Tag Archives: history

Statehood

60 Years Ago:

Alaska became the 49th U.S. state on January 3, 1959. The Alaska Statehood Act was signed by President Eisenhower on July 7, 1958, which would allow the Great Land entry to the union the following January.


The Grizzly Torque


Grizzly Torque, circa 1957

In the fall of 1956, Bristol Foster was itching to get out and explore the world. He had recently finished his masters degree in biology at the University of Toronto. Foster immediately thought of his friend, Robert Bateman as an ideal travel companion. The two men mapped out a trip that involved crossing four continents. They only needed a vehicle.


Foster and Bateman picking up the Grizzly Torque in England

“… it had to be a Land Rover,” says Bristol Foster. So they ordered a 1957 Series I with an ambulance body. Foster went to Solihull to pick up the Rover, and get trained on their off road course. Bateman arrived later and they took the Series I on a shake down trip through Scotland.


Camping out of the Torque

Foster & Bateman set off for Africa with the newly christened Grizzly Torque. They had agreed to send regular articles and illustrations documenting their trip back to the Toronto Telegram, where they became known as The Rover Boys.

The Rover Boys had a very loose schedule. There was a general direction they meant the trip to follow, but the route taken from Point A to Point B was by no means a straight line. They were free to do as they wished, at a time when this type of travel was ideal. Today, it would be virtually impossible to make the same trek. Not only due to safety concerns, but the difficulty of getting visas throughout the area.

In the Belgian Congo, the little four cylinder engine whined from the excessive load. Some thirty members of the Mbuti tribe were crammed into and onto the Land Rover along with the two Canadians up front. They bounced along a forest track, with the tribe members laughing and singing traditional hunting songs. Foster and Bateman were in Africa, on an adventure of a lifetime. Robert Bateman, thinking back on that time said, “One of the greatest senses of freedom I think we’ve ever had.”

Bateman, now a renown Canadian artist and naturalist, painted small murals along the body of the Grizzly Torque, documenting the places they traveled through. The artwork is stunning, and no doubt caused some excitement with the people they met along the way.


Elephant meets Grizzly

The trip was not without unexpected “adventures”. The Grizzly Torque was flipped over on its side in India, after swerving to avoid a bicyclist. A window was lost in the crash, and was replaced with plexiglass.

In total, The Rover Boys traveled over 60,000 kms, through 19 countries, on 4 continents over 14 months with their Grizzly Torque. The trip ended in Australia with the Land Rover being shipped back to Vancouver after traveling throughout the Australian Outback. From there, the Grizzly Torque continued to be well traveled.

Foster used it on what was then known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, as he pursued his doctorate. It was eventually sold to a student studying peccaries in Texas. The student was raising a juvenile eagle at the time, and the raptor learned to perch up front between the seats. As an adult, the eagle rode happily along, all across the state of Texas, on various expeditions. The student returned to British Columbia with the Land Rover, where he sold the Grizzly Torque to a rancher. Things become murky after that. At some point, the well traveled Land Rover gets sand blasted down to bare metal, painted light blue, losing the wonderful murals, and its identity. The old Rover then spends decades out of the public view.


A blue Torque (?)

Stuart Longair now enters the story. A rancher has four old Land Rovers out in a field, and he wants them gone. Longair, has been a Land Rover cult member from an early age, since riding along with his father in a Series I as a young boy. He buys all four Rovers, sight unseen. The now, faded blue Grizzly Torque, spends the next decade out in another field. Then Longair comes across an old picture of Foster & Bateman with the Grizzly Torque, and he starts to wonder about the neglected Rover he purchased over a decade ago. Longair gets a hold of Bristol Foster, and convinces him to come out and look over the blue Rover. Foster immediately recognized the Grizzly Torque under all of the neglect, but to make sure he went over to the driver’s side door, and found that it was still fitted with the replacement plexiglass from India.


The Grizzly Torque restored

Now that Longair knew that he had a piece of not only Land Rover history, but Canadian history too, he went about restoring the Grizzly Torque. Working off of old photos, Robert Bateman himself, repainted the Rover’s murals along the flat sides.


The Rover Boys reunite with a restored Grizzly Torque


The restored Grizzly Torque and its repainted murals


The eagle in the Grizzly Torque, somewhere in Texas

Photos credit: Bristol Foster & Robert Bateman; Video credit: Land Rover


Hobart Amory Hare Baker

Revisiting Hobey Baker:


Hobey Baker in France during WWI

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.”


Mariucci Classic Returns in 2019


Courtesy of University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Hockey

NCAA D-1 hockey returns to the ice this weekend for some programs. Minnesota returns to Mariucci Arena to take on Ferris State for a two game series. Alaska will not return to the Carlson Center until after the New Year.

The University of Minnesota did announce the return of the Mariucci Classic for 2019. The post-Christmas tournament, hosted by the Minnesota Golden Gophers, was first held in 1991, but has been on a two year hiatus. The 2019, four team field, will consist of only schools from within Minnesota, for the first time ever. It will also be the first time St Cloud State University and Minnesota State University have competed in The Classic. It will be the third appearance for Bemidji State University.

That looks to be a fun weekend of college hockey.


Musée Gilles-Villeneuve

Berthierville, Québec


The Gilles-Villeneuve Museum

When we were in Quebec, The Curator, The Brazilian and I visited the Gilles-Villeneuve Museum, which is just north of Montreal.


A real-size bronze statue of Gilles Villeneuve outside the museum

The museum opened in 1988 in an old post office building. By 1995, the museum had outgrown the original building, and moved to its current location. The museum receives, on average, 20,000 visitors a year.

Villeneuve began his racing career on snowmobiles in Quebec. It was his main source of income as a professional driver starting out in his late teens. In 1974, Villeneuve won the World Championship Snowmobile Derby, which only heightened his popularity on the ice.

In 1977, McClaren offered Villeneuve a ride in five Formula One races, making his debut at the British Grand Prix. He finished ninth in that race.


Enzo & Gilles

Dropped by McClaren, Villeneuve signed on to race for Ferrari for the final two races of 1977 and the 1978 season, picking up his first win at the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix. In 1979, Villeneuve finished 2nd in the Formula One World Championship.

In total, Villeneuve won six Formula One races, with his last win coming at the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix.

Gilles Villeneuve died on 8 May 1982. During his final qualifying session at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, Villeneuve came over a rise at 140mph, and hit the back of a slower moving car driven by Jochen Maas. Villeneuve’s Ferrari went airborne for over 100 meters before nosediving into the asphalt and disintegrating as it somersaulted. Villeneuve was 32.

The museum is full of Gilles Villeneuve memorabilia, including his personal Ford 4WD pickup. It’s well worth a stop if you’re in the Montreal area.


Happy Winter Solstice


High noon in Alaska’s Interior

It’s going to be an active Solstice, with a Full “Cold Moon”, and the Ursid meteor shower. The American Meteor Society expects peak activity to be around 11 sporadic meteors per hour just before dawn in the mid-Northern Hemisphere. With the full moon, they may be a tad difficult to spot.

Also early Friday morning, Mercury and Jupiter can be seen in the southeast sky just before dawn at only .9 degrees apart, which is about two moon-diameters.

The Fairbanks Weather Almanac:
Details for Dec 20, 2018

Low Temp………….. -24F
Avg Low………….. -13F
Record Low……….. -48F

High Temp……………- 7F
Avg High…………….+ 5F
Record High………….+40F

Wind……………….. 0 mph

Sunrise……………. 10:59am
Sunset…………….. 2:41pm
Length of Day………. 3 hours, 42 minutes; which was NO LOSS from the previous day!


“They Shall Not Grow Old”

A rare movie review:

Director Peter Jackson has a new documentary out: “They Shall Not Grow Old”. In total, Jackson and his team restored over 100 hours of 100 year old archival footage from the Imperial War Museum. They narrowed that down into a colorized account of the British soldier on the Western Front. There is no narrator; recordings taken by oral historians from actual British soldiers who served in WWI take us through this journey of theirs. They tell us their own stories, in their own words. The result is a brilliant, visually impressive film, with more humor from the men than one would expect from those surrounded by war. Make no mistake, the film is also jarring, and brutal at times, as was the First World War. One person sitting near me, stood up and left during the artillery scene, and did not return until the shelling stopped.

I saw the film on Monday. There is a 3D version of the film being shown, but unfortunately, I was not able to see that. I originally went to the 3D showing, but this being Fairbanks, the version’s file was corrupted, so I had to come back for the 2D version.

After the end credits, Peter Jackson returns for a 35 minute discussion on how and why he made the documentary the way he did. It’s well worth staying for the behind the scenes look. Jackson is a man obsessed with detail, and that trait does him, and the film, great service. I’m not a fan of colorizing black & white films, but this is a little different. Black & White was used to film footage during WWI, because that is what was available at the time, color was not even an option. Cameras during that time period, were designed to advance the film by hand, so the various footage that Jackson & Company restored, were all at different frames per second, which certainly complicated the restoration. It really is an impressive undertaking, and I was caught up in the intense ride.

This is a documentary that is well worth seeing. In the U.S., “They Shall Not Grow Old” will be shown on the big screens, nation wide, one more time: December 27.