Life in the Forty-Ninth Star: A Town Rallies Together
12 Jul 2019

Life in the Forty-Ninth Star: A Town Rallies Together

 

12 Jul 2019

By Alysha Page

We are living through a truly unprecedented period in American history. Every day we are living through new socio-political changes, shifts in race relations, and the continuous fight for equality and equity in all facets of life. An era in American history that future generations will ask us, “What were you doing when?” The answer that I will give is, “I had just received an internship with the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park tasked with the job of illuminating the Black experience in Alaska a very forgotten part of American History. Not only that but I moved nearly four thousand miles away from home to a small tourist town, Skagway, Alaska?”

Figure1: Image of scenic Skagway, Alaska right down the main road, Broadway.

The nearly 800,000 government employees were furloughed for 35 days and the Trump Administration had not come to terms until January 25th. In a small town like Skagway, Alaska whose winter employment is solely from the Park Service, this caused the Skagwayans to find ways to support themselves within the community. 

Figure2: After a few days of adjusting to the time difference I went exploring through town in -10 degree weather.

Seeing this town take care of one another was my first entrée into the Skagway community. When I first arrived it was the coldest winter they have had thus far.I believe the weather felt like-17 degrees for nearly a week. All this time I was trying to adjust to the four hour time difference, get accustomed to life in Skagway, this and entertaining myself were the hardest personal challenges I encountered. Also, the sticker shock was real! You don’t really contemplate how prices quickly increase when you are not on the mainland and every item has to be shipped upon a barge. Luckily, the staff at KLGO, although furloughed, had not forgotten my arrival, nor have had they forgotten about one another being out of work for over a month.  It was beautiful to see KLGO members hold potlucks to feed the team and catch up on life. Or even see local clubs hold events to support the KLGO employees and their families. These people made the best out of a hard situation with smiles on their faces and support in their hearts.

Walking around Skagway is like being zapped back to the early twentieth century. Some of the town’s buildings, if not around during in the early twentieth century, have been created to appear that way.

Figure3: The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Administration Building and Visitor Center where my office is located.

It was quite a funny feeling like I was transported to  Gunsmoke, Bonanza or any of your late sixties, early seventies westerns. As a Black woman in a small town during the Skagway offseason there was quite a bit of culture shock. I think for me as well as the residence of Skagway. Not only was I a new face, but I was from a different background. So my first days out around town was spent discussing my background and the usually small town pleasantries. I have heard around town that there is a large boom in the population come the summer season. It will be interesting to see how a town of 22 blocks accommodates so many tourists. 

Until next time, Farewell!

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