the hunters in our family. They deserved the weapon more than me. These guys are lesser halves to Joleen’s four sisters. Joleen is my wife of almost 43 years.

Killing animals and butchering them isn’t something I do. I hold no ill towards those that choose such. My friends and family hunt solely for subsistence. In my opinion, a grocery store meat-counter works great for harvesting steaks; the best part being they come fully wrapped.

Several years ago for reasons unknown Joleen’s mom picked me as ‘keeper of the gun’. The prized weapon belonged to Bonnie’s late husband, Herman Freeman. For those needing specifics it’s a 1972 Sako – Finnbear Deluxe – .375 H&H Magnum. For folks needing less data,

“It’s a bear gun!”

My late father-in-law Herman Freeman.

I covet firearms for mechanical and historical significance more than anything. An ancestor of mine, William Hankins, was partners with Christian Sharps during the American Civil War. The two entrepreneurs teamed up to create the Sharps & Hankins Firearms Company in Philadelphia. I’m fortunate to possess several rifles and pistols they manufactured.

“If only those weapons could talk!”

Seeing Hankins stamped alongside Sharps is meaningful to me. Christian Sharps is undoubtedly one of the finest American gun makers to ever live. The Sharps & Hankins partnership lasted but a few years. Research shows them going separate ways about the time William Hankins’ wife Elizabeth died in 1866. William didn’t live much longer. He passed away in 1868.

I’ve always been intrigued by guns of the Old West. To own a Colt pistol or lever action Winchester owned by Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, or Lucas McCain would set my world on fire. The pinnacle of my collection is a U.S. surcharged Brown Bess musket from the Revolutionary War. An original bayonet is still attached. The weapon literally reeks of early American conflict.

I’ve never been attracted to sporting weapons where collecting is concerned. When Bonnie gave me Herman’s hunting rifle I was humbled, yet not sure what to do with it. The Sako didn’t fit with firearms I possess. Even so, I carefully placed it in my gun safe for protection. Every so often I’ll remove it to lubricate metal components including polish the stock. It goes back inside once this work is done.

Gun’s home for the past several years.

One afternoon while reading a book on early Alaska gold mining a thought crossed my mind. Herman’s rifle possessed unique significance where Anchorage’s past is concerned. Much of the gun’s heritage I knew. Other data regarding the place it came from was obtained from Loussac Library newspaper archives.

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Mt. View Sports Center began operation in 1961. It was originally located at 3130 Mountain View Drive. That’s basically a suburb north of Anchorage. Soon after opening, the store became a must stop for hunters and fishermen from all over the last frontier. Residents from Fairbanks, Kenai, Seward, and Glenallen came to shop. After arrival, many out-of-state visitors purchased firearms, fishing equipment, licenses, plus other sporting equipment. Business was brisk.

Early evening on January 21, 1976, when the store was closed, a fast moving fire broke out. Newspaper accounts show it was a major blaze. Bullets exploded from inside the structure blowing out front display windows. Most of those early explosions undoubtedly came from heated cans and bottles of reloading powder and cleaning solvent. There were so many blasts that merchandise ended up on a sidewalk and in the street.

An article in the Anchorage Daily Times mentioned police and firemen taking cover throughout the ordeal. Bullets were ricocheting and pinging like those in a western movie. I recall driving by as firemen mopped up the scene. It appeared nothing could have survived. I was wrong!

My father-in-law told me one evening he was going to a fire sale. All the surviving items from Mt. View Sports Center were to be auctioned off. He was eager to look things over hoping for a good deal. I accepted an invitation to tag along.

From my perspective none of the charred weapons looked salvageable. Most of them appeared to be burned beyond restoration. Once vibrant and shiny, the bluing on barrels and receivers was now tarnished from heat, smoke, and water. Herman came upon the carcass of a rifle that caught his fancy. He took his right thumb rubbing it over the floorplate. Silver inlay hid under black grime.

Removing additional residue, an artist’s representation of a strange looking animal with long round horns appeared. It was surrounded by botanical leaves. Herman believed it to be an African Waterbuck. I jokingly declared it a four-legged Phoenix. The gun’s wood stock was totally charred. Particles of black ash fell from several locations.  I initially viewed the rifle as nothing more than burnt toast. My father-in-law saw different. Through his eyes he’d found a diamond in the rough.

Silver inlay was hidden under fire blackened smudge and grime.

When the auction was over Herman walked away with his prize. On the ride home I rolled my truck window down along with opening a vent. An odor of doused campfire permeated chilled air. My father-in-law was so elated in placing the winning bid I doubt he noticed.

For safety reasons, Herman realized the action and barrel needed to be inspected by a professional. Alan “Jerry” Giradet of Lock, Stock and Barrel gun shop was the best gunsmith in Alaska at that time. His business on Muldoon Road was located in a building my father owned. Herman took all metal components to Jerry for analysis. Mr. Giradet proclaimed the barrel straight and true, with breech and action uncompromised by heat. Herman was elated with the news.

The first thing accomplished in restoring the gun was removal of the charred stock. I helped clean all metal components in diesel fuel to remove soot, smudge, roof tar, and other contaminants. The metal was given a coat of WD-40 to help keep it from further rusting. 

He began working on these parts using fine emery and crocus cloth. Herman attempted to re-blue the action and barrel with subpar results. Lock, Stock, and Barrel once again came to his rescue. It took Jerry several weeks to perform his magic. The pieces looked good as new when finished. Mr. Giradet was an Army WWII survivor having learned his trade in the service. My father-in-law was a Navy veteran from the same conflict. Both men understood the importance of firearms where freedom is concerned.

Alan “Jerry Giradet’ was undoubtedly the best gunsmith in Alaska before his passing.

Sometime during the restoration process Herman ordered a new French walnut stock. A good deal of money was spent on that. When the box arrived there was not much inside other than a slab of unfinished wood wrapped in protective paper. He chiseled, shaped, sanded, and finally contoured it to fit the receiver. Herman consumed a huge amount of time working on the stock alone. He’d sit in the living room watching “All in the Family” while sanding away.

After adding a variable power Leupold scope and then having it bench tested by Jerry Giradet, the Sako was ready for test fire. I rode with Herman on his airboat up the silty Matanuska River until we came to a sand bar near the glacier. That’s where we beached the craft. He walked a good distance before setting up a paper target. I remained at the boat with sandwich, candy bar, and bottle of pop.

When it was time to shoot, foam ear plugs were inserted. I knelt while he went prone on the ground, using a tree stump to support the Sako. With each detonation of a brass cartridge sand jumped all around my feet. That’s how much concussion the big .375 had. Herman eventually walked out to retrieve his target finding all shots in the black. The scope crosshairs were dead on. Without question my father-in-law is the most accurate shooter I’ve ever met. Others say the same. Offered a chance to fire the gun I declined.

"It's more than just a gun!"
I’m merely ‘posing’ with the powerful rifle having never shot it.

Looking back I still can’t say why I ended up with the rifle. Undoubtedly it was one of Herman’s most prized possessions. I’m probably the only person knowing full history and then some. Perhaps that was reason enough for Bonnie to choose me as custodian. There are no plans to sell the Sako even though it has significant monetary value. Calloused yet caring hands bringing the gun back to life are no longer here. Jerry Giradet and Herman Freeman have permanently left the building. In a few more years the heirloom will be passed on to another family member; handed off to someone hopefully understanding,

“It’s more than just a gun!”

* The biggest survivor of that 1976 fire is Mountain View Sports. The business is still going strong at a location on the Old Seward Highway. This story could not have been told without the relentless sleuthing of Diana Sanders, Pamela Painter Jones, and Kathy Sievert.

My late father-in-law Herman Freeman’s beloved Sako .375 H&H magnum.

LEFT in ALASKA

Tragic tale of an Army soldier and his prized automobile.

1968 Plymouth GTX formerly owned by SP4 James Boggs

I’ve been a Mopar guy forever. It’s an addiction of sorts. That doesn’t mean I don’t like Ford’s and Chevy’s. I’ve owned both, but I do prefer Chrysler over all other brands.

My first Mopar was a wrecked, 1969 Plymouth Road Runner. A classmate at East Anchorage High School, David Church, hit a telephone pole with it creating a horseshoe imprint in the front bumper and grille. I installed the Plymouth’s 383 engine, 4-speed transmission, and differential into a 1954 Chevrolet sedan. All other salvageable parts were stripped and sold. The transplant breathed new life into my old Chevy.

Soon after completing that project, a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T came roaring my direction. I talked mom into buying the Dodge, with her taking my recently purchased 1970 Chevrolet Camaro in trade. I was happy to be rid of the Camaro as it was a tortoise in disguise. Slow & Steady suited mother just fine.

The Charger served me well, although it had a ferocious appetite for high octane fuel. City police seemingly placed it on their Most Wanted list. I was constantly pulled over. Most stops were warranted, yet on the other hand some weren’t. My Dodge looked fast sitting still!

In the summer of 1972, I spotted a gray 1968 Plymouth GTX on the Glenn Highway. The car was jacked in the back with extended spring shackles. The young driver wore a military-style-haircut. His wife or girlfriend with infant children rode with him. I followed the muscle-car into town for a closer look.

Weeks later I came across the same Plymouth on Ingra Street at a red light. I was cruising in my Charger most likely having just washed it. That was standard procedure on weekends. This time the Plymouth contained 3-male-passengers instead of a woman and kids. The fellow riding shotgun took a long drag on a cigarette, quickly flicking ashes out an open window. He glanced over pointing a finger straight ahead.

A quick stoplight to stoplight race ensued with me severely beating the crippled Plymouth. Most likely the GTX owner “banged gears” quite often. His engine puked blue-smoke indicating something was amiss. The car was deathly-ill in the oil-consumption-department.

Turns out, Boggs, the fellow owning the Plymouth, worked at Fort Richardson with several soldiers I knew. His co-workers Don, Chuck, and Jim turned wrenches at Wonder Park Texaco when they were off duty. I was employed at the station during my high school years. I was a gas pump jockey. My father and his business partner Isaiah Lewis owned the place.

Don Weber was the red-haired soldier who sold me his ’54 Chevrolet sedan. This was the car I owned a couple of years before the Camaro and Charger. I drove it during my high school days. It was lifted on all corners much like a 4×4 truck. Don’s the only G.I. whose last name I still remember. Chuck drove a fast 1970 Chevelle. Jim was his best friend.

A fellow called Boggs stopped by on occasion to top off his tank.  Boggs owned the Plymouth that I raced with my Charger. He’d talk trash with his buddies, Don, Chuck, and Jim, for several minutes before leaving. Wonder Park Texaco was a favorite place for Army and Air Force car fanatics to hang out. I lost contact with all these guys after I graduated from high school.

Two years later an ad appeared in Penny Saver for a 1968 GTX. The advertisement mentioned it had a 440, a 4-speed transmission, and a Dana 60 differential. Price was $600.00. I desperately wanted that Dana 60.

Quickly dialing the listed telephone number, a man gave me directions on where to find it. He was at work and couldn’t meet me, yet seemed fine with my checking things out. The address was a small log-cabin off West 15th with a one-stall detached garage. The home was likely built in Anchorage during the ‘40’s.

Opening a rickety garage door, I instantly recognized the Plymouth. No other GTX in town came close to it in appearance. It was the same car driven by Boggs. Remnants of a military sticker remained on the front bumper. Someone had made a poor attempt with a razor blade or knife to remove it. Its Indiana license plates had been taken off and placed on the dash.

The car’s 440 Magnum engine was partially disassembled. Cylinder heads, exhaust manifolds, intake manifold with carburetor, including other parts were stashed in the trunk. The odometer read 110,000 miles indicating the Mopar had covered lots of ground.

I stopped by Turnagain Chevron at Old Seward Highway & Klatt Road where the seller was employed. Handing him cash, he presented me with a clear title. The fellow was supposed to tow it to my house with his company wrecker, yet weeks later the promise went unfulfilled. With help from my brother-in-law, Gary Adair, we pulled it home using a rope.

All five ashtrays in the Plymouth contained cigarette butts. Smoking was common for servicemen back in the day, and the seats and headliner reeked of secondhand smoke and nicotine.

The person I purchased it from mentioned a sad story associated with the GTX.  Unfortunately, he never relayed the specifics to me. A brief meeting to finalize our transaction was the only time we met.

Searching for the guy many years later hoping to learn the mystery, I couldn’t locate him. Even without his help I’ve uncovered information on my own.  It was an old vehicle registration that eventually put me on the right track.

Undoubtedly Boggs had significant mechanical ability. I assumed he was the one who built a clever gauge and switch panel, locating it above the GTX rearview mirror. Much care was taken in the construction. Aircraft quality stainless-steel tubing connected the oil-pressure-gauge to engine. A chrome push-button switch was installed for starting. Tin work and riveting on the panel was precise and professionally done. All electrical-wiring was hidden from sight.

As I previously mentioned, I purchased the Plymouth for its Dana 60 rear end. The beefy component was needed to go underneath the 1954 Chevrolet. Plans were made to strip and sell all the extra parts. Over the next few years the automobile sat underneath a blue tarp waiting to be dismantled. Fortunately, that never happened. As more and more time went by, I decided instead to resurrect the car.

Both fenders had rust, including the rear quarter panels. I purchased new fenders from Anchorage Chrysler. They also supplied me with left and right quarter panels. A body shop owned by a friend did the work.

Modifications by me include a supercharged 426 Hemi with added 4-wheel disc brakes for improved stopping power. The transmission was rebuilt, with a heavy duty Borg-Warner clutch and pressure plate installed for durability. Well-worn seat covers were exchanged for new ones including new carpet. I performed all the chassis cleaning with a wire brush and electric grinder. There was plenty of hardened mud underneath.  I needed a chisel to remove some clods. When the project was done, I added a small United States flag to the rear window. Something inside me said it was the proper thing to do.

The finished car wasn’t a picture perfect restoration by any means. A buddy, Jeff Thimsen, repainted the body in gray-lacquer. Today, nearly 40-years after having been sprayed, it looks much the same as when Boggs owned it. Aesthetically speaking, time and dust took a toll on the paint.

People snicker and sneer at the nicks, dings, and visible body flaws. I refer to them asbattle scars. But there’sa tragic ending to this story, that remains macabre 44 years after it happened:

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James Henry Boggs was going through hard times. Only 24-years old, the specialist fourth class was a mechanic assigned to the 109th Transportation Company at Fort Richardson. He had three small children and a marriage on the rocks. When James’ young wife unexpectedly departed Alaska for Indiana taking the kids with her, he became despondent.

Anchorage in January is a terrible place to be alone, especially for those with drinking problems. Lack of sunlight and extreme cold can make life miserable and depressing. Add to that the plight of owning a car that wouldn’t run. James was without wheels at a time when he desperately needed them.

After receiving orders in February transferring him to Fort Hood, Texas, Boggs became emotionally unglued. He called his parents 5 times that Friday.  Army officers counseled him hoping to calm him down. Unsuccessful, they decided to leave him alone. Their decision was a fatal one.

Late Friday night, on February 8, 1974 after leaving a seedy 4th Avenue bar, James encountered 2 people on the street. One of them he knew from Fort Richardson. This soldier had a less than stellar military record having gone AWOL the previous year. The young men came across as partiers looking for a good time.  That was a fallacy. They had devious plans laid out instead.

 Lots of excess alcohol was consumed that evening. Drugs were used. Intoxicated, Boggs was intentionally led to a secluded spot behind the Alaska Native Hospital. Easily overpowered by his “friends”, they slit Boggs throat with a knife to near decapitation. Then they placed a 38-caliber pistol to James’ head and fired. Everything went according to plan.

The young soldier’s decomposing body was found several months later dumped in a pile of snow and ice. Thankfully, his killer and his accomplice were caught and prosecuted. An initial charge of first-degree-murder was surprisingly reduced by the Anchorage District Attorney Joseph D. Balfe and Assistant District Attorney W.H. Hawley to second-degree-murder.  According to court documents, presiding Judge Seaborn J. Buckalew Jr. seriously questioned that decision. Court room records show he believed the killing was an execution.

 The admitted killer, Gregory Allen Wolford, was given the maximum 20-years behind bars.  Nicholas Lee Pelkola was sentenced to 6 years for his part. Neither Wolford nor Pelkola served full terms.

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James Henry Boggs was a hardcore Mopar guy. His 1968 Plymouth GTX, next to wife and kids, meant lots to him. Records show he bought the vehicle soon after entering the service. Many G.I.’s purchased automobiles prior to being deployed. In Boggs’ case, it was a 13-month tour in Germany.

In 1971, James and his family made the long 3,000-mile-trip to The Last Frontier. In the 70’s the infamous Alaska/Canada Highway was still mostly gravel and mud. Recently married, James and Hazel would’ve been nervous, yet, on the other hand, extremely excited about their journey. Little did they know that in 3 years, James’ promising military-career would end in such horrific fashion.

Owning this vehicle and finally learning its full history has been eye-opening. For me it’s hard to fathom that I had known Boggs, never realizing he’d later been killed. I hardly read newspapers or watched the news back then.

Unfortunate events sent the car my direction. Things weren’t intended to go that way. Most likely after the Plymouth’s engine went sour, SP4 James Henry Boggs planned to replace broken parts.  He would’ve repaired and then driven the Plymouth back down the Al-Can Highway to Texas, to ultimately join his wife and kids.

Sadly, fate made sure that never happened.

Photo circa 1968
How it looks today (2020)
1975
1975 (OEM factory quarter panel).
1975 (I replaced fenders with factory originals so as not have to repair front corner dents).
1975
1975
1975
Me at 21 working on car (1975).

LOST IN OATMAN

“A Denmark beautician and his wife built that pyramid in hopes of obtaining eternal life.”

Pyramid house in Oatman, Arizona – Photo credit: Nicole Luna

When friends and relatives stop by to visit us in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, my wife and I have a plan of sorts. Without question we’ll take them first to see the London Bridge. That’s a prerequisite. Tourists love to stroll beneath the structure marveling at European architecture and craftsmanship. Our guests are no different. While they’re walking and gawking I sit and wait. It’s amazing what a person can see and feel perched on a concrete bench.

I’ve tried to act as bridge expert while down there, telling more gullible visitors about a movie filmed in ‘The English Village’ called, The Boston Strangler. The majority of them know it’s a ruse, yet I’ve hooked a few unsuspecting believers.  Occasionally I toss in the epic tale of a bridge worker named, “Chip”, who accidentally trapped himself inside the structure during reconstruction. Although grossly untrue, the statement warrants undivided attention from those listening.

It never fails that someone will ask if the poor man escaped. I tell them with straight face that being a stone mason, he eventually chipped himself out of trouble. It takes milliseconds for most to discover they’ve been had. Others never figure things out until my wife, Joleen, informs them. Taking our guests to dine at one of several restaurants on ‘The Island’ culminates my London Bridge tour. Someone has to entertain these people and I love doing it!

Breakfast at a swanky uptown diner is always included in our plans. There’s never been a visit where doggie boxes weren’t required. Out-of-town guests are constantly overwhelmed by the abundance of grub. They’ll say with utter amazement that they’ve never seen so much food on a plate. I won’t name the establishment yet will offer a clue, “Paw prints lead to the front door.”  Having visitors bring their ‘boxes’ back to our place saves Joleen from having to fix lunch or dinner. I wasn’t supposed to mention that.

Time is put aside in driving friends or relatives around town before heading to Parker. A scenic cruise across the Parker Dam into California is a must. Donkeys are constantly on both sides of the road including the middle. It’s akin to McCulloch Boulevard during a Desert Storm Street Party. Although I know few pertinent facts about Parker, I create unique ones to entertain our visitors. On one excursion I informed friends from Alaska that Parker was named after Fess Parker; the infamous Daniel Boone actor. There was no reason for them not to believe my spiel. It sounded good enough that even Joleen fell for it.

A trip to Oatman, Arizona is generally reserved for the final day. I attempt to line things up perfectly so our visitors don’t miss the gunfight reenactment. That’s my favorite part of visiting this place, other than watching burros steal food from kids and elderly people. Much like a thirsty donkey, I enjoy grabbing an ice cold drink at ‘Judy’s.

An Oatman visit is the perfect opportunity to practice a little tomfoolery.  I make sure to stand in front of onlookers when gunshots first ring out. Quickly dropping to the ground, I’ll act as if a chunk of hot lead struck me in the pelvis. Moaning profusely helps with the deception.  At the sound of pain, some sucker will gasp, believing live rounds were mistakenly loaded and fired. Quickly jumping up I’ll proclaim it was only a ricochet. That garners a few laughs.

Although not part of the skit, it adds unwanted drama to the gig. I’m sure the ‘Oatman Ghost Rider Gunfighters’ find my stunt distasteful. On one occasion after being given the evil eye by a couple of them, I ducked into the Oatman Hotel.  That turned out sweet because I purchased a jar of Arizona honey and an ice-cream cone while there.

There’s something peculiar about Oatman that nearly all visitors overlook. I’m not referring to the stench coming from the town’s public restroom. Tourists never fail to mention that. The peculiarity I’m talking about is the pyramid constructed on a hill directly overlooking Main Street. It sits directly on top of a mine shaft.

Other than locals knowing about this pyramid, most people don’t notice or care. No one’s ever asked me about the unique residence. That’s fine because I didn’t have an honest answer for them; until now.

Mr. Henning was born in Denmark. The man spent a good portion of his early life in Paris, Rome, Vienna, Madrid, and Majorca. He was an accomplished beautician in those locales. Herman performed hair and makeup magic on actors, celebrities, shahs, and other influential clientele. He eventually became bored, finding that wealthy people were basically unhappy individuals. Being around them brought him down.

Herman Henning was a different kind of person. I don’t mention that in a bad sense. Let’s just say he marched to the beat of a different drummer. He was an odd fellow much like this writer.

Herman made note of going on a picnic with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. That seems to be one of his more uplifting moments where dealing with Hollywood elite is concerned. Henning journeyed to America in 1965 with wife Lydia to escape the madness. Traveling across the U.S. they wound up in California before settling in desolate Oatman, Arizona. They quickly fell in love with the place.

“They have everything so there isn’t anything left to live for!”, he told a reporter.

I found the majority of information regarding this couple in an Arizona Republic newspaper article by, Steve Daniels, dated October 8, 1985. Mr. Daniels arranged a short interview with the Henning’s for his manuscript.

When Herman and Lydia relocated to Oatman he immediately began plans for a combination pyramid/home. Being a health consultant including beautician, Henning thought there were magical as well as spiritual powers associated with a pyramid design. Herman Henning was an advocate of astrology, metaphysics, architecture, and holistic healing all rolled into one. There’s no telling what else he rolled. During Henning’s interview reporter, Steve Daniels, disclosed that the man smoked generic cigarettes. The word generic has many connotations. We’ll leave it at that.

Local residents were not impressed with Henning’s undertaking. Rumblings were heard throughout the community regarding potential dynamiting of his structure. Such devilry had been done to a couple of businesses over the years. Townspeople thought the pyramid design would not blend in with ‘ghost town’ decor. Here tell there are still a couple of Oatman old-timers feeling that way.

Sun and weather have aged things to perfection.  The 4,000-square-foot monstrosity from a distance appears much older than its 34 years. This helps it blend in with prehistoric buildings below. Wood trim appears to be cracked and warped. This same blemishing occurs to flesh. Lizard skin is often used to describe such. Overall though, the dwelling looks to be in great shape.

Henning’s pyramid faces true north. The slope of the walls has been perfectly aligned to 57 degrees, 52 minutes, and 12 seconds. Herman Henning informed Steve Daniels, that the alignment was to maximize effectiveness. The man went on to claim the pyramid made a big difference in his life. He didn’t elaborate other than say he could hear burros braying in the street below. Without question that’s better than listening to caged Chihuahua’s bark in someone’s backyard.

I wanted to interview Mr. Henning. The gentleman would be 97-years-old. An Oatman business owner told me that he’d passed away some time ago. I found no record of such. If Henning’s did depart this world, magical powers of the pyramid failed once again where eternal life is concerned. We saw that happen with the Egyptians.

Next time friends or relatives roll into Havasu, Joleen and I will make it a point to haul them to Oatman just like the others. With added history in my memory bank, I’ll be able to point to the hills and say with unquestionable intellect,

“A Denmark beautician and his wife built that pyramid in hopes of obtaining eternal life.

They’ll either be impressed by my knowledge or call me a liar.

As I mentioned earlier, one of Herman Henning’s ultimate reasons for constructing a pyramid was to harness special powers from the heavens. Only Mr. Henning can say for sure if this worked. Unfortunately it appears he left town permanently. On a quizzical note, perhaps he’s merely lost in Oatman and can’t be found?

If Henning’s pyramid does generate unlimited energy, a portion of it might be tapped to help with the community restroom dilemma. Perhaps a few solar panels placed on top of the unusual building, with electrical wires extending downward to the brick outhouse could be arranged. Celestial current would then be utilized to power-up giant ventilation fans.

I’m absolutely positive should Herman Henning ever return home, and had to enter that public facility, he would not hesitate one iota in saying,

“Go for it!”

My guests would thank him for the gesture!

Pyramid house circa 1985. – Photo credit: Steve Daniels