Alaska Tugs At My Soul

How can something I barely remember have a profound influence on my life?  I’ve mentioned living in Alaska in other posts of mine, Elmendorf AFB + Pentagon + Chappaqua NY = Ecuadorian Kichwa and Hairdressers and Coincidences.  But I haven’t talked about how often it is in the forefront of my mind.barbara in a sled alaska

with the colonel at elmendorf afb anchorageThis morning I read a post by Elle Knowles from April 15th, Without Mother There Would Be No Alaska.  We are not related, nor do I think that we were in Alaska at the same time. But reading her post made me realize that today is the day to write about a time and place that I think about frequently.

Being born into a military family and being born a month after the Korean War ended and during the Cold War helped define who I am.  Being born at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage in the US Territory of Alaska helped to define me.  Why am I drawn to a place about which I have few memories?

When I was about 9 or 10, I asked my mother where I had butterflies flying over my head, suspended from the ceiling.  She stared at me.  “You remember the butterflies?” she asked incredulously.  And I did.  I remembered the butterflies and being mesmerized by them.  I also remember being surrounded by my father and strangers looking down at me.  They looked very strange.  Years later, I realized that they probably looked strange to me because they weren’t in uniform.  Virtually everyone I saw wore an Air Force uniform. This memory was when I was 6 months old, my mother told me.  Which is, of course, impossible.  The butterflies were a mobile that hung over the crib in which I slept until I was 2 and we moved from Alaska to Washington, DC.  So that is my first memory.  And probably, from when I was 2.  Which is and quarters 1954

My brothers loved Alaska.  They wore snowshoes, went fishing, went to Cub Scouts and school with the other kids who lived on base.   brother #1 snowshoesbrother #2 snowshoes






I did what babies and toddlers do.  Crawled around, played in the snow, and went wherever my family took me. stroller at elmendorf afb housing

I never wore snowshoes, but I did get to keep the family’s snowshoe chair.  Pretty cool.  I try not to dwell on what type of gut the chair was made from. snowshoe chair I spent hours as a child and still spend hours pouring over the many photos my parents and grandparents took. Photos of Inuit celebrations and graves.  Photos of the awesome mountains, forests and lakes.  Photos of my family in happy times.

inuit blanket toss 1Inuit Blanket Toss

Native Church and Graveyard in Eklutnaeklutna alaska native church and graveyard

What is the pull that Alaska has for me?

Alaska tugs at my soul.

About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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17 Responses to Alaska Tugs At My Soul

  1. Elle Knowles says:

    Alaska gets in your blood Barb! I was born in ’54 and moved with my parents and 3 other siblings to Alaska to homestead in ’59. It was quite the adventure. My youngest sister was born there in ’62. Having only spent 5 years there from age 4 – 9 my memories are vivid and while writing this book about Alaska from my mothers letters brings back a lot of flashbacks. Your pictures are so much better than what we have! Keep those memories close to your heart…thanks so much for the mention!!~Elle

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I was born there in ’53. The problem with some of my pics are that they were put in those photo albums with the glue on the back. Some were starting to rip so I took these pics through the plastic of the photo album. I wish they were clearer, but am so happy to have them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elle Knowles says:

        Most of our pictures were taken off slides and very scratchy. Seems that it was cheaper to develop film as slides at that time in Alaska. We have absolutely NO pictures of my little sister, Tish, until she was about 18 months old! Sad…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        Once we moved to NY in 1959, slides were the rage and virtually all my parents pics were on slides. Eventually they paid to have them converted to pictures, but that was expensive and not many were converted.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    I’ve only been to Alaska once–on an Alaskan cruise. It was wonderful. I’d love to go back. Such a visual feast for the eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We chose Alaska via Canada for our honeymoon. Cruise trip for part of that, the part in Alaska. No one I knew had taken Alaska for honeymoon from Ireland! Loved it so much. I know we only saw a tourist’s aspect but still. Unique beauty there. We arrived in both Ketchican and Juneau on sunny days. By all accounts this is rare!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bea dM says:

    The very idea of Alaska is exciting, I’ve never been there. I believe such early memories are rare, but the emotional tug probably stoked them through the years. My real early memories are from age 3 or so on … People who moved a lot in their early years have batches of mixed memories. I knew what I wanted to write about these days, but was stuck for how to angle it. This helps, I’ll obviously mention your Alaska 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you! I have another strong memory from when I was 3 and my mother was hospitalized. Actually I have a number of memories from being 3. But only a couple from Alaska. And they had nothing to do with Alaska, per se. But with my family, not with the location. I’m glad you enjoyed this post!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Almost Iowa says:

    If you ever get the chance to drive the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay) take it. It’s a 400 mile drive without yard lights, billboards or telephone poles – just the pipeline and a whole lot of nature.

    For those who want to go by boat, consider the Alaska Highway Ferry versus a cruise. It is not nearly as expensive and you can get off at any port, spend a couple of days, and get on the next boat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Wonderful suggestions. When we were stationed at Elmendorf, my sister-in-law’s family was stationed in Fairbanks. I always thought that was a big coincidence since they met in NY. I just asked my husband today you can take a cruise one way, then go where you want and fly back.


  6. Ann Coleman says:

    I really hope to visit Alaska someday, and was thinking of a cruise until I read the comment above. I think it would be wonderful to have the kind of freedom that the Alaska Highway Ferry provides! And I’m not surprised that Alaska tugs at your soul…you may have been very young, but clearly you had many happy memories there.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never been, but there is something about Alaska that kind of tugs at me.

    Liked by 1 person

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