Bill Says: My beautiful wife has been wrapped up taking care of Mom, so lately it has been mostly my entries into this blog. It is allowing me to recall those long ago days of 30 years ago and I find it very strange how so many years have gone by. That is until I look into the bathroom mirror and get an eyeful of that old gray haired man staring back at me. Now with a missing front tooth I look a bit like the hick from the sticks and Mona gets a laugh out of my smile.
You'll hear a lot about God appointments in my future entries as both Mona and I feel my move to Skagway was such an appointment. As I said earlier, I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ during my time between police jobs. We left Dillingham and flew south to California. Here, Mona got to meet my mom and older brother-Paul. We also got a chance to hit the store and load up on fresh veggies and fruit; some of the things we so dearly missed in Dillingham. From California we traveled to Oregon. Here I met Mona's family and started going to church. Being an ex-Mormon I found the whole spiritual thing a bit strange and then finally felt at home in it and handed my life over into His hands. From Oregon we traveled to Phoenix and here Mona got to meet my dad and my 2nd mother-Bea. We stayed here, while I tried to find a job back in police work.
I applied for the Phoenix PD, Phoenix Organized Crime Unit and Holbrook Police Dept, ( a large PD located between the Navajo and Apache reservations. I went through a battery of tests, polygraph exams and oral boards, but nothing was happening. Got a job as a security guard in the meantime, where they put me out in the warehouse district without a gun and no radio. This was a high crime area, with police helicopters flying overhead all night. Desiring to keep my life, I finally quit. They had this saying that they were too professional to need firearms, yet I noticed how all the supervisors were armed. Then I went to test for the Tempe Police Dept, along with 300 other guys for two slots. While waiting in line, chatting with another former cop, I got this weird mental nudge to leave and go home... a very persistent nudge. So, I left. Shortly afterward, Chief Hester called from Skagway to offer me a job as a patrolman. It was a small department with one chief and three officers. Chief Hester had heard about me through my former boss; Chief Gray. Mona gave me the nod and we were on our way back to Alaska. Sadly, I broke my father's heart as he had hoped I would stay in Arizona. Strangely enough, after going to work in Skagway, Bea called me to let me know I'd received police academy dates for both Phoenix PD and Holbrook PD. WOW! But I wasn't going back, as we felt Alaska was our home.
We didn't have much money, so I flew north with very limited funds. Mona stayed with my dad and Bea, until I could send for her. When we landed in Ketchikan, we learned a harsh winter storm prevented us from continuing north. Spent the night in the airport, with the special permission of a lone security guard. The airport was closed up for the night and no one was allowed to stay, but since I was going up for a police officer's position the guard let me stay. Next morning, with the storm still clobbering us and planes grounded, I got a ride to the ferry terminal and headed north aboard the Taku; a large ferry for the Alaska Marine Highway system. Took about 36 hours, but I landed in Skagway in the middle of the storm, snow blowing ever which way and with only $20 in my wallet. Officer Dennis Spurrier met me and I met the ferry terminal employees, who would soon become good friends.
Skagway, located at the extreme north end of the Lynn Canal and the city limits bordering with Canada, had a winter population of 850-people. Summer population tripled or even higher numbers with tourism. Skagway was the port for the Alaska Marine Highway and a whole lot of cruise ships docked there. Sometimes there were as many as 5,000 tourists in town and all within a 6 block area.
Built in the Skagway Gold Rush on 1898, the town had been mostly kept in its original form to the delight of the tourists. Gold, Ivory and history was sold all summer long and then with the coming of winter the business district was mostly boarded up. The road into Canada was closed off by snow back then, but is kept open now. There was one paved road, but the rest of the town was hard packed dirt. There was a small airfield for prop aircraft and though the city limits took in 444 square miles, the actual town took in less than one square mile. Everything else closely resembled the Alps. Straight up and down mountains, majestic peaks and massive ice fields. It was beautiful to fly over. Whales came in the summer, along with crab and salmon. In the old days the Russian subs visited, surfacing occasionally right off the city dock. But never staying too long. The Lynn Canal was deep, maps showed it to be 3,600 feet at some locations and subs from US and Russia traveled through it.
There were three public bars and two private fraternal clubs. 4 small churches and a busy Masonic Hall. I was soon to find out that my chief and one officer were both Masons and Chief Hester was none to happy to realize he had hired a Christian.
The police department consisted of one large office area and a huge single jail cell. This made up of one third of the bottom floor of an aged granite building built in very early 1900's. The rest of the bottom floor held City Hall and the court house. We had a local magistrate, a young city manager and a much older city council. We had no police dispatcher, which surprised me. The Chief had purchased a radio-phone system, which allowed the caller to patch right into the police cars; which there were two. We drove a older model Eagle wagon on patrol, while Chief Hester drove a Jeep Wagoneer. Chief Hester handled the day shift, while we handled the swing shift and stand-by. We came off patrol at 1 a.m. and was on standby until 5 a.m., he took over then. We were paid minimum pay for stand-by and normal pay per hour if called out.
I arrived up there in January of 1982 and immediately realized Skagway got a lot of snow and had tremendous winds. Blizzards were the norm from December until early March. I also learned that during these harsh winter months our main job was trying to stay awake and watch out for chimney fires. We also had a great volunteer fire dept and ambulance corps. But once tourist season began, we got smacked with police calls. Domestics, bar fights, disturbances in the camp grounds and vehicle accidents. Also lots and lots of stolen bicycles. Seems that the crewmen on the cruise ships loved to grab a bike and peddle back to the ship. They would then toss it off the dock. I caught a couple of them while fishing.
When I got there, Skagway didn't have any place to live and I was forced to live in that single jail cell. I lived there for a couple of weeks, until a 10' x 40' trailer finally opened and I was able to send for Mona. But while living in the jail cell, where more than 12 men had committed suicide and dozens of men and women were held for insanity, I learned for the first time about spiritual warfare and it became clear right from the start how the enemy was extremely upset to have me there in town. The attacks began that first night and will continue on in my next entry. God Bless!