Mr. Bill and Miz Mona

Monday, July 25, 2011

Moose Pass Journal/Whittier Cases/ 7/25/2011

Bill Says: After leaving Seward, we moved to Eagle River and I had surgery on my stomach. I was getting set to enter Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage in the Fall. I was retired and had not applied for any jobs, but then the Lord stepped in and I got a call from the City of Whittier. Someone had given them my name and they located me. They invited me down for an interview for the Public Safety Director position. I talked it over with Mona and we drove down to the train depot south of Anchorage and rode the Alaska Railroad shuttle service into Whittier. It was a 12 mile train ride and through two long tunnels; one of which was 3.2 miles long and the other one 1.2 miles in length. These tunnels are carved out of the rock and had no interior support. The City of Whittier was located on the western shore of the Prince William Sound. Built by the US military in World War II and was supposed to be a secret staging area for the war against the Japanese in the Battle for the Aleutians. Housing was mainly two apartment complexes; Begich Towers was 14 floors high and held 198 apartments/condos and the other complex was two floors high and had about 50 apartments. There were no houses because all of the land had been turned over to the Alaska Railroad and they had leased the land to the city for these properties and several warehouses. City Hall was located in Begich Towers. The warehouses were converted into city shops and a cannery. We had a single small store, two restaurants/bars, a harbor, (primarily used by Anchorage boat owners), and a lot of Alaska Railroad buildings. The Department of Public Safety building was an old ranger station and was leased from the National Park Service. A large facility,  this held the volunteer fire department/ambulance bays for two fire trucks and two ambulances. One of these ambulances was high rail and could be placed upon the railroad tracks for the 12-mile run to the highway. The highway gears and wheels could be dropped down and then pulled back up for normal highway travel.  We also had two patrol vehicles and a 32-foot boat for search and rescue. So the department consisted of a small police force (2 officers and the director/chief, volunteer fire department, EMT ambulance crew and Search & Rescue. When interviewed for the position I was told the department averaged 300 total calls a year and most of these were EMT/Search & Rescue. Whittier was responsible to respond to nearly one third of the Prince William Sound.

I was hired upon completion of the interview and soon met my three temporary officers. All three had been Anchorage PD reserve officers and I was to select two of these to stay on. I would choose Officer's Mark and Jim. Mona and I returned home and moved ourselves, with my brother-in-law Troy's help, to Whittier. At this time we had 4 children; Elizabeth, James, Joshua and Micah Sue. We rented a three bedroom condo on the 12th floor of Begich Towers and it was comfortable. We would later take a wall out and add another three bedroom condo on to ours.

I soon found out that Begich Towers was a most unusual place to live. Sort of a Peyton Place. The walls were made of 12-inch thick poured concrete and the hallways carried sounds all too well. Everyone knew what everyone else was shouting about on any floor. There was also the dreaded roaches! Once used for NCO and Officer Housing, their hold baggage had brought roaches to Whittier and they had grown to millions of these two inch long nasty bug with even longer antennae. It was like living through a 1950's sci-fi. I cannot say how many of the buggy things we killed in the 18-months we lived there, but it was a lot.

We brought our 130-40 pound Newfoundland with us and had to take "Radar" onto the elevator and down to floor level and outside so he could relieve himself. He was big, black and walked with his head down. Many a person believed he was a bear from the way he moved about. Whittier did have a serious bear problem, but I'll get more into that later.

Funny thing about moving into the Towers, which was U shaped and seeing how many sets of binoculars were in the big picture windows facing one another in the open end of the U. Once they found out the new police chief was on the 12th floor, all the curtains began to close for fear I might spy upon them and their activities. The people were a bit strange here, but to live a long time in Whittier a person had to be a bit weird. Snow fall was heavy, some 30 feet and the only way in was boat, train or charter flight for the small  dirt runway.

When I started work I had 22 volunteers and two full time patrolmen. One officer lived in Begich Towers and I allowed the other officer to live in the bedroom inside the public safety building to keep an eye on things.

That's it for now. God Bless.

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