Written by Edward M. May
My name is Nora Krake and I come from Ugashik, Bristol Bay. I was born January, 30th, 1936 at home. Daddy was the midwife which was not uncommon back then. He actually delivered all five of us older kids at home. I have three brothers and six sisters, I am the oldest. We were living in the bush. We lived between Ugashik Lakes and Ugashik Village.
My dad, Michael Enright, came over from Ireland. My mom’s name was Olga Hansen and she was born in Ugashik Village. She was half Aleut and Danish. Her dad was at sea. She had no brothers or sisters; she didn’t know what her mother’s name was. She grew up in kind of a foster home until she was twenty two. My dad came up from San Francisco to fish and that’s when he met my mom and they were married in 1934.
At Ugashik Lakes, where dad trapped, we lived in a one bedroom trapping cabin. I remember we all had to share beds. My sister and I shared a bed and we started putting cold feet on each other so daddy put a board down the middle.
There was a cannery in Ugashik when I was growing up. I remember my mom set netting on the beach and my dad drift netting in the bay. Every Sunday at nine o’clock the scow would drag out 300 boats and tow them down to the fishing grounds. They were sail boats back them. They would fish all week. Friday evening at six o’clock they’d tow them all back to the village. They got ten cents a fish, not a pound, but a fish. Mom got fifteen cents because she set net. Years later, when I was grown up, I used to go back and set net and I got a dollar a fish back in 1957. I made enough, one year, to buy a Ford Fairlane.
Normal for Ugashik
Growing up in Ugashik was just normal living. We didn’t have running water or electricity. We just ate normal food. In winter time we lived off the wild. We ate caribou, porcupine, beaver, and rabbit. We never had moose up there. I didn’t eat moose until I came to Haines in 1950 and I thought I was eating a horse. I mean that was gross.
In the fall daddy would hunt ducks and geese and we had to clean them. We also salted salmon bellies. In a barrel we ‘d put a layer of salt, then a layer of salmon belly, then a layer of salt, layer of fish until it got to the top. Then we covered it up and it made its own brine. It would get hard, because the salt draws water, so you’d have to soak it for a few days to get the salt out and then mom would cook it.
Mom was a good cook she could make something out of nothing. You had to back then. You ate what was on the table. There weren’t hamburgers and hotdogs. In the spring and summer the next day we’d eat the left over’s for lunch because we had no refrigeration. In the winter time with the wild meat, we’d have salt fish. You’d got out to the shed and saw off a piece of meat for dinner.
We had an outhouse and we’d pack water off of the lake at the trapping cabin. In the village we had a hand pump. In the winter about twenty people lived in the village. We had regular houses. We didn’t have insulation. They tar papered the walls so they were kind of cold. The biggest wood we had was only about three inches in diameter. It was alder. That’s what we burned and coal. I remember daddy getting up and stoking the fire at night. We had little fire boxes in our cook stoves. They were about six by six.
It was pretty cold but nobody froze to death. Kids run around a lot playing and we never really felt cold. We were never allowed to walk bare footed, never. It was unheard of because there were no doctors if we got cut or a nail in our foot or something we’d be in trouble. We never saw a plane in the winter.
Up the River
In the winter we would leave the village and go up river to the cabin where daddy trapped. We wen tup river in a sail boat that had a gas engine in it. Daddy had a little cabin up front and we all stayed up there with sleeping bags and stuff. It took overnight to get up the river to the lakes. We had four/ five dogs and daddy would tie them up outside the cabin. Mom would cook on a little kerosene stove on the boat. Before we made the trip either way mom would make a couple of batches of two types of cookies, molasses and sugar. We had those to nibble on going up the river.
We had to stay overnight at the rapids because the tide would be down and we couldn’t get through the first rapids. We’d anchor overnight until the tide came back in and then we were able to go on up. We’d get to the cabin and get settled in for the winter. We’d dig up the potatoes daddy had planted in the spring. I remember he’d go along the beach picking up dead fish and put them into these drums. Then he covered them up and they’d stay there all winter and next spring they’d be liquefied and then he’d pour them on the garden.
Dumped into a Hole
It was just a way of living we didn’t know anything different. When we went off to school in 1950, daddy brought us down to Haines. He wanted us to have a plane ride, a boat ride and a train ride. We got on a little plane in Ugashik, flew to King Salmon and then got on a big two prop Pacific Northern Airlines plane and flew to Anchorage. We took a train to Seward and then got on the steamship Baranof and came on in to Juneau. In Juneau we took a Grumman Goose to Haines.
We landed in the water by Port Chilkoot dock and we got piggybacked off the plane to shore by the pilot or agent here in town. When we came to Haines the hard part was all these mountains. I felt like I was dumped into a hole. I had claustrophobia. In Bristol Bay there are no trees there. It’s all flat swamp land. It took me a long time to get used to all these trees and mountains. It was a bad feeling.
My brothers and sisters and I stayed at the Haines House which was a mission for orphans but we were not orphans. We were there because there was no school in Ugashik. Daddy taught us what little he could. I started school in the fifth grade. I couldn’t read much. I knew math, daddy was great with math. Daddy went back to Ugashik and we stayed for the school year.
We traveled back and forth between Ugashik and Haines. I missed my parents; I wrote a lot because there weren’t telephones. While we were off to school mom and dad had five more kids. When my dad was 73, my mom wrote a letter one day and she said, “Oh, you had a new baby brother.” I always remember daddy as an old man. When I was born he was in his forties so he was always an old man. When I look back now it was hard times, the way of life we had but we were never hungry. I know now we were poor but back then I didn’t. We had lots of food and we had clothes. I’m glad I lived the way I did. I feel like my life turned out great from being this little village kid.
You are in my prayers. I hope you are safe, warm and well feed. You will hear from me in the
near future. “God Bless You”, Sleep Tight, Love, Uncle Joe (CaliforniaCousin)
very interesting…Im 85 years old now, grew up in Fairbanks…drafted in US Army 1957, basic training at Ft Richardson Anchorage….A fellow soldier was named ENRIGHT and possibily related to your family…Some of us transfered to Germany but I dont remember if he was with us..After military service my wife and I worked in South Naknek at NN cannery for the salmon season…growing up in Alaska was a wonderful experience for me also….