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Alaskan Margie Sparkles in Platinum, Alaska on the Shores of Goodnews Bay

Updated on June 5, 2016

Margie Took Her Rifle Along For the Summer of 1937 at Platinum's Mining Camp on Goodnews Bay

Situated north of Bristol Bay, 450 miles west of Anchorage, Grandpa's home base for much of my mom's childhood years. The land surrounding the famed bay has been rich in minerals and game and many a miner celebrated the good news of a gold (or silver, or copper or platinum) strike.

The shores of Goodnews Bay, Alaska, were a providential wonderland for my teenage mom in 1937. Grandpa Walter Culver had taken the family on some astounding adventures throughout her young life, and that excursion was to be momentous, for that is where she met my father, a mining engineering student at the University of Washington, who worked at my Grandfather's mine that Summer.

It's a tale of wanderlust for my prospecting Grandfather, a lifelong seeker for adventure and successful miner of gold, silver and platinum, in addition to teacher, railroad police officer, veteran, among other vocations, in our homeland, the then Territory of Alaska.

Years previous, Grandpa had taken his young wife to an empty seacoast on the southern Bering Sea, to create a temporary encampment where he gave indigenous children and adults an introduction to the technologies and methods of education and that comprised life in the states south of the Canadian/US border.

My mom and her younger brother were born in their cabin, and although that experiment ended after several years, Grandpa took mom and Grandma along on many subsequent summertime jaunts.

Mom's dad was drawn to the area following the discovery by Alaska Eskimo, Walter Smith, of rocks that looked like colorless gold in the mid-1920s. He told a fellow Eskimo, Henry Whuya, about his find in the vicinity of Fox Gulch, south of what is now the tiny town of Platinum - as the legend goes. Whuya then told local resident Charles Thorsen, who then obtained his own ore sample from the site. The Bureau of Mines confirmed it as platinum, and the race was on.

My grandfather got into this race - staking his claim, and eventually joining with the Goodnews Bay Mining Company, taking up a sometime residence in the camp. During the Summer between her junior and senior years in high school Grandpa brought my mom and Grandma to the rapidly forming settlement for the warmest months of that year. Mom and her girlfriends, two lifelong best-friends, and the teenage guys lived a summer to remember, in tents and a few ramshackle cabins. Life was tough, and with the skills they had built over the years, Grandma and Mom were up to the task, and even flourished in their pioneer ways.

One friend's parents ran the tiny Post Office, fed by Bush Plane drops, and another pal's folks opened a makeshift rooming house. An Anchorage school friend's family which took also took her buddy to the settlement that Summer, operated a closet sized general store. Youngsters and parents alike harvested foods from the landscape. Their meals were rich and varied, and they took full advantage of the wild game on land, and sea.

They interchanged many skills with the native peoples whose menfolk came to work the mines along with the stakeholders. Every day was full of companionship, hard hand work, education, enhancement of language skills, with the Eskimos teaching as much as they learned.

Suggested Atlas For Prospective Adventures in Alaska - If you're already rarin' to go - check out this book of maps now and take the atlas along on the trip

Alaska Atlas and Gazetteer (State Atlas & Gazetteer)
Alaska Atlas and Gazetteer (State Atlas & Gazetteer)

Highly recommended by Alaskans and folks who travel up there. For my long dreamed of trip to the land of my mom's youth I'm going to get this book. It contains all the USGS Alaska topographical maps in one book. Costs about $20.

This article is about life in Platinum in 1937 and today's town is maybe smaller than it was back then in the boom days when it was a series of encampments.

The scale is about 1:300,000, so one five miles is roughly measured in one inch. That's good enough for me to begin to get perspective on this area of the country's most expansive state.

I'm glad to learn that once I narrow the path I intend to take I can get specific USGS maps of the exact areas I intend to investigate from the Anchorage Alaska Pacific University office.

At six dollars or less per map --- this is for a scale of 1:25,000 where 1" equals less than four tenths of a mile. When I get those maps I'll be writing the checks for the whole trip package!


© 2013 lesliesinclair

Have You Learned Stories About Your Parents and Grandparents? What Have You Learned From Them?

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    • profile image

      shabi9764 4 years ago

      It is very interesting thanks

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      @RinchenChodron: Thanks. I can't imagine having over 300 years of history, but maybe some day I'll research mine too.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      My mom was from the Isle of Man and I found out the family history back to 1701. I also used to live in Alaska and enjoyed meeting your mom!

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 4 years ago from Arizona

      What a cool history. I wish I knew more about my family.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      This is such a great story so rich in local history. I really like all of the pictures you included.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      You're fortunate to have such a great story in your family history, to know the story and have so many great photographs of your mother's youth, and to inherit such go-get-em genes!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was expecting another guest book....Margie did sparkle for sure, how wonderful that you have given her this honoring tribute. Had to smile at that bridge to nowhere, even back then! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      My Grandma was brought to court by the local barber once for cutting hair without a license and she had men waiting in line, especially on Saturdays. She'd often be paid 2 bits and send the guy home with a loaf a bread. She also got paid in kind or not at all. Grandma told the judge that she was willing to go to jail but he'd need to find someone to take care of her elderly mother and Grandpa who was recovering from a serious stroke....she would welcome the rest. The judge dismissed the case and Grandma kept cutting hair.

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 4 years ago from Burbank, CA

      Wow what a great way to bring history to life!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: Thanks so much Vallain. I do have more stories, some of them in videotapes and in writings from my ancestors. It's such a joy to go through them.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Keep writing and collecting these family stories and before you know it, you'll have a book.