Former Alaskan Governor Jay Hammond in front of a section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
July 21 is Jay Hammond Day in Alaska. Hammond, a popular figure in Alaska, served as governor between 1974 – 1982.
Hammond, born in Troy, NY, was a Marine fighter pilot in WWII, flying for the Black Sheep Squadron in China. He moved to Alaska after the war, and continued his flying as a bush pilot. Hammond entered state politics in 1959.
Governor Hammond died at his homestead on Lake Clark in 2005. Alaska could use the Bush Rat Governor right about now.
The music world lost another unique voice on Thursday. Dr John, the man who brought the voodoo infused magic of New Orleans music to the world, died “toward the break of day”, of a heart attack. John was 77.
I saw Dr John play live once, when I was in New Orleans during their Jazz Festival. It was pure luck really, but sometimes the train pulls up to the station at just the right moment. It was after Katrina, and there were still a lot of roofs that were covered by blue tarps. Dr John put on quite the show, but this was more than just playing a concert, it was his attempt to use music to help heal his city from a hurricane and apathy.
Dr John simply oozed New Orleans, in all its funky, bluesy, bayou form. I read a review once, where the writer described his voice as a “bullfrog with a hangover”.
Rest in peace, Night Tripper; your bullfrog voice will be missed.
Prompted by the post on here about the sinking of the Princess Sophia, I had to read Walter Harper’s biography by Mary Ehrlander. It turned out to be a well written, and fascinating read.
Walter Harper was the youngest child of the famed Irish gold prospector Arthur Harper and Athabascan Jenny Albert. He was born in Nuchelawoya, which is now the village of Tanana, in December of 1892. Walter did not know his father, as his parents separated after his birth, and Jenny raised him in the traditional Athabascan ways.
At 16, Walter met the Episcopal archdeacon, Hudson Stuck. Stuck was immediately impressed by Walter, and he soon became the archdeacon’s trail assistant. It was a role that Harper flourished in. Already an accomplished hunter and fisherman, Harper quickly mastered the river boat and dog team, as Walter traveled with Stuck throughout the Yukon River basin.
Walter Harper with a pet fox kit
It didn’t take long for Harper to become vital to Stuck’s operation. In 1913, Stuck and Harry Karstens decided to attempt to climb Denali, North America’s highest peak. There was never any question that the 21 year old Harper would be a member of the expedition. Missionary Robert Tatum also joined the group. On June 7 of that year, Walter Harper became the first known person to step on the summit of Denali. By all accounts, Harper was the glue that held the expedition together, allowing it to succeed.
Walter Harper led an incredible life, in many ways he experienced the very best that Alaska had to offer at that time. Hudson Stuck was a prolific writer, and Harper kept his own journals of his experiences, although only Walter’s journal of the Denali summit has survived. Ehrlander is a great storyteller, and does a wonderful job of recreating Harper & Stuck’s adventures, as well as exploring what had developed into a father/son relationship.
Harper packed a lot of life into his short time on earth. Fresh off of his marriage at the age of 25, Harper and his new bride, Frances Wells, left for a camping trip, spending their wedding night in a tent along the Porcupine River. They did a hunting-honeymoon, for food to stock the Fort Yukon mission & hospital for the coming winter. Having such a good time in each other’s company, they stayed longer than planned, missing a steamer to Whitehorse, for their trip Outside. Eventually, the couple did leave Fort Yukon on the steamer Alaska for Whitehorse. From Whitehorse, they took the White Pass & Yukon Railway to Skagway, where they booked passage on the Princess Sophia’s last trip south for the season. The Princess Sophia would strike Vanderbilt Reef, and rough seas would eventually sink the ship. All lives on board were lost.
Walter Harper and Frances Wells were buried in Juneau.
“Here Lie the Bodies of Walter Harper and Frances Wells, His Wife, Drowned on the Princess Sophia, 25th October 1918. May Light Perpetually Shine on Them. They Were Lovely and Pleasant in Their Lives, And in Death They Were Not Divided
Harper Glacier on Denali is named after both Walter and his father, Arthur. The ranger station in Talkeetna is also named after Walter Harper. I highly recommend Walter Harper: Alaska Native Son to anyone interested in this unique time and place in history. Nothing is quite like early 20th Century Alaska, and Walter Harper makes an extraordinary subject. The sky is the limit as to what this Alaskan could have accomplished if he had lived a longer life. Which is simply amazing in itself, considering what he did accomplish in such a short time span.
It was the centenary of Hobey Baker’s death on December 21. Considered the greatest hockey player of his era, Baker graduated from Princeton University in 1914. He was one of the first nine players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a charter member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The annual award for the top U.S. college hockey player, is known as The Hobey Baker Award.
In 1916, Baker joined the civilian aviation corps, and in the summer of 1917, he left for Europe and WWI. In August of 1918, Baker took command of the 141st Aero Squadron. On 21 December 1918, in a heavy rain, Baker took a test flight in a recently repaired Spad biplane, refusing his men’s pleas to take his own plane for the flight instead. A quarter of a mile out, and 600 feet in the air, the engine quit on the Spad. Baker turned the plane, in an attempt to get back to the airfield. The Spad lost altitude, and crashed nose first. Baker was quickly freed from the wreckage by his men, but died within minutes in the ambulance. His orders to return home were in his jacket pocket.
Princeton University’s hockey team recently played Penn State University. Both teams took a field trip to Philadelphia to pay respects to Hobart Baker. Several players left hockey pucks on his headstone. Baker was three weeks shy of his 27th birthday when he died in France.
141st Aero Squadron Insigne: A Princeton Tiger; Courtesy of the National Museum of the USAF
I’ve read several books on Hobey Baker over the years. A new one was recently published. Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review, by Tim Rappleye. I might have to check it out.
—The verse written on Hobey’s headstone:
“You seemed winged, even as a lad,
With that swift look of those who know the sky,
It was no blundering fate that stooped and bade
You break your wings, and fall to earth and die,
I think some day you may have flown too high,
So that immortals saw you and were glad,
Watching the beauty of your spirits flame,
Until they loved and called you, and you came.”
87 year old Solihull native takes her first ride in a Land Rover.
A teenaged Dorothy Peters and #16
In July 1946, Dorothy Peters went to work at Rover’s Lode Lane Factory. She was only 15 when she first went to work for the company. The first vehicle she worked on was chassis number 16. As in, the 16th Series Land Rover to cross the assembly line.
The now retired Ms Peters, has been a lifelong supporter of the brand, but surprisingly she had never ridden in a Land Rover. Over the years, Peters had dreamed of at least once, driving Solihull’s famous Jungle Track, the off road course that Land Rover tests its vehicles on.
As fate would have it, #16 is now owned by Mike Bishop, Land Rover Classic’s Reborn Engineering Specialist and Heritage Expert. Bishop reunited Peters with #16, and took her for a little spin, Land Rover style. The reunion and visit to Jungle Track can be seen in the following video.
Tom Thomson was a prolific artist over his short career. The Canadian painted 400 oil sketches on wood panels, and about 50 larger works on canvas.
Thomson fishing in Algonquin Park
An avid outdoorsman, Thomson spent a lot of time canoeing the waters of eastern Canada. In May of 1912, Thomson visited Algonquin Park in Ontario for the first time. That visit began a love affair that lasted the remainder of his life. It was Algonquin that inspired Thomson to seek out his first sketching tools.
The Canoe, Tom Thomson 1912
As an artist, Thomson was largely self-taught, and did not seriously start to paint until he was in his 30’s. His oil work on small wooden panels made it easy for transport during travels. Much of this work was inspired, or done in Algonquin Park.
Campfire, Tom Thomson, 1916
Thomson’s larger canvas work was mostly completed over the winter months in his Toronto Studio. The studio was an old utility shack, that was heated by a wood stove, located on the grounds of the artist complex The Studio Building. Thomson’s work and notoriety reached a peak between the years of 1914-1917.
The Jack Pine, Tom Thomson, 1916
On July 8 of 1917, Thomson disappeared on a canoe trip on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. His body was found eight days later floating in the lake. He was buried near Canoe Lake at Mowat Cemetery, although his brother later exhumed his body and brought it to the family plot.
Thomson was known as an honorary member of the Group of Seven. Also known as the Algonquin School, the Group of Seven was collection of Canadian landscape painters from 1920-1933. One member, Lawren Harris, said later, Thomson “was a part of the movement, before we pinned a label on it.”
Totem on Hayhurst Point
Brazil Lucas and I spent some time on Canoe Lake during the Canadian Excursion. We canoed over to Hayhurst Point, where a memorial cairn stands honoring Thomson. Near the spot where Thomson’s body was recovered, the cairn was erected in September 1917 by J. E. H. MacDonald and John William Beatty.
Tom Thomson Memorial Cairn, Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, Ontario
Tony Joe White passed away suddenly on Thursday of a suspected heart attack. The musician was inspired to pick up a guitar as a teenager when he heard Lightin’ Hopkins for the first time. Known for his “swamp rock” style, White wrote several classics including “Willie and Laura Mae Jones”, “Polk Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night in Georgia”. The latter had been covered by over 100 different artists by the time White turned 30.
In the above video, White performs one of his songs with Johnny Cash. White was 75.