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December 25, 1991     The Sun Paper
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December 25, 1991
 

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14 The Sun, Wednesday, December 25, 1991 Sheridan woman recalls Yuletide in 1930s Alaska Marion Johnston worked as a nurse in rugged country during 1930s, 40s By Elsa Simonson Correspondent, The Sun Marion Johnston of Sheridan was the guest speaker at the Yamhill County Historical Society meeting and potluck dinner at the Amity United Methodist Church on Tues- day evening Dec. 9. She spoke briefly about her life as a nurse in the Alaska territory of the 1930s and 40s, specifically about her first Christmas, which she calls "the Christmas of the two Petes." Marion Armstrong Johnston was born in Dunlap, Wash., which is now a part of Seattle. She wanted to become a teacher, so she enrolled in the Linfield College preparatory class for her senior year of high school and also one year of college. During this time, she worked at the McMinnville Hospital and became interested in nursing, which involves a lot of teaching, according to Mrs. Johnston. "The hospital was quite different from what it is today," she explained. "It consisted of two old houses and the hospital beds were placed on pieces of wood cut from railroad ties. The person on night duty had to go stoke up the wood furnaces in the basements of the two buildings." Johnston received her public health nursing certificate from the University of Washington and took special training for contagious dis- cases at Firland Sanitorium in Seat- tle and worked there for three years. Next she worked as a county nurse in Walla Walla. She was chosen along with other county nurses to attend the dedica- tion of Grand Coulee Dam where President Roosevelt was the main speaker. It was a very hot day and the nurses were there to care for the on-lookers, who kept fainting from the heat. "I had always wanted to go to Alaska," Mrs. Johnston said. "Some men in my family had been there during the gold rush and fishing." She got her wish in 1934, when she was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to work as a nurse in a remote Native village in Alaska. Her first job was at Moses Point, cast of Nome, working with Native Alaskans, soldiers and Civil Aero- nautics staff, She met Ronald Johnston at Mar- shall along the Yukon River. He ran power machinery for gold mines. "He was from Willamina, so we knew .some of the same people. So we became acquainted in a hurry. Marion Johnston We went rabbit and ptarmigan hunt- ing together." After a courtship of 17 days they decided to get married on Nov. 14, 1934. "Marshall had no church or minister, so we asked the U.S. com- missioner to perform the ceremony. The commissioner stuttered, 'I'11 have to say my short piece 'cause I don't have the long piece ready.' " So the young couple were joined in a marriage that lasted 47 1/2 years, at a small log cabin that was the Land Office building. The com- missioner was formerly a bartender in Nome. The witnesses at the ceremony were a Norwegian miner and the commissioner's wife, who was rumored to be a former dance- hall girl. A tradition of the .school children of the village was to beat on empty gasoline cans with sticks until new- iywed couples would treat them to candy at the trading post. The Johnstons led the parade of 22 children to the trading post for their sweets in the freezing darkness. In 1941, when the Japanese were in the Aleutians, the Johnstons lived in Candle, across the bag from Kotzcbu. No planes could fly in, so Mrs. Johnston was called on to be a doctor, dentist, coroner and under- taker. "I pulled a couple of teeth," she explained. In addition to her work, she home-schooled their daughter Sue and son Dick. Their home also served as the hotel when strangers came to the villages where they lived. The Johnstons returned to Oregon in 1945 after Mrs. Johnston became ill. She had to ride flat on her back in a railroad boxcar to Anchorage, where they got a boat. Later she worked for Dr. Jim Wilbur for 20 years and asanurse in the Sheridan schools before retiring in 1978. Mr. Johnston's great-grandfathers, Charles Fendall and William Sav- age, were some of the early settlers of the area. He died in 1982. The Christmas story of the two '1 taught you gave efery- body cookies but me, but today I made my bed, and by gosh, dere wus your cookies...' By Marion Johnston This story took place in the small Yukon River town of Fortuna Ledge, Alaska, in the 1930s. Christmas was the biggest celebration of the year. Both trading posts had made up bags of goodies to be handed out to every person--the larger post had volunteers make red netting stock- ings and fill them with nuts and candy with an orange in the toe and an apple at the top. The 20 or so students in the small one-room hool put on their program--a little play--and then each child played a piece on the small suitcase organ which the teacher had taught every child to play for as many years as She had been there. Then the great moment--Santa Claus came ho-hoing in with a limp suspiciously like that of the U.S. Commissioner and radiophone operator. Now this wasn't just to hand out those bags of goodies. All Christmas presents--even family ones--were under that tree to be handed out by old Santa himself. First there was some community singing from the people not only of the town, but also from the all- Native village of Tukchuk some 13 miles downriver. This made is nec- essary to bring in planks to stretch across the seats to accommodate the crowd. With the wood stove going and that fur parka clad crowd, it grew very warm in the small room. Some of the boys had fortified themselved against the chill before coming to town also, and one of these was Tukchuk Pete. Now this Pete was no run-of-the- mill Eskimo. He was a dead ringer for Mohandis Gandhi, the great leader of India around that time. T ukchuck Pete was bald--an unu- sual feature for an Eskimo--and he had a wispy beard. Even more Gandhi-like he had missing front teeth and was of about the same vintage as the great man. By the time the umpteenth child had played his or her piece on the organ, the warmth of stove plus parka added to the liquid fortification, got to old Pete. He leaned over backward, put his head in the lap of the person behind him and fell blissfully asleep. He stayed that way until someone struck up the chords for the children to sing "Jingle Bells." Now if there was one thing Pete knew and loved, it was "Jingle Bells." He suddenly bounced upright and began to sing at the top of his voice, unaware that only the school children were singing. He continued right on to the last note, and the whole crowd cheered and laughed. Now the other Pete---equally well fortified--was not an Eskimo. he hailed from Sweden. If there was just calling out in protest--he1 crying. "Santa Claus, Roy got lots of packages, and I nothing!" Finally the last seemed to have gone out to happy recipients and not once Pete hear his name. His tears dripping from his chin. Then Claus and his stran aging elves "found" a nothing in it but packages "Pete." Pete's joy knew no but there was a strange All of the single men but thanked me for the cookies. stopped speaking to me couldn't imagine why. Then day, some two weeks later, by all smiles. "Say, Missus son," he said, "I taught you eferybody cookies but me. I made my bed, and by gosh, wus one thing he liked, it was Christmas. He loved the whole thing, especially the presents. But on this night, some of the miners, who hadn't left town to go out to the lower 48 for the winter, had whispered in Santa's ear. Whenever a package turned up with Pete's name on it, they conspired to set it aside and say nothing. Among those packages were boxes of cook- ics, which I had made for each bachelor and widower--Pete among them. When Santa had been calling off names for quite some time, Pete began to worry. He jumped up and shouted, "Santa Claus--I haf no packages!" To which Santa replied, "Sorry Pete--nothing with your name on it." This went on and the packages in the great stack became fewer and fewer--and still no pack- age for Pete. By this time, Pete was no longer 1991 Beretta GTZ v-6, automatic, sun roof, stereo. Bright red. Stk.#P-221 MSRP $17,690 85000 s14, 1992 Caprice Classic Seda00 2 to choose from Leather interior, custom 2-tone, Bose sound system, keyless enW system, twilight sentinel, dual power seats, power windowS, power door 992 cavalier Coupe Z-24 Stk.#P-236. Bright aqua metallic. V-6, automatic, air, tilt, cruise, compaCt disc stereo. Santa sez it's more his sleigh! fu an Santas top choice for family Property tax appeal ,, storm 2+2 coupe R deadline is Dec. 31st value of your property. Hearing before the .Board of Equalization will be Scheduled beginning in January 1992, and all petitioners requesting an appear- ance will receive written notice of the time and place of the hearing on their petition. . iBright red, 5 speed. Stk.#P-151 MSRP $11,165.00 - Less special incentives & discounts. 81 00 g lib 1991 GEO Metro 4-Door Bright red, air, automatic, hatchback, AM/FM stereo. Stk.#P-219A. *7,495 Merry Christmas from Joe & Jewel/ & all the gang at "s The deadline for appealing your property values to the Board of Equalization is Dec. 31, 1991. To date, 216 petitions have been filed with the Yamhill County Clerk, Charles Stem, and there are still eight more business days in which to file petitions. Property owners who believe that the value of their property has been set too high by the county assessor may obtain an appeal form from either the county clerk's office or the county assessor's office and file an appeal of their property values with the county clerk to the Board of Equalization. The Board of Equalization con- sists of three Yamhill County resi- dents, one of whom is appointed by the Board of Commissioners, one appointed by the budget committee and the third by the first two appointees. The county clerk is the clerk of the Board (if Equalization by statute. Yamhill County Clerk, Charles Stem, cautions petitioners to fully complete the petition form; incom- plete petitions are returned to the petitioner. Some petitions being filed lack any evidence as to why the values should be reduced. Infor- mation as to the sale price of property in your neighborhood, the condition of any structures or a private appraisal would be import- ant evidence in assisting the mem- bers of the Board of Equalization in judging your petition. The statement that "My taxes are too high" or "I can't afford to pay my taxes" is not a sufficient re.ason to reduce the SENIOR LUNCH MENUS Deeembe# 30 - January 3 Monday: Tomato juice, baked ham w/raisin sauce, twice baked potato, broccoli Normandy, oat wheat roll fresh apple. Tuesday: Pineapple juice, veal scal- Iopini, whipped potatoes, green peas/ red peppers, honey wheat bread, pista- chio fluff. .Wednesday: New Year's Day. Thursday: Blended juice, turkey tetrazzini, broccoli cuts, molded beet salad, cheese roll, brownie. Friday: Apple juice, Swedish meat- balls, whipped potatoes, spinach salad, seven-grain bread, peach crisp. The Mid-Wi//amelle Valley Senior Services Agency offers noon meals in Sheridan at the American Legion Hall, 125 IV. Bridge Street. Meals are served at 12 noon Monday through Friday. Anyone 60 or over and their spouse is welcome for fellowship and a hot, nutritional meal Home delivered meals are available for home-bound seniors. A donation of $1.50 is sug- gested for the meals. Advanced reser- vations are required. For transportation or more information call 843-3165. The weekly publication of local school lunch menua and senior menus is sponsored by: Gratia B. Robertson, CPA 104 W. Main St., Sheridan 843-2992 "'Open every business d,,ay all year - to serve you. . 1991 S-10 Picku Stk.#C-179 - MSRP $9,065.00 Less $1,175 Special Discounts & Incentives 1991 Olds Cutlass Supreme 4-door Gray Metallic. Low miles. Factory UGGL CHEVRO 251 S. Bridge Street, 843-2512 "It's To Deal With