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